“Don’t Go Back With Them!”

A Prompting from the Spirit Saves a Life

41TB0rByCnLThis story is one of many inspiring stories from the book Faith in the Service:  Inspirational Stories from LDS Servicemen and Servicewomen, compiled by Chad S. Hawkins and published by Deseret Book.  This story comes from Henry Zander, a civilian contractor who served in Iraq and Afganistan.

My first assignment in Iraq was my first experience in a combat zone. It was a daily occurrence on the base where I was staying, Balad Air Base, to have rocket or mortar attacks.

One day in May 2004, I had worked the previous day, through the night, and into the next day. It was approaching lunch time, and I was ready for bed. A few of my friends wanted me to go to lunch with them. Despite how tired I was, they persuaded me to go with them. The base was huge, so we drove a mile in our HMMWV, or Humvee. After lunch, we left the building and were walking back to our vehicle.

As we approached the vehicle, I had a very strong impression. Actually, it was more than an impression. I recognized it as the Spirit saying, “Don’t go back with them.” The message was clear. So I stopped and said, “Hey, I am not going to go back with you guys.”

My friends replied, “But you’re tired and you want to go to bed. We will get you back in just a few minutes.”
I thanked them but told them that I would find another way back. I ended up locating my vehicle, which another contractor had been borrowing, and drove it back to a location near my sleeping quarters.

My friends arrived at their building and parked the vehicle. Ten seconds after they parked their vehicle, a 127mm rocket flew over their heads and blew up the chaplain’s Humvee, which was parked two spaces over. The rocket pierced the soft skin of the Humvee body just behind the front left wheel and exploded directly beneath the engine. The vehicle actually capped much of the shrapnel and prevented collateral damage. My friends ran into an adjacent building, and one collapsed with exhaustion from the event.

We had multiple attacks throughout the day, which kept me up the rest of the day. It was late that night before I finally got to bed. Then I finally had time to reflect on the day’s events. Only then did I realize that if I had ridden back with them, I would have exited the Humvee from the rear and walked directly to my quarters, which were exactly in line with the explosion.

Considering the time it would have taken me to get out of the vehicle and head back to my room, I would have been at the direct point of impact. I then recalled the prompting I had received earlier that day that told me not to go back with my co-workers.

I know Heavenly Father is very aware of all of us. I knew that prior to this experience, but this just reinforced that knowledge. He lives; he absolutely lives. Being spared from the rocket explosion only confirmed what I already knew to be true.

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“I Could Forgive!”

A Heart Burdened by Years of Resentment Finally Set Free

forgivenessFinding the ability to forgive is one of the most beautiful miracles made possible through the Atonement of Christ.  This story comes from the August 2012 Ensign.

I could not keep my mind on the Relief Society lesson about Jesus Christ’s Atonement and the Resurrection. My mind kept returning to my need to forgive. I longed to feel the peace promised those who do. Instead, my emotions clamored whenever I thought of three individuals who had hurt my daughter Kaylee and me. I wanted to let go of the angry and resentful feelings I still harbored, but something always held me back—my sense that we could never regain what we had lost as a result of their actions.

I stewed about Kaylee’s second-grade teacher, whose insensitive behavior had caused long-term damage to her sense of self-worth and had torpedoed her desire to attend school. Throughout most of her elementary school years, Kaylee had an undiagnosed learning disorder, so she struggled with reading and mathematics. When she made mistakes, this teacher made Kaylee an example of poor performance. When I sent notes from home asking for help in coordinating her studies or to express a concern, he’d scoff and read them aloud so that Kaylee’s classmates could hear—a mortifying experience that brought teasing from her peers. In dismay, I watched my confident, happy child slowly crumble. Her love of learning evaporated. By the end of the school year, she resented school and believed she was too stupid to ever do well.

My resentment toward Kaylee’s former teacher was minuscule, however, compared to my feelings toward the man and woman who had sexually abused me decades earlier.

Through counseling with LDS Family Services, I had been able to work through much of my grieving and healing process. I had learned to dispel my skewed belief (common to many victims) that I could never be “good enough” to be loved by others. But to be fully healed, I needed to forgive.

I longed to let go of my hatred for those two people because I knew it was what my Savior wanted. I craved the peace He promised. But how could I forgive those perpetrators who had created so much pain? Their abuse had caused decades of emotional instability and inner turmoil that had negatively impacted my relationship with my husband and children. The betrayal of my trust and innocence had created a fear of ever becoming emotionally close to another person, including members of my own family, so I had built invisible walls around my heart through which others could not enter. I grieved the lost decades of close relationships.

I wanted to follow the Savior’s merciful example and genuinely forgive those who had hurt my daughter and me, but it was hard to set aside my anger at losing so much. For months I had prayed fervently for help and read many scriptures about forgiveness trying to determine how to forgive.

As I sat in the Relief Society room that day, I prayed earnestly, silently, that Heavenly Father would help me. Suddenly my attention was drawn to the instructor as she invited us to read a quotation from the Prophet Joseph Smith about the Resurrection. The quote began, “I am glad I have the privilege of communicating to you some things which, if grasped closely, will be a help to you when earthquakes bellow, the clouds gather, the lightnings flash, and the storms are ready to burst upon you like peals of thunder.”

As I pondered on this sentence, I looked for parallels between the Prophet’s words and my own life. “My emotions are stormy and broken,” I thought. “Because of others, I feel like my and Kaylee’s lives have been wrenched and divided by earthquakes.”

As I read further, I found hope in the Prophet Joseph’s exhortation to “lay hold of” hope in Christ and the joy that we anticipate in the Resurrection, for as Joseph Smith said, “What can [these disasters] do? Nothing. All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful.”As I read that last sentence, understanding came: The Lord would make up all my losses, all of Kaylee’s losses. I no longer needed to be angry. I no longer needed to mourn. Because of Him—because He would restore all that I’d lost—I could forgive! My heart surged with hope, and I smiled through tears of gratitude.

Kaylee’s former teacher lived nearby, and I encountered him often. In these encounters, he seemed unaware of the pain he had caused, and I tried to hide my resentment. Not long after the Relief Society lesson that touched me so deeply, I ran into him again and caught his eye. The forgiveness I’d been longing for washed through me. I forgave him. My burden of animosity fled.

I am still working to completely forgive those who abused me. I continue to focus on the Lord’s promise that all my losses will be made up to me, and forgiveness is growing in my heart. I am confident that as I try my best, the Lord will heal me of all resentment, and I will be free.

A Prayer in the Parking Lot

A Miraculous Cure from Addiction

imagesIt wouldn’t be called an “addiction” if one could break out of it through sheer power of will.  Alcoholics Anonymous and the LDS church’s Addiction Recovery Program teach that the first step to recovery is to admit we are powerless over our addiction – that our lives have become unmanageable.  But through the miracle God’s divine help, addiction can be overcome, as the following story demonstrates.  It was published in the Ensign, August 1992.

I remember the night vividly and marvel at how far I had strayed from what I knew was right. There I was, searching through trash cans behind a supermarket for food. I was close to suicide, yet I was afraid to die. I was deeply frightened as I reflected on the incredible changes I had permitted to occur in my life.

I had been born into a Latter-day Saint home, and from the time I was a youngster I had attended my Church meetings. I graduated from seminary, was active in leadership roles, and loved every minute of my activity in the Church.

After graduating, I was offered a scholarship to Brigham Young University. Instead of accepting it, I decided to try out for the top-rated baseball team of a university in another state. I had visions of becoming a professional athlete.

In college, I was exposed to an entirely different life-style. People’s attitudes were different, and I discovered a maze of differing philosophies. My Church activity dwindled, and my value system soon weakened. In spite of my lifelong membership in the Church, I wasn’t a true disciple of Jesus Christ. I was fully capable of ignoring the Spirit of the Lord.

New ideas and temptations hit me head-on. I began experimenting with drugs and alcohol and started dating a girl who was not a member of the Church. I even quit the baseball team to get a job so I could buy a car to impress her. I skipped classes as I became more involved with my girlfriend and drugs.

It wasn’t long before I was addicted. Within two years I became a “speed freak” who couldn’t hold a job or function in normal society. I was broke, sick, and friendless on the beaches of San Diego.

That night in the supermarket parking lot, I fell to my knees. With tears streaming down my face, I pleaded for help, hoping that what I had learned as a child was true and that someone was listening.

Suddenly a wonderful warmth engulfed my head, then filled my entire body. I could feel the Spirit of the Lord with an intensity I’d never known. A soothing calmness came over me, and for the first time in years, I felt at peace.

When I finally stood again, I was free of fear and anguish. I knew my desperate, sincere prayer for help had been answered. Miraculously, I experienced no withdrawal pains and had no more desire for drugs.

The road back was a long but rewarding one. I returned to activity in the Church and began seriously studying the scriptures. I served as director of a drug rehabilitation center in southern California for a time and saw many helped through the power of God. I also saw others, who would not heed the Lord’s teachings, sink lower into hopelessness and degradation. I ache for those people and feel ever grateful to the Lord for hearing and answering my desperate prayer.

“I Will Go Before Your Face.”

The Peace of the Spirit

imagesIn her inspiring book, In the Strength of the Lord I Can Do All Things Carolyn J. Rasmus recounts an experience similar to many in the church.  Another name for the Holy Ghost is “the comforter” and to many of us, some of the most miraculous experiences we experience come when the Holy Ghost speaks peace to our heart when we are filled with fear.

I, like you, have had experiences when, at critical times, important thoughts have come into my heart and mind.

I remember one such morning when I finished my prayers and stood almost before I’d uttered, “Amen.” I was ready to grab my coat and leave for work when the thought came into my mind, “Go back and kneel beside your bed.” Even though I felt pressed for time, the impression came so strongly that I responded immediately.

As I returned to my knees a scripture came into my mind: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left…and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88). That was all. I stayed there for a few minutes, all the time wondering why that scripture would come into my mind. Then I left for work.

It is about a forty-five minute drive from my home in Orem, Utah, to my work in Salt Lake City. I knew that a storm had been forecasted, but the sun shone brightly as I left home and I went merrily on my way. About twenty minutes later, as I neared what is referred to locally as the point of the mountain, I drove into a blinding snowstorm. The snow was heavy enough that I struggled even to see the white line marking the edge of the freeway; to keep my bearings I had to focus on the tail lights of the eighteen-wheeler ahead of me. Suddenly, and without warning, the truck swerved into the median strip of the highway.

The storm was bad enough that the radio station I was listening to kept advising people to stay off the highways. One caller indicated that this was the worst weather conditions he’d seen in the Salt Lake Valley in twenty-five years. I concurred, as I was driving at a snail’s pace. The snow was turning to ice as it hit the highway, and the visibility continued to decrease.

What cars were still on the road were sliding across the various lanes; and many cars were off to the side of the road. Though i gripped the steering wheel tighter and tighter, I felt that I had little or no control of the car. it almost seemed inevitable that I’d be the next car off the highway or involved in an accident.

Suddenly the experience I’d had less than an hour earlier came into my mind. As the words of the scripture passed through my mind again, I felt an immediate sense of peace and calm. I knew that I would be safe, that I would be protected on my right and on my left.

It took three times longer than usual to get to work that morning, but I did get there. I was safe, and once again I knew that the influence of the Spirit in our lives is real, and that it can serve as both a guide and a comfort.

The Story of Amanda Smith at Haun’s Mill

The Spirit Guides the Hand of Grieving Widow to Help Heal Her Son

HaunsMill2The Haun’s Mill Massacre is one of the saddest chapters of LDS history.  17 Mormons were brutally murdered at the hands of an angry mob in Missouri on October 30, 1838.   A mother by the name of Amanda Smith gives a gripping account of the massacre along with a miraculous healing event that happened in it’s aftermath.   The story is particularly resonant for Latter-Day Saints, because of it’s similarities to the miracle of Nephi building a ship in the Book of Mormon.  Nephi had been commanded by the Lord to build a ship, but didn’t know anything about shipbuilding, as he had never lived by the sea.  The Lord then gave him divine instructions on how to build the ship, which then sailed across the ocean to the Americas.  In Amanda’s story, the Lord instructs her on a medical procedure that helps save the life of her son, a procedure so complicated that she could not have possibly known how to save the boy herself.  And this during a time when Amanda had just lost her husband and another son to the massacre.  (The Women of Mormondom pages 122-128.)

The entire hip joint of my wounded boy had been shot away. Flesh, hip bone, joint and all had been been plowed out from the muzzle of the gun which the ruffian placed to the child’s hip through the logs of the shop and deliberately fired.  We laid little Alma on a bed in our tent and I examined the wound. It was a ghastly sight. I knew not what to do. It was night now.  There were none left from the Terrible scene, throughout that long, dark night, but about half a dozen bereaved and lamenting women, and children. Eighteen or nineteen, all grown men excepting my murdered boy and another about the same age, were dead or dying; several more of the men were wounded, hiding away, whose groans through the night too well disclosed their hiding places, while the rest of the men had fled, at the moment of the massacre, to save their lives.  The women were sobbing, in greatest anguish of spirit; the children were crying loudly with fear and grief at the loss of fathers and brothers; the dogs howled over their dead masters and the cattle were terrified with the sent of the blood of the murdered.  Yet was I there, all that long, dreadful night, with my dead and my wounded, and none but God as our physician and help.

“Oh my Heavenly Father,” I cried, “what shall I do?  Thou seest my poor wounded boy and knowest my inexperience. Oh Heavenly Father direct me what to do!”  And the I was directed as by a voice speaking to me.  The ashes of our fire was still smoldering. We had been burning the bark of the shag-bark hickory.  I was directed to take those ashes and make a lye and put a cloth saturated with it right into the wound. It hurt, but little Alma was too near dead to heed it much. Again and again I saturated the cloth and put it into the hole from which the hip-joint had been plowed, and each time mashed flesh and splinters of bone came away with the cloth; and the wound became as white as chicken’s flesh.

Having done as directed I again prayed to the Lord and was again instructed as distinctly as though a physician had been standing by speaking to me.  Near by was a slipper-elm tree. From this I was told to make a slippery-elm poultice and fill the wound with it.  My eldest boy was sent to get the slipper-elm from the roots, the poultice was made, and the wound, which took fully a quarter of a yard of linen to cover, so large was it, was properly dressed.  I removed the wounded boy to a house, some distance off the next day, and dressed the hip ; the Lord directing me as before.  I was reminded that in my husband’s trunk there was a bottle of balsam.  This I poured into the wound, greatly southing Alma’s pain.

‘Alma my child,’ I said, ‘you believe that the Lord made your hip?’

‘Yes, mother.’

‘Well, the Lord can make something there in the place of your hip, don’t you believe he can, Alma?’

‘Do you think that the Lord can, mother?’ inquired the child, in his simplicity.

‘Yes, my son,’ I replied, ‘he has showed it all to me in a vision.’

Then I laid him comfortably on his face, and said: ‘Now you lay like that, and don’t move, and the Lord will make you another hip.’  So Alma laid on his face for five weeks, until he was entirely recovered—a flexible gristle having grown in place of the missing joint and socket, which remains to this day a marvel to physicians. …  It is now nearly forty years ago, but Alma has never been the least crippled during his life, and he has traveled quite a long period of the time as a missionary of the gospel and [is] a living miracle of the power of God.

“Tell Father That All is Well With Me”

A Comforting Vision With an Added Lesson

John Wells, LDS General Authority

John Wells, LDS General Authority

This vision from the life of Bishop John Wells really hit home for me personally.  It concerns the untimely death of Bishop Well’s son in a train accident, which was rumored to have been a suicide.  I too had a brother who lost his life in an accident in which there was also some speculation of suicide, so I understand the agony that these unanswered questions can add to the already devastating grief of losing a loved one.

What is remarkable about this vision is what it teaches us about how our frame of mind might disqualify us from experiencing a spiritual manifestation.  Sometimes, our mind and heart are simply too preoccupied or unprepared spiritually to receive these blessings.

President Ezra Taft Benson related the story in the April 1988 Ensign:

A son of Bishop and Sister Wells was killed in a railroad accident on October 15, 1915. He was run over by a freight car. Sister Wells could not be consoled. She received no comfort during the funeral and continued her mourning after her son was laid to rest. Bishop Wells feared for her health, as she was in a state of deep anguish.

One day, soon after the funeral, Sister Wells was lying on her bed in a state of mourning. The son appeared to her and said, “Mother, do not mourn, do not cry. I am all right.”

He then related to her how the accident took place. Apparently there had been some question—even suspicion—about the accident because the young man was an experienced railroad man. But he told his mother that it was clearly an accident.

Now note this: He also told her that as soon as he realized that he was in another sphere, he had tried to reach his father but could not. His father was so busy with the details of his office and work that he could not respond to the promptings. Therefore, the son had come to his mother.

He then said, “Tell Father that all is well with me, and I want you not to mourn any more.”

How Did You Know to Come?

An Insistant Prompting from the Holy Ghost to Visit a Sister in Need

griefThis is an extremely common type of spiritual experience in the church.  As President Kimball once said, God often answers our prayers through the actions of others.  This experience comes from Sherrie H. Gillett of Utah, and was published in the June 2012 Ensign.

When I was 33 years old, my husband died of a brain tumor. Suddenly I was a single parent raising our three children alone. It was a challenging time in my life, but the Lord’s counsel that “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7) gave me the courage to go on.

Later I remarried and moved to a new ward, where I was called as the Relief Society president. One day while I was cleaning my house, I had the distinct impression to visit a less-active sister who had recently lost her husband. I brushed away the thought, thinking that I needed to do other things that day. I’m embarrassed to say I received the same impression two more times before I finally acted on it.

When I arrived at the sister’s house that evening, it was dark. I rang the doorbell and waited. I knocked loudly and waited some more.

As I turned to leave, the porch light came on, and the door slowly opened. The sister hesitantly poked her head through the opening. I will never forget what she asked: “How did you know to come?” She told me she had spent the whole day crying and felt that she couldn’t go on without her husband.

We talked for a couple of hours that night. I don’t remember much of what we said, but I do remember telling her, “I truly know what you are going through.” I assured her that time was her friend and that the Lord would watch over her. As we talked, I noticed that the grief-stricken look on her face had been replaced with an expression of peace.

At the end of our conversation, I gave her a heartfelt hug. I felt so thankful that I had been prompted to visit her. I knew that our loving Heavenly Father had allowed me to help Him help this sweet sister in her time of need.