This story is good. It’s so good that it seems like something Aaron Brown would be telling and then I would tell it second-hand and try and pass it off as my own.
Several years ago, I was visiting my friend who was teaching at a 2 year college somewhere in Utah. We attended the student ward that Sunday and we heard this beauty of a lesson. I’d forgotten about it but my friend heard the same story again in Relief Society and emailed me to remind me of the gems we heard there. We went into Relief Society and after all the announcements and singing the girl got up to teach the lesson. She was visibly anxious, even perturbed. She said she didn’t know how or what to teach for the lesson because it was such an obscure topic that we didn’t talk much about and she didn’t really know where to turn for resources. Huh, I thought, I wonder what the lesson could be? Maybe it was the gathering of the 10 tribes or something. She keeps rambling for awhile, out of nervousness and then reveals the topic of that Sunday’s lesson.
You know the one. Jesus’ atonement. The one that reconciles us with God, the one that allows us to be like and live with God. Yeah, you remember. It comes up occasionally.
These were back in my more charitable days, so though surprised I thought, it is a broad topic. And if you don’t know which part to focus on it may be hard to find resources.
She starts talking about her recently deceased grandmother and how terrible it was to watch her die. Even though she was old. And her husband had died 20 years earlier and this sister knew the grandmother was lonely and ready to go. Then she described this poor woman’s last moments, the gasping and struggling for breath. I think there was a bit of thrashing too.
This sweet little teacher was bawling at this point.
She said, this is the only story that makes me feel better about my grandmother and know that the Atonement is real.
Are you ready? It’s a goody.
Once upon a time there was a teenage boy who was pretty dorky. Awkward. Socially inept. He didn’t have any friends at his school except for a tiny little bird that followed him around everywhere. These two (the boy and the bird) were tight and talked regularly and openly. The boy felt like the bird knew him better than anyone else.
It was a lovely little town where they lived but there were no red roses. Only white ones.
The boy had confided in the little bird that he had a crush on a girl at school, we’ll call her Heather. Heather was beautiful and popular and everyone loved her. It is understandable why the boy liked her. Why not like a beautiful, popular girl named Heather? The little bird understood and was a little bit jealous.
Well, it was prom time and the boy decided that he was going to ask Heather to the prom.
Initially the little bird tried to discourage the boy, but the boy was dead-set on asking her. So the bird decided to support him and helped him summon the courage to ask her to the dance. He went to her door and knocked. The little bird was perched in the bushes.
She answered. He stammered, admitting that he wanted to go to the dance with her. Heather laughed. She looked at him with small eyes and said, I will go to the prom with you if you bring me a red rose.
(You will recall gentle reader that there are no red roses in this town.)
The boy was hopeful, as he did not recall this rudimentary fact about the town. He went home with the bird flying behind him, over the moon that Heather would go to the dance with him. When they got home, the bird broke it to him that Heather had asked for something unattainable. That she would never go to the dance with him.
The boy dropped into a deep depression. He wouldn’t sleep or eat and the little bird, who loved this boy so, was getting very anxious. The bird kept thinking and pondering, what could he do to get a red rose? Fly to the next town? Ask other birds to bring one in for him? It all seemed impossible. One night, when the boy appeared at death’s door the bird decided he would go find a red rose for him. The bird was all worked up, knowing that the journey ahead would be a hard and painful one. He rushed out the window, without realizing that there was a huge thorny bush right outside.
The little bird flew right into the bush and a thorn pierced his heart and he died. Blood dripping down from his body.
The next morning the boy got out of bed, noticing the bird was not around. He went to the window and while he did not see his little friend’s body, he looked down at the rose bush and saw a single red rose. A blood red rose. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and the boy leapt with joy. He ran downstairs and picked the rose and ran to Heather’s house.
He knocked at Heather’s door and when she answered he said, Look I have a red rose! I brought you a red rose! Now you will go to the prom with me!
Heather laughed, meanly. I was never going to go to the prom with you. You’re weird and boring. And nobody likes you. She threw the flower down.
The boy mourned all the way home. He wished his little bird were there to comfort him. He went home and got into bed and died. The dead bird’s body still outside his window.
The whole Relief Society was bawling. Like tears and snot and red faces and gasping. Except me and my friend of course, we had stone cold hearts.
Through her tears, the teacher explains that Jesus is the little bird and the Atonement is the red rose (made red by his blood) and that this story is how she knows she’ll see her grandmother again.
She knows this Church is true. That Joseph Smith was a prophet. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
We hobbled through a hymn, since everyone was crying and then all the girls rushed the teacher to tell her what a wonderful lesson it was. I just sat in my chair. Jesus is a little bird? That died accidentally? His blood dripped on a rose and that’s the Atonement?
It has left me a lot to ponder. And I ponder it still.