A Higher View
In December 1961, at age 21, I earned a pilot’s license. I had always dreamed of flying, and now, if I happened to feel depressed or stressed, I would go up in a plane. After flying a short while, I would feel much better. But after a year, having flown 84 hours, I quit aviation and left Uruguay. Although flying had relaxed me, I realized I was searching for something more—an inner peace I could not find in the air.
Ten months of wandering were enough to convince me that I might not find what I was searching for on the ground either. I thought moving to different locations would be the answer, but it wasn’t. And so I started to search different religious philosophies. During the next 18 years, I investigated several churches and became active in a few of them.
One day I visited a church three blocks from our house. When I rang the doorbell, the custodian answered. I told him I had two teenage sons who needed to belong to a youth group. “Do you have Boy Scouts?” I asked. He said yes.
Then I asked him if his church was based on the Bible. Again he said yes—it was based on the Bible and the Book of Mormon. He invited me to Church services the following Sunday. My 13-year-old son, Marcelo, was traveling with friends, so I invited my other son, Sergio, who was 15, to accompany me. He came, although reluctantly.
When we entered the chapel, several members greeted us in a friendly manner. An older man quickly introduced us to the missionaries, and they started teaching us the discussions that day. When Marcelo returned from his trip, he joined us in the discussions. The Spirit touched our hearts, and on 16 February 1980 my sons and I became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My wife, Isabel, was baptized on 15 March.
More than 30 years have passed since I began searching for inner peace in places outside myself. Today, thanks to the gospel of Jesus Christ, I see far more than I ever did in a plane. I see a world more real and beautiful than anything I saw from the air. I see a world and a life filled with God’s love, and I anticipate even greater glories awaiting in the next.
The Gift of Hands
The dedication of the Bountiful Utah Temple will always hold a special place in my heart. My husband and I attended the sacred event with our older children and extended family members. Not long after we arrived, a temple worker asked those assembled if someone could interpret the dedication for a deaf sister.
Immediately my husband and my brother looked at me. They knew that 15 years ago I had served a mission in Indiana, where I first met Edith Cartwright, a deaf woman in one of the wards. I had always wanted to learn sign language and saw an opportunity to do so, along with being able to help Sister Cartwright. I obtained some books from the library on sign language, and on preparation days or when I had spare time I would read and practice. Soon I felt comfortable and somewhat proficient with my new ability. During the years following my mission, while I finished school, married, and worked at raising my six children, opportunities had not arisen for me to use the sign language I had learned—until now.
I agreed to interpret for the deaf sister, feeling both excitement and anxiety. I had an overwhelming desire to help but also a tremendous fear of failure. As I stood to join the sister at the back of the chapel, a young man in front of me touched my arm. He reminded me that with prayer and faith I would have the gift of tongues. His words gave me courage and helped me exercise faith in Heavenly Father.
When I was introduced to the sister for whom I would be signing, I told her how nervous I was and that I hoped I would be able to help. She bowed her head and signed a prayer on my behalf. My husband came to give me a reassuring hug and whispered that he and the children would be praying for me.
Shortly after, another deaf sister joined us. As the dedication began I struggled to keep up. But the two sisters quickly let me know that I was doing fine and that they understood what I was signing. A calming peace washed over me. The words of our faithful Church leaders passed through me and flowed easily through my hands, and I began to sign words I had never learned or signed before. Somehow I knew exactly how to sign the words at the same moment I heard them.
At the close of the dedication, the congregation sang “The Spirit of God” as tears flowed down the two sisters’ faces. Even though they couldn’t hear the song, they could feel the emotion and the Spirit that touched us all.
After the two-hour meeting, I felt like I had run a marathon—and won. I was physically drained but spiritually lifted. I will always be thankful for the faith and prayers that day that strengthened my efforts and helped those sisters feel Heavenly Father’s love and receive His words.
On a Country Road
As I drove along a country road in Indiana, I felt both thankfulness and great loneliness. I thought about the accomplishments of the week with my new job, fresh out of college—but then there was the loneliness as I was heading toward my empty studio apartment in Chicago. It was my first time away from home and family since my mission. My mind wandered back several months to the morning I had packed my car and left home. With everyone already at work or school, only my mother was there to give me last bits of encouragement and advice for living alone in Chicago. As I pulled out of the driveway, my mother stood in the doorway blowing kisses and trying to hold back tears.
“Get a grip,” I said aloud to myself. “I’m a 24-year-old man.” I thought about how I had come to Chicago and was awestruck with the size of the city. I had looked down from the 110th floor of the Chicago Sears Tower at one of the busiest intersections of freeway in the world, then out to see the Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. More than seven million people lived in the greater Chicago area, I was told. Looking down at the thousands of cars, I imagined the individuals in each car and how God knew each one. Is it possible? I had wondered. How is it possible that He knows each of us?
My mind returned to the emptiness of my car and the country road, and I prayed for comfort. I told Heavenly Father I had spent two years on a mission testifying that I know He lives and knows each of us personally but that my heart was filled with loneliness and doubt. Did He know how terribly alone I felt?
As I prayed I noticed in my rearview mirror a big tractor-trailer following close behind me. I gradually slowed and pulled slightly to the right to allow him to pass. The driver sped up, and black smoke billowed out the vertical stacks as he pulled alongside my car. I glanced up to see him waving as he passed. Once in front of me, he slowed down and pulled to the right as I had done, inviting me to pass him now. This isn’t what I had in mind to keep me company, I thought.
As I accelerated and passed the truck, the driver waved again, and this time he blew his horn, startling me. I quickly put some space between us. But before I could react, there he was, alongside my car and waving again. This time as he passed me, he motioned for me to pull over.
The back of his truck now filled my entire windshield view. That’s when I noticed the bumper sticker: Happiness Is Family Home Evening. “Wait a minute,” I said aloud. “He must be a member of the Church, but how does he know I am?” I followed him to a shopping area, and he motioned to a fast-food place from his truck window. I glanced over at the familiar bumper sticker and smiled back in agreement. It was, after all, dinnertime and I was hungry.
“Hi, I’m Jake,” he said, extending his hand as we entered the restaurant. “I noticed the BYU sticker in your rear window and thought you might be a member of the Church,” he continued. “Thought you might like to grab something to eat.”
“You’re right, I am. And I’m hungry too,” I said. “My name’s Kelly. I saw your family home evening bumper sticker and thought you must be a member also.” He confirmed that he was. After ordering and filling our trays, we sat down at a small table.
“I’ve only been a member for a year,” Jake began. “All my life I felt there was a God who knew and cared about His children here on earth. But it wasn’t until I heard the plan of salvation that I gained a real knowledge of God’s love for each one of us.” Here was a complete stranger bearing his testimony to me. “When I came up behind you in my truck and saw your BYU sticker, I had an overwhelming feeling that I should meet you,” he said.
After a while, Jake said, “Can you imagine how different this world would be if everyone knew what we know: that God knows each one of us, loves us, and wants us to be happy?”
What a wonderful testimony, I thought as Jake explained that he and his wife were planning to be sealed in the temple later that month. My mind filled with thoughts of gratitude: toward Jake for sharing his testimony with me at a time when I needed it most; for the true Church of Jesus Christ, which makes friends and brothers out of strangers; for my family, who taught me the gospel; for my mission and the opportunity it gave me to share my testimony with others; for a loving Heavenly Father who knows and cares for each one of His children; and for good Latter-day Saints, like Jake.
The Lord’s Timing
As a wife and mother active in the Church and in the community, I had more than enough to keep me busy. In addition to caring for four young children, I was volunteering at school, fulfilling a very time-consuming Church calling, and working on various other projects. My schedule allowed for few if any disruptions.
Then in mid-July I unexpectedly learned that I was going to have another baby. Preoccupied as I was with my pursuits, a feeling of love for this unborn child did not readily come. Instead there was unacceptance. Having another baby did not fit in with my schedule or plans. And though I asked Heavenly Father to help me grow to love this new child, I allowed little to change in my life.
When the baby was 25 weeks along, an ultrasound gave some disturbing news. I had a history of giving birth to small babies, but this baby was not just small; it was behind a full month in growth. I was told to cut down on my activities so that the baby would have a chance to grow. The plan was made to take the baby early by cesarean section, but it must be mature enough first.
Suddenly my life came to a standstill. I was in anguish over the baby and the thought that I might lose it or that it might have severe disabilities from being born early. My prayers also changed abruptly. I was heartsick over the unaccepting attitude I had had toward this pregnancy. I prayed for forgiveness, and with all the energy of my soul I prayed for the well-being of my unborn child. Suddenly many things on my schedule that had seemed so important did not have the same priority.
When the baby’s development continued to be slow, I was required to rest even more. My husband took on many domestic duties, and Relief Society sisters stepped in to assist us. My prayers for the baby became almost constant. I had rarely felt it move, and one night this became too much for me to bear. I fervently prayed to feel a real kick. Ten minutes later I received a series of the only strong kicks I felt during the entire pregnancy. Tears fell down my face as I said a prayer of thanks.
Finally, my condition and the baby’s reached a point where birth could be delayed no longer. In mid-December, two and a half months early, our baby girl was delivered by C-section. She weighed one pound, eight ounces. A priesthood blessing and a ward fast strengthened my hope that she might live.
Not only did she live, but she astounded us and the doctors by thriving. No complications occurred. With the aid of only a well-equipped incubator and an ordinary IV, our little girl, whom we named Celeste, slowly started growing. Within two months she weighed four pounds, and we were able to bring her home.
I have tried to never again question my Heavenly Father’s wisdom or timing in sending blessings. I have also learned the importance of prayerfully setting priorities and asking for the Lord’s help in balancing my schedule. And I have learned that love is a natural outgrowth of sacrifice and earnest prayer for another person. I cannot look at Celeste without feeling love for her and thankfulness to my Father in Heaven.
Asking with My Heart
All my life I had been a poor follower of my parents’ religion. I had benefited from their example of honesty, hard work, high moral values, and healthy living. But they had allowed their children to make their own decisions regarding religion, and I chose not to develop my spirituality. Instead, I elected to train my mind in the rigorous application of the scientific method. I became a biologist. But instead of taking me farther from God, my profession drew me closer. What I learned convinced me that the marvelous and intricate system of life on earth could not have happened by chance. Only a supreme intelligence—God—could have planned and created such wonderful entities as inhabit this planet.
Perhaps it was because of this conviction that I agreed to meet with the missionaries when we encountered one another. At the time, I was 58 years old, retired, and living in Costa Rica. We met for several discussions. Then the missionaries invited me to be baptized. I had enjoyed our discussions and, more to be courteous than out of any great desire to be baptized, I accepted their invitation.
Afterward, I began to experience doubts. As I had always done in the past, I tried to resolve them by seeking a rational explanation for everything I had been taught. Two weeks went by, and my efforts to understand the gospel from a purely rational point of view led me only deeper and deeper into indecision.
One day, troubled by my doubts and lack of faith, I found myself kneeling in prayer. Something inside prompted me to ask with my heart, not my head. Words started flowing from my mouth with an ease I had never experienced before. I must have remained on my knees for a long time. Finally I became tired and went to bed.
The following day, 14 June 1992, was the date set for my baptism. I woke up early and once again felt the desire to pray. I prayed sincerely, asking for our Father in Heaven’s help, but I still couldn’t calm down. I was agitated and filled with doubts. I was about to call the missionaries to cancel my baptism when I was impressed to search the Bible. For some reason, I felt sure I would find my answer there.
I opened my Bible and started to read chapter 3 of Matthew, which tells of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus Christ. As I read the first few lines, my heart swelled with a great joy. In that instant, everything became clear to me and my doubts disappeared. I joyfully made my way to the meetinghouse and was baptized.
Since then, I have been amazed at the transformation in my life. I now understand concepts I could not understand before. This “spirit of revelation,” which touches both mind and heart (see D&C 8:2–3), has taught me why we are on earth and why Jesus Christ atoned for our sins. I have felt His infinite love, and I desire to so live that I might receive from Him the gift of eternal life.
I Tried the Experiment
My parents died while I was still living at home. Being the youngest and the only unmarried member of the family, I was devastated.
Alone and vulnerable, I became so distraught that I had to leave school. Concerned about my emotional state, my brothers and sisters took me to nearly every hospital in the area. The doctors said I was in shock and needed complete rest in a peaceful place away from books and anything that required concentrated thinking.
Life became even more difficult, especially as I saw my friends continuing their studies. The fact that they still had their mothers also caused me pain; my mother had been everything to me. I longed to die so I could rejoin my parents.
But my Father in Heaven had other plans for me. In His wisdom and love, He inspired my brothers and sisters to take me from the city where I had been going to school to another city to be near them. I stayed with my sister Alphonsine. She and her husband and children were so kind and courteous that I began to feel better. Even more importantly, my sister’s oldest son, Faet Nadege, introduced me to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was my association with the Church and the power of the gospel that finally calmed my mind and healed my wounded heart.
When I went to church for the first time, the sisters of the Relief Society and the Young Women welcomed me so warmly I felt I had almost found my parents again. I continued attending church and in time began taking the missionary discussions.
One of the first commitments Elder Hurst and Elder Bekoin asked of me was to read the Book of Mormon. I replied that I couldn’t because I had been told not to read or do anything that required great concentration. The elders encouraged me to pray with sincerity and faith in Jesus Christ about their request, assuring me the Lord would give me the ability to do what was necessary.
And so I did as they counseled. I tried the experiment. I read the Book of Mormon—and did so without any difficulty. I was baptized on 18 November 1995.
I soon received a calling to teach Relief Society. Then I was called to be a branch missionary. After that I served as a counselor in the Relief Society presidency and then as the president of the Young Women in our branch. All of these callings strengthened me and helped me progress, both spiritually and mentally.
My greatest growth came after I was called to serve in the Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission. I was among the first sister missionaries to serve there. The experiences I had, both positive and negative, helped me develop a greater Christian capacity for love and service. My joy felt complete.
I will always be grateful to those who fellowshipped me when I first found the Church. In meeting them, I found a new family, a large and loving one that I know is eternal: the family of our Father in Heaven. I am grateful to the Prophet Joseph Smith, through whom the Lord restored His Church. Above all, I am grateful for my Father in Heaven and my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They opened the doors of life and happiness to me when all I could see was sorrow.