Latter-day Saint Voices

By Greg Carlson

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    [illustrations] Illustrations by Daniel Lewis

    Faith under the Overpass

    I grew up in a small community outside of Seattle, Washington. It was relatively close to a big city but just rural enough that opportunities to earn money for a mission were extremely limited. There were, however, a large number of gentlemen farmers in the area, so my brother and I decided to haul alfalfa hay from the big farms in the eastern part of the state, over the Cascade Mountains, to the small farms in our community. We fixed up an old truck that had fallen into disrepair and prepared it for hauling up to 20,000 pounds (9,000 kg) of hay. We made a number of successful trips with our dad along to make sure we had things figured out before he left the operation to us.

    My brother and I left very early one morning for our first solo trip. We made it over the mountains but had some difficulties loading the hay. Eventually we headed back over the mountains with a full load.

    The return trip was uneventful until we noticed that it was starting to sprinkle just a bit. We immediately found an overpass on the freeway and parked underneath it just as the sprinkles turned into rain. We had not yet been able to purchase a tarp to cover the hay, and no animals can eat the alfalfa hay if it gets wet because it starts to rot and mold quickly. We knew that if we lost this load of hay, our business venture would probably fail.

    We sat under the overpass for quite a while, waiting for the rain to stop. Eventually, we realized that the Lord would help us if we prayed. My brother offered a prayer, and we waited. The rain did not let up. We decided that perhaps I, the elder brother, should offer a prayer. It started to rain harder. We sat there for what seemed an eternity. We knew that once we left the protective cover of the overpass, the next possible shelter was an hour away and home was another hour past that.

    Finally, one of us remembered the admonition that faith precedes the miracle, and we realized that we needed to exercise our faith. We put our trust in the Lord and left the cover of the overpass. To this day I remember every drop of rain that I saw land on the hood of the truck as we inched out from under the overpass. It was a severe trial of our faith, but by the time the cab of the truck was out in the open, the rain had stopped. The next two hours were filled with much prayer and thanksgiving.

    We made it home with our load in good shape, and as we were pulling the truck into the barn, the heavens released their pent-up downpour. Our business survived, and both of us were able to successfully fund our missionary service.

    Not all of my prayers have been answered this way, but I am very thankful for the lesson in faith my brother and I learned sitting under the freeway overpass in the rain.

    Groceries or Tithing?

    I was in my first year of employment with a cosmetics company. At the time I was divorced and lived alone with my two children. In December the company sent each salesperson large boxes containing the Christmas merchandise we were to sell during the holiday season. That meant, however, that a large amount had been withdrawn from my salary. When I calculated all my monthly expenses and tithing, I had enough for three people to live on—but only for one week. And this money had to cover groceries for the entire month and gas for the car, which I needed for my work.

    When our home teacher came, I told him about our situation. I told him I would not be able to pay my tithing because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to feed my family. My faithful home teacher counseled me to pay tithing. He recommended that I do it faithfully, and the Lord would surely bless me. My home teacher had always been distinguished by faithfulness and reliability. I jokingly told him, “If I cannot buy groceries, I will come to you.” But I trusted him and did not want to disappoint him by not following his advice. So I paid a full tithing.

    When I presented the Christmas merchandise early in the month, I was able to sell many of my goods. By the end of the month I had sold all of the Christmas items and all of the goods I had had in stock for several months. Had I had more products on hand, I would likely have been able to sell them too.

    My home teacher’s promise was completely fulfilled. The Lord really did open the windows of heaven. We had more money than we needed that month. Later I inquired of my colleagues how their Christmas business had gone. They were not satisfied. At that time, a recession had caused a strong decline in sales in the cosmetics industry.

    How grateful I am to that home teacher for giving me this good counsel. I have had a strong testimony of tithing ever since. When I visit teach sisters who feel they have too little money to pay tithing, I share my testimony about how much we will be blessed if we do so.

    The Right Place for Me

    I have heard the account many times of the arrival of the pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley under the direction of Brigham Young. Although I live in Mexico, my own story is similar. I had been praying to find the true Church and the purpose of my life. A friend of mine, Sandro, introduced me to the missionaries, and soon I was listening to their message. One day while they were teaching me about the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days, I was suddenly filled with a great joy. I knew I had arrived, or as President Young said: “This is the right place. Drive on.”

    But just like the pioneers, I had to adapt to the place where I had arrived. It was a world unknown to me—wonderful, but unknown. The way people dressed, the way they talked, the way they acted were all new to me. I didn’t always understand the meanings of the phrases commonly used in the Church. For example, when talking to people who had been members for longer than I had, they might talk about someone whom they described as a “powerful member,” meaning someone who was righteous and a good example to others. My idea of power was different. These things were common knowledge to the rest of them, but I had to learn them.

    This period of transition from investigator to active member was not easy. Fortunately, like the pioneers, I was never alone. Sandro and other understanding members were always close by to answer my questions, simple as they were, and to guide me on the path I had undertaken. My leaders were concerned enough to see that I remained worthy and received the priesthood, and later I was able to serve as a counselor to the bishop. My teachers always took care to see that I was nourished by the good word of God. I realize now that through these good people, the Lord helped me stay strong in the Church.

    I am no longer the only member of the Church in my family. And the years I have spent as a member of the Church—two of them as a missionary—have been wonderful.

    Thanks to the Lord and His prophet, President Young, the pioneers were able to establish themselves in the Salt Lake Valley and become a powerful people in the mountains. Great men and women made this possible. In like manner I have received what I needed to remain strong in the Church, to progress, and to have an opportunity to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.