Bishop Gérald Caussé told of one of the "miracle stories" received from mission presidents as a member of the Europe Area Presidency, in which he served before he was sustained as first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric during the April 2012 general conference.
Elder Caussé, a member of the Missionary Executive Council, spoke Jan. 15 during the opening session of the Seminar for Missionary Training Center Presidents and Visitors' Center Directors at the Provo Missionary Training Center. His topic was the doctrine of Christ.
The story he related was from a mission president who had interviewed a woman for baptism. "Her clothing and her countenance reflected the hard life she had lived," the president wrote.
The baptismal candidate said in the interview she had been released from jail six months previously and her probation had recently been satisfied. She also disclosed in the interview that she had received two abortions.
"As we counseled together I kept asking myself if it was possible that this woman had really found her way back to the strait and narrow path and could be ready for baptism," the president wrote.
At the end of the interview, the baptismal candidate offered a prayer, at which time a witness came to the president attesting of her preparation.
Later, the president was attending a sacrament meeting and was sitting next to the bishop. He noticed a woman seated on the front row, who smiled and waved at him. She radiated love for the gospel, which made her countenance glow.
"Then it hit me like a ton of bricks," the mission president wrote. It was the woman he had interviewed for baptism. The metamorphosis that had taken place astonished him.
"The power of the Atonement through applying principles of the gospel in her life had transformed her spiritually and physically," he wrote. "She even looked 20 years younger, which is much closer to her actual age."
Though remarkable, such changes might not be permanent, Bishop Caussé remarked.
"A change of heart is like heart surgery," he said. "A patient needs to be monitored for a number of days and weeks and months after the operation to detect rejection or risk of infection and other complications. They will take medication to avoid the possibility of the risks. They may also require emotional support."
He asked what will make the change permanent, noting that conversion is not an event but is a process.
"I would suggest that the same power that is producing the initial change will be producing the long-term conversion of the people," he said. "In all cases, this power is the Atonement of Jesus Christ."
Bishop Caussé referred to Lehi's vision of the tree of life, recounted in 1 Nephi, as an illustration of the doctrine of Christ, and said that baptism is the gate through which men and women enter upon the path toward the tree of life, which is the love of God. He said the gate needs to be open so that those who go through it can see what lies ahead. Thus, those who are baptized need to be taught what is required of one who enters into the covenants made at baptism.