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Larry Barkdull
Wednesday, March 07 2012

Things That Matter and Don’t Matter

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Do we allow unanswered questions to fell our tree of testimony or grow it? Just how much are we willing to risk to obsess about a gospel question when weighty matters are at stake?


About twenty years ago, I had a gospel question that vexed me. Despite my best efforts, I could not make sense of it. After pondering, praying and fasting, I still suffered with the question. The experience taught me that in the delay there are blessings, if we will allow them.


The first blessing that I experienced was being forced to decide once and for all if the question really mattered. Was the root system of my testimony so flimsy that this issue could topple my tree of belief? After a little deliberation, I decided that my roots of testimony ran deeper than that, and I concluded that I would not let the issue matter. It could wait. What I didn’t understand at the time was by setting aside my demand for an answer I opened the door for the answer to come.


A Purpose of Delay

The Lord never asks us to travel a road without some prior preparation. Faith builds upon faith as the Holy Ghosts spoon-feeds us one precept at a time. Questions are often planted by the Spirit as invitations to learn the next concept. A quick survey of the scriptures reveals the Lord’s use of questions to prod righteous people to stretch and to learn.


But we can stop the process and fell our tree of testimony by becoming frustrated with the process or getting stuck on a challenging question. That the answer is not immediately forthcoming does not mean that a satisfactory answer does not exist. Perhaps the Lord’s delay serves as a test of faith or a motivator to search the scriptures and prophets for answers to this and other questions. Often, in the process of seeking an answer we stumble upon a potpourri of truth.


C.S. Lewis wrote, “God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait."


Let’s talk about things that do matter and how those things can lead to answers to difficult questions.


The Priesthood Matters

Every person’s journey to answers is unique. Here are a few of the markers along the course that I traveled to gain my answer.


When I was eleven, I was stricken with nephritis, a complication of strep throat. My kidneys began to shut down and I was at risk of developing heart damage. A health blessing healed me.


Twenty-eight years later, when my son suffered kidney failure, I was able to donate a kidney to him. That had never happened before -- a nephritis patient being able to donate a kidney. Our situation was so rare that it was written up in medical journals. But the part that the author of the article left out was the part about the priesthood blessing that I had received from my bishop so that I could donate. The bishop promised that my kidneys would be healed from the effects of nephritis so I could give my son a kidney.


Even the doctors could not attribute the rarity of this situation to anything other than divine intervention!


I have an abiding testimony of the restored priesthood. My wife and I have ten children. Three boys have hemophilia, a severe bleeding disorder. Additionally, we have dealt with kidney failure, Crohn’s disease, potentially paralyzing broken neck and back, hepatitis, and West Nile virus. We have seen several miracle babies come to our children who were clinically incapable of having children. One doctor compared the miracle of these miracle children to parting the Red Sea. We have seen homes and jobs appear when all seemed lost. The priesthood matters!


Years ago, one Halloween night I received a call from my friend, Ted Gibbons. Our boys had been playing on his roof, and my son, Gavon, had stepped off and landed on his head. When I arrived, Gavon was unconscious and bleeding from both ears. The medics rushed him to the hospital.


When I stepped into his room, I was not prepared for what I was about to see. Gavon’s face was badly swollen; blood continued to seep from his ears—a sign of skull fracture; his right collarbone had a large bump as though something was trying to protrude through the skin. I was told that his clavicle was broken badly. The doctors also suspected a broken neck or back.


Ted and I gave Gavon a priesthood blessing then he was wheeled away to radiology. Perhaps an hour later, a doctor approached me with a handful of x-rays. His speech was very clinical. He pointed out bones, growth plates and the obvious skull fracture.


“Has the bleeding from the ears stopped?” I interrupted him. “Is there any brain damage?”


“The bleeding has stopped and there is no damage,” the doctor said.


“What about breaks? His back? His neck?”       


“No breaks.”


“Not even his collar bone?” I asked in astonishment.


“Nothing. He will probably have a headache for a few days.”


Gavon woke up twenty-four hours later with the predicted headache, not remembering anything except standing on the edge of the dark roof. His bruising was gone within a few days and he was back playing carefully with his friends.


Over the course of forty years of marriage, my wife and I have navigated the sometimes turbulent waters of family life one priesthood blessing to the next.


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