Latter-day Saint Life

12 Unexpected and Unforgettable Stories Told in General Conference

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Our Savior taught many of His most profound lessons through stories—stories that seemed simple at first, but contained layers and facets of meaning that brought listeners to a new level of understanding. He shared relatable moments from daily life mixed with unexpected lessons, insights, and tales.

Many of our modern day apostles have learned from Christ's example, developing quite the knack for storytelling. And, over the years, the pulpit in the conference center has been graced with many surprising, charming, touching, and humorous stories.

From funny and quirky to intensely emotional or frightening, there have been a lot of hidden gems in the stories shared at general conference, but here are some of the most unexpected.

Blind Date Fiasco

Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Come What May, and Love It," October 2008

Little mishaps and embarrassments are a part of life, but Elder Wirthlin was always good to remind us to laugh at these little moments, even in general conference.

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Seemed a Little Old - Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

I remember when one of our daughters went on a blind date. She was all dressed up and waiting for her date to arrive when the doorbell rang. In walked a man who seemed a little old, but she tried to be polite. She introduced him to me and my wife and the other children; then she put on her coat and went out the door. We watched as she got into the car, but the car didn’t move. Eventually our daughter got out of the car and, red-faced, ran back into the house. The man that she thought was her blind date had actually come to pick up another of our daughters who had agreed to be a babysitter for him and his wife.

We all had a good laugh over that. In fact, we couldn’t stop laughing. Later, when our daughter’s real blind date showed up, I couldn’t come out to meet him because I was still in the kitchen laughing. Now, I realize that our daughter could have felt humiliated and embarrassed. But she laughed with us, and as a result, we still laugh about it today.

The next time you’re tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable.

Wiggling Ears

Thomas S. Monson, "Examples of Righteousness," April 2008

Who could forget when President Monson, in his first conference as the Prophet, demonstrated a skill hardly any Church members knew he possessed—the ability to wiggle his ears! 

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President Monson Ear Wiggle

My brethren, I reiterate that, as holders of the priesthood of God, it is our duty to live our lives in such a way that we may be examples of righteousness for others to follow. As I have pondered how we might best provide such examples, I have thought of an experience I had some years ago while attending a stake conference. During the general session, I observed a young boy sitting with his family on the front row of the stake center. I was seated on the stand.

As the meeting progressed, I began to notice that if I crossed one leg over the other, the young boy would do the same thing. If I reversed the motion and crossed the other leg, he would follow suit. I would put my hands in my lap, and he would do the same. I rested my chin in my hand, and he also did so. Whatever I did, he would imitate my actions. This continued until the time approached for me to address the congregation.

I decided to put him to the test. I looked squarely at him, certain I had his attention, and then I wiggled my ears. He made a vain attempt to do the same, but I had him! He just couldn’t quite get his ears to wiggle. He turned to his father, who was sitting next to him, and whispered something to him. He pointed to his ears and then to me. As his father looked in my direction, obviously to see my ears wiggle, I sat solemnly with my arms folded, not moving a muscle. The father glanced back skeptically at his son, who looked slightly defeated. He finally gave me a sheepish grin and shrugged his shoulders.

I have thought about that experience over the years as I’ve contemplated how, particularly when we’re young, we tend to imitate the example of our parents, our leaders, our peers. The prophet Brigham Young said: “We should never permit ourselves to do anything that we are not willing to see our children do. We should set them an example that we wish them to imitate.”

To you who are fathers of boys or who are leaders of boys, I say, strive to be the kind of example the boys need. 


A Sailor Blessing the Sacrament

Henry B. Eyring, "Learning in the Priesthood," April 2011

In this priceless talk, Elder Eyring went off script for a few moments as he indulged in some of the memories of his past living in a "tough neighborhood."

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It Was a Tough Neighborhood - Elder Henry B Eyring

Impressing Future Mother-in-Laws

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Your Happily Ever After," April 2010

What could say true love more than taking your mother-in-law on a romantic bike ride to church?

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Let me share with you a personal experience I had as a teenager while our family was attending church in Frankfurt, Germany.

One Sunday the missionaries brought a new family to our meetings whom I hadn’t seen before. It was a mother with two beautiful daughters. I thought that these missionaries were doing a very, very good job.

I particularly took notice of the one daughter with gorgeous dark hair and large brown eyes. Her name was Harriet, and I think I fell in love with her from the first moment I saw her. Unfortunately, this beautiful young woman didn’t seem to feel the same about me. She had many young men who wanted to make her acquaintance, and I began to wonder if she would ever see me as anything but a friend. But I didn’t let that deter me. I figured out ways to be where she was. When I passed the sacrament, I made sure I was in the right position so that I would be the one to pass the sacrament to her.

When we had special activities at church, I rode my bike to Harriet’s house and rang the doorbell. Harriet’s mother usually answered. In fact, she opened the kitchen window of their apartment on the fourth floor and asked what I wanted. I would ask if Harriet would like a ride to church on my bicycle. Harriet’s mother would say, “No, she will be coming later, but I will be happy to ride with you to church.” This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but how could I decline?

And so we rode to church. I must admit I had a very impressive road bike. Harriet’s mother sat on the top tube bar just in front of me, and I tried to be the most elegant bicycle driver over roads of rough cobblestone.

Time passed. While beautiful Harriet was seeing many other young men, it seemed that I could not make any headway with her.

Was I disappointed? Yes.

Was I defeated? Absolutely not!

Actually, looking back I recognize that it doesn’t hurt at all to be on good terms with the mother of the girl of your dreams.

In a book accompanied with enchanting illustrations, you can own this timeless talk for yourself with Your Happily Ever After.


Spiritual Crocodiles

Boyd K. Packer, "Spiritual Crocodiles," April 1976

With a dash of wildlife and heaps of adventure, President Packer shared this incredible story that became so popular it was turned into a seminary video.

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Seminary Video - Spiritual Crocodiles

In order to teach a lesson not easily learned, I will relate an experience.

I have always been interested in animals and birds and when I was a little boy and the other children wanted to play cowboy, I wanted to go on safari to Africa and would pretend I was hunting the wild animals.

When I learned to read, I found books about birds and animals and came to know much about them. By the time I was in my teens I could identify most of the African animals. I could tell a klipspringer from an impala, or a gemsbok from wildebeest.

I always wanted to go to Africa and see the animals, and finally that opportunity came. Sister Packer and I were assigned to tour the South Africa Mission with President and Sister Howard Badger. We had a very strenuous schedule and had dedicated eight chapels in seven days, scattered across that broad continent.

President Badger was vague about the schedule for September 10th. (That happens to be my birthday.) We were in Rhodesia, planning, I thought, to return to Johannesburg, South Africa. But he had other plans, and we landed at Victoria Falls.

“There is a game reserve some distance from here,” he explained, “and I have rented a car, and tomorrow, your birthday, we are going to spend seeing the African animals.”

Now I might explain that the game reserves in Africa are unusual. The people are put in cages, and the animals are left to run free. That is, there are compounds where the park visitors check in at night and are locked behind high fences until after daylight they are allowed to drive about, but no one is allowed out of his car.

We arrived in the park in the late afternoon. By some mistake, there were not enough cabins for all the visitors, and they were all taken when we arrived. The head ranger indicated that they had a cabin in an isolated area about eight miles from the compound and we could spend the night there.

Because of a delay in getting our evening meal, it was long after dark when we left the compound. We found the turnoff and had gone up the narrow road just a short distance when the engine stalled. We found a flashlight and I stepped out to check under the hood, thinking that there must be a loose connection or something. As the light flashed on the dusty road, the first thing I saw was lion tracks!

Back in the car, we determined to content ourselves with spending the night there! Fortunately, however, an hour or two later we were rescued by the driver of a gas truck who had left the compound late because of a problem. We awakened the head ranger and in due time we were settled in our cabin. In the morning they brought us back to the compound.

We had no automobile, and without telephones there was no way to get a replacement until late in the day. We faced the disappointment of sitting around the compound all day. Our one day in the park was ruined and, for me, the dream of a lifetime was gone.

I talked with a young ranger, and he was surprised that I knew many of the African birds. Then he volunteered to rescue us.

“We are building a new lookout over a water hole about twenty miles from the compound,” he said. “It is not quite finished, but it is safe. I will take you out there with a lunch, and when your car comes late this afternoon we will bring it out to you. You may see as many animals, or even more, than if you were driving around.”

On the way to the lookout he volunteered to show us some lions. He turned off through the brush and before long located a group of seventeen lions all sprawled out asleep and drove right up among them.

We stopped at a water hole to watch the animals come to drink. It was very dry that season and there was not much water, really just muddy spots. When the elephants stepped into the soft mud the water would seep into the depression and the animals would drink from the elephant tracks.

The antelope, particularly, were very nervous. They would approach the mud hole, only to turn and run away in great fright. I could see there were no lions about and asked the guide why they didn’t drink. His answer, and this is the lesson, was “Crocodiles.”

I knew he must be joking and asked him seriously, “What is the problem?” The answer again: “Crocodiles.”

“Nonsense,” I said. “There are no crocodiles out there. Anyone can see that.”

I thought he was having some fun at the expense of his foreign game expert, and finally I asked him to tell us the truth. Now I remind you that I was not uninformed. I had read many books. Besides, anyone would know that you can’t hide a crocodile in an elephant track.

He could tell I did not believe him and determined, I suppose, to teach me a lesson. We drove to another location where the car was on an embankment above the muddy hole where we could look down. “There,” he said. “See for yourself.”

I couldn’t see anything except the mud, a little water, and the nervous animals in the distance. Then all at once I saw it!—a large crocodile, settled in the mud, waiting for some unsuspecting animal to get thirsty enough to come for a drink.

Suddenly I became a believer! When he could see I was willing to listen, he continued with the lesson. “There are crocodiles all over the park,” he said, “not just in the rivers. We don’t have any water without a crocodile somewhere near it, and you’d better count on it.”

The guide was kinder to me than I deserved. My “know-it-all” challenge to his first statement, “crocodiles,” might have brought an invitation, “Well, go out and see for yourself!”

I could see for myself that there were no crocodiles. I was so sure of myself I think I might have walked out just to see what was there. Such an arrogant approach could have been fatal! But he was patient enough to teach me.

My young friends, I hope you’ll be wiser in talking to your guides than I was on that occasion. That smart-aleck idea that I knew everything really wasn’t worthy of me, nor is it worthy of you. I’m not very proud of it, and I think I’d be ashamed to tell you about it except that telling you may help you.


He Refused to Let Me Fall

Jeffrey R. Holland, "Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet," April 2015

This story is bound to get your adrenaline pumping! I love the intensity and eloquence of Elder Holland's many memorable stories.

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Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet

Without safety ropes, harnesses, or climbing gear of any kind, two brothers—Jimmy, age 14, and John, age 19 (though those aren’t their real names)—attempted to scale a sheer canyon wall in Snow Canyon State Park in my native southern Utah. Near the top of their laborious climb, they discovered that a protruding ledge denied them their final few feet of ascent. They could not get over it, but neither could they now retreat from it. They were stranded. After careful maneuvering, John found enough footing to boost his younger brother to safety on top of the ledge. But there was no way to lift himself. The more he strained to find finger or foot leverage, the more his muscles began to cramp. Panic started to sweep over him, and he began to fear for his life.

Unable to hold on much longer, John decided his only option was to try to jump vertically in an effort to grab the top of the overhanging ledge. If successful, he might, by his considerable arm strength, pull himself to safety.

In his own words, he said:

“Prior to my jump I told Jimmy to go search for a tree branch strong enough to extend down to me, although I knew there was nothing of the kind on this rocky summit. It was only a desperate ruse. If my jump failed, the least I could do was make certain my little brother did not see me falling to my death.

“Giving him enough time to be out of sight, I said my last prayer—that I wanted my family to know I loved them and that Jimmy could make it home safely on his own—then I leapt. There was enough adrenaline in my spring that the jump extended my arms above the ledge almost to my elbows. But as I slapped my hands down on the surface, I felt nothing but loose sand on flat stone. I can still remember the gritty sensation of hanging there with nothing to hold on to—no lip, no ridge, nothing to grab or grasp. I felt my fingers begin to recede slowly over the sandy surface. I knew my life was over.

“But then suddenly, like a lightning strike in a summer storm, two hands shot out from somewhere above the edge of the cliff, grabbing my wrists with a strength and determination that belied their size. My faithful little brother had not gone looking for any fictitious tree branch. Guessing exactly what I was planning to do, he had never moved an inch. He had simply waited—silently, almost breathlessly—knowing full well I would be foolish enough to try to make that jump. When I did, he grabbed me, held me, and refused to let me fall. Those strong brotherly arms saved my life that day as I dangled helplessly above what would surely have been certain death.”

Dirty Windows

Thomas S. Monson, "Charity Never Faileth," October 2010

While humorous, this story leaves a lasting impression on the listener of how judging others can distort our perceptions.

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I begin with a short anecdote which illustrates a point I should like to make.

A young couple, Lisa and John, moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash.

“That laundry’s not clean!” Lisa exclaimed. “Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get clothes clean!”

John looked on but remained silent.

Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comments.

A few weeks later Lisa was surprised to glance out her window and see a nice, clean wash hanging in her neighbor’s yard. She said to her husband, “Look, John—she’s finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it.”

John replied, “Well, dear, I have the answer for you. You’ll be interested to know that I got up early this morning and washed our windows!”

Tonight I’d like to share with you a few thoughts concerning how we view each other. Are we looking through a window which needs cleaning? Are we making judgments when we don’t have all the facts? What do we see when we look at others? What judgments do we make about them?

Said the Savior, “Judge not.” He continued, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Or, to paraphrase, why beholdest thou what you think is dirty laundry at your neighbor’s house but considerest not the soiled window in your own house?


Singing in Japanese

Boyd K. Packer, "An Appeal to Prospective Elders," April 1975

I never thought I would get the chance to hear Boyd K. Packer sing a nursery song in Japanese. To watch the song, skip to 6:13 in the talk.

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During World War II, I was a pilot in the Air Force. After service in the Pacific Islands, I spent a year in Japan with the occupational forces. It was, of course, advisable to learn a few words of Japanese. We needed at least to be able to ask directions, ask for something to eat.

I learned the common greetings and a few of the numbers and the salutations, and like many other members of the Church, I spent all my off-duty hours in missionary work among the Japanese people; and I learned from them those few words of what I thought was a very difficult language.

In July of 1946 the first baptisms took place in Osaka. Brother and Sister Tatsui Sato were baptized. And while they had been taught for the most part by others, I was privileged to baptize Sister Sato.

Though we were not unhappy in Japan, there was really only one thing on our minds, and that was home! I had been away for nearly four years. The war was over, and I wanted to go home.

When that day finally arrived, I supposed never to return to Japan, and I just closed that chapter.

The next years saw me busy getting an education, raising a family. I was not around Japanese people and had no occasion to use those few words that I had learned. They were left in the dim and very distant past, erased by 26 years of forgetting—gone, as I thought, forever. Then came an assignment to Japan.

The morning after my arrival in Tokyo, I was leaving the mission home with President Abo when a Japanese elder spoke to him in Japanese. President Abo said that the matter was urgent and apologized for the delay.

He went through some papers with the elder, discussing them in Japanese. Then he held up one of the letters and, pointing to a sentence, he said, “Korewa …”

And before he could complete the sentence I had completed it in my mind. Korewa nan desuka. I knew what he was saying. I knew what he was asking the elder. Korewa nan desuka means “What is this?” After 26 years, having been back in Japan but overnight, a sentence had come back into my mind—Korewa nan desuka, “What is this?”

I had not used those words in 26 years. I had thought that I should never use them again. But they were not lost.

I spent ten days in Japan and concluded my tour in Fukuoka. The morning I was to leave, we drove to the airport with Brother and Sister Watanabe. I was in the backseat with their children practicing my long-lost words of Japanese on them. They, in delight, were teaching me some new ones.

And then I recalled a little song that I had learned those 26 years before, and I sang it to those children:

Momotaro-san, Momotaro-sanOkoshi ni tsuketa kibi dangoHitotsu watashi ni kudasai na

I think that may make Brother Ottley restless, but …

Sister Watanabe said, “I know that song.” And so we sang it together to the little children and then she told me the meaning of it, and as she did so, I remembered that also.

It is the story of a Japanese couple who were childless, and they had prayed for a son. One day, in the stone of a large peach, they found a little boy and they named him Momotaro. The song recounts his heroism in saving his people from a terrible enemy.

I had known that song for 26 years, but I didn’t know that I knew it. I had never sung the song to my own children. I had never told them the story of it. It had been smothered under 26 years of attention to other things.

I have thought that a most important experience and realized finally that nothing good is ever lost.

Can You Hear the Music?

Wilford W. Andersen, "The Music of the Gospel," April 2015

Profound and filled with melodic and musical imagery, this entire talk is one worth listening to again and again!

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The Music of the Gospel

Years ago I listened to a radio interview of a young doctor who worked in a hospital in the Navajo Nation. He told of an experience he had one night when an old Native American man with long braided hair came into the emergency room. The young doctor took his clipboard, approached the man, and said, “How can I help you?” The old man looked straight ahead and said nothing. The doctor, feeling somewhat impatient, tried again. “I cannot help you if you don’t speak to me,” he said. “Tell me why you have come to the hospital.”

The old man then looked at him and said, “Do you dance?” As the young doctor pondered the strange question, it occurred to him that perhaps his patient was a tribal medicine man who, according to ancient tribal customs, sought to heal the sick through song and dance rather than through prescribing medication.

“No,” said the doctor, “I don’t dance. Do you dance?” The old man nodded yes. Then the doctor asked, “Could you teach me to dance?”

The old man’s response has for many years caused me much reflection. “I can teach you to dance,” he said, “but you have to hear the music.”

Sometimes in our homes, we successfully teach the dance steps but are not as successful in helping our family members to hear the music. And as the old medicine man well knew, it is hard to dance without music.


Pulling Teeth for Charity

A. Theodore Tuttle, "Service Saves," October 1977

What a sweet and humorous example these children are of sacrificing all they can to help others.

The last time I spoke from this pulpit I explained a special need to help local missionaries from some of the missions in South America. In most of these countries the annual income averages less than 10 percent of what it is here. I explained that these young people had already sacrificed much, and that they would need additional financial help from those of us who could easily share. I didn’t really appeal for funds. I outlined a need.

This is my first opportunity to express thanks to so many for helping these missionaries—even without being asked! . . .

A mother wrote, “After October conference, in family council, we decided to earn some money not to spend it for Christmas, but to send it to missionaries. The boys, ages five and six, gathered cans for refunds, stacked wood, raked leaves, vacuumed the car, and swept the garage. Two-year-old Becky stacked wood and set the table. Mom gave piano lessons. Daddy cracked his piggy bank of eight years. One boy lost a tooth, and Daddy paid him a quarter for it. He promptly loosened and removed two more for an additional fifty cents! We are sending our total earnings ($81.85). It’s been a pleasure.”

The shortest letter read, “Per your instructions last general conference. Sincerely. …”

Aside from some concern about possible toothless youngsters, I commend you all. Thank you, brothers and sisters.

One Little Match

Thomas S. Monson, "Obedience Brings Blessings," April 2013

I wouldn't have expected the prophet to confess over the pulpit to a felony committed years ago. I love President Monson's candor and sense of humor.

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When I was growing up, each summer from early July until early September, my family stayed at our cabin at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon in Utah.

One of my best friends during those carefree days in the canyon was Danny Larsen, whose family also owned a cabin at Vivian Park. Each day he and I roamed this boy’s paradise, fishing in the stream and the river, collecting rocks and other treasures, hiking, climbing, and simply enjoying each minute of each hour of each day.

One morning Danny and I decided we wanted to have a campfire that evening with all our canyon friends. We just needed to clear an area in a nearby field where we could all gather. The June grass which covered the field had become dry and prickly, making the field unsuitable for our purposes. We began to pull at the tall grass, planning to clear a large, circular area. We tugged and yanked with all our might, but all we could get were small handfuls of the stubborn weeds. We knew this task would take the entire day, and already our energy and enthusiasm were waning.

And then what I thought was the perfect solution came into my eight-year-old mind. I said to Danny, “All we need is to set these weeds on fire. We’ll just burn a circle in the weeds!” He readily agreed, and I ran to our cabin to get a few matches.

Lest any of you think that at the tender age of eight we were permitted to use matches, I want to make it clear that both Danny and I were forbidden to use them without adult supervision. Both of us had been warned repeatedly of the dangers of fire. However, I knew where my family kept the matches, and we needed to clear that field. Without so much as a second thought, I ran to our cabin and grabbed a few matchsticks, making certain no one was watching. I hid them quickly in one of my pockets.

Back to Danny I ran, excited that in my pocket I had the solution to our problem. I recall thinking that the fire would burn only as far as we wanted and then would somehow magically extinguish itself.

I struck a match on a rock and set the parched June grass ablaze. It ignited as though it had been drenched in gasoline. At first Danny and I were thrilled as we watched the weeds disappear, but it soon became apparent that the fire was not about to go out on its own. We panicked as we realized there was nothing we could do to stop it. The menacing flames began to follow the wild grass up the mountainside, endangering the pine trees and everything else in their path.

Finally we had no option but to run for help. Soon all available men and women at Vivian Park were dashing back and forth with wet burlap bags, beating at the flames in an attempt to extinguish them. After several hours the last remaining embers were smothered. The ages-old pine trees had been saved, as were the homes the flames would eventually have reached.

Danny and I learned several difficult but important lessons that day—not the least of which was the importance of obedience.

Get your own copy of this story in this beautifully illustrated children's book, One Little Match.


Burning Trucks

W. Craig Zwick, "What Are You Thinking?" April 2014

It's always good to remember to temper our words and to use the limitless power of language and communication to build rather than to demean.

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Forty-one years ago I climbed into the driver’s seat of an 18-wheel semi truck with my beautiful wife, Jan, and our infant son, Scotty. We were taking a heavy load of construction materials across several states.

In those days there were no seat-belt restrictions or infant car seats. My wife held our precious son in her arms. Her comment “We sure are high off the ground” should have given me a clue about her feelings of apprehension.

As we made our descent over historic Donner Pass, a steep section of highway, the cab of the semi suddenly and unexpectedly filled with thick smoke. It was difficult to see, and we could hardly breathe.

With a heavy rig, brakes alone are not enough to rapidly decrease speed. Using the engine brakes and gearing down, I frantically attempted to stop.

Just as I was pulling to the side of the road, but before we had come to a full stop, my wife opened the door of the cab and jumped out with our baby in her arms. I watched helplessly as they tumbled in the dirt.

As soon as I had the semi stopped, I bolted from the smoking cab. With adrenaline pumping, I ran through the rocks and weeds and held them in my arms. Jan’s forearms and elbows were battered and bleeding, but thankfully she and our son were both breathing. I just held them close as the dust settled there on the side of the highway.

As my heartbeat normalized and I caught my breath, I blurted out, “What in the world were you thinking? Do you know how dangerous that was? You could have been killed!”

She looked back at me, with tears running down her smoke-smudged cheeks, and said something that pierced my heart and still rings in my ears: “I was just trying to save our son.”

I realized in that moment she thought the engine was on fire, fearing the truck would explode and we would die. I, however, knew it was an electrical failure—hazardous but not fatal. I looked at my precious wife, softly rubbing the head of our infant son, and wondered what kind of woman would do something so courageous.

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