“Waking from the Nightmare,” Ensign, July 1980, 54–55
If anyone had told me I could suffer such deep despair and still go on living after my husband was killed in a car accident, I never would have believed them. We had been so much in love; we lived for each other and for our children, and now all our plans and dreams had vanished. I was left with three children under six, the baby born six months after my husband’s death. And I was an atheist. I was living a nightmare I couldn’t seem to escape.
Three days after Danny died, I saw him very vividly in a dream. Walking through busy streets in pouring rain, he looked miserable, but he said, “I am not dead; I am still alive.” Imagine my joy! Yet when I awoke and realized it was just a dream, I was again plunged into deep despair.
During the months following his death I sought consolation in frequent visits with pastors and missionaries from various religious faiths. They tried to assure me there was a God and life after death; yet none of them could tell me whether I would be with my husband again. In fact, some were so negative about it that I was glad to be an atheist. My comfort was in eighty cigarettes a day, numerous cups of tea and coffee, and alcohol. Eighteen months went by, and I was still lost and lonely.
Then one warm afternoon in May 1973, two young Mormon missionaries knocked on my door. I resented Bible pushers, but they were friendly, and they seemed so happy. That night they showed me the film Man’s Search for Happiness, and I told them I wished I could believe in something like that, especially the part where the man died and was welcomed into the spirit word by his loved ones. The elders bore strong testimonies of the truthfulness of this doctrine, and told me that if I would continue to listen and pray, I could know the truth for myself. I was dubious, but I agreed to have them come and tell me about the Book of Mormon.
During the two days before their visit, I talked myself out of listening to them any more and decided I’d pretend to be out when they called; but they came an hour early and caught me by surprise. After a short lesson on Lehi they left me the Book of Mormon, and I promised to read it. This was no great hardship, since one of my greatest loves is reading. So I read First Nephi.
When Sunday rolled around, I wasn’t too eager to attend Church, but my children were excited about Sunday School since they had never been to one before. So we went. The family spiritual presentation was on work for the dead, and this was beyond belief. In Sunday School someone mentioned Brigham Young and polygamy. In the car afterwards I lit a cigarette and resolved never to go again.
Yet that evening, after the children were in bed, I read the Joseph Smith pamphlet again. “Why should he make it up?” I wondered. Then I picked up the Book of Mormon and became so engrossed in Second Nephi I couldn’t put it down. It was after midnight when I decided to pray and ask my Heavenly Father if there really was life after death. I so badly wanted to know. That night in a dream I saw my husband again, but this time he was dressed in white, the sun was shining, and he stood in a beautiful green field surrounded by trees and flowers. Again he told me that he was alive, that there was life after death. I was amazed.
The next night I read 260 pages of the Book of Mormon, and then I prayed, asking my Heavenly Father if it was true. Early in the morning I awoke; the room seemed bright, somehow warm and happy, and I was filled with the Holy Ghost so strongly that I burned from head to toe. A scripture from Second Nephi kept going through my mind, the one that told about a seer being raised up whose name would be Joseph, after his father and after Joseph of old. (2 Ne. 3:14–15.) I read that scripture again, and when I prayed I knew Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon was true. I was so happy I wanted to run outside and find the missionaries to tell them the good news.
That night they taught me about the Word of Wisdom, and I was sure I could never break the habits I had acquired. I had smoked one cigarette after another all the time they were teaching me. But they told me they knew without a shadow of a doubt that I could do it, and they prayed with me. When they left, they took my cigarettes with them, and I have never wanted a cigarette since that day. Truly, the Lord does answer prayers!
Just seventeen days after these two wonderful young men knocked on my door, I was baptized, and there has never been a doubt in my mind that what I did was right. I have received my patriarchal blessing, and its blessings and promises delight my soul. I have been sealed to my husband in the temple and had our children sealed to us, and I have a testimony that Danny has accepted the work and grows daily in the gospel as he waits for us.
The Savior said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28, 30.) I know this is true! I have been in the depths of despair, and I know that if I stay faithful in the gospel I will soar to the peaks of happiness, for the Lord has given me back my hope.