Clint was speechless.
So was everyone else in the congregation for that matter. The warm, tender, emotion-filled quietness was so thick we could practically touch it. It wasn’t uncomfortable. In fact, no one wanted to disturb it. So we sat in silence at Clint’s missionary farewell, while he tried desperately to blink back his tears.
Some people might have been surprised to see Clint, the student-body officer, the lead singer in the band, the enthusiastic basketball player, unable to speak, but it didn’t surprise me at all. I’d seen him at a loss for words more than once.
In fact, he was like that when I first met him. I was about 11 years old, and that summer I’d become a close friend of his sister Lisa. My first contact with Clint came when I called their house to ask Lisa if she wanted to go on a bike ride, and Clint wasn’t exactly verbose then.
“Hi there,” I said. “Is Lisa home?”
“Umph,” a voice said.
“May I speak with her?” I asked, wondering if her dog Clancy had accidentally knocked the phone off the hook and was growling at it.
“Umph,” said the voice, and the grunt was followed by a crash that sounded like the phone had been dropped. Soon Lisa picked up the receiver and greeted me.
“Have you got a Neanderthal butler or what?” I asked.
“Nah—that’s just my brother,” she told me. “He isn’t very articulate today, or any other day really. You know how big brothers are.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. But I really didn’t. All I had was a big sister, and she certainly didn’t have any problems talking on the phone.
When the summer was over, Lisa and I returned to our cross-town schools. We kept in touch, but as far as I knew, her big brother had slipped into oblivion.
He suddenly emerged from it one day several years later when my older sister Karen brought him home—her latest crush. Surprise! Over the last several years, he’d grown tall and thin, and had dark blond hair that just sort of drooped over his head. I’d never noticed his deep, dark brown eyes before. And his vocabulary had improved too. “Lisa and I are old friends,” he said with a smile as Karen began to reintroduce us.
I heard his voice around the house a lot after that, and I was glad. Of all the people my sister dated, he was definitely my favorite. He took the time to drive my friends and me to the beach, he’d visit me at the ice cream parlor where I worked, and he was there to softly console me when I didn’t make the freshman cheerleading squad. And he didn’t just do it to make points with Karen either. He genuinely liked the mischievous adolescent that I was, and he wasn’t embarrassed to show it around his high school friends.
He started coming to our church for the right reasons too. A number of the boys in town would attend just because they were smitten by the local LDS girls. But not Clint. Sure, sometimes he would come to our meetings with Karen, but he began coming with his other LDS friends too. Sometimes he’d even come on his own. “I like the feeling I get there,” he said to me one day. “I know there’s something to this.”
I knew there was something to it too, and I prayed, really prayed, that he would discover what it was.
Clint learned a lot about the gospel. He admired the people in the Church. He read the Book of Mormon, felt of its spirit, and he knew it was true. He had one problem though. Although he could easily talk to everyone around him, when it came to conversing with the Lord, he was speechless. Actually talking to someone he couldn’t see, and having that being respond directly was a foreign concept to him. He didn’t believe God would really pay personal attention to him.
It took a major upheaval in his high school world to help him understand just how important that heavenly communication is. Some of the players on his basketball team were suspended for using drugs, and most of the team, along with most of the school, were convinced that Clint had turned them in. His popularity at school took a nosedive, and he realized just how fickle a crowd can be. He needed to embrace something more solid—something more enduring. He couldn’t base his life on ever-changing popular opinion.
What could he base his life on? Clint decided that the Lord was the only one who could tell him. He drove his battered car up a canyon not far from his house, and, like the account he’d read of Joseph Smith, he dropped to his knees and began, for the first time in his life, to really, sincerely, inquire of the Lord.
After a while, Clint knew. He knew The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the true church of Christ on this earth and that he should be baptized. But that knowledge wasn’t given to him by a thunderous voice or by an angelic chorus. It came to him wordlessly, on a soft breeze that seemed to envelop him with warmth.
He was almost speechless when he called to tell me of his decision to be baptized. About a year later, he was speechless when he rose to thank the patriarch for giving him a wonderful patriarchal blessing. And now, here he was, speechless again as he stood at the pulpit of a chapel that was packed to the rafters with people wishing him well on his mission.
But the silence was a comfortable one. It wrapped us in the same feeling Clint had felt when he went out to pray about the truthfulness of the Church. The Spirit was touching us all.
Through his speechlessness, Clint taught me that some of the most beautiful emotions in this life aren’t communicated by words from mouth to ear, but are communicated by the Spirit from heart to heart.