Latter-day Saint Voices

By Mary Rich Goodwin


Check the Boys

Our home in Manti, Utah, was small, and our family was very close. Our sons, Stewart and Chandler, played together constantly and shared a bedroom. The room was small, and the boys didn’t seem to mind sharing a twin bed, one sleeping at each end. Their toes would barely reach to the middle, and often the sounds of giggling would escape as they tickled each other’s feet.

They soon outgrew the bed, though, so we shopped around and decided to get bunk beds. Their excitement was overwhelming as my husband, Rex, set up the new beds. He attached a board across the top bunk to keep Stewart, age four, from rolling off the bed. Chandler was younger and smaller and had the bottom bunk. After family prayer they climbed happily into their new beds, and we heard giggling and whispering through their closed door. Eventually they went to sleep, and the house was quiet.

Housework, dishes, and laundry filled the rest of my evening, and I clutched Rex’s hand tightly as we had our evening prayer. Finally we climbed into bed, exhausted from the day’s work. It must have been only seconds before I was in a deep sleep.

I woke up around 2:00 a.m., opened my eyes, looked at the clock, and was ready to doze back to sleep when I heard a very quiet voice say, “Check the boys.” I looked at Rex to see if he was awake, but he was sleeping soundly. I closed my eyes a second time, but again I heard, “Check the boys.” My body was so tired I wasn’t sure if I was awake, and once more I closed my eyes to go to sleep when I heard the voice a third time: “Check the boys.” My mind began to fill with stories I had heard about the still, small voice. I couldn’t imagine why I should check the boys, but finally I climbed out of bed and headed toward their room.

I walked down the dark hall and through the kitchen. All was quiet. I walked through the family room and finally reached the boys’ door. I heard a faint whimpering in the bedroom. As I quietly opened the door, I looked at the new bunk beds, and to my horror, Chandler was hanging from the top bed. His skinny body had slipped through the space between the mattress and the board, but his head had caught. His small body hung limp. His only cry was a muffled whimper as his face was buried in the mattress. Stewart slept soundly on the bottom bunk, unaware of his brother’s distress. They must have switched beds after we tucked them in for the night.

I quickly slipped Chandler back through the small space and held him tightly in my arms. His frightened, tear-filled eyes met mine. I realized how close he had come to death. I rocked him back to sleep and placed him in the bottom bed beside his brother. The image of Chandler hanging from the top bed haunted me. I knew he couldn’t have survived for more than a few minutes.

As I watched my two sons sleep, I felt the protective Spirit of the Lord within my heart and realized I had been given a miracle that night. After returning to my bedroom, I knelt and thanked my Heavenly Father for the repeated prompting I had received and for the safety of our family.

True to My Decision

I was 11 years old when I learned about the Church. From the moment I first entered the meetinghouse, I felt a beautiful spirit. I continued to attend for several months, during which time I turned 12 and started the Personal Progress program in Young Women. Two months later, on August 14, 1994, I was baptized.

It was surprising to the ward members to see a girl of 12 baptized by herself, without her parents. How did this happen? I asked my father if I could be baptized. He replied, “You’re an intelligent young woman, and you will know what decision to make.” I had already made the decision in my heart that I would never again be without the beautiful feeling I had when I heard the true gospel.

During middle school and high school I experienced wonderful and difficult years at the same time, because during adolescence a young person wants support from her parents. It wasn’t easy to be the only member of the Church at home when my parents did things that were at odds with the Church’s teachings. But I remembered what Nephi said, “If ye shall … endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Ne. 31:20).

Years later my younger siblings were baptized, but my parents were not. The missionaries talked to them, but they did not want to be baptized. Their decision saddened me, but I knew I had set a good example.

When I was 16 I traveled to the temple in Orlando, Florida, and it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I went by myself and was able to be baptized for my ancestors. Two years later, when I received my Young Womanhood Recognition, my joy could not be contained. I felt that our Heavenly Father was pleased with me.

When President Gordon B. Hinckley visited our beautiful island of Puerto Rico and spoke to the members, I had the privilege of singing in the choir. He urged us to go to the temple on the neighboring island of the Dominican Republic. I did, and in that temple I made a firm decision that I would be married for eternity to a returned missionary.

I reached this goal when I found a worthy priesthood holder who is a returned missionary. We were sealed in the Dominican Republic temple for time and eternity. We now have a baby boy, and I am serving in the stake Young Women presidency. My parents are still not members, but I am pleased with the example I have given them. I try to build on the good in my parents while forgetting their imperfections.

I know I belong to the true Church and that Jesus Christ is my Savior. My dream, which I pray for, is to be sealed someday to my parents and siblings. I love this gospel that has given me so much joy and hope in my life.

The Blessing

Evan Payne owned and operated a gasoline and auto repair station in Thousand Oaks, California. He was quick with a smile and even quicker to remember people’s names. He knew his customers, their children, and their cars. Evan worked long hours, six days a week, and was genuinely interested in helping people. He gave jobs to teenagers who had family problems or who were preparing for or returning from missions. He would stay late or arrive early to accommodate a customer. Nearly everyone in town knew Evan Payne and liked him.

Evan was also busy at home and at church. He and his wife, Becky, had five children, ages 7 to 13. He had served twice as a counselor in the bishopric, as bishop, and now as a counselor in our stake presidency.

Evan was young, athletic, happy, and outgoing. He had dark hair and a handsome face. He loved to ski and play Church softball and basketball. So it didn’t seem possible when I heard that Evan had leukemia.

In the months following his diagnosis there were family, ward, and stake fasts. Evan went through chemotherapy and radiation. When Evan’s illness did not go into remission, his brothers were tested to determine if they could be bone marrow donors. None matched. He and Becky got their affairs in order and prepared for the worst, but in spite of the pain Evan remained upbeat and positive. He continued to work nearly every day, although he was clearly suffering.

One day my office phone rang. “Joel,” Evan said, “what are you doing tonight? I want you to come with me to give a blessing to someone in your ward. Can you do it?”

“Sure,” I said. “Who are we going to bless?”

“Sally Carlisle (names have been changed). She is an elderly lady from San Diego. She is in town visiting her daughter, Joan Wilson, who isn’t active. I should be taking the Wilsons’ home teacher, but I don’t know who it is, and she needs a blessing right away. Can you pick me up?”

I had a sudden sinking feeling, and a wave of guilt flooded over me. For many months I had been assigned to home teach the Wilson family, but I had not even called them. Numerous times I had intended to call or stop by, but each time I rationalized my way out. I had not done my duty. I told Evan I would pick him up at 7:00.

As we drove Evan explained that the Wilsons had been customers at his service station for many years. Joan had been raised in the Church but had drifted into inactivity as a young adult. She had married Mike Wilson, who was not a member of the Church, and they had raised their four boys in Mike’s religion. Evan explained that we would be giving a blessing to Joan’s mother, who had the flu. Joan had called Evan at the station and asked him to come. He was the only member of the Church she knew.

When we arrived at the Wilson home, Joan greeted us at the door but excused herself while we visited with her mother. Sally explained how much she wanted her daughter to come back to the Church and how she prayed for Mike and Joan to be able to receive the blessings of the gospel. After we visited for a few minutes, I anointed Sally and Evan blessed her. It was a simple blessing of comfort and good health.

As I drove Evan home, I felt grateful to have witnessed that priesthood blessing. I was also grateful for the introduction to the Wilson family and for spending those moments with Evan Payne, who passed away just a few months later.

In the following years I visited the Wilson home regularly. They welcomed me and remembered me as Evan’s friend. At first we just talked about Evan and what a great power for good he had been in our community. I remained the Wilsons’ home teacher for 15 years, and I tried to be like Evan and help whenever I could. Mike and Joan became my good friends and blessed my life in return.

Although Joan did not return to activity and Mike did not join the Church, I will always treasure their love and friendship. I was serving as bishop when Joan passed away. At the time of her death, Mike donated a large sum to the ward missionary fund. That money supported a missionary from our ward who joined the Church as a teenager and had no family resources to allow him to serve. Mike’s contribution indirectly touched the lives of the many converts that young elder taught.

Although I am certain Evan Payne did not intend to teach me any lessons that night many years ago, I learned that it is no burden to be about the Lord’s business. I try to be, as Evan was, truly interested in and concerned for our Heavenly Father’s children. And as a home teacher I try to be as faithful as Evan was and as the Savior would want me to be.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Sam Lawlor