Deceased Mormon FBI agent continues to serve with spiritual rescue

By Jason Wright

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, April 2 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Members of the Knapp family gather for Deborah Knapp's baptism on Sept. 15, 2012. (left to right) Rich Knapp, Kellie Knapp, Macy Knapp (front), Deborah Knapp, Michael Knapp, Renae Knapp, Clive Knapp. (back row) Barry Knapp, David Knapp.

Knapp family

Editor's note: This is part three of a three-part series on FBI Special Agent Daniel "Danny" Knapp. In this installment, Jason Wright recaps Knapp's spiritual rescue. Read part one and part two here.

The legacy of FBI Special Agent Danny Knapp spread like a flash flood.

Inspirational stories of the late agent arose from villages in Puerto Rico, field offices in government buildings and living rooms between San Juan and Las Vegas. He’d given money to the poor, volunteered endlessly at his church, saved lives that hadn’t been reported and served in myriad ways that never earned him medals or commendations.

Not long before his death, Knapp entered a brutally dangerous neighborhood to help a distressed woman in labor. Knapp took her to the hospital, helped her through the delivery and even paid the hospital bill. When asked by the FBI why he'd taken the chance, he replied, "If not me, who?"

It was nothing — just another rescue.

Why hadn't more of these heroics surfaced during his life? Knapp's grieving colleagues in the field said he lived his life in the "arrogant-free zone." Wouldn't we all like to be remembered that way?

Other stories came from Danny’s four brothers. Each missed their brother in their own unique way and dealt with his death by reminiscing often. Michael, just a few years older than Danny, was especially stung by the accident. For personal reasons, he’d chosen not to attend the services in San Juan and hadn’t had the opportunity to meet Hector Gonzalez, the beneficiary of Danny’s heroics.

Unlike the other brothers, Michael’s life had taken a different path from Danny’s. At age 17, Michael chose to step away from the faith of his childhood and swim in deeper waters. He never lost a testimony that the only church he’d ever known was true; he simply realized he’d never actually been converted. He recognized that membership and conversion are two very different things.

For 27 years Michael remained inactive, a period he calls being “unplugged.” To his credit, Michael acknowledges that Danny’s death was more difficult than it might have been had his spiritual muscles not atrophied.

Michael was astonished with each new truth that surfaced from Danny’s remarkable life. He hadn’t fully realized and respected how his little brother had become a professional and spiritual giant to so many. His love of God, country and mankind awed him.

Then on Easter morning, 2012, Michael remembers slowly descending the stairs of his home in a quiet Seattle suburb. It had been months since he’d heard Danny’s voice and exactly 90 days since Danny had given his life for Hector Gonzalez. Suddenly, as he neared the bottom step, a voice stopped him in his tracks.

The words were crystal clear: “You need to be in church.”

It felt like a spiritual punch to the gut — exactly the kind a sneak attack a playful sibling might launch on an unsuspecting brother.

To the shock of his wife and children who were socializing downstairs, Michael reversed course, hiked back up the stairs and put on a suit. Then he found the closest chapel — not even sure which LDS ward he was supposed to attend — and walked in the doors.

Michael Knapp sat on the back pew, hoping to be as anonymous as possible. But like old friends apart for far too long, Michael and the Spirit recognized one another immediately. In a phone interview, Michael described the spirit as “undeniable and overpowering” that day.

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