Many years ago, I became acquainted with a man who was a Biblical scholar and who, at the time, was a prominent Protestant minister. He subsequently left the ministry and over many months, we had a number of gospel conversations. He finally decided to take the missionary discussions. I contacted the missionaries in my ward, gave them some background, and set up a time for them to teach him.
A few days before we were to meet, the senior companion called me. He was nervous and wanted to know how I thought they should handle the meeting. I suggested that they give their discussion like they would to anyone else and listen to the Spirit. My response didn’t seem to give him much comfort! The day arrived and the elders did their best to look relaxed, but were not too terribly successful. Finally, my friend said, “Elders, before you begin, I just want you to know that everything you are going to tell me, I already believe!” There was almost an audible sigh of relief and the elders proceeded with renewed confidence.
Although my friend did not join the Church, my experience with him was profound. In one of the sessions with the missionaries, he picked up his Book of Mormon and read King Benjamin’s admonition: “And behold I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
He then told us that to see our service to our fellowman as literally and directly service to the Savior was a key principle among the early Christians. But over time, he explained, that understanding had been lost. And today, it was rarely taught or felt among professing Christians. That it was here in The Book of Mormon, stated so clearly and unmistakably, had affected him deeply.
He then told us this story. Years ago before Mother Teresa of India was famous, he, my friend, corresponded with her from time to time. He said she and her co-workers would go to a field at night that was mucky and reeked with a putrid smell. They would stand in a line holding hands in the dark and then stretch their line so they could barely touch one another’s fingers. Then they would drop their hands and slowly walk forward—listening carefully for the sound of a baby. A baby that had been thrown away by its mother. When they heard the cry, they would dig through the muck and pick up the baby. They would take it back to their facility, clean it up, and either put it up for adoption or raise it themselves.
Mother Teresa would walk through the sea of humanity that flooded the streets of Calcutta, looking for the dying. And they were plentiful. She would have some of them carried back to her home. There, she would wash them and give them nourishment. Then for hours, she would sit with a stranger’s head upon her lap to give comfort and consolation in his last moments on the earth.
My friend wrote her a letter. He asked how she could do this day after day. How she could be so continuously self-sacrificing under such horrible, revolting, circumstances.
The letter he received back simply stated: “Dear Pastor, don’t you understand? When I am holding a baby covered with slime, or a ragged beggar’s head in my lap, I am holding Jesus Christ.”
Perhaps this is what King Benjamin meant when he also said, “I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ. . . . I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts” (Mosiah 5:8,12; Emphasis added).
Mother Teresa has set quite the standard, hasn’t she?