I Was an Atheist

My husband, Yves, was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1989. I was an atheist and had no understanding of the gospel. And even when I heard all the discussions with my husband, the teachings of the missionaries didn’t touch me in the least.

I soon realized that my husband was serious about the gospel. He had quit smoking and drinking alcohol; I waited to see how long it would last. Several years earlier he had tried to quit smoking, but he made it only three months before he started again.

After Yves’s baptism the missionaries came to our home every week to try to teach me the gospel and to read the Book of Mormon with me. But they didn’t have much success.

Then one day I was reading the Book of Mormon by myself. I was smoking at the same time. Because I wasn’t able to concentrate, I put my cigarette down and gathered my thoughts. I began reading again, and this time I was able to understand what I was reading. Not only did I understand, but I wanted to know more.

That night I had a strange but marvelous dream. I believe the Savior was inviting me to join His Church. When I woke up I had a smile on my face and I felt very good.

The months passed, and my husband continued to live the Word of Wisdom. I told myself he must have a good reason to do so, but I didn’t make any changes in my own life.

At the beginning of 1990 I became close to two sister missionaries. They fasted and prayed that I too would be able to quit smoking. It was extremely difficult for me because I had smoked for 22 years and smoked about 40 cigarettes a day. Finally I told them that when I finished the pack, I would quit and would be baptized.

I quit smoking on 1 April 1990, and I was baptized a week later. I am very happy to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am grateful to my husband who changed his habits for good and showed me the way.

Nicole Germe is a member of the Calais Ward, Lille France Stake.

A Flight in the Snow

One winter’s night during a particularly nasty snowstorm, there was a serious automobile accident in a small Idaho town not far from the Utah border. A young child was critically injured. I was an air ambulance pilot in the Salt Lake City area and was dispatched in a fixed-wing aircraft to pick her up and bring her back to Salt Lake.

The closest airport to the accident was in Pocatello, Idaho. While it would take us only about 45 minutes to fly from Salt Lake City to Pocatello, it would take the ambulance crew nearly three hours to transport the girl from the accident site to Pocatello because of hazardous driving conditions. Even though the air transport team would arrive well before the ambulance crew, the doctor in charge wanted us there early to transfer the little girl from the ambulance to the airplane without any delay, getting her on her way to a major trauma center.

The weather was bad; these were the absolute minimum conditions we could land in. A small commuter airliner was also on approach to Pocatello, about 10 minutes ahead of us. I listened intently to the other pilot’s radio communications, knowing we would encounter the same conditions. His approach was routine, until he should have been able to see the runway. It wasn’t visible, however, and he had to give up the approach and go around.

Now it was our turn. I was very concerned—what if we couldn’t get in and had to return without the injured girl? I quickly said a silent prayer. I told Heavenly Father if He wanted us to pick up that little girl I would need His help.

I began the descent. It seemed to take forever. I couldn’t see a thing except gray cloud and snow blowing horizontally past the windshield. I was quickly approaching the point where, like the commuter airliner, I would have to break off the approach. I waited until the last possible instant, and then suddenly the runway lights came into view. They were dim but good enough. I reduced the power and landed and offered a silent prayer of gratitude for the miracle I had just experienced.

As I taxied to our parking spot, two things were obvious—the storm wasn’t going to let up, and the company that usually provided us with deicing service and a hangar to protect the aircraft from the weather had closed for the evening.

A few minutes later the commuter airliner landed safely. Immediately the control tower closed and the controllers went home. After the passengers and crew of the commuter plane left, the ground staff locked up the airport terminal building and went home too. My colleagues and I were left with no way to deice the airplane or to put it in a hangar, and the snow was beginning to fall even harder. There was a very real possibility we would not be able to leave until the next morning.

The transport team and I decided it would be best to wait and see what conditions were like when the ambulance arrived. As I looked out the plane’s window, I could see the snow starting to stick to the commuter airliner, parked not far from where we were. Knowing it would be unsafe to attempt a takeoff with any amount of snow or ice on our airplane, I went outside. The snow was falling very hard and beginning to stick to our wings. I walked around to where I would be out of view and offered another prayer.

Time seemed to pass very slowly that evening. Occasionally I would look out at the snow accumulating steadily on the commuter plane, but I avoided going outside again to check our own wings.

After nearly two hours the ambulance arrived with the little girl. I opened the cabin door and got out. The commuter plane was covered with snow and ice. I turned around to see what condition our plane was in. Although I had tried to have faith and be optimistic, I am ashamed to say I was astounded by what I saw. Tears of gratitude welled up in my eyes as I walked around the airplane. It was clean and dry—absolutely no snow or ice anywhere on it. It looked as if it had just come out of a heated hangar. The snow had also stopped falling, and visibility had improved to the point where it would be possible to take off.

Heavenly Father had provided the miracles we needed that night to get a little girl to the hospital. It was a very humble pilot who bowed his head in gratitude that evening for the great blessings he had received.

The flight back to Salt Lake was completely routine. Certainly my prayers and the prayers of that girl’s family and friends had been answered. I never did hear what the little girl’s final outcome was, but my testimony of the overwhelming love and compassion our Father in Heaven has for His children was strengthened that winter night.

W. Ward Holbrook is a member of the San Diego 13th Ward, San Diego California North Stake.

Upheld by His Hand

When I first heard the gospel, I loved it and knew I wanted it to be a part of my life. I wanted to be married someday to a returned missionary, have children, and live happily ever after. I fell in love with the most wonderful guy. He was also a convert. After he served his mission, we were married in the Washington D.C. Temple.

Five years and two children later, I found myself sitting in a general conference broadcast all alone. My children had stayed home with their father.

I will never forget the feelings I had that day. The “happily ever after” I longed for seemed to be slipping from my hands. My sweet husband, the returned missionary I married in the temple, was struggling with activity in the Church. I prayed for him and put his name on the prayer roll in the temple. Still, he chose not to attend church. It was heart wrenching to hear my two-year-old son plead, “Come to church with us, Daddy.”

As I sat in conference that day long ago, my soul was stirred by the excellent talks, but I also felt saddened. I so wanted my husband there. We were on this earthly journey together, but we were walking different paths. I needed strength to carry on. Sitting alone at church with a newborn and a two-year-old can be trying under any circumstances, but we were living in a new city, in a big ward, and many of the members were students just like my husband. I thought I was the only one who had a less-active husband, and I felt out of place. But I plastered on a smile and continued going to church, all the while dying inside.

During conference that day, the congregation rose to its feet to sing “How Firm a Foundation,” and I simply sat there. I did not have the energy to stand.

As the third and final verse began, I started to feel different. Something was changing, and the sweetness of the Spirit engulfed my whole being as I listened to the words:

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, …
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

(Hymns, no. 85)

Then one of the most amazing moments of my life happened. It seemed to me that someone was literally helping me to stand. I looked around, but no one was there. From that moment I was a changed person. I knew I was not alone. And in that one instant I knew that someday all would be well.

A smile came to my face in a recent sacrament meeting—18 years after that conference—as my husband was released from the bishopric and called to be the Young Men president. I received a new calling too—the one I’ve feared my whole life—Relief Society president. Feeling overwhelmed, I felt my heart skip a beat as the closing hymn was announced: “How Firm a Foundation.” My tears always flow when that hymn is sung, and on that day they were in abundance. They were tears of gratitude, and I knew again that all would be well.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Sam Lawlor

Terri Free Pepper is a member of the Mansfield First Ward, Arlington Texas Stake.