Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Joseph Millett Story

Our son John is an ER doctor serving his final six months in the Air Force.  The Air Force paid for three years of his medical school education at USC and for that he owed them three years of full-time service.  He was deployed to Afghanistan for about five months a while back and is now serving his final six-month deployment at a large air base and hospital in southern Germany near the French border.  His home base for the past three years has been Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.  He has been trained as a critical care doctor and heads a team that consists of an RN and a respiratory therapist. 

His team has a very interesting and vital mission.  Every Sunday they fly from Germany to Maryland with wounded troops that are checked into Walter Reed Hospital in the Washington, DC area where they receive specialized care.  John's team's mission is to keep these soldiers and Marines alive during the long flight from Germany to Maryland.  They fly in a huge cargo plane that has been converted into a flying ICU.  The thing that impressed me and touched my heart was when I asked John how many wounded troops were on the plane from Germany to the United States.  He told me that on the two trips he has taken thus far there has only been one critically wounded soldier on the entire airplane which he says is like flying in a massive warehouse.  I believe on the first flight he and his team were responsible for keeping alive a young man who had been severely injured in an explosion in Iraq.  He was being flown to Walter Reed in an attempt to save his leg.  He also said there were several, what he called, "walkie-talkies"; wounded troops who were injured but not in imminent danger of dying.  I was so impressed at the money expended and the care given, especially to this one critically injured young man.  It made me feel good inside to know how concerned we are for this one critically wounded soldier and what we are willing to do to save this single precious life.  I don't know where you are at politically, but what John is doing along with his team made me feel proud to be an American.

How important is a single life?  No price can be placed on it of course!  I couldn't help think of the Savior and his concern for the "one" as exemplified in his mortal ministry.  Oh, he fed the 5,000 and spoke to multitudes on occasion, but most of his ministry was spent ministering to individuals.  He healed the man born blind, raised Lazarus from the dead, as well as the daughter of Jairus, and the only son of a widow in the little village of Nain.  He healed the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, as well as countless other individuals.  Individual people were important to Jesus, and still are today.  I believe we only see the tip of the iceberg in terms of the individual healing and teaching Christ was involved in during his earthly ministry.  Think of the amount of time he must have spent with his 12 apostles on an extended camping trip that lasted three years.  He loved them as individuals as he loves us as well.  He knows us by name and is intimately acquainted with our innermost thoughts and feelings.  He knows of our infinite potential, and though his love is infinite and eternal for all mankind, it is also extremely individualized and personalized.

One of my favorite stories from church history which illustrates how we are known as individuals to the Lord is the incident Joseph Millett recorded in his journal.  Many of you have heard this story, but it is one that must never be forgotten.  Joseph Millett, an early pioneer, was struggling through a difficult winter in Utah with his large family and recorded the following in his Journal:
“One of my children came in and said that Brother Newton Hall’s folks was out of bread, had none that day.
“I divided our flour in a sack to send up to Brother Hall. Just then Brother Hall came.
“Says I, ‘Brother Hall, are you out of flour?’
“ ‘Brother Millett, we have none.’
“ ‘Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you was out.’
“Brother Hall began to cry. He said he had tried others, but could not get any. He went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett.
“ ‘Well Brother Hall, you needn’t bring this back. If the Lord sent you for it you don’t owe me for it.’ ”
That night Joseph Millett recorded a remarkable sentence in his journal:
“You can’t tell me how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew there was such a person as Joseph Millett” (Diary of Joseph Millett, holograph, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City).
Joseph Millett was an ordinary member of the Church.  I don't know that he ever held a high ecclesiastical position.  As a young teenager he had served a mission in Canada by himself and did a great work.  He was a man of faith and what a joy it must have been to him to know that the Lord knew who Joseph Millett was.  I believe the same could be said of all of us.  The Lord knows who we are.  He loves us as individuals.  I believe one of our great challenges in life is to love other individuals as we are loved by the Savior.  How precious is each individual soul?  No price tag can be attached!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Life Support System

 December 15, 2008, Observation:

I love this holiday time of the year for many reasons.  One thing I enjoy is going to Church and seeing the astonishing array of holiday neckties worn by the men and boys.  I have always been intrigued by neckties, who invented them, why do we wear them, what purpose do they serve, and etc. I used to have quite a collection myself that I enjoyed wearing, but 20 years ago I traded them all in for just one "breathtaking necktie" I wear daily. 

This "breathtaking necktie" connects me to my ventilator which pumps 12 breaths of air into my lungs each minute -- I love every one of them.  Without this "necktie" which connects me to my life support I wouldn't be here writing this observation.

Over the last 20 years my life support system has failed me four different times.  On three of the occasions, Jo Anne has been able to bring me back from a state of unconsciousness without getting the medical world involved.  The last time we were not so fortunate and I was in a coma for eight hours requiring the assistance of police, paramedics, and hard-working ER/ICU professionals, accompanied by priesthood blessings and much prayer.  The first three experiences I can remember in vivid detail, but have no recollection of the last.  Finally awakening in the hospital, the last thing I could recall doing was eating a hot dog at Costco.  Was it the Costco hot dog that almost "done me in?" I don't seem to enjoy them nearly as much as I used to, but Costco will be relieved to know it wasn't a tainted hot dog that was the cause of my brush with death, but rather a malfunction in my life support system.

It is a rather humbling experience to absolutely know -- not in theory but in actual fact -- that if you are disconnected from your life support that death will quickly follow within a few short minutes.  I am no medical doctor and have not researched the subject but I would imagine that most people die because they quit breathing.

My rather unique situation has helped me to understand and appreciate the truthfulness of what Jesus taught his apostles just before going into the Garden of Gethsemane that night of nights as recorded by John. "I AM the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman... Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me... I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."  [John 15: 1-5, emphasis added]

I believe John recorded very accurately what the Lord said to the apostles on that occasion.  Jesus didn't just say he was "the vine" but that he was the "true vine."  The implication is that there are other vines we can attach ourselves to -- false philosophies, precepts, organizations, etc. -- but unless we attach ourselves to the "true vine" we will not be able to bring forth "much fruit."  As the Savior said "... the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine."  Unless we are attached to our life support -- Christ -- we can do nothing!"

I am convinced that, in a spiritual sense, we are as dependent on Christ each minute and hour of the day for our spiritual life support as I am totally dependent upon my electrical and mechanical life support system to keep me alive physically.

I have seen people in the midst of life's most challenging problems and trials sever themselves from the true vine and have watched them die spiritually almost as quickly as I would physically if my life support system were to fail me.  Truthfully, unless we are attached to Christ we can do nothing!

Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of the 70 in the October, 2008, General Conference beautifully and truthfully said:
"... Life is hard for all of us, but life is also simple. We have only two choices. We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy, or we can go some other way, any other way, whatever other way, and go it alone—without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair. And I ask, which way is easier... There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. Jesus Christ is the Way. Every other way, any other way, whatever other way is foolishness."

I know with a sure knowledge that if I detach myself from my life support I will die almost immediately.  I also have a sure knowledge that if I detach myself from the "true vine" that unhappiness, depression, and despair will surely follow.

"There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. Jesus Christ is the Way. Every other way, any other way, whatever other way, is foolishness."




Sunday, November 30, 2008

Linger Longer

I believe that we are all painfully aware of our weaknesses.  I know that is surely the case with me.  I hate to report it, but I also believe Jo Anne is painfully aware of them as well.  She is very kind however, in that she does not broadcast them about.

One of my greatest challenges throughout my life is that I have been very jealous and possessive of my time.  It has always been far easier for me to give money than time.  Paying tithing, etc., has never been a challenge or a perceived sacrifice.  Giving of my time however is another story. 

Don't get me wrong, over my lifetime I have given freely of my time to others, but in my heart of hearts sometimes it has been given far too grudgingly.

My brother Darrel, eight years older than me, had an interesting experience during the BYU/Utah football game this year.  I am a strong BYU fan, but compared to my brother, I pale in passion, intensity, and longevity.  Just as the game was beginning last week the missionaries came to his home thinking they had a dinner appointment at that time. There had been some miscommunication and Darrel and his wife had gone out to eat lunch just before the elders arrived.  Darrel had settled down in front of his TV to watch this epic match between the "good guys" -- BYU, and the "villainous University of Utah Utes."  Shocked and horrified within, he recovered quickly and took the two elders out to dinner at a nearby restaurant missing the entire first half of the "biggest game" of the year.  The elders ate well as usual, but Darrel kind of choked down what little he could eat.  He was gracious, I believe, and was quite uncomplaining, as he explained to me what had happened.  Well, the last half of the game was nothing a true BYU fan would want to watch, so the "big game" was quite a wash for my brother.  I honestly don't believe I would have been so gracious.  I would have probably had the elders dig through the cupboards and refrigerator and fix themselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Anyhow, I think my brother is on his way to ultimate sanctification and exaltation as evidenced by the way he handled this experience.

For some time now, at the end of certain stake meetings that are cut a little bit short on purpose, the member of the stake presidency who is conducting announces that we will dismiss to the cultural hall for a "Linger Longer" time.  Instead of rushing out and away from the building immediately, time is set aside for us to just visit and renew acquaintances with good friends that we don't see nearly often enough.  Of course, Jo Anne has never needed any one to invite her to "linger longer" in a social setting.  She has been "lingering longer" as long as I can remember. 

I am sure the concept is not necessarily original with our stake, but I personally believe it is a wonderful concept, especially for a time challenged person like me.  It is always a test for me to "linger longer" willingly and cheerfully.  There are so many other "important" things on my agenda that need to be done.

The life of the Savior has always been an inspiration to me as I have tried to learn to "linger longer", visiting with, and hopefully being blessed and blessing others in the process. I believe one of Jesus' most beautiful attributes was his sociability and willingness to "linger longer" with others.  It was not his purpose to give money to those in need, but to give of himself and his time, selflessly and constantly.  I carry many pictures of him in my mind that inspire me when tempted to not "linger longer" happily and willingly. 

For example, John's account of the Savior visiting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well [John 4] has always had a profound impact upon me.  Tired and hot he taught this woman, and a Samaritan at that, with all of his heart, revealing to her who he was and ultimately converting her and many of her friends and family in the adjacent village, because he was willing to "linger longer."
He was not too busy to assist his mother at the wedding feast by changing the water to wine -- his first recorded miracle.  I have often wondered how long he "lingered" there.  Wedding receptions are not my favorite thing I hate to admit and I usually try to "linger" as little as possible. 

After the resurrection he walked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."  [Luke 24: 21]
It was not given to them to know who he was at that point and as he was about to part from them, Luke recorded the following:  " But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them."  [Luke 24: 29] It was while he "lingered longer" that he revealed himself to these two men as the resurrected and glorified Savior. 

Example after example of course could be cited of Jesus' willingness and desire to give of his time, not just to the multitudes, but to individuals in obscure settings as well. It seems to me that his entire life was all about "lingering longer" to bless the lives of others with his time and presence.

My favorite picture of his "lingering longer" however, is as he finishes his first day of ministering to the descendants of Lehi here in the Americas as the resurrected Christ, Mormon recorded:  "And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.  And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you."  [3 Nephi 17:5-6] And then Jesus said: "Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them..." [3 Nephi 17:7]

I think I love this passage so much because I see myself in many of the categories Christ mentioned.  Just think of the joy that came to those who were paralyzed who could now walk -- I identify with that -- just because Jesus was willing to "linger longer."

I have a long way to go to approach Jesus' willingness and desire to "linger longer" with those who needed his help.  I think I am making progress though, but if we are ever visiting and you notice me looking over your shoulder at one of the three clocks I have hanging on the walls of my bedroom you have my permission to pull the air hose off my trachea!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don't Blow Your Lead

Last week Jo Anne and I went to the Newport Beach Temple for the first time in some time because of various difficulties we have been dealing with.  One of the Temple workers came up to me and said, "It is so good to see you here."  I responded with, "It's good to be seen!"  In my mind I was also saying, "It's better to be seen than to be viewed!"  And then yesterday I had some surgery done on my pressure sore.  While the doctor was performing the procedure she noticed a spot that looked suspicious and decided to do a biopsy.  As she was working away I thought, "Better to be the subject of a biopsy than an autopsy!"

As challenging as life can be at times, I am still happy to be around.  I am one person you will never hear complaining about getting older.  I will take every day I can get, realizing the precious gift mortality is.

Life is particularly good at this time of the year if you are a sports junkie like I am.  We have college football, college basketball being initiated, and the NBA season beginning as well.  I suppose my love for sports is evidence of a misspent youth; however, it surely does add an enjoyable dimension to my life.

Many years ago I heard President Joe Bentley, president of the Newport Beach Stake at the time, give a talk to the youth about how important it is not to "Blow our lead," in life.  He was alluding to how frequently in the NBA one team will have a 20 or even 30 point lead and almost unbelievably lose the game at the end. 

I have already seen this phenomenon occur in the NBA several times this year -- in fact I observed it almost happen last night to my beloved Los Angeles Lakers.  The Lakers were playing the New Orleans' Hornets and had a 21 point lead most of the game, but almost ended up getting beat in the fourth quarter.  They were very fortunate to barely win a game they should have won easily, and almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as teams do who "blow their lead." 

Why do basketball teams blow their lead so frequently?  There is probably no easy answer, but I think human nature, being what it is, they become complacent, depart from the fundamentals that built their lead in the first place, and quit playing with intensity.  In most cases, I observe that they quit playing tough defense.  There is not a great deal of glory in playing defense.  It requires constant and consistent hard work and is not nearly as fun or glorious as launching a three pointer that splashes through the net to the applause and cheers of the crowd.  However, teams that don't continue to play hard-nosed, in-your-face defense, usually end up blowing their lead and often times losing the game.  In basketball as in life, to ultimately win the prize -- the game or eternal life -- we must endure to the end and not "blow our lead!"

I have always been intrigued by the lives of three characters in the Old Testament -- Saul, David, and Solomon.  Each of them was given an "early lead" in life.  Of Saul it was said that he was "... a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people."  [1 Samuel 9:2] Anointed by Samuel to be the King of Israel as a young man with the promise of a long and productive life ahead, we know that he "blew his lead" through pride and disobedience, was filled with jealousy and hatred toward David, and eventually died an ignominious death as a miserable old man.

Samuel the Prophet was inspired to anoint the young boy David to replace Saul as the next King of Israel.  We read of David, "... Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward...." [1 Samuel 16:12-13]

Whoever was given a bigger lead as a young man than David?  He had the faith to go forward to slay Goliath.  He was a great poet and musician, as well as a powerful warrior.  He loved the Lord and was loved by the Lord.  Our heart aches for David as we observe him through the pages of history "blow his lead," in his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the slaying of her husband.  How could you have done it, David?  I know why -- he quit reading his scriptures and praying, [he quit playing defense and departed from the fundamentals of his faith] and undoubtedly was also lifted up in his pride.  And so this boy of such promise and infinite potential blew his lead and ended his days in misery and heart ache.

David's son, Solomon, was a sweet and humble young man who loved the Lord when he began his reign as King of Israel, as evidenced in the following prayer he offered to Jehovah. "And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in... Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" [1 Kings 3:7, 9]

Solomon was blessed with wisdom.  He loved the Lord and built the great temple.  Under his direction Israel flourished as never before; but, even great Solomon eventually "blew his lead", as we all know.  He forsook Jehovah, married many "strange women", allowed the worship of false gods in the kingdom and eventually died a hollow shell, and but a shadow of his former humble and wise self.

Surely the Lord could have called men to be kings of Israel that would have endured faithfully to the end.  I believe there is a great lesson in his not doing so, however.  I call it the "Two Faces of the Three Kings of Israel."  Those two faces are the natural man and the spiritual man we are all capable of being.  Birth, the privileges we receive in our youth, our infinite potential as sons and daughters of God mean nothing if we do not, day by day, do those things that enable us to not blow our lead, give in to the natural man that is always lurking just beneath the surface, and endure faithfully to the end. 

We, who have been given so much, must never grow complacent, quit playing intense defense and "blow our lead."

As I give patriarchal blessings to the youth of our stake, I am overwhelmed with who they really are and of their infinite potential.  Just coming for a blessing is evidence of the great lead they have been given in life already.  I hope many, if not all of them, will never "blow their lead" which they need not do if they will continue to play intense, consistent defense and never grow complacent.  At what age can we afford to abandon the fundamentals of life that strengthen faith, and to not play the game of life with intensity?


Friday, October 31, 2008

Be of Good Cheer

One of my favorite people is Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.  I met him for the first time in November 1989 when he was sent by the First Presidency to Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California to release me as president of the Irvine, California stake.  He and his wife visited with Jo Anne and I while standing around my hospital bed.  It was like having your grandfather and grandmother come to visit.  He was the essence of kindness and compassion.  He told us that he always hated to release stake presidents, but it was especially difficult to release me prematurely, and under such difficult circumstances.  Before leaving that night, he gave Jo Anne and I each an apostolic blessing.  There was no doubt in our minds that we had been blessed by a modern-day Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For a number of years after that, from time to time early in the morning, the phone would ring and the voice on the other end would say, "This is Elder Wirthlin."  Jo Anne would always say, "Really?" He simply wanted to know how we were doing and if there was anything he could do for us.  That tells you an awful lot about Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, doesn't it?

He told us if we were ever in Salt Lake City to come visit him in his office in the Church Office Building.  One summer as we were at BYU for Education Week, we drove up to Salt Lake City to meet with Elder Wirthlin.  His secretary was waiting for us and graciously ushered us into his office.  There he sat, hunched over his desk in obvious pain -- he had a bad back -- just working his heart out.  His desk was covered with piles of papers and maps.  He was chairman of the committee regarding boundary changes in the Church.  Every proposed new ward, stake, mission, etc. had to be studied and approved by his committee.  It would have been a monumental and daunting assignment for a young man, but Elder Wirthlin was in his 80s and not in the best of health.  It was an unspoken object lesson to us of endurance and never giving up. 

Seeing how busy he was, I said something like, "Elder Wirthlin, you are so busy, and it has been such a treat for us to just see the inside of the church office building, I think it would be best for us to leave you to your work." He got up from his desk and said "If I don't have time to visit with you, I don't have time for anything."

For the next hour he gave Jo Anne, our 16 year old youngest daughter Jackie, and I his undivided attention.  He was delightful.  He was so positive, cheerful and upbeat, he made us all feel good inside.  For not one second did we feel we were imposing upon him and were any kind of burden.

I knew he had been a star running back at the University of Utah in his youth.  I got up enough courage to say, "Elder Wirthlin, what is your favorite college football team?"  He got a big smile on his face and said, "Well, with me the Church always comes first, BUT..." Then this great Apostle of the Lord, but also a loving grandfather, proceeded to tell us how his grandson, a great high school linebacker, heavyweight wrestling champion for the state of Utah, and a returned missionary from Australia was not given the time of day by BYU's coaching staff, but was recruited by guess who -- the University of Utah.  It was wonderful and refreshing to see this human side of a great spiritual giant.

As we left his office, just above a light switch adjacent to the door, in the most obvious place possible, was a Norman Rockwell type painting of two old-time college football players with the old leather helmets.  One wore a BYU uniform and the other the uniform of the University of Utah.  The University of Utah football player had just destroyed the BYU player with a bone crunching tackle.  Elder Wirthlin said many of the brethren had begged him to remove the painting, or at least hang it in a more inconspicuous place, but he said he never would.

These memories about Elder Wirthlin were stirred up in my mind because of his classic General Conference address in October of this year.  The title of his talk was taken from some advice given to him by his mother as he was discouraged and depressed after having lost an important football game.  His mother said, "Joseph, COME WHAT MAY AND LOVE IT!"  The thesis of his talk was: "The way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life."

"Come what may and loving it" is the only way to live life.  I had to learn that lesson many years ago and am constantly taking refresher courses on the subject.  I have learned to appreciate the many ironies in my life that make me laugh frequently.  I don't remember signing up in the pre-Earth life to be paralyzed and on life support, but here I am, and that's what I got.  There is hardly a day that goes by that I don't find something to laugh about regarding this situation, including seemingly constant life-threatening experiences.  It is so easy to be troubled and afraid, self-absorbed, taking ourselves too seriously, filled with self-pity, and just being plain miserable.  We don't have to be that way.  I haven't said this for many years but it is so true -- Barbara Johnson wrote a beautiful book entitled, "Pain Is Inevitable, Misery Is Optional!"  How true that is!

The Lord says it a bit differently, but it is the same essential and eternal truth.  There are 12 scriptures in which he tells us to "be of good cheer."  And we are admonished to "... submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."  [Mosiah 24:15]

I have discovered that it simply is not enough to endure.  We must rise to another level -- the level the Lord expects of us -- to submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.


PS.  The reports regarding my demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Last week I did have a ventilator malfunction but Jo Anne, several policemen, paramedics, and well-trained personnel at our local ER intensive care unit pulled me through.  I was unconscious and in a comatose state for quite some time and have no recollection of what happened.  I did know that BYU was playing UNLV on Saturday and with short-term memory loss continually pestered the nurses with, "Will I be released in time to see the game?" So you can see my priorities are in proper order.  There was some concern I would be brain damaged; I will leave it up to you to decide whether that is the case or not.  At least one member of my family (whom I won't mention by name) would give a "yes" vote.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Every once in a while, like many of you, I have an unsolicited, unexpected, and spontaneous wonderful experience.  It is usually something very simple, but at the same time very profound.  I had such an experience the Sunday of General Conference.

Still trying to get over a nagging pressure sore I was lying in bed watching and listening to both sessions of Conference on my laptop computer.  I had a scheduled patriarchal blessing to give a half-hour after the afternoon session.  As soon as the session was over Jo Anne and my son in law Nathan, got me into my wheelchair and I rolled into my office to prepare to give a blessing to a wonderful 16-year-old young lady.  Giving her a Patriarchal blessing was a sweet experience- the capstone, I thought, to a perfectly beautiful Sabbath day.

Our two youngest daughters, Rachel and Jackie, and their husbands Matt, and Nathan and our three youngest granddaughters, ages 4, 2, and 14 months had been with us during the day watching conference.  They all went out for a walk while I gave the blessing.  You never know what the noise level might be with unpredictable and emotional preschoolers.

We eventually all sat down around the dining room table to enjoy a beautiful Sunday dinner together.  Not to give a false impression of an idyllic setting, I must report that after the family prayer the 14-month-old, in trying to climb up a stool fell off, bumped her head, and her mother, Jackie spent much of the dinnertime getting her calmed down.  You know how that goes.

And then the unexpected experience came to me.  As I was looking at my two youngest daughters and their husbands, married in the temple and with these three beautiful little granddaughters, I had a flashback of memories.  It is said that when people are about to die in a traumatic way that their entire life flashes through their minds.  I have had a number of near-death experiences and this has never happened to me -- just sheer panic.  However, at the dinner table that Sunday afternoon I did enjoy a vivid, warp speed recall of my life with Rachel and Jackie over the years.  The memories were sweet.

When I had my accident over 19 years ago now, Rachel was nine and Jackie turned four just days after losing my the battle with the ocean.  At the time I thought "Why would the Lord send these two little girls to us to take care of and raise, knowing with his infinite foreknowledge what was going to happen to me?"  It took but a short while to realize that, in fact, these were two angels the Lord knew that Jo Anne and I needed to get through the coming challenging years.  Without going into great detail, these little girls were my arms and legs and assisted Jo Anne with my care day in and day out for years.  They still pitch in and help, along with their husbands now, whenever they are around.

The only dad Jackie can remember is one in a wheelchair.  We have a unique relationship because of it.  She once said to her mom, "Wouldn't life be boring if dad were normal like everybody else?"  Come to think of it though, maybe some of your kids have said the same thing about you.  How many drinks of water, nose wipes, suctionings, channel changes, fixing computer problems, helping their mother get me dressed and into the wheelchair, etc. have they done for me over the years?  The memories were vivid but the overwhelming feeling was one of gratitude to have lived long enough to see these little girls married and with sweet little babies of their own.  It was sort of a payday experience for me, and I felt that if the Lord saw fit to call me home at that moment, I was at peace with myself and that life had not been so bad.

Memories are wonderful things.  President Monson often quotes the poet John Barrie who wrote that "God gave us memories that we might have June roses in the December of our lives."  Hopefully we will live in such a way that our memories as we grow older will be "June roses" and not regrettable noxious weeds.

For the last several years I have had a project of trying to read out of each of the standard works every day.  I am afraid I am a bit like Marjorie Hinckley, who had a similar goal and reported in a talk she gave that after having set the goal she was already three weeks behind.  But she also went on to say she wasn't discouraged and would keep plugging away at it having received great benefits from the days she accomplished her goal.  It reminded me of the words of Robert Browning who said, "If a man's reach does not exceed his grasp than what is a heaven for?" 

As I read the Scriptures in this manner I am reminded of the important truths that I constantly need to remember every day of my life.  To me, all of the Scriptures are simply a book of remembrance of the most important truths ever revealed to mankind.

The word "remember," or a derivative of it, is used 240 times in the Book of Mormon alone.  My life is extremely blessed as I remember through searching the Scriptures each day that which is worth remembering the most.  And of course the most important thing to remember was taught by Helaman to his son's Nephi and Lehi: "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."  [Helaman 5:12]


Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I have just finished reading 325 pages of birthday greetings from my family and friends thanks to the efforts of Sharli Cartwright. I am overwhelmed with your expressions of love and the many kind things you have said.  My obituary and eulogy have been eloquently expressed in your e-mails and I am now ready to be planted. 

Truthfully though, I have shed many tears as memories of past relationships and experiences have been rekindled in my mind and heart.  I also have a yearning to see you all, but in many cases I am afraid that will have to wait until we are reunited in the happy hunting ground.

Several weeks ago I was lying in bed waiting for Jo Anne to come down and choose the "outfit" for the day.  BYU TV was on and I was privileged to hear a talk delivered by Marvin J. Ashton at a BYU devotional in 1982.  (The full text can be found in the September 1982 Ensign)  The title of his talk was "It's No Fun Being Poor!"  I was immediately reeled in by his opening statement and thought to myself that I could write a book about the truthfulness of that statement.

I thought his talk would be about money and material goods but he immediately dispelled that idea by asking the question, "What is meant by the terms poor and rich? Do they have to do only with material goods?" He then proceeded to give his 10 Commandments that, if followed, would make us rich indeed and help us avoid having to experience the misery of being poor.  Interestingly enough, only one of his commandments had anything to do with the acquisition, management and wise use of material goods.
His first commandment was: Thou shalt not lose a friend or cease being one.  He then went on to tell us why:  "A person is poor when he has fewer and fewer friends. A person is poor when he is friendless...When we lose friends, our strength, as well as our desire, to do good is often totally drained from us...It was the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” A person is poor when he is friendless, but even poorer when he ceases being a friend. No matter what others may do, we cannot afford to give up our sincere efforts to be a friend."

I consider myself to be a wealthy man beyond belief because of my friends.  My only regret is that as I look back on my life I think that undoubtedly I could have been a much better friend in so many instances.  Some of you have compared me to Job in the Old Testament.  We are not even in the same ball game.  When Joseph was pouring his heart out to the Lord in Liberty Jail regarding his trials and tribulations and that of the Saints, the Lord comforted him by saying:  "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment  And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high..." [D&C 121: 7-8] Now that is a wonderful message to anyone who is suffering any kind of affliction.  However, over the years I had failed to read carefully the following: "Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee..." [121:9]

No, I am in no way like Job for many reasons but especially because my friends have been at my side supporting me and blessing me and helping me have the courage to go forward, knowing that this adversity, in the eternal scheme of things, is "... but a small moment."

I just don't think any of us can make it through this mortal probation without good friends.  I also believe all of us can probably be better friends.  We can be a little more sensitive to others, a little kinder, treat others with more lovingkindness, and be less self-centered.

I have often been touched as I read and reread Moroni's poignant words as he is about to finish his work after the last great battles:
 "... I am alone. My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not."  [Mormon 8:5]

Oh how we need friends!  And I suppose the ultimate friend we need is our Heavenly Father.  Our challenge is to follow the example of our great progenitor Abraham.
"And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God...and he was called the Friend of God."  [James 2: 23]

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Try and Do

August 1, 2008 marked the 19th year of my accident at Laguna Beach.  At this time of the year I always seem to reflect on the accident and things I have learned because of it.

In the spring of 1990, approximately 9 months after my accident, Richard Holzapfel, who was the CES coordinator for the Irvine, California Stake asked me to be the keynote speaker at the Seminary Graduation.  I immediately turned him down telling him that there was no way I could prepare a talk and deliver it in my condition.  I also was very sensitive about how I would be perceived by these young people as I sat before them in my big power wheelchair and on life support.  He said that was fine but that he was going to have my name printed on the program as the keynote speaker and whether I showed up or not was up to me.

Well, for the two weeks preceding the graduation I struggled mightily to prepare a little talk.  I felt that my brain had atrophied during the many months I had spent in the rehabilitation Hospital.  Jo Anne spent hours working with me each day and I am sure there were times she must have thought it was a lost cause.  With no computer or voice recognition software at the time, it just seemed impossible to think creatively and prepare my remarks.  Finally however, I had a little talk prepared and was absolutely amazed that the young people actually seemed to listen and enjoy what I had to say.  It was such a good experience it inspired me to accept many other speaking and teaching opportunities over the years which has contributed to keeping my brain functioning at a fairly high level, despite rumors to the contrary.

President Thomas S. Monson is fond of quoting lines from movies, musicals, poetry, and great literature.  He seems to have a photographic memory and doesn't forget anything.  In two consecutive general conferences he quoted a line from the Civil War movie, "Shenandoah."  He quoted the words spoken by James Stewart, the star of the movie, as follows: "If we don't try, we don't do, and if we don't do why are we here?" Based on my own experience I know how true that philosophy is.  Without trying and doing why are we here?

I have great admiration and respect for people who try and do.  One of President Kimball's often repeated sayings was, "Do It!"  For years I had sitting on my desk a three-dimensional object made out of foam but looking like marble with those two words "Do It" engraved upon on it.  It was a very important daily reminder to constantly try and do.

Several years ago one of my observations was given to a young mother in Texas by the name of Jennifer Lynn.  I think her visiting teacher or home teacher received the observation from somebody -- you know how these e-mails get around.

As a 30-year-old, happily married mother of four beautiful children, unexpectedly and with no warning, she had a stroke that left her paralyzed from the eyes on down.  The prognosis the doctors presented to her and the family was that there was no hope of recovery of any kind.  Since then she has developed the ability to use her right arm and one finger a little bit, enough to write on the computer to a certain extent and drive a power wheelchair.

We have been corresponding from time to time and I am always humbled when I receive one of her messages that obviously has been so painstakingly written in her own unique way.

Jennifer could have given in to her situation and quit trying and doing.  The opposite however has been the case.  In the September 2008 Ensign she had published an article she has written entitled, "Primary Songs Helped Me!"  It is a beautifully written and inspiring story from a wonderful young woman who refuses to give up.  If you haven't read the article you surely should.  I believe it is on page 55 of the magazine.  If you read it and feel so inclined, you may want to write Jennifer an e-mail and give her some feedback.  I know it would make her day.  Her address is jenannlynn@aol.com.

I think of all the great things that have been accomplished because men and women were willing to try and do, in many cases, the seemingly impossible.  The list is endless, of course, and each one of us, with a little pondering, could create our own list of heroes that have been an inspiration to us.  We will find some of them in our own families and among our friends.  Their examples are priceless. 

We read in the Scriptures that nothing is impossible with God.  However, we are commanded time after time to knock, ask, seek -- in other words to try -- and only then will He open the door to us and make the impossible possible. 

It takes faith to try.  This last dispensation came into being because a little boy had faith to try the counsel of James regarding prayer and then to do the will of the Father as it was revealed to him.

No great work was ever accomplished without trying and doing.  As James so beautifully taught: "But be ye adoers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a ahearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a bglass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner he of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect alaw of bliberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."  [James 1: 22-25]


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Life is for Giving

One of my favorite musicals is "Les Miserables."  I have read Victor Hugo's book, and seen several movie versions, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical production.  In fact Jo Anne and I went to see the play in Los Angeles as part of the celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary.  Just a week after seeing the play I had my accident at Laguna Beach.  The music always tugs at my heart because of the tender memories it rekindles. 

A few weeks ago I had an unexpectedly sweet experience with Les Miserables.  I am addicted to Turner Classic Movies and especially enjoy movies from the late 30s through the 50s.  I noticed that a 1936 version of Les Miserables starring Frederic March as Jean Valjean and Charles Laughton as Javert was beginning soon.  I was tempted not to watch it having seen so many Les Miserables productions through the years, but having nothing better to do -- no Dodgers games were on TV -- I decided to give it a try.

I immediately realized it was astonishingly well done.  It was very true to Victor Hugo's book and I was caught and reeled into a couple of hours of absolutely mesmerizing entertainment.

There was one scene that had a greater impact on me in this 1936 production than any other of the many I have seen.  It was when Jean Valjean had stolen the priest's silver dishes and silverware, had been captured by the police, and brought back to the priest's lodgings.  Jean Valjean's life was changed forever when the priest assured the police that he had given the silver to him as a present.  The police looked on in amazement as the priest walked over to the two beautiful silver candlesticks above the mantle and told Jean Valjean that he must have forgotten them.  He proceeded to place them in the bag along with the other silver items.  The priest then said to Jean Valjean in a soft but penetrating voice as he intensely looked into his eyes, "Whenever you look at these candlesticks remember that life is for giving and not taking!"  The confused but humbled Jean Valjean stumbled out into the night a changed man.  The priest's words that "... life is for giving and not taking" became the standard by which Jean Valjean governed his life from that moment on.

I have done a lot of thinking about that line for some time now.  During my lifetime I have been the recipient of countless acts of kindness by many whose lives have been all about giving and not taking.  The addition to our home was built by men and women who only wanted to give and give.  A good friend of ours, a professional wallpaper hanger and very good friend, just spent the last three days in our home stripping off old wallpaper and hanging some new.  Years ago he volunteered to wallpaper our home, which he did, and would not let us pay him.  He is a master craftsman and it is a joy to watch him magically transfer a room in, what seems to me, a matter of a few minutes.  Jo Anne tried to pay him for his work this time and he said he wouldn't do the job if she did.  We will try to find other ways to make it up to him, but of course, that will be impossible.  You know when somebody is doing something for you out of love and desire and not just out of duty.  His example is always humbling to me.  He is but the tip of the iceberg of so many others who have given so selflessly over the years to bless our lives.

The unsettling thought that is always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind is "Am I more of a taker then a giver?" Whenever I go see a doctor or have a nurse come to the home, the first thing they do is take my vital signs.  They check my blood pressure and temperature (I always ask them if I am still alive) and if that is okay then they can begin to work on other problems with the realization that I am not in imminent danger of passing on to the other side.  We probably ought to do a frequent check of our spiritual vital signs that give us a reading of where we are on the "giving or taking" continuum.  If the "taking" is alarmingly greater than the "giving" we may be in imminent danger of spiritual death.

The parable of the Good Samaritan has been expounded by many over the years.  My take on it, and it is not original with me, is that it is a macro view of human nature with regard to giving and taking.  The thieves that beat the poor man almost to death and took all his possessions had the attitude, "What is yours is mine if I am strong enough or smart enough to take it from you."  The mindset of the Priest and Levite was, "What is mine is mine and I intend to keep it and not give it away."  The attitude of the innkeeper was, "What is mine is yours if you have enough money to pay for it."  And finally the Good Samaritan felt that "What is mine is yours and you are welcome to it, and as much as you need, for as long as you need."

I think we would all like to be like the Good Samaritan, but truthfully at times, because of the natural man in us that is still alive and well, we probably are a composite of all these attitudes.  Hopefully by the end of the day we will be more like the Good Samaritan than the other characters in the parable.

Of course, on the broad-spectrum of giving and taking, Christ is on one end and Satan on the other.  One is the great "giver" and the other the great "taker."  Satan only wanted to take everything from us as well as the glory from the Father.  He is still trying to do that through evil people that follow his lead as "takers."  What did Christ give?  He gave us our agency, and the opportunity to inherit the greatest gift we can receive which is the gift of eternal life.  In doing so he gave his life; "Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends."  [John 15: 13]

I really do want to be more of a giver than a taker but I'm not there yet, I'm afraid.  Hopefully we all might someday fully realize and implement in our daily lives the truth communicated by the priest to Jean Valjean, "Life is for giving not taking!"


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pressure sores and repentance

I'm still alive!  That's the good news, but the bad news is that I am still battling this little pressure sore.  It is amazing to me how such a little thing can alter one's lifestyle so drastically.  It has been a problem since May, causing me to spend about a month and a half in bed the past three months. I have learned a great deal this summer because of this new challenge however, and feel as Evita did when she sang, "Don't cry for me, Guatemala!"  (Or was it Argentina?)

I have discovered, to my consternation, that I still belong to that large group of people seeking to be cured in the manner described by Elaine Marshall, former Dean of the school of nursing at BYU, who said of the word "cure," that it "... is clean, quick, and done, often under anesthesia."  The human part of me would stand in any line, however long it was, to get that kind of a quick fix cure.

Pressure sores are created over a long period of time however, and I know through personal experience that they are not susceptible to the clean, quick, and done cure that I would desire. 

I have thought of my pressure sore as a metaphor for sin and repentance.  Because of unwise sitting (living) the pressure exerted on one particular part of the anatomy prevents the blood from flowing and nourishing the tissue and it begins to die.  Layers of dead skin begin to build up underneath the surface as living, healthy tissue is destroyed. All of this damage takes place without the victim being aware that part of his body is being destroyed because he -- at least in my case -- is "past feeling." When the top layer of skin finally bursts open you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.  The healing must take place from the inside out -- all the dead tissue must be eliminated before the blood flow can begin to nourish and heal the healthy tissue once again.

So how do we eliminate the dead tissue -- sin and its deadening influence on our spirits -- so that healing can take place?  The first and most important thing is to eliminate the pressure from the afflicted area which in my case means lying in bed for days at a time.  If it is a "spiritual pressure sore" the same principle of course applies -- the sin, the cause of the festering sore, must be totally removed.

As the pressure is removed healing can at last begin to take place.  However, how foolish it is to think that it will be cured overnight.  In my case, an enzyme in the form of a topical ointment that comes from the papaya fruit is inserted into the wound and causes a reaction that will eventually eat away the dead tissue.  Until all the dead tissue is eaten away healing will not take place.  How does this apply to repentance?  One must perhaps go to a bishop, begin searching the Scriptures, praying with more frequency and fervency, serving and loving others until the layers of dead spirituality are gradually eaten away.  These are the enzymes that must be applied daily and over a long period of time.  We cannot be "cured" from sin overnight -- a "healing" must take place instead of a "cure."  Dr. Elaine Marshall's definition of healing is very important as we consider pressure sores and repentance: "...Healing... is often a lifelong process of recovery and growth in spite of—perhaps because of—enduring physical, emotional, or spiritual assault. It often requires time. We may pray for cure when we really need healing." (April, 2004, Ensign, 57)

I have been so frustrated at times wanting this darned pressure sore to be "cured."  Every time Jo Anne unveils it I wait for good news but until just very recently she sadly reports to me, "I'm sorry, but it looks about the same, no worse and no better." It is much smaller now thankfully, and I finally can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it just didn't take place overnight.

I have learned through my life experience that nothing that is of any really lasting value is planted and harvested overnight.  As I look out my bedroom window I see a lemon tree, a grapefruit tree, and an orange tree I planted in our backyard in 1975.  It seemed like forever before these trees produced any fruit but now year after year we harvest and enjoy this delicious fruit.  I do believe the law of the harvest is a true and eternal law and is at play in all our lives." Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward."  [D&C 6:33]

As badly as we would like to be instantly cured from our health problems, in most cases, it really is "healing" that we need.  This principle of course applies to all aspects of our lives. 

The world is full of get rich quick schemes, or how to learn Polish in 10 easy lessons or the piano in 5.  The truth of the matter is that most good things come only after we have paid the price of hard work, self-discipline, and the passage of time.

I have also learned, as I had been confined to my bed, how important it is to have daily goals to strive to accomplish.  My first inclination when I realize that I can no longer have the freedom even to get up and roll around in my wheelchair is to curl up in a fetal position, watch endless hours of TV, and just vegetate.  Thankfully I am able to get rid of that attitude in a heartbeat and put myself on a strict schedule.  I spend six to seven hours each day working on my laptop in bed, studying, researching, and writing.  I have daily goals and when I finally watch the Dodgers or the Olympics I feel pretty good about myself and the work I have done that day and probably appreciate and enjoy the discretionary time that is left to me. 

I think the Lord did intend for man to work and to work hard.  Yes, we do reap what we sow -- the law of the harvest is real even in the healing of a pressure sore -- not even a quick fix in this arena!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ICU experience

A while back I noticed Jo Anne studying my life insurance policy.  She informed me that if I were to suffer an accidental death she would receive double the face value of the policy.  Then, and this kind of disturbed me a bit, she asked me what could constitute an accidental death for someone in my condition?  Without thinking, I blurted out a number of scenarios that would surely do me in and would be viewed by the authorities as "accidental death."

I didn't think much about it after that until a week ago last Sunday evening.  Jo Anne was performing a medical procedure on me and inadvertently bumped the humidifier which is full of water and delivers me the moisture I need through a 6 foot long ventilator hose.  One end of the hose is attached to the humidifier and the other to my throat.  When the humidifier tipped, the water in the humidifier immediately drained through the ventilator hose into my lungs before Jo Anne could do anything about it.  Instantly I was unable to breathe, turned purple, and was literally drowning.  Jo Anne was doing everything in her power to keep me alive, which was very comforting given our life insurance policy discussion, and was able to dial 911. Within 10 minutes three police cars, a fire engine, and a paramedic vehicle arrived at the scene. They have been here before.  These good folks took over from Jo Anne, got some oxygen into me, and we made a mad dash to the ER in Irvine.  Once in the ER, I was stabilized; but, thinking that I might get bacterial pneumonia, they deemed it wise to keep me in ICU for a few days for observation and to pump me full of antibiotics.

Wednesday afternoon I was released to go home.  Jo Anne and my son Richard got the van all loaded up with me in it and we headed for home with Rich going back to work.  We had gone but a short distance when Jo Anne realized we had left behind a beautiful vase of flowers Mike and Richard had given us for our 44th wedding anniversary, which we had celebrated the previous day while in the ICU.  She turned the van around and was fortunately able to find a parking spot directly in front of the large main doors of the hospital.  She stopped the van; I had her turn on my favorite Robert Goulet CD, and then she made a dash for the hospital to recover the flowers.

Just as she left, I felt I was getting dizzy or lightheaded because it seemed to me like the van was moving backwards.  I blinked my eyes in an attempt to clear my head, and then realized that the van was actually freewheeling backwards down the driveway toward a two-lane road that bordered the hospital.  I really didn't panic but the thought occurred to me that this may be the incident that will enable Jo Anne to collect on that accidental death life insurance policy.  Well, the van was picking up speed, and I guess you would have to be paralyzed from the neck down, unable to turn your head to see where you're going, and unable to do anything even if you could see, to fully appreciate my predicament.  Finally, and miraculously, the van and I crossed the two lane road, jumped the curb, ran through a flower bed, and finally was gently stopped when the back bumper came into contact with a small tree. Several nurses and two security guards came running up to see what had happened.  They quickly ascertained that I had nothing to do with the escapade and were puzzled as to what had happened.  I was as puzzled as they were, and all we could figure is that Jo Anne had put the van in neutral instead of park as she made her run for the flowers.  I pled with them to go easy on Jo Anne, no handcuffs, and that it was just simply an "accident."

As Jo Anne walked out of the hospital she couldn't see the van and thought that maybe some foolish person had "quadnapped" me.  Then she saw the security guards surrounding the van which was parked some distance away.  She ran up extremely concerned, as you can imagine, and the security guards assured her that all was well.  They did point out to her the difference between Neutral and Park, for which I was grateful.

All the way home she pled her case -- "Jack, please believe me, it truly was just an accident!"  Well, she was pretty convincing but her excuses sounded to me a bit like the excuse Aaron gave to Moses when he was confronted by his brother regarding why he made the golden calf.  I can just see Moses rolling his eyes when Aaron said; "And I said unto them [the children of Israel], Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf."  [Exodus 32: 24]

Don't you think Jo Anne is a good sport to let me write about her the way I do?  On a more serious note (and very tender one to me) is that she brought her trusty air mattress into the ICU room and spent all three nights there with me.  Based on many experiences in ICU, we know those wonderful nurses simply do not know how to take care of somebody with all of my issues.  They just don't see that many patients like me, for which I am sure they are grateful.  I was on a hospital ventilator and every time I would doze off, an alarm would go off that sounded like a calliope at an amusement park.  One night, at least 20 times, Jo Anne would be getting up, leaning over the bed, checking the trachea system, and making sure I was breathing.  On one occasion, as she looked at me my eyes were wide open and she thought, rolled back into my head.  She knew I had died.  She screamed, slapped my face, and started shaking me.  I was wide awake before the slap but now I was very alert!  The ICU people went ballistic thinking they had a casualty on their hands.  I wonder why they were so eager to help us pack and leave the next day? Multiply what Jo Anne did for me in the ICU those three nights by 19 years of days and nights and you get a little glimpse of what charity is all about.

It was another bump in the road, a broken bow, and life goes on.  Speaking of life going on, did you feel what I just felt? It's either the end of the world or an earthquake!  Jo Anne just ran in and said it was an earthquake! (5.5 Chino Hills quake)  Could she have caused it?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

If it isn't one thing, its your mother!

Last week we spent a wonderful 10 days in St. George, Utah.  We love our family and friends who live in that beautiful area, but as the daily temperature hovered between 105° and 110°, we could understand why J. Golden Kimball at an August stake conference held in the old St. George tabernacle many years ago, said to the saints, "If I owned a home in St. George and one in Hell I would sell the one in St. George and move!"

On this trip, and of course at other times in our lives, we came to experience first-hand the truthfulness of some time-tested adages ("an adage is a saying often in metaphorical form that embodies a common observation" -- Merriam-Webster dictionary) like: "If it isn't one thing, it's your mother!"  And, "It is always darkest just before it gets totally black!"  We also saw and experienced for the umpteenth time in our lives Murphy's Law in action: "Murphy's law is an adage in Western culture that broadly states that if anything can go wrong, it will... It is most often cited as "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong" (or, alternately, "Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way."  [Wikipedia]

I had been nursing a pressure sore on an unmentionable part of my anatomy for some time.  All I can say about it is that it has been a real "bummer."  In St. George, I was sitting in my wheelchair too many hours at a time, and that, coupled with the hot, dry, St. George air began to get the best of me.  The sore begin to get worse and the last couple of days of our trip I spent most of the time in bed.

I was scheduled to speak at a fireside on Sunday evening, June 22, at the Sunriver Chapel.  My good friend, John Nelson, had spent the better part of a month advertising the event and was expecting a large audience.  I spent all that Sunday in bed and planned on getting up at about 5 p.m. to be able to speak at 7 p.m. Jo Anne and Doug Holladay, a longtime friend in whose home we were staying, got me already to be hoisted out of bed and placed in the chair and that is the exact moment when Murphy's Law manifested itself. The tilt and recline mechanism in the chair went totally dead.  The back of the chair was at such an angle that I couldn't sit in it.  Jo Anne and Doug and my brother-in-law, Rod Stuart did everything imaginable to solve the problem but there was no way.  We tried to call a number of medical supply stores in St. George to see if we could find a wheelchair repair man but on a Sunday evening it was impossible. Jo Anne finally stood up, wiped the sweat from her brow, and said, "I'm going to go speak at that fireside!"  She went!  I stayed in bed!  She did a great job as I knew she would, and I was very proud of her and her courage to not panic or give up as we were walloped with the bitter reality of Murphy's Law. 

Monday morning our wheelchair people in Southern California were able to instruct a St. George repairman by phone how to Jerry-rig the tilt and recline on my chair so we could get me in it, into the van, and seven hours later limp into Orange County.  I have been in bed ever since but I'm happy to report that the sore is much improved and I should be back to "normal" in the near future.

We all experience Murphy's Law in our lives.  The unexpected always seems to happen at the most undesirable and inopportune time.  I believe our challenge is to learn how to deal with these bumps in the road of life and not let them get the best of us, because they are inevitable.

Some of you have heard me talk about these kinds of events as the "broken bows" of life.  I, of course, am referring to Lehi's family and their experience with Nephi's broken bow as they waded through the wilderness. 

When Nephi broke his bow, the family felt this was just too much and so unfair.  Even Lehi, a great prophet of God, could see no way out of this horrible predicament.  Nephi recorded: "And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord."  [1 Nephi 16:20]

Whenever I am subjected to Murphy's Law, I think of this incident from the Book of Mormon.  I believe the "natural man" in us reacts far too often the way even great Lehi did when confronted with our "broken bows."  We are tempted to become "exceedingly sorrowful", and at times, when we feel life has pushed us too far, we may even "murmur against the Lord."

I am able to live each day only because of electrical and mechanical devices. Over the years anything that can go wrong with these things has gone wrong.  I have had more near death experiences than I can even count.  In the beginning, when my equipment would fail, I would start to hyperventilate, have a panic attack, and I hate to admit it, become "exceedingly sorrowful."  With the passage of time however, and as my faith has increased, I have tried to adopt Nephi's attitude and simply go make another bow, get on with the hunt, and realize this is not the end of the world.  I have discovered that really everything in life that seems so challenging at the moment is simply a "broken bow."  I suppose that even a terminal disease is only a "broken Bow" because, knowing the end is near, we can plan for our entrance into the spirit world and hopefully be better prepared than we would be otherwise. 

I really am unable to put into words what Nephi's example has meant to me in my paralyzed state.  He truly is one of my heroes because of his attitude of gratitude and faith. 

After a particularly difficult experience with his brothers who had just tried to kill him, he said: "Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions."  [1 Nephi 18:16]

Can we be like Nephi?  I don't know, but I think we must try.  And yes, it is true, "If it isn't one thing it's your mother!" 



Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leaving our mark

A couple of weeks ago Jo Anne loaded me into the van and we drove over to the neighborhood car wash.  I always have mixed feelings when we go to get the van all spruced up by our Hispanic brothers.  I'm happy that the van is going to look so nice, but there is also a definite downside to the experience for me.  When we get to the giant vacuum cleaners that emit a sound similar to that of a wild and tempestuous tornado, Jo Anne lets the ramp down, guides me carefully to earth, and then the humiliation begins.  She takes the larger-than-life vacuum hose and begins vacuuming me and my wheelchair.  I always hope nobody will be around to observe the spectacle, but inevitably a few curious onlookers gather around to see whether I will get sucked up into the giant vacuum tank along with the other dirt and debris.  The thing that kind of bothers me the most is that they seem to enjoy watching me suffer, and I even suspect they are making bets as to whether Jo Anne is going to send me through the car wash as well. 

This particular day after I had been thoroughly cleansed by the "Moby" vacuum cleaner and the van was all shiny and clean, I started driving my chair toward the van, anxious to be welcomed into its safe environs and away from public scrutiny.  I was going about as fast as my chair would go when I gave it the command to stop...and it didn't stop!  I was helpless, panicked, but could do nothing to save either myself, or worst of all, my shiny new van.  I hit the passenger side front door full blast.  There was a sickening, wrenching, noise.  The right leg rest on my wheelchair was crushed and fell to the ground. Of course, my leg was all bruised up, but since I am not able to feel anything, that was the last thing I was thinking about right then.  The only thought in my mind was, "What have I done to my van?"

Well, it could have been worse -- I had just left a big mark on the door that looked like the mark of Zorro.  I was relieved it was not worse, but it was the first ding on the new van and, wouldn't you know, I was the one that put it there.

I suppose it was justice, however.  I have left my mark on several of our beautiful and sacred temples.  One day in the Los Angeles Temple I sipped when I should have puffed and ran into the wall, leaving a gaping hole, all while the Temple matron was watching.  I thought they might take my recommend away; however, they were gracious and forgiving.  I dinged up the gorgeous woodwork in the San Diego Temple and crashed into a wall in the brand new Newport Beach Temple.  The Newport Beach Temple also left a mark on me one day as well, when I scraped my arm going through one of the doors and saturated my white shirt with blood.  Thankfully we caught it before it spilled off onto the carpet.  The Temple Presidencies have been very kind through it all and have assured me that I am still welcome, although I am somewhat of a liability to the well being of these sacred structures.

As I have thought about some of the marks I have left around the country by banging into things with my wheelchair I became interested in the word "mark."  All of us are making a mark by which we will be remembered by the way we live, or we are aiming for a mark -- something we would like to achieve -- or we are being marked by life and the way we live it.  Some dictionary definitions of this word, that can have profound meaning in our individual lives, are: "... a distinguishing trait or quality..." "...a symbol used for identification or indication of ownership..." "...a conspicuous object serving as a guide..." Some synonyms are: target and goal.  [Merriam-Webster online dictionary] 

The Scriptures are peppered with uses of the word "mark."  For example, the Jews at the time of Christ, according to the great Book of Mormon prophet Jacob, "... were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble."  [Jacob 4:14]

For me personally this verse is extremely meaningful.  There is a temptation, at times, to look beyond the mark -- the plain and precious truths contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the testimony of a young 14-year-old boy who actually saw the Father and the Son and translated the ancient record by the gift and power of God -- desiring something more spectacular or intellectually challenging.  How many have lost so much by looking beyond the "mark?"

And then, life can leave any number of marks on us.  According to the Scriptures the wicked always have a mark placed upon them because of their wickedness [Moses 5:40, Genesis 4:15, Alma 3: 4, 6-7, 10, 13-16, 18]

The book of Revelation reveals many kinds of marks mankind may receive that will have eternal consequences for their ultimate salvation or damnation. Hopefully, at the conclusion of our lives, the mark we will have received from the Lord will be evident to all because we will have "... received his image in [our] countenances... having the image of God engraven upon [our] countenances..." [Alma 5:14,19]

Hopefully we will leave much more than the mark of Zorro to be remembered by when we depart mortality.

"I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  [Philippians 3:14]


Sunday, May 25, 2008

It Was the Best of Times. It Was the Worst of Times.

I discovered the writings of Charles Dickens as a young student at BYU many years ago.
I would say my two favorite books written by Dickens are "Great Expectations," and "A Tale of Two Cities." I have felt at times like many of you I am sure, that the opening lines of Dickens', "A Tale of Two Cities," are very descriptive of most of our lives. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..."

Life is very dynamic and ever changing. It is never static, and the best of times can quickly become the worst of times, while our spring of hope can be turned into a winter of despair. Often times these seemingly polar opposites are found operating simultaneously in our lives.

I was thinking back about the six long months I spent at Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Hospital immediately following my accident 19 years ago. A season of hope had been turned into a winter of despair in a split second, and I thought at the time that the best of times had all of a sudden become the worst of times. Instead of having everything ahead of me I could see nothing ahead and light had turned into blackness. However, even during that season of darkness, there were brilliant flashes of light that dispelled the gloom and hopelessness and made the worst of times the best of times, even if for just short periods of time. Let me explain.

There was an African American nurse that worked the night shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. about three nights each week. She radiated a spirit of love and light that penetrated my dark world every time she was with me. Every morning before she would leave to go home, knowing that with the shift change I would probably not see another nurse for at least an hour, she would get a basin full of hot water and with a washcloth she would wash and massage my face in a most loving and caring way. It was not doctor's orders and no other nurse ever thought to do it... but she did, and she did it every morning she was there. No one can know how good that felt, especially when you can't feel anything in your entire body except your face and the top of your head. But as good as it felt physically it even felt better emotionally to have someone, really a stranger, show that kind of love and concern.

Another flash of light that always brought hope and made the worst of times a good time was the care given to me by an African-American nurse's aide. He was a big man, muscular, an Afro hairdo, ear rings, various tattoos, and a loud voice. You wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley late at night. Poor Jo Anne was afraid to leave the hospital that first night that he was to be a participant in my care. How true it is that looks can be deceiving. I was never treated with such respect, kindness, and tenderness by anyone at Rancho than by him. He couldn't do enough for me. I always rejoiced when I realized he was to be my helper during a 12 hour period. It was obvious to me that what he was doing was not being done out of a sense of duty but out of love and deep concern for me and the other young men in our spinal cord injury unit. He had a great sense of humor and made me feel good in spite of myself and the trauma I was going through.

My physical therapist at Rancho was a little, barely 5 foot tall girl, with blond hair who had the heart and spirit of a tiger. She pushed me, never showed pity for me, and worked me as hard as she could each time she came into my room. She gave me exercises I was to do to strengthen my neck muscles and would accept no lame excuse for not doing them religiously. I can still hear her footsteps in my mind marching down the corridor to my room. Had she been in the Army she would have surely been a general. She was my advocate and cut through the bureaucracy and red tape of the county facility I was in, and while my roommates and others in the spinal cord injury unit were still languishing in bed, she had me up racing through the corridors of the hospital terrorizing everyone in sight in a mega, breath control power wheelchair. When I left the hospital and sadly said goodbye to my two roommates who had been at the hospital months before I got there and wouldn't leave for months after I left, it just didn't seem fair they didn't have my same physical therapist. She kindled a light inside me through her toughness and no-nonsense approach to my care, and made me believe in myself and that maybe I could have some kind of life even in my paralyzed condition if I were willing to work hard enough.

These, and many other experiences I have had throughout my lifetime, have helped me to realize that there are going to be seasons of light and dark, hope and despair, times when we feel we have everything before us and then suddenly nothing. We can't control circumstances but we do have the power to not let our individual circumstances control us.
I believe one of the important things that helps us through the hard times and keeps us from succumbing to the circumstances life brings to all of us is what I choose to call the lovingkindness manifest to us by others -- the kind of loving kindness I experienced at Rancho.

I use the word lovingkindness because I think it is more descriptive than the words charity or love, although all these words are synonyms describing the "pure love of Christ." The word lovingkindness is used numerous times throughout the Scriptures to describe God. The vast majority of the references come from the book of Psalms. For example: "Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee." [Psalm 63:3] "How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings" [Psalms 36:7]

The lovingkindness manifest to me by so many during my lifetime has always helped to make the worst of times the best of times, and magically turned seasons of darkness into seasons of light. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give one another, given the challenges and problems we all face, is simply to treat all with whom we interact, especially family members, with lovingkindness.


Saturday, May 10, 2008


When our daughter Rachel, was in elementary school, her mother would frequently dress her in a little pink T-shirt that had three words emblazoned on the front in a feminine script made out of some kind of girlish, silvery, glittery material. The three words were: "Girls Are Smarter!" Every time I would see that message on my little daughter I would kind of wince because I knew the truth of it. Also, had she chosen to do so, Jo Anne could have dressed Rachel in a little pink T-shirt with a different message for each day of the week like: "Girls Are Kinder," "Girls Are Sweeter," "Girls Are Special," and the list could go on and on.
I know that gender was determined in the pre-earth life when we were organized from "intelligence" by God to become either men or women. I rather suspect that he took all of the high-grade intelligence -- the most intelligent, most compassionate, and most kind, from which he created "women" to be the mothers of mankind. From what was left over he created man. By the way, this is Jack Rushton doctrine and should not be mistaken for gospel truth.

The children of good mothers are blessed throughout their lives and have their characters shaped and molded because of the qualities and character traits that are an inherent and integral part of womanhood and motherhood.
The women in my life, my great grandmothers, grandmothers, mother, and the mother of my children have all had a great impact for good upon their posterity, and upon me in particular, because of the womanly qualities and character traits with which they have all been so abundantly blessed.

Of all the multitude of virtues I could mention that these great women possessed that have blessed my life I will only mention one in this observation. It is a character trait possessed by all of these women that I have grown to treasure and value as it has impacted my life for good.

Let me introduce this quality or character trait that has impacted my life so much by sharing with you a brief experience from my mother's autobiography.
"Mother was expecting her eighth child. Papa went to the cedars to get a load of wood. It was a short while before Christmas. They were both thirty seven years old at this time. It was in 19l6. When papa came home he didn't feel at all well. He had terrific cramps and became seriously ill. I remember Mama and Louisa (her oldest sister) went to Hinckley in the buggy to get our Christmas presents and I stayed home with Papa, I had an earache. He was sitting by the stove and I sat at his feet with my head on his lap. I know how he must have felt being so ill and watching for mama to come home. He had me go out and climb up in a tree to see if I could see them coming home." (He had a ruptured appendix and with no doctor available out in the country -- they lived in the little farming community of Abraham, near Delta, Utah -- Halley, his wife and my grandmother, took him to Salt Lake City to a hospital on the train on Christmas day.) "He passed away on January 12, 1917. He was buried on January 14, 1917 at Hinckley, Millard County, Utah. It was just a month to the day before my tenth birthday. What a sad, sad family. I will never forget the funeral and my papa lying there so cold and white. All seven of us sat together in frightened solemn silence. It was our first experience with death and it seemed so final."

My grandmother was resourceful, tenacious, and hard-working and was able to keep the family together. The kids all worked hard on the farm. Halley, my grandmother, was the postmistress, a midwife, and through this job and what the farm produced, was able to sustain her large family.

My mother, as well as her seven brothers and sisters, knew how to work and work hard. This character trait was and is possessed in rich abundance by all the women in my life. You may think it a strange character trait to highlight but not really.
These women were strong, resourceful, and understood the "law of the harvest" which is we reap what we sow. They didn't moan, wallow in self-pity, give up, or ever think that the state or Church should take care of them when tragedy struck unexpectedly. They only knew one way -- work hard!

My mother tried hard to pass on to her boys this work ethnic character trait by both precept and example. I believe her efforts were successful.My brothers and I all received the same message from her: "Go to college! Don't end up working in the mines!" We somehow got the message because all four of us graduated from BYU and went on to receive graduate degrees as well. We weren't very smart but our mother taught us to work hard.

Mom taught us integrity in doing our work. When we scrubbed our linoleum floors on our hands and knees under her direction, she always made sure we got the corners. We learned how to do dishes the right way -- her way! She kept me working at the piano and taking lessons until it eventually evolved from an onerous daily task to something I truly began to love. I learned much more than just music -- I learned how to work hard and stay with something challenging until I had achieved a goal.

My mom was smart. A philosopher once said that no man can ever fully recover from the ignorance of his mother. This is a negative statement but at the same time I believe it is very true. Mom put the backbone into us as well as the work ethic. Every day as I am able to sit at my computer and work for hours on end I have to thank my mother for her example of working hard and with integrity and blessing me with her work ethic.
Jo Anne, like my mother and grandmothers, has been blessed with a great work ethic and integrity in all she does. The oldest daughter in a family of 10 children she had great responsibility placed upon her shoulders as a very young girl. A visiting young cousin who didn't know the family really well observed Jo Anne -- age 12 or 13 at the time -- working around the house, cooking, cleaning, etc., and said to her, "How much do they pay you for working here?"

Jo Anne has been an incredible example to me and to her children of living the law of the harvest and of working hard and with integrity. She has encouraged me to work hard and has never tolerated me using my physical condition as an excuse for not being productive. What a blessing! She has given me many psychological kicks in an unmentionable part of my anatomy that has made me work hard and do and achieve things I never would have attempted without her encouragement and example.

Jo Anne, like all the women in my life thankfully, can be best described by two phrases: "True Grit," and "Pure Gold."Without these smart, sensitive, kind, compassionate, and hard-working women in our lives I am afraid most of us men wouldn't amount to much. How grateful I am that God created woman, and if you read the creation account carefully it was his crowning and most significant creation. How right he was in knowing "... it is not good that man should be alone."

" And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be aalone; I will make him ban help meet for him... she shall be called bWoman, because she was taken out of Man...And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the amother of all living." [Genesis 2: 18, 22-23, 3: 20]

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"I Wish it Were Yesterday"

In the spring of 1962, I was in the Army and stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco. My Saturdays were free and one beautiful spring Saturday afternoon I was walking down a busy street in San Francisco. As I passed a large movie theater I noticed on the marquee the words: "Westside Story" by Leonard Bernstein. I had no idea what it was about; I thought maybe it was a Western. I have always been a sucker for cowboys and Indians. Having nothing better to do I bought a ticket and went in. It was an unexpected and delightful experience, and "Westside Story" has been one of my favorite Broadway musicals from 1962 to the present.

In a "rumble" (gang fight) between rival gangs, the "Jets" (whites) and the "Sharks," (Puerto Ricans) the leader of the Sharks was inadvertently stabbed to death by the leader of the Jets. The police came, the gang members all scattered, and later that night two of the Jets met up with one another. They were visibly shaken by what had happened, and in the ensuing conversation one of the boys said "I wish it was yesterday!"

I have seen the movie and listened to the music more times than I would care to admit. However, it is that haunting phrase, "I wish it was yesterday," that always captures my attention.

August 1, 1989 at about 3 p.m. while body surfing at Laguna Beach, California, in one split second I was paralyzed from the neck down and would live on life support the remainder of my life, however long that would be. Around midnight the head neurosurgeon sent all of my friends
and family home so he could perform additional tests to determine the extent of my injury. I have never felt more alone than I did when my loved ones departed that night. I was strapped to a board, still in my swimming suit -- an ugly looking thing, a sick yellow color I had purchased because it was on sale -- still covered with sand, with several big hoses shoved down my mouth and throat to enable me to have the oxygen I needed to stay alive. No, the last thing I was thinking of was "West Side Story," and the phrase "I wish it was yesterday!" However, those words described my state of mind at that moment perfectly.

Yesterday had been such a beautiful day as we acted the part of tourists in Laguna Beach. Our little girls, Rachel, age nine, and Jackie, age four, were having a great time as were Jo Anne and I. life just didn't seem to be able to be any better. I was serving as stake president, loving my assignment with CES; we had just had our first two grandsons born several months before, and our second son Richard was on a mission in Columbia. There was not a cloud on the horizon of our lives, and it looked like we were going to live "happily ever after."

As I was alone in the regional Trauma center that night I absolutely could not believe what had happened to me and to my family. How would we ever come through this tragedy? How would we survive financially? How would I be able to be an effective husband and father? If I were permanently paralyzed how on earth could I ever endure living this way? Those kinds of questions continued to run through my mind at warp speed all through that tortured night. Truthfully, what was happening was that I was crying out from the depths of my soul, "I wish it was yesterday!" I am sorry to report that "I wish it was yesterday," was my cry for much longer than I ever would like to admit.

The day finally came however that I came to understand that in order to have peace and for life to be productive, meaningful, and of the highest quality possible, the phrase "I wish it was yesterday," had to be eliminated from my mind, my heart, and my vocabulary.

That kind of thinking leads our lives into a cul-de-sac or a dead end that will take us nowhere. I suppose most of us have done something we have regretted, or had something done to us, or to a beloved family member that has erupted from the depths of our souls the sentiment, if not the exact words, "I wish it was yesterday!" Oh, how we would like to go back to the "good old days" when a seemingly tragic event is perpetrated by us, or inflicted upon us by others, or by life itself. I believe it is human nature -- "the natural man" -- to have that knee-jerk reaction to the challenges life can bring our way. It has been so since the beginning of time. As Eve was giving birth to her first child I wonder if she ever had a fleeting thought, "I wish it was yesterday" back in that beautiful garden?

One of the problems Moses had leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, was to get Egypt out of them. Those folks always wanted to go back to the "good old days" which really weren't that wonderful in reality, but only in their minds now that the going was tough: [Numbers 11:5] "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:"

The "I wish it was yesterday" way of thinking eventually cost them dearly as none of that older generation was permitted to enter the "Promised Land" but wandered in the wilderness 40 years until their carcasses rotted in the desert wilderness with the "Promised Land" visible on the horizon, but was unapproachable by them because of their false way of looking at life and rejecting Jehovah and his desires to bless them.

Lot's wife had a similar challenge as she looked back at "Sodom" with longing eyes and was turned into a pillar of salt -- an inanimate object that could not act, but could only be acted upon. She was unable to move forward; her progress came to an abrupt end which is the same thing that happens to all of us who live in the past and can't let go of it and move forward to the "Promised Land."

I would imagine as Joseph was sold by his brothers as a slave that as he trudged behind that camel train with a rope around his neck that he couldn't help but thinking "I wish it was yesterday!" Things were so good in Jacob's tent for him as the favored son. "How on earth could this have ever happened to me" he must have thought a few times. Thankfully, our worthy and magnificent progenitor, refusing to live in the past and finally, as a 30-year-old, having been a slave and prisoner in Egypt for almost half his life could have this written about him, "... the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to aprosper." [Genesis 39:23]

The same can happen to each one of us as we "... press forward with a steadfastness in Christ... and endure to the end..." [2 Nephi 31:20]. Regardless of what may happen to us we simply must press forward, never looking back, refusing to say or entertain in our hearts the thought, "I wish it was yesterday!" If we do so the Lord will be with us as he was with Joseph and cause us to "prosper."