Staff meeting in the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission offices had just ended when the phone rang. Elder Olson, who was working in New Orleans, sounded near panic. His junior companion, Elder Freeman, had been run over by an 18-wheel truck and was on his way to the hospital. Unable to contact his zone leaders, Elder Olson was calling his mission president to find out what to do.
I reassured him that within two hours my wife and I would join him. When we got to the hospital, we were greeted by Sister Margaret Simmons, who worked as a nurse in the facility. She described the damage Elder Freeman had sustained. His pelvis was broken in two places and cracked in a third. He had a ruptured spleen, cracked and broken ribs, a broken hip, and a massive blood clot lodged in the intestinal area, along with many lesser injuries.
More than an hour passed before Elder Freeman was wheeled out of surgery into the intensive care unit. “I’ve done all I can,” the doctor said. “If he can make it 24 hours, he might have a chance to live, but there is little hope of that.”
A bone specialist arrived to put Elder Freeman in traction. When he was finished, I pulled him aside to ask for information I would need in making a full report to Salt Lake City. The specialist told me the breaks were clean, as if the bones had been snapped in half. Proper healing would take time—intensive care for a week, traction for eight weeks, six months to a year of waiting and analysis be fore a decision could be made about whether or not he would ever walk again.
I asked for permission to visit my young missionary and give him a priesthood blessing. Permission was granted, and I joined five concerned elders in a circle around him. His companion anointed him, and I pronounced the blessing, feeling inspired that he would heal and live. As we lifted out hands from his head, he roused and looked up at me. “I don’t have to go home, do I, President Lemmon?” he said. What faith! I replied simply, “You haven’t finished your mission yet.”
As we left the room, I noticed the doctors standing nearby. They had a look of puzzlement on their faces; it was, perhaps, the first time they had seen the power of God’s priesthood at work. Sister Simmons pulled me aside and said they had all watched intently and listened silently as the blessing was performed.
On the third day in the hospital, Elder Freeman was released from intensive care, beating the odds by five days. The next few weeks he spent entangled in traction equipment designed to pull his bones back to their normal positions. Even though in extreme discomfort, he used his time to memorize the missionary discussions, to teach hospital employees about the gospel, and to share his testimony of the Restoration with them. Everyone knew who he was, even the hospital president.
During the sixth week following the accident, Elder Freeman was released from the hospital and came to serve on the mission office staff in Baton Rouge. When we pulled into the driveway, he got out of the car and, using crutches, walked into my office. Again he had beaten the doctor’s prediction—this time by close to nine months—though he had lost so much weight he even had to put a triple combination under his belt to help hold his pants up!
After one month’s service in the office, Elder Freeman asked to be reassigned. I sent him to Baker, Louisiana, as a district leader. Shortly after his arrival there, he used his crutches for the last time. Elder Freeman finished his mission in Hammond, Louisiana, serving as a zone leader. When he walked or ran, it was with a slight limp, but he enjoyed a normal range of activities. He returned home and married his high school sweetheart. They now have two children.
Elder Matthew Freeman is a living example of the power of the priesthood and a walking example of the power of faith. I thank the Lord for the priesthood, and I thank him for fine young men like Elder Freeman, who serve with all their might, mind, and strength.