A friend of mine on Facebook recently shared about some struggles he is having with his testimony. After a couple of interactions on his post, this friend responded by asking, “how do you suppose we go about building a spiritual foundation? Often times we are told to pray, go to church, and read your scriptures and you will Build a testimony. That isn’t working for me.” I felt for him. I know a fact of life is we will all face hard times. However, these hard times can be a great opportunity to grow our faith.
My purpose for writing is to try and show, as Nephi did, “the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” The Lord promised Joseph Smith as he anguished in Liberty Jail, “If thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt have triumphed over all thy foes.“
My father passed away a week before Christmas 2016. A year before his passing, he underwent open-heart surgery to repair a valve that had not been functioning properly most of his life. The surgery itself was successful, but his body did not react well to a properly functioning heart after years of adapting to a weaker one. His last year was spent with multiple weeks in a medically Induced coma, multiple months in the ICU, months in a care facility, and finishing out the last few weeks of his life at home with my mother and aunt caring for him.
Throughout that year, I felt completely alone. I had family, yes, but I did not wish to burden them with my struggles as they all had their own grief over my father’s situation. So I chose to keep it to myself, except in rare situations.
After the surgery, there were two occasions I was able to make it out to California to see my father. On the first, our whole family went in January for my brother’s wedding. When I saw my father, he had just been weaned off of medication enough to be out of a coma for The first time in weeks. He was barely coherent and was using a trachea breathing device so he had no vocal strength to speak. I had never seen my father in such a weakened state. It was heartbreaking. A man I had seen power through everything in life was completely helpless. We visited for an hour or so and as we left the hospital I remember thinking he would not last a month. I was certain His life was over and I was going to lose my father.
A couple of days later, Aaron was sealed with his bride in the Sacramento temple. All of my siblings were there and we had a great experience. The temple president who performed the sealing was a former stake president and bishop of our ward. He knew our family well and was my father’s friend. He reminded us that we could find peace in knowing that everything unfair in this life, even my dad not being able to attend the sealing, will be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
After the sealing ordinance and pictures, we all visited my father at the hospital. It had only been a couple of days, but he was wide awake and able to speak with us. It was shocking and exciting for all of us. There were 13 total members of my father’s family at the hospital: my four brothers, my sister and I all took turns holding my father’s hand, talking with him and expressing our love for him. What a true tender mercy! My father asked for a blessing. My brother Sam and I were lucky enough to each hold one of his hands and lay our other hand on his head and, using our priesthood authority, give him a blessing. I have no recollection of what Sam said in that blessing, but I remember feeling the peace that this was not the end and I would see him again.
For the next few months, my father continued to make progress. He was slowly regaining strength. As he progressed and regained strength in California, I was struggling with being multiple states away in Utah. There had been a Change in me that I cannot describe. While I was still going to church, keeping the commandments, and doing my best to study the scriptures, I could not be happy. I was social and still went to social events with friends, I could not find any sense of comfort or peace. I often thought about Joseph Smith’s pleas: “Oh God where art thou?” but I would never hear back, “Peace be unto thy soul.”
The next time I saw my father was in July. Six months had passed and he Had moved from the ICU to a care facility. He was now pushing himself around all day in his wheelchair continually getting stronger each day. The trauma his body endured after heart surgery caused his kidneys to fail and he now required dialysis three times a week. While going through dialysis one day, his blood pressure dropped so low he fell asleep and was taken to the ER. Our family gathered at the hospital and we were able to visit him two by two.
While Aaron and I were visiting with him, my father again asked for a blessing. Aaron anointed him, and I sealed the anointing. While giving the blessing I was prompted to tell him he would be able to live at home with my mother again. With how many obstacles he needed to overcome, this promise seemed impossible. I don’t remember much else but I again felt a sense of peace this was not yet the End. I didn’t know it at the time, but that summer trip to California would be the last time I would see my father in this life. Through the help of my sister and her sweat and tears, my father was able to make it home before his passing.
Two days before my father passed away in December, my mom sent out a text message saying that my dad needed to go to the hospital, and things weren’t looking good. He had an infection in his legs and needed to have some tests done. The next day when I woke up, I couldn’t focus on anything. I had horrible anxiety not knowing what was going on and if this was the end or just another setback from which my dad would recover. I went home from work and Spent the day with a friend who helped me take my mind off things.
That night there was more bad news. We learned from the blood testing that this infection was not going to be something the doctors could eradicate with antibiotics and my father was being put back on life support. It dawned on us this could be the end. After spending time with my friend, we met up with my brother and I had the impression to ask for a blessing. I had received a few over the year I didn’t feel helped out too much, but I received such a strong prompting I couldn’t ignore it. The blessing didn’t change much for me immediately. I still had anxiety about the situation but I had a glimpse of hope that it would be okay.
The next morning I woke up to the text that they would be taking my father off life support. Within an hour I was messaged again saying they removed all of the support equipment, and within 10 minutes his heart stopped. When I received the final message, something happened. The anxiety I had felt for the last year while my father suffered…was gone. I had expected a rush of pain, sorrow, and sadness, but instead, I felt relief. I realized at that moment I wasn’t struggling with the thought of losing my father, I struggled because I knew he was in pain. Somehow, throughout the year I had forgotten the knowledge I had of the Plan of Salvation, and the Lord allowed me to go through this struggle because I could handle it, and it would strengthen my faith in the end.
As you can imagine, I have reflected on this year of my life countless times. Why would God allow me to go through an entire year of feeling like he wasn’t there? An angel asked Nephi: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” Nephi responded, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” While I did not understand why God was, in my mind, absent, I reflect back on my own experiences and know He was there and loved me.
We all are going to suffer through trials. These trials can even cause you to feel like your faith has been stretched to its ends. As Jehovah taught Isaiah: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” While we may not realize it during our sufferings, God is there and he helps us throughout our trials. We are only asked to “endure it well.”
- “Behold, We Count Them Happy Which Endure” -Elder Robert D. Hales, April 1998
- “Endure and Be Lifted Up” -Elder Russell M. Nelson, April 1997
- “The Atonement of Jesus Christ” -Tad R. Callister, April 2019