Sister Morgan Taylor had just stepped from the Papeete Tahiti Temple to enjoy some fresh air when life, once again, took an unexpected twist.
There, apparently waiting for her outside, was an older man who seemed vaguely familiar. The young missionary sometimes struggled remembering faces and names after being struck on her bicycle by a drunk driver months earlier, suffering traumatic brain damage and other injuries.
Then the man spoke, calling her by her first name.
“Morgan,” he said, “I’m the man who hit you….please, can you forgive me?”
Then the man, clearly in distress, seemingly shifted to an internal discussion, asking: “How could she ever forgive me for what I have done to her?”
Sister Taylor had often wondered what she would say to the man who had upended her life and, through his bad choices, erased many precious experiences from her mind that cannot be replaced.
“I have lost so many memories,” she said. “I don’t know who I first kissed. I don’t remember earning my associate’s degree.
“But I knew exactly what I was going to say.”
She looked at the man for a moment, before replying: “Don’t worry about it. I forgave you a long time ago.”
Then she hugged the man. She told him she loved him. She wished him peace.
Almost seven years have passed since that emotional encounter between, in legal terms, a crime victim and her perpetrator.
Sister Taylor long ago completed her mission. She returned home and got on with her life, falling in love with and then marrying a young man named Braden Bijold.
The couple lives in the Salt Lake City area and are parents of a baby girl named Dorothy. Everyone calls her Dot.
But Morgan Taylor-Bijold’s story of forgiveness and hope continues to lift others. She remains a sought-after speaker at youth devotionals and at Relief Society gatherings.
Her message is simple: With Christ and His Atoning love, there’s no need to carry grudges or burdens.
A mission-driven heart
In the days prior to Christmas, 2013, Sister Morgan Taylor was a typical missionary working each day to share the gospel. Joy came in serving and connecting with others across the Tahiti Papeete Mission.
The Utah native could have never guessed how her life’s path would forever change during a routine bike ride after helping prepare for a Christmas party at a local meetinghouse.
Sister Taylor and her companion, Sister Moli, were both struck from behind by a car driven by a reportedly impaired man. Sister Moli was not seriously injured, but her companion was left struggling for her life.
A key blessing arrived amid the horror in the form of an off-duty firefighter who happened to be passing by when the accident occurred. The well-trained firefighter jumped from his car and began administering CPR on Sister Taylor, likely saving the young missionary’s life, Newsroom reported in 2014.
Sister Taylor was rushed to a nearby hospital. Operations soon followed on her damaged brain and body. Her parents flew from Utah to far-away Tahiti to be with their daughter.
Her parents would be at her bedside for weeks until they could return with their daughter to the United States for further treatment.
Surgeons in Utah had expected to operate on Sister Taylor’s fractured pelvis. But two weeks after arriving home, x-rays revealed the pelvis had unexpectedly healed.
Years later, Taylor-Bijold, her parents and many others call that fortunate turn of events a medical miracle.
Soon after returning to Utah, the athletic young woman was running and even dancing, her lifelong love.
But even as her body recuperated among family and loved ones, her heart remained firmly in Tahiti. She wanted to get back to her mission. Her prayers were soon answered. Eight months after returning to Utah, Sister Taylor returned to the Papeete Mission.
Once again, she wore the missionary name tag and was serving among people of all backgrounds, including many who had never stopped praying for the young American with the big smile.
Her decision to return to Tahiti also, of course, allowed for the unexpected face-to-face meeting with the elderly man whose life had been waylaid by guilt.
Sister Taylor’s forgiving words — reflecting a decision she had made long before their brief encounter — brought both peace to the Tahitian man and sweet reassurance to the young Utah woman.
The Atoner’s relief from bitterness and burden
Taylor-Bijold still faces daily challenges resulting from the accident. And every day she decides if she will be happy or angry.
“Physically, I feel good,” she said. “But I have some pretty severe memory issues.”
She had hoped to go to law school, but she can’t always retain the information she crams for in class. She sees improvement, but adds, “The brain is weird — [my doctors] don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”
So she relies on learned memory techniques to remember life’s daily minutiae.
Taylor-Bijold is certainly entitled to bouts of bitterness. She didn’t ask for this burden. She did nothing to cause this burden. But instead, she has opted for happiness.
“I’m grateful that the accident happened while I was on my mission because I was surrounded by the gospel and I was trying to draw closer to Christ every single day,” she said. “But I’m never really angry. … I have frustrations, but it’s because there are things I can’t do.
“But the greatest thing I have known through all of this is that there is Someone who knows exactly how I feel. And He died so I don’t have to feel this anymore.”
The Atonement, she said, has allowed her to turn the so-called pages of her life. Christ lifts her burden so she can move on. And as the years have passed, she is no longer defined — by herself and others — “as the missionary who got hit by the car. Most people have no idea.”
Still, she allows herself to consider how she would manage the day-to-day aftermath of that pre-Christmas accident in Tahiti without her gospel beliefs. “I would not have healed. I would not have been able to persevere.”
And what if she had not opted to forgive her offender, even before he asked for forgiveness?
“I would be in a very dark place right now.”
Taylor-Bijold discovers strength in sharing her experience and testimony of the Savior’s Atonement with others, including many grappling with choices to forgive others for some injustice.
Turn to Christ, she counsels.
“The most important thing someone can ask themself is: ‘Are you helping yourself by holding on to this grudge? Are you allowing yourself to hold on to a burden that you are allowed to let go of?’”