“What I Learned at Carthage,” Ensign, Oct. 2001, 62–63
How was the Prophet Joseph Smith able to accomplish what he did despite trials and suffering? What did Heavenly Father bless him with that allowed him to endure so much and at the same time strengthen others? Sitting on a bench outside of Carthage Jail in Illinois one autumn day, I reflected on these questions and on my own responsibilities as a priesthood leader.
My thoughts drifted to a family back home in Salt Lake City, where I served as a bishop. Ken and his wife, Miriam, had recently returned to activity in the Church, but Ken had died not long afterward. Having to travel east on business, I would not be able to attend the funeral service. My heart ached that I couldn’t be there to help nurture the family during their time of sorrow.
I expressed in prayer how much I loved Ken. As I did so, I was filled with an overpowering sense of love, and I realized that by saying the words “I love you” to others around me, I could share God’s love and touch their hearts. I reflected that God’s love must have been an essential source of the Prophet’s strength.
Tears rolled down my face as I sat there on the bench and reflected on the faithfulness of the Prophet and many of his associates. No matter what was done to them, the undeniable and unequaled love from God sustained them.
It became clear to me that any words I might speak and any leadership skills I might have would not be sufficient to sustain Ken’s family and the rest of the ward. What they would need to help them be equal to their struggles and hardships was the power of God’s love. I realized that to be an effective bishop, I would need to be an instrument through whom the Lord could manifest His love to the people I served. And I knew that the Lord’s love could help compensate for my own limitations and give me strength to face my challenges.
As I sat there, I reflected on the example of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was instrumental in changing the lives of many because he allowed the Lord to manifest His love to the people through him. Many people who at one time were considered adversaries of the Church changed their thinking when they met the Prophet and felt of the peace and love that radiated from him.
How grateful I am to have had this realization that autumn day in Illinois. I know that when I am willing to express the words “I love you” to people, the Lord is more able to work through me to touch their hearts, lighten their burdens, and help resolve their problems.