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Elder Bednar Shares the Profound Lesson He Learned from His First Assignment as an Apostle


One Is at the Heart of the Atonement

I began this [article] by describing an experience I had during my first weekend assignment as a member of the Twelve and the lesson that was reinforced for me about the Lord’s pattern of ministering one by one. I conclude this [article] by recounting an experience I had recently while traveling home from another weekend assignment.

My companion for this weekend was a newly called General Authority Seventy. Customarily, the new Brethren have a series of training activities with members of the Twelve. And we had spent the weekend together listening, observing, teaching, testifying, training, and answering questions with members and priesthood and auxiliary leaders. We enjoyed a marvelous weekend serving together.
As we were scheduled to sit in adjacent seats on our flight home, we both looked forward to reviewing, debriefing, and discussing the events of the weekend. The trip provided a perfect opportunity for us to talk about the things we had observed and learned and to identify ways we could improve.

As I boarded the plane, the gate attendant informed me that my seat assignment had been changed. A mechanical problem with the aircraft on which we originally were scheduled to fly had necessitated a change of equipment, and the new plane on which we would be flying had a different seat configuration. Thus, my seat was altered. I also learned I would not be seated next to my General Authority Seventy companion. As I walked down the boarding ramp, I determined I would simply ask a person on the flight to switch seats with me so my companion and I could sit together and productively use our time.

As I settled into my seat on the plane, I began looking for the person whom I might invite to switch seats. However, I felt constrained and did not act. I simply had a sense that I should wait and see what would happen.

A few minutes later a woman made her way to her seat next to me and sat down. Without saying a word, she stowed her carry-on bag and other belongings and quickly put on her headphones. I initially thought the woman intended to hunker down on this late-night flight and immerse herself in her digital device. And yet, I still felt I should not attempt to change seats. As we taxied to the runway for takeoff, I retrieved a folder from my briefcase and began reviewing materials and making notes for an upcoming presentation I was scheduled to make.

Approximately thirty minutes later, the woman seated next to me took off her headphones and said, “Elder Bednar, I have been reluctant to disturb you. I know people are always asking you questions or seeking your advice, and I did not want to bother you. But do you mind if I ask you a question?”
We spent nearly two hours talking about a vexing problem through which this sister was attempting to work. She finally looked at me and said, “Thank you for talking with me, but I have taken too much of your time. I need to let you get back to your work.”

I then suggested to her that in the work of the Lord there is no such thing as a coincidence, and we were seated next to each other on that flight for a reason. I testified that God knew her name and was aware of her personal circumstances and concerns. “In fact,” I said to her, “the very purpose for my trip across the country this weekend may have been to be on this plane at this time so we could have this conversation. I believe that is why our seats were changed.” As our plane landed in Salt Lake City, I again bore my witness to this good sister that the Lord would guide, direct, and inspire her.

Was it merely a coincidence that this woman and I ended up seated next to each other on that flight? Or was this episode divinely orchestrated by a loving Redeemer who knew and responded to the apprehensions and fears of a faithful woman—a one? I believe that in the work of the Lord there is no such thing as a coincidence. The worth of souls is great in the sight of God.

Elder M. Russell Ballard noted: “I believe that if we could truly understand the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would realize how precious is one son or daughter of God. I believe our Heavenly Father’s everlasting purpose for His children is generally achieved by the small and simple things we do for one another. At the heart of the English word atonement is the word one. If all mankind understood this, there would never be anyone with whom we would not be concerned, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or social or economic standing. We would strive to emulate the Savior and would never be unkind, indifferent, disrespectful, or insensitive to others” (The Atonement and the Value of One Soul,” Ensign, May 2004).

The fundamental pattern of one by one that is inherent in the Lord’s work is His, it is real, and it blesses each of us.

Lead image from lds.org

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In this book, Elder David A. Bednar offers a compelling look at a pattern the Lord uses to bless His people: He works with us on an individual basis, one by one. Demonstrating that pattern as it occurs throughout the scriptures, in the lives of many Church leaders, and in his own ministry, Elder Bednar invites us to open our hearts to the Lord's love. He also teaches that by ministering as the Savior does, one by one, we can be more powerful instruments in His hands to accomplish His purposes.

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