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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 (Job 38:7).

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 lesson.

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!

(Nephi 33:10)

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 blind.

"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 parents did.

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.

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