The Mormon Experience

By Brigida A. de Perez

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    Marathon in Mexico

    I would like to share an experience and a lesson I will never forget.

    A couple of years ago, it was announced that a seventeen kilometer “marathon” would be held between the nearby cities of Jaltocan and Huejutla, Mexico. A month before the race, my seventy-two-year-old husband, Leon * , surprised me by saying, “I’m going to test myself by running a few kilometers, and if I do all right I’m going to enter the race.”

    So early one morning he challenged himself to run a set distance. He returned successful. The route he had taken was downhill, and it was easy. However, I reminded him that the marathon route was mostly uphill. But, encouraged by the family, my husband decided he would run. Our sons even bought him a pair of good running shoes, and one of them also entered the marathon.

    The day of the race arrived, November 26. With the exception of my husband and our thirty-eight-year-old son, all the marathon participants were in their early twenties. From the start, my husband set a steady running pace for himself. My daughter-in-law and I followed in a car to give water to our husbands every two or three kilometers. When my husband had completed ten kilometers, I told him, “Old man, stop and rest for a while like the others are doing.” He answered, “No, I’m not going to stop because if I do I’ll not make it to the finish line.” And he continued at his same steady pace.

    There were many spectators along the route, and they were surprised when they saw a seventy-two-year-old man running by. When my husband had completed fifteen kilometers, I offered a silent prayer, asking the Lord to give Leon strength to finish the race. One of my grandsons cheered him on saying, “You’re doing great grandpa. You have only two kilometers to go.” His children and grandchildren and all the people were cheering for him.

    Of the thirty-two runners who started the marathon, only six had the stamina to complete it, including Leon and our son. The young man who took first place made it in one hour and fifteen minutes. My husband was the last one to cross the finish line, and our son was the next-to-last.

    When Leon arrived at the end of the route, children applauded and cheered: “Grandpa, grandpa, rah! rah! rah!” The mayor of the city embraced him, fireworks and rockets were set off, and a band played. It was announced that a great sportsman, seventy-two years old, had completed the marathon in two hours and fifteen minutes. Our children and I cried for joy. Leon kept only half of the prize money he received and donated the other half to public charities. His generosity, and his determination to participate to the end in the marathon, was a great example to his children.

    I began to think that, in a way, this is what life is—a race in which we must make a great effort to reach the goal. If we are successful, the angels will sing for joy, just as the children happily welcomed my husband. And just as the mayor hugged Leon, the Lord will receive us with pleasure and he will put his arm around us and say “Welcome, thou good and faithful servant.”

    Like the supporting crowd along the route of the marathon, Church leaders encourage us along life’s route, and help us to be of good cheer, and provide us with living water. The Brethren are prophets who say, “Have courage, be firm and do not get discouraged and, if you endure to the end, you will have eternal life.”

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    At the time of the marathon, Leon Perez was the president of the San Felipe Orizatlan, Branch, in the Mexico Mexico City North Mission.

  • The True Light

    Some time ago someone said to me, “Wouldn’t it have been better for you never to have been born? Just think of all the problems you’ve had in life, and all the things you’ve missed out on.”

    Deeply hurt, I protested, “But I enjoy life!”

    To which my friend replied, “That wasn’t always the case, was it?”

    Looking back, I realize that this person was absolutely right; it wasn’t always the case. I am blind, you see. There were times when I despaired, nights when I cried myself to sleep, and months when I was apathetic. There was a time when I spent my days feeling sorry for myself, a time when I said that there is no God, for a God would never allow such a thing to happen. Yes there was a time when I groped in the dark, a time when I was truly blind.

    Admittedly, I do have my problems, and they start in the morning when I get out of bed and don’t know whether the clothes I put on match or not. Or when I’m waiting for the bus and don’t know whether the one arriving is the one I should board. And I can’t go about my daily work the way I would like to. Often people are reserved towards me, unsure of how to approach me.

    But these are mere trifles, things that really don’t matter. The truly important things in life we do not perceive with our eyes. I know my world is smaller than your world, and yet it contains those precious things that to me are life: the assurance that we are God’s children and that our Heavenly Father loves us with a love no language on earth could ever describe; the conviction that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true church, that we receive revelations through a prophet of God, and that Jesus the Christ died and was resurrected to atone for our sins and to give us eternal life. I am safe and secure. I have joy and peace in this knowledge.

    I rejoice in the Gospel, even though my mind cannot fully grasp its incomparable beauty. I marvel at the thought of this light and would never want to exchange it for the light now denied me.

    When I think of difficulties and sorrows which may be in store for me, I take comfort in the great promise given by the Savior:

    “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28.)

    What a comfort to know that He will give us rest! Life will be beautiful, life will be rich, life will be worth living.

    His Words Fulfilled

    My husband and I joined the Church in 1973. Before we were baptized, our two year old son and only child had died after open heart surgery. We longed to have another child, especially as we gained new understanding from gospel principles.

    Our stake patriarch promised, one year later, that the Lord would give me more children if I called upon him in faith and kept myself worthy.

    In 1976, I learned that I was pregnant, but four and a half months later, I had a miscarriage.

    In 1982, six years after receiving my patriarchal blessing, our son Christian was born. He was premature and delivered through cesarean section. He weighed only 800 grammes, and the doctors gave us very little hope. To their astonishment, Christian made great progress after receiving a priesthood blessing by my husband.

    On the third day after his birth, I was to visit him. How I longed to see my son! I woke up at 2:30 A.M. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I pleaded with the Lord, “Heavenly Father, please don’t let him die! I want to keep him so much,” adding, “But if that is not according to Thy will, Father, I accept that.”

    Later that same morning, my husband came and told me that our son had died at 2:45 A.M. It was a grievous loss, and we wept and prayed together. In answer to our prayers, we felt surrounded by a warmth and peace.

    In the hospital I had read my patriarchal blessing many times. We’d had one child after receiving the blessing. But there it was, from the mouth of the patriarch: The Lord would give us children. I was already thirty-five years old, and after losing two children, I was discouraged.

    In 1984, two years after Christian’s death, our beloved daughter was born. I was close to dying giving birth to her.

    We rejoice in the knowledge that our two sons are waiting for us in the spirit world, and we rejoice in our daughter who already has said her first prayer. If any more children are intended for us, we will gladly receive them.

    The gospel is true. It has enriched our lives and made us truly happy.

    They Expected Last Rites

    I first heard about Sharon when my bishop requested that I go to our local hospital to administer to a woman who had been hurt in an automobile accident. I had just returned from visiting another sister in the same hospital, which was some distance from my office. Because I had not been able to get much done that day, I really didn’t want to make that trip again and was feeling somewhat annoyed at the inconvenience. As I drove toward the hospital, my thoughts were not very positive.

    Sharon and her family had been on their way home from a vacation when their vehicle had collided straight into a large truck.

    Sharon was seriously injured in the collision, with a deep cut over her eyes, a fractured arm, a broken nose, internal injuries, and a badly crushed skull. One of Sharon’s sons was killed in the accident. Another son had a broken leg. Her husband and the two remaining children were slightly injured.

    In the hospital emergency room the doctor had examined her briefly and had told the staff he had no hope of saving her life. Sharon had asked for a priesthood blessing.

    When I arrived at the hospital, another member of my ward was waiting for me, ready to help me administer the blessing.

    My companion searched Sharon’s head for a place to apply the consecrated oil—a difficult task, because her skull was so severely injured. He finally located a small, clear area to one side of her head.

    I searched my mind for the words for her blessing. I had never administered to anyone who was dying before, and I didn’t know what to say. I let the Spirit guide my words. I remember assuring her that she would live to raise her children, that her earthly mission was not yet over, that her family still needed her, and that her injuries would heal quickly.

    This was startling to the hospital’s emergency room staff, which consisted of nurses and nuns. They were expecting last rites, and they were stunned to hear us tell a woman who was mortally injured that she would be all right.

    One of the nuns who spoke with us after the blessing was excited to think that Sharon had a chance for recovery. The same nun called me the next day to say that Sharon wanted to see me.

    She was sitting up in her hospital bed when I arrived. She had a bright smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes. She thanked me for the blessing and asked me to read from the scriptures. As I was preparing to leave, she asked me to adjust her oxygen mask, which kept slipping off her face. As I reached for the head strap, I noticed that there was no sign of her skull injury. Her head was whole, with no evidence of bleeding or broken bone.

    Two weeks later, Sharon walked out of the hospital with only her arm in a sling and a small bandage on her forehead. The incident had provided a rare opportunity for both of us. For Sharon it was a chance to demonstrate her extraordinary faith in the priesthood; for me, it was a time to renew my commitment to give priesthood service readily whenever it is needed.

    [illustrations] Illustrated by Robert Barrett