In my last article, I presented the first half of a talk I was blessed to share at the Sidney B. Sperry Book of Mormon Symposium in 1990. This month, I am grateful to be able to share Part II of that address with you, but first I’d like to share a little of the context or what some might call “back-story” of that amazing experience.
On August 1, 1989—the day I submitted my proposal to Brother Monte Nyman, Chairman of the symposium for that year—I was a 40 year old housewife, struggling to keep a very troubled family together. My oldest daughter, Carolyn, had become involved with a group of other youth in the Orem, Utah area who were “acting out” in defiance toward their LDS upbringing. In other words, they had dropped all pretense of religious activity and had begun using alcohol, tobacco and other mood altering drugs. I had spent the last year doing all that I could do, using every approach, from gentle persuasion to every tough-love measure I could think of to pull my daughter back from the edge of the cliff on which she was already teetering. Knowing on both sides of our family, in her grandparents’ generation, there had been severe alcoholism, I spent a lot of time pleading with the Lord to turn aside my child from the very thin ice she was all but stomping on, daring it to break. I felt a lot like Nemo’s father in “Finding Nemo,” when Nemo leaves the safety of the reef and defiantly swims out to touch the boat he has been taught all his life to avoid at all costs. “Nemo! Nemo! Come back! Come back . . .”
In other words, 1989 had already been a rough year through which I had been trying to maintain my own recovery from a life-long dependency (addiction) to unhealthy eating behaviors. I can’t tell you how many times I had wanted to throw away my own “sobriety,” and just drown myself in excess “comfort” foods. It had only been through the grace (power) and guidance of my Savior Jesus Christ, conveyed to me from studying and likening the testimonies of the Book of Mormon prophets to my own life I had found the sanity to not relapse into my own form of “substance abuse.” During that year, I had read King Benjamin’s great discourse, identifying with every word. My daughter’s exercise of her own agency and my own inability to convince her of the danger of her choices had brought me, like the elder Alma to a place where all I could do was pray for God to intervene in her life. I knew what it felt like to face my own “nothingness,” and be brought down into the depths of humility in a way I had never before imagined. I had also had my eyes opened to see a message of such comfort and hope in King Benjamin’s address, where for years I had heard nothing but what I assumed was chastisement and commandment.
And so, against all odds—after all, I was “just” a housewife with only a high school education and absolutely zero public speaking experience beyond teaching Relief Society and giving a very occasional Sacrament Meeting talk—I composed the proposal letter the first day of August, 1989 and mailed it. Little did I know then I was only 3 ½ weeks from having to exercise total faith and trust in the goodness of God—that He has all wisdom and all power both in heaven and in earth and that He comprehends things I cannot comprehend—just as Benjamin pled with me to believe (Mosiah 4:9).
On August 26, 1989, on a Saturday evening, as I was in the middle of getting my youngest children bathed and ready for bed, there came a knock at my door that I was in no mood to answer. But one of my older children went to the door and came running back to the bathroom where I was bent over the tub washing my three-year-old’s hair, yelling, “Mom! Mom! Come quick. It’s a policeman and he wants to talk to you.”
As I stood on the last stair of my split-entry stairs, just above the entry floor and looked at the somber faces of not only a Utah Highway Patrolman, but also a member of my ward bishopric, framed by the gorgeous colors of the fading August sunset, I seemed to know what was coming. I knew it had to do with Carolyn. Still drying my hands on the towel I held in front of my tub-water wet waistline, I heard the Utah Highway Patrolman tell me he was sorry to inform me my daughter, (calling her by her entire legal name—first, middle, and last), had been killed several hours earlier in an automobile accident, north-bound on I-15. That’s when King Benjamin’s invitation to remember “the goodness of God and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience,” and to put my “trust in the Lord” even unto the “end of [this] life, . . . the life of the mortal body” really took hold in my heart. (See Mosiah 4:6.) It was the moment when the thoughts I hoped to share about King Benjamin’s message became a living reality for me—not just a theory.
And so it was when my letter of acceptance for my proposed presentation, “Benjamin’s Promises” came in the mail, several months later, the Lord had prepared me to bear testimony of something I knew from my own lived experience: That by cultivating a relationship of total trust of God in all things, we can find the gift to face even the hardest we can imagine. In this article I pray I can give adequate expression to my testimony that the actions itemized in Mosiah 4:12-16 are promises! Supernal promises which he knew he could make to those who would truly surrender themselves to the conditions he had just summarized in Mosiah 4:6-11.
First, before we explore the promises King Benjamin begins to make with these words, “If ye do this, ye shall . . . ,” let’s review the true principles of being in a right relationship with God that he has just summarized):