Boyd Matheson: How a transformational testimony wrapped in a tender moment became a sermon in song

‘You focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will know how to resolve every challenge,’ says President Russell M. Nelson

Prior to the start of our sacrament service, I watched an amazing young mother, Kimberly Sagers, work with her 4-year-old son, Arthur, who was preparing to sing a song. It was clear that Arthur was having second thoughts about his invitation to sing “Gethsemane” with his mom in his grandparents’ ward.

I love this family and looked forward to their singing as part of our service. 

I watched as Kimberly, and Arthur’s grandfather Dave, tried to help him get comfortable at the podium and microphone while the pianist went over the song. Grandpa Dave and Arthur sat on the stand with the speakers so Arthur could get used to looking out at a chapel full of people. Arthur was very reverent on the stand during the sacrament and the first two speakers on the program. 

When the moment came for Arthur and his mom to sing, he began to fall apart. He squirmed and didn’t want to go up to the podium. As grandpa wrestled and coaxed a bit, Kimberly calmly told the congregation that Arthur was learning some lessons today about stage fright and what to do when an idea that sounded fun turns into a fearful moment. She continued by saying she hoped the congregation would also learn something as they listened to a song about the Savior, even if it ended up being a solo from Kimberly rather than a duet with Arthur.  

The pianist began and Arthur’s resistance turned into an all-out cry to make it stop as he ran from the podium and behind the piano where Grandpa tried to quiet his cries, calm his fears and dry his tears. Undaunted, without question or pause, Kimberly began to sing — as only a mother focused on the Savior can — like an angel:

Jesus climbed the hill to the garden still.
His steps were heavy and slow.
Love and a prayer took Him there
To the place only He could go.
Gethsemane. Jesus loves me,
So He went willingly to Gethsemane.

The Spirit filled the chapel as all turned their attention to this mother, clearly concerned about her little boy who had run away in fear, while she kept her focus on Jesus.

Kimberly continued to sing, with stirring emotion, words that pointed every listener to the Savior’s atoning sacrifice:

He felt all that was sad, wicked or bad,
All the pain we would ever know.
While His friends were asleep, He fought to keep
His promise made long ago.
Gethsemane. Jesus loves me,
So He went willingly to Gethsemane.

As Kimberly began to sing the final verse, Arthur gradually came out from behind the piano and then slowly, reverently, began to walk back toward his mother. The words of the song seemed to lead him along: 

The hardest thing that ever was done,
The greatest pain that ever was known,
The biggest battle that ever was won —
This was done by Jesus!
The fight was won by Jesus!

Arthur reached his mother and quietly laid his head down on the podium. Kimberly’s angelic voice broke with the sweetest emotion as she came to the final witnessing words of the song:

Gethsemane. Jesus loves me,
So He gave His gift to me in Gethsemane.

A sermon in a song. A transformational testimony wrapped in a tender moment. A gift — His gift — to each and to all who will keep their focus on Jesus.

The majesty of that magnificent and seemingly simple moment was that sometimes children wander off and sometimes they run away screaming; but no one should ever question or doubt the power of a mother focused on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ to ultimately bring her children safely back into her presence. 

In June, President Russell M. Nelson taught new mission leaders a similarly simple formula: “You focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will know how to resolve every challenge.” 

In the April 2023 general conference, President Nelson instructed, “Whatever questions or problems you have, the answer is always found in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Learn more about His Atonement, His love, His mercy, His doctrine and His restored gospel of healing and progression. Turn to Him. Follow Him.”

And October 2016, President Nelson shared, “When the focus of our lives is on Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening — or not happening — in our lives.”

The scriptures are filled with examples of those humble souls who “turned their eyes upon Jesus” and were helped, healed, succored and saved. Regardless of what is happening or not happening in our lives, or in the lives of our family members and friends, we can receive and provide comfort and strength as we keep our eyes upon the loving and redeeming Savior of the world.

It might take Arthur a few years to realize the lessons of that Sunday, but the lesson his mother taught the rest of us had instant influence and provided hope for every parent who wonders and worries about their wandering children or grandchildren. With eyes and hearts focused on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, all can be led safely home.

— Boyd C. Matheson is bishop of the Manila 9th Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah Manila Stake, and hosts an afternoon program on KSL NewsRadio in Salt Lake City.

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