An excerpt from The Peacegiver, published by Deseret Book.
For ten minutes, grandfather and grandson stood quietly upon Olivet. For Rick, it was a time for reflection and commitment.
He understood perfectly well that the heart that needed replacing was his own. The Savior atoned for all of us, to be sure, but his grandfather had brought him to this hillside tonight. He felt, as all who come to the Savior do, that it was for his own sinful heart, above all, that the Savior was suffering, and for the raising of his own corrupt flesh to incorruption that the Savior would die on Calvary. It was for this reason that he was overcome not only with solemnity, the way one might be when attending the funeral of a distant acquaintance, but with overflowing gratitude as well, the way Rick was at the funeral of the man he now stood beside-a funeral where he couldn’t stop crying long after it was done, because of the depth of love he felt for him.
Among the many wonders of it all was this one: The Savior suffered an eternity’s worth on account of Rick’s bitter heart, but he loved him an eternity’s worth in return. How is it possible? Rick wondered. How is it done?
“He is one with you, Ricky. That is the answer you seek.”
“How is that the answer?”
Grandpa Carson now turned to look at him once more. “When you tore your rotator cuff in college, Ricky, did you afterwards abuse your shoulder? By that I mean, did you get angry at it and treat it roughly?”
“Of course not.”
“Why not? It was causing you pain.”
“Because it was my own shoulder. What good would it do to hurt it further? I’d only be hurting myself.”
And then it dawned on him what his grandfather meant.
We are one with our bodies, and for that reason, we don’t react to a pain in a member of the body by inflicting that member with more pain. On the contrary, we dress it, and succor it, and nurse it back to health. If anything, we love most those parts of us that bring us the most pain. For they need us the most, and we, them.
“It is as if we are parts-” Rick whispered.
“Of the body of Christ,” his grandfather said, completing the thought.
“Yes, the body of Christ,'” Rick repeated, lost in this thought.
His grandfather extended to him the book that he had read from before. Rick had not noticed it in his hands.
Husbands, love your wives, he read, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
“After tonight, Ricky, you will have a greater understanding of these words. For the Lord took our infirmities-the infirmities of body and spirit-into his own body and spirit. We are one with him, not just metaphorically, but in actual fact. The scars man has given him bind us to his flesh for the eternities.
“Having become one with us, he takes our pains as his pains. He nourishes and cherishes us. And this he does to sanctify and cleanse us, that we should be made holy and without blemish, as we must be if we are to live with his Spirit in mortality and dwell with the Father in the eternities.
“With Paul, I declare: So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.’ All of us at times create difficulty for our spouses and others, Ricky, as we’ve talked about before. And all of our spouses at times create difficulty for us, just as our joints sometimes ache and our limbs sometimes break. Here is how you will know whether you are one with your Carol: when, as you would for a limb or a joint, you cherish and nourish her when she is hurting. Do so, and you will feel nourished and cherished yourself.”
Grandpa paused. “It is time for me to return to your grandmother. I have been away, and I miss her so. I spent too many of our years separated from her under the same roof-married, but not one, Church-going, but rarely Christian.”
“So what brought you together, Grandpa?” Rick asked sincerely.
“He did,” he said, nodding toward the Garden.
“There was a period of our marriage that was very dark. And when I say a period,’ I mean a period of years-perhaps as many as fifteen to twenty years. I felt neglected, taken advantage of, abused. And as time went on, I began to flirt with the idea of a life without her. What would it be like? Surely it would be better. I didn’t really take the thought seriously at first, but I gave place to it, and it grew within me. As year stacked upon year, the thought grew sharper, and as it did, our life together grew worse. I tried to keep all this from the grandchildren, knowing how it would hurt them, and for the most part I thought I had succeeded-although you have taught me differently,” he added, with a weak smile.
“Your parents knew about our struggles, however. And it was a good thing they did. One day, your father came looking for me out in the lower pasture. He had just been up at the house. Grandma was out, and he had happened to go into her sewing room to grab a pair of scissors.
There in the drawer was a rather formal looking legal document. When he looked at it, he was shocked to discover a draft of divorce papers. Your grandmother was going to divorce me.”
Rick felt like he had been knocked in the chest, the revelation stunned him so.
“This was news to me,” his grandfather continued, “although when I heard it I wasn’t entirely surprised. And in a way I think I even felt a little relieved. I was less emotional about it than your father would have liked, and he left frustrated and worried. I went back to my chores with a little extra vigor, reciting in my mind all the terrible things your grandmother had done to me over the years. The more I remembered the madder I became, until I was fairly chucking hay about in a rage.
“In the midst of it, however, something spoke to me. It wasn’t yet a voice, but I knew there was something untruthful in my rage-something overdone, something too convincing. Finally, I went into the barn and knelt to the earth. Why me, Father?’ I cried. Why have I had to spend my years in such pain?’
“You didn’t have to,’ came a voice.
“What do you mean I didn’t have to’?’
“If you had come unto me,’ the voice said, it all would have been different.’
“The words struck me like a thunderbolt, and I began to pray for more understanding. What do you mean, Come unto you? What would have been different?’
“What happened next I can’t fully describe. A vision of sorts opened to me. I saw my life with your grandmother. As our days and years together raced before my eyes, I was shown something astonishing. I noticed a light that shone from us. Or rather, I noticed a light that sometimes shone from us-and sometimes more brightly than others.
“It was given me to know that we all shine forth a portion of the Lord’s glory, and that we shine more brightly when we are living closest to him. Usually we do not perceive this light with our eyes, but you have felt it at times when you have been in the presence of saintly men and women-those who so fully reflect the Savior’s light that it is tangible, if not visible, to those around them. To be in their presence is like being in the presence of a perfectly sung note. Their lives resonate. They pierce, they move, they motivate, they sing. And this because they live in tune with the Master.
“I noticed as I observed our lives that my light was growing dimmer. Something else that astonished me was that your grandmother’s light was nearly always brighter than mine. This was particularly true in the moments I was most convinced of her inadequacy. Her light, too, was growing dimmer, however, with each succeeding year of our marriage, and at that moment, for the first time, I started to feel sorry. I broke down and cried as I hadn’t in years.
“I was almost surprised to find how much all of a sudden I wanted to avoid divorce. I lifted my voice again to the heavens, this time begging for the Lord to save my marriage.
“It is not your marriage that needs saving, Dale,’ came the voice. It is your love.’
“Learn to love Elisabeth with my love, and then, whether your marriage continues or not, you will have gained a companion.’
“What do you mean, Lord?’ I cried. But my marriage-‘”
“Your concern for your marriage is still a concern for self. Love Elly even if she chooses to divorce you. Then you will be married indeed.'”
Grandpa Carson became emotional at the memory. “My life has not been the same since that moment, Ricky, and I’d venture to say that neither has your grandmother’s.
“We didn’t divorce, thank the Lord, although it was touch and go for awhile. But I felt the Lord’s Spirit and sustaining strength through that time. And for a period of a week, I was still allowed to witness the light that shines from men. I saw it shining from my precious Elisabeth, dimmed by our mutual distress, but shining still, even when I walked into the house that day. This light brightened and sustained me.
“Do you understand, now, Ricky, why I was selected to meet with you?”
Rick nodded, his heart overflowing with gratitude for his grandfather’s love, and with a new appreciation for his grandmother.
“I know your pain, Son. And having come together with Elisabeth, I know Carol’s as well.
“But more than that, I know the joy that was forged in Gethsemane. I know the Savior’s mercy and love. I have felt it, I have bathed in it, I have been saved by it. And I continue to be saved by it every day.”
Rick was mildly surprised by this comment.
“You think because I have already died that I have no need for the Lord? The need for the atonement reaches far past the grave, Ricky. If I stand before you worthy, it is only because of the merits of the Son of God. I shudder in this place as well, for I know that it is for my sinfulness that the Lord is suffering.”
Rick stood in silence.
“My prayer now is for you, my boy.”
“Thank you, Grandpa,” Rick said, choking out the words.
“Is there something that still troubles you?”
“Yes, one thing.”
“What is it?”