First Presidency Message

The Precious Gift of Sight

Second Counselor in the First Presidency

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    When Jesus walked and taught among men, he spoke in language easily understood. Whether he was journeying along the dusty way from Perea to Jerusalem, addressing the multitude on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, or pausing beside Jacob’s well in Samaria, he taught in parables. Jesus spoke frequently of having hearts that could know and feel, ears that were capable of hearing, and eyes that could truly see.

    As in Christ’s time, some people in our day are not blessed with the actual gift of sight. There was a blind man who, in an effort to sustain himself, sat day after day in his usual place at the edge of a busy sidewalk in a large city. In one hand he held an old felt hat filled with pencils. A tin cup was extended by the other hand. His simple appeal to the passer-by was brief and to the point. It had a certain finality to it, almost a tone of despair. The message was contained on the small sign held around his neck by a string. It read, “I am blind.”

    Most did not stop to buy his pencils or to place a coin in the tin cup. They were too busy, too occupied by their own problems. That tin cup never had been filled, even half-filled. Then one beautiful spring day a man paused and added several new words to the shabby sign. No longer did it read, “I am blind.” Now the message read, “It is springtime, and I am blind.” The compassion of human feelings could not now be restrained. The cup was soon filled to overflowing. The coins, however, were a poor substitute for the desired ability to actually restore sight.

    I remember a news article from Sicily, Italy, which read, “Five young brothers blind since birth got their first dim glimpse of the world Tuesday. They cried with delight.” The Rotolo brothers were operated on to remove cataracts they had been born with. As the surgeon, Luigi Picardo, in a darkened room removed their bandages, he must have hoped and prayed that his work was successful.

    The first to speak was four-year-old Calogero, the youngest of the brothers. “The necktie,” he cried, tugging at the surgeon’s tie. “I can see, I can see.” The removal of the bandages from the others’ eyes was accompanied by shouts of joy. The boys’ father could hardly believe it when he held thirteen-year-old Carmelo’s face in his hands and asked tenderly, “Can you see, my son? Can you really see?”

    The boys’ mother, the doctors, and everyone there wept for joy. Dr. Picardo replaced the bandages and walked slowly out of the room. Then he sat down on a bench and wept. “Never,” he said, “have I felt such extraordinary serenity, such happiness.” Thus a skilled surgeon actually brought the gift of sight to five little boys who had been blind.

    Each of us knows those who cannot see. We also know many others who walk in darkness during the day. Those in this latter group may never carry the usual white cane used by blind people and carefully make their way by the sound of its familiar tap, tap, tap. They may not have a faithful guide dog by their side nor carry a sign around their neck which reads, “I am blind.” But they are certainly blind. Some have been blinded by anger, others by indifference, revenge, hate, prejudice, ignorance, or by missing precious opportunities to grow.

    Of such the Lord said, “Their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matt. 13:15).

    Well might such persons cry, “It is springtime, the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored, and yet I am blind.” Some, like the friend of Philip of old, call out, “How can I [find my way], except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:31.) Others are too shy, too fearful to ask for needed help that might restore their precious spiritual vision.

    The case of the Rotolo brothers was reported in newspapers around the world. In literally thousands of other instances, the transition from the dense darkness of despair to glorious spiritual light is accomplished without publicity, without the recognition of the world.

    Let me share with you two typical comments from those who were once blind but who now walk in light and truth, because they were helped by faithful home teachers and concerned leaders.

    From one family comes the report: “Before we recently became active in the Church again, we thought we were living average, normal lives. We had our problems, our good times and bad times. But there was one thing missing in our home, and that was a togetherness that only the priesthood can bring. Now we have that blessing, and our love for one another is greater than we ever dreamed it could be. We are truly happy.”

    From another family: “We thank our Heavenly Father every night for our bishopric and our home teachers who have helped us to achieve blessings that seemed so far away, so impossible to obtain. We now have a peace of mind beyond description.”

    Those who have felt the influence of the Savior somehow cannot explain the change that comes into their lives. There is a desire to live better, to serve faithfully, to walk humbly, and to live more like the Savior. Having received their spiritual eyesight and glimpsed the promises of eternity, they repeat the words of the blind man to whom Jesus restored sight: “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).

    How can we explain these miracles? Why the upsurge of reactivity? A poet, speaking of death, wrote, “God touched him, and he slept.” I say, speaking of this new birth, “God touched them, and they awakened.”

    There are mainly two basic reasons for these changes of attitudes, of habits, and of actions.

    First, brothers and sisters have been shown their eternal possibilities and have made the decision to achieve them. People cannot really be content with mediocrity once they see they can achieve excellence.

    Second, other men, women, and young people have followed the admonition of the Savior and have loved their neighbors as themselves and helped their neighbors achieve their righteous goals.

    That which starts or causes this change has been and is the principle of love, described as the noblest attribute of the human soul.

    Frequently the love of a child can stir a person’s heart to action and create a change in his or her life. Once, at Christmastime in a large department store, a little boy walked hand in hand with his mother and father to the toy department to see Santa Claus. As the little one talked with Santa, he was asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” Santa had no ready answer when the lad replied, “Just for my daddy to love my mommy like he used to.” Could a father hear such a plea and not be affected by it? Could a mother?

    Often it is the love of a patient, forgiving, and understanding wife that awakens within a man the desire to live a better life, to be the husband and the father he knows he should and can be.

    I remember the privilege of performing a sealing ceremony in the temple for a family I had known for many years. The scene was tranquil. The cares of the outside world had been temporarily discarded. The quiet and peace of the house of the Lord filled the heart of each one assembled in the room. I knew that this particular couple had been married for eighteen years and had never before been to the temple. I turned to the husband and asked, “Jack, who is responsible for bringing this glorious event to fulfillment?”

    He smiled and pointed silently to his precious wife who sat by his side. I seemed to sense that this lovely woman was never more proud of her husband than at that particular moment. Jack then directed my attention to one of the brethren serving as witness to this ceremony and likewise acknowledged the great influence for good that he had had upon his life.

    As the three beautiful children were sealed to their parents, I could not help noticing the tears which welled up in the eyes of the teenage daughter and then rolled down her cheeks, finally tumbling upon clasped hands. These were sacred tears, tears of supreme joy, tears that expressed the silent but eloquent gratitude of a tender heart too full to speak.

    I found myself thinking, Oh, that such men and women would not wait eighteen long years to receive this priceless blessing.

    Yet, there are those who feel that their own neglect to do what is right, their bad habits, their shunning of the righteous life have caused God to abandon them, that he will no longer hear their pleadings, nor see their situation, nor feel compassion toward them. But such feelings are not compatible with the word of the Lord. He said:

    “A certain man had two sons:

    “And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

    “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

    “And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

    “And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

    “And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

    “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

    “I will arise and to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

    “And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

    “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

    “And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

    “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

    “And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

    “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:11–24).

    If there is anyone who feels too weak to change the onward- and downward-moving course of life, or if there are those who fail to resolve to do better because of that greatest of fears, the fear of failure, there is no more comforting assurance than the words of the Lord: “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

    There are men and women everywhere who would be made better by our helping hands. They may be our neighbors, our friends, our business associates. All are our brothers and sisters.

    The prayer of my heart is that people everywhere will respond to the kind invitation and gentle touch of the Master’s hand. I pray that we may all faithfully serve our Lord and our Savior, who so willingly died that we might forever live, that we may have eyes that really see, ears that truly hear, and responsive hearts that know and feel.

    Discussion Helps for Home Teachers

    1. President Monson says there are two basic reasons for changes of attitudes: a) When people are shown their eternal possibilities and make the decision to achieve them; b) when we follow the admonition of the Savior to love our neighbors and help them achieve their righteous goals.

    2. That which starts or causes a change of heart is the principle of love, described as the noblest attribute of the human soul.

    3. Relate your feelings about the power of the gospel to help us see life clearly. Ask family members if they would like to share their feelings.

    Illustrated by Del Parson