My Friend and Your Friend

A good man returned to God this week.  He was my friend.  We were not related, we had little daily interaction, and yet I call him my friend, above that of general acquaintance or collective pleasantry.  I think many people in my church congregation feel the same way-- he was not a friend to all of us; he was a friend to each of us.  Why would we feel this way about an elderly gentleman with whom many of us had limited association?

With his passing, I have pondered that question.  I know we all feel his loss quite personally.  I can't speak for everyone, but something dawned on me this morning that helped me understand what Brother Richard Blackmer meant to me-- why he was my friend, and what that means.    

In spite of myself, I have managed to adhere to the basic tenants of my religion throughout life.  My faith in Jesus Christ and his plan of happiness has grown in me steadily, slowly, forming deep roots under the safety of greater trees, and after reaching a certain height, hardening in the winds of tribulation.  I don't credit myself for it; I mean to say that I was rarely afraid, because I was not alone.  God stayed with me.

But amidst this, I have sustained only weak confidence that God is perpetually aware of me.  I know he loves all his children, but my mind is too small to grasp how, in this infinite universe, he can know and love each of his children in a personal way.  How is that even possible?  I realize this is nothing more than a mental block in my puny brain, and it runs contrary to all the evidence in my life that God has indeed been there for me.  I understand that my eyes will be opened hereafter and the concept will be shamefully obvious.  But there are billions of us, just here on earth today.  How?

As I reflected on Brother Blackmer this morning, I realized what it is about him that made his friendship so personal.  When he approached any one of us to shake our hand, when he smiled and complimented and asked about each member of our family, when he channeled all the divine light inside himself into that single moment with one single person, it was as if no one else was in the room, as if no one else mattered as much as you did, right there and then.  His was not a collective friendship.  He was my friend, and he was your friend.  He was a mortal man, only able to connect with one other mortal at a time.  Yet he reached as far as he could to be a brother to every individual he could. 

'Where Are the Nine?" by Liz Lemon Swindle (detail)
Our Heavenly Father is not inhibited by mortal limitations.  "All is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men" (Alma 40:8).  The Lord can be present at any place on our earthly timeline, in as many places as he chooses, without end.  He can do what Brother Blackmer accomplished only in microcosm; he can put his arms around every individual, whenever he is needed, at the moment he is needed.  He has 'time' enough, and to spare.

So often as parents we find ourselves fighting between practical work and personal time with the kids; God has no such burden.  He has made his purpose in the universe not to raise up a human population, but to raise up each child.  He is able with one hand to wield his mighty power to form worlds and expand the universe, and with the other to hold his child's hand.  He has all the time in the world.  He has time for me, and he has time for you.

I love my friend, Brother Blackmer.  He showed me how it's done, how God does it-- not how our Father loves us, but how our Father loves me.  I thank him for being the example that would help me understand.  I have no doubt that he will dwell in the presence of the Lord forever. 

"Of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, he has asked us to address him as Father." --Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

 "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (John 20:17)