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]