By Louise Byrd
It’s been over thirty-seven years since I was converted into the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was early spring. I was a young mother in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My first calling was as a Visiting Teaching Supervisor. My Relief Society President* informed me it was a goal to visit EVERY SISTER in person EACH MONTH. I took it to heart. I expected the members to call by the 25th of the month with their reports. I would then go and visit any sister that had not been visited-so we would have 100% in my assigned district. I thought this was my job, and I was determined to do it the best I could.
The Relief Society President forgot to tell me that Jane was an alcoholic and had requested NO VISITS. I am so glad no one told me! On the last day of the month I only had one sister left to visit from the list, and the remaining sister had no telephone. I got a neighbor to watch my baby and set out to visit Jane, armed with a plate of homemade brownies. I vividly recall finding the address and parking my car in front of her house. The front yard was overgrown with high weeds and there were piles of trash and debris everywhere. I was sure the loud squeak as I pushed open the broken gate had announced my arrival. I literally had to move wine bottles and beer cans aside on the porch to make a path to the door. I said a little prayer for Heavenly Father to help and be with me. I apprehensively knocked on the peeled, painted door.
Jane was a mess in soiled and crumpled clothes with tangled hair. A stale stench hit my nostrils and she told me, “The maid didn’t come this week, so the house is a mess. Go away! Whatever you are peddling, I don’t want any!” Jane tried to shut the door. Looking back, I can hardly believe what I did next. I actually put my foot in the door, explaining I was from her church and had a lesson to give her. I gently, but firmly went on into the house. Jane’s mouth opened in disbelief. I moved stacks of junk from two chairs. Not knowing any better at the time, I sat down and proceeded to share the month’s Relief Society lesson. Jane just stared at me. I finished and said a closing prayer and left, letting her know that I would return. She stumbled to the door and slammed it behind me.
Jane was constantly on my mind. I could not get her out of my thoughts. So, I returned the next week and the next. I visited Jane every week. I’d give her a thought from a Relief Society lesson, take a poem, cookies, a casserole. Months went by one crisp day in early fall on a weekly visit, the yard’s weeds were leveled and much of the trash was gone. The wine bottles and beer cans had disappeared from the porch.
Jane met me at the door smiling. Her little house had been transformed into a clean, fresh smelling home, Jane, too, was clean and tidy! Jane did the talking that day. She told me that she had gone into a deep depression when her husband left her for a younger woman. She started drinking and didn’t care about anything and just wanted to die. She also told me she had really resented my coming at first. She laughed and said she had decided it was probably hopeless to stop the zeal of a new young convert, so she figured she would endure the visits and I would eventually give up. She also confessed that when she began to realize my persistence was there to stay, she began to actually look forward to my visits. Jane drank to numb her pain. As she stopped drinking, she began to think more clearly. She said she also realized that for me to get a babysitter and take time to visit her every week, I must really care about her!
I told her how overwhelmed I felt. I told her how proud I was of her recent transformation and all her accomplishments. We hugged and we cried. Jane asked me for a lesson. She further surprised me when she asked if she could give the closing prayer. My heart leapt for joy!! The spirit was so strong. I had never felt humbler and happier.
A couple weeks later, Jane showed up at a homemaking Relief Society meeting at the church. About a month later she slipped into a Sunday Sacrament Service. Eventually Jane was a regular. Several years later Jane moved back East. She is currently in her Relief Society Presidency serving as the Homemaking Counselor. How blessed I was as a new member to learn the rewards of patience, faith, love and diligence.
"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh not evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."
*Relief Society is the worldwide women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its purpose is to help prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity to help those in need.