A Heart In Hand


In the late 1990’s President Gordon B. Hinckley visited our city. My wife and I were fortunate enough to sit on the stand during the area conference held in Baltimore.  Since I was driving one of the motor cars to the airport, I was seated close to the prophet.  Because of his tight schedule, I was assigned to help escort him off the stage and into a tunnel that lead directly to the cars. As you might imagine, the members started to close in on President Hinckley as soon as the meeting was over. He was very nice and was shaking hands with as many people as he could as he walked off the stage. I was following closely behind him and could see the hands coming down from the bleachers that held the choir. President Hinckley was tenderly reaching over his head to touch the hands that were hanging down. I was watching the scene when I spied a hand desperately reaching downward to touch the hand of a prophet. This person was clearly a young lady who was mentally challenged.  It took only a few seconds for us to pass and I could see that her hand was not going to reach President Hinckley’s hand.   As we passed by I instinctively raised my hand just behind President Hinckley’s and reached as high as I could and touched her outstretched hand. Amid the mass of hands I didn’t think she would know the difference. We moved on but afterwards, I  felt a little bad about my actions.  This young lady had reached for a prophet’s hand and I’m sure, due to my actions, she thought she had accomplished her goal.  Shortly thereafter, I shared this story with a fellow member to get his opinion regarding the propriety of what I had done. He thought that perhaps my actions were misplaced.

I have thought about this incident a number of times since it happened and wondered if I had done the proper thing.  I was reading a story a few years ago  that reminded me of my own experience and left me feeling better about my “misdeed”.

“A nurse took the tired, anxious service man to the bedside. “Your son is here,” she said to the old man…Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young man in the Marine Corps uniform standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement. The nurse brought a chair so the Marine could sit alongside the bed. Nights are long in hospitals, but all through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man’s hand and offering words of hope and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was there, oblivious of her and the night-staff members exchanging greetings and the cries and moans of the other patients. Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only holding on tightly to his son most of the night.

Along towards dawn, the patient died. The Marine placed on the bed the lifeless man he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited. Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her. “Who was that man?” he asked. The nurse was startled. “He was your father,” she answered. “No he wasn’t ,” the Marine replied. “I never saw him before in my life.”

“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?”

“I knew right off there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t there. When I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, and how much he needed me, I stayed.” (Roy Popkin, Night Watch).

The scriptures recount the story of the prophet Samuel going to the house of Jesse looking for the “one” to take on the giant Goliath. The scriptures record:

“One by one, Jesse had his seven oldest sons pass before Samuel. In considering each one, Samuel was instructed by the Lord to “look not on his countenance or on the height of his stature; … for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). And so, as the seven sons passed before him, Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord hath not chosen these.”Later, the youngest son, David, who was out working, was chosen by the Lord to fight and ultimately defeat Goliath.  The Lord knew of David’s faithful heart!

Sometimes we fall under harsh judgment by our fellow men because they can only see our outward appearance and actions. We render the same harsh judgment, from time to time, on our fellow brothers and sisters for the same reason. I’m grateful to know that the Lord can make a perfect judgment because he knows the intent of our hearts.  Occasionally we find ourselves walking a fine line in knowing how to handle sensitive situations.  We need to be careful in so doing, but erring on the side of charity seems like a good motto.  Mother Ann Lee, the founder of the Shakers sect phrased it wonderfully when she said, “Put your hands to work, and your hearts to God.” I believe if our hearts are pure in the Lord, our hands will be found clean at the last day.

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