Thomas Monson tells sometimes of a man who came to his home when he was a bishop in 1951. A bishop is like a pastor or minister, except that he is unpaid, and serves for a number of years in his “spare” time while raising a family and managing a career. The man said his brother and his brother’s family were coming to Utah from Germany. The man had been a strong church leader, even in the difficult days of the Holocaust and the war, when it was often dangerous to be a Mormon. They would be living within the boundaries of Thomas Monson’s ward (congregation.) Mormons attend church based on where they live, much in the same way a child attends an assigned school based on geography.
He asked Bishop Monson to come with him to look at the apartment that had been rented for his brother. Bishop Monson was dismayed by the sight that greeted him. The paint was peeling off the walls and the wallpaper in other rooms was filthy. The cupboards were empty. There was a giant hole in the floor covering and the room was only lit with a single forty watt light bulb. The man assured Bishop Monson this was far better than what they had in Germany, but President Monson wasn’t reassured. The family would arrive two days before Christmas, and he thought they deserved a better home than that.
He found it hard to sleep that night and arrived at a church meeting tired and worried. When someone in the meeting asked what was wrong, he told them about the family and the apartment. The people in the meeting did what Mormons do best-they went to work on a plan. Mormons love emergencies.
One member arranged to have men from church rewire the apartment and another found new appliances to replace the broken ones in the apartment. Another obtained donations of carpeting and lined up men to lay it. A third man offered to donate paint and to line up men who could paint the apartment. The women offered to fill the cupboards. Nearly everyone in that congregation went to work on making a small, dirty apartment beautiful and welcoming. When the family arrived, they were taken to the apartment, where the ward members were waiting.
If the dirty, dark apartment was more than they’d had in Germany, imagine how they felt walking into a bright, beautiful apartment filled with good things to eat and beautiful surroundings. They were overwhelmed at the realization this all belonged to them.
As the church members left, a teenager asked Bishop Monson why she felt better than she ever had before at that moment. He responded with a scripture from the Bible:
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40.)