The Hero Doctrine: Awakening to Your Eternal Potential, is dedicated to three individuals who all had a heavy influence on my spirituality around the time I started writing. Travis Kupp, one of my best friends, asked me to give a talk at his mission farewell; consequently, we have chapter one. Stephen Peers served as a mentor and tremendous priesthood leader during my time in the Walnut Creek YSA ward. And Joseph Harris I have been familiar with most of my life, but only got to really know him a couple of years before he passed away. Even so, in that time, he made a permanent impression on my soul.
I reference (and even quote) Joe several times in the book. His mother, Joyce Harris, was the first person I visited after getting my author copies of the book a few weeks ago, and she got the very first copy of anyone. The Harris family has endured decades worth of health struggles and financial hardships without turning away from the gospel, and without developing even a remotely sour attitude.
The following are excerpts from The Hero Doctrine that I think give a good basic sketch of who Joe Harris actually was.
Though some in this world are afflicted because of their unrighteousness, I believe that still others are afflicted because of their righteousness. This was, I believe, the case with my friend Joseph Harris.
For the last few years before his death, Joseph’s health was in a constant flux, shifting in and out of various medical problems, few of which were even related to each other. He would often call me in the middle of the night, needing to go to the emergency room. There the nurses would have him rate the level of pain he was feeling at the time on a number scale of 1 to 10. “Five,” he would say to the nurse, or “six,” “seven.”
If I were the one being treated, I would find it difficult to rate my pain the same way; I wouldn’t know what to compare it to! But it was simple enough for Joseph to discern between the different levels because he felt all of them so often. Sometimes he would be discharged later that same night because the doctors, who would continually give him a variety of tests and examinations, could never find exactly what was wrong with him. The most they could do was give him some pain medication and send him on his way.
Over his last few years, his body weakened dramatically, to the point where he could no longer walk. He and his family were not financially well off, so he always needed rides from friends or ward members to go and do basic things like get groceries, go to the doctor, pick up medicine, etc. He also dealt with emotional disorders, and did not function well in social situations. He never had the chance to marry and was, more often than not, very lonely. He lived his life in both great physical pain and emotional isolation, with genuine hope lying only in the world to come as he endured well to the end.
The most remarkable part of Joseph Harris’s story is that through all of his experiences, his sicknesses and his pains, he rarely, if ever, complained. And if he did he would immediately repent and apologize out loud, saying he knew he shouldn’t. His illnesses and disabilities gave him a permanent sense of humility, and never did he feel he was entitled to anything. On so many occasions he wished out loud that he could be normal, that he could take his health for granted as most of us do, but he knew that the Lord did not see it that way. The faith Joe showed throughout the years was and is monumental; his example has affected me to this day and will eternally. Perceptive Priesthood leaders had expressed their feelings to him on multiple occasions that they felt he must surely have been among the upper echelon of even the noble and great ones before the world was. Anyone who knew him and the pain-filled circumstances of his life could not possibly disagree. The kind of faith he possessed proved to me that his whole life had been a test, one of the most searing and frustrating and heart-wrenching Heavenly Father could give anyone.
The way I see it, only a general in the Lord’s army could have reacted to life the way Joe did. And so I am convinced that the Lord gave him so many struggles because he was so righteous, in this life and the one before. And I strongly believe that the more pain a person righteously endures, the greater the blessings the Lord gets to bestow upon that person in the life to come.
Elder Callister—“A resurrected body is not subject to pain or disease or exhaustion. There is no bullet that can harm it, poison that can pollute it, or cancer that can invade it. There is no resurrected being who suffers loss of limb, speech impediment, or failing sight. A resurrected personage has a glorified, immortal body, free from the destructive elements of this temporal world.”
What a thrilling concept! A resurrected body will never be exhausted. Joe Harris, for so long bound by his weak and failing legs, will be able to run, and run forever, without needing to take a single breath. C.S. Lewis said in his Narnia books, “If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else.”
In the words of another great, though fictional, religious leader, “Luminous beings are we—not this crude matter.”
“Luminous” is exactly the kind of body Joseph Harris will have. Glorious. Perfect. Incorruptible. And now, all those fives, sixes, sevens, eights, nines, and even tens—all of them are now and will be one eternal zero. My friend Joe will never feel physical pain again.