I have shared several stories about killing birds and exterminating the resident population of the ground squirrels on our little farm in Wyoming. In remembering those stories and trying to sharing them with my children I had to do some research to make sure that my stories all tied in with the facts. In doing that I came across some information that made a huge difference in my life. It is said that there are moments in our life that are “hinges” to our future, that hinge is a point where our life could have gone in any number of directions. This story is a summary and is a continuation of the stories I have shared over the past several weeks.
It wasn’t too many years after I had become a real hunter and had started to harvest big game animals that I sat in an LDS general conference, likely one of the very first Priesthood Sessions I ever attended and actually heard a talk. Sure, I had listened to talks for as long as I can remember April and October conferences but I “heard” this one. It was given by Spencer W. Kimball.
He spoke of a story from his life where he didn’t shot the little birds and it struck me to the core. You know from “Bird Killer” that I had honed my skills for many summers by the time I sat listening to this talk in 1978. As I listened to the “old man” share the stories of his youth I found a desire within me to change. I no longer wanted to shot the little birds, even the vermin sparrow and starling. I could relate to the little boy that he was, even though he spoke as an aged man whom I “sustained” as a Prophet of God.
Until that moment, I had never thought about NOT killing birds and why it might even matter, it just wasn’t anything I thought about. I thought at that moment, even that instance when I heard it, that I shouldn’t shoot birds that I didn’t intend to eat. I knew from that moment on that the little birds were going to be safe, not that I didn’t consider the sparrow and the starling vermin any more, but I began to understand the command given to Adam in the Garden of Eden, the command of “dress and care for the garden”.
I had paused to think and to consider what my role on the earth was supposed to be. I even asked my father about it afterwards and we talked about hunting and the creation and the commandment that Adam was given about dressing the garden and that the things of the earth were put there for his benefit. I began to realize that the role of man was not as the great destructor but as the care-taker of the earth. That has changed how I feel about many things in my life.
A weird side note to this memory, I looked up the story that stopped me from wantonly killing little birds. I read “Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live” again as I reflected on this experience, it has been 34 years since it was given in October of 1978.
It was this same talk that caused me to begin to pray that the gospel would be taken to the world’s nations. I prayed that the gospel would be allowed to go to the Soviet Union and that the wall would fall in Berlin. I prayed those words hundreds if not thousands of times before they actually happened. I prayed them even while I was in the military knowing that the very people I was praying to get the gospel preached to them were also the very people that I considered to be the “enemy” and had deployed to “foil their empire and hopefully cause its destruction”. Those things happened by no small coincidence to the request of a Prophet of God imploring his followers to draw upon the powers of heaven. I also noted that this talk also spoke of 50 members of this Mormon Church from China, home to 900 million people then. I now live in that same country with those 900 million and about 500 million more that have been born here since then.
You will note that how I stated that I “sustained” this aged man as a prophet but over the following months that changed significantly. As I made changes in my life and as changes to my life were forced upon me and my family because of the death of mother how I understood the prophet changed. I began that long personal growth where I no longer need to rely on my parents’ teachings and testimonies of this aged man being a prophet. I came to understand that he was a Prophet based on my own experiences and my own revelation. The pivot point for my own testimony was and is tied to this moment where I made a commitment to follow what he said. That decision to follow is the defining moment for the development of my own testimony that there is a Prophet of God here on the earth today. That moment of realization that I heard a Prophet speak and followed his counsel.
I am also reminded that it was just one month later that my life would change forever, a change to my life forced upon me because my Mother died. They say that life’s crossroads can happen anytime in someone’s life. I am certain that the challenges of that period would have been more difficult had I not gotten the beginning of my testimony just a short month before. That moment or period is now clearly evident to me; it was just a few months within the fall and early winter of 1978. I look at the information and the impact of this talk in the perspective of my life now some 34 years later and can see clearly how it changed my life. A simple willingness to follow the counsel of a Prophet of God in a seemingly simple challenge changed me because of the difference that a testimony brought.
I can see as I look at this talk today how it really was the first time that I really understood what it meant to have a Prophet on the earth. I had never really been able to find that defining moment where I knew there was a Prophet on the earth; I can now see that moment. I know it was this experience in 1978 at a General Conference Priesthood Session. It would only be a few short years where I would open that big envelope from Salt Lake City, UT that contained his signature and a call to serve a mission.
I knew in that moment in 1983 when I opened that letter and read that I was going to California Arcadia that there was a Prophet on earth. I knew then that I was meant to serve a mission in a little place called the California Arcadia Mission not in some foreign land as I had so hoped. I didn’t question for more than a moment whether that was where I was to serve. I can look back on that experience now with 30 years of life lessons and see how those experiences in California were perfect for me and for the people that I met and taught.
I know that I was the ONLY person that could have gotten into at least one of those doors to teach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that more so today than I did then. I know that there is a Prophet on the earth today and that the Priesthood of the Old Testament and New Testament has been restored as I have seen miracles, yes miracles, directly related to that mission call, my own life (can’t every really forget that George is lurking in my conscience somewhere), and the opportunities to give priesthood service to my family and others. That is very valuable information and that knowledge has proven to help me make it through challenges and problems.
As the repentant Bird Killer I am grateful for the little boy that sat in a rather boring meeting listening to old men talk and finally hearing a Prophet speak. It has made a difference that I could never have imagined possible then and am even amazed by it now. Spencer W. Kimball was known for his “catch phrase”, Do It!.
I did follow his counsel and am now forever grateful to the boy that thought about being different and Did It.