When I was 14 years old I went to Sun Valley Idaho to work for the summer. It was my first extended time away from home. It was a challenging and eye-opening experience. While there I attended church regularly, and was intrigued to find that without my parents sitting beside me representing what I “should” be feeling and thinking and doing, I actually felt the Spirit freely, and felt my testimony growing tremendously.
One Sunday one of the Sacrament Meeting talks was on Charity, the pure love of Christ. I remember being very earnest in wanting to experience Charity, and prayed diligently throughout the meeting, and into the evening that I could have the gift of Charity. Nothing identifiable happened that day.
Nearly 35 years later I was preparing to leave for work, pulling on gloves and hat, when I felt something go through my body like an electric shock. It was during a time in my life when I had been fasting often, praying diligently, and exerting all of my discipleship to grow and obtain. What I felt was a type of spiritual thrill, a kind of high-voltage spiritual influx unlike anything I had experienced before or since. It left me feeling spiritually alive, but nothing else I could name at that moment. I pondered it for a moment then left out the door.
It was a dim Alaska winter morning, with deep snow, frosted windows and bitter cold. I started my pickup and scraped the windows. By the time I was ready to drive I was chilled and uncomfortable. I turned onto the main road and was startled to see people driving toward me whom I was very sure needed me to do something. I didn’t know what, but I knew they needed me. I watched each car with deep concern, tears pooling in my eyes. I came to a stop sign and the vehicle opposite me was an old Subaru wagon with frosted windows. The defroster was apparently not working because the occupant was scraping at the glass with his fingernails. I felt overwhelmed, and deeply concerned, and started to open the door to run across the street and exchange cars. I had a good pickup, and I had the means of repairing that Subaru. But the Spirit restrained me, and said I could not.
I didn’t understand, it was painful to drive on. I watched the car lurch and chug away, and felt as if I had left a naked child in the street to die. I drove on, past the parking lot of a large grocery store, and realized that not everyone would be able to purchase what they needed. I started to turn in. I was going to stand in the door and ask each person if they had been able to purchase all of their needs. I planned on going to the bank and withdrawing money for them. It was such a relief, such a joy to think that I could do that, but the Spirit forbade me, and I very reluctantly turned back onto the main road.
Something similar to this happened with every vehicle I saw, at every intersection. It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I had to stop, I just had to, but the Spirit would not allow it. I finally arrived at work and began helping a customer, who I began promising things for free, and offering to not charge them for anything. One of my employees took over and pushed me aside. I forced myself to go into the office, to close the door and weep. The idea of letting him actually charge this person was distasteful to me. I felt physically ill.
Still at the same time, I knew something had changed in me. I realized these feelings of deep, overpowering love and concern were not originating with me. I sat there for hours praying, trying to understand. The burden was increasing. The weight of the concern was crushing. I was going to die under the weight of these feelings if I didn’t get up right then and find a way to rescue someone. I stood and walked in circles. There were so many needs, so much pain, and I had so little resources to help them – and I didn’t know where they were, or what they needed.
Finally, I bowed my head and very softly asked that these feelings would be lifted. In that instant they were gone, and I was myself. Nothing of these feelings remained, only the memory. It was astonishing to me then, and is to me now. I simply no longer felt the weight of love and concern of moments before. I sat again and asked for an explanation. This experience had left me weak and exhausted, emotionally devastated, as if I had watched loved ones suffer and had done nothing. It had lasted only a few hours. I knew that if it had continued, I would have found a way, and the world would have judged me insane and locked me away.
The Spirit reminded me, actually showed me an image of myself sitting there with my head bowed pleading for charity when I was 14 in Sun Valley Idaho. It had taken me 35 years to prepare for my answer, and when it came, I found it crushing.
It was then that I realized why my Savior would have been willing to die for me – for us. With such a feeling of love, with this pure form of Charity such as only a God can experience, He would have agreed to anything that delivered the people of His affection from their sins. Some part of Him didn’t want to, when the time came, a part of His mortal being shrank and resisted – but the eternal part of Him, the part that was defined by Charity, the part that was our Savior, rejoiced and willingly laid Himself upon the altar.
As for me, it will take a long time, perhaps, before I am ready for a full endowment of Charity. I love such as mortals do, and pray for Charity of the type that fills with compassion and willingness to sacrifice for others, but I understand that there is crushing weight of love that only a God can bear, and my eyes fill with tears, and I wonder and worship at His feet.