Six months ago this week, I was in a serious sliced pickle. A friend in Boise, Idaho, was moving across town under unusual circumstances with little warning and needed some budget-friendly help.
This good woman isn’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but she has known and respected members of the faith for decades. Knowing my family has connections in Boise, she reached out with a desperate plea.
“Do you know anyone in the area who might be willing to help me this Saturday morning?”
I instantly recognized that on most weekends, this would be an easy ask. But on the first weekend in October, the semiannual general conference is on the minds of many Mormons. As LDS Church members know, this past October’s conference perhaps stirred even more curiosity with the expected sustaining of three new members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
I explained the challenge to my pal in Boise and promised to do my best. After striking out with a Facebook post, I felt prompted to call a friend I hadn’t spoken with in far too long but who I knew had the heart of a servant.
Derrick Legg and I served missions together in Brazil in the 1990s. This Nampa, Idaho, native was among the most universally loved and respected in the Brazil Belo Horizonte Mission. By simply being himself, he made you want to be a better companion, teacher and disciple of Christ.
Being near him reminded you that heaven is real, because Legg’s genuine goodness could only come from God.
I didn’t have my old friend’s number, so I contacted him on social media. My phone rang so fast I was sure it couldn’t possibly be him.
Within just a few blinks of my explaining the dilemma, apologizing for the conference conflict and inviting him to help, he was off the phone with a promise to do everything he could.
“Everything he could,” I soon discovered, meant missing the first session of conference to help a stranger in need.
As I’ve pondered and prepared for another uplifting conference weekend, I contacted my pal to reminisce on the experience and to ask if he’d share it with the world. Legg was reluctant for public praise but agreed to an interview if the experience might somehow help another.
“Jason,” he began, “you know the first day of October is sacred in our home due to general conference. But I knew if you were willing to ask for a favor for a friend from 2,400 miles away, they had to be in a real bind and you were desperate.”
Legg recalled our initial discussion and his thought process for choosing to leave his family that morning for a few hours.
“I remember speaking to your friend on the phone, and even though skipping the Saturday morning session wasn’t ideal, it was the only time that worked for her, and I needed the chance to serve,” Legg said. “We all have this opportunity in the church, but there are times that sometimes I feel that I get far from where the rubber meets the road. I was busy with my normal church duties, as everyone is, but this felt like a real opportunity to reach out and help someone not of our faith and do some good in the world.”
This humble man shared his memories of that morning spent meeting my friend, helping to pack, and loading the truck with beds, dressers and couches.
“It felt good to be doing something for someone that really needed a helping hand, no matter what I was missing,” he said.
On that October day, Legg sent me a text message to express gratitude for the opportunity. While I was thanking him, he was explaining how the morning reminded him to practice what he preached. Plus, with the blessing of technology, he’d been able to catch up on the morning session he’d missed.
Then, as I suspected he would, Legg emailed me one of his favorite passages of scripture, James 1:22-25:
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
“I needed this,” Legg said as our interview wrapped. “I needed to own my acts and not just ponder them. Each of us has got to keep looking out for those in need and never be afraid to ask from 2,400 miles away. I know I needed this reminder on the importance of service, and I was blessed more than anyone."
Jason Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and "The Wednesday Letters." Learn more at jasonfwright.com, or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/jfwbooks or by email at email@example.com.