Ever since I was a young adult, Lead, Kindly Light has been my favorite hymn. I remember clearly sitting in the Cambridge, Massachusetts chapel with my life in tatters. I had just broken up with the person I was certain I was going to marry. It wasn’t the first time either. Once I had made it all the way to a week before my wedding before it was called off. And there were many other times, many other stories. My son has made an epic tale of my single years.
I remember having a sense of peace and well-being enter my heart as I sang “Keep though my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene—one step enough for me.” My life since that time has not stopped taking bizarre twists and turns. I have made Nephi’s words my theme: “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” (1 Nephi 4:6)
So far, I haven’t been told to slice off anyone’s head, but some of the things that have happened as I attempted to follow the spirit have been very surprising. Little did I know, as I sat in that chapel that I had already met my husband. In great confusion after this most recent breakup, I had pleaded with the Lord to tell me where I should go and what I should do—a very common plea from single adults. The answer I got was a surprising one: “Do missionary work.”
I was to be a bridesmaid at my Stanford roommate’s wedding. Neither she, nor any of the other friends who were attending, were LDS. I decided I was going to go to the wedding in Chicago and be a missionary. I talked to everyone about the gospel. And then, there was the extremely handsome young man who came up and introduced himself, champagne glass in hand. He was so attractive to me that I dared not look him in the eye. I stared at his tie knot. It was the seventies. The tie was pink striped with orange and blue.
Somehow I contrived to bring our conversation around to the gospel. I bore my testimony to him. After all, I was never going to see him again, was I? What did it matter what he thought of me? What I said to him must have sounded very strange as he had never met another LDS person in his life before. But I had succeeded in impressing myself on his mind, for when I returned to Boston, I got a letter from him. It was somewhat odd—I vaguely recall Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot being mentioned, together with a trip to the zoo.
As I tried to put my fractured social life together, this man called David continued to write. While months passed, we developed a friendship and I considered him my missionary project. I moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue my Master’s Degree. By then we were writing nearly every day. Then the phone calls started, soon to be followed by visits. Before I knew where I was, nine months after meeting this person I was in love with a non-member. Missionary work, indeed.
To make a long story short, he invited me to move to Chicago to write my master’s thesis. I consulted the Lord, but the only answer I ever got was “Live the Gospel.” So, I told him that I would move to Chicago only if he would consent to take the missionary lessons. He consented readily. As it turned out, ten minutes into the first discussion on the First Vision, he was converted. He absolutely knew it was true—this highly sophisticated, highly intellectual man in my life. I was bowled over. And, of course, we were married. We still are, after thirty-eight eventful years.
The next unexpected bend in the road came when he was three years out of Law School. (I had put him through after we had married, using my ever-handy Master’s degree.) We were led by a series of very strange circumstances to leave the bright lights of California behind and move to a tiny town in Southwest Missouri with our two-year old son. We didn’t know why. The town didn’t even have a bookstore! Our Stake Center was Joplin, forty miles away. Yep. The same Joplin that was just destroyed in the worst tornado in recorded history of North America.
Shortly after moving there, my husband was called to be bishop. Then he was called to be in the Stake Presidency. We thought we knew why we were there and where we were going, but suddenly, after five years, the Stake President told David that he was impressed to release him, but he didn’t know why. Before the end of the year, I was far away in the mental hospital, with serious depression. My husband was desperately needed at home with our three children.
It was to be many, many years before I was well. But there were times when the illness was less severe, and during those times I was very creative. I published three books and started many more which I left housed in my computer when my illness grew incapacitating.
Eventually, by following our strange journey together, we ended up in Provo, where I had the wonderful blessing of the temple. I also had an LDS therapist for the first time, who helped me greatly. My Kindly Light was telling me that I needed to take up my writing again. I was so ill, it was as though my head were covered by a cast iron pot and no thoughts could get out. I tried to write, but it was impossible. (My newest novel, Foggy with a Chance of Murder was actually written then. When I got well, I decided it wasn’t so bad after all. I revised it in a couple of weeks and now it is in the number 6 spot of DB’s fiction list!) Because my mind was so inelastic and so much of my memory had been destroyed, I grew angry. How was I supposed to follow this direction of the Spirit when I couldn’t physically or mentally do it?
Then David was made bishop again, and this time our Stake President, Thomas B. Griffith, had an agenda. We were to emphasize the atonement. I have told this story in other articles and in other places—but eventually, through the power of the atonement, I miraculously received the right medications and was healed from my depression. I was fifty-nine years old and never thought that day would come in this life.
My writing? I immediately found all those previously started books deep in the bowels of my computer where they had waited for thirteen years. Now, in the Lord’s time, I finally had something important to write about. I had learned one step at a time what the atonement really meant and what it really could do. It was a power I had never had any idea of until I went through the valley of the shadow of death.
I write now to bear witness of the reality of the atonement. My life is a testimony that if we follow the Spirit one step at a time, we will be led to the destiny the Lord has intended for us.
We must be willing, like the song says, to let one step be enough for us as we go into the darkness of uncertainty. The Kindly Light will guide us. And, I testify, we will be very surprised where it takes us.
Nothing could have surprised me more than if someone had told me six years ago that I would win an award for a book I had stuck in a drawer for many years—The Last Waltz. I have just completed my twelfth novel. I am now sixty-three years old, and the Lord has certainly aided me through his grace. Nine of those books have been written since my recovery. I testify that there is nothing too hard for the Lord.