“She Saved Me a Place,” Ensign, Sept. 1991, 54–55
Each New Year’s Day since a Primary lesson in late childhood, I have made a list of New Year’s resolutions in my journal. But the year 1985 was different. January was half gone and I was still putting off that yearly ritual.
Sure, I was busy; two pre-schoolers were underfoot in our tiny mobile home, homemaking duties were a constant concern, and the janitorial business that we hoped would one day take the place of my husband’s full-time job demanded a lot of time and effort.
But the truth was, I was ashamed to face the journal. Not only was I still forty pounds overweight and without the savings account that I’d vowed to start, I also needed to rededicate myself to living the gospel—for the fifth year in a row. And Ralph and I had yet to be sealed in the temple.
I kept up with my Relief Society calling by making a monthly appearance at homemaking meeting, but I hadn’t been to a sacrament meeting in months. I was not praying, studying the scriptures, or attending ward socials, and my four-year-old hadn’t recognized his Star A teacher when we bumped into her at the post office.
It was easy to shift these responsibilities to my less-active husband. And this rationale led me to what I believed was an “inspired” plan.
“I am through resolving to be more active in the Church,” I wrote in my journal at last. “I am going to wait patiently for Ralph to lead me spiritually.” In keeping with that solution, I put together a lengthy letter to the bishop outlining my plan: I told him that although I welcomed home teachers and visiting teachers, I was adopting a “low spiritual profile” to help my husband grow. I wouldn’t be back to church until Ralph suggested we go. I would need to be released from my callings until Ralph accepted a calling. I emphasized that this choice was not any reflection on the ward and was not due to any recent event or misunderstanding. I was just “tired of carrying the spiritual burden.” I typed the letter and mailed it with the bills that afternoon.
As Sunday approached, I felt unsettled. Although I hadn’t attended my meetings in months, I felt pulled there. Ralph and the children were still in bed when I left, leaving a note promising a hot breakfast when I returned.
The ward choir was singing prelude music when I slipped into my place, and my eyes brimmed with tears at the moving lyrics. Each speaker gave a message I needed. Sitting alone, I cried through the whole meeting, grieving to know that I wouldn’t return for a long time.
Afterwards, I hurried toward the foyer to conceal my tears and to head homeward. I noticed Mary Eror, a member of the choir, racing down the aisle, excusing herself as she darted through clusters of chatty ward members and throngs of dodging Primary children. I wonder what’s wrong? I asked myself as Mary rounded a corner so fast that her sweater caught on the last bench.
Then our eyes met. “Don’t leave!” Mary cried, over youngsters’ heads and between shoulders. “Melonie, don’t leave!”
Breathless, with silver hair askew, and smiling, Mary—merely an acquaintance, not a close friend—embraced me. “I saw you from the choir seats. You were going to leave, weren’t you?” she asked. “Don’t you do it!”
As the rest of our ward milled around, Mary gave me a two-minute overview of her own young married era. “I cried my way through church for four turbulent years,” she said. “But I’m here today only because I kept coming.”
En route to the library and then to her Sunday School class, Mary convinced me to stay for Gospel Doctrine class and to meet her in Relief Society after that. “I’ll save you a place!” she said over her shoulder, as I turned to call home.
Mary did save me a place—that Sunday and for many to come. When I had a question or needed a shoulder to cry on, Mary was there. She baby-sat for me, entertained us in her home, and sent me cards and notes. “Call me,” she’d say, again and again. “Any time of the day or night. It’s E-r-o-r. We’re the only one in the book!”
In the beginning, I came to Church because Mary saved me a place. I knew that she would call if I wasn’t there and that she would know if I was making up an excuse. Eventually, my circle of friends increased, and I went to church because I wanted to.
My enthusiasm was apparently contagious. Ralph joined me at church more and more often until Sunday meetings became a habit again. We began to hold family home evenings, and gospel discussions were more frequent at the dinner table or on car trips. We started paying tithes, magnifying our callings, and working on individual spiritual goals.
Before long, the ward was divided. The Erors were part of the other ward, and we lost touch. Later we moved across town. Last January, we attended the temple for the first time. My journal records the day as “the most perfect day I’ve ever spent.”
I thought of Mary all that day, with much gratitude. I don’t know if she ever realized the miracle her jaunt from the choir seats was working in my life. She once recalled that she was “just doing as the Spirit prompted.” I am trying to live up to her example.