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]