I had just turned 12 years old, the second of 9 children. My family had recently moved to Idaho after my father had taken a job as the seminary teacher in a small farming community in Idaho. Back then a seminary teacher didn’t make much of a living but Dad and Mom tried hard to provide us with everything they could. The church had provided a house for minimal rent that sat on the church farm and across the highway and about half a mile from the church.
Looking back I realize that it was hard being a 12 year old in a new community where you didn’t yet fit in. But, I had my brothers and sisters and they were my friends. Life was always an adventure. We roamed the church farm roads and ditch banks which bordered a marshy slough to the north and trot/walked with our BB guns even further north to explore the banks of Mud Lake having wonderful adventures. It must have been a little unnerving to the neighbors to see 4 boys trotting down the road with BB guns in tow.
On my 12th birthday I got a bike and a stag horn handle, 3 blade pocket knife. From the day I received the knife I began carrying it everywhere with me. It was one of my prized possessions. One day after church meetings were over I took off for home alone. I looked both ways before darting across the highway and up onto the church farm ditch bank. I preferred to travel on the opposite side of the ditch to be that much further away from people and the highway. The 4 food deep by 4 foot wide ditch was empty today because there was no irrigating on Sunday. It was much faster to jump the ditch than to scramble down one side then back up the other, so with a running jump I flew across the ditch and when I landed on the other side I stumbled to my hands and knees, then jumped up and started jogging down the bank toward home, jumping a head gate every 100 feet along the way. When I was still about 100 yards from home I slapped my pocket out of habit to confirm that all my treasures were still there. To my youthful horror my pockets were empty. I had lost my pocket knife somewhere in the half mile between the church and where I had now come to a stop. The bank was covered in grass and weeds about 6 to 9 inches tall with patches of bare ground. There was no way in all the grass I could ever find it. My treasured knife was gone! It could have fallen out anywhere along the way. In half a panic I realized that it was probably lost for good. My parents could not afford to get me another, I thought, and I did not have any money. What was I going to do? As I stood there in dismay something occurred that had never to this point in my young life happened before.
A thought entered my mind of a gospel lesson I had recently been taught in church. It may have even been the lesson on that very day. You need to understand that as a typical 12 year old boy I had a hard time concentrating on Sunday lessons and one lesson ran into and over the next, but this particular lesson on prayer returned to my mind with clarity as I stood there on the ditch bank. I remembered being taught that Heavenly Father did hear and would answer every prayer if the individual was sincere. In that instant I did not doubt. I had a problem that for a 12 year old boy was serious and heart wrenching. Before I could think twice I had jumped down into the empty ditch where no one could see me, knelt down and began pouring out my problem to Heavenly Father.
We had been taught to pray by our parents. Family prayer with Dad presiding, prayer at the dinner table, Mom at our side each night as we went to bed, prompting us what to say. I remember frequently hearing Mom pray out loud when one or the other of her children were hurt or when we were driving in a storm. Growing up we had good examples of prayer but even as I grew to the age of 12 I only prayed when asked and at bed time I would roll over in bed and offer the same rote prayer. But this time, for the first time in my young life my prayer was different.
“Heavenly Father, I lost my pocket knife. I don’t think I can find it. I don’t know what to do.” Immediately as I began to pray an image came into my mind of my knife lying on a clear spot of dirt on the side of the ditch where I had first jumped the bank and stumbled. With that image came a comfortable, gentle tightening in my chest. I knew! I didn’t doubt! I couldn’t get back to the spot soon enough to see! Without another word or though I scrambled out of the ditch and flew back along the bank with excitement in my young mind and body. What had just happened, I thought? Did Heavenly Father actually show me where my knife had been dropped? I was beginning to be filled with an amazing hope that this was really happening!
Prior to this I had been taught, and prayer had been modeled. I had never doubted. I had just never had a reason to experiment or implement what I had been taught. Now in the Lord’s way He was creating an opportunity to reach into my life and expand a relationship with another one of His children. As part of His plan, provided from the beginning of creation, He was knocking at my door and waiting to see if I would answer and invite Him in.
50 feet, was that the spot! 20 feet, could I really see my knife there in the bare patch of ground! 10 feet from the spot, it looked exactly as Heavenly Father had shown me in my mind! Yes, there was my knife! I could hardly believe my eyes! Amazing! Wonderful!! Somewhat confusing as it all began to come together in my young mind! All I had begun hoping for as I initially saw and felt with my first sincere plea, all I had anticipated as I raced back down the bank, and now all that I knew as it settled into my heart. I had spoken with God and He had responded to me. He was real! As I came to this realization I stopped. I hadn’t closed my earlier initiated prayer properly. I looked around, unobserved by the outside world. No one but me knew what had just occurred. I began to be filled with gratitude and I reverently jumped back down into the ditch, knelt down and spoke again to my Father. But this time I was different. I knew Him, I was filled with love for Him because He loved me enough to reveal Himself to an insignificant young boy. As I poured out my heart in gratitude and voiced my new understanding the spirit swept over me and enveloped me, testifying that what I had experienced was indeed God’s effort to have a relationship with me.
Like a typical young boy, typical in most aspects but now with a personal experience and the beginnings of a knowledge of Deity, I climbed out of the ditch and started again for home. Never to say anything to another soul about what I had experienced. That was the beginning of a relationship that now at 55 years of age I treasure. I would like to say that I was a changed boy from that time forward. But I wasn’t. I still struggled with sin and temptation. In fact as I think back, I probably struggled more with my weaknesses and human frailties. I believe Satan knew what I knew and what lay ahead in my life and wanted to thwart God’s plan for me.
At 55 I now know so much more. I have seen other visions, dreamed dreams and realized the fulfillment of both. I have grown in my relationship with Heavenly Father, learning the subtleties of the whispering of the spirit, coming to understand the ministering of angels, having been rescued from physical and spiritual harm. I have learned that the majority of communications that God has given me are very still and quiet. I have had to grow in my feeling and understanding “line upon line, and precept on precept”. I have experimented hours, days and years and Heavenly Father has been patient, long suffering and forgiving. He has never failed me. Each time I have strayed, like the prodigal son, before returning to Him in prayer, however lengthy or short my leave from Him has been, He has always wrapped His loving arms around me and welcomed me onto the path back to Him.
God lives, His plan is sure and true, He loves all His children, He will manifest Himself to each of them as much as they seek for and allow through their desire, hope, faith, repentance, striving for obedience and effort. Jesus Christ administers Father’s plan. The Holy Spirit teaches and encourages us to follow the plan. There are things we can do to expedite the process. Those things include daily prayer, scripture study, church attendance, receiving all the ordinances, pondering these things, seeking greater light and knowledge, forgiving ourselves and others and never ever giving up. Jesus Christ has our back, He is literally our older brother. He has given all He had for us. He sacrificed His will to the Father and fulfilled the atonement. He will never give up on us if we will but return to Him each time we fall and continue in this obedience to the end. I know this is true and share it with you.