My Father’s Medal of Courage
During the somber days of World War II, my father was taken prisoner by German troops. He was part of a group of French prisoners from Alsace (which had once been part of Germany) who lacked everything, even the most essential items. Many of the prisoners, especially those who were ill, died of hunger and exposure to the elements or simply of exhaustion during their long marches from one camp to another.
During one of these long and difficult marches into Germany, a sudden explosion detonated in a house not far from this sad string of prisoners. They could hear cries of panic coming from those caught inside the house. The guards quickly tightened the ranks to better guard the prisoners and prevent their escape. However, my father, listening only to his conscience, bolted from the ranks and ran as fast as his weak legs would permit. Without worrying about his own safety, he outran the guards who were pursuing him and shooting in his direction.
Miraculously, he wasn’t hit, and the guards stopped in surprise when they realized he was running into the flame-engulfed house. He soon emerged, carrying a child about eight years old. He had heard the child screaming for help, had rescued him, and now turned him over to the astonished German soldiers. Almost immediately, an officer addressed him in a severe tone: “Do you know what you did? You just saved a future enemy.”
My father, exhausted and drained of all strength from his heroic gesture and from the many hardships of the preceding months, answered with surprising assurance: “I didn’t see an enemy. I saw a human being, a child who needed my help. I did what had to be done—and if it had to be done over, I would do it again without hesitation.”
He was led back to the prisoners—but with a little more respect. And after this act of heroism, all of the prisoners were treated better than they had been before. The most astonishing part of all was that after this group arrived in the camp, my father, in his French uniform, received a German award of distinction.
My father understood the Savior’s commandment to “love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He died in 1959 without having had the opportunity to hear the restored gospel. But I believe he will be given that opportunity where he is now and will be able to receive all the teachings and blessings the gospel has to offer.
My Daughter’s Prayer
After a year of extreme financial burdens, I was feeling hopeful that things were beginning to look up for my family. Then came fresh setbacks. For an entire year I had trusted the Lord that everything would work out and we would one day see our trials as growing experiences. But with the new setbacks, I stumbled in my spiritual footing. I felt abandoned and lost and soon stopped feeding my spirit. Though I never stopped attending church, I stopped praying, fasting, and reading the scriptures. I no longer went to the temple. I did the bare minimum for my calling as a Primary teacher. I felt hopeless and wondered why I should try to live righteously if it wouldn’t protect me from getting hurt.
One night as I was watching television in my bedroom, my 10-year-old daughter walked in carrying her Book of Mormon. She had been trying to read it, but she said she couldn’t pronounce a word. I helped her and then sent her out of the room.
In a few minutes she was back, saying she was having a hard time understanding what she read. Feeling sorry for myself, I was in no mood to spend time in the scriptures. In an irritated tone, I said, “Samantha, go pray to Heavenly Father and ask Him to help you understand what you are reading.”
My daughter didn’t move. She looked at me steadily and said quietly, “I did pray. I have a really strong feeling that I need to read scriptures with you.”
I stared at her in surprise and then clicked the television off. I patted the bed beside me, she climbed up, and we read a chapter from the Book of Mormon together. I didn’t pay much attention to what we were reading because I was marveling at Heavenly Father’s reminder to me that I needed to seek Him as I dealt with my trials.
After that night I started saying my personal prayers again and spending time in the scriptures daily. I set a goal to attend the temple at least once a month. Amazingly, everything I read in the scriptures and Church magazines seemed to apply to me and the problems I was facing. Once again my soul was being fed, and I found I was able to bear my burdens. I often got down on my knees and asked forgiveness for not trusting the Lord as I should have. I will always be grateful for the spiritual sensitivity of a 10-year-old and a gentle reminder from a loving Heavenly Father.
Finding Peace through Forgiveness
My husband’s brother, John (names have been changed), was being transferred out of state. It was hard to accept the fact that he, his wife, Annie, and their family were leaving. We had spent a lot of time together and had grown quite close.
After John’s family had been gone a few months, my husband, Ron, called to see how they were doing. They had adjusted well and were enjoying their new area. My husband owned a small business and let his brother know the door was always open if he ever wanted to move back and work with him. At that point in the conversation John’s wife, Annie, spoke up and told Ron in no uncertain terms that they were not interested. She apparently said some unkind things about Ron as well as about his business.
Ron came home and shared this conversation with me. Although he tried to appear as if it didn’t bother him, I could tell he was deeply hurt. I was enraged and wanted to call Annie immediately and set her straight.
I didn’t call, but once I had allowed myself to be offended, I opened the gates to a flood of foul thoughts. I began finding fault with Annie and gossiped about her with other family members and friends. In essence, I allowed pride to creep into my heart and take root, while charity withered away.
Just as an infection can spread and cause deterioration and pain to the physical body, pride can do the same to the spirit. Although my husband had long forgotten the incident, my heart remained infected. My thoughts were focused on how hurt I was. I was on edge with my family and quick to see the worst in every situation. I had no desire to love and serve others because I was caught up in myself.
After several months we heard that John and Annie were coming to town for a family wedding. I would finally have to face her. I dreaded seeing her, but there was no way around it. As the wedding day approached, my anxiety mounted. I didn’t like the way I had been feeling, and I knew it was wrong. I prayed often for the Savior to help me overcome my negative feelings. Eventually, good thoughts about Annie started to fill my mind.
When I saw her at the wedding, we exchanged shallow greetings. I tried to avoid her the rest of the evening, but I watched her. And as I watched her I realized how much I missed her. My heart began to ache for the peace of forgiveness, and I was overcome with love for Annie.
When the evening reception was nearly over, I found myself sitting alone with Annie. We still hadn’t spoken since our first greeting. I looked at her, and the Spirit filled my heart. I reached out and put my hands on her cheeks. With tears in my eyes, I said, “Annie, I have missed you so much.” We hugged and cried and rejoiced in the peace that comes through forgiveness.
I don’t remember if we ever said we were sorry or if we explained our earlier feelings. All that didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was the love we felt and our desire to forgive. I didn’t realize until afterward what a huge burden I had been carrying. Pride is a heavy load and an unnecessary one. Feeling the Savior’s perfect love, however, was a sweet and humbling joy.
A Compass in Heavy Fog
A few years ago I was drafted to serve in Taiwan’s naval forces. I served as a chief petty officer and squad leader on a harbor support craft, assisting all incoming and outgoing ships.
One morning in early spring my colleagues and I received the routine instruction to assist a ship approaching the harbor. Initially, the weather was clear. But after leaving the harbor, we ran into heavy fog. Visibility was less than three meters. Because we had never seen such a heavy spring fog, we were tense and disoriented. We were quickly lost. We did not know where we were or where we should go.
Because I was the most experienced hand on board and the most familiar with the area, the skipper ordered me to use the boat’s compass to find our bearing, lead everyone back to the mouth of the harbor, and suspend mission operations. Otherwise, we might at any moment enter an area of submerged reefs or sail too close to mainland China.
I had never experienced fog that required a compass, and I had neglected the work of periodic compass inspection, maintenance, and repair. So when we desperately needed the compass to find our direction, it did not work at all. With rebuke in his voice, the captain said, “You’ve put us in danger. We could run into a reef at any moment!”
I realized he was right. I sadly bowed my head and silently prayed, asking Heavenly Father to forgive my negligence and help me find a way to escape the fog and return to the pier. After my prayer, a sudden thought came into my mind. I recommended to the skipper that we turn in a certain direction, travel very slowly, and find the coast. He agreed, and not long after taking this action, we arrived at the granite cliffs south of the harbor mouth and slowly followed the cliff wall into the harbor. Soon we were safely home.
Because of this experience, I know that Heavenly Father listens to my prayers. I am grateful that in spite of my neglecting proper preventative measures, the compass of spiritual guidance started to work, and it led us home.
Now I often ask myself: Am I doing all I can to prepare for the fog? Have I inspected my spiritual compass lately? Am I in harmony with God? Am I loyal to my faith? Am I untarnished? These are items we should review. If we do not, when spiritual fog comes, we may fall into the reefs of sin and perhaps never find our way home.
I am thankful that Heavenly Father has installed within each of us a spiritual Liahona. If we are diligent and faithful, we can rely on the Holy Ghost; then we can sail on to the harbor of safety and return to our heavenly home.