There is a legend in the Cherokee Indian nation involving the rite of passage for young boys. A father brings his son to a forest at night, blindfolds him, and sits him on a stump. The boy must spend the entire night alone in the forest this way, without removing the blindfold, until the morning. The boy must not cry out, run, or take off the blindfold. Once he survives the night he has passed into manhood. As you can envision, this must be a terrifying experience for the boy. His imagination must torture him with the sound of the wind, wild animals lurking about, even enemies who might seek to do him harm. But each boy that endures the ritual not only survives the experience, he learns something wonderful about his family. At daybreak when he is allowed to remove the blindfold, the boy sees that his father has been there the entire night, standing guard over his son to protect him from danger.

While Cherokee Indian boys may experience a night of emotional fortitude to strengthen their character, we too go through bouts of spiritual strengthening similar to this. We may not need to endure a night in a forest, blindfolded and scared, but we often times go through periods of trial that seem like a night of never-ending darkness, only to find our Heavenly Father had been watching over us the entire time.

Heavenly Father, are you really there?

young man thinkingThe darkness and uncertainties of life sometimes whirl around us so violently, we cannot see the end. Our trials seem bigger than they really are. Why does this happen? We allow fear to overcome us. There is something about fear of the unknown that seems to zap our minds of faith in what we know. Our logical minds tell us the morning will come, the sun will rise, and all doubts will fade away. But while we are in the midst of darkness, fear devours faith. It threatens to separate us from the source of faith. We start asking questions, like, “Heavenly Father are you really there?” when all our lives we’ve known deep down that He is there and has always been there. Fortunately, He loves us enough not to mind the question. In fact, reaching out to Him is the first step in overcoming the trial.

Heavenly Father, I remember now

When we redirect our attention away from fear and back toward faith, a miracle of the mind happens. The fog begins to clear. If you ever have forgotten something simple, like where you left your car keys, and then visualized where they are, you can understand how clarity of mind works. You remember something you had forgotten. It is that simple. Our Heavenly Father has given us this gift to overcome trials of the heart as well. We can remember Him. We can remember times when he has not failed us .We can remember that He is perfect, and his perfection is directed toward strengthening us at all times. If we are on His side, He will not fail us. The Holy Ghost acts to remind us of things we know are true. He stands ready to show us, if we turn our attention away from fear and toward faith, we will recognize truths we have always known.

Pray, he is there; speak, he is listening.

mormon prayerThe spirit of the Lord teaches a man that he must pray. Prayer is not simply rattling off a wish list to God. It is heart-felt, sincere communication with the most perfect father in the universe. It always amazes me to think how he can be so complex as to create everything, and still love us enough individually to listen and to care. I’ve experienced too many moments in my life to ever doubt that this is true. He does care. He does love me. And he loves you just as much as he loves me.

He hears your prayers; he loves the children.

I have felt the barrier between Heavenly Father and me to be very fluid at times. When my father and grandmother both died were times I remember this very specifically. It was as if I could pass right through and sit with Him and feel His arms wrapped around me. Other times, I’ve felt the barrier solid and unyielding, as if my prayers were just bouncing off a wall, never making it to Him. But over time I’ve learned no matter how I view the barrier, his ability to hear me is ever-present. He always hears me. He is always listening. And he always stands ready to wrap His arms around me in the darkest moments of my life.

For such is the kingdom of heaven

Our world today tries so hard to separate us from our spiritual roots. Many groups and organizations out there treat religion with such disdain. Some taunt—professing there is no God. Others use fear, guilt, and control to manipulate

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power in the so-called name of god. The true nature of God is that He is our spirit father and he is there to protect us whether we see Him or not. The true nature of heaven centers on spiritual families. I’ve found in my life that the times when this truth is most clear are the times my heart is open, pure, and searching for a sure foundation. The kingdom of heaven is built on a sure foundation.

The Cherokee Man

When the Cherokee boy grows up and has a family of his own, he revisits the legend he first knew as a boy—this time acting as the protector of his son for the duration of the night. I’m sure he remembers the experience when he was behind the blindfold. His role has now changed, and his understanding, no doubt, has deepened. We, too, can allow this legend to deepen our connection with Heavenly Father. When doubt and fear enter our heart and mind, we can imagine Him watching over us, ready to protect us in the darkness, until the first ray of sunshine gleams through the blindfold and we see His light again; a constant reminder that he has always been there from the beginning and that he will not leave us alone in our darkest hours.

About Nanette ONeal
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.

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