LDS World: Man's nature versus the 'natural man'

Published: Sunday, Oct. 2 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Almost three weeks ago, while at work in Virginia, my 30-year-old daughter Sarah “popped” her neck — a self-adjusting twist because of various sports injuries over the years. Within the hour she was in the emergency room terribly dizzy, in and out of consciousness and violently vomiting blood. Seven hours later, after many procedures, an MRI showed she had had a stroke. When she “popped” her neck, she dissected an artery, a clot formed and shot to her brain.

My first thought upon hearing the diagnosis at 8 p.m. that evening was that it simply could not be so. Over and over the thought ran through my mind, “Thirty-year-olds don’t have strokes!” But some do, and she did, and though this column is not about self-adjustment, let me note how dangerous it is: Do not pop backs or necks and do not let others do it to you.

Now, flash back to the day before Sarah’s stroke when I read, in the Bible, Paul’s words to the Roman Saints. He wrote that “by nature” individuals understand God’s laws. They have “the law written in their hearts, their conscience … bearing witness.” Paul described the “light of Christ,” or “conscience,” and taught that each individual is born with an innate sense of right and wrong — a precious gift of God to his children. Not only is everyone given the “light of Christ,” but it inclines individuals to do what is right, to do good.

We often — at least I have been guilty — lose sight of the innate goodness in others. Perhaps the confusion comes because of scriptures like that in Mosiah, “the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man.”

The “nature of man” at birth and “natural man” are very different concepts. Man is not born evil. The Lord distinguishes in Doctrine and Covenants 93, “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. (But) that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth through disobedience.” We come into this life innocent, endowed with a conscience and prone to goodness. On earth, however, Satan tempts individuals to sin, to turn from God, and many do so.

However, my daughter’s stroke reminded me of the abundant "good” in many people. I observed, after Sarah’s stroke, individuals from all walks of life, who are and aren’t members of my faith, who embrace a wide range of cultures and ethnicities, yearning and reaching out to help.

Her sister, Rachel, sat with and prayed for her in the emergency room while doctors tried to diagnose her symptoms. She put her life on hold, stayed by Sarah’s side, slept on the floor in her ICU room and comforted and attended to Sarah’s needs.

Friends arrived to spell Rachel’s vigil. One friend with three small children couldn’t do hospital time but sought to help. She arranged my travel while I worked feverishly to cover classes and family matters. She made an early morning long drive, with the children, to the airport to retrieve me after a red-eye flight, and I arrived at the hospital in time to be with Sarah when her doctor explained that she needed surgery to relieve the swelling in her brain.

After two days and nights at the hospital, Sarah’s friends took over from me at her bedside. My brother and sister-in-law arrived and drove me home to quickly shower, change and return. Sarah’s co-workers and friends, even some who do not personally know her, rallied to her side with offers of financial assistance, expressions of love, visits, blessings, prayers and bedside watch when she was awake and while she slept.

They brought cards, gifts, balloons, flowers, food galore to the hospital and to her apartment for Rachel, for me and for Sarah’s return. Friends in Utah prayed and fed my family. Phone calls, messages of concern, love and support were sent and posted by friends around the world.

Sarah joked and thanked and inspired everyone with her tenacity, courage, determination and unnecessary apologies — upset that others had to do for her. Sarah is a poster child for miracles, with little aftereffect and the promise of full recovery. Released from the hospital after 10 days, the outreach continued and does so still. When I left, her Arizona sister, Emily, having rearranged her family and commitments, flew in to be with Sarah.

It was my privilege to witness so many expressions of love and concern — to observe the abundant goodness of others. I am forever grateful to those that reached out to Sarah and to our family. Hurrah for so many in today’s world who listen to conscience, “choose the good part” and who seek and do good to others.

Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World.”

Email: kfrederickson@desnews.com

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