April 23, 2013

Elder John B. Dickson Uses His Disability to Help Others

Last week I wrote about an inspiring man who learned how to survive with only one arm.  His story brings to mind another great man with a similar disability.  Recently we were visiting family over the weekend of Semi-Annual General Conference.  Leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speak over two days of meetings, which are broadcast to chapels and over the internet.  We were grateful to be with family viewing these great talks.  

When Elder John B. Dickson rose to speak, my brother-in-law Brad mentioned that he was missing an arm.  That was surprising, as he looked completely whole in his nice suit.  Brad was aware of this because Elder Dickson had family in Brad’s area in Washington, and often visited.  I want to share the circumstances of his loss and its significance. 

John had a pretty ordinary life until his mission call to Mexico in 1962.  Born and raised in the church, he always planned to serve a mission.  In his preparation to serve, he learned he had cancer in the bone of his right arm.  His case was serious enough that his doctor didn’t think he’d survive the month.  His father gave him a Priesthood blessing, where John related “he blessed me with my life and that the mission call would be fulfilled, and that I would have a family and be able to serve the Lord all my days.” John proceeded with treatment, which involved amputating the arm.  Ten months after diagnosis, John left for Mexico to serve the Lord.

Far from complaining about his lost limb, he considers it a blessing.  “Losing my arm has proved to be one of the greater blessings in my life. I am more patient with other people because I have had to be patient with myself.  It has helped me to understand the necessity of our having challenges in life to help develop our character and stamina, helping us to become what the Lord ultimately wants us to become.”  Brad agrees, “He was a great inspiration to everyone who knew him because he never let his disability define him.”  It seems to me that he keeps his disability to himself, unless he can use his experience to help others.  

A few years ago in 2008, his experience gave him an opportunity to help another.  After a terrible accident, a member of John’s Stake named David faced a serious decision.  His left leg was severely damaged, so much so that cells were dying and infection was threatening David’s life.  When John visited David, this faithful member asked John, his former Stake President, for advice.  John replied by pulling up his right sleeve and revealing his stump.  He then advised him to do whatever it took to save his life.  David’s daughter Nichole said, “What a perfect man to be counseling dad on this life-altering decision.”  David chose to have his leg amputated to remove the problem.  It saved his life; David recovered well and is moving on with his life.  

John doesn’t advertise his disability, instead he takes the lessons learned from it to help others.  Using our trials to help others is one way to show our appreciation for the Savior, for all of the sacrifices He made for us.  Without Him and the hope His teachings and atonement give us, life would be really sad and empty.  Elder John B. Dickson sets a great example of faith and service as he moves ahead disregarding his disability.  He serves the Lord completely and inspires others to join him.   

Bullock, Nicole.  “Life or Limb?”  Cute Culture Chick.  21 Jan 2008.  Accessed 17 Apr 2013 at http://www.cuteculturechick.com/2008/01/life-or-limb/
Dickson, John B.  “Nobody Said That It Would Be Easy.”  October 1992 General Conference Priesthood Session.  lds.org
Photo courtesy of LDS Church

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