Latter-day Saint Voices

By


Nowhere to Land

In January 1951 we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, just 100 miles (160 km) south of the Arctic Circle. I was a United States Air Force pilot and had been ordered to Nome, Alaska, for two weeks to ferry freight to various sites.

During the Alaskan winters the daylight hours are very short, so operations requiring daylight had to be conducted in a narrow window when the sun was above the horizon. In January there was just less than one hour of daylight at midday. I was delivering cargo to a small outpost at Gambell, a native village on St. Lawrence Island, just a few miles off the Chukchi Peninsula of Siberia and about 200 miles (320 km) across the Bering Sea from Nome.

St. Lawrence Island had no airfield at that time, so we used a frozen lake near the coast. With 19 inches (48 cm) of ice on the lake it was safe to land a loaded C47 transport. But there was no lighting available, so we had to plan our arrival for sunrise, about 11:30 a.m., and our departure before sunset at 12:30 p.m., one hour later.

The weather reporter had assured me the weather would be fine all day, so I elected to take less than a full load of fuel in order to carry another 1,000 pounds (450 kg) of cargo to the men at Gambell. Our fuel was sufficient to take us to Gambell and back to Nome with enough to fly 30 extra minutes.

We took off at 10:00 a.m. A few stars were visible through the scattered clouds. We arrived at Gambell on schedule—just as the Arctic sun was peeping over the horizon—landed, and started unloading cargo to the delight of the troops.

By the time we were ready to take off again, it was getting dark. And just after takeoff we received an urgent call from the weather station at Gambell telling us we should check the weather at Nome. As we flew we radioed Nome and learned that an Arctic blizzard was moving in. They were expecting clouds at ground level with visibility of less than one mile (1.6 km) within an hour. The Nome airport had no radar instrument landing system. Under those conditions the airport was closed for landing. With only a half hour of extra fuel, we would be unable to reach an alternate airport. And with a massive storm bearing down, there would be no airports in northern Alaska where we could land anyway.

Needless to say, our situation was precarious. Because the outside temperature was -40° F (-40° C) with wind gusting to 35 mph (55 km/h), any attempt to bail out with parachutes would have meant nearly instant death.

I had been taught to pray as a child and had always said my daily prayers, but never had I needed the Lord’s help more than on that day. I asked Heavenly Father to tell me what to do. I had a wife and three children back in Fairbanks, and my copilot and crew chief also had families. We knew we would never see our families again unless Heavenly Father helped us. After praying and flying for nearly an hour, I had the feeling that I must land somewhere in the vicinity of the Nome airport so that maybe someone could find us if we survived a crash landing.

Nome radio had notified the Alaskan Air Command of our predicament and received an urgent inquiry about my intentions. When I advised Nome that I would land there, they quickly responded that it would be impossible with the existing weather conditions. But they offered no alternative.

As we neared Nome, I told the radio operator we would attempt as many low approaches as fuel would allow to see if we could find an opening in the clouds. We made three such approaches and saw nothing but blinding snow. On our fourth approach I saw a red light for a fraction of a second. Then as we reached our minimum altitude I saw a white light in front of me for a fraction of a second, just long enough for me to line up where I had seen it. I was pretty sure I was over the airfield but had no idea exactly where.

I knew it was now or never. I was expecting a crash and possibly an explosion. Instead, the airplane landed in the middle of the runway and came to a stop without any problem.

The odds against such a landing were astronomical. There was no way I could have put that airplane down like that without the Lord’s help. How did He help me? First, He told me where to attempt to land despite all protests from the ground. Second, by some process unknown to me, He guided me onto that runway.

I have a testimony of the power of prayer. Nothing is impossible for the Lord. I know He will help us if we earnestly seek Him and strive to be obedient to His teachings.

Kenneth B. Smith is a member of the Morningside Fifth Ward, St. George Utah Morningside Stake.

A Gift for My Father

When I was a little girl just two years of age, my father died in a tragic accident. I had a sister who was seven and a brother who was six. Life became very hard for my mother, who had to face life alone with her three little children. For some reason she decided to tell me that my daddy had gone away on a trip. Maybe she was so sad that she didn’t have the courage to tell me the truth.

So I kept waiting to see him and hear his sweet voice and be wrapped in his arms. My birthday would come, and I would wait. Christmas would come, and I would wait.

Then one day I learned the truth from a neighbor girl who was my age. It was devastating; I cried so hard. I started noticing other children with their fathers even more than before. It seemed so cruel.

The years went by, and I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I married a good man who wasn’t a member of the Church. But he gained a testimony and decided to be baptized.

Through our membership in the Church, a most wonderful blessing came into our lives. We learned that families can be forever, that a link in our family chain that had been left hanging by itself could be joined to the rest of the family. Through temple ordinances, my father could be baptized by proxy and sealed to his parents and I could eventually be sealed to him.

My husband was baptized for my father, and we had all the necessary temple ordinances performed. The Spirit of the Lord brought great joy to us. The anguish I had gone through as a child didn’t seem to matter when I compared it with this great joy and blessing. Knowing that families can be eternal was better than all the Christmases or birthdays my father and I could have spent together.

Today my father is sealed to his parents, and they, in turn, are sealed to their parents. As a result of the happiness I have experienced, I dedicate a great part of my time to doing family history so I can help families be joined together. Temple work brings the most wonderful blessings into our lives.

Silvia Girard is a member of the Spencer Fifth Ward, Magna Utah Central Stake.

Don’t Open the Door!

The night was freezing, with snow coming thick and fast. I was warm and safe in our home, and our three children were sleeping soundly. My husband was attending a bishopric meeting at the chapel some five miles (8 km) away. At about 8:30 there was an unexpected knock at the door. Immediately I felt strongly impressed that I was not to open the door. This certainty—this warning of danger—had never before come to me so strongly.

I was therefore quite stunned to hear my husband’s brother answer my query as to who was there. My husband’s only brother, Michael, a member of the Church, lived 70 miles (110 km) away. We had a very good relationship with him, and it was not surprising that he would visit, possibly expecting to stay a few days, as he had done many times before. It wasn’t even surprising that he hadn’t called, since the phone lines were down because of the weather. I should have felt safe and relieved, and it would have been normal for me to welcome him into our home on this cold winter night.

I could not understand the strong feelings I had or why I heard myself asking him to travel to the chapel to meet my husband. After a stunned silence my brother-in-law explained in a rather strange manner that he had traveled by train, then had caught the bus to our home, and now the snow was getting quite deep.

A powerful prompting continued to impress upon me that I must not, for any reason, open the door. I calmly explained that I was sorry and repeated my request for him to travel to the chapel to meet my husband.

For the remainder of the evening I reflected on my actions. Poor Michael had traveled several hours by train and bus, and on a cold winter evening I had turned him away. How could anyone be so uncaring? Yet at the same time I was unable to deny the strong witness that I was in danger and must not open my door.

It was late and I was almost asleep when my husband returned home. We discussed the situation very briefly, my husband confirming that his brother had met him and was now sleeping downstairs. I no longer felt any fear and slept very soundly.

The next morning I puzzled over how I could explain my actions to Michael. Would he be angry with me? I took a deep breath and walked into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. “Michael, about last night … ,” I began but stopped when I saw that, far from being angry, he was actually smiling.

“I’m so glad you did not let us in last night,” he said. I had no idea until then that he had not been alone. He proceeded to tell me how he had met Steve, an old school friend, on the train, and it had taken him some time to realize that Steve was high on drugs. By then Michael had already told him where he was going. Steve became more and more aggressive during the journey. He explained he urgently needed money and a place to sleep. He forcibly accompanied Michael to our home with what my brother-in-law could describe only as “the most evil of intentions.”

“So, you see,” said Michael, “I stood outside the door, praying that you would not let us in. By the time we set off on the long trip to the chapel, Steve lost interest and said he would go and find some ‘action’ somewhere else.”

I will never know what might have befallen our family or me that winter night. I will just be eternally grateful to have learned one of the most valuable lessons here on earth—to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Even when there appears to be no logical reason, we will be kept safe by relying on that still, small voice.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson

Janet Dunne is a member of the Leeds Fourth Ward, Leeds England Stake.