You might recognize Christopher “Topher” Clark as the actor who played Paul in the Church’s Bible videos. So it is only appropriate that at his funeral, after his mortal battle against ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease was over, his sister Stephanie Nielson said she had been studying the life of the Apostle her brother portrayed.
“In the end of Christopher’s life, he was tested, he was tried, he was tired, he was weak, but he was also strong and steadfast. He was a perfect example of living the way the Apostle Paul teaches us to be. And in a sense, Christopher wasn’t just acting as Paul for the Church in the Bible videos, he was living Paul’s life and example,” Nielson said.
She then quoted Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who has said,
“With the Apostle Paul, I testify that that which was sown in corruption will one day be raised in incorruption and that which was sown in weakness will ultimately be raised in power. I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally ‘free at last.’”
Nielson, who has had her own share of physical setbacks after 80 percent of her body was burned in a serious plane accident in 2008, concluded her tribute to her brother by saying, “I so look forward to the day when I am able to bend my fingers and Christopher will be able to stretch his. Jesus is the Christ. He is resurrected, He is our Savior and our Redeemer and all will be made well when He comes again. I know this.”
Clark’s obituary, published following his passing on June 5, 2020, highlights the importance of his faith, recounting the full-time mission that took him to Finland and how “he came home with a love for Scandinavia and had many experiences that shaped the way he lived and served for the rest of his life.”
It also tells of Clark’s devotion to his wife and children: “Christopher was a fun father; he sang to his kids and got them to do funny lip syncs with him (which he took very seriously). He constantly introduced them to different kinds of music and took them to concerts and movies and plays to show them all the beautiful things in life. He encouraged his kids to find their own creative pursuits and expressions and encouraged them to work hard and help their mother. He guided them with wisdom from his experience and told funny stories—the funniest stories. He gave them priesthood blessings and taught them the gospel of Christ by example and pretending he was the Apostle Paul on screen (and off). He insisted on yearly family vacations, quiet Sundays, a beautiful green lawn.”
Clark’s passing is one that has made a significant impact and left a hole in the hearts of those who loved him, many of whom are recognizable faces in the Latter-day Saint community and the world at large. His wife, Lisa Valentine Clark, is best known for her comedy, frequently appearing in commercials and as the host of BYU Radio’s The Lisa Show. The two were married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 3, 1995. Lisa’s brother James Valentine, a guitarist for Maroon 5, wrote on Instagram, “Christopher Clark celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary with my sister Lisa just last week. ALS is one of the worst diseases, but he handled it with quiet courage and grace. I almost typed ‘he ended his battle’ with ALS, but it never seemed like a battle. He selflessly made peace with the terminal diagnosis. He was always more concerned with Lisa and the kids' welfare than his own.”
Author Emily Belle Freeman paid tribute to Clark as well as to the couple’s love story in an Instagram post.
“It is the way they loved in life. Not just each other. The world. And all the people in it,” Freeman wrote of Lisa and Christopher. “They are people who love boldly in a way that doesn’t require words. Their love knows no boundaries. We lost @topher_clark yesterday to ALS, but we did not lose the memory of his love and how it touched every one of us. Pondering his life has filled me with a desire to love better and bigger. To express my devotion. To remember to love outside the lines everywhere. Our last conversation was centered on grace. Perhaps it was his understanding of grace that allowed him to love so well.”
And yet, with all the words that have been said about the giant of a man who was called “Lion” by those who loved him best, Clark’s last Instagram post shared just three weeks ago may best capture the selfless life he led with humor and grace.
“GUYS TODAY IS LISA'S BIRTHDAY and she's being good and social distancing to keep me alive,” he wrote. “If you have a sec, write her a post-it or a note and put it on our front window. If you need our address DM me. She can't see this because I BLOCKED HER ON INSTAGRAM”