The remarkable story of two boys who should have drowned, but didn’t!
By Richard D. Kirkham – Great Grandson
‘The children were just standing there staring, pointing into the ditch. Something didn’t look right”, said Marc Wride as he recounted the story of how he saved the life of a little boy from drowning in Provo, Utah. I was a newly married student at BYU at the time. I was studying at the kitchen table of the little trailer that my wife and I had rented. Suddenly a strong urge came over me, prompting me to get up from my studies, cross the room, and look out the window.”
Neighborhood children often played around the ditch that ran by Marc and Lynne’s new place. But these children weren’t laughing and running around like children usually do. “They were just staring down into the water,” Marc said. “They had sad and worried looks on their faces. That’s not how children usually are. I could sense that something was terribly wrong.”
Without a second of hesitation, Marc flew out the door and ran over to where the children were gathered. He recounts, “As I looked down to the bottom of the ditch where the water was flowing, I was horrified to see the near-lifeless body of a little boy. He was slowly breathing the cold water in and out of his lungs. I could instantly see he was nearly gone. He was making no effort to move or to get out of the ditch and the children didn’t seem to be assisting him in any way. To me it was as if the world had suddenly stopped?”
Marc immediately jumped into the water and pulled the little boy’s near-lifeless body back to the surface, the boy’s life was literally in the balance. In the few moments that followed, a miracle happened. Marc continues, he started coughing.
“Water gushed out of his little lungs. He came back to life right in front of my eyes!”
Who is to say what prompted Marc to leave his studies, to look out the window at that particular moment? What destiny had this little boy been preserved to perform? Perhaps neither we nor Marc Wride may ever know the answer to that question in this lifetime. But we can ponder and gain some perspective from the destiny of another boy who similarly should have drowned in 1620 during the crossing of the mayflower from England to America. We know much about his life, his posterity, and his destiny.
The young man’s name was john howland. He was the 17 year-old indentured servant to John Carver, New World Colonist and future Governor of plymouth colony. During the 66-day voyage of the Mayflower, there were several violent storms. On one such occasion, the Mayflower tossed severely causing her to nearly capsize. Young John Howland fell overboard. By all accounts, that should have ended his life, but the Lord had other plans for him.
William Bradford, another prominent passenger on the Mayflower, reported: “In these storms the winds were so fierce and the seas so high the Pilgrims were forced to remain below deck. And one of them John Howland came above and, with a roll of the ship, he was thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of a rope that was trailing in the water and held on though he was several fathoms under water till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat-hook and other means got him into the ship again and his life was saved; and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after, and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth.”
John Howland went on to live a remarkable life. Perhaps he was not as famous as some of others aboard the Mayflower at the time but he has since become a linchpin in history to those for whom he has served as progenitor.
Elder M. Russell Ballard, ninth great grandson of John Howland, wrote,
“About four years after they arrived in the New World, John married fellow Mayflower passenger elizabeth tilley, a brave and committed daughter of God. They eventually had 10 children and nearly 90 grandchildren. But that is not where the story ends. Today, an estimated 2 million Americans trace their roots to John and Elizabeth. Their descendants include three U.S. presidents — Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush; American poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; and two influential 19th-century American religious leaders — the prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith. Think about it for a moment—the existence of these political leaders, poets, and prophets hinged on this one young man finding and grabbing a rope in the ocean and holding on tight to be saved. It was a miracle!”1
Imagine, had John Howland’s life not been saved that day in 1620 the Prophet Joseph Smith would not have been born! The pioneers, including many of John Howland’s descendants, would not have gathered in Utah nor would they have spread out across the world carrying the message of the gospel. The entire restoration hinged on John Howland’s remarkable grasping of a haphazard rope trailing a ship in the middle of an ocean storm.
So who knows how the rescue and survival of an unknown lad in Provo, Utah will play out in the histories yet to be written? Who knows who will esteem this once nearly-dead boy as an example of pioneering inspiration in their family stories? While we may never know, we do know the Lord knows each of us and is aware of all of us all. He is our loving Heavenly Father. He is ever mindful of each of us. He knows your destiny. He has said, “I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”2
- “The Lord’s Hand” President M. Russell Ballard, DCU Center, Worchester, MA, October 20, 2019
- D&C 84:88