Monday, December 20, 2010


A short while ago we attended the funeral service for our good friend, Lloyd Rasmussen. The funeral service was a wonderful celebration of the life of a very good man. Elder Legrand Richards, in speaking at the funeral service of a dear friend, said, "There is nothing that makes for a good funeral like the life of a good man." This was certainly the case with Lloyd. Not only was he our friend but he was the friend of many other people as well.

We first met Lloyd when we moved to Orange County in 1975. He was then serving as our stake president and in 1976 he called me as a counselor to Bishop Tom Murray, the first bishop of the newly formed Tustin Fourth Ward. Having served as a bishop and then as a stake president, Lloyd was called as a regional representative, in which calling he served for about eight years. Later he would be called to serve as president of the newly organized Eugene, Oregon Mission and then eventually as a counselor in the Temple presidency of the Newport Beach Temple.

While he was a Regional Representative, my assignment with the Church Educational System was to coordinate educational matters in Orange County with Lloyd. I met with him frequently, usually in his New York Life Insurance office, and always left having been taught something significant. In one meeting I revealed to him I was writing my dissertation for my doctor's degree in education at USC. He looked at me and said, "Jack, you and I potentially have the same problem." I was shocked and couldn't imagine what that potential problem we both shared could possibly be. He went on to tell me that when he went to BYU where he played varsity basketball, he had one desire and that was to get his degree as quickly as possible and then get out into the world and make as much money as he could. On the other hand, he could tell that I enjoyed education, study, gaining knowledge and was not that concerned about making money. "My money for me and your education and knowledge for you," he said "could be potential stumbling blocks. Let's agree to never let my money or your knowledge and education come between us and the Lord."

I was never smart enough to gain enough knowledge to become dangerous, but Lloyd certainly lived up to his part of the bargain. He was very successful in the insurance business and the investments he made, but none of that ever got between him and the Lord, as far as I could ever see.

During another visit he said, "Jack, how is Zion to be established in these last days?" His question caught me off guard and I'm afraid my answer was not very cogent. He finally said, "Let me tell you how Zion will come about. We must all work hard, become productive, create a surplus of money, or time, or talent, and then develop the quality of charity to the point that we willingly give our surplus to the Lord to bless the lives of others." He told me that about 30 years ago; I have never forgotten it, and to me it captures the essence of the life of Lloyd Rasmussen.

Lloyd Rasmussen was a big man in many ways -- physically, mentally, and spiritually. To me his greatest quality however, was the compassion and kind things he did for others in need, very quietly behind the scenes, and out of the spotlight.

About a month after my accident Lloyd walked into my room in the spinal cord injury unit at Rancho los Amigos Rehabilitation Hospital along with Dave Parker. While serving as a bishop, Dave had finally won a battle with cancer and Lloyd thought it would be good for both of us to meet each other. I think it was, at least for me. That visit was the first of a number of subsequent visits Lloyd had with Jo Anne and me over the years.

I always signed up for every insurance policy offered by CES and because of a 24 hour death and dismemberment policy I had, having lost the use of all four limbs, we received a generous settlement from our insurance company. Lloyd, and his good friend and partner DeMar Baron, gave us some wise counsel at that time regarding how to best use the insurance settlement. With the insurance money, along with our retirement/disability income and Social Security, it made it possible for Jo Anne to remain at home, never needing to work outside of the home or worry about finances, and enabled her to devote her time to raising the three younger children, who were still at home and taking care of me, which is a full-time job in and of itself. She has also maintained the house, the lawns, and our van. I hate to admit it, but since she took over, everything looks a lot better than when I was in charge. How can that possibly be?

We shudder to think what our post accident life may have been had Lloyd and DeMar not taken an interest in our situation and blessed us with their wise counsel, love and support.

We felt sorrow when we heard of the passing of one who had been such a blessing in our lives. We know that tears were shed by his beloved wife and family members and others as well, and appropriately so, for as the Scripture says, "Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die... [D&C 42:45] But then the Lord puts death into proper perspective by saying, "And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them..." [D&C 42:46] I believe that Lloyd died in the Lord and it was sweet unto him.

Lloyd passed away at the beginning of the Christmas season. Christmas is a special and a wonderful time of the year. I love everything about Christmas -- the food, the parties, the family gatherings, the music and lights and special decorations. For many years my favorite decoration was a three letter word made out of a kind of felt material of green, red, and white. For years it was prominently displayed on a wall in our dining room. It began to look a bit worn out, and since the children have left home, Jo Anne doesn't decorate quite as much as she used to. For the last couple of years I haven't seen my favorite decoration hanging on the wall. It might be there, but I can barely see the wall so I just don't know. I will have to ask Jo Anne. To me that three letter word captured and captures the essence of Christmas and the Christ spirit. In case you haven't figured it out already, the word is "JOY." If you were to go to the topical guide and look up all the references for the word "joy," you would find that, in almost every instance, it has something to do with Christ, his birth, and his mission and atoning sacrifice. The most famous example of course is the declaration of the angel to the shepherds that night of nights, "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great JOY, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior , which is Christ the Lord." [Luke 2:10-11, emphasis added]

A young prophet who would, in a few short years, face a martyr's death at age 38, was taught a significant lesson about joy by the Lord, "[Joseph] fear not even unto death, for in this world your joy is not full but in me your joy is full." [D&C 101:36]
And so we miss Lloyd and many other wonderful close friends and family members that have temporarily left us, but are comforted in knowing that, as wonderful as mortality is, it is only through Christ and his infinite love and atonement that any of us will ever be able to experience a "fullness of joy."

It has been said that birth is the beginning of a terminal disease. Death is as inevitable as birth and we will all exit mortality through that door. Because of Christ and his love for each one of us; however, we need not fear death or be heart broken and filled with despair at the temporary separation from a loved one. Surely, in this life our joy is not full, but in Christ it is! I pray that the joy that is HIM will fill our hearts at this special time of the year and always.

 As we follow his example and become his true disciples, loving others as he has loved us, surely the day will come that he will say to each one of us, "...Well done, thou good and faithful servant : enter thou into the JOY of thy lord." [Matthew 25:21]


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

All people make me happy

As Joanne and I, almost daily, travel about Orange County to return things to our favorite stores, and to eat some tacos or a bean burrito with extra onions at our favorite gourmet restaurant, "Taco Bell," we listen to books on CD that we obtain from our local public library.

We just finished listening to one that I feel compelled to tell you about. Let me preface it with a statement shared with me by a good friend, Randy Smith that has a ring of truth to it. "All people bring happiness into our lives -- some by coming and others by going." [Anonymous] During our lifetimes hopefully the people that bring us happiness by coming into our lives will far outweigh those who bring us happiness by going. Fortunately that has been the case during my lifetime.

The book I am referring to has introduced Joanne and I to a person that has brought us happiness and enriched our lives. We are only sorry we did not have him come into our lives sooner. His name is William Wilberforce and the book is entitled, AMAZING GRACE: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas.

Through our own ignorance over the years somehow we had not come to know William Wilberforce. The movie, "Amazing Grace," which we saw several years ago, was taken from this book, but does not do justice in portraying the kind of man William Wilberforce was. The book does so in depth in a beautiful way. We were enthralled, edified, and also somewhat embarrassed we didn't know anything about him. Maybe some of you are like Joanne and I. The following was taken from the book jacket. "Amazing Grace tells the story of the remarkable life of the British abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833). This accessible biography chronicles Wilberforce’s extraordinary role as a human rights activist, cultural reformer, and member of Parliament. At the center of this heroic life was a passionate twenty-year fight to abolish the British slave trade, a battle Wilberforce won in 1807, as well as efforts to abolish slavery itself in the British colonies, a victory achieved just three days before his death in 1833. Metaxas discovers in this unsung hero a man of whom it can truly be said: he changed the world. Before Wilberforce, few thought slavery was wrong. After Wilberforce, most societies in the world came to see it as a great moral wrong... This account of Wilberforce’s life will help many become acquainted with an exceptional man who was a hero to Abraham Lincoln and an inspiration to the anti-slavery movement in America."

We were very touched by this multifaceted, "born-again, evangelical" Christian who after a young life of debauchery and self-centeredness found Christ and devoted his considerable talents and fortune, not only in seeing slavery abolished, but also helping to raise the quality of life of the poor and downtrodden in England. After reading this book, I think I would have liked to have had William Wilberforce as a friend. I could say much more about William Wilberforce but would rather leave it up to you to let him "come" into your life through reading this wonderful book.

The relationship we have with those who come into our lives is the source of much of our happiness both in mortality and in eternity. I learned how true this is while lying in a hospital bed with a neurosurgeon looking down at me and giving me his prognosis about my life from that time forward. I knew in that moment that the only thing that mattered at all in my life up to that moment were the relationships I had with people who had "come into my life" and brought me much happiness because of it.

I think the reason that death is so anguishing and frightening to many is because they may feel that a priceless relationship is being severed for good. That thought is almost more than any of us can bear. Without the "Great Plan of Happiness", life truly would be senseless and death a black abyss waiting to eventually swallow every human being into a state of nothingness.

There are some people that come into our lives that we never want to go away. I feel that way about my wife and children and grandchildren, as you do about yours. My father passed away while undergoing open-heart surgery at the age of 62. I walked beside the gurney talking to him as he was wheeled down the corridor of the St. Mark's Hospital in Salt Lake City to the operating room. Little did I know I would never see him again or talk to him again in this life. He passed away in April, 1970. I still miss him and wished he hadn't gone away. He was the first person that was really close to me that died. I thought my heart would break when I realized he was gone for good. However, within days of his passing I had confirmed within my soul by the Spirit that life is eternal and that one day I would be reunited with my dad once again. Hopefully we all know this about ourselves and our loved ones; otherwise life would truly be empty, scary, and meaningless.

One of my favorite scenes from the Book of Mormon is when the Savior is leaving those to whom he had appeared and taught as a resurrected being. He spent many hours with them. They had touched the nail prints in his hands and feet and the wound in his side and they knew it was He of "whom the prophets had testified should come into the world," even the Christ, the Messiah. As he was about to leave them, Mormon recorded the following, which I think we can all identify with: "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." [3 Nephi 17:5, emphasis added]. Had we been there that day I'm sure we too would have been in tears with the thought of him leaving us. I never want to forget what happened next. Sensing how he was loved by these faithful and trusting souls and how they never wanted him to leave them, he "... said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you." [3 Nephi 17:6] He then had them bring forth their lame, paralyzed, blind, leprous, deaf, or withered family members and friends. "... and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him... And... [He] wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and when he had done this he wept again..." [3 Nephi 17:21-22, emphasis added]

Of all the friends we have or of all the people that have come into our lives, none has brought us the happiness Christ has. How grateful we are for Mormon's account of the Savior's love for all of us and of his great tenderness and compassion.

Though temporarily separated from him, we have the same promise he gave to his beloved apostles that Thursday night before going from them. Sensing their sorrow at his parting, much as the Nephites had, he said to them (and to us), "I will not leave you comfortless I will come to you." [John 14:18] There is an important footnote to the word "comfortless." Apparently a better translation from the original Greek text would have been "orphans." Though gone for a while he would never leave us "orphans." He has not ,nor would he ever, abandon us. Until he comes to us again, the Holy Ghost has been given as a supernal gift to comfort us and constantly remind us of his great and eternal love for each one of us.
Of all the people we invite to come into our lives, lets make sure that Christ is the first.