“When we sustain a friend or a neighbor or a stranger in the street,” says Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “we give support, we share strength, we provide help. We hold each other up under the weight of present circumstance. We bear one another’s burdens under the heavy personal pressures of life.” This responsibility comes to us as members of the Lord’s Church because “as with all else in our experience, the Lord Jesus Christ is our exemplar and ideal in this very important matter of providing sustenance” (see this issue, page 11).
Because we receive such great love and sustenance from the Savior, we desire to follow His example and love and support others. It is this desire that moves young men and women to serve as missionaries and to testify of Him. This desire also motivates members to reach out in love to those who have strayed. The following stories illustrate how this desire changes lives—of those who give this sustaining love and those who receive it.
“I Know That My Redeemer Lives”
During the winter of 1990, I was serving as a full-time missionary in Lérida, a city located in the Spain Barcelona Mission. My companion, Sister McKee, had become ill, and we had to stay in our apartment for several days. We were frustrated, especially because we finally had some investigators who were making progress and needed to be taught. We had others who weren’t progressing and needed to be encouraged. We prayed for ways to be useful during this difficult time.
One morning we were reading about the Savior, and we began to share our feelings about Him. Suddenly we knew how we could put our time to good use. We could create a presentation about the life and mission of Jesus Christ.
As we prayed for assistance, a feeling of peace came over us. We began to envision the illustrations we needed and to hear the words that would accompany them. We felt prompted to look in specific places, and there we found phrases or paintings that were exactly what we needed. We remembered issues of the Liahona and the Ensign where certain pictures were printed. We asked the members and other missionaries to help us get pictures we didn’t have. We had similar experiences locating music.
After working for several days, we finished the planning part of our work. We began practicing again and again to coordinate the music with the text, so that everything would fit together when we shared the presentation.
The name for our work became obvious. In the process of completing our project, we had come to understand aspects of the Savior’s mission we had never been aware of. Each of us could now say with much greater conviction, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” That phrase became the title.
As soon as Sister McKee was well, we started sharing the presentation with some of the people we were teaching as a supplement to the discussions. Our most spiritual experience was with the Aranda family. The Arandas wouldn’t commit to baptism even though they were praying and reading and asking questions. We decided to make a final effort. We would share our presentation about the Savior with them.
So began one of the most unforgettable experiences of my mission. As we gave the presentation, Sister McKee and I could hardly read our parts because our emotion was so great. When it was over, no one dared to break the silence and interrupt the peace that had filled the room. Brother Aranda had his head down. When he finally spoke, his eyes were filled with tears. “I don’t know what it is that I am feeling here”—he pointed to his chest—“but it is so strong, so wonderful, that I can’t express it.”
When we returned a few days later, the Arandas had decided to be baptized.
Three weeks later I completed my mission and returned home to La Coruña, Spain. The greatest blessings I received from serving a mission were my increased knowledge of the Savior and my conviction that we can be useful in the Lord’s service if we truly desire to do so.
“Why Are You So Different?”
I was converted to the gospel when I was very young. Throughout my youth, I held different Church callings, and it is impossible to describe the joy I received from them. But one of the most remarkable experiences I had as a young person came the week before my mission.
I turned in my mission papers in January 1976. After some time, which seemed very long to me, I received a letter calling me to serve in the México Monterrey Mission.
Because my stake president was about to be released, he set me apart a week before I was to leave for my mission. He cautioned me about how I would need to live now that I had been set apart, but we agreed that I would continue at my job for one more week—as I had planned. I wanted to continue working as long as possible to earn more money for my mission and to help my family. As I left the stake president’s home on the Sunday evening I was set apart, I felt a beautiful warmth fill my entire body.
The next morning I got up to go to work as usual. As I entered the office building where I worked, I greeted the elevator operator and told him which floor I wanted. The operator did not answer but just stared at me. Then the owners of my company got on the elevator, and we greeted each other. After the elevator doors closed, I noticed my bosses were staring at me too. They asked me what had happened. I answered that nothing had happened.
When I walked into the department where I worked, my coworkers stopped talking and looked at me. I still could not understand why.
Later that day my bosses called me into their office. They asked me to recommend someone responsible to take my place. Then they asked why I seemed so different. I told them about my religion and my mission. They congratulated me and refused to accept my resignation. They said they would instead allow me to take leave for a year and a half so I wouldn’t lose my job benefits. And they asked me to return to work as soon as I finished my mission.
As I looked at my coworkers on my last day of work, I realized how much I loved them, even though their standards were very different from mine. María, who worked near me, asked, “What is happening to you? Why are you so different?” She said she could see a light in my countenance. “Why is that?” she asked.
I am grateful to our Heavenly Father for that week of preparation before my mission. I am also grateful for my coworkers. They strengthened my testimony of the gospel by letting me see the importance of my calling through their eyes.
A Leap of Faith
I was only 15 when I first met the full-time missionaries—two nice young men with something unusual in their countenances. Although I didn’t remember much of what they said during the first missionary discussion, I couldn’t forget the good feeling I had when I talked with them.
I was president of my church’s local youth group, and I was not interested in changing religions. In fact, when my older brother and sister decided to be baptized, I felt betrayed. Even though I did not approve of what they were doing, I went to their baptismal service to support them. It was hard for me to admit, but at the baptism I felt that good feeling again.
As time passed, I became better and better friends with the missionaries. Finally, I resigned from my position as my church’s youth group president, but I still wasn’t sure I wanted to be baptized.
Then one day one of the elders came to my home with a ward member. I said, “Elder, I would like to work with you sometime.” He replied, “I’m sorry, but you must be a member of the Church before you can be a missionary.”
Several days later I picked up the pamphlets the elders had left at my home. Reading them one by one, I looked up the Bible and Book of Mormon scriptures they referred to. Then, putting Moroni’s promise to the test, I prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. The Spirit testified to me that it indeed was true, and six months after meeting the missionaries, I was baptized.
The first thing I did after my baptism was ask the missionaries if I could work with them now. “You must wait until you receive the Aaronic Priesthood,” they replied. Two weeks later I did receive the priesthood. That same day, I went out with the elders. And as I walked along with them, I decided that someday I too would be a full-time missionary.
For the next several years, I enjoyed all the blessings Latter-day Saint youth have. I attended seminary and Young Men activities, blessed and passed the sacrament, and eventually received the Melchizedek Priesthood. Unfortunately, my mother opposed my Church activity, protesting that I spent too much time at church. When I turned 19 and began to fill out my mission papers, my mother asked me to stop. I decided to respect her wishes and to serve the Lord in whatever other ways I could.
For the next four years, I served as stake clerk, giving my might, mind, and strength to my duties. And I often worked with the full-time missionaries. I dreamed of someday becoming a full-time missionary.
In time, I was called to teach seminary. This opportunity, along with my stake calling, kept me busy enough to feel that at least I was serving the Lord—even though I was not on a mission.
Then one day my sister came to visit with her two beautiful little daughters. It was one month before my 24th birthday. Time was running out, and I knew I needed to decide what I was going to do with my life. That day one of my nieces fell asleep in my arms. As I watched her sleep I realized that someday I would have children and they would ask me, “Daddy, why didn’t you go on a mission?” At that moment I made my decision.
My decision was not easy for my mother to accept. She and my father were separated, and I was the only child at home with her. Still, I knew that what I was doing was right, so I filled out my papers and sent them in. When my call to serve in the Honduras Comayaguela Mission came, my mother was so upset she became ill. But in time, she began to accept my decision, and she even helped me prepare to leave.
On the day I left for the Missionary Training Center, I gave my mother a priesthood blessing. And as I served I began to understand the Lord’s promise: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say” (D&C 82:10). How great was my joy when the calling I had so long dreamed of holding was finally mine—that of full-time representative of the Lord and His Church. How great was my joy when one year into my mission I received word that my mother had accepted the truth and had been baptized. How grateful I am that I took a leap of faith.
The Home Teachers Who Wouldn’t Quit
A year after my wife, Anthea, and I joined the Church in 1965, we were sealed with our two small daughters in the London England Temple.
At that time the Church in Britain had only one stake. Because there was a great need for priesthood leadership, I was soon called to serve as a branch president in a town 15 miles (25 kilometers) away from my home branch. I welcomed the challenge this new calling brought and eventually served in the district presidency and then in the bishopric when our branch became a ward.
As our family grew in the gospel, the sales management position I held became more and more demanding, often requiring me to be away from home two or three nights a week. I also had found some new friends not of our faith who caused me to start to have doubts about some aspects of Church doctrine.
I enjoyed discussions with these new intellectual friends. They tried to use the scriptures to prove that the Church was not following some basic concepts given as commandments since the time of Adam. I should have borne testimony of the restored gospel and turned away. Instead, I began to listen to them, and my little doubts about doctrine started to grow. Soon I stopped paying tithing and going to the temple. When I stopped attending church, my wife protested, as did our daughters when we ceased holding family home evening.
During this time, two people from the Church never gave up on me. Our home teachers invited me to church every Sunday, sometimes in person and other times by a phone call. They visited our home at least once and sometimes twice each month. They even knew when we needed something. I especially remember the time I ordered a garden shed that was delivered unassembled during my absence. Upon returning home, I found our home teachers had already assembled the shed.
I particularly admired our senior home teacher, Des Gorman, an Irish Canadian. He was a genuine person who truly cared for people. To me he represented the Church, and I felt the Church must be a good organization, even if I wasn’t attending.
Eventually we were blessed with a baby boy. Our home teachers reminded me that it is a priesthood practice to name and bless a baby at fast and testimony meeting. I did not want to participate, though I finally agreed to allow our baby to be blessed by others.
Brother Gorman stood in my place and was the mouthpiece for a beautiful blessing on our son, Ronan. As I listened I received a powerful witness from the Spirit. I had been proud. I had made some big mistakes. I had nearly lost my testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. I still had my family, but I had almost lost the sweet peace the gospel brings. Many tears flowed while my wife, Brother Gorman, and the bishopric supported me as I repented.
From that time on I have been active in the Church. Our home teachers have continued to support me. Our baby boy is now a returned missionary, married in the temple, and raising a family of his own. I feel his life is a tribute to the man who gave him a name and a blessing.
I shall ever be grateful to two dedicated home teachers who took their assignment seriously. Although Brother Gorman has been deceased for some years, I know I won’t forget him or his patient consistency in inviting me back. He never gave up.
Today I seek to emulate his quiet and loving persistence in my own home teaching and other Church callings.