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

After sacrament meeting, Michael slipped into the first Sunday School class he found. As it began, an elderly man with Parkinson's disease sat by him and, as is common with sufferers, began shaking. Even now, one year later, Michael still cannot explain how on that Easter Sunday, something prompted him to do exactly as his brother Danny had done in the waters off Puerto Rico.

Michael slid over and put his arm around a man he’d never met. Almost immediately, the elderly man was weeping.

A year has passed and Michael doesn’t remember who spoke that day or what was taught, he just remembers feeling — at last — that he was home. One week later Michael asked his wife, Deborah, who was not LDS, to attend with him. When I asked Michael why, his answer was a glimpse at an eternal truth: "It felt wrong sitting in church without my wife sitting next to me."

For Deborah, attending sacrament meeting was also like coming home. They attended weekly for two months until she decided it was time to meet with the full-time missionaries. Then, during one of their lessons, Deborah blurted without invitation, “I’ll be baptized on Sept. 15!”

Dressed in white, Michael led his wife into the waters of baptism and performed the sacred, saving ordinance. The couple soon scheduled their date for a visit to the temple to be sealed for time and eternity, to occur as soon as they are eligible.

During our discussions, I wondered what lesson Deborah learned from her brother-in-law that changed her life the most. Her answer was emphatic. "Shortly after Danny's death, his FBI partner told us that Danny wasn't afraid of being shot or going into a big drug bust, but that his greatest fear was losing the Spirit. I didn’t know what ‘the Spirit’ meant at the time, but I knew that it must be very important. This was huge for me in my conversion and, to this day, the biggest change in my life since my baptism has been the gift of the Holy Ghost."

I also asked Michael and Deborah Knapp what role they thought Danny had played in their spiritual rescue. While they don't pretend to know all the mysteries of God, both are certain that Danny has been swimming alongside them. "It's like he's been holding our spiritual heads above water," Michael said.

Before his death, Danny reported to the family that he’d had a dream one day after attending the Salt Lake Temple that the entire family, including each and every sibling, would be gathered together in that sacred place.

On Oct. 12, 2013, Michael Knapp says that dream will come to pass. And to think, they wonder, that it all started with a voice on the stairs on Easter morning.

The delicious irony is lost to no one: On the day we celebrate the Resurrection of the Savior, Michael’s own faith was reborn.

Make no mistake — Danny may have played a key role in nudging his brother back to safer spiritual water, but Michael and his wife Deborah deserve the credit for their strong swimming. They’ve done remarkable things and like the rest of the vast Knapp family, they serve both the Lord and the church they love with all their hearts each and every day.

Somewhere above, Danny Knapp continues watching over David and his new kidney, willing him on to a long, fruitful life.

Somewhere above, Danny is rooting for Hector Gonzalez to realize his dreams of a family, a career in the FBI and a life of selfless service.

Somewhere above, Danny is smiling at his brother Michael as he prepares to join the rest of his family in the Lord’s house this fall. Danny’s certainly proud of his parents and other brothers as well, and for the good they contribute to the world around them.

Mostly, Danny is likely embarrassed by the recent attention, wishing to deflect the praise to others. There is no doubt he would shun the glory and guide it gracefully to God.

As for the rest of us who never met Danny in this life, we’re simply left to consider his example. Who can we better serve? Who can we watch over? Who can we better love?

Because in the end, it’s all about the rescue.

Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters," and "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at jwright@deseretnews.com or jasonfwright.com.

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