It had been four years since my baptism, and I had been less active for most of that time. I was drinking, smoking, and very depressed. My husband, Ian, was away at sea, leaving me home alone with two small children. And now his submarine had major defects and was in dry dock at the other end of the country. Each evening for six weeks the phone would ring, and Ian would say, “We should sail tomorrow.” But tomorrow never seemed to come, and the promised sailing was repeatedly delayed.
The bright lights on the horizon were my marvelous home teachers and visiting teachers, who came regularly to my door and shared their love and fellowship. I must admit I was not always polite and sometimes downright rude. Nevertheless, I knew I could pick up the phone at any time and they would be willing to help. My home teachers were consistent in their belief that if I came back to church, Ian would get baptized—but I had to set the example first. Yet I never felt the desire to put their faith to the test. I was too spiritually low.
One evening after speaking to Ian and learning that the submarine had again been unable to sail for home, I sat and cried, feeling utterly desolate. Then I began to pray, something I had not done for a very long time.
As I prepared for bed that evening, I was conscious of something I had not noticed before—a very strong, though not unpleasant smell. It stirred a memory long forgotten. I had to think for a while before I recognized that it reminded me of the chapel where I had been baptized. As recognition dawned I felt a warm, comforting glow within and an awakening desire to go back to church.
I phoned Tony, one of my home teachers. Soon he and his wife, Rosie, arrived at my door, and we talked as we had never talked before. All past barriers were swept away. I was going back to church.
I could hardly wait for Ian’s next phone call. This time he was met with excitement rather than depression. To my astonishment, his reaction to my story was to suggest that when he got home we should go to church as a family.
The following Sunday Tony and Rosie picked up the children and me and took us to church. I was surprised to see a missionary who had been sent back to the area for a second time. He had been to our home before but had failed, along with many others, to impress either Ian or me to go to church. He greeted me warmly now and announced that he had come back to our area to baptize Ian. I was skeptical and laughed, but during the following week Ian at last came home. As he had promised, he came to church the next Sunday. Elder Paskett approached him on that first visit and made arrangements to come with his companion, Elder Brown, and teach Ian the discussions. Within two weeks Ian had accepted the invitation to be baptized. The whole process took less than a month, and shortly afterwards the missionaries were moved from our branch to another area.
During those weeks the outpouring of love through the Holy Spirit and from the members of our branch was overwhelming. We made a commitment then that if we were going to live the gospel at all, we would live it fully. Shortly after his baptism Ian was called as president of the Young Men, and I was called to serve in Primary. Our Church life became full and exciting. Over the years our family blossomed from two to five beautiful children. We were sealed in the London England Temple in 1982, with Tony and Rosie in attendance.
The gospel has touched every part of our lives since that time. We have had our ups and downs but have never regretted our decision to serve the Lord. We have truly found a home in His Church.
I Didn’t Listen
When I was about 17 years old, one day I met my cousin to see a movie at the other end of the city. Afterward my cousin suggested that I sleep over at his house, but I declined because I wanted to return home.
There were no streetlights, so I started home in the dark. At this time in my life I was not very confident. So to give myself a sense of security, I began to sing softly as I walked. The farther I went, the more afraid I became.
While I was passing a soccer stadium, I heard a small voice tell me, “Thierry, change sidewalks!” I didn’t want to believe it was anything other than fear, so I ignored the voice. After I had gone several meters, the voice became more distinct: “Thierry, change sidewalks!” I told myself again that I was only afraid. I continued on the same side of the street, now almost at a run. Suddenly I heard the voice the third time: “Thierry, change sidewalks now!” I didn’t listen.
I then noticed at the next corner four or five individuals. I ran to the other side of the street, but it was too late. The group saw me, and they attacked, wanting whatever I had in my pockets. I tried to defend myself, but I couldn’t do much. Finally I fell to the ground and pretended to be unconscious. When they all left, I got to my feet with difficulty and ran home as quickly as possible.
Twenty years after this adventure I now work for the security of others. I have found myself in more serious situations than this and have again heard the voice that tells me what to do. Needless to say, I don’t need to be warned three times now.
I know that the experience I had as a young man, while painful, allowed me to discover the voice of the Holy Ghost. Today this voice is very familiar to me.
The House That Faith Built
On the eve of my wife’s and my baptism in 1996, family members and friends tried to prevent it. We endured persecution from relatives who severely criticized our family, saying we had traded our family for the Church and they no longer loved us. Eventually our friends completely abandoned us. Then came difficulties associated with unemployment and with illness.
On the other hand, my family and I felt better with each visit to church. At each class the Spirit was stronger. The members were supportive, and the bishop visited and encouraged our family. We knew from our own experience that people who criticized the Church were wrong. The Church was doing us much good. We learned about Jesus Christ. We learned to love and serve. We gained an eternal perspective. In spite of the appearance that everything had turned against us, nothing could change the fact that we had asked the Lord about the truthfulness of the gospel and He had answered our prayers.
Once, when we were still new converts and were living in my father’s house, the bishop came to visit. My father threw him out. He said he did not want members of the Church in his house. The bishop was inspired to call us in for an interview. He said that members and missionaries were not going to visit us in our home for a while so as not to antagonize our family. He said that we needed to be strong and that we would receive many blessings if we continued on the strait and narrow path.
We could not move to a house of our own due to my employment situation. I could not find good work as I had done before. I worked a little at jobs that didn’t pay much, but we managed to pay our tithes and offerings, attend church, and buy the food we needed. The Lord multiplied our blessings, and we were truly happy.
On the day of our temple sealing, when I saw our two sons—Luigi, who was then two, and Lucas, who was then one—entering the sealing room and placing their hands on ours for the ordinance to be performed, I wept out of happiness. I cannot forget the beautiful scene, the wonderful spirit, and the feeling I had that it had been worth all the effort.
The trials did not cease, but some things improved. My father and our aunts and uncles stopped criticizing the Church, and our grandparents respected our decision. By our example we tried to show that the Church was transforming our lives. The support we gave to each other was very important. When I taught seminary and served as a counselor in the bishopric, my wife always sustained me.
The year we were baptized a friend bought a building lot for his family and ours by loaning us part of the money. We began to dream of having our own house. Eventually the Spirit prompted us, and we started calculating the cost of labor and materials. We felt that we would somehow manage to build a house where we could raise our children in the gospel, do missionary work, and receive visits from members.
After some time I got better acquainted with Brother Joel, a recently baptized member of our ward. His faith was amazing. Once when we were doing a service project, Brother Joel said to me, “José Luis, we can build your house.” I was on the verge of tears, but I contained myself until I told my wife. It was the answer to our prayers.
A few days later the friend who had purchased the land for his family and ours told me I could have the entire plot and pay for it later. Still I did not have the kind of job that would allow me to buy building materials, but I knew the Lord would provide a way. Several weeks later I was invited to work for a large company. Thus, our goal to begin building a house soon became a reality.
What a labor of love was Brother Joel’s. He did more than build a house for my family. He was ready to help us in any way. We worked only on Saturdays. It took 10 months, and it did not interfere with our Church work. Other Church members also helped us. My father came to help several times, which allowed him to get to know members of the Church better. He especially got to know Brother Joel, who had become our home teacher.
One Saturday my father praised Brother Joel for the way he worked.
I said, “Dad, do you know how much I have paid for his services?”
He said, “No.”
“I haven’t paid him a cent,” I said. “He has done this service because he loves my family. He is a good man.”
I realized my father was choked up, and he didn’t say anything. I felt he was probably remembering how he had treated the bishop and the missionaries and was embarrassed. He saw that the members of the Church had always treated us well.
On the day we finished the house, 16 men, most of them members of the Church, were there. My relatives and friends who were not members certainly learned a lot that day.
While the house was being built, my brother and sister-in-law took the discussions and decided to get married so they could be baptized. On the day of their wedding, I witnessed what seemed like another miracle: four missionaries and many Church members were in my father’s house.
We know this gospel is true. When we exercise faith, the Lord moves mountains to help us. Today I see the walls of our house as a testimony that the Lord loves His children and knows their needs. Of course, we have many other mountains before us, but if we are faithful, we shall overcome. We must always remember what the Lord has done for us.