Had I Misjudged?
October 2000

“Had I Misjudged?” Ensign, Oct. 2000, 66–67

Had I Misjudged?

I arrived at the Tabernacle early one Saturday morning for general conference. As an usher, I was to be there before the doors opened at 6:00 A.M. for the first session. Most of the seats were filled by 7:00, but there were a few single seats here and there. Many times these seats were filled by visitors to Temple Square who would wander in not fully understanding what was happening. They were normally dressed in casual attire, and often, feeling out of place, they would soon get up and leave.

I remember one young man, however, who was sent to my section along the south balcony.

I had one vacant seat on the top row. As he approached, I could tell he was not there specifically for conference. He was dressed in a somewhat shabby flannel shirt and wrinkled pants. His hair was not combed and looked as though he had not washed it in several days. He also had a strong tobacco odor about him.

After greeting him and showing him to the vacant seat, I immediately received several stares and other expressions of disapproval from those around him. It was obvious they had come to hear the messages from the Brethren and were not pleased to have to endure the smell of tobacco for the next couple of hours. I thought to myself, He’ll soon realize what is happening and leave. Then these people can relax and enjoy conference. Fifteen minutes passed, then 20. The session would begin soon. Once the lights dimmed, I realized this young man was not going to leave, and I began to sympathize with those around him.

As the session progressed, I watched the young man. He was listening more closely than many of those around him. Others’ heads nodded as they dozed. He sat intently listening to every word. Each message was being devoured by a hungry soul seeking nourishment.

What touched me most was when the congregation stood to sing the closing hymn, “The Spirit of God” (Hymns, no. 2). The young man stood with the rest. He joined in singing all the verses without a book or paper, never missing a word. As he sang, tears flowed down his cheeks. Oh, how I have misjudged this young man, I thought. He knew exactly why he was there. And he was touched by the Spirit that had brought him there in the first place. Others noticed what I had, and the looks on their faces told me they felt as ashamed as I did.

The greatest lessons I learned during that conference session came from a humble young man seeking something he had lost. I learned that I shouldn’t judge others and that lessons learned in our youth, even when dim, can be rekindled by the Holy Ghost.

  • Blaine K. Gehring is a member of the East Millcreek Fourth Ward, Salt Lake East Millcreek Stake.

Illustrated by Brian Call