Wednesday, February 12, 2014


It was a suicide. The man who swept exuberantly into my life ten years ago and helped restore my faith is gone--by his own hand--because he felt he had not made a difference in the world. I was in the Bountiful Temple a few days ago, thinking about him, remembering when he took our student group to the Winter Quarters and Nauvoo Temples. Praying for his family, and asking for forgiveness for not sending him a Christmas card this year. I didn't send anyone a Christmas card this year. Christmas cards are sort of goofy, right? Especially when you're Facebook friends with someone and they can see everything you do all year and can easily interact with you. But I will always wonder if a renewed expression of my gratitude to him could have made him feel a little better about the worth of his life--enough better to erase this awful ending. As I sat in the temple I asked God to let him know what I was thinking, and to comfort his wife and children.

I was in a hurry to get to the temple, so I forgot to remember that in the dark I was passing Holbrook Canyon right as I arrived--but I noticed it as I was leaving, and a flood of emotion hit me. Four months ago I got lost alone, far off trail, in the Sessions Mountains. I wandered for eight hours, five of those in the dark, pushing through branches, climbing over boulders, wading through streams, and finally stumbled back to the Holbrook trailhead scratched, bruised, wet, and relieved. As I emerged from the gully, the brightly lit spire of the Bountiful Temple, with its trumpeting Moroni, rose out of the dark and silent ground to greet me--the first evidence of civilization. I was so delighted that I called out in the dark, "Hello, beautiful temple!"  I was no longer alone and afraid. God had led me safely through a scary and solitary time and was restoring me to life and community--many of the same feelings of elation I had when God put Rulon in my path and used him to lead me out of a time of doubt, fear, and private suffering. As I passed Holbrook Canyon my brain instantly made the connection between the two events and the tears returned. He had killed himself in the mountains. On a hike, alone. Removed from the world he felt he'd failed.

I have no doubt that he was an answer to my prayers, and one of the most clear and dramatic answers I've ever received to a prayer, in the way he, without knowing my concerns, addressed each of them.  Most importantly, though, he was proof to me that God had been listening and caring that I was alone and afraid and put me in the path of someone who knew those feelings and was able to help, even if unwittingly. That he succeeded in helping with my particular problems and questions was secondary to the fact that God's hand was revealed by putting me in the path of this incredibly generous stranger.

My dead blog is a pathetic place for a tribute to someone who felt his life was for naught. But I think if he'd really understood just how important--how pivotal--a figure he was in my life, he would not have been able to believe he'd made no difference. I'm just one person, but I promised God I'd try to do good with my restored faith, and now I promise Rulon as well. Rest in peace, friend. Your spiritual lineage continues in those you loved and served.