From a stand of trees on the Hill Cumorah, I watched as Anna knelt in the mud. She was praying. I was too far away to hear what she said—but I sensed what was in her heart, because we had been working together for a week.
I was a missionary, called to serve in what was then the Cumorah Mission. As part of our service, for two weeks every year, we missionaries joined volunteers from the area and elsewhere in preparing for and then presenting the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Anna (name has been changed) was one of these volunteers.
The day I met Anna was the first day of preparing for the pageant. I was immediately struck by how unhappy she was. I assume she had not volunteered for this two-week mission; more likely, her parents had drafted her. She made it clear she would rather be anywhere else than here. She was grumpy, uncooperative, unfriendly—your basic pain in the neck.
Like the full-time missionaries, the volunteers followed a missionary routine. We all rose early and had a morning devotional. We read the scriptures. We prayed. We bore testimony to one another. In addition, since part of our duties during pageant week was to greet visitors at the hill, the volunteers were taught how to approach people and invite them to learn about the Church.
Anna was assigned to our work group. At first, she was miserable to be around. But sometime during that week of preparation, she connected with a power greater than herself. She received a witness, borne by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon really is God’s word, and that the church she belonged to truly is the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Anna’s heart softened, and her mind opened.
The transformation was amazing. By the time the pageant began, Anna was the happiest person there. Our group was posted at the angel Moroni monument at the top of the Hill Cumorah. We would normally wait for people to walk up to the statue from below before introducing ourselves and explaining what the statue represents. Anna couldn’t wait. She would literally run down the path to greet those toiling up the hill. They connected with Anna and her message so quickly that by the time they reached us, she had them nearly ready for baptism. She did so much talking that, by the time the pageant started each night, she was hoarse.
One day during pageant week it rained. The water came down in buckets, and we were afraid the pageant would be cancelled that night. This experience was not unusual. New York in July gets rain. When it happens during pageant week, the missionaries and members always ask the Lord to intervene. And the rain usually stops, at least during pageant time.
That day the rain was so fierce we wondered whether prayer would be enough. So we started a fast. We knew from experience what a great missionary tool the pageant is, and we didn’t want anyone to miss it. Just before the pageant was to start, the rain stopped.
That’s when Anna went to her knees in prayer. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but I was sure she was thanking the Lord for His mercy—to her, to all of us.
I don’t know what happened to Anna after the pageant was over. I imagine she returned home, finished school, and married. I have no doubt she remained faithful to the gospel, a beacon of light in a worried world. I can see her now in my mind, running down life’s path to greet some troubled soul seeking an angel—and finding one in Anna.
Such is the power of the restored gospel.
It is a power familiar to every Latter-day Saint who has been touched by the truths of the Restoration. Most have not visited the places where the gospel was restored. But it doesn’t matter. They have received their own witness, and their lives have been changed—just as Anna’s was, and mine, during those days of light and rain on Cumorah’s hill.