A New Life for Sister Elliott

    “A New Life for Sister Elliott,” Ensign, Oct. 1990, 67–68

    A New Life for Sister Elliott

    When I was assigned to home teach a sister whom I shall call Ruth Elliott, she was relatively new in the ward and I did not know her. By talking with her former bishop, with her daughter who lived in another ward, and with others who could give me information about her, I was able to learn a little about her before I first called at her home.

    She lived in a small apartment in a nice neighborhood. The apartment had been fashioned from the bedroom of a home and had its own outside door. The closet was used as the kitchen and was fitted with a small stove and a sink. The room was furnished with a broken-down upholstered chair in which Sister Elliott spent most of her time when she was not in bed. She seldom left the apartment and had no outside interests. Her days were spent alone at home.

    This sister 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. Moreover, her appearance, manner, and conversation reflected a bitter attitude toward her life and circumstances. She harbored desep resentment toward her father and others, and an unfortunate incident with a Church member had wounded her deeply. Altogether, her life did not appear to be a pleasant one. I prayed fervently to know how best to serve this troubled woman.

    Shortly after my call as her home teacher, an opportunity came. Her landlady was having the apartment painted, but Sister Elliott was responsible for moving her furniture out to the patio before the work could be done. Our ward’s high priest group leader and I pitched in to move the furniture out and then back in after the paint had dried. In this way we were able to be of service, although it was sad to see how little she owned and how meager her circumstances were.

    On another occasion, while Sister Elliott had gone for a few days to visit with family members, my wife Virginia and I went to her apartment and “confiscated” 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 this woman regularly, and Virginia and I also went often to visit, talk about the gospel, and offer a simple prayer. Gradually, Sister Elliott began to accept and return our friendship, and we became closely involved in each other’s lives.

    One spring, just before surgery that our new friend needed, Virginia and I spent many hours with her, on the phone or in person, taking her to church, to the doctor’s office, or shopping. We kept in touch daily. For a time she would call each night before going to bed; she was lonely and needed a listening ear, and we were somehow able to fill part of the void and provide a needed close association.

    We were vacationing when Sister Elliott had the surgery, but we called her at the hospital to offer words of encouragement and cheer. She had received a priesthood blessing and felt that the Lord would watch over her. Moreover, following the operation she determined to stop smoking, which she did successfully. Before entering the mission field, a grandson had asked her to give up this habit—and she was able to accomplish the task through help from the Lord and her own strong desire to please her missionary grandson.

    As the months passed, Sister Elliott made new friends and found outside interests. Her Church attendance improved, and she began to pay tithing. I recall accompanying her to tithing settlement: at first she protested that she was ill and did not want to go, but I asked her to be ready and I would pick her up. Returning home 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 had forgiven those who had offended her. Relations with her children improved, and there were changes in their attitude and behavior toward their mother, prompted by her increased tolerance and love for them.

    This good sister was eventually able to move to a new apartment, furnish it attractively, and make new friends in her apartment building. A new physician, determined to correct her dependency on medication, insisted that she rely on her own strength to cope with problems and would not allow her to use medication for that purpose. Through his diligence and the power of the priesthood to bless and strengthen, she was able to endure a difficult period of withdrawal.

    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 the opportunity which has been mine to serve as her home teacher. Indeed, I loved the “old” Sister Elliott as much as the “new” Sister Elliott—but now I need not feel sad because of her meager and dreary life. Today it is full and pleasant, enriched by the blessings of gospel living.

    • Jay R. Lyman, a schoolteacher, is a patriarch in the Chico California Stake.