Directed by the Holy Spirit
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“Directed by the Holy Spirit,” New Era, Sept. 1973, 4

The Message:

Directed by the Holy Spirit

A few years ago late on an April afternoon, three other men and I got out of a small dugout boat at Agua Azul, Chiapas, Mexico, on the Usumacinta River. We entered a small one-motor plane to fly hundreds of miles westward to Tuxtla, Chiapas, on the Grijalva River.

In order to reach Tuxtla, which we had left that morning, President Ernest A. Strong from Springville, Utah, Gareth W. Lowe, manager of the New World Archaeological Foundation, William A. (Bill) Devenish, and I had to fly over one of the most dense jungles in the world and over ranges of mountains.

Heavy black clouds had settled over the jungles. We anticipated that we might run into trouble. For safety’s sake our pilot, Bill, flew the plane very high to get above the clouds. We could not see the ground at any time through the dense clouds. The radio frequency at the Tuxtla airport did not match that on our plane, and so our pilot had to estimate our course back to Tuxtla.

We had traveled a few hours when darkness came on with the immediacy it does in the tropics. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit told me that we had crossed the Grijalva River and were headed westward away from Tuxtla toward a range of mountains and that if we did not change our course quickly we would all get killed.

I immediately told Bill that we were going the wrong direction, that we had crossed the Grijalva River some distance up the river south of Tuxtla. Bill tried to determine the proper course, but because of the turbulent weather conditions, he was unable to do so.

A very depressing, dark feeling came over me. It was a feeling of gloom and despair. I said to President Strong, “We are going to be killed if we keep going in this direction. We’re headed for destruction. If Bill doesn’t change the direction of the plane soon, we will crash.”

President Strong said that he had an oppressive feeling also. We were sitting in the back seat, and Bill heard our conversation. He asked, “President Hunter, which direction do you think we ought to go?”

I quickly replied, “Turn immediately to the right and go north.”

Bill turned the plane to the right. A sweet, peaceful feeling came into my heart, and the Holy Spirit let me know that all would be well. I said, “Everything will be all right with us now. We shall arrive safely at Tuxtla without any mishap.” We had not traveled very long before we saw lights shining from Tuxtla. We circled over the small, dirt airstrip with the lanterns showing us where to land. It was by now very dark.

Our plane landed safely. We observed that there were three or four hundred people at the airstrip. President Strong’s son, Bert, also a stake president, was there and was very delighted to see us back safe. We asked Bert why so many people had collected at the airstrip that evening. He informed us that three Mexicans had gone in a two-motor plane across the jungles and mountains to the Usumacinta River that morning about the time we had flown there. They had not returned and the people of Tuxtla were out waiting for them. Some months later Gareth Lowe wrote informing us that the Mexican plane and its occupants had hit a mountain, and all were killed.

Thus, our lives were spared by heeding the directions given to us by the Holy Spirit. When we arrived at our hotel, we kneeled down and thanked God for his guidance and for saving our lives.

We had completed the assignment given us by President David O. McKay to check on a site claimed to be that of the ancient city of Zarahemla.

We had located the suggested site by following the description given in a document that President McKay sent with us. All four of us agreed that this particular site was altogether too small to support a city as large as Zarahemla. Furthermore, Zarahemla had fields where crops were grown, as well as pasture lands on either side of the city for the Nephite’s flocks. According to the description given in the Book of Mormon, Zarahemla seemed to have been the largest Nephite city in ancient America.

After our return to the hotel, I became quite ill during the night. The next morning my traveling companions came to my bedroom to see why I had not come to breakfast. I told them I was too ill to get out of bed. They said that they would eat breakfast and then go down to the airstrip and look at the plane to see that everything was all right.

They soon returned and informed me that clouds had settled down on the airstrip and on Tuxtla so heavily that we would not be able to get out. We were fogged in, and they had been informed that the airstrip would probably be fogged in for a considerable time because the rainy season was beginning. They asked me what should be done.

After thinking for a few moments I was impressed by the Holy Spirit to say, “Give me a blessing and we will fly out today.” At first they replied, “President Hunter, you are too ill to fly.” But I insisted on being blessed. President Strong anointed and his son Bert sealed the anointing and gave me a blessing. I immediately got up out of bed, went in and ate breakfast, and felt completely healed.

We took our luggage and went down to the airstrip. Shortly after, the clouds lifted sufficiently for us to fly out. We heard later from the archaeological workman that several days passed before the fog and clouds lifted again. Therefore, that particular day was our time to fly out of Tuxtla.

On the way home President Strong said, “President Hunter, write an article for the Church magazines on this marvelous experience we have had. You were directed by the Holy Spirit as strongly as Wilford Woodruff was when he was told to get out of bed and move the wagon in the night. He followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and moved the wagon just before a strong turbulence came along and pulled up the tree exactly where his wagon had been standing. He and his companion would have been killed if he hadn’t followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We have had a similar experience. By following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, our lives were saved.”

Youth of the Church, if you will try to keep all of God’s commandments, then through the promptings of the Holy Spirit you will be guided at critical times in your lives just as we were. Your lives may also be saved by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and by the power of the Lord.

Illustrated by Ray Morales