“Beautiful as an Angel,” Ensign, June 1993, 30–31
One weekend I felt a particularly strong need to visit my grandparents, who lived in a small farming community several hundred miles from where I was working. It would require hours of driving; I would get there Saturday evening, and I would have to return immediately after church on Sunday. I reasoned that it would be better to wait until a holiday when I would have more time, but a quiet voice whispered in my mind, “You need to go this weekend.” So I went.
I had an enjoyable but brief visit Saturday evening with my grandparents. Sunday I attended fast and testimony meeting with them. As I glanced over the ward, I noticed a young couple sitting on the front row, the wife holding a baby tightly bundled in a pretty pink blanket. Grandma explained that they were relatives of a dear friend of hers in the ward. They had traveled from another state to have their baby blessed that day.
The meeting was inspiring, and as the time came for bearing testimonies, I felt compelled to stand up. I subdued the impulse, telling myself this was not my home and the time should be used by the members of this ward. But the feeling persisted, and I finally stood. As I bore my testimony, I also felt prompted to share the story of Charlie.
It was my first year as a professional teacher, and I had been assigned to teach a class for children who had physical handicaps. The natural leader of the group was eight-year-old Charlie. If I ever see an angel in this life, I expect him to look like Charlie. There was an aura of light in his face, and there wasn’t a moment when he wasn’t smiling.
Charlie’s mother had been told at his birth that he would probably never turn over or hold his head up, and he would certainly never walk. Because the disability extended to his facial muscles, it was unlikely that he would ever learn to talk. The doctors counseled Charlie’s mother to place the child in a state institution where he would be cared for, thus enabling her to “go on with her life.”
While she understood the reasons for this professional advice, she desired the counsel of her Father in Heaven. After much prayer, she announced to the medical staff that, with the help of the Lord, she was going to assist her child in developing whatever potential was stamped upon his soul—however limited it may be.
The effort was monumental, unceasing, and painful. Prayer was constant. Charlie did learn to speak. After years, he learned to walk by falling forward, then stopping the motion with his more-developed leg.
As I began my first day at school, Charlie came to my desk and whispered that in this class he thought we should begin with prayer. From then on, whenever Charlie prayed, he thanked Heavenly Father for the sunshine on sunny days and for the rain on drizzly days. He was grateful for birds he had seen as he rode to school. And he was always thankful for the progress someone in the class had made the day before. “Thank you, Heavenly Father, that Nancy learned to tie her shoelaces, and that Mark learned his addings sixes.” Soon, all the children wanted a turn at saying the prayer, and the spirit of gratitude, not discouragement, became the standard.
Nothing came easy for any of the children in the class, but every day I felt the Spirit of the Lord with them. I knew that Heavenly Father had a very special love for them and that if they continued in their sweet goodness, his greatest reward would be theirs.
I finished bearing my testimony and telling Charlie’s story, then sat down, trembling.
As the meeting closed and Grandma and I were hurrying out so I could begin the long drive home, I felt someone touch my arm. I turned to see the young mother whose baby had been blessed. “May I speak with you?” she asked.
As I centered my attention on the woman, she began to cry. “You may have noticed that on this warm spring day, my baby was kept all bundled up while she was blessed. That is because she has a deformed arm.
“This is the first time I have left our house since she was born,” the young mother continued. “I haven’t wanted anyone to see her. I didn’t even want her blessed in our own ward. I’ve been worrying about how she may be treated as time goes on. I keep thinking people will stare, and children will make fun of her. I didn’t want her to feel that kind of pain.”
She reached out and took my hand. “Thank you for bearing your testimony today. Through you, the Lord has opened my foolish eyes. I have been hoping for answers to my questions for weeks, but I haven’t been ready to listen. I am going to be the best mother the Lord could ever have given her. Together we can meet whatever challenges may come.”
She glanced around to find her husband. When their eyes met, she smiled and he walked toward us. It was evident that a vision of understanding had filled his heart too. He unfolded the pink blanket, and the young mother lovingly lifted the little one out of her covering. “She’s really beautiful, isn’t she?”
I looked down at a sweet, glowing face and replied with conviction, “As beautiful as an angel!”
As they walked down the steps and out into the warm spring morning, I realized why it had been so important for me to be there in that ward on that Sunday and to share that story. Silently I thanked the Lord for allowing me to be a part of touching someone’s life and sharing His love.