But He’s Deaf!
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“But He’s Deaf!” Ensign, Feb. 1980, 63

“But He’s Deaf!”

Years ago, as second counselor in a bishopric, I struggled with determining which young man of the deacons’ quorum should be the new president. The bishop asked me to prayerfully consider each boy in the quorum and then make my recommendation. I narrowed the possibilities to three worthy thirteen-year-olds.

But as I tried to select one of these boys, I was unable to get that calm confirmation I needed. So I reevaluated each boy in the quorum. This time my attention centered on Kevin, one I had overlooked the first time. I had known Kevin for several years; he was worthy. I also knew that each quorum member was his friend and that his family would sustain him.

“But he’s deaf,” I repeated to myself, and I hesitated with my final decision. But I knew it would be unjust to keep him from church participation, thus isolating his deafness as an insurmountable handicap. His speech would not improve unless he had opportunities to express himself, and I knew his leadership abilities would remain dormant without opportunities to cultivate them.

When I prayed about the decision to recommend Kevin as the new president of the deacons’ quorum, I received strong assurance and discussed it with the bishop. He too felt good about the choice and asked me to discuss it with Kevin’s parents. Kevin’s parents, pleased, expressed confidence in their son. Kevin accepted the call and expressed his desire to do a good job. I know he felt his Father in Heaven’s love. So began a close and mutually rewarding relationship between Kevin, his family, his bishop, teachers, advisers, and the ward family.

During the next seven years, wonderful things happened to Kevin. He learned effective leadership—he delegated authority, gave talks, helped with service projects, and blessed the sacrament. He became a tremendous influence for good among the youth. The year he joined the ward junior softball team, the team won the stake championship, the regional championship, and the area championship, and the area sportsmanship award. In all those games, Kevin never heard the ward cheering for him, but he truly sensed their love and support. He belonged, and he contributed.

A couple of years after Kevin’s deacons’ quorum calling, I was called as bishop. I talked to Kevin on several occasions about a mission. He wanted to complete his university schooling first and didn’t really feel that a mission, under the circumstances, was for him. Then at Kevin’s last Aaronic Priesthood activity, as we gathered around a camp fire for a testimony meeting, Kevin rose to his feet and testified that he knew God lived and that he was going to do as the bishop had asked and pray about a mission. He received his answer and I processed his papers. A few weeks later Kevin stopped by my home one evening and showed me the mission call he had just received from President Spencer W. Kimball.

He was thrilled. And I was delighted. He had received assurance that the call came from his Father in Heaven. At the airport, as he departed to the mission field, tears streamed down his smiling face and his voice quivered. “Thanks for everything,” he said simply.

At that moment I knew that most of us are only as handicapped as we allow ourselves to be. I was grateful to Kevin’s parents, friends, leaders, and fellow members. They had never treated him as anything more or less than their equal—a choice child of God.

Kevin has helped me realize that we do not speak only with our natural tongue, see only with our natural eyes, nor hear only with our natural ears. Rather, we speak, see, and hear with our spiritual senses. No physical handicap need keep us from our Heavenly Father or the work and joy he has in store for us.

  • Ned B. Combs, a bank executive and the father of five children, serves as a high councilor in the Salt Lake Olympus Stake.

Illustrated by Karl Hepworth