Monday, May 27, 2019
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LDS Faith-Based Posts

74 years ago a chilly December rain fell in the mountains of Leyte, an island in the South Pacific that most of us would be hard-pressed to find on a map, but for the paratroopers of America's 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Leyte had become a place of hellish reality. 

The year was 1944 and the world was full of a war that threatened the "peace on earth, goodwill towards men" of all mankind. The most basic freedoms of every man, woman and child, even the right to life, was on the line and the 511th had been formed to fight against the forces of oppression and darkness. 

Most of the paratroopers were young, between 18-21. One "man" in my grandfather's D Company, was seventeen-year-old Pfc. Billy Pettit who lied about his age in order to enlist and serve his country. Nicknamed "Billy the Kid" by his comrades, Billy's face and eyes now held the same grim look of his brothers in arms who had shared in the horrors of fighting the Japanese in close quarters day after day for weeks on end.

Sitting on a hill overlooking Ormoc Bay on Leyte's west coast, D Company's CO Captain Stephen E. Cavanaugh (pictured right) surveyed his men, primarily those in 1st Platoon under 1st Lieutenant Andrew Carrico III.

The 32 men of 1st Platoon were tired. They had started hiking from Dulag into Leyte's interior on November 23 and fought their way straight up the mountains' 4,400-feet heights and then down the other side towards Ormoc Bay. Along the way they endured torrential rains every day, constant Bonzai attacks from the enemy at night and vicious battles in the jungles nearly every step of the way. Nicknamed "The Angels", the 511th's paratroopers were being asked to do what other regular Army units had attempted to do: eliminate the Japanese supply line that ran through the mountain ridges.

They were now on Day 38 of their successful-yet-costly mountain and jungle campaign. Many men in D Company were now suffering from malaria or dengue fever (or both) and the fevers and digestive problems only added their misery. Their once trim and fit bodies were covered in jungle ulcers and most had lost over twenty pounds or more due to their inability to resupply in the mountains. Just over two weeks earlier, after having nothing to eat for seven days, D Company had eaten a dog with a few camotes they had managed to dig up in a nearby field.

Nearby, Lieutenant Carrico (pictured right) was tending to 1st Platoon. The day before, Carrico, with Cavanaugh traveling behind, had led 1st Platoon in a final assault on a hill near where they now sat in a mango grove. Lieutenant Carrico's 31 men had charged up the hill and eliminated more than 300 of the enemy who had been stubbornly holding the entire 11th Airborne back from reaching Ormoc Bay. The Americans were sick, angry at losing so many friends to the enemy, and more than ready to end their time on this God-forsaken island.

As D Company's Pfc. William L. Dubes noted, "It was a nightmare."

A few of the Angels who made the charge were so sick and weak that they had to be helped down the hilltop on the other side. Several Bronze Stars resulted from the operation, including one soldier who many believed should have received the Medal of Honor for charging the enemy's main line, firing his machine gun from the hip as he ran.

With a sigh, Captain Cavanaugh turned his head to study the steady stream of 2nd Battalion's paratroopers that were marching towards Ormoc Bay, some barefooted as their paratrooper boots had rotted away in the constant rain and mud. While some other units in the 11th Airborne's column looked relatively fresh due to their "far from the front" natures, the paratroopers of the 511th looked haggard due to their nearly 40 days of combat and 2nd Battalion's column stretched out over a half a mile. 

While Cavanaugh was proud of his company and all the others within the regiment, he sighed at the heart-wrenching scene of 250 troopers carrying stretcher after stretcher of their dead and wounded down the hillsides towards Ormoc. 40% of the 511th's strength was gone, either dead or wounded by the enemy or the jungle's dangers. When D Company had entered the mountains on November 23, Cavanaugh had 117 men under his command. 21 of them were now being carried out on those stretchers, either dead or too wounded to walk out themselves. 

Soon it came time for D Company to get on their feet and begin their own march down the slippery mud trail. Cavanaugh had Lt. Carrico and his other platoon leaders get the men onto their tired feet. Cavanaugh and Carrico, who called each other Rusty and AC, shared a look. It was time for a rest and while the regiment had completed every assigned task they'd been given, the cost had been high and although they were too young and exhausted to know it, the nightmares would last for years to come. 

Forming up by squads and platoons, Cavanaugh moved his men down the trail towards the beach. A depressing fog enshrouded the hills around them, one that Cavanaugh and Carrico felt matched the mood of the men who marched forward with one aching foot in front of  the other. The young paratroopers were quiet, lost in thoughts of loved ones back home and shadows of former lives that felt so foreign now.  

Said T/4 Rod Serling, the future creator of the Twilight television show, said, "(It) was not the weather, it was the mood, I remember--the kind of mood that is the province of combat and is never fully understood by those who have not lived with the anguish of war."

Suddenly, someone at the head of their column stopped and turned to whisper to the man behind him. Instantly the paratroopers shook off the mental cobwebs and went to full alert as whispers meant that the enemy had been spotted. And this close to the end, no one was taking any chances. 

And then the message roared down the line like wildfire as paratroopers passed the words along: "It's Christmas."

The quiet of the jungle was soon broken as one Angel began to sing there in the clouds:

"O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem..."

Other broken voices soon joined in and a warmth began to fill the hearts of the men who had felt frozen by war.

"Come and behold Him
Born the King of Angels!"

Sing choirs of Angels, indeed.

The magic of Christmas had found its way into the souls of D Company and 2nd Battalion on that rainy, cold, muddy Christmas day in 1944. Gone were the fears, the pains and the difficulties of war. Instead, the battle-hardened paratroopers felt their hearts made light and the spirit that filled their beings after so many dark nights of combat can only be described as Heavenly.

T/4 Rod Serling noted, "...suddenly I wasn't aware of the cold rain or the mud. I gave no thought to the sickening ache deep inside the gut that had been with me for so many days. Someone had transformed the world... We sang as we led the wounded by the hand and carried the litters and looked back on the rows of homemade crosses we left behind... It had come indeed--the Holy Day. The day of all days. It was Christmas."

Pondering that Christmas morning so many years ago, my grandfather, my hero, 1st Lieutenant Andrew Carrico III simply and with deep emotion said, "I remember."

Most of the 511th's Angels have now passed from this life, but their legacy of courage and the freedoms they fought for still remain. This Christmas season I pray we can all honor their sacrifice and service by increasing "goodwill towards men" and by spreading peace. May we open our hearts in love to those around us, may our words by kind and uplifting, may we forgive quickly and serve without selfishness. May we be Angels in our nature and our daily living. May we be the hands that lift, the cause of hope, the bright lights that shine when the world feels dark.

Merry Christmas, my dear friends.

-Jeremy

 

 

The Miraculously Personal Atonement

Written by Monday, 21 May 2018 11:16

We all have times in our lives when we plead for the Lord to heal our pains, hurts and struggles. I know I have and after thinking of Jesus Christ's mortal ministry, I thought, "If only I was there, THEN I could be healed." I felt the same inclinations when I read of the Savior's many miracles performed among the Nephites after his resurrection. As a young teenager, I was saddened when that miracle did not come. When the tears came, when the prayers were desperately given, when the long days or dark nights came, I wondered WHY? Why was I not deserving of such a healing? Why could I not obtain the divine assistance I so badly needed? 

In May of 2018, nearly twenty years after the battles with anxiety began, I was pondering 3 Nephi 17 during a Sacrament meeting, something I had many other times in my life. But on this day, things were different. As I imagined being there that day when the Resurrected Lord invited those who were afflicted to come forward, instead of receiving a full healing, I clearly saw His face as he smiled at me. I understood that he knew ME. He knew why I had come forward, what blessing I was seeking, and why I felt I needed it. And even though he knew infinitely more than I did about my own eternal journey, he did not belittle my petition or my desires. 

But the blessing I received was not one of complete healing. No, as Christ laid his hands upon my head, his blessing was one of strength; he specifically blessed me with the strength I needed to not just endure my trials, but to overcome them every day. It was a gift of courage, peace, strength, capacity and power beyond my own.  

And then I realized those blessings are exactly the same promises given to each of us every day. Because of the infinite power of the Savior's Atonement, because of his grace and mercy and ability to enable and empower us, we can have those very blessings whenever we need them. We do not need to have the Savior lay his hands on our heads as he did for the Nephites in 3 Nephi 17 or the many he healed in the Holy Land.

No, through prayer, fasting, Priesthood blessings and study and faith, we can receive the very same blessing I felt the Savior enlighten me with during my ponderings. 

As Br. Brad Wilcox testifies, "Grace works."

Sustaining the Sustained

Written by Sunday, 07 January 2018 22:30


With the recent passing of Thomas S. Monson, the president and prophet for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much focus has been placed on the succession system set up by the Lord for his church which involves the dissolving of the current First Presidency and the authority of the church being retained by the Quorum of the Twelve. In a short time, these brethren will gather in humble prayer and fasting to know Heaven's will for who will lead the church as president and prophet. 

That said, even as we shed tears of gratitude and sorrow for President Monson's passing, there is comfort and security in knowing that the Lord has set up his church to continue rolling forward as a stone cut out of the mountains without hands. I can remember serving as a young missionary on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize, when 9/11 occurred. While the world, and my beloved country of America, was thrown into chaos, there came a soft peace to my heart and I heard the Spirit whisper, "Look to the prophet. He will guide you forward." At the time it was President Gordon B. Hinckley who guided the church under the Lord's direction and when he passed from this life it was President Thomas S. Monson. And soon we will have another president who it will be our privilege and opportunity to look to for such guidance, instruction, and encouragement. 

WHO fills that office is not as important as the fact that the office exists to be filled. The Lord will call whom He will and He will have prepared this great servant for such responsibility for his entire mortal life. It is up to us, then, to support and sustain this man as the one whom the Lord has called as prophet, seer and revelator. 

But what does that really mean?

The Devil at the Finish Line

Written by Saturday, 01 July 2017 16:49


Having grown up in, around and immersed in sports since I was a little kid, The Finish Line has always been a big part of my life. Whether it was when I raced Junior Dragsters on the Bonneville Salt Flats and at the old Bonneville Speedway or racing bobsleds for over twenty years, racing towards that goal required extreme focus, quick reflexes, an agile mind and so much more. 

Kind of like life, right? 

As a keynote and motivational speaker I often compare our life's journey to a bobsled ride. There are thrilling rushes, frustrating setbacks, times of courage and moments of fear. Sometimes you hear the voice of the cheering crowds and others you worry that your big mistake is out there for all to see. Some races you win and some you lose, but you learn from both outcomes. 

But at the end of the day, win or lose, and I emphasize this when speaking to youth groups and sports teams, you always, always shake your opponents hand and thank them for the game, because without them, there can be no competition. 

I'm currently working on a few keynote speeches that I have to give this Summer and as i was writing about this very topic, I had a strange though: will I shake the Devil's hand once I cross the eternal finish line? 

Now, I know what you're thinking: "He's the bad guy, the villain. He's tried to ruin your life and tempt you and lead you astray. He is full of hate and malice and loves to see you miserable. Why would you EVER shake his hand?" 

Because he is going to help me reach the finish line in an even better state than I could on my own. Follow me on this. 

When the Sea Doesn't Part

Written by Tuesday, 14 July 2015 14:17


Parting the Red SeaHaving written two books now with a third on it's way, I am intimately familiar with that wonderful demon of creative souls everywhere: writer's block. 

Oh yes, one day you are cranking out pages and pages of good stuff and the next....blank. Blank mind, blank screen, blank page. You're stuck and the more you try to force something out of the stuckedness the more stuck you become. Stuckity-stuck-stuck in Stuckville. I can just imagine Brian Reagan saying that, by the way.

But being "stuck" isn't just a mental state; sometimes it is a state of being stuck financially, romantically, spiritually, physically, etc. 

I think we've all had times in our lives when the road seems closed, the Heavens shut, the way barred and the horizon darkened. We look at the seemingly-never ending path leading up the mountainside and we wonder how do we get passed the obstacles currently in our way. Whether those obstacles be fears, disappointments, heartaches, adversities, loneliness, or what appears to be a complete lack of viable options, our journey seems to be halted and we silently (or verbally...sometimes loudly) ask as Joseph Smith did in Liberty Jail, "Oh God, where art thou?" (D&C 121:1).

I don't think you or I are the first to ever ask that question (nor was Joseph). I wonder if Adam struggled when Cain killed Abel or if Jacob, or Israel, cried out when his sons brought in the "lost" Joseph's coat of many colors . I'm sure that Job did when all those awful calamities came crashing into his life. The scriptures are full of countless stories from the lives of God's greatest who faced what must have at the time looked like impossible odds at the time. When the weight of your current trials gets to heavy and you drop to your knees to plead for Heaven's intervention, take comfort in the fact that millions of souls have sought such help throughout the millennia.

What is God's Job?

Written by Thursday, 11 June 2015 00:00


God the Father and His Son Jesus ChristOne morning while eating breakfast (because over breakfast or in the shower are when the best ideas come to mind) I had a thought that stopped me in my tracks. It was a question that we all think we know the answer to, but the truth is I'm not so sure that we really do. And the more I thought about it, the stronger the significance of the question became.

Here it goes: what is God's job?

Now, I don't mean the whole creating worlds, organizing universes, forming stars, and so on. We know all that and those are the typical Sunday School answers that most people can recite in their sleep. But that's not personal to me, that's galactic management. No, what I wanted to know as I finished off my orange juice was, "What is God's job in regards to my life and my eternal salvation?

The Temple, a Refuge in the Storm

Written by Thursday, 23 April 2015 13:18

A refuge in the stormWith all the recent excitement about the upcoming Payson, UT LDS Temple Open House (which looks amazing, by the way), I can't help but think back to a small, yet testimony-building experience I had in March of 2009 during the Draper, UT LDS Temple Open House.

My Elder's Quorum was asked to provide some bodies to help with "security" on a particular evening for about five hours. Being young, fit and otherwise un-engaged (literally, unfortunately) I volunteered and found myself tasked with watching an area just inside the north-east temple doors. Not that there was much to do besides pass out water bottles, answer questions and otherwise help provide a friendly atmosphere for the Open House guests. As security gigs go, a temple Open House is pretty low-key.

After the final group made its way through the temple, we began to usher out the remaining guests and then had to complete a walk through of the entire temple to make sure everyone was out before we turned off the lights and locked all the doors. This was a wonderful opportunity for me and the other volunteers to wander the sacred and hallowed (even if un-dedicated yet) halls of this beautiful building. Anyone who has been or served in that temple can testify of the breath-taking art, the peaceful decor, the hope-filling lighting (best way I can think to describe that) and the strengthening peace found within its walls.

The Islamic State: Modern-day Lamanites

Written by Monday, 20 April 2015 11:52

Lamanites in the land todayLast Sunday while teaching my Sunday School class to ten amazing 16-17 year old teens, we discussed the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep conversion to his gospel with a unshakable testimony of his restored church. I know that this seems like a no-brainer for many of us, but over the past few weeks as I have been watching the news (once a journalist, always a journalist) I have felt a deep concern for Christians everywhere.

There are Lamanites in the land once more.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this moniker, the Lamanites were an main demographic found within the Book of Mormon, a volume of ancient scripture written by prophets who lived on the American continent (Mayan archaeologists could rightly call it "The Mormon's Codex". For the major portion of this work the Lamanites were violently opposed to the followers of Christ, known as Nephites, and filled with a hatred for Christianity that I see is deeply mirrored in the recent campaigns by the radically militant Islamic State (I'll use IS from now on) in the Middle East. And to any NSA analysts reading this because I'm writing about IS (quite negatively, mind you), please not that this article is all my own opinion and not any official stance for the organizations I work with. But if you would like to know more about what us "Mormons" believe, please visit Mormon.org

This past week we celebrated Easter, or Holy Week, and remembered the life, death and glorious resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It was wonderful to see so many people sharing their faith, their gratitude and their devotion on social media while simultaneously declaring their determination to follow the Lord and keep his teachings in their lives. 

Sadly, somewhere within a matter of ten minutes to ten hours, those same people broke a commandment that they fail to keep every single day. 

Whoa. I know, right? How judgmental of me to say such a thing, but I'm betting you break this commandment just as often. And now you want to reach through the screen and slap me across the face. That's ok; if I wasn't struggling with this same commandment this whole post would be a hypocritical pile of buffalo chips that the pioneers would have burned for fuel as they crossed the plains. But to prove that my words are not just smoke drifting away in cyberspace, I'll show you just how right I am. Yup, I went there....but for a good cause.

To help.   

WWJS: Easter for the Soul

Written by Thursday, 02 April 2015 19:11

Several years ago a dear friend, Jonelle, surprised me with an autographed print of Greg Olsen's "O Jerusalem" painting. This majestic piece captures the quiet strength, even the eternal strength of the Savior's character, not to mention the beautiful scenery of the Holy Land countryside (and no, Mr. Olsen isn't paying me to say all that).

But if you look closely, you can see something else on Christ's face. In my youth I almost wondered if it was defeat (after all, he knew his betrayal and crucifixion were near). But now that I'm older I understand the look in Jesus' eyes was something else entirely; it was acceptance. The hint of sorry in his eyes stems from the acceptance that so many people in Jerusalem would not listen to the message of peace and salvation that he desired so deeply to give them.

And as we look forward to this Easter season, I can't help but wonder if that same hint of sorrow still exists in the resurrected Savior's heart. 

And I Should Heal Them

Written by Friday, 19 September 2014 13:42

As I sit here looking out my office window at a beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah blue sky I can't help but smile. Life is such a marvelous and wonderful gift, and every day that we are alive is a new chance to create a powerful future. As we say in my non-profit organization, The Athlete Outreach Project, "there is always hope."

Yet even as I smile, I cannot help but sigh at the tragedies and darkness that fills this world. As a former journalist I know only too well the number of wars and conflicts that rage around the globe. I just spoke at a suicide prevention event and often study the statistics surrounding those struggling with mental illness. I have participated in countless cancer research fundraisers and visited cancer patients in the hospital on several occasions. I have seen marriages fall apart due to infidelity, abuse or just plain apathy. I have seen lives destroyed through the use of drugs or other addictive substances. I have visited with youth incarcerated for foolish choices and helped save at least one life from ending through an eating disorder.

Even as I write this I'm mentally reviewing the tough circumstances that so many in my own life face. I have one friend who survived a potentially fatal car accident only to have her ex-husband force her and her daughters out of their old home and onto the streets. I have another friend who just got out of the hospital after some major surgeries. I could go on and on and so could you, and that doesn't even include all the struggles we have in our own lives.

As a dear friend of mine reminded me this week, "We all get tired, we all get discouraged, and we all have days where we want to give up. But we can't. Life is too amazing. And we are not alone in it."

Of Stones, Sins and Glass Houses

Written by Monday, 21 July 2014 17:34

Growing up in Oklahoma, America’s Midwest, I saw firsthand the results of Mother Nature’s terrible might when tornadoes touched down. Entire neighborhoods were leveled, swathes of landscape flattened and lives were upended. Even as a child, while I lived in fear of these awesome and powerful monstrosities, I could appreciate the way their power was formed…by air.

Because, when you think about it, what are tornadoes but collections of air that rushes forth?

Over the past few months I have listened to dear friends tell me of the tornadoes in their lives. These tornadoes have leveled their confidence, flattened their joys and upended their hearts. But these tornadoes have not been like those I saw in Oklahoma; no, the tornadoes they spoke of were the words and actions of those around them who used the air that rushed forth from their mouths to hurt, to judge, to criticize, to gossip and to belittle.

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Fire on Ice Jeremy C Holm
Racing down an icy track at 80 miles per hour leads you to think of many things. For Jeremy C. Holm, it made him think of God. In Fire and Ice, Holm shares his experiences as a bobsled pilot and coach, presenting a message of faith and personal courage that will inspire you to come closer to Jesus Christ and reach for that ultimate prize of eternal life.

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The Champions Way Jeremy C Holm
How do we achieve gold medal moments in life? How do we find peace and confidence and what truly makes us happy? Discover the answers in Jeremy's new ebook, "The Champion's Way", available now at Amazon.com

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