“When I was only 15 years old,” said Colleen Webb Asay, “I committed myself to living the gospel.”
At the time, having proven herself capable and dependable, she was called to serve as the stake organist. In those days stake officers were set apart by visiting General Authorities. Elder John A. Widtsoe, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, laid his hands on this young girl’s head and, with the authority that he held, pronounced a blessing.
“I’ll never forget that,” she said. “It’s hard to explain it, but it was like an electrical feeling that went clear through me, and after it was over, I didn’t want anyone to talk to me or shatter that feeling. I remember thinking how great the gospel is. I guess the Holy Ghost witnessed to me that day how important it is. I remember the feeling I had. I wanted to serve the Lord however or whenever I could. That was a great day. I made a commitment.” And that early commitment has made a difference in all the rest of her life.
For Sister Asay many challenging days followed that commitment. On those days she always went to the Lord first, “to receive comfort and direction.” She had learned from experience that he would hear her. “I just know He’s there,” she stated in a reverent tone of unquestioning faith.
“Another thing that has made a difference for me,” she explained, “is my patriarchal blessing. One of the first things it says is that ‘this blessing will help you over the slippery path of youth.’” With a radiant smile of confidence, she remembers how, if she ever got discouraged, she would read her blessing. In her words, “It made my self-worth come back.”
But there were times when she really didn’t feel that self-worth. In fact, “I’ll tell you of a real heartbreak I had,” she said, reflecting on her youth. During her first year at college two of her good friends belonged to a social unit. Sister Asay felt like “just a little kid from a little country town,” but her friends assured her that she would be included in their group. She was invited to all the preliminary parties prior to the evening of the final selection for membership in the social unit. That night her friends confidently told her, “Wait for us, and we’ll come for you.”
“That experience is one I’ll never forget,” she said. She waited and waited and waited, and no one came. “I was heartbroken. It seemed as though I was the only one who didn’t make it. My sister, my sister-in-law, and everyone except me, it seemed, was in the social unit.”
How did she handle that situation? “All I can remember,” she said, “was that I went to the Lord and he took away the hurt, and then it didn’t matter so much anymore. I turned to my music and service in the Church. I needed to do the Lord’s work first. I decided that maybe being a big wheel on campus wasn’t that important after all. Looking back, it doesn’t seem so important to me now, but the tests in life come at the times when these things are important to us.”
Sister Asay shared other experiences that strengthened her early commitment. “You know,” she said, “when I was a Beehive girl, just 12 years old, a young man from our ward returned from a mission. That was really something in those days. There weren’t so many missionaries then. He spoke in our sacrament meeting and had the most wonderful spirit. I could actually feel it. I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to marry someone just like him some day.’” She quickly added, with a twinkle in her eye, “And of course I married someone even better.
“Carlos and I were childhood sweethearts. I can’t remember when I didn’t know him.” Her countenance and tone of voice revealed much more in this beautiful relationship than was being spoken. “When we decided to get married,” she said, “Carlos was very much involved in athletics at the University of Utah. He had been offered a contract to pitch for a professional baseball team, and a lot of other opportunities came his way. I believe they came as a test at that time, because those things have high priority in a young man’s life.” And then she said, “Like a flashback to years before, I could see that young returned missionary standing at the pulpit in our little church in Monroe. I remembered my feeling then. I had committed myself to marrying someone who had the spirit of a returned missionary, and Carlos wasn’t a returned missionary.” Then in a matter-of-fact tone, she explained: “I just went to the Lord. ‘Please call Carlos on a mission,’ was my simple request. Do you know,” her smile broadened, “Carlos called two days later and said that the bishop wanted to see him. Then I became anxious again. I went back to the Lord, and this time I fervently requested, ‘Please touch Carlos so he’ll want to go on a mission.’”
She was concerned because of Elder Asay’s desire to get started in school; he had just gotten out of the service, and most boys weren’t that committed to a mission in those days. But Elder Asay accepted his first mission call to Palestine-Syria, trusting in the admonition to “seek first the kingdom of God.” When he came back Sister Asay married her returned missionary.
Sister Asay recalled another incident when she poured out her heart to her Father in Heaven: “Carlos has always made me feel that I’m the greatest person in the world, and I just never want to let him down, or do anything that will slow his progress.” She told of the time she had the responsibility of handling their very meager finances. “We had our money budgeted in little envelopes,” she explained. At that time her young student-husband was teaching school and also going to night school. As he left for school one morning with full confidence in his sweetheart and wife, he said, “I’ll need the tuition money ready so I can register after school tonight.” Colleen had this horrible feeling come over her. She realized that through some misplanning, perhaps paying a bill before it was due or something like that, there was no money for the tuition.
“He trusted me. I just couldn’t let him down. He needed the money then so he could continue his schooling, and there was no money and no way of getting it unless it was to just drop out of the sky.” With a desperate feeling, and yet with the unwavering faith she had developed over the years, she talked to her Father in Heaven: “There is no money. What am I going to do? Carlos thinks there is, and he is coming home, and I just can’t disappoint him.” Sister Asay hesitated a minute, then leaned forward and reverently bore testimony: “That was one of the greatest spiritual experiences I’ve had,” she said, “and I’ve had a number of them.
“You know, when I got up from my knees, I looked out of the window. I saw the postman coming down the walk. The thought came to me immediately, ‘There will be some money in the mail.’ I confidently walked to the mailbox and—nothing. I could hardly believe it. My heart sank. There was no money. Disappointed and heartsick, I turned to go back in the door, full of concern, thinking of Carlos’s education and our future. At that moment the postman came back around the corner of the house. ‘Here is a letter,’ he said. ‘It was in the bottom of the bag and I didn’t notice it.’” She quickly opened the letter to discover a seminary check—two payments in advance—for the exact amount of the tuition. “I just started to cry,” she said. “The Lord did hear my prayers. I said to the children, ‘Look, here is some money from the Lord.’” Those dear little children sensed their mother’s excitement and ran all the way up and down the block, where there were nonmembers, and publicly announced to all their friends, “The Lord has sent us some money.”
“That’s how instantly I’ve had prayers answered,” Sister Asay explained. “Sometimes answers don’t come that quickly, but sometimes they do!”
On one occasion her fervent prayer was actually interrupted because the answer came so quickly. She told of the time when, with four little children under four years of age, she was called to be the ward Relief Society president. It was a frightening experience for her. She felt inadequate. She was concerned about her relationship with the other sisters who were all older and more experienced. She was new in the ward. She told of the great expectations the bishop had when he called her and outlined some of the special challenges in that ward. She felt the tremendous responsibility but knew that if the Lord called her there would be a way provided for her to fulfill this assignment. The first meeting was to be held in her tiny, modest apartment, with makeshift furniture and four small children. Her husband was at school, and he wouldn’t be there to tend the children. She spoke of her desire to establish a trusting relationship during that first meeting and to share a spirit of love and harmony that would set a foundation for the future. She felt this just couldn’t be accomplished if she had to keep running to the bedroom to hush crying children.
She planned the entire day very carefully and had everything ready for this special meeting. “I had everything done,” she said. “Then I bathed the children, hoping they would go right to sleep. Well,” she continued with increased intensity in her voice, “they didn’t. After their baths they seemed to get new life and energy. There wasn’t a thing I could do to settle those children down. All four of them were in one bedroom, so they just kept each other fired up.” With only 15 minutes before the meeting was to begin, this young mother, full of faith and anxious to serve the Lord effectively, went into her bedroom, closed the door, and knelt down to pray. She told her Heavenly Father that she wanted the sisters to feel his Spirit and to feel her spirit. She explained how she really did want to serve him and to make the Relief Society one the sisters would enjoy. She told the Lord about the problem with her four small children.
“When I knelt down to pray, it was just like bedlam all over, but right in the middle of my prayer, all of a sudden, it became quiet. It shocked me so much, I don’t think I even finished my prayers. That’s how surprised I was.” She immediately hurried into the bedroom to find, to her surprise, each child in a deep sleep. “All four of them,” she emphasized. “It was amazing, and I just knew that my prayer had been answered right on the spot.” Sister Asay recalls with humble gratitude the spirit of the meeting that evening. She described it as a time when “the Lord was there to bless us. I don’t think I’ve ever been closer to a group of women than I was on that occasion.”
With many years of precious and sometimes challenging experiences shared with her husband and family of eight children, she now reflects with deep gratitude on their many accomplishments, trials, challenges, and victories. “Yes, we have our challenges,” she said, in a gentle tone of warm acceptance. And then as if by way of testimony, she declared: “The Lord can do anything. The Holy Ghost can bear testimony to you at any time. I remember just looking at the sunset or watching my children go out the door and feeling as if I were going to explode with happiness. It’s the spirit of the Holy Ghost. I don’t know how to explain that feeling, but I remember once when I was a little girl, riding my bicycle down the street. All of a sudden, the world seemed so great! Everything was so good! The Lord had been so good to me that I just swelled up with happiness. At that age you don’t always know what those feelings are; you don’t recognize the Holy Ghost bearing witness to you and being a part of your life every day.”
Sister Asay, thoughtfully, as if making an inventory of all of her blessings over the past years, looked straight ahead as she said, “You know, if the Lord is with you, everything is right and you can feel that.” And now, with her unwavering faith born out of loyalty to her childhood commitment, she faces the future with confidence as a helpmeet to her husband, Elder Carlos E. Asay, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. She stands at his side well-prepared to be a source of constant and continuous strength, a daughter of God.