The following experience happened to my great grandfather when he was just a boy. This story helped me connect to him particularly when I was young. My grandfather shares this experience in his journal:
I will now relate a wonderful experience which I had while we were living near the Jordan bridge in the spring of 1861 when I was ten years of age. Having sometimes seen boys come out to the river to catch fish on Sunday forenoons the same as on week days, and seeing some boys fishing one Sunday, I got a hook and line ready, but felt that perhaps I ought not to try it on Sunday. The thought came to me that those boys must be of good Latter-day Saint parents and if their parents allowed their boys to catch fish on Sunday it would not be more sinful for me than it was for them to try it for a while.
I threw my line into the water and while standing on a high bank. The bank caved in with me and let me down into the deep river. I did not know the least thing about swimming and the water took me along till I sank to the bottom. I thought that was the end of my life. Then I thought that it would still be possible for God to save my life; so in my thought I prayed to God to save me. Just then a voice said to me, “Grab hold of that sticky clay in the bottom and crawl out.”
At the same time I found that I could cling to the clay and so I crawled toward the shore. I happened to crawl right toward where my mother was standing on the bank with a large, long stick to reach down to me. It seemed for a little while that I could not get my breath anymore after I got hold of the stick, but I made up my mind to cling to the stick with all my might so long as I could.
After a little while I could start to breathe again. It surely is wonderful to me how the Lord heard the prayer of my thoughts deep down in the bottom of the river and that I was led right toward the spot where my mother was standing on the high bank. She walked along the bank and, keeping my head above the water, led me down to the bridge where I could climb out, over a rough rock wall. Oh, how thankful I am to my kind Heavenly father for having heard my humble secret prayers, and protected me from great danger and death in so many dangerous times and places.
He has made many things known to me through heavenly dreams and visions, and by heavenly voices telling me the things in answer to secret prayer. I often feel that I can never thank Him enough for all the many wonderful blessings with which He has blessed me. Trying to fish on Sunday has taught me a lesson for life (even though I was only ten years of age then), to keep the Sabbath day holy.
Lots of times when I had hay partly dried, laying on the ground there came a stormy looking Sunday morning. I lived right by the side of one of the main field roads and would see some of the farmers hurry by with their hay rakes to rake their hay, but I never worked with my hay no matter how much it looked like we might have a bad storm on Sabbath morning. I was lucky nearly always to get good hay. We sure were greatly blessed with plenty of everything if we did not do any work on Sunday and the Lord heard the prayer of a child’s thought deep down in the water and saved it.
The part of this story that is not included in his writing but was handed down in the family from generation-to-generation is the account of his mother who was in the kitchen baking at the time. As she kneaded the dough, suddenly a voice came to her “Go look out the window.” She followed the prompting immediately by turning around and walking across the room. As she gazed out the window, she saw the bank crumble and John fall headlong into the raging water.
She gathered her skirt in her arms and ran out the door and across the field to the bank of the river looking for her son. She couldn’t see the boy but picked up a long, dried branch and held it down to the water. It was at that moment his arms surged out of the river, and he grasped the lifesaving branch. Now with his head above water, his mother led him down the river until they found a place he could climb out.
I know that my Heavenly Father loves me because he helped and protected my grandparents so that they could have posterity of which I am fortunate to be a part.
About Walter Penning
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.