It was an ill-fated, watermelon-selling trip to Alaska that exhausted all my hard-saved college fund, so I got a job as a graveyard-shift fry cook at a Provo diner. That was my first year at BYU.
I had taken a room, and the rent came due at the beginning of the month. But I didn’t make enough money to pay both my tithing and my rent. This caused me great concern. I desperately wanted to continue my education, yet I knew I should pay my tithing. Knowing I would receive greater assistance from my Father in heaven if I were faithful, I paid my tithing and awaited the day my rent would come due.
The day prior to the rent due date, my landlady, Sister Knight, asked me if my cousin and I would be willing to trim a large tree in her backyard in return for a month’s rent. Gratefully, I accepted.
The following month, I again paid my tithing immediately after receiving my check. I paid for my food and other school expenses, but found I was without sufficient funds to pay my rent. Once again, the day before the rent was due, Sister Knight asked me if we would be willing to chop the large tree in her backyard into firewood in return for another month’s rent.
For the next couple of months I was able to pay all of my expenses after paying my tithing. Then came another month when there was again not enough money to cover both rent and tithing. I paid my tithing. I knew that Sister Knight did not have any more trees to be cut, and I was concerned that I should pay the rent promptly. On the Friday evening before the rent was required, a local radio station in Provo announced a program called “Movie Merry-Go-Round” in which a prize would be offered to anyone who could answer questions regarding one of the movies then playing in Provo. I listened to the program and thought I might try to win the prize. That evening, the radio announcer offered $18 and two free movie tickets to the first person who could give the license number of a car that had been used in a brief scene in a recent movie. Miraculously, or at least so it seemed to me, I saw clearly in my mind’s eye the scene that the radio announcer referred to. I saw it with such clarity that I could read the license number. Once again I had sufficient funds to pay my rent.
As that first school year drew to a close, I again found myself without enough money to pay my tithing and my last month’s rent. I paid the tithing, hoping to find some extra work I could do somewhere to earn money. I was concerned because my already busy schedule did not provide much in the way of extra time, and I did not want to be late in paying Sister Knight. The day that my rent was due, there was a knock at my door. When I opened the door, Don Wood, a member of the BYU football team, was standing in the doorway. He handed me an envelope that he told me he had received earlier that evening from his father, President Charles W. Wood, then first counselor in the Union Oregon Stake presidency. President Wood had asked Don to deliver the envelope to me. Don had said he would be seeing me at school the following Monday or Tuesday, but President Wood had replied, “No, you take it to him tonight. As my plane was landing in Boise, I was impressed that Jim needed some help. I think he needs it now, and I want you to deliver this envelope to him tonight.”
I had never spoken to President Wood nor, to the best of my memory, to Sister Knight or any other person concerning my lack of funds. As the oldest of seven children from a very poor family, I had always been aware I could not expect any financial assistance from my family. The experiences I had already had my first year at BYU had greatly solidified my testimony of tithing.
Recalling all this in my mind, I thanked Don for delivering the message and envelope. Slowly I opened it; inside was $20.