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Growing up in my early life I always believed in God. When I was eight years old I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I loved church. I loved the feelings that I felt there and the friends that I made. When I was 10 years old, I moved to a large cattle ranch near Orlando, Florida (Deseret Ranch). It was there that learned how to hunt wild hogs. These were not the normal little pink pigs everyone thinks of, these pigs had a thick black coat of hair, they had tusks that they always kept sharp, razor sharp teeth, and they are not afraid to fight anything in their path. They are commonly known as Florida feral hogs or boars.
Most people thought we were crazy when we hunted these dangerous feral hogs. We rarely used a gun, and we rarely killed the pigs. We would usually catch them with our bare hands and our trusted dogs and then sell them alive to our ranch manager who in turn sold them to nearby ranchers who later released them for hunting purposes on private lands.
It was a dangerous yet fun activity during my teen years. However, many times I witnessed my friends being rushed to the hospital after being attacked by these wild hogs. I knew it was a risk for my own life. But it was this risk that later saved my spiritual life. When I turned 13, I stopped attending church anymore. I thought it was long and boring. I thought it would be better if I could just go fishing or even go catch the vicious wild pigs. Eventually I stopped reading my scriptures and then I even stopped praying.
One day, just after Christmas, I finally decided that there was no God. I still went to church and told people I believed but only because I was afraid of their reaction if they heard I was a nonbeliever. I went on with my normal life, but kept my atheism a secret. Many things happened to me during this time that I didn’t recognize as miracles. I was attacked many times by cows and bulls on the ranch in such a way that I should have been injured. Several times I came face to face with large 8 to 12 foot alligators and they did nothing to harm me.
Many times I was in a dangerous situations where I should have been severely hurt but I was always able to walk away with just a few scratches. I never recognized these experiences as miracles until after the incident with a large boar.
When I was 16 years old I decided to go pig hunting all by myself. I would go just with my dog named Blue. My dog and I had caught many pigs together over the years and I always thought I would never get hurt. One day Blue and I caught a really large boar. My guess is that it weighed about 250 to 300 pounds. It was so heavy that I couldn’t drag it back home or even into the woods. I decided to just tie it up there and have a good friend of mine pick it up later with his truck.
After about five days I called my friend to see if he had picked up the pig. He told me he had not found the time and that I should just go kill it. I agreed, so I grabbed my knife. I knew my dog would give me trouble if I brought her along so I decided to lock her up in her pen. After securing the dog’s pen, I walked half a mile to where I had left the pig tied up. When I walked up to the hungry boar, I felt compassion for it, so I decided for the first time in my life to let the pig go free. I did not expect what happened next.
After cutting the rope, I found myself thrown violently to the ground. When I opened my eyes, there was the large boar right on top of me, trying to kill me. I had dropped my knife and I couldn’t move. I thought I was going to die. I accepted this fact and I thought of my family and I hoped that they at least would find my body before the buzzards did. The boar tilted its head and swung it down to cut my throat with its razor sharp tusk. A black bur suddenly flew over my eyes and the heavy boar quickly jumped off of me. I looked up and there was my trusty dog Blue standing between me and the wild boar. Blue bravely fought the boar while protecting me and eventually scared it off into the woods.
I stood up confused. I thought I had locked Blue up securely in her pen. I walked home and looked at the dog’s pen. It was still securely locked. I was shocked. I thought this could only be a miracle. I tried to second guess myself trying to find a way Blue could have escaped from her pen (which had a roof). After a while I gave up. For the first time in two years I thought there might be a God.
The next day I went into the woods near my home to pray. I knelt down and I prayed to see if God was there. During this prayer I was overcome with a strong spiritual feeling. I felt as if someone had lifted me onto my feet. I felt loved and cared for. I felt God’s loving spirit. I cried with joy. I knew there was a God, I knew he loved me, and I knew that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s church restored on this earth. My eyes were opened and I saw how God had never forgotten me, even when I had forgotten Him. God loves and remembers all of us.
I will be forever grateful for the love that God had to save my life. I became active in the church again and I am now serving a full-time mission in the Las Vegas Nevada West Mission. I have so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving Season.
Elder Chris Walker