I am the baby in my family. I grew up with three older brothers, but one brother, Kirk, is closest to me in age, and we were always best friends.
We traveled everywhere together. We lived in South Pass City, Wyoming—a Ghost Town—for a summer together doing geology with my amazing geologist father and my pioneer mother. We traveled overseas and lived in Turkey together. We were there to pick up my oldest brother off his mission in Norway.
We made messes in the backyard with a hose and pile of dirt. We had our room together the entire time he was there at home. We shared our deepest secrets including the current girl we were convinced had a crush on one or the other.
We convinced my mother to let us have various pets, including dogs, cats, a guinea pig named Eloise, rabbits, snakes, chickens, two crows and just one little golden hamster. We brought this little male hamster home from the local pet shop and four days later this little boy had four babies! Whoops. Within four months we had 60 hamsters! Needless to say, we learned how to build our own cages and we went into business together raising hamsters to sell back to the local pet shop.
My brother is very handsome and very built—strong as an ox. We roomed together in college when I was a freshman and he just got off his mission. In the first six weeks of rooming together at Ricks College we had 17 dinner appointments in girl’s apartments. It was magical! And we always told the girls to leave the kitchen after the meal and we would do the dishes and clean up everything. We roomed together when I got off my mission until Kirk finally got married.
We canoed and rafted together for 22 years. We did hundreds of miles of rivers including beautiful rivers near our home in Missouri: The Current River, the Jacks Fork, the Meramec and numerous others. We also ran many beautiful rivers of the west including: The Green River, The Snake, the Westwater Canyon of the Colorado, the Middle Fork and the Main Salmon. We even had crazy plans to run the wild Bio Bio River in Chile!
The Darkest Day of My Life
Then, twenty-five years ago, on May 31, 1990, he and I, and twelve others found ourselves running the Selway River in the Bitterroot Wilderness Area of Northern Idaho. That evening we had the best campfire. We talked about things eternal. We read our scriptures in the tent with our flashlights. We had our prayers.
The next day, June 1, 1990, would prove to be the darkest day of my life.
There was an ominous feeling in the air that morning as we put in the river. The Selway was running high from the over abundance of spring rains and rapid snow melt in the mountains which also meant the river was running faster than normal and the water was extremely cold. Around noon things started happening in rapid succession.
We had pulled out above the most difficult part of the river—Ladle Rapid—to scout it and plan from the cliffs above how we would negotiate it.
Moments after we pulled out I heard the cry of my oldest brother yelling with muffled sounds—HELP! HELP! You never use that word in running rivers unless you really mean it. All of us went into action. His cataraft had flipped just at the head of Ladle where we were to pull out, and he was trying to swim to shore and pull the more than 1,000 pounds of raft and gear with him in the river. He was being dragged into the swift headwaters of Ladle and in order to save him in the 38-degree water, he had to let go of the raft—that had all our food and gear for five days. Paul, my brother, barely made it to shore.
MY boat and team had to launch immediately to try to rescue the cataraft—no scouting—no preparation—just launch and pursue. As we went through wave after wave and hole after hole, I had the worst feeling—I kept thinking about Kirk. I thought these rapids were too big with the water flowing as it was—and the dark and horrible thought came into my mind as we were in pursuit of the cataraft—that Kirk wasn’t going to make it.
With tremendous effort we were able to snatch the empty raft, tie a rope around an oar post, and pull it to shore before the next set of rapids where we would lose it altogether. At this strategic place, where the canyon was narrow and there was a view back up the river, we readied ourselves for rescue. I positioned myself on the flat knoll of a cliff about 30 feet above the river. Fear was gripping my soul and I had begun praying out loud, pleading for blessings to be upon each of the boats—but especially upon Kirk.
Finally, with eyes straining to see up river more than 400 yards, I spotted his bright blue raft—there was water splashing on either side of the boat so I knew they were working hard to get through and I was momentarily relieved. But then I focused my eyes again in the sunlight—NO ONE WAS IN THE BOAT! I cried out to the others below—READY FOR RESCUE!
Debris from the raft started floating by ahead of the raft itself—oars, paddles, river bags—it could not have been worse—but then I heard my friend below cry out—THERE’S A BODY IN THE WATER!
The river was sweeping the body away and I didn’t know who it was, but my spirit did know! One boat and another kayak went in pursuit of the body. It took them more than a mile of chase to get the body to shore and start CPR. And it was my beloved brother Kirk. For 45 minutes they administered CPR, trying with every fiber of their beings to save him. What they didn’t know was that in Ladle, his boat had been trapped in a keeper and then an enormous hydraulic of the river had popped the boat and flipped Kirk out and he broke his neck. He had drowned long before they could get to him.
17 Hours of Praying for God to Intervene
I cannot find words that can adequately express the pain and sorrow I felt about the terrible event of that day. I was racked with horror and shaken to the very core. My soul was rent with anguish and the deepest hurt I have ever felt. I cannot tell you of the pain that his wife and three children would suffer, nor the details of my 17-hours of praying without ceasing—pleading with God with my whole soul that He would intervene with a miracle in our behalf and to save Kirk.
But I came to realize that GOD DID INTERVENE. He sent His Only Begotten Son to earth that this pain that I suffered would be swallowed up in the Atonement of His Son. Yes, it was not just to save us from our sins as we turn to Him, it was to swallow up the things in this life that we could not bear without Him.
“He is…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…Surely he hath born our griefs, and carried our sorrows,” the Prophet Isaiah recorded.[i]
And my story is not uncommon. Most have, at one time or another, had to carry sorrows almost too much to bear—the loss of a spouse—the loss of beloved brothers and tender sisters in their prime—the loss of parents too early—the losses of businesses and homes, or investments gone south; even the loss of a marriage, or of health and well being—and yes, even the loss of children, living and dead.
These are burdens too heavy to carry. I could not carry the burden of Kirk’s loss alone. Even with Maurine’s love, compassion and tenderness for me at that time, and family and friends, it was not enough.
You see, in the grand design of this mortal sojourn—ALL THINGS TESTIFY OF HIM[ii] and we will come to the point, usually over and over and over again—when the burdens and the sorrow and the grief and the pain is more than we can carry alone. And for these, whose load is too great, the Savior came to lift, to bless, to assuage, to heal, to rescue, to intervene in the deepest regions of our aching hearts—to save us and to redeem us from this world of pain.
And THIS is the HOPE of CHRIST!
Where the Hope Began
And where did this hope begin? It started in the pre-mortal realms, at least in the Grand Council of Heaven. There we were in a vast assemblage of the heavenly host. Untold billions—perhaps more– gathered together to hear the Great Plan of Happiness and the Great Plan of Salvation the Father Himself would present to us. As we listened in awe and gazed upon the Father of Lights and our Glorious Mother in Heaven—with all of our beings we wanted to be like them!
Because they had already been exalted, the Father now needed someone to carry out this plan, to step forth and be the Author of Salvation.
“Whom shall I send?”[iii] He asked with a voice that rang through all eternity. How can I describe that moment—because this was the original kindling of our HOPE.
The Nephites described the voice of the Father: “They heard a voice as if it came out of heaven…and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake, yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.”[vi]
These are the closest descriptions I can find that might resonate with the power of that moment when we all heard the Father’s voice.
Then Jesus said, humbly and meekly, “Here am I, send me.”
Here was the Firstborn of the Father. Here was the Creator of Worlds without number.[vii] Here was the most intelligent of all the Spirit children of the Father.[viii] Here was the Great Jehovah—the self-existent one. Here was One we loved with all of our hearts, because He loved us first.[ix]
That moment when He said, “Here am I, send me!” was so great, and gendered in us such faith and such HOPE and such confidence, we broke into spontaneous and powerful shouts of JOY![x] Of course we would. This is the one Being of eternity with Whom we could repose our confidence and faith. HE could carry out the Father’s plan.
THIS is the HOPE of CHRIST!
Christ Pleased His Father Perfectly
So, now we come to this amazing season of the year—the holiest of all celebrations—Easter—the commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ—an event so significant and so incomparable—that even Creation yielded to Resurrection—and the Holy Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday!
Jesus Christ came to submit His whole will to the Father. He came to carry out the Father’s perfect Plan. He was the Perfect Son, and He did do the Father’s will.
And in a way incomprehensible to us, in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross, He took upon Himself every sin, every pain, every sickness, every weakness, every grief, every sorrow, every dark moment of every being who would ever live—who would turn unto Him.
And this act and this sacrifice so pleased the Father. Everything the Son did pleased the Father. He was, indeed, the perfect Son. Even in the darkest hours of Gethsemane and Calvary.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland testified:
“With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind–us, all of us–would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.”
Elder Holland continued:
“Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path–the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: ‘I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].’”[xi]
I hope than none of you here will ever feel comfortless. I pray that the true hope that we have in Christ will swallow up all our concerns and our sorrows and our fears.
I was pondering one of the teachings of the Prophet Joseph this past week where he promised: “All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection…by the vision of the Almighty I have seen it!”[xii]
I have known that statement for many, many years and have quoted it often, but I never really understood it until this past week. I always thought it was like a tally sheet:
Lost one brother in this life. Brother returned in the resurrection.
Lost a limb in the war. Limb returned in the resurrection.
Lost half a million dollars (or five thousand) on a bad deal. Money returned in the resurrection (with interest!).
Lost confidence in earth life. Confidence returned in resurrection.
Lost health in mortality. Health returned in resurrection.
That’s what I thought the Prophet Joseph meant.
I think I was wrong.
Our losses will be made up to us in the Resurrection—by the very act of Resurrection. The gift is so great and so powerful and so beyond our comprehension—this gift from Jesus Christ Himself—that ALL our losses will be made up instantaneously in the Resurrection itself.
So, why should we mourn (or fear), or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so, all is right. Why should we think to earn a great reward, If we now shun the fight? Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake![xiii]
Yes, ALL your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection. This is the promise of Easter. This is the promise in every blossom of spring. This is the promise in the newness of life that we are beginning to see in our lots, our lawns and on the hillsides and mountainsides.
And we add to that the promise of Paul the Apostle, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”[xiv]
And it is, as if, we can hear the voice of God whispering to our soul with the Prophet Joseph in the ironically named Jail called Liberty, “My son, [my daughter] PEACE be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment (and this earth life IS such a small moment); and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes (and all thy pains and sorrows and weaknesses and fears and grief!).”[xv]
A Story from England
I end with a brief story from England.
Maurine and I have done a great deal of research on the early history of the Church in the British Isles. We’ve been to all of the significant sites of the almost-legendary missions of the Twelve.
One of our favorite places is the old Music Hall in Liverpool. Here nearly every member of the Twelve preached. Here the saints held numerous conferences. This was like a miniature conference center. Here all the Welsh Saints who were taking passage on the Buena Vista lodged before setting sail. This Hall is so significant to British Church History.
We first visited it 21 years ago. The building was, at that time, housing a bookstore on the main level, but the upper floors were still intact and pretty much as they had looked in the 1840’s. The Spirit was there so strongly. It was as if we could hear the voices of the past.
Thirteen years later we came to spend the summer in England and to our great delight, our then 88-year-old Mother came to visit us for ten days. Of course, we were so excited to show her the Liverpool Music Hall!
Upon arrival that early Sunday morning, we were extremely disappointed that everything was different. There was no longer a bookstore on the ground floor. The whole interior had now been redone and it had been turned into a bar and a horrible disco with pictures and symbols on the wall that were embarrassing and disgraceful. We were so disappointed and also so horrified to show all this to my Mother!
We came out of the building rather soiled with the soot of smut. I was sorry I had taken my Mother through the experience.
There was a silent pause as we stood outside the building recovering, then my Mother started singing part of a hymn:
“Change and decay, in all around I see. Oh, Thou Who changest not! Abide with me!”
Isn’t that each of our prayers to the Heavens?
“Oh—Thou Who changest not—Abide with me?”
I testify that as we turn to the Savior Jesus Christ, our fears and our sorrows and our pains AND our sins, are swallowed up in His Atoning Sacrfice—in the Atonement and Resurrection of Him who Redeemed us.
There is hope because Jesus said, “Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.” [xvi]
And most importantly there is Hope for us because of an Empty Tomb.
[i] See Isaiah 53: 3,4.
[ii] See Moses 6: 63.
[iii] See Abraham 3: 27.
[iv] Cook, Lyndon Watson. David Whitmer Interviews, A Restoration Witness. Orem, Utah: Grandin Book Company, 1991, p. 87.
[v] Ibid, p. 79.
[vi] 3 Nephi 11: 3.
[vii] See Colossians 1:16; D&C 76:24; Moses 1:32,33.
[viii] See Abraham 3:19.
[ix] 1 John 4:19.
[x] See Job 38:4-7.
[xi] Holland, Jeffrey R. None Were With Him. April, 2009 General Conference.
[xii] Smith, Joseph Fielding. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. P. 296.
[xiii] See Hymns, no. 30.
[xiv] See 1 Corinthians 2:9.
[xv] D&C 121:7,8 (with some additions)
[xvi] See D&C 50: 41,42.