Hymn in a Cathedral
In September 2004 I traveled to the Netherlands with two of my grandchildren, Jim and Arianne, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Dutch liberation during World War II. We had been invited by the Dutch Historical Group to participate in the commemoration because my brother Evan, a co-pilot of a B-24 bomber, had died while helping with the liberation in 1944.
While there we traveled to Hommersum, just over the border into Germany, to attend a ceremony dedicating a plaque where my brother’s plane had crashed. Father Gerard Thuring, one of the event organizers, and I spoke during the ceremony, after which 17-year-old Arianne sang the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Jim, 15, helped raise the U.S. flag.
Afterward I told Father Thuring that we would like to attend the special liberation Mass the following day at his church in Oosterhaus. He welcomed our interest and invited us to attend. I then summoned the courage to suggest that Arianne, with whom I had consulted earlier, would be willing to sing at the meeting.
Surprised, he asked, “What will she sing?”
“ ‘I Am a Child of God,’ ” 1 I told him.
This good and kind man thought for a moment and then said, “We are all children of God. Let’s do it.”
When we arrived for the liberation Mass early the next morning, the church was full. Partway through the program, Father Thuring invited Arianne to come up and sing. After escorting her to the front, he said, “We will now hear a song from a Mormon girl from Utah.”
Without the benefit of music or accompaniment, Arianne began. As her voice echoed from the church’s high ceilings, tears began to flow as parishioners comprehended the hymn’s comforting message.
At the close of the meeting, many in the congregation expressed appreciation and love to Arianne for singing the hymn. The experience was a powerful reminder that all of us—regardless of race, religion, or language—are children of God.
Hymns, no. 301.
The Golden Contact I Couldn’t Remember
While going through my e-mails one morning, I noticed a name I could not place: Enrique Jorge Dias. The subject line read, “Saludos [greetings] from a golden contact.”
I had no idea what the message might be about, and I considered hitting the delete key. Curiosity got the best of me, however, and I opened it. It was written in Spanish.
As I read, I learned that when Enrique Dias was 18, he was living in Adrogué, Argentina, where I served as a full-time missionary more than 30 years earlier. One morning as he was walking through the center of town, I stopped him and handed him a pamphlet about the First Vision. My companion and I, in accordance with instructions from our mission president, often spent mornings handing out pamphlets on the sidewalks of Adrogué. We probably spoke with hundreds of people, though we seldom got their names. Most of our conversations lasted no more than 30 seconds.
More than three decades later, there was no way I could remember speaking to a young man, but he remembered me. A few weeks before I received his e-mail, I had posted my name on the Argentine Mission Web page, where Brother Dias had found it.
In his e-mail he explained that he took the pamphlet home and showed it to his mother, who encouraged him to learn more about Joseph Smith. By the time he tried to find the missionaries a few months later, I had been transferred to a new area.
Enrique received the discussions and was baptized and confirmed. I labored in Argentina for another 20 months but never heard anything about his baptism.
The brief conversation we had shared in the street that morning long ago had transformed his life and the lives of many others. Two years after his baptism he was called on a mission to northern Argentina. Afterward he married and continued faithful in the Church, serving in a variety of callings, including bishop, counselor to two stake presidents, and high councilor. He added that his oldest son had served a mission in La Paz, Bolivia.
Words cannot express the joy that came to my heart from reading that e-mail message. My mission was filled with many gratifying moments, but this long-delayed news from Enrique Jorge Dias made all of my memories of serving as a missionary even sweeter.
Loaves and Testimonies
One fast Sunday during Relief Society, a sister in our ward stood to bear her testimony. After stating that she had learned how much the Lord loves and cares about her, she shared the following experience.
She had been ill with pneumonia, and one morning she was having a particularly difficult time. Her appetite had diminished considerably, and the only thing she thought she could eat was some homemade bread. She was getting discouraged and had been praying for help to endure her trials.
That very morning her visiting teacher came to the door with a loaf of homemade bread. The sister bore testimony of the love she had felt from Heavenly Father. He had heard her prayers and provided her with exactly what she needed.
As I listened, I realized that I was that visiting teacher. I thought back on that morning, trying to remember why I had decided to take bread over at that time. I hadn’t heard a voice or felt a burning in the bosom. I just woke up that day and felt like making bread.
As I was preparing the loaves, I thought of a sister in our ward who was ill. I had felt helpless throughout her illness because I didn’t know what I could do to relieve her suffering. The thought came to my mind that I should take her a loaf of bread. I tried to talk myself out of it because the loaves turned out somewhat misshapen. But when I tasted one, it seemed fine. “At least she will know that I was thinking about her,” I thought.
I wrapped the warm, odd-looking loaf, and took it to her house. As I presented it to her, she smiled and thanked me but refused my offer of further assistance. I went home feeling good but still concerned that I hadn’t helped much.
Months later, when I heard her testimony, I understood that the Holy Ghost had prompted me in answer to her prayers. This experience taught me a great lesson about the importance of responding to the promptings of the Spirit. If an idea comes to us to do something good, we should do it. The Savior said, “Whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me” (Ether 4:12).
Anytime we have a thought to do good, we can assume that it comes from the Spirit. We never know how important such promptings can be. I had no idea that a loaf of homemade bread would be an answer to a prayer that would strengthen a testimony. And when the sister was prompted to share her experience in Relief Society, she had no idea of the valuable lesson I learned about recognizing the Spirit.
Did I Really Know?
After an eventful evening in Australia in 1998, my best mate asked if I could give him a lift. On our way to his home, our conversation turned to our basic beliefs. He was an atheist, and I was a Latter-day Saint. I had always known that there was a God; he had always believed that there was no God.
That evening I did something I had never done before. Just before I dropped off my friend, I told him I know that God lives, that Jesus is our Savior, and that Joseph Smith saw Them in vision.
I had often talked about these things with him, but I had never told him that I knew them to be true. I realized, however, that if I were to leave him with a lasting impression, I would have to leave him with my testimony of these things.
As he opened the car door, he shook my hand and said, “Hey, man, that’s cool. We all need to be firm in our beliefs.”
The problem, however, is that I didn’t know—not really. At the time, it felt right to say those things, but I had never received a spiritual confirmation of their truthfulness.
I had a 20-minute drive home. Those 20 minutes changed my life. As I reviewed our conversation, I started to think about my life and the direction I was headed. While I was thinking, the hymn “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” came into my mind and penetrated my soul. I started to sing aloud:
As I sang, tears came to my eyes as the Spirit witnessed to me the truthfulness of those words and confirmed that my testimony was true. I realized then that a testimony can be found in the bearing of it. 2
I will never forget the Spirit witnessing to me the truthfulness of my testimony. I know that my Redeemer lives because the Spirit witnessed it to my soul—a witness I was happy to share a short time later as a full-time missionary.
Hymns, no. 136.
See Boyd K. Packer, “The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge,” Liahona, Jan. 2007, 18; New Era, Jan. 2007, 6.
Illustrations by Daniel Lewis