When I was first called as Bishop, there was an older lady in our ward who had been excommunicated some 30 years before in another area. She came to church almost every Sunday but did not partake of the Sacrament of course. I could see bitterness and anger in her as she passed the sacrament tray to the next person. As I prepared to meet with her, I prayed to my Father in Heaven to know how I could bless her life. Graciously, He gave me the exact words I needed to say to her when she came in to meet with me.
As we met, I learned that she hated all Bishops because of her experience 30 years ago, but then I related to her exactly what the Lord told me to tell her. It was a sacred moment as those inspired words opened her mind and heart and allowed the Savior’s atonement to completely envelope her, washing away all those years of loneliness, bitterness and anger. She had been forgiven years before by our Savior, but had let bitterness and anger rule her life.
She now desired to be back in the flock, so we had a small service to baptize and confirm her–only the bishopric and one close friend who had been there for her through her many long struggles were in attendance. She radiated goodness and mercy; her countenance was changed; she looked 10 years younger. It was a beautiful simple baptism. The next Sunday, I watched as she partook of the Sacrament for the first time in 30 years. She glanced up at me, and we both started crying, realizing how precious the sacrament and the Savior’s atonement were for her at that moment.
She later told me how foolish she had been in not clearing up the transgression 30 years earlier. She has long since moved from our ward and is doing very well. She is changed. She is now following the path the Savior wants for her. The path she had followed the prior 30 years had been painful to her and to those around her because she had wasted so much precious time.
You might ask why I bring this story up. Spencer and I were talking about everyone’s unique journey on earth. The Lord allows all of us to benefit from our experiences even if we have made wrong choices which take us off the strait and narrow path our Father has provided for us. When we follow the path associated with His will, that journey will be a source of great joy and learning. But, even as we wander off or deliberately leave the path, we must always remember that the Lord will not give up on us, and will cause all our experiences to be turned for our good. Spencer commented, “Are you ready to be disappointed, ready to be seemingly abandon or ready to feel alone and forsaken as you travel this path back home?” Our Father’s path for us will allow us to experience all that and more which is necessary for us to return to His presence.
Each of our paths is unique to us. In the premortal world, I feel we were given several things to accomplish while here in our mortal probation. All of us were given specific gifts, talents and abilities that can be used for much good. Back there we were taught principles that would help us fulfill our assignments here on earth as we walk the path back to our heavenly home. This understanding was confirmed to me recently as I was given a blessing by a person who has great power in the priesthood.
As hands were laid on my head and many wonderful blessings were pronounced, I was also told that in the premortal life I had a brother with whom I had studied and closely associated with for millennia. He and I had a great love for each other. However, when the time came to choose whom we would follow, the Savior or Lucifer, my brother chose to follow Lucifer. The blessing went on to tell me I was heartbroken because of our numerous experiences together. In this life, I have felt this negative spirit for as long as I can remember trying to influence me to make choices that would take me off the path. I now know that this spirit was very close to me and uses his personal connection with me to thwart my righteous desires to stay on the path. The blessing has opened up my spiritual eyes for greater growth and understanding as I daily try to walk the path back home.
Each of us will have unique trials and challenges as we try to stay on the path. If we should leave the path, then we need to get back on it no matter how long we have been away; even thirty years or longer is not too much time for us to return back to the path and to His loving arms.
Through some recent marvelous and humbling spiritual experiences, it has been impressed on me more than ever before that the great spiritual blessings we all seek and desire will happen because of our daily walk with Christ. To walk with Christ on the path, we need to see as He sees, walk as He walks, serve as He serves and think as He thinks. We will eventually come to a point in our lives when everything we do will be to follow Him, our Great Exemplar, as we lift the burdens of others on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I know it is possible for us to live like Him.
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