Ilittle realized the frustration and emptiness that can come in not knowing how to read in order to communicate better with others; that is, not until I began serving with the Spanish branch in our stake. The sisters in Relief Society did not speak English, and I did not know Spanish. Everything had to be done through interpreters. We limped along using a word or two of English and Spanish, and lots of physical gestures and facial expressions to convey information back and forth. We relied on smiles and hugs to convey love and sisterhood. I felt frustrated and isolated from them.
A branch conference was coming up and I decided that I couldn't face giving another translated talk - with me giving a sentence and the interpreter then translating the sentence. So I wrote out my talk. A bilingual sister translated it into Spanish and helped me with the pronunciation. The morning of the conference, as I drove to the Church building, I went through the talk over and over in my mind. Arriving at the Church, I realized that I had been going through and thinking of my talk in Spanish, and had understood every word. It had been the influence of the Spirit.I was not prepared for the effect my efforts would have on those sisters. A few sentences into my talk, tears began to fall from their faces. A spirit of oneness, joy and love filled the room. I can now imagine what it would be like to finally learn to read a printed page heretofore incomprehensible.
For me, three elements combined to bring success:
- The desire to learn.
- The help of a sister.
- The spirit of the Lord.
It is an unbeatable combination. Learning is not the arrival at a destination. It is a continuous journey. Learning basic reading skills is a part of the beginning. We can all continue to improve. We can help one another. Throughout our region, many wards have implemented literacy efforts to further improve learning. One ward has a CTR Club, which stands for "Choose To Read." It is a daily scripture reading challenge. Another ward had a literacy "Read-in." It was a Primary activity day and Young Men/Young Women service project. They gathered on a Saturday and divided into groups. The young men and young women read to the children from the The Friend and encouraged them to become involved in reading it at their homes.
Our stake women's conference in the fall is called "Days Gone By." From now until then, the sisters are writing and collecting journals to display. Another Primary is going to have an activity day at the city library. They will be shown how to find a book, find out what an author is, etc., and have some stories read to them.
Aside from these efforts, we underestimate the difference we can make individually, in our own lives and in the lives of our family and others. After spending five years as a single mother of six, I married a widower who had seven children. One of them had dyslexia. It was a struggle for him to learn. In high school, he would read his studies into a tape recorder and then play it back. High school graduation came, and he wanted to go to college. Many told him that he couldn't make it there. He asked my opinion. I said that I believed he could, because he had learned how to study and learn. It would not be easy. It would come slowly, but I felt that he could make it.
I helped him fill out the application forms. He was accepted. He worked hard. Years later, with time out only for a mission, he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. Like a slow drop in the bucket, diligence and never giving up paid off. That is a valuable lesson for all of us. Daily small drops of learning can eventually bring buckets of knowledge.
We can all go to the library and check out books. And if you don't have a library in your town, start one. The little town I moved to lacked a library. With the help of a few others, we established a district public library.
Of all the printed pages, there is nothing for me that can compare with the printed pages of the scriptures. Twenty years ago, I was at the end of a marriage and the beginning of being a single mother of six children, ages 4-14. I was distraught, broken-hearted, emotionally wounded, and I felt worthless and empty. I turned to the Lord with all my heart and soul. I began reading the scriptures every day. They made me feel better.
Year after year, that daily dose of scripture reading was part of what helped bring me from the depths of despair. It healed my wounded heart and lifted me to the light and life the Savior promised to all who seek Him. It rescued me from a forlorn, hopeless existence to life - and life abundantly.
With the Holy Ghost as my daily teacher, I came to know that I was a person of worth, that I had the Spirit in my life to guide me through the years of rearing my children, earning a living and maintaining my home. Those printed pages of scripture continue to lift me to heights of understanding I never knew possible. I think with abrupt horror of what would have become of me and my children had I not had the ability to read those pages.
"This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3.)
- Sister Webb is a member of the Marsing 1st Ward, Caldwell Idaho Stake.