1) There is a man in my ward who is a dean at a major college in our area. He is a brilliant scholar in his field, and he has served as a Bishop and in a Stake Presidency. He also is one of the most humble men I have ever met. A couple of years ago, one of his adult daughters died in a freakish surgery accident – totally unexpected – leaving behind a husband and an infant daughter.
In a Priesthood lesson a few months ago, we were discussing “things I’ve learned in life” – everyone taking turns sharing something with everyone else. He said something that broke my heart – that I am sure I will never forget. This brilliantly humble man, whose Gospel knowledge blows us all away but who sits quietly throughout most lessons and just listens, said:
“I have learned that our deepest and most difficult trials can bring us closer to God than anything else can. I am profoundly grateful for that lesson; I just wish I had not had to learn it the way I did.”
2) In high school, I was blessed to sing for David Dahlquist, one of the most impressive musicians and directors I have ever met. (A song he wrote – “Lullaby” – took second place in the 1980 All-Church Music Contest.)
“Mr. D” had numerous opportunities to leave our little farm community school and pursue a career at the college level and beyond. He stayed, however, because he simply loved touching kids’ hearts and helping them find glory and majesty in music. The sheer joy and rapture on his face when a song “clicked” with his students was wonderful to behold. He touched more lives directly and profoundly in his 30 years as a teacher than perhaps anyone else in the history of the towns that feed into that high school. Other than my father, he probably is the one teacher who has been the greatest inspirational example in my life.
His and his wife’s story is told in the September, 2002 Ensign – (”In a Quiet House”). It illustrates Dave and Maria Elena amazingly well. What it doesn’t mention is that Mr. D served as a Bishop and as a Stake President during some of the time (the last few years) the story details. Their story will break your heart and fill your soul.
Please read it now at the link above. (This post will still be here when you are done. Really, go ahead and read it before moving on here. Don’t keep reading this; read it first.)
As difficult as it is to understand and accept experiences like these, I am inspired by our ability to rise above anything that happens in our lives by holding fast to a faith – any faith – that allows us to see the good even in the trials that break our hearts. Stephen is an inspiration to me. As he said so eloquently elsewhere, “All we can hope for is for God to bring us home.” I am grateful for that faith and that hope – and I pray that I will not have to learn the lessons my friend and Mr. D learned in the same way they did as God works to bring me home.
(Please pardon a personal request: Mr.D retired a few years ago, and a scholarship fund was established in his name to help an exceptional student each year who sings at Payson High School pursue his or her college career. If you know of anyone who can read his story and bring this fund to a greater audience – or bring it to someone who can endow it to provide a regular scholarship off of the interest, I will be eternally grateful.)