The burning testimony of God’s love which still excites my soul came to me when I was only ten years old, at a time when I needed strength to sustain me through a very frightening experience. That testimony, firmly embedded in my soul, became the motivation in my search for truth and led me to a testimony of the gospel and membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints years later.
The experience began with Aunt Maggie and a little book called the Ten Commandments which she had given to my youngest sister for Christmas. Because Aunt Maggie came nearer to being an angel than anyone I knew, there was no doubt in my mind that we should live by every word written in that book.
Aunt Maggie loved the scriptures. Her life was one of selflessness, and often in our family gatherings she would speak of the importance of learning Jesus’ teachings and using them as a guide in our daily lives. I felt warm and secure in her home, and that feeling came back to me when I read the little book and looked at its lovely family illustrations. I knew I wanted our family to look like that.
One day my little sister, Edres, and my younger brother, Wade, and I were playing in the sand dunes across the field from our house when we suddenly felt a change in the atmosphere. Looking up, we could see an angry, dark storm approaching rapidly. We had seen such storms before. One had recently blown down our windmill, torn great branches from trees around our yard, and sent small farm sheds bouncing along the ground.
Now we were frightened, and Edres began to cry. I took her by one hand and my brother took her by the other, and we began to run toward home. My little sister couldn’t run that fast for long, however, and we had to slow down when home was still a hay field and an orchard away. As we hurried along, I kept telling them, “Don’t worry. The Lord will take care of us. If we do what he says in the Ten Commandments, he will protect us.”
I must have repeated these phrases to them more than a dozen times, partly to reassure them and partly as a form of prayer. “The Lord loves little children,” I told them. “All he wants us to do is keep the commandments. If we just ask him to help us, he will.” I was scared, but I couldn’t show it because I had to keep them from being scared. I knew we had to reach home before the full force of the storm hit, but Edres’s little legs couldn’t carry her very fast. Still, from all that Aunt Maggie had said and from the things written in the little book, I knew the Lord would help us.
And then the testimony came. We had just passed the peach section of the orchard and were going past the apple trees when a glowing, exciting warmth surged through my body, telling me that the things I was saying to my frightened brother and sister were true. That burning within me I would never forget. I felt 3 meters tall! I was no longer afraid! Although the wind grew stronger and balls of hail and huge drops of rain began to fall, I knew we would reach home in safety.
Mama came running out to meet us. She took Edres up in her arms, and we all hurried back to the house as fast as we could.
Later, alone with my thoughts, I pondered what had happened out there on the orchard road. I knew I had had a spiritual experience and that it had to do with the things written in the Ten Commandments. From listening to religious discussions between my mother, grandma, and Aunt Maggie, I knew there was a lot more to it than that, and that somewhere on earth there was a church that taught what I decided in my own mind was the way the Lord would have us live.
That experience became a treasure to me, and years later when I found the Latter-day Saints that same burning within that had come to me as a child returned. How grateful I am to Aunt Maggie, her devotion to the scriptures, and her gift of the little book.