On a Tuesday night, just a couple of weeks before Christmas, I received the most horrific phone call of my life. My parents’ home was engulfed in fire. My parents were nowhere to be found! I panicked. Where were my parents? They weren’t answering their cellphones. Firefighters worried they were still inside the inflamed home as they battled the flames and attempting to get inside.
My mom sent an e-mail earlier that day stating the plan for was to stay home all evening with dad. She planned to work on Christmas presents. As the firefighters battled the flames and scoured the home searching for them, my parents drove into the driveway to witness flames shooting out of the roof. They left their home for only an hour to buy more sugar for Christmas cookies and deliver a birthday present to my brother-in-law. Relief came to my anguished heart knowing they were safe.
During the course of the evening, my siblings, their spouses, and I called each other repeatedly. Since three of the six children lived far away, we could not witness the devastation and know what was happening. The three that lived near them and their spouses kept us updated through phone calls, emails and pictures. Only part of the foundation was left to my parents’ dream home that sat on 10 acres of deciduous Indiana forest. I cried, mourned and grieved for them. All of the time, sweat, and sacrifice that had been put into restoring the home appeared wasted. Every earthly possession was gone. In addition to their belongings, my childhood memories smoldered in flames. Family histories, journals, and pictures of generations past extinguished. No-where to call home. No-where to return to visit. Grief like an oppression sunk into the center of my soul as I envisioned my parents watching their life smolder in ashes.
During the midst of these calls came the call that changed my perspective. My mother. My sweet dear mother who has always quietly guided me but has also been a rock during each of my most heart wrenching trials stood on the gravel lane to her blazing home. She described flames bellowing through the sliding glass doors peaking at the top of the forty foot fireplace constructed of Virginia stone. Tears fell from my own eyes and coursed down my cheeks.
But the possession that concerned her the most? Her scriptures. They were gone. She had studied the same set for ten years. They were well loved and well marked. They had been sitting on the living room mantel where she witnessed them ablaze. During my lifetime, I always saw them on the living room mantel or on her dresser near the bedroom door. They were never put away someplace ‘safe’ where they would not be seen. They were in constant use. Her next concerns were her genealogy and family histories, temple work. Nothing was mentioned about the thousands of dollars of other belongings in the home until much later.
The next day, while each of her children was making lists of things that had burned and what could be replaced, she called. Cheerful and happy! Shock consumed me, and I hadn’t lost all of my worldly possessions. A lot of work would be required to put her life back together but everything would be just fine, she reassured me. She recently just finished reading her Book of Mormon and completed the challenge given by our dear prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, in the August 2005 Ensign. He had promised,
“Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God” (Ensign, August 2005, p6).
She called to bear testimony of the fulfillment of that promise. Peaceful and calm described her demeanor. Her spiritual well was full. Gratitude was expressed for her obedience to the words of the prophet. She possessed a growing, living testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ which sustained her through the difficult challenge of rebuilding her temporal life.
This experience caused me to reflect more upon my own conversion and where I stood in this process. I wondered if my testimony were strong enough. Could my own testimony withstand all things? Is there a trial that would shake my faith to the point of falling apart? Would I be like my mother who had enough oil for her lamp or would I turn out to be like the five foolish virgins?
I pondered increasingly more on the topic. I made it the focus of my scripture study and prayer. I needed to be stronger. I needed to know that I could withstand all things. I needed to have the assurances that I possessed that hope “which maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast,” (Ether 12:4). How my soul yearned for this anchor!
As I pondered and reflected on these questions, many experiences came to mind. I found the answers for which I sought. I felt the reassurance of Father that I was on the correct path and simply needed to persevere. I needed to continue strengthening my own testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My prayer is that we will all be able to answer a resounding “YES” to the question, “Can my testimony withstand all things?”
Harrington-Atkinson, T. (2015). Securing Your Tent: Building a Christ-centered Life.
By Tracy Atkinson
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.