My locker slammed shut as I turned and hurried up the stairs so I wouldn’t be late for my seventh-grade science class. I was supposed to have something in mind for a science project. I thought a papier-mache volcano would be great, but I knew that instead Mom would probably help me figure out a project to demonstrate capillary action with a stalk of celery and some red food coloring in water.
Just as the bell rang, I sat down in my assigned seat at the back of the classroom. I was beginning to hate being assigned seats alphabetically because I always ended up in the rear of the room.
I hardly had time to say anything to Julie Westergaard, one of the few students who sat further back than I did; when my science teacher started talking. He was obviously upset by something, and we were going to hear about it. He started the day’s lesson, not on science, but about the fact that the United States was facing a major military crisis. The Soviet Union was sending ships loaded with missiles to Cuba. Our president had set up a blockade to stop them. “It could mean war,” my teacher said, pounding the desk for emphasis. “The world as it is right now could end in half an hour. Do you all realize what a nuclear war would be like? It would be the end of the world.”
I was riveted to my chair. The sound of my teacher’s voice seemed very far away, and the loudest noise was my blood pounding in my ears. I was terrified, but I held the terror and panic I felt inside. The rest of the day was a blur.
I walked home from school that day with my science teacher’s words replaying in my mind. “The world could end in half an hour. The world could end in half an hour.”
I didn’t mention my concerns to my parents. I was a grown-up twelve-year-old and was trying to show my independence by not confiding every fear to my mother.
After dinner, I sat down at my desk in my bedroom to do my homework. I wasn’t usually so prompt about getting to my homework first thing in the evening, but nothing else seemed to distract my mind from the worry over the threat of world war. After a while, I was tired of homework and I began to putter with other things I found lying around. As I was sorting through a stack of paper, I picked up a bookmark that had been given to me as I had entered the young women’s organization earlier that year. On the back was a suggested reading list for the year. I had never noticed the list before, but since I was trying to postpone getting back to my school books, I decided I would start reading a little of the first thing on the list—the book of Matthew as translated by Joseph Smith, located in the last few pages of the Pearl of Great Price.
Soon tears blurred my vision and a feeling of warm calm enveloped me as I read the twenty-third verse: “And you also shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled, for all I have told you must come to pass; but the end is not yet.” (JS—M 1:23.)
I read on about the last days and the signs of the times before Christ would come again. But the fear and panic I had felt that day in science class were gone. I knew that our Heavenly Father was aware of us and that world events were proceeding as had been prophesied. I had no need to fear.
Since that night alone in my bedroom with the Pearl of Great Price open on the desk, I have kept that calm feeling as events that seem so threatening unfold. I do not accept the violence of the world and yearn with most of mankind for peace, but I am well aware of the prophecies in the scriptures and have a promise that I should not be troubled.