Prayer in the Projection Booth

By Kenneth Hurst

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I thought I had the answer, but I felt differently when I prayed.

My senior year in high school brought me an experience that taught me much about obedience and prayer. I had joined the Church about six months previously, and now I had my first job with a regular paycheck: I was the projectionist at the downtown movie theater. I loved movies, and getting a salary for showing movies was like getting paid for having fun. Also, the job required my strict attention only about 5 minutes out of every 20, when it was time to change reels. As long as the film didn’t break or something else didn’t require my attention, I was free during most of my time in the projection booth to read, do schoolwork, or simply enjoy the movie.

The job had its downsides. One was that I would be required to work on Sunday nights.

After some weeks on the job I could tell that my spirituality was declining. I was becoming moody and depressed. My schoolwork suffered. But I still thought I had a wonderful job, and I didn’t want to give it up.

I asked my boss, Mr. Harper, if I could have Sundays off. He told me that Sunday was their biggest day, and he couldn’t spare me. A coworker agreed to work in my place on some Sundays. I thought that would be a great help, but my dark feelings, as well as my grades, continued to get worse.

Then I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. I would give what I earned on Sundays to the Church as a special donation. I’d even add an extra 10 percent for good measure. Since I wouldn’t be profiting from my Sunday work, surely the Lord would accept my sacrifice and give His blessing to my activities.

I found myself praying while I was alone in the projection booth one night. “What should I do?” I asked aloud. “Should I keep going as I am now? Should I quit? Should I donate my Sunday earnings?” I truly wanted to know, and my questions were sincere.

When I asked if I should quit, I felt a warmth stir inside me. Was that an answer? If it was, I didn’t think it made sense. Why would the Lord refuse my offering of my Sunday earnings? Surely, I thought, He would consider my sacrifice the best possible option. I must have misunderstood what I felt. (If I had remembered that Heavenly Father prefers obedience over sacrifice, I would not have been so confused [see 1 Samuel 15:22].)

I stayed at the job. I added my Sunday earnings to what I was already paying for tithing and fast offerings. I thought I was doing the right thing. Why wasn’t I feeling better? After several weeks of soul-searching I concluded that I had chosen to do what I wanted to do when I decided to stay on the job, even though it violated the Lord’s commandments. I wouldn’t get better until what I wanted to do matched what the Lord wanted me to do. I enjoyed being a movie projectionist, but I wanted to enjoy being a good Latter-day Saint more. I found someone to recommend as my replacement, and I gave Mr. Harper my two weeks’ notice.

Around this time my priests quorum class discussed what the Lord told Oliver Cowdery about answers to prayer: “You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right” (D&C 9:8).

When I thought about my prayer in the projection booth, I realized that what I had felt when I had asked if I should quit was that promised burning in the bosom. At the time I either hadn’t recognized it for what it was, or I hadn’t had faith that it came from God. Now I knew it had come from Him. I promised myself I wouldn’t be past feeling His words again (see 1 Nephi 17:45).

Illustrations by Dilleen Marsh