“Hey, let’s stop and see if we can spot our spouses floating down the river in their rafts”,  Jill said to her occupant who happened to be one of the other spouses out of the four new medical residents attending ISU that year.  Though they never made it, they were on their way to do some shopping in Jackson Hole that day while their spouses floated down the Snake river.  The group of M.D.’s were without a chartered company because they were smart enough to do it on their own.   Suddenly, right in the place where they stopped, was spotted a bedraggled third-year resident who had just climbed up the steep hill away from the river wearing only one shoe and looking as pale as a Ghost.  It quickly became apparent she was in shock, and, so were they to see her because she was suppose to be with all the other doctors and new residents on the river.  Where were the rest of them? Instantly, Jill began to panic as the reality of the situation had just hit her, and so, she asked how many survivors there were and her answer was “1”; she was referring to herself.

The year was 1997, the place was Idaho, the river was the Snake.  The combination of above average snowfall in the winter of 1996-1997 and then above normal snowmelt and late May rainstorms brought the most water down from the Continental Divide and into Palisades Reservoir where it was then released into the Snake River to accommodate this high tributary discharge, causing massive flooding not experienced since 1918.


Jill acted quickly by fetching a blanket for the shivering student-doctor as they all got into the car to drive along the road in search of others who were missing.  Not even a mile up the road, they could hear the sound of a sirens and soon spotted an ambulance pulling into a parking lot.  Shaking with fear for the unknown and with a horrible pit inside her stomach, Jill pulled in next to the ambulance.  She was frantically searching for her husband and no one was talking which made it difficult to get any answers.  She began praying not only for her spouse, but for all the rest of the medical team.  Soon, it became apparent all of the M.D.’s were accounted for except one.  Again, because Jill couldn’t see her husband, she was sure he was the missing one.  Because these were days before cellular phones, communication was slow.  Finally, it became apparent that the missing person was the girl with Jill.  Phew, Jill’s panic and fears were washed away with a sigh of relief.

Jill was eager to learn how this river run nearly turned deadly.  She learned from her husband about a spot along the Snake called “three ordeal” which during normal water levels is nothing but three huge rocks right in the middle of the river, but, during high water flow, it is a relentless churning machine.  Jill and her husband were new residents to the program but excited, nevertheless, to go on the annual river rafting trip held at the beginning of each new Intern year in June.  Jill decided not to go because of her baby and other small children she needed to watch over, and, boy was she glad she did not that day.

The medical group was going to “follow” a chartered company and pay close attention to their course so as to avoid “three ordeal”; however, it crept up on them as they were floating gently down during that one stretch of river that looks misleading by it’s calm. They didn’t realize the charted group ahead of them were paddling furiously over to the side of the river.  Suddenly, the medical group was on top of “three ordeal” and Jill’s husband was the first to be whipped around and thrust out of the raft.  He was able to grab onto the side of the raft by one hand and hang on, but just then, the entire raft was on top of him and he was being sucked down into the churning washing machine.  He fought like the devil to get out.  Just about out of breath, his head popped up and he was able to suck in a skosh of air only to be jerked downward again.  This time he fought even harder but he was out of strength and air.  He thought, “so this is what it feels like to drown”.  Just as he surrendered  and gave up his will, he felt the sand underneath his feet and he pushed up as hard as he could, successfully popping up out of the wave and floating downstream, loosing his shoes and watch but not his life. 

Life is like “three ordeal”:  We must be mindful of it’s many dangers and choose beforehand whether we will rely on our own strength and wisdom, or, follow a chartered course that involves a guide and leader whose wisdom and experience will keep us safe from the dangers that loom ahead.   By surrendering to the river that day, Jill’s husband was saved.  When we surrender to God and His Prophets, we, too, can be saved.  The great King and Prophet King Benjamin teaches us the power of surrendering and the Promises to those who follow the prophets found in Mosiah 4: 12-16… The degree of self-mastery prophets achieve is not a reflection of any extraordinary ability of their own to comprehend anything, but of the power of the Master to whom they surrender in all things (2 Nephi 4:19-20).   We will not achieve true self-mastery until we are willing to turn our “selves” over to the Master. Colleen Harrison Meridian Magazine April 20, 2012  


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