Blessings Come through Trials
Most of you probably don’t know or remember, but we used to have devotional back at the College in the multi-purpose room, and quickly grew out of that room. So for I don’t know how many years now we have been meeting here in the Assembly Hall, and I always sat—I still do—I sit right back there, kind of behind a pillar by myself, and President Richards every week will get up and he’ll invite us to write down the promptings of the Spirit. And every time he says that, the Spirit whispers to me, “When it’s your turn to speak—and you will have an opportunity to speak in devotional—here is what you need to talk about.” So I hope I do it justice today.
It is an incredible honor to be able to speak here in this facility. As the Assembly Hall was being built, the Saints were calling it the new Tabernacle, but President John Taylor put an end to that and officially called it, in 1879, the Salt Lake Assembly Hall. And now, 137 years later, here we are. I am a great-great-great-grandson of President John Taylor, and that is an amazing honor for me to stand here in the same building where he delivered many mighty and powerful sermons. He had a great ability to overcome adversity. You’ll probably remember that he was with Hyrum and Joseph in Carthage Jail, and he was shot five times. Obviously he survived that attack and was able to be here in the Salt Lake Valley with the Saints.
Whenever he spoke, he spoke with amazing power and clarity. There was no question where he stood on a topic. But he also spoke with the Spirit. One of his teachings that I can relate to personally is “We have learned many things through suffering. We call it suffering. I call it a school of experience. I never did bother my head much about these things. I do not today. What are these things for? Why is it that good men should be tried? …I have never looked at these things in any other light than trials for the purpose of purifying the Saints of God that they may be, as the scriptures say, as gold that has been seven times purified by fire.
“I rejoice in afflictions, for they are necessary to humble and prove us, that we may comprehend ourselves, become acquainted with our weaknesses and infirmities; and I rejoice when I triumph over them, because God answers my prayers; therefore I feel to rejoice all the day long.”
Alma tells us in the Book of Mormon, Alma 36:3, “Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.”
I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life that I know that the Lord helps us with trials, and gives us blessings if we will seek for them. I want to tell you about a few of the experiences that I’ve had teach me this.
When I was 14 years old, my brother Ryan and I were out playing in the yard and a friend of ours pulled up in the driveway. And Ryan and I hopped onto the back bumper and held onto the ski rack. We backed out of the driveway and started driving through the neighborhood. He was going really slowly and we were having a great time. We pulled into a driveway just a few houses down and backed up, then for what felt like five minutes, just sat there. I heard the Holy Ghost not just whisper to me, but verbally say, “Get off.” I turned to my brother Ryan and he, years later, told me that he also heard the voice of the Holy Ghost say, “Get off.” But I looked him in the eye and said, “Shall we get off?” We stared at each other for a minute—well, it felt like a minute—and I just said, “No, let’s just stay on.” It was a bad idea.
Our friend started driving again, this time a little more crazy, and after just a little bit I fell off of the car. I broke both of my ankles; on my right leg I just cracked one of the bones, on my left leg, both of the bones in my ankle were broken, and my foot was off to the side a little bit. I ended up having a cast up to my waist on my left leg, up to my knee on my right leg, and I couldn’t walk for a month. I had to go everywhere in a wheelchair, and I had to have my parents help me with everything. I really could do nothing for myself.
I even had to have the meanest teacher in my middle school come to my house and bring me homework, teach me how to do it, and then take the completed homework back. She actually ended up being really nice. She just had the reputation at school. But that was hard for me, to think she was coming to my house.
After a month, I finally was able to start walking on crutches, but the first time I tried I almost fell on my face because I just had forgotten how to walk. It was just not a fun experience, and I regret not listening to the Holy Ghost.
About eight years later, when I was 26, I was looking in the mirror, fixing my hair—that was back when I had hair that I had to fix. I saw what I thought was a little lump in my neck, but I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe I was turning my head wrong, and I looked and I looked and just wasn’t sure. So I talked with my wife, and she said I should probably go see a doctor. So I went to see my doctor, who sent me to another doctor, who sent me to another doctor. Within about two weeks I was starting radiation treatments for Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Disease, which is a form of cancer. I had a full-time job at the time, but for about the next four months, I would go to work in the morning, do a little bit of work—I don’t even remember what I did; I was kind of out of it—I’d leave early in the afternoon to go to the hospital, I’d get the radiation treatments, and then I’d go home and just sit on the couch. I’d either just rest or sleep, but I was really tired, and I was really uncomfortable. I wasn’t a fun person to be around at that time. I give my wife a lot of credit for helping me get through that.
One of the side effects of the radiation is that I got shingles really bad on my back. There were times where I would feel a pain coming on that, even to this day, is the worst pain I’ve ever felt. It felt like someone was stabbing me in the back. I still kind of have this whenever I get cold, so if you see me rubbing up against a doorframe like a bear on a tree, it’s just trying to scratch that itch. But it’s never going away.
Before the treatments started we had two children, and we were told that we probably would not have any more kids. About another eight years from that, I was out at work sweeping up garbage in the parking lot, and I just felt really, really tired and really out of breath, which was just unusual. It just kind of came on out of nowhere. I went in to the store and called the doctor, and they said, “You probably ought to get to the hospital.”
So I hopped in my car and drove to the hospital, where on my floor I became known as “the guy that drove himself to the hospital.” I guess I wasn’t supposed to do that, but I just went. After a number of tests and procedures, they determined that I had had a very mild heart attack. I never felt it; I just felt the symptoms, I guess. But I also had almost complete blockage of my heart, and the only option to fix that was open-heart surgery. They said this was a result of the radiation treatment from eight years previous.
Having my chest cut open I was probably the most scared that I have been in my life. I did not want to do that, but I knew I needed to do that if I wanted to live. I ended up having six bypasses, some of them synthetic and some of them from a vein that they cut from my leg. I’m here to tell you that the recovery from open-heart surgery is hard, takes a long time, and is not fun.
Let’s fast-forward about ten years from that. About a year and a half ago, I was playing on a softball league with some of my friends. I hit the ball really well; I hit it way over the fielder’s head. I thought, I’m going to run as fast as I can; I’m going to make it to third base. And I got there. But as I got there, I thought, I am so out of breath. I bent over, put my hands on my knees. The next thing I knew all my teammates were standing around me, trying to get me to wake up. I had passed out. They actually laughed, because I was chewing gum at the time and I guess when I fell in the dirt some dirt got in my mouth and when I got back up I started chewing the gum again, and they could hear me crunching the dirt. They still laugh about that. They thought that was pretty funny.
But within a few months I couldn’t walk fast, I couldn’t bend over, I couldn’t carry anything. I couldn’t exert any energy at all without feeling like I would pass out. I went and saw a number of doctors and surgeons and they determined that I—all my life I had a heart murmur, and I’d always been told, “Someday you’re going to have to deal with this.” Well, someday became now, and I needed to have a valve replacement.
So last year on July 23rd I went into the hospital for that valve replacement. On the way walking into the hospital I had to stop and catch my breath a couple of times. It was really difficult. Thankfully, the students down at the BC Café covered for me while I was having my surgery and for a few weeks after, and I’m very grateful for their help with that.
What’s coming in the future for me? I have no idea, but I have a guess that probably eight to ten years from now probably something else. It’s just my track record. But that brings up a question: Is life easy? Is it worth it? Should I blame my Father in Heaven for the trials that I’ve had to go through?
In April 2016 General Conference, Elder Renlund said, “Because they were distant from the Savior, Laman and Lemuel murmured, became contentious, and were faithless. They felt that life was unfair and that they were entitled to God’s grace. In contrast, because he had drawn close to God, Nephi must have recognized that life would be the most unfair for Jesus Christ. Though absolutely innocent, the Savior would suffer the most.”
I never have and I never will blame my Father in Heaven for my trials. In fact, I know I have been blessed way beyond what I deserve. I want to tell you about the blessings that came from each of these trials, and they are quite amazing to me.
Even though I broke my ankles, I’m still able to run, walk, play golf, do whatever I need to, with no side effects whatever. I can share my story of not listening to the Holy Ghost with others. Again, when the Holy Ghost verbally tells you to do something, do it! There’s a reason. It also makes it very easy, when I’m asked to give a last-minute lesson at church, built in lesson. Sit down for five minutes, tell the story, everybody understands.
Even though I had cancer, I was lucky enough to only have radiation treatments. I know chemotherapy is a lot harder and a lot more intense, and I count that as a blessing. They always told me, “If you’re going to get a cancer, get Hodgkin’s Disease, because it’s the most curable.” So I guess I chose the right one.
During the treatments I lost a lot of hair on the back of my head, so I had to get a goofy haircut to make it look somewhat okay. It really didn’t, but it was the best they could do. Other than this little patch behind my left ear, it all grew back. While I was going through the treatments, I only worked half a day, Monday through Friday. But my employers paid me as though I was working full time, and a couple of days they even let my wife go into work in my place, even though she had no idea what to do. That was a very great blessing.
Like I said, they told us we probably wouldn’t have any more children after the radiation treatments, but we had two more sons after that, and my son is in the MTC right now.
Even though I had a heart attack and open-heart surgery, I’ve lived to see my children grow up to be great servants of their Father in Heaven, to serve missions and to be fabulous human beings.
This might seem dumb, but it was amazing to me. Right after the surgery I went to a mission reunion. In Hawaii we had a lot of senior missionaries, and we’d go around the room at the reunion and they would say what they had been up to. Everyone of them would say, “Oh, I had one bypass,” or “I had two bypasses.” I beat them all; I got six!
Again, while I was out, I was out 100% recovering from heart surgery. My employers paid me 100%, and I count that as a great temporal blessing. And even though I had a heart-valve replacement, they allowed me to do that via catheter. I did not have to have a second open-heart surgery. They took a cow’s valve, ran it up through a vein in my leg, put it in place, blew it up with a balloon, and it started working just like it had always been there. Technology is amazing.
I was home from the hospital 21 hours after the surgery, and I walked out on my own. I can’t believe how amazing that is. Best of all, I can walk, bend over, lift, do whatever I need to, without feeling like I am going to pass out. And I know the students who work with me at the BC Café are very grateful for that.
Overall, I learned that my wife and my kids and family are there for me no matter what. It’s not easy managing a bunch of little kids when I am in the hospital and she’s trying to be there with me. But we were able to make it fairly easily.
Lou Gehrig was a Hall of Fame baseball player who contracted the disease ALS. It forced him to retire from baseball well before he was ready to, and he actually died just about two years after his retirement. But at his retirement speech he said, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” And I too feel that way. I am so lucky. I am so blessed.
I know each of you as students have so many things you are concerned about, whether it is social life, a girlfriend or a boyfriend or a spouse, family and extended family, Church callings, one or two jobs—so many things you spend your time worrying about. You might have health issues. You might have spiritual issues. I testify that it’s easy to feel like there is no hope, but there is no way to get around the trials that you have. I want to remind you that even the Savior asked for some relief.
In Luke 22:42, He said, “If thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
I testify to you that there are blessings to be had in every single trial that you have. If you will just ask your Heavenly Father and if you will seek for them, they will come upon you like an angel from on high, and you will be able to find joy in your trials. I know life can be hard, but I testify that your Father in Heaven knows of your trials and will help you through them, and will help you find the great blessings that are in store for you. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Teachings of President of the Church: John Taylor (2011), Chapter 22: “Being Perfected Through Trials,” pp. 200-208. https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-john-taylor/chapter-22?lang=eng .
 “That I Might Draw All Men Unto Me,” April 2016 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/04/that-i-might-draw-all-men-unto-me?lang=eng .
 Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Address, http://www.lougehrig.com/about/farewell.html .