I Knew We Needed to Find the Book
When I reached the age of 40, I decided to start an exercise program of walking every day for one hour. My walk took me along a beautiful parkway near our home in Birmingham, Alabama. During these walks, I began thinking of spiritual things and developed a desire to find knowledge of what I then called my “inner self”—of who I really was.
At that time my husband and I weren’t going to any particular church. But I had always been a religious person, so I knew how to pray. Each day before I began my walk, I prayed that I would grow spiritually during that solitary hour of reflection. Just as my body was growing stronger through my daily exercise, I wanted my spirit to grow.
Praying and meditating as I walked, I began to feel inspiring thoughts: I must keep my body pure and clean so the Spirit of God could dwell in me, so I had to stop drinking alcohol and start eating more healthily; when my life was over, what I had accomplished in my career would not be important, but how I had treated others. As principles such as these filled my mind, I felt I should get a book and write them down immediately after each walk. The words seemed to flow without my having to think about them. Days and months passed, and the pages of my journal became filled. My constant prayer was to continue to grow spiritually.
In the meantime, my husband was offered a job in Las Vegas, Nevada. After much thought we decided to accept the offer and move west. My last entry in my journal was, “We move soon to Nevada. I pray that I will become more enlightened as I start my new beginnings.”
On the day we arrived in Las Vegas, we began to look at homes. As we prepared to begin our search, I said a silent prayer that we would find a home and that I would continue to grow spiritually. To my surprise, the first home we looked at was next to a Latter-day Saint temple. It had an angel on top whose hand and trumpet seemed to extend toward me.
The next day I went to the public library, pulled out an encyclopedia, and looked up the word Mormon, as I had no idea what this church was like. I read there about a man named Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I asked the librarian for a copy of this book, but she didn’t know what it was. I started to wonder if there still existed such a book, so instead I checked out an LDS book called Gospel Principles.
When I took the book home and started to read, I was dumbfounded. The principles therein were like those I’d been writing in my journal for the past year! My husband also read the book, and we agreed that the gospel principles made sense; however, we both had a lot of questions. I knew we needed to find the Book of Mormon.
Three months passed. One morning as I was cleaning our new home, I answered a knock at the door and was surprised to see two missionaries standing on our front porch. They introduced themselves and asked if I wanted to know more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Boy, did I! I don’t know who was more amazed as I expressed my excitement at the missionaries’ unexpected arrival and told them I had a lot of questions. Within minutes the missionaries placed in my hands a copy of the Book of Mormon. As I beheld the book for the first time, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. I had finally found it!
The elders then asked if they could come back when my husband was home. Thinking my husband wouldn’t want to talk to missionaries, I was about to answer no when the telephone rang. It was my husband calling from work to chat. When he asked me what I was doing, I took a deep breath and told him. I received my second surprise of the day when he replied, “Well, why don’t you have them over when I can talk to them too.”
The missionaries returned the next evening, and my husband and I began participating in the discussions. I read the Book of Mormon within two weeks and was again amazed at how similar its teachings were to the principles I’d recorded in my “spiritual journal.” As I shared my walking experiences with the missionaries, it dawned on me that God had helped me grow spiritually and that He had led me to the Book of Mormon, my spiritual textbook. At last I’d found what I was looking for! My husband and I were baptized six weeks later. One year after our baptism, we were sealed in the very temple on whose spire I had seen the statue of the angel Moroni.
We’ve now been members of the Church for 12 years. We’ve loved our membership in the Church and have grown through the various callings we’ve held. Throughout my years of service as a stake missionary, Relief Society counselor, seminary teacher, temple ordinance worker, Sunday School teacher, and now Young Women president, I’ve shared my testimony and the teachings of the Book of Mormon. With each calling and with each new situation I have encountered in life, I’ve found the answers I’ve needed in this remarkable book. Daily I thank Heavenly Father for leading me to the Book of Mormon.
My Long Climb Home
I joined the Church in England in 1965, but the hostile reaction of my father and other pressures eventually led me to become less active.
Those were painful and unhappy times. On the outside it seemed easy to stay away, and I suppose I started to break the Word of Wisdom to fool myself that I didn’t care. Eventually I convinced myself Heavenly Father no longer loved or cared about me, and I felt completely rejected and alone.
Members still visited me occasionally, but to no avail. I both resented and envied them.
Then one evening a pair of senior sister missionaries dropped by. I was determined to give them a hard time so that they wouldn’t make a return visit, but something inside me warmed to them. They had come as friends, not to preach to me or make me feel guilty.
They returned again and again to work in the garden and to strip paint from an old chest and help restore it, but above all to be friends to me. I began to be able to feel the Savior’s love through them as they filled my home with peace and love through their obvious joy in living the gospel. They gained my trust, something that was so difficult for me to give.
All too soon their missions came to an end and they returned home, but before they left we made arrangements for me to join them in America for a holiday.
The trip turned out to be wonderful. Rebellion against the Church was still within my heart, however, so I would not attend any Church meetings. In fact, I took great delight in drinking coffee in front of my two friends, trying hard to show them I was “untouchable.” I soon found out I was far from untouchable.
On the Saturday before Easter, we went to visit Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, and were deeply moved by the paintings and other art having to do with the Savior. It seemed that the Atonement was suddenly becoming real to me. A week later I was in southern Utah on the Sunday of general conference. Being alone for a while, I switched on the television to a talk given by President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency. As I listened to that great man, I could not contain the tears of guilt and shame.
That afternoon I climbed to one of the observation points in Zion National Park. As I walked, I tried to put my life into perspective, and I found that the climb, which was very difficult and strenuous in places, was comparable to the trials in my life. I pressed on and reached the end of the climb, where I looked down at the beauty of creation and felt exhilaration.
The spirit of rebellion was not completely gone from my heart, but over time I could feel the hostility melting away. I began to experience feelings of love—new, beautiful, and strange to me. I also began to learn that I could be loved. I knew I needed to change my life, to truly repent.
When I returned home I felt much different inside. I was beginning to feel hope, and I was learning to pray for guidance and forgiveness. True repentance didn’t take place overnight in my life. It took many months before I felt I had been forgiven. I made a decision to start attending church again, the most difficult part of which was getting the courage to actually walk back through the doors.
I become overwhelmed as I think of the meaning of the Savior’s Atonement: “Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me!” (“I Stand All Amazed,” Hymns, no. 193). It is also wonderful that two sister missionaries came into my life when they did and shared with me their love and example. I was filled with joy to have one of them be my escort when I attended the temple to receive my endowment.
Following years of being lost and wandering, I had come home at last.
I Hope You’ll All Remember Me
I remember clearly the day I finally finished my four-generation family group records. I felt relief and a sense of accomplishment.
One morning a few years later, I awoke with a strong feeling I had left something undone in my family history and that now was the time to do it. The impression was so strong that it left me unsettled for days. The feeling of urgency grew the more I thought about it, until I decided I should visit Rockport, Missouri, the place my father’s family had lived as far back as anyone knew.
The only time I’d ever visited Rockport had been when I was 11. What would my relatives think of a long-lost family member showing up, looking for family records? But the urgency I felt was strong, so I decided to go through with my plans.
My fears about the visit were soon put to rest. All my relatives welcomed me with open arms and were gracious and cooperative. I was able to interview each one of them at length and to record my great-grandmother’s narration of her life history.
I also spent hours at local libraries, churches, and cemeteries.I found that part of the reason my living relatives had so much trouble getting family history information for me was that most of the records and headstones in the cemeteries were in German, and no one could read them—no one, that is, except me. Because I had served a mission in Germany, I could translate the information and thus uncover many clues and missing links.
I became more and more astonished as piece after piece of my family’s history fell into place. Family lines I had abandoned because of lack of information suddenly began to produce name after name, date after date. I found old photographs of grandparents four and five generations back whose eyes seemed to plead with me, begging for my help.
In the end I obtained enough information to perform temple ordinances for 18 of my ancestors. These were the people whose information I had previously given up all hope of ever finding.
Before my flight home I sat in the airport reviewing my notes and the original documents my great-grandmother had given me. I happened upon a poem written in 1830 by John Brown, my fourth great-grandfather. It read, in part:
My eyes filled with tears as the Holy Ghost whispered that these words from 1830 were written for me. I felt that my family members on the other side of the veil were determined not to be forgotten, and I knew that someday I would have the chance to meet them in that joyous reunion John Brown wrote of so very long ago.
I learned that we can play a vital part in our ancestors’ eternal progression. By following the prompting I received, I found that a way was opened to me in my search, and now I know we are never really finished with our family history responsibilities.