Three Hundred Parchment Scrolls

By Mariona Washburn

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    “Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained … that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison” (D&C 128:22).

    I had been in Barcelona, Spain, compiling the data collected by an eighteenth-century ancestor of my nonmember husband. I had obtained almost two hundred names. They came principally from diaries written in Catalan, my native tongue. I knew that, in addition to this information, my husband’s family had available about three hundred parchment scrolls of genealogy, all written in Latin and in fifteenth-century script.

    Family circumstances allowed me to stay only a very short time in which to work with this Latin material, but I wasn’t able to decipher the writings. I had no money to make photocopies, and with such limited time, I commented to a friend that I worried for the souls who would have to wait longer for their work to be done.

    She suggested that I get a priesthood blessing. I did, after a period of fasting, and through the blessing felt a surge of spiritual strength. But the monumental task still discouraged me, and I set aside the scrolls for a while.

    Finally, when I only had one week left in which to translate, I fell to my knees in prayer, pleading for help. If it be the Lord’s will, I asked, please permit me to be an instrument in helping to redeem these people from their prison.

    From that time on, my understanding of the writings became clearer. I was even able to translate without a dictionary. Each scroll became easier, and I read more and more quickly. I somehow obtained the privacy I needed and, though I worked nights with only a few hours of sleep, I wasn’t tired. I seemed to sense the presence of those I was working for, and that gave me much-needed spiritual support.

    I found that rats had nibbled away at the documents over the centuries, taking away some of the data. However, in nearly every case, I located the missing information elsewhere in the documents. When I had forgotten to write down something, I sensed that I needed to reread the scroll. As I unrolled it, the information I needed fell before my eyes immediately. Whenever the translation became difficult, I prayed sincerely for help, and always received it.

    I finished the translation in four days, just before I was to leave. The information I had gleaned went as far back as A.D. 1212. I saw no angels nor visions, but I had experienced a miracle every day—a miracle as natural as the sun rising.

    I will always be grateful to my Father in Heaven for helping me. Now, more than ever, I have a testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the spirit of Elijah, which enables us to redeem the dead out of their prison. I know that through that spirit, “the prisoners shall go free” (D&C 128:22).

    Illustrated by Steve Moore

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    • Mariona Washburn is a member of the Mt. Vernon Second Ward, Mt. Vernon Washington Stake.