This has been an unprecedented time in the history of our nation, our world and the Church.  With news of the Coronavirus dominating the headlines and our mind space, we wanted to take a few minutes just to just relax with you, our amazing and loving listeners, and talk about faith, peace, calm and listening to the promptings and whisperings of the Spirit.  You might be listening to this on the Sabbath—or it might be some other day of the week—either way, let’s just sit down together and talk. 

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Scot

This has been an unprecedented time in the history of our nation, our world and the Church.  With news of the coronavirus dominating the headlines and our mind space, we wanted to take a few minutes just to just relax with you, our amazing and loving listeners, and talk about faith, peace, calm and listening to the promptings and whisperings of the Spirit.  You might be listening to this on the Sabbath—or it might be some other day of the week—either way, let’s just sit down together and talk.

Maurine

Welcome to a special edition Meridian Magazine Podcast.  We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and we’re delighted to be with you today.  We love you and want to take a few minutes to share some things that are not necessarily connected to the coronavirus. What a novel approach, huh? 
 
I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about President Nelson’s recent counsel to us.  He said, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” (Nelson, Russell M.,Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives, April 2018). Isn’t that such perfect counsel for these difficult times?

Scot

It certainly is, Maurine.  And it has brought to my mind some of our amazing adventures in the Middle East and elsewhere that we need to share. Our purpose is to bolster your own faith and encourage you during this difficult time. 
 
Years ago we were working on a book, Source of the Light, that was our own illustrated witness and testimony of Jesus Christ.  We spent 56 days in the Middle East, working on the research and photography.  To talk about Jesus Christ, who is the God of the Old Testament, we, of course, had to go to the place where He met with Moses—right to the top of Mt. Sinai.

We had received priesthood blessings before we left the states and in those blessings we were promised, among many other things, that angels would minister to us in the desert. That particular line stayed in our hearts.

Maurine 

We were based for a short time in Cairo, Egypt and rented a car to drive the 500 kilometers to the sacred mountain.  In those days there were not a lot of wonderful choices of newer model cars to rent.  I remember so well the car we got was what I would call somewhat of a rattle-trap Fiat.  It was a small, four-door sedan that truly had long since seen its better day.  There were even a few suspect noises coming from under the hood, but, that’s what was available.  We packed all our camera equipment, a few bottles of water and some light snacks—basically a few crackers and some nuts.  We had hiked Mt. Sinai some years before and we knew that we should be able to arrive in good time to the base of the mountain and there we would be able to get a good meal before the hike. 
 
Scot

Now, these were long before the days of GPS and cell phones.  I was the driver and Maurine, you were the navigator. You have always been a great navigator—I guess that’s good counsel for you husbands out there—trust your wives good counsel and navigation.  We’ve both always loved maps and Maurine would always be in that co-pilot seat with a large paper map wide open giving guidance and direction as we went into unknown territory.  The late afternoon and evening were beautiful.  As we came to the Suez Canal, we saw an enormous oil tanker seemingly floating in the sand. It was amazing to see this gigantic ship making its way through the desert.
We crossed the canal and made our way south, southeast for a time and we made a stop to watch the beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Suez.  I’ll never forget that sunset because dolphins were jumping in the air as we watched.  It was magical.

Maurine

We had planned the most direct route to Mt. Sinai as per the map we had.  We saw the bold-colored main roads on the map that we would be following, but then there was one road that led directly east through the vast Sinai Peninsula that was more faintly colored.  It was certainly going to be the fastest way to get there—so that’s the road we decided upon. Oh, the night was one of the most beautiful we have ever seen. There was no light pollution, so the canopy of stars on this moonless night was stunning.  We love the stars and this night the Milky Way was streaming across the sky and the stars were so bright.

We were singing hymns and talking and just having the best time.  We were right on schedule for a planned arrival at around 8:00 pm at the base of Mt. Sinai.

Scot

We hadn’t seen another car that evening—not one.  We started driving up this slight incline of the road.  Our lights on this car were not great—but you know as you come up a hill, your lights do not shine beyond the crest very well, but just up into the darkness.  We were going about 35 or 40 miles an hour on this paved road and when we got to the top of this hill, all-of-the-sudden, the road just ended and we went flying into the darkness!  We felt like we were in a slow-motion scene from a movie, sailing through the air in our Fiat. We landed with a huge clunk into a creek bed! We listened carefully and there were some interesting noises from the car—but the engine was still running.  There had been road construction out here on this less-than-main road and apparently, they didn’t use any warning signs to let us know it was coming in this remote area.

Maurine

We started driving across the dried creek bed and could see a dirt road ahead of us that must have been the other side of the road.  We got on it and started on this very bad road, but then it forked. We took the direction that looked more traveled and then—it forked again.  We went along that for some time on this horrible road—and it forked again. We did this for quite some time but after many, many turns and forks on these horrible dirt roads, it was clear that we were completely lost.  We stopped the car. We looked out the windows and the canopy of stars was over us. We were out in the middle of the Sinai Desert, it was getting late, we had to be to the base of Mt. Sinai to be able to hike through the night to get to the top to photograph the sunrise.  There was only one thing we could do—we turned to the Lord in prayer.

Scot

We are very specific in our prayers and we said, essentially:  Dear Heavenly Father. We come to thee from the middle of the Sinai Desert and we are lost.  But we know that Thou knowest where we are and we are not lost to Thee. We need help and we need it right now.  We have come to take photographs to illustrate Thy Beloved Son’s life and mission. We have to be to Mt. Sinai to hike to the top to take pictures of the sunrise.  This is so important to us—and to our book. PLEASE, help us. Send us direction, aid, help—whatever it will take to get us to the mountain. And, also, please let us get a meal before we have to hike.  We are really hungry. We thank Thee that Thou hast heard us. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Maurine

And we opened our eyes and truly, Scot, within seconds if not immediately, there was a white Toyota pickup truck right in front of us!  It seemed to appear out of nowhere. We had not seen a car for at least two or three hours and there this one was. They seemed to sense that we were lost and they started using their brake lights and their blinker lights to lead us along through these dirt roads, forks and dried creek beds.  When the road was going to be really bumpy, they would tap their brake lights a few times. When we were to take the left fork, they would turn on the left blinker—or the right fork they would turn on the right blinker. They seemed to be purposely taking care of us as if they understood that we were in a predicament.

And this went on for 45 minutes or an hour—following this Toyota pickup truck through this remote series of roads in the desert.  Finally, we came out of this mess into an area that we assumed they had to go onto their village or on their way. They stopped the truck and got out.  There were three men dressed in long, white flowing robes—this is sometimes the dress of the Bedouin in the desert. They walked back to our car and we rolled down the window.

Scot

One of them spoke to me in broken English and said, “Three kilometers.  Very, very bumpy. No go left, no go right. Then smooth—all the way to Mt. Sinai.”  Those were his entire instructions. How he would suppose that we would speak English instead of some other language was remarkable. We looked at our odometer and sure enough, 3 kilometers to the dot—we came to the smooth road and went all the way to the base of the mountain.  Of course, this being lost and making our way through the desert cost us so much time—it was now past 11:30 at night and we were starving. We had to get up at 1:00 AM to hike Mt. Sinai with all our photo gear and we really needed nourishment.  We came into the small settlement at the base of the mountain and it looked like a ghost town. Except, there was one small light off in the distance. We drove towards it. As we arrived, we saw illuminated by a single light bulb: Bedouin Dining House.  We got out of the car and walked into the empty dining area.

Maurine

And there were cats on every table.  We sat down and hoped someone would come out.  We said, “Hello? Anybody here?” Finally a kind man walked out and we said, “Do you have any food?”  He said, “Chicken?” We said, “Chicken? That would be great!” He said, “Soup?” We said, “Yes, lovely—that would be wonderful.”  He left. We thought he would bring out chicken soup. We were wrong. He brought out pita bread and a Middle Eastern variety of humus and salads, and then he brought soup and then he brought out a whole cooked chicken and more pita and fruit.  This was a multi-course meal and we were so grateful.  

Did the Lord hear our prayer in the midst of our trial?  Yes! Did He answer it? Yes, He answered it very specifically and perfectly to fit our exact needs.  It didn’t matter that we spoke to Him from one of the most remote places on earth. We were never lost to Him.  He was aware of our nutritional needs and took care of them through one of His kind and generous Bedouin sons.

Scot

And we were able to get to bed—well, we slept in our car—just after midnight and we were up at 1:00 AM and on to our hike to the top of Mt. Sinai. And He strengthened us to be able to carry our gear to the top of the mountain. We arrived at the summit with less than one minute to set up our tripod and field camera and shoot the beautiful sunrise.  He was aware of everything and took care of our needs.

In this time of fear and concern for the Corona Virus—turn to Him who knows all things, who knows every detail, who can give every direction and guidance for you and your family in every circumstance.  He will hear your specific prayers and will send you the blessings you need.

Maurine

Well, and Scot, it wasn’t that many days later when we had another very pressing need that we were so concerned about.

Scot

That’s right—we certainly did.

Maurine

In that same trip, we were also shooting photographs for portions of a book that we were doing on the Book of Mormon. We were going to go on parts of Lehi and Sariah’s Trail through the Arabian Peninsula.  In fact, we were going to Oman to the very best candidate for where Nephi built the ship right there on the Arabian Sea coast. The remote place had been recently discovered by Warren Aston and his daughter, Claire, and we were determined to get to that spot and photo-document the site.  But we didn’t have a map. Oh, we loved those maps and we needed a good one to go into this uncharted area.

We knelt in our little modest hotel room in Cairo and asked the Lord very specifically to provide a very detailed map for us, so that we might be able to find this Wadi Sayq in this hard-to-reach spot near the border of Oman and Yemen.  One thing we’ve certainly learned over the years is to be very specific in our prayers and talk to the Lord about our most detailed needs.

Scot

We flew into Muscat and stayed there overnight and then flew on to Salalah on the Arabian Sea.  This would put us closer to where we needed to drive. We got to our hotel and immediately went and rented a 4WD vehicle to take on the journey.  At the small rental office (this was the only car rental place available), we asked the man if he had a map of the region just west and south of us—a really good map.  He said, “Yes, just a moment.” He brought out a little folded map and gave it to us. It was a tourist map with only a few main roads shown for the entire country of Oman. It had graphics on it like where there was an oasis, and where you could view sea turtles on the beach.  It was a horrible map.

Maurine

It certainly wasn’t one we could use—it could not have had fewer details.

Scot

That’s right.  So, we asked again, “Do you have a better map?  This one won’t do. We need a really good map of this region here—(pointing at the opened map he gave us).” Then he did the oddest thing. He looked to the left and he looked to the right, as if he were looking for the police, and he put his finger against his lips to signal us to be quiet and pay attention.

He reached behind the copy machine and pulled out a series of papers.  In quiet tones he said, “It is very important that you do not show this map to anyone.  It is top secret military map.” And as we looked upon it, there was the very area we needed to go, and this was a kilometer by kilometer, detailed topographic map of every road, trail, hill, valley and mountain of this whole remote region.

Maurine

Did the Lord hear our prayer from our little hotel room in Cairo?  He did. Did He answer our specific needs by providing a detailed map that we had asked for?  He did. He answered it through one of His gracious Omani sons who “just happened to have a copy” of this one detailed map of this region and was willing to share it with us.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are very generous in their giving.  They send blessings in the form of maps and meals and safety and direction and peace and calm.  They are there for us.  

I love what Jeffrey Holland said about them in this regard:

“Just because God is God, just because Christ is Christ, they cannot do other than care for us and bless us and help us if we will but come unto them, approaching their throne of grace in meekness and lowliness of heart. They can’t help but bless us. They have to. It is their nature.” (Holland, Jeffrey R., Come Unto Me, General Conference, April 1998).

Scot

And to add to that, and I was in the Marriott Center when Jeffrey Holland said this:

“In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed.” (Holland, Jeffrey R., For Times of Trouble, 18 March 1980, BYU Devotional). 

Maurine

I do love that quote and I know that it’s true.

This reminds me of the time, Scot, you and I were working on The Revised and Enhanced Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.  We wanted to illustrate that amazing experience the Prophet Joseph had in Philadelphia not that long after he had been incarcerated in Liberty Jail.  Joseph had emerged from Liberty a more powerful prophet, a more confident speaker, a better more refined man.

Parley recorded:

“While visiting with brother Joseph in Philadelphia, a very large church was opened for him to preach in, and about three thousand people assembled to hear him. Brother Rigdon spoke first, and dwelt on the Gospel, illustrating his doctrine by the Bible. When he was through, brother Joseph arose like a lion about to roar; and being full of the Holy Ghost, spoke in great power, bearing testimony of the visions he had seen, the ministering of angels which he had enjoyed; and how he had found the plates of the Book of Mormon, and translated them by the gift and power of God. He commenced by saying: ‘If nobody else had the courage to testify of so glorious a message from Heaven, and of the finding of so glorious a record, he felt to do it in justice to the people, and leave the event with God.’

Scot

Parley continued:

“The entire congregation were astounded; electrified, as it were, and overwhelmed with the sense of the truth and power by which he spoke, and the wonders which he related. A lasting impression was made; many souls were gathered into the fold…Multitudes were baptized in Philadelphia and in the regions around.” (Pratt, Parley P., Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Revised and Enhanced Edition, Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 20oo, p. 363)

We found out that that very Church on 412 Lombard Street, less than ½ a mile from Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed, was still in existence, and we were determined to photograph it.  Of course we prayed that we would be blessed to get the photo that we needed and this stop in Philadelphia would be one of many on this photographic shoot.

Maurinec
We arrived there on a Friday afternoon.  We found out this church was now a Jewish Synagogue—and, being a Friday afternoon, it was the eve of their Sabbath.  In many ways we hoped this would be to our advantage, fully expecting that someone would be there preparing the building for services or getting ready for Shabbat.

We were sorely disappointed.  Not only was there no one there—the building was locked tight as a drum and no one in the immediate vicinity knew anything about the synagogue.  Well, we had been through these type of experiences before, and we knew that our prayers would be answered. Someone would come along and open up the building for us.  This photograph was too important for the project. We’d certainly been in worse situations than this.

Scot

But time kept ticking on and no one was showing up to help us.  We started looking around the immediate neighborhood to find a flyer or a poster or a sign that would give us any kind of clue who we could call to open the building.  We found a poster about an upcoming event with that congregation, and it had a phone number! We were so excited. This was in the days before we had cell phones. We went to a nearby video rental store and asked if we could use the phone.  They were happy to help us. We called the number and we got someone who could not help us, but he knew the rabbi and he knew the rabbi’s number. If anyone could or would help us, it would be the rabbi.

Maurine

There we were in a busy video rental store having to make multiple calls and kind of standing behind the counter trying to make arrangements for our photograph of the interior of this significant, historic building.  Scot, you placed the call. How did it go?

Scot

I did get the Rabbi on the phone and he spoke with a bit of a Yiddish accent.  He was out on his country estate at the time, and he was seeing to the needs of his horses.  I explained to him our very needful and worthy situation and he said, “It’s the eve of Shabbat.  Try again this Sunday or Monday. I will open the building then.” I said, “But we’re only in Philadelphia now—just for an hour or two.  We’ve flown in from Utah, and we are on a very tight schedule.” He said, “But it’s the eve of the Sabbath—it would be breaking Shabbat to take pictures this evening.”

“Then let’s do it before the sun sets. It won’t take but five or ten minutes!”

He said, “You can come back on Monday. Someone can help you then.” “But I truly need your help…”

“I have to take care of my horses—call me back on Monday!”  And he hung up.

Maurine

We hit a dead end.  Our time frame was running out in Philadelphia.  It appeared that this time we were not going to get the help that we needed.  We had walked about two blocks to the video store so on the way back we were feeling a bit dejected.  This really had never happened before that we weren’t able to get the photographs that we needed when we needed them.  We had our camera gear and were walking a little hang-dog back towards the car. We would have to pass the synagogue one last time on 412 Lombard Street. 

As we were walking by the building, at that moment, we both had the same thought at the same time.  It was encouragement from Maria Von Trapp and the Reverend Mother in The Sound of Music. Maria was taught, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.”

Scot

We both looked up at the tall, stained-glass windows of the synagogue and there, high above the ground, was one small piece of glass that was broken out or had fallen out of the lead glass frame.  We looked at each other and went to work. This was a very small piece of glass but we thought if I could get to it, I could put my lens in that hole and shoot some pictures. First I had to climb up on the old window sill which was about four or five feet above the ground.  Then, balancing myself on that narrow window sill…

Maurine

With me literally pushing up from behind—or your behind–

Scot

I put the camera up high into the hole and just guessing on the depth of field, the lighting and hoping the focus was going to work—this was in the days before digital—so I wouldn’t see these 35mm slides until they had been processed weeks later—I hoped it would work.  I wasn’t even sure what I was shooting. It might not be the front of the sanctuary where the Prophet Joseph would have spoken. I just couldn’t tell. I remember well. I took a picture. Wound the shutter and took another one—facing the camera a little different angle. I shot seventeen shots with Maurine pushing up and bracing and balancing me the entire time.

Maurine

And, of course, we were hoping that nobody walked by with me up on this church window sill with my camera over my head and me pushing on my husband. It looked like a break-in or at least very suspect!  Finally, Scot, you finished and we just hoped something worked. We went on our way—never really having needed the rabbi to help us!

Scot

And when we got back home to Utah and processed all the film, I was so anxious to see the box of slides from Philadelphia and the Lombard Street church or synagogue.  I found the box, carefully looked at them in order. Shot number 1: blurry. Shot number 2: the ceiling and a bad angle. Shot number 3: really blurry. I went on and on.  Shot number 16: it just won’t work. Shot number 17: perfect. The Reverend Mother and Maria were right: “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” And he did it that day for us—and that is the photograph of right where the Prophet Joseph spoke in Philadelphia and is the photo on page 363 of the book.  We felt so blessed.

Our testimony is that God hears and answers our prayers, and he indeed does open windows when doors seem to close before us.  He is aware of us in these troubled times. It’s interesting that literally right in the middle of writing and preparing this special edition podcast, we were hit with an earthquake here in Utah.  We were typing along and the computer and the whole house started shaking like crazy. About twenty minutes later, our 10-month-old grandson, Benjamin accidentally pressed the video conferencing button for our entire family and within two minutes we had 7 different families conferenced in and were talking together about all we’d been through in the last hour.

Maurine

Then just hours later, our precious sister-in-law, Virginia Jensen, passed away. It adds complexity to suffer a personal loss in the midst of this general, public trial we all face.

These are times when all things truly are in commotion. 

We can all feel it, can’t we?  Some of you may feel a little concerned.  Some of you may feel on the edge of discouragement.  Some of you may be temporarily out of work. Some of you may have seen your stock portfolios tank this past week. Some of you may even be facing a direct confrontation with the COVID-19.  We all wonder how long this may go on. We just don’t know. You’ve all heard that this April General Conference will not be broadcast from the Conference Center but from a small auditorium on Temple Square with less than ten people present—and a pre-recorded Tabernacle Choir!

Scot

That’s right. President Nelson prophesied that this conference would not only be memorable—if we were prepared—it would be unforgettable.  Isn’t that the case? Don’t we live in the most amazing and wonderful times? Aren’t we all so blessed that we have each other and that we have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that we have a living prophet to guide, direct and encourage us?  We want you to know, with all of our hearts, that we know and give our solemn and personal witnesses that God is aware of each one of us. I wish we could call you all by name and just say, Rodger, God knows you and is aware of you. Bonnie—you know that He knows you.  Trudy—the Lord has not forgotten you, and you know that, don’t you? Bill—He knows your every thought and He has just the exact blessings that you need—they are coming—Hold on—they’re just around the corner. We know that God hears and answers our specific and heartfelt prayers.  He knows all about COVID-19 and He will send the blessings that each one of us needs at the very time we need them.

Maurine

That’s all for now.  This has been a Special Edition Meridian Magazine Podcast.  We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and we have loved being with you and sharing these few minutes together.  We love you and we pray the Lord’s choicest blessings upon you during these trying times. Don’t forget to share the podcast with your friends and ministering families at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast that’s latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and for Michaela Proctor Hutchins producing this show.