How Could We Go to the Temple?
I was baptized on December 5, 1993, in the city of Minsk. At that time, it was the only city in Belarus with a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I attended worship services there, but I lived in Borisov, 40 miles (70 km) away. I was 17 years old, and there was sharp opposition in my family. But because of the trials I had at that time, my faith and testimony of the truth were strengthened. I was even fortunate enough to go to the temple twice in Freiberg, Germany, to perform baptisms for the dead. I impatiently awaited the time when I could receive my endowment.
In 1996 I began dating my future husband. Igor gladly accepted the news of the Restoration and was baptized on February 23, 1997. On March 1 we were married. Having a strong testimony of temple work, I wanted more than anything to go to the temple as soon as possible.
In September 1997 we moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, where Igor studied at the university. Our daughter Nelly was born there. Even after Igor had been a member for a year and a year had passed since our marriage, we still couldn’t go to the temple because we didn’t have visas and couldn’t get exit papers.
When Nelly was six months old, I became pregnant. It seemed to me we were in a hopeless situation. Igor couldn’t find steady work because he didn’t have a visa. He was holding down three jobs, but it wasn’t enough money for us to live on. Igor’s parents helped by sending money and food from time to time, but I was practically in despair because of our financial struggles. I felt even worse because we couldn’t go to the temple. In August 1998, after the exchange rate rose sharply, we decided to return to Belarus.
Our second daughter, Yelyena, was born in Minsk on January 6, 1999. Igor had a steady job now, but we still didn’t have enough money to go to the temple. Gradually we saved, however, and at the end of August 2000, we took the children to Germany. Igor has relatives in Kaiserslautern, and we stayed with them.
Early on the morning of September 2, we began our journey to the temple in Frankfurt. Although the trip was very tiring and included two transfers, we were full of enthusiasm and joy. We are grateful to all the temple workers, the temple president, and also the sisters who watched our daughters while we went through the endowment session. That was an unforgettable day! It is difficult to put into words the feelings we experienced there, but they were very good.
After the endowment session, we went into the sealing room, where Yelyena was already crying (it was her nap time). I hardly heard any of the sealing ceremony because of the crying, but we were very happy anyway. That was the most wonderful trip of our lives because we were in the house of the Lord.
We even managed to return to the temple. In February 2001 a group of members from Minsk went to Freiberg. I wanted to participate in the ordinance of sealings for the dead, since I had heard so little during our own sealing. I was grateful when Igor and I were invited to participate.
We now have a son, Robert, and as a family we attend the Minsk Second Branch (or, as it is known in Belarus, the Second Religious Community of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Minsk). And while we have overcome several difficulties, we now have new ones. I am very grateful for all of these trials. No matter what happens to us on this journey, Heavenly Father wants only good for us. No one else can help us in our most difficult hour. If we reject Him because of some difficulties, it would be like throwing away a life preserver because it did not keep us from falling into the river.
The burden is easy and the yoke light when we are with the Lord. He will not give us trials we cannot bear.
We Had No Food
As missionaries in the Canada Winnipeg Mission, my companion and I were serving in the beautiful city of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. I had grown up in Laie, Hawaii, in the shadow of the Laie Hawaii Temple. My companion, Elder Larmour, came from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Our families and wards back home supported us, but at times our monthly allotment of funds was held up en route. Such was the situation that brought about this experience.
At the beginning of one month, after I received my check, we waited for Elder Larmour’s to be forwarded from the mission office. As usual, our rent was due and the cupboards were getting bare. We had to decide whether we should pay the rent with my check or buy food. We paid the rent.
A few days passed and we still hadn’t received Elder Larmour’s money. We had eaten all the food in our apartment, except for half a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and an old freezer-burned soup bone that took some effort to pry loose from its icy confines. With these ingredients I cooked a vegetable soup. It wasn’t much, but we were grateful for what we had.
The next day we decided to tract in an area not too far from home. The street seemed endless, and no one was interested in our message. Hunger pangs tormented us, and we were both getting faint from lack of food. As we came to the end of the street, we decided to take a break. We found a bench in a park at the end of this street and tried to recover our strength. My companion said in a sincere plea, “I’m hungry.” My heart went out to him as we sat there. I was twice his size. I knew I would be able to endure for quite a while, but I did not think he’d be able to go on for long if he didn’t get something to eat.
I was the senior companion, so in my heart I pleaded with Heavenly Father to provide the means we needed to get us through. I looked across the park and noticed a short street with about five homes on it. It was a continuation of the long street we had just tracted. I turned to my companion and said, “Come on, let’s finish this street.” He turned to me and said, “Let’s just go home.” We came to an agreement that if we finished the street and no one was interested, we would then head home.
As we walked past the first home, a couple was busy in the driveway doing some work on their car. A call of “Not today, guys” kept us moving to the next home. As we approached the door, we could smell the wonderful aroma of home cooking. Suddenly the door opened wide, and a smiling, middle-aged woman greeted us with “Come in, boys. I hope you’re hungry!”
With hesitation we entered her home, not knowing what to expect. She led us to the dining room, where two places were already set. We sat down and she busied herself with serving us. I started to get a lump in my throat, anticipating a feast fit for kings. Or perhaps we would be thrown out when she finally came to her senses and realized who we were.
After filling the table with pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy, and all the fixings, she said, “I don’t know why I cooked all this food, but something told me to do it. I wasn’t expecting company, and I live here alone. I’m sure glad you boys happened by. You haven’t eaten, have you?”
I replied, “No, but do you know who we are?”
“You’re Mormon missionaries, aren’t you?” she answered. “So don’t you say a blessing on the food before you eat?”
We did bless the food and give thanks for the many blessings the Lord had given us. And to this day I cannot think of a better meal than that meal the Lord provided in our time of need.
For the Lord has said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: … and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19–20).
A Symbol of His Love
As I was leaving one of our Church buildings in Montevideo, Uruguay—10 minutes away from the temple construction site—I received a call from my wife telling me that soon the statue of the angel Moroni would be placed on the spire of the temple. Many feelings came into my heart as I listened to the anxious voice of my wife asking me to come get her and our son so we could witness this event. There wasn’t much time left. I had to travel to the other end of the city and then return to the temple.
Our hearts beat rapidly and the minutes seemed like hours as we traveled. The heavy traffic almost wouldn’t let us through, but we finally arrived, thanks to the Lord’s help.
The weather had been gray, rainy, and moderately windy for several days. But this afternoon the sky was a clear, calm blue, and the sun’s rays fell upon our heads like the blessings of heaven.
When we arrived we found several other members who had also come to witness this important milestone in the history of the Church in Uruguay. Several members, among them my wife’s mother, were Church pioneers in our country. Their eyes filled with tears as they enjoyed the blessing—so long awaited—of seeing the construction of a temple here.
The sacrifice of many people who had spread the gospel was given symbolic expression in the brilliant sheen of the angel Moroni as he seemed to fly through the sky and then come to rest in a place of honor. There he announced to the world the Restoration of the everlasting gospel and the opening of the doors of a country that needed the Lord’s helping hand to progress.
We saw the statue, straight and majestic, reach its intended place, reminding us of the love of the Eternal Father, which would soon allow us to be sealed together in love in our own land. We hope that our children and grandchildren will go into the temple and make sacred covenants and be a blessing to the country.
We knew that there was much left to do—both before and after the temple’s dedication in March 2001. We needed to prepare for the times still to come, and above all else, we needed to remember our ancestors, because they also would be blessed by this holy house. But we will never forget that beautiful September day. Our hearts overflowed with gratitude that we were allowed to witness the placing of a symbol of our Heavenly Father’s love.
My Wallet Was Gone
I have had many blessings from paying tithing and have come to understand that when we pay our tithing, whether it’s a little or a lot, it’s the same to the Lord.
Once when I received my pay at work, I cashed the check and headed home to pay some bills and to help my wife, who was expecting our first child. I got on the bus and put my money in my wallet. Then I hid the wallet in a pouch that was part of my shoulder bag, where it would be safer. I was quite surprised when I got home, looked for my wallet, and wasn’t able to find it. I was very worried. It was my whole two-week salary, and losing it would cause us many problems.
I looked diligently for my wallet, and when I couldn’t find it I decided to go back to the bus that had brought me home. I couldn’t find it there either.
After some time I went home, feeling very frustrated. I went into my room and knelt down. With a sincere heart and in tears, I lifted my prayer up to God and asked Him to help me. I told Him I paid a full tithing and now I needed a blessing. I know that the Lord doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we desire, but on this occasion He did bless me in a wonderful way.
Later that night the bishop knocked on our door and asked me if I had a social security card. I told him I did, but it had been lost with my wallet that very day. He showed me a wallet and asked if it was mine. I saw that it was and that all of my money was still there. The bishop explained that a friend, who was not a member of the Church, had found it outside her house. When she saw the temple recommend in it, she took it to him. He told me this was nothing less than a miracle and it had happened because I faithfully paid tithing.