Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Eric's testimony

(read by JoLynne)

The other day, my good friend shared this email with me that my sweet husband, Eric wrote to her in response to a conversation that they had at work last year.  I would like to share it with you. His words and testimony lift my heart and bring me comfort.  It represents so well, Eric’s enduring and lasting faith and love of his savior. 

Dear Becky,

You asked me a question the other day at work about mercy and grace.  That is not an easily answered question, certainly not while drilling on a patient, though there is some mercy involved there.  Anyway, I have continued to ponder that question for several days since you asked and here are my thoughts.

First of all, I can't talk about mercy and grace without talking about the atonement.  In my mind they are all connected.

Secondly, I think that mercy and grace are largely misunderstood in our church, perhaps more even than in other churches.  Somehow we have got it in out heads that we can "earn" our way back to heaven by just being good enough.  I think there is nothing farther from the truth.  We are saved by grace!

Third, in these past three + years I have come to understand the atonement differently.  I always knew that through the atonement Christ paid the price of my sins and bore their weight.  Though I don't really understand that.  Now I have come to understand that through the atonement he has carried the weight of not just my sins but all my pains and my sorrows.  It is a much bigger category.  It includes physical and emotional pain as well as the pain associated with my sins.

So, back to these points.  How are the atonement, mercy and grace connected.  I love the part in the scriptures before the creation where, God knowing that sin would enter the world provided a Savior.  I can imagine the look on Christ's face when that decision is made.  I think it was a look of Pure Love.  I believe he knew perfectly well the assignment he was being given.  Through the fall of Adam and Eve all of that sweat of the brow and pain and suffering entered the world, just as promised.  None of that was happening in the garden of Eden.  Sin came too.  Satan became the god of this world with many willing to follow him.  In my opinion Christ's atonement was the answer for all these changes.  When we come to the Savior in our moment of desperation, whatever that may be, there he is to take upon himself the burdens we cannot bear.  Sometimes it is the burden of sin, sometimes it is physical or emotional pain.  I have found him there for me in every category.  He doesn't always take it all away but enough so that what is remaining is bearable for me in my weakness.  To me that is the essence of mercy and grace.  Christ is willing, through mercy and grace to bear what we are unable to.  Often times we don't even know the burden he has lifted in it's fullest sense.  We couldn't bear it, how can we understand it.  I hear people sometimes talk about meeting the Savior and  saying will you march up to him with your head held high or hung in shame.  I don't believe that anyone who understands mercy and grace will walk up to him with head held high.  Those who have the beginning of understanding at all, universally, will fall at his feet and bathe those feet with tears of gratitude.  They will know that they didn't earn their way to heaven nor did they bear the full weight of physical and emotional pain themselves.  Christ did it for them, through the atonement because of his profound mercy and grace towards us all.  I remember times when in these last three years when I experienced physical pain beyond anything I had ever had in mortality.  Times I hurt so much I couldn't even cry out for help except in silent, pleading prayer.  One night in specific it was so bad there are no words to describe it.  I screamed out in prayer, "Oh God, please spare me"  I couldn't even speak.  I was curled in a ball on the bed.  At that moment I heard behind me a voice, it said "It is an honor to be assigned to you"  I don't know even whose voice it was.  In that moment my pain was largely taken from me.  Some remained but lessened enough that I could call out to JoLynne who came running.  I don't know whose voice it was, probably my earthy father but I don't know.  I do believe that it wasn't him who took my pain but the Savior.  It was physical, not spiritual but at that point I was so grateful to have it lifted.

In the scriptures it says "We are saved by grace, after all we can do".  For some reason we focus on the second part, not the first and assume that "all we can do" is the lion's share.  I believe that the "lion's share is lifted by the Savior not us.  We take a little part and assume we did it mostly ourselves.  It reminds me of a two year old who is always saying "I can do it all myself"  They have found a little ability and now assume that they can control the whole world.  How little do they realize where their food comes from, where they have their warm bed or even air to breath and body that works.  They have control of 0.1% of their world and they can do it "all themselves"  As adults maybe we aren't so different.  Now we control maybe 1% of our world and we proudly announce we can do it ourselves.  Mercy and Grace are discounted and we think we are so grand.  We are as ignorant and perhaps as innocent as our little two years olds.  We just don't get it, yet.

When we truly "Come unto Christ" we will begin to understand his role in our whole life.  The atonement covers the sins of those who truly repent.  That is still beyond my understanding.  i don't understand the full price of sin so I can't understand the full payment.  I believe that the atonement also covers emotional and physical pain we experience in this life.  Like with repentance, we must "come unto him" and allow him to bear away our pain.  Will he do it for those who don't "come unto him", probably because that is how kind he is.  And someday they will see what he did and come to appreciate it but maybe not in this life.

Isaiah 53:4-5 says,

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
So, all that being said, through mercy and grace, Christ bears away a weight and pain that we will never understand in this life.  I feel like I understand just the beginning of the beginning and it makes me weep tears of gratitude to think about it.  Christ is the embodiment of kindness, charity, love, mercy and grace.  He is my Savior.  He has literally lifted me out of a hole that I could never escape on my own.  I love him with all my heart and gladly accept him as my Lord, my God and my Savior.

There is my answer that I couldn't share over a patient while drilling.

This is the testimony of my sweetheart Eric, who I am eternally grateful for. His love of his Savior is real.  His life reflected this love in Eric’s love for his fellow sojourner on this earth. I am privileged and honored to be loved by him and to be his wife. I love him.   I leave you with this, HIS testimony in the name of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen


  1. thank you for sharing this JoLynne. Love you

  2. Thanks for your courage in sharing that, JoLynne! As you read the letter, the sound of one of my favorite organ preludes, "Amazing Grace," was going through my mind, also the bagpipes playing the same tune at the end of President Hinckley's funeral. I have to hold back the tears whenever I hear that tune. Your talk gave new meaning to what Christ did for us in Gethsemane … and what He did for me in the past … and will do in the future. Thanks again, JoLynne, and Becky, … and Eric … and Jesus …

  3. Thank you JoLynn. I continue to pray for you and your family.

  4. This morning my friend John Sargeant posted a musical Tribute in honor of his Dentist Dr Eric Vogel.

    With the links to your blog as well, I have continued to read each of your articles, including Eric's testimony.
    My Thanks to you for your willingness as a family to post them. As I do not know you, I am appreciative for my testimony being strengthened and fed today. Indeed Eric is a Disciple of Christ, an example of how we should truly seek to live, an example of how we should strive to treat your wife, children and anyone you meet, that they feel important and of great worth! He truly Emmulated Christ! May God bless your Family as you continue on thru this challenging time in life right now adjusting without him. Utilize the examples you have learned from him, glean on your memories to understand that there were many more lesson yet for you to comprehend that he was teaching you! Lean in upon one another for needed strength.

    Much Love to you,
    Sheryl Groneman

  5. Hello, you don't know me but Dr. Vogel was my professor at BYU. I loved learning from him in the classroom anf in hia office. He opened my eyes to all the possible servicr opportunities in our profession. I'm a pediatric dentist in Arizona now, and still think of the lessons he taught me. I was very saddened by the news of his passing. It was a privlege to have known him just a little. I hope for comfort and happiness for you and your children.

    Rob Scoresby

  6. He, I am sure, was a wonderful man and has earned his reward in Heaven.

  7. I loved that you were able to share this at the funeral. It was absolutely perfect -- such an eloquent expression of one of our most important gospel principles. I am so grateful that I could be there and hear all of your beautiful thoughts and memories and testimonies. I left the service wanting to live my life to the fullest and be better in all I do, both in word and deed. I continue to pray for your and your family that you will feel peace and comfort.

  8. I have thought about your talk many times since the funeral and choke up each time I either think upon or share it with others. It was hard to compose my emotions as you spoke of a "ministering angel" speaking to your dear husband and his understanding of the atonement. As we speak, I'm sitting in a Book of Mormon class wherein Brother Ron Bartholomew is speaking to us about ministering angels. I appreciate you sharing his testimony that has born witness to me of this reality in our lives that we are often oblivious to. I think of Dr. Vogel and your family often and wish you all the comfort you are deserving of.