18 April 2012

An Evening Visit with...

Sister Julie B. Beck
Former President of the Relief Society

As she was responsible, during her tenure, for over five million women (of which I am one) I never met her personally, though I watched her televised addresses and read articles by and about her. From the time I was about 16 to now she was a landmark figure in the LDS Church, and thus in my life.

Tonight I sat in her living room for an hour and listened to her and her husband's stories of her travels and her experiences while serving the women of the Church. The conversation ranged from audiences with President Bush and Michelle Obama to meeting the first child born in the covenant in a 2,000-year-old Peruvian society, to a chapel in the heart of the impoverished Congo where the members wore stunning white and sang the hymns of the Restoration with a fervor that makes our American efforts "pale" in comparison  (I'm sure her pun was intended).

I sat across from her and listened to her stories of association with Apostles and beloved Prophets (especially President Gordon B. Hinckley), of world travel among the members of the Church and a life dedicated to service in the Church, and my heart ballooned with warm, peaceful pride for the Church I belong to, the heritage that runs in my blood, and the women's organization to which I belong.

She is quiet and gracious, though her professional vigor has not erased itself completely in the three weeks she's been released. Her voice softened as she remembered the faith of those impoverished Saints in the Congo, and it lilted when she talked about buying hammocks during one trip in Brazil. As she told us that a ward in Argentina had seen 14 weddings in one month, she raised her eyebrows at us, the group of ten single adults in her living room who could not seem to make a relationship stick. 

Charming and polished, she riveted our attention for an hour, and the Spirit that filled the room as she spoke cemented me to my seat. I did not want to leave. As I listened to her, eyes fastened on her beautiful, still tired face, I felt impressed that I was in the presence of one of the Lord's grand servants still, and I felt a mustering to improvement in my heart. Like even the faintest of fife and drums, it stirred me.

She embraced me as we left, and though I do not usually warm to strangers so quickly, I returned the gesture heartily, wishing I had time and words to express to her my gratitude for her years of service and for the way she and the Spirit touched my heart tonight.

As if it mirrored my own feelings, the sun broke through for the first time today as we left her home, and an enormous rainbow streaked itself boldly across the mountain backdrop. 

To be in the personal presence of one who has dedicated her life to the Lord, who exudes His love to others and who has worn herself out in His service—the light that shone in her line-worn face, the peace she publishes even now in her quiet, loving attitude—was something I shall not soon forget. I hope someday to have a heart as great as hers, to serve the Lord as well in my own place, and to grow close to Him as she has.


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