During my drive up to Salt Lake, I listened to Elder Holland’s last conference address, Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet. It impressed me personally enough, that I listened a second time.
Elder Holland told the story of two brothers, free-climbing a steep cliff in Southern Utah. It came to a point where the older brother was able to hoist the younger over the final overhanging ledge, but could not reach it himself. He asked his brother to search for a nonexistent tree branch, intending to attempt a vertical jump while his brother was gone — “the least I could do” he thought “was make certain my little brother did not see me falling to my death.”
“Giving him enough time to be out of sight, I said my last prayer—that I wanted my family to know I loved them and that Jimmy could make it home safely on his own—then I leapt. There was enough adrenaline in my spring that the jump extended my arms above the ledge almost to my elbows. But as I slapped my hands down on the surface, I felt nothing but loose sand on flat stone. I can still remember the gritty sensation of hanging there with nothing to hold on to—no lip, no ridge, nothing to grab or grasp. I felt my fingers begin to recede slowly over the sandy surface. I knew my life was over.
These words brought me to tears, as I realized how it accurately reflected some of my recent feelings.
A week and a half ago, I decided that I was very interested in a girl I had taken on several dates. Last weekend, I told her that, and she let me know that she didn’t reciprocate the feelings. This decision and disclosure were my jump that extended my arms above the ledge — frightening, difficult, and essential. And with her response, I felt like I was falling, sliding down a ridge with nothing to grasp.
Elder Holland continued the story:
“But then suddenly, like a lightning strike in a summer storm, two hands shot out from somewhere above the edge of the cliff, grabbing my wrists with a strength and determination that belied their size. My faithful little brother had not gone looking for any fictitious tree branch. Guessing exactly what I was planning to do, he had never moved an inch. He had simply waited—silently, almost breathlessly—knowing full well I would be foolish enough to try to make that jump. When I did, he grabbed me, held me, and refused to let me fall. Those strong brotherly arms saved my life that day as I dangled helplessly above what would surely have been certain death.”
Against the background of this story, Elder Holland testified that the atonement grants us resurrection from death and victory over the fall of Adam and Eve. More immediately it grants us resurrection from symbolic death (in my case, what seemed to be emotional death) and
“…victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced.”
It was Adam and Eve’s choices that led to their fall. It was this older brother’s choices that led to his fall. And it was my choices that led to my fall. In all of these cases, the fall was halted by a rescue freely given.
Currently, I still feel like I’m hanging over the edge, and I see evidences of Christ’s strong brotherly arms keeping me from falling. One evidence (how I heard HWN today) was feeling Christ reach out to me today through the words of this story.