My missionary companion and I were having difficulty getting along well together. I still do not know all that lay at the root of our difficulties, but after we had been together only a few weeks, walking the streets of a small Brazilian town, resentment, pride, and petty differences began to darken our relationship. Our prayers together became more and more perfunctory, and resentment more and more frequently broke out in sharp words. Almost unnoticed, the Spirit began to slip away from us.
One afternoon, after one of many unfruitful days of tracting and visiting members, and with what promised to be a barren afternoon stretching before us, we decided that we could fill some of the empty spaces on our daily activity records by visiting Antonio. Antonio was a nonmember whose wife had joined the Church several years before but had been only marginally active. He respected the missionaries and several times had shown sufficient faith to ask them to administer to him when he was ill. My present companion and I had administered to him twice, and I knew that earlier elders had done so. All of that took place before we learned that Antonio was dying of an abdominal cancer and had only a few months, perhaps weeks, to live.
When his wife answered the door that day, she looked drawn and worried. She took us into her kitchen, from which an open door led to Antonio’s room. Through the door we saw Antonio threshing in agony on a narrow bed, unconscious that we were even there.
We were suddenly at a complete loss for what to do or say. Antonio’s wife looked at us silently. We looked at each other, at Antonio, at the floor. We had no idea what to do, and worse, without a word being spoken between us, we knew that we were both thinking that we were in no spiritual condition to do anything. Finally, one of us asked if there was a room where we could be alone for a while. Antonio’s wife showed us to a bedroom, and we closed the door behind us.
We knelt and took turns praying, at first asking the Lord to make known to us his will concerning Antonio. In the silence that answered our first prayers, the knowledge of our unworthiness to receive an answer fairly shouted at us. Then, at first awkwardly and cautiously, and finally pleadingly, we began to confess to the Lord and to each other our sin in allowing vanity and pride to rob us of the power to act in our priesthood. We pleaded that Antonio not be denied release from his suffering because of our unworthiness, that the Lord would forgive our sin and bless us with faith and power to bless Antonio, or that he would bless Antonio without us.
We must have prayed for half an hour, taking turns, before a peace came to us. We agreed that we should go out, lay our hands on Antonio, and let the Spirit guide us.
When we went out, his wife asked, “Did you pray?” We said yes, and she said, “He has gone to sleep.”
We left the house subdued and chastened. Permanently and profoundly recorded in our hearts was a hard-learned lesson in the foolishness of allowing personal differences to cut us off from the source of the power to bless.