This post was inspired by Mona's post from this past Sunday. If you don't read her blog, you should.
My parents are converts to the church -- or, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I should say that I am, too, but they're the ones that got the ball rolling. They moved several times so that the missionaries who had first contacted them would not be able to find them again. They still did. And when my parents finally decided to pray, the answer was undeniable: this church was the place for them. They were baptized and have never looked back since.
A year or so after their baptism, they attended the Washington, DC temple where they were sealed for time and all eternity. Shortly after that, I was born -- their first. I have reaped the benefits of their decision for my entire life. I have experienced blessings and been able to weather trials that would have knocked me down had I not had the perspective gained with an understanding of eternity. I am grateful that they finally knelt in prayer that day and received the answer they were seeking.
When I was still an infant, my parents took me with them to stake conference, which was a far distance away from where we lived. They arrived late, and the usher showed them in to the last available spot in the entire room: front and center. My mom protested, because, after all, she had a small baby with her who was most certainly going to cry at some point during the meeting, and she would rather be able to leave discreetly than cause a distraction. The usher insisted, and so they sat in the front.
I, of course, began to cry just at the presiding general authority stood up to speak. It was Elder David B. Haight, who was at that time, the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As my mother struggled to gather the things she would need to care for me when she took me out, Elder Haight spoke pointedly from the podium about how distracting it was to hear crying babies, and that mothers with small children should take pains to preserve the sanctity of the meeting. My mother, mortified, quickly made her way down our aisle out of the conference. She did not dare to show her face again.
Nine years later, my mom and I had the opportunity to sing in a choir composed of mothers and daughters. We sang at a regional conference. Elder Haight spoke to us again. This time, I remember it. After the meeting closed, my mother propelled me towards the raised dais as Elder Haight made his way to the stairs to exit. We arrived at the bottom of those stairs just as he did.
"Elder Haight," she said, "this is my daughter." She then gently reminded him of his words at that stake conference so many years before.
Tears sprung to Elder Haight's eyes as he gently leaned down and kissed my forehead. He looked at me, and then my mother, and said that he had regretted the words as soon as he said them. He said he had been hopeful that one day he would have the chance to apologize, and was grateful to be able to do it then.
From that day, I began to take a special interest in Elder Haight. I listened more intently to his talks during General Conference than I had before. I started to pay attention to the details he offered about his life as he taught the Gospel and fulfilled his calling. I watched with sadness as he seemed to shrink before our very eyes towards the end of his life. I noticed how attached he was to his wife as he fondly spoke of their experiences together throughout their lives.
My husband and I struggled for many years with infertility. While we were going through procedure after unsuccessful procedure, my sister, MommyJ, got married and, almost immediately, became pregnant with her first child. He will be 8 next month. In March 2001, when she was very pregnant with Jordan, she received this letter, which is now in my possession:
Dear Sister *******:
Thank you for your letter refreshing my memory of the time I met your mother and older sister when she was a baby, and telling of the challenge and difficulties your sister, *****, has had in trying to conceive a child.
Each Thursday morning the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve hold a meeting in the temple. During that meeting, President Hinckley reads names placed on a special prayer roll and prays for the well-being of those who have particular challenges or infirmities. Your sister was included in that prayer.
You appear to be a kind and sensitive sister, and your family must appreciate your obvious concern for their welfare. Hopefully, the prayers of many will bring about the desired results in your sister and her husband to have the joy of raising a family.
May the blessings of the Lord be with you and your loved ones in all of your righteous endeavors.
David B. Haight
I treasure this letter, typed in a huge font and signed in the large, uneven script of an old man who has nearly lost all of his sight. It is evidence to me of many things: that my sister loves me, because I had no idea she contacted Elder Haight. She must have done it the same time my mom and her young women spent one Wednesday evening calling all of the temples in the US and adding my name to the prayer list in each one. It is also evidence that these men who are called of God to lead this church do not just lead in a global sense. They care, and pray for, individual members of the kingdom. Yes, they set policies and curriculum and establish programs and deal with issues that affect all of us in a general way, but the heart of this church is its people, and they do not forget. They plead to the Lord regularly on our behalf.
I am grateful for modern-day revelation. I am grateful for the power of prayer. I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who bore all burdens, even mine. I am grateful for miracles, because do not be mistaken -- I have experienced more than one. And I am never less than awestruck.
Post-Script: My mom doesn't comment via the blog, but she usually e-mails me when she has something to say about what I've written. Here's what she said about this post:
I loved your post on David B. Haight...though he also sought me out right after the conference and apologized on the spot...he found me way down at the end of a hall standing behind one of those rolling bulletin boards. Otherwise, your recollections are on spot.
told me that the congregation was incredulous at his remarks...and that she knew he must be an apostle...because he was able to recapture the spirit of the meeting after my hasty departure.
God bless the man. I also love the story about him when he said when he was young, he thought he would have achieved success if he hit one out of the ball park...but he knew true success when his family was gathered round him in the temple. How truly indicative of the man who adored his own family...and was grateful for the sealing ordinances.
I know that is what I am most grateful for...there is no one I would rather be with.