"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
September 02, 2015
Angels Do Attend
by Marian Stoddard

I didn’t really know anybody yet; we had just moved to Tacoma. I’m not sure if it was the first or second time that I had come to Relief Society here on that Thursday morning, but they were having a special program with an older sister as the featured speaker. I tiptoed in during the opening song, and was seated in time for the prayer.

Sister H. spoke of growing up on the mountain edge of Idaho, in a farming community well removed from any populous areas. All she wanted, growing up, was to become a teacher. (Me too, I thought.) She didn’t know if she would have any chance to go to college, but she had talked with her parents and they knew her dreams.

One evening the stake president came to meet with them. He told Sister H. that he wanted to call her on an unusual mission. She would be sent to Brigham Young Academy to be trained as a nurse and midwife, and then return home to their community to serve. There was no doctor nearby, and any kind of medical care was far away; there was a real need. Would she accept?

This would get her to college, but not for the path she most desired. She expressed her feelings to her stake president, and turned to her parents in distress. What about her own plans? What did this do to her hopes? She wanted to be a schoolteacher. She had never contemplated becoming a nurse. This was not what she would choose, for herself.

The stake president promised her that she would have lifelong opportunities to teach in the Church, and that she had the capacity to succeed in this training. Her town needed her. I think she said that she struggled with this for a day or two; she didn’t have an immediate answer. With some turmoil in her heart, she accepted.

All across the country, students graduate high school or college in ceremonies that outfit them in cap and gown, walk them smiling across a stage one after another as their names are called, and for that brief moment they are individually acknowledged. The moment may be captured by a beaming parent’s camera, or met on the other end of the stage with an embrace, or be part of a mob scene that requires a meeting point after it’s all done.

For Sister H., graduation was not just a diploma. Each nursing student was set apart by priesthood power before being sent home. She was there as a calling from God, having laid aside her own goals, and she told us how B. H. Roberts, a member of the Seventy, set her apart. In that blessing, he made her a remarkable promise that no woman would ever die in her care.

Ponder that for a moment. This would have been the early 1920’s, and women still died in childbirth. (One of my grandmother’s sisters did.) Less often than in centuries past, but far more often than now. Such deaths are rare today. It’s not something we even consider today, when that pregnancy test is positive.

So Sister H. returned home to rural, remote Idaho with that singular promise still filling her soul. She was an important asset to a community without a doctor, as she delivered babies and provided basic community care.

Then, on a winter day, she was attending a woman whose labor was not going well. The woman was hemorrhaging severely, and nothing she tried seemed to stop the bleeding. She was afraid she would lose mother and baby both. She remembered that God had promised her that no woman would die under her care — and this mother was going to die.

She told us that she had not forgotten that promise, but she thought God had forgotten it. She pleaded, she wracked her brain, and she all but demanded that God make good on his word. Then she found a heavenly messenger at her side whose words were simple: “You have plenty of snow.”

She ran outside, over and over, and brought in all the snow she could carry and packed it around this woman’s lower body, continuing to pray and monitor her condition; the bleeding stopped. The woman was weakened but alive, and she recovered.

That child, she told us, was now a woman in her forties in Salt Lake City and still alive and well, and a mother herself. Her cry, her call upon the promise given to her, was answered in her extremity, and by miraculous means that she could not have anticipated. That miracle was a foundational experience for her, for her entire life.

“I remembered that promise, but I thought that maybe God had forgotten it.”

Can you identify with that? I have felt from my own heart, over the years, how much is contained in those few words as I have remembered her story. Heavenly Father, I’m in trouble, I’m in pain beyond what I know how to bear, I can’t seem to keep hold of your presence even though I know, I know, by all my experience that you are really there — but I can’t find you, I can’t feel it. Help.

Have I been unworthy, that I’m struggling so badly? Am I lacking something, that you don’t answer? I’m trying so hard to hang on, I’m trying so hard to walk the right path and trust the promises, and no one else knows all of what I’m going through. I’m doing all I can to rely upon your word, your promise to me, but I don’t know how to do this. Are you there?

“You have plenty of snow.” My answers have not been “snow,” but they have been likewise brought to me in pure assurance. Light has come — sometimes rescue, sometimes strength to persevere. However different the nature of his help, varying according to his knowledge rather than mine, help has never failed.

I thought of Sister H. when Boyd K. Packer gave this talk in Conference. He was speaking of LeGrand Richards, who had heard President Wilford Woodruff speak, and the power of that experience never faded. Brother Richards was twelve, President Woodruff was ninety-one.

Elder Packer said:

Those days of beginning were not so far away as we sometimes think. There sits behind me on the stand Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

He remembers personally some of those who helped to open this work.

He attended the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple and remembers President Wilford Woodruff very clearly. He heard him speak on several occasions….

President Woodruff was only two years younger than the Prophet Joseph Smith, and he had been an Apostle for five years when the Prophet was martyred.

Hands we have touched have touched the hands that shaped the beginnings of this dispensation.

Hands we have touched…

We read such stories in our manuals. We tell tales from the early Saints. We think of these stories as long-past tales, and they might seem remote. I told my own girls who knew Sister H., never forget that you have heard the personal testimony of the ministering of angels. You have known someone, personally.

Hands that we have touched have touched the hands of those who established this work, and have received miracles; they have been blessed under the hands of the prophets. It’s not so distant at all. They have been ministered to by angels — and undoubtedly so have we.

Elder Packer went on to say:

Who would dare to say that angels do not now attend the rank and file of the Church who —

  • answer the calls to the mission fields,
  • teach the classes,
  • pay their tithes and offerings,
  • seek for the records of their forebears,
  • work in the temples,
  • raise their children in faith,
  • and have brought this work through 150 years?

In the three places in scripture where the gifts of the Spirit are listed, only Moroni includes this one: “the beholding of angels and ministering spirits.” (Moroni 10:14)

Faith and love continue to be exercised on our behalf on the other side of the veil. Angels do attend us, although we may not see them with our eyes. That might not be our gift, but the reality of their presence and prayers is not diminished.

I think we will be surprised, when life is done, to find how much a part of our watchcare those angels have been. Take courage — even when we feel alone, it is never so. Love guards us, always.


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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.† You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com.†

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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