Latter-day Saint Voices

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I Knew My Baby Would Be OK

From the day I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child, I knew something was different about this pregnancy. I almost miscarried, but the baby survived. As time passed I thought maybe we would have twins, but in the ultrasound tests, the doctor reassured me that the baby was alone, healthy, and normal.

My husband, Don, and I went to general conference a week before the baby was due. Elder James E. Faust of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk about resurrection that seemed incredibly powerful. He quoted Alma 11:44: “And even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame.”

I had no idea at the time why those words were filled with a spirit of promise for me. But a week later I went into labor and soon found out.

Because my labor started slowly, Don and an elder from the ward were able to give me a blessing. During the blessing my husband said I would be blessed to know that Heavenly Father was pleased that I was bringing this special child into the world.

The baby came shortly after we made it to the labor room. As she was delivered I heard the doctor say: “Wait! She’s missing something—she’s missing an arm!” I’ll never forget those words.

I began to cry, but my husband was there, leaning close to me and whispering, “It’s OK; it’s OK.” I felt a peaceful sensation as if Heavenly Father were whispering words of comfort to me.

When I called my parents, my mother asked if we were all right. I said yes and then began to cry, telling her that our little Jennifer had been born without an arm. She echoed Don’s words, “It’s OK; it’s OK.”

A week later I was sitting at home pondering about Jennifer. She was perfectly healthy and strong and beautiful; she was just missing her arm. I remembered the promise in Alma, the one Elder Faust had reiterated during conference, and I knew in my heart that everything was going to work out.

The doctor stopped by to check on Jennifer and me. He was still upset from the surprise during the delivery and said, “I’m so sorry.” Now I found myself echoing the words of comfort to him, “It’s OK; she’s fine.”

The bishop came by to greet the newest addition to the ward, and he was surprised at the missing arm. “I’m sorry,” he said. But I interrupted him with, “Bishop, it’s OK, really.”

Everyone who held Jennifer could feel her powerful spirit. They knew she was special and determined to be here.

As the years have advanced, I can see how Heavenly Father has helped her during her life, opening doors of opportunity everywhere. She was even able to get an artificial arm and learn to use it with great skill.

Jennifer never shows any fear. When she was three she decided she wanted to jump off the high dive at the city pool—no amount of bargaining or convincing could talk her out of it. She had a little trouble going up the ladder, but once at the top she marched to the end of the diving board and jumped right off, then dog-paddled to the side of the pool.

Today Jennifer is 14, and she is beautiful. She can easily keep up with all the other children her age, and in volleyball and basketball she is often teaching others how to master the techniques that have made her a standout player. She’s been playing the French horn for four years and plans to continue throughout high school. We have learned so much from her, and though I know she will always struggle in certain things, she has been incredibly blessed with the drive to work harder in spite of trials. I hold fast to that first whispered comfort, “It’s OK,” and it really is.

Kathleen Ann Denhof is a Sunday School teacher in the Rockford Second Ward, Rockford Illinois Stake.

My Spiritual Journal

Tonight before kneeling in prayer, I recorded a spiritual experience in my journal. Was it one of those rare occasions when an experience was especially worthy of recording for posterity? No, for me this has been a nightly goal for the past 10 years.

With gratitude, my thoughts meandered back to a standards night when I had been asked to present one of the Young Women’s values. I had fussed over elaborate visual aids and clever handouts for over a week. In that moment of quiet before the rush of girls, I peeked through the screens separating my area from another sister’s presentation. It was peaceful and uncluttered in her section of the cultural hall. Only a framed picture of the Savior and an antique lace doily completed the setting. A recently returned sister missionary sat with folded arms in solitary prayer. I tiptoed back to my overcrowded space, quickly offering a second-thought prayer of my own.

While I don’t even remember the subject of my presentation, this young sister’s inspired message permanently changed my life. At one point during that evening I was able to hear her simple and direct message. “When did you have your last spiritual experience?” she asked the girls. She defined a spiritual experience as any incident that helps us feel the influence of the Holy Ghost or heightens our spiritual awareness and relationship with the Godhead. It was a profound question for me, as my preoccupation with running faster and laboring more than I had strength (see D&C 10:4) had been eclipsing my relationship with Heavenly Father.

“I believe Heavenly Father presents us with spiritual experiences more often than we realize,” she continued, “experiences that are freely offered if we are receptive to them and the spirit in which they are given. Recognizing this enlightenment can make our lives more Christ-centered on a moment-to-moment basis. I challenge you to identify these experiences and record them to strengthen the dark days that may confront you. You will have your own personal library of faith-promoting experiences to recall whenever your testimony needs bolstering.”

After that night, I asked Heavenly Father to help me better recognize His influence in my life. Reviewing the hours of each subsequent day, I marveled at spiritual experiences I might have missed had it not been for this inspired challenge: a beautiful teaching moment with a child, a rewarding fellowshipping effort with a less-active member, an inspired compliment sincerely given, a priesthood blessing, a family history connection discovered, an unforgettable family home evening, a new insight into a gospel concept.

By recording such experiences in my journal, whether it comes to me as a momentous wave or a small ripple, I have been able to attune myself to spiritual channels before prayertime, shaking off worldly cares in preparation for precious one-on-one time with my Father in Heaven. My relationship with the Holy Ghost has become more genuine through constantly watching and listening for frequent, subtle promptings. Each spiritual experience has increased my awareness of the Lord’s intercession in my daily life. Many situations I took for granted as pure coincidence, irony, or luck I now recognize as heavenly intervention. Through a 15-minute habit of effort, my spiritual eyes have been opened to the divine orchestrations of God.

Janet Schiller is a member of the Grove Creek 10th Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah Grove Creek Stake.

“Haven’t We Forgotten to Thank Someone?”

One bright winter day I took nine boys on a snow outing. Sliding down the snowy slope was exciting and exhilarating. After several trips down the hill we decided to form a human chain: each boy on his tube linking with the boy in front and in back of him. Halfway through the next run we hit a large bump that turned our caravan into a tumbling mass of bodies and tubes. I was relieved to find no one hurt when we stopped at the bottom of the hill. After brushing the snow from our hair and clothes, we quickly headed to the top of the hill for another run.

Upon reaching the crest of the hill, Bobby, a nonmember who had recently moved into our neighborhood, realized he had lost one of the lenses from his eyeglasses in the snowy crash. I wanted Bobby to have a positive experience and began to worry about how his parents would feel if he returned home with a lens missing.

After discussing the situation, we decided to pray. One of the boys, 10-year-old Fred Nelson, asked Heavenly Father to help us find Bobby’s lens. Arising from my knees, I knew the lens would be found. As I walked down the hill, I silently continued pleading with Heavenly Father to help us locate the lens and expressed my concern about how Bobby’s parents might feel if he returned home without it. I also felt this could prove a great opportunity for the boys to experience receiving an answer to prayer.

I returned to the point where we crashed and began looking for the lens when I felt prompted to look farther down the hill. As I walked toward the bottom of the hill I could see nothing in the snow. Then it was as if I heard a whispered voice say that the lens was to my right. After walking several feet in that direction and looking closely for signs of the lens, I still could not see anything. I knelt down and brushed a couple of inches of snow away, immediately uncovering the lens.

Joyfully I returned the lens to Bobby with an explanation of how it had been found. After repairing the glasses, we raced to the top of the hill and were about to start tubing again when Fred asked, “Haven’t we forgotten to thank someone?” Humbled by his remark, I called the boys together and led them in a prayer of thanks, giving gratitude to our Heavenly Father for answering our prayer of need.

Melvin Leon Jeppson is the deacons quorum adviser in the River Heights Third Ward, Providence Utah Stake.

Slow but Sure

When I was a young man, home teaching always seemed to take a long time. After we had made our visits, my companion would park his car on one of the shady, peaceful streets that are common in Carrasco, Uruguay. Then he would talk to me about his childhood and the challenges of growing up as the son of a widow. And he would always talk about the mission he had served when he was young.

I learned much from those visits, and my companion those many years ago was William N. Jones, then president of the Uruguay-Paraguay Mission. Did President Jones realize that I, like a thousand other young people in Uruguay, was struggling to find direction in a sea of doubt? Political tensions were strong in the country, and I was confused about the role I should play in the political changes going on around me. Nevertheless, there, in the shade of eucalyptus trees, my companion would speak to me so calmly and so convincingly that, for the moment at least, my mind would clear. In a most natural way, he invited me to plan my life. And whenever he saw me at church, he would give me a big hug and ask, “How is my future missionary?”

Often I would respond, mentally, Me? A missionary? I couldn’t project my life that far into the future. And as for the Book of Mormon, I accepted that the book was true—but only for historical reasons. I did not have a real testimony of it. President Jones had encouraged me to read the book.

He had even written an inscription in my copy: “May the light within you shine even brighter.” But as the months passed, the shiny leather cover stayed closed.

Somehow, in spite of conflicting feelings, I decided to go on a mission. Once I had made the decision I was elated, almost euphoric, but when I told my nonmember mother, she found the idea disagreeable. “I have lost you as a son,” she said, with great pain on her face.

In spite of my mother’s reaction, I had many peaceful Sundays and many quiet, confidential talks with Bishop Calvar. “Look,” he said one day. “Here are the keys to the church. Find a little room somewhere and get close to the Lord.”

Day after day, I would stop at his house and pick up the keys. I would stay at the church for four or five hours, reading the Book of Mormon and other scriptures. I also fasted for the purpose of gaining a testimony of the book.

The bishop knew about the fasting and did not miss an opportunity to instruct me about the close relationship between the body and the spirit. He explained the importance of the Word of Wisdom and taught me how to seek personal revelation. I will never forget his teachings.

The hours I spent in that classroom at the Church building will always be part of my life. I cannot specify any particular hour or day when my testimony came; it was a gradual process. But slowly, each story in the Book of Mormon became my own personal spiritual feast.

Often, I felt as though transported from the cold metal chair on which I sat, or from the floor on which I knelt, to the ancient days of the Nephites and the Lamanites. I did not read King Benjamin’s sermon—I lived it. I imagined that I lay on the grass, surrounded by Nephite tents, watching people who had come to hear their aging leader. His speech answered many of my longstanding questions about the role of government, good leadership, personal worthiness, and the nature of true service.

From the beginning I had believed that the promise of Moroni would be fulfilled. But I had expected it to happen suddenly, as it had for others I knew. But though it came gradually, it came powerfully. I knew! I knew!

I left for the mission field surrounded by the love of the Church members, as well as that of some of my family. My family didn’t quite understand what I was doing, but most believed it was something good.

How grateful I am to the Lord for that time of challenge! How grateful I am for the opportunity I had to represent the Lord Jesus Christ! During my mission, I bore my testimony of Him and of the Book of Mormon often—a testimony which I had gained slowly, but undeniably, one conversation, one prayer, one page at a time.

Santiago Márquez Pérez is a member of the Pellegrini Ward, Trelew Argentina South Stake.

Praying My Way to Church

In the 1960s I served in the Canadian Armed Forces as a surveyor and artillery observer. During the summer of 1966 I was assigned to participate in a communication and observation exercise prior to a major command operation.

I was part of a group stationed in a remote area of northern Alberta, Canada, about 20 miles (32 km) from the nearest paved highway. By the end of the second weekend I wanted very much to attend church because the coming Sunday would be my last chance before the start of the major operation. Sunday was a free day, so my only problem was that the nearest meetinghouse was about 75 miles (121 km) away in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.

When I told the commander of my intentions he said, “I wish I could spare a vehicle for you, but we need to have them ready for Monday morning.” And although he was not a member of the Church, he said, “I wouldn’t mind going with you, but how in the world would we ever get there and back in time?”

“I’ll find a way somehow,” I replied. He decided not to go.

I had been praying all week that I would be able to go to church. That Saturday night, I prayed again with all the energy of my heart, explaining my desires and concerns: that I knew it was a long way but I believed Heavenly Father could help me find a way to get there.

Sunday morning I was up and ready to go as the sun peeped over the horizon. I started off down a dirt road with trees and heavy undergrowth on both sides. I hadn’t walked more than five minutes when a military vehicle came rumbling behind me in a cloud of dust. The driver picked me up and took me to the small community of Wainwright and pointed to a long prairie road through the trees, saying, “That’s the shortest way to the main highway; from there you can get to Edmonton.”

Once again I started walking down the road. Ten minutes passed without a single vehicle passing, and I began to get concerned. I bowed my head as I walked and prayed, asking again for help getting to church.

I lifted my head and in the distance saw a car coming. The driver stopped and smiled, asking me if I wanted a lift. “Yes, thank you!” I replied gratefully. He took me as far as the main highway. The moment he pulled away, another car stopped and the driver asked me where I was going. I told him I was going to Lloydminster, and he replied, “That’s fine; I’m going right through there.”

We arrived in Lloydminster at 9:30 A.M., half an hour before sacrament meeting was scheduled. A Chinese restaurant was open across the street, and I decided to go in and ask for directions to the meetinghouse. “Never heard of it,” said the friendly man at the counter. Then he gave me an odd look and said, “But I’m sure going to find out.”

He made a phone call and returned, saying, “They’re meeting in the Royal Canadian Legion.” Then he gave me directions as well as he could.

I thanked him and once again started walking, but soon I was feeling lost. Dressed in a pressed combat uniform and green beret, with a striking insignia on my sleeve, I attracted the attention of two boys on bicycles. They were curious to know where I was headed and offered to help me with the directions. As we went on, more boys joined the procession. By the time we found the building, there were eight boys escorting me up the steps to the front door. It was 10:05.

Inside, a congregation of about 20 people was singing the opening hymn. When the hymn concluded, the branch president stood, looked at me, and said, “Brother, I don’t know who you are, but will you please come up to the front?” He even invited me to share my testimony.

It was wonderful to meet with the Saints, to take the sacrament, and to sing and pray with them. I told them who I was and how I had gotten there that morning. I could see that some of them were moved by the story. Then I concluded with my testimony. I was touched when the branch president stood to say, “You have done something to revive the much-needed missionary spirit in our branch.”

After the meeting I was invited to eat at a member’s home. We were able to discuss the gospel and share our testimonies.

One of the members offered me a ride back to the main highway junction, and I gratefully accepted. He decided to take me all the way to Wainwright. As we parted, I stood for a moment in the road and watched the car become small in the distance.

Turning and walking to the outskirts of town, I noticed a military vehicle parked alongside the road. Inside was the same driver who had picked me up that morning. I asked him if he was going back to camp. “Sure,” he said. “Get in. You know, I can’t figure it out. I had to stop because I thought I had forgotten something. I’ve been sitting here for about 15 minutes trying to remember what it was, but now everything seems to be OK. I guess I was just supposed to pick you up.”

Arriving back at camp as the last light faded, I immediately went to my tent. I knelt down and thanked Heavenly Father for the wonderful experiences of that day and for providing a way for me to spend some hours with the Saints.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Richard Russell

Reginald Wannamaker teaches Gospel Doctrine in the Courtenay Ward, Nanaimo British Columbia Stake.