“A Very Special Tablecloth,” Liahona, Feb. 2003, 45–46
In 1995 I returned from my last trip through the vast Argentina Córdoba Mission, having served as counselor to the mission president for eight unforgettable years. A new calling as president of the Villa Allende Branch was waiting for me. Twice before I had held that position in other units. As always I was grateful for the opportunity to serve. My new calling made me think about the growth of the Church in my part of Argentina; one particular experience made me even more grateful for my heritage in the gospel.
Forty years before that time, the original branch in Córdoba was divided. From that first division, a branch (now the Villa Belgrano Ward) was created west of the city. It was the basis for many other units created in subsequent years.
Each time a new branch was organized, the Villa Belgrano Ward, like the generous trunk of a robust tree, provided to the tender young shoots part of its leadership and membership and also donated whatever materials it could: a pulpit, chairs, tables, sacrament trays, and so forth. After a new branch was fully equipped, these extra items were again donated to other new branches. In this way furniture and other items were scattered as they were put to good use.
Today the little branch in Villa Allende is a ward with a beautiful meetinghouse and an excellent young bishop. But in 1995, when I began serving as branch president, we met in a large, old rented house. One Sunday when we were meeting in the old house, one of my counselors and I were blessing the sacrament. It had been years since I had officiated in this sacred ordinance; usually our young Aaronic Priesthood bearers enjoyed that privilege.
At first I paid no particular attention to the white tablecloth covering the sacrament trays. But as we stood to break the bread, the words santa cena (sacrament), beautifully embroidered and standing out in relief, made my heart beat fast and my eyes fill with tears.
In a simple, ordinary way Heavenly Father reminded me of the many blessings I had received during 60 years as a member of His true Church. Those embroidered letters were unmistakable. Forty years before, my mother, who along with my father was a pioneer in our city, had taken a piece of linen from her trousseau and asked me to write in the middle of it the words santa cena. She then delicately embroidered over the letters and donated to the branch its first tablecloth.
During our years of continual growth, changes, moves, and new units, I had sometimes wondered about the tablecloth. Had it burned in the Villa Belgrano meetinghouse fire in 1979?
But here it was safely in front of me. It brought to mind so many experiences, as well as a deep well of gratitude. After so many unit divisions and hundreds of washings and ironings and after being cared for by many loving hands, it was still giving service—far from the branch where it began but still in the Church after more than 40 years.
At that faraway time when the tablecloth was first made, I was serving as a brand-new, very young branch president for the first time. Many things had changed and grown during the intervening years; many other things had remained the same. I remembered and treasured both the things that change and the things that do not as I renewed my acquaintance with that very special tablecloth.