“Rosemary Petty,” Ensign, Nov. 1973, 61
Rosemary Roberts Petty writes from New Zealand her testimony that God’s commandments are given to us for our own good, especially the commandment to teach children to pray. (D&C 68:28.)
Eight-year-old Janet took her five-year-old brother, David, out for a picnic one sunny winter afternoon, telling me they were going to the “jungle,” a favorite haunt on the skirts of the bush.
At 5:30 P.M. it was dark. Their father and brother searched for them without success in the jungle and through the village. Soon our neighbors had joined the search.
Meanwhile, Janet and David had long since realized they were lost. Janet had led them to “Lover’s Point,” deep in the bush. The low-hung trees made them feel uneasy, and they decided to finish their picnic elsewhere, but Janet discovered she did not know the way out. After trying a few wrong trails, they returned to Lover’s Point.
They waited to be rescued for three hours, two of them in darkness. “It seemed like a year,” Janet later recalled.
The next day when it was light we went to see the nighttime refuge. Our knees grew weak as we surveyed the spot. They had waited on three sloping feet of slippery soil and dry pine needles above a 50-foot drop into the icy waters of a rolling river. A false step in panic in a desperate attempt to get home … my throat grew dry.
But the children had not panicked. They had prayed. “We prayed three times,” David said in testimony meeting on Sunday.
The act of prayer may have been in itself their salvation—concentrating on prayer, they had no time to panic. Thinking of their Heavenly Father, they did not imagine monsters in the dark.
They heard voices calling later, but their weaker shouts were inaudible above the sound of the river. They wept then in disappointment, but there was no hysteria. Instead, they scooped a bed and prepared to spend the night; but an older boy, who was helping in the search, threaded his way through the jungle and found them there.
It might be dramatically complete to end the story here, but it would not be factually complete. For in addition to learning to pray, the children had learned other family lessons.
A year before, there had been a family home evening lesson that included suggestions on what to do if lost. Janet and David had not paid more than their usual attention, yet Janet had remembered that when lost “we must stay where we are and not get more lost.” They planned to eat only one sandwich and save the rest so they could have one each day. Janet knew water was more important than food, and they had none. “Otherwise,” she said, “we weren’t worried.”
Another lesson, a special one preparing for Janet’s baptism and confirmation, had focused on the Holy Ghost’s ability to bring to their remembrance things they needed to know. Their prayers on that ledge are secret between them and their Father in heaven, but as we waited at home, I had fervently petitioned that the children would know what to do.
Prayers are not answered in a vacuum. The commandment that our Heavenly Father had given us to teach our children to pray may have saved their lives; so, perhaps, had the commandment to hold family home evening.