While serving as a stake president, I interviewed a 30-something couple and their two young boys for a first-time temple recommend. They were about to become an eternal family, but for their youngest son, the price for that privilege was everything.
The youngest son was fidget-appropriate for a 5-year-old. As I interviewed his parents, Jimmy couldn’t take the motionless moments any longer. He leaped from his mother’s lap, smacking his head on the corner of my desk.
Between halting sobs and a generous cold compress, we soothed Jimmy and tried to downplay the Vesuvius-like knot erupting from his forehead. I resumed the interview and described the blessings being sealed as a forever family.
A few days later, my wife and I attended the sealing session. Jimmy and his brother were meticulously groomed, dressed in white and escorted into the sealing room by caring temple workers. There, Jimmy’s mom and dad knelt while their two diminutive angels came beside.
The filled-to-capacity room dazzled with a heavenly light reflected in the smiles of all present, except little Jimmy. As one of the temple workers gently took Jimmy’s hand to place it, he rebelled with a tug-of-war.
After a few uncomfortable minutes of wheezy resistance, young Jimmy relented and joined hands with the rest of his family in one of the more tender sealing sessions I can remember.
After the sealing session, Jimmy’s mom asked him about his tantrum in the temple. Jimmy whimpered, "Mommy, I was out of air."
"What do you mean?" his mom said.
Jimmy bowed his head. "I thought I was going to die."
Willing to sacrifice himself
I have seen cancer patients quietly bear their burdens. I have watched disaster victims wink at adversity. I have known men and women of discipleship who lifted others despite their own challenges, but I had not seen courage until that moment in the temple with Jimmy.
Although I had used simple language during the temple interview, Jimmy’s callow mind clamped onto the idea that his family was being sealed, literally. He thought a giant zip-close bag would "seal" him by suffocation.
Jimmy had been willing to make the supreme sacrifice. It is difficult to imagine a little boy willing to give his life for the love of his family.
Yet, two millennia ago a carpenter’s son endured the oil press of sin’s heavy burdens in Gethsemane. Jesus Christ triumphed over death on Calvary that all mankind might be saved.
For me, the Savior’s atoning sacrifice was never more poignant than when a trembling little boy showed me a type and shadow of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. In his own way, Jimmy pointed to that life-giving garden and a lofty hill bearing the healing cross of love.
William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor for Queen Creek Chandler Heights Stake. He will begin service July 2012 as a mission president.