Recently Jo Anne reviewed with me the funeral arrangements and program she and the family had put together when the doctors' prognosis was that I would not make it. They really did an outstanding job and in some ways I hated to deprive them of participating in such a touching experience. However, I did encourage Jo Anne to file the program away somewhere for future use – hopefully quite some time in the future.
I actually am very embarrassed at all the kind words that have come to me through e-mail and personal visits. I have been called a "miracle man" and "a cat with nine lives" or someone with great faith who is very tough and courageous. Only the Lord and I know the truth of the matter, however. It is only because the Lord wants me here that I am still here. I truly know that he is a God of miracles and I have been the recipient of many of them, over the past 22 years in particular. As it is with your lives, my life is in his hands, and I trust that his will will be done and he will let me come "home" according to his divine timetable and not mine. I am very much at peace with that thought.
I have even had family and friends compare me to Job. I must admit that me being compared to Job is like me being compared as a basketball player to Michael Jordan. We aren't even remotely in the same league or on the same planet regarding basketball acumen.
A while back I was reading D&C 121 for the umpteenth time, as many as you have, and had impressed upon me some words I had never seriously considered before. Joseph was pouring out his heart to the Lord from Liberty Jail regarding the trials and tribulations of the Saints, as well as his own personal afflictions. The well known answer that I have always focused on in my study and in my teaching is: "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 profound and comforting answer to prayer, not only to Joseph but to anyone who is undergoing adversity of any kind. However, for years I have glossed over what the Lord told Joseph in the next two verses [9-10]. It was important for Joseph to know that his afflictions were but a "small moment" and if endured well God would exalt him on high, but it was equally important for Joseph to put his suffering in proper perspective. He was told "Thy friends do stand by thee...Thou art not yet as Job..." [9-10]
I think the Lord wanted Joseph to know, or at least remind him, that as bad as things were, that not only would He help him but that his friends and family would be instrumental in supporting and getting him through this difficult time. The thing that must have made Job's suffering particularly galling is that he lost the support of his family and friends. Job, I am sure with aching heart, wrote: "My friends scorned me... My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me... All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned off against me." [Job 16-19.]
Just think of what Job experienced -- the loss of his wealth, family, and health. That was all extremely difficult for him, more than we could imagine I am sure, but it seems to me, and from the scriptures already cited, that the greatest and most difficult thing to deal with was the loss of the support of his family and friends. His physical suffering was immense, but to lose the support of his "friends" seems to have been almost more than he could bear.
I have had impressed upon my mind that we can get through almost any difficulty in life with the help of the Lord and our friends and family. I suppose we can even survive with just the help of the Lord, but without the help and support of friends it would be so much more difficult. If we were to lose the love and support of family and friends, only then would we have some idea of what Job experienced. Thankfully the words that the Lord spoke to Joseph apply to most of us in dealing with the individual challenges that come our way -- "Thy friends do stand by thee...Thou art not yet as Job..."
And so, please never compare me to Job, or yourselves, or anyone else that seems to be having what we might consider a run of "tough luck."
To me herein lies the genius of the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A BYU professor by the name of Eugene England wrote an essay I once read entitled "The Church Is As True As the Gospel!" (Please forgive me for sharing this thought with you once again because I know I have used it in at least one previous observation years ago.) This title is not just a clever play on words. Christ established his Church knowing that for the power of the atonement to be fully effective in the lives of all mankind, it would require a Church organization where friends and inspired leaders could help and support one another through the rigors of mortality. I am convinced we simply cannot do it on our own. I am reminded of the significant words that were part of the baptismal covenant that the Nephites took upon themselves at the Waters of Mormon that still apply to us today.
"... and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort...Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord...?" [Mosiah 18:8-10]
I have been blessed to be surrounded by family and friends that have taken to heart and are sterling examples of the baptismal covenant recorded in Mosiah 18. According to the dictionary a friend is "One who is attached to another by affection and esteem; a favored companion." [Merriam-Webster online dictionary] Truthfully, my greatest friend in mortality is Jo Anne. However, the dictionary definition, in my mind and heart, applies to all my family members, and so many other "friends" that have supported me and expressed their love to me in countless ways for many years. Instead of my injury making me cynical regarding life and mankind, it has had just the opposite effect because of the way I have been treated by my "friends."
Most of us will never be rich or famous as defined by the world, but anyone who is surrounded by loving family members and friends is truly rich in the only way that really matters. As hard as life can be at times the Lord's words to Joseph help us to keep things in their proper perspective. "Thy friends do stand by thee...Thou art not yet as Job..." [9-10]