The Day Everything Changed

I woke up that day just like any Saturday morning, feeling pretty good about life. I had a good job, a nice house, a calling I liked in church, and most of all, an amazing wife and kids. I started the day with my customary bowl of cereal and then headed out toward the church where I was to meet other people who were going to help set up for a ward picnic that would be held later that day.

I had no idea that my life was about to change forever, or that I would soon begin the worst experience of my life. I could not have imagined that in a few minutes I was going to feel more alone than I ever knew was possible.

After a few blocks of driving, I noticed a minivan that was following close behind me. As I made a turn onto a main road, the van started to flash blue and red lights. It did not look like a typical police car, so it surprised me, but I pulled over. The officer in regular clothes came to my window and asked me my name. After I told him, he asked me to step out and he immediately handcuffed me. I was in shock. This was so unlike anything I had ever experienced. It soon became clear to me that my past mistakes were catching up with me and I was about to be held accountable in a big way.

As I started to process all that was happening in those first couple of hours, I came to a decision that the only option I had was to take my own life. I quickly planned how I would bail myself out, take the necessary steps to give messages to my family, and then how I would end it all. As soon as I was transferred to the jail and had a chance to make a phone call, I called a bail office to start my plan. Fortunately, to bail out I would need somebody to co-sign for me and I wasn’t willing to call anybody to let them know about what was going on.

I sat in that holding cell and felt so empty. I tried to figure out another way to make my plan work. I didn’t pray because at that point of my life, I felt that I was plenty capable of handling my own problems without troubling Heavenly Father. Thankfully, He came to me anyway. I sat on the bench and was suddenly filled with a warm feeling of peace. I can still even remember the spot on the wall I was staring at when this feeling hit me. It made no sense. I was in this horrible situation and I knew my life was never going to be the same, yet I had the thought come to mind that everything was going to be ok. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know what was going to happen. But there was no denying that peaceful feeling that all would be well.

I am glad that at that moment I did not know the anguish I would go through the next year or so. I could not imagine the pain that was going to be felt by me and those I had hurt directly and indirectly. If I had known what I was going to go through, I don’t know if that peaceful feeling would have provided enough comfort. Heavenly Father knew what I needed at that time and sent the Spirit to save me. Since that moment, even in my greatest moments of despair, I have never again considered ending it all. Looking back, I have come to see that from the very moment this apparent nightmare started, Heavenly Father was helping me, guiding me, and carrying me.

From that feeling of peace, came a determination to take the next step. So I grabbed the phone book and started looking in the Yellow Pages for a lawyer. I don’t know if you have ever looked, but I imagine that in whatever city you are in, there are a ton of attorneys with ads in the Yellow Pages. I had no idea how I was going to choose a lawyer, so for the first time that day, I said a prayer. I prayed that I would be led to the lawyer that would be best for me. I tried a couple of the first ads I saw and because it was a Saturday, I wasn’t able to get in touch with anyone.

I continued to scroll through the ads and after skipping over several of them, my eyes landed on one in particular. There was nothing flashy or special about this ad, but without hesitation, I picked up the phone and dialed. The lawyer answered and, although the conversation was brief, I felt instantly at ease. It was only a couple hours later when he showed up to visit me for the first time. He did not say anything overly comforting, and he didn’t try to sugarcoat anything. But as he left, I felt that calm assurance again and knew that he was the one to be my lawyer.

As the next year went on, this decision was confirmed to me over and over again. While he was a good lawyer and helped represent me legally, the reason he was to be my lawyer was much more than that. In some of my darkest moments, he showed up to visit me. He not only worked as my lawyer, but ended up filling roles as my therapist, advisor, and friend. He worked with my family and gave them continued support as well. He even came to visit me on holiday weekends because he knew I would be having a tough time. He did not do this because of money. He did it because he cared. I know for sure that he was the best lawyer for me.

Out of all the lawyer ads I could have responded to, I know that I received that guidance from Heavenly Father because I had reached out to Him in prayer. That was the first of many, many experiences that helped me gain a testimony of the principle that Heavenly Father is aware of every detail of my life, and will help me and guide me if I am willing to ask, and willing to listen.

My life and the lives of many others were forever changed that day, but that day was just the turning point. The problems started years before, as I made the decisions that I did. In the moment, I never would have thought that day would be the moment things changed for the positive, but it was. If not for that day, I would still be a believer of Satan’s lies, and I would be heading toward a very dark place eternally. Since then, there have been a lot of difficult moments, and the challenges are far from over. However, I am grateful that everything changed that day. That is the day my heart started to change, my spirit started to heal, and my soul began the process of being saved.

Lie #10 – Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are Too Busy to be Involved in Most Aspects of My Life

I have felt divine intervention in many major aspects of my life.  I felt guided in decisions regarding family and career choices. I feel I have served in callings, including my mission location, that were truly inspired.  However, when it comes to the smaller details of my life, I felt that those were in my own hands. Not only did this lead to the pride described before which doesn’t acknowledge divine help, but it allowed me to justify events in my life as not mattering.  It also prevented me from seeing the importance of seeking the Lord’s will in many decisions.

Elder Ronald Rasband has taught the truth regarding this topic: “Our lives are like a chessboard, and the Lord moves us from one place to another—if we are responsive to spiritual promptings.  Looking back, we can see His hand in our lives.” Believing this lie made me not notice these spiritual promptings. Elder Rasband continues and teaches us that Christ is in the small details of our lives as well as the major milestones.  Even our trials are guided by Him and are for our good as taught in Doctrine and Covenants 122:7: ” . . . if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” 

Once I started becoming aware of this truth, I was able to identify the daily, if not hourly, interventions in my life.  Seeing that He cares for me that much and is that aware of my life, gives me new faith in the ability to seek His will and accept it, even if it goes against what I want or feel is best.  Realizing this truth helps me move toward being able to say and honestly feel the expression in Hymn #134 which says, “I believe in Christ, so come what may.” Their divine involvement in my life is just another evidence of the love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for us.

What are some ways you notice divine guidance in even the smaller aspects of day to day life?

Lie #9 – Having the Gospel Brings Peace

This may seem like a true statement, but once again, partial truths can be deceiving.  I often heard people going through trials which seemed huge to me talk about how they were able to receive peace from the gospel.  I never really felt that peace the way I thought I should. I even taught on my mission that if people heard the gospel, they would have a new peace come into their lives, even though I had not personally felt it.  Since being compelled to humility, I have changed the way that I live. Still far from perfect, but earnestly trying, I have felt the peace others have spoken of, even in the midst of a period of my life with many unknowns in the future.  I realized that the word that causes this to be a lie is “having”. For having the gospel can bring a certain level of peace, but living the gospel is what leads us to the comfort offered by the Holy Ghost.  Hymn #14 starts, “Sweet is the peace the gospel brings”, but it doesn’t stop there.  It completes that sentence with “to seeking minds and true.” I need to do my part and not just have the gospel in order to experience this peace.

Several months after I was incarcerated, fires raged through our area and demolished entire neighborhoods.  Over 5,000 homes were destroyed. Due to my limited contact with the outside world, I did not know if my house had been burned.  I knew my family had been evacuated and was given information both that my neighborhood had been burned and that it had not been burned.  For nearly two days, I didn’t know. Yet I felt an incredible peace. I didn’t worry at all about our things and knew that as long as my family was ok, we would be fine.  I didn’t even feel stress about not knowing. This experience showed me the peace I had heard others describe and made me realize that living the gospel truly does bring sweet peace.

What differences have you noticed in your life between simply having the gospel and living the gospel? I look forward to reading your experiences.