As a bishop I expected I would feel deeply about the well-being of my fellow ward members. However, I wasn’t prepared for the effect ward members would have on me. Time and again, after counseling with members at the meetinghouse, I drove home humbled not only by their burdens but also by their faith in our Savior, whose example shone forth in their lives and beckoned to them with renewal of purpose and brightness of hope. Watching the gospel at work in the lives of people taught me as never before the profound worth of a soul.
One of those who taught me this lesson was Carrol Crawford, known affectionately as Crawf. He was a fun-loving man who was born in Moroni, Utah, and had worked 30 years for a copper mining company. About the time he retired, his body began to deteriorate with rheumatoid arthritis, leaving him somewhat deformed in his arms and legs and eventually confining him to bed. He came to live with his sister Beverly Robison, a member of our ward, who cared for him until his death 14 years later.
During the time Crawf lived with Beverly, the young men in our priests quorum faithfully delivered the sacrament to him each Sunday. Crawf soon developed a love for his boys, as he called them. He got to know several very well and took an interest in their lives. On one occasion the Aaronic Priesthood young men decided to throw him a party. They brought plenty of pizza, root beer, and ice cream, and they laughed, joked, sang songs, and had a good time.
One day Brian Hansen, who was working on his Eagle Scout award, approached me to ask for suggestions for an Eagle project. After considering several ideas, he decided he would work toward getting a quality, state-of-the-art tape recorder for our meetinghouse. His project included overseeing the raising of funds for the project and installing the new equipment. When it was installed, we discovered we could make high-quality recordings of our meetings and take them to our four homebound ward members. Now, besides receiving the sacrament each week, Crawf was able to participate regularly in sacrament meeting.
Crawf had been listening to the recordings for nearly two years when I received a request from the stake presidency for names of individuals for consideration to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. As I pondered the list of unordained brethren, I stopped at Crawf’s name. The realization hit me that he had been in effect attending sacrament meeting regularly in his home. I decided to visit Crawf.
I sat down by Crawf’s bed and explained that I was there to interview him for recommendation to the stake presidency to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and be ordained an elder. Crawf was stunned. He protested that he had not attended church for years and as a result had been lax about paying his tithing and keeping a few gospel principles.
I explained to Crawf that he was, indeed, attending sacrament meeting by listening to the tapes and receiving the sacrament from the Aaronic Priesthood boys. We discussed his maturing testimony and deepening interest in studying the gospel. Then I looked at him squarely and asked him if he would be willing to live the Word of Wisdom and to pay his tithing. New hope lit his eyes, and without a moment’s hesitation he said he would. From that moment on he began faithfully living gospel standards.
Some months later, at the next stake conference, his name was submitted and approved for advancement in the priesthood. A date was set for the ordination, and a number of people were invited to attend, including his home teachers, former bishop, some members of the high council, and a few friends, as well as my counselors and me. In a very spiritual meeting, Crawf was ordained to the office of elder. I watched as tears rolled down the face of this man who had spent many years confined to his room. His emotions ran deep as he saw gathered around him so many people who loved and cared about him.
Shortly after he was ordained an elder, my counselors and I visited him again. We suggested that he might wish to prepare himself to go to the temple and receive his endowment. At first he seemed eager, but the thought of having to appear in public, confined to a wheelchair with some obvious deformities that might draw stares, weighed heavily on his mind. I visited him on several occasions and gave him encouragement, but he shied away from committing himself. Since his health was failing, I was concerned.
I was released as bishop. Three years passed. One day I received a call from Beverly telling me that Crawf and his family had quietly gone alone to the Manti Temple, where Crawf received his endowment in the same temple where his parents had been sealed in their later years. I arranged to stop by later in the week, and the morning of my visit I decided I would take a small gift, perhaps a framed photo of the temple. Then I recalled a ceramic replica of the Salt Lake Temple I had seen and wondered if there were similar replicas of the Manti Temple. I found a ceramic shop on my lunch hour and purchased just the temple I was looking for, along with a bottle of glaze. I hurriedly applied the first coat of glaze, then put the small but beautiful temple in the trunk of my car. Between sales calls, I applied the second and third coats of glaze. I also stopped by a bakery and picked up a cake with the words “Congratulations, Crawf” written in frosting.
That evening I presented my friend with a replica of the Manti Temple. As Crawf opened the box, he was speechless. Tears came to his eyes. He was astonished that anyone would do something like that for him. We enjoyed a wonderful visit together, and he shared with me his feelings about receiving his endowment and being sealed to his parents.
A few months later Crawf experienced a stroke and could no longer speak. I visited him in the hospital and spoke to him. He tried to respond but could not. Three weeks later I visited again, this time in a rest home. He looked better and seemed happy. I talked, and again he tried to respond. I felt we understood each other heart to heart. As I told him it was time for me to leave, he reached for my hand and grasped it tightly. His broad smile thanked me for coming. As I started to pull away, he gently pulled back my hand, pressed it to his lips, and kissed it softly. It was to be our final farewell. Crawf died four days later.
At Crawf’s funeral I reflected on the worth of souls. The Lord, working through priesthood brethren both young and old, had reached out to a brother confined to a bed for 14 years and opened the way for him to finish his preparations on earth. As I passed the casket, I stopped. There, among the flowers atop Crawf’s casket, was the replica of the Manti Temple, a symbol of Crawf’s final victory in life.