Next to the Angels


Russell M. Nelson
(Adapted from an April 1999 general conference address. See Ensign, May 1999, pages 38–39.)

Long years ago, Elder Frank Croft was serving a mission in the state of Alabama. While preaching to the people, he was abducted by a vicious gang, to be whipped and lashed across his back. Elder Croft was ordered to remove his coat and shirt before he was tied to a tree. As he did so, a letter he had recently received from his mother fell to the ground. The vile leader of the gang picked up the letter. Elder Croft closed his eyes and offered a silent prayer. The attacker read the letter from Elder Croft’s mother. From a copy of that letter, I quote:

“My beloved son, … remember the words of the Savior when he said, … ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name’s sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad for you will have your reward in Heaven for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’ Also remember the Savior upon the cross suffering from the sins of the world when He had uttered these immortal words, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Surely, my boy, they who are mistreating you … know not what they do or they would not do it. Sometime, somewhere, they will understand and then they will regret their action and they will honor you for the glorious work you are doing. So be patient, my son, love those who mistreat you and say all manner of evil against you and the Lord will bless you and magnify you. … Remember also, my son, that day and night, your mother is praying for you.”

Elder Croft watched the hateful man as he studied the letter. He would read a line or two, then sit and ponder. He arose to approach his captive. The man said: “Feller, you must have a wonderful mother. You see, I once had one, too.” Then, addressing the mob, he said: “Men, after reading this Mormon’s mother’s letter, I just can’t go ahead with the job. Maybe we had better let him go.” Elder Croft was released without harm.

Many years ago the First Presidency issued a statement that has had a profound and lasting influence upon me. “Motherhood,” they wrote, “is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dick Brown