We struggle sometimes to believe that anyone can be changed sufficiently that our hearts and relationships can be healed. I would like to tell you about a grandfather in our family. This is a true story. I will call him Charles.
Charles was a large, handsome man with unusual strength. Women actually considered him beautiful. He won contests in wrestling, weight lifting and photo competitions for best physique. He was excessively proud of his body, and of his brilliant mind. He had a photographic memory, and used both to entertain and impress other people.
Charles was born and raised in the Gospel by faithful parents. He tended to be an angry and impatient man, who did not suffer what he saw as other people’s stupidity in good humor. He married and began to have children, and he began to drink on occasion. When he drank he was mean, and beat his wife and children. One of his daughters tells stories of hiding in terror in a little cupboard watching her mother and siblings being beat, hoping he would not include her in the beating.
After many years he had an affair with another woman, and stopped supporting his wife and children. His wife was compelled by poverty to move to Salt Lake City with her sister, where she tried to support her five children. There was never enough, and they lived in complete poverty. Every day the children received a small piece of hard candy for their lunch because it was all they had.
Charles stayed in the family home and continued the affair with the other woman. After many months, the day came when was touched by the Spirit, and decided to go back to church after a long absence. The Sacrament Meeting speaker talked about being born again, and read examples from the scriptures of bad men being changed into good men, like Alma the younger and others.
According to his own words, all of his sins bore down upon him and he felt deep remorse. He felt lost and condemned, but mostly he felt condemned for his evil treatment of his wife and children. He bowed his head and wept through the meeting. Suddenly, he had a feeling of great hope come over him that he too could be born again, like these men in the scriptures. He prayed mightily for Christ to forgive him, and to change him. After a hard struggle with a bright memory of his sins, he received a sure knowledge that he was forgiven. He felt pure joy, and he was completely changed by Jesus Christ.
He went to his bishop and properly dealt with his transgressions, but he was changed and forgiven suddenly and powerfull in that moment in Sacrament Meeting.
After this mighty experience he begged his wife to come back home. She loved him still, but she didn’t trust him, and came home with hope and deep reservations. The children did not trust him at first. But, his change was powerful and real. People who knew them later said that he was especially affectionate and tender with his wife, and she adored and admired him. Those same people who had once seen him as arrogant and mean, saw with their own eyes that he was completely renewed and reborn. They still avow that they have never seen a more loving couple.
He became a leader in the church, admired and loved by all. His grandchildren never knew anything but that he was the kindest and most cheerful of men. He was so loving, enthusiastic and positive that those who eventually learned of his past could hardly believe it.
His spiritual gifts became so great that his face glowed. During priesthood
blessings angels appeared, and the presence of the Spirit was mighty. He literally called down miracles upon the heads of those to whom he ministered.
During his lifetime he memorized the entire Book of Mormon and large parts of the New Testament word for word.
When his wife died about twenty years later, Charles was inconsolable. He cried and wept for days, and begged the Lord to allow his wife to come and tell him that she was OK. Because of his great faith, his request was honored. Shortly after the funeral his wife appeared to him as he was leaving his home. She looked as she had during her lifetime. She walked with him from their home to the car, and told him that she was very happy, and that he shouldn’t mourn for her so. She urged him to get on with his life because they would be together again soon enough. Charles walked back into the house, which was filled with family and mourners who had stayed after the funeral, and began singing in a very loud voice “Rejoice the Lord is King!” It wasn’t until he explained what had just happened that people realized the cause of his sudden rejoicing.
Charles remained a physically active man throughout his life. He seemed to be compelled to activity and busyness. Ten years before he died he had a stroke. His body declined dramatically. He lost his physical strength and control of his body. He could not talk or walk or even feed himself. He was a complete invalid. His children cared for him very tenderly for ten years. While in this state he accepted once again his own helplessness, his own nothingness, and his utter dependence upon Christ. He accepted it all with the same love and patience that began years before after he was born again in Christ.
Charles died a righteous and valiant old man, although utterly dependent upon those he had once abused for his very life. His love and gentleness never left him, nor did his faith in Christ. There were hundreds of people at his funeral, and everyone who knew him considered him one of the greatest men they had ever known.
© August 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted