How the Book of Mormon Found Me
Years ago I walked into a bookstore in Kumasi, Ghana. As I moved from shelf to shelf, pulling out one book after another, I spotted a book with a light blue cover, worn and faded. It carried the title Book of Mormon. I picked it up, dusted it off, and read a few sentences. I did not understand what I read, and I could not relate it to the Bible. But as I held the book in my hands, I had the impression it was scripture. However, as I had with other books I had picked up, I put it back on the shelf and continued looking at books.
A few minutes later, I found myself in the same area of the store, and I once again noticed the blue book. This time I looked at the table of contents and found a lot of strange and unfamiliar names. I thought, If this is scripture, why do I not find this information in the Bible? I tried to read a couple of verses but could not understand how it fit in. As before, I put it back on the shelf.
I looked at one book after another until, for the third time, I came upon that Book of Mormon. I opened it and found a section called Mosiah. Is he in the Bible? I wondered. My knowledge of scripture began and ended with the Bible. This blue book confused me. I felt as though a battle were raging inside me. I had never heard of the book before, but I felt I already knew it. A moment later I found myself paying for it.
For many years the Book of Mormon remained unread on my shelf. I tried to read it a few times, but I simply could not relate to it.
In time, I moved to Germany. When I arrived, I began looking for a place to worship. I attended a number of churches but never felt at home. Finally I began to pray and fast to know where to worship. A whole month passed before my answer came.
People from many different countries lived in my apartment building. Distinct among them was a gentleman and his wife who sometimes visited my friend. They were not rich, but they cared for us in many ways. Then one day they invited my friend to go to church with them, and he extended the invitation to me. I asked, “What church are we going to?”
He replied that we were going to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I told him that as long as they preached of Christ, I would go with him.
The day arrived, and we went to church. I looked around at the sea of strange faces. My first impression was of warmth and a sense of belonging. I was also happy to see young men administering the sacrament. I had never seen anything like that anywhere.
After sacrament meeting, those visiting for the first time were invited to attend the Gospel Principles class. The topic of discussion that day was the eternal nature of families. I was thrilled with all I heard. All too soon the class was over. I asked the teacher if he was going to continue with the same topic next week, and he said yes. I decided to return the following Sunday.
The next session was priesthood meeting. The lesson was about managing family finances. What a church! I thought. The gospel and home management all in one!
After priesthood meeting, the couple who brought us to church, recognizing my interest, asked if I would like to hear lessons on the restored gospel. “Sure,” I said. And then, while I was basking in the spirit of the day’s meetings, I suddenly remembered that shop where I bought an old, worn copy of the Book of Mormon. The incident in the shop, which I considered rather insignificant at the time and had long forgotten, now took on great meaning.
My lessons began and continued without a break. It was a joy to learn the gospel from these couple missionaries. They looked upon me not only as a brother but as a son. Lessons completed, I was baptized.
I have meditated often on these two connected but separate incidents. Why would anyone walk into a shop, find an old book with an unfamiliar title, read a couple of sentences he couldn’t understand, and then buy the book? Does that make sense? Still, I believe that much of what reason alone cannot explain actually makes a lot of sense to the Lord. He prepares our path, and when we are ready to receive His word He leads us to the right people and into the right situations. Often, long before we start searching for God, He is looking for us.
“Please Help It Stop Bleeding”
One morning in July 1985, I was looking forward to spending a quiet day at home with my three children, ages six, four, and one. Earlier my husband and I had taken the family car to the service station for some repairs. I didn’t mind being without a car for one day; it would give me a chance to catch up on some things that had gone undone with our family’s hectic summer schedule.
The children played happily in the backyard while I kept an eye on them from the kitchen window. Suddenly I heard the sobs of my one-year-old, Michael. I turned off the kitchen faucet and ran outside. As I opened the back door, I could see blood all over Michael’s chin and T-shirt.
My husband had been repairing our sprinkler system and had left a small bundle of PVC pipe near the patio. Michael had fallen on a jagged piece of pipe and scraped his chin, or at least that’s what I thought.
I took him into the house and started to clean the wound. It was just a tiny cut, but it would not stop bleeding. Even when I put direct pressure on it, the bleeding still wouldn’t stop.
I took Michael into the bedroom and offered a short prayer: “Please, Heavenly Father, help me know what to do. Please help it stop bleeding.”
Shortly after I finished my prayer, I heard the doorbell ring. Taking Michael with me, I opened the door and saw my Relief Society president, Geri Robinson, standing there with her kitchen apron on.
“How are you doing, Janis?” she asked.
“Fine,” I answered.
She looked at me with a puzzled expression. “A few moments ago I was in the middle of canning some fruit, and I felt a prompting to come over here immediately,” she told me. She had turned off her stove and done just that.
I assured her that everything was fine, not even considering that this woman was the answer to my prayer.
Geri could see that Michael had been crying. I told her about the accident and Michael’s cut.
“Where is your doctor’s office?” she asked. I told her it was clear across town and that I didn’t have a car but that I didn’t feel Michael needed to go in for such a small cut.
Geri gently took my hand and told me we were going to see the doctor and make sure everything was all right. She quickly gathered my children and ushered us into her car.
When the doctor examined Michael, he saw that the piece of pipe had made a cut almost three-fourths of an inch deep that would not have been detected without a professional exam.
“I’m impressed that you knew enough to bring your son in,” he told me. “Most parents wouldn’t have done that. Without prompt attention, the cut could have become infected and caused serious problems.”
My heart overflowed, and so did my tears. I realized that my Heavenly Father had sent this dear, sweet sister to me at a time when I needed help. I am sure some of Geri’s fruit was ruined that day, but she helped me see that our Father in Heaven is ever mindful of us. How grateful I am that Geri listened to the Spirit of the Lord and followed His promptings!
Charity and the Cyclops Cake
A few weeks after my husband unexpectedly died, I came home from work tired and depressed. My sons met me at the door with two pieces of interesting information: we still had no water (it had stopped running in the middle of the night), and in about two hours there was a Cub Scout fathers and sons’ cake contest and sale, and they needed a cake.
When I walked into the kitchen, I could see that dirty dishes had multiplied alarmingly. There was hardly any space for mixing a cake, and we still needed to solve our water problem!
I located a simple cake recipe and recruited a son, against his will, to give his younger brothers directions. Then I changed clothes, rummaged around in the barn for a pipe wrench, and crawled down into the well. I had watched my husband fix the pump several times and had no doubt that in a few minutes I could have it running.
The connections looked OK. I rattled the switch box to get the earwigs out of it and tapped it with the wrench. Nothing. I kicked the pipe. Nothing. I mashed my finger while trying to unscrew the plug to prime it. It wouldn’t budge. Nothing worked.
I must have spent an hour down the well trying everything I could think of. I despaired. What on earth am I doing down in this hole hammering on a stupid pump when I should be in a nice, clean kitchen being a mother? Why do my children have to go through life and Cub Scout cake sales without a father? Is this fair?
Unable to fix the water problem, I gave up and went to the meeting—late. I sat on a chair in the back of the hall, and the boys took their sad little cake to the table at the front. There were cakes that looked like Cub Scout caps, cakes with trees and birds, cakes with patriotic flags. Then there was our cake. My sons had decorated it to look like Cyclops, with one giant eyeball made of purple and blue frosting in the middle. They had added lots of wiggly red lines to make the eyeball look bloodshot.
I sat there in the dark feeling sorry for myself. When I could keep back the tears of frustration and self-pity no longer, I slipped out and went into the rest room.
A Relief Society sister in the group saw me go. She followed me, and before long I had poured out the entire story. She put her arm around me and gave me a hug and then suggested the names of a couple of reliable plumbers. Plumbers? What a novel idea! It was revolutionary to me. When the water doesn’t work on a farm, you tell your husband, and he tinkers around the pump for a little while, and voila—everything is OK. It had never crossed my mind to call a plumber! I realized that maybe it would be all right to make decisions that were different from how my husband would have done things. Maybe things would look up after all.
At the end of the evening, the cake sale began. My boys stood on the stage, grinning and holding the grotesque eyeball cake. A sweet little grandmother ended up paying a respectable price for it. As she went up on stage to get the cake, she said she couldn’t tell exactly what it was supposed to be, but she really liked the colors. My boys, thank goodness, just smiled and kept their mouths shut.
Those two wonderful women knew about charity. In a simple way, they each saw a need and then spontaneously went out of their way to fill it. They would probably say it was just a small thing; I doubt they even remember the incident. But it was not a small thing to me.
Jesus Christ showed us our pattern. He taught us charity. He was sensitive to the needs of those He loved, and He loved them all. He teaches us likewise to be sensitive to each other, to love and comfort and lift each other. I think that’s part of the reason we are here.
That day, I learned that when it comes to practicing charity, sometimes the little things can make a big difference.
After 20 Years, Indifferent No More
When my son joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1970s, I did not oppose him, but neither was I much interested in hearing about his new church. Without pressuring me, my son tried to share the gospel message. He gave me books, pamphlets, and other material that I left unread on my bookshelf. I had been reading the Bible for many years and supposed that was sufficient religion in my life.
In 1988 my wife died, and for years afterward I felt lonely and depressed. One day in February 1993, I heard a voice tell me to join the Mormon Church. At that time I would not have understood the message if I had been given the true name of the Church. I was surprised by the voice; I was alone and didn’t know where it had come from. When the message was repeated, I was extremely impressed.
As was my custom at that time of day, I went out to jog. That particular day I happened to meet two Latter-day Saint missionaries. They gave me a pamphlet, and when I read it I remembered what had happened earlier. I felt that the two experiences and their timing were not coincidental.
A little while later, Elders Shaun Yusko and Tryon Clark knocked on my door. They were surprised when I welcomed them into my home and told them what had happened. A warm spirit filled the room, and I was filled with the desire to be baptized.
I went to my son’s house to tell him I wanted to join the Church. He looked at me with love and smiled calmly. He said he was not surprised; his patriarchal blessing had assured him I would eventually be converted. He baptized me, and before we stepped out of the baptismal font, we embraced, overcome with emotion. I was 76 years old. Twenty years of indifference were over.
It so happened that I lived within the boundaries of a newly organized branch in Venezuela, and four months after my baptism I was called to serve as branch president. With little experience I was able to fulfill the calling by trusting in the Lord’s help, studying the standard works and the Church manuals, and receiving counsel from my son, who was then serving as a bishop. I was also blessed by the dedication of one of the sisters in the branch who became my wife.
My life has changed completely. I feel immensely happy working in the branch. I love the members and feel their support and the support of my wonderful family. I only wish I hadn’t been so indifferent when the gospel first entered my life. I’ll be eternally grateful I was given another chance.
I Felt Comfort—but Why?
In 1980 I was a missionary serving in the Philippines Cebu Mission when I was transferred to a city called Ormoc. This district had normally shown steady growth, but for several months there had been very few baptisms. I arrived in Ormoc on 28 October and met my new companion, Elder Alexander. The first few weeks were extremely slow for us. We had few teaching appointments and almost no referrals. In spite of working long hours and praying to find people to teach, we met with little success. I remember praying for guidance and receiving confirmation that the Lord was preparing people for us to teach.
On 15 November Elder Alexander and I were tracting in the Barrio Isla Verde, a community on a small island in the Ormoc River. To get there we had to cross the shallow river some 75 feet (23 m) on stepping stones, which proved to be a feat in itself. However, the local residents traveled the path with ease.
While there, we met Petronilo and Andrea Ygonia and their grandson Allan Sueto Sungahid. They accepted our invitation to hold a family home evening in their home. That evening was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. After playing some fun games, we introduced a gospel message and bore our testimonies.
Our visits continued with this family for the next two weeks. It was exciting to watch as their countenances began to shine. By the end of November all three had committed to be baptized the following month.
I will never forget the teaching experience we had in the Ygonias’ home on 2 December. President Loa, the ward mission leader, came with us to a neighborhood meeting at the Ygonias’. More than 30 neighbors had accepted the Ygonias’ invitation to come and listen to the first discussion. As we taught and bore testimony, the Holy Ghost filled the room and became so strong that I believe everyone present was touched.
We explained that the warm, peaceful feeling each person was experiencing was the presence of the Holy Ghost. Prompted by the Spirit, we invited each person in that room to continue investigating the Church and commit to baptism. All 30 neighbors accepted the invitation.
Brother and Sister Ygonia, their grandson, and seven others were baptized in December. The work in Ormoc had begun to prosper once again, due in large part to the faith of this good family. Shortly thereafter I was transferred from Ormoc. Although I had spent only six weeks there, these weeks were some of the best of my life. Never had I worked harder for such a worthy cause. Never had I felt closer to the Lord. During the six weeks I served there, the Lord had allowed us to teach and baptize 9 souls, and another 30 individuals were preparing for baptism.
Eleven years later, in November 1991, I was sitting in my office at work and suddenly felt the Comforter’s influence. It was a strong feeling of peace and love. The impression came to me that someone had died, but I could not think of who it might be. I called my wife, Susan, at home and asked if everything was all right. She reassured me, but I still felt the same way.
That evening, I felt impressed to pick up one of my journals. I turned to the pages where I had recorded my missionary experiences in Ormoc. As I read, the Spirit grew stronger and tears came into my eyes. I thought of the wonderful people I had seen embrace the gospel there. Could it be that these strong feelings of comfort were related to my Ormoc experience?
Later that month I read of a devastating typhoon that had hit Ormoc. Listed in the 30 November edition of the Church News were the names of 22 members who had died in the flooding. Among the dead were Brother and Sister Ygonia and their grandson Allan. I also saw the names of other people I had known while serving in Ormoc. Again the familiar warmth and peace of the Comforter entered my heart, and I understood why I had felt His influence earlier.
This tragic event had taken the mortal lives of many beautiful families. While I grieved their deaths, I knew they had returned to Heavenly Father’s presence, where they continue in the work they began here on earth.