I write this having just come from a Baptist funeral for a good friend, Booker Armstrong. My husband worked with Booker for many years at Caltrans. Through those years we got to know Booker and Dorothy through social situations in addition to Danny’s days with Booker on the job. We were always impressed with their quiet demeanor, service, and Christ-like love.
Looking back, I think Booker and Dorothy attended the weddings of all four of our children. I believe they also attended LDS (Mormon) missionary farewells for all of our children. Often, the Armstrong’s were the only Baptists in a sea of Mormons. In addition, they were frequently the only African-American couple in the crowd. No matter what the circumstances, they fit in. They were friendly and mixed well with the other guests. A more perfect example of Christ-like love could not be found.
We were invited to family events with the Armstrong’s, as well, and were usually the only Caucasians and always the only LDS couple in attendance. We never felt out of place, and never lacked for conversation and fun. Last year we were invited to the surprise 73rd birthday party for Booker. We were one of two white couples in attendance. Ironically, I don’t even think I had time to have a conversation with the other white couple, as we were so busy enjoying the conversation with everyone at our table and the table next to where we were sitting.
At a time when racial tensions have escalated and when religions can’t seem to come together about anything, the Armstrong’s have been a shining star. Someone spoke at the funeral about Booker being the “green light.” I don’t remember exactly what he said, but the crux of it was that Booker was the shining example of Christ. He pointed out that Booker had a way of smiling with his eyes, even if his mouth wasn’t smiling. I remember those eyes. It was the love of Christ shining through to give others comfort.
14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
19 I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances? (Alma 5:14,19)
Booker and Dorothy Armstrong have received His image in their countenances. I’m sure that Booker was received on the other side with a pure heart and clean hands. In addition, their family and friends have exhibited to us the countenance of Christ in their image. Booker’s children should be so proud of their parents. The whole congregation of their church should be proud of the sweet example they set for the rest of us.
I want to “grow up” to be like the Armstrong’s. I hope someday that people will be able to see God through my countenance. We must all strive to be an example of Christ-like love. We can do this. God will help us. There is nothing we can’t do with His help.
Your Heavenly Father has known you for a very long time. You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His great work on earth. You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others.
You developed some of these attributes premortally. Others you can develop here on earth as you persistently seek them (Elder Russell M. Nelson, Decisions for Eternity, Oct. 2013 General Conference).
We seek the attributes to help us become more Christ-like through prayer, scripture study, and practice. The old saying, “Practice makes perfect,” was never more appropriate. Each day of our lives is practice for the future. If we fail today, we can use the atonement to help us tomorrow. Repentance is real. The Savior suffered, bled, and died for our chance to keep trying until we get it right.
Don’t ever give up. He didn’t go through all that suffering so we could curl up in the fetal position and say, “It’s just too hard.” Nothing we ever go through is even close to the agony of Christ—nothing. He suffered in ways we will never be able to comprehend—at least not in this life. Don’t give up on yourself, because He never did and never will.
Thanks to Booker and Dorothy Armstrong, their family, friends, and the congregation of St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church for teaching me the importance of loving all and serving all. Christ-like love crosses all boundaries, and you are a shining example of all that is right with the world.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.