Sacrament in the Attic
My father worked with the underground resistance in Hilversum, Netherlands, during World War II. We sometimes hid and protected downed British and American flyers in our attic until my father could get them back to England.
Our family also quietly held Latter-day Saint services each Sunday in this same attic. The German occupation forces had forbidden Latter-day Saint meetings because they considered the Church to be an American institution.
I remember one particular Sunday we were hiding two pilots in the attic—one British and one American. The British pilot happened to be a member of the Church. We were about to start our services when we heard a loud knock at the front door. I looked over at my older brother with a frightened look on my face. We all sat for a short time in stunned silence. Finally, Mother said, “I’ll go see who it is.” We apprehensively let the ladder down so she could go downstairs.
Mother opened the front door, horrified to see two German soldiers standing there in full uniform. Trying to mask her fear, she said in a curt voice, “What do you want?” The soldiers replied that they were Latter-day Saints and asked if they could worship with our family. I’m sure Mother said a quick prayer. Then, feeling impressed to let them join us, she told them to leave their guns by the door. “We don’t need these when we hold meetings,” she said.
Mother led the soldiers upstairs and knocked on the wall, our signal to let down the attic ladder. I’ll never forget the terrified expressions on the pilots’ faces when they saw the German soldiers climbing into the attic, nor will I forget what happened after that.
My father asked the British flyer and one of the German soldiers to sit together at the sacrament table. One blessed the bread, and the other blessed the water, each in his own language, and we partook of the sacred emblems of the sacrament. These were simply two priesthood bearers and faithful Latter-day Saints who were in the military as required by their respective countries.
After the meeting, the German soldiers left. We never saw them again, and they never betrayed us. Shortly thereafter, we were able to get the two flyers to England through the underground.
This experience of priesthood brotherhood proved a wonderful lesson to me as a young boy. I learned then that serving our Heavenly Father is always the most important thing we do, no matter what the circumstances.
Thanks to a Single Act
When I was a boy of nine, our family moved to a small community in northern Arizona. The town had a large Latter-day Saint population, so we found ourselves surrounded by people interested in sharing the gospel.
Within a short time we were taking the missionary discussions, and we eventually received the gospel and joined the Church. It was a joyous time for us, but along with the joy of conversion, my parents also faced trials not uncommon to new members.
During their first year of Church membership, my parents braved stark criticism from family members and former friends. In the midst of these unexpected challenges, they faced another difficulty—isolation. The warm feeling from ward members that existed when our family was investigating the truth seemed to dwindle after our conversion, even though we needed more support than ever. As a result of these and other trials, my parents grew weary of the “good fight” (see 1 Tim. 6:12) and decided to leave their newfound faith.
I remember well the evening my father was preparing to talk to our bishop about formally leaving the fold. As he dressed in his Sunday best, the house was somber. Even though I was only 10, I could feel the tension weighing heavily on our family.
As my father was putting on his shoes, a knock came at the door. He opened the door to find our home teacher and the home teacher’s nephew standing on the porch. The overalls and heavy boots worn by our home teacher, a cattle rancher, were covered in dirt and grime. In his hands was a copy of the standard works.
Surprised, my father greeted our two visitors and invited them in. After preliminary greetings, our home teacher came right to the point.
“Chuck, what’s going on?” he asked my father.
Reluctantly and ever so carefully, my father rehearsed the difficulties of the last few months and his intention to leave the Church.
Our home teacher responded, “I thought it might be something like that.” He then related to us what had transpired earlier that evening.
He had been finishing his work in the field when he heard a voice tell him to get in his truck and head toward town. Without hesitation, he called to his nephew, who was working nearby, and they started driving down the road.
When his nephew asked, “Where are we going? What’s the rush?” our home teacher had no answer, for he had no idea where the Spirit was leading him.
Our home was on the way to town, and when he came to the small dirt road that led to our home, he felt prompted to turn onto it.
Now, with a full understanding of why he had been summoned from his work, he did what a faithful home teacher is called to do and began to teach. Sharing a few key scriptures, he brought the Spirit into our home and hearts. My parents decided to stay with the Church.
Years later, my father told me what he had done after our home teacher left that night. He went outside alone and looked up at the stars. Silently, my father offered a prayer of thanksgiving. He realized that despite the vastness of the universe, God knew him and cared enough to send a messenger to keep him from making a serious mistake.
I, too, am thankful for a fine home teacher who recognized the promptings of the Spirit and put aside the concerns of the world for a moment to nurture and strengthen my family. Now generations of our family have been blessed, and through our missionary service many others have converted to the gospel, all because of this single act of a home teacher.
A Lesson for the Teacher
“Oh, we’re having a substitute teacher today!” exclaimed the eight-year-old girl, seeing me as she came into the classroom. I had arrived early at school in order to look over the lesson plans for Mrs. Allred’s second-grade class. Just as I was getting started, in walked this rather vivacious child named Abby.
Following me around the room, Abby pointed out, in what seemed to me a bossy manner, various things she thought I needed to know. For the next half hour she overwhelmed me with useless information, hindering my efforts to get organized. Who was this child who was advising me on how to handle the class? Her endless chattering was exhausting.
I was relieved when the bell rang and the rest of the class came in. Abby sat down on the chair closest to the teacher’s desk. Of course! Mrs. Allred must have put Abby there in order to keep a close watch on her. “This girl is a troublemaker,” I thought.
Giving my attention to the rest of the class, I noticed a boy on crutches standing hesitantly just inside the classroom door. One of his legs was paralyzed, and his back looked stiff and a little crooked. Abby jumped up and ran to him, talking loudly and walking with him to a seat right next to hers. I wished she would stay in her seat and sit quietly.
The boy’s name was Travis, and I realized that Mrs. Allred must have seated Travis close to her desk so that it would be easier for her to help him. “Travis sits close to the teacher because of his disability,” I thought, “and Abby sits close to her because of the girl’s behavior problems.” I congratulated myself on my quick understanding of the classroom situation and devoted myself to a firm control over Abby.
By lunchtime my stern responses to Abby’s questions were working. Her enthusiasm and eagerness were diminishing, and her manner was subdued. Several times I caught her looking at me with a puzzled expression. She was no longer talking to me, and her quick smile was gone.
The class went to lunch, and I was left to enjoy the quiet of the classroom while I ate. Looking through the window at the children playing, I noticed Travis standing alone outside against the wall of the school. I realized I had not seen him interacting with any of the boys and girls except Abby all morning long. She had talked to him often, and I had reprimanded her for it. Now I watched as Abby came up to him and they walked together to where their classmates were lining up to come into the school. “Maybe she is his only friend,” I thought, and decided to observe the two of them more closely.
The class came flooding into the room, and I watched as Abby helped Travis take off his coat and boots. I remembered seeing her do the same thing after morning recess. She walked him to his chair. “I’ll help you with that math problem now,” I heard her say gently.
I began to notice that each time Travis finished an assignment or colored a page, he shyly showed the work to Abby. She was ready with her praise. Again and again I watched her as she helped Travis, making sure he had everything he needed and giving him encouragement. His face lit up whenever she turned her attention to him. I watched her help Travis get ready for afternoon recess, showing patience and kindness when it took longer for him to maneuver his body out of his chair and use his crutches.
The classroom was empty, and I sat quietly at my desk. How could I have been so wrong? I knew now that Mrs. Allred had seated Abby close to her not because Abby was a boisterous “problem child” but because Abby’s generous nature and kindheartedness made her the best person to help Travis. Who was I to have judged her so quickly and harshly? While I had been showing Abby disapproval, she had been busy helping her friend have a good day at school. I was older, but Abby’s heart was bigger. I had treated her unfairly, and I felt ashamed.
As so often happened during my eight years in a classroom, a child had reminded me of something Jesus taught nearly 2,000 years ago: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40).
The class came back from recess. I waited until they were busy working on an assignment. “Abby,” I whispered, “Abby.” She looked at me apprehensively. “I think you’re the kindest little girl I’ve ever known.”
And once again she taught me an important lesson. The smile she gave me was full of forgiveness.