Friend to Friend

“Friend to Friend,” Friend, Aug. 1991, 6

Friend to Friend

I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do (1 Ne. 4:6).

Elder Kenneth Johnson

A convert to the Church, I grew up in Norwich, England, which is about 110 miles from London. During the Second World War, my father served in the British army and was stationed in Italy. In fact, I didn’t meet my father until I was five.

When I was about four years old, Mother would take my brother and me into the city every Saturday morning. At 10:30 we would be walking by a large clock that chimed. Mother would say, “Oh, it’s 10:30.” She would buy us a little something, not anything very significant, but something to try to brighten us up because Dad was away.

One particular Saturday morning when we were about to leave home, Mother said, “I don’t think we’ll go shopping today. I’m going to take you to the woods.”

After we arrived at the woods, we played in the grass and trees and enjoyed ourselves. Suddenly we heard an air raid siren. Planes were coming in overhead, so we hurried home. The next day, we discovered that at 10:30 A.M. bombs had been dropped, demolishing the whole area around the clock in the city.

That incident really had an impact on me. Mother often commented on the feelings she’d had that day. She wasn’t a member of the Church, but, not knowing why, she had had an impression, a prompting, to do something different. That was a great example in my life of parents being guided by the Lord to take care of their children beyond their normal understanding.

Later in my life, I was preparing to leave college and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I went to a meeting where information was given on several different kinds of work. I got excited about printing and decided that I wanted to be a printer. I made an application and was offered a position with a printing company. I had a vision in my mind of being in charge of a big printing press.

On the first day of work, I was delighted when the supervisor took me to a very large machine that was printing in two colors. I thought he was going to say to me, “This is your machine.” I didn’t realize how much training I would need to perform that responsibility. The supervisor assigned me to work with the man in charge of that machine, which I did for six months. All I did that six months was move the paper to be printed on into the machine.

After that, I was put on another machine, and I worked with somebody else. Then I was assigned to a third machine, which was a handfed machine. That means that I “fed” each sheet of paper into the machine by hand. I could do that because by that time I had learned to handle paper well.

A few weeks later, the supervisor came up to me and said, “We feel that you have come to the point where you can be in charge of this machine.”

I was excited. This machine put glazing on the labels that were used for a very popular product in the United Kingdom.

The supervisor said to me, “Before I leave you in charge, you need to spend a little while longer developing your skill. There are a few more things that you need to know.” He stood by me while I was feeding paper into this machine and said, “There is one special thing you need to know—you need to listen for a particular sound. It’s sort of a clicking sound.”

The noise of the machine running with its gears rolling, along with the noise of twenty-five other machines, made it difficult to distinguish sounds, but I confidently said, “Yes, I hear that.” I thought that I was hearing what he was describing.

He said, “That’s all you need to know. As long as you can recognize that, you’ll be fine.”

He left, and I fed the paper into the machine for forty-five minutes. Suddenly the machine came to a grinding halt, making an incredible noise. All sorts of parts were knocking together. The other workers came running to see what had happened.

My supervisor came back and said, “Did you hear the sound?”

I said, “I thought I did.”

He said, “Let’s clean the machine up.” There was paper on the rollers and the cogs, and it took us about thirty minutes to clean up the machine. When he turned the machine on, he said, “Listen, there’s a sort of clicking sound. That’s the best way I can describe it. Can you hear it?”

I listened and just heard all the same noises that I’d heard before, but I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Fine.”

About thirty minutes later, the same thing happened. The supervisor said to me, “You can clean the machine by yourself this time.”

It took me over an hour to clean the paper off the rollers and out of the cogs and get the machine ready to run.

The supervisor came back and stood beside me and asked again, “Can you hear the clicking sound?”

Suddenly, above all the other sounds, I heard a sound that I hadn’t heard before, and the best way I could describe it was that it was a sort of clicking sound. The supervisor explained to me that the sound was made when the paper separated from the printing plate. The sound was determined by the consistency of the gloss that was glazing the paper.

If that sound changed, it meant that the gloss was getting too thick and too tacky. And when that happened, the paper would jam up in the grippers, causing a big pileup of paper that stopped the machine. Once I discovered that sound, I could fix the consistency of the gloss, and my machine never stopped again unless I myself turned it off.

This experience has helped me to know how to recognize the promptings of the Spirit. It is a similar experience inasmuch as we have many things going on around us that can distract us from hearing or feeling the Spirit. As I have matured in the Church, I have often felt the Spirit and heard its promptings. I know it and recognize it. Life is just tremendous because of it. Whatever decisions I have to make about the things I do, I can rely on the certain sound of the Spirit to guide me.

Kenneth, age 11, on Gorleston Beach in England

At age 30, Elder Kenneth Johnson was called to a stake presidency.

Kenneth (left), his father, and his older brother, Clive

Mother, Kenneth (4), and Clive