November 4, 2023

Testimony of Book of Mormon

(The note attached inside Book of Mormon given to neighbor, etc. Art added for this blog.) 

Thanks for accepting this copy of the Book of Mormon, which recounts God’s dealings with His children throughout the ages in what is called the Promised Land. It’s very much like what the Bible does in relation to the Children of Israel.


Let me explain why the book means so much to me: When I was in ninth grade, I took a religion class that required the reading of the Book of Mormon. As I worked through the assignments, I was drawn into the narrative about a prophet of God who was instructed by Him to take a small group of people and flee Jerusalem, which had become wicked and was soon to be conquered by another nation. The group eventually arrived in the Promised Land and built two nations.

As I read the class assignments, I was drawn more and more into the spiritual side of the book, which was tightly woven around the people’s belief or unbelief in God and His son, Jesus Christ.

On a particular night, I remember very distinctly experiencing a burning in my chest – a witness to me that God brought forth this book in these latter days to prepare a people
for Christ’s Second Coming. Even though I was only a 15-year-old, I knew that night that God had made sure the authors and prophets of the Book of Mormon had preserved their writings for marvelous purpose, one that would become a latter-day second witness of Jesus Christ – the first witness being the Bible. I also knew that night that a farm boy named Joseph Smith had been given the power and the tools to translate the ancient text as part of God’s plan to redeem His people.

Though I have had a lot of challenges and sinned countless times (thank God for repentance), my testimony of the Book of Mormon has remained with me as a beacon in the storm of life.

This is my testimony, Amen!

W. Lee Hunt

Nov. 4, 2023

October 9, 2023

My Own Miracle of Forgiveness

 I taught Elder's Quorum Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in our Webb City Ward. The subject was Elder  Yoon Hwan Choi's talk on "Do You Want To Be Happy?" A part of it was on getting back on the Covenant Path, in which he talked about a returned missionary who was having some real problems and find his way back to the Covenant Path.


I saw the similarity between that missionary and myself. I shared with the quorum about my own wanderings. Here's that part of the lesson:

Many of you may have heard my Big-C story and the blessing I received from Elder Delbert E. Stapley after I had my leg amputated back in 1970. Because of that blessing and the assurances I received from my own prayers, I optimistically headed to BYU just a few months after the Big-C surgery. Though I loved almost everything about BYU, I was a failure at the elite dating game there. 

I felt I was handicapped in that battle partly because I was still suffering emotionally from getting dumped by my high school sweetheart during the latter part of my mission when she married some guy named John. 

But the real dating obstacle, in my mind, was that I was this short, penniless, jobless weirdo with a tenuous lease on life.  I just wasn’t exactly great marriage material. 


On one side, I was sailing through my college courses, while at the same time feeling emotionally discouraged and feeling alone in the crowd. I was spiraling down. Slowly, I retreated from full activity in the church, to marginal activity and then by the time I had rushed through college in less than 4 years, l was on my own in my own apartment and beginning my journalism career. 

Life at the Deseret News should have been a good time, but there were influences even there that enticed me away from the covenant path – a concept that I really didn’t understand back then. The sins and isolation grew to the point that there was no way I could repent and be forgiven. 

Several months after starting at the News as an Obit writer, my grandmother passed away, and I bought her nearly new one-bedroom mobile home in my old ward. 

That’s when I started going to young adults. But I was living a dual life. I loved the feelings that I felt when I was attending young adults, but I was still in the grasp of my sins. I battled between doing the right thing and the carnal man. 

But there were a series of critical turning points: I was finally associating with good people in young adults, including attending young adult Sunday meetings. I even found a friend and fellow young adult returned missionary who was happy to pay me a few bucks to be a roommate in my trailer. I wasn’t alone, which helped me get away from a lot of temptations. 

Also, I was again reading the scriptures and was realizing the truth that my “Wickedness was never going to bring me true Happiness.” It was Alma who counseled his son about his bad example as they worked as missionaries. Alma taught him that one can repent and use the memories of those sins to help stir him (and me) away from further temptation. 

Another key “tender mercy” during that struggle in my soul was the reading Pres. Kimball’s book “Miracle of Forgiveness.” Pres. Kimball was a no-nonsense counselor on repentance and the path to forgiveness. 

It was at this point that I really started to feel in my heart that there was still a chance to return to the path and regain the light. This grasping at hope was very much because I had met a young woman who made me want to repent and be that better version of myself. 

Things started to turn around! But the struggle was real. This included confession and the other challenging steps of repentance – but eventually I was allowed back into the fold and regained my place on the covenant path.

President Kimball said: And I quote: “The essence of the miracle of forgiveness is that it brings peace to the previously anxious, restless, frustrated, perhaps tormented soul. In a world of turmoil and contention this is indeed a priceless gift.”


  


November 20, 2022

"Something Unimaginable"

 My subject today (Nov. 20, 2022) is from Elder Uchtdorf’s conference talk:

“God Will Do Something Unimaginable”

Let’s look back at the early Saints, who endured many trials and heartaches:

Saints crossing the frozen Mississippi River. (1)
They built a city along the Mississippi River in a mosquito-infested swamp

They suffered the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

They sacrificed to build the Nauvoo temple and then had to leave it behind

They abandoned Nauvoo the Beautiful and fled across the frozen Mississippi

They trudged more than a thousand miles across the wilderness via wagon, handcart and by foot to reach an isolated valley next to a great salty lake.

Crossing Sweetwater River pulling handcarts. (2)
More than 4,000 of them died, including several of my ancestors, before the Intercontinental railroad was completed in 1868.

Then they had to struggle to survive in the desolate Salt Lake Valley, including an invasion of crickets, which resulted in the miracle of the seagulls.

Even still, they imagined a prosperous kingdom in the tops of the mountains.

 Workers cut slabs of granite in Little
Cottonwood Canyon south of Salt Lake. (3
)
When Brigham Young and the first group of Pioneers arrived in 1847, he picked a temple site, but construction didn’t start until six years later.

“Church craftsmen painstakingly chiseled out of the canyon walls huge granite blocks that weighed from 2,500 to 5,600 pounds each and carefully transported them to Temple Square, first by ox-drawn wagon and later by railroad. There, expert stone cutters carved the blocks to fit perfectly into place.”

In the spring of 1858, while the Saints were still laying the foundation of the Salt Lake Temple, the U.S. government was dispatching Johnston’s Army to put down the “Mormon rebellion.” In response, Pres. Young had the Saints evacuate their homes and covered over the temple foundation in anticipation of the arrival of the army.

Painting of Johnston's Army marching through
the deserted Salt Lake City, Utah Territory. (4)
However, a resolution to the crisis was found, and the Saints returned to their homes and uncovered the temple foundation. But to their dismay, many of the sandstone blocks were cracked and would need to be replaced.

Another obstacle in building the House of the Lord.

The temple construction took 40 years.

Why were the early Saints so tested in their efforts to build Zion?

Despite all the challenges, the Saints eventually began to flourish, building the crossroads of the west.

Back when the church was organized in 1830, who of the first members could imagine the growth of the church in later decades.

Berlin Wall dividing Communist East Berlin
from free West Berlin from 1961 to 1989. (5)
When I was a young teenager in the 1960s, the church was still pretty small – less than 2 million members. I wondered then how the church could possibly grow enough to reach into all parts of the world – especially in places like Eastern Europe, Russia, Africa and even China and India.

And now there’s a temple in India! Wow!

When I was a missionary in Costa Rica in 1970, there were two branches in the country. Now there are more than 78 congregations, 51,000 members, and even a temple in San Jose.

Hard to imagine!

When the Covid Pandemic slammed the world, the Lord through his church leadership had already given us a way to weather the storm – the Come Follow Me program.

Church President Russell M. Nelson
Who could have imagined such great timing!

The church has faced many challenges and obstacles, but through our Father in Heaven, we have come out stronger than ever.

What’s lies ahead for the church? Many trials and tribulations!

But Pres. Nelson said in the last conference: “In the coming days, we will see the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power that the world has ever seen!”

Can you imagine that?!

In all this, the Lord’s work is to bring to pass the Immortality and Eternal Life of Man!

What about on a personal level?

Every one of us has or will face hardship, challenges and obstacles!

But the important thing is to see how we handle them! Will we give up and turn away from our Heavenly Father and our Savior?

It isn’t how many times we get knocked down, it’s how we respond, how quickly we get back up – and what we learn from them all – whether they be physical, mental or financial challenges?

How we handle these things and what we learn from them makes us more prepared for what comes next – and in the next life.

I asked a friend about his challenge in life – a financial one.

He said: “I realized that I needed to make a change in my life because I was growing further away from the lord. The more stuff you have and the more absolute your authority is, it seems the further away from God you get. I really needed to be humbled and by changing jobs, the Lord blessed me. First with humility, which gradually led to a greater focus on what is really important. It has been a journey of close to two decades and counting, but the rewards are amazing. I have learned to recognize his hand in all that we do. I have prayed to know more, and he has put me in callings and responsibilities that have made learning and understanding necessary. I have experienced that when I ask for blessings, I better be prepared to be challenged. I have learned that the plan of salvation is real and unbelievably wonderful. I have learned to love the scriptures and that we are all God's children and that the lessons given to one generation can and do apply to all. I have learned without a doubt that this gospel is true and the Lord really loves me and us.”

Another friend told me of his challenge: “When I was about 13 years old, life was pretty hard.  I was living in a new town and had very few friends...  Kids treated me like a freak because of my limp ...  and inability to run. My balance was so bad that I would trip and fall all the time. I remember feeling really sorry for myself for not being like all the other kids and not doing what they could do.  I was praying and complaining to Heavenly Father when a sweet peaceful feeling came over me, telling me that even though I was different, I was still his son and as such was special...  I was told not to worry about what others thought or how they acted towards me -- but to just be the best person I could and I would be okay. From that day on, life was much better.  Still hard – but way easier to be happy.”

My older brother, Merrill, playing
basketball at Granger High School.

Let me tell you my “short” story. And if you’ve heard this, it may be a good time for a nap!

My older brother was an athlete! I always wanted to be like him! But I suffered too many illnesses, back issues, cracked wrists, shoulder separations, and too many surgeries.

I was the runt of the litter.

However, in the 8th and 9th grade, I had a growth spurt – all the way up to 5’ 4”—and I loved playing basketball. In attrition I had good health during my high school years.

Elder Hunt on crutches and in
full leg cast on way home
from mission in Costa Rica.
I was even able to go on a mission to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Good times!

However, over halfway through my mission, I started having problems with my left knee. After a couple of months hobbling around, I underwent surgery and had a broken cartilage removed in my knee. Then after a month or so of reading the scriptures in recovery, we found out I had bone cancer. I was quickly flown home and ended up in LDS Hospital.

That first night after finding out that I faced a leg amputation, I started praying out loud to my Father in Heaven, wondering if I was going to survive and pleading for His help. I prayed that I could be OK with a wooden leg, that I would live to find an eternal companion and have a family of my own.

Standing behind me is Mission President Milton E. Smith
and Apostle Delbert L. Stapley in Costa Rica.
After a long evening of praying, I felt a warm reassurance that all was going to be OK -- that Heavenly Father would help me through this ordeal and that I would be able to continue on with my dreams – despite the loss of my leg.

A few days after the surgery, Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited me and gave me a blessing. I’ll never forget how he started his blessing by talking with Heavenly Father as if He were in the room, telling Him about my situation. Then he paused and proceeded to bless me. The two main parts I remember to this day is that he commanded that if any cancer remained in my body that it should depart and then commanding that it should never return.

I’ve never really worried about the cancer after that.

Here I am now, 72 years old and praising my Father In Heaven for keeping His promises to me.

It’s hard to imagine!

Nancy and I have been married now for 47 years, we have five children and 15 grandchildren.

Life has been amazing – but also hard!

Lehi’s Dream (and the Iron Rod),
by Jerry Thompson. Courtesy
of the LDS Church, © 2015
The truth is, I’ve had many things to repent of! Every day I give thanks for Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice.

From all my mistakes and ordeals, I have learned many things – including determination, faith, the truth of the gospel and Plan of Salvation, the Love that my Father in Heaven and my Savior have for me – despite all my past sins and weaknesses.

Now, I need to Hold Tight to the Rod – despite my brittle bones and arthritis in my shoulders and joints.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the first presidency said in the last conference that adversity is temporary. What is permanent is what we become by the way we react to them.”

So remember, God Will Help Us Do Something Unimaginable in our lives – in this life and in the next!




(1) https://www.legendsofamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Handcart-Company-across-the-Sweetwater-River.jp

(2)  Christensen, C. C. A. (Carl Christian Anton), 1831-1912

(3)  (c. 1872)  Photographer: C.W. Carter

(4) Joseph  Smith Foundation

(5) the  Jakarta Post





November 2, 2022

Science coming closer to Heaven

   When I was attending the old Monroe Elementary School on the corner of 4000 West and 3500 South in Granger (now West Valley City), we of course studied science, including the "science fact" that space is empty and that we are alone in the universe. This was before spaceflight, before man had entered the "space age."
 
My fifth-grade class at Monroe Elementary.
So many of these classmates were friends all
the way through high school -- and beyond. 

 I remember in the fourth or fifth grade being in a debate on whether there was other life in the universe and if we've been visited by aliens from other worlds. I believed then that it's very possible we've been visited. As part of my argument in the affirmative on UFO visits, I read the scripture from The Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:33: "And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten." (I bet kids couldn’t do that today!)
  Anyway, the class took a vote, and our side won -- we aren't alone and we’ve been visited.
   Mankind has come a long way in "science fact" since the 1960s. It’s only been since the Hubble Space telescope was launched in 1990 that scientists have gradually come to the realization that there are anywhere from 300-million to upwards of 40-billion Earth-like worlds in the just the Milky Way.
11-foot replica of the Christus statute in
the North Visitors Center on Temple Square.
The “learned people” back in Joseph Smith’s day (1830s) laughed at the idea that there might be other worlds in the  universe like Earth. 

   Further, in the Doctrine and Covenants D&C 88: 12, 37, 95, 110 12, Joseph Smith received these revolutionary concepts: “Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space … And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.”
   Science is slowly seeing the grandeur of God's kingdom, thanks to Hubble telescope and other and even newer penetrating telescopes. 

July 25, 2021

Tribute to my Pioneer Ancestors

 Being that I'm living here in Missouri, I really didn't get a chance to celebrate Utah's Pioneer Day, 24th of July.

So, I decided I would pay tribute by posting these of my Pioneer Ancestors.


Gabriel Marion Utley

My Great-Grandfather

1844-1929

Traveled with the Robert Wimmer Company

He was 7 years old when departed on 1 July 1852; 2 years after I was born

 

Harrison Burgess

My 2ND GREAT-GRANDFATHER

3 September 1814 – 10 February 1883

Wives Sophia and Amanda Burgess traveled in the Brigham Young Company in 1848 while Harrison was serving a mission to England. When he returned in 1850, he joined the Aaron Johnson Company and traveled to Salt Lake where he was reunited with his wives. His daughter, Sophia Minerva Burgess, born in Utah, married Gabriel Marion Utley on 1 January 1872.



Amanda Melvina Hammond

My 2ND GREAT-GRANDMOTHER

Birth 6 May 1827; Death 8 August 1882.

Traveled in the Brigham Young Company in 1848.

Married Harrison Burgess Feb. 6, 1846.

Levi Hunt

2ND GREAT-GRANDFATHER

1833 –1921

He was 22 years old when he traveled to Utah in 1855 with the Richard Ballantyne Company

 

Jane M Gadd

2nd Great-Grandmother

30 March 1839 – 14 June 1863

Jane was 17 years old when in 1856 she traveled with her family in the James G. Willie Handcart Company. Her father and brother died in the tragic trek. She barely survived.

Married Levi Hunt in 1858.

 



John Smith Defreeze Hyatt

2ND GREAT-GRANDFATHER

12 August 1832 – 25 December 1911

In 1846, he sailed from New York, United States to San Francisco, California. He arrived in Utah in 1848.

 


Martha Jane Turner (Howd)

2nd Great-Grandmother

14 January 1836 – 10 December 1899

Arrived in Utah on Oct. 2, 1847

Married John Hyatt in Salt Lake Endowment House Jan. 28, 1856.

 

William Cook Prows

2ND GREAT-GRANDFATHER

11 June 1827 – 23 May 1894, Buried in the Mormon Colony of Colonia Ju├írez, Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico.

After leaving Nauvoo, he was recruited 16 July 1846 at Council Bluffs, Iowa, serving in the Mexican War Mormon Battalion March; Dischared to 16 July 1847 in Los Angeles, California.

 

Lodesky Ann Roberds

2ND GREAT-GRANDMOTHER

28 July 1835 – 2 September 1922

Under the direction of Amasa Lyman, who was sent from Brigham Young's vanguard company, her company arrived in Utah in July of 1847.

Married William Cook Prows 14 April 1850.        




March 24, 2021

Having Hope In Adversity

Talk presented March 7, 2020, in Joplin Stake Conference:

Life is beautiful … Life is amazing … Life is hard … Life is Challenging …

Life can be a really tough row to hoe!

Priesthood leaders on the Stake sugar beet farm
in Granger posing with their work hoes, including
Bro. Peterson, second from left; Dwayne Johnson;
and Gordon Evans, second from right. 
 
There’s adversity of numerous kinds – including genetical, physical and emotional ones. There are ones caused by the actions or decisions made by others -- or even those brought upon ourselves by our own choices.

When I was in my early teens, we were often called to work on our stake welfare farms, including planting tomatoes, harvesting tomatoes and picking corn. The hardest assignment was weeding the sugar beets.


How many have had that great opportunity?

How many have ever seen a sugar beet?

John Havlicek of
the Boston Celtics
from 1962 to 1978.
I could do about three rows, each about 100 yards long, before my back and arm were aching, and I was drenched in sweat. Those types of activities made me realize I shouldn’t make a career out of manual labor.

When I was in 8th grade, my father had a personal chat with me about my future career plans. I told him I was going to be a professional basketball player. I pictured myself as the next John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics.

Mario Lanza,
1921-1959
He then asked what I would do if I couldn’t be a pro player. What was my backup plan? I quickly said I’d be a professional singer, maybe like Mario Lanza. 

The same year I was
on West Lake Junior
High basketball team,
I was named the
"Most Fit" in
Coach Newton's
gym classes.
Then he asked: What then, if that doesn’t work out? I wrestled with my thoughts for a bit, then suggested I would become a writer or journalist – despite the fact my spelling and grammar were terrible. I figured I’d have an editor to fix those things.

After a lot of practice and overcoming many injuries, my basketball career reached all the way up to – the last spot on the bench of our junior high basketball team. 

And the pinnacle of my singing career was – high school madrigals and Concert Choir. I had a great time in both

Granger High School Madrigals
1967-68. I'm on the 2nd row, far right.
pursuits, but those career dreams were dashed. Still, I was confident my Father in Heaven would help me find something else.

That something else was a career in writing and journalism, starting with our high school newspaper, then as church mission public relations director, and then as an editor of the BYU newspaper, which led to a 35-year career as an editor at the daily newspaper, The Deseret News.

Sounds simple enough, but actually that path was filled with challenges and adversity!

Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said: “One’s life . . . cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free. . . . Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ”Lord, give me experience – but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!” (end quote)

The Lord knows we need to experience the bad and the good in life as we climb that figurative ladder back to him.

Growing up, I had real trouble with my shoulders – which led to surgeries on both. But those setbacks didn’t stop me from playing basketball as much as time would permit.

The large rock nicked my left-leg calf muscle, which
put my leg into spasms and I was helped down!
And at a Scout camp, I was almost killed when a large boulder came crashing down the mountainside, and I stood there frozen. In a split second, my brother pushed me out of the way. I was nicked in the left-leg calf muscle, but was alive! The rock, however, plummeted down the mountainside and killed a member of our troop. We were devastated.

Elder Adhemar Damiani of the Seventy has said: “As part of our mortal probation, we pass through affliction, pain, and disappointment. Only in Jesus Christ can we find peace. … His gospel gives us the strength and the eternal perspective to face what is coming with good cheer.” (end quote)

Elder Hunt on crutches and
left leg in full cast at San
Jose, Costa Rica, 
airport set
to fly home to Granger.
The words, eternal perspective, played a critical part in the challenge I faced when I was 20 years old, more than half a century ago, and serving a mission in Costa Rica. After several months of pain in my left leg and two surgeries, the doctors discovered I had bone cancer. One day later, I was on my way back home to Utah where I was told that the only way to maybe beat the cancer was to have my left leg amputated. Remember, this was before chemo and radiation therapy.

Two things happened to turn my hope into faith. The night before the surgery, I prayed long and hard about my future. Was I going to survive? And if I survived, could I make it without basketball and as an amputee?  Finally, I received a spiritual assurance that I had a good life ahead, even that I would eventually marry and have a family.

Elder Hunt standing in front of Pres. Milton E. Smith,
left, and Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Quorum of
Twelve, and other missionaries in the San Jose area. 
Then, a couple of days following the surgery, I received a blessing from Elder Delbert L. Stapley, who I had previously met when he visited our mission in Costa Rica. His blessing was amazing: He first spoke with God and explained to Him my situation. Then, after a pause, he proceeded to bless me. Part of that blessing was a command that if there was any cancer left in my body that it would leave and never return.

Five years later, the doctor who had performed the surgery, said he really hadn’t expected me to survive. He credited Elder Stapley’s blessing for the miracle.

I soon was back in school at BYU and receiving assistance from the Utah Division of Rehabilitation, which made it possible for me to go on and earn my college diploma.

I was blessed in many ways, but those college years and the ensuing couple of years were really tough, emotionally. My self-esteem suffered, and I started my career at Deseret News emotionally and spiritually low. What saved me was realizing that I could actually change and repent. That I could break the chains Satan had wrapped around me.


That spiritual reawakening came while reading Pres. Kimball’s book “The Miracle of Foregiveness” – that, along with getting involved in Young Adults, which is where I met Nancy. She was the one who helped me through the repentance process. Finally I had hope again – I had regained my eternal perspective.

The Lord makes no secret that He will test our faith and our obedience. “We will prove them herewith,” He said, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said: “Most of us experience some measure of what the scriptures call ‘the furnace of affliction.’ Some are submerged in service to a disadvantaged family member. Others suffer the death of a loved one or the loss or postponement of a righteous goal like marriage or childbearing. Still others struggle with personal impairments or with feelings of rejection, inadequacy, or depression.

Pres. Dallin H. Oaks
[But] Through the justice and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven, the refinement and sanctification possible through such experiences can help us achieve what God desires us to become....

Father Lehi promised his son Jacob that God would ‘consecrate [his] afflictions for [his] gain.’

The Prophet Joseph was promised that ‘thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.’ (end quote)

Joseph Smith Jr.

Enduring well means living faithfully despite our trials and misfortune. It means learning from these trials and experiences and thus becoming more like our Father in Heaven.

Eternal perspective allows us to understand that if we endure well these things and learn from them, then we can look forward to living with our Father in Heaven – and even eventually living the kind of life that God lives! That’s a pretty awesome promise!

Lee & Nancy Hunt

Now, more than 60 years since that blessing from Elder Stapley, I’m still hanging on – married to my sweet Nancy for nearly 45 years, and treasuring my five children and 17 grandchildren. But I still have daily afflictions and challenges.

So, I pray that we will hold on through our trials, become closer to our Father in Heaven as we do so, and hold tight to our eternal perspective, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

These quotes I wasn’t able to use due to time constraints, but well worth review on the subject:

Pres. Russell M. Nelson
Pres. Russell M. Nelson has said: “True repentance is not an event. It is a never-ending privilege. It is fundamental to progression….” (end quote)

Why does our Father in Heaven allow these burdens?

Wouldn’t it be nice to not have any? Life would be so easy – but would we learn anything if life was all bliss?

Is there a reason for life’s adversities?

Elder Quentin L. Cook

Elder Quentin L. Cook has said: “Adversity should not be viewed as either disfavor from the Lord or a withdrawal of His blessings. Opposition in all things is part of the refiner’s fire to prepare us for an eternal celestial destiny.” (end quote)

And many of these adversities and afflictions require us to turn away from sin and despair and take hold of Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice through repentance.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen
Elder Bruce C. Hafen has said: “The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character.” (end quote)

Pres. Russell M. Nelson has said: “True repentance is not an event. It is a never-ending privilege. It is fundamental to progression….” (end quote)

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf testified: “… that when we

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

embark upon or continue the incredible journey that leads to God, our lives will be better. This does not mean that our lives will be free from sorrow. We all know of faithful followers of Christ who suffer tragedy and injustice–Jesus Christ Himself suffered more than anyone.... In fact, sometimes it seems that our lives are more difficult because we are trying to live our faith. Following the Savior will not remove all of your trials. However, it will remove the barriers between you and the help your Heavenly Father wants to give you.” (end quote)

Elder M. Russell Ballard
Elder M. Russell Ballard has said: “No matter how difficult the trail, and regardless of how heavy our load, we can take comfort in knowing that others before us have borne life’s most grievous trials and tragedies by looking to heaven for peace, comfort, and hopeful assurance. We can know as they knew that God is our Father, that He cares about us individually and collectively, and that as long as we continue to exercise our faith and trust in Him, there is nothing to fear in the journey.” (end quote)

I’ve always loved the Book of Mormon story of Alma and his people who fled into the wilderness and were eventually captured by the Lamanites and forced to labor for them. But the Lord, instead of immediately rescuing them from the Lamanites, he first helped them handle their burdens:

 In Mosiah, Chapter 12, verse 15: And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.”

Elder D. Todd
Christofferson
Elder D. Todd Christofferson has said: “Exercising agency in a setting that sometimes includes opposition and hardship is what makes life more than a simple multiple-choice test. God is interested in what we are becoming as a result of our choices. He is not satisfied if our exercise of moral agency is simply a robotic effort at keeping some rules. Our Savior wants us to become something, not just do some things. He is endeavoring to make us independently strong …” (end quote)

March 17, 2021

Snowstorm Miracle amidst Canyon Tragedy

My wife’s brother Bruce Westwood and his wife, Chris, once owned a business in which they repossessed cars and trucks and then transported them to their rightful owners whether that be in Utah or in other states.

He sometimes had members of his extended family help in transporting said vehicles. I volunteered a couple of times to make some extra money. Both jobs involved snowstorms, but the craziest one involved my oldest son, Jason, on his 11th birthday in 1990. I probably included him for his birthday!

Jason wearing his
DesNews T-shirt
In the middle of December, Jason and I headed out of Salt Lake City for a vehicle transportation job in Wyoming with several other drivers. By the time we arrived in Kemmerer at the shop where the vehicle was being stored, a snowstorm had started to blanket everything, including the roads. The idea of driving back in a snowstorm in Wyoming was disconcerting, to say the least.

The other drivers were to head on their way back East, and I and Jason were supposed to head back to Salt Lake. But then I found out that the truck I was assigned to drive back was a standard!  

Time to freak out! How could Bruce make such a crazy mistake!?

I’m a left-leg amputee. I don’t have a leg to do the clutch! Plus, I never ever learned how to drive a clutch – even when I had two legs. I had always drove my parents’ cars, which had automatic transmissions. How could I drive the pickup and do the clutch at the same time – with only one leg. And not to mention in a snowstorm that was growing more intense every minute we debated what to do.

When we called Bruce and told him the problem, he said he forgot I only had one leg. He didn’t make the clutch connection! Oops!

But he insisted I could still do it – that we really didn’t have any other choice. I don’t think he really realized that I didn’t know how to do the clutch and get into the different gears.

Well, here we go!

W. Lee Hunt on his
40th birthday in 1990.

Jason and I rode in the cab as one of the other drivers gave me some clutch clutch tips as we headed back to the intersection outside Kemmerer of highway 30 and 189. Then he and the other men left us and headed east on highway 30, and Jason and I headed south on 189.

So, how was I able to do the clutch and push on the gas at the same time? That became Jason’s job!

He had to crawl down around me and get down on the floor of the cab and push the clutch in and release it on my command. Getting into the first gear worked out OK, but we had to drive really slow – not just because of my inexperience, but because the snowstorm had gotten so bad that it was almost a whiteout!

We – well, actually I – could see only a few hundred feet ahead of us, plus keeping the truck on the road was a scary chore. Every once in a while, Jason would poke his head up and look around. When we came to the I-80 onramp, we had to slow down to stay on the road but had to go fast enough so the truck wouldn’t stall. Then, when we got on the onramp, we had to hurry up and change gears twice.

Once we were on I-80, it became a tedious process of staying within the tracks in the snow on the roadway, seeing through the crazy blizzard and keeping up the speed of about 25 to 35 miles per hour. Finally, we were in Echo Canyon and on our way back to Utah.

Did I mention that we were following the tracks made by the semis which were ahead of us?

Well, all of a sudden, the tracks in the snow seemed to head left and off the roadway! I caught myself and kept heading straight ahead.

Then I saw where the semitruck and trailer had ended up!

Way down below us in the eastbound lane of I-80, I could see the wreckage of the semi and its trailer, which had slammed into a Greyhound bus that was going east up the canyon. I was shocked, but I tried to keep calm so Jason wouldn’t get frightened.

Here’s what the Deseret News said about the crash:

WORK UNDER WAY TO IDENTIFY VICTIMS

By Deseret News  Dec 19, 1990, 12:00am MST

Steve Fidel and Marianne Funk, Staff Writers

1990 Greyhound bus.

Work to identify seven victims of one of Utah's worst highway accidents continued Wednesday after Tuesday's collision between a Greyhound bus and a semitrailer truck.

Twenty-one crash victims were hospitalized, some of them in critical condition, Wednesday morning, and a number of the Chicago-bound bus's 45 passengers spent the night in private homes in Evanston after being checked at Evanston Regional Hospital.Denver-based investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were also expected to arrive Wednesday to begin investigating circumstances surrounding the crash, which law enforcement officers blamed on high winds, blowing snow and icy roads at the accident site 13 miles west of Evanston on I-80.

Snowstorm on I-80
 in Wyoming
Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Gene Ercanbrack said that at about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, a Wanship Enterprises semi loaded with frozen hams drifted to the right shoulder of the westbound lanes and then possibly jackknifed after the driver tried to bring the truck under    control. It then slid off the left side of the lanes and dropped about 15 feet across an embankment in the median onto the eastbound lanes where it hit the Greyhound bus broadside.

The impact knocked the bus off the road, and it slid about 100 yards on its side before coming to rest against a fence at the bottom of another 15-foot embankment.

In the meantime, a second semi that was following the bus collided with the Wan-ship Enterprises truck, leaving the two trucks blocking the eastbound lanes of I-80 for more than six hours.

The bus driver, Bud McVey of Fillmore, saw the semi coming but was unable to get out of the way. He did have time to shout "Hold on, hold on" to the passengers, he told his wife in a phone conversation from Evanston later Tuesday.

Only the driver's seat is equipped with seat belts. McVey was shaken up and the drivers of both trucks were among those injured, according to Sgt. Ron Gale, investigating officer for the UHP. Passengers on the bus spoke of babies crying and people screaming as they stepped over some of the victims and scrambled out of the bus through the broken-out windshield. McVey, a trained emergency medical technician who spent two years assisting EMT crews in Fillmore, called on passing motorists for help and then began assessing the needs of his passengers. "He said it was an unreal situation. He described it as being unimaginable, even after the work he had done on the EMT team," said his wife.

"The dead were mingled with the injured," she said. "It was impossible (for McVey) to use some of the skills and training he had because people were piled on top of each other. EMTs are trained never to move people until they are properly packed."

She said McVey did not break any bones, as had been reported earlier, but suffered mostly emotional trauma.

A chain reaction of less serious accidents followed as vehicles approaching the crash site were caught off guard by the traffic jam and near-blizzard conditions. UHP troopers closed the interstate in both directions, at Coalville to the west and Evanston to the east, until midafternoon.

"They called in every available trooper from Heber, Evanston and Coalville," said UHP spokesman Gary Whitney. The troopers were also assisted by officers from Summit County, Kamas and state troopers from Wyoming.

Echo Canyon in
good weather

Weather conditions in the hours following the accident were still bad enough that all but one of the air ambulances responding could get no closer than Coalville, which is more than 10 miles west of the accident site. One helicopter that did get through battled low visibility by skimming just above the highway as it flew down the canyon toward Coal-ville after leaving the crash site.
  "We sent our plane and we sent both choppers," said LDS Hospital spokesman Craig Rasmussen. "The plane (sent by the hospital) wasn't able to land. One chopper was turned back because of the weather. The other touched down at Echo Junction (near Coalville). They wouldn't let it go all the way to the scene." …

The bus passengers with less serious injuries were sent to an Army National Guard armory in Evanston after being treated in the Evanston hospital's emergency room. Representatives from the Red Cross, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Catholic Community Services helped care for the stranded travelers at the armory and then helped them find private homes to stay in during the night.

Army National Guard Sgt. Bob June said passengers began arriving at the armory at about 12:30 p.m. …

Greyhound spokesman George Graveley said the Chicago-bound bus No. 5001, which was on route No. 1314 and left Salt Lake City at 8 a.m. bound for Chicago, was carrying 43 passengers. Troopers at the scene put the passenger count at 45. Rasmussen said the Evanston hospital treated 41 of the accident victims in its emergency room. Eighteen were admitted for an overnight stay, but none had serious injuries, he said.

Morgan resident Blaine Whimpey was driving toward Evanston when he arrived at the accident scene several minutes after the crash. "I could see the bus. There were people up on top of the bus pulling people out," he said.

All of the people he saw emerging from the bus were hurt. "They were just all moaning and groaning and freezing. They wanted a warm place to get into," Whimpey said. "The traffic backup was a mile and a half to two miles. We were just grabbing (passengers) and walking down the road and throwing them in cars."

Parley's Canyon
in snowstorm
(KSL News Radio)

Jason and had to keep going slowly down the canyon. Then we headed over to Parley’s Canyon and down the canyon and onto the 21st South Freeway. We never stalled out until we came to the offramp at Redwood Rd., which was just a couple-hundred yards away from Bruce’s office. Fortunately, Jason and I were able to get the truck going again and we virtually coasted into the parking lot at Bruce’s office.

What a crazy ride! What a terrible experience! What a miracle! Our Father in Heaven once again rescued me (and my son Jason) out of a crazy situation!