On the evening of May 5th of this year, I went to a sermon that was broadcast from Rexburg, Idaho. The speaker was Elder William R. Walker and his sermon was on the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, President Thomas S. Monson, and the wonderful life he’s lived. As Latter-Day Saints, we believe that God continues to call prophets today, like in times of old, and that President Monson is his authorized prophet. I know this to be true. Elder Walker shared a story in the sermon from President Monson’s life that really touched me.
He talked of a time when President Monson traveled to Laie, Hawaii, to visit members of the church. While President Monson was there, a cultural celebration was presented on the BYU-Hawaii campus. During a hula dance number, President Monson noticed one of the women in the group was in a wheelchair. President Monson pointed her out to Elder Walker and commented on how lovely she was and how beautifully she was doing the dance.
Elder Walker then described what happened at the end of the cultural celebration:
“As the program ended, everyone was happy about the great performances given. As we left the stand, all of the dancers were back on the floor, including the hula dancers. President Monson didn’t follow the planned exit route but went straight to the floor to express his appreciation to the youth, and in particular he went straight to the beautiful girl in the wheelchair to commend her and express his love to her. Even in the midst of the celebration and the large crowd, President Monson again showed the pure love of the Savior. He went to the ‘one.’ He bent down and kissed her on the forehead.”
As I sat listening, I couldn’t help but shed tears. It was there that I decided I needed to meet this girl and learn of how this experience had affected her. I may sound like a stalker but I knew there was more to this story. When I got home, I searched, found the name of this Hawaiian girl and then found her on Facebook. Surprisingly, she wasn’t creeped out by some random guy in Las Vegas wanting to interview her. What I found was a story that changed my life.
Briana Garrido is a native in Hawaii and has many hobbies. She is constantly participating in volunteer work in Hawaii. She’s been in several theatre productions and is a passionate student at BYU-Hawaii, majoring in peace building with a minor in public management. Briana is a social butterfly and loves being with people.
In 2011, she was crowned “Hawaii’s Most Outstanding Teen.” Her platform was entitled “Dream. Fight. Endure: Nothing can stand in your way.” One of the reasons that Briana chose this is because she wanted to inspire all people to keep pressing on in life and not let trials stand in their way. The second reason was that she herself had endured much and nearly had her dreams crushed. In high school, Briana was diagnosed with genetic muscular myopathy that she still fights today. At first, she gave up on her dreams, contemplated suicide, and then decided to fight back. “I knew then,” she said, “that God wouldn’t give me any trial that I couldn’t handle.” As Briana fought, she met other people along her path that were facing similar illnesses that inspired her to press on. Briana told me of how one of her friends with cystic fibrosis kept her fighting with his optimistic attitude, and another who was paralyzed from breaking his neck in a canoeing accident who could relate to not being able to move. Love from her family and friends also helped her go on when she felt alone in the world. Briana believes that life is one of enduring and overcoming trials to make us stronger.
Ironically, she wasn’t planning on being at the cultural celebration in Laie, Hawaii. Briana had practiced and practiced her dance in preparation but was hospitalized right before the celebration was to begin. Briana’s father was insistent on her not going and didn’t want her to be a burden to anyone there. But Briana was insistent and her wish was granted to be at the celebration. Because of her condition, Briana was not able to perform in the rehearsal. She was switched to a different location that was right in front of President Monson. When the actual performance began, Briana was given the strength to perform her dance with the rest of the hula dancers. She was wheeled onto the stage. Looking at President Monson, she was encouraged by him waving and smiling at her. “He came down,” said Briana, “He came up to me and he was greeting the other youth along the way. I didn’t know what was going on but he stopped right in front of me. He grasped my face and kissed me on the forehead. And if I am not mistaken, he even said, ‘I love you and God loves you.’” It was an experience she will never forget.
“Sometimes I find myself asking why it was me President Monson chose to greet when I was surrounded by thousands of other amazing youth,” said Briana, “I feel extremely blessed because having the Prophet of God personally reach out and express his love when I most needed it. This experience taught me that although it may not always feel like it, God really does know me personally and loves me. It’s just sometimes, he chooses to show you through the hands of those who serve him instead.”
Think of the people you can reach out in your own life who are struggling or who feel alone. You may not share the same beliefs as I do but follow the example of President Monson. Pray to know whose life you can change for the better and show that individual God’s love for them. Briana’s experience lasted only about one minute yet it changed her life and encouraged her to press on. Think of all you can do in your own family, community, and circle of friends by reaching out to the “one.”.