|Stake Clerk, Brother Rangi Williams|
Brother Williams based his talk on a conference address by Pres Dieter F. Utchdorf from the Sunday morning session last April called "He Will Place You On His Shoulders and Carry You Home."
Brother Williams began by asking the congregation "Have any of you needed to be rescued?" He then shared some personal stories of times when he was rescued and spoke about the parable of the lost sheep.
|Image from Seeds For the Soul|
One comment he made went right to my heart:
"Does the sheep need to have a big house, a flash job, plenty of money or a prominent education before the Good Shepherd will come to the rescue? No. Certainly not! His sheep are worthy of divine rescue simply because we are loved by the Good Shepherd. Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves us. He knows and loves you."
This is consistent with what President Utchdorf taught in his address:
We had a very full day on Wednesday, truly the icing on the cake after several days of travel through stunning beauty and many special spiritual experiences. That evening as we were driving back to the house where we were staying we were bone tired, but very happy. It was dark and rainy outside, but inside our hearts were filled with light.
We were talking about how blessed we were for all the experiences we had over the trip, and indeed over our entire mission experience. As we drove through the dark, wet night we were both feeling happy, and perhaps a bit distracted. We were thinking about getting back to our room to pack up in preparation to return to Auckland the next day.
As we went through an intersection, just a few short blocks from the house where we were staying, all our peace and happiness came to an abrupt halt when a car came zooming in front of us. We were about to slam right into it. I honestly don't know if they ran a stop sign or we did. No matter how many times I play the event over in my head, I still can't make sense of it. One minute we were going along safe and happy. In the the next minute everything turned upside down as we could see our car and this other vehicle zooming toward each other, about to have a very serious crash. Both Elder Bennett and the other driver slammed on their brakes as hard as they could. The tires screeched on the wet pavement, but there was no time to stop. We were headed straight for impact. It seemed there was no way we were going to avoid it, and we knew it was going to be bad.
We were careening toward each other at a speed that told me there would soon be broken glass, tangled metal and quite possibly seriously injured bodies in the mix. In that instant I could SEE in my mind's eye the impact coming. I could sense that it was going to be horrible. In that terrible instant, I knew we could get seriously hurt or even killed.
Except it didn't happen. Our cars both went zooming straight at each other and then just STOPPED. This wasn't brakes slowing us down. We were moving and then we weren't. We just stopped. The two cars were perfectly still exactly next to each other. The next day in the light we could see just the faintest paint transfer where we had lightly touched. But there was no impact. There was no harm.
Our hearts were pounding and our breath came out in ragged gasps from our chests. We kept looking around saying "Are you ok? Are you alright?" We expected the other driver was every bit as shocked and amazed as we were. However, we never met that driver. Once he or she came to grips with the fact that there had been no collision, they simply pulled away and drove on down the road. Shaking, we did the same, going on to our little rented house where we offered fervent prayers of thanks for this protection, for this rescue.
I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that we were protected from what could have been a horrific accident on the streets of Dunedin that night. I know our "Guardian Angels" were there, taking charge of the momentum of both vehicles regardless of the laws of physics. I don't know why we were kept safe. Plenty of other faithful missionaries have been injured or even killed in accidents at various places around the world. Bad things do indeed happen to good people. But for whatever reason, God protected us that day.
As dramatic as that experience was, it is no more remarkable than all the other many ways that we have been rescued. As Brother Williams said in his talk: "being rescued by the Savior has many meanings beyond just physical rescue".
I think back to a season in my life when my mind and heart were filled with confusion and sorrow. It was a time when life's trials seemed more than I could bear. Yet Heavenly Father was surely with me during those dark days, sending the right people into my path to lift me back into the light.
President Utchdorf said in his talk: "it matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt...The joyous plan of the gospel is this: because of the eternal plan of happiness provided by our loving Heavenly Father, through the infinite sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can be redeemed from the fall and restored to purity".
There was a time when I felt very lost in so many ways. Yet Heavenly Father was there for me, with a love and patience I could scarcely comprehend. Brother Williams talked about his own hard times and various ways he felt rescued. I could relate. While my circumstances may have been very different, I felt every bit as much like a repaired humpty dumpty as he described.
There is much I do not know. I love the quote from David Bednar who said in a 2013 talk:
"I do not know why some people learn the lessons of eternity through trial and suffering—while others learn similar lessons through rescue and healing. I do not know all of the reasons, all of the purposes, and I do not know everything about the Lord’s timing. With Nephi, you and I can say that we “do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17)."
But this is what I know for sure: whether in times of safety or times of peril and adversity - God's love is real. Even when He doesn't rescue us from some of the bad things that happen in this world, He WILL rescue us in the way that matters most of all. If we are willing to do our part, by turning to Him with faith and obedience, He will ultimately bring us home. That is something I know beyond the shadow of a doubt.