In 1878, President John Taylor called Saints to settle in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. Early in the twentieth century, Pa moved our family to that desolate land.
Our new farm was littered with rocks. Before we could till the ground, we had to clear them away. Using a wheelbarrow, Ma and I carted away the small rocks. There was only one way to remove the boulders—blow them up with dynamite.
Pa dug under each one as far as he could and placed the dynamite underneath. He was careful to set each charge in just the right place so that the blast would tear the boulder completely apart. Finally everything was ready for Pa to light the fuse. Mama herded us children out of danger.
The first boulder exploded into hundreds of fragments and a cloud of dust. When the dust settled, the boulder had disappeared. I now had to pick up the pieces and fill the hole with dirt.
We repeated the process, Pa lighting the dynamite and I clearing away the shattered rock. By the end of the third explosion, I was growing tired of picking up rocks and wanted to be in on the “real” work—lighting the dynamite. I took a few steps toward Pa.
“Willard, stay back!” my mother called.
I scowled. At nine, I was the oldest and believed I was a man.
As I started back to the homestead, a sense of danger ran through me. A whispering in my heart warned me that something was wrong.
I didn’t understand. I wasn’t in any danger. I was well away from the blasting. Certain that I had imagined the voice, I concentrated on what Pa was doing. Maybe he’d see that I was nearly grown and ready to work alongside him.
The feeling of danger grew.
I recalled the promise my father had made at the time of my confirmation: “I bless you with the power of discernment. Listen to the Spirit. It will guide you and protect you from harm.”
I tried to ignore the voice, but it wouldn’t be still. I could no longer pretend that I didn’t hear the insistent whisper.
I bless you with the power of discernment.
The words were as clear now as they had been when Pa pronounced the blessing more than a year earlier. If I wasn’t in danger, maybe the voice was telling me that someone else was. Ma was hanging clothes on the line, my little sister pulling at her skirts. I grinned at the picture they made. My smile faded as I realized that I couldn’t see three-year-old Hyrum.
“Hyrum!” I shouted. “Hyrum!” Shading my eyes from the sun, I squinted into the distance. Then I saw him—heading straight toward the field, chubby legs churning.
I took off after him, running and praying and shouting all at the same time. “Pa!” I screamed, waving my arms to attract his attention.
His back turned to me, Pa couldn’t see my warning or Hyrum toddling toward disaster.
I reached Hyrum at the same moment the boulder exploded. Throwing my body over his, I shielded him the best I could. Sharp rock fragments rained down on me, pummeling my head, back, and legs.
Hyrum began to squirm. “Heavy,” he said. “Let me up.”
I rolled off. My body screamed with pain, but I scarcely noticed. Gently, I ran my hands over my little brother. “Are you all right?”
He wiggled away from me and stood. His chin wobbled, but he appeared unhurt. “Scared,” he said.
“I was scared, too.” I pulled Hyrum to me and hugged him.
By then Pa had reached us. Tears tracked through the dirt and grime on his face. His big arms circled us, squeezing tight. “How did you know that your brother was in danger?”
I hesitated, not sure how to explain. “A voice told me that something was wrong. I didn’t pay attention at first, but it kept poking at me until I had to listen.” I paused, then confessed the part that stung my conscience. “If I had listened the first time, Hyrum wouldn’t have wandered away. He’d never have been in danger.”
Pa laid his big hand on my shoulder. “But you did listen. That’s the important thing.” Pa took a deep breath. “That was a mighty brave thing you did, Willard.”
“I prayed, Pa. I was praying so hard the words nearly choked me.”
“So was I, Son. So was I.”
Ma and my little sister came running. Laughing and crying at the same time, Ma hugged me and Hyrum. Soon, all of us were hugging and crying.
A sweet feeling of peace settled around my heart as I knelt by my bed that night. My prayers took longer than usual as I thanked Heavenly Father for the whisperings of the Spirit in my heart.