Dan Howells, was killed instantly in an automobile accident that prematurely snuffed out his life. I was reminded of a story that was told at his funeral as we enter this season of pioneer celebrations.
At this season of the year many treks are being organized in Martin's Cove and up and over the Rocky Ridge trail in southwest Wyoming. Many youth in the Church have experienced those activities in recent years. Our oldest daughter, Dianne, is married to Clark Hanks Bayles, a descendant of Ephraim Hanks, one of the young men who assisted in the rescue of the Willie and Martin handcart company in their ill-fated journey to the West.
Dan was a Seminary teacher for many years. So was his dad, Spence. Together, they participated in a CES-sponsored re-enactment of that torturous chapter in Church history one summer. At the funeral Dan's father, Spence, illustrated the faithfulness of his son with this story.
They were sitting at a campfire one evening as they concluded their day's journey. One of the participants was leading a discussion about the hardships the Willie and Martin handcart company had been forced to endure. The discussion leader lamented that surely God could have exercised a more active role in saving the pioneers who were stranded on the plains. He could have inspired the Church's leaders not to send them so late in the season. He could have mitigated the extreme weather on their behalf. He could have saved them from disease and sickness. He could have provided quails or some other food source in a miraculous way as He had done with the children of Israel in their wilderness wandering. He could have saved them, lamented the discussion leader and spared them the suffering they encountered.
At that moment their discussion around the campfire was inturrupted by a thunderstorm that broke up the gathering and sent the participants scattering to their tents for shelter.
When they had lit a lantern inside their tent, Dan's simple faith was expressed to his father, Spence. "Dad," observed Dan, "He did save them all, didn't He?"
I'm with Dan. Our Father in Heaven really does save us all.
The power of the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ is that it reaches through the veil to every son and daughter in every extremity and every eventuality. "He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made." (D&C 88:6-7, emphasis mine). When I read "all things" in the scriptures, I have come to understand that those words really mean what they say -- "ALL THINGS" includes everything about me and about you.
He truly descended lower than any of our mortal exigencies, and He comprehends it all -- He "gets" you. He knows you. He perfectly loves you anyway. He allows the agency of others to hurt you and to try you in your faith. And then He sustains you as you suffer in whatever form of bondage afflicts you, whether it be health, financial, sin, divorce, unemployment, single parenthood, or any other difficulty.
In our finite minds we may not always understand the exact ways He extends the rescuing power as we might envision it, but the help and the sustaining influence of his lovingkindness is always proffered to us without reservation by an omniscient Father in Heaven through the instrumentality of the atoning sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son.
I don't think I could believe in a God who does anything less.