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Monday, June 27, 2016

The Book of Mormon Verse That Brought Me Back to My Parents, Just in Time

I had a busy travel schedule in front of me a few days ago, starting with a flight from Shanghai on Friday through LA to Boise to attend a wedding there, then travel to two other parts of the US and then further travel in Europe, partly for work. Given the constraints we had on when we could leave and when we needed to be in various places, we didn't think there was any way to stop in Utah to see my parents. But last Monday I learned that my father was having increased health challenges, and when I awoke Tuesday morning, I wondered if I should try to find a way to add a few hours in Utah on my way to Boise (I had just spent time there two months ago). I prayed about it and felt that I should take a look at the Book of Mormon for possible guidance. I picked up my English/Chinese printing (a volume with three columns, one in English, one in Chinese characters, and one in Pinyin, the Romanization system for writing the pronunciation of the Chinese characters with the Latin alphabet) and flipped open to a random verse and read the Chinese of 1 Nephi 5:7, which in English reads:
And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted. 
In light of what has happened these past two days, I can't think of a more perfectly relevant verse in all of scripture to help me do what I needed to do. Finding that verse seemed a bit eerie, or rather, almost too direct, and made me feel that I needed to explore the possibility of making a change in my travel plans.

I quickly gave Delta Airlines a call. I normally would have given up when I heard that wait times to reach an operator were around 40 minutes. But I persisted.  Since the first few days of my travel to the US had been done using frequent flyer miles, there were a variety of restrictions on what I could do and what kind of changes I could make. I learned that changes had to be made more than 72 hours in advance of the first flight, and I was several hours too late. Mercifully, since that change was motivated by the desire to see an ill family member, a supervisor waived that restriction. There would be two other barriers to making the changes I wanted that required further approvals by a supervisor, but in the end, I was able to add a day in Utah and it only cost my an extra $5 in taxes.

I arrived Friday night, stayed overnight with a relative, and then walked into my parents' home at 9 AM on Saturday. I had previously told them I would show up Saturday, but they apparently were not clear on when. Moments before I showed up, a medical emergency had begun. My parents had just begun discussing whether to call 911 or to find someone else to take my father to the hospital. Their children in the area were either out of town traveling or had a funeral to attend that day and were unavailable.  Right as they were fretting over how to get to the hospital, I walked in. They saw this as a real blessing. I was able to get my father to the hospital and later bring my mother there several times.

Things looked pretty serious, with surgery as a possibility, so felt I needed more than a few hours in town. Delta again was extremely gracious in rerouting me. Wait times for this second call were said to be between 24 and 43 minutes, but proved to be 62 minutes--aargh! But I persisted, and once I reached one of the far too few humans manning the phones in customer service, they were extremely helpful again and helped me change my flights at no extra cost (customer service is awesome there, but I suspect that the beancounters don't value that service enough to hire the number of people needed to take the calls they get). I chose to skip the wedding completely while my wife was there to support her niece, and would just go directly from Salt Lake to our next family reunion stop in the Midwest. Meanwhile, I was able to help my parents in a variety of ways and felt that my time here was extremely worthwhile. My father repeatedly told me and others how happy it made him that I was able to show up as if on cue and be there to help and comfort both of them.

Today the health problem was largely under control and we were elated to learn that no high-risk surgery would be needed. My father will return home tomorrow, and I'll have a little more time to work on some other issues to help them here. Given that we didn't even think we would be able to stop in Salt Lake at all, to me it was a great blessing to be able to be here for a few days right when additional help was greatly needed. How kind of the Lord to help me stumble across a perfectly worded verse that would not only motivate me to make changes but would prove to be remarkably applicable to what would happen here.

The scriptures are not meant to be used as Ouija boards to make decisions, but on the other hand, when we prayerfully look for guidance, verses can take on new meaning as seek to apply them to ourselves, and sometimes the applicability can be very direct and helpful. Seeking for guidance from the Lord through scripture study is a wonderful companion to prayer and has blessed my life in many ways. In this case, a simple verse helped clarify what I needed to do and eventually helped my be in the right place at exactly the right time to bring comfort to my mother and my father.


James Anglin said...

It's true that Scripture isn't a Ouija board. And yet on the other hand all of life is a Ouija board, in a way.

Light hits our retinas, sound hits our ear drums, scents reach our nostrils, surfaces contact our skin. Much of that all that experience is beyond our conscious perception, or perceived only as noise. Much of what we do perceive consciously tells us about ordinary natural phenomena like sunshine, wind and rain. But some of the light that strikes our eyes shows us text that was written by other people; some of the air pressure waves on our eardrums convey words that other people speak.

Those other people are, or were, alive and active in the world. They exercised some measure of control over natural phenomena, in order to transmit some meaning to us. If the Word of God is also still alive and active in the world, then I think we should expect that some things we experience may be meaningful messages from God. Perhaps God speaks much more than we hear, in fact. It may be hard to hear God's voice above the noise, or to translate God's language. But sometimes, it seems clear.

Whatever else they are, the Scriptures are also part of God's world. So God might well speak to us through them, as much as through anything. And, once I look at this issue from this viewpoint, it only seems reasonable that the Scriptures might actually be an especially good channel through which God could speak to us. For one thing, the Scriptures mention a lot of different situations that are important to people. And of course religious people often spend a lot of time reading the Scriptures, and looking in them for messages from God. So when God does speak to us through the Scriptures, we may be listening better.

I don't think it's right to use Scripture as a magical oracle. I think that the way God speaks to us through Scripture is really the same way that God can speak to us in any experience we may have. Having said that, there are good reasons why Scripture may be an especially effective channel for God. What more could one ask, after all, from Scripture?

bearyb said...

Another great example of the "tender mercies" of the Lord!

And James - an interesting thought process.

There are good reasons why Scripture may be an especially effective channel for God.

In the Book of Mormon especially, and also in the Doctrine and Covenants, we are told that "these things" (the scriptures) are intended "for our profit and learning." Additionally, we are admonished to "feast" upon them. I think this has as much to do with our being familiar enough with them to know they can give us answers, as well as putting us into and helping us maintain a frame of mind where their teachings can be continually before us and provide us ongoing, constant direction.

An individual who consistently studies scripture with real intent will be in a different situation than that same person who does not.

Tim said...


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Tim L. Daugherty
Lincolnton, NC