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."