I’m listening to a talk by Jeff Benedict, author of The System. Worth your time. Here is part of one of the stories he told:

On December 13, BYU introduced thirty-eight-year-old Mendenhall as its new coach, making him the second-youngest head coach in Division I football.

In his first full day on the job, Mendenhall arrived at his office before 5:00 a.m. No one was around. Mendenhall had tossed and turned all night, unable to stop thinking about the task ahead. He looked around his new office. The walls were bare. The top of his desk had lists of recruits. There was a couch with Nike gear on it. A pile of messages was next to the phone. He started making a to-do list. An hour later he was still writing. There was so much to do he didn’t know where to start. Hire assistant coaches? Meet with the team? Call recruits?

All of a sudden he felt as if he were in over his head. He knew football. He knew BYU’s strict honor code. But he didn’t know how to meld the two in a way that would return the program to the national prominence it had achieved under LaVell Edwards. Worse, he had no one to turn to for advice.

Desperate, he knelt beside the couch and prayed. “I needed help, and I was seeking guidance,” Mendenhall said.

His quiet prayer eventually transitioned to prolonged, silent meditation. He lost track of time until he was stirred by a knock on the door. He checked his watch; it was nearly 8:00 a.m. He opened the door and discovered LaVell Edwards.

“I had a feeling you’d be here early,” Edwards said in his signature raspy voice. “I just came by to wish you luck.”

Mendenhall was speechless. He hardly knew Edwards. But he revered him.

“Please come in,” Mendenhall said.

Nursing a bum knee, the seventy-four-year-old legend limped toward a chair and took a seat opposite Mendenhall. Then he just stared at the young coach. Mendenhall met his gaze.

“You’ve got a tough job,” Edwards finally said.

Benedict went on to describe how LaVell was able to give Mendenhall comfort and encouragement.

When Benedict asked him what prompted the visit, LaVell said he woke up that morning with the feeling he should drop by.

Everyone has the possibility of prompting from the Spirit. But we Mormons claim we have something more. We claim that we have the Spirit’s constant companionship. I don’t know what that means. But one thing it may means is that the Spirit is present for everybody but we are more aware of it. Companionship is a two-way street. The gift of the Holy Ghost could be the awareness that He is there. That is something we Mormons have. We look for promptings and feelings. We look to see how God’s will is unfolded in events.

Benedict told another story in the talk. It’s a follow-up to Spencer Hadley’s redemption story. The story as it was known starts like this:


One by one, BYU football players — dressed in blue and white team gear — filed onto a bus outside the Holiday Inn Express in Orem, Utah, last Friday night. It was just after 6 on the eve of the Cougars’ annual grudge match against Utah, but instead of watching film or making last-minute preparations, the team was headed to the Promontory Correction Facility in nearby Draper to speak to inmates in the prison’s Substance Abuse Treatment Program.

With everyone aboard, a team official scanned his clipboard and gave the driver the go signal. But just before the door closed, a burly 6-foot-1, 227-pound linebacker wearing a baseball cap backward and a dark sweatsuit got on board, ducked into an empty seat up front, put his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands.

As the bus pulled away, BYU players were shocked to see Spencer Hadley. Earlier in the week Hadley had been suspended from the team for five games for violating BYU’s honor code after an email alleging Hadley had been partying in Las Vegas was sent by a Utah fan to the University of Utah and was forwarded to BYU (a photo of Hadley in Las Vegas later surfaced and went viral). Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall didn’t address the specifics of the suspension, but the fact that it was Holy War week between BYU and Utah only magnified the situation in the local media.

At the prison, Hadley ended up talking unplanned to the inmates about sin and redemption. It happened that Hadley sat next to Benedict on that bus, which is how the story ended up being published.

The unknown part of the story was that Benedict hadn’t planned on getting on the bus that night, but something prompted him to. The unknown part of the story was that Hadley wasn’t planning on going to the prison and wouldn’t have been eligible to go if a teammate months before hadn’t submitted his name for a prison background check and clearance as a joke. Hadley didn’t even know until that day that he was listed to go.

The gift of the Holy Ghost is the absence of coincidence.

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