A Shout From The Attic: 7 - From Castle To Dungeon And Out Again
...Whatever it was that turned Mr Taylor against Sue attending services and social activities I was not to discover, but in a short time he made it very plain that he objected, stopped the missionaries from visiting his house, and forbade her to attend any kind of function that had anything to do with the Latter-day Saints...
Ronnie Bray tells of an encounter which confirmed his belief that faith can move mountains.
Faith Can Move Mountains
(And Obdurate Fathers)
Sue Taylor was a convert to the Church early in the Southampton Branch’s history. This was some years before the Branch meeting house would be built on London Road at Bassett Green, so meetings were held in local schools rented by the hour from the City Council.
The Branch had a nice group of young ladies, including Avril, sisters Heather and Julie Talbot, and a couple more. One thing these girls had in common besides the fire of their testimonies is that they were tall and slim or petite and slim. Sue was tall and of more ample proportion than her newfound companions.
At this time, Sue was sixteen or seventeen, and a very pleasant young girl who was being taught the Gospel at home by the missionaries with the approval of her parents, but without their participation since they expressed no interest in the Church.
Although the slight build of the girls in the group was nothing more than happenstance the difference between them and the new girl caused Sue’s father to remark “Are all Mormons so thin?” after the girls had visited Sue’s home. Clearly he was giving some serious thought to those with whom his daughter associated.
Then something happened. Perhaps he had imagined that Mormons starved their girls to keep them at a low body weight determined by this odd cult by means of some novel theological determinants. If so, then he was wrong. It might simply have been the case that he got his hands on some of the anti-Mormon literature that follows the Church around like a bad smell.
Whatever it was that turned Mr Taylor against Sue attending services and social activities I was not to discover, but in a short time he made it very plain that he objected, stopped the missionaries from visiting his house, and forbade her to attend any kind of function that had anything to do with the Latter-day Saints.
For us, his ban was cruel, but to her it was a crushing ordeal. Sue had a testimony of the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and desired more than anything to be baptised, but her father’s interdict seemed an insurmountable barrier between her and her faith and her desire to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. Although we remembered Sue when we talked together, and prayed for her in our bedchambers, we saw nothing of her for several months.
And then it was that one Sunday morning as we were met together for Sunday worship service in a rented school hall, Sue walked in. She was enthusiastically welcomed by the gathering, and was obviously delighted to sit among the Saints of God again. Her presence suggested that her father had repented of his harsh position and ceded to his daughter’s desires.
That this was not the case was loudly demonstrated when the service had been underway for twenty minutes when the door burst open and Mr Taylor marched in, grabbed his daughter by the wrist, and dragged her out of the meeting ignoring her heartbroken sobs and fervent pleas to be allowed to stay. It was a harrowing scene, and we were thunderstruck by the anger he displayed, and the rough way he handled his tender daughter.
Thereafter, visitors to the Taylor home asking after Sue’s welfare were either turned away without explanation by her angry father, or else given a muffled “Sorry,” from her apologetic mother, before the door was closed in noisy finality.
Soon afterwards, I moved to another town and heard little further news about the Branch, and never any word about Sue - she seemed to vanish from sight. Considering her, I pondered the parable of the sower, marking Sue as one who had received the good seed in her heart, but that the seed had shrivelled and died from denial of light and nourishment to it. Yet my conclusion was altogether too pessimistic. I had not reckoned with the power of quickening faith in the heart of a good-natured girl.
My failure to understand was brought sharply into focus many years later after attending the London Temple. As I readied myself to drive back to Huddersfield, I sat in the car for some moments, tuning the radio and gathering my thoughts, when I was suddenly aware of someone approaching the side of my car as if on a mission of pressing importance. A young woman was running towards me pell-mell. She arrived breathless at my open window wearing a huge grin and thrust her hand inside the car. I grasped it and shook it, wondering the while who this lady was.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hello,” I tentatively ventured back.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” I admitted that I didn’t know who she was.
“I’m Sue Taylor! Well, I was. You remember? Southampton? Well, I was Taylor, but now I am married to a fine Latter-day Saint man, and we were sealed in the Temple six years ago and have four beautiful children born in the Covenant! We were just on our way home when I saw you. I have to hurry as we are in someone else’s car and they are ready to leave. I couldn’t go without speaking to you! I just wanted to say thank you for your testimony and inspiration all those years ago when I first came to Church.” Her eyes held sweet tears.
“Well, Sue,” Her tenderness and spirit I brought tears to my eyes. After locating her in my memory I said, “Sue, I can’t tell you how very happy I am to see you in this place and to learn that you made it through and are doing well. God bless you for your faith.”
“It was hard, but what made it easier for me to hang on was the love you all gave me, and the wonderfully vital faith you all had made the lamp of my little faith burn even brighter. That kept me going until I could be baptised. Thank you! I’m sorry, Ronnie, but I have to run.”
We hugged briefly through the window, then she was gone.
That was forty years ago, but I still see the bright beam on her face that shone out from the light of her soul, and I still feel the fire of her faith as we shared a few brief seconds. The full weight of what she had achieved in the face of what seemed to be an impenetrable barrier grew slowly in me as I journeyed northwards until the realisation of what she had conquered made me feel so much joy I was ready to burst with it.
Meting Sue and hearing the conclusion of the matter taught me a lesson that I thought I already knew. It is that not only can faith move mountains, but that properly applied, it will move mountains. Mr Taylor was a big man, so physically he could be described as a mountain. However, to his faithful and loving daughter, it was his displeasure and prohibition that made the mountain that seemed for a time to block out the sunlight from a young girl’s dreams, and dash her hopes on its jagged rocks.
Yet faith, even if it is no larger than the seed of the mustard plant, can be nourished in the faithful heart without the need for nourishment from external sources. It is this inner nourishment, this strength of spirit, this passion of testimony, that has helped many a pilgrim intent on moving closer to God and Jesus Christ, find within themselves the spiritual strength to maintain the focus on their final destination even when their way ahead is for the time being blocked, either by a mountain or even by an obdurate father.