Jerald Simon doesn’t remember anything from the first eight years of his life. His baptism, the birth of his four siblings, family vacations, learning to play the piano, childhood games and friends—all of these milestones are erased from his consciousness, marked in his mind only by a vast blankness.
Jerald’s first disjointed memories include pebbles raining down on him from a ledge above and a rock striking him in the chest, knocking him over a cliff ledge 80 feet above the ground. Jerald remembers white masked and white gloved strangers covered in blood standing above him as the paramedics rushed him to the hospital and his father’s tear-stained face as he said, “It's okay; everything is going to be okay.” Other flashes of memory include cold, sterile medical equipment emitting strange noises, seizures, and blessings. Most of all, Jerald remembers the priesthood blessings and the peaceful Spirit that whispered he was in the Lord’s hands.
Close to the Veil
Even before his eighth birthday and plunging from an 80-foot cliff, Jerald’s life was full of spiritual experiences.
“From an early age . . . Jerald was akin to the Spirit,” his mother, Denise Simon, says. With a father who taught seminary, Jerald and his twin brother, Josh, grew up experiencing daily devotionals, traveling to Church history sites, and learning Book of Mormon stories and missionary discussions. “Even at the age of 2, the twins could scripture chase with the kids in [my husband] Jerry’s classroom,” Denise says. In fact, Denise wrote in Jerald’s childhood journal on November 20, 1983: “You can tell the Joseph Smith story with our missionary flip chart. Also tell about Christ’s birth and His life and death and resurrection. Also the fact that He created the earth. Many people are shocked with how much you know. But I must soon begin to teach you your ABCs and your colors. Those things don’t seem to interest you as much as your other gained knowledge.”
From left to right: Josh, Jerry, and Jerald on the twins' baptism day one week before the accident.
As a little boy, Jerald would often ask his mother if he could speak with Joseph Smith, and she would have to gently remind him that Joseph Smith was in heaven with Heavenly Father and the Savior. “As a little tiny boy . . . I talked about Joseph Smith in such a way that I would share things about him that I had never learned anywhere else,” Jerald says. “I would always say to my parents, ‘I want to go back and be with Joseph. I miss Joseph.’”
“I had a feeling for the longest time that I would not be able to see Jerald grow up,” Denise says. “Jerald seemed to have a connection to the veil that seemed to pull him toward it.”
In August 1986, Jerald’s father, Jerry, recorded in his journal, “Jerald said to his mother he knew what Heaven looked like, for he saw it while he was sitting in church. He will be a visionary man. . . . He is so close to the Spirit it is almost frightening.”
While Jerald had profound spiritual experiences growing up unique for someone so young, in many other ways he was like any other adventurous and rambunctious little boy. "People in our ward use to count how many times we had to take the boys out for how rowdy they were in sacrament,” Denise recalls. “They used to call them ‘Rough and Ready.’”
Josh and Jerald on their eighth birthday.
Growing up in Pleasant View, Utah, Jerald and his brother loved to roam the foothills, mountains, and gullies just beyond their backyard. On October 15, 1988, Jerald, Josh, and their friend Aaron decided to visit a gully at the base of an enormous cliff that they had dubbed “snake pit” because of the snakes that often slithered along the rocks. It was there the boys decided to race to the top of the cliff. Josh and Aaron took off in different directions, attempting to scramble up the cliff from the left and right sides. Jerald decided to take the most direct route, climbing straight up the cliff face.
After pulling himself on a narrow ledge near the top of the cliff, Jerald could hear Josh and Aaron’s voices above him, and he knew he had lost.
"As we got to the top of the cliff and looked down we could see Jerald slowly making his way to the top," Josh says. "We waited at the top as patiently as 8-year-old boys could, wondering where he was and why he was taking so long. My friend came toward me, carrying a big rock he wanted me to see. As he walked, he tripped and the rock rolled over the edge. Moments later we heard a scream."
The cliff where Jerald Simon fell from a distance. Image courtesy of the Simons.
As the rock tumbled over the cliff, it caused a cascade of smaller rocks that rained down on Jerald. “I remember on this ledge looking up and seeing this rock with these little rocks coming down toward me," Jerald says. "Some hit the ground where my feet were, and this bigger rock hit me on the chest.” The force caused Jerald to lose his balance, and his body plummeted down 80 feet, bouncing off other rocks and ledges as it fell back into the snake pit.
Aaron and Josh raced to the bottom of the cliff to find Jerald "unresponsive and in a puddle of blood," Josh says. While Aaron ran for help, Josh stayed with Jerald.
“My twin, not knowing what to do, he lifted my head up and he put my head in his lap,” Jerald says. “My scalp had been ripped open . . . and my twin can't even speak about it without tearing up to this day. You want to talk about a traumatizing experience for a little boy. But he folded my scalp back together and he tried to hold it together with his hands to stop the bleeding.”
"I prayed like crazy that everything would be all right and wished that I could help him in any way I could," Josh says. "Tears ran down my face as I held my brother in my arms, wondering if he would be okay or if he was dead. I felt helpless and all alone; worried sick that he was gone. The next thing I remember was hearing my mother’s blood-curdling scream."
Jerald Simon sitting where his body was found after falling 30 years ago.
After Aaron told Denise and Jerry about the accident, Jerry called 911 while Denise ran to her children. “When I got there, I found my precious twin boys, who had just been baptized a week earlier, covered in blood,” Denise recalls. “Jerald’s head was cracked in three different places down to the skull. . . . Joshua sat there crying while Jerald lay there unconscious. My first thought was that my fear for all those many years was coming to a reality. I screamed, thinking Jerald was dead. I went over and held them both in my arms. I knew how frightened Josh must have been. Then I could tell Jerald was breathing. I was grateful for that and just prayed as I held both boys that God could keep Jerald alive until we could get help.” Jerry, who had broken his back seven weeks before, attempted to climb the mountain to his family, but the paramedics arrived first and brought Jerald down on a stretcher.
Jerry rode in the ambulance with his son, whose entire chest and upper body were mottled with black, blue, and purple bruises. It was in that cramped space that Jerry gave Jerald what would be the first of many healing priesthood blessings.
“We cannot remember the words said in the priesthood blessings but know the power of the priesthood had an impact on the healing process from Jerald’s accident,” Denise says. “I also received blessings of peace and comfort that gave me strength to continue forward.”
“I do remember waking up in the ambulance for a split second, and I remember looking up and I saw all these paramedics,” Jerald says. “They had white masks on because there was so much blood everywhere, and I do remember seeing my father in the ambulance. Through tears, I remember my father saying, ‘It's okay; everything is going to be okay.’ And then everything went dark.”
After 26 stitches in his head and over four hours of x-rays and brain scans, the doctors informed the Simons that Jerald had no broken bones, no kidney damage, and no brain damage.
“The next memory I personally have is being wheeled out of the hospital. I do remember my parents saying that it was a miracle and that I was going to be okay [because of] the blessing that my father had given me,” Jerald says. “I've often wondered, with my body being black and blue, bruised all over, why I never broke a bone falling off an 80-foot cliff. I cracked my head open, but I wasn't paralyzed. I know personally that I was protected by angels. . . . Family members, loved ones from beyond the veil who were protecting me and watching over me.”
The Simon family standing outside a church meetinghouse.
While Jerald’s life was no longer in immediate danger, several complications arose from the injuries he sustained. Days after being released from the hospital, Jerald recalls frightening and confusing memories of falling out of his desk chair at school during a violent seizure, his teacher attempting to secure his head as students ran to get the principal. He remembers sliding off the couch and his parents attempting to comfort him as he was gripped with another powerful seizure. He remembers the 24 hours of fasting and watching movies all through the night with his mother, asking her why he couldn’t sleep before his medical tests. And he remembers the alien beeping and whirring noises the machines made as they scanned his brain, looking for damage.
"It was hard to watch Jerald recover," Josh says. "He had many seizures and a lot of pain. I think that experience bonded me closer to my brother in a way that was unlike any other. Closer than even he was bonded to me. I so desperately wanted to protect and defend him. It was a memory that I will always vividly remember."
One uplifting experience Jerald can recall from those difficult days is the priesthood blessing he received after his seizures.
“I remember just a little about that blessing—that it was a very powerful blessing,” Jerald says. “My parents to this day have said that it was . . . a prophetic blessing, and in that blessing my father gave to me he said that he blessed me that I would not have any more seizures and that I would be okay and that I would be able to live and lead a normal life. From that day on, I never had another seizure.”
Suffering and Blessings
The challenges didn’t end with Jerald’s seizures. But Denise says, “We were strengthened knowing it is in God we put our trust. We were able to get through it. And we did. The sweet peace that comes during all the turmoil is a testimony to me that you are never alone. It is something we have learned again and again. If Jerald would have been called home and my worst fears would have been realized, it would have been devastating. But I would have known where he was and that he knew what heaven was, because he had seen it before and was prepared to be there. And our Heavenly Father would have gotten us through that as well.”
The suffering, the healing, and the loss of memory that resulted from that fall 30 years ago has continued to shape Jerald’s life. “It changed the way I see the world,” Jerald says. “When we fall down, we get back up. . . . not just physically, but if I fall down mentally or emotionally or if I fall down spiritually. For me, I know I can always get back up. It may not be easy, but with the help of my Heavenly Father, I can always get back up. Whatever it is. And that for me is the greatest strength, the greatest perspective that I could have gained—being able to focus not on the problems of the past or the present but having faith in the future. Faith in myself. Faith in others.”
While Jerald has received a personal witness that he was protected by angels as a little boy, he understands, “That doesn't mean that every day we have some great miraculous blessing that comes into our life. It requires faith each day, because life is all about the good times and the bad times.”
In fact, Jerald remembers the moment he learned his neighbors had skidded off a cliff on a motorcycle, an accident that left one dead and the other seriously injured. He remembers questioning why his neighbor died. Since then, he has continued to question why so many loved ones in his life have suffered unimaginable challenges or passed away—and why he survived. “Why would a loving Father in Heaven allow these experiences and these trials, these tests? This is part of mortality. That is why we are here,” he says. “We don't know why a particular tragedy needs to happen at a particular time. Sometimes it doesn't make any sense to us, and in most cases it won't make any sense to us here in mortality. But in the grand scheme of the eternities, many times we can understand why certain trials and tests were given to us here in mortality, and hopefully not only what we have learned from those tests but who we have become and are becoming as result of what we've experienced. It's not to say that we won't have dark days, because we will. Sometimes terrible, horrible days that we wish we could forget. But they make us who we are, and with the Lord's help and the refiner’s fire, it helps us begin to focus our priorities on what truly matters most. Not for the things of mortality but for the promises of eternity.”
For himself, Jerald believes he survived his fall because there is still something Heavenly Father needs him to do. “I think I've been strengthened because of this fall, and it's my hope that I can try to strengthen others when they have fallen, because we all strengthen each other,” he says. “We are at various times and stages in our lives the angels that our Father in Heaven sends to help each other.”
This desire to strengthen others has led Jerald to his current musical career, in which he creates uplifting and calming hymn arrangements to soothe others who might be suffering. In addition, Jerald shares his story of faith and his insights through firesides and a series of motivational books.
On October 15, 2018, Jerald trekked back to the “snake pit” and up onto the cliff he fell from 30 years ago from that day. With him were his parents and his wife, Suzanne. “Every time we would drive past this cliff, he would say, ‘I need to get back up there and see where I fell, and I want you to come with me.’ And I would always say, ‘No, I don't want to go there and think of you as a sweet little boy falling,’” Suzanne says. But as the 30-year anniversary of the event approached, Suzanne began to change her mind, feeling it was what the Lord wanted her to do.
Jerald standing with his wife, Suzanne.
“There was a very sweet feeling there. I felt like we were not alone,” Suzanne says. “It made me think, ‘Okay, I will be here at this location where my sweet husband fell 30 years ago, but I will not think about how he fell. I will think about how there were angels there that day to help him and the fact that he fell, but he survived and he thrived.”
As a mother, Suzanne says she peered down from that cliff, overwhelmed with the enormity of that fall and the fear and pain Jerald’s parents must have experienced watching their son suffer. “You think about how hard it is for our Heavenly Parents to see Their children suffering, but They know and They can look at this earthly life and see it from one end to the other. We can look now and we can look at our past, but they are looking at it was one eternal round, and they see the outcome. So as hard as it is to see Their children suffer, They are there . . . every step of the way, if we embrace [Them], [They are] there.”
Standing on that same cliff, Jerald obtained deeper insight into the power that enables us to rise after we fall.
“I like to think of the Savior as the safety net,” Jerald says. “The Savior is there. Every time you fall, He is there to help us stand up again, and sometimes we can't do it on our own. We shouldn't do it on our own. . . . When He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was not just for the sins of the world but also our pains and everything that we feel. . . . So if in life we feel no one understands, oh, He does. He truly does.”