Unexpected Marriage Advice

Fernando gently closed the book and looked up into our faces. A tear trickled slowly down his cheek. Seated next to him but seeming far away, his wife, María, looked on with a mixture of horror and disgust. Finally, without wiping away the tear, Fernando spoke.

“Yes, Elder, I will accept baptism,” he spoke softly but with quiet confidence.

His wife stood abruptly, her chair teetering, then falling backward. Her face twisted with rage, she pointed at her husband.

“How can you be such a fool? How can you abandon Jesus for the teachings of these gringos and their North American prophet? How can you turn from the Bible for these false scriptures? You are a fool, a wicked fool, and may God have mercy on your damned soul.” She turned and strode from the room.

Fernando sighed. “She is a good woman,” he explained in apology. “She will come to understand—if not agree.”

Months later, his baptism behind him, Fernando walked into the chapel and took his usual seat on the back row. His expression was troubled. I watched him from the stand as I fulfilled my duties as branch president. More than once I caught him gazing intently at me.

After the meeting, as the congregation moved through the door to mingle in the humid sunshine of the Venezuelan Andes, Fernando asked if he could speak with me. He and his wife had fought again. He had tried to explain the joy he had found in the growing sureness of his faith, but she had refused to listen. She had threatened to leave him and to take their daughter away. At the threat, he too had become angry. Bitter words led to tears, and the two of them had retreated to separate parts of their small apartment.

“What do I do?” he asked me.

I sat in my chair, trembling under the responsibility placed on my shoulders. I was 20 years old. I had never been married. Even my teenage attempts to form relationships had not lasted, leaving both lessons and a few scars. My own parents’ marriage had ended after 18 years. I had no training in counseling. What could I give this man who was trying to save his marriage and his family without sacrificing his faith?

I opened my mouth to spout some platitudes of comfort and hope, but instead an idea crowded them out and expressed itself. For once my broken Spanish was clear and unencumbered.

“My friend,” I began, “next time you and your wife begin to discuss your baptism and you start to feel anger and frustration, stop. Say no more for a moment. Then take your wife into your arms, and hold her tight. Tell her that you love her, you appreciate her, and nothing will take her place in your life.”

He looked at me blankly. Perhaps he had expected a lecture or some grand principle that would save his marriage. He waited, maybe expecting me to continue, but I had nothing else to say.

“Yes, Presidente,” he said. He left my office solemnly without saying anything more.

A week passed, and once again Fernando walked into the chapel. But there was a lightness in his step. His head was up, his eyes were clear, and he smiled. Throughout the meeting he fidgeted like a small child. Afterward he came to my office.

“Presidente, Presidente!” he exclaimed in a quiet but excited voice. “You will not believe what happened. I did as you said. We talked again of my faith and my baptism. Again she criticized me and told me I was deceived. I wanted to yell and tell her she was wrong, but I remembered your words. I stopped, took a breath, and looked at her, trying to remember all the years of love we have shared and the love that I still feel. She must have felt something in my gaze, for she softened. I took her into my arms and held her. I whispered that I love her, that I appreciate her, and that nothing could take her place as my wife. We cried. Then, sitting close, we talked for many hours about all we have experienced—the good, the bad—and then I held her again. For the first time in many weeks we felt love. Thank you, Presidente.”

The next month I finished my mission and left to make the long trip back to the United States. I was happy to be going home, sad at leaving. Fernando and I wrote, and he shared his hopes and disappointments. His wife had not come to believe as he did, but she had become more tolerant, less antagonistic. He said it was a start, and he spoke of her with great love. In time we lost contact. Now many years have passed. But the lesson of Fernando still inspires me. Love—not concepts, teachings, or rituals—has the power to soften hearts.

Bart Benson is a member of the Grace Second Ward, Grace Idaho Stake.

I Felt Indescribable Joy

By the time I was 30 years old, my life was falling apart. I had a drinking problem and didn’t know what to do about it. One Monday morning the editor in chief at the publication where I worked as a journalist called me in. He was blunt. I had to quit drinking if I wanted to keep my job.

I went out that day in search of news stories with his warning on my mind. Suddenly, right in the middle of the street, two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke to me. I had never heard of that church. I avoided a long conversation with them, but I did give them my business card.

Two days later I was at my mother’s house when she said, “Two young Americans are here to see you.” I replied, “I don’t have any American friends.” She said, “They say they’re missionaries.” I said, “Well, have them come in. I’ll talk with them.” To my surprise, they were the missionaries I had met on Monday. They found me through my business card.

Once we were sitting across from each other in the living room, I decided to listen to their message. One of them took out a pamphlet and said that it contained the testimony of Joseph Smith. He gave it to me and challenged me to read it. I had barely finished accepting his challenge when the other missionary took out a book with a blue cover. He asked me, “Would you read the first 150 pages of this book?” I accepted his challenge also. As they left the house they said, “We’ll be back on Friday to see if you’ve met your goals.” This is how I started to learn the gospel.

After I had received all of the discussions, there was another challenge. One of the missionaries said, “Brother Rosillo, you need to have your own testimony.” The other missionary added, “Ask God if Joseph Smith was a prophet and if the Book of Mormon is true. We promise you that the Lord will answer you. We’ll be back next week.”

The day before the missionaries were to come back, I decided to put the matter to the test. I went to get the Book of Mormon, which I had already finished reading. I went into the living room and knelt down. I was by myself, and everything was quiet. I began, “Father in Heaven, the missionaries have asked me to ask if Joseph Smith was a prophet and if the Book of Mormon is true. They feel I need to have a testimony to be baptized. Was Joseph Smith a prophet? Is the Book of Mormon true?”

I stopped speaking. Immediately I felt indescribable joy. I wanted the feeling to last forever. I had received my answer. When the missionaries arrived, I shared my experience.

On September 11, 1971, I was baptized in the Piura River. Since then nearly 34 years of living gospel principles—including the Word of Wisdom—have passed with many blessings. But I still remember those two missionaries who spoke to me in the street and brought me out of the darkness and into the light.

Hildo Rosillo Flores is a member of Los Ficus Ward, Piura Perú Central Stake.

Twice Spared

A gentle breeze stirred the leaves on the aspen trees in our yard. I sat on the steps and basked in the sun’s warmth, marveling at how many changes could occur in a person’s life in less than a year.

Almost a year before, instead of looking forward to general conference and the holidays, I was figuring out how I would be able to take care of my family during the busy season ahead. I would have to plan all the upcoming activities and responsibilities around my radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Caring for myself while trying to maintain a normal life for my family and fulfill Church callings was difficult. I made it through cancer and everything else with Heavenly Father’s help.

Leaving my quiet moment of reminiscence behind, I rose from the steps to clean the dog’s run. I grabbed the shovel and the hose and let Hush Pup, our old dog, out of his run to soak up some sunshine.

Just then my husband, who had been in the backyard building a deck, came around the house. He smiled, took the shovel from my hands without a word, and began to help. I was shocked. My husband was trying to finish the deck before the cold weather set in. He never left a project in the middle of the day. Grateful for the unexpected help, I started hosing down the other end of the run.

All of a sudden my husband began to scream. I looked up to see a swarm of wasps surrounding and attacking him. A calming voice in my mind said, “Spray him with water.” I did. Even while he ran I kept aiming the stream of water at him. Although the water repelled the wasps, he was still stung seven times.

While we attended to his left arm, where most of the stings were, a thought came to me. I had been spared! I’m allergic to wasp and bee stings. And due to the cancer, the lymph nodes had been removed from my left arm. If I had been stung, I would not have been able to fight the poisons from the stings and nobody would have been there to spray me with water.

A feeling of love and warmth filled my heart. I was so grateful my husband had listened to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. My life had been spared a second time.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson

Pamela M. Moody is a member of the Murray First Ward, Murray Utah Stake.