The Center for American Progress recently released a report showing that, while the overall work force is declining, those with disabilities have stayed in the work force.
Stephen Clark, a religion professor here at BYU-Idaho, deals with a disability and has not allowed that to define him.
The youngest of three brothers, his father died when he was 10 years old, leaving him to help his mother with their seven-acre peach orchard, which was the equivalent of over five and a half football fields.
Tears filled his piercing blue eyes as he described his memories that have shaped and molded him into the man he is today. A smile always lighting up his face as people pass him.
He recalled waking up every midnight to help his mother with the water irrigation until 4 a.m.
“I just remember stumbling through the orchard with the lantern, trying to keep my eyes open,” he said.
On July 4, 1959, 14-year-old Clark and his friends created their very own homemade pipe bomb. He said they were just boys being boys.
He said he recalls picking up a pipe bomb and hearing someone shout, “Steve, stop.” But no one was there.
“I was being stupid and ignoring that voice,” he said.
While he was tightening the cap, the bomb exploded in his right hand.
Clark’s neighbors rushed him to the hospital immediately. Because of the loss of blood and kidney and liver failure from the shrapnel digging into is ribs, he was told he would die.
He said he believes what ultimately saved his life were the prayers and fasts from his faithful ward members.
Clark said he recalls a blessing given to him by his bishop which said, “Your life was spared for a reason.”
The very next morning, his body was working and functioning properly, other than his right hand.
Clark said he knows both why he is here and his purpose in life, and he hopes to bring others to their own understanding.
Although one of the most recognizable things about Clark is his partial disability in his right hand, he has never let that define him, and he has never let that stop him.
“Football is life,” Clark said.
He continued to play football even with that partial disability.
He said he remembers having his coach wrap some type of Styrofoam around his hand with tape holding it together. He banged it against a locker a few times and said he was ready to go.
Clark said he went to BYU and initially wanted to become a physical education teacher.
However, after a lot of pondering, sincere prayer and a lot of hesitation, he went on a mission to California, where he realized he wanted to start teaching religion.
Clark met his wife, Ruth Ann, the first day back from his mission.
“She is my angel,” he said.
He said they will be celebrating their 51st wedding anniversary this coming June.
Clark Said Ruth Ann would get incredibly sick with pregnancies, but she did not want to stop having kids.
The Clarks have 9 children—7 sons and 2 daughters—and their posterity is still growing.
With grandchildren and great grandchildren added, they have 70 family members total.
“When I look at my children every one of my children are so much better than I am but it’s all because of Ruth Ann,” Clark said. “She’s the difference. She is such a queen and really raised them well.”
Clark said the man he is today is because of the childhood experiences he holds close to his heart.
Clark has been teaching institute, seminary and religious education for 50 years.
He said he loves teaching all religion courses at BYU-I, but his favorite courses to teach as of late have been Preparing for Eternal Marriage and Building an Eternal Marriage.
“I personally don’t think there is a more important class here that is as crucial as them (the students) realizing that marriage is why we are here,” he said. “That is the purpose of mortality.”
Clark said he has tried to take a positive approach in life, and not let his disability weigh him down.
“I cannot afford the luxury of a single negative thought,” he said.
Clark said he has noticed when he has had a bad day where he wished he had a “hall pass” on life, or where he was not as “chipper or happy”, it would bring his wife and family down.
“Why not be happy?” he asked.