Courage at Twilight: I Don’t Matter Anymore

The men of my Church historically were divided into two groups or quorums, one for the older men and men with leadership responsibilities (called “high priests”), and one for the younger, less-experienced men (“elders”), where each could relate best to his peers.  Dad has been a high priest from his mid-20s, having been assigned to lead larger and larger congregations.  The Church recently merged the two quorums into one, for the purposes of (1) eliminating an age hierarchy within a single priesthood, (2) giving the younger men the benefit of the older men’s wisdom and experience, and (3) becoming a more cohesive group of “priesthood brethren” focused on church instruction and service.  For Dad, at 86, the combining of quorums has been counterproductive, and he feels anonymous and isolated and invisible, due to age and condition.  His legs do not work, so he staggers and uses a cane, and rising from his chair takes all his strength.  He raises his voice a bit because his ears do not work, and he uses hearing aids.  But in the minds of some, the cane and the voice and the hearing aids and the trembling effort indicate both physical and mental decrepitude.  In quorum last week, Dad raised his hand to comment, the lesson topic being faith in Christ.  The young instructor did not acknowledge him, calling on others with raised hands.  He raised his hand several more times, but was ignored.  The elderly gentleman sitting next to Dad got the instructor’s attention and demanded, “Nelson has something to say.”  But the instructor said the class time was up and he had not been able to call on everyone for comment.  “I used to be relevant,” Dad lamented to me when I returned from my weekend trip, “but I don’t matter anymore.  The teacher thinks I don’t know anything, that I’m an old useless fuddy-dud.”  In my 30-year career of professional acquaintances, Dad remains the most intelligent, learned, and discerning man I have ever known.  He graduated top of his class from the University of Utah law school, received a master of laws (LLM) in international corporate law from New York University, and worked a 33-year career as legal counsel for a major international corporation.  He presided as lay minister over congregations from 200 to 2,000 souls for 35 years.  He reads a book a week during his late-night solitude.  He holds his own discussing the world’s great philosophies, histories, religions, and personalities.  But at age 86, with his stumble and his cane, his voice and his hearing aids, he feels invisible to his younger peers.  Actually, “invisible” is the wrong word, for they are aware of him.  But they misjudge, seeing him as irrelevant and obsolete.  He thinks he does not matter anymore.  And it makes me furious.

(Pictured above: Dad circa 1972.)

5 thoughts on “Courage at Twilight: I Don’t Matter Anymore

  1. Merland Halisky

    Bishop Baker, later my Stake President Baker does not need to say a word today. His teachings and love and example to me was so strong – I spent over 20 years working with Young Men in English, Spanish, & Portuguese wards. Surely some of those boys, now men, are doing their best to influence the next generation. As the old saying goes – I can’t hear his words because his actions are speaking so loudly!

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  2. Gini Wiltbank

    This was a serious loss to the whole quorum. We loved the Bakers when we lived in East Brunswick from 1984-87. I met with Lucille and other friends once a week for wonderful discussions on all sorts of topics. I remember Nelson, even that long ago, as a wise and good man. It would be a significant blessing to hear his insights in any class I could! Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case, and it seems to me it’s a serious failure to love our fellow beings, as well as to let them love us by sharing their wisdom.

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  3. Gary Hansen

    Some serious material hear for all of the Teacher Development teachers and the Bishoprics and Stake Presidencies.

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  4. Brian M

    Roger,
    thanks for posting. I remember your Dad in the picture. I was 11 years old and he was my Bishop and my hero. It is sad that some of the younger generation are so self absorbed and delusional that they cant see true wisdom and greatness. They associate these eternal characteristics to social media influence and number of followers while we know that these are developed over a lifetime of service and are badges others give to us as we influence their lives for good.
    Sadly, we will likely be treated the same way over the next 30 years!
    best
    Brian

    Liked by 1 person

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