“Check the Boys”: Listening to the Still Small Voice

Check the Boys” shares a personal experience written Mary Rich Goodwin for the July 2006 Ensign (pp. 68-69). What happens in this story illustrates a principle so commonly experienced in the Church: a miracle of timing, of being in the right place at the right time, through responding to a simple prompting of the Spirit. In her case, the repeated prompting, “Check the boys,” allowed a mother to walk into her boys’ room in the middle of the night just in time to save a child’s life.

I think the story is worth pondering.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

24 thoughts on ““Check the Boys”: Listening to the Still Small Voice

  1. Is it not possible that this could be chalked up to simple maternal instinct? I often have a strong feeling that I need to check on my children whether they are asleep or not. Could this not be a coincidence?

  2. Ah, yes. But where does maternal instinct come from?

    Checking up at the right moment might be coincidence. But after you happen to do it “at the right moment” so often, at some point it stops being coincidence.

    “Instinct,” as scientists would describe it, is usually biological, either by chemical messages sent by hormones, or by how we are “wired together” via our brain and nervous system.

    Us humans certainly have hormones and “hard-wiring,” and hopefully (I believe) it’s on a higher scale than the lower-order animals.

    But as Christians already believe that humans have eternal spirits or souls, being in a dual nature with our physical selves, it shouldn’t be too hard to accept that sometimes our spirit knows things and can react to things, that our physical body and human mental capacity doesn’t know of.

  3. I think we make way way too much of this kind of experience. How many times has this woman gotten up in the middle of the night to check on her boys, and they’ve been sleeping just fine? Would that story make it into the Ensign? We tend to neglect the “promptings” that go nowhere, and focus so much on the 1 in a 1000 that do.

  4. Howdy!

    The 1 in 1000 can be a life changing event, just like NDEs (near death experiences).

    Here are two of my favorite “Still Small Voice” stories…

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie
    Brother Richard A. Dove

    Of course in regards to NDEs and the two stories above, we must remember what was learned from the previous blog article about Occam’s Razor… they’re all just doing it for the money. Cha-ching!

    (big grin)



  5. “I think we make way way too much of this kind of experience. How many times has this woman gotten up in the middle of the night to check on her boys, and they’ve been sleeping just fine?”

    Most promptings I receive are small and simple (and yes, even familiar) things like that. It’s the timing that makes the difference, the remembering to do the familiar thing at exactly the right moment.

    Let’s say she had a five minute time window before her son passed out. Even if she had set her alarm to check on the boys, the odds were still about 96:1 that it wouldn’t have had a happy ending.

    “We tend to neglect the ‘promptings’ that go nowhere, and focus so much on the 1 in a 1000 that do.”

    Um… if the ‘prompting’ is to keep something bad from happening, and we follow it, and nothing bad happens, are we really in a position to assert it went nowhere? That smacks of a null hypothesis.

    We aren’t often aware of the full consequences of our actions right away — sometimes ever. I suspect we’ll look back on this life and be amazed at the minefields we navigated by following promptings we didn’t even notice, or thought went “nowhere.”

  6. As children we will participate in numerous fire drills, conducted and administered to us by those who care about our well being and preparedness. Each time we hear the bell, we act according to their instructions. fire drills, however, are totally unremarkable, they will not be featured as a magazine article, or make the news at ten. I dont know for sure, but I see no reason, that the spirit might not operate in the same fashion.
    Preparing us to answer the call, when the emergency is real, without hesitation.

  7. I like this kind of story well enough, but this isn’t exclusive to Mormons, and not really a good argument for being one of the benefits of confirmation, since it is very common.
    Anyway, I much prefer this to the “Holy Ghost as Finder of Lost Keys” story that seems to be so prevalent come testimony meeting time.

  8. Some thoughts and desires are just our own. Sometimes I want a pizza with the works, just because I like pizza with the works.

    Some thoughts and impressions/promptings come from outside of us. In those cases we sometimes recognize them as coming from an outside source. According to the Book of Mormon, both the Holy Spirit and Satan can whisper things to us and inspire us with ideas.

    Sometimes the Lord can “implant” a thought or desire that feels like it is our own, but he is actually the author of it. This kind of implantation of an idea/desire has happened to me at least a few times.

    One time it really freaked me out, because I had an unquenchable desire to go somewhere, but I had no logical reason to. I prayed about it, and received no answer. It was not until a couple hours after I bought the plane ticket online that I received a peaceful feeling that confirmed I did the right thing. I learned even more things on that trip, and miracles happened.

  9. I really hate to post—-because I know I am going to stir up a can of worms.

    A good friend of mine (non-member)lost his daughter due to drowning recently. She was 8 years old. I would hate to have him see the Ensign and see that the boys life was saved, and his daughter died.

    I am tired of Fast and Testimony meeting where someone will tell of a minor “miracle”, while in our city at the same time innocent teens were killed in an auto accident.

    Miracles, promptings etc. are very personal and should be kept that way. Possibly share them with family and friends.

  10. For every Shadrach whose life is miraculously saved, there are dozens of believers in the Ammonihahs of the world who are thrown into the flames and perish. For every baby Moses or baby Jesus saved by the actions of an inspired parent, there are a hundred infants slain among the Hebrew slaves or the residents of Bethlehem.

    This is mortality, filled with grief and disease, sin and murder, blood and horror. Let us do all we can to make this life better, and rejoice with each exception, with each manifestation of the hand of God rescuing one of us, though only for short time, from death or disease or other afflictions. Let us rejoice in the occasional miracle and in the joy of a blessed mother or father, and not dampen others’ joy with our grief or even our jealousy.

    The Messiah shall wipe away every tear and heal every wound, but we must not grow bitter with whatever grief we must endure for now.

  11. Hi, Bookslinger. I was asking my question earlier in context of the specific film referenced – I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know how often this parent checked on the kids and saved their lives, or what other possible explanations were explored. I guess my question was confusing for that reason. As a Christian I agree that the Holy Spirit can move us to do things we might not otherwise expect to do rationally.
    Stacey Pokorney
    staceypokorney [at] yahoo[dot]com
    Dallas, TX

    (Originally the 3rd comment, reposted by Jeff with Stecey’s permission to make her email address list subject to spam harvesters)

  12. Jeff,

    What you describe as a response to Anon is one of the things I absolutely do not believe.

    A loving father does not save 1 child and stand by while thousands of others perish.

    There is nothing you or anyone else can say that will ever get me to believe that utter nonsense.

    The only way I can reconsile this in my mind is that he didn’t save either one because he does not intervene.

    The mere thought of a father saving 1 and not the other, when he is fully capable of saving both makes me sick to my stomach.

  13. It is sometimes difficult to find the purpose behind the facts that some children are saved while others die–some townspeople are warned and saved from floods, while others are washed away — one child is cured of cancer while another dies. I have buried 2 of my five children and I know that pain. But death is not evidence of lack of love by our Father. Death is just not the worst thing that can happen to someone.
    The testimony of large and small miracles by others no longer makes me cry, “Why not me? Why not my child?” I have asked for and received peace regarding my children’s deaths and regarding the deaths of others. I think the testimony of miracles lets others have hope and encourages listening to the Holy Ghost.

  14. Mawcawn… thank you for your post. Your message is very touching and heartfelt. I commend you and wish your loss had not come to pass. But thank you.

    Bishop Rick… my friend, I hope God intervenes every now and then. If he never stepped in, there could be no faith or hope. Please be cautious in your search for the truth. The NT clearly states God stepped in to save Jesus as a child while other children were lost to Herod’s paranoia.

    On the same token, if God always stepped in, faith, hope, and our agency would be negated.

    As Mawcawn pointed out, there is more to life that our birth and death. It absolutely has to be true. If not, all hope is lost. The Plan of Salvation says we will all be saved from our physical death. Through temple work, every single one of us (even those that have already passed) can qualify for the Savior’s redemption. Mercy and justice can be reconciled. We can be with those we love again.

    Without the Plan of Salvation, God is not just. According to traditional Christian theology, a righteous Muslim who feed the hungry and cares for the poor (and may live a more worthy life than many of us), but has not been “saved”, cannot return to Heaven. And if that’s the case, the debate (albeit useless) boils down to simply… “Are we simply animated star dust or just subjects to an unjust god?”

    God is fair. He loves all of his children. We have our agency in this life and He values our intrapersonal freedoms. Sometimes He steps in. I’d be interested to know what your thoughts are regarding the two stories I linked to above. I find them truly inspirational.

    I hope you can forgive me for standing on my soap box. My desire is not to offend or criticize your opinion. Just to offer another opinion in your search.


  15. Shawn,

    Those are nice faith promoting stories with happy endings, but I don’t feel that LDS members have a lock on that type of experience. I can’t explain why those things happen, but I don’t for a second think it is because these people were members of the church and recieved the GOTHG. These things happen to everyone, just don’t try to convince me it is heavenly father intervening. I simply don’t buy it.

    To be perfectly honest with you, I read stories like that with a bit of skepticism, due in part to the Paul H Dunn faith promoting stories that used to prop me up.

    I’m sorry, I don’t mean to detract from anyone’s experience, I just can’t see a just God playing savior rhoulette. For every situation described in those 2 stories, there are 100 that end differently.

    There is a case recently in Utah where a newly baptised family had their 5 year old daughter kidnapped and murdered (among other things) by a neighbor 2 houses down. I shudder at the thought of that little innocent girl frightened and praying for someone to save her. No one did.

    How can you reconsile that with a God that can and does save some but not others. I can’t. The only answer that makes sense to me is that God simply does not intervene.

    When/if things mentioned in those 2 stories do happen, I would have to attribute them to pure luck.

  16. To everyone here,
    We will never know the ways of God. Why did some of the early saints suffer so much when they were truly faithful to Him? This question was asked in D&C and answered. To prove their faith in all things. (Don’t ask me where the reference is. It’s in several places and I am not a scriptorian.) When the saints were losing their faith at Zion’s Camp, God caused a sickeness to fall upon them. (This I do know. Just read it. From the book They Knew the Prophet. Heber C. Kimball’s journal entry on his experience in Zion’s Camp.) Even Joseph Smith lost children and went through many hardships. So, we must not lose our faith in God when things happen. God knows what we need in our lives and what is best for us. (and don’t tell me this is a canned expression. I truly believe this and have experienced His hand in my life.)

  17. I just want to add that the saints were given the sickness until their faith was restored. Even Joseph Smith was struck down when he tried to cast out the destroyer. Bad things will happen in our lives. It’s our attitude that will make or break us. If we didn’t have trauma in our lives we will be living like Adam and Eve and never gain any life experience. This was in God’s plan so we must accept it in faith.

  18. Discussions like this always remind me of “The Iceman Cometh”. The only reason anyone believes what they believe is because the alternative is unthinkable.
    Everyone who has ever lived thought they were doing the right thing: from the ancient Mayans who bashed in skulls, to the missionary going door to door, to the man working hard day in and day out to support a family.
    We tend to forget this because the media feeds us stories of people who look, talk, and narrate their own badness. And the president isn’t helping much either, with his “enemies of all that we hold dear” line of reasoning either.
    As humans, we require beliefs in order to function.
    Even the humanists can’t claim to disavow all creeds without writing a creed about it.
    As Mormons, we subscribe to a pretty complex set of beliefs that dictate our actions.
    If I want to believe it was God who helped me find my keys, I will. But, I can’t rationally think that Mormons have a monopoly on inspiration, large or small. That’s the lesson of history.

  19. Hi Louis!

    There’s a big difference between basing in skulls and missionary work. 🙂

    You’re only talking about the “fruits”… a very important line of delineation exists that separates those “fruits”. And from that line, we can see what side our heart falls on when we act via inspiration.

    Case in point… “Are people going to die because half of my sports drink is an explosive device?” vs. “If I tell people via my religious (cough_Pat Robertson_cough) broadcast that it’s about time the leader of another nation is assassinated, will I get more $$$ from my followers?” vs. “If I pray for a missionary experience, will I find someone in need?”

    Matt. 7: 17-18
    17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
    18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.


  20. Shawn,

    With all due respect, I agree that if it is not absolutely true, that all hope is lost, but that fact does not make it true.

    I am pretty sure that much of it is not true, but I hope that some of it is…at least enough to provide some hope.

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