“A Last-Minute Change,” Ensign, Feb. 2007, 68–69
In November 2001 my younger sister was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. She was 45 years old and the mother of four sons, one serving a mission in Portugal. Immediately, her ward and stake in Arizona, as well as her family, began to fast and pray in her behalf. But before the end of May, the cancer had won the battle, and she fell into a coma. After we received priesthood blessings and prayed fervently, we decided to remove her from life support. The doctors assured us that her passing would be quick. But eight days later her status had remained the same, making each day long and grievous.
The previous few months had been a time of reflection for our family. We loved my sister, and although we understood the plan of salvation, it was difficult at times to have faith in the Lord that all would be well. Somehow we felt that if we had enough faith, my sister would be cured. So we questioned the power of that faith. We knew that Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers, but we were devastated by His answer and unable to feel at peace.
Our stake conference in Utah was scheduled for June 2, with a visit from an Area Seventy. Because of the number of members in the stake, stake conference was divided into two sessions. Our three sons who were attending a singles ward in the stake were assigned to the morning session. The rest of the family was to attend the afternoon session. My husband and I decided that attending the morning session as a family would be best. Shortly after we made that decision, however, my husband and I were invited to offer the prayers for the afternoon session. So we changed our plans.
During the Saturday evening session of conference, we noted a change. Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Seventy had been assigned to our conference at the last minute, replacing the Area Seventy.
On Sunday afternoon Elder Clayton began by saying he felt impressed to completely change his talk. The Spirit told him he needed to speak to a family present that day. I immediately sensed that he would be speaking to our family. He told of a stake president whose wife was diagnosed with cancer. After much prayer and fasting by family members, friends, and members of her stake, she had fully recovered.
Elder Clayton then talked about another stake president, one whose wife had died of cancer during his service as stake president. She left several small children in his care. Many people had also fasted and prayed for her recovery. This story was particularly touching to Elder Clayton because this woman was his wife’s only sister.
Elder Clayton went on to explain that no matter how much faith is exercised at times like these, sometimes the answer is no. Then he read what has become one of our family’s favorite scriptures, Daniel 3:17–18:
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
“But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (emphasis added).
Elder Clayton did not speak of any doctrine that was new to us that afternoon. But a miracle happened that left us in awe. The Lord made sure we would be in attendance during the afternoon session by inspiring someone to ask us to pray. He also arranged for one of His servants, one who had had an experience similar to ours, to speak to us. And finally, He gave us someone wise and obedient who had lived his life in such a way that he could hear the Spirit and respond accordingly. Our spirits were touched in indescribable ways by that experience.
The next day we received the call telling us my sister had passed away. Although we were saddened, a sweet spirit of comfort was in our home as we prayed for her family—this time with full confidence that the Lord’s will had been done—and thanked Him for His precious answer to our prayers.