Talk: "If the Savior Stood Beside Me"

(Spoiler Alert: He actually already does!)

September 13, 2021

Background

Sister Sally DeFord wrote the following message on her website to explain the background of her well-known childrens song, "If the Savior Stood Beside Me":

“If the Savior Stood Beside Me” is a song I wrote for my daughter Holly when she turned eight years old. Holly was such a good example! She was always so kind and loved others so much, it seemed as though she knew Jesus was always close beside her, taking care of her and loving her.

Holly is now all grown up, and has a family of her own. This is what she says about her song:

On my eighth birthday, I was baptized. At my baptism, my mom sang the song “If the Savior Stood Beside Me,” which she wrote specially for me. I remember her saying “I wrote this song for Holly, not because it’s a lesson I wanted to teach her, but because she has always acted as if the Savior really was there beside her.” That meant a lot to me, and I was so proud of myself and my beautiful song!

It has been more than 20 years since that day, and though there have been times that I have not acted as I would if I could see the Savior next to me, I know that even when we make mistakes and choose to do the wrong thing, Jesus stays near us and watches over us anyway, waiting for us to reach out and hold His hand again. Because He loves us so dearly, we are always in His watchful care, even when we don’t know it, and someday we will all look back and realize how close He was, just when we needed Him.

I am trying every day to “be the kind of person that I know I’d like to be if I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me.”

My young friends, if you will live every day of your life as though you could see the Savior standing right beside you, you will be happy, and you will be ready to live with Him again some day. He loves you and will always–always!–watch over you.

Intro

I remember attending a class on the second coming of the Savior at EFY when I was a teenager. The instructor (Randall Bird) knew every detail from the scriptures about the events leading up to the second coming and it was obvious that he was very excited for this future event because he wanted to be with the Savior. A young woman raised her hand with a concern, something along these lines:

The thought of personally meeting the Savior isn't exciting to me--it's scary! I don't feel ready to meet him, he knows all my flaws and weaknesses. If he came into this room right now I would want to hide!

I think the instructor could sense that this young woman was not alone in her anxiety, and could also sense that this young woman was probably not as bad off as she made it sound. He helped reorient us all:

What if the the prophet walked into this room right now? How would you feel? How would you react?

(President Gordon B. Hinckley was the prophet and president of the church at the time. That was who he was referring to.)

That was an interesting question for us to ponder. He then asked for anyone to share their feelings.

One young man answered:

I'd want to shake his hand!

Another young womon answered:

I'd want to give him a hug!

Someone else's response:

I'd want to talk to him and ask questions.

Another:

I'd ask him for a priesthood blessing.

He then made the point that Pres. Hinckley was probably the most Christ-like person we could meet at that time, and we would all just want to be near him if we could. The same would be true of the Savior, if he were to visit.

"God among Us", Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I often have wondered, What would Jesus teach and do if He were among us today?

Suppose Jesus came to your ward or to your home today. What would that be like?

He would see right into your heart. Outward appearances would lose their importance. He would know you as you are. He would know your heart’s desires.

The meek and the humble He would lift.

The sick He would heal.

The doubting He would infuse with faith and courage to believe.

He would teach us to open our hearts to God and reach out to others.

He would recognize and honor honesty, humility, integrity, faithfulness, compassion, and charity.

One look into His eyes and we would never be the same. We would be forever changed. Transformed by the profound realization that, indeed, God is among us.

Drawing Near

Doctrine and Covenants 88:63

63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

There are many ways for us to draw nearer to the Savior:

Peacemakers

From this week's "Come, Follow Me" lesson material we learn that being a peacemaker invites the Savior to be with us:

Doctrine and Covenants 105:38-41

38 And again I say unto you, sue for peace, not only to the people that have smitten you, but also to all people;
39 And lift up an ensign of peace, and make a proclamation of peace unto the ends of the earth;
40 And make proposals for peace unto those who have smitten you, according to the voice of the Spirit which is in you, and all things shall work together for your good.
41 Therefore, be faithful; and behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end.

Testifying of the Savior

The Savior is eager to bless us, especially when we testify of him, and even more especially in difficult situations. Here's a wonderful example from the book of Acts:

Acts 23:1-11

1 AND Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
...
10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

There's a nice video presentation of this appearance as well.

As recent as 190 years ago the Lord repeated this promice of "standing by us" when we testify of him:

Doctrine and Covenants 68:6

6 Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.

Walking with God

Jesus and Heavenly Father are concerned with us. They even invite us to walk with them, evidenced by the section from the topical guide entitled: "Walking With God". My favorite reference in that section if in the Book of Moses, chapter 6, verse 34:

Moses 6:34

34 Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; ...and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me.

Finally Seeing!

There are many other references to the Savior being very close to us:

Doctrine and Covenants 38:7

7 But behold, verily, verily, I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me;

For now, we must see Him, not with our physical eyes, but with an eye of faith, which is the whole point of our second estate! But as we progress, there will eventually come a day when faith becomes sure knowledge!

Doctrine and Covenants 88:68

68 Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.

Doctrine and Covenants 93:1

1 VERILY, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;

The Last Verse

Sally DeFord, on her own website, says:

There are currently six verses for this song, and you can mix and match them–just be sure to always use the first and last.

The first five verses all have the same meter and structure:

  1. They each start with "If the Savior stood beside me..."
  2. They each ask exactly four introspective questions
  3. The final question always ends in "would I [do something more something-ly] if I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?"

Singing each of these verses is like conducting your own little worthiness interview with yourself! Sort of like a musical version of Alma 5.

Now, the last verse is totally different, and important enough that the author/composer directs that we always include it. Rather than adding to the long series of questions, the last verse:

  1. is a revelatory realization that the Savior actually has been, is now, and always will be, standing with us!
  2. is exclamatory and declarative, a fervant testimony affirming all the previous wonderings.
  3. begins its lyrics on the downbeat, which adds to the effect of changing from questions to declarations.
  4. is most often musically arranged with a modulation or key change corresponding with the last verse, further adding to the effect of the realization.

The last verse also ends with the same last line as all the other verse (minus the question mark), probably as a way to keep some continuity with the previous verses, but I hope Sister DeFord would forgive me for taking a slight liberty by changing just a few words of that last line of the last verse in the spirit of some of the verses we've just reviewed:

"If the Savior Stood Beside Me", Final Verse (w/ my own variation)

He is always near me, though I do not see Him there
And because He loves me dearly, I am in His watchful care
So I’ll be the kind of person that I know I’d like to be
[until I] see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me.