Latter-day Saint Voices

By


My husband and I were struggling financially due to a recent career change. He had joined the United States Army to further his education and had taken a huge pay cut to do so. We were barely making ends meet and were deeply in debt. We had cut up our credit cards to avoid more debt, had used up all our savings, and were living on our year’s supply of food.

I have always had a testimony of the gospel, but I was literally living on faith. After an incredibly difficult month I was daunted by our pile of bills and knew we just weren’t going to make it. For the first time in my adult life I was tempted not to pay tithing. I thought, “I need the money more than the Lord does. The amount I’m going to pay won’t even pay the electric bill for the stake center, but it would make a huge difference to me.”

After selfishly considering the many places the money could go, I had a scripture come to mind: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings” (Mal. 3:8). I knew I had to pay tithing. Somehow things would work out. I wrote the tithing check, placed a stamp on the envelope, and put it in the mail.

The next morning I had to run a few errands. I walked to my car and to my utter despair realized one of the tires was almost completely flat. Frustrated, I drove to a nearby repair shop.

A flat would cost a few dollars to repair. I sat in the waiting room and prayed that Heavenly Father would watch over us. A few minutes later the attendant called me to the cash register. He told me the tire had a nail in it, but the nail was positioned in such a way that the tire could not be repaired. It would have to be replaced, costing even more than I had mentally prepared myself for. I said, “I want to see it.” The attendant patiently showed me the nail and explained why it would be impossible to repair the tire. With tears in my eyes I asked him to please replace my tire with the cheapest one possible.

I went back to the waiting room and pleaded silently with Heavenly Father for help. We could not afford a new tire, but we had to have the car.

A few minutes later the attendant called me to the register again. He explained that my tires had locking lug nuts and without the key the tire would not come off. I told him I didn’t have the key. He apologized and explained that their shop did not have the proper tools to remove my tire. He recommended another shop. He then put air in my tire free of charge and sent me on my way.

I climbed back into the car and broke down in tears. Why was this happening? We had done everything right. We paid our tithing; we had a year’s supply; we were trying to get out of debt; we were going to church every week. Why would the Lord allow this to happen?

I drove to the other shop and quickly explained my situation to the attendant. We picked the cheapest tire, and I proceeded to the waiting room. After what seemed like forever my name was called. I walked slowly to the register, dreading what I was about to hear.

“We have run your tire through the water about five times,” the attendant told me. “Three of us have searched for the nail. There is nothing. You still have a lot of wear left on your tires. There is absolutely no reason to replace any of them.” I stared blankly at the attendant. I had seen the nail with my own eyes. I knew it had been there. I thanked him, and he sent me on my way, again free of charge.

We have since been transferred to a new duty station and have driven about 8,000 miles (13,000 km) on that tire. I know the Lord blesses us and there is safety in obedience.

Sarah Westbrook is a member of El Paso First Ward, El Paso Texas Mount Franklin Stake.

Tuning In to the Spirit

While traveling alone to visit friends on a holiday weekend, I decided to follow a rural highway instead of taking a long detour to a major interstate highway. It was dusk, and I wanted to arrive at my friends’ home before midnight.

Mine was the only car on the road for long stretches of the highway, and in order to relieve boredom I turned on a radio station. As I sang along to a favorite tune, I received a distinct spiritual prompting to turn off the radio—and listen. At first I ignored the prompting, reasoning that it would be absurd to drive alone in silence on a deserted road. The prompting became more insistent, however. I reluctantly turned off the radio, sat back, and quietly told the Lord that now I was listening.

In short order I received three additional promptings to slow down immediately. These impressions seemed to be much stronger, and they reached a much more receptive and focused mind. I obediently braked three times, slowing the car substantially.

Shortly I encountered a 90-degree unmarked curve. I had no time to react in the darkness and went through the curve, stopping at the edge of a ridge overlooking a deep ditch. Shaken, I got out to inspect the damage and found my car wholly intact but with its front bumper protruding over the precipice. Had I been going any faster, I would certainly have plunged into the ditch and been injured or killed. I offered a prayer of gratitude.

I made the rest of the trip in silence as I reflected on the need to eliminate “radios” from my life. I wondered how many times I had allowed the frivolous things of the world to take priority over spiritual matters. Although I have not given up listening to the radio at home or on the road, I do take time on a regular basis to turn off the music—and listen.

Mark Paredes is a member of the Santa Monica Second Ward, Los Angeles California Santa Monica Stake.

I Felt at Home

I grew up in Russia in a close and loving family. My parents worked hard, and I stayed with my father’s mother, Anastasiya Vasilyevna Ustavshchikova. She was always bustling about the kitchen, making wonderful flowers to put on hats, and reading. She read all kinds of books, but I especially remember that she read the Bible. She would tell me about God and how she loved Him and awaited her meeting with Him. She said that if we would live God’s commandments, we would return to Him and inherit one of His kingdoms. That memory has warmed me all my life.

My life before joining the Church is a story with many trials and experiences. But I always loved hearing my grandma’s simple, sincere prayers. She would start with the words “Heavenly Father,” and I would get goose bumps.

In June 1993 I arrived at my mother’s home in St. Petersburg, where a friend invited me to study English with her. We called a number we found in the newspaper, and a young woman answered. She told us to come at noon the next day. Her name was Tat’yana. After the lesson we invited her out for tea or coffee. We were quite surprised when we heard, “I don’t drink tea or coffee.”

“Why?”

“I’m a Mormon.”

“What’s a Mormon?” I asked.

“I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you’re interested, come see us Sunday morning at 11:00.”

She wrote down the address. I was very interested to find out what kind of church this was.

The week passed slowly, but Sunday finally came. The meetings were held in a music school. Some young men were at the entrance, and they were smiling. When they found out that I had come for the first time, they took me into the chapel. A lot of people were there, but I felt out of place. I very much liked the opening hymn though, and then a miracle happened. A man walked to the front, and the first words of his prayer were “Heavenly Father.” That is what I had been searching for. Suddenly I felt at home. I was at peace.

After the meeting two young ladies approached me.

“Are you already meeting with the missionaries?” they asked.

“No.”

“Could we teach you about the gospel?”

“Of course,” I said. “That would make me very happy.”

At one of our discussions they began telling me about three kingdoms. I stopped them and said, “May I tell you what my grandmother told me when I was little?” Now it was their turn to be surprised. The more we talked, the more I wanted to learn. On August 15, my missionaries asked if I would like to be baptized.

“Yes.” That was already my desire.

My baptism was to take place in a lake the following Sunday, August 22. The weather had been hot and dry. But on Monday, August 16, a steady rain began, and the temperature dropped sharply. Friday morning I awoke with terrible tonsillitis. My whole throat was congested, and I was running a fever. I thought it would pass before Sunday.

The missionaries came on Saturday to interview me. Elder Parker, a young and very tall missionary, asked me the questions. He also agreed to baptize me. I said nothing about my illness.

The day of my baptism arrived. When I woke up I found that my throat was still the same. It was then I realized for the first time in my life what the Lord wanted from me. I said to myself, “I’ll do whatever I have to for Him. I will be baptized. Everything will be fine. The water will be warm, and my sickness will disappear after I am baptized.”

On the way to the lake I told the sisters what had been going on with me. They both looked in my mouth and said, all bundled up in their raincoats, “This is no joke. Should we move everything to a pool?”

“No, no.” I had firmly made up my mind to go ahead with our plans.

It was beautiful when we got there. The lake was like a mirror, without even a ripple. It was about a hundred meters from the changing room to the water. It had rained all week and was muddy. When I came out of the changing room, I saw Elder Parker in his white clothes walking confidently through the mud toward the lake. That was a stunning sight.

We stood in a circle and sang a hymn. We could see our breath, but we were not paying attention to the weather anymore. As I took my first step into the water, I knew I was doing the right thing. It felt warm. And when I came up out of the water, I was happy and healthy. Everyone laughed and cried. I had taken my first step on the path home. Our Heavenly Father loves us and gives us trials, expecting us to make the right decisions, to not doubt what is good.

I will remember that miraculous day for the rest of my life. It will live in my heart with the memories of my grandmother, who sowed the seed that sprouted so many years after her death.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Daniel Lewis

Marina Petrova is a member of the Kortrijk Branch, Antwerp Belgium Stake.