My companion in the MTC was an Elder W. We got along fine, but it was only a few days in during companion study that he broke down.
He was saying that he didn’t feel right, and that he had made some wrong choices that he hadn’t repented of.
And thus began a long process of interviews for him, and patience for me. As it turns out, the MTC authorities were trying to decide if he would stay a missionary. They finally passed judgment on to a General Authority, (who that was, I’ve no idea) and it came down to a week before we leave the MTC. That Sunday, he got called in at dinner by the district president to meet, but he was told to eat first.
So we ate, and headed over. As we walked, Elder W wanted to say a prayer as we walked. He walked calmly and quietly, and the prayer he said went something like this, “Father, I don’t want to go home, but thy will be done.”
Naturally, my mind went to his quoted scripture. As Christ suffered, he asked that the Father take this cup from him, but “nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done.”
Well, the district president, for one reason or another, wasn’t around, so we decided to go back in the morning.
That night, we all in the zone decided to bring all the food our families and girlfriends had sent us into the hall, and have a feast.
Someone mentioned that it’s like the Last Supper, a reference to the missionaries leaving that next morning or week.
How hard must it have been to feast with the Savior, as he tells you that this is the last time you eat together?
As we went to sleep that night, Elder W told us about his life, stories, and miracles he saw.
He said that this will likely be the last night he spends with us. He bore testimony of the Atonement and God’s love. I recall thinking, “No, No you’ll stay here. You have a repentant heart, and you’ll stay here.”
It was likely very similar for the Apostles of Christ. Did they hear Christ say how he had very little time left on Earth, and say “No. You won’t die. God wouldn’t do that to you. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
The next morning, we woke up normally, and went to class. In that class, we talked about the Holy Spirit. In John 14:26-27, it says:
“26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
“27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
How comforting! Knowing that that friend, and that leader would leave you some help! That the Spirit would remain.
At 9, before class was out, Elder W and I had to leave in order to have the meeting. And there I waited, in the secretary’s office. How did Christ’s disciples have the power to wait for him? Sure, they fell asleep, but how? The anticipation, and the concern for their friend must have been immense.
After about half an hour, Elder W left the room, looking solemn. He told me that he had to go pack his bags. He would leave that afternoon.
We walked back to the dorm, the other Elders were in class still.
Elder W first took down the pictures of his family and girlfriend, and then all the little notes of encouragement he’d written himself.
When you watch someone take down their motivation, it can be hard. And it was. Each one he’d look at briefly, then hand it to me to be put in his bag.
Then I made the connection I’ve been making throughout this writing. How hard must it have been to watch Jesus Christ, your friend, leader, and Savior, carry that heavy wooden cross up the hill to Golgotha? Did the disciples in the crowd cry?
Had they any idea what he had just done for them the night before?
As we packed, we were silent. I felt as close to the Savior as ever before.
How did the Apostles feel, knowing that the Savior had been betrayed, and was marching to his death?
His body bruised, his back whipped, his head decorated with thorns?
Being mocked, spat upon, beaten, betrayed, denied, and brought lower than any man had ever been and would ever be after that?
Then to see him have nails driven into his hands and his feet. Be lifted up on a cross, and watch him cry out, “It is done,” and die.
What I felt today was only a fraction of what the Apostles felt. And what the Apostles felt was only a fraction of what Christ felt.
I couldn’t imagine what was going through Elder W’s mind as he filled those red bags with the life he’d known for only a few weeks.
After the other Elders returned from class, he gathered us all up, all twelve in the district, including Elder W and myself, and told us what was happening.
We cried, he testified, we said goodbye.
Then Elder W and I left to check for mail, and eat lunch, before he was to go to meet his parents to take him home.
As the other Elders going to Las Vegas helped him carry his bags, he told us in at least 6 months, he’d be allowed to join us on the mission again.
I recalled helping him pack, and neatly folding his shirts and pants.
I have heard a story of a Jewish custom (I’m not sure if it’s true or not*), where a master is eating and the servant waits for him. When the master is finished, he takes his cloth napkin, crumples it up, and throws it by the plate as he leaves. This signals to the servant to begin cleaning up the meal.
However, if the master is not finished, if he just has business elsewhere, he neatly folds the cloth.
This signals the servant to continue waiting, as the master will return.
I thought of this as Elder W folded his clothes neatly. He’s not done, he’s coming back.
There’s another who did this. When the tomb where Christ’s body was lain was found open, the cloth used to cover him was found neatly folded and placed aside.
The Master will return.
Throughout the scriptures, stories are told to cause readers to see the similarities to Christ.
These similitudes include Abraham and Issac, Joseph of Egypt, and Moses.
And why would God not continue with these stories? There’s no doubt that Elder W was made my companion in order to teach me about the suffering and Atonement of Christ.
I don’t mean to blaspheme, but I feel as though Elder W is a similitude of Christ in this sense.
And just as Elder W will return to join us in Las Vegas, The Master, The Redeemer, and The Savior Jesus Christ will return to join us in the final day.
While he suffered, he did it for us. While he died, he did it for us. I cry as I contemplate The Atonement of Jesus Christ. I’ve felt it’s power, and I’ve felt the love of Christ.
And Elder W, see you in Vegas.
- Elder Nathaniel Sorensen
*Elder Sorensen asked me to fact check this story. There is no record of the custom, other than internet stories. However, the important fact is that this connection made an impression on Elder Sorensen, and is thus important to the post.