Two weeks ago, I was invited to speak at our Stake Conference today, a large gathering of multiple local congregations. My assignment was to address and engage the children ages 3-11, although all ages would be present. This is an approximation of what I said this morning, expanded from the outline I used at the pulpit.
Primary children, where are you? If you can hear me, wiggle your fingers like this. If you can hear me, put your fingers on your mouth like this. If you are listening, put your hands in your lap and show me your smiling faces. I have an important message for you. Grown-ups, you can listen, too.
This is the message:
You are children of heavenly parents who love you. Your Heavenly Father hears your prayers and he will answer you. He is watching over you. Can you remember the words to “A Child’s Prayer”?
“Pray, He is there. Speak, He is listening. You are His child. His love now surrounds you. He hears your prayer. He loves the children.” (from A Child’s Prayer)
How will you know when God is answering your prayers? The Bible teaches us that ” the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.. .” (Galatians 6:22) That means that the Holy Ghost talks to us through good feelings. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Jesus tells us, “... I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost...” (D&C 8:2)
When you receive answers to your prayers, when thoughts come to your mind, when you feel happy and calm, or when you feel like your heart will burst with love, this is the Holy Ghost. Write it down or ask your mom and dad to help you write it down. It will be a treasure to you, and one day, it will be a treasure to your children, and to your children's children.
I would like to share some of my treasures with you, true stories in which God answered prayers.
Have you ever been on a long car trip with your family? Did anyone get sick during the trip?
A Prayer of Faith - Emma
161 years ago, missionaries came to the town in England where my great-great-great- grandmother Emma lived. Back then, she wasn’t a grandma yet; she was a mom, just a little older than Sister Rahn and Sister Bateman, if you know them. Emma and her husband joined the church and decided to cross the ocean with their family to America to be where most of the church members were. They sailed from England with their 6 children on a boat called the Wellfleet. This trip was going to take about six weeks.
After the first week, Emma’s two year old son got very sick with whooping cough and throwing up. Today we get shots to protect against whooping cough, but back then, there were none, and it was very easy to spread the sickness from person to person. The whales in the ocean smelled the sickness and started to follow the ship. Because the ship was small, a whale could easily raise his huge tail and damage the ship or tip it over. One night, the captain came to tell Emma that they would have to throw her little boy overboard to save the ship. Emma begged the captain to give her one more day. Then Emma prayed most of that night to God that if He would save her little boy and heal him, she would be faithful in living the gospel. The next morning he was all better, and there were no whales following the ship. The rest of her life Emma was faithful to her promise to live the teachings of the gospel.
Have you ever been to a place where it snows in the winter? What did you wear to keep warm?
The Missing Boot - Susie
When Susie was maybe 5 or 6, she received a new pair of beautiful, warm snow boots. They were white with white fur on the inside and buckles on the outside with sparkles. Her mom warned her not to leave the boots on the front porch, but to always put them away in the closet by the front door. Susie knew that if she lost the boots, there was no money for another pair. One day, she left her boots on the porch in a rush to come inside. When she went back to put her boots on, one of them was gone. She looked everywhere - on the steps, in the yard, in the garage. Listen to Susie tell what happened:
I felt sick inside. I finally went to my mother and told her what had happened. All she said was, "There is only one person who knows where that boot is". I went up to my bedroom and knelt down and told Heavenly Father what I had done. I told him that I did not want my feet to freeze and that if he would help me find my boot, I would try to be more obedient to my mom. As I got up, a thought popped into my head. What if the dog next door had taken my boot? I put on my shoes and coat and ran to the yard next door. Their house had a front porch that their dog sometimes played under. I crawled through the little opening under the steps and there it was. My boot had been chewed around the top and the silver buckle was gone. It was not beautiful anymore, but it was still wearable. My feet would not freeze that winter.
Susie grew up to be my mom. She taught me from a young age that God would listen to me and answer my prayers. Though I don't remember it, my baby book records that one night when I was about 3, I woke my parents up in the middle of the night, very upset. “Mommy! We forgot to say our prayers before bed!”
I have received many answers to prayers in my life from my days in Primary until now. God answered my prayer to find out if the Book of Mormon was true. He answered me when I prayed about going on a mission with a strong and clear answer that I should go. My husband and each of my children were answers to prayers. He has answered my prayers when I asked for forgiveness. I want to say that sometimes it felt like the answers were slow in coming. One in particular took 20 years before I got an answer.
He answered my prayers as I prepared this talk. I felt his love for me and for you so strongly as I prepared for today. I know that Heavenly Father loves you, that He will answer you, and if you write those special experiences down so that you can always remember them, they will be a guide and a treasure to you.