What Would You Do?

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Dear Will:

Say you get a new job that will require you to load all of your earthly possessions into a U-Haul and move over 2,000 miles away. Say it’s just you, your wife, and your one-year-old daughter, and all of your earthly possessions fit in less-than-a-U-Haul. And say you don’t know a soul where you’re going. What would you do?

Well, if you’re a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you’d probably call your bishop. And that conversation might go something like this:

Bishop? My wife and I are moving into your neighborhood from Michigan. We don’t know anyone in the area. So we’re calling you. We hate to impose, but is there any way you could find some people who might be willing to help us unload a truck on Thursday night at 6 pm?

Say it’s your turn to be bishop and you are used to getting the occasional phone call from a stranger asking for help: mothers worried about wayward children, children worried about wayward mothers, the homeless, the hungry, and of course the people who don’t listen to the announcements during services. And say that this week’s Call from a Stranger is young father asking for help on a Thursday evening. What would you do?

Well, if you’re Bishop Watkins you’d send a quick email to Kyle, your Elders Quorum President, and Warren, your Young Men President, who in turn would contact a bunch of other guys. And you would hope that in spite of the short notice and the inconvenient time that Kyle and Warren won’t be the only ones who show up to welcome this family into the Santiago Creek Ward.

Say it’s Thursday and you’ve got an important meeting that night following a long day at the office, but someone asked if you might be willing to provide a couple of hours of manual labor on behalf of someone you’ve never met. And say that as you think about that family and the U-Haul, you remember what it’s like to be newly married and trying to make a small apartment feel like home even though it’s hundreds of miles from anything familiar. What would you do?

Well, if you’re a member of the Santiago Creek Ward, you’d postpone your meeting and drive toward that upstairs apartment still dressed for work. And you’d turn into that apartment complex only to find cars triple-parked and the U-Haul half unloaded already. You’d find young men and old men, three Ellis brothers and a couple of full-time missionaries, a dozen guys or more happily squeezing past each other on a narrow staircase with furniture and lamps and boxes full of various bits of past and future life. And by 6:22 pm the truck would be unloaded, and as you’d pull out of your illegal parking spot you’d pass others still arriving, disbelieving that they could already be too late to lend a hand.

Say you witnessed all of this unfold, and felt within yourself the deep gratitude for good men, faithful priesthood holders cheerfully serving the newest members of our ward family. And say you could see within this familiar scene the embodiment of an injunction that sits at the heart of Christianity: to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light (Mosiah 18:8). What would you do?

Well, if you’re me you’d remember how you have been on the receiving end of this sort of service many times yourself, and you’d pause once more to give thanks for the Church—and for the Santiago Creek Ward in particular.

PW

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All the Sense in the World

Dear Will:

This morning I was at work, about to go into our regular Monday morning planning meeting, when an unfamiliar number flashed on my cellphone. On the other end of the line was a woman from Bakersfield, calling on behalf of a friend. She explained that the friend’s four-year-old was in the intensive care unit at CHOC, with fluid in his tiny lungs and an irregular heartbeat. Was there someone, she wondered, who might be willing to go to the hospital and give the child a blessing? I knew there was and did my best to reassure her that we would have someone at the ICU shortly.

Immediately I called the hospital to speak with the mother of the boy. Too shaken to talk, she handed the phone to a daughter who gave me the full background on the situation: The boy was in town visiting Knott’s Berry Farm with another family. He had no history of health problems. He had collapsed and had to be revived. The hospital now had him sedated and on a ventilator while they worked to drain his lungs. Terrifying.

As you would imagine, the anxiety, fear, and emotion were palpable as she described the shocking phone call that summoned the family from the Central Valley just hours before. As a parent, it was not hard for me to feel some of that same anxiety myself as we talked. I’ve had some experience in the past with families fighting for the life of a child hundreds of miles from home. My heart ached.

As I considered their plight, my mind flashed to the life of Christ. I thought of the young man, sick since childhood, who gnashed and foamed and thrashed about uncontrollably. Beyond hope, his father finally came to Jesus. “If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us,” the father said. The Lord responded, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

Those terms were almost more than the desperate father could bear. Through tears he offered what little faith he could muster: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:22-24). Of course, that meager faith was plenty for the One whose grace is sufficient to heal all that befalls us. The tormented young man was cured on the spot.

And what of Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, whose only daughter lay dying? He fell at the Master’s feet and “besought him greatly” on behalf of the girl. His circumstances were perhaps even more grave than those of the father of the demoniac, for Jairus’ daughter died before Jesus could arrive at her bedside. Nevertheless, once inside the home, the Savior took the girl by the hand and restored her to life (Mark 5:21-43).

The mother of the boy at CHOC no doubt felt the selfsame longing for divine assistance.  And thus she turned to those authorized to act on behalf of the Master Healer. Within a couple of hours, Bro. Miller and Bro. Fisher, two high priests from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were at her side. Invoking their Holy Priesthood, they placed hands on the head of the ailing boy, and with simple words pronounced a blessing in the name of Christ.

Several hours later, I called the boy’s sister to check on his condition. Her tone was completely different. Her brother had improved so markedly that they had removed the ventilator, withdrawn the sedatives. The boy was alert in bed, improved so vastly and so quickly that several doctors had gathered in his room to consider his remarkable case. His recovery was unprecedented. It seemed miraculous.

And yet it makes all the sense in the world.

PW

A Weekend Bonanza

Dear Will:

When my son Seth turned 12 in February, he was ordained a deacon. His best-friend-for-life, Cameron, was made a deacon around that same time. Since Cameron’s dad Warren and I are also good friends, he and I promised the boys we would take them to Salt Lake City to attend the Church’s semi-annual General Conference—our way of welcoming them into the priesthood. So it was that the four of us flew to Salt Lake last week in a four-seat Bonanza with Warren at the controls. The skies were clear and the weather was beautiful when we arrived—highs in the low 70s.

What a marvelous adventure! We had the sort of father/son bonding time that you would imagine and got to attend two of the five sessions of the conference in person. In the Priesthood session, we sat just a few rows back, directly in front of the Prophet and President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson. Through incredible good fortune, the boys even got to meet six of the twelve Apostles (a thrill as big for the dads as for the boys, I must admit). But the fun was just beginning.

On Sunday morning, we awoke to several inches of snow on the ground—which delighted the boys, of course. Because of the weather, we waited until late in the afternoon to begin the flight home. Although it was still snowing when we took off, we soon found ourselves with a clear, sun-washed view of the Salt Lake valley. I can’t describe to you how beautiful it was, with a fresh blanket of white snow covering the hills and mountains all around. It was truly glorious.

Then as we flew south through the Utah desert, the snow disappeared. Although I have driven through that rocky corridor many times, I had never gotten that bird’s-eye view before. (Commercial airlines fly too high, but in the Bonanza we were at 12,000 feet.) It was the perfect time of day for the flight: early evening, when the sun was casting wonderful shadows off of the red rocks, buttes and mesas of southern Utah. Indescribable.

As I looked out the window that evening, it occurred to me that the flight home provided an apt metaphor for General Conference. The weekend of Conference allowed us to rise above our usual cares and concerns and get a perspective on the things that truly matter. As servants of God, our leaders enabled us to see farther and more clearly as we look off toward a distant horizon. And the view they provided was truly glorious.

In case you’re interested, the Church posts the transcripts and video from the Conference online. You can find the whole proceedings here.

Here are some of my favorite talks from the Conference that I would highly recommend:

I would also encourage you to review any of the messages from President Monson. If you get a chance to do so, you will feel lifted above your present cares, and you too will gain clarity and perspective to help you deal with your day-to-day challenges.

PW