We went through several years of difficulty after our mother’s death. God was less a part of our home life, and we sometimes did not even attend church. I can see the impact that this had on my younger brothers and sisters’ lives. They do not have the same kind of faith that I do. I think that it’s harder to build a relationship with God as an adult, but not impossible, His hand is always extended. It would seem that, what we learn as a small child, seems to have a greater impact.
I went through the normal resentments and rebellions of a teenager. My choices were not as extreme as some, because I did not want to disappoint God. Yet, I did not feel close to God, like I had as a child. Instead, I was caught up in my sports, studies, and music activities. At the age of fourteen, however, I did have one of the most influential experiences of my life.
It was at a church youth camp, where I slept in a cabin with other girls and a counselor. When the lights were out, we said our prayers from our bed. After I prayed one night, I opened my eyes and standing by the window outside the cabin was Satan. He did not have a physical body as we do, but he looked like a spirit shaped man. He was looking at the person praying when I first saw him, and then, he turned and looked directly at me. Words cannot describe the hate and evil that emanated from his eyes. Even to this day, as I recall that moment, my heart accelerates and I feel a cold chill. I buried my head in my pillow and prayed. I commanded in the name of Jesus Christ for him to depart, and he left. For months after that experience I avoided being alone in the dark. I rarely share this, because I do not want to give the adversary any attention, but my testimony would be incomplete without sharing it now. There is no doubt in my mind that I saw Satan.
The reason I say that this was one of the most influential experiences of my life, is because after I had seen the adversary, I was more sensitive to evil. Throughout the rest of my teenage years, and into my twenties, I continued to have experiences where he would attempt to make contact with me. My faith in God grew, because I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that both good and evil spirits existed, the adversary existed, and, therefore, our Father in Heaven also existed. I will not dwell any more on these negative experiences, except to say that one night the evil became so bold as to literally shake my bed hard enough that a picture was knocked crooked on the wall. I did not understand, at that time, why the adversary continued to plague me, and I did not understand why God allowed it. I understand now, but I will leave this explanation for another time. On with my testimony…
When I was fifteen I decided to go out with an older guy, even though I was not allowed to date until I was sixteen. I did not like the guy, as much as I liked his car, and I was tired of my parent’s authority. He had a rough reputation, but I thought that I could handle him. I arranged to spend the night at a friend’s house, so my parents would not know about the date.
The Wednesday evening, before the Saturday date, there was a youth activity at our church. I was very excited to see friends that I had not seen since the previous summer. A man, that brought some youth from a neighboring town, kept attempting to take me aside to speak privately with me. I was more interested in being with my friends, so I did not want to leave with him. He became more and more insistent, so I finally stepped outside the church.
This is the only time in my life that God called me out. The man did not touch me. He stood several feet from me, but I felt hands on my shoulders and then a gentle shake, as if to say that this matter is very important, listen. I felt God’s power and authority and knew that, through this man, He was talking to me. Although the man spoke calmly with no emotion, just a sense of duty, I was aware of a stern father, who was very displeased with me. Yet, at the same time, I also knew His abiding love to send someone to me. The man said that God told him to tell me that I would be a good handmaiden for the Lord or I would be sleeping with every man that I met. He said other things, but this is the part that I remember the most. Immediately I started sobbing. The man was embarrassed for delivering such a harsh message. He said that the Lord had awakened him several times over the past few nights, told him my name, and that he was to deliver this message to me. As you might guess, I canceled the date. In fact, I was so cautious about interaction with the opposite sex after this, that I did not even kiss a man until I was over twenty years old. I trusted God more than myself.
After high school graduation, I proceeded on to college and was very dedicated to my studies. Regretfully, I did not attend church regularly. However, the summer between my freshman and sophomore college years I received my patriarchal blessing. This is a special blessing given, usually once in a lifetime. It provides guidance and direction from God. As a member of the church, you approach a patriarch and request a blessing. Members are encouraged to make extra preparation. Sometimes family members are present. The blessing is recorded, so that it can be transcribed and a hard copy provided.
When I received my patriarchal blessing a new level in my relationship with God was established. During the blessing, I felt God’s arms cradle me, and I did not feel the confines of my body. It was a profound experience, although I had no idea what had been said. From this, I gained an intimate knowledge of God’s love, not just a belief. I knew that His love was so exquisite that he was willing to suffer and die for me. I knew the healing power of such a love. A new level of intimacy was opened. As a result, I was much more sensitive to God’s Spirit and the Lord’s presence.
Another noteworthy thing happened that same summer. I went on a trip with some older youth to a church historic site. I was nineteen years old, the youngest person on the trip. After we arrived, some of the priesthood members noticed many evil spirits at the site and suggested that we, as a group, pray to drive them out. The priesthood determined to have groups pray simultaneously in each room after dark, once the facility was closed. They asked for volunteers. I volunteered, as did most people on the trip.
Five or six of us prayed in an upstairs room, where we knelt in a circle holding hands. As we took turns praying, a concerted evil force grew and strove to pull us apart. At first I did not feel fear, just surprise at the magnitude of the force. All of a sudden, I literally felt like I was being pulled from my body. I could not stop it. I could not even speak. I tried to cry out for help. A man in the group interrupted somebody’s prayer and started praying for me, in a very urgent, commanding way. As he prayed, the force, that was pulling me from my body, departed.
I cannot put into words the gratitude that I felt toward this man. He had some mild physical handicap in his speech, thus, he did not talk very often. He was older and did not fit in as easily. At the end of the prayers, I immediately went over and hugged this man. Words could not express the gratitude I felt. I still feel a strong sense of brotherly love for him, and, occasionally, I offer a prayer for his life.
Evil forces exist, and it is only through the Lord Jesus Christ that they can be over come. As long as we are not striving to seek God, they leave us alone, but, if our heart is set on serving and knowing the Lord, they increase their efforts to stop us. I can vehemently testify to this.
As often is the case, my college years were a time of growth. I experienced many people with different backgrounds and different points of view. Little by little I discovered who I was, as a separate identity from my family. During the summers, I volunteered with a group to do work on Native American reservations. Their ideas about the creator, or Great Spirit, keenly interested me. One notable experience was meeting an old Navajo woman. She would get up early, wearing several layers of traditional Navajo attire, to take the sheep out into the hot desert for the day. It was excruciatingly hot in the Arizona sun. I was irritated that she had to do this job. She even had difficulty walking. Yet, I later discovered that she was actually the most revered member of the tribe. It was strange how she drew my attention.
At the end of the week we participated in a traditional Navajo worship service. I understood very little of what was going on, because it was performed in the Navajo language. The surprise was that the old Navajo woman, who I had observed taking the sheep out each morning, was the spiritual leader. During that ceremony, the presence and power of God was with this woman, in a way that I had never before experienced. I was in awe, and I was humbled.
This woman taught me something, that I had a long ways to go to be that close to my creator, my God. At the end of the service, I wanted to thank her, but she spoke no English and I spoke no Navajo. I gave her something very precious. It was a pipe-stone carving that had been made especially for me by my boyfriend, who is now my husband. Pipe-stone is sacred to Native Americans, because the red rock represents the land that turned the color of blood from the fierce battles of their ancestors. It now is used to make ceremonial pipes and other sacred items of worship, to remember the deaths and to, instead, choose peace. Some Native Americans believe that it has spiritual power. The carving that I gave her was a cross-overlaid with a circle. It combined the Christian symbol of Jesus Christ with the sacred circle of life of the Native Americans. I will never forget the woman’s eyes when I gave this to her. She said nothing, but looked right into my soul and nodded.
In the past ten years, I have finally started to understand what the old Navajo women had in her. It was a deep, undeniable, unshakable knowledge of the Father. It comes with time, obedience, dedication and devotion, that leads to intimate experiences with Him, which brings holy union and unspeakable joy. It is for this reason that I share, that others, too, might find this path to Him, to His mountain, His Kingdom. My prayer is that, one day, God’s Kingdom comes on earth, as it is in heaven, and that many have part.