In cleaning my engagement ring (picture above, sorry it's small) this week, one of the small diamonds fell out.
I gingerly picked up the diamond and carried it towards the door of my office so I could request a small bag from the librarians in which to keep it safe. Yet as I opened the door, the tiny diamond escaped from my grasp and fell to the floor.
I promptly sank to my knees to scan the tightly-piled, multi-colored carpet within the vicinity of the door. There were “holes” in the carpet between tight piles and the carpet's base. Besides the risk that the diamond could have fallen into one of these holes, the color variations in the carpet made it very difficult to see any small item on top. After searching for 10-20 minutes, I began to be frustrated. I had gotten up awfully early to allow myself three full hours of study time before class. Now I was frittering it away in search of a lost diamond. As I am want to do about most everything, I began praying that I would find it quickly.
After several more minutes of furtive searching, I began now to be frustrated with God that my prayers were not being answered and my time wasted. I took a small break to read new emails, and found an email from a dear friend describing her decision to leave my faith and the fellowship of the Church.
She explained that she had never gotten a “yes” answer to her prayers whether the Book of Mormon was true and whether Joseph Smith was a prophet. For multiple decades, she was faithful, read the Book of Mormon, kept her temple covenants, and served dutifully in the Church. She struggled endlessly to find an answer.
My friend was not alone. I had just that morning learned of another who had similarly struggled for years to find an answer. The three miles' walk into Penn each morning occasion good opportunities to listen to my church's semi-annual general conference talks. Just that morning I had listened to a talk wherein a world-wide leader shared his multiple-decades-long walk of faith. He had prayed as a child to know whether the church was true, and did not get an answer till he was a missionary nearly 20 years later.
Why had these two decades' long walks of faith ended so very differently, one becoming a world-wide leader, the other leaving the faith altogether? Waiting so long for answers was foreign to me. I remember feeling and recognizing the Spirit at six or earlier at a siblings' baptism. I read the Book of Mormon before I was eight, prayed about it, and felt it was true. That process has repeated itself countless times throughout my 32 years. Indeed, my friend's experience prompted doubts and questions in response to which I requested re-confirmation of the truths I have long believed in, and again received a fairly immediate, positive witness of the Spirit. My divergent experience made it difficult for me to imagine the pain and agony of such a long search. Why had my experience been so different?
As I pondered these questions, I turned back to my diamond search. The analogy it presented was striking. Here, too, was something of worth. I knew it was there, somewhere, but found looking for it tiresome. I was frustrated it was taking so long, frustrated with God that He would withhold it from me for such a long period. He knew exactly where it was, but was requiring me to go through the painstaking work to find it.
Then I relaxed as overwhelming gratitude swept over me. I had never had to labor long for those things of even greater worth—the spiritual diamonds—in my life. I began to feel great compassion for my friend and her painful, long search. How difficult it must have been, how lonely, how frustrating. My physical diamond search took on greater meaning as I began to relate it to my friend's and commit, as she had, to finding that diamond no matter how long it took.
After an hour and a half of searching, I finally found the diamond—it had somehow travelled the distance from one side of the door to the other (width-wise) and was gently lodged against the wall where I could not step or press on it in my searching, driving it into the carpet. It had been kept safe for me, albeit hidden. I sat back in triumph and gratitude for many things.
I have thought much since about my diamond search and its analogy to my friend's long searching. I don't suppose I will ever know why she found an answer so very different from mine, but I can have compassion for the difficult journey she trod and respect for a decision of conscience about which she is sincere. Her experience does not weaken the strength of my conviction, but I am grateful that, for whatever reason, the nature and length of her struggle has not been the particular kind of challenge a loving Father has seen fit for me to pass through.