Twice Rescued


W. Rolfe Kerr

When I was a young boy, my father saved my life. Although I do not remember the incident, it is a story that has been told many times in my family.

I was two years old at the time, and my brother was four. We were with our father as he was feeding the cattle on our family farm. He didn’t notice that my brother and I had wandered off until my brother, scared and out of breath, came running to him. My brother could hardly speak. He struggled to even say, “Rolfe’s in … !” “Rolfe’s in … !” Fortunately my father realized that my brother was trying to tell him that I had fallen in the irrigation ditch.

My father ran toward the ditch where I had slipped off the ditch bank into the running water. He ran along the ditch. When he saw my red sweater rolling in that deathly water, he jumped into the ditch and pulled me out. After administering first aid, my father was assured that I was breathing again.

I will be forever indebted to my brother for having the presence of mind to alert my father. And I will be forever grateful to my father and his quick actions that saved my life.

Saved from Spiritual Danger

Later in my life, my father saved me again. This time I was not facing physical danger, but my spiritual life faced a challenge.

In high school I played sports, mostly football and baseball. During my last year, I was selected to play in an all-star baseball game at the end of the season. After that game, when the school year was ending, I was invited to play on a local baseball team. It wasn’t a professional or even semiprofessional team, but I was flattered to be invited to play. The only problem was that most of the games were played on Sunday afternoons.

I did a pretty good job rationalizing. I thought I could play because my Church meetings were in the morning. I could attend my meetings and teach my Sunday School class before going to the games each Sunday afternoon.

With this in mind I spoke to my father. I told him about the baseball invitation and what I was thinking of doing. Although he was the stake president at the time, he wisely restrained himself and did not tell me to give up my baseball wishes, as he could have. Instead, he simply said, “Well, when you make the final decision, just remember the impact it will have on your Sunday School class.”

Nothing more needed to be said. At that point the answer was absolutely clear in my mind. I turned down the invitation to play on that team, and I have not played a game of baseball since. Instead, I enjoyed playing on Church softball teams for many years, never having to play on Sunday.

I appreciated the way my father helped me make that difficult decision. He did it in such a way that allowed me to see the importance of such a choice and understand that the decisions I make can have a great impact on people other than myself. This decision also set the stage for a choice I had to make later about serving a mission.

Saying Good-Bye to Football

I had always planned on serving a mission when I turned 20, the age of missionaries at the time. After playing two seasons of football at Utah State University, I had a difficult decision to make. I knew that, at that time, very few returned missionaries played football after their missions. I had put a lot of effort into football, and I loved the game. I decided to delay my mission a few months so I could play one more season and then serve a mission. By the end of that season, I had won the starting quarterback position for the next year.

My coach was surprised and disappointed that after all my hard work in football, I was going to leave. He encouraged me to stay and play my final season. He couldn’t understand why I would walk away from this opportunity. I listened to his comments and his logic, but I told him that I could not wait another year to go on my mission. If I did, I feared I would miss my opportunity to serve a mission. After all my hard work in football, I said good-bye to the team and left for Great Britain to serve the Lord.

I never regretted that decision. I learned so many things on my mission. To witness people embracing the gospel was an incredible experience, which shaped the rest of my life in many important ways. My mission helped make me into the person I am today and had far greater impact on me than football ever could have.

As it turns out, when I returned from my mission, I got the chance to play football again. Although it was unexpected, I played my final year and achieved more than I believe I could have done before my mission. I was given incredible opportunities that probably would not have come about had I chosen to further delay or even forego my mission.

The decision I made after high school to keep the Sabbath day holy, rather than play baseball, set the standard for my leaving football to serve a mission. Saying good-bye to baseball and football was difficult, but I am grateful that I chose as I did. Those decisions established my priorities in life early on and led to my marriage in the temple and to my happiness in this life.

I am grateful to my father for saving my life two times. First, from the muddy waters of an irrigation ditch and, second, from the tempting pools of worldly pursuits.

[photos] Photography courtesy of Elder W. Rolfe Kerr and by Christina Smith

[photo] Me, at age 5 (left)

[photo] My father

[photo] My coach

[photo] Playing football at Utah State University