I'm Going to Be a Doctor
The fiery golds and scarlet of autumn had reluctantly given way to winter, which had crept almost unnoticed that year into the serene Salt Lake Valley, pocketed among the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. It was fitting that John Raymond Christopher, a pioneer in the art of natural healing, should be born in this valley, which had been settled first by a courageous band of humble pioneers more than half a century earlier.
He was born November 25, 1909, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Jean Ramone and Lorena Roth Raymond, whose homes were listed on the birth certificate as Loraine, Switzerland, and Paris, France, respectively. For reasons that only these European travelers could have known, they left their infant son and his older sister at the Salt Lake City Orphanage. Shortly after his birth, they left the shelter of the magnificent Rockies and moved on.
It was the custom at the orphanage when prospective parents called, to arrange available children in a line. From that line of hopeful faces, the couple could make their choice. One early summer afternoon, Leander and Melissa Ann Craig Christopher assumed their anxious station in front of such a line. Their fervent hope was to adopt a child, and they prayed they could find a son.
Suddenly, and without invitation, a baby clad only in a diaper and a thin undershirt toddled out of line, crawled onto Melissa's lap, and settled comfortably into her shoulder with a hug. Melissa's misty eyes met those of her husband as she exclaimed, 'This is our son!"
The Christophers left the orphanage that day with not only the son they had prayed for, but with his sister Ruby, too, as the blood parents had stipulated.
The little family settled into the home Leander had built in Salt Lake City's historic avenues district, a house still listed with the Utah Historical Society. Later the family moved to a comfortable home on Highland Drive, now a teeming metropolitan area, but then a "country" neighborhood characterized by fields of hollyhocks in the summer and lanes of deep snowdrifts in the winter.
The first glimpse the Christophers had of Raymond's extraordinary future came one wintry night in that house on Highland Drive. Young Ray lay critically ill with croup. His anxious parents paced the floor, cradling his fevered body in their arms and praying with all their might that he would have the strength to catch another breath. Suddenly, a knock came at the door. Leander, startled because of the late hour, answered.
Standing on the porch was a bearded man in shirtsleeves, with no coat to protect himself against the bitter cold. He announced to Leander that a young child was ill, but was not to die, that he had an important mission to perform. With a sense of awe, Leander listened as the stranger gave explicit instructions on how to cut the phlegm and stop the croup.
Anxious to save the life of his choking child, Leander turned to do the stranger's bidding. When he turned back to thank the man and invite him in to warm himself against the winter cold, the man was gone without a trace. There were no footprints in the deep snow to mark his passing.
With the instructions left by the bearded stranger, and the loving faith of his parents, Ray recovered. It was an experience the Christophers would not soon forget, and Ray always remembered that his life somehow held great purpose.
It is ironic that Ray's "mission" involved healing, as the wintry croup crisis and his ensuing brush with death were far from the only health problems he suffered. Born with advanced rheumatoid arthritis, he endured excruciating pain. Even as a child, he sometimes walked with a cane or was confined to a wheelchair. That's not all. He also developed hardening of the arteries. Doctors of his day proclaimed that he would never reach the age of thirty.
Most children suffering this kind of pain would become depressed or gloomy, but not John Raymond Christopher. He radiated good cheer. Early in life, he developed a great love for the music that lifted his spirits throughout years of trying adversity.
His love for music grew as he traveled every Tuesday night on an old streetcar with his beloved mother to her practices with the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Each Tuesday night, he sat with rapt attention on the step next to his mother's seat in the alto section. His presence became such a trademark that at the age of fourteen he became the youngest person ever invited to become a member of the choir. He sang with the choir for another eleven years.
Ray's "mission" of healing was all the more appropriate in light of his mother's condition. Melissa Craig Christopher, the woman upon whose lap he had snuggled that afternoon in the orphanage, endured the quiet desperation of diabetes and dropsy. Her's was a chronic and debilitating condition. At first it confused the little boy, who suffered himself with crippled feet and the wheelchair that had become his prison. Later, it tore at his heart as he sat, helpless against the diseases that ravaged her and unable to ease her agony.
Once as he was playing among the fragrant blooms of the garden on Highland Drive, his mother watched him with unusual interest. At last she knelt beside the spot where he worked the imaginations of youth and asked, "Raymond, what are you going to be when you grow up?" "I'm going to be a doctor!" he announced, without hesitation.
"Oh, Raymond!" she laughed. "How can you be a doctor? You can't stand the sight of blood. You've never been able to slay the rabbits you raise for food, and you run from the kitchen whenever I raise the old butcher knife to a chicken. What kind of a doctor would that be?"
There was a moment's pause before he answered this time, and a look of intent unusual in a child his age. "Mother, I will be able to heal people without cutting them up," Raymond replied.
"There will be natural ways of doing it" His musings in the garden that day became a prophetic statement that would describe his life's passion.
With the hope of becoming a doctor, young Raymond watched with interest as various practitioners treated his mother. One visit from a health practitioner proved to be especially noteworthy to the sixteen-year-old. One day his mother drew him aside with quiet determination and told him, "Son, a doctor's coming to visit me today, but he's a new type of doctor, different form any of the others who have treated me. I thought you might like to see him."
At the appointed hour, Ray eagerly answered the door, and the young man noticed that the doctor glanced nervously up and down the peaceful neighborhood street before stepping across the threshold. As he introduced himself to Melissa, she offered, "Let me tell you what is wrong with me."
"No," the doctor urged emphatically. "I will tell you what is wrong with you." Fascinated, Ray watched as the man looked into his mother's eyes and recited with pinpoint accuracy the conditions for which she had sought medical help over the span of many years, and the conditions for which she had taken countless prescriptions of orthodox medications.
Ray listened to every pronouncement the doctor made, absorbed with curiosity about his gentle efficiency. He took mental notes as the doctor prescribed wholesome changes in diet and as he pressed a collection of herbal remedies into Melissa's hand. As they bid the doctor goodbye and watched him travel down Highland Drive, Ray told his mother, "That's the kind of doctor I'm going to be when I grow up."
Several months later when Ray tried to locate the man, he had his first glimpse of what would prove to be a foreshadowing of his own future-the doctor had been arrested for practicing medicine without a license, and had been jailed. Ray tucked his ambition away temporarily and worked to finish his high school studies.
After graduation, news accounts and magazine articles about a Canadian practitioner caught Ray's eye. This man, the accounts said, massaged people's feet and effected remarkable healings. His treatments were in such demand, in fact, that people stood in long lines, even pitching tents for weeks at a time, in order to see him. Ray knew that this man could ease his rheumatoid arthritis, but, even more important, he yearned to study under him, to learn his natural way of healing. Cautiously, he approached his parents with his plan.
They could feel his excitement for his plan, but did their best to discourage him: The Depression had tightened its grip on most of the families living along Highland Drive, and there was no extra money to finance a trip to Canada. Ray pleaded, "I'll find a way," he promised. "I'll thumb rides. I'll do whatever I have to. Somehow, I'll make the trip." Just as he was completing his preparations, his enthusiasm was crushed-news filtered from Canada to Utah that the practitioner had been arrested. It was a devastating blow, and Ray temporarily abandoned his ambition to study medicine.
Following graduation, Ray worked during the days at his father's lumber mill, and at night, he played with a dance band so he could tuck away enough extra to pay his way through college. With the dogged determination necessary to overcome his health problems, he graduated as an A student from Henager Business College in Salt Lake City. He decided to put his photographic memory and his famed "gift of gab" to work as a career; he enrolled and was accepted at the University of Utah School of Law.
The day before law school classes began in the fall, Ray underwent a twist of fate that would change the course of his life forever. As a passenger in a fatal automobile accident, Ray was pronounced dead at the scene. Police officers took his body to the morgue, and his parents were summoned to identify his remains.
Seized with grief, his parents were led into the room where he lay. As his mother looked upon her sweet son for what she believed to be the last time, she suddenly screamed! She had seen the faintest flicker of an eyelash.
The mortician bent over Ray and studied him intently. "My word, I think there was the slightest motion of life in him!" he exclaimed. Medics rushed Ray to the hospital, where he began weeks of painful recovery.
He remained in a coma for several days, when he at last drifted into consciousness. He was completely paralyzed, a condition that persisted for more than six weeks. He could speak, but could do nothing more for himself. Nurses had to feed him, shave him, and carry him to the bathroom.
One afternoon a driver from the lumber company came to Ray's room and pulled a chair up next to his bed. "You know, Ray, it's a waste of time, you sitting around like this," he scolded. "We need you back at work. C'mon, let's get goin'."
Ray laughed at his friend. "I can't even move my hand," he cried, "let alone go down to the office to work. Let's face it. I'm helpless." "Then," replied Jim, "you'd better go see a chiropractor."
When the four renowned physicians who were treating him made their rounds that day, Ray mentioned the possibility of a chiropractor. Their responses were immediate and choked with derision, and Ray was embarrassed that he had made such a foolish suggestion. Behind the scenes, Jim had left the hospital and made a stop on Highland Drive, convincing Leander and Melissa to take Ray to the chiropractor's home that night.
As the three entered Ray's hospital room and began to lift him from the bed, he protested with all the strength he had left. "Put me down!" he screamed. "Don't touch me! The doctors told me I'm paralyzed for life! Don't try to take me to a chiropractor. ..I will not go to a chiropractor!" As his loved ones carried him to the car, his protests were loud, but he was helpless to resist.
Several days after his chiropractic treatment, Ray was working again at his office. His head was still swathed in bandages as a potent reminder of his injuries, but he moved freely and was able to resume all his duties at the lumber mill.
As he recovered, Ray yearned to start his study of law, but he couldn't. His photographic memory had been obliterated in the accident. The injuries he sustained caused intermittent but lingering amnesia. As a precaution, he had his name and address sewn inside his coat. On one blustery afternoon he took the company funds to the bank, made the deposit, and stepped back outside, and his mind went completely blank. He approached a police officer and opened his coat. By the time two officers drove him to the office in a truck and located his car, his memory had returned.
It was a period of almost unremitting pain, both physical and emotional, for Ray. Periodic pain from the head and back injuries he sustained in the accident caused his rheumatoid arthritis to flare up.
At times the pain was so severe that he couldn't sleep. He was also filled with a pain that he described as "helpless rage" as he watched his mother die from complications of diabetes and Bright's Disease.
For a young man who had a firm conviction regarding natural healing, it was almost unbearable to witness her suffering. The complications of diabetes stopped responding to even the highest doses of insulin, and her arms were purple from repeated needle stabbing. Bloated from the effects of edema, she was swollen to several times her normal size. At last, she succumbed slowly and painfully to gangrene poisoning. Kneeling at her bedside, Ray petitioned the Lord for help, help that someday he would be able to save someone else from the agony his mother had endured.
During the sleepless nights that peppered his convalescence, Ray resorted to reading. He chose good books that authenticated the values he cherished. He also studied the scriptures, gaining strength and optimism from the messages scattered across their pages.
One morning, confined to a chair with the pain of arthritis, he picked up The Doctrine and Covenants, a volume of scripture published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It fell open to the eighty-ninth section. More commonly known as the faith's "Word of Wisdom," it spells out the church's health code in a few brief paragraphs.
Ray had read the passage many times before, but this time several words jumped out at him as if lighted with neon. The words sparingly (in regard to meats) and wholesome (in regard to grains and vegetables) struck him so hard they seemed to have power enough to knock him out of the chair. He vowed to follow the health code strictly, and developed for himself a diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds.
The improvement in his health was staggering! Within a few months, he gained weight, began sleeping soundly at night, and started enjoying enough energy to allow for a full day's work. In 1939, he authored "Just What Is the Word of Wisdom?", a thought provoking booklet that described his experience and articulated his thoughts about diet and health.
Ray may have left it at that, tucking the booklets away on a darkened library shelf, but a simple phone call dictated otherwise. It came from Dr. John A. Widtsoe, a leading authority in the Mormon Church, a renowned educator, and an author who had written extensively about the Word of Wisdom. He had seen Ray's booklet, and he praised it as a treatise well "ahead of its time" He urged Ray to distribute it to as many people as he could, and Ray gained the confidence he needed to determine that he was on the right track.
He began doing as he had been instructed-talking to as many people as he could about the relationship between diet and health. He was a man well ahead of his time, all right, and as a result was also the subject of derision and ridicule. Years later, he still remembered a few good-natured jokes directed at his wholesome eating habits.
One in particular happened at the lumber mill. It was almost lunchtime, and one of the workers told him to report back after his delivery. As he walked into his office, a sumptuous spread lay before him. The truck drivers, the yard foreman, and the bookkeeper had smoothed a tablecloth over his desk. In the center was a spirited arrangement of edible greens dotted with bright splashes of wild flowers. A fine china dish was heaped with fresh green alfalfa, "common cow hay" as he later described it, and others were filled with dried wheat and rolled oats. An elegant decanter held apple juice.
With a wave of the arm, the yard foreman surveyed the scene and said, "We wanted to honor you today, Ray, so we fixed you a special lunch" The others stood next to him, fairly quivering with anticipation.
With his characteristic good grace, Ray pulled out his office chair and plucked up the fancy cloth napkin. "How nice of you!" he smiled. "This is really wonderful! Thank you" He draped the napkin carefully over his lap, brushing the sawdust shavings from his trousers, and picked up the fine silver fork. The men stood watching, astounded, as Ray ate every bite. They never kidded him about his diet again, but he continued to feel like a loner among his contemporaries. Ray had married Irene Short in 1935, and even she had great difficulty accepting his eating habits.
They had two daughters, Sandra Joy and Carol Ann, and tried diligently to work out their differences, but finally divorced in 1943. Ray felt alone and discouraged, but was more determined than ever to share his beliefs with others. He began giving lectures to small groups of people who were interested in making the dietary changes that could improve their health.
A year after his divorce, he was lecturing one evening when a beautiful young woman came into the room with a mutual friend. She captured his attention immediately, and, as he told his children and grandchildren many years later, "all of a sudden the bells rang. I knew that this was the one!"
John Raymond Christopher and Wendella Walker were married on August 19, 1944, in the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. An avid supporter of his ideas about health and a loyal companion throughout their marriage, she became the mother of their five children: John Rulon, Ruth Ellen, David Wendell, Janet Lorene, and Steven Craig.
Published and distributed by:
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(801) 489-4254 (800) 372-8255
Copyrightę 1993 Christopher Publications
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Printed in the United States of America
"Natural Healing with Herbs for a Healthier You"