By Anne Maxson
I had been working on a different topic for this month's post. However, upon hearing of the passing of a former bishop, and pondering on his impact on my life, I wanted to share just a couple of the lessons I have learned from him.
Shortly after my mission, I moved to the Mill Creek area of the Salt Lake Valley. One of my first Sundays in the singles ward, a new bishopric was called. Little did I know then how my life would be changed by this new bishop.
We had small Family Home Evening groups that met at the homes of the bishopric members. During one of those FHEs, Bishop shared the blessings of attending the temple by discussing Doctrine and Covenants 109:22, which reads, "And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them." He testified about those angels being not only our ancestors but our future children and grandchildren.
A decade later, I mentioned to him that I still pondered the truths he shared in that testimony. He responded, "Those spirits are close to us and when we go to the temple we feel them, get direction from them, and are assured of their protection."
Having not been raised in the church, and not having parents who were members of the church, Bishop became somewhat of a surrogate parent in relation to gospel learning and study. I reached out to him for advice and counsel even years after I’d moved out of the ward. Whether it was business, educational, financial, or social pursuits, Bishop would always respond right away with offers of help, advice, encouragement, and always with a testimony of the Savior.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this amazing man recently passed away. Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer in June 2000, he had been living on borrowed time for decades. In one of those FHE meetings at his home in 2006, he shared his testimony of the resurrection along with a painting he'd had commissioned of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Years later, when I was preparing a primary lesson about the resurrection, I asked him if he could send me his testimony. This is what he said -
"In 2000, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, (cancer of the bone marrow), and told that I would only live for two to three years, it helped me focus on what is really important. I thought a lot about what I believe and why.
“One of my favorite stories from the scriptures is the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. When Christ goes to Bethany (just six miles outside of Jerusalem) to raise Lazarus the exchange between Christ and Martha One of Lazarus' sisters is beautiful. Starting in John 11:2, ‘Martha said unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know that even now whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and who so liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.’
“This beautiful testimony of Martha erases any doubt about her conviction and testimony. It is the witness of one who loved the Lord and knew he could do all things. Christ then performs the raising of Lazarus from the dead in verses 37 to 45. He is the life and the resurrection and he that believeth on Him shall live and not die. This is his great promise unto each one of us.
I know it is true and that I have been granted a miracle and my life extended for fourteen years now, I have no fear of death or that which is to come. To you my dear friend and to all who will listen I bear witness that he lives and that through him we all will rise again and be forgiven of our sins if we believe and repent."
With his passing to the other side of the veil, Bishop will certainly be one of those angels to have charge over his family and friends. What comfort the temple and the plan of salvation bring!