The Little Bird and the Red Rose

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. 

The Atonement. 

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 End. 

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. 

Comments

  1. Gee, Amri, I’d never really thought of the atonement in that light before. Really never.

  2. Wow, never give that teacher a copy of The Giving Tree.

  3. Mark IV says:

    a teenage boy who was pretty dorky. Awkward. Socially inept. He didn’t have any friends at his school

    Amri,

    I take exception to your trying to pass this story off as fable about an anonymous boy when it is so clearly a page from my biography.

  4. sister blah 2 says:

    #2–Yes, in her telling of it the tree would probably just burn down on page 2.

  5. Peter LLC says:

    Yeah, I can see where the lose-lose ending, the senseless sacrifice of life in the name of unrequited love could, I dunno, prop up the odd testimony here and again.

  6. Wow. Just wow.

    I do remember hearing the Giving Tree in Primary. And the Mother’s Day talk about the poor woman deformed from the fire in which her husband had perished who gave her daughter her only other treasure–her pearls–when the daughter graduated from high school. At the end the daughter fell on her knees and repented of her shame at her mother’s deformity and poverty (or something). I seem to remember that one being read over the pulpit to the tune of convulsive sobs.

  7. There used to be a CES video about a guy who worked as a switchman for a rotating railroad bridge over a river, and his little boy that used to bring him lunch. One day the bridge wouldn’t lock in place unless he held the handle securely, and a passenger train was scheduled to cross the tracks. Just as he was starting to hold the bridge in the locked position with the handle, he saw his son on the bridge with his lunch. He looked at his son, looked at the train, and then the handle of the switch, and then the video ended. It was supposed to be a metaphor about the atonement, but I found it hugely problematic and emotionally manipulative, much like your story, Amri.

    Both appear to reduce the atonement to chance and circumstance, and not a willing choice on the part of the Son, or a significant planned part of the plan of salvation. Keep your stone cold hearts in the freezer over these stories, folks.

  8. That’s right Mark, you did tell me once about how your only friend was a bird…

    Has anyone ever heard this story before? I can’t remember what she was reading out of, I think it was one of those bigger books like Especially for Mormons. If it was from EfM, how did people get to write for those? Can you imagine being one of their writers? The doctrine-molding power you could hold in your hands!

    I want that job.

    I think my favorite part of the story is that the bird (Jesus) decides to do something like find a flower in another town (which seems smart, right?) but then accidentally runs into a thorny bush and to his death (the atonement). That can’t make Jesus feel good.

  9. I remember that story Kevin. Terrible. Again, that doesn’t make Jesus look too good, I mean in that train story he’s a kid who gets in the way and the father (God) has to kill him because he has to save the train because his kid was playing where he shouldn’t.

    The other thing I love about Especially for Mormons stories is that add-in details. Like when did they think, oh yeah, and this town doesn’t have any red roses! That’s major for the plot and can’t work in any ole town with its pick of roses.

  10. I, personally, hate these stories. For me, they trivialize aspects of the Gospel that are dear to me.

    However, no matter how trite and sentimental the kitsch may be, I do know some very good people who are touched and changed by such stories. I daresay that these people are oftentimes more Christlike than I.

    To each his own, and may we, who are disgusted by these stories, try to complement with meaningful scriptures, true doctrine, or clarification in the setting, or, as I find myself often, grinning and groaning.

  11. Researcher says:

    And…as we all know from reading keepapitchinin, Especially for Mormons is an academically accepted record of Mormon teachings. It’s important that we’re familiar with this source of doctrine and Mormon culture. /no smiley for this one/

  12. I heard that story when I was a teenager, but it was told slightly differently. (I think it was out of Chicken Soup for the Soul or something.) In the version I heard, the bird looked for a red rose and couldn’t find one and then chose to dive at the rose, making it red. The boy was so distraught over losing the bird that he threw the rose away. The point was to remind us not to toss aside the precious gift of the Atonement. This version, while arguably less problematic, still made me uncomfortable when I heard it.

  13. Amri, I reread the story, and realized that not only did the bird die, but the little boy went home and died, and Heather was free to go to the prom with the cool captain of the football team, who actually was the revitalized dorky dead kid. Apart from the fact it was so short, this might have been a Stephen King story, ie a Cujo/Carrie/Pet Sematary mashup.

  14. Wow. That really is a classic. One thing I find particularly interesting is the suggestion that you have to choose–you can have relationships with humans, or you can have Jesus as your friend, but apparently not both. In fact, Jesus might even be a bit jealous if you want other relationships. And the moral of the story: if you try to establish other friendships, you’ll end up with a dead Jesus and still no human friends. Yikes.

  15. I hate when I accidentally perform the atonement…

    Very good telling of the story. The version I heard was closer to #11. The first time I heard this and other stories like it was in a packet of stories my missionary trainer copied and gave to me as a greenie. At least in my mission, they circulated like wildfire.

    Don’t worry, they are going to tell that story in the Spirit World and a hush will come over the crowd… :)

  16. Keri, I wondered if there were other versions of the story. I mean, who writes that Jesus died by accident?!

    kevinf, I may have found my calling. King-izing all EfM stories.

    Lynnette, that is a great a point. That makes me question all my friendships. What if he’s jealous of all my friends? Does this mean I can’t be friends with my husband or family?

  17. Please, pleasepleaseplease tell you made this whole thing up… please…?

  18. Amri, perhaps part of your point is that for some folks, these kinds of stories do seem to fill a need, even if the rest of us don’t understand that need. The problem is that the emotional impact of these stories don’t really convey legitimate gospel truths, but only a fuzzy facade. Any serious examination illuminates the breakdowns pretty quickly. However, for some people, that seems to be okay.

    It doesn’t work for me, but perhaps I should apologize for comparing someone’s favorite feel-good gospel story with a bizarre alternate universe Stephen King novel. I don’t know why I should apologize, but then I didn’t get all teary and bleary about the little bird, so I guess we’re even.

  19. Aaron Brown says:

    Great story, Amri! Not as good as your Accutane/I wanna-abortion-so-I-can-serve-the-Lord MTC experience though. That’s still my favorite.

    AB

  20. Aaron Brown says:

    Paul Toscano would say that the problem with these stories is that take the focus off of true gospel principles, and put it on ourselves and our own emotions, which are themselves the product of our collective inability to distinguish between silly sentimentality and true gospel insights. See his discussion in _The Sanctity of Dissent_, which actually deals specifically (and harshly) with the traintrack story Kevinf refers to in comment #7.

    AB

  21. Aaron Brown says:

    (By the way, Amri, next time you borrow one of my tales and pretend it’s yours, could you please remember to at least include all the elements? You totally left out the part about the circus midget.)

    AB

  22. We hobbled through the hymn, since everyone was crying and then all the girls rushed the teacher to tell her what a wonderful lesson it was. I [as would all of us, I'm sure] just sat in my chair.

    Sadly, I think this is a perfect example of the subject of today’s other post.

  23. Aaron, that accutane story is good. It cannot compete with your enema story.

    I’m sorry I forgot the circus midget. How could I have forgotten about the circus midget?

    I don’t have charitable feelings for these kinds of stories. I know that they’re attempts to talk about and relate to something as abstract and powerful as the atonement but it doesn’t do us a service to have things sugared down (and warped in my mind) like this. I also think warm, fuzzy feelings that come from stories like these corrupt the potency and nuance of the Holy Ghost.

  24. Ohhh! I’ve got good one! I think it was written especially for our ward conference too–directed at the YM/YW.
    Once upon a time there was a little boy and his dad walking to a clinic. They lived in a world where everyone was dying of a disease. They couldn’t find a cure for the disease, but they knew if affected the blood of everyone. Seriously everyone on the whole planet was dying. They figured out statistically that there should be one or two people on the planet that would have pure blood for which they could make a cure and therefore, cure everyone. So they tested everyone’s blood, hoping to find blood that would be a cure. That person would have to die, they would need all of that person’s blood for the cure, but it was worth it because it would ostensibly save the whole planet.

    The little boy was scared as his dad held his hand as they walked to the clinic and explained to him about the disease. There were long lines of people outside the clinic, all waiting impatiently. The little boy asked what they were all waiting for.

    “They found some pure blood to cure them all,” he said.

    “Oh. That’s good,” said the little boy. “Can I get the cure too?”

    The father’s eyes teared up and he said, “You are the one with the pure blood.”

    The little boy cried and hugged his father. It was so hard for his father. He loved his son.

    Nice. It left me physically ill to hear that story, and angry.
    I’ve heard a variation of the bird story too, I never got it.

  25. Steve Evans says:

    mmiles, if you change the story so that the disease in question is the Rage Disease from 28 Days Later, that’s actually an awesome story.

  26. …it doesn’t do us a service to have things sugared down (and warped in my mind) like this. I also think warm, fuzzy feelings that come from stories like these corrupt the potency and nuance of the Holy Ghost.

    Amen. The Atonement and fire of the Spirit is not about kittens and bunny rabbits and fluffy warm fuzzies- and I hate it when it’s reduced to such emotionally manipulative rot.

    Whew. Glad I got that out. I’ll be nice now.

  27. Bunnicula says:

    I know a bunny rabit that would beg to differ, Tracy.

  28. Tracy M – Next thing you know they will use the cult technique of withholding food and water to induce psuedo-spiritual experiences. Wait, that really is a different topic, isn’t it? Never mind.

  29. amri (23) – I am with you 100%. I am not a fan of the emotionally manipulative stories (especially when they get botched and lose any hint of proper symbolism they were supposed to have). At the same time, I think this is one area where the educational divide can rear its ugly head. I know many people who love these stories, none of whom are toting around graduate degrees. Does education affect how we view the gospel? If so, how do we relate to others at church that do not see the gospel the same way we do? Do we migrate away from them, or sit stunned wondering what on earth could be so good in such a simplistic story? Do we try to correct them? Or do we try to understand why it is meaningful to them? I’ve been trying to ask myself these questions lately (introspectively). It’s been a struggle for me.

  30. Not to equate in any way Pres. Monson’s stories with the accidentally impaled fowl story, but I have known many well-educated adults who have struggled to find enlightenment in Pres. Monson’s stories. On the other hand, many, many others (including any one who has heard Pres. Monson as a child)absolutely love his stories, which help them to become better saints. Contrast that with Elder Maxwell’s talks. Some absolutely loved them and found them incredibly enlightening. Others had no clue what he was talking about. It seemed the divide on this was mostly along educational lines.

    I don’t know what to make of this except this: Thank God for President Monson and Elder Maxwell.

  31. #10: Your comment takes the prize for best response to this post, followed by the warning from Paul Toscano (ugh) about these stories potentially creating false testimony on emotion, etc.

    But other than those, there have been some laugh-out-loud moments in this discussion, and I really do like talking about these awful EfM-like stories from Seminary, Sacrament talks, and etc. I want to get some sort of collection of the best of the worst, maybe make a blog about it.

  32. Yeah, I agree with Aaron and others. This sort of story is spiritual junk food. It tastes like religion, but it’s merely empty emotional calories. If you eat enough of it (maintaining the metaphor), you become bloated and obese even while you starve to death due to lack of nutrition.

  33. Seems like a rip-off of Oscar Wilde’s story The Nightingale and the Rose.

  34. Mommie Dearest says:

    If this took place in my Relief Society I can think of several women who would pipe up at some point and, while somehow praising the tender emotions cultivated by the story, point out that as an analogy for the atonement, it is false doctrine. Some of these women might even be serving in the presidency. And if they all happened to be subbing in Primary that day, I guess I’d have to do it myself. The only question would be how to navigate the minefield.
    The issues at the heart of the atonement are about guilt (ours) and innocence (the Lord’s) and the miraculous and voluntary transfer of accountability, by the Lord, in our behalf. Nothing in this tripe illustrates the real issues. Although I wouldn’t call it tripe to the poor woman’s face.
    And I have found that President Monson, while sometimes having the tone that is found in these emotional stories, is very sure-footed in his doctrine. Several years ago I decided to repent of my stony-hearted attitude that I had towards him. It was the easiest repenting I have ever done.

  35. Latter-day Guy says:

    Umm weird story. Reminds me of the art house film one of my brothers wants to make. It chronicles the day of a little boy lost at the carnival. He is looking for his mother. He wanders, terrified by the hawkers, and the hall of mirrors, and, well, the scary people you often see at carnivals. Finally, just before closing time, in the light of the Ferris wheel, the boy and the mother spot each other at different ends of the street. The music swells. They run toward each other. But wait. What’s that noise? That strange falling whistle? They look up, and before they can reach each other, the bomb hits the road between them and detonates. Mushroom cloud. Fade to black.

    Anyway, what does that dead bird and the rose story teach us about the atonement? Jesus died for us so we can have what we most desire. But we won’t get it anyhow, and we’ll die broken and disappointed? Wow. Can the Good News get better?!

  36. Latter-day Guy says:

    And for the two comments that mentioned “The Giving Tree,” I offer you this, which is officially the best thing ever.

  37. Steve Evans says:

    For the real fans of The Giving (and Unforgiving) Tree, I offer you this, which might not be THE best thing ever but it’s pretty great.

  38. And I have found that President Monson, while sometimes having the tone that is found in these emotional stories, is very sure-footed in his doctrine. Several years ago I decided to repent of my stony-hearted attitude that I had towards him. It was the easiest repenting I have ever done.

    Well then, Mommie Dearest, you must not have an advanced degree. Because those of us with graduate degrees still throw up in our mouths a little whenever we hear President Monson. (See comments 29 and 30.)

  39. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland called such teachings “doctrinal twinkies:”

    When crises come in our lives–and they will–the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won’t do. Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear? Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie–spiritually empty calories? President John Taylor once called such teaching “fried froth,” the kind of thing you could eat all day and yet finish feeling totally unsatisfied (General Conference, April 1998).

    Hence, my new blog, which will accumulate some of these amusing stories. Anyone interested in contributing by writing or even sending their favorite twinkies can email me through the new site.

  40. Sheesh, Amri. This was the One True inspirational story on which my whole testimony was based. Now my testimony is destroyed, and I’m going to go rob banks and marry gay people.

    (Actually, I have heard this one before — I think it was in seminary.)

    Also, Aaron, you need to From-the-Archives your enema story, so it’s more easily accessible to the masses. The blog you first posted it on is dead, and so I have to go to the Wayback Machine to find it.

    (http://web.archive.org/web/20040722054138/www.bobandlogan.com/archives/000132.html , in case anyone’s looking)

  41. Where do you find this stuff, Steve?

  42. Isn’t the jealousy the bird feels a little inappropriate for the metaphor?

    And the girl rejects the rose, and the boy, but the bird was… oh, never mind.

    Also, it would have been a better impact if the boy had died after discovering the dead bird, and its demise. Wait, why am I trying to help this story?

    I think someone needs to mention the Bicycle and then the thread will be complete. (does this count?)

    Amri: great story – yours, not the Bird and the B****

  43. Justin, wouldn’t that be funny if Especially for Mormons ripped off Oscar Wilde?! Should we tell them he was gay?

    I don’t know if this makes it better or not, but these were young girls. I mean, 18-20, and they were running their own Relief Society.

    I’m glad to know there’s a kind of better version out there (the bird choosing the sacrifice instead of accidentally doing it) I know that’s how the girl told it because I thought that was the most remarkable part of the story. It left an indellible mark on my soul.

  44. Steve Evans says:

    Tracy, the Muffin Films are pretty classic internet animation films. Amy Winfrey is a genius. The Muffin Films, Big Bunny and Making Fiends are all really great.

  45. But Amri, why call the scornful girl Heather? Is this some kind of Carly Simon, You’re-So-Vain secret message to me? Could you have known that back in high school, a boy really did come to my door one night–red rose in hand–asking me to a school dance? I had to decline (politely! regretfully!) because of a debate tournament. Now, thanks to your post, I am fighting a nauseating wave of guilt…

    (Otherwise, hello and hope you’re well!)

  46. Although I don’t like this story at all, I have to add one thing:

    We tend to be a story telling and story learning from people. Parables and allegories and fairy tales and other example-based stories abound in our history – specifically because it’s easier to internalize something we feel in our gut and heart, instead of just understanding something in our mind. Also, there is a HUGE difference between a story that can have a lasting impact on the mind and heart of a child, a teenager and an adult. Maturity plays a vital role in our understanding of stories.

    Earlier, someone mentioned “The Bridge”. Used too broadly as a story of the Atonement in it totality, it fails miserably. Used more narrowly to focus solely on the aspect of a Father who theoretically had the power to stop His Son’s horrible death but chose to stand back and let it happen in order to save everyone else, it has merit – as long as the teacher uses it as a launching pad for further discussion about where it falls short. As long as it is used simply to position that point in a setting that children and teenagers understand, it can be a legitimate and powerful image that can form the foundation of an understanding of the Father’s role in the Atonement – and that role is missed entirely in most discussions of the Atonement. It’s very hard for spiritually immature people to really understand “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” without some kind of visual reference – some way to “see it”, and the image of the father watching his son die a gruesome death can provide a way for someone to begin to see it.

    Again, minus subsequent follow-up and discussion, the film doesn’t depict the Atonement properly – but it isn’t in the same category as the story in this post, imho.

  47. Steve Evans says:

    Ray, on the contrary, I think almost every discussion of the Atonement includes referring to what God the Father would have experienced. It’s an incredibly typical thing to discuss. I’m all for imagery and storytelling, but let’s not add a level of pathos that inappropriately skews us.

  48. Justin ftw! Thanks for that link, man. Great story. Not illustrative of any Mormon doctrine I can think of, but it’s still a great story.

  49. Steve, I agree that most Mormon discussions of the Atonement include the Father as separate from the Son, but I have dealt a lot with kids who were not taught that. I’m sure my perspective is skewed by that experience, so I should have specified most discussions “I have heard focused toward children and teenagers”.

  50. Apricot K says:

    So here is my take. Maybe we are misreading the story.

    Maybe Christ is the girl. The boy is Sin. The bird is the random events of life. The girl never gives into the boy, and protects us from the random harms of the world. The Prom is heaven. The story then is a parable of how Christ saves us from Sin and Death. It’s easy to twist any story into the one we mean.

  51. hpm–I was more thinking of the movie the Heathers to which you have no relation.

    Hope you’re doing well too! I bet the berries are good near your house.

  52. Mommie Dearest says:

    gst #38: I freely admit to being in the lower-class uneducated masses. Maybe my lack of advanced degrees is what makes it easy for me to trust President Monson. All I know it that once I decided I wasn’t gonna throw-up-a-little-bit-in-my-mouth at his rhetoric, it was easy to find something substantial and non-twinkie in what he said. It’s been that way ever since. Works for me. And I really haven’t had to become an avid fan of emotionally manipulative tripe. I’m still as cynical as I was the day I dropped out of BYU.

    Also, I would definitely make use of a link to any of the previously mentioned posts involving accutane, enemas, circus midgets, or bicycles. :)

  53. What I really remember about this story is a ward mission leader in Brazil telling this story once, except it was a hummingbird in a desert (with roses? yeah, I know) and the young man threw away the rose himself to go play soccer so the young woman never even saw it.

  54. Reading this thread makes me wish I had some way of overseeing the stories presented to the youth at EFY.
    I was constantly battered with this kind of emotional manipulation while attending my one and only session.
    I echo the comment that these stories are much more powerful on youth than on adults, and we should really monitor what our kids hear and how or if they accept these stories as gospel truth.

  55. I don’t think the “bird story” gives an accurate analogy for the atonement at all. If it comforts this sister – thats fine, but it is laden with analogies that will confuse. Plenty of other worthwhile stories are out there to analogise the atonement…..this is not one of them in my view.

  56. I once used Wilde’s story as a parable in a church class. Things were going well until I read the last part of the story:

    “What a silly thing Love is,” said the Student as he walked away. “It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true. In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.”

    So he returned to his room and pulled out a great dusty book, and began to read.

    When I finished the last sentence, there wasn’t a wet eye in the room. Mostly bewildered, stone-cold stares.

    I would guess that Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant” and “The Happy Prince” will appear in some form in the next volume of Favorite Talks from Especially for Youth.

  57. sister blah 2 says:
  58. We had one of these stories at our most recent stake conference. The story goes something like this: a missionary on temple square met a young man and a young woman who were visiting Salt Lake from Texas. The young man was well-versed in the gospel and wanted the young woman to talk to the missionaries. The missionaries found her receptive to the message of the gospel and, when they asked, she agreed to meet with the missionaries once she got back to Texas. One of the sister missionaries (who, coincidentally was going back to Texas herself to finish out her mission) collected her name (we’ll call her Maria) and contact information. The couple left the company of the missionaries, though later that day the young man reappeared and reiterated to the sister missionaries how very important it was to him that they contact this young woman again. A few months later, when the sister missionary was in Texas she called the woman from temple square. A man answered the phone. She explained to him who she was asked if she could speak to Maria. The man handed over the phone to a woman who was, from their exchange, obviously his wife. The sister missionary again explained who she was and that she wanted to share a message with them, and then asked if Maria remembered her from Temple square. Maria claimed she hadn’t been to Temple square since she was a small child, certainly not in the last few months. The sister missionary was perplexed, wondering if she was talking to the wrong woman, but continued to share her message and quickly made an appointment to meet with the couple. At their appointment the sister missionary realized it was the same woman–though decidedly less happy than at their meeting on Temple square–and still found her and her husband very receptive to the gospel. The couple was later baptized. Some time in their discussions it came out that the couple had lost their infant son a few months before this sister missionary called, and had been searching for a church that could offer them comfort ever since. In fact, the couple had just finished praying, telling their Father in Heaven they would join the next church that came to them, when the sister missionary called.

    The above story was (unfortunately) the one told by the GA in attendance (Presiding Bishop, I think?). Our SP also spoke on missionary work, but his story was a little different. He was traveling on business by air and, since he’s relatively tall, had made sure to book an aisle seat. When he got on the plane, he found his seat occupied by an older woman who immediately, and rather imperiously, asked to stay in her seat since she had gotten there first. He acquiesced, and seethed in the seat next to her. Soon he realized he had the perfect avenue for revenge: the pass-along card in his briefcase. “Excellent,” he thought, “then when she dies without accepting the gospel it’ll be her fault!” So, in that spirit, he started sharing the message of the gospel with her. Within a few minutes of beginning, he felt his heart change and he began to see the woman with more compassion. The two spent the whole flight talking about families and their beliefs. The woman was not converted on the flight and the SP suspects she never did anything with the pass-along card, but as they were getting off the plane the SP said she could tell he was a Minister for Christ by the light in his eyes.

    Yeah, guess which one got me more jazzed about missionary work?

  59. Matt Thurston says:

    Tyyping through mye tearsss… can’t seee the keeboardd… poor, porr lidtle birdie… somebdy hold mee, pleese…

  60. Actually if one were to change the presentation, the story might have more meaning. Consider this.
    The little birdie realizes that the young girl will reject his friend even if he were to present her with a red rose but also recognizes the great desire his friend has to win her over. So the little birdie chooses to sacrafice himself by intentionally flying onto the thorn whereby the white rose becomes red.
    When the young man is still rejected by the girl he returns home, finds his little friend dead and realizing what he did, makes the determination he will live his life by giving of himself to others just like his little friend did for him.

    The young girl represents the world, the young man all who at one time or another have wanted the world but then recognize and come to understand not only what Christ did for them but what He expects of them when they realize there is no satisfying the wants of the World.

    ??????

  61. Aaron Brown says:

    Kaimi —

    If you read BCC as religiously as you should, you would know that there’s no need to dig through Bob and Logan’s archives; I’ve reposted the enema story here:

    http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2007/10/best-mormon-missionary-story-ever-yep-its-about-enemas/

    Also, I rewrote portions of it that I felt were poorly-written the first time around, though the substance is the same.

    Aaron B

  62. Or how about this; the girl wants a green rose, the little bird is really a Vulcan (green blood, remember) but being a vulcan, sees how illogical it is to bleed on a rose, uhhhghh, so instead smears it with earthworms (also with green blood!) A little bird flys by, feasts on the earthworms, boy realizes girl isn’t worth the trouble, and instead goes off to the library to read more SF.

  63. Live Long and Prosper, Little Birdie.

    sorry, couldn’t help myself…..

  64. Aaron B, if there are multiple versions of that story, doesn’t that prove that you made it up? At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

  65. At my last stake conference the visiting authority told a story in the Saturday evening session about a young teenage boy who was in a motor vehicle accident and entered a comatose state. After weeks of prayer and fasting stretched into months of prayer and fasting, the doctors lost hope. The mother pleaded and life support equipment was purchased, leading to the son being transfered home, where his life was extended. Months stretched into years, and SEVEN YEARS later the boy died (of unspecified causes). The GA followed the story up with how this gave the boy time to repent.

    I think it was meant to be a faith-promoting story, but it didn’t work.

    Of course, it doesn’t help my point, but the rest of his talk was exceptional. That story really got my goat, though.

  66. How could he repent while in a coma?

  67. My feelings exactly, but their feelings were obviously different. Maybe his Spirit wasn’t in a coma?

  68. re # 58, do you consider the first Stake Conference story you mentioned (which you say was told by the attending GA) to be in the same category as the one that Amri is criticizing in the original post? To me, at least from what you have said about it, it seems different. Maybe you could provide more detail about it, as follows:

    (1) Was this a story that goes around and people retell it or was this a story that the speaker was sharing from having heard it himself from someone involved?

    (2) Is there something about the story that automatically invalidates it?

    (3) Do you also believe the remarkable story I recorded at ABEV recently to be b.s.? It seems to be more in the same category as the story the visiting GA told at your stake conference than the allegory told by Amri’s teacher. If you do, I would be interested to know what criteria you use to make the determination.

    Of course, I am not defending the temple square story to which you refer without knowing more about its provenance. I am just curious about the impulse to dismiss it out of hand. Of course the same impulse exists to dismiss the stories of angelic visitations to Joseph Smith out of hand as absurd and ridiculous, and we all know many who do just that. If the temple square story is something that simply goes around missions in old photocopies, etc., then perhaps it is suspect adn certainly unwise for a GA to include a faith promoting rumor in a talk — but if the GA who told it heard it from one of those involved, how are we to say that it is a lame story or untrue or impossible or not helpful, etc.?

  69. I agree with john f. that there is a danger in dismissing “miraculous” stories as being in the same category as doctrinally warped allegories. I could tell more than one story from my personal experiences with missionaries and investigators that is similar in “unbelievability quotient” to the first story in #58 – and they all would be true.

  70. Bro. Jones says:

    How could he repent while in a coma?

    Eek–if someone can repent when in a coma, that implies that we can also sin in our dreams. And if so, hoo-boy, I’ve got some (comatose) repenting to do.

  71. You’re all a bunch of snobs.

  72. Hey, now, Alma the Younger repented in a somewhat vegetative state.

    And stories like the one with the bird and the thorn have nothing on people testifying that they know it was our personal righteousness in the preexistence that resulted in us all being allowed to live in such a great country (I wish I was as not-self-absorbed to think of immigrants and starving children in East Timor at that time, but I was too annoyed.) At least cute stories let us play games with casting the various characters as Sin or Repentance.

  73. Just a thought on the bird story:

    Is it not good that we,

    a) suffer with the suffering
    b) love birds
    c) love talking to birds
    d) love nerds
    e) want to date chicks
    f) will die for love
    g) love Jesus
    h) love chicks

    What is wrong with this story?

  74. i’ve been looking for this same story – and this is the first time i’ve come across it on the internet from the time i heard it as a young boy. but this is a very different storyf rom the one i heard. it changed with the bird volluntairily sticking out his chest and piercing it with a thorn. the young boy then notices the rose and runs to school. but getting to school, he is invited to play in the basket ball game. and dropps the rose to play a game with his friends, realizing he “didnt really want to go to prom anyway.” so the question is stated, will we take advantage of the sacrafice? or will we toss it down, to take part in the temporary joys of the world.

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