Editor's note: This is the first of six winners in The Deseret News' annual Christmas writing contest, "Christmas I Remember Best." See the second winner here, the third winner here, the fourth winner here the fifth winner here and the sixth winner here.
When I read about the movie "The King's Speech" and the story of King George VI's struggle with a severe stammer, I remembered, I was there.
I traveled backward through the misty corridors of time, and I was back in my native England and it was 1942 again. It was a critical year. World War II was engulfing the world, and we were losing.
The Japanese were gobbling up the countries in the Pacific and were preparing to invade Australia, and the Germans had conquered all of Europe and were only 23 miles from their next goal, which was the occupation of Britain. The invasion barges were moored on the French coast while supplies were coming in.
All men 18 to 65 years old and all women 18 through 45 had been drafted. Then Winston Churchill made his famous speech, "We shall fight in the streets, we shall fight from house to house, but we shall never be conquered!"
We felt the same way. If we were overcome, we knew that many of us would be shipped to Germany to work in the factories and mines as slave laborers, where we would eventually die of cruel treatment, as many people in the occupied countries already had.
Churchill was at dinner with his wife and daughter and asked them if they were aware of the crisis, and they said they were.
"Don't forget to take two with you!" he said, repeating the government's admonition to the people that we should try to kill two of the enemy before losing our own lives. His daughter replied, "But Daddy, I don't have a gun."
Churchill turned to his daughter and fixed her with that bulldog expression for which he was famous and said sternly, "There are plenty of knives in the kitchen aren't there?"
The British government told us that as soon as the invasion barges were loaded and heading for the British coast, we would be notified by the ringing of all the church bells. While all this preparation was going on, the king was preparing his Christmas speech. Every year the king or queen would broadcast a Christmas message to their people telling of goals accomplished and others to be met.
This time everyone turned on the "wireless," as the radio was called. The king outlined the challenges we faced and then he gave a quotation that I firmly believed altered the course of history:
"I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, give me a light that I may tread forth safely into the great unknown, and he replied: 'Put your hand into the hand of God. It shall be better for you than a light and safer than any known way.' "
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I like to think that several million people responded by putting their hands into the hand of God because miracles began to happen. The Germans canceled the invasion and slowly but surely the forces of freedom began to make some progress. It took three more years of "blood, toil, tears and sweat," to quote Churchill, and a total of 50 million men, women and children would die before it was all over, but we were on the way.
I learned that when life became more than I could handle alone, I could put my hand into the hand of God, and although I may have to travel through the valley of the shadow, eventually I would be led into the light.
I shall never forget that lesson I learned all those years ago.