"We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet"

Chapel Simple

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Jeffrey R. Holland - from a BYU Devotional

The other story I want to tell you comes out of southern Utah. A man who’d been away from the Church for half a century came back to Utah and took a job as custodian of the local chapel, promising the bishop that he’d come to church and stop smoking. But he did neither. The bishop did not rebuke him, but he kept asking, “Do you remember the promise you made?”

The man said, “Yes, I remember, Bishop.” The bishop would smile and shake hands and walk away, but the man did not come to church and he did not stop smoking.

One night, inside the chapel when he was working late, he was overcome with the most terrifying, paralyzing fear he had ever experienced in his life. (I heard him say this with his own lips, though I do not know the man’s name.)

He said, “I have never been so fearful, so frightened, so petrified in my life. I’ve been afraid. I have been in dangerous, frightening circumstances, but there is nothing in this world with which I can compare or any way in this world I can describe the experience I had that night. Every creak and crack and dark corner of the chapel terrified me, and I began to run.”

This was a grown man speaking, a grandfather. “I began to run from the building and fled to my home. But I was also just as terrified in my own home, and I could not control my emotions.

I ran from my home and went to a shed behind my house. And for the first time in half a century I fell to my knees and I prayed.

I said, ‘O Lord, save me from whatever this is that terrifies me so.’” Quaking, trembling, perspiring, on his knees in this shed out behind his home, he continued his prayer.

He said, “I was lisping like a child the only prayers I knew, when there came into my heart the words of a song that I had not heard nor sung for that half century.

I think I did not ever know the words, and I surely do not know them now. But I heard them with symphonic accompaniment and angelic choirs. I heard them, music and word, in that shed behind my home in the middle of that night.” It’s a hymn that you know, my young friends, and the opening line is “We thank thee, O God, for a prophet.”

The man said, “I stopped trembling, and I stopped crying, and I know I heard the angels sing. I’ve never missed a church meeting since that day. I’ve never smoked a cigarette, and I’ve tried to do everything I should have done for all those years.

But I want you to know that I did not then, and I probably do not now know, the words to the hymn that I heard sung that night in a shed behind my home with a celestial symphony and an angelic choir.” It was indeed a message to a world that’s fearful and frightened and desperately in need.

“We thank thee, O God, for a prophet”—of whom I testify, Spencer W. Kimball, and who will give his testimony this weekend. To that I bear witness and of him I bear witness, and of the Church he leads I bear witness, and of the Son of God who leads him I bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

"Remembered and Nourished by the Good Word of God" - BYU Devotional 1976