David Eves discovered life can change quite quickly when, on 20 September 1997, he and his friends were riding an off-road vehicle in southern Utah.
“We hit a bump and lost control,” explains David. “I remember flying through the air, then waking up in excruciating pain. When I saw my friends looking down at me and I told them I couldn’t feel my legs, I knew I would never be the same.”
David was flown to a hospital in Salt Lake City and underwent eight hours of surgery. He spent the next three months fighting for his life.
David, a member of the La Verkin Second Ward, La Verkin Utah Stake, had been a sports star, but now he faced new challenges. He couldn’t keep food down or speak, and he was in extreme pain. His weight dropped from 170 to 100 pounds (78 to 45 kilograms) in two months.
The days and nights were long and hard to endure. “I wanted to get off the painkillers, but the pain was unbearable,” David recalls. “I asked my dad to read to me from the Book of Mormon, and as he did a miracle happened. The spirit of that book brought so much peace, I was able to rest.”
But David was not improving. Jill Eves became alarmed at her son’s severe weight loss. She prayed for inspiration and felt impressed to call a specialist. The new doctor repaired a hole in David’s esophagus. Two weeks later, David came home from the hospital.
David’s father, Raymond, had taught him two important secrets to obtaining goals: give it your all and never quit. David was used to giving his all, so it was no surprise when he was back at school the Monday after he left the hospital.
“I was in a body cast and neck brace,” David says. “I had absolute faith I would get better but soon realized I was completely unlike the other 800 kids in my school. After that first hard week, though, I knew I could do anything I wanted; I just had to find a different way.”
A few months later his brother suggested David run for student body president. David again gave it his all, and he went from sports star to school leader. “That year was awesome,” he says. “It was the perfect preparation for my mission.”
David worked hard in physical therapy because he was determined to serve a mission. Some of his friends said serving a mission wasn’t necessary since he was in a wheelchair, but David didn’t agree. “I knew the Lord wanted me to serve,” he says, “so I decided I would do everything in my power to make it possible.”
Soon he could shower and dress himself, drive his car, and take his wheelchair just about anywhere. In fact, after his doctor said it was impossible, David even learned to put on a brace and walk with crutches by moving his shoulders to push his body forward. For someone with no sense of balance or ability to feel the ground under him, this was an incredible feat.
After high school graduation David couldn’t wait to turn 19 and send in his mission papers. His doctor attached a note verifying he was totally independent.
But it was not to be. Instead of a calling, David’s letter informed him he could not serve a full-time proselyting mission.
“I was crushed,” says David. “I had worked so hard, and it seemed it was all taken away from me in just a matter of seconds.” But David didn’t quit. In an interview at Church headquarters, he was assured there was a mission for him.
One week later he was called to serve a welfare mission at the Deseret Industries (D.I.) in St. George, Utah, while living at home with his parents. David was not prepared for such a call. “To tell the truth, I was disappointed again,” he says. But he kept thinking of the words to a Primary song: “I will go; I will do” (“Nephi’s Courage,” Children’s Songbook, 120–21). He realized the Lord wanted him to serve at Deseret Industries, a Church-owned thrift store and job-training facility. At D.I. David would help those who were working to gain and improve their job skills.
“I look back now and think how foolish I was. I had no clue what a blessing this mission would be,” David says.
Not only has David been blessed, but his sense of humor and positive attitude touched more than 250 people he worked with through D.I.’s self-sufficiency and missionary programs. “Whenever we were having a bad day, we would just come and find Elder Eves,” says Debbie Kelly, a trainee. “When we saw how happy and positive he was, even in a wheelchair, we would ask ourselves, ‘What are we complaining about?’”
As a missionary, Elder Eves spent mornings tutoring trainees who were working on their high school certificates or an equivalent diploma. “I could not have passed my math section without him,” says Brandy, a single mother working to improve her employment skills.
But David’s tutoring wasn’t just about teaching educational skills. He also taught the missionary discussions to Rita Roberts, another trainee. “He helped me understand the gospel step by step,” Rita says. “And I knew I could count on him for anything. He and his family helped me move twice. You couldn’t find a better person—not just in the classroom, but anywhere. He’s unique.”
Besides tutoring staff members, David was responsible for many devotionals at D.I.
“One day it was Elder Eves’s turn to give the devotional,” says Sister Scott, another welfare missionary at D.I. “Everyone was there but him. In a few minutes, in he came, walking with his braces. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as he talked to us about overcoming adversity and working with your hand in God’s to accomplish any goal.”
David loved serving at D.I., but his missionary efforts didn’t stop there. In the evenings, he team taught with full-time missionaries. These efforts resulted in several conversions, including one young woman who asked him to perform the baptism.
“I figured if she had enough faith to ask me to baptize her, I had enough faith to find a way to do it,” remembers Elder Eves. And so on 1 January 2000, Elder Eves sat in his shower chair in the font, said the baptismal prayer, and lowered Robin Rasmussen into the water. No one will ever forget the spirit present that day.
David brings a feeling of hope and peace wherever he is. And his sense of humor puts others at ease. “If others see me joking, they are more comfortable around me,” he explains. “When they realize I’m happy because of the gospel and my many blessings, the whole wheelchair thing disappears and they see me as a person.”
And counting blessings is what Elder Eves concentrates on. “The one thing my mission taught me more than anything else is how blessed I am. When I saw the problems some of these people at D.I. deal with, I wondered if I could do what they do. I have a family who loves me, I have the gospel, and I have had the opportunity to serve the Lord on a mission. I couldn’t ask for more,” he says.
David currently attends college on a full scholarship and exercises on his bike and braces. “I work out in those leg braces every day to keep my legs stretched so that when I do walk again I’ll be ready,” he says. And he says it with the same confidence with which he bears his testimony.
“I love Doctrine and Covenants 121:7–8 [D&C 121:7–8]: ‘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.’ I know Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Restoration and that Jesus Christ is our Savior and loves each of us. Sometimes when we’re going through hard times, it seems like we’re alone, but we’re really not. He’s right there with us. And with this knowledge, everything else falls into place.”
Full-Time Mission Alternatives
If you are a young man or woman who is unable to serve a full-time proselyting mission for medical reasons—and you are able to function independently—you might have the opportunity to serve a Church-service mission while living at home.
With your parents’ permission, talk with your bishop or branch president about your desire to serve a Church-service mission.
If your bishop or branch president feels a service mission is appropriate for you, he can search for opportunities for you to use your specific skills. For example, you might be called to serve in a local Family History Center, employment center, service center, or institute of religion. You might be assigned to help with maintenance of Church buildings and grounds or to help local members who need assistance. You might be assigned to help tutor someone on his or her schoolwork or to teach someone to read. Or you might serve in a community service organization.
Your bishop or branch president—in consultation with you and your parents—will determine the length of your Church-service mission.
Your stake or district president will extend to you your calling and release. He will help you determine which full-time mission rules apply to you.
You should stay in regular contact with your priesthood leaders. There should also be regular contact between your priesthood leaders and the people who oversee your work.
Where possible, you may team teach with the full-time missionaries.