Latter-day Saint Voices: “Be Not Faithless, but Believing”

By Victoria Ekong

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    Much of life is a tutorial in faith. Placed in mortality, veiled from the realities we knew in the presence of our Heavenly Father, we often struggle with infirmities, with unfulfilled longings, with uncertainties. We seek the fuller light of half-glimpsed truths or the divine touch that will heal broken bodies and broken hearts.

    To all who so struggle, President Gordon B. Hinckley’s counsel offers hope and healing balm: “‘Be not faithless, but believing’ (John 20:27). Believing in what? Believing in God, our Eternal Father, as the Father of our spirits, as our leader, as our king. Believing in the Lord, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, our Savior, our Lord. Believing in the restored gospel, which has come to earth in a miraculous and marvelous manner. Cultivate in your hearts a living and vibrant testimony of the Restoration of the gospel. Believe in the Book of Mormon. Be not faithless in the knowledge that the priesthood of God has been restored to the earth. Believe in goodness. Believe in yourselves. Believe that each of you is a child of God with a divine birthright” (meeting, Cape Town, South Africa, 20 February 1998).

    In the following accounts, members share the blessings and hope they have received as they have worked to “be … believing.”

    The Shadow of Death Was on Her Face

    Some months after our baptism, my husband and I were faced with unexpected adversity. Some of our most distressing trials concerned our children. It seemed as though no week passed without one of them being admitted to the hospital.

    These trials went on for almost two years. Our income as civil servants in Nigeria went toward medical bills. The financial strain was so great my husband and I had to sell many of our belongings just to obtain food. I even had to sell some of my clothes. We lost everything we had worked for. But none of these trials shook our faith. We remained active in our branch and true to our covenants. Even when we did not have money for transport, we walked to church on Sunday morning.

    Then one December evening in 1997 our daughter, Pricilia, fell ill. She had a high fever, and blood started coming out of her mouth. My husband was not home, and I was confused and afraid. I could see the shadow of death on her face.

    As I prayed for help, the Spirit prompted me to take her to our branch president, who lived far from us. Somehow I managed to get her down from our third-floor flat, carrying her on my back, and out to the main road. It was too late to catch a bus, so I desperately tried to get a taxi.

    The first taxi driver who came by refused to take us, saying, “I don’t want to carry a dead person in my car.” However, a second taxi driver responded to my pleas and helped us even though I had no money. When we got to our branch president’s compound, the guard at the entrance refused to let us in. But he phoned the president, and the president came out and carried Pricilia up to his flat. He laid her on his couch, placed his hands on her head, and gave her a blessing. I heard him sigh and pause, then tell Pricilia that it was not yet time for her to go home and that she must fight to live.

    Immediately after the blessing, Pricilia opened her eyes. We took her to the hospital, where we learned she had cerebral malaria. We also learned this disease could kill her. For the next eight days she remained unconscious in the hospital. The doctors did not believe she would survive.

    The day Pricilia was discharged—healthy and normal—the doctor told me that few people survived who were as sick as she had been. Those who lived were left disabled. “Pricilia is a lucky girl,” he said. But I knew luck had nothing to do with her recovery. She had been saved by priesthood power.

    Today, Pricilia is a healthy and happy girl. She has not been sick one day since leaving the hospital. She is everything a parent could want a daughter to be. Furthermore, the sicknesses that so beset our family have passed. We have outlasted these trials and have truly been blessed.

    “And What Have You Learned?”

    Her question didn’t exactly startle me, but it was unexpected. While waiting for others to join us to perform temple sealings, we spoke of this and that—about the snow, the chandelier—and then, after a moment, the young woman turned to me and asked, “How long have you been a sealing officiator?”

    “I’m beginning my 19th year,” I said.

    “And what have you learned?” she asked.

    I had no reply at first. I’d never thought that question through.

    I searched my mind for possible answers. I thought of saying, “I’ve learned how perfect people can seem here in the temple.”

    I thought of answering, “I have learned to appreciate the ordinances themselves—their simplicity, their antiquity, their profundity.”

    But I knew she was asking for the essence of my experience. And suddenly I found the words to express what I knew.

    “I’ve learned that the basis of eternity is the family,” I said. “The essential purpose of the Church and all that we do is to make it possible for families to be together forever.”

    She sat motionless, her eyes meeting mine.

    “The ordinances performed in the temple empower people,” I said. “They make eternal family relationships possible. In the temple, I find that family and love are synonymous. That’s what I’ve learned.”

    Sensing a need, I turned the question back to her. “What have you learned?” I asked.

    Her lip trembled for a moment. “I’ve learned that what you are saying is true,” she said finally. “Family is what the Church—and the temple—are all about. That’s why I’m here—for my family.”

    “What do you mean?” I asked.

    “My father was good to me, but my mother died when I was tiny,” she said. “They were never married. When I was 13, my father died. And then I found the gospel—or it found me.”

    Her face brightened. “A few months ago I got back from my mission and began the temple work for my father and mother. I was sealed to them for eternity. For the first time, I am whole. Knowing I am sealed to my family gives me a place to be. The day I was sealed to my parents was, for me, the beginning of eternity. I feel so happy when I am here in the temple.”

    I looked into her smiling face. Through my tears, I could see hers. Now each time I go to the temple, I think of that sister’s face and of the eternal blessing it is to be sealed to our families forever.

    My Father’s Faith

    Both my parents were born in Japan. They came to Brazil before I was born, and I grew up speaking Portuguese. When I was seven, they divorced.

    Like many young people, I had problems as I entered adolescence. I frequently argued with my father, with whom I was living. I also acquired some bad habits. At age 15, I started drinking alcohol and smoking. At 17, I started using drugs. I was looking for fun, and I thought nothing I did made any difference. Despite having friends, I felt alone. I wondered what the purpose of life was.

    It was my father who showed me the way out of my loneliness. He was a Christian with a strong belief in God. One day he was paralyzed by an illness, and doctors told him he would never walk again. But he forced himself to start walking one week later by using a wall for support. “You see,” he told me, “I believe in God, and I know that with His help I can overcome my problems.” His words impressed me, but it would be some time before I realized how strongly rooted in my heart they had become.

    Shortly after my father began walking again, I received a letter from my mother. She had returned to Japan and was working in a factory in the city of Fukui. “Come to Japan,” she wrote. “I can get you a job.” I became excited about living in the land of my ancestors and decided to go.

    When I arrived in 1992, I was intrigued by the technology and other conveniences available in the country. But I also faced many new challenges. I had a job, and although I looked Japanese, I couldn’t speak Japanese. I struggled to learn the language. My coworkers were not always patient with me.

    Despite my Christian background, I had never attended church nor read the Bible regularly. But now, as I faced these obstacles, I remembered how my father’s faith had given him strength. My thoughts turned increasingly to God.

    One day I was walking in downtown Fukui when two young men walked up to me. One of them didn’t look Japanese, but he spoke Japanese when he introduced himself.

    I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak Japanese. Do you speak English?”

    He answered, “Of course! I’m American!”

    The young man started speaking English, which I had learned in school. He told me he and his companion were missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They talked briefly about Jesus Christ and invited me to church. I hesitated but finally agreed to go.

    The first meeting I attended was a fast and testimony meeting. I came late, and as I walked into the chapel, a young woman was crying and talking about how the gospel helped her with her problems. After listening to her and to some of the other members, I realized that all of them had problems. They weren’t perfect, and they knew it. But I could also see they had something strong inside them. Their faith in God was helping them. With that kind of faith, I thought, maybe I could overcome my problems, too.

    I continued attending church, and I pondered often what I learned there. I also read the Book of Mormon. One day I accepted the invitation to ask God if what I was learning was true. As I prayed, something strong touched my heart, and I thought, This is the right way. I already believe in God. It’s time to follow Him.

    As I continued to pray and attend meetings, the Spirit continued to guide me. Finally I told the elders I wanted to hear the discussions. I wanted to follow God and return to His presence one day. I was baptized on 21 June 1993.

    As a member of the Church, I found new strength in meeting the challenges of life in Japan. And after preparing earnestly, I was called on a mission. To my surprise, I was called to serve in São Paulo, Brazil. I was very excited about sharing the gospel in my homeland.

    When I look back at my old life, I realize how blind I was. We can go through life the right way or the wrong way. At first I chose the wrong way. I knew God existed, but I wasn’t ready to follow Him. Then the gospel touched my life. Now I know that following our Savior is the only way to true happiness.

    [illustration] Portrait of the Savior, by Del Parson

    [illustrations] Illustrated by Brian Call