Heavenly Father, help me explain so that my children and grandchildren may understand. This is my only intent in sharing, that I may bring as many as will hear, and understand, into Thy presence. I know Thee, I know Thy mercy and Thy long suffering, and I know Thy peace and the joy that comes to those that understand and act. Help me to share this with Thy children.
It was a beautiful morning in Bangkok Thailand. I had finished my exercises, showered and dressed for the day, and now I sat at the kitchen table to study but instead could not stop contemplating what had occurred the night before.
Last night I had completed an intense week long challenge that had culminated in something amazing, a life changing experience! The adversary had pulled out all the stops to thwart me, and then when he had almost succeeded, I cried out in prayer and Heavenly Father rebuked him, and then He spoke to me. He showed me how I could recognize His voice.
There was an excitement in the air! All the missionaries in Thailand had been called into the mission office for an unprecedented two day conference and training. It had been rumored that the general presiding bishop to the church, Victor L. Brown, was in Bangkok and had initiated the conference. After greeting all the old companions and current and previous district and zone missionaries accompanied by lots of loud salutations, hugs and back slapping, we were invited into the chapel and began to settle down.
After the opening exercises our mission president Harold Brown explained that Bishop Victor Brown (no acquaintance) had been in Hong Kong on official church business and had wanted to meet with all the elders for instruction on hearing and being led by Father in Heaven. Without getting into detail on the entire meeting President Brown spoke for about an hour on his experiences with prayer and receiving answers. He explained that like D&C 8:2-3 he would receive an impression in his mind accompanied by a distinct physical feeling. President Brown taught that we should experiment on his words as instructed in Alma 32 and determine with God’s assistance what physical sensations accompany our individual answers to prayer. The time was then turned over to Bishop Brown and he shared the following.
He had flown to Hong Kong to transact business between the church and the government of Hong Kong. Bishop Brown stayed in a hotel just down the street from the tall government tower. All the buildings in downtown Hong Kong were sky scrapers and the streets were like giant canyons. The morning of the meeting he went down to the street level early with the intent of casually walking the short distance to the meeting. As he began to walk he passed an antique book store and felt the spirit impress him to go in and look around. As he entered there was a very young school girl behind the counter who communicated in broken English that her father would be down shortly. Without assistance he perused the shelves hoping to discover why he felt so strongly impressed to enter this shop. He could ascertain nothing of importance here. After spending no small amount of time seeking, and drawing close to the time of his meeting, he determined possibly it had been a misunderstanding on his part so he courteously exited back to the street. Now somewhat in a hurry to reach the government tower he glanced up toward the tower and saw to his dismay that one of the lower floors has smoke streaming from broken windows and emergency crews were arriving! A portion of the building was on fire! What might have happened if he had not been delayed by the spirit and spent the time to peruse the shelves of the book store? We may never know because Bishop Brown listened. The spirit whispered accompanied by a physical sensation that Bishop Brown was familiar with and he was spared from whatever danger, inconvenience or discomfort that may have been waiting had he not been familiar with the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.
Many more talks were given with instruction on prayer, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the order of prayer, the ways we can be answered; whether whisperings, through other people (parents, leaders, speakers, etc.), from the scriptures, by visions or dreams, each way always accompanied by the physical sensations we can learn to recognize; whether peace, a burning in the bosom, a sensation down the spine, a euphoric sensation, etcetera.
At the close of 2 days of meetings we were given a challenge. For one week intently focus on prayer. Daily read and study every aspect of prayer and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, daily experiment on the word, pray and ask for greater understanding, pray frequently throughout each day and practice listening and acting on the answers, follow the thoughts and feelings given as long as they didn’t contradict the teachings of the gospel. Most importantly at the end of one week we were to culminate the experiment by kneeling and expressing our desires to God detailing all we had done to learn and act, all the experiences we had experienced, and ask specifically for a knowledge and confirmation of what we would feel as we received both positive and negative confirmation to questions we would pose in prayer. We were promised that if we would act in faith, nothing wavering, we would receive an answer and we would have a tool that would benefit us throughout our live.
Elder Taft and I stood outside of the small corner store. It was a hot, sunny summer day and all morning we had been out in the sun, tracting and following up on call backs. Now we were both thirsty and as we passed the shop, felt impressed to stop and get a cold soft drink. In the interest of pursuing the challenge made by Bishop Brown, and in an effort to experiment on prayer and listen for the whisperings of the spirit, we walked into the alley beside the store and standing, asked in prayer if our desires for refreshment at this time were due to our physical appetites or a prompting by the spirit to act upon. No impressions came. However, as this appetite was not in opposition to the gospel or mission rules we continued the experiment and went inside to seek the desired refreshment. Again there were no specific feelings in our heart and nothing discernible occurred except for the fact that the orange soda was very refreshing and did lift our spirits. We had one more data point under our belts that proved that every physical sensation and appetite was not an anomaly of a spiritual nature.
We made every effort each morning to review our area map and ponder where we should go for the day. After deciding we would offer a prayer and ask for confirmation. If we thought a feeling of confirmation was lacking we would study the map some more, ponder, discuss and make another decision and repeat until we felt what we considered to be a response. Each day we became more focused on our thoughts and feelings and began to see more success by getting into more homes to teach. We were also beginning to think we recognized spirit directing us. Each day we would review our progress and pursue greater light and knowledge through prayer and listening.
Friday morning final arrived. This was the final day of our challenge. Tonight, following a sincere day of the days before, we would kneel in prayer and ask Father for that more sure knowledge that we had been striving to acquire. Just how do I personally recognize Thy voice and receive answers to my prayers?
Friday morning was past. We had returned home and following lunch we consulted the map in prayer. We were in total agreement. We needed to go across town to the far side of our area and knock doors there. We got off the bus and confirmed that in order to be home at the required “mission rule” time we had to catch the 8:00pm bus. Otherwise we would only have one last 8:00pm bus to catch that would drop us off a half mile from the house and would get us home possibly late and we definitely did not want to be late tonight.
At 7:00pm we were invited into the home of a young, newly married couple. They seemed sincere and were interested in hearing what we had to share. The first discussion went well and we thought we had time for the second so we began. The couple had no furniture so we sat on the floor, which was not uncommon in Thailand. However, for 2 young American missionaries, the affect of 2 hours cross legged on the floor was soon to be discovered. It was 5 minutes before 8:00pm. We said a hasty prayer with the family and then as politely but as quickly as possible we arose to head for the bus stop. It was only a block or two down the street. As we arose, we discovered that our legs were nearly useless. The blood flow had been disrupted for so long that our legs were asleep. We tried to rub life into our lifeless legs as we stumbled for the bus stop but to our chagrin we were hobbled, and before we could get to the bus stop the 8:00pm bus had come and gone.
We had been so diligent throughout the week, obeying every rule and commandment with strictness so that we might be worthy to receive what we desired. Now we were going to be hard pressed to get home in time. But, we still had hope and a determination. We figured together that if we ran home from the bus stop a ½ mile from our home that we could still make it within the mission handbook guide lines.
Before the bus had even pulled to a full stop we baled of and began running. In Thailand all the city busses did not have doors. It was dusk and growing dark as we made our way through the maze of evening bustle. Out of breath we entered the narrow alley like street that 6 blocks from the entrance dead ended in our home. It was like entering a box canyon made of steel and concrete. On both sides of the 10 foot wide street were ground floor shops, closed up for the night with steel accordion folding gates across the entire shop fronts. All light was blocked from the street except from the 2nd floor above each shop where living quarters were situated. The 2nd floor windows provided next to no light as we hurried toward home.
Half way into this city box canyon and almost home the hair on my neck stood up and I felt suddenly accosted by nervous feelings and a heightened sense of alertness. Ahead of us one of the store front accordion gates was slightly open and dim light spilling out seemed to be screaming “be aware”. Elder Taft had slowed his pace as well and with mixed feelings of wanting to hurry home but tense wariness, we pressed against the opposite wall as we prepared to scurry by. Just as we were adjacent to the opening a figure darted out, looking up and down the dark street. Clutching a long knife in one hand, he seemed just as startled at seeing two men blocking his exit to the street as we were at his sudden appearance. Menacingly he waved the knife in our direction as he darted past and toward the entrance of the small one way street. As he fled another man stumbled out of the entrance clutching his stomach and slumping to the ground.
We quickly assessed the situation, realizing this man was quickly bleeding to death. He said the man who fled had been in his shop/house with his wife when he arrived home and he had been deeply cut in the ensuing altercation. Fear and wariness were past and I shouted to Elder Taft to run to the main street and hail a cab to act as an ambulance while I went inside to find something to apply to the wound to stop the bleeding. As I entered the shop I noticed the half dressed wife crouching in the shadows. I demanded she quickly bring a towel and then get dressed to accompany her husband to the hospital. Taking the towel I rushed back outside and applied pressure as best possible to reduce the flow of blood while Elder Taft returned with a taxi. We helped load the victim into the cab with his wife and sent them off.
What an ordeal! And on top of it all we were now past our mission curfew. We quickly headed home and I volunteered to shower down stairs in the unheated bathroom with the intention that we could still be as obedient as possible and be ready for prayers and bed by the scheduled time.
As I entered the shower an unreasonable but extremely powerful feeling of fear took me. It was becoming apparent to me that on the way home and even now the adversary was desperately trying to dissuade me from following through with Bishop Brown’s challenge. I rushed through the motions of showering and clothing and took the stairs 3 at a time as I rushed upstairs to the bedroom and adjoining bath room. Elder Taft must have hurried as well because he was kneeling at his bed. Not wanting to disturb him I turned to my bed across the room and knelt to perform the final portion of the challenge.
Father in Heaven, I have had an eye opening week, learning much about prayer but desiring to understand more. Tonight has been unsettling to say the least. It feels like Satan is doing all in his power to keep me from fulfilling this challenge. President Brown and Bishop Brown have promised us that if we righteously and in faith fulfill this challenge that You will reveal Thy method of communicating to me. This is my desire. On many occasions this week I have had thoughts accompanied by feelings that I think I am beginning to recognize. I want to know both how You answer in the affirmative as well as in the negative. Will Thou now again fill me with this feeling of affirmation that I may have a more sure witness?
As I said this the most peaceful feeling started in my chest and slowly washed over my body. All my earlier fears were swept away and replaces with peace and joy. I felt a tangible, comfortable pressure in my chest and abdomen. It caused my head to swim slightly. I felt nearly euphoric as I was wrapped in the loving arms of my Heavenly Father. I wanted to savor this feeling, to memorize it as it manifest in many of my emotions and feelings. I reviewed many of the experiences of the week recognizing this feeling, but to a much lesser extent, as I sought to find answers to prayer. After a few minutes I was now anxious to know how Father would express His disapproval or negation of my questions in prayer.
Father, I am grateful for the powerful witness you have given me regarding my recognition of Your affirmation of my prayers. It is wonderful. Thank You! Now, will Thou witness to me that I might recognize what I will feel if it is Thy desire to express disapproval or a negation of my questions to Thee in prayer.
Immediately I was seized upon again with a powerful uncomfortable feeling that I would describe as fear, or fearful butterflies in my stomach. I felt that I was paralyzed by an unseen force. As powerful and sweet as was the initial witness, just as powerful and awful was the feeling and emotion of this witness. However, the fear intensified and in a panic I opened my eyes and peered across the room into the corner across from me. To my great horror and fright I saw a personage of darkness who seemed to be taking satisfaction in my pain at the moment. Somehow it penetrated my mind that I could call upon Father and He would send this personage away so I bowed my head and began to earnestly plead for deliverance. After some time, peace was restored but the remembrance of the fear of the moment remained even after I crawled into bed and continued to pray until I fell asleep.
I awoke the next morning a different person. I now knew that “my” Heavenly Father heard me. I knew He could answer me as I spoke with Him. I knew He had revealed Himself to me! I had received greater light and knowledge. I knew there was an opposite power to His but I knew His power was greater than the adversaries.
My life has never been the same. Despite the fact that my life still had major ups and downs I knew and could not deny it.
At 55 years of age I realize that there is so much more to learn. My journey has continued and I have had other even greater experiences that I have shared or will share with you in the future. Please believe that you too can experience similar things. You can come to know. Don’t give up because you think you are less and could never be worthy. Don’t be so hard on yourself, just believe. That is what the Book of Mormon story is about, ordinary people coming to Christ and receiving him if they are willing to make the effort.