This past year has given me a new vision of the Savior’s words as recorded in Matthew:
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:37–40.)
In visits to more than thirty stakes of Zion during the year past, my life has been blessed and my faith has been increased as I have observed and experienced the Christlike love and the quiet, unheralded service demonstrated in the lives of countless true Latter-day Saints.
Such examples of charity, the pure love of Christ, are not restricted to geographic location, to age, or gender, or station in life. Such acts of kindness and love of fellowman seek no praise or reward and are often performed within the humble homes and from the loving hearts of the Lord’s devoted servants.
Permit me to recount a few such examples from the lives of true followers of Christ.
In an early stake conference assignment, Elder Paramore and I were blessed to visit the home of a dear brother who, in a tragic industrial accident on August 26, 1958, fell from a cooling tower into a hole thirty-five feet below, where he landed on his head and became paralyzed from the shoulders down. In the intervening thirty-one years he has survived as one of the longest-living quadriplegics in medical history. He was unable to attend the conference meetings, but a brief, thoughtfully prepared video of his life and testimony was presented in the Saturday evening session of conference. He lies not in a bed but suspended on a circular metal rack, where he has received devoted nursing care twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, since this accident—more than thirty-one years ago.
This brother, whose home we visited following the conference, praised his nurses, his priesthood leaders, his home teachers, and many others who during those long years stood by his side and ministered to his spiritual and temporal needs. A wise stake president had called him to be the regular correspondent to the missionaries and the servicemen from his stake. I have been inspired many times as I have read his letters sent to bolster the faith of choice young missionaries across the world.
May I quote two lines from one of these missionary letters: “Christ is the only way to heaven. All other paths are detours to doom—commitment to Christ should go hand in hand with commitment to His Church.”
In another stake, in a Sunday morning Primary meeting of that stake conference, I met two beautiful daughters of a faithful young Latter-day Saint physician and his devoted wife. The older child was in a wheelchair, and the younger child moved with great effort. Both of these children suffer from a degenerative disease of genetic origin thought to be progressive and incurable. According to medical wisdom, their time in this life is extremely limited. Their eyes were beautiful and clear—full of faith and love of their Savior, whose presence had been made real in their lives by loving parents and grandparents and devoted Church teachers.
To fulfill a deep desire for more children, their devoted parents have adopted two other beautiful daughters from another country. Instead of cursing God as Job was encouraged by his associates to do in the face of other faith-testing burdens, this couple has reached out to these two beautiful additional daughters, who now feel the blessing of being reared in a household of faith, with love from parents whose hearts and lives demonstrate the pure love of Christ.
Following a recent stake conference, Sister Lindsay and I were blessed to visit another household of faith located in rural Idaho. The young father in this home was suffering from a critical illness. A picture forever etched in my memory is of a mother and five beautiful children, together with this dear brother’s priesthood quorum leaders, kneeling around his bedside pleading with Heavenly Father for the life of this good man. He was then administered to within this circle of faith. It was our blessing recently again to meet this young couple and to hear their beautiful witnessing, their humble outpouring of spirit, of the Lord’s blessing in the restoration of the husband’s health.
In yet another stake conference, a dear sister confined to a wheelchair testified to the strength which she had received from feeling the Lord’s love through reading the Book of Mormon. Earlier her devoted husband had been able to help her to adjust to the crippling effects of her illness. Now he was bedridden, and she spoke of the gratitude that the Lord had empowered her with greater strength to be more self-reliant and better care for her own needs. She had even been given additional strength to minister to the many needs of her dear companion, who now tenderly cared for her and had done so for so many years. Loving family and Church associates had also been helpful so that they were able to remain in their own home with precious memories of early happy family associations.
It was President Kimball who said, “The Lord answers our prayers, but it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” An incident in the latter part of President Kimball’s ministry helped me to better understand his message and the way his own life witnessed to the truthfulness of his inspired counsel.
As a stake president during this period, I went to a local hospital to visit a dear sister suffering with a terminal illness. More than forty years earlier, I had attended school with both this sister and her husband who had been childhood sweethearts. But they had not been blessed with children of their own, and they had filled this void by his serving as a Scout leader—and his loving companion as the “Scout mother”—to scores of young boys over a generation.
As I approached the hospital that day, my heart was heavy with foreboding for what lay ahead in the lives of this choice couple. For weeks this dear brother had stayed with his companion at the hospital day and night to give comfort and ease her burden and the pain of her suffering.
As I reached the door of her hospital room that day, I met my friend emerging from his wife’s room into the hallway. Unlike my earlier visits, when his countenance reflected the weight of their ordeal, this time his face was radiant and his eyes were aglow. Before I could utter a word, he said, “You will never guess what just happened. As my wife and I were feeling so burdened, into our room came President Kimball”—himself a patient at the hospital, where he had recently undergone surgery. “He prayed with us and he blessed us, and it was as though the Savior himself had come to lift our burdens.” Many other patients in that hospital, I might add, experienced a similar blessing from one who knew so much of pain and suffering.
In my own life I have experienced much of the Savior’s love through the kindness and goodness of many of the Lord’s servants. With King Benjamin I acknowledge that if we were to serve the Savior with all our souls, yet we would be unprofitable servants. (See Mosiah 2:21.) And this because of His great love and atoning sacrifice for each of His children.
Some months ago a ninety-year-old patriarch and dear friend of my own father was quietly laid to rest in this valley. My father passed away during the height of the Great Depression in 1932, and ten days later my oldest brother, age fourteen, died. During forty-seven years of my mother’s widowhood, this gentle soul frequently visited our fatherless family to give wise counsel and encouragement and priesthood blessings. His example and personal concern, coupled with the goodness of many other priesthood leaders and loving neighbors, helped my mother and her five remaining children face the problems of economic depression and wars and the many worldly influences and daily challenges with which each of us must cope. His life in many ways touched scores of others in similar circumstances.
To me he was the epitome of the “pure religion” described in the epistle of James: “To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27.)
In these challenging times, dear brothers and sisters, the need to “minister unto the least of these” of our Father’s children is so great. (See Matt. 25:40.) How much we need the gifts of discernment and wisdom and charity to know how to really reach down and lift up our brothers and sisters to higher ground.
I pray that day by day we will strive more diligently to be about our Father’s business (see Luke 2:49), to love and to serve our fellowmen—to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, and comfort those that mourn (see Matt. 25:37–39), to hold up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees (see D&C 81:5)—to believe and live the Savior’s doctrine; and to follow after Him and put first in our lives the things of His kingdom. And for this I humbly pray, in the holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.