Church News

‘A difficult healing journey’: Understanding the Savior’s role as Master Healer

Sister Susan W. Tanner - Mugs shots for the 178th Annual General Conference on April 5th and 6th, 2008. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
“Resurrection” by artist Wilson J. Ong. Credit: Wilson J. Ong, IRI, IRI
President John S. Tanner and Sister Susan W. Tanner. Credit: Monique Saenz, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Hawaii

PROVO, Utah — About ten months ago, former Young Women general president, Susan W. Tanner, heard the news that her grandson, 3-year-old Jack, was diagnosed with an extremely rare chromosomal deletion called Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. The rare diagnosis — that includes many symptoms including the absence of speech or severely delayed speech — has brought uncertainty to her daughter and their entire family.

“In our family we are in the middle of a difficult healing journey,” she said. “We received life-changing news this year which alters every activity henceforth and even changes the lens with which we view life.”

Sister Tanner, a veteran Church leader who has served as the 12th Young Women general president, as a mission president’s wife, who wrote Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society and who is serving as the first lady of BYU-Hawaii, said this diagnosis has been difficult.

“Our daughter has cried and suffered much,” Sister Tanner said. “She is trying to do everything professionals and loved ones suggest, but no one knows exactly what will help him.”

Sister Tanner said that many times her daughter has said to her, “no one understands Jack; no one understands my life. I feel so alone, so isolated.”

To that claim Sister Tanner said, “I absolutely believe her and feel these things with her.”

In response to the difficulty of the situation and dealing with those feelings, the mother and daughter are exerting their faith and hope in the Savior. “As we have sought for the healing hand of the Lord, we have recognized His love in small mercies and miracles on this new journey.”

For Sister Tanner, this new diagnosis in her grandson’s life has helped her focus on the Savior in His role as the Master Healer.

“Maybe each of [our family members] will be healed of our worldliness as we bask more in the goodness of Jack’s pure spirit,” she said. “As we give to him, we are blessed. And as we seek healing for him, perhaps we are growing in our faith in Christ. Perhaps we are receiving a type of healing from him in our own imperfect hearts. … Jack’s infirmity is healing us as a family. This experience is giving us the opportunity to exercise our faith and hope in Christ to heal us. And it is helping us develop His compassion and charity to help others on their way.”

Speaking during the BYU Easter Conference held in Provo on March 23, Sister Tanner shared how looking to the Savior helps individuals find healing in their own lives, as well as increases their ability to help others.

“To grow, to be strengthened, to be healed, requires all the faith we can muster in Jesus Christ,” she said. “To take the name of Healer upon us requires that we acquire His love and charity for others.”

When she first moved to Hawaii three years ago for her husband, John S. Tanner, to become president of Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Sister Tanner said it was difficult for her to pronounce Polynesian names.

“I just need a few more consonants,” she said.

In an attempt to learn people’s names, she started to ask them the meaning behind their name.

“They knew,” she recalled. “Their parents were very purposeful in giving them these names, rich in meaning.”

Reflecting on her own name, her husband’s name and the names they chose for their five children, Sister Tanner spoke of the meaning behind a name.

“As I think about the significance of names, I remember another name, the most important name that we as covenant children of Heavenly Father take upon us, the name of Jesus Christ,” she said.

Jehovah, Messiah, Creator, Redeemer, Only Begotten Son, Immanuel, Savior, King — the list of names for the Savior is long.

“I believe that Christ is the ‘living’ Christ not only because He was resurrected, as we celebrate this week, but also because He can live on in each of us as we take on His names, His characteristics, and yoke ourselves to Him and His work through our covenants.”

Every person has the responsibility to “have Christ live on in us by embodying His characteristics.”

“Each week as we take the sacrament, we covenant to take His name upon us,” she said. “What does that mean? I think it means that we take all of His names upon us: teacher, shepherd, peacemaker, healer, etc.”

Drawing from the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Sister Tanner said, “ ‘In as many ways as possible, both figuratively and literally, we try to take upon us His identity.’ So now when I covenant weekly to take His name upon me, I think of His many names.”

One of the Savior’s most important names — healer.

“I want to take the name of healer upon me so as to bless and help others,” she said.

The title “healer” represents both spiritual healing and physical healing and is “broad in its scope and seems to me to encompass many of His other names and traits: to save, to minster, to bring peace, to redeem.”

Referencing the words of the Primary hymn, “He Sent His Son,” Sister Tanner said people are able to be healed by the Savior and then act as an instrument to help others as they “Have faith; have hope; live like His Son; help others on their way.”

“For us to be healed requires that we have faith and hope in Him,” she said. “For us to heal requires that we live like Him and help others on their way.”

All have the need to be healed, and the Savior’s grand mission is to heal — both physically and spiritually — all who will come unto Him.

“How can we participate in that mission? How can we learn the healer’s art?” she asked. “As we take the name of Christ the Healer upon us, we try to teach others to rely upon Him in faith as we have had to do in our own healing miracles. And we also strive to give His love, understanding and compassion to those we are helping.”

It is a covenant obligation and duty to minister and heal after the pattern Christ has set. Opportunities to serve, minister, love, heal and “learn the healer’s art” are all around.

“Loved ones, family members, classmates, ward members, roommates, even strangers, or adversaries may be suffering from some grief or wound or sin,” she said. “We, in our sensitivity and by following the Spirit, should love them and help them increase in faith, in hope, in holiness — becoming whole.”

Using the example of a mother who is helping her gay son, or another mother who is helping her son who suffers from anxiety or depression, Sister Tanner taught that parents have an important role in the healing of their children.

“Selfless, Christlike mothers and fathers teach their children the healing power that comes through hope in His Atonement,” she said.

But healing is not a one-time event; it is a journey.

“With His power we will be healed,” she said. “With His power we will be instruments in healing others. … May we ‘have faith; have hope; live like His Son; help others on their way.’ ”

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