Saturday, July 18, 2009

Scott Strong, my friend

Yesterday I attended the funeral of the mother of my dear friend, Scott Strong, where he was the concluding speaker.

He spoke of the "tender mercies" of the Lord he observed in her passing. Many will recognize Scott's name as the composer of "I'll Build You a Rainbow," a melody with lyrics that was given to him, he explained again yesterday, as a pure revelation from God. Some few have discounted it as "cheesy," but there is no denying the spirit that accompanies it whenever he sings it, and I have heard him many, many times. Knowing how it came to him, I never tire of its message and its confirming feeling of love and assurance. You can hear it now almost every Sunday when it is broadcast routinely over FM 100.3 during "Sunday Sounds" in Salt Lake City.

Scott is the firstborn of his mother and father, and he was born on a Sunday. Many years ago on another Sunday his firstborn daughter, Jamie, was an infant toddler playing on the balcony in his parent's home in Fish Haven, Idaho, overlooking the blue expanse of Bear Lake as they prepared to go to meetings. Somehow Jamie managed to slip through the balusters overlooking the room below and plunged headfirst onto the rock fireplace, severely injured and bleeding profusely. Scott did what any horrified but worthy priesthood holder would do -- he immediately administered to her and commanded her to live until medical attention could be obtained.

There are many details to the story that are significant, but suffice it to say her life was spared and she grew to adulthood as a beautiful and unscathed woman, now a mother of six and expecting her seventh (a girl) soon.

On a subsequent Sunday, sitting in the living room of his parents' home again he began strumming his guitar and a beautiful chorus emerged from the strings as he pondered the question, "What if she had died in that incident?" A voice whispered to him, "Scott, don't you get it? Eventually we all die, and that's what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about."

The melody stayed with him. He attempted to write it down, but failed again and again -- it was just implanted in his head, and he didn't know what to do with it.

Some time passed. He was teaching Seminary at Granger High School, and a young woman in the Seminary had been killed by a passing motorist. The students were grieving. He sought to comfort them, thinking his song would be the means, but he had no words. He tried to write the words, but they would not materialize. Finally, he knelt at his desk and asked Heavenly Father to help him write the words to comfort his students. When he arose the words flowed, and twenty minutes later the song was finished.

He played and sang it for his students, and soon everyone was asking for a copy. He went to a recording studio, and recorded it, pressing about 850 copies for distribution. It took off like a wildfire. Soon thereafter the Church called and asked him if they could acquire the copyright and pay him for it. He scoffed at the idea of being paid for it, but they insisted for legal reasons that he needed to be paid. He finally consented to a $500 acquisition fee, then promptly donated it to the Jordan River Temple building fund. Scott, like few I know, understands the law of consecration.

When our youngest daughter Adrienne died at age seven weeks, Scott was the speaker at her funeral. He spoke of families being forever, and he sang his song at her funeral. He has comforted millions around the world with his heaven-sent song that embodies the hope of a glorious resurrection and the reality of not only life after death but the sealing power of the priesthood that assures family associations beyond the grave.

Last Sunday, his mother passed quietly from this life at her beloved home in Fish Haven, Idaho. On the Friday night before her passing, Scott explained that she was comatose and could not physically respond to her surroundings. Nevertheless, he squeezed her hand in his and said simply to her in his final farewell, "Mom, when you get there, build me a rainbow."

In the afternoon of her passing, they blessed their youngest grandchild in a neighboring home that Scott and Jane have remodeled near his parents' home. They had dinner together, celebrating both the merciful passing of their mother and grandmother, but also welcoming the newest member of their family.

After dinner as his last son Jason and their family were leaving, Scott was standing on the front lawn. Looking up, he saw the sign of his Mother's love and cognition in those final hours of her mortal probation. There it was, right over their home -- a brilliant and confirming rainbow, as if she were saying, "I heard you, Scott, I made you a rainbow. I'm here and all is well."

There are moments in our lives when the tender mercies of our Father in Heaven are made tangible and real. My friend Scott, and his dear companion Jane and their children and grandchildren are not only the recipients of many of those tender mercies, but purveyors. To them I extend my love and my eternal gratitude for having the privilege of their association.


  1. Dear Dave,
    Thank you for posting this story. I fell in love with this song as a missionary 20 years ago. I often think of it as I get frustrated at my attempts to mother my son, and as I do, better thoughts come to mind and I try again.
    Thanks, again, for giving me the story behind it. How fortunate you are to have friends such as Brother Stone.

  2. This was a really beautiful post, dad. I love Scott and his family - what good people. Thanks for capturing such a tender spirit in this post.

  3. Thank you for sharing that story David. Scott was my mission president when I served in Adelaide, Australia, and I remember him telling the story of how scared he was when Jaime hurt herself as a young girl. Reading this again reminded me of how spiritual President Strong was, and how loving both himself and his wife were while we were all serving.

    1. Thank you Stephen, you are one of many whose lives have been blessed by the service of this great man.

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