Recently a Sunday School teacher asked us to share an experience where we had been blessed by living some aspect of the Gospel. As I sat pondering, Mary volunteered how the previous week we had been inspired to bear our testimony of faith in God at a personalized medicine conference as a direct result of our morning prayers for guidance on what we were to say in this public scientific setting; and how many people had come up to us afterwards, expressing their gratitude for our declaration of faith. What a powerful witness of prayer.
Following that Sunday meeting, I pondered deeper on how important such experiences were to me and to my posterity as family history moments and how grateful I am that we have recorded them for present and future generations. Such stories, like those of Nephi, and Martin’s Cove, are important testimonies that need to be recorded and shared, and remembered, that they may bless the lives of our families. Here is such an experience that we have treasured that has become all the more meaningful to our family with the changing seasons of my life.
My Last Fathers and Sons Campout
Ten years ago I was a healthy father of five, who loved the outdoors. In the summer of 2003, I attended what would be the last of a lifetime of fathers and sons weekend campouts with my youngest son, Willie, who at 18 was preparing for his mission. It was a final opportunity to devote time just to him before he walked out into the world. The outing was to be held at our stake property at Tabbyune Canyon, just north of Scofield Reservoir in central Utah.
After traveling several hours and leaving civilization behind, we made our way up a dusty dirt road that eventually wound into the pine-covered hills of the Ashley National Forest, finally reaching our destination in the early afternoon. There we joined the few families already in camp, setting up tents and bedding, or sitting back in their campers to enjoy the mountain smells and breeze.
The Adventure beyond the Pond
Willie and I found a suitable campsite, and set up our tent and bedrolls. It was still early in the day, and since it would be several hours before the crowd arrived and activities began, we thought we would go exploring. We had been coming to this site for several years and knew that the road into camp continued down to a small pond at the bottom of the camping area; but we had never ventured beyond the pond. We thought “Why not?” This might be our last chance in the foreseeable future for such adventure; so we took off in our sedan down to the pond, and just kept on driving.
We were surprised to see that the route led us into a mountainous logging camp. We passed felled trees, and equipment for clearing timber from the mountainside, as well as huge tractor trailers loaded with giant tree trunks. Then quite unexpectedly we found ourselves driving down a long steep straight hill, across a short landing, and then down a second long steep hill. I remember commenting that the road was so narrow that we probably couldn’t turn around; nor was I sure my little 4 cylinder could even make it back up these roads to return to camp. We decided to keep going and follow the trucking route to the main highway, and then go back to our tent the way we had originally come in.
Summer Showers Bring
It had rained heavily earlier in the morning, but now a beautiful clear sky lit up our way. Merrily, we rolled along until we reached the bottom of the mountain and drove out onto a hilly dry, sparsely covered, countryside road, anticipating ahead where the main highway would be. Soon we were two or three miles from the mountain road; but instead of civilization, we discovered a fifty foot puddle covering the road, left over from the morning rainstorm.
The dirt road skirted a small hill, too steep to drive over, and the embankment on the left side of the road was too high to drive off and around the water. We knew the highway had to be just a couple of miles further on, and we didn’t want to attempt returning up the logging road we had just come down; so we stopped and planned how we were going to overcome the little lake in the road ahead of us. It was only three, maybe four car lengths long, and we felt certain that with a good start we could plunge through the water to the other side without any real danger. This was one of those opportunities where I could demonstrate for my son how a father can handle such difficult situations.
A Father Takes Charge!
We backed up a couple hundred yards, and with a good start… charged the pond!
So much for fatherly prowess! We made a big splash, and got just over halfway through the obstacle of mud and silt, when the tires of the car began to spin and the automobile sunk in gunk up to its frame. Oh my! More opportunities to show off my driving skills!
We spun and the wheel sank even deeper! We rocked the vehicle back and forth, shifting from drive to reverse, and back to drive again; over and over, but to no avail. We got out of the car and waded in mud up to our calves and tried to push it forward, and then backward, and then forward again. We only got deeper.
Willie had a cell phone (you know the days when kids got them before parents) and we tried to call for help; but we were in a virtual desert, at a time when cell towers were far away and only had a short range. Technology didn’t work.
We had a shovel in the trunk of the car and got it out. We dug and dug to clear mud out of the wheel wells, but the existing water and mud kept filling back in. We tried shoveling dry earth into the pond but that only made things worse. We tried everything we could think of, but we were stuck solid. In addition, the sunlight was dimming as sunset was approaching. No one knew where we were, and it would soon be dark. We were getting hungry.
The Father’s Way
Then I finally did something with fatherly leadership. I turned to Willie and suggested that we needed to pray to our Heavenly Father for assistance. I didn’t know how it could come, or what else we could do, but I knew He did.
Willie prayed first, and then I prayed. We followed that by giving a priesthood blessing on our car. Then I got out and began to push the front of the car while Willie gunned the engine, to see if we could break the car loose.
As I did so, I glanced up the road behind the car and saw two men approaching on horseback. They were Indians from a nearby reservation. They trotted over to where we were stuck and after listening to our story, the older weather-beaten man took two ropes off of his saddle. He tied two ends around the back frame of our car and the other ends onto the horse saddles. Then with Willie driving, and me pulling, the ropes went taut. The tires spun, but then began to catch the ground, and slowly the car was backed out of the water hole.
The ropes were disengaged, and I gave the men a “tip” for their timely efforts, thanking them profusely; and they rode off “into the sunset.” Willie and I got the car turned around, and we headed back to the dreaded logging road and the way to camp.
All the way we marveled about the answer to our prayer, and the chance that two men with horses would just happen upon us at the time that they did. We reached camp where a bonfire was already burning, and shared our adventure with the other fathers and sons. More than anything I was thankful that Willie got to see his mortal father and his Heavenly Father work together by the power of the Priesthood; and he was able to take a strengthened testimony of prayer with him into the mission field.
The Legacy of Family History
This story was one that helped me and my family that included grandchildren when I faced open-heart surgery two years later in 2005, and it helped carry us through my long battle with MRSA. It has been a beacon for me and the PettyPride in the ensuing 8 years of extra living I have had since they rebuilt my heart. When we were given the opportunity to share the medical and technical aspects of my miraculous recovery at that 2013 personalized medicine meeting Mary described to the Sunday School class, we relied once again on our testimony of prayer to help us and to sustain us. And we use it now as I face dialysis and hopefully, a kidney transplant because we have recorded all these family history testimonies of prayer for our family today and for future generations. We encourage you to do likewise; remember the special Gospel experiences your family has had; record them, share them and use them for this truly is the Father’s Way.
James W. Petty, AG, CG, is the Board-Certified and Accredited Professional Genealogist, “Climbing the Family Tree Professionally, Since 1969”. He is President of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc. (www.Heirlines.com), the “Salt Lake City, Utah BBB Accredited Business” trusted professional genealogy research services firm, providing US and International genealogical and historical research for a world-wide clientele.
For Heirlines-Quality professional genealogy services, resources, and products including expert family tree research, LDS family history assistance, and answers to genealogy questions, please see Jim’s website www.Heirlines.com and his blog ProfessionalGenealogy.com. Heirlines: We professionally identify and document ancestry and kinship relationships and verify and certify the family tree with Certified Family Trees and Certified Forensic Genealogy Solutions. We’re ready when you’re ready!