The Gift


I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:18)

Julia could hardly close her eyes to sleep. Her whole body danced with excitement. She wondered how she could ever keep still until morning. Tomorrow was the day she had thought about for a year—the day she would finally be baptized, just as her twin sisters had been a few years earlier.

Glancing across the room, she could see the pink satin bow on her new, white lace dress glistening in the dark. Julia had gone to bed the night before to the whir of her mother’s sewing machine. Her mother was still sewing when Julia had gotten up for a drink of water around midnight. She felt bad that her mother was missing her sleep just to finish Julia’s dress.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” her mother had said the next morning. “Tomorrow is such a special day for you, and I want you to look beautiful.”

As she lay in bed, Julia thought back to the twins’ baptisms. They had been asked to sing a duet for the baptismal program. Julia remembered how nervous they had looked when they first got up in front of everyone. But they’d squeezed each other’s hand for courage and sung “Love One Another” beautifully.

When Sister Jacobsen, the stake Primary president, called Julia a few weeks ago, it surprised her. “Your sisters did such a wonderful job that we wondered if you would prepare a song for us also,” Sister Jacobsen had asked.

Before giving Sister Jacobsen an answer, Julia thought about it for several days. Her sisters were a lot more outgoing than she was, and they had lots of friends. Julia had a couple of good friends, but she usually just sat quietly in Primary and at school activities and seldom shared what she was thinking.

Once, Julia had overheard her mother’s friend call her shy. Her mother had replied, “Oh, she’s not really shy—she’s just a good listener.” But from then on, Julia thought of herself as being shy.

Dad had told Julia that after baptism she would be given a special gift, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and it would bless her in many ways. It would even help her gain more confidence. He said that it was one of the greatest gifts he had ever received, and Julia wondered if she’d feel the same. She didn’t really understand how it worked, and wondered how it could help her with her shyness. But she knew that the Holy Ghost is also called the Comforter, and the name sounded like that of a good friend.

One night, after praying and receiving a good feeling, Julia told Sister Jacobsen that she would sing at the baptism. Every night for two weeks she practiced “I Know My Father Lives” with her dad, who would accompany her on the piano. She knew both verses by heart, and her dad even learned them too. It was fun to sing together before going to bed.

As Julia lay in the darkness, the words of the song went through her head. “I know my Father lives and loves me too. The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me it is true, And tells me it is true.” She loved how the song made her feel, and as she softly hummed it, she finally fell asleep.

After breakfast the next morning, Julia dressed quickly in her new white dress. Everyone was happy and excited for her and listened one last time as she sang “I Know My Father Lives” without one mistake.

After changing into her baptismal clothes at the church, Julia and her dad took their places at the front of the chapel. There were five other children being baptized that day, and Julia knew most of them from school. She was surprised to see how many friends, parents, and relatives filled the chapel. A sick feeling of nervousness suddenly swept over her as she thought about standing in front of everyone and singing. She wished she hadn’t accepted, after all.

Julia tried not to think about the song and listened to the talks being given and watched the video presentation about the promises she was making. All too soon Sister Jacobsen announced her name and the song she would sing. Nervously she stood at the podium and looked down at her dad, who smiled warmly at her from his place at the piano.

I can do it, she thought to herself. I’ll just pretend I’m singing in my living room, and I won’t look at the crowd.

“I know my Father lives and loves me too,” Julia sang in a shaky voice. As she continued, she glanced down at the people who filled the chapel. There were so many of them, all looking at her, and all at once her head felt hot and dizzy. The words stuck in her throat, and then she couldn’t remember where she was in the song. There was nothing to do but stop singing.

It seemed to her as if she stood there forever, crying in front of everyone, her hands covering her face. Julia had never been so scared, and she didn’t know what to do. She felt so alone, in spite of all the people there, and she wanted to run out of the church just to get away from everyone.

But the piano was still playing, and through her crying she could hear a man’s voice softly singing the words. It was her dad. He was singing the end of the first verse. Julia wanted to sing along with him, but she was crying too hard. He started the second verse in a clear, strong voice: “He sent me here to earth, by faith to live his plan. The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me that I can, And tells me that I can.”

By the end of the song, Julia had stopped crying and had her eyes on her dad. She realized that the song was over and that her singing of it had been a failure. Embarrassed and still sniffling, she walked to her seat and took her place on the front row. When her dad slipped in beside her, she couldn’t bear to look up at him. She had disappointed her whole family and ruined the entire program. Oh, why did I ever think I could do it? Julia wondered. I’m just too shy.

Julia felt her dad’s strong arms lift her onto his lap. As she slowly looked up at him, she saw that he didn’t look disappointed in her at all. In fact, he had a big smile on his face.

“Oh, Julia,” he whispered excitedly, “this is how I can explain to you exactly how the gift of the Holy Ghost works. When you stopped singing and started to cry, you felt scared and alone, didn’t you?”

Julia nodded, puzzled.

“Then I helped you by singing the rest of the song when you couldn’t finish it. Well, after you receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, you need never feel alone again. When you are scared and don’t know what to do, if you listen very carefully, you will hear another voice coming through. Heavenly Father will send the Comforter to help you. He will help you make the right decisions. Most important, He will comfort you, if you just listen and keep the commandments. Julia, He will always be your friend.”

A warm feeling came over Julia as she placed her small hand inside her dad’s. She no longer felt embarrassed about not completing the song. For the first time she understood why the gift of the Holy Ghost was such a great gift. My own special Comforter, she thought happily.

“Maybe I am a little shy,” she whispered to her dad, “but I am a good listener.”

[photos] Photos by Phil Shurtleff