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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Greater Love Hath No Man Than This" Greg Gray

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On July 23rd, 2011 Greg Gray passed away, a drowning victim. He had dived into the river where his family had been fishing to save his sister. His sister survived, but Greg did not. My heart is full as I try and express my feelings about Greg, some words of inspiration he gave me, and some reflections on death, and Greg's love he showed in his death.

I regret that I only knew Greg for 4 1/2 months, while we served in Beaverton, Oregon on our LDS missions. Though I did not know him for a long time, I loved him dearly. I knew him while he was serving with Elder Duncan Tuitakau, and I was serving with Elder JJay Jensen. JJay and I were organizing a zone meeting, trying to uplift and inspire the rest of the Hillsboro zone to new heights. Our zone had been reaching new heights in terms of confidence, work, faith, and attitude. Baptisms and conversion came as a bi-product of these factors, and JJay and I wanted to make sure the trend would continue. I don't remember much about the zone meeting, other than great trainings on unity by some members of our zone, and that there was a powerful spirit in the room when the floor was opened to sharing testimonies. Elder Gray, fresh out of the MTC eventually stood and took the floor. After almost 3 years, I can't remember his exact words, but this was the gist of what he said:

"I didn't decide to serve a mission because it was the easy thing to do. I didn't come to Portland for myself. I came for every single person that I come in contact with. I came to show the love that the Savior would for each of them. I didn't come on a mission to be recognized, or patted on the back. I came here to work."

Those words deeply impacted me. I had been out almost 20 months at the time that I heard Elder Gray's timely testimony. I was reminded that I was also called on a mission to work and love, and to do my best, not to be recognized as the best.

Greg lived up to his words. Through the death of his grandfather, some alarming and scary situations in his first transfer, and hard work with his companion, Greg and Tui saw great success in their own personal growth, and in persons gaining faith in Jesus Christ and then acting upon it. Greg was a spiritual leader, and he rallied those around him to new heights.

Greg's faith and character shined when he passed away, when he dove into the river, I would guess without any hesitation. He showed the Savior's compassion, and lived the Savior's words that "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) He lived the Savior's commandment that "That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

It can be easy to ask the question, "why Greg?" The answer is that we don't know. Death comes to each one of us, in the words of the author Chuck Palahniuk, "if you stretch the timeline out long enough, everyone's survival rate drops to zero." But it is in situation of the young, the good, and the loved that we oft can wonder "WHY?" The answer is that we don't know.

President Spencer W. Kimball once remarked that not everyone dies because they were called to a great work on the other side to do (although, undoubtedly Greg is very busy as a missionary on the other side). Sometimes people just die. Sometimes alarming and sad things happen, through no fault of our own. Some are "appointed unto death," but sometimes it just happens. I think, perhaps, that it is in these times that we feel our faith stretch and grow.

But I do know something. I do know that Greg would want us all to go on in faith, and love, and working hard for the good of others. I think that Greg would have wanted us to become better from this experience.

"Greater Love Hath No Man Than This" will be forever changed for me. I am so grateful that the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. I am so glad that when our spirits separate from our bodies that we return to the God who gave us life. And I am so very grateful that "because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death."

May the Lord help us all to remember Greg, his example, and the love he showed.

This may also help: Tragedy or Destiny by Spencer W. Kimball.

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