When I was a young man, I served as counselor to a wise district president in the Church. He tried to teach me. One of the things I remember wondering about was this advice he gave: “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.” (Henry B. Eyring, “In the Strength of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2004, 16)
This quote from Elder Eyring pierced me when I heard it a year ago. I find it profound. I am disturbed by how true it is. People have trouble in this world, and sometimes they have lots of it.
I heard news recently that hit me like uppercut to the gut. We got a call from an old friend. She informed us that her husband, someone I have long considered a real and trustworthy friend and fellow saint, had left her and their three young daughters. In addition, this young BYU grad, returned missionary, and former member of a bishopric had proclaimed he no longer believes there is a God and intends to remove his name from the records of the Church. We were devastated to hear the news. Why would he do such a thing? What could lead him to such a decision? What could have changed this loving father and husband into the type of man that could walk out on his family like that?
Well the jury is still out on that. Perhaps we will discover there was another person (male or female) that seduced him away. Perhaps it was some combination of the Devil’s GPA that called to him and convinced him it was worth it to abandon ship on his Christian life. I suspect details will slowly come forth that reveal what changed in this man’s life that ended up changing his very character enough to allow him to make such a choice. In the meantime we mourn his change and the terrible pain his girls have already suffered for it and will continue to suffer for it.
Obviously this friend was a person who was in serious trouble. I must confess that this news in part led me to write my rather strident posts on our need to stay in a dialogue with God. I know one thing for certain – no one that is involved in regular dialogic prayer with God will ever become an atheist!
I am angry at this friend of mine. I’m angry that he didn’t try hard enough to break through and clearly hear the voice of God speaking back to him. I’m angry that he did not do something early on about this spiritual cancer that apparently started in his life years ago. I’m angry that he never sought help from me or anyone to head off this disaster. I’m angry that he will not return my phone calls now. I’m angry that he has so deeply wounded our dear friend, his wife, and those innocent little girls.
And yet I mourn for him to. I mourn for the pain he will face when he realizes the gravity of what he is doing. I mourn for the horrible place he must have come to spiritually and emotionally that would allow him to justify such actions… I mourn that my friend is gone and has become someone else entirely. I mourn that I did not and probably could not have stopped this.
Whenever you talk with someone, assume they are in serious trouble and you will be right more than half the time.