Talk given by Michael E. Lewis - August 19, 2000
I'm humbled to be asked to speak at the funeral service of this valiant young man, Charlie Ben
Card and pray that what I might say will be accepted by the spirit of the Comforter who testifies
of the truth of our Savior's plan of salvation.
I've chosen Psalm 24 as a theme today.
Charlie's experience with the plan of salvation was similar to each of us. Before coming to this
earth he lived as a spirit son of our Heavenly Father, and accepted the plan presented by Jehovah,
or Jesus Christ, the Firstborn and Beloved Son of our Heavenly Father. He may have been
among the sons of God, who Job was told "shouted for joy" as they watched the earth being
prepared for them to inhabit so that they might gain the experiences of mortality, have an
opportunity to make free will choices, and then return to live again with our Father in Heaven
We knew that part of the plan was that this would be an imperfect, corrupted world, where Satan
would be allowed to tempt and try our souls are we learned to choose good over evil. We knew
that our earthly bodies would be subject to various infirmities that seem to strike individuals
randomly at times, and to an aging process that progresses slowly for some and rapidly in others.
The different parameters vary from person to person depending on a variety of circumstances.
Charlie began his life with a condition medically known as cerebral palsy, which led to
impairment of the portions of his nervous system that affect motor skills, like walking and
speech. It is important to understand that cerebral palsy is not simply a state of mental
deficiency, that it affects different people to different degrees, and that many people with the
condition are able to think rationally and make conscious choices of their own volition.
For those reasons, Charlie was recommended to receive the ordinances of baptism and
confirmation as a young boy by Bishop Hiatt. He was obedient to the Savior's admonition to
Nicodemus in John 3:5
"Jesus answered: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit,
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God"
Shortly after Charlie turned twelve, I was serving as Bishop of the Summit
Ward and remember interviewing him to recieve the Priesthood. I must
admit that I hadn't taken the time to learn to communicate effectively
with Charlie, and so Brother Card came along to act as interpreter. At
one point I asked Charlie if he understood that receiving the Priesthood
meant that he would be the Lord's representative and be expected to give
unselfish service to his fellowman like Jesus had done. During most of
the interview Charlie's head moved involuntarily, as it often did, but
when I asked him that question his head stopped moving for a moment and
his face became very sober. He furrowed his brow and made a very quiet
sound. Scott said "Charlie says, yes." But, you know, he didn't need
to tell me that, because I felt in my own mind that the Spirit was
saying "This young man understands what you just said better than you
do!" And I was humbled to be there.
After being interviewed, I remember Charlie was ordained a
deacon, and wheeled into our Aaronic Priesthood Quorum by his father. His face beamed and he
smiled as the other boys welcomed him into the quorum. I think he was especially happy
because he felt his father's approval of him that day as he sat and listened to his Dad teach the
And so Charlie accepted responsibility for his actions within the parameters of his physical
ability and then relied on the grace of Jesus Christ to sustain him through the short span of his
life. That too is part of the Savior's plan for us. To work and struggle, to accept sacred
ordinances and priesthood covenants, and then after all we can do to repent and improve, we rely
on the grace of Jesus Christ to bring us back into the presence of the Father.
We might wonder why Charlie and not someone else was subject to such extreme physical
limitations Questions like that remind me of Nephi's answer to the angel who showed him a
vision of the future Mother of the Savior.
When asked by the Angel "Knowest thou the condescension of God?" Nephi answered "I know
that he loves His children, nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things."
And then because he was willing to admit his own limited understanding and yet still expressed
faith in the love of God, he was a shown a much more full account of the mission and atonement
of Jesus Christ. This vision and the other experiences of his life lead him write as his mortal life
was coming to an end:
An now ... all ye ends of the earth, harken unto these words and BELIEVE IN CHRIST!
The disciples of Jesus also wondered about the imperfections and contradictions of this life that
are part of the plan of salvation. In the 9th chapter of John we read of the case of a man born
"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked
him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus
answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be
made manifest in him." (John 9:1-3)
The Savior then healed the man of his blindness. A simple interpretation of this event might be
that the man was born blind so that Jesus could demonstrate his power to heal for his disciples to
see. But I don't think that is the true interpretation. Instead, I see two points in this account.
First, the Savior put to rest the false doctrine that God punishes people with afflictions or
limitations because of something they did in the pre-mortal life or because of something their
And second, I believe he was speaking globally, and not about one blind man, when said the
works of God are manifest in the imperfections of this mortal world. He wanted his disciples to
understand that when they saw a condition such as this man, they would know that there was
hope in Christ for a restoration of health and wholeness of the soul. That through his perfect life,
his acceptance of death on the cross, and his power to take back his life in the resurrection, that
each one of us, no matter what conditions we work under in this life, will one day have our
bodies and spirit reunited to a whole and perfect stature as an immortal son or daughter of God.
As the Apostle Paul said, "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put
on immortality." (I Corinthians 15: 53)
This is also what Alma referred to as he explained the plan of salvation to this son Corianton:
"The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint
shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be
restored to their proper and perfect frame." (Alma 40:23)
And so when we see Charlie again we will see a whole and perfect young man. He will walk and
talk with his family and friends.
And what will be his condition until the time of the resurrection? Alma provides an answer in
the same chapter 40, verses 11-14:
"Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection--Behold, it has been
made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from
this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that
God who gave them life.
"And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a
state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest
from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
"And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil--for behold, they
have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than
good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house--and
these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of
teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
"Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful
looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as
well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection."
And so, we need not pity Charlie. He is at peace now, and will rest from his struggle with a less
than perfect body while he waits in paradise to be reunited with his family. In spite of a crippling
condition, he lived valiantly to the end of his life on this earth, submitting himself to the will of
our Father in Heaven without complaint, and showing patience, long suffering, and kindness to
those around him.
Our pity should be reserved for those whose souls are crippled by unrepented sins, whose limbs
are twisted and withered by greed, or envy, or infidelity, or unrighteousness in all its forms.
Those are the people who are truly handicapped and whose progression will be limited, if they
fail to reach for the light and shun the darkness.
Let us be inspired by Charlie's example of clean hands and a pure heart, and submit ourselves to
what comes to us in life with hope and faith in a loving Heavenly Father.