In the years that my family have been members of the LDS Church, no question has been asked of me more often than this one: Are you Christian? Usually, I try in this blog to provide substantive answers to questions about my faith. But on this issue, I have to break form.
Let me tell you a story.
On February 23, 2012, two of my teenage daughters and I were involved in a horrific accident that involved my compact Chevy Aveo taking on three 18-wheelers. We lost.
I woke up trapped behind the wheel of my car, with my 17-year old crying in the passenger seat and my 15-year old frighteningly silent in the back seat. For the first time in my life, I was utterly powerless, and completely dependent on others. From the ambulance, I asked for two phone calls to be made. One I remember: To my wife. The other I don’t: To my assistant and longtime friend, who also is a member of the Church.
My assistant relayed to her husband that there had been an accident, and he posted what little he knew about it on Facebook. My wife made one phone call to another friend and fellow Church member. And that’s when the Mormons mobilized.
One friend was at the hospital before my wife was, and a score of others were on their way. My wife had the unenviable task of juggling her time between three dazed and bleeding family members, one of whom (me), they suspected to have life-threatening injuries. Our LDS friends (and other great friends of other faiths) stationed themselves in our various rooms in order to ease my wife’s burden and comfort us as our injuries were assessed. One held my frightened daughter’s hand as she was sutured.
Within minutes of our arrival, two LDS men anointed us with oil and pronounced a blessing over us in the name of Christ. That’s how things are done among the Mormons. Because all worthy men can hold the Priesthood, such blessings are typically performed by family members and close friends. I could not see or hear my daughters, but I knew that two good men that I consider brothers were there keeping watch over them and faithfully praying for them.
In the meantime, that Facebook post did its thing. Without talking to us first, a local couple immediately purchased plane tickets so that my oldest daughter could fly from Utah to be with us that evening. Her presence here saved us.
In a religion class in Arizona, a college student whom I have known since he was a toddler read the post, raised his hand, and asked the entire class to join him in prayer. I’ve since learned that families across the country that knew us–and many that didn’t–stopped everything to drop to their knees and pray in the name of Jesus Christ that our family would be healed.
As it turned out, our injuries, were severe, but not critical. Still, we spent many days in the hospital. During that time, I never woke up alone. If my wife wasn’t at my side, one of my friends was there from Church. When I yelled out in pain, they responded. When I vomited, they cleaned me up. When I struggled to stand, it was their shoulders that I leaned on. When I cried, they listened. They gave us flowers and food, but more importantly, they gave us their presence.
When we learned that we needed to put a hospital bed in our home for one of my daughters, a call went out from my wife: Could someone go to our house and move furniture out of our office so we could put a bed there? Instead, an army of people (including, again, our non-Mormon friends) descended on my home. Cleaning, repairing damaged drywall, building a wheelchair ramp. Some of those folks spent over 9 hours working in our home. To this day, I don’t know who all was there. No one asked for any credit or thanks. They just came and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Once we got home, every need was met. If I heard someone mention that we needed pillows, in an hour someone was at the door with them. So much food was brought to us over the next month that we had no place to store it. We gave much of it away to others that we knew could use it. People were with us 24 hours a day, waking up in the wee hours of the morning to give us medication so that my wife did not have to do it all alone. One sweet girl sat up with me for two hours when even God should be asleep, talking to me and easing the burden of relentless insomnia.
When my 15-year old needed to go the doctor for follow-up visits with a cast on one leg and an immobilizer on the other, two good men that I barely knew stayed with her the entire day, physically carrying her from place to place. Women came to help that same daughter use the bathroom and bathed her by hand. Another sweet friend showed up at 9 at night with her teenage son, announcing that they were going to clean our restrooms. Why? Because they knew that no one else would want to do it.
And lest you think this was a matter of friendship, understand that among these mortal ministering angels were some I had never met, others whose names were unfamiliar to me, and others with whom I have exchanged harsh words. None of that mattered. We were in trouble, and they were there to rescue us.
There isn’t enough time or space to recount every act of service that has been performed for my family during the last month, and the kindness continues each day. This has been no trickle of aid. It has been a flood.
By virtue of God’s mercy and the help of friends and family, I was able this weekend to walk into the water with my 8-year old daughter and baptize her a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a symbol of her covenant to take upon her the name of Christ, to keep His commandments, and to bear the burdens of other people. Because of my injuries, I was only able to immerse her in the water; the hands of one of my best friends in the world lifted her back out. God had spared me and allowed me this moment, but only the help of a friend made it possible.
Put theology aside. Christ told us how to recognize a Christian. When we are hungry, they feed us. When we are thirsty, they give us drink. When we are sick, they visit us. When we are strangers, they take us in.
Are Mormons Christians?
They are among the best I’ve ever known.