53: The Heavens Are Open

Mon Mar 23 18:56:56 EDT 2020
Episode 53

Stories in this episode: In the early days of his firefighting career, Steve enters a burning home to save a life and is forced to choose between protocol and following the Spirit; Heidi anguishes over her efforts to help create a documentary about Joseph Smith’s life until she receives a special witness from God; Alone in the rainforests of Madagascar, Elizabeth finds herself in dire need of heavenly power to call down a miracle.

Show Notes

Find the inspiration for this episode, The Heavens Are Open by Sister Wendy W. Nelson, at deseretbook.com or at Deseret Book stores.

The Heavens are Open
The Heavens are Open

God speaks to His prophet on the earth today. And He will speak to you, too.

That is the powerful testimony of Sister Wendy W. Nelson, wife of President Russell M. Nelson, as she shares her personal witness of truths that will increase our capacity to receive and act on revelation from the heavens. In this volume, she offers a number of ideas for things we can do—and stop doing—in order to understand the Spirit’s direction more clearly.

Find more incredible stories from Steve, including how he helped save KaRyn from a backyard burglar, in our episode "To the Rescue."

Heidi Swinton is a Latter-day Saint author, screenwriter and historian. In this episode, Heidi mentions her work on the landmark Joseph Smith documentary American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith (Image courtesy Heidi Swinton).
Heidi Swinton is a Latter-day Saint author, screenwriter and historian. In this episode, Heidi mentions her work on the landmark Joseph Smith documentary American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith (Image courtesy Heidi Swinton).

The Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Illinois, where Joseph Smith led an endowment session mentioned in the podcast (image courtesy Heidi Swinton).
The Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Illinois, where Joseph Smith led an endowment session mentioned in the podcast (image courtesy Heidi Swinton).

The Nauvoo Temple, which was completed after the death of Joseph Smith (image courtesy Heidi Swinton).
The Nauvoo Temple, which was completed after the death of Joseph Smith (image courtesy Heidi Swinton).

Elizabeth on a pirogue in Madagascar. Ever since she was little, it was Elizabeth's dream to visit Madagascar to see the lemurs and other wildlife. (image courtesy Elizabeth Hamilton)
Elizabeth on a pirogue in Madagascar. Ever since she was little, it was Elizabeth's dream to visit Madagascar to see the lemurs and other wildlife. (image courtesy Elizabeth Hamilton)

While visiting her dream destination of Madagascar, Elizabeth wanted to accomplish three things. One of these things was to participate in a seven-day hike through remote rainforests (image courtesy Elizabeth Hamilton).
While visiting her dream destination of Madagascar, Elizabeth wanted to accomplish three things. One of these things was to participate in a seven-day hike through remote rainforests (image courtesy Elizabeth Hamilton).

During her hike, Elizabeth developed a blister that eventually became infected after several river crossings (image courtesy Elizabeth Hamilton).
During her hike, Elizabeth developed a blister that eventually became infected after several river crossings (image courtesy Elizabeth Hamilton).

It was while stopping in a small village that Elizabeth was able receive a miracle that helped her to continue on her hike (image courtesy Elizabeth Hamilton).
It was while stopping in a small village that Elizabeth was able receive a miracle that helped her to continue on her hike (image courtesy Elizabeth Hamilton).


KaRyn 0:01

I have mixed feelings about what I'm about to tell you. I know that we need stories more now than ever, but the time has come for us to take a break here at This Is the Gospel so we can gather and prepare new episodes. We'll be back as soon as we can with season three, filled with totally new themes and new stories on those themes. And in the meantime, we'll still be over on Instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast and on Facebook at This is the Gospel, sharing all of our upcoming themes and pitch line requests, and maybe even a bonus episode or two.

And so, while we won't have weekly episodes, we're not going to stop thinking of ways to help us all tell the stories that matter and lift up our week. Now on with the show.

Welcome to This is the Gospel. An LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay.

I'm feeling pretty inadequate today. I'm sitting in my home office, the day after my very first earthquake, which also happens to be for me the seventh day of an unprecedented self-quarantine due to a global pandemic. And as I've attempted to write something to introduce today's theme, the only thought that keeps coming to me is, "I'm not sure I'm strong enough for these latter days, Heavenly Father. I'm just not sure I can do it." Well, maybe you've wondered the same thing about yourself, or maybe you've been through stranger moments than these and have a sure knowledge of your capacity to make good during hard times.

Well, either way, I think it's still difficult to watch as things shut down all around us, left and right. Doors, literally closing, the doors of restaurants, libraries, businesses, and our homes as we step inside to protect our families, our neighbors, and our communities. And that's probably why today's episode took so long to come together.

When we first launched Season Two in September, "The Heavens are Open" was one of the first episode themes we had slated to produce and air. And week after week, it got pushed back. First, we didn't quite have the right stories, and then we didn't quite have the time to make it what we wanted it to be, and so it kept moving further and further away from the beginning of the season and landed here instead, the very tail end of Season Two, in the middle of a time when I think maybe there's nothing that I need to know more than the fact that God really is present, that He's still here, and He's pouring His power and His glory and His goodness down on us in the midst of these latter days.

He's coming to us in a still small voice, and He's coming to us in the thunder of a general conference broadcast, where despite the fact that we can't attend, we will hear Him in the prophetic council. He's here in the midst of us right now. He is here with us in the trenches of our humanity. The heavens are open if we choose to hear Him, as President Nelson has invited us to do.

So today, finally, we have three stories from people who engaged with heaven here on Earth, in their own unique way. Our first storyteller is, a This is the Gospel favorite, my neighbor Steve, who shares a story from early in his days as a firefighter when a choice to follow the spirit over protocol just may have saved his life. Here's Steve.

Steve 3:31

So we respond to an early morning fire, probably 5:30/6 o'clock in the morning, and we arrive and it's a call of just smoke. So we pull up on the fire apparatus and we get off and you can see that there's some smoke kind of coming out of the air conditioning unit on the top of the roof, but not nothing really crazy at this point.

So we kind of look around, I'm with my captain because I'm a new guy, so I'm following him around, you know, and we kind of look up to the window and the inside of the window is pitch black, full of smoke, and there's always kind of streaks of water that runs down because all that water vaporizes and then kind of condenses on the window, and so you can tell -- so we know there's a fire inside, a pretty significant fire.

Pop the door, breached the door, and huge smoke comes out, right? It's on fire. It's burning and it's hot. So I get the hose line and with my partner and we kind of start making our advance into this very dark structure. One of the first things I learned that becoming a new firefighter is not like TV. The real fires, structure fires, when the fire is contained inside of a box, a house, are black, heavy, oppressive smoke, you cannot see, and it's terribly hot.

Some of those things that we can't simulate in training is the oppressive heat and just the the density of the smoke. I mean, you literally cannot see your hand in front your face. So I'm kind of bumping around in you know, inside dragging the hose on, and we're trying to find a fire. We can't find it. We can hear it cracking. The heat is oppressive. So we know we're getting close, and there's dense, heavy smoke.

You know, we're yelling, "Is anyone in here? Is anyone here?" You know, "We're looking for people," and then somehow I kind of get a little bit separated from my partner and it's getting really hot now and I'm just pushing a little bit farther, a little bit farther, a little bit farther, right, the statement is, "We will risk our lives a lot in a calculated manner to save a savable life. We will not risk our lives at all, to save that which they're already lost or has no value."

So I'm in that calculated manner "Save a saveable life." We think someone's inside here. I can notice very distinctly, I can feel through my gloves, the change in kind of carpet to linoleum, so I know I'm in a kitchen, and now it's really hot in the kitchen, so the fire is probably around here somewhere, and I'm only about half a meter inside. And it's one of those rare times in my life and that I hear in my mind, "Stephen, get off the floor."

To my shame, I kind of ignore it the first time because I'm looking for someone, right? So I push a little bit, a little bit farther into the room.

"Steven, get off the floor and move out of the kitchen."

"Okay," so I started backing up. I'm kind of pulling the hose line back, and literally the second I move off that linoleum floor and back into the carpet, the entire floor caves in. Suddenly, you can see everything. There's fire to to the ceiling, fire to the wall. My partner, I hear him call a mayday and he bails out of the window. And now I am, I'm in here and I've lost the hose line.

So I don't know where I am. So I'm trying to back up, it's hot. I see a bunch of orange in front of me. And I'm starting to back out and you can hear the radio traffic is escalating on the outside. And I don't know how long I was in there, but I'm trying to bump my way back to the front room through the smoke, and I think I'm just about to the door and this big hand comes in, grabs me by the scruff of the neck, my turnout gear, pulls me out of the front door and kind of stands me up and it's this big, classic, if you were to make a character of any firefighter, it would be this guy. Big mustache, like 6 foot 2,300 pounds, big dude stands me right up on my feet and says, "Hey, are you okay?" and my turnout gear is all smokey and burned and I "Yes, thank you," you know, that kind of thing.

And I get out, and then we fight the fire from the exterior, we can't find anyone inside at the time. But it was one of those rare, rare occurrences in my life where somebody cared about me and told me to do something and move, and I moved. Given my experience, I'm pretty sure I would not have survived that, frankly. But I'm so grateful, right, for that experience, and for that loving Heavenly Father and that still small voice. It wasn't loud in the chaos or the fire, wearing my turnout gear, I'm all encapsulated, and it was that still small voice that called me by name and told me to move.

Since that time, I have resolved to do the best I can to listen. Now clearly there have been times when I can't tell what it is, if it's just an impression, if it's... who knows? Who cares, right? Doesn't matter. And I've done what I felt like I should have done or what I felt like I was told to do and there was no miraculous, no seminal moment in my life, but there have been other times when I have listened and things have changed. I hope I'm always worthy enough to have that connection.

KaRyn 8:48

That was Steve. If you haven't heard Steve's season one story from our "To the Rescue" episode, it's definitely worth revisiting. What I appreciate about the story and about Steve is that acknowledgement, that moments like these, moments of pure and clear revelation, are rare in his life. But when they do happen, if he chooses to listen, things change.

And there's something really interesting about the practice of listening that Steve mentioned at the end of his story. You know, sometimes we may have an impression, a thought, or a feeling, and maybe we're unsure of its origin. "Was that the still small voice? Or was it last night's very bad decision to go to Taco Bell?" It's not always easy to discern.

But if we practice moving forward with confidence, as long as the impression is moving us towards discipleship and Christ, we will make ourselves ready to receive and obey when the pure heavenly messages reveal themselves through revelation. Our next story comes from writer and historian Heidi who received a special witness from God through a story from the Prophet Joseph's life.

Here's Heidi.

Heidi 9:56

I was walking in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. I like to walk, and I love walking into the cemetery because there are all of these grave sites and you look at the names and the dates and you recognize that in each one of those graves is someone who has a host of stories you wish you knew. Now -- I'm a writer and a historian, and so that's very intriguing to me.

So as I walk along, I'm often looking at that. Well this particular day, I was walking along in the cemetery, and I had just finished a very major project that had taken me almost two and a half, three years, and it was about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was writing a documentary for PBS. It wasn't for the church. It was for people that didn't know Joseph. It was for people, it had to be what we called "bilingual." It had to speak to them and to members of the Church, but mostly to people who could be a little bit angry.

Well, I'm walking along, and I realized that my hands no longer have an opportunity to do anything to that documentary. It's gone off to PBS to be signed off, and to be put up. And I was so sad. I was so sad that as I'm walking along, there are tears running down my face. And I could just imagine that the people who are mowing the grass were looking over at this lady who's walking and she's weeping, and that just doesn't seem to be right.

But I was crying because I felt like I had failed. I wrote 47 versions of that documentary trying to get it right. What I wanted to have happen in people's lives because of the film, because of the book that would be out there as well, because of my understanding of Joseph Smith, I didn't want them to just place him in history. I didn't want them to just say, you know, "He did a lot of interesting things." I wanted them to have the experience of having the spirit say to them, "This is a prophet of God."

I wanted them to be able to reach beyond everyday life, that linear plane we live on, that date, time, and place, I wanted them to reach beyond that, and have a spiritual experience that can only be administered from the heavens. I love Brigham Young's statement. I felt like shouting "hallelujah" to think I ever knew the Prophet Joseph Smith. I wanted people to feel that because I felt that. I felt like I knew him and I knew him before I came here. I felt like I had the responsibility to tell the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith in such a way that people would be drawn to him who otherwise had no interest or were even negative about his life in his teachings.

That I had the opportunity to tell how great he was and how significant he was, not just in the history of the United States or religion as it was growing, but in the history of the world. And I had this grand view, and I didn't feel like I had gotten the documentary to that place. I didn't feel like I had just nailed it. You know how it is sometimes when you feel like, "Ah I got it!" and in this case, there were pieces that as hard as I had tried, I hadn't pulled it together. And so now here I am 47 versions later. I just felt this, "wait," that this is Joseph Smith we're talking about, and so I'm walking along, and I started talking right out loud to my Father in Heaven.

I can remember saying to him, "I tried so hard. I can't remember anything being as difficult as this was." I'm telling the Lord about how I feel, and He knows because I was so prayerful while I did this. I was always talking to Him about, "I just don't know how to handle this, and I don't know how to handle that." And I would like to say that, you know, all of a sudden it would just appear on my screen, the Lord would say, "Oh, well, here's what you do with that," never happened. I just had to slog my way through it, and that's the way it is for almost everybody.

These things don't just drop down from the sky, and so I'm telling him about how Heidi feels now. I'm putting Heidi back in the picture because Heidi's given two and a half years of her life, lost 28 pounds, worked herself to the bone, and but it didn't matter. None of that mattered. What mattered was that I did my part for Joseph Smith.

So I'm walking along and the tears are running down my face and I'm just saying, you know, "I wanted this and I wanted that," kind of some of the things I've talked about. And then all of a sudden this sense of peace came over me, and I remember stopping. I didn't keep walking. I remember stopping and I know right where I was, I was on the hill right below where John Taylor is buried.

And I stopped there, and the thought came into my mind, and I'm one of those people the Lord communicates to in words, I don't get those burnings and the tingling’s and I don't get those. I'm a word person, so I think He knows that and He says, "Oh I'll just talk to her and she'll listen." But words came into my mind, and the words were, "Heidi, Joseph had to give the endowment in the red brick store. It wasn't the way he wanted it, but it worked."

Now, let me flashback for a minute to the second story of the red brick store. Joseph Smith, in 1840, had stood up before all of the saints who had gathered from many of them from the British Isles and eastern United States, and he said to them, "We need the temple more than anything else." And then he said, "if I can just live to see the temple completed, I'll say, 'Lord, it is enough. Let thy servant depart in peace.'"

He gets down the road a couple of years, and it's 1842. This is an important date for Joseph Smith because the temple is starting to rise up on the hillside. It's only to ground level if that, but they are beginning to see that though they're living in tents and in caves on the mountain side, they're beginning to see the significance of this temple that is going to tower over the Mississippi River on this bend, and the people are excited about that. They're giving everything they have.

And Joseph is giving everything he has, contemplating that when this temple is completed, he gets to essentially complete his mission, that he has done the Book of Mormon and he's received priesthood power, and he's brought the saints gathered to here they are, they've started doing baptisms for the dead, and the temple is going to be the culmination of their religious experience.

Okay, so Joseph knows all of this. It's in his head, and he's just wanting the Lord to let him just see it through to the end. And then 1842, he knows that he's not going to be there when the temple is completed. He sees how slowly it's going, and he recognizes, "I'm not going to be here." And so then he has to make the decision. "What do I do? Well, I've got to give the endowment," and he knows what it is, "I got to give the endowment in such a way and to enough people that it can be carried on when I'm gone and when the temple is completed."

He takes them into the second story of the red brick store, nine men to the red brick store, it takes all day, and he gives them their endowment. I just sometimes think about how Joseph Smith must have felt. Here's Joseph watching this last piece, this culminating piece of the restoration slipway, he doesn't get to be there for it, after everything that he's given and everything that he's done.

That experience in the red brick store came back to my mind in the cemetery. It was like the heavens had opened and the light came down, and I looked around, wondering if anyone else had heard what I'd heard because it was so pronounced, and it made so much sense to me because it kind of put some closure to Joseph's life for me, but more than that, I felt connected to him in a personal way.

I understand now, that you put everything forward and the Lord knew that, and He said, "It wasn't the way he wanted it, and this isn't the way you wanted it, but it worked for Joseph." And then I thought to myself, "It will work." And it was one of those times where the heavens opened, and where the Lord kind of brought the whole thing together for me, not for anyone else. Now, it was just for me.

And I have reflected back on that so many times of when things haven't come together just the way I wanted for this or for that, I just say to myself, "Heidi, Joseph had to give the endowment in the red brick store. It wasn't the way he wanted it, but it worked. It worked." And I will say to myself over and over again, "This will work."

I don't, I don't think we allow Him to be that much a part of our lives sometimes. I think we want reinforcement from a lot of other places, and that was the only reinforcement that really mattered because it was so tied to what I've been doing, and it moved me legions forward.

I think sometimes we expect the heavens to open when we ask for it, and we expect the heavens to open with the answer that we're asking for. And what I found so engaging in my connection to the heavens, is that the Lord came to me with something I didn't expect, but it was far more, it was far broader and far more enveloping for me because He knew what I needed.

I think I came to the end of this project with a perspective because I had come to know Joseph Smith in a way that I prize not just my testimony of him and his work, but my witness of his goodness, all the way to his heart and his soul. I learned from him that it was not easy, not ever, to move the work forward, the restoration, it was not something that just the heavens opened and all the answers were there, he had to do a lot of legwork in order for things to get done. It isn't about the work per se. I learned from him that it's about the effort and the willingness to submit to the Lord.

KaRyn 22:15

That was Heidi Swinton. Heidi is the award-winning writer of the PBS documentary "American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith," which was recently reissued as part of the bicentennial celebration of the first vision. And aside from her delightful storytelling abilities, Heidi holds a special place in my heart because it was during a deep and meaningful airplane conversation with her four years ago that I first jotted down the phrase "This is the Gospel" in my journal.

Her unique knowledge of the Prophet Joseph Smith and her love and respect for him is absolutely inspiring to me. Sometimes he feels really far away and when I talked to Heidi, somehow he becomes real. And isn't it so cool that our God is an efficient God, He parts the heaven for Joseph in 1842, and then uses that experience to pour down his love and grace to Heidi in the 20th century.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and I'll just keep saying it, our stories may just be the instrument that God chooses to use when he opens the heavens to our posterity generations from now. So write it down, write it down now so that it can do some good in the future. Our final story today comes from Elizabeth, who needed a miracle and got it when she discovered just how to ask for it.

Here's Elizabeth.

Elizabeth 23:46

I was in this room with just a bed with a mosquito net and a little nightstand. I took off my boots and my sock and my foot was horribly infected.

It was red, it was swollen, and I was really scared about how I was going to get out of there because I was three days into a seven-day hike in Madagascar and there were no hospitals.

The whole reason I was there was because when I was a kid, I saw the show on the Discovery Channel about Madagascar, and how the forests were all being cut down and that lemurs only live there, and they were all endangered because of all this deforestation. And so my plan when I was a kid was to win the lottery, which I've played the lottery, but I was going to win a million dollars and buy Madagascar, and then everybody had to leave unless they agreed to not cut down the forests.

So I've always loved wildlife, and I became a park ranger when I grew up. And I was working at Denali National Park in Alaska, and I had two months off every winter, so I would go someplace warm and sunny. I've been to Africa a bunch of times, to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia. In 2011, I was in Uganda, worked at a clinic for five weeks and then climbed Kilimanjaro.

And then in 2013, I finally got to go to Madagascar. And I had three things that I wanted to do when I was there. I wanted to see a fossa. The fossa is the largest predator of lemurs in Madagascar, and I read that the best place to see him was Kirindy National Forest Park, so I went there. And then I wanted to do some volunteer work, so I found a place to volunteer for two weeks with nutrition for kids under age four.

And then I wanted to hike in Masoala national park on the Masoala peninsula. So when you hike in the national parks in Madagascar, it's required that you hire a guide. So I flew into Maroantsetra and I went to the park office to arrange the hike, and the only guide they had that spoke English was Claudio, so I hired him.

Because it was really hot and humid there, I didn't want to carry my own backpack. So I hired a porter. So the porters, they carry your backpack, they set up the tents, they cook the food, they even cooked lunch, they cooked all three meals. They didn't let me do anything actually, they were really good. And my backpack was kind of heavy, it had everything for six weeks in there, and we still needed food, so I hired another porter.

So I had Gerard, who was an older guy, and Jovan and Claudio. Gerard and Jovan didn't speak any English, there's just Claudio. And then the trail was seven days long. We started on a pirogue, which is a little canoe that you can either paddle or push with a pole.

After we got off the pirogue, we started hiking, and that was the one place where like the trail was kind of wide, and there were villagers, people living there and there was fruit trees, mango trees, and lychee trees and people were fishing and they had their fish laying out in the sun to dry, and there was a lot of shade on the trail because of all the big trees.

So on the first night, we stayed in a hotel which had one one room and there was a shed out back with a barrel of water and a little cup for a shower. And on my way to the shower, after I had taken off my boots, I noticed that I had this big blister in between my big toe and the bottom of my foot. Really strange place for blister, I've never gotten one there before.

And I wasn't worried about it, I've gotten so many blisters. It seems like every hike that I go on, I get blisters all over my feet, and it's just kind of an inconvenience, but I'm used to it. And I've never had a, you know, a serious problem, it's just been painful.

During the night, my blister kind of filled up with fluid, and so when I started that second day, it almost immediately popped and Claudio told me there'd be river crossings, so I was wearing my sandals that second day. And there were river crossings, but they're also like the trail was flooded because we were walking between rice paddies, and it was really dirty water because there were cows everywhere and the rivers weren't particularly clean either.

And so the trail was sometimes up to my shin in water and the river crossings were, you know, mid-thigh, so it was a lot of splashing through water that second day. And at the end of the second day, I thought, "well, I gotta clean this blister as best as I can." So I had some hand sanitizer and I kind of, you know, washed it off with that, but I did find a leech in the broken blister and I pulled that thing out. So I washed it as best as I could and didn't think much of it because it's just a blister.

So on the third day, I wore my boots again and I was just hiking along like normal and around the afternoon, my foot started to get pretty sore, and I loosened the laces because I just thought, "Well, maybe I just tied my boot too tight today." But by the end of the day, as we were getting into the village where we're going to spend the night, I was trying really hard not to limp because my foot was so tender just to walk on and I just assumed that I had a lot more blisters.

But then when I got to my room and took my boot off and my sock off, I saw that my foot was red, and it was swollen. I couldn't even see my ankle bone. My little toes were like little red sausages, and my foot was hot to the touch, and it was infected. And I didn't know how I was gonna walk the next day because it hurt so bad.

So I didn't know how I was gonna get out of there, I didn't think that I was going to be able to walk the next day. And I was so freaked out that I didn't, I was afraid to tell Claudio, and there was nobody else that spoke English, and there were no clinics, there were no hospitals. There wasn't even electricity, there was no running water. I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, and I was really stressed out. I didn't know if the infection was gonna get worse in the next day. I'm 5 foot 10 and I was taller than most of the people I met there and I thought, “they can't carry me out. We're three days in, four days the next way," you know, like, "What am I gonna do?"

And I was just in this little room with there's little stick walls, the sticks close together, and you could see people moving around outside, like through the gaps in the sticks. And there's this lonely dark room with just my little kerosene lamp, and I felt so alone because I was feeling really far from anything I knew, and just all by myself out there in Madagascar, in the middle of nowhere, and I really, I really just wanted a priesthood blessing, and I wanted to find a member of the Church to give me a blessing, but there were no churches out there, there were no members of the Church.

I had my little iPod touch with me and I hadn't used it because there's no way to charge it, but I knew I had conference talks on there. So I turned it on, and I had October 2012 conference talks on there. I had one by Elder Holland, about the first commandment, and he talks about the apostles and how they must have felt after Jesus was crucified and was resurrected and then he left, and they say, "Well, what do we do now?" And Peter says, "Well, I guess we just go back to fishing."

And then he talks about, you know, he paraphrases Jesus saying to them, "Shouldn't this have, you know, being with me for three years, shouldn't it have changed you?" And I thought about how I've been changed by going to the temple and making my covenants there.

I just, you know, sitting there in that dark room with just Elder Holland, in that conference talk, it made me realize that I wasn't alone and that I could ask for the power to be healed, I could pray. So I did, I knelt down on the floor outside the mosquito netting, and I said a prayer and I said, "Heavenly Father, I know you can heal my foot. Even if you choose not to, I know you won't leave me here. You haven't abandoned me, something will work out."

And I knew that because I try to keep my covenants, I had this power I could ask for; to help me. And the best part was that I got done with that prayer and I felt peaceful. I wasn't worried about it. I knew something would work out. And I didn't feel so alone anymore.

After that prayer, I went to sleep. I was able to get to sleep, and I woke up in the morning and my foot was back to normal size, and it wasn't hot anymore, it wasn't red. It was still a little sore, but it was healed. And my foot was better. It was miraculous. The other blisters I had didn't bother me for the rest of the hike. I was able to finish the hike. I had a wonderful time.

I didn't even get any more leeches. It was just a fantastic experience, and I am so thankful that I could have that reassurance that I knew that I had that power to draw on and that I wasn't alone, that Heavenly Father wouldn't leave me and that I could ask for his help.

KaRyn 33:36

That was Elizabeth. I adore the simple story of healing for so many reasons. but I think my favorite part is this. Yes, waking up to a healed foot overnight is miraculous, but I think the real miracle in a rain forest in Madagascar thousands and thousands of miles from home, was actually her revelation about the Priesthood of God. That it's here, on the Earth right now because of the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation, and as a faithful covenant keeping Daughter of God, she is never without access to its power, whether she's home or abroad.

She said she feels grateful to be able to draw on that power. You know, this is a really interesting phrase that we sometimes use when we talk about the priesthood. To draw on something or to draw down something, means that we access a thing that is useful or precious that we've held in reserve. It's used in reference to money or oil or gas or water.

There's a sense that when we draw on reserves, they diminish and I know that that's true about my canned peaches, and that's why I hold on to them with a fist of iron, but you know, the Priesthood Power of God is never diminished when we call it down. And the Prophet Joseph Smith promised us that it will, quote, "Never be taken from the Earth while mortality endures, for there will always be need for temporal direction, and the performance of ordinances," end quote.

And you know what that means to me? That while everything else seems like it is closing around us, the heavens will never be closed to us as long as we're here trudging through dank waters on African islands with our broken bodies. That we can be sure of.

You know, we chose the theme for this episode after reading Sister Wendy Nelson's book with the same title, and as the wife of our Prophet, President Nelson, she has a courtside seat to the continuing revelation and heavenly guidance that defines his role of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the Church.

One of my favorite moments in the book was when Sister Nelson shared this, she said, quote, "Recently my husband said to me, 'Wendy, the Lord is just as eager to give revelation to you as He is to give it to me,'" end quote. I think it's easy to forget that we're entitled. By virtue of our divine nature as Daughters and Sons of God, that we're entitled to call down the heavens and all that that entails.

Prophets or people with weighty jobs in the Church do not get a more direct line to the heavens just because of the work they do. They may receive different kinds of information or have a different scope to that connection, but our God is no respecter of persons. And while the Prophet has a special calling and specific authority to receive revelation for the Church as a whole, he is no more entitled to the gifts of such connection than you or me.

And so how do we do it? In these absolutely wild and crazy times when we might need to draw upon the endless reserves of heavenly power more than ever? How do we move with confidence when the voice calls us by name to get off the floor in our smoke filled spaces, or open the door to the piece of heaven when we're not sure we've done enough?

How do we call down healing and hope in the jungles of loneliness? Well, we start with the Savior. We always start with the Savior. Sister Nelson wrote this quote, "As we truly focus on the Savior, as we truly remember Him and His infinite Atonement, as day after day we think of Him more and more, the heavens will open. Our fears and doubts will decrease. Some will even flee! We will be led along. We will know what to do, step by step. We will learn how to draw upon the power available to us because the Savior atoned for us. We will learn how to access His cleansing, healing, redemptive, strengthening power. And we will experience the freedom to be our true selves as we unyoke ourselves from the world and instead yoke ourselves to the Savior," end quote.

So for those of you, who like me, struggle with feeling just a little bit inadequately matched to the times ahead, what we have to remember is that we're already here. We're here, and we're already made adequate through Christ, through our best efforts and his grace and mercy.

Maybe we're showing up imperfectly and in pieces right now, and maybe we could choose to be a little bit more intentional in those efforts. I know I could. But if we're trying, then we're exactly where we should be, doing exactly what we should be doing, the heavens do see us and they do know us, and they are blessing us as we call upon them and draw down their powers.

That's it for this episode of This is the Gospel. Thank you to our storytellers, firefighter Steve, historian Heidi S. Swinton and adventurer Elizabeth. We'll have links to Heidi's documentary as well as Sister Nelson's beautiful book "The Heavens Are Open," and other good stuff including a transcript of this episode in the show notes at LDSLiving.com/ThisistheGospel.

All of the stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. We love to hear all the ways that this type of storytelling strengthens your faith in God and love for his children. If you have a minute to leave us a review, and a rating, wherever you listen to your podcast, please do. We've got plenty of time, I know you're sitting in your house wondering what to do. Especially during this hiatus, all the good words help us to keep working hard and know more of the kinds of stories and themes that are most meaningful to you. And, added bonus if you didn't already know, every single review helps us to show up in the search for more people when they're looking for something good to listen to.

If you have a story to share about Living the Gospel, please call our pitch line, leave us a pitch. We often find many of our stories including Elizabeth's story today from the pitch line, and we love to hear how the Gospel has blessed your life. And the pitch line is very much open during this social distancing, so call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less.

This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story editing and producing by Jasmine Mullen, Katie Lambert, Erika Free, and Danielle Wagner. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by Mix at Six Studios. That is such a tongue twister. Our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at LDSLiving.com/podcasts. Stay healthy, catch up on old episodes, and we'll see you soon.

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