Faith and Religion, Seth Adam Smith

Faith to Move Forward When My Brother Was Burned

This is the miraculous, true story of my brother David, but it’s a story about the strength and power of family during difficult times.

But more importantly, this is a story about faith in God’s promises.

One of my favorite quotes on faith comes from Boyd K. Packer. Said he: “You exercise faith by causing, or by making, your mind accept or believe as truth that which you cannot, by reason alone, prove for certainty. The first exercising of your faith should be your acceptance of Christ and His atonement.”

I am a committed Mormon. But I will be honest in telling you that I have had many struggles with faith. I have had many doubts. But I believe that everyone will, at some point, experience a crisis of faith—the reason of the world verses faith in Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith and Olivery Cowdery receive the priesthood from Peter, James and John.

In my own personal life, I’ve struggled with many things at various times. I’ve struggled with doubts, with doctrines, with the opinions of others, with church leadership, and with aspects of church history.

But amid all of my doubts, I’ve always had faith in the priesthood.

The Restored Priesthood

Mormons believe that the priesthood of God was restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The priesthood is the power given to man to act in the name of God. With the priesthood, men may give blessings of health, guidance, comfort, and counsel, as well as many other things.

The reason I have never doubted the priesthood is because of my older brother David.

My Family and David

I am the youngest of six children, but in 1979, my family consisted only of my parents, my two older sisters, and David. On average, the Summer Solstice lands on the twenty-first of June, making it the longest and brightest day of the year. However, in 1979, the twenty-first of June was the darkest day for my family, and perhaps much longer than most would experience it.

David had just had his first birthday after my family had moved into their new home in Anchorage, Alaska. On the evening of the twenty first of June, my mother turned on the bathwater and went to go get the girls’ pajamas before putting them in the tub. What my mother did not know was that the newly installed water-heater was set to 160 degrees.

Hearing the sound of the water, my brother David moved to the bathtub while my mother was gone. He reached over the side to play and fell in with only his diaper to protect him from the scalding water.

A nurse attending to David in the hospital.

My father, who was a Bishop at the time, said he rushed to the hospital to find my mother “covered in tears and blood.”

Amid the scramble of doctors and IVs, my dad gave his son a hurried priesthood blessing; the kind of blessing that any father would give in that kind of a situation: a blessing that they would live, that everything will be okay, that they would be fully healed.

But as time progressed, David showed few signs of recovery. My dad said that he would watch David in the emergency room “take a breath, then scream, take another breath, then scream…” and there was nothing my dad could do but watch.

As David’s suffering went on and on for days and weeks, my dad began to lose faith in the priesthood blessing that he had given to his only son. And the grim reports from the doctors (men and women with education, experience) only fueled his doubts.

A Second Blessing

According to my mother, after two weeks in the hospital, my dad said,  “I’m just really worried, Lyn…I just wonder if I need to go in and give David a blessing that he will be peacefully released from life…because it’s just too much for this little guy.”

And so, after letting my sisters come in and say goodbye to their baby brother, my dad placed his hands on David’s head to give him another blessing that he would die peacefully.

But when my dad opened his mouth, he was inspired with a different set of words. He said that David would not die, but would live to serve a mission, be married in the temple and have children of his own.

My mother and sister with my brother David.

Now, here was my parents’ crisis of faith: the reason of the world (the doctors, the reports, the screams of their suffering son) or the words of a blessing that told them to keep moving forward with faith.

Closing the blessing in the name of Jesus Christ, my dad left the room and confidently told my mother, “David’s going to live.”

I have often thought about the blessing my dad gave to my brother. Who were those words for? Were they for my brother David—a baby who could not comprehend the words being spoken? Or were those words for my parents—people that would spend many more sleepless nights in hospitals, searching for certainty, and wondering what dreams were available to a boy with burns all over his arms, legs and stomach?

It was during this time that my parents’ faith was put to the test and the strength of my family shone through. This video takes place between the time that my brother received the blessing and his eventual release from the hospital:

The Fulfillment of the Blessing

I don’t think I fully realized the magnitude of that blessing (and the faith it required) until a few months ago. A blessing like that has a timeline: mission, marriage, family. When you’re looking at your burned son in the hospital, you want the miracle to come right away. But that blessing required faith every day because it was a day by day thing. The blessing was not fulfilled until over thirty years later, when David and his wife Kirsten celebrated the birth of their son, Roman.

David with his wife, Kirsten, and son, Roman.

The miracle could not have been produced had it not been for faith. Faith that things would be okay. Faith that the promised blessings would come. Faith that David would learn to walk again. Faith that the skin graphs would take. Faith that the teasing in school would add to David’s character. Faith that David could serve a mission. Faith that David could marry in the temple.

Faith to move forward.

Thirty years later, almost to the day of David’s own blessing in the hospital, David laid his scarred hands on my head and gave me a priesthood blessing,

The blessing he gave to me was one of counsel as to who I would eventually marry. The particulars of the blessing are sacred to me and would take too long to explain. Suffice it to say, the words he spoke challenged my faith and forever changed the course of my life.

In reference to that blessing, there were many times when it challenged my powers of reason. At one point, I clearly remember my decisions being: reason of the world on one hand, and faith on the other.

The reason of the world offered me relative security: if I made one decision, I knew what would happen. But if I made the decision that required faith I would need to walk forward, into the dark, trusting only in God.

In his book, The Infinite Atonement, Tad R. Callister poses these questions on faith:

“Does not each of us confront those moments in life when faith and the reason of the world are seemingly incompatible and we must choose between the two? We find ourselves at a spiritual crossroad—one path paved with the knowledge and reason of man, the other paved with faith in God.”

“Moses experienced it. He had just freed the children of Israel. He now led them on a seemingly suicidal course direct for the Red Sea. The Egyptian armies were in hot pursuit. The powers of reason no doubt cried out: “Veer to the left or to the right. To proceed straight ahead is a death trap—pinned against the wall of the red Sea on the one side, the fast-approaching Egyptian army on the other.” But Moses was steadfast in his course. March they would, directly toward the Red Sea. The Israelites, seeing their fate, fearfully cried out, “It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:12). Moses was alone. The power of reason and the power of the people combined against him with a raging fury. But deep within his soul was a power that far exceeded the powers known to man, a power that drove him on against the world, against all seeming odds, against all that was rational and reasonable in life. It was the power of faith. It proved to be his—and his people’s—temporal and spiritual salvation.”

At the luncheon on my wedding day, David spoke about the blessing he had given me and again confirmed the witness he and I had both received that day. I remember looking at my bride, Kim, and my heart filled with gratitude not only for the restored priesthood, but also for the faith of my parents and the faith of my brother.

A Quick Word on Faith

Now, perhaps these personal stories represent the rarer and more miraculous side of faith. There are many who pray for miracles and don’t receive them, no matter how long they wait.

For those who are experiencing those kinds of struggles, I am reminded of the latter part of the quote by Elder Packer that says  “You exercise faith by causing, or by making, your mind accept or believe as truth that which you cannot, by reason alone, prove for certainty. The first exercising of your faith should be your acceptance of Christ and His atonement.

Through the atonement, God has assured us that all things will be made right and that all things shall work together for our good. Christ asks that we have faith in Him and in His promises. As Dennis E. Simmons said, “Men accomplish marvelous things by trusting in the Lord and keeping His commandments—by exercising faith even when they don’t know how the Lord is shaping them.” From the talk,  “But If Not”



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