In the course of my life I was deeply and harshly treated by a stake president. It took over 10 years to overcome the effect of his actions. Some of the fallout dangerously affected my family, one of whom quit coming to church and never returned. But, this isn’t what my story is about.
When this happened I struggled to find my course. The first time I sought the Lord in deep and hurting prayer, I heard a single instruction. It was to “Be Faithful Be Fearless and Be Patient”. At the time I could not fathom how this miniature guidance could be my answer. I wanted a battle plan, a counter attack and an army to back me up. Instead, I was admonished to personal obedience, to jettison fear, and to be patient.
It was the hardest thing I ever did. To be faithful when I wanted to spew venom in every direction was more than I could do. I prayed and begged, and fasted for the ability to obey, and when the peace finally came, I clung to it like a drowning man. By the grace of God I did as instructed and received vast blessings. Ten thousand times I swallowed my pride with a great deal of effort, and walked in the light I was given. In time, it proved to be the only guidance I needed. His actions were only a part of my gethsemane, and the flames billowed around me treatening to destroy everything I loved. In time miracles occurred, the heavens opened and I received 100 fold more than I lost. Considering the vastness of the blessings that flowed from this fiery trial, it was well worth the price – and way too harsh to want to repeat. But, still I digress.
About 20 years after this event, long after I had recovered all that had been lost, he passed away. Because I had chosen to be faithful, to not resist, to not fight or counter attack (like I wanted to!), I retained love in my heart for this man, and he for me. When he died he asked in his will that I play the music for his funeral. He always loved my organ and piano playing, and often asked the brethren, or the conference to sing a song again because he loved it, and because he felt we could sing with greater enthusiasm, or just greater volume. He once instructed me from the pulpit to “this time, push the organ pedal all the way down.” I nodded, and did for a second or two. The glorious sound the brethren made that night was actually beyond the threshold of pain. I have never heard anything to compare since.
I readily accepted the request and played for his funeral. I played 30 minutes before and after the service, as well as all of the hymns. When it was time for the actual service I walked off of the stand and sat in the congregation. There was a lot of well-earned praise for his life, and lots of music that he loved. I was enjoying the experience when something very unexpected happened.
I looked up and saw this brother walking toward me. It was apparent to me that I was seeing him with spiritual eyes, but he looked exactly as I remembered him. He sat beside me on the bench and turned to face me.
“I asked for and received permission to come back and ask for your forgiveness,” he said.
I was too amazed to be gracious I guess, and replied in my mind, “Isn’t it a little too late for that?”
He shook his head. “I’m so sorry. I just did not realize until after I had died that I had injured you so severely, and so unjustly. I am ashamed of what I did. I can’t progress further without your forgiveness,” he said with deep seriousness.
I felt tears coming to my eyes as my heart filled with the only feeling I have ever had for him. I loved him through all of the nonsense that occurred. “I was never angry at you,” I said.
“I know, but I was wrong. Please forgive me,” he asked again.
“You have my forgiveness with all of my heart,” I replied in my heart and mind.
He smiled and nodded as he vanished from my spiritual eyes. A feeling of love and peace swept through me which remained for a long while afterward.
This event was startling and unexpected. It was unexpected because I did not feel that he owed me an apology, or that I had yet to forgive him. The reason for his coming was more startling to me than actually seeing him. I felt then, and I feel now that what happened all those years ago was a fruitful event in my life – and I received blessings I probably could not have obtained any other way.
I have wondered many times at the mercy that allowed him to come to me. I can only think that his great and good life justified his receiving this extraordinary and rare opportunity. It also marvels me that it was necessary, that somehow he could not progress without asking for my forgiveness – because he already had it, long ago. I have pondered this now for many years. I confess that I still don’t understand it.
More than anything else, this happening tells me that there is a very real life beyond this one, that we go back to God trailing clouds of glory and tracking the mud of mortality upon the carpets of heaven. If we are faithful and true, it appears that sometimes we are handed a broom and given the opportunity clean up.