“Count Your Blessings,” Ensign, May 1984, 73
My friend, Milton, has six children. His lovely wife died in a traffic accident and left him with their beautiful children. One day his six-year-old daughter came to his bedside in tears. Milton thought she had had a fight with her brothers. “No, no, Daddy,” she said, “I feel lonely. Where is Mom? I want to see Mom.” Father embraced her and told her, “Your mom is with Heavenly Father now. We will meet Mom again.”
The other day, his four-year-old daughter came to her grandma and said, “Will my mom ever come home?” Her grandma embraced and kissed her, saying, “She is with Heavenly Father.”
The mother of an eleven-year-old boy became very seriously ill. His father brought her to Salt Lake from Arizona. A few days later, this young boy wrote:
“We all feel now we will take better care of Mama if she comes home soon.”
Later he wrote: “We are very lonely without you. … We are very busy around here. We received the telegram and were very glad to know that Mama was out of danger. … I think I will close for it is getting bed time. Sister Allen told us in Religion Class that we should go to bed at eight o’clock so we could have enough sleep. Now it is nearly half past eight. Good bye. Your loving Son. Spencer Kimball.” (Quoted in Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977, p. 45.)
The very next day after he mailed this letter his mother passed away. The next day their bishop received a telegram, and all of the Kimball children were called out of school. They all ran home, and the bishop told them, “Your Ma is dead.” President Kimball later told of that incident:
“It came as a thunderbolt. I ran from the house out in the backyard to be alone in my deluge of tears. Out of sight and sound, away from everybody, I sobbed and sobbed. Each time I said the word ‘Ma’ fresh floods of tears gushed forth until I was drained dry. Ma—dead! But she couldn’t be! Life couldn’t go on for us. … My eleven-year-old heart seemed to burst.” (Spencer W. Kimball, p. 46.)
Why death? Why sickness? Why tragedies? Why must I have suffering, and disappointment? Why must I have to face the “deep waters” of life? Why must I go through “the rivers of sorrow”? (See “How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, no. 66.)
When I was five, my father passed away, and we four children became fatherless, because of World War II. Our lives drastically changed; we became so poor. One day I clearly remember: I was playing at the park, and every boy was playing with his father, but I didn’t have one. I said to myself, “I wish I could have my father.”
We know little of the will of the Lord, yet we judge the Lord often with our small wisdom. I speak to those who now walk the deep water of life or the rivers of sorrow. I testify to you that the Lord loves you, and Jesus Christ will never forget you! The Lord has said, “My son [or daughter], … all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7.)
Elder Spencer W. Kimball said: “Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery.” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972, p. 98.)
I repeat: “Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery,” as long as we live righteously.
Let’s all learn from my friend Mick. One day he was swimming at a party given by the company for which he was working that summer in Nebraska. He dove into the water and hit a shallow spot very hard. A broken neck was his diagnosis, and his whole body was immediately paralyzed. He even lost the capacity to breathe. The doctor said, “He may not make it through the night.”
He had earned a B. A. degree in political science after serving a mission in Japan. At the time of this tragic accident he had just one year left in law school at BYU. He was married and had two children. This tragic accident changed his whole life, as if from day to night. He wasn’t sure whether he would make it until the next day. It was inconceivable, the emotional and physical pain that he must go through as a quadriplegic.
Even though he was in this condition in the University of Utah Medical Center, he was determined to graduate from law school. It was an almost impossible task, but good friends, true Samaritans, brought him notes and taped lectures from Provo. Oh, God bless these true Christians. He turned pages by a mouthstick, and if his book flipped shut, he waited for a long time until someone came to help him.
Finally, he graduated from law school, passed the Utah bar exam, and became a licensed attorney. While he was studying, exercising, and maintaining doctor’s contact to gain strength, his wife took his two sons and divorced him. This was the most “sorrowful and very heavy” period of his life. (Matt. 26:37.) But he never complained and even blessed the leaving loved ones. In his heart he prayed, “Thy will be done, O Lord!” (Matt. 26:42.) It was his own Garden of Gethsemane, and he took his own cup and drank it as his blessing.
In the hymn “How Firm a Foundation” we sing these words:
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
(Hymns, no. 66.)
My friend Mick met a most beautiful lady, Cheryl. They married and now the greatest joy has come to their lives. His wife is expecting a baby. It is a miracle. The Lord said, “I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless.” Last Friday, they were sealed in the temple for time and for all eternity. It was my privilege to perform the ceremony for this beautiful couple.
His stake president, President Banks, described him as “a most humble person with strong faith,” and his secretary said of him, “Time has always been important to him. A span of a few brief seconds means the difference. He has no wasted time. He has accomplished more than ever.”
The Lord said, “The power is in us.” (See D&C 58:28.) You and I have that power, the greatest power, the power of love. We can feel the Lord’s love if we but listen. Our kindly Heavenly Father gave us—
The power to love!
The power to think!
The power to have faith!
The power to pray!
The power to create!
The power to see!
The power to feel!
The power to touch!
The power to speak!
The power to care!
The power to have concern!
The power to share!
The power to give!
The power to thank!
(Yoshihiko Kikuchi, “Blessings,” 1978.)
Especially the power to love! Love is the greatest gift of God. Brothers and sisters, if you and I have this power, the power of love, we can walk with His Spirit, even through the “troubled waters.”
Let us count our blessings:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
(“When Upon Life’s Billows,” Hymns, no. 202.)
Let us not judge the Lord’s great wisdom with our small minds.
Are you unloved? Are you unhappy? Are you handicapped? Divorced? Are you paralyzed like my friend? Are you angry? Do you hate someone? Do you have bitterness toward someone? Are you a single mother because your husband just took off? Are you lonely because your husband passed away? The Savior said:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28–30.)
I bear you my testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He himself testified of his great, sacred mission when he appeared to the Nephites: “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.” (3 Ne. 11:14.)
I know that he lives; I know that he loves us; and I bear you my witness in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.