H. Reed Black might not have survived critical battle wounds in World War II had it not been for promises made years before in his patriarchal blessing. He was told that if he kept the commandments and studied hard, he would someday sit on high councils of the Church and would serve a mission overseas.
At the time of his blessing, he received a Book of Mormon and was told to study it.Today, Brother Black, 71, is a member of the Lehi 2nd Ward, Mesa Arizona Lehi Stake. Throughout his life, he has served on high councils in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. He and his wife, Peggy Gray Black, also served a mission together in Hawaii.
"I have witnessed many miracles during my life here on earth, none greater than my experiences on the battlefield and the fulfillment of the blessings in my patriarchal blessing, Brother Black related."
But on Thanksgiving Day, 1944, Brother Black may have had reason to doubt the promises he had received in his blessing. After training with Company F, 405th Infantry Regiment, he had been assigned to the 102nd Infantry Division and was sent into combat in Germany. Just before dawn that November day, he, with his company, climbed out of their fox holes to attack enemy positions outside the little town of Beck.
"Before we could cross the field to the apple orchard, a sniper shot me in the back," he recalled.
The bullet came out between the ribs next to the sternum, going through the middle and upper lobes of the young soldier's right lung.
"The sniper pinned down the company with his accuracy, and our advance was stopped," Brother Black said. "We never did find him."
About two hours later, four soldiers came to carry him off the battlefield. But the sniper shot two of the litter bearers and also hit Brother Black again in both legs.
"It was not possible for anyone to move during daylight, and I had to wait until after dark when they carried me from the field," he related. He laid there for nearly 18 hours.
After being carried from the field, Brother Black was sent to an evacuation hospital, where he was told he should have died because he had lost two-thirds of his blood. In addition, he was dropped twice while on the stretcher, once when the stretcher bearers were shot, and the second time as his companions stumbled in the dark. He was in three different hospitals for 135 days.
The doctor at the evacuation hospital said he had suffered shock while in the cold, open field, which was another threat to his survival. The medic later showed Brother Black his X-rays and pointed out that the fluid in his lung cavity had pushed his heart over 2 1/2 inches. "I then knew how great a miracle had been wrought in my behalf," he explained. "The heart was not just touched; it was shoved."
Through the years since the war, Brother Black has spoken to many Church groups about his experiences.
"I am not reluctant to talk about it and would do it whenever I am asked," he said. He added that many people have asked him if he was afraid he was going to die when he was on the battlefield all day. He answers them that he was not afraid because the Lord, through his patriarch, had promised that if he lived His commandments and studied, he would serve on high councils and would serve a mission, he related.
"I have marveled over and over again about the miracle that brought me back to my wife and baby girl," Brother Black said. "We now have nine children, 42 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. The blessings of that day have multiplied over and over again."
Brother Black explained, "Through study and prayer, I became converted, and I can truly testify that the Lord lives; Jesus, the Son of God, is the Christ; and if we keep the commandments of God we will receive the blessings He has promised."