Friend to Friend

“Friend to Friend,” Liahona, June 2002, 12

Friend to Friend

Elder John M. Madsen

Very early in my childhood, I became aware of the importance of prayer and the awesome power of the holy priesthood. During the fall of 1942, the United States was involved in a war. My father was trying to finish building our house. He couldn’t get a furnace because all building materials were needed for the war. As the weather became colder, my little sister, Patricia, and I became very ill. She had bronchitis, and I had double pneumonia. The doctor offered little hope that I would live through the night.

Speaking of that “awful night of nights,” my mother said she became desperate as she felt for my pulse and could find none. She said I looked like a little statue lying there on my bed. She fervently prayed to the Lord, promising if I should live, she would give me back to the Lord for His service. During the night, my father gave me a priesthood blessing. As he laid his hands upon my head, I opened my eyes, and from that time on, I began to feel better. I know that through the prayers of my parents and the power of the priesthood, my life was spared.

After some time, my family moved from Maryland to Utah, where we lived on a farm in North Logan. We had some horses, some cows, some pigs, some chickens, two dogs, a few cats, and we even had a pet pig. Though it became necessary to sell the cows, my father kept one milk cow.

Each morning before school, I helped my older brother, Lou, milk the family cow. One morning, my brother was sick and I had to milk the cow alone. I was just eight years old. This was the first time I had ever had to milk the cow by myself. I set up my stool and bucket and started to milk. She kicked the bucket and walked away.

I picked up the bucket and stool, walked over to her, and again started to milk. Again, she kicked the bucket and walked away. I had to milk the cow before I went to school, so I picked up my stool and bucket and walked over to her and started to milk. A third time, she kicked the bucket and walked away.

I needed help! I knelt down in the morning sunlight and began to pray. I explained to Heavenly Father, “I can’t do this by myself. Please, please help me!” Without any hesitation, I picked up the bucket and my stool and walked over to the cow and began to milk. She did not move. She stood still until I finished milking. I quickly carried the bucket to the house, gave it to my mother, and was able to run to school and arrive on time, knowing that Heavenly Father had answered my prayer.

Sometime later, I was home one evening with my brothers and sisters. We heard a whining noise coming from outside. We went to the window and peered out into the darkness. Soon, Major, our large German shepherd, passed through the light from the window. We could see something was terribly wrong! Fearfully my older brother and I went outside and were able to get Major back into the light and see why he was trembling in pain. He had had an encounter with a porcupine, and countless quills had been thrust into his nose, mouth, tongue, and chest.

Immediately we called for my father to come home. He had been working late at the college. He came quickly and sadly announced, “We will probably have to put him to sleep.” We understood what that meant, and, through our tears, we said, “If you are going to put Major to sleep, you will have to put us to sleep first.”

Dad had no choice but to pull out the quills one by one. We watched in agony as Major winced and howled in pain as each quill tore away some of his flesh.

It was not long until he had fully recovered and was back on duty, faithfully protecting us and our farm from all intruders. Unfortunately, some months later, he had another encounter with a porcupine and had to suffer all that pain again.

From these and other experiences, I have learned and know for myself that Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I have also learned that porcupine quills can be likened to sin or to Satan’s fiery darts. Sin or poor choices can cause us pain and suffering, and if we do not repent, our sins can result in spiritual death.

I am thankful for our Savior, who was willing to suffer and die for us and make it possible for all of us to repent and escape the fiery darts of the adversary.

Let us always be prayerful and remember the words of Nephi: “Whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Ne. 15:24).

Illustration by Robert A. McKay

Above: Elder Madsen; his wife, Diane; and their five living children gather at the wedding reception of their second daughter. Below, from left: At age three; as a one-year-old with his mother, Edith Louise Madsen; and as a college football player.