Elder David A. Bednar was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in October Conference of 2004, filling one of the two places vacated when Elders Neal A. Maxwell and David B. Haight passed away. Elder Bednar’s powerful and eloquent speaking style made him a favorite among Church members. And at the April 2005 Conference, Elder Bednar gave a talk titled “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” that became an instant classic.
Elder Bednar related how, in the midst of the great uncertainties and self doubts that flooded his mind as he prepared to address the Church for the first time, his troubled heart was calmed when the congregation sung his personal favorite hymn, “Redeemer of Israel,” just before he rose to speak. Elder Bednar related:
Now, the music for the various conference sessions had been determined many weeks before—and obviously long before my new call to serve. If, however, I had been invited to suggest an intermediate hymn for that particular session of the conference—a hymn that would have been both edifying and spiritually soothing for me and for the congregation before my first address in this Conference Center—I would have selected my favorite hymn, “Redeemer of Israel.” Tears filled my eyes as I stood with you to sing that stirring hymn of the Restoration.
Elder Bednar then went on to testify that “the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.” (Emphasis added).
I thought of this talk today because I had a really lousy day today. It was one of those days my brain was just spiraling out of control. I spent 10 hours at work and I don’t think I got 6 hours of useful work done. I was seized by what I can only describe as a paralyzing panic attack related to my GID. I spent two hours basically staring at a document and accomplishing absolutely nothing useful with it. I did a sudoku puzzle to try to just unwind my brain, but when I turned back to my document, I couldn’t do anything with it. I was useless.
I managed to scrape through to the end of the day, and while I was waiting for the bus, my mind was running wild with self-destructive thoughts I won’t describe here.
Did I mention I was scheduled for exchanges with the missionaries that evening? I did not exactly feel up to it. But I went. And it was a wonderful experience. After spending an hour and a half visiting with some less active friends, I felt so much better. And then, just as we were wrapping up, my wife called and said that my parents had just stopped by.
I had no idea why my parents had stopped by, but I immediately thought, “Wow, I sure could use a blessing tonight.” I figured my Dad would just be in street clothes, and normally he prefers to wear a tie to give a blessing, but this was an emergency.
Well, as it turns out, my parents had just been to a viewing for an old friend. So my Dad was wearing a suit. And I was wearing a suit, so it worked out nicely when my wife also requested that we give my daughter, who has recently been diagnosed with precocious puberty, a blessing.
When my father gave me a blessing, the words he spoke weren’t earth shattering. He reminded me that I have been given many gifts and blessings, but as the Lord tells us in Ether 12:27, He also gives unto men weakness that they may be humble. Apparently, I still need to learn how to rely on the Lord more.
So I’d like to quote a verse from Elder Bednar’s favorite hymn. It’s the fifth verse, and unfortunately, it doesn’t get sung much because we tend to ignore the later verses dangling at the bottom of the page of our hymnbook (this made for some interesting problems when verses 4-5 of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” were at the bottom in the old hymn books). But it’s my favorite verse in this hymn.
5. Restore, my dear Savior,
The light of thy face;
Thy soul-cheering comfort impart;
And let the sweet longing
For thy holy place
Bring hope to my desolate heart.
I testify that today I witnessed a tender mercy of the Lord. My father’s unplanned visit to my house was not random or merely by coincidence. The Lord knew that I was faltering and drowning. As He did for His drowning disciple Peter, He reached out and, showing His tender mercy, saved me from the tumultuous storm.