“FINDING PURPOSE THROUGH ADVERSITY & FAITH”
Over the years I have struggled to know what my purpose is. I was raised in a regular Mormon home. My father was a returned missionary, a Korean War Veteran, college graduate and a Branch President. My mother was a loving, caring wife and home maker. My older siblings were returned missionaries, college graduates and all active members of our LDS faith.
Then there was me. I was 9 years younger than my closest sister and was pretty much an only child at home from the age of six on. About the time I turned fourteen my father was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. He spent most of his time in bed. He was suicidal, often heard voices and cut himself.
Since I was the only child at home and my mother was working full time to try and take care of us, I spent a lot of time alone. On the outside no one knew what was going on at home and on the inside I was struggling with my own emotional issues. So to deal with things, I started using drugs.
At the age of 21 and on a dark winter night I had gotten busted for drugs and pretty much hit the bottom. I too like my father became severely depressed and then one day shortly after, I almost ended up taking my own life. So with the help of my bishop, my older brothers and my mother I was able to get checked into a rehab center and get the help that I needed.
After getting out of rehab I went back to church and I began to turn my life around. For the first time in my life I started to search and ponder about what my purpose. I knew I needed to stay sober and make better choices. I knew the only way to do that was through my faith in God.
On June 1, 1994 around 11:30 P.M. just over a year after I had turned my life around, I was on a mountain road in eastern Utah when my motor cycle collided with two stray horses. I was flown via life flight to the University of Utah Medical Center where I was classified a quadriplegic. I had broken my C5, C6 and C7 vertebrates, cracked my head, suffered a fracture to my right cheek bone, was paralyzed from the chest down and had limited use of my arms and hands. The doctors told my family that I would spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair and that they would have to take care of me for the rest of my life. They told my family, “Don’t ever expect much out of Clay.”
Around the second week of my time in the hospital, my older brother Drew came up to give me a priesthood blessing. I had been suffering from an extreme high fever. They had me packed in ice and I was struggling with the new feeder tube that had been placed in my nose that went down into my stomach that fed me.
While he was there he proceeded to share a story with me about Joseph Smith which I had not heard before. He explained to me that this story was taken from section 121 of Doctrine & Covenants (verses 1-3 & 7-8). He shared with me about how Joseph had been in prison with a number of the saints for quite some time and that on this one particular day, Joseph had been praying and he was begging and pleading with the Lord for the suffering of the saints. In verses one and three we read,
1. O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
3. Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them. Then over in verses seven and eight, this is where the Lord is responding to Joseph’s pleas, we read,
7. My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
I learned a huge lesson that day. I learned that I wouldn’t be in this wheelchair forever but I also learned that if I endured my challenge well, that I would be exalted on high. Meaning I would be blessed. I have been blessed so many times throughout my life especially since my accident and living in a wheelchair.
At the end of 2008 I had already been blessed with a very successful rockcrawling and off-road racing career. By then I had written my first book and was still the only quadriplegic in the world to compete professionally in the extreme sport of rockcrawling.
At the time I was at the peak of my off-road and rockcrawling career. I had just finished 3rd at the Pro Rock National Finals in Cougar Buttes, California. I had just filmed an episode of Nitro Circus with Travis Pastrana for MTV and I had a new race truck being built. I was preparing to race my first ever King of The Hammers off-road race in Johnson Valley, California and had my own TV Show called Jack’d Up in the works. But at the time I wasn’t happy with my career any more. I was struggling internally again, with what my purpose really was. I had been blessed with so many amazing things but still felt like I didn’t know what God wanted of me.
I know our Heavenly Father knows things about us even when we don’t. During that time I had been feeling like God wanted me to stop racing and focus more upon being a speaker and sharing my story to help others. But that wasn’t really what I wanted at the time. I wanted to continue to race.
So during my preparation for this up and coming King of The Hammers race, it had been a couple of really bad months getting ready. Normally when you have a new truck built, you spend weeks, even months, tuning and dialing it in for your first race. It took us until the night before the race before my truck was finished. I had not even driven this truck until the night before. Not a way you want to go into the biggest race of your career.
It was Friday morning race day and I was up against 92 of the toughest able body drivers in the world. This is a race that would take me upwards of twelve hours to complete if I could complete it. I had to travel 86 merciless miles of the gnarliest terrain. At 8:04 A.M. the green flag dropped and I was off the starting line. The truck was loose and everything felt awkward. I was struggling to keep it going in a straight line. I was all over the place.
After being behind the wheel for about 4 hours on pure adrenaline, we were in 8th place out of those 92 teams and we had traveled 60 of the 86 miles. As we were coming upon a steep sandy embankment I made a tired, mental error and flipped my truck. Tyler, my co-driver then unstrapped himself and climbed out through the windshield of the truck to assess the damage. I was completely beside myself. I was so mad. After Tyler tried for about 15 minutes to flip us back over, I was starting to black out. So I started to pray. I prayed that we could get my truck fixed and at least finish the race. We had come too far and my team had worked too hard to get us this far to give up now.
That day upside down in my truck I made a deal with my Heavenly Father. I said, “If you help me finish this race, I will quit racing and I will focus more on my speaking career.” I said, “I feel and have felt for a long time, that, that is what you want me to be doing.” I’ll be honest, that was the first time I’d ever made a deal with God before. It was very hard because I knew I’d have to keep my end of the deal which really wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to keep racing. But I wanted to finish this race even more.
To make a long story short, after two hours of Tyler working on my truck, he had us back on the trail and racing to the finish. Tyler and my team have never let me down, but more importantly my Heavenly Father has never let me down.
At exactly 9 hours and 56 minutes after starting the race I crossed the finish line. It was the most physically grueling and the most emotional race and finish of my career. I finished what 57 other able bodied drivers couldn’t do. In a race like King of The Hammers if you can’t win the race, you at least want to be able to finish it because that is a victory in itself.
So many times throughout that race I wanted to quit. 8 hours into it, I physically had no more to give. It was all I could do to not pull over and quit. I pushed myself beyond anything that I had ever done before. There is no way I should have finished that race. I finished purely on faith alone and maybe a little out of being stubborn too.
After coming home from King of The Hammers I honored that deal I made with God that afternoon on that desert floor. I put my career on hold as a professional rockcrawler and off-road racer, sold that new race truck and started focusing on my speaking career. It was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do.
For the last 6 years I have been traveling and sharing my story about faith, overcoming adversity and finding our purpose in life. It has been the most rewarding years of my life. I can honestly say that I have found my purpose. I know what the Lord’s plan is for me. I know that I am to help others through my story and testimony of faith. I have been blessed far beyond my expectations through serving and sharing my message.
I know that if we endure our challenges well that we will be blessed. I know that God allowed me to have my accident and then allowed me to have a successful rockcrawling and off-road career so that I could be a voice and an inspiration to help others through my story. I know that God has a plan and a purpose for all of us and I also know that if we seek that purpose out and if we honor it, that we can receive some of the greatest blessings in life. I want to encourage you all to seek and find your purpose.