'You could see the Savior through her'
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Emilie Parker was a choice little girl with bright blue eyes and a happy face that carved lasting impressions on folks of all ages. Ogden Utah Rock Cliff Stake President David Christiansen remembers instantly recognizing divine qualities in little Emilie.
"She just had a beautiful smile and countenance," he said. "You could see the Savior through her."
President Christiansen and fellow members across the globe are grieving with millions of others in the aftermath of a Dec. 14 shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., that left 28 dead, including six-year-old Emilie Parker. After killing his mother at their home, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary and killed 20 children and six adults before committing suicide.
The tragedy has staggered a nation, including many people who live far from the site of the unimaginable crime. Emilie, her parents, Robbie and Alissa Parker, and her two younger siblings were beloved members of President Christiansen's stake before moving to New England a few months ago.
"The Parkers are wonderful, wonderful people," he said. "They are strong in the gospel and testimonies of Jesus Christ. That's what helps us through this time."
Funeral services for Emilie Parker were scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 22, at the Rock Cliff Stake Center in Ogden. President Christiansen said the members of his stake and neighboring congregations are devastated by the slaying of Emilie and the others. Members of several Ogden wards have placed pink ribbon throughout Ogden in memory of Emilie.
President Christiansen said he hopes to share "a message of hope" during the services. "This is a struggle that will make us stronger," he told the Church News.
Little Emilie, he added, was a perfect soul who was received by the Lord and now waits for her family and friends in a holier place.
"She is safe," he said.
In a tearful press conference a day after the shooting, Emilie's father, Robbie Parker spoke of his love for his daughter and his family's testimony of the gospel.
"As the deep pain begins to settle in our hearts, we find comfort reflecting on the incredible person that Emilie was — and how many lives she was able to touch during her short time on earth," he said. "Emilie was bright, creative and loving. Emilie was always willing to try new things — other than food. She loved to use her talents to touch the lives of everyone she came in contact with."
Emilie was a skilled young artist who enjoyed drawing pictures and cards for others, he added. Last October, she crafted a special card for her grandfather, Douglas Cottle, who had died from injuries sustained in a bicycle race. The little girl then placed the card in her grandfather's casket.
"She is an incredible person and I'm so blessed to be her dad," he said.
Brother Parker also offered condolences to all the families impacted by shooting. "It was a horrific tragedy, and we just want everybody to know that our hearts and our prayers go out to them. This includes the family of the shooter. I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that, from our family, our love and our support goes out to you as well."
The father concluded his statement with an expression of hope that the sad event might "inspire us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people."