The October 26-November 1 Book of Mormon 2020 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families lesson poses the question: “How [are you] acknowledging God’s influence in your life?” The first step is to be aware of the Lord’s influence. The depth of my awareness has varied over the span of my life. I have been grateful daily for tender mercies and answers to prayers, but I have not always been able to discern the bigger picture of the Lord’s plan for me.
My understanding increased as I prayed and applied Elder Bednar’s counsel offered at the October 2018 general conference, “As we learn and link together revealed gospel truths, we are blessed to receive precious perspective and increased spiritual capacity through eyes that can see the Lord’s influence in our lives and ears that can hear His voice” (“Gather Together in One All Things in Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 2018, 22).
In addition to the counsel of Elder Bednar I received a priesthood blessing that encouraged me to reflect upon my past spiritual experiences and to draw strength from them.
I began to review my journals and to write an autobiography. I had done this in times past, but this time was different. Elder Bednar’s words were proving true. I began to “receive precious perspective” of the Lord’s influence in my life in ways that I had never previously recognized.
Broken Health Leads to Spiritual Promptings
Year ago, I worked as a probation officer in Calgary, Alberta. I returned from an August vacation, and within hours I unexpectedly found myself at the hospital emergency room. It was months before a diagnosis was reached: chronic fatigue syndrome. I never resumed my employment as a probation officer. Instead I returned to my parents’ home. I was devastated. I was as Nephi with a broken bow looking for solutions and “being much fatigued” (1 Nephi 16:19).
I could barely walk. It took all my strength to get up the stairs in my parents’ house, and then after fifteen minutes, I needed to return to my bed. I struggled and slowly, ever so slowly, my strength increased.
One day my father suggested I should look at some family history records. I had always had a love of family history. When I worked as a probation officer, I would often spend one evening a week at the family history centre.
I decided this would be a good “in the meantime plan” until I could return to “my real life” plan. This was like Nephi with his new bow of “wood” and moving forward “according to the directions which were given upon the [Liahona]” (1 Nephi 16:23, 30).
Family History Service Opportunities
My start was slow, just a little effort each day. My father was involved in French extraction, and he found a way for me to participate. I started looking at our family records. Soon I found myself taking family history courses from Brigham Young University. I served as a temple and family history consultant at various family history centres. As I searched for my ancestors, I prayed for guidance to find family names and perform temple ordinances.
Guidance came, and with effort my abilities increased. Soon I had Church members inquiring if I would search for their families: some were brave and helpful in hiring me. For one family I found correct records from Jamaica. Miracles were abundant. I found ancestors for other families, who were elated to participate in their proxy temple ordinances. I began to receive income from my “in the meantime plan.”
I began researching other country records: Polish, Russian, Italian, German, and French. The Lord was with me every step of the way, and I was aware and thankful for the inspiration I was receiving. I prayed intently and felt the presence of those on the other side of the veil as I sought their guidance to find appropriate records. This “Lord’s plan” for me continued for 25 years.
Revisiting a Spiritual Director
President Thomas S. Monson teaches about an important individual spiritual gift each person should prayerfully review: “The same Lord who provided a Liahona for Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage—not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing” (“Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 65).
I had read my patriarchal blessing often and wondered when my real life would commence. Then, I read the following scripture: “Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God, that his eyes may be opened that he may see” (Doctrine and Covenants 136:32). The next time I read my patriarchal blessing, I learned something different. The Spirit helped me perceive that this had been the Lord’s plan all along. I had been as a blind man unable to see God’s influence in my life until I humbly called upon the Lord my God to open my eyes.
Enduring with Gratitude
My illness, which has never left, was a tool in the Lord’s hands to provide the time and opportunity for me to focus my energies on family history. As the Lord counsels concerning adversity, “All things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:3).
I am grateful for the counsel offered by Elder Bednar, a priesthood blessing, and my patriarchal blessing. They opened my eyes to see the Lord’s guiding influence in my life and increased my ability to hear His voice. This inspired perspective helps me face current challenges with greater faith and trust in the Lord. My heart is filled with awe and gratitude for the Lord’s constant watchful care over the course of my life.
Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus whose “eyes were [restrained] that they should not know him” (Luke 24:16), the Lord was with me every moment despite my initial inabilities to discern His presence.