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July 22, 2015
Tune My Heart
Bless the Hands
by Marian Stoddard

An old, dear friend called. His sister was being baptized. He and his wife are serving a mission elsewhere, and they couldn’t be there. The place was up by the temple, about a forty-five minute drive. We had never met his sister. Would we go in their stead?

Of course we would.

Chris had joined the Church in high school, and he is now retired (twice). We’ve known him for about thirty years. He’s been a bishop, Young Men president, scoutmaster, legendary leader of fifty-mile hikes, community emergency response leader, and memorable character.

He’s the kind of person that becomes well known beyond his own ward. The gospel has formed the patterns of his life, in service, values, and devotion, but none of the rest of his family had ever joined the Church. Until now, about fifty years later.

Every convert’s story is tender, or thrilling, or miraculous, or all of the above. A baptism is a spiritual event, and it’s always a blessing to attend. She shared her story briefly as part of the program, telling how it came to be the right time, a testimony that lifted every heart.

The room was nearly filled; clearly there were many people who had taken her into their hearts and lives, and she will be well cared for in her new journey.

One of the things that touched me was the opening prayer. The person who offered it was direct and pure in her humble approach to the Father, and her love for a sister who was now entering into a cherished blessing, the first ordinance that would bring her into the kingdom of God.

Her English was fluent but it was clear that English was not her first language, and the sense of care she took in finding the words she desired pulled our attention to them more particularly.

She asked that R. would remember this day always, that she would remember this day when she had troubles, and that she would feel the Spirit.

She prayed that the Spirit would send strength to Bishop S. that his hands would be strong, that R. would feel his priesthood through them, in safety, as he held her up and then laid her down into the water and brought her up again, even as our Savior laid down his life and took it up again for us. Those were her words.

Bless his hands. It made me think of the many moments of connection in our lives as we serve and gather as Saints. The strength to recognize both love and power in the hands that bear us up, as this bishop did in performing this sacred ordinance. The embrace as we meet and stop for a friend at our meetings on Sunday. Hands placed upon our heads to feel the power of true gifts through a priesthood blessing that might set us apart for a calling, or calm our turmoil during a trying time, or answer our request for physical healing.

I thought of the sacrament and its promises, taken and received every Sunday that we meet together. As we let it, that quiet sacred time recharges and purifies us in our renewal of covenants.

There are so many moments of blessing, that can seem common enough because they are simple and frequent — but they are never ordinary, not if we see truly. Truth doesn’t require drama.

Those moments are less ordinary and more meaningful to me as I get older. It’s not that their nature has changed, but that mine has. I have gained experience over the years, being brought through traumas both physical and emotional. We all encounter them, somewhere along the way.

Life is quieter than it used to be, so it’s easier to attend on prayer and pondering. My trust is deeper now when there are no immediate answers to very immediate problems, and I’m better at understanding the long view. The eternal view, in fact — which doesn’t seem so remote as it once might have.

Alma, in Mosiah 18, asked those who had followed him out into the wilderness if they were willing to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those who were in need of comfort, as well as stand as witnesses of God and be called his people. He promised that God would pour out his spirit more abundantly upon them, and they cried out in joy, “This is the desire of our hearts.”

Not just willing, but yearning to receive that promise and walk that road with all of the faithful. That resonates with the power of love, connection, and radiance that all of us once knew with our Heavenly Parents. Priesthood power is God’s power and God’s love, and all that operates through it brings us to find joy.

Ordinances, fellowship, connections — earthly and divine, the differences aren’t so distinct. The strength that finds us isn’t only from this side of the veil.

I think that when we return home, we will see how many instances of help, how many times we felt love walking with us that brought peace, had in fact come from those who love us beyond the veil. They do not cease to pray and watch just because we cannot see them, and faith is always power — the more so when it is undistorted by the fallen conditions of this world.

May we feel the hands that bring us strength. May we be the hands that offer it, and so live that eternal moments, connecting moments, sink deep and blossom in our souls.

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