Latter-day Saint Voices: Joy in Following the Lord

By Aurora Rojas de Álvarez

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    “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”

    Amid the banquet of counsel and direction Jesus Christ offered His disciples before His Crucifixion is a simple but powerful statement: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).

    In these few words, Christ revealed the formula for obtaining what humankind desires most—happiness. People have long tried to figure it out, mixing different proportions of possessions, fame, worldly endeavors, and fortune. But Jesus’ recipe has just one ingredient—obedience to the principles of the gospel.

    President Gordon B. Hinckley recently asked, “Why are we such a happy people?” He continued, “Happiness lies in obedience to the teachings and commandments of God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ” (“What Are People Asking about Us?” Liahona, January 1999, 85). People who obey correct principles not only enjoy the knowledge that their lives are pleasing to Heavenly Father, but they also reap the natural harvest of blessings that come by obedience to the laws upon which they are predicated (see D&C 130:21).

    On the following pages readers share experiences of how they have obeyed gospel principles and how the Lord has blessed them for their obedience.

    Let’s Talk about It

    Consider the following questions and suggestions to help apply this article in family home evening, in a lesson at church, or in your personal life:

    • How have you found joy in obeying a commandment (such as living the Word of Wisdom, paying tithing, fasting, or keeping the Sabbath day holy)? Share your testimony of this commandment with your family.

    • What commandment could you better live? List the blessings promised in the scriptures to those who keep this commandment. Decide now what you will do to live this commandment.

    [illustration] Detail from First Sacrament, by Gary E. Smith

    [illustrations] Illustrated by Cary Henrie

    Forgiveness United Us

    Shortly before my wedding, my brother, Neipta, and I started arguing. We had been mad at each other for a long time, and the tension finally erupted into words. Although we couldn’t remember what had made us angry in the first place, the feelings were real.

    At that time my brother’s relationship with the whole family was suffering. There was antagonism and misunderstanding between him and my father, and he and my two sisters did not communicate at all. But my mother suffered the most. She said I didn’t love Neipta. But I knew I loved him, and it hurt to hear my mother say that. The problems escalated, and my brother left our home in Venezuela.

    The next week in Sunday School we had a lesson about forgiveness. I started to feel horrible, and the thought came to my mind: “Aurora, you must apply what you have learned.” The Spirit touched my heart that day, and I knew I needed to forgive my brother. I left with a firm determination to fix things between us.

    On Friday of the next week, Neipta came home to pick up some things. I feared his reaction—but that day was my mother’s birthday, and asking my brother’s forgiveness would be the best present I could give her. I went to my room and said a prayer for strength and for the right words to say to my brother. Heavenly Father heard my prayer and gave me courage.

    I pulled Neipta aside to talk. I explained how much this situation had hurt us and that I wanted it to end. With tears in my eyes and almost unable to talk, I asked for forgiveness. My brother also began to cry. He forgave me and asked for my forgiveness in return. In just a few minutes we were able to erase months of bitter feelings.

    Two days later, my brother and father worked to reconcile their differences and ended their discussion with a hug. The transformation in my family was a miracle. My heart was filled with joy and gratitude to Heavenly Father for teaching us to forgive.

    Improving My Finances and My Health

    Like many new converts, I struggled to live the Word of Wisdom and the law of tithing. Tithing was for me the most difficult. How could I possibly take something away from the little that was just barely enough? The Lord helped me understand how I could do just that by teaching me a wonderful lesson.

    As I began to pay tithing, I realized I would have to put my finances in order. I immediately began to budget my money better. I made a list of all my monthly expenses, starting with tithing. I compared the list to my monthly income. To my astonishment, there was enough to live on and even a small amount for savings. I was also surprised to see how much money I had previously spent on alcohol and coffee. The Lord blessed me financially and spiritually as I worked to live His law.

    After I joined the Church in Germany, I had cried a little for the glass of wine I would miss at parties and also for my dearly loved cup of coffee. But it really didn’t matter, I told myself, because I was not addicted. But four weeks after I banned alcohol and coffee from my life, I woke up with excruciating pains in my legs. I ignored them and went to work. But within two hours, my whole body ached and each movement hurt more and more. I was taken to the doctor. He gave me some pills, ordered 14 days of rest, and said with a laugh, “Drink a nice strong cup of coffee when you get home. That can’t hurt you.”

    I suddenly realized that my pains were withdrawal symptoms. My body was reacting to the loss of caffeine. How easy it would have been to follow my doctor’s advice. How difficult it seemed in my weakened condition to listen to the Lord. Fortunately, the Lord strengthened me, and I did not give in to temptation. With His help, I overcame this condition—and continued to obey the Word of Wisdom.

    Blessed for Fasting

    I was baptized in Mexico on 26 June 1976 with my son Carlos León, whom we call Kali. We quickly became accustomed to the many principles of our new faith and desired to participate fully.

    I remember well our first fast Sunday. My daughter Jovita, who was already a member of the Church, explained what we should do. We were to go without food or drink for two consecutive meals in a spirit of prayer. In return the Lord promised to bless our family.

    Around 11:00 A.M. that day, Kali climbed to the roof of the house—about nine meters above the ground—with his younger brother. While lying on the roof, peeking over the edge, he fell. Halfway down, he grabbed some power lines and started to swing. But feeling his hands burning, he let go and landed on the sidewalk.

    Although others immediately ran to help him, I could not run, cry out, or do anything. The only thing I could manage was to fall on my knees and pray with all the strength of my soul. I remember saying, “My son! Father, let Thy will be done.”

    At that moment, I clearly heard a voice say to me, “Nothing has happened to your son; he is alive.” When I felt that clear, soft voice penetrate my whole being, I arose unafraid. I knew it was the Spirit I had heard. I felt calm.

    Just as I finished praying, my younger son approached me. “Mama, don’t cry. Nothing has happened to Kali; he is alive,” he said, using the same words I had just heard.

    When everything had calmed down and we had comforted Kali and been assured that he was all right, I told him, “God has saved your life.”

    We finished our fast that day and gave thanks to God for the miracle that Kali was unharmed.

    Kali suffered no lasting effects from his accident. When he was old enough he shared the gospel message as a full-time missionary in the Mexico Mérida Mission.

    A Debt for Half a Bicycle

    As I was preparing to be baptized in eastern Argentina in December 1955, my branch president advised me, among other things, to ask forgiveness of those I might have offended, pay any debts, and return anything I had that didn’t belong to me. I admitted to him that I had owed a debt for half a bicycle for more than 20 years.

    When I was 18 years old, I had worked part time as a photographer. I earned very little—just enough for food and to help my parents a bit. I had longed to have my own bicycle ever since I was a small boy, but we never seemed to have the money to buy one.

    Luckily, my brother knew the Zuzci family. They were selling a very nice bicycle for a reasonable price. I had to pay half the money before getting the bike, and I could pay the rest later. When I had saved the first half, I went to their house and bought the bike.

    To tell the truth, I had no intention of ever paying the rest of the money. I was poor and lived in humble circumstances; the Zuzcis were rich and enjoyed a fine home. I thought they would soon forget about the small amount of money I owed them.

    As the years went by, I continued my education, became an optical technician, and eventually bought my own optical shop. My financial situation greatly improved. But I always avoided passing by the Zuzci house. My conscience was not clear about that bicycle!

    Later in life, I felt a great desire to search for God. Now I had found Him and wanted to join His Church.

    I was 38 years old when I made my way to the house I had avoided so many times. When the door opened, Mrs. Zuzci stood before me.

    “Good morning, Mrs. Zuzci. Do you remember me?”

    “Yes, Mr. Blanc. How could I forget you?”

    “Then you remember,” I said, “that I still owe you money for a bicycle I bought 20 years ago.”

    “I remember, Mr. Blanc—as if it had happened yesterday,” she answered.

    I told her of my decision to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I ask your forgiveness,” I said. “I know that 20 years have gone by. I am willing to pay whatever you feel the debt is worth today.”

    I could see tears forming in Mrs. Zuzci’s eyes. She said I was doing a beautiful thing and forgave me my debt. Then we both wept. What a beautiful spirit we felt to finally have the issue of the bicycle debt resolved!