Making Connections


On April 17, 1978, the World Health Organization made an extremely important announcement. It had been six months since the last known case of smallpox had been reported in Somali, Africa. The dreaded scourge of smallpox had been virtually eliminated from the face of the earth (Donald A. Henderson, M.D., “Smallpox—Epitaph for a Killer?” National Geographic, Dec. 1978, pp. 796–805).

Two centuries previous to this heartening announcement, a young, British country physician by the name of Edward Jenner had shown great concern with this widespread disease which had killed so many Europeans during the 18th century. One day Jenner made a very important observation. Young dairymaids in England who had contracted very mild cases of cowpox seemed to be naturally immune to smallpox.

On May 14, 1796, Dr. Jenner took some matter from a cowpox lesion of Sarah Nelmes, a young milkmaid, and vaccinated James Phipps, a boy of eight. Young James developed only a slight fever and a small lesion or two. Six weeks later James was again inoculated, but this time with some virulent smallpox matter. Fortunately, no infection occurred—he was immune to smallpox! A breakthrough of earth-shaking proportions had been made, and though it would take two centuries to do so, smallpox was doomed to extinction.

Whether discoveries occur in Archimedes’ bathtub or under Newton’s apple tree, most scientific breakthroughs result from establishing connections. For centuries milkmaids had been subjected to very mild cases of cowpox while the rest of the population suffered disfiguring scars from smallpox. It took Edward Jenner to make the important connection between the desirable immunization properties of the very mild disease which could protect individuals against the highly dreaded disease.

A quarter century after Jenner’s earth-shaking connection, an even greater connection was made by a young boy who happened to be studying the Bible in the spring of 1820. He seemed to be the kind of young man who didn’t just read the scriptures; he had an inclination to feast upon them, to study them, and to ponder them in his heart. One day he read a passage of scripture from the book of James:

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:5–6).

Joseph described his reaction in the following words: “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. … I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God” (JS—H 1:12–13).

Joseph’s inspired ability to make this connection led him into the Sacred Grove. From thence, he became an instrument in the hands of God in bringing forth modern scriptures, in restoring the true church of Jesus Christ and the gospel in its fulness, and in restoring the power to perform eternal ordinances which enable us to return into the presence of a loving Heavenly Father. Joseph Smith’s connection not only shook the earth, it opened the heavens!

Those who love the scriptures and who use them to guide their daily lives see the connection between King David’s confidence and peace of mind and his righteousness as he wrote the inspiring 23rd Psalm [Ps. 23]. They also readily make the connection between his utter despair voiced in Psalm 51 [Ps. 51] written after his encounter with Bathsheba. They quickly realize that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). There are many happy people who understand the connections involved in the law of the harvest. Whether one is speaking of productive employment, good grades, making friends, going on missions, or getting married in the temple, the harvest in the fall is dependent upon the kinds of seeds sown in the spring.

Near the close of his earthly ministry, the Savior taught his disciples that “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). If it is possible for mortal men to make the earth immune to the scourge of smallpox, it is most certainly possible for the gospel to “roll forth unto the ends of the earth” (D&C 65:2). And if, with God’s help, it is possible for the gospel to fill the whole earth, then it is also possible for his Spirit to fill one empty life, to heal one aching heart, and to comfort one lonely soul.

Happy, confident people have made the connection that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:21). These are they who cheerfully lose themselves in serving others, and who thereby find themselves (see Matt. 10:39). They use the scriptures and the counsel of living prophets as their eternal life script. They know who they are, where they are headed, and who guides their lives. They’ve made connections!

[photos] Photos by Dirk Douglas