The Balky Car Conversion

“The Balky Car Conversion,” Ensign, Oct. 1992, 45–47

The Balky Car Conversion

“Not again! Can’t it go any faster?” We sighed impatiently as our station wagon slowed to a tortuously slow speed on the steep mountain road. “We might all have to get out and push,” teased my husband, Ken.

What a way to begin our family’s first vacation trip to Disneyland! Earlier we had purchased a clunky secondhand station wagon with which to tow our travel trailer from our home in Illinois to California and back.

As we piled into the car with our daughters Gwynne and Carol, ages eleven and twelve, I was surprised to hear Ken suggest we say a prayer for a safe journey. I had never heard him mention prayer in our fifteen years of marriage. I felt something special as we all closed our eyes and he prayed aloud. I hadn’t expected this—how exciting it was to hear him pray!

I was a member of the Methodist church, and Ken, a Christian Scientist, rarely attended services with me or at his own church. I often looked enviously at families worshipping together, seated side by side at church, and I prayed that we might someday worship as a family.

As we started our trip and drove down the expressway in Chicago, we were shocked when our car suddenly swerved out of control and pulled from side to side on the busy highway. With amazing calmness, Ken managed to slow the car and trailer down and bring us safely to the side of the road. As we came to a halt, one of our daughters remarked, “Daddy, I’m glad you prayed before we left!”

Unfortunately, we soon found that the repair of one of our wheels was only the first of many car problems we would encounter on our westward trek.

On one of many long waits for the servicing of our ailing station wagon, we visited a religious bookstore. The girls spotted a book titled Morning Devotions and insisted that we buy it. From that time on, we started each day by reading an inspirational message aloud from this book. We began developing what later turned into a daily family prayer.

Our car broke down again in Montana, and we had to wait a week for the delivery of a car part. “Mom, do you think we will ever get to Disneyland?” wondered one of my girls. Though I reassured them, I began to have serious doubts myself.

Finally, our car was repaired. As I paid the proprietor for the rental of our trailer space and mentioned where we were headed, he said to me, “Well, that’s a nice road you’ll be taking—a good highway—and you won’t meet another car for miles around!”

That night I was awakened by the words ringing in my ears over and over again—“You won’t meet another car for miles around!” What if our car broke down again on that lonely highway? Was there a better route we could take?

I took out my flashlight and studied the map and the travel guide. An alternate route would be to go through Salt Lake City; it seemed to be a more heavily traveled road. Maybe we could even hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir if we went that way.

After praying about the decision, I felt less worried and went back to sleep. When I suggested the change of plans the next morning, there were no objections, so we proceeded on to Salt Lake City.

Our journey there was smooth, with no mechanical problems until we drove into a trailer camp at the edge of town—then car trouble was with us again. The engine overheated, and we were stuck.

We managed to find transportation and get to Temple Square in time to hear the Tabernacle Choir, and we were thrilled with it. Afterward, as we joined a tour at the Sea Gull Monument, I noticed that the girls and Ken were eagerly following every word the guide said.

I felt somewhat indifferent at first, but gradually the thought went through my head that this truly was a great church. Never did I doubt the Joseph Smith story as it was told to me.

We spent three days in Salt Lake City waiting for car parts. Each day the mechanic would drive us to the center of town so we could continue our sight-seeing. For some reason, all of us were led back to the Temple Square visitors’ center again and again. The girls watched Man’s Search for Happiness so many times they practically had the lines memorized.

One night we saw Promised Valley, a play performed, in those days, on an outdoor stage directly across from Temple Square. I had an unusual feeling as the drama concluded and the lights of the temple, which had been dimmed, suddenly sprang into beautiful brilliance. This symbolized to me the new brightness that had come into my life through the knowledge I had gained.

After three days, our car was ready. Even the mechanic had impressed us. He described the Church in glowing terms, and we wanted to know more. His honesty and thoughtfulness in dealing with us also added to our favorable impression of the Church.

Finally, we were on our way to Disneyland. But just before crossing the Nevada border, we had car trouble once again. So we turned back to Salt Lake City and to our friendly mechanic. The car repair would take several days.

On our last day in Salt Lake City, we went on a final tour of the visitors’ center. We looked at all the exhibits again, lingering until it was time for the building to close. I saw that one of the guides had Ken and the girls engaged in conversation. Carol came up to me and exclaimed, “Mommy, wouldn’t you like to be a Mormon?”

For some reason I was all choked up. With tears in my eyes, I replied, “Yes, I think I would.”

Ken and the guide came over to meet me. Embarrassed by my display of tears, I shook his hand and turned away from him. I was still reluctant; I really loved my own church, and I didn’t want to leave it. I resisted his soft-spoken words concerning the gospel. But as the guide drove us back to our trailer, I realized I did want to know more about this remarkable church.

Because of our car troubles, we had to give up our Disneyland visit, but our trip home was free of problems. Our girls had memorized the song “Come, Come, Ye Saints” and sang it over and over during the drive home.

A few months later, two elders came to our home, following up on a referral from Temple Square. I greeted them, saying, “Come in. We’ve been waiting for you.”

Some people say we were “instant Mormons” because we accepted the truths of the Church without question. We were soon baptized. My prayers that my family might someday worship together, sitting side by side in a chapel, were finally answered.

  • Prior to her death in 1984, Marjorie Spiecker and her husband, Ken, lived in the St. George First Ward, St. George Utah Stake.

Illustrated by Doug Fryer