My dear friends, aloha.
I am so grateful for Trish and her unwavering love for me. Just last week we celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. It was unlike any that we have had in the past. She is the hardest working woman I have ever met. She is an example to me in so many ways. She is a fiercely loyal and loving wife, mother, daughter, sister and daughter-in-law. She is a strong capable woman and is not afraid of anything. I am grateful to be by her side especially in these trying and uncertain times.
I have often wondered what it would be like to speak at a BYU devotional. When I was asked to speak my first thought was, oh I hope someone shows up. My worst nightmare has happened, no one showed up. As you know I am speaking from the Cannon Activities Center. To support social distancing the CAC is empty except for a few who are here to help with the production of these proceedings.
My friends, I testify to you that our Father in Heaven and his beloved Son Jesus Christ live. That we are led by a living Prophet, even Russell M Nelson. You and I have seen the fulfillment of his prophecy, counsel, and direction to us personally and as a Church collectively.
I testify to you that our Father in Heaven and his Son know us. They know who we are, where we are, and what we are going through. They love us and I promise we are not alone.
In the April 2018 Sunday morning session of general conference President Russell M Nelson said the following:
"Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in the coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.
My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation."
It is my experience that as we live to receive personal revelation, we learn a powerful lesson. We learn that we are not alone, by the very fact we are receiving revelation it testifies to us that we are not alone and that He knows us and loves us. It tells us He is involved in the details of our lives.
On September 2, 2015, at 1:00 am, our son Zach came into our room to tell us there was someone at the door we needed to talk to. It was a woman from the Clark County Coroner's office. She told us that our youngest son David had been killed in an accident on his way home from the gym earlier that evening. Her words shot through me, pain, sadness, and desperation washed over me in a way I did not know was possible. Our sweet 20-year-old baby boy was gone.
From the very hour of our receiving the news the tender mercies of the Lord began. To this very day, our family has been the recipients of some of the most remarkable and personal tender mercies. I want to relate a story that highlights the love a merciful Father has for his children. As I tell the story pay attention to how many times the Lord intervened all for the good of a few of his children.
A dear friend of mine Tim Morris was having a surprise 50th birthday party. He lives in Heber City, Utah with his wife and two adorable children. His wife had messaged me on Facebook and asked if I would be attending, the party would be 6:00 pm on a Saturday. After some thought and a look at my calendar I told her I would love to be there.
I had planned on driving up on Saturday morning; attend the party and then drive back on Sunday. Sometime during the week, I had the thought come to me, it would be a good idea to go up on Friday. I had a few things I have always wanted to do in Salt Lake and if I went up on Friday, I could do those things on Saturday before the party. So, I decided I would go up Friday night. On Friday my day was going great, I got done at work just a bit early and thought I would leave a little earlier than I had planned. I got home and started to pack a few things for the trip. The wind that day was horrible; it was gusting 40-60 mph and was just relentless. I had this feeling that I needed to go into the back yard and do some weeding. I thought to myself, are you kidding? Weeding? I am leaving early and headed for a great weekend I am not going to stop and do some weeding. However, the feeling persisted so I got my hoe and rake and headed to the back yard. I hoed about ½ of the yard and raked it up. I had a feeling come over me that said I had done enough, and I could go. I cleaned up got in my truck and headed out on my trip.
As I got close to St. George, Utah, I was going to stop, top off my gas tank grab a drink and then head on to Salt Lake. I had this feeling come over me, it said: "you really don't need gas, you really don't need another drink, you can make it to Cedar, just go on to Cedar City". It seemed reasonable so I passed through St George and headed to Cedar City.
About 10 miles south of Cedar City I was driving in the right lane of the freeway. The speed limit was 80 mph. Very uncharacteristic of me, I was in the right lane doing 80 with my cruise control set. For those who know me, know I wouldn't normally be doing just the speed limit. The feeling came to me to just stay in the right lane put your cruise control at 80 mph, so I did it. But I was very content with driving the speed limit and just enjoying the drive.
I noticed a couple on a Harley Davidson motorcycle start to pass me in the left lane of the freeway. They both looked happy. I remember thinking, look how happy they are—Trish and I in a few months are going to be empty nesters and I hope we can find something together that is that much fun for us. They continued past me, about 100 yards in front of me the man began to change lanes into the right lane of the freeway. Just as he did that a powerful gust of wind hit them, the bike began to wobble back and forth, known in the bike world as the death wobble. It was clear they were going to crash, then the bike got close to the edge of the freeway and the front tire turned all the way right and it just stuck into the ground. The couple and the motorcycle were catapulted into the air at least 20 feet. I could not believe what I was seeing. The man and women were tumbling in the air head over heels over and over; the bike was doing the same. I saw all three of them hit the grassy area on the side of the freeway. It was sloped and grassy.
I slammed on my breaks and pulled over. When my truck stopped, I could see the man was directly to my right, the bike had hit the grass and was standing straight up like it was sitting on the kickstand. The woman was a bit further down the grassy hill, closer to the freeway. I jumped out of the truck and started to dial 911. I ran to the man because he was the closest to me. I could see he was hurt badly. He a horrible injury to his face. I felt his neck for a pulse, I thought I felt a week pulse but couldn't tell if it was him or my heartbeat pounding in my fingers, it was all happening so fast. I ran to the woman (his wife) and I could see she had at least a fractured leg. She was unconscious at the time and I could see she was still breathing. Just as I leaned over to check on her, she woke up and tried to sit up. I gently pushed her back down and told her, "Ma-am you have been in a terrible accident and you have a broken leg, I need you to lay down and not move" She passed out, but I could tell she was breathing on her own.
I ran back to the man and began to feel for a pulse. The 911 operator kept asking me if I could feel a pulse. I told her I thought I did but I couldn't be sure. I felt his neck, his wrist, I listened to his chest. The wind was howling, and cars kept driving by, because of the steep slope no one could see us, and no one would stop, I was all alone. I was kneeling by him and I tried to think of any way I possibly could, but it wasn't going to happen. As I was feeling for his pulse it felt to me that his neck was broken. About that time, I saw a Trooper in an unmarked truck pull up. He had seen the accident in his rear-view mirror and turned around and drove back down the side of the road against on-coming traffic. I told the 911 operator that a trooper was there, and I needed to let her go and I hung up. I explained the situation to the Trooper. I told him I thought the man was dead. I asked him to check for a pulse just to make sure, he did, and he felt nothing. I told him the woman was alive but had at least a broken leg. He ran to her and began talking on the radio. I could hear him giving directions; he called for a life flight helicopter. Soon another Trooper came, he and the other Trooper tended to the woman and called in more information on their radios.
I just knelt next to the man. The spirit whispered to me to put my hands on his head and give him a Priesthood blessing. However, it was made very clear to me that he was not coming back and that it was his time, he was dead. I gave him a Priesthood blessing.
I took his left hand and I just held it. I put my hand on his chest and I just rubbed it. As I knelt there, I brushed the dirt and the grass off of him. I straightened his legs made him look as comfortable as I could. I looked directly above his head as if he were standing right there. I spoke to him out loud and said, "I am so sorry you died today. I am so sorry this happened to you. I am so sorry for your family and what they are about to go through. I promise you; I am not going to leave you." I felt compelled to just stay next to this man. I looked in his wallet and found his name. I also learned that he was an off-duty Sheriff's Deputy from a county in central Utah. The first Trooper that came, walked up to me and knelt beside me, he asked if I was ok? I am sure it seemed odd that I was just kneeling there holding this man's hand. I told him that I was fine. I explained that almost 8 months ago I had lost my youngest son who was 20 in a motorcycle accident. He gently said; "I am sure this can't be easy". The truth was, it wasn't hard at the time. I felt a great sense of calm, I was supposed to be right there, and I wasn't moving.
The paramedics finally came. They came over to the man and asked me for an update. I told him that he was dead. They needed to verify so they pulled up his shirt and put some EKG wires on his chest. They turned on the machine and within a few seconds looked at me and said, "Yes sir, he is dead". They then pronounced the time of death. They quickly moved on to work on the wife. I asked one of the paramedics if they could get me a sheet so I could cover him up to his chest. I was worried about his wife looking over and seeing only me kneeling next to him and that might be upsetting to her.
They brought me a sheet and I covered him up to his chest. The freeway was shut down and the Life Flight helicopter was trying to land in the horrible wind. They finally were able to land in the middle of the freeway. After they loaded the wife in the helicopter, I pulled the sheet up over his head and tucked it in all around him. I just knelt there and held that man's hand. I had no concept of time. Later after recreating the accident I realized I had been kneeling next to him for almost an hour and a half. One of the Troopers came to me and explained that he would need me to write a statement. I, of course, agreed. By that time there were other Troopers there and I knew the man would not be alone. I told the Troopers it was very important to me that he was not left alone. They promised me that an officer would be standing by his side and would not leave him. I got out of the truck and walked up to two Troopers and gave them my statement. One looked at me and told me that he had heard about me losing my son and he was so sorry. He had tears in his eyes, and he went on to tell me that he knew this man. He told me that the man's father was a retired Utah State Trooper and he had worked with him. I told him how sorry I was for him and all of them. My heart was breaking.
He said I didn't have to leave, but that I had done more than enough and that if I wanted to, I could leave. I made sure the sheet was secure and that he wouldn't be alone, and I got in my truck and drove off. I noticed I had blood on my hands, and it had begun to become sticky. I needed to wash my hands. I stopped at a TA Travel gas stop. I went in and washed my hands, got a cool drink and filled up my tank. As I was walking around and gassing up, I kept looking at people and thinking, you have no idea what just happened, you have no idea what I just saw, you have no idea that a man's life had just ended. Those feelings from David's death came racing back to me.
Before leaving Las Vegas, I had called our middle Son Zach who attended BYU–Idaho. I told him I was coming up and if he wanted to drive down and meet me. I would get a hotel in Salt Lake and we could spend Saturday together. I was grateful that Zach would be with me that night.
I had the chance to do a lot of thinking on the remainder of that drive. I thought about all the things that had to take place to put me in that exact place at the exact time. The man died in a motorcycle accident; David had died in a motorcycle accident. He was a Sheriff's Deputy; I had been a Sheriff's Deputy. A man was with David and held his hands when he died; I was with this man holding his hands when he died. I thought about all it took to get me to that place at that exact time. Simply a miracle!
As I was driving, I had the strong impression that I should somehow try to get in touch with his parents. However, I had no idea where they lived or how this could even happen. I tucked that thought away, but it never left.
Zach and I had a great time together Saturday. We drove up to Heber City and with other friends and family joined the surprise party. While at the party I saw an old friend from Nashville I had not seen in years. I was telling him the story and how I felt like I wanted to somehow visit the Mom and Dad. He looked at me and said I think I know this family. He walked out to the garage and made a phone call. He came back in and told me he had gotten the address to the Mom and Dad and he immediately text it to me. I just stood there stunned. Again, what are the chances of all the people my friend would know, he would know this family and be able to get me their address.
The next morning Zach and I had breakfast together in the hotel, said goodbye and he headed for Idaho and I set my GPS for Delta, Utah. As I drove the 2-3 hours to get there, I thought I might be nervous. But I wasn't, I was calm.
When I arrived at their home, they were standing outside on the front walkway. They were talking to some friends who had come to visit. I stood on the sidewalk and politely waited until they were done talking and the other folks had left. I walked up to the man and asked him if he was Mr "Smith". He said he was. I said, "Sir, my name is Greg Maples; I was the first one on the scene at your son's accident and I was with him when he died". He was a big man, 6'4" and every bit a Trooper. He looked down and said, "You were?"
"Yes, sir, I was, and I thought I would come by and talk with you."
His wife came off the steps and said, "You were with my son when he died?" I told her I was, and they invited me in. They lived in a modest, but nice home. We sat in the living room together. I told them who I was, and I told them about our son David and how he was killed. I told them I would like to tell them the story of the accident. I explained that I could tell them all they wanted to know, or as little as they wanted to know. I started telling the story exactly as I have told you today. After a minute the father began to cry. He said he had not cried since they got the news. However, he had only two questions that he wanted answers to and no one could answer them. He had asked the Troopers and the other Sheriff's deputies but none of them could tell him because they weren't there. The two questions were, did my son die alone? And did my son suffer? He said, “You have come and answered both those questions.”
I was able to look him in his eye and tell him, "Sir your son was never conscious, he did not suffer, and he was never alone, I never left his side."
The emotion for me was palpable, this was a sacred moment. A few minutes later, a brother of the man killed pulled up and came into the home. He was a master driller, a good size man, and looked tough. His father told him who I was and that he should listen to me. As I told the story he began to cry. He said he had just been talking to his wife on the phone and told her he had two questions that he just had to have answered. Did his brother suffer and was he alone? Once again, I was able to look him in the eye and tell him. It was another sacred moment.
I told the mother that I had been impressed to give her son a blessing, I told her what I had said and what the spirit had whispered to me about his death. She confided in me that the one thing she wanted and was hoping for was that somehow her son had received a Priesthood blessing.
This sweet mother leaned in close to me and asked me, "Mr. Maples does it ever get easier?" With all the compassion I could muster, I told her, "No it doesn't. However, you will learn to live with it, you'll learn to get by and move forward. However, the pain is always there."
I told them to look for the tender mercies the Lord would send, I promised them they would come. I told them I know we are not alone, and He knows you and loves you.
I learned during my visit that the woman had a broken neck and several broken bones. She had already had four surgeries and two of them that very day. She had a long recovery ahead of her. She was a schoolteacher and he was a Sheriff's Deputy.
I got up, hugged the brother and the mother. Then I hugged the dad, I thought he was going to squeeze the soul out of me, and it felt good. I loved that man. I didn't know him, but I knew more about him at that moment than most of his family and friends ever will. I loved him. We said goodbye and I started for home. I drove in silence just thinking about all that had happened. I just couldn't stop thinking about all that had happened and how it unfolded. I knew I was going to be different from this experience, it was going to change me for the rest of my life.
In Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 it says"
"….for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."
I testify that God is involved in the details of our lives. He loved this family enough to orchestrate all of these events just for them. I am grateful the Lord was able to use me to help this family. I am grateful for the Spirit that truly testifies of all things.
My friends, these are uncertain times. The world has changed across the globe in a matter of days. However, what has not changed is our knowledge that we are sons and daughters of a Father who loves us and is very much involved in the details of our lives. We have living Prophets and Apostles that are leading us and guiding us. We are not alone. That is what I know for sure.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen