Monday, November 18, 2013

What of the Ninety and Nine?

As my final blog post, I wanted to include the text of the letter I read in Sacrament meeting. While it is impossible to adequately capture the torrent of emotions that come from being released, I tried to summarize our almost four-years experience into a short one-page letter.

Please understand how very much Sister Heiss and I grew to love each one of you. You are a light in our lives that will never dim. With the power of social media, it will be simple to stay in touch in the short and long term. Please keep us posted on the great things you will accomplish.

We love you all very much.

                                                                            Sunday, November 17,  2013                      
Dear Amy:
It seems odd that I would use my last opportunity to address my ward from this pulpit by reading a letter to you. Odd, because you are not a member of this ward. In fact, we only recently became acquainted as you and Scott participated in my marriage prep discussions.

So, why read a letter to you on this of all Sundays?

Well, in the short time we have known each other, I see in this relationship a microcosm of the miracle of this ward. So though I am writing a letter to you, I am really writing a letter to all ward members --past and present.  

One of the most intimidating aspects of being a Bishop is the amount of trust ward members afforded me without even knowing who I am. I realize it is the office of Bishop that they trust and not so much in me as a person. But the key to working successfully with people is transforming that automatic trust to a more personal trust.

As we met together, I saw your trust in my calling quickly change to a personal trust. It is so strange how that happened but I sincerely appreciated it. You had no need to trust me. I was not your Bishop. Still, you trusted. This miracle happened repeatedly as I worked with my ward members. I feel this personal trust was the direct result of you feeling genuinely loved.

My guess is that throughout your life you did all those things that were expected of you. Because of your goodness, most priesthood and young women leaders worried less about you than they did about others; hence, your needs, which were real, were mostly ignored.

For the most part this probably didn't bother you. But over time, this benign neglect as a result of your good choices left you on the periphery. Leaders will say that they were following Christ’s example and leaving the ninety and nine to seek after the one. I do not agree with that. True, there are times when extra effort must be devoted to those who wander, but what about the ninety and nine?

We learn in Isaiah 53:6 we are all like sheep and we all go astray, everyone to his own way. This verse became the genesis of a grand experiment I performed in the laboratory of this ward. What would happen if all ward members were treated with special attention? What if I assumed that none were of the ninety and nine?

It took time to develop this idea, but through you, I saw that we had truly accomplished this goal. You were able to develop that personal trust in me, because you felt loved. Through small and simple acts of kindness, be it a cheer note, a sincere compliment, a heart to heart conversation, or just a smile, the miracle of this ward was manifest in the love and community we have enjoyed and still enjoy to this day.

As I have often said, we are all in leaky boats on the ocean of mortality. At times we need others to help us stay afloat. Sometimes others need us to keep them afloat. The key to our success in mortality is our ability to love (by helping others bail out their boats) and to be loved (by allowing others to help us bail out our boats).

Thank you, Amy, for allowing us to love you.


Reid Heiss