It was an early spring day, Fast and Testimony Sunday in a typical LDS ward. As the late morning sun filtered into the room, members rose to their feet to express their gratitude for the gospel and their testimonies of its truthfulness.
Not everyone stood. The congregation listened in rapt attention to the testimonies of those who did, and many of those who didn't stand would do so another Sunday, obedient not only to their own spiritual feelings, but also in acknowledgement of their kind feelings toward their neighbors and friends who sat among them."But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Prov. 4:18)
Sitting at the sacrament table among the teenage priests was an older man, a high priest, preparing to say a sacramental prayer. The ward has a tradition that as each new priest blesses the sacrament for the first time, his father shares that duty with him. But the newest priest had no father in the home. The older man was his home teacher, there to share this moment with him and his family.
"One of our best missionary tools is the sterling examples of members who live the gospel. This is what the Lord meant when He said to the Church, `Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness;. . . Zion must put on her beautiful garments.' (President Ezra Taft Benson, quoting D&C 82:14; Conference Report April 1985).
A young missionary, just returned the past week, sat on the stand with his father. The missionary was a bit heavier than when he left - a good sign! - and had actually served in two missions. After learning a difficult language in a foreign country, he was in an accident that made it necessary for him to return home. He finished his mission in a state where he could still speak some of the language he had learned so painfully. Both men were beaming.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:18)
In the back of the room stood a mother with her new baby daughter. The daughter was connected with an oxygen tube to a portable oxygen tank. She was born with difficult complications that promised to fill her young life with a succession of operations. Ward members prayed for the family, sent food in for their dinners, helped with baby sitting other children and in many unseen gestures offered their support.
"For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." (John. 13:15).
Sitting quietly over to the side of the chapel was another young mother with her son, about 5. As usual, she was without her husband, who, although a member of the Church, does not attend. The mother brings her son, without fail, each Sunday.
And in the front of the chapel sat two grandparents. Having almost reached retirement age, they have now undertaken the responsibility of raising their two elementary-school grandchildren.
Family circumstances - a divorce and poor economic conditions - have brought them to this decision. Now the grandfather regularly seeks overtime at his work so he can help both his children and grandchildren.
In fact, several sets of grandparents sat scattered through the congregation surrounded by family members who have come back to live with them. They smile frequently in their once-again full pews and joke about how young they feel.
"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (I Tim. 4:12).
Among those grandparents are two whose grandaughter had a liver transplant during the week, a very expensive procedure. The grandparents spearheaded valley-wide fundraising efforts. Sisters in the ward spent time, in four to six hour shifts, caring for the baby during her stay at Primary Children's Medical Center in an effort to give some relief to the worried parents.
"A good example is the best sermon." Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac.
A number of testimonies were offered that Fast Sunday. None was more eloquent than the silent confessions of belief and love given by those who truly live their religion. And who knows how many similar stories could be told about others who were there?
They, too, were heard.