A few weeks ago, Junior said he wanted to try bringing Jack to church with us, just for the sacrament portion of sacrament meeting. I said, “Okay,” even as the conflicting emotions of skepticism and hope surged through me.
My inner conversation went like this:
Me: “I would love for Jack to go to church again. Of course I want my whole family there together. This is a great idea.”
Also Me: “This is a terrible idea. Don’t you remember why Jack stopped attending church two years ago? Don’t you remember him knocking down little kids and screaming and attacking you in the foyer because he didn’t want to be there?”
Jack’s two-year absence wasn’t because of doctrinal questions or taking offense at somebody’s inconsiderateness. It was because he was too violent to be there. He couldn’t go to Primary. He wanted nothing to do with his special helpers. He wanted to go home. He wanted his vacuum. He wanted his soda.
“Jack doesn’t need church the way the rest of us do,” I told myself, and anyone who wanted to know about our decision.
It says it right there on the church records, next to Jack’s name—-“Unaccountable.”
It’s a single word that explains a powerful concept. Jack is childlike. He will not be held accountable for his behaviors, because he will be saved. He will be saved.
HE WILL BE SAVED.
This is the sweet, tender mercy of a life where my son can’t speak, can’t care for himself, and can’t hope to live a “normal” life in the sense of being independent, marrying, working, or raising children.
Jack is unaccountable. The Savior’s atonement made sure of this.
He is innocent and his salvation is assured. This is the happiest part of Jack’s pervasive disabilities: they protect him from destroying influences.
While he is unaccountable, it would nevertheless be nice for Jack to be able to come to church. It’s a place where people feel the influence of the spirit. He likes the hymns. He likes being with us. People are kind to him there.
Yesterday, Jack dressed in his church clothes, which is to say the gym shorts/not-fashionable-free-dental-office-t-shirt ensemble that he wears every day. He will never not wear this outfit, because he does not have the capacity to consider social norms or pressures associated with dressing for occasions. That means nothing to him. He cares about how the clothes feel. Period.
He and I walked down the street to the church. As we got closer, Jack started laughing. Victory! But how would he do once we were inside and supposed to sit quietly?
Jack sat happily, if not always quietly. He kicked off his slippers and crossed his legs on the bench. He pulled my arm around him tightly. He chirped happy sounds during the quiet of the sacrament.
The only looks we got were smiles. My neighbor handed Jack his charging cable when it fell behind the pew. I felt happy.
And as I sat squeezing Jack, a memory steam-rolled into me:
Jack was turning eight. I was sitting with him in the bishop’s office, explaining to the bishop why Jeff and I did not believe Jack needed to be baptized.
“If you were to interview Jack and ask him whether he believes in God the Eternal Father and in Jesus Christ, he wouldn’t be able to answer you,” I said to the bishop.
He asked me, “Do you think Jack has a testimony of his Heavenly Father and the Savior?”
At this moment, I was physically overcome with a sense of love, a feeling of affirmation. I could not speak. I could barely breathe. The bishop handed me a box of tissues. Jack sat beside me, eating candy.
I nodded in response to his question. I knew it.
Jack can’t tell us what he believes or how he feels, but the spirit slammed me with an understanding of Jack’s inner life.
Jack knows his Savior. Perhaps he remembers God. The incapacitating flood overwhelming my senses allowed me to feel how they feel about Jack.
He knows them and they know him, without barriers.
I think this memory returned to me during Jack’s first Sunday back so I would know that Jesus loves us—so God could tell us that he sees us trying, and he is glad.