The first miracle of my life happened before I was even born. My mother and father traveled from Lake Charles, Louisiana to Mesa, Arizona in order to worship in the Temple. Temple worship for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a very sacred matter, well worth traveling long distances if necessary. Anyway, upon arrival in Mesa, my parents worshipped in the Temple over a period of several days. During one of these worship sessions, my mother began reflecting on the fact that it had been over 10 years since the birth of her youngest child at the time, Donald. As she reflected on this fact, she offered a prayer to God that went something like this, "Heavenly Father, if there is a little boy spirit up there that you would like to send down to me, I will do my best to raise him up right and see that he serves a 'Mission' for the Church." Within just months, she was pregnant. She believed in her heart it would be a little boy and she knew in her heart what that meant. So when Wendell Michael Nope was born on May 21, 1954, my mother knew that she was to prepare me, to the best of her ability, to serve a Mission for the Church. From the time that I was a young boy old enough to understand, she told me this story and encouraged me to be a good boy, read the scriptures, and prepare for a Mission when I turned 19 years old. In spite of many follies in my youth and many foolish misdeeds, God preserved my life until I reached 19 years of age.
At the age of 19, I did serve as a Mormon Missionary from August 1973-August 1975 in Colorado. How could I not feel inclined and even motivated to do so, hearing my mother's story during my impressionable years. Although I would like to say I did it for my mother, I actually served a Mission because I had received for myself a spiritual witness that the precepts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were true. And, I have received numerous confirmations since then, some of which will be listed in these Miracles pages. Lastly, I give my mother a huge share of the credit for whatever goodness and rightness that has developed in my life. I feel strongly that when the day comes that I leave this world and pass over to "the other side" I will discover that my mother has been received into His bosom as one of his true disciples.
Many young children go to church because they follow their parents' example. Many children also grow up to be adults who continue in their faith because their parents, grandparents, etc. did. It is just something that has been done for generations. I felt, even as a young child, that I should not rely only on my parents' faith ... that I should gain a witness of Jesus Christ for myself. I was privileged to receive such a witness at an early age, while sitting next to my father one day in our home.
My father, Joseph Fielding Nope, was an accomplished scriptorian. When I was quite young, we lived on the northern outskirts of my hometown, Lake Charles, Louisiana. It was not unusual for ministers of other faiths - and more often they would be aspiring ministers - to knock on our door, hoping to engage my father in a gospel discussion. Sometimes these were civil, with all parties smiling at the conclusion. Other times, these visitors would become frustrated with my father's unshakable faith and equally unshakable grasp of the scriptures. I don't recall the day or even how old I was, but I do remember one discussion. It was one of the civil exchanges, or I should say debates, when I watched my father look the visitors eye-to-eye and bear a humble yet powerful testimony of Jesus Christ, his role as Savior, and that he also visited the American continent after His resurrection to teach His gospel to the people there. I remember feeling something inside that caused me to think, "Yes ... Christ DID visit his people in the Americas." Even though I was a little boy, I knew it was the Holy Spirit manifesting God's truth to me. It was the first time I recall ever being touched in that manner, although I have felt it a number of times since. This was the first day, I believe, that I could say of my own accord that God is real, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He taught His gospel to the Ancient Americans.
When I was a brand new Missionary in 1973, I was assigned in downtown Denver. I met with my new companion, Elder Brown, and got briefed on our assigned area. We decided we should begin our efforts by tracting, but he didn't have a suggestion of where to begin. He asked me what I thought and the only thing I could think to say was that we should pray about it. As soon as I said it I thought "Oh-Oh, I don't know if I can do this." He said, "OK, let's do it." We walked a couple blocks to the Governor's Mansion Flower Garden and sat down on one of the park benches. He said that we should each pray separately and then talk about it afterwards.
I rested my elbows on my knees and began to pray. As I spoke to the Lord, I admitted to Him I didn't know where to go and I didn't even know the streets. I then said soemthing like, "If there's somewhere particular You wish me to go, just tell me, and I will go there." I kept my head bowed for some minutes and then a very curious thing occurred in my mind. Although I was being sincere and determined, a cartoon-type image flashed across my mind. When I was young, there was a Saturday morning cartoon show named Soul Train, which started out each episode with a cartoon train driving across the screen from left to right. A few cars behind the engine, the cars would morph into the words Soul Train and then morphed back just before the caboose arrived. Well, This same image flashed across my mind and instead of the words "Soul Train" the words "Lincoln Street" morphed in the image behind the engine. I mentally shook the image out of my mind, supposing it to be my subconscious bubbling up into my conscious mind.
After several more minutes I opened one eye to look at Elder Brown. He was looking at me, as he had already finished praying. He asked me if I "got anything." I frowned in disappointment and told him about the Soul Train image. He said, "You're kidding ... I distinctly felt impressed we should tract on Lincoln Street." I blinked and was just flabbergasted that inspiration had come to me in that fashion. I remember thinking, "How will I ever know if it's inspiration or if it's last night's pizza affecting me - this is going to be hard."
So, that very morning we decided to start tracting at the point where Lincoln Street entered into our area and tract the entire street, which would be several miles. On the second day, just after lunch we knocked on the door of a beautiful old home. A lady answered the door and we introduced ourselves. She got a curious look on her face and then asked us if we would come inside and wait for her husband to return home. She said he went to the store and would be right back. She then said she thought they would be interested in hearing our message. We came inside and had a pleasant wait that lasted almost 45 minutes.
When the husband got home she explained to him who we were and he looked at us as if he'd been shot or something. They both sat down and explained to us that they had been worried about their children in school for weeks and had been praying to God to send them some help because they were feeling inadequate and loved their children so much. They said that last night, they (husband-wife) had vocally prayed together and begged God to give them guidance. Now we show up the next morning. They plainly stated that they both felt that we were the answer that God had sent them. Elder Brown and I looked at each other and then told them our Lincoln Street story. We all concluded that us meeting was an Act of God. Anyway, we spoke with them for about an hour regarding the guidance that the gospel principles gave to parents and children. We then asked if we could make another appointment to come back. They said, "Of course!" and we scheduled to return the next day. We left them some scriptures to read and talked to them about having family prayer. They agreed to start immediately.
When we returned, the entire family was there and they were all - even the young boys - excited to talk to us. They had started having family prayer, as we suggested, and the parents were praying each morning and night that the children would be guided and protected during their school-day. The children told us this made them feel good inside and more at ease while they were at school. When we prayed at the beginning of our message, I really felt the Holy Spirit present. We presented gospel principles, such as kindness, honesty, sincerity, and Christ-like behavior. The entire family absorbed everything we said like a sponge. When we bore our tetimony of Christ, the parents' eyes watered up and the children seemed totally focused on our words. I was so touched that I can't hardly describe it. This was one of those meetings that one cannot be present without knowing there is a loving Heavenly Father who blesses His children on earth.
On Sunday, the family went to Church. In the Sacrament meeting, they sat together and listened intently to the messages. After the meeting, they told us they knew they were choosing the right path. They had actually received a spiritual witness of the truths spoken by the speakers in Sacrament meeting. We taught the remaining gospel lessons to them and they were all baptized shortly after. They told us it was a miracle that they had gone from despair to high hope within just a couple weeks.
I will not question nor doubt that this was a bona fide miracle. Elder Brown and I had knocked on every residential door on Lincoln Street over the period of several days. Not one other person or family invited us in nor did we even get to share a gospel message. This family had been desparate for divine intervention, they humbled themselves and pleaded for God's guidance. God heard and answered their prayers. I feel so honored to have been a part of this miracle, I don't know the words to adequately describe my feelings.
While I was serving as a Missionary in downtown Denver, Colorado, I had the occasion to knock on the door of an older home while we were tracting. Several college-aged young men & women came to the door and listened as we introduced ourselves and our desire to speak to them about Christ. About half of the group filtered back into the house as we spoke, some of them shaking their heads and snickering. Two of the women invited us inside and said they'd talk to us. We went into a parlor sort of room in the front of the house and sat down. It did not take us long to figure out that there were college kids of mixed gender occupying the residence in a commune-fashion.
We felt uncomfortable after a few minutes, as some of the other occupants were drifting back and forth down the hall adjacent to the parlor and staring at us in an unpleasant manner. We chose to ask the two young women, whose names were Kathy and Karen, if they would care to hear more about our message in a more organized fashion. We explained that we had a series of structured lessons which seemed to answer most people's questions about our faith and the lessons caused some people even feel impressed to receive baptism. Both of them said they would. We asked if it would be possible to hold the next meeting somewhere other than the house, as there seemed to be mixed feelings from the other roommates about our presence. After some discussion, we agreed to return in a couple days and meet on the spacious front porch of the house and that the others would be told not to interrupt. This seemed amenable and we thanked them for their interest and their kindness. We left them each a Book of Mormon which had certain passages marked, specifically where the Savior had visited the ancient Americas and preached his gospel to the inhabitants there.
When we met again, both Kathy and Karen had read far more than the designated passages. They expressed genuine interest in learning more and were quite receptive to our message in this meeting. We made another appointment and gave them some more passages to read and consider. At our next meeting, they were again interested in hearing more. We made another appointment. For a Mormon Missionary, this sequence of events is thrilling. All we want to do is share the message of Christ.
The night before the next appointment, I began to have concerns. I wondered how much longer the Holy Spirit would touch these ladies, while they were obviously living in the communal environment. I discussed the matter with my companion, Elder Brown, and he felt similar stirrings. I did not want to make a mistake and knew if I relied on my own feelings, I might do just that. So, that night I prayed fervently for guidance on what to do ... and got nothing ... not one bit of inspiration. I felt downtrodden as I climbed in bed. I woke up very early the next morning and laid there. I knew I needed guidance. So I went into the large walk-in closet we had in our apartment and shut the door. I knelt down and began pouring out my soul to the Lord, begging Him to tell me what to do. After a lengthy period of time praying, I still received nothing. I decided I would pray harder and really beg for guidance. I tried that for maybe an hour and still nothing. I began to feel despondent and turn on myself, concluding that I was not worthy to receive His guidance. I remember slumping down so that I was now sitting on my heels and sort of collaped downward. I had now been in the closet over two hours and Elder Brown had opened - then closed - the door when he saw me kneeling inside. I thought to myself, "I just want to do what You want, I don't want to say the wrong thing. Just then I heard a voice in my mind that was as clear as if someone had verbally spoken. It said, "Kathy will ... Karen will not." I was startled by this and thought this to be a true answer, but then I began to second-guess myself. I wrestled with the idea that maybe my subconscious mind had projected itself or something. So, I chose to ask for a confirmation that I was indeed being guided and not having a self-induced thought. As I prayed about this, I felt a strong impression that this was indeed an answer to my prayer.
When Elder Brown and I sat down for breakfast we began to discuss our appointment with Kathy and Karen. We both agreed we should encourage them to establish a more conventional living arrangement. We felt that it would not be appropriate to talk to them about baptism if they were still living in the commune. We also decided that this lesson should center around the moral values that Jesus taught. Although I didn't know how this would all go, I felt certain that Kathy would accept the gospel.
At the appointed time we met Kathy and Karen on their front porch. We began to teach the lesson on moral issues and it was obvious they were uncomfortable. Karen advised us that she didn't think she would like to continue from this point and excused herself. Kathy, Elder Brown, and I watched her walk away and then we all looked at each other. Kathy said she believed that what we were teaching her was true and she had finished reading the Book of Mormon. We told her that she would develop her spirituality better if she were not living in this environment. She agreed and said she would start right away to move. She said she felt like she wanted to be baptized because that was what she'd read in the Book of Mormon was the proper thing to do when one was converted.
Kathy was baptized about two weeks later and for the remainder of the time I was in downtown Denver she never missed attending church. Watching her develop her spritual nature was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life to-date.
Elder Brown and I were knocking on doors among the downtown residences in Denver, Colorado. In a particularly austere neighborhood we spoke to a single-mom with a six month old baby. She explained to us that she didn't really have any real direction in her life and wanted to teach her new baby to live a good life. We were teaching her the gospel lessons and then, about halfway through, she advised us she would have to put us on hold as her baby was very sick and being hospitalized. She said it had lost a frightening amount of weight over the last several days. Prior to being sick it weighed 13 pounds. The next day we went to the hospital and met her. This baby had lost so much weight and the doctors couldn't figure out why. It quickly diminished to a weight of two pounds. Of course, the mother was totally consumed in the matter and we understood and accepted her feelings. Honestly, we were deeply concerned also, as the uncertainty of a newborn baby's health is troubling to anyone.
After a week of hospitalization, the baby weighed just over three pounds. I distinctly remember that he appeared shriveled and struggled for every breath. Elder Brown and I met this heartbroken lady in the hall outside the Intensive Care Unit and hugged her. She looked at us with reddened eyes and asked if we could bless her baby. We said we could and she would have to speak to the doctors to arrange it. Elder Brown and I excused ourselves for a few minutes to collect our thoughts. Elder Brown said to me that he had been blessed with the Gift of Healing in his Patriarchal Blessing and now he knew why. He asked me if I would mind if he was the voice for the prayer. Of course, I agreed.
Elder Brown and I were dressed in medical coveralls and given access to the baby. I remember looking down at this child and fighting back the tears, he was so emaciated. I had never seen a human being in such a condition and I have seen anything like it since. We carefully placed our hands on the baby and Elder Brown spoke words to this effect, "... in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood I command you to be healed ...." I felt like I was on fire as he spoke those words. At the conclusion of the blessing, I felt emotionally drained and physically weak. We spoke to the mother and told her everything would be OK. The nurses and attendants standing close-by had looks on their faces like they had seen a ghost. I supposed that they couldn't believe what they heard and I remember thinking to myself, "... you don't have any idea who we represent ...."
This sweet baby began putting weight back on starting the very next day. The doctors had no explanation. As we visited each day, the weight-gain continued and then one day the tubes were removed. I don't remember how long it took, but I remember the mother calling and telling us that tomorrow her baby was coming home. We went to the hospital and gave her hugs. She was excited beyond words. She expressed that she knew God had heard our prayer and healed her baby. When her baby finally came home she continued to receive the gospel lessons. I was transferred to a far distance away shortly thereafter and do not know what eventually happened.
What I do know is I looked down on an infant who was dying right in front of my eyes and began to heal from the very moment we blessed her. We did not pray to God that she be healed, we commanded her - in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ - to be healed. At risk of sounding trite, you would have to have been there to truly understand the gravity of this situation. I do not know why I was permitted to be a part of this miracle, but I will say that this is one of the moments that changed my life.
After returning home from my Missionary service, I returned back to my hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana. I then enrolled in Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. While there I married Joni Luke of Springfield, Oregon. We returned to Lake Charles and I began my career as a police officer. Just over a year after being married, baby Jessica LeeAnn was born. Instead of crying out, as most babies do, Jessica barely whimpered. She wasn't responding at all to the attendants and they rushed her to the intensive care unit. Family members gathered and expressed their concerns and support.
The doctor came to our room and advised us that Jessica would not survive the night. He said she was strugging to stay alive and her breathing would stop without warning. She seemed to just stop functioning. He then stated that if she should survive that she would be in a vegetative state and never be able to sit up or speak or anything. A decision was made for the family priesthood holders would gather in a couple hours and give Jessica a blessing. Of course, I would be the voice of the blessing. As I drove home from the hospital, I was a total emotional wreck. In just a short while I would be pronouncing a blessing on my first child. I knew that I had to speak the Lord's will and I did not know what His will was. This was the most challenging moment I had ever experienced in my life to-date. I had a wife who was broken-hearted that her baby may not live, not to mention my own feelings. If I ever needed to know God's will, this was it. I decided that I would bathe and then get on my knees to beg the Lord for guidance of what to say in that blessing.
As I laid back into that tub of hot water, I tried to collect my thoughts. I closed my eyes and reflected on the situation. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. Of course, I wanted my daughter to live, but I didn't know if that was what the Lord wanted. I pleaded with the Lord to let me to know what to say in the blessing. I don't know how long I laid there, but at some point I heard the words "She will live" enter my mind. My eyes opened wide and I knew that the words didn't originate from within me. I knew this message came from God. I immediately felt an energy that brought me from a feeling of despair to a feeling of peace. I also felt so grateful to the Lord that He would grant this wonderful blessing of our daughter's life to Joni and me.
I dressed and returned to the hospital. I can't remember the next sequence of events clearly, except that the Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the family ended up together in the infant intensive care unit. Jessica had numerous tubes and wires attached to her and my heart was just pounding at the sight. I felt so sorry for her and wondered if she was in pain. Anyway, I placed my hands on her head and began to give the blessing. I felt so at peace, knowing what His will was in the matter. Ironically, while I was speaking the blessing, Jessica stopped breathing. I didn't fret, as I believed it was just a test of faith. She started breathing again on her own and I finished the blessing. I blessed her that she would live.
Jessica left the hospital eight days later and has been enjoying life ever since then. She is now 30 years old and is living - breathing proof that there is a God in Heaven who cares about His children.
When I worked at the Lake Charles Police Department in Louisiana I had a harrowing experience which I have no doubt was a miracle. My life was saved by divine intervention. Here's the story.
One evening I was working an extra-duty drunk driver shift. I was sitting in my patrol car on Broad Street not too far west of Hwy 14. There are a number of beer joints along this stretch and the percentile of drunk drivers was high in this part of town. Anyway, sometime after midnight I spotted a Cadillac El Dorado come speeding by westbound and crossing the center lines as it did so. I drove out onto the roadway and turned on my lights & siren to shut the vehicle down. I wasn't so surprised when the Cadillac sped up and began to flee. It weaved through traffic at speeds of 80+mph with total disregard for other citizens' safety. I knew I needed to get him/her stopped as soon as possible or I would be doing a fatal crash report instead of just a DUI report.
The Cadillac continued to speed westbound until it approached a red light. It was in the left lane and it seemed the driver would blow the light at full speed. I was several car lengths behind, but close enough that I could easily read the license plates. Just at the last moment, the Cadillac swerved into the right lane and the driver's intent became instantly clear. There was a vehicle stopped for the light in the left lane and there was no way I'd get stopped in time. I slammed on the brakes of my police car and turned the wheels hard to the left. Why left? I don't know to this day. Anyway, I continued to slide straight toward the stopped vehicle as the turned wheels had no effect at all to dodge the car. I had a flash of thought that this is how I'll die and then I felt my foot being physically lifted off the brake pedal. Now I mean you to understand that my foot was "lifted" off the pedal by a force not my own. As soon as the brake was released, my police car swerved violently to the left and missed the stopped vehicle by inches. I recall that my car spun in two circles in this large intersection and I came to rest in the northbound lane of the intersecting street ... facing north and looking at a green light. In my peripheral vision I saw the Cadillac speeding off westbound on Broad Street and thought, "Oh ... I'm mad now!" After a continued chase, I got the Cadillac stopped and the driver went straight to jail.
When everything settled, I began to think about what happened. I knew in my heart that my foot had been physically moved off the brake pedal. I was mashing it with all my might yet it was lifted off. I wondered what could have happened but deep down inside I knew. Divine intervention had prevented me from crashing into that stopped vehicle. There was no doubt that night and there is no doubt now that I would have died in that crash. Seat belts were not an issue in those days and I didn't wear one. I would have most certainly not survived.
I do not know why I was saved that night, nor have I had any subsequent stirrings for who might have done it. Was it my Grandpa Gabriel Nope - who was a dedicated disciple of Christ, or perhaps my Granny Little - who was also a powerful witness for Christ in her mortal life. I owe the Lord and one of His angels a debt I know I can never repay. I do know this ... had my life ended that night I would have missed out on so many wonderful experiences this life has to offer. I shudder to think of all the experiences I would have missed.
I decided many years ago that when it is my time to cross over to the spiritual realm, I intend to find out just who that person was and personally thank him/her for intervening on my behalf.
This event may or may not be a miracle, but it had such a profound impact on my life that it deserves to be given its due credit. This is one of those events that changes a person's life so dramatically, that its effects are truly miraculous.
During the month of January 2005, the Virgin River in southern Utah flooded so badly that it made national news. Homes were swept away, as were many other properties. Worst of all, an elderly gentleman was swept off the roof of his SUV by floodwaters, as he stood by hoping to be rescued. The flood waters were washing through at such a fast pace that nobody was able to even try to help him. The fact that he couldn't swim was probably not even a factor, since the rushing waters made any attempt to swim an impossibility.
An observor 13 miles downstream at Quail Creek Reservoir happened to be watching how the flood waters would rush in from the river as it dumped into the reservoir and then the water speed would diminish almost totally as the river water mixed into the calm reservoir basin. This observor happened to notice a body tumbling at the surface of the water, right where the torrent reached the reservoir. He telephoned the information to the local Search & Rescue personnel and a hasty search ensued. The concern was that when the body reached the still waters of the reservoir it might sink to the bottom and then be covered over by debris as it came into the reservoir.
Almost immediately, the DPS Dive Team was dispatched to the scene. We arrived as soon as conditions would permit and began to assist. The National Park Service was scanning with their sonar unit, the Washington County Search & Rescue Dive Team was also searching the main channel area with their divers, and the DPS Dive Team began to check the areas close to shore and the river inflow area. After some hours, a WCSO diver located the body, but his dry suit flooded in the process. This was January, so he had to exit the water promptly.
The DPS Dive Team was on another boat and moved over to the site of the marker buoy, which marked the spot of the submerged body. I was already dressed to go and splashed within a minute to initiate the recovery. What I discovered was shocking. The man's body had indeed sank to the bottom and he was partially covered up with sediment and debris. Only his upper torso was exposed and everything below his ribcage was buried in sand, golf-ball sized rocks, and tree branches. The visibility was only about 12" and the water depth - which was normally about 30' in the channel - was now 14'. I announced over the voice communications that I had made contact and what the condition was. Immediately, another diver named Doug McCleve splashed and we began to dig the victim out with our hands. Someone suggested a shovel but I was concerned that we might inadvertantly damage the body. Soon, we had a crater of sorts cleared out around his torso, but we still had not gotten to his hips. This was gruelling work, as we had nothing to hang onto as the current tried to push us past the body, plus the deeper the crater got, the more rocks and debris began to roll back down the slope after we scooped it out. Every five minutes or so, we'd have to stop to catch our breath. Every couple of minutes we'd communicate to the surface to inform them of our progress.
About 30 minutes into this situation, my arms were very fatigued. I felt that burning sensation in my arms that told me I was almost spent. I decided to just rest for a couple minutes and let my body catch up with itself. I had nothing to hang onto but the man's torso. I wrapped my arms around him and, as I did this, my body repositioned such that I was suspended horizontally in the current, something like a flag blowing in the wind. As I held onto the man's body, my mind reflected on the moment. Here I was, hanging onto a poor guy who got knocked off the top of his SUV by a raging current. Also, his wife had been sitting up in her car on the roadway all morning and was probably looking down right now wondering if all the movement on the boat was an indicator that her husband had been located. Another thought flashed in my mind ... for several nights now, this poor lady had gone to bed alone without her husband of many years. His whereabouts was unknown and he was likely at the bottom of the reservoir. How unsetting this must be to her, this is the kind of thing that can break one's spirit. I thought to myself how saddened she must have been over watching helplessly as her husband was being washed off the SUV and then downstream and now she sits in a car all day at the edge of the reservoir, constantly praying to God that her companion of all these years will be found.
As I processed these thoughts, I realized how blessed I am in my life and that I've really got it good. I have a wonderful wife and five children who love me. I'm alive and I'm enjoying life to the fullest that my circumstances allow. I realized how fragile life is and how every breathe we take is a gift from our Creator. I imagine this all occurred in maybe three minutes. As my thoughts came back to the present, I noticed that I felt no more pain in my arms. I also noticed that I felt completely refreshed, which was not a normal thing for a 50+ year-old guy who had been strenuously digging in underwater debris for 30 minutes or so. I noticed Doug McCleve still digging on the upstream side of the man's body and I launched into digging again with a fervor that superceded my initial efforts. As I dug, I visualized the wife in her car straining to see what was going on out on our boat. I thought to myself, "Ma'am, I'm gonna bring your husband home to you."
After 45 minutes of digging, my air supply was diminished to the point that I needed to surface. Another diver on our team, Mike Bergin, took my place and continued to dig. Some minutes later, Mike announced that the body had been pulled free of the debris and the two divers were trying to inflate their buoyancy compensators to float him to the surface. His clothing seemed to be full of rocks and sand and he was too heavy for them. A third member of out Team splashed and assisted. The three of them - with totally inflated BC's - were finally able to get him to the surface. He was then brought onto the boat as the Search & Rescue administrators were notified.
The following is what I discovered after returning to the boat launch and speaking to one of the family members. The wife had become so mentally and physically drained that morning that she went home to rest. She was fast asleep when she felt someone squeeze her arm as if to wake her up. Before even opening her eyes, she assumed that one of the family members was there to get her up. When she opened her eyes, she saw her husband standing there with his hand on her arm and smiling. Somehow she knew this meant his body had been found. She looked at the clock and then got dressed. Upon returning to the reservoir, she learned that divers had found the body and were digging it out of the debris. She asked what time was he found and discovered that it was the very minute she had been awakened.
Again, I don't know why I was chosen to be a part of this event. It is so humbling to me to know that I was an instrument used in the answering of many prayers. Imagine, if you can, what this means to me as a person. Can you think that I would deny the existence of a God in Heaven who rules over the affairs of mankind, after this experience. If this was a one-time thing, someone might be justified in brushing it off as happenstance. However, this is but one of numerous experiences which have proved to my satisfaction that God lives, that He loves us, and that Jesus is his Christ. I also accept that no one is required to believe my witness, but I certainly encourage you to do so. There is a lot at stake in discovering for yourself if this is true.
In October 2007 a tragedy occurred at Lake Powell, Utah. A three-year-old child named Kamberlie Binks drowned in the Bullfrog Marina, within 20 feet of the family houseboat. Kamberlie looks enough like my own four-year-old daughter, Eva, as to be a confused as her younger sister. Right from the onset, my insides were twisted up as I thought, "But for the Grace of God, there go I," meaning that our children are our greatest treasures and the Binks family has lost one of theirs. I felt tremendous grief for the family and could only imagine their anxiety.
The Utah Department of Public Safety Dive Team, of which I am a member, was called on to assist with the recovery effort. The circumstances we found were as follows. The houseboat was docked in a boat-slip in water that is 110' deep, 59F on the surface and 54F on the bottom. The best visibility is from the 0-30' depth, daytime darkness occurs at 50', zero visibility is encountered at 80', and from 95'-110' there is a layer of dead algae (lake turn-over) which made any use of lights or video cameras useless - it is almost soupy in nature. Also, there are submerged guide-wires & cables stretched between each boat-slip and from the outer edges of the dock to 10,000lb cement blocks on the bottom. The blocks and attached cables cause the dock to maintain its shape. So, as you might surmise, this is an underwater search nightmare.
I was assigned to lead a Sector-Scan team and initiate scans of the family houseboat slip and surrounding slips. After setting up the gear, the Sector-Scan team went to work. Three hours later, I observed a possible target in the slip adjacent to the family houseboat. None of us had ever encountered a 3yoa child target before and sought input from Pat Horning, National Park Service Dive Team Supervisor (also a world-class sector-scan sonar operator). He immediately advised this target was very likely to be the victim. Pat was also tasked by the Command structure (NIMS protocol) as the Dive/No-Dive decision-maker and called for a briefing of the divers present. In this briefing, he explained that there were multiple guide-wires and cables in this vicinity and that an ROV would have problems negotiating the site. Also, the layer of algae on the bottom would make efficient use of the ROV's video camera & manipulator arm impossible. Finally, the risk of maiming the body (through multiple grab attempts) with the manipulator arm was a reasonable possibility. He decided that divers would recover the victim and their efforts would be monitored by the sector-scan sonar.
The two divers chosen were Sgt. Mike Tueller (DPS) and myself. I was assigned the physical recovery and Sgt. Tueller was to accompany me and control our ascent rate on the line. Sgt. Jeff Nigbur (DPS) was assigned as the Safety Diver. At a depth of 30', the victim would be transferred to two NPS Divers, allowing us to perform any shallow decompression stops unhindered. Before we all got geared up, Sgt. Tueller called for the Dive Team to meet inside the cabin of our Almar Boat. We shut the door and he said something like, "Guys, this is a big deal ... I would like us to have a prayer before we splash." One of our divers, Ryan Barney, voiced a prayer, invoking God's protecting power to be upon all of us as we risked our lives to bring this little girl's body home to the family.
On command from Pat Horning, Sgt. Tueller, Sgt. Nigbur, and I splashed. The plan was that once we got to the bottom, Sgt. Tueller would hold onto the descent line with one hand and me with the other, as I searched for the target. It seemed a couple of minutes that I felt around slowly and then I experienced a shock. My hand was moving horizontally just off the bottom as my index finger bumped into the front of the victim's semi-clenched hand. The momentum of my hand caused my finger to go in-between her thumb and fingers and then her thumb kind-of moved back into its original position. There was a momentary frightful thought in my mind that she had squeezed my finger. My conscious logic overwhelmed the thought and I announced to the surface that I indeed had the victim. I began to gently maneuver her so that I could carry her with my right arm around her waist. I purposefully faced her away from me so I wouldn't have her face against my mask as we got shallower.
By now, we were nine minutes into decompression. This meant that we would have to make a series of stops during our ascent to allow nitrogen bubbles in our blood to be processed out of our lungs safely. We also had to stop several times so I could keep my ascent under control. At these stops, I would secure the line in the crook of my elbow and use my left hand to manipulate the venting mechanism in my buoyancy compensator. My right hand/arm was totally involved with holding Kamberlie. Once visibility returned, I noticed that her hair was sweeping back and forth across my mask as we moved upward. This was initially unsettling but this task requires that one works through and in spite of emotions. I experienced no other ascent issues, except that my arm had begun to cramp from holding Kamberlie close to me. At 30' the NPS Divers met us and assumed control of Kamberlie, taking her directly to her family on the surface. I now focused on the cramp in my right arm, hoping that the continuous muscle tension as I ascended had not brought on a case of the "Bends." By the time we surfaced, my arm seemed very normal.
When we surfaced, we stabilized and floated there for a couple minutes. We both felt OK and swam slowly over to our dive boat to exit. Pat Horning met us at the diver-gate and helped us into the boat. He is a passionate guy and hugged us both, thanking us for the job and for being careful. A paramedic was assigned to each of us to observe us for a while, after which we were to restrict our physical activity for an hour.
This was a difficult dive for me. Once we were released by the Paramedic, I walked to the back of the Binks family houseboat. There was the family, circled around Kamberlie's body and grieving. The sight of it was too much for me and I walked to the far end of the marina and stayed alone for a few minutes to de-stress. I felt some pretty strong inner conflict: I was honored & proud to be part of the recovery effort, but this one struck close to home. Once I got back home, my daughter Eva's hugs and kisses were absolute magic helping me get over the difficulty of what I had been called upon to do. In fact, I brought her to work with me the next day for therapy and she drew pictures for me, etc. and it was just what I needed.
Over the next several days, I just couldn't shake the anxiety that I was feeling. I kept thinking, "What if that had been Eva ..." and beneath my calm durface demeanor, I was struggling. Then came Sunday morning and I attended an early morning meeting of the Stake High Council, of which I was a member at the time. When I sat in my assigned seat and I looked straight across the room, I was looking directly into the eyes of a beautiful portrait of Jesus Christ. It was truly a humbling sight, to view that portrait as I listened to spiritual matters in these special High Council meetings. On this day, my heart was still heavy and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself for having been subjected to such a stressful several days. As I looked into the Savior's face in the painting that morning, I began to feel like I was daydreaming. I distinctly heard a voice in my mind say, "This was NOT about You!" I blinked back into reality and knew that I had been blessed with a spiritual manifestation to calm my unsettled feelings. I suddenly felt totally at peace and all my anxiety was gone. I perceived that I had been an instrument in God's hands to answer the many-many prayers offered regarding Kamberlie Binks being found. As I thought about this, I felt so humbled and honored to have been a part of God's means of answering all those prayers.
It is this and many other spiritual experiences I have been blessed with that cause me to know - to KNOW - that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. For this knowledge, I am grateful beyond words.
This miracle happened in January 2008. It is related to a position I had been called to perform in the Church. Let me first explain its significance. In the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, a local congregation is known as a "Ward." It has to do with the geographical-related definition of the word "Ward." Each Ward is presided over by a "Bishop." Several Wards compose the next larger geographical area known as a "Stake," which is presided over by a "Stake President." A Stake President has, as a logistical and spiritual resource, a group of 12 men who comprise a "High Council" and each man is known as a "High Counselor." At this time, I was functioning as a High Counselor in the Taylorsville Utah Central Stake.
I had been in this position for just over a year and it had provided me with some of the most enriching experiences in my life. Once each month in 2007, I had presented a gospel message to a Ward congregation, under the direction of the Stake President. I felt like I was really making a difference in the world and numerous people had approached me after the sermons, telling me how they were touched by the message. I was pouring my heart and soul into this calling and was feeling so blessed for my efforts.
One day the Stake President called my wife and I into his office. I assumed she was going to get some Stake-level calling and had decided that, whatever it was, I would be supportive of her. Instead, the Stake President informed me that I was going to be released from the High Council and re-assigned as a Counselor to the Bishop in my own Ward. I was totally shocked and was practically speechless. It wasn't that I felt this was a demotion, but I thought I was doing so good in my position as a High Counselor, that I couldn't understand why I was being released? Had I not performed to the Lord's satisfaction? Or maybe, was I not up to the task? I am embarrassed to say that my concerns over being released overwhelmed by thoughts of being a Couselor to a Bishop, which is of itself a high and noble calling in the Church.
I anguished over this for more than a week and continued to beat myself up, thinking maybe I hadn't done a good enough job on the High Council. One morning, the Bishop and us two Counselors knelt in prayer in his office regarding an important Ward matter. We agreed to share our feelings on the issue once we finished praying. I felt an immediate, positive, and distinct answer on the issue and just sort-of kept my mind in a prayerful state for a few minutes, not really contemplating anything else. Then, once again, the High Council question slipped into my mind. Suddenly, I heard the following words come forcefully into my mind, "This is MY Church." I instantly knew what had just happened - the Lord had had enough of my second-guessing and was setting me straight. As I reflected on this divine intervention, a sense of calmness came over me and I "let it go" regarding the re-assignment. In fact, I felt such peace that upon opening my eyes, I knew this was where I was supposed to be.