In April 1966, at the Church’s annual general conference, Elder Spencer W. Kimball gave a memorable address. He quoted an account written by Samuel T. Whitman entitled “Forgotten Wedges.” Today I, too, have chosen to quote from Samuel T. Whitman, followedby examples from my own life.
Whitman wrote: “The ice storm [that winter] wasn’t generally destructive. True, a few wires came down, and there was a sudden jump in accidents along the highway. … Normally, the big walnut tree could easily have borne the weight that formed on its spreading limbs. It was the iron wedge in its heart that caused the damage.
“The story of the iron wedge beganyears ago when the white-haired farmer [who now inhabited the property on which it stood] was a lad on his father’s homestead. The sawmill had then only recently been moved from the valley, and the settlers were still finding tools and odd pieces of equipment scattered about. …
“On this particular day, it was a faller’s wedge—wide, flat, and heavy, a foot or more long, and splayed from mightypoundings [—which the lad found] … in the south pasture. [A faller’s wedge, used to help fell a tree, is inserted in a cut made by a saw and then struck with a sledge hammer to widen the cut.] … Because he was already late for dinner, the lad laid the wedge … between the limbs of the young walnut tree his father had planted near the front gate. He would take the wedge to the shed right after dinner,or sometime when he was going that way.
“He truly meant to, but he never did. [The wedge] was there between the limbs, a little tight, when he attained his manhood. It was there, now firmly gripped, when he married and took over his father’s farm. It was half grown over on the day the threshing crew ate dinner under the tree. … Grown in and healed over, the wedge was still in the tree the winterthe ice storm came.
“In the chill silence of that wintry night … one of the three major limbs split away from the trunk and crashed to the ground. This so unbalanced the remainder of the top that it, too, split apart and went down. When the storm was over, not a twig of the once-proud tree remained.
“Early the next morning, the farmer went out to mourn his loss. …
“Then, his eyes caughtsight of something in the splintered ruin. ‘The wedge,’ he muttered reproachfully. ‘The wedge I found in the south pasture.’ A glance told him why the tree had fallen. Growing, edge-up in the trunk, the wedge had prevented the limb fibers from knitting together as they should.” 1
My dear brothers and sisters, there are hidden wedges in the lives of many whom we know—yes, perhaps in our ownfamilies.
Let me share with you the account of a lifelong friend, now departed from mortality. His name was Leonard. He was not a member of the Church, although his wife and children were. His wife served as a Primary president; his son served an honorable mission. His daughter and his son married companions in solemn ceremonies and had families of their own.
Everyone who knew Leonard likedhim, as did I. He supported his wife and children in their Church assignments. He attended many Church-sponsored events with them. He lived a good and a clean life, even a life of service and kindness. His family, and indeed many others, wondered why Leonard had gone through mortality without the blessings the gospel brings to its members.
In Leonard’s advanced years, his health declined.Eventually he was hospitalized, and life was ebbing away. In what turned out to be my last conversation with Leonard, he said, “Tom, I’ve known you since you were a boy. I feel persuaded to explain to you why I have never joined the Church.” He then related an experience of his parents which took place many, many years before. Reluctantly, the family had reached a point where they felt it was necessary...