Elder Holland spoke to us on Tuesday. He chose the most important topic there is: the atonement of Jesus Christ. He quoted Joseph Smith saying that “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” He also told the missionaries that all of their contacts are potentially golden, because all were valiant in the pre-existence or they wouldn’t be here.

In my chosen writings and film-making, I necessarily confront past folklore about some being more valiant than others in the pre-existence, so I was especially gratified to hear these words. I was even more gratified when my husband said to our district after the devotional that people in the past had speculated on valiancy in the pre-mortal life and implied that some were “less,” and that he felt such was false doctrine. (GO BRUCE!) I’d even go so far as to suggest that the scriptures which refer to a select group and say, “These I will make my rulers” might not mean what we have often assumed, since they come before Jehovah steps forward with the words, “Send me.”

But all of that aside, my favorite moment of the devotional was when Elder Holland enfolded a tearful missionary in his arms, held him tight, and kissed his cheek. There was such goodness and love in that embrace. Not all of the apostles seem like embracers, but Elder Holland is. Witnessing that made me long for my children to partake of the love Elder Holland was so openly expressing.

One of our elders had received news earlier in the day that a good friend of his — who had recently submitted his papers to go on a mission — had been killed in a car accident. Our district moved to comfort him. My husband embraced him. I, of course, did not, because I am not allowed to.

It has been so hard for me to restrain my impulses at the MTC. How I wanted to embrace that grieving missionary! But, for reasons I understand, I am allowed to embrace only the sister missionaries.

But what good it did me to see Elder Holland embrace that one missionary fully! The spirit of the gospel — the centrality of the atonement — should make us want to embrace, even when we’re constrained in our expressions. The gospel is a voice of gladness and unity. It should be move us to offer our whole selves, in song, in body, in praise and rejoicing.

I do not anticipate a handshake from the Savior after I die. I long for that embrace.