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Apostle's wife felt comfort despite attack

Wendy Nelson, left, and Dr. Rebecca Jorgensen.
Wendy Nelson, left, and Dr. Rebecca Jorgensen.
Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

The wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson said she felt a comforting peace that helped her remain calm during an attack by armed robbers last spring.

Sister Wendy Watson Nelson described the experience Friday during a speech to 3,300 women at the Time Out for Women event in Salt Lake City. The robbery occurred in May at an LDS mission home in Mozambique.

"The four armed robbers had one intention," Sister Nelson said, "to (harm) my husband and to take me hostage."

Sister Nelson said she and her husband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were on a church assignment in the African country. She described finishing taco salads with Mozambique Maputo Mission President Blair Packard and his wife and two other couples when a man suddenly walked into the mission home.

"I expected the president to greet him like a friend, but he stood by the door, and instead, the mission president's wife — who I call a hero — said, 'This is a robbery!' "

After she informed her guests of the situation, Cindy Packard, the mission president's wife, ran outside to shout, "Robber! Robber!" in Portuguese. She was the only one in the group who could speak the language well, Sister Nelson said, and her efforts summoned help and "brought the hideous situation to a close."

Cindy Packard, however, suffered a broken arm during the attack. Others in the group suffered some superficial injuries, mainly cuts and bruises.

Sister Nelson said the attempted robbery and abduction was a sobering experience that confirms that "life is a spook alley," but she said she takes comfort in the scripture that advises the righteous to "fear not what man can do."

Her account of the attack helped illustrate several points. She said the first of the four armed men didn't barge into the home, but casually entered almost unnoticed, exactly like the adversary does.

Unbeknownst to those inside eating dinner, the intruders overcame the unarmed guard outside the mission home, she said. They then watched Elder Nelson and the others through the windows of the mission home, waiting for the right moment to attack.

"The adversary knows your whereabouts," Sister Nelson said. "The robbers didn't barge in, they just sauntered right on in exactly like the adversary. It struck me as well that we, therefore, as women need to be hypervigilant about what's coming into our home, on the Internet, the computer and the TV."

Sister Nelson said she had not previously understood the phrase "Here I raise my Ebenezer" from the hymn "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" before that fateful night.

"Little did we know before that evening the Lord would pile up stones of help," she said, noting that the Bible dictionary defines an "Ebenezer" as a stone of help.

Sister Nelson said she felt comforted just prior to the incident — comfort that helped her keep calm during the difficult experience.

"Just before that man walked in, an intense, beautiful peace came upon me," she said. "If you're ever in a situation where you doubt God, just call me. I will tell you. I have felt that peace."

Sister Nelson said righteous women everywhere need to be vigilant and bold just as Cindy Packard was on that evening in Mozambique when she responded quickly and took action.

"She labeled the problem and the second thing she did was to free herself and get out," Sister Nelson said.

"We need to be like her and get over it (being slow to take action). Our spiritual strength of the past won't be enough in the future. We need to increase the intensity of our prayers and of our scripture study."

e-mail: haddoc@desnews.com