Mormon Journal

By


A Handful of Rice

The chilling rain swept down the mountainside as our small group struggled up the rocky trail. Our muscles were worn, our strength was depleted, and the hot spots on our feet had turned to blisters.

To complete an outdoor leadership course, we needed to hike from the desert floor to a high mountain pass in a rugged and remote area of southern Utah.

We had had little to eat for several days, and hunger gnawed at us constantly. Events seemed to occur in slow motion. The goal of reaching the mountain pass, where we would be resupplied with fresh food, seemed impossible to achieve.

However, I had saved a small handful of rice. Even the thought of it was reassuring. Others in the group had finished their food long ago. Surely, if anyone reached the pass, I would, because I had the rice!

The day wore on. The trail became steeper. We passed our limit of endurance and could go no farther. Our enthusiasm and strength had been spent on the steep upward climb.

When our leader called a halt to the march, I knew this was my chance. Hastily I built a fire, and I poured the rice into a pop can. As I peered down, my hopes dissipated, for there was only a modest amount of rice in the can. But I remembered that the addition of water and heat would swell the rice considerably.

I noticed the other members of the group edging toward my fire. I avoided their eyes. I was, after all, under no obligation to share. They had eaten their rations, while I had carefully saved these few grains of rice to see me through the final stage of the journey. Moreover, just a taste for each person would not give any of us enough strength to continue.

Time seemed to stop as the rice cooked—and then my decision was made. I pulled the precious rice away from the fire on which I had cooked it, offered a prayer of gratitude, and passed the container around the circle. Each person took a spoonful. As the last piece of rice was scraped from the bottom of the can, something unexpected happened.

Through participating in the process of sharing, we felt a new spirit of brotherhood, and love for one another filled our exhausted bodies with new warmth and strength.

The strength we gathered from sharing was a gift of the Spirit. It enabled us to continue our climb. We reached the high mountain pass.

It was nothing, really—just a few grains of rice. But for more than twenty years, that shared can of half-cooked rice has continued to warm and strengthen my spirit—and remembering that experience helps me realize that we are always blessed when we share.

Richard C. Peacock is a home teacher in the Manti Third Ward, Manti Utah Stake.

“I Can’t Do It”

Jerry * , a newly ordained priest, knelt before the sacrament table to offer the prayer on the bread. The quiver in his voice betrayed his nervousness, and he stumbled on his words. He began again. The anxiety in his voice grew. Then another mistake, and he had to start all over once more.

Finally, after Jerry had made three unsuccessful attempts, the bishop walked over to the table, knelt beside Jerry, and offered the sacred prayer for him.

Jerry was a cheerful young man. He excelled in athletics and had a pleasing personality. He was liked at school and in the ward. But Jerry could barely read. When called upon to read in public, his disability worsened.

Learning to offer the sacrament prayer without stumbling would be a difficult challenge, but the bishop privately expressed to Jerry that he had confidence in him. He knew that even if Jerry was not able to offer the prayer correctly, it was important to let Jerry know he was concerned about him and supportive of his efforts. He asked Jerry to study the prayer and to let him know when he was ready to try again.

Jerry made several attempts to offer the prayer. Sometimes he was successful, other times he wasn’t. But despite his frequent failures, Jerry always tried again.

One Sunday, as Jerry sat at the sacrament table, several stake visitors took their seats near him. With the added pressure of wanting to do well for the stake visitors, Jerry was unable to offer the prayer. His fellow priest had to offer both prayers.

Afterwards, Jerry dejectedly told the bishop, “No more—I can’t do it!” He asked for a different assignment to allow him to satisfy his priesthood responsibilities.

The bishop and the priests quorum adviser discussed Jerry’s situation. They were concerned about Jerry and wanted him to know of their love and support. Finally it was decided that the adviser, Steve, would privately coach Jerry every Sunday. The two spent many weeks working together.

Finally, Jerry and Steve invited the bishop to join them for a practice session. Steve challenged Jerry, “Read the prayer and then recite it without looking.”

Jerry read the prayer from the card, then he recited it. Both times, the sacred prayer was offered perfectly.

As he shook the bishop’s hand, Jerry said confidently, “I’m ready to bless the sacrament today!”

As sacrament meeting began, the bishop watched Jerry’s family. He could see that they were silently praying for Jerry. Steve, sitting with his family, had expressed confidence that Jerry would succeed. The bishop offered his own silent prayer in Jerry’s behalf.

As Jerry knelt, he felt the confidence he had gained from practicing with Steve. Flawlessly, he offered the sacrament prayer. As Jerry rose to his feet, his smile displayed his joy at conquering his fears. He would have no further problems blessing the sacrament.

David De Ford is first counselor in the bishopric of the Nottingham Country Ward, Katy Texas Stake.

  1.   *

    Name has been changed.

Hadn’t I Given Enough?

I was delighted at my chance to be one of the visiting teachers of the ward’s newest convert. My companion, Gina, was in the hospital with a new baby when I first stopped by to see Lisa * .

As I visited with her, I noticed that she had photographs of her family taped to the wall. As Lisa proudly told me about the photos, it was obvious that they held precious memories for her. She apologized that they were not framed, explaining that her husband had promised to get her some frames but that he just hadn’t taken the time to do it. I thought of the many unframed pictures I had at home in boxes and understood her dilemma.

Before I left, I told Lisa that if she ever needed anything, she should let me know and I would be happy to help. I left soon afterward, feeling that we had shared a successful visit. I wanted to help Lisa frame her pictures but didn’t feel I had the funds to help her out.

A few days later, my husband and I visited one of his friends from work. During the course of our conversation, he mentioned that he had an extra 11″ x 14″ frame and mat and wondered if I could use it. I couldn’t pass it up. After all, I did need some frames for my family photos. I felt lucky to have received one so unexpectedly.

But when my husband’s friend placed the picture frame in my hand, I immediately thought of Lisa. I knew that this picture frame was just what she needed. But I quickly pushed the thought aside. After all, the frame had been given to me, not to her. Why should I give it away? I often gave away things to people who needed help. Just this once, why not enjoy my good fortune myself? Besides, Lisa had said that her husband was going to get her some picture frames—eventually.

That night, I tucked the frame away in my closet. In fact, it stayed there for more than a month. But even though it was out of sight, I kept thinking of the frame and wondering if I should give it to Lisa.

The next time I went visiting teaching, I noticed the pictures, still taped to the wall. When I returned home, I looked at my living room full of family portraits in frames of many sizes.

At that moment, I realized just how selfish I had been. The thought came forcibly to me—that frame in my closet didn’t belong to me. I had only received it for the purpose of giving it away. The feeling was so strong that I felt guilty for not giving it away sooner.

I took the frame down from the closet shelf. As I looked at it, I wanted to fill it with a touch of love. So I made a collage to fit inside the frame, using pictures of the scriptures, of fresh daisies, of homebaked goodies, and even of a mason jar filled with hearts. For the center of the collage, I found a picture of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. With glue, scissors, and construction paper, I snipped and arranged; and when I was finished, the picture area, surrounded by the once-lifeless frame, glowed with the warmth of the gospel.

I wrote a note explaining that the frame was for her family pictures and that I wanted her to go ahead and take out the collage of catalog pictures. After tucking the note inside, I carefully wrapped the frame in paper and added a bright red heart sticker that read “You are loved.” I could hardly believe the transformation in myself. No longer reluctant, I could hardly wait to deliver this picture of love.

I had a prayer in my heart when I arrived at Lisa’s door. I hoped that the Spirit would touch her and bless her. When she opened the door, she seemed genuinely surprised and couldn’t imagine why I had brought her a gift.

Lisa invited me in, and I watched her open the package carefully. When she saw the picture frame, tears welled up in her eyes. She quickly regained her composure, but not before I felt the familiar surge of warmth as the Spirit touched my heart. I can’t be sure, but I think Lisa felt it, too. For me, it was a witness that I had done the right thing.

RuthAnn Hogue teaches Sunday School in the Maryvale Ward, Phoenix Arizona West Stake.

  1.   *

    Name has been changed.

I Saw My Eternal Family

In 1969 my husband, Jack, and I went through the Salt Lake Temple to do the work for my deceased brother Jerry. I was seated alone in a room in the temple when, for me, the room seemed to be full of men and women—among them, my brother. I sensed a feeling of great joy within him and within the others as well.

Jerry looked at me and smiled. His countenance revealed deep peace, and I beheld the same peace and happiness attending the others. Suddenly I knew that these spirits—all of them—were relatives! This knowledge was quite a shock. Could they possibly be members of the Church?

My husband, three children, and I were the only members of the Church from our families.

On the way home, I told my husband of my experience and asked him if he could think of an explanation. Jack said he didn’t know how those people could be relatives, but he was sure we could find the answer.

Later, I went to the family history library. After three hours of research based on my meager supply of family records, I decided to look in the books of family group sheets to see how many members of the Comb family, Tharp family, and other related families were Church members. I turned the pages, and there in front of me was my great-grandfather’s name! I double-checked the name, birth date, place, and the name of his wife—and everything matched. How could this be possible when I was the only member of the Church in our family?

Then I found myself eagerly turning pages, looking for my great-great-grandfather. I found him! Soon I found another family sheet, then another. Finally, when I reached the year 1730, the names stopped. The tears didn’t, however.

A sweet, white-haired sister sitting across from me quietly asked if there was anything she could do. Through my tears I asked if all the ordinance work had been done for those relatives. She showed me the dates confirming that it had, then referred me to another worker for more information. The worker told me to write to the family representative. I did, and I found out that his great-great-great-grandfather and mine were brothers. He, too, was a convert, and his son-in-law had compiled the family group sheets.

I was delighted to find another relative who was a member of the Church. But more important, I learned how important and real is the ordinance work performed in the temples each day.

Margie L. Feldman, a Sunday School teacher in the West Jordan Twenty-eighth Ward, West Jordan Utah Stake, also serves as a worker in the Jordan River Temple.

Gospel Explorer

I was born with brain damage, unable to walk until I was eight or speak until I was in my teens. But there was never anything wrong with my intellect.

I forced myself to walk, read, write, and speak. My first employment after leaving school was as an errand boy in a cotton mill. I progressed through various jobs until my long climb up the education ladder culminated in an advanced diploma in education.

In spite of these struggles to achieve, I have always given thanks to my Maker for the excitement of living with a disability. I was baptized into the Church in 1959 and gained a profound testimony, which gave me a new strength. But I still fight to overcome difficulties. Nevertheless, I am able to work and have been financially independent. Heavenly Father has blessed me abundantly. Among these blessings are my wife and three children.

It was a devastating experience, then, to visit my doctor and be told that I had to retire from my job as a senior teacher because my state of health would not permit me to go on working. How could I retire at fifty-two, with my disability, and start a new career? I could not envision a future without a job! I determined that I would recover. I would not give up. I felt that I had overcome tremendous odds in my life before, and that I could come through again.

But ultimately, I had to admit defeat. I had given my all to the job and could not give any more. Through prayer I gained a measure of composure and confidence for my future, uncertain though it might be. I was amazed that I could lose my job, and yet feel peace, through the comfort I received from the Lord.

On the issue of restoring my health, I was guided through prayer to seek the restful effects of nature. Spending time enjoying God’s wonderful creations had a restorative, rejuvenating effect on me. Soon my ability to concentrate was restored, and I was again able to study the scriptures rather than just read them. This led to blessings that I had not dreamed would come.

Prayerfully, I developed a series of steps to help me study the scriptures thoroughly as I read. I was able to personalize them so that they applied to my life, and I worked out action plans to make the principles I studied part of my daily living. I constantly asked myself two questions: What did I learn from trying to live what I read today? What am I doing differently or better as a consequence?

Sometimes I could not answer these questions satisfactorily. It is humbling and enlightening to learn of one’s weaknesses and then to have to wrestle with them. At those times, serious supplication to Heavenly Father would always teach me the truth about myself and aid in improvement.

I decided to keep a log, an honest account of what occurred as I tried to live gospel principles. It helped me (1) draw conclusions from my experiences in living gospel principles and (2) determine how to better apply those principles in light of what I learned about my personal traits, strengths, and weaknesses.

Quite predictably, I occasionally lapsed in some areas. But something of much greater scope also emerged. My scripture study helped me to put gospel learning on my permanent agenda. This has greatly helped me as I have sought to develop traits and characteristics acceptable to the Lord.

Alan Counsell, a lecturer and consultant on disability, helps companies hire people with disabilities. He is a member of the Milton Keynes Ward, Northampton England Stake.

The Blackness and the Moon

On 10 January 1969, my life abruptly changed. I certainly hadn’t intended to make any changes. I was a less-active member of the Church and was a heavy smoker and drinker; in fact, I had reached the point where I felt unable to function without alcohol. I enjoyed the companionship of my drinking buddies, and the alcohol numbed my senses, making it seem easier to deal with life’s challenges.

But on that January day I did some quick reevaluation of my life. At work I was removing the rind from slabs of bacon with a five-inch boring knife and accidentally sliced a deep cut in my thigh. I started for the door, trying to remove my belt and cutting tools, and fainted before doing either. Co-workers carried me out to the loading dock, placed me in the company truck, and sped off to the hospital. I was losing a great deal of blood, and one man rode in back with me, applying constant pressure to the cut.

Midway to the hospital, we passed over a rough section of railroad tracks, and he was thrown down. By the time he regained his footing and could assist me again, we were both sure I was gone. Although I was alert, I became extremely cold. I felt and saw a blackness settle over me, and I became very frightened.

I’m dying, I realized. I thought of my wife and children. I can’t die now. I have too much to do.

Right then I determined that if I was spared, I would repent and set my life in order. Immediately the cold I felt was replaced by a satisfying warmth in my body. The darkness fled, and I drifted into sleep. I later learned that more than once I came close to dying on the operation table, yet the doctors were able to save me and my leg.

When I awoke that night, I saw the moon shining through the window. I wept as I thought of my second chance. I felt a strong desire to pray—a foreign feeling to me. I couldn’t kneel, but I poured my heart out to my Heavenly Father. I thanked him for all he had given me and for his patience and mercy.

With the help of a supportive wife and an outstanding bishop, I began making changes I’d never imagined. After being released from the hospital, I attended church with my family. I studied the scriptures and read other Church books as well.

I was ordained a priest and then an elder; eventually our family went to the temple where we were sealed for time and all eternity. Other blessings followed. My wife, who had battled with cancer, rheumatic fever, and several other debilitating health problems, felt better than she’d felt in years. I had suffered from a hearing loss for most of my life. After much fasting and prayer, I underwent surgery that restored most of my hearing.

My whole life became more peaceful, more enjoyable, more worthwhile. The more I learned and grew, the more I prayed, thanking God for the most fortunate accident of my life.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Kent Barney

Frank Outcelt is high priests group leader in the Basalt Ward, Firth Idaho Stake.