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Visiting Connie Cunningham's Shares (account name: connie55)

 Connie's Testimony
Connie's Testimony



The following story is not told to brag or be prideful, but as a perspective that will be understood upon reading the story.

The San Francisco area earthquake of 1989 helped us make a decision to do something else with our lives. When the earthquake hit at 5:00 pm that day my husband, Jack, was still at work in Emeryville, Ca. and would have been on the Cypress structure if he had left work on time. The Cypress freeway was the one that collapsed and no longer exists. It took us 5 hours to finally find each other. We lived in Hayward, Ca. at the time - just between Oakland and San Jose. It was life changing.

We looked north in Portland, Oregon, but that didn't feel like the place we were supposed to go. Finally, one day I was looking in Country Living magazine and spotted a house in Idaho. We called about it but it was sold but we found another one to purchase—a rental. We bought it in 1990 and came up that August to sign papers for its purchase. That was Payette. We looked around for a day or two. I asked Jack if he could live here. He said yes, he could. We went home, put our home on the market and sold it. It took a year but in late 1991, we left California.

At this point let me say a few things about our lifestyle. We lived a very liberal lifestyle - somewhat hedonistic - typical of a California lifestyle. We never attended church and had no interest in religion whatsoever. Actually, we scoffed at religion. What did people need with that?! "Go to the mountains and commune with God."

I was working for a large Fortune 500 company. At that time I believe it was #59 on the list and I loved working for them and loved my job. I was also the highest paid woman in that company. Jack worked for a large relational data base company and we were happy with our lives and making big salaries. Jack was also a city commissioner and we were very involved in local politics. On our way up the ladder! Our daughter and son were married and we had grandchildren we doted on. But we knew we had something else to do in our lives. We were always adventurous but not big risk takers. We went to Mexico or Europe for our vacations and loved traveling also. I've always tried to avoid being a "big fish in a little pond" but was sometimes thrust into that limelight. I didn't ask for or want it. I've always wanted to be a "small fish in a big pond" - anonymous. I just wanted to be with Jack and enjoy our life together as we aged "gracefully"! :-)

We arrived in Idaho leaving behind our children, grandchildren, friends, the only home we'd ever owned to a place where we knew absolutely no one - not a single soul, not knowing how we would earn a living, no friends and a very small town which was very new to me. The realtors finally told us of a little business they thought we might like to buy that was coming on the market. I supposed they gleaned that information from observing my decorating skills in our new home. It was a little carpet store. I thought "well, why not?". We'd never done anything like that but it was some way to earn a living and I loved helping people decorate their homes when asked for my opinion.

We purchased the store, but with it came a house and an apartment above the store. It was rented by some Mormon missionaries. The previous owners asked if we'd still like to rent to their church. We said that would be fine with us. As long as they paid the rent we didn't care who rented it. So the little house and the apartment supplemented the income. The people we purchased it from were LDS and a very nice young couple.

We took possession, met the missionaries and liked them, but I insisted on calling them by their first names - none of this elder stuff. They were indulgent with us Californians. We also fed them every chance we got - lunch, snacks, dinner when needed and once or twice breakfast from a local cafe. We went through 3 sets of missionaries with no introduction to their church or any talk about it, and then one day an older missionary from California arrived. He was 24 years old and explained that was a bit old for an LDS young man to start on his mission, but he didn't feel impressed to go on his mission at 19 I think and wanted to get a couple of years of college in before he went. He started telling us a bit about the church but nothing that was too "threatening" to us.

Then one day in the spring I left work early and drove home to Payette, which was about 13 miles south of the store. It was a beautiful day and driving on that road was like a country drive to us after navigating the freeways of California for 30 years. I was in a hurry to get home and tried passing this Subaru car in front of me. I couldn't pass. This little voice kept telling me "don't pass". Well, that was very new to me. I kept trying for about 2 or 3 times and still heard that voice telling me the same thing. Once I even pulled out in the other lane to pass and the steering wheel was taken from my hands and pulled me back into the lane. Well,  this gal isn't stupid so I just slowed down behind the Subaru in front and enjoyed the nice spring day drive. The whole time being stymied about not being able to pass and that little voice!

Then just as we were north of Payette I noticed a car in the opposite lane come into our lane. For a split second I thought he was trying to pass a car and then quickly realized there wasn't a car in front of him. I kept waiting those very few seconds and thinking "what is that fool doing?" Maybe not my "exact words", but similar - yielding to sensitivities here. He kept coming until he hit the motorcyclist in front of the Subaru and then the Subaru. I'll never ever forget the quietness of that moment. It was as if the earth stood still. I was able to stop my car before I was hit. Then I saw the motorcyclist over in the ditch and the angle he was lying gave me no doubt he was dead. I ran to the car and saw the mom with her head in the dashboard. (It was a family with 3 small kids.) One child went through the windshield and was laying on the hood of the car. The other 2 in the back seat were still in their unbuckled car seats but managed to keep in the seats. That was a miracle. I finally got people to stop. One lady wanted to get the little boy off the hood of the car, but I smelled alcohol on her breath - strongly - and told her to leave him alone. (I never drank and drove and wouldn't allow Jack to either. I was always the designated driver.) Anyway, I got the car door opened and looked at that man's face. I wouldn't have believed a face could look like that within a matter of several seconds to a minute. He looked like a cyclop. One eye was swollen shut. He was bleeding and had lost control of his bladder. I held his hand and tried to calm him down, pleading for someone to call the police quickly. I just knelt there holding his hand while he asked repeatedly how his children were. I kept trying to calm him and reassure all would be fine, all the time yelling for someone to call for the police and paramedics and hurry up. The liquids from under the car were eating into my jeans and shoes. I felt like I was on fire with little patches of holes being eaten through my clothing. The very expensive pair of loafers eventually had to be thrown away also. The police finally arrived, called the necessary vehicles needed to pry the mother out of the car. I thought she was dead but she wasn't. But the husband and wife were in very bad shape. The little boy on the hood had a broken clavicle.

My husband was called and came running down the highway to me and I just lost it then. If I had passed that car I would have been the one who would have been hit. I knew I was very "lucky" that day. I was taken home and put to bed with a sedative. My neighbor was a doctor and his son lived on the other side and he was a doctor so I had no problem in getting the sedative.

The next day I went to the store and the missionaries came down and I told them what had happened. They said to me, "You know what that was, don't you?" I asked what they meant, having no clue. Their reply was that the voice was the "Holy Ghost". I was immediately wary and thought to myself "Okay, here comes the sales pitch." I listened respectfully but gave it no serious thought. Then a day or two later they came downstairs to the store and after several minutes of talking asked me if I'd read this book. I'd heard of the Book of Mormon but had no personal knowledge of it or any other religious book or the Bible really. I said I would. Then a couple of days later they asked me if I believed the book. I said truthfully that I did. Actually what I said was, "Why wouldn't anyone believe this book?" And I meant it. I had no prejudice against it. Well, they looked at each other with 2 big grins on their faces and I was thinking "What is the matter with these two?"

Then the older one asked me a question I'll never forget. He asked me, "How would you like to live forever and be married for all time and eternity?" At that moment there was this feeling from my head to toes and a visual so real to me of a little ball with J-O-Y on it and this bursting in my chest. It was a feeling I'll never ever forget as long as I live. Living in the San Francisco area in the 70s, 80s and 90s where access to every kind of drug was readily available, we never ever partook of any illegal drugs. There just was no interest for either of us. We just didn't. But I think at that moment I must have experienced something like the druggies must experience when doing drugs, only it was so much more exquisite and beautiful and "pure". Hard to describe.

I told Jack I was getting baptized. He's always been supportive and was then, but he had doubts. I remember very clearly laying on our bed one day and he asked me, "What about all the things you've taught me about the women's movement, feminism, philosophy, politics?" I just looked up at him and very quietly answered, "It doesn't matter anymore." And it truly didn't. I had had an epiphany and nothing else mattered at that moment.

I was baptized and Jack attended church with me; however, after the first time he said he would only go to sacrament and not attend any other meetings. He just didn't feel comfortable attending Sunday school and priesthood because he didn't believe any of it and felt hypocritical. If that was all he could do, that was fine with me.

That summer two of our grandchildren came to visit. They were 12 and 8 at the time. They took the discussions and were baptized here before returning home. We had permission from my daughter. When they returned home they were fellowshipped by their local missionaries in California, which just happened to be an elderly couple. Our daughter consented to baptism. Then nine months after I was baptized Jack finally consented to baptism with another set of missionaries we had in the apartment. He resisted for nine months.

We sent the missionaries to our son. He took the discussions and it started coming between him and his wife, who was raised Catholic in the Philippines. He stopped the discussions. Then he was telling us that one night he and his wife were vacationing at a hotel. He said he got down on his knees in that hotel room and prayed about the church and his wife. She finally agreed with him about getting baptized. He said he KNEW it was true and couldn't NOT get baptized. He called us. He was baptized by his dad soon after. You know that feeling when one of your kids call you and you know something is up. Well, we talked for a few minutes and he asked if his dad could come down and baptize him. I thought I was going to collapse from joy. So with in 360 days both of our children, our grandchildren of age, Jack and I were all baptized. That's quite a feat, I would say! Our son has since baptized his wife and both his children and one little boy he has "adopted" as his own because his mother and father were treating him badly and Keith stole him from them. He now lives with Keith and his family and is treated as one of his children without the legality of it. Keith has been sealed to us in the L.A. temple, but his wife hasn't been to the temple yet. Neither has our daughter.

So that is the story of this family. I never drank coffee and never smoked past one cigarette to learn I didn't like it. Alcohol was never a problem - maybe a couple of drinks a year. Tea was easy to give up - just never touched it again after baptism. Of course, when I was baptized I gave up my trashy historical romance novels and I have about four or five hundred of them. Some I never even got to read. Just gave them to the local library. They were thrilled. I gave away all the alcohol to a woman we knew and she thought we were nuts just giving her all that liquor. I packed away all my mini skirts, provocative clothing, learned how to sew clothes and made everything to be modest and never show anything I shouldn't. I committed to wear long dresses and have never looked back.

Now, we are talking here about going from a very feministic, hedonistic, California lifestyle to a very church oriented, gospel centered, Christ loving family. That for us was literally 180º lifestyle change. So I know if we can do it anyone can do it. They just have to listen with their hearts. Mine must have been a good heart and I must have been very valiant in the pre-existence. But I'm saying, most truthfully, that  it is a total lifestyle change for us and we're not sorry one bit we made that decision.



Creation date: Jan 18, 2010 12:02 pm     Last modified date: Mar 7, 2016 2:17 pm   Last visit date: Sep 23, 2017 6:11 pm     link & embed ?...
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