When he was assigned to home teach a sister (whom we shall call Ruth Elliott), she was relatively new in the ward and Jay Lyman did not know her. By talking with her daughter who lived in another ward, and with others who could give him information about her, Brother Lyman was able to learn a little about Sister Elliott before he first called at her home.
Sister Elliott lived in a small apartment in a nice neighborhood. The apartment had been fashioned from the bedroom of a home and had its own outside door. The closet was used as the kitchen and was fitted with a small stove and a sink. The room was furnished with a broken-down upholstered chair in which Sister Elliott spent most of her time when she was not in bed. She seldom left the apartment and had no outside interests. Her days were spent alone at home.
This sister smoked and depended heavily on medications. Through the years her doctors had prescribed a number of medicines, and she continued to take many of them. Moreover, her appearance, manner, and conversation reflected a bitter attitude toward her life and circumstances. She harbored deep resentment toward her father and others, and an unfortunate incident with a Church member had wounded her deeply. Altogether, her life did not appear to be a pleasant one. Brother Lyman prayed fervently to know how best to serve this troubled sister.
Shortly after his call as her home teacher, an opportunity came. Her landlady was having the apartment painted, but Sister Elliott was responsible to move her furniture out to the patio before the work could be done. Brother Lyman and the ward’s high priests group leader moved the furniture out and then back in after the paint had dried. In this way they were able to be of service, although it was sad to see how little Sister Elliott owned and how meager her circumstances were.
On one occasion, while Sister Elliott had gone for a few days to visit with family members, Brother Lyman and his wife, Virginia, went to her apartment and “confiscated” the broken-down chair. It had a good frame, but needed new padding and fabric. Virginia did an excellent upholstering job on the chair, and they had it back in the apartment before Sister Elliott returned from her trip.
Brother Lyman and his junior companion visited this woman regularly, and Brother and Sister Lyman also went of ten to visit, to talk about the gospel, and to offer a simple prayer. Gradually, Sister Elliott began to accept and return their friendship, and they became closely involved in each other’s lives.
One spring, just prior to a surgery which their new friend needed, the Lymans spent many hours with her, on the phone or in person, taking her to church, to the doctor’s office, or shopping. They kept in touch daily. For a time she would call each night before going to bed; she was lonely and needed a listening ear, and they were somehow able to fill part of the void and provide a needed close association.
The Lymans were vacationing when Sister Elliott had the surgery, but they called her at the hospital to offer words of encouragement and cheer. She had received a priesthood blessing and felt that the Lord would watch over her. Moreover, following the operation she determined to stop smoking, which she did successfully.
Prior to his entering the mission field, a grandson had asked her to give up smoking—and she was able to accomplish the task through the help of the Lord and her own strong desire to please her missionary grandson.
As the months passed, Sister Elliott made new friends and found outside interests. Her church attendance improved, and she began to pay tithing. Brother Lyman recalls accompanying her to tithing settlement: at first she protested that she was ill and did not want to go, but he asked her to be ready and he picked her up. Returning home afterward she radiated happiness. She paid a full tithing for the first time in her life.
By now, her attitude toward life had changed dramatically. The bitterness was gone, replaced by a humble and contrite spirit. Those who had offended her were forgiven. Relations with her children improved, and there were changes in their attitude and behavior toward their mother, prompted by her increased tolerance and love for them.
This good sister was eventually able to move to a new apartment, furnish it attractively, and make new friends in her apartment building. A new physician, determined to correct her dependency on medication, insisted that she rely on her own strength to cope with problems and would not allow her to use medication for that purpose. Through his diligence and the power of the priesthood to bless and strengthen, she was able to endure a difficult period of withdrawal.
The blessings which have come to the “new” Sister Elliott have been many, including participation in the sacred temple ceremonies with her family and friends. Brother Lyman reports: “I am deeply grateful for the opportunity which has been mine to serve as her home teacher. Indeed, I loved the ‘old’ Sister Elliott as much as the ‘new’ Sister Elliott—but now I need not feel sad because of her meager and dreary life. Today it is full and pleasant, enriched by the blessings of gospel living.”