The Right Scripture at the Right Time

“The Right Scripture at the Right Time,” Ensign, August 2012, 72

The Right Scripture at the Right Time

Allen Hunsaker, Arizona, USA

While serving as an assistant chaplain in the Maricopa County Jail system in Arizona, USA, I would visit and share a scripture and prayer with detainees who requested a Latter-day Saint chaplain. On one occasion a young woman made such a request.

I went to her area of the jail, which was behind several locked doors. The reception area had two cafeteria-style tables with a bench on each side and one desk with a guard. I gave the guard the request slip, slid onto one of the benches, and waited for the young woman.

I arose as she entered the reception area, greeted her, and suggested we sit at the table. She looked sad and unkempt and was on the verge of tears. As she discussed her situation, I considered what scripture I would share. I listened carefully to her concerns, and as she disclosed the difficulties she had had with various compulsive behaviors and poor choices, I thought of the perfect scripture to help her: Mosiah 3:19.

I opened the Book of Mormon to Mosiah 3:19, pushed it toward her, and asked her to read. She seemed a little disgruntled at first and began reading in a fast, singsong voice that seemed to express annoyance at being asked to read a scripture. As she finished the first phrase, “For the natural man is an enemy to God,” I interrupted to explain the meaning of “natural man.” When she understood the reference, she continued to read. Her voice gradually changed tone, and she slowed down as the words began to make sense to her.

When she started to read the list of childlike attributes of “a saint,” she slowed down even more. I could tell she was absorbing the meaning of each attribute listed in the verse. When she read “submissive, meek, humble, patient,” I began to feel the Spirit all around us. As she read the words “full of love, willing to submit,” I witnessed a change in her. Her face brightened and her attitude, tone of voice, and general manner seemed affected by the Spirit. I could see hope as she was taught by the Spirit what these words meant to her and how she should make the changes described in the scripture.

I said a prayer and then shook the young woman’s hand warmly. I left the jail on a spiritual high. I had never before seen such an immediate, powerful, magnificent effect from the scriptures. I knew Mosiah 3:19 because I have frequently encountered it while reading the scriptures, but never before had I understood the depth of the impact it could have on someone.