As a college student, I spent some time working in the Mutual program at the state training school for the mentally retarded in American Fork, Utah. I quickly learned to accept and love those people. They were remarkable people and their spirituality was stronger than their mental and physical weaknesses.
Except for Ethel—the victim of severe cerebral palsy. I found it very difficult to work with her, or around her. My pity—and my revulsion—were simply too great. She had to be strapped, hands and feet, to a metal frame to keep her from injuring herself. People told me she had a good mind, but it had taken the state workers nearly 40 years to discover that she had a mind at all, it was trapped in such a cruelly crippled body. The workers had finally taught her to speak, though I still could not understand her. I wondered why the Lord had left her here, forcing her to linger when she was obviously miserable.
One day I happened to attend a fast and testimony meeting at the school. At the very end of the meeting, Ethel asked to speak. I wondered why they allowed her to take up time when no one could understand what she said. Then Ethel spoke, clearly enough so that even I could understand her. She said, “I love life!”
I was very startled as I heard her say, “And I love my Heavenly Father!” I bowed my head and wept.
When Ethel finished her testimony, the “kids” sang the song that had fast become their favorite, “I am a child of God, and he has sent me here …” Each time I have heard it since, I have remembered Ethel and the beautiful lesson she taught me.
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