My thoughts turned to the beginnings of my own testimony. When did my personal testimony begin to solidify and not piggy back off of that of my parents and other leaders? Which led me to the memory of one of the most signifying events of my life at the age of 17, my senior year of high school, and Christmas Eve.
I had gone with my Dad to work to be able to do some last minute Christmas shopping after he took care of a couple of things at the office. I remember feeling very tired and kind of sick and closing my eyes in the car while I waited for him and telling him I didn't feel good when he got back in the car. I must have gone to sleep. When I awoke, it was to excruciating pain. I didn't remember that it was Christmas Eve. All I could think about the pain and the non stop vomiting that was resulting. My parents later told me that my skin was literally a shade of green. I remember our home teacher coming over to assist my Dad in adminstering a blessing. I know that I was assured of my Father in Heaven's love for me and that they would be able to figure out what was wrong with me, then my parents rushed me to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with accute gastroneuritis. Really bad gas. My parents knew something more serious was going on, but all they could do was pray. On Christmas morning a nurse came to do a routine check and discovered that I had a burst appendix. She was responsible for taking the measures to get me as quickly as possible into surgery. Since it had already burst, they had to do two surgeries one to open me up and drain me and then after most of the infection causing puss had drained they stapled me back up and sent me home. However, the doctor failed to prescribe me antibiotics and I had to go back into the hospital to go through the same process again. Only my monthly menstrual cycle had started after I had been released and the doctors knew I would need a blood transfusion or I wouldn't survive the operation. My Dad and another church member went to donate blood for me. The blood bank lost the other persons blood and so my only hope became my Dad's that was iron rich and really thick. I was dehydrated and my veins kept rolling and the nurses couldn't get the blood to go in. They had only minutes before the blood would go bad. My Dad gave me a priesthood blessing and the blood flowed in with seconds to spare. So twice my life was spared through priesthood blessings.
Now what was going on with me on the inside. During this time period of my life, I had started to stray from the straight and narrow. Because of this I didn't know if I was worthy of these blessings and I was afraid to die because I knew I needed to repent. There were times that I did wish to die because of the pain, but mostly I was afraid of that possibility.
What I took away from the experience were three eternal truths that would see me through many a future trial and hardship. 1) My Heavenly Father loved me unconditionally. 2) That there truly is power in the priesthood and can be exercised through righteous priesthood holders. 3) My Heavenly Father had a purpose and a plan for me and I was being given a chance to realize that purpose. I also learned a temporal truth and that was that I had parents that would always be there for me. My Mom stayed with me the entire time at the hospital. My Dad was constantly there and as afore mentioned doing everything in his power to save his daughter.
Now I'd like to say that from that day forward that I began to be the model daughter and teenager of exemplary character. But alas, I chose the hard road. I did begin to try harder and those truths were deeply imbedded in me at that time and led to me eventually grasping an even firmer grip on my testimony.
As I've pondered this experience, I've realized that there were other eternal truths to be learned through this experience if I choose to look a little deeper, just as the Isrealites could learn deeper truths from their experience with being bitten by the snakes and being saved just by looking to the snake on the cross that Moses held up to them. So these are the things that I have learned by taking a deeper look at the experience. It was my Father's blood that saved me from dying. Just so it is my Savior's blood that ransoms me and saves me from spiritual death and permanent temporal death. It is not the "arm of the flesh" that we should trust in. I know that nurses and doctors did their part in bringing about my recovery, but ultimately it was through God's inspiration and power that I was restored to health.
My Dad shared with me multiple times how this experience strengthened his testimony. I know it would have surprised him just how deeply the experience blessed me. So if we are the sum of our experiences, I would add to that that we are the sum of how we react to our experiences. Just as Laman and Lemuel had a great deal of the same experiences as Nephi in The Book of Mormon, they chose to react to those experiences in different manners. Nephi focused on his blessings in the midst of trials and his brothers chose to focus on the hardships. Nephi sought for the spirit for guidance and Laman and Lemuel trusted to what they could see and continually failed to exercise faith. Nephi's strength therefore came from his belief in God's love and his courage to exercise that faith in his belief. I'm so grateful for all of my experiences that have led me to this juncture in my life. Especially these that led to the beginning seeds of my Testimony.