By Jon M. Taylor
A few years after my mission, I learned an important lesson in obedience and sacrifice. From 1961 to 1963 I was a full-time 9th grade seminary teacher in Holladay. The young people were a challenge, full of energy and mischief. About this time I developed a concern about a policy of the church.
In 1915, almost Fifty years earlier, President Joseph F. Smith was advising church members to hold a weekly home evening. In fact, I had in my possession an old old manual of suggestions on how this was to be done. However, it was not made an official program of the Church, and few families were regularly practicing it in 1963 when I was teaching seminary. But I observed in my teaching experience that those students who were taught and who practiced the gospel in their homes were more solid Latter-day Saints than those whose parents left it to the seminaries and auxiliaries to teach and train their children in the gospel.
I became convinced that a more formal family home evening program could have a great impact on the youth of the Church. I had gone so far as to conceptualize a set of books that could be used to help parents conduct these home evenings. I wondered if I should prepare or organize a firm to publish them – or seek additional training so that I could be qualified as an expert on topics central to this project. The question of how I should proceed was one that I could not seem to resolve. I even corresponded with church leaders to share my concern, but did not get an encouraging response. This concern ate away at me until I felt I needed an answer directly from my Father in Heaven to put my mind at rest.
A talk recently given by Elder Marion G. Romney of the Council of the Twelve gave me hope. He had said, “I know that God can hear prayers; he has heard mine on many occasions. I have received direct revelations from him. I have had problems which it seemed to me that I could not solve. I have suffered in facing those problems until it seemed that I could not go forward without a solution to them. Through faith, and on many occasions fasting for a day each week over long periods of time, I have had answers to those problems revealed to my mind in finished sentences. I have heard the voice of God and I know his words . . .”
Elder Romney indicated that we could follow the same procedure if we needed an answer to prayer. I knew also from the promises of the scripture that if a person purified himself and did the Lord’s will he could pray as directed by the Spirit, with the assurance that his prayers would be answered:
“And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus, and it shall be done.
“But know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask . . .”(D&C 52:29-30)
Also: “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.” (D&C 46:30)
Here the principles of sacrifice and obedience come together, in this case to yield the faith necessary to have our prayers answered. So I decide to work on getting my life in order, making sure that I repented of whatever in my life might be offensive to the Lord. I began fasting one day a week and praying to have my question answered. And I resolved to do whatever service or sacrifice the Lord would require of me.
One day I was fasting and had completed a rough day of teaching these restless teenagers. That evening was mutual, and I was teaching a group of (what was then called) Explorers, many of whom I had taught in seminary. They were tired of me, and the feeling was mutual. They were literally climbing the walls of our classroom, some pretending they were going to jump out the window. A lot of teasing and sarcastic things were said, making it impossible for me to give a spiritual lesson. But I hung in there and kept my cool until class time was over.
After mutual, a ward choir practice was held, and I had been asked, actually given a calling by the Bishop to join the choir, as male voices were needed. Now I had sung in good university choruses and knew what a good choir sounded like. This ward choir did not sound at all like that. But I had resolved to do whatever the asked of me, so I joined in the choir practice.
As we got into it, the choir reminded me of the admonition repeated often in the Psalms to “Sing a joyful noise unto the Lord.” This was a noisy choir all right, but it was a joyful noise, and we seemed to feel a good spirit in the music.
After choir practice, a group of the brethren were gathered around the drinking fountain, complaining about decisions that had been made regarding the renovation of the ward building. They were griping and rehearsing their displeasure about the direction of the remodeling underway.
I had made a covenant that I would do anything the Lord required of me, and I felt someone had to stand up for the local priesthood leadership. So I told these men that since we had voted to sustain our ward and stake leaders in their callings and in these very decisions, it was not appropriate to now be second-guessing their decisions. Whether we agreed or not, it was now our responsibility to support them and stand behind them in this building program.
Well, I did not make any friends that evening, but I felt I had done everything the Lord required of me. During my walk home, a distance of about half a mile, a feeling came over me that I shall never forget. I had the absolute confidence that whatever I prayed for would be given me. All I had to do was ask.
I could have prayed for a lot of things. We did not have much money, and we were driving an old car. But these things seemed insignificant to me at that time. The one thing that was retarding my progress was my unanswered question.
On arriving home, I knelt to pray, seeking an answer for what I should do about this project. Before I could even get the words out of my mouth, the answer to my question came in a finished sentence, just as Elder Romney had promised – and as the Lord told the Saints in 1831: “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.” (D&C 46:30)
The answer that was given of the Lord was as follows:
“The Lord can do his own work through the humble servants he chooses.”
Though this was somewhat of a rebuke to me, it was tremendously comforting to know that the Lord cared enough to respond. So I dropped the project and waited to see what would develop.
The answer was soon confirmed, when in January 1965, the 50-year practice was given renewed emphasis under the administration of President David O. McKay. That year, a family home evening lesson manual was published with families throughout the Church admonished to hold weekly family home evenings, including lessons and fun activities. Church leaders announced that Mondays ware to be set aside for weekly family home evenings throughout the Church. No church meetings or activities were to be held that would interfere with this important family event. And a manual was provided to help families develop lessons and activities for this special weekly family home evening.