Nazanin left Tehran after her husband ended their marriage and claimed his entitlement to sole custody over their young daughter.1 With little remaining for her in Iran, she immigrated to Spain and settled in the Mediterranean coastal town of Fuengirola.
Nazanin soon met the missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who taught her the gospel. Because Nazanin did not speak Spanish and only broken English, the elders ordered a Book of Mormon for her in her native language of Farsi. Within only a couple of months Nazanin demonstrated amazing faith and was baptized.
Though she attended church faithfully, her progress was slow. Due to the language barrier, the missionaries were concerned that she still lacked a clear understanding of basic Christian doctrine and of the baptismal covenants she had made.
A few weeks later, on an unrelated matter, President Monte Deere of the Spain Málaga Mission, the mission president of the area, was in contact with one of his missionaries, who had finished his mission in Spain sometime earlier and was now living back in Provo, Utah. President Deere and Elder Santiago2 had been exchanging emails about a recent convert family in Sevilla, Spain, but when the email exchanges became cumbersome, President Deere asked Elder Santiago to email his phone number so they could continue the conversation in real time.
When President Deere called Elder Santiago’s number, a woman answered in English but with a strong accent. He was a bit surprised that a woman answered, so he explained, “I am calling for Diego Santiago.”
The woman responded, “This is Sister Jones.”3 President Deere was confused by what connection this “Sister Jones” had to Elder Santiago, but thinking Elder Santiago may be working at the Provo MTC and had given him that phone number, asked, “Is this the MTC? Is there an Elder Santiago there?” The confused Sister Jones finally handed President Deere off to her companion, who spoke better English.
President Deere apologized again and repeated the telephone number he’d been given by Diego Santiago. The woman said, “Well, this is Sister Jones’s phone, and the number you called is hers. She is a missionary working in the mission office of the California Los Angeles Mission.”
At this point, President Deere was completely confused so started reassessing the facts: One, I’m at the mission home in Fuengirola, Spain. Two, I had called a telephone number with an 801 Utah prefix given me by Elder Santiago. Three, that number just happened to reach two sister missionaries serving in California.
Coincidence would be an understatement. President Deere suggested to this sister on the phone, “Well, I suppose I’ve reached a wrong number, but it may interest you to know that I am a mission president presiding over the Spain Málaga Mission. I’m a little surprised that I’ve somehow called a missionary in California with an 801 telephone number given me by one of my old missionaries in Provo.”
After some brief conversation, the sister missionary paused, spoke to Sister Jones for a moment, and then said, “Sister Jones wants to know if you have anyone in your mission who needs to learn the gospel in Farsi?”
Was this really happening? President Deere was flabbergasted.
It turned out, Sister Jones’s assignment was to teach investigators by Skype—anywhere in the world—the missionary discussions in Farsi.
Holding back emotion, President Deere managed to say, “Actually yes, we have a recent convert sister here in Spain who needs to hear the gospel in her native Farsi.”
They soon traded contact information.
Immediately after the call with Sister Jones and her fellow missionary, President Deere sent an email to Elder Santiago and learned that the number he had been given was off by one digit.
President Deere in Málaga, Spain.
Sister missionaries in Southern California.
Returned missionary Diego Santiago in Provo, Utah.
All being guided by the Holy Ghost without knowing it at the time.4
It was only as events unfolded that each came to recognize the inspiration behind what was taking place. And the beneficiary of all these miracles? Over the next few weeks, Sister Jones taught all of the discussions to Nazanin in Farsi by Skype, allowing her to hear the gospel in her native tongue.
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Again, no coincidences. Only God’s attention to detail in answering the prayers of a faithful new Iranian convert.
With this divine pattern, when we ask and seek, we shall receive and find. Though this sounds simple and matter of fact, it may not in reality be quite so linear—we often iterate between asking a lot and receiving just enough, then seeking again and finding a bit more. God has His ways of bringing answers and circumstances about in our lives in ways that we can best receive and apply them.
Still, all this may not be as difficult as some may think.
Stop Worrying about It; You Will Be Guided!
In a 2020 Church Education System devotional broadcast called “An Evening with a General Authority,” Elder David A. Bednar shared a profound insight on how the Holy Ghost works with us—instruction that is fundamental to our understanding. He began, “We often make it hard on ourselves to receive personal revelation. By that I mean … as we honor our covenants, we may always have the Holy Ghost to be our constant companion. But we talk about it and we treat it is as if hearing the voice of the Lord is the rare event, and that just strikes me as a little curious. … We shouldn’t be trying to recognize it when it comes, we should be recognizing what happens that causes it to leave. It ought to be with us all of the time. Not every nanosecond, but if a person is doing his or her best, you don’t have to be perfect, but if you and I are doing our best and we’re not committing serious transgression, then we can count on the Holy Ghost guiding us.”
Elder Bednar continued, “Secondly, I think in the culture of the Church, especially in the western world, we seem to believe … that you have to recognize that you are receiving revelation in the moment that you are receiving revelation, … [which is] actually the opposite of what really happens as we receive revelation.”
Elder Bednar went on to reinforce the idea that revelation often comes to us without us recognizing it in the moment. Using the example of Nephi in obtaining the brass plates, he pointed out that Nephi really didn’t know how things were going to work out while he was attempting to retrieve the plates. Nephi didn’t know in “every instant” that he was being guided. It was in looking back on the event that he recognized how the Spirit had been directing him to be successful in obtaining the plates. Nephi himself states that he went forth, “not knowing beforehand the things [that he] should do.”5
Elder Bednar continued, “Now the reason … that’s at the very beginning of the Book of Mormon is so … every one of us will read it 48 million times in our lives. It’s before the Isaiah chapters and I think that’s intentional.” Elder Bednar explained that repetition is to help us “make the connection that what happened to him is probably how it ought to be working for us.” He stated, “I find members of the Church who are terrified: ‘I’m going to make a mistake.’ Did Nephi make a mistake the first time when they drew lots and [it] didn’t work out?”
Here, Elder Bednar made the point—just because Nephi was unsuccessful, it doesn’t mean he made a mistake or that he had not been inspired to take the approach he did to retrieve the plates the first time. Elder Bednar continued, “But boy, did he learn a lesson … So, [the guidance of the Holy Ghost] doesn’t have to be big, dramatic, quick, all at once, and it’s just probably the opposite of that; but somehow, we’ve come to [those] conclusions, and I think those assumptions get in our way.”6
This is a fresh perspective that ought to help each of us take a sigh of relief when it comes to making decisions and seeking the guidance of the Spirit in our life. Essentially, we are being taught that you can trust the Savior’s teachings as you apply this divine pattern: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”7 If you are doing your part and striving to live the gospel, you will be guided—whether you know it or not.8
What of those who feel the promised blessings are out of reach; that God has somehow let them down? Or those who feel that life is not unfolding in the way they had hoped or thought they had been promised; that God's plan for them is not working? What are they to understand about what God has yet in store for them? In Divine Patterns, best-selling author Roger Connors seeks to reinforce, restore, and revitalize our faith in God's promises by helping us better understand the gospel principles underpinning our efforts to seek His blessings.
1. Name has been changed.
2. Name has been changed.
3. Name has been changed.
4. This story was shared in a personal conversation with President Monte Deere, a family friend who experienced firsthand the events as relayed.
5. 1 Nephi 4:6.
6. “An Evening with a General Authority—Elder David A. Bednar: CES Worldwide Event,” February 7, 2020, https://www.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/media/video/2020-02-1000-an-evening-with-a-general-authority-elder-bednar?lang=eng.
7. Matthew 7:7–11.
8. See 3 Nephi 9:20.