A Story of a Little Dog for the Sabbath


In this past General Conference, Elder Holland gave a beautiful talk about "the greatest possession." It's really a marvelous talk. Let me quote some of it, and then tell you a story:

“What is the key to this breakthrough in contented, happy living? It is embedded there in the text in one sentence: “The love of God … did dwell in the hearts of the people.” When the love of God sets the tone for our own lives, for our relationships to each other and ultimately our feeling for all humankind, then old distinctions, limiting labels, and artificial divisions begin to pass away, and peace increases. That is precisely what happened in our Book of Mormon example. No longer were there Lamanites, or Jacobites, or Josephites, or Zoramites. There were no “-ites” at all. The people had taken on just one transcendent identity. They were all, it says, to be known as “the children of Christ.”

“Of course, we are speaking here of the first great commandment given to the human family—to love God wholeheartedly, without reservation or compromise, that is, with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. This love of God is the first great commandment in the universe. But the first great truth in the universe is that God loves us exactly that way—wholeheartedly, without reservation or compromise, with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. And when those majestic forces from His heart and ours meet without restraint, there is a veritable explosion of spiritual, moral power. Then, as Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “for [the] second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

“It is then, and really only then, that we can effectively keep the second great commandment in ways that are not superficial or trivial. If we love God enough to try to be fully faithful to Him, He will give us the ability, the capacity, the will, and the way to love our neighbor and ourselves. Perhaps then we will be able to say once again, “There could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.””

Elder Holland really is right that when you finally get to the point where you feel how wildly God loves you, you can never be the same. It strikes you even harder when you already have children and you know how wild and strong the love you have for your children is--and then to find it in God (and about you) just takes your breath away! One you feel that abundance of love for you, then you know that you are enough. And you know there is enough and to spare. It's just a different world.

And Elder Holland is also right that it changes how you keep the second great commandment. When you are filled with that abundance of the love of God, then you begin overflowing yourself. All of a sudden, giving and serving and loving is not some chore . . . it just becomes who you are. I don't know how to explain it better than that.

Now, of course, it is true that you don't feel that way 24/7/365. But having felt that way even once really does change your world and your life, and sets you on a better path. Your horizons are larger; the world is a bigger place than you had known. And the people are no longer "just" people, but truly your brothers and sisters as well as being the princes and princesses of heaven.

Every mother knows that her child hasn't the foggiest idea how much she loves them. They may never "get" it. And that makes it all the harder when your chldren reject your advice and counsel; it stings because there is literally no one else in the world that loves them as much as you do. It is through these experiences as a mother that we begin to understand God's perspective more. And then when we are finally given a taste of God's love for us, we do "get it." We want to turn to God, and put our whole trust in God, because God loves us so much. This great truth turns the hearts of God's children to God. And I think that is God's glory.

Here is the little story I wanted to tell tonight. It's not some amazing, awe-inspiring story. It's just a little story in a lifetime of stories, many of them about mothering. But this little incident changed me forever.

The year was 1999. I was working as a professor at BYU, and had four kids with another due in just a month's time. My fourth child John, we had learned, had cystic fibrosis, and we were in the midst of an intense journey to find something that would help save his life. We had decided as a couple not to allow CF to stop our plans to have more children, and there was a real possibility the child I was carrying would have CF, too. (And we later found out that he did.)

My daughter Ariel and I were driving down Orem Center Street, and for some reason the traffic was very heavy. All of a sudden I heard a honk and a screech of brakes and an animal's scream of pain. Diagonally in front of us a car had hit a small dog, who lay in the street in front of us. The driver who hit the dog just kept right on going. Nobody stopped at all.

I remember seeing that little dog in the road, and all I could think of was my little toddler with CF. The dog was helpless and wounded, and no one cared. I was overcome with emotion. I stoped the car, squeezed my 8 month pregnant body out from behind the steering wheel, told my daughter to stay in the car, and got out to help the dog.

I stopped traffic in that lane, and because I couldn't bend over to pick him up, I got down on both my knees and scooped his limp body up, and with a prayer in my heart I asked God for help to get back up. I brought him to the side of the road, and set him down carefully in the grass. His head suddenly jerked up, and he was off running into a row of houses. I didn't know if he was going to be okay, but there was no way to catch him to find out.

With another prayer in my heart, I got back on my fett and got in the car . . . and then it hit me and I began sobbing. What hit me at that moment was a wave of love like I had not experienced before. I felt how much God loved my little Johnny, how much God loved that little dog, and how much God loved me, and how much I loved John, all rolled together in one huge tsunami of divine love.

My heart and God's heart beat as one in that moment, and I felt I understood God's heart in a way I never had before. I knew for certain God's motivations. I have never been the same since. Once you know how God feels about you, you can never turn away from God or the commandments. The reality of God's passionate love for you changes your whole life. Once we come to a knowledge of God's love for us, we cannot help but want to reciprocate it. The hearts of God's children turning to God is what all of heaven yearns to see.

May a similar experience be yours to cherish. Have a blessed sabbath . . .