Making the grade

Not too many years ago, he'd have been home on this Sunday morning — watching the NBA, the NFL or some other acronym-laden Sabbath-breaking opportunity beamed to his television set.

But that was then. Now, on this Sabbath morning, he was conducting fast and testimony meeting

Before inviting others to share their testimonies, he bore his.

"In the academic world of theorems, postulates and laws, students are tested on their knowledge of the subject. The higher the learning, the stricter the requirements. And getting a passing grade can be difficult.

"The spiritual world is similar, yet different. Yes, we are tested. But the test is open book (the scriptures) and there are teachers and leaders to help us with the right answers all along the path.

"And, while we have spiritual 'pop quizes' — challenges like a job loss, illness, divorce or even death — the help of God, and His children, is constant. We know that we won't become perfect all at once, that we'll all make mistakes and errors. But, with guidance, help and perseverance, we all can get an eternal passing grade."

Then, with the ease of someone familiar with his topic, he quoted the New Testament.

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

"This is the first and great commandment.

"And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Matt. 22:36-39) As the congregation listened, those who knew the man knew he spoke from experience.

He'd figured out that it is only by helping others that we help ourselves. Someone helped him. Now he's helping someone else.

When he's standing at that pulpit, he feels alone — but he's not forlorn. After the meeting, he'll tell you that he was scared — but you'd never know it by looking at him.

And, despite the fear, he'll readily admit that standing there is monumentally better than sitting in front of the television.

Before, he couldn't even imagine admitting that.

Now he can't imagine anything else.

On Sunday morning — between early bishopric meeting and the start of sacrament meeting, you might see him raising the flag on the outside pole. Or, maybe he's helping the Primary president carry several armloads of teaching materials.

He'll tell you he's not naturally attuned to youth and their needs, but if he misses a joint Young Women/Young Men activity during the week, he's either sick — or attending to someone who is. And when the last youth leader is still improving on the youths' cleanup efforts, this bishopric counselor is sweeping the cultural hall floor or cleaning the serving area.

Auxiliary and priesthood leaders never question his dedication — to the gospel and to their efforts to further that gospel. When there's no leader for the 11-year-old Scouts, he steps in. If the inservice teacher is discouraged by lack of participation, he's championing the cause. His brown pickup truck is ubiquitous in the neighborhood. Rarely do any ward members leave their own homes without seeing that he's visiting — and attending to the needs — of another.

And, to think that just a few years ago. . . .

The gospel "makes bad men good and good men better."

Sometimes unnoticed among the Savior's mortal miracles are the life-changing decisions made by His disciples. Certainly a genuine change of heart is as profound as that of water to wine.

In that sense — and despite some difficult mortal "pop quizes" of his own — this Latter-day Saint's life is a miracle. And he's helping other miracles in the making.

That's not to say he's perfect (despite some ward members' beliefs to the contrary). But by giving — and receiving — guidance, help and perseverance, he's working toward a whole ward-ful of eternal passing grades.

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