Today in Relief Society, our teacher, Nancy Woodard, shared a story that she learned from President Monson’s daughter about her father: Once when Sister Monson lay very ill in the hospital, he and this daughter were sharing a vigil by her bedside until two in the morning. As they finally left the hospital, President Monson walked down the dark hall carrying his wife’s handbag. He saw a man coming in the opposite direction, also carrying a handbag.
Recognizing a fellow sufferer, he met the man, put his arm around his shoulders and began walking with him back the way he had come, all the time questioning his new acquaintance about his wife and her condition. After listening patiently to the man’s sorrowful tale, he took out a piece of paper and asked him to write down his wife’s name, so that they could pray for her the next morning in the meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve. He then asked for the man’s name and telephone number so that he could call him and check on his wife’s progress.
That tale caught me up and delivered me in spirit to the shores of Galilee . I couldn’t keep myself from saying, “Isn’t that just exactly what the Savior would have done?” The tales of President Monson acting in this manner are legendary. We know that he learned when very young that the key to changing the world was to minister to the one, to lead the one to Christ. In other words, to change one heart at a time.
My Friend Sandra
One day when I was experiencing a particularly painful flashback due to an episode of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the present had cracked open and flooded me with pain almost past bearing. I was alone in the house. My husband was in Florida , my youngest son in Missouri . My other two children lived away from home. I was crying harder than I had ever cried, pleading with the Lord for relief from the pain of years past that was visiting me all at once.
My doorbell rang. There stood my angel with silky blonde hair, holding a green houseplant in her quivering hands. I hardly knew her. It was Sandra, a woman from my ward. The spirit had prompted her to visit me, but she didn’t know me and didn’t know why she was supposed to come.
I grabbed onto her like the drowning woman I was. For a long time, she just held me while I wept. She asked no questions. The loving, unconditional embrace she offered was the embrace of the Savior. She said, “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I know it really really hurts. Just hold on. I’m not going to let you go.”
In PTSD, these moments or hours of pain are excruciating. They are breakthroughs to an accumulation of feeling that you never allowed yourself to experience when the incident occurred because it was too overwhelming. At that time, you were numb. But when the flashback occurs, you feel the pain as though it were fresh and you relive the trauma or traumas in exquisite detail.
Poor Sandra. The only way through these experiences is to spew out the story, to release its hold on your body, your mind and heart. Like the Savior, she was innocent, but she sat and listened for hours to my accumulation of horror stories.
She was , in that instant, my savior. She did what the Savior would have done.
Alma ‘s Ministry to the One
When Alma saw the wickedness that existed in the city of Zarahemla , he knew that sitting up on the judgment seat was not going to effect the kind of lasting change in the hearts of the people that was necessary. He knew that “the mighty change of heart” needed to change his people had to be accomplished by bearing down on them with pure testimony. He was an expert at this, because he himself had experienced a miraculous healing from sin brought about by the prayers of his own father.
He made the decision to go among the people himself. As a result, we have a collection of scriptural sermons that can pierce each of us to the core ( Alma 5 ) as though we were being interviewed by the Savior one on one. We also have the great scripture in Alma 7:12-13 that explains more explicitly than any other place that the Savior didn’t just die for our sins, but for our inadequacies and sorrows and suffering so that he could succor and enable us in our times of stress and trial. Then in the masterful address in Alma 32-33, he gives a step by step guide, explained so lucidly that it is as though he were talking to us individually, about how to obtain the faith necessary for eternal life. And then, there is Alma 36 , my favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon, where Alma explains the concept of deliverance through the Savior of the world as he bears his testimony to his son, Helaman..
These chapters and verses show us an examples of how the Book of Mormon can be a one on one teacher. When I read them for the first time, I was twenty years old, praying with all my soul for deliverance. They touched me like the fire that burns but does not consume. That fire led to repentance, to purification. Not only when I was twenty, but many times since.
Peace Comes From the Inside Out
In this world of terrible turmoil and disaster, we know that the end is nigh. We know that we face worsening times. We have been warned in scripture and by the prophets. Many people use this as an excuse to believe that if there ever was a God, he has forgotten us. However, we know that, painful as these times are, they are the winding up scenes and that through our Savior and a proper understanding of the atonement ( Alma 7: 11-12) we can be succored, we can find peace. Our job is to radiate that peace, to act as the Savior’s hands, to bear testimony, and to pray fervently that we can do our part to change the world one heart at a time. We can all carry the good news of the atonement and its enabling power to change lives. We can all be Sandras to someone.