This morning we attended a grave side service for our neighbor’s granddaughter who was born still this week. As we stood, under umbrellas, surrounded by their family members and friends, I felt a warmth inside that transcended the solemnity of the moment. Frances May did not take a breath of life here, but she lived and returned to her Heavenly Father and loved ones on the other side who welcomed her home. Though heart-breaking for her father and mother, we all felt an out-pouring of love there, in that sacred spot as her grave site was blessed and dedicated and as her family said farewell.
There is a touching scene described in the Book of Mormon where a group of believers gathered at a beautiful body of water to be taught about Jesus Christ and baptism in His name. They had fled from wicked men who sought their lives. As they were taught by the prophet, Alma, they learned about covenants we make at baptism. Here is the account in the book of Mosiah, chapter 18:
1 And now, it came to pass that Alma, who had fled from the servants of king Noah, repented of his sins and iniquities, and went about privately among the people, and began to teach the words of Abinadi—
2 Yea, concerning that which was to come, and also concerning the resurrection of the dead, and the redemption of the people, which was to be brought to pass through the power, and sufferings, and death of Christ, and his resurrection and ascension into heaven.
3 And as many as would hear his word he did teach. And he taught them privately, that it might not come to the knowledge of the king. And many did believe his words.
4 And it came to pass that as many as did believe him did go forth to a place which was called Mormon, having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts.
5 Now, there was in Mormon a fountain of pure water, and Alma resorted thither, there being near the water a thicket of small trees, where he did hide himself in the daytime from the searches of the king.
6 And it came to pass that as many as believed him went thither to hear his words.
7 And it came to pass after many days there were a goodly number gathered together at the place of Mormon, to hear the words of Alma. Yea, all were gathered together that believed on his word, to hear him. And he did teach them, and did preach unto them repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord.
8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
11 And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.
I have been thoughtful this week as I’ve visited with many women at our different Days for Girls events around the valley. Something almost magical happens when you bring women together, hand them fabric, scissors, irons, or sewing machines. They go to work, but as they work, they visit. And I listen and embrace them as their stories unfold– stories of heartache, broken homes. wayward children, financial difficulties, unfulfilled dreams, or unexpected outcomes.
Yesterday I received an email from one of my dear helpers who wrote about our event the night before, “There was one woman, probably in her early 40s, tucked in the back corner all night ironing 4.5″x5″ squares in half. At the end of the night when I collected her work she told me with tears in her eyes that she had had a long, hard day at work and wasn’t going to come, but changed her mind. She has a lot of her own problems but after hearing your presentation her problems all seemed so small in comparison. She was really grateful for the opportunity to come lose herself in service and thanked us for taking time to come to their ward.”
The day before, after teaching a quilt group about DfG, an older woman asked if she could tell me her story, then she led me out of the room and into the hallway where she described the hardships in her life that began when she was 3-6 years old and sexually abused by an uncle. He also prostituted her and her sisters to his friends. With tears in her eyes, she said, “I understand the pain girls go through when their dreams are destroyed. Please put me to work and let me help girls who suffer.”
We leave every single event grateful we came. Everyone leaves feeling that way. I always enjoy watching the faces of young women or stressed mothers who come because they are told to or feel obligated to. They are usually the last to leave, and they help us pack up our cars and boxes and fabric and donations. A few nights ago a cute young girl made me promise not to leave before she returned. She took 2 friends, and raced to Walmart to buy underwear for girls they didn’t know somewhere on the other side of the world. She and her friends wanted to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.
I reflect often on the covenants I made when I was baptized many years ago. We promise to take upon us His name, we are willing to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.
Giving service brings us together and gives us opportunities to share and talk and unload and lift and encourage and comfort. When we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, we try to do what he would do if he were here. He loved everyone. He lifted and he blessed. I see that happening around me every day by amazing home-town women who try their best, and serve others.
This morning, in the rain, I thought about these women around me, about my neighbors and friends, and about promises I’ve made and how I might be better at fulfilling them.