When I was assigned to home teach a sister whom I shall call Ruth Elliott, she was new in the ward. I wanted to learn a little about her before I first called at her home, so I talked with her former bishop, with her daughter who lived in another ward, and with others who knew her.
Sister Elliott lived alone in a small apartment that was furnished with a broken-down upholstered chair. She spent most of her time in that chair—or in bed. She seldom left the apartment and had no outside interests.
Sister Elliott 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. 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. I prayed fervently to know how best to serve this troubled woman.
Shortly after I had been called as her home teacher, an opportunity came. Her landlady was having the apartment painted, and she had asked Sister Elliott to move her furniture outside before the work could be done. Our ward’s high priest group leader and I moved the furniture out and then back in after the paint had dried.
Once, when Sister Elliott was out of town, my wife, Virginia, and I decided to repair 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 we had it back in the apartment before Sister Elliott returned from her trip.
My junior companion and I visited sister Elliott regularly, and Virginia and I also went often to visit, talk about the gospel, and offer a prayer. Gradually, she began to accept and return our friendship, and we became closely involved in each other’s lives.
One spring, when Sister Elliott had to undergo surgery, Virginia and I spent many hours with her. We kept in touch daily, taking her to church, to the doctor’s office, and to the store, and she would telephone us each night before going to bed. She was lonely and needed someone to listen to her.
We were out of town when Sister Elliott had the surgery, but we telephoned her at the hospital and offered words of encouragement. She had received a priesthood blessing and felt that the Lord would watch over her. After her operation, she determined to stop smoking. Before her grandson had left for his mission, he had asked her to give up this habit—and she was able to accomplish the task through the Lord’s help and through her own strong desire to please her grandson.
As the months passed, Sister Elliott made new friends and found outside interests. Her church attendance improved, and she began to pay tithing. At first she did not want to go to tithing settlement, but I asked her to be ready when I stopped to give her a ride to the meetinghouse. Afterward, she radiated happiness. She had 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. She forgave those who had offended her. And as she increased her tolerance and love for her children, they gradually changed their attitude and behavior toward her.
Sister Elliott eventually moved to a new apartment, furnished it attractively, and made more friends. A new physician helped her overcome her dependency on medication. She learned to rely on the Lord and on her own strength to cope with problems.
The blessings that have come to the “new” Sister Elliott have been many, including participation in the sacred temple ceremonies with her family and friends. I am deeply grateful for my opportunity to serve as her home teacher. Indeed, I loved the “old” Sister Elliott as much as the “new” Sister Elliott—but now I don’t need to feel sad because of her dreary life. Today her life is full and pleasant, enriched by the blessings of gospel living.