A Heartfelt Note
My husband had been unemployed for seven months. Friends and neighbors offered support, and our ward poured out their love to us. But as time passed, our spirits continued to fall. Each rejection hurt a little more. We were particularly concerned about the sacrifices our three teenagers, our 10-year-old, and our preschooler were having to make.
Late one evening after a tender family home evening, our 13-year-old daughter quietly put a note on our dresser. We tearfully read it the next morning after she left for school:
Just a little reminder to say hang in there! And to tell you that I love you both beyond compare. Remember:
“Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. …
“For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith” (Ether 12:6, 12).
So have faith in the Lord, and He will take care of us! But He won’t give us any miracles without first testing our faith, so hang in there! Don’t give up! He loves us so much. He will make sure everything ends up for the best.
Not only did our daughter encourage us to be more faithful, but her act of love reminded us of our great love for her and all our children. It occurred to us that the same love we felt for her exists to a far greater degree in our eternal family. The idea that our Father in Heaven cares about us in the same way we care about our children still overwhelms us. Eventually we did find work, and we were reminded that we can and always should reach out to our Eternal Father and lean on our Savior. Together we can solve almost anything.
A Different Answer to Our Prayer
As our family was leaving Salt Lake City to drive to California for a vacation, my wife, Shelli, reminded us that we had not yet said a prayer. I had checked our van and made all the precautions I could, but the van was 15 years old. Our oldest son, David, said a prayer that the van would run well. I felt grateful for the added protection of prayer.
Everything went well until Shelli was driving early in the morning about two miles north of Baker, California. The van started to backfire and make terrible noises. At first we thought it was a flat tire but soon realized we were having engine trouble. Shelli turned off the ignition. Because the way was downhill, she was able to coast the van into town. We rolled to a stop in front of a garage that was not yet open for the day.
I stepped out and began inspecting the engine. I had recently replaced the timing chain and the distributor, but now the rotor was turning too easily, indicating an internal problem. Because of limited space, I had decided not to bring my tools with us, and now I regretted that decision.
As I began to hypothesize to my wife what I felt the problems were, I heard a question from the backseat: “Why did the van break down when we prayed it wouldn’t?”
Before I could answer, a tow truck pulled in with another stranded family who needed to wait for the garage to open. “Look how blessed we are,” I said to the children. “Because the van broke down where it did, we did not have to wait for a tow truck out on that dark highway.”
I walked over to see if I could help the other family. The man said his vehicle had experienced a complete electrical failure. I told him that I had some background in electricity and that maybe together we could fix it. After some time we found a bad connector on a spliced wire. We repaired it, and the car started right up.
Then the man asked if he could help me. I told him I wasn’t sure what the problem was. But as I spoke, I had one of those inspired thoughts I had heard about but seldom experienced. I remembered that the gear at the bottom of the distributor was held on by a shear pin, and I realized the pin had probably failed. I asked the man if I could borrow a wrench so I could remove the distributor and check the gear. I was not surprised to find the shear pin broken.
I thought that as soon as the garage opened, I would be able to buy a new pin and we would be on our way. It wasn’t that easy, however. The garage didn’t have the pin or anything like it, and a gas station across town had some shear pins but none the right size. Finally I checked the last place in town, a hardware store, but again to no avail. I went back to the van discouraged with the thought that we would be stranded until the part arrived.
But then I began to search the van for anything resembling a shear pin. In a box of car supplies, I found a roofing nail that fit almost perfectly into the hole. I broke off the head, placed the nail through the gear and shaft of the distributor, and secured the ends. Within a few minutes we were back on the road and feeling very grateful.
That nail made it all the way to my brother’s house in San Jacinto and back to Salt Lake City, where I was finally able to exchange it for the correct part. We learned that Heavenly Father really does answer our prayers, though not always in the straightforward way we expect.
“You Might Want to Read It”
College should be a happy time, but years ago I was a miserable sophomore at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. I was breaking the Word of Wisdom and sinking into depression and long bouts of crying. Although the testimony I had gained as a child was still with me, my life was bringing me no happiness.
In an art history course I was enrolled in, the professor lectured: “Art is about learning who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. We will never be able to answer these questions.” Those words ran through my brain and woke me up. I found it odd that a smart professor didn’t know what any Primary child knew—and what I knew. The thought came to me: Then why don’t you act like it? I knew why: I wasn’t keeping the Word of Wisdom.
I resolved to shake the habits of smoking and drinking and return to church. By an act of willpower, I would straighten out. I was sure I was strong enough. Drinking was no problem to stop, but smoking was impossible. I tried gum, I tried not buying cigarettes, and I tried working out twice a day to clear my lungs. But nothing helped, and I couldn’t bear to return to church smelling like tobacco smoke.
Late February became a crisis time. My girlfriend broke up with me. My roommate left school. The weather turned gloomy, and it rained all the time. I spent hours crying in my lonely dorm room. One night during a rainstorm, I sank to my lowest point and wallowed in my woes: no girlfriend, no roommate, no church, no love, no willpower. Thoughts of killing myself crossed my mind.
As I imagined how my family would take my death, I remembered the last time I saw my mother. I was finishing packing my car for school, and she came out holding a copy of the Book of Mormon. I saw another argument over my inactivity coming.
“I don’t want it,” I said.
“Just take it,” she said. “You might want to read it.”
I tossed the book into a box and forgot about it.
Now, I stopped crying as I thought of the book. I went to the closet and pulled out my odds-and-ends box. I was sure I still had that book. I tossed out shoes, a shirt or two, and several of the previous year’s textbooks before I finally found it.
I opened the cover. “Love, Mom” was all that was written inside. I started to cry again. I opened to the first chapter and read, “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents,” and I cried even harder. The Holy Ghost bore witness to me that I too was born of goodly parents and that this book was true. My tears washed thoughts of suicide out of my mind, and I felt loved for the first time in a long while.
I read the entire book in a matter of weeks. I found enough strength in my daily reading of the Book of Mormon to quit smoking and return to church. Did the Book of Mormon save my life? Perhaps. But I can say for certain it saved me from a spiritual death.
Our Little Missionary
Excitement was in the air as my daughter Teresa and her husband, Guy Wentzel, arrived at the hospital for the cesarean birth of their third child. Soon Guy came down to the waiting area and told us they had another son. He mentioned that the baby had a heart murmur and that more tests were needed, but he didn’t seem concerned. However, later in the afternoon I saw a tear rolling down Guy’s cheek, and I knew something was wrong with my new grandson.
The heart specialist called a family conference at about 5:00 P.M. A heart catheterization was needed, and major surgery was likely. The doctor gave the baby only a 10 or 15 percent chance of survival, but the family decided to do all that was medically possible. Before the baby was transferred to another hospital, we gathered in Teresa’s room. My husband, Oren, anointed our grandson, and Guy gave him a name and a father’s blessing. He stated that Hallie Ray would be able to stay with his family as long as Heavenly Father would allow, that he would not have to suffer great pain, and that he would become a missionary.
At 3:30 A.M. Hallie came out of surgery, and the doctor said the next step would be to get him off the respirator. “Just look, he is a fighter!” Guy said. On the third day Hallie was able to breathe on his own, and a week after his birth he went home. The doctor suggested the family enjoy each day with Hallie because the medical profession could do no more for him.
Over the next six months, Hallie weathered several heart failures and respiratory problems. Four times he was near death, but he pulled through. For a time he was supervised 24 hours a day by a nurse, and his room was equipped with a heart monitor, suction machine, humidifier, and oxygen tanks. As he grew older, he gained in strength.
More than 300 people attended his first birthday party, and a television station did a touching feature about him. As Hallie grew, he did things other boys do when they are two and three years old.
In fulfillment of his father’s blessing, Hallie was indeed central to missionary work. During his many hospitalizations, his parents had long discussions with medical personnel about life after death and other principles, and they handed out more than a case of copies of the Book of Mormon with their testimonies written inside. When a doctor named Larry Coble was baptized into the Church along with his wife and children, Hallie was present at the baptism.
When heart failure again loomed, his parents took him to a San Francisco hospital for more operations. Although the surgeries went well, he developed a staph infection. I was with my three-and-a-half-year-old grandson when he quietly slipped through the veil. His little hand clutched my finger and then slipped loose. The room was filled with a beautiful, spiritual silence as he moved forth to the next stage of his mission in eternity.
My 16-Year Conversion
I’ve heard it usually takes at least three contacts with the Church before a person agrees to hear the missionary discussions. For me, it took seven.
As a girl, I spent the summer of 1964 in New York City with my Aunt Alberta and Uncle Spencer. We attended the World’s Fair often, and the Latter-day Saint pavilion made a deep impression on me. I remember the peaceful feelings I felt, and I thought the replica of the Salt Lake Temple was beautiful. I was particularly interested in a mural that showed departed loved ones welcoming a person to the spirit world after death.
The following year, my mother unexpectedly died at age 43. In my grief, I held the message of that Latter-day Saint mural close to my heart. Not long after, I became friends with a Latter-day Saint neighbor girl. I enjoyed being around her family, and I’m sure I would have attended Young Women activities or Sunday services if I had been invited.
I met my next Church member in 1974, while I was working as a nurse. My charge nurse was LDS, and I thought she was kind, just, and fair. She told me about her calling as a Primary teacher, and I was impressed by her love for the children and her careful lesson preparations. I’m certain that if I had received an invitation, I would have attended church with her and taken my son to Primary.
One day in 1976, I experienced a flat tire on my way to work. I was wearing my white nurse’s uniform, and I didn’t want to soil it. As if in answer to prayer, two young men appeared on their bicycles, wearing their Sunday best despite Virginia’s summer heat and humidity. They changed my tire, and I thanked them. I’m sure that if they had offered, I would have loved to hear the discussions.
In 1978 I decided to move to Salt Lake City. Before I left Virginia, I sought out an LDS surgeon where I worked and discussed the Church with him, but I thought I had to go to Salt Lake to learn more. After I moved, I found the social adjustment difficult. At Christmastime, some Latter-day Saint neighbors gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon. But by then my heart had hardened, and I decided the book was a fairytale. Over the next couple of years I went through four sets of missionaries. While I was cleaning one day in 1980, I came across my copy of the Book of Mormon. I decided to give the gospel another try, and this time I was finally converted. I was baptized on 19 March 1980, about 16 years after my first contact with the Church. In October 1981 I was married in the Salt Lake Temple, and my son was sealed to us. Then in March 1982 I did temple work for my grandparents and mother. I sent my aunt and uncle in New York City a copy of the Book of Mormon for Christmas, and my aunt was later baptized and endowed.
Since I joined the Church, I am more tender, more understanding, more peaceful, and more loving—and yet I have a new strength. I know from firsthand experience how important it is to share the gift of the gospel with others.
Too Nervous to Speak Up
Shyness and nervousness have always made my life difficult. High school and college were trying because I was too afraid to answer questions verbally. Job interviews were equally hard, and it was difficult for me to secure employment.
After I joined the Church, sometimes I did not go to Church meetings for fear of being asked to offer a prayer. I felt bad having a testimony and not sharing it with my fellow brothers and sisters, but I was too nervous to speak up. One Sunday I was asked to offer a spiritual thought the next week. As I walked home after church that Sunday, I thought seriously of never returning.
That afternoon I decided to have a nap. Before I dozed off, my six-year-old son, David, walked into the bedroom holding a copy of the Pearl of Great Price. He had opened the book to Moses, chapter 6, and he asked me to read it to him. Reluctantly I told him I was tired, and I closed the book. He pleaded, “Please, Mommy, just read here.” He again opened to Moses, chapter 6, and pointed to verse 31. I started to read about Enoch:
“He bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?
“And the Lord said unto Enoch: Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good” (Moses 6:31–32).
Even before David asked me to explain these scriptures, I had a new feeling within me. In the best and simplest way I could, I spoke to him in Kiswahili, our native tongue, and explained that the Lord promised to help Enoch and to make his weaknesses his strengths (see Ether 12:27). David smiled at me and told me to continue resting.
I did not go to sleep but spent the time pondering the realization that I am a special child of God and that He had a purpose in sending me to earth.
The next Sunday I was nervous, but I gave the spiritual thought. I was later called as a Relief Society teacher, and with the help of the other sisters and my loving Heavenly Father I was able to teach the lessons. I was subsequently called as first counselor in the branch Relief Society presidency.
It is amazing how the scriptures can bring light into our lives, both spiritually and temporally.