“I Had The Impression Something Holy Was Being Desecrated”

The Remarkable Journey of Elder Gene R. Cook’s Lost Scriptures

la_paz___bolivian_street_by_pablo1b-d8vp7oElder Gene R. Cook recounts this powerful experience in his book Living by the Power of Faith

On July 29, 1977, Sister Cook and I had just finished visiting the Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission and were stalled in the Cochabamba, Bolivia, airport for some five hours. I recall that we were very tired, having had few hours of sleep the night before. We were both delighted to have a few hours of rest in the airport. As I was drifting off to sleep, I had a very strong feeling that I should awaken and write down some ideas. The desire to sleep was strong, but the promptings of the Spirit were more powerful. I did write; in fact, I wrote for nearly three hours, solving some organizational problems I had struggled with for a number of years previously. I felt a great outpouring of the Spirit on that day and excitedly wrote down each inspired thought. The experience took most of the time of the delay.

We were then off to La Paz, Bolivia. We were graciously met by President and Sister Chase Allred at the airport and driven in their van to the mission office. We left our luggage and briefcase in the locked van.

Upon entering the office, the president was confronted with the difficult case of a woman whose husband was dying. While President Allred and I assisted with her needs, Sisters Cook and Allred left in a car for the mission home.

When the president and I returned to the van, I realized immediately that all of our goods were gone but assumed that Sister Cook had taken them with her to the mission home. While we were driving toward the home, I discovered that the right front wind wing had been damaged and began to fear that our goods had been stolen.

Arriving at the mission home, we found that our luggage had indeed been stolen. The loss of a substantial amount of money and all our clothing created an immediate but only temporary problem. More disheartening was the fact that my scriptures were in my briefcase along with the inspired ideas I had just received in Cochabamba. The overwhelming sensation of discouragement, anger, and inability to do anything about the situation was overpowering.

My wife and I prayed alone. We prayed with those present. We tried to enjoy our dinner but could not. Who could know of the great loss I personally felt? The scriptures had been given to me as a young man by my parents, a sacred inscription placed in one of them by my mother and in the other by my since-deceased father. I had spent literally thousands of hours marking and cross-referencing (and loving every moment of it) in the only tangible earthly possessions I had ever considered of much value. I had on many occasions instructed my wife that if there were ever a fire in the home, she should first remove the children and then, if there were time, save my scriptures and not worry about anything else.
The president and I had much to discuss as we were to be together only that evening. However, I felt a strong impression that we must do all in our power to recover the scriptures. After supper, all present knelt in prayer once again. We determined to search the immediate area near the mission office and a nearby field, hoping that the thief or thieves might have kept only the salable items and discarded the books because they were in English.

In the prayer we pleaded that the scriptures would be returned, that the persons who had taken them would be led to know of their unrighteous act and repent, and that the return of the books would be the means of bringing someone into the true church.

Eight to ten of us then loaded into the van with flashlights, and warm clothing and drove to the mission office in the central city. We scoured vacant lots across the street, and adjacent streets and alleys; we talked with guards and anyone else we could find and exhausted all possibilities. No one had seen or heard anything. Finally we returned home, dejected, able only to pray individually and wait. President Allred and I worked late into the night to finish our business, and the next day Sister Cook and I flew back to Quito, Ecuador, where we lived.

During the next few weeks, the missionaries searched the lots again. They looked in hedges and garbage cans, searched a nearby park, placed a sign on a wall near where the books were stolen, requesting their return, and kept a watchful eye to see if the books might show up in some unexpected place nearby. In sheer desperation, trying to do all in their power, the missionaries decided to place an ad in two daily newspapers, offering a reward and giving explicit information concerning the books.

In Quito, Ecuador, I went through a spiritual struggle that was a very difficult one for me. For nearly three weeks, I had not studied the scriptures at all. I had tried on numerous occasions, but every time I read a verse I recalled only a few of the many cross-references I had made over the past twenty years. I was disheartened, depressed, and had no desire whatsoever to read. I prayed many times, expressing to the Father that I had never tried to use my scriptures for any purpose other than glorifying his name and trying to teach others the truths that he had taught me. I pleaded with him to do whatever had to be done in order to have them returned. My wife and little children prayed incessantly for the same blessing. Even after two or three weeks they continued praying every day, “Heavenly Father, please bring back Daddy’s scriptures.”

After about three weeks, I felt a strong spiritual impression: “Elder Cook, how long will you go on without reading and studying?” It seemed to me to be a test or a trial and to have something to do with the “cost” of the blessing I desired. The words burned, and I determined that I must be humble and submissive enough to start all over again. With my wife’s permission to use her scriptures, I began reading in Genesis in the Old Testament, marking and cross-referencing once again.

On August 18, a friend, Brother Ebbie Davis, arrived in Ecuador from Bolivia and laid my scriptures on my desk along with a manila folder that contained the papers that I had written in Cochabamba and some recently prepared mission budgets that were also stolen. He indicated that they were the only things recovered, that he had been given those items by the mission president in La Paz as he boarded the plane, and that he did not know how the books were found, but that I would be told when I arrived there in the next few days to tour the mission.

The joy I experienced that day is indescribable! To realize that my Heavenly Father could, in some miraculous way, lift those books out of the hands of thieves in a city like La Paz and return them intact, with not one page removed, torn, or soiled, is still a miracle to me. How the faith of our family and many Bolivian missionaries was rewarded! That day I promised my Father that I would make better use of my scriptures and my time as instruments in his hands for teaching the gospel.
On Sunday, August 21, I flew to Guayaquil, Ecuador, and on to La Paz, Bolivia, arriving on August 22. Upon arrival I was given the following account:

A woman had been in one of La Paz’s hundreds of marketplaces. She saw a drunk man waving a black book around. She had a strong spiritual impression that something holy was being desecrated. She approached the man and asked him what the book was. He did not know but showed it to her. She asked if he had anything else. He pulled out another black book. She asked if there were more. He removed a folder full of papers that he said he was going to burn. She offered to purchase those things from him, to which he agreed, for the price of 50 pesos, or about $2.50 in U.S. currency.

After the purchase had been made, she felt totally taken aback by what she had done. She realized the books and papers were in English—she didn’t speak, read, or understand English—and she had no desire to have any English books. She had paid nearly 10 percent of her monthly income to buy some books in a language she could not read. She immediately began to search for the church that was named in the front of the books. After approaching a number of other churches, she finally arrived at the mission office in La Paz, directed by the hand of the Lord. She had not heard of the reward nor of the ad in the newspaper, which was to appear that very day. She did not ask for any money, not even to reclaim the 50 pesos that she had paid for the books and papers. The elders received the books and folder with rejoicing and paid her the reward anyway.

She told the missionaries that she was associated with a Pentecostal sect, but she listened very intently as they unfolded the gospel to her. She recalled reading something about Joseph Smith from a pamphlet she had picked up in the street two or three years earlier. After their first discussion with her, they reported, “She is a golden contact.” After the second discussion, she committed to baptism. Two weeks later, September 11, 1977, on a Sunday afternoon in La Paz, Bolivia, Sister Maria Cloefe Cardenas Terrazas and her son, Marco Fernando Miranda Cardenas, age twelve, were baptized into the true church of Jesus Christ by Elder Douglas Reeder.

Who could describe our deep, discouraging, depressing, disheartening, overpowering feelings of helplessness when the scriptures were lost? Who could describe our great feeling of joy and rejoicing when we saw the power of heaven revealed in this miraculous way? Our Heavenly Father does hear and answer the prayers of his sons and daughters if they exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord said: “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

“I recieved a message…but not from a wire.”

Spiritual Premonitions Among the Polynesian Saints

MAORI Mother & ChildMatthew Cowley recounts: These natives [of Polynesia] live close to God. They have some kind of power. I guess it’s just because they accept miracles as a matter of course. They never doubt anything. They used to scare me. Someone would come up and say, “Brother Cowley, I’ve had a dream about you.”

I’d say, “Don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear about it.”

“Oh, it was a good one.” “All right. Tell me.”

And they’d tell me something. Now I remember when President Rufus K. Hardy of the First Council of the Seventy passed away. I was walking along the street of one of the cities in New Zealand, and one of our native members came up—a lady.
She said to me, “President Hardy is dead.”

I said, “Is that so? Have you received a wire?”

She said, “No. I received a message, but I haven’t received any wire.” She repeated, “He’s dead. I know.”
Well, I always believed them when they told me those things. When I got back to headquarters, I wasn’t there long when here came a cablegram which said that President Hardy had passed away the night before. But she knew that without any cablegram. She told me about it.

I got out of my car once in a city. I got out to do some window-shopping to get a little rest from driving. I walked around, and finally I went around a corner, and there stood a native woman and her daughter. The mother said to the daughter, “What did I tell you?”

I said, “What’s going on here?”

The daughter said, “Mother said if we’d stand here for fifteen minutes you’d come around the corner.” Now she didn’t have any radio set with her, just one in her heart where she received the impression.

Matthew Cowley, Matthew Cowley Speaks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954), pp. 243-45.

“Go To the Mission Home!”

“Your Presence is the Assistance I Prayed for Yesterday”

DSC05064-300x225Felicien Dogbo Mobio of Ghana reccounts this story in the June 2012 Ensign.

The morning after I returned home to Ghana from my mission in the Ivory Coast, I woke up at 6:00 a.m. My appointment with the stake president to have him release me was not until the afternoon, so I decided to sleep in. While I was falling asleep, an impression flashed through my mind: “Go to the Cape Coast mission home.” I knew the Ghana Cape Coast Mission home, but I had no idea why I needed to go there that morning.

After having these thoughts, I began to feel anxious about the impression, so I headed to the mission home. On my way I worried about what I would say to the mission president. I knew he would ask me the purpose of my visit, so I tried to prepare a suitable answer.

When I arrived, I still did not know the answer. The mission president, Melvin B. Sabey, invited me into his office, thinking that I came there for him to release me. After asking a few questions, President Sabey told me to go to my stake president to be released.

“I know that, President,” I replied.

He paused for some seconds and then asked me the very question I had been striving to answer: “Why are you here this morning, Elder Mobio?”

“President Sabey, I don’t have a suitable answer to that question,” I said. “It’s just that this morning I had a strong impression to come here.”

He paused again for a moment and told me softly, “Elder Mobio, your presence here is the assistance I prayed for yesterday.” He explained that his assistants had just arrived with new missionaries. Among them was an Ivorian, the first French-speaking missionary he had ever received, and he didn’t know how he was going to communicate with him. Then he declared, “I am certain Heavenly Father heard my concern yesterday night.”

I had finally learned the reason for my morning impression. We immediately joined the new missionaries, and I interpreted for the Ivorian elder as he started his mission.

Seven months later I traveled back to the Ivory Coast to renew my passport and to share that wonderful experience with my mission president. He told me, “We are instruments in the Lord’s hands. He knows how and when to use us in His work.”

I know that if we immerse ourselves in the glorious work of Heavenly Father, we don’t need to worry. We just need to give heed to the promptings of the still, small voice and let the Lord guide us.

The Power of My Children’s Faith Stopped a Flood.

“Even now, 40 years later, it is hard for me to believe what I saw

IMG_0381This story comes from Pirkko Kassinen and was published in the Ensign October 8 2011.

It was a spring day in Helsinki, Finland. The sun was shining brightly, and the snow was melting fast. For hours I had been working with my boys, Juha, eight, and Hannu, six, to keep melting snow from flooding our cellar. The nearby drain that should have handled the pooling water was still frozen solid.

As my husband left for work that morning, he told us to make sure we kept the water out of the cellar. We worked hard until the afternoon, when it was time to leave for Primary. (At that time Primary was held on a weekday.) I told my boys, however, that they would have to miss Primary in order to help stop the water from getting into the cellar. Besides, my husband wasn’t a member of the Church, and he would not understand how important Primary was to our sons.
In unison, Juha and Hannu assured me that if we went to Primary, Heavenly Father would see to it that the water wouldn’t reach the cellar. I looked back and forth from the pooling water to the faith-filled faces of my sons. Part of me said, “You cannot go because no power can stop the water from flooding the cellar.” I appealed to Heavenly Father with a prayer in my heart. Then I made a difficult decision.

“We are going to Primary now!” I declared as I threw down the buckets. No matter what happened, I was not going to injure my children’s faith.

The boys had a wonderful time at Primary. But as we drove home afterward, the closer we got to our house, the more my fears grew. Reaching the yard, the boys ran quickly to the cellar door. Looking down, they cried out, “Mother, what did we tell you?” I hurried over. I will never forget the sight that greeted my eyes. The area was completely dry, as if it had been mopped. There were no signs of water anywhere. Even now, 40 years later, it is hard for me to believe what I saw.
The glow in my boys’ eyes reflected joy and trust in Heavenly Father. Joy—and gratitude—filled my heart too!
No power in the world can beat childlike faith. The scriptures say that if we believe and doubt not, we can move a mountain (see Matthew 17:20). That day the power of my children’s faith stopped a flood.

“How Would I be Able to Perform?”

A Trumpeter’s Prayer

ArmyTapsFuneralBugler-300x200This story comes from Tom Sullivan of Arizona, and was published in the March 2012 Ensign.

Since I lived in a small Arizona town with a predominantly Latter-day Saint population, missionaries and Church members often approached me about the Church. They frequently invited my children and me to attend church, read the scriptures, or both. I had no interest in accepting their invitations but politely thanked them for their interest in my family.

As I got to know the woman I would later marry, she told me she was a Latter-day Saint. I admired her spirituality and agreed to attend church with her after we married. True to my word, I started attending regularly and even enjoyed the atmosphere and camaraderie. But even though I studied the scriptures, attended church, and prayed alone and with my family, I still doubted God’s existence. No matter how hard I tried, I felt as though I couldn’t shake my agnostic roots. Because I felt no closer to God than when I had started, I declined all invitations to be baptized.

After I had attended church for six years, my father, who had been in the U.S. Army, passed away suddenly. My family and I wanted to have taps played at the grave site, and since I am a professional musician, I was asked to perform the song. I had performed at hundreds of grave site ceremonies, but because this was my father’s service, I knew it would be different for me. I also knew from my mother’s funeral that my heightened sense of emotion would affect my ability to play. I was determined not to let my emotions interfere with the music as they had during her service.

Minutes before the ceremony started, I nervously tried to warm up. Just a few practice notes had escaped my lips when I realized I was repeating my previous failure. Tears formed and I started to cry. My sobs impeded my breathing. How would I be able to perform?

I wasn’t concerned with accolades for myself, but I did want to honor my father. As I started to play, I found I couldn’t take a complete breath. It was uncharacteristic of me to ask for help, but at this point, I didn’t know what else to do. The first note that came out was weak. Inwardly I pleaded with my Heavenly Father: “Please.” As I played the second note, my lungs filled with air, and the sound rang out of my horn with a startling, beautiful tone. Throughout the rest of the piece, I played well beyond my ability. When I finished the last note, I was suddenly out of breath and choking for air through my tears.

As a musician, I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Simply put, I couldn’t have played that well even under the best of circumstances. It was obvious to me that Heavenly Father had answered my plea and blessed me with the strength and ability to honor my earthly father. I was given a special witness that Heavenly Father answers us in a manner that we can understand. His answer in my time of need helped me realize that He had always been eager to communicate with me.

After several months I cleared my agnostic hurdle and joined the Church. Although it was a leap of faith to be baptized, I knew that Heavenly Father would bless me. My experience while playing taps taught me that He will answer my prayers according to my needs and understanding.

“You are Angels from God!”

A Prompting from the Spirit Sends a Russian Couple on an Important Errand

7107551This story comes from Anna Nikiticheva of Scotland, and was published in the March 2012 Ensign.

Although we were very busy, my husband, Daniil, and I decided we should visit the Preston England Temple one more time before the end of 2009. It takes two buses and almost six hours to get to the temple from the small Scottish town where we live.

The morning we planned to leave dawned cloudy and rainy, but we were happy to be going to the temple. While we waited an extra hour to catch the second bus at the transfer point, it began pouring rain and getting cold.
However, the hope that we would soon be in the temple warmed our hearts. When we arrived in Preston, we felt a strong impression to go immediately to the temple. We were hungry and dripping wet, but we listened to the Holy Ghost.
When we entered the temple, a friendly temple worker asked for our temple recommends. He took off his glasses and looked again at the names on our recommends.

“Are you from Russia?” he asked in astonishment.

“Yes,” we answered, a bit surprised at his reaction.

“So you speak Russian?” he asked.

“Of course,” we said.

He then picked up the telephone and called someone.

Soon the temple president approached us. Through his glasses, we could see he had tears in his eyes. “You are angels from God!” he said with a smile, asking that we follow him. We followed him and soon saw a confused young missionary with temple workers standing around him.

It turned out that this missionary was from Armenia and spoke Russian. He had been called to serve in the England London Mission but had not yet learned English. There was not a single Russian-speaking person in the missionary training center adjacent to the temple. On that day he was supposed to receive his endowment, but temple workers had been unable to communicate with him—that is, until a thoroughly soaked Russian couple walked in.

Daniil immediately asked to accompany the young missionary. The missionary was overjoyed and later said he had felt a special spirit when we arrived.

I am grateful that despite our busy schedules and the rainy weather, my husband and I still decided to visit the temple that day so we could help a Russian-speaking son of God in Great Britain. I am grateful for temple blessings, which brighten our lives with a special light and purpose. I know that if we will heed the promptings of the Holy Ghost, He will lead us back to our heavenly home—just as He led my husband and me to the house of the Lord that day.

“I Could Physically FEEL Their Prayers”

The Power of Combined Prayers

imagesThis story comes from Amy, on her profile at mormon.org.

About six months ago, I became critically ill and was hospitalized with pneumonia. I had never been away from my three young children for more than two days! I was frightened and worried that I may never return home again.”We’re out of milk! We have overdue library books! Who will pick the kids up from school? Moms can’t get sick!” I believe in the power of prayer. I know God hears and answers our prayers. As I was being rushed to the hospital in the ambulance, I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to please take care of my family. An immediate peace came into my heart and my mind. Christ’s words put to music in a familiar hymn “How Firm a Foundation” entered my mind and calmed my “troubled heart” – “Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand…” As news of my critical condition spread to my family members, they joined with our church congregation (ward) and began fasting and praying for my recovery. I could physically FEEL their prayers, and God’s healing power strengthening me. There was power in those combined prayers in my behalf, and I am so thankful for their faith. I know the wonderful doctors who treated me were guided and inspired by those prayers of faith to know what to do, and how best to help me. The experiences which refine are not easy, but are there for us to learn and be tested. I realized my most important work is to be a wife and mother. I am so thankful that my health has returned, and that I am able to be with my family now and forever. I am never alone. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know me and love me, and are aware of my needs. Through this experience, I gained a greater appreciation for my life, for my family, and for the gospel.