The pain began mysteriously and almost imperceptibly at first, remembered Elder Larry Y. Wilson. Within a few months he was lying in bed without so much as the strength to read a book.
Though his wife, Lynda, didn’t believe his condition would prove fatal, Elder Wilson wasn’t so sure, and began preparing for the worst.
“Life came to a screeching halt,” he said. “I saw many doctors but none could give a diagnosis. They knew it was an auto-immune disease, but had no idea if it was curable, chronic or fatal.”
Sister Wilson suggested they start a “Book of Blessings” to record the daily ways the Lord led and blessed them through this time. “It would have been easy to become negative and just count the losses. Looking for the daily blessings kept our focus on the Lord,” they said.
Unable to function, Elder Wilson continued to lose weight and strength and lay in bed day after day in constant pain. He was released from his Church assignment as Area Seventy and put on non-functioning status in his employment as senior vice president of finance for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in the California Bay Area.
He sometimes pondered the irony of his predicament. Here he was, a major leader in one of the most sophisticated health care systems in the world, with access to the best doctors and technology known to man, yet there was nothing his industry could do for him. He was totally subject to the will of the Lord.
After numerous priesthood blessings, and after 18 months of physical debilitation, his condition began to improve as mysteriously as it had begun. “Ever so slowly, the pain went away and strength returned,” he said.
“I remember the day he offered me a pointer on how to load the dishwasher,” Sister Wilson said. “That’s when I called our stake president to ask if there wasn’t something Larry could do. He’d been having the same thought.”
“I’ve been through the furnace of affliction these past few years,” Elder Wilson said. “Tough lessons come out of an experience like this. I’m not sure why this was part of the plan, but it brought added understanding and compassion to everything. To be alive and functioning is a great blessing.”
Newly called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy in the April General Conference, Elder Wilson has special feeling for Nephi’s testimony that “God is a God of miracles who works according to the faith of men.”
A recurring theme in Elder Wilson’s life is the power of the gospel to transform lives from the rough and unsculpted to the honed and polished. As a young boy he witnessed the change in his parents.
“My mother was a descendant of Brigham Young,” he said. “But her ancestral lines had slipped from the path of the Church, leaving her unbaptized. She responded to the call of the Spirit however, and was baptized in her mid-20s in Twin Falls, Idaho.
“She was one of those spoken of by Isaiah who repaired the breach and restored the path in the subsequent generations,” Elder Wilson said.
Elder Wilson’s father was a man of integrity who had been ordained a deacon but had little activity in the Church.
“He served in World War II, returned home to meet my mother and marry. She started going to Church because she was asked to play the organ. He followed her, gradually gaining his testimony as he listened to the messages.
“I remember as a 5-year-old being in the kitchen filled with smoke from my father’s smoking. He became active and the smoke vanished. It was a symbol of the way our lives change completely when we accepted the gospel. My parents went on to years of faithful service in the Church, including calls as a patriarch for my dad, as a Relief Society president for my mom, and as temple workers for both of them.”
As a teenager, Elder Wilson was again in the throes of change when he left his home in rural Pocatello, Idaho, to enter Harvard University in the Boston area.
“This was challenging,” he recalled. “I’d been a good student, a good athlete and involved in student government. But there’s little to prepare you for such a rigorous, competitive university experience.” LDS student ward activities provided a welcome strength.
Unsure about serving a mission, he decided that two years was a small price to pay to find out for certain if the Church was true. In the Missionary Training Center he prayed with special intensity and was given a witness of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon was the word of God.
He was called to the Brazil Central Mission where he watched the gospel elevate lives from poverty to excellence. He returned to school with a desire to improve his ability to communicate, choosing to major in English.
Nearing graduation, he contacted a friend from high school, Neil L. Andersen, now of the Quorum of the Twelve, who was studying at BYU. He solicited Elder Andersen’s help in lining up three night’s worth of blind dates during the upcoming Christmas break.
Elder Wilson met Lynda Mackey on the second blind date. They went to Temple Square where, constrained by the approaching fast Sunday and a wild winter storm, they spent the evening walking the mezzanine corridor of the Hotel Utah and discussing mutual interests as English majors.
There was an instant meshing of mind and spirit, and Elder Wilson cancelled the remaining date that weekend.
“This was a revelatory moment,” said Sister Wilson, who had joined the Church at age 11. “When I met Larry it’s like the Lord sent a telegram. I told my grandmother that I would marry him even before he asked me,” she said.
They were married the following summer in the Logan temple, then moved to the San Francisco Bay area where he graduated from Stanford business school and began his career in the Bay Area where he worked for 35 years.
Amid all the changes in his life, one constant has been his testimony. Born with a believing heart, his testimony has continued to grow, sometimes mysteriously and almost imperceptibly, but always steadily.
“I feel that what has happened is unquestionably a miracle. I don’t know why the Lord chooses to heal some and not others. I just know that no doctor had a treatment, yet I was healed by the Physician who knows all.”
Obedience and a willingness to serve have been the touchstones of Elder Wilson’s life. “If you keep obeying and keep serving, the Lord can lead you. The Lord has been a constant in my life. He was with me before I got sick, he was definitely there when I was sick, and I feel He’s with me now. If you feel His guiding hand in your life, you will feel blessed no matter what the season or trial of your life.”
Family: Born Dec. 31, 1949, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to George W. and Ida Young Wilson. Married Lynda Mackey on July 10, 1974, in the Logan Utah Temple. Four children: Mary (Stephen) Hales, Kathryn (Christopher) Hare, John Brigham (Caitlin), Benjamin; 7 grandchildren.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in English and American Literature from Harvard University, 1974; master’s in business administration from Stanford Graduate School of Business, 1976.
Career: Senior vice president of financial and strategic planning for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in Oakland, Calif.; executive vice president/chief operating officer of Catholic Healthcare West in San Francisco.
Community service: Board of the California Healthcare Association, serving as chairman in 2000.
Church service: Missionary in the Brazil Central Mission, 1969-71; bishop, stake president, Area Seventy, Sunday school teacher.