The Shoes She Left at the Chapel Door

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

The Shoes She Left at the Chapel Door

Too often, charity is extended to another when his actions or conduct are acceptable to us. The exhibition of charity to another must not be dependent on his performance. It should be given because of who we are—not because of how we behave.

H. Burke Peterson
Ensign, May 1981

Bishop Peterson’s thought reminds me of Darla, a woman I knew some years ago who conducted the music in sacrament meeting. The Lord had blessed Darla with a beautiful voice and a real talent for conducting music, but she had endured a difficult and turbulent life. She often came to church wearing the same dress—sometimes it was clean, sometimes not. But every Sunday, she was there.

Darla had two small children who often ran around in the chapel while Darla conducted the music. Her husband had stopped coming to church a few years earlier, and it was difficult for Darla to take care of her children while she conducted the music.

What offended people so much, however, was not the fact that Darla’s children were unattended in the chapel. That was understandable—her husband was inactive, and children’s behavior can be excused. What was upsetting so many people was the fact that Darla conducted the music in front of the congregation, in sacrament meeting . . . barefoot.

Darla’s bare feet became a topic of conversation both in and out of various meetings at church. I remember asking our bishop why he didn’t just ask Darla to put her shoes on. There was concern that her feelings could be hurt. So as a member of the Relief Society presidency, I was asked to visit Darla.

Darla was different. Her boisterous, loud character was often viewed as crass and “uncouth.” She was overweight, and sometimes she smelled offensive. In her hectic rush to get herself and her children to church, she periodically wore her dress inside out.

But Darla had a wonderful testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and she loved her Father in Heaven. In fact, here is what I learned: Darla so loved her Heavenly Father that she could not offend Him in His chapel by wearing her dirty, worn-out shoes while she conducted music on Sundays. In her difficult life situation, Darla felt more reverent toward her Heavenly Father when she removed her shoes and left them outside the chapel door.

Melinda Gardner

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