It was 1959. An eleven-year-old living in Northern California, I was the second oldest of six children in a religious family. Although I was an obedient girl and said my prayers every night, all my needs seem to have been met by my parents, and as a result, I had not yet had any direct experience with answers to prayer. Here is the story of the first recorded instance, told in the relevant excerpts from my diary at the time:
March 10, 1959
We had a lesson in church about being modest and chaste. Sister Bringhurst said we Seagull girls are on our way to becoming ladies and must act that way. She told us true ladies always wear dresses, have good posture, speak softly, and never argue. She told us the names of the two most ladylike women in the congregation and suggested we try to be like them.
March 11, 1959
I practiced the piano. I am trying very hard to be ladylike. Tonight I made some rules for myself like in the lesson.
March 12, 1959
Nothing really special happened today. Sometimes I am very calm and serene and polite, but I keep forgetting. Like right now, I am slumping. I thought at first that it would be hardest to do it at home, and in public places it would be easy. But it’s vice versa. It is really very hard to change completely. If I told someone my plan to be a lady, they would all think it silly. But, like the lesson told us, we Seagull girls are becoming princesses. We must be young ladies first. I went to bed early, eager to start a new day.
March 13, 1959
After school I changed into an old blouse and skirt instead of my pedal pushers, and we ate while watching TV, because Daddy is painting the kitchen.
March 14, 1959
I guess I didn’t do much today. I sure didn’t act like a lady. I got through the day with just a blouse and skirt, though.
March 30, 1959
Something terrible is going on on TV. I’ll close the door so I don’t hear it. Ladies don’t watch that kind of show.
April 2, 1959
What a miserable day! Everybody keeps yelling at me and I cry. Susan [older sister] found my rules for being a lady and she is being very nasty about teasing me about them. Sister Bringhurst says we all must be ridiculed and to try and take it. I wish Mama wouldn’t make me wear pedal pushers tomorrow for our trip. It will be the first time I’ve worn pants since the lesson. It makes me feel sick in the stomach. I don’t feel good.
April 3, 1959
I felt so upset about wearing pants that I prayed to Heavenly Father to help me. He answered me. I suddenly realized that there is more to being a real lady than just wearing skirts. It is being kind, understanding, thoughtful and virtuous. It is being these that really make a lady. Being modest is important, too, but there are other aspects. I feel I have gained a precious knowledge today.
Even now, more than half a century later, it gives me a feeling of wonder when I ponder the infinite compassion and tenderness of a Supreme Being who would consider the mistaken concerns of a child to the extent of reaching down to impart wisdom just for her. Who but a real Father would care so much?