Elder Palmer stepped out of his hotel room and into the dimly lit hallway.
“Out of the way, young man.”
Elder Palmer turned toward the voice. “Pardon me.”
The man barely glanced at him from under the brim of his top hat as he bristled by.
Elder Palmer wanted to say, “I’m a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I have an important message for you.” But he didn’t. Instead, he shoved his hands in his overcoat pockets and trudged on toward the stairway. That man wouldn’t have believed his words anyway. Why should he? Why would anyone believe a teacher who had never even read the scriptures?
At the top of the stairs, Elder Palmer pulled a small reading primer from one pocket and his Bible from the other. “Just as soon as I learn how to read,” he whispered, “nothing is going to stop me from preaching the gospel.”
“It’s a disgrace for the Mormon Church to send an ignorant man to try to convert the good people of Michigan!”
Elder Palmer froze. He recognized the voice that boomed from the parlor below. It was the preacher he’d visited with last night.
“I know he’s rough-looking,” said a female voice, “but that doesn’t mean he’s ignorant.”
“I’ll prove to you I’m right. When he comes down this morning, I’ll ask him some questions about the Bible.”
Elder Palmer backed away from the stairs. The preacher was right. He was ignorant. Somehow, he had to get away! He raced down the opposite hall, looking for another stairway, but there wasn’t one. He was trapped.
With nowhere else to turn, he rushed back to his room and closed the door. If only he’d been able to go to school when he was a boy! He had spent most of his childhood blind. And even though he had eventually—miraculously—received his sight, he had only received enough to get around, not enough to read. It wasn’t until he was a grown man that he had been blessed with enough sight to read, but by then it was too late to go to school.
“I need help, Heavenly Father,” he whispered.
Suddenly he remembered a cold winter evening not long after he’d received his sight. He and his father had been trapped in a mountain snowstorm. They could not see the road. Their oxen were frightened and did not know the way home.
“Son,” his father had said, “we have done all we can to find our way. Now we must ask the Lord for help.”
They then knelt in the snow and prayed. Afterward, they steered the oxen in the direction they thought was right, and the animals, without hesitation, led them home.
This memory reminded him of the power of prayer. He dropped to his knees. “Heavenly Father, Thou hast called me to do Thy work. I have done all that I can, but I need Thy help.” When he finished, he went directly to the parlor.
The preacher waved to Elder Palmer. “Ah, Mr. Palmer, come in. These people—” the preacher motioned to several men and women—“have been discussing the Bible with me. Would you, as a minister, be so kind as to explain this passage?” He then read from his Bible.
Elder Palmer listened closely to the verses. When he was a boy, his mother had helped him memorize many scriptures, but he didn’t recognize these.
Elder Palmer looked hard at the preacher, and as he did so, the familiar voice of the Holy Ghost filled his mind. “It is interesting that you should ask me this,” he said, “as I have a scripture I would like you to explain to me.”
The preacher laughed. “Go ahead.”
“‘And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.’”
“Oh, Mr. Palmer, that is not in our Bible. It must be in your Mormon Bible.”
“You will find it in Revelation 14:6.”
The preacher flipped to the book of Revelation. His face turned bright red. “Well, well. I have never seen that before. I will have to look it up in my Bible commentary.”
“That is the position I am in with your passage. Perhaps when we meet again we can explain to each other.”
The preacher nodded curtly, then turned back to the women who were seated on the circular sofa. One of them stood. “Mr. Palmer?”
“You seem to have a good understanding of the scriptures. Can you please explain this verse to me?”
“I have a question, too.” It was the man he had bumped into earlier.
Elder Palmer smiled. He still felt a bit nervous, but he now realized that in many ways he was prepared to serve the Lord, and much of that preparation had come when he was a boy.
“I’d be happy to help each of you,” he said, “but I have one request. As you read from your Bible, please read slowly, and I will follow along in mine. That way, the Lord will help us both to understand.”
Author’s Note: Elder Palmer eventually learned to read. He also continued to memorize scriptural passages, just as he had when he was a boy. He loved the scriptures, especially the Bible, and in time, his wide use and knowledge of it caused others to call him “The Walking Bible.”
“The Holy Ghost … is the source of testimony and spiritual gifts. It enlightens minds, … teaches us all things, and brings forgotten knowledge to our remembrance.”
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Unspeakable Gift,” Ensign, May 2003, 26.