When I was seven years old, my parents divorced. My father moved out, and my two-year-old brother, Garry, and I remained with our mother. She struggled to raise us on her salary as a waitress. She worked long hours, and often Garry and I spent our time playing with our neighbors’ children.
At age nine, my whole world changed. In five short minutes, my mother packed my bag and sent me to live with my father and his new wife. No one ever explained to me why I had to move. I was very confused and sad. For whatever reason, Garry stayed with our mother. The change was a very difficult time for me, and I greatly missed my old life.
My mother eventually remarried, and Garry’s stepfather adopted him. They moved out of state and started a new family. I saw Garry only once after that. I tried to contact him but with no results. Over the years, in my mind’s eye, Garry remained that little boy who rode his toy car on the sidewalk, the rascal who took my goldfish out of the tank and forgot to put it back in the water, and that toddler for whom I felt so protective. But he was gone.
When I was 11, two young men wearing dark suits and name tags appeared on our doorstep. They were missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As my father and stepmother invited them in, I looked at the young men and thought, “This is right, this is good, and this was meant to be.” I believed them immediately and never forgot the warm feeling I felt inside as they taught us the gospel of Jesus Christ. All three of us were baptized a few months after they knocked on our door.
After our baptism, however, it was difficult for us to attend church. Our family struggled financially, so transportation was a problem. Even though we had faith enough to be baptized, we simply never got into the habit of regular church attendance. And when my father and stepmother’s first child died of leukemia, it was especially difficult for my father to understand why this happened. He lost his interest in organized religion.
Over time I grew up, moved to the city, found a job, and married. In those post–high school years, the Church was not part of my life. Whenever I met someone who discovered I was a Latter-day Saint, I always told them not to judge the Church by me. I knew I wasn’t the best example, but in my heart my testimony never completely faded.
Several years after I married, my maternal grandmother visited me. Grandma and I were close, even though, for reasons unknown to me, my mother had had nothing to do with me over the years. During Grandma’s stay, she casually mentioned, “Garry’s gone and joined that Mormon Church.” I was so surprised! “Grandma,” I exclaimed, “I did too! That is so exciting!” I just couldn’t believe it. I decided then and there to celebrate this news by giving up coffee.
Eventually my husband and I moved to Seattle, Washington. This move proved to be a good one for me. It was a new beginning of sorts. By this time we had our first child, and I decided to start attending church. I wanted our child to have a religious upbringing, and besides, I had already started to make changes by giving up coffee. Even though my husband wasn’t too happy with this new Sunday arrangement, I felt so much joy and peace at being in the Church again that there was no turning back for me.
In January 1972 I made a New Year’s resolution: I would live my life the way I knew I should. I started fully obeying the Word of Wisdom, I paid tithing, I attended church every week, and I accepted my first calling. My parched soul soaked up the talks and the lessons given at church. Every time I learned a new gospel principle I diligently tried to apply it in my life. I rejoiced and wept as I once again sang the hymns. Being with other Latter-day Saints was wonderful, and they were patient and kind with me as I learned.
I also counseled with our bishop about my years of inactivity, and we set things straight. I rejoiced at the words of Doctrine and Covenants 58:42: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” I truly stood “amazed at the love Jesus offer[ed] me” (“I Stand All Amazed,” Hymns, no. 193).
Shortly after returning to activity in the Church, I started to wonder about my brother Garry. Where was he? What was he doing? Was he OK? Was he still attending church? The questions tumbled around in my mind. And then a thought came to me clearly, “Write to Garry. He needs you now.”
I had no doubt about the prompting of the Holy Ghost. With my mind racing and hands trembling, I wrote a letter to my long-lost brother. I’ll always be grateful to the Lord that my mother forwarded it to Garry, who was finishing his first year at Ricks College (now BYU—Idaho). The Lord’s timing was important. Garry had joined the Church and been disowned. He had nowhere to stay when school ended in three weeks, so we invited him to stay with us.
Needless to say, there was tremendous joy in finding each other again. I soon learned that Garry had first come in contact with the gospel when he met a returned missionary in a bowling alley in Mississippi.
A few months after we met, Garry left on a mission to Central America. I wrote to him. When he returned home and eventually married, I was the only member of his family able to attend his temple wedding.
It’s now been almost 30 years since our reunion, and we still marvel at the Lord’s hand in leading us both to the gospel and back to each other. It was extraordinary, and still the wonders continue. Both of my sons served missions. All three of my children married in the temple, and we are now blessed with six grandchildren. Garry and his wife are raising two children in the gospel. All but one of my five half brothers and sisters have served missions, married in the temple, and are now raising families of their own. I marvel at what has happened. I know that without the Lord, my life and the lives of my loved ones would be vastly different. Generations will now have the opportunity to be blessed by the gospel. I know that families are meant to be forever and that if we will give our best effort in trying to live the commandments, the Lord will help us.
“When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience.”
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Finding Joy in Life,” Ensign, May 1996, 25.