Years ago when ward boundaries were changed within our stake in Las Vegas, Nevada, our family was among a handful of members who were realigned into one particular ward. My husband and I found ourselves struggling with the announced change. We would now be in ward boundaries that included an affluent area at a time when the failure of a business venture found us questioning ourselves as well as struggling to make ends meet. We wondered if we’d feel comfortable in a ward in which we thought people weren’t grappling with problems as we were.
On the first Sunday in our new ward, I slipped into Relief Society just before it began. Feeling foreign and nervous, I took a seat on the back row so I could care for my eight-month-old baby less conspicuously.
Leaning over to get something for the baby, I noticed a woman on the aisle across from me as she turned to say something to her neighbor. She was well dressed, with perfect make-up and hair. Somewhere in my mind I made an instant judgment. The woman—elegant, well-manicured, no doubt affluent, flawless—symbolized to me the majority of the women in our new ward and represented the dramatic contrast I felt between myself and them as our family struggled financially.
At the conclusion of the lesson, this woman was one of those who stood to bear her testimony. “I can’t speak very well,” she began, half-covering her mouth with her hand as she spoke in slightly thickened tones. As I looked more closely this time, I realized that one side of her face was paralyzed. “But after my brain tumor and four surgeries,” she continued, “I am grateful to still be here.” Shocked into a higher consciousness, I was deeply moved as this sister spoke of her love for her Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and bore witness of Their love. In ensuing months I would come to know her as a guileless and selfless person whose consideration and love encompassed everyone.
This special woman did more than touch me with her sincere testimony and example. She unwittingly taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life. I had feared being judged to be less than adequate in my new ward, but it was I who had done the judging. I realized that we each have a side that the world sees, a side that may seem “flawless,” but we each also have a private side, often unseen, in which we experience trial. I was reminded that although our personal trials and circumstances may differ, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, there are no boundaries—we are “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens” who “bear one another’s burdens” (see Eph. 2:19 and Mosiah 18:8).