The Secret Life of Earl Johnson (Repost)

(Originally posted at the Blogger of Jared)

I

Sister Womack walked to the front of the chapel. Earl Johnson knew what was coming. Her talk would include a few old stories from her life that were unremarkable and only loosely related to the topic. It didn’t take very long to confirm that his prediction was true. Earl leaned back in the pew and closed his eyes like he often did during boring talks. Sister Womack was talking about something her father did when she was a child ….

[The Mormon Tabernacle Choir finished the hymn “The Spirit of God” in an impressive crescendo, and President Monson walks up to the microphone.]

“Brothers and Sisters, welcome to this morning’s session of conference. Usually all of the speakers in conference are General authorities or members of General Auxiliary Presidencies, but we are making an exception today. Our first speaker is a member of one of the local wards in the Salt Lake area. His name is Brother Earl Johnson, and he has a special and important message to share with us. Brother Johnson will be followed by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of twelve. Brother Johnson.

“Brothers and Sisters, I am so grateful to be able to speak to you today. Grateful, and scared to death [laughter]. I would like to share with you today a message about the atonement based on the third chapter of Mosiah…..

“Earl. Earl!”, Sister Johnson poked Earl in the ribs to wake him. Earl woke up, a little startled, and looked over at his wife of nearly 50 years. She was glaring at him in an unapproving way. “It’s time for the rest hymn. You missed Sister Womack’s talk”.

Earl felt that he had not really ‘missed’ anything. He stood with the rest of the congregation and sang “The Spirit of God” with them. The performance was not nearly as good as what the choir had done.

II

 ”You have no business helping the Millers move at your age. You will probably just hurt your back, and get in the way.” Earl’s wife instructed.

“No I won’t”, Earl protested, “and I want to help them.”

“I am sure they have plenty of help, Earl.”

“But you don’t know that!”

“I will call Sister Miller right now, and see how things are going.”

She marched off to get the phone. Earl raised his hands to protest, and almost said something, but he knew it was no use. He dropped his hands to his side and just stood there – waiting for his wife to tell him what to do. After a few moments, Mrs. Johnson returned.

“They have plenty of help, Earl”, she reported. “I offered to make everyone some sandwiches. In a couple of hours you can help me bring them over. Now you just sit down and rest.”

“Yes mother.” Earl often called his wife mother. She actually was a mother, and quite a good one at that, but Earl called her mother because she always seemed to be mothering him. He walked over to his chair and stared out the window. Why did she always need to humiliate him? He just wanted to help with a few boxes, and wish the Millers well. He also didn’t mind rubbing shoulders with the men of his ward. But she had taken that away from him. Earl leaned back, and closed his eyes …

[The rain was coming down in sheets, and the wind howled. Earl stood by the back of the truck handing out large boxes of emergency supplies.]

“Give these out as quickly as you can! One package per person! And watch for downed power lines!” Earl barked instructions to the volunteers. He had to shout to be heard over the terrible wind. They would be at this all night. Suddenly a young woman ran up to Earl.

“You have to help me!”, she screamed, “my baby is trapped in our house!” Earl knew he had to go.

“Take over for me here, Dan!”, Earl ordered, “I need to help this woman save her baby.”

“Yes sir!” Dan replied.

“Lead the way!”, Earl instructed the woman. And the two of them ran off into the stormy darkness.

When they arrived at the house, Earl’s heart sank. The house had collapsed so completely that he wondered if anyone inside could still be alive. He ran around to the side of the home, were a broken window offered what might be the only possible entrance. He carefully crawled into what used to be a living room he assumed. He did not know the name of the baby, or how old it was. He called out, “Hello! Anybody here! Hello!”, but there was no answer. He crawled further into the house and tried to listen. It was difficult with the howling wind outside. He cursed himself for not having a flashlight.

He made his way further into the house, and wondered if he was hearing something. It might be the sound of a baby, but it was hard to tell. The sound was coming from his left. He moved toward the sound but did not get far. There was to much debris. He frantically started trying to clear a path to the child. If only he could get there in time!

Earl….Earl…

Earl woke with a gasp, flinging his arms out in front of him. His wife laughed, and apologized for startling him. “It’s time to go Earl, I’ve made the sandwiches. Go put on your jacket and help me carry them to the car”.

“Yes mother”, Earl replied. He stood up and made his way for the closet.

III

[Earl is sitting in the middle of a couch with a full time missionary on either side. A distinguished looking man named Philip Silver sits in a comfortable chair across the room. An elegant coffee table separates them.]

“Do you have any questions Mr. Silver?”, asked Elder Gorda.

“Well, there has always been a question I have had about religion.”, replied Mr. Silver, “How can you believe in a God, when there is so much evil going on in the world?”

Elder Gorda eagerly leaned forward and began to provide an explanation. “Well you see, Mr. Silver…”. Mr. Silver raised his hand to interrupt the young Elder.

“I would like to hear what Mr. Johnson has to say. No offense, young man, but Earl has had a lifetime of experience. What are your thoughts on the subject, Earl?”, said Mr. Silver.

Earl paused for a moment, considering what the best response would be. He had thought about this subject often. What Earl was most concerned about, is what the spirit would have him say at this important moment. In a flash he knew exactly how to proceed.

“The Book of Mormon, which the missionaries gave you this evening, is an amazing book. It provides some insight into this difficult question. A prophet named Lehi had some very interesting things to say about this. Would you open up the Book of Mormon to second Nephi chapter two? Perhaps we could read and discuss this together.” Earl suggested.

Mr. Silver nodded and opened his new book. The missionaries unzipped their scriptures eagerly to follow along. After everyone had found the reference Earl began to read….

Earl….Earl….Earl!

Sister Johnson woke her husband. “Brother Gorski just called, and the missionaries will not need a ride after all.”, she reported.

“What happened?” Earl inquired.

“Their appointment canceled on them, so they don’t need a ride anymore. And what a shame. I know you were looking forward to going with them. You were ready to go an hour before the appointment! Now look at you. All dressed up with nowhere to go.”, she laughed. “I noticed that the Cubs were playing on channel four, if you want to watch the game before going to bed.”

Earl starred off into space. After a few moments he answered, “No. I think I will just read for a while.”

“Suit yourself.” And she walked off toward the kitchen. Earl sat for a while, lost in thought. After a few moments he reached for his scriptures and opened to second Nephi.

IV

“The Anderson’s are sure a nice couple”, said Earl’s wife.

“Yes they are”, replied Earl.

“They moved here from California, you know”, she added.

“What part?”, asked Earl.

“San Francisco, I think. I wonder why they don’t have any children?”

“Maybe they can’t.”, Earl suggested.

“Or maybe they don’t want children yet.”, she offered.

“It’s really none of our business.”, Earl concluded. His wife was often talking about people. So much of it was idle speculation and gossip. But what else is an old couple, married this long, supposed to talk about?

“If your finished with dinner, you should go lie down for a while. You look tired. I have some cake that needs to cool. I’ll call you when it is ready.”

“I’m not that tired, mother. Perhaps I should do the dishes or something.”, Earl offered.

“Nonsense! You look like you would fall over before you had them done. Besides, you don’t do the dishes right anyway. I would have to do them all over again if you did them. Now go lie down, and I will call you when the cake is ready.”

“Yes, mother.”

Earl shuffled off to the living room and sat in his favorite chair. He could have done the dishes, and they would have been done just fine. He could do a lot of things if she would allow it. So, Earl sat in his chair instead of lying down – a show of protest. He stared out the front window.

[In the home of the Anderson’s. Earl and his home teaching companion are wrapping up a home teaching visit. And they ask the usual questions.]

“So how are the two of you doing?”

Brother Anderson looks at sister Anderson, and she looks back. A brief hesitation, followed by a forced smile. “We’re just fine.”, answered brother Anderson.

Earl pauses for a moment, sensing there is something more. The spirit urges him to go on.

“What is the biggest problem that you face?”, Earl follows up.

After another pause, sister Anderson opens up, “We have not been able to have any children yet. We have been trying for seven years. We have sought help from doctors. We have even looked into adoption. We just are not sure what to do, or what the Lord has in store for us.” Tears come to her eyes. Brother Anderson reaches his hand out, and she takes it.

“Could you give my wife a blessing?”, asks brother Anderson.

“We would be glad to.”, responds Earl. “But would you like to voice the blessing?”

“I have given her blessings before. We would really appreciate the two of you providing the blessing.”, admitted brother Anderson.

“I’ll anoint.”, suggests Earl’s companion. He quickly takes an oil vile out of his pocket.

After the anointing, Earl lays his hands on sister Anderson’s head. His companion then places his hands on top of Earl’s. Earl reaches out with his feelings for the spirit, to know what to say. In an instant he knows he can bless this good woman with anything her heart desires. He sees, in a shadowy vision, the Anderson couple, surrounded by a small group of children. Their own children. Earl smiles, and voices a bold blessing with confidence:

“Angela Marie Anderson, by the power and authority of the holy Melchizadek Priesthood which we hold, we seal the anointing that has taken place, and give you the blessing that you seek. In due time, you will be able to experience all of the joys of …..

Earl….Earl.

“Yes.”, Earl replies.

“What are you thinking about? You look so happy.”, his wife observes.

Earl wipes a tear from his eye. “Nothing, mother.”

“It doesn’t seem like nothing to me.”

“Just thinking.”, answers Earl.

“Your cake is ready in the kitchen.”

“Thanks mother.”

Earl gets out of his chair and heads for his desert.

V

Earl sat alone in the hospital waiting room. All he could do now is worry and wait. He had been a total wreck since his dear wife had passed out. The men in the ambulance were not sure what had happened to her. Was it a heart attack? A stroke? Earl had not been given any instructions other than to stand back, and wait here.

What would he do without her? For so many years she had taken care of nearly everything. He would have been more help, but she always insisted on doing things her way. He wasn’t sure what he would do without her. He did love her, and need her. Please, Heavenly Father….please.

[Earl is dressed all in white, in the midst of a city in the clouds. There are countless others dressed just like he is, busy doing all sorts of things]

Earl stood in wide-eyed amazement, looking at the glorious, gleaming white city. The people all looked so busy, and so good. They were beautiful, all of them. And so peaceful, in spite of the many things going on. Earl looked at himself. He had never felt so good before. He felt perfect. He had no cares, no worries. All was right.

Then he saw her – his dear wife. She was looking right at him. It had been a long time since she had looked at him like this – with admiration. This must be heaven – or paradise anyway. He ran to her, and they embraced. “You look so good!”, the both exclaim. And they laughed, like young kids they laughed.

Earl becomes aware of others pressing in around him. His parents, his brothers, friends and relatives long gone but not forgotten. They are all here – what a joyous reunion!

And then the crowd parts, and standing not far off is the most beautiful, powerful, loving being Earl had ever encountered. He knew exactly who it was. He took his wife by the hand and ran towards Him…

Mr. Johnson….Mr. Johnson.

“Yes. I’m awake. How is she?”, Earl responded to the nurse gently shaking him by the shoulder.

“She is going to be fine in a couple of weeks. You can see her now if you like.”

Earl grabbed his coat and followed the nurse. She filled him in on some details.

His wife looked so weak. She had never seemed so frail. Earl sat beside her. He held her hand in his and smiled at her. “You are going to have to stay in bed for a while Mother. I guess I am going to take care of you for a change.”

“You can’t even take care of yourself, Earl. How will you manage?”

“I am more capable than you think, Mother. Everything will be fine dear. You’ll see. I’ll take care of everything.” He was still smiling. They looked into each others eyes for several seconds. Priceless, unspoken communication flowed between them.

Earl stroked her gray hair with his free hand. “I’ll take care of everything, you’ll see.”

This is Earl Johnson.

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4 Responses to “The Secret Life of Earl Johnson (Repost)”


  1. 1 Ardis E. Parshall July 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    My favorite series in reruns!!

  2. 2 Eric Nielson July 25, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks Ardis. Brought to you with limited commercial interruption.

  3. 3 Alison Spring August 7, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    What a beautiful, moving piece. Thanks.


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