“Salvation comes only through Christ,” says Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Joseph Smith is the instrument or revealer of that knowledge, divinely called to teach of the terms and conditions of the Father’s plan and given the keys of salvation for all mankind” (see this issue, page 12).
People all across the world are searching for the knowledge revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. When they find that knowledge, it brings such joy to their hearts that they wish to share it with others—particularly their own families. The following accounts illustrate how that gospel joy turns the hearts of those who find it to their families—those who have passed beyond the veil as well as those in mortality.
A Trial of My Faith
During a spiritually low moment in my life as a member of the Church, a particular incident renewed my faith.
I was on a boat in the Philippines, traveling to visit my mother. The boat was filled with passengers, some enjoying the beauty of the blue horizon, others laughing and chatting with friends and acquaintances. I felt alone and lost amid the crowd of people. The anticipation of seeing my mother after a few years of separation was coupled with hesitancy.
I belong to a very religious family. When their daily religious rituals began to seem endless and without meaning, I investigated other churches until I eventually joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of the Church’s strong programs, sound doctrines, relevant gospel teachings, and friendly atmosphere, I felt a lot happier than I was before I embraced the gospel. My family, however, was not pleased with my choice.
But then after my baptism, in what I later recognized as a test of faith, I began to doubt, and I gradually lost my firm grasp on the iron rod. I didn’t commit any major sins, but I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been. Then I remembered my mother, a pious, gentle, and understanding woman who, despite the many trials in her life, remained steadfast to her faith. When I had told her of my decision to join another church, she said with a look of sadness, “The religion we belong to is a legacy from our ancestors, but if you think you will be better off with that new church, then go ahead. But make sure you will be true to it and will defend the truth you uphold.”
These thoughts sent a surge of embarrassment through me. How can I face my mother with my now flickering flame of faith? What if she asks me how I am faring with my newfound religion? Will I be able to meet her gaze without blushing?
As I struggled with these questions, I heard the words church and religion. A man, probably in his mid-40s, seemed to be forcing some tenets of his church onto an uninterested lady sitting next to me. Sensing her discomfort, I tried to help.
Looking straight into his eyes, I asked, “What church do you belong to?” For a split second, his eyes glowed with excitement and pleasure, as if to say, “Here’s a soul willing to open her ears to my preaching.” He sprang to his feet and moved close to me. He introduced himself as a minister. I recognized the name of his church; it is well known for religious debates.
An alarmed feeling crept into my heart, but I tried not to show it. I thought, Not now when I’m losing my spiritual equilibrium. How am I supposed to defend my faith when mists of doubt lurk in my mind? A quick glance at the lady I had rescued made me secretly wish I had not intruded. But she met my gaze with a reassuring look, encouraging me to defend my beliefs. I gathered courage and prayed silently and earnestly for assistance in this unexpected confrontation.
A feeling of confidence enveloped my whole being. I told him, “I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Without giving me a chance to say more, he interrupted, “I know all about your church and your founder.” He went on to make offensive remarks about the Prophet Joseph Smith, the gold plates, and the Book of Mormon. He said they were all fallacies.
What I felt next surprised me. I felt a strong desire to defend my religion. But hadn’t I been drifting slowly from the Church?
What surprised me most were the firm declarations that came from my mouth, attesting to the truthfulness and reality of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the First Vision, and the Book of Mormon. I added that people’s negative opinions of Joseph Smith would not change my testimony that he was chosen by God to restore His Church in this last dispensation.
I could hardly believe how confidently those truths flowed from my lips. At that moment I knew with a surety that the Spirit was there to testify in my trial of faith.
With renewed faith, I remembered the statement in Ether 12:6: “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” I offered a silent prayer of gratitude to my Heavenly Father as that verse sank into my heart. Peace filled me, and I realized I was ready to face my mother and to share with her the blessings of joy and peace that the gospel brings into my life.
Why Was My Life Preserved?
As I looked back on my earliest experiences growing up in Cuba, one memory always stood out. I could vividly picture my beloved little brother Raúl being sick. I could see my mother caring for him, periodically crying desperately, and my grandmother frantically seeking help. I could see the whole family bending over his bed, weeping. I always seemed to witness my brother’s pain and my family’s tears from some high perch. For some reason, that scene remained in my memory, but I never talked about it.
When I was 10 years old, my mother died, leaving five children. I grieved over her death, but it was even more painful to watch as my brothers and sisters and I were split up. No one wanted to take all five of us, so each set of grandparents took two children, and my father’s sister took my youngest brother, Orlando. Because of my rebelliousness, I was eventually sent to a school for orphans, where I grew up sad, alone, and bitter.
When I turned 16 I began looking for my brothers and sisters. I found only three of them because Orlando had moved with my aunt to the United States. Then, not long after I had located him, Raúl was electrocuted while learning to work as an electrician.
Shaken by the loss, I confided to my grandmother my memory of Raúl’s sickness. My grandmother asked, “What are you talking about? Raúl was not ill. That was you. One night you became so sick the doctor gave you up for dead. We were in despair and wept over your bed. We never knew why your heart started beating again.”
I was so shocked I didn’t ask my grandmother for more information, but questions about the meaning of life began to torment me: Why had my life been preserved? What was I to do? What did it all mean?
Ten years later, I moved to the United States. There I found my brother Orlando. But I had yet to find the answers to my questions. I began seeking answers in various churches. But though each contributed bits and pieces, none of them had all the answers I needed. I prayed that God would help me come to know the truth.
Then one day in the spring of 1986, Latter-day Saint missionaries came to my house. They answered every question I had. And when I studied the Book of Mormon, I was moved to tears by the testimony I gained of its truthfulness. I was baptized in July. A little more than a year later, I arranged for Raúl’s vicarious baptism in the temple. Then he and I were sealed to our parents forever.
Finding the gospel has changed my life. Surrounded by my brothers and sisters in the gospel, I have never felt lonely since. I understand that my life has a purpose and that, as long as we rely on the Lord, pain can teach and strengthen us.
I find joy in the expectation that members of my family are waiting for me beyond the veil of mortality. I know that someday my spirit will leave my body again. But I know that because of Jesus Christ my spirit and my body will one day be forever reunited, and I can live with Him and with my family eternally.
My Search by Postcard
Years ago I spent quite a bit of time gathering information for my four-generation family group records. The information on one of my group records was eventually complete, with the exception of a great-uncle named Edward. I had searched extensively for his birth and death dates without ever finding a real lead. Every time I glanced at this record, the white space where Edward’s information should have been stared out at me.
Several times I despaired of ever finding his information, but I prayed for inspiration to know what I should do. I asked Heavenly Father to help me find a record or a person who would be able to help. After praying I felt that I must not give up.
One day, after having tried every other source I could think of, I picked up a postcard and addressed it to the “Rector of the City Cemetery” of a town where Edward’s family had lived for a while. On the back I simply asked if there was a grave with Edward Oren Tarbutton’s name on it. I wasn’t even sure a cemetery existed in that town, yet as I sent the postcard I suddenly felt free of frustration.
A few weeks went by without any answer to my postcard, and I did not expect one. Then one day I felt unusually excited. At the normal mail delivery time, I ran out to pick up the mail. The stack was big that day, but I stood at the open box and looked carefully at every piece. In the stack was my postcard, and on it was Edward’s missing information!
As I gazed at the long-sought-for dates on the postcard, a warm feeling embraced me. I felt that Edward was somehow close to me in that moment, and I could feel his great joy.
I will never forget the prompting to send the postcard and the circumstances of its return. Later I learned that the town I had sent the postcard to had no rector and no official cemetery. Realizing no one in the town would know about my ancestor, the postmaster almost stamped the card Return to Sender. Then, on second thought, he decided to search for the grave himself. He remembered once seeing headstones in a field near a small church. It was there he found Edward’s headstone and copied the inscription.
This experience deepened my love for my ancestors and helped me understand how much they long to be linked permanently to their families. And as I have encountered disappointments in the following years of family history research, I have thought of the postcard and kept going.