Friday, January 5, 2007
The Billowing Surge
Hanging on the wall in my office is a portrait of Lorenzo Snow done in chalk by a very talented sister that used to live in the Irvine, California Stake. She brought me the painting while I was just beginning my rehabilitation of six months at Rancho Los Amigos hospital in September of 1989. It has been my privilege to look at this painting almost every day since then and contemplate the great faith of this prophet of God. When she gave me the painting at the hospital she said she didn't know why she had painted Lorenzo Snow but had felt impressed that she should do so. I told her I knew exactly why she had felt that prompting. For years he had been an inspiration to me because of his faith which his patriarchal blessing said would be like unto that of the Brother of Jared. Now I realized I would need his kind of faith to deal with what had happened to me. Almost daily as I study the face of Lorenzo Snow I am strengthened and reminded of the power of faith in our lives and what it can accomplish. His great example has always motivated me to never give up and to rely on the "tender mercies" of the Lord in the face of an extreme challenge.
Since my body surfing accident at Laguna Beach I can truly identify with an experience that Lorenzo Snow had in the surf off the island of Maui, Hawaii near the mouth of the harbor of Lahaina. It was on the morning of March 31, 1864 that this event occurred and was recorded by one of Lorenzo Snow's companions, Elder W. W. Cluff.
"Apostles Ezra T. Benson, Lorenzo Snow, Brother Alma L. Smith, and myself, got into the small boat to go on shore. Brother Joseph F. Smith, as he afterwards stated, had some misgivings about going in that boat, but the manifestation was not sufficiently strong to indicate any general accident. He preferred to remain on board the vessel until the boat returned...The entrance to the harbor is a very narrow passage between coral reefs, and when the sea is rough, it is very dangerous, on account of the breakers. Where the vessel lay, the sea was not rough, but only presented the appearance of heavy swells rolling to the shore."
"As we approached the reef it was evident to me that the surf was running higher than we anticipated... We went but little farther, when a heavy swell struck the boat and carried us before it about fifty yards. When the swell passed it left us in a trough between two huge waves. It was too late to retrieve our error, and we must run our chances. When the second swell struck the boat, it raised the stern so high that the steersman's oar was out of the water, and he lost control of the boat. It rode on the swell a short distance and swung around just as the wave began to break up. We were almost instantly capsized into the dashing, foaming sea...The last I remember of Brother Snow, as the boat was going over, I saw him seize the upper edge of it with both hands..."
"Nothing yet had been seen of Brother Snow, although the natives had been swimming and diving in every direction in search of him. We were only about one-fourth of a mile from shore... Brother Snow had not yet been discovered, and the anxiety was intense. The natives were, evidently, doing all in their power. Finally, one of them, in edging himself around the capsized boat, must have felt Brother Snow with his feet and pulled him, at least, partly from under it, as the first I saw of Brother Snow was his hair floating upon the water around one end of the capsized boat. As soon as we got him into our boat, we told the boatmen to pull for the shore with all possible speed. His body was stiff, and life apparently extinct."
"On reaching the shore, we carried him a little way to some large empty barrels that were lying on the sandy beach. We laid him face downwards on one of them, and rolled him back and forth until we succeeded in getting the water he had swallowed out of him. After working over him for some time, without any indications of returning life, the by-standers said that nothing more could be done for him. But we did not feel like giving him up, and still prayed and worked over him, with an assurance that the Lord would hear and answer our prayers. Finally we were impressed to place our mouth over his and make an effort to inflate his lungs, alternately blowing in and drawing out the air, imitating, as far as possible, the natural process of breathing. This we persevered in until we succeeded in inflating his lungs. After a little, we perceived very faint indications of returning life. A slight wink of the eye, which, until then, had been open and death-like, and a very faint rattle in the throat, were the first symptoms of returning vitality. These grew more and more distinct, until consciousness was fully restored." [Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, 276-279.]
This may be one of the first recorded instances of the saving of a human life through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation -- CPR. Of course these brethren were inspired to do what they did to save the life of a future Prophet of God. Though not in the same league with Lorenzo Snow, six lifeguards at Laguna Beach did CPR on me for a lengthy period of time until the paramedics were able to arrive on the scene with all of their lifesaving equipment. Without those six young men and their absolute determination to keep me alive I wouldn't be writing this observation today. Lorenzo Snow was kept alive -- and thankfully in better shape than me -- to fulfill an important foreordained mission. I have a little bit of a feeling for the gratitude he must have felt when he regained consciousness on the beach that day. He knew his life had been preserved by his Heavenly Father for an important reason. I am sure it gave added direction to his life from that moment on. When I awoke from my unconscious state, lying on a gurney in the intensive care unit of Laguna Hospital, looking up into the faces of concerned doctors, nurses, family, and friends, there washed over me a feeling of gratitude and the realization that although I was badly injured I was still alive.
I have a firm testimony that God is involved in all aspects of our lives. Of course, with his power, he could prevent any accident or injury from befalling us, but then that would be counterproductive to his plan of happiness for each one of his children. On occasion, through his infinite foreknowledge, he does preserve life to further his own purposes, as in the case of Lorenzo Snow, or to give us additional time and experience to become what he would have us become.
The older I get the more I feel I understand and identify with the Lord's counsel to Joseph Smith as he languished in Liberty Jail. After recounting all of the horrible things Joseph had experienced and would yet experience he included the following statement: "... [and] if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee...know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." [Doctrine & Covenants 122:7]
I do not presume to speak for Lorenzo Snow, but as for me, being cast into the deep and having the billowing surge conspire against me, unbelievable as it may seem, has given me experience and has been for my good.