Monday, October 29, 2012


Several weeks ago Jo Anne's youngest sister Debbie was here visiting before going off on a trip with her sisters. She had invited her four sisters to spend seven days in a beautiful timeshare resort with her in Hawaii. For some reason I was not invited to go along. Jo Anne insisted that she still had a really good time in spite of the fact I wasn't there with her. I still can't figure that one out – can you help me?

While Debbie was here, we were driving around in our van and started talking to her about how we were beginning to shop around for burial plots and coffins. Jo Anne usually has coupons for most everything, but as she searched expectantly through her stash of coupons, sadly there were no deals on burial plots or coffins. Maybe there would be some better buys around Halloween – I'm not sure.

As we were talking about burial plots, coffins, and headstones, Debbie said she had the perfect epithet for my headstone. It would read, "Here Lies Jack-In-The-Box." You can only imagine what would be served by the Relief Society at the post funeral service luncheon.
We had a good laugh at the "Jack-In-The-Box" epithet. It reminded me of some of my favorite humorous headstones I have run across in my own reading. I don't spend much time visiting and roaming about graveyards.
"Here lies Johnny Yeast/
Pardon me For not rising."
Or "Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake/ Stepped on the gas Instead of the brake."
And then from a lawyer in England – "Sir John Strange/ Here lies an honest lawyer and that is Strange."

 Well, I hope you don't think badly of me having a little fun with death and burial plots, headstones, and impending coffins. I must admit however, that as I get older, I think more about death than I used to as a 40-year-old. Can any of you identify? Also, having lived for 23+ years on life support has made me realize how fragile life is and how quickly mortality can end. As most of you know, there have been at least 10 times that my life support system has failed me over the years. Each time I could have departed from mortality and entered the World of Spirits. For some reason I have been rejected each time, which has been hard on my self-esteem, making me feel that I must be some kind of spiritual reject. However, a delayed exit from mortality is more appealing to the natural man in me than an early entrance into the World of Spirits. I guess I have some apprehension, having never visited there. Maybe all of us fear the unknown just a little bit.

I know however, in spite of the humor recorded above, that death can be very sobering and can even test our faith when it strikes someone who is very close to us. When I was 32 years old, married, and the father of three little children, my dad suddenly and unexpectedly passed away while undergoing what we all thought was going to be a "slamdunk" repair of a valve in his heart. He was only 62 when he passed away in April, 1970.

For me it was my moment of truth with the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here I was, a returned missionary, married in the temple, serving as an elders quorum president, working full-time for the Church Education System, and I must admit I was surprisingly shaken by my dad's passing. We were very close, and the thought of never seeing him again was, quite frankly, more than I thought I could endure. I had taught the Atonement of Christ and "The Great Plan of Happiness" many times through the years as a missionary, as well as a seminary teacher, and I thought I believed it to be true with all my heart. However, all of a sudden it was my dad, and was there truly a Spirit World, and a resurrection, and are families actually able to be together forever? During the week preceding the funeral service and during the service itself, my questions were answered in such a profound way, I have never doubted since that time the reality of the sealing power of the priesthood. I will just say that I simply was immersed in the Spirit and knew then, as I know now, that these special and sacred relationships we have with loved ones in mortality extend on into the eternities. For me, everything that means anything is centered in the temple and the ordinances and covenants entered into in that sacred setting.

I think I have been prompted to write what I have at this particular time, because of the deaths of four individuals who lived in our area, all occurring within a two week period. Two of those who passed on were older; in fact I was honored to have been asked to speak at the service of a wonderful 90-year-old man who we had known for about 40 years. The other two who passed were much younger, in their 40s. Death, of course, can and does come at any age. The thing that impressed me so much as I attended these funeral services, one after the other, was how well the families were dealing with the lengthy separation death inevitably brings with it. I saw tears being shed, but not tears of anguish or hopelessness. These families had faith in the Savior, and in his infinite love and Atonement for each one of us, and in the sacred ordinances and covenants entered into in holy temples.

Loved ones will be missed by family and friends, but there is no need to mourn. Tears are appropriate at times like these however, but as the Lord has revealed to us:"Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die…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 42:45-46]

As I contemplate my own mortality and my inevitable journey into eternity – someone once said birth is a terminal disease – I have taken comfort in the scriptural references cited below from the Book of Mormon in which Alma teaches his wayward son, Corianton, the truth and reality regarding The Spirit World and of a literal resurrection. (Alma 40:11-12; Alma 40:45-46). These scriptures fill me with a "perfect brightness of hope" regarding my future journey into the World of Spirits, and ultimately of receiving a glorified, perfected body.

I also have found the words of Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as well as many other less known works very inspirational and worth pondering, as we think of death that will inevitably visit each one of us and those we love. By the Way, Victor Hugo had little love for the organized religions of his day (born 1802, died 1885 in Paris, France), which makes his words that much more meaningful to me. I believe it captures a universal desire and yearning in the hearts of all of Heavenly Father's children, regardless of their religious persuasion, culture, or nationality.
"It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live."
"I feel within me that in my future life. … I shall most certainly rise toward the heavens. … The nearer my approach to the end, the plainer is the sound of immortal symphonies of worlds which invite me.… When I go to the grave I can say, as others have said, "My day's work is done." But I cannot say, "My life is done." My work will recommence the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes upon the twilight, but opens upon the dawn." (Victor Hugo)


Editors Note: According to computer operating system file date/time stamps, this observation was last updated on October 29, 2012, after the last blog entry entitled "The Way Out is the Way through" was published on Jack's blog several weeks earlier on October 5th. However, this observation was not published on Jack's blog until December 2015.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Way out Is the Way through

In the 60s I was given the opportunity to accept an assignment by the Church Education System to teach seminary full-time at the Utah State Industrial School, in Ogden, Utah. The Utah State Industrial School was in reality a coed prison for disturbed juveniles. At that time in the state of Utah it was the last effort the state would make to help teenagers who had committed serious crimes against society or who were self-destructing through addictive behavior of one kind or another. These young people had been in and out of foster homes, and juvenile detention centers, with the Industrial School being the last step prior to becoming legal adults, at which time far too many of them would suffer violent deaths or end up being incarcerated in the state penitentiary at the Point of the Mountain located between Salt Lake City and Provo.

I had heard from those who had taught at the Industrial School Seminary how challenging it could be. I felt however, I should accept the assignment which I reluctantly did. In retrospect, it was a life altering experience for me. I shudder to think what I would have missed out on had I not had this incredible growth experience as a young teacher.

I was fortunate to be assigned to teach with Charlie Beckert. He was very gifted in working with these disturbed kids and was a valuable mentor in helping me get over the culture shock I experienced as I began my three years teaching seminary in this new environment. Charlie had taught there several years before I arrived, and along with other teachers who had preceded him there, had developed what they called "The Reform School Philosophy." It was a number of precepts or short truthful statements designed to help teachers and students successfully survive this experience. The precept I found most valuable for the students and later in my own life as well, was, "The way out is the way through!"

Most of the students I worked with during my three years at the State Industrial School Seminary were unhappy, depressed, miserable, and very sorry they were in this juvenile prison. They were not sorry for what they had done to get them there, but only sorry that they had been caught. Most would never take ownership for the misery and unhappiness they had brought upon themselves. In their minds, it was always somebody else's fault they had lost their freedom, e.g. parents, teachers, police, judges, etc. In their defense however, I must admit that almost all of them were the products of very dysfunctional parents and families and were not given a very good head start to a decent life. Given any possible opportunity, they would try to escape from the School. It was quite a secure facility but you could run when the opportunity presented itself, if you really wanted to. Each escapee would inevitably be brought back in much worse condition than when they ran, and in most cases would have to begin a new and longer rehabilitation sentence and program. Therefore, we tried to instill in their minds and hearts the truth, "The way out is the way through." The way to freedom was to bite the bullet, and instead of running, accept the fact they had problems, had violated the law, and then work through this challenging time, accepting all the help the State School provided by way of teaching and counseling, so as to once again be "free."

Over the years I have learned that it is much easier to teach great truths and principles than to live them. Most of our students did not internalize the fact that "The way out is the way through." It was hard for me to accept the fact that so few were able to do this. Many years later, because of what happened to me one August day at Laguna Beach, I was given the opportunity to implement this philosophy in my own life. I found that it was easier said than done and caused me to have greater empathy for my juvenile delinquent friends than I had when I was their teacher and counselor.

For the first few years after my accident I tried everything I could do to run from the fact that being a quadriplegic on life support was a permanent condition. The neurosurgeons had told me three days after the accident that I would never get anything back because my spinal cord was not just bruised but was severed – in medical jargon, "a complete injury." I could not admit to myself that I would be in this condition forever. I tried every remedy I could possibly find to cure my paralysis, and of course, none of them worked. I was very discouraged not being able to make any physical progress, and I must admit that my mind and spirit were beginning to become as paralyzed as was my body.

Thankfully, the day finally came that I was able to follow the advice of a good physical therapist friend who told me, "Jack, you must accept about your situation that which you can never change, and then explore and discover every capacity, ability, and talent you have left, and magnify them to the highest degree possible." He was telling me what I had told my juvenile delinquents many years before that the only way out was the way through. The day I was able to admit to myself I would be paralyzed from the neck down and living on life support today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and as long as the Lord permitted me to live, was the day I began to work my way out of depression, despondency, despair, and abject misery.

As I have looked for a manifestation of this principle in the Scriptures I have found it operative in the lives of many down through the ages. Two of the most obvious are Moses and the children of Israel at the Red Sea and Lehi and his family crossing the Arabian Desert and the ocean. In each case their destination was their Promised Land. Neither group could have found their way out of, and through their extremely challenging circumstances, without the "tender mercies" of the Lord and their realizing that the only way out was the way through with HIS HELP.

One manifestation of this principle which is not so dramatic as the two mentioned above, but which I personally can identify with easier, is found in the Book of Mormon. The great Lamanite king, the father of Lamoni, having been taught the gospel by Aaron comes face-to-face with what he must do to have the "wicked spirit" he felt inside him "rooted out of his breast" by coming to know the God of Aaron. At first he is willing to give up all his riches to come to know God, and then his kingdom, but Aaron teaches him that he must do far more than just give up his riches and kingdom – that is not the way out of his sinful state. The king must do much more according to Aaron, who told him "… if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins… [then] shalt thou receive the hope which thou hast desired… the king…did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying…O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day." [Alma 22:16-17] I believe that the experience of the king must ultimately be the experience of all those who would come to truly know God and come to understand that the way out is the way through – through God. To come to know God, to have "the wicked spirit rooted out of our breasts" requires coming face to face with ourselves and being willing to "give away all of our sins of commission and omission" to come to know God. There is no other way.

Ultimately the way out of the "natural man" condition we all inherit because of the Fall is "through" Christ and his atonement. As Nephi so beautifully taught, "And now behold my beloved brethren, this is the way and there is none other way nor name whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God…" [2 Nephi 31:21]


"Here Comes Jack…"

Since my accident over 20 years ago now, I seem to dream all through the night. This wasn't the case before my accident. I think it may have to do with the fact that I can't move my body so my mind is often times overly active. One important thing I have learned over the years as I pray before going to sleep is that the Lord will bless me with a deep sleep and beautiful and sweet dreams, and even reveal his will to me for my life, if he would desire to do so. Those prayers have been heard and answered more often than I am sure I deserve.

Several nights ago I had a dream I can't get out of my mind. I believe I learned a great lesson from it. In the dream I was walking, which isn't always the case with me anymore in my dreams. For years in my dreams I was always walking and doing quite nicely without life support. The past several years however, when I dream I normally am in my wheelchair and on life support. In this dream I was approaching a group of three or four men who were about to get into a car and drive away. One of the men I recognized as a dear friend who I had not seen for many years. I can remember how happy I was to see him once again. I actually began to run toward him to embrace him, and then with a little bit of a scowl on his face he muttered under his breath to the men who were with him, "Here comes Jack Rushton, I hope he doesn't take too much of my time!" His words were like a dagger going into my heart. I was just devastated by what he said. He knew I had heard him and he tried to feebly make excuses for what he had said. However, nothing he could say was able to erase the pain and embarrassment his words had caused. I woke up at that point, grateful it was just a dream, but pondering on how it had ended.

I suppose however, that justice was served in the dream. I do believe something I have been trying to overcome for years, and thankfully I am making progress the older I get, is to put people before my personal projects, programs, agenda and timetable. I hate to admit it, but sometimes when people unexpectedly drop in to visit, I have to make a conscious effort to give them my full attention and not secretly inside wish they would go so I could continue on with my "important" project.

The confrontation Jesus had with the rich young man has always pricked my conscience and caused me to do some serious pondering and questioning about my own life. "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments." [Matthew 19:16-17]. The young man asked, "Which?" Jesus then quoted to him the 10 Commandments. "The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions." [Matthew 19:20- 22]

I don't believe the Savior is telling all of us to give away all of our earthly possessions to the poor and then come follow him. I do believe he is telling us, or at least me anyway, to seriously ask myself the same question the rich young man asked Him, "What lack I yet?" As I have asked that question many times during my lifetime I have received a variety of answers, but I must confess that one of the main things I have lacked over the years is an unwillingness to give of my time as freely as I think I should. Giving money has never been a problem with me, I suppose because I never have had a great deal of it. Had I been blessed with the "small fortune" that Tevia sang and prayed for in "Fiddler on the Roof," perhaps I would've been like the rich young man. But my time? That has always been one of my most precious possessions, and the most difficult to freely give to others. Thankfully I am making some progress in that area of my life.

Of course, Jesus is our example in every aspect of our lives. As a teacher and as a counselor for many years of my life, I have always been impressed by John's record of Jesus teaching the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well as he and his apostles traveled to Galilee through Samaria. It was late spring or early summer and Jesus and his apostles were undoubtedly very thirsty, tired, and hungry. It was 12 PM, the time of day when the sun would be extremely hot in the Middle East, especially at that time of the year. The apostles were sent by the Savior to the nearby village to get something for them to eat. You know the story very well as recorded in John 4:1-26. A single Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water at that time of the day which revealed that she was undoubtedly avoiding the company of the other women in the village who would have come early in the cool of the morning to draw their water. Revealing his prophetic powers to her, he bears witness that he is the Messiah. "The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he." [John 4:25-26]

The thing that has always impressed me so much in John's account, beyond Jesus' great object lesson and teaching regarding "living water," is that he would take the time to teach with all his heart and passion, this rather sketchy Samaritan woman of apparently little consequence. Whenever I feel I am "too busy" to give my full time and attention and the best I have to the one or two people I may be visiting with, "especially those viewed as of "little consequence" in our society, I think of the Savior and the Samaritan woman at the well, and I am embarrassed and immediately try to repent.

I suppose it would not be a bad idea on occasion for all of us to, with a sincere heart and real intent, ask Heavenly Father, "What lack I yet?" I am sure the answer will be different for each one of us, and even different at different times in our lives. I believe the challenge, at least for me anyway, is to really listen and then obey.

Yes, I do believe that justice was served in my dream when my good friend said, "Here comes Jack, I hope he doesn't take too much of my time!" Hopefully I will continue to make progress to overcome this weakness, and in my heart of hearts while visiting with another human being, never have the thought come to me, "I hope so and so doesn't take too much of my precious time!"