Stan Andreason saw a man’s body lying in the snow while hiking Mount Timpanogos with his dog. Andreason came close and saw the blood on the man’s face and shirt. He asked the man if he was attempting suicide. The man said “yes.”
The man was Spencer Donaldson, a student from Utah Valley University whose depression and addictions led him to attempt suicide. Now three years sober, Donaldson is an RM and is engaged to be married this August.
Dave Donaldson, Spencer’s father, described his son’s difficulties in high school as something unbearable for him to watch.
“Around 14 or 15, Spencer had started to party and was making some friends who were making pretty bad choices,” Dave Donaldson said. “I remember one night while talking to him, I put my fingers on the table and told him that if your feet are planted in two different worlds, the world will tear you apart … and that is exactly what happened.”
Spencer Donaldson explained that an apathetic view of God and a belief that his life had no purpose added to his misery.
“I was in a living hell,” Spencer Donaldson said. “I started doing drugs just about every day, being late for work … missing my college classes. I was just sick of life.”
His hatred for life climaxed on April 1, 2011, when he decided to end his life. While high on drugs, he stumbled into his friend’s garage and found a can of wasp killer.
“I ingested the entire can of wasp killer and began to throw up blood all over my face and shirt,” he said.
Spencer Donaldson didn’t die immediately. He hiked Mount Timpanogos until he couldn’t hear any noise from the city below. There he collapsed in the snow, waiting for the poison to kill him.
“I thought about my future funeral,” Spencer Donaldson said. “I saw how disappointed my family was for the mistakes I had made in this life.”
He lay there for hours, throwing up and shivering. He described those hours as “absolute hell.”
“In that moment,” Spencer Donaldson said, “I came face to face with what I would describe as demons. With them came all of the worst feelings that I could ever possibly imagine. I began to pray for the first time in my life that my God would pluck me from this hell and bring me into heaven.”
His prayer was answered in the form of a living angel who found him on the mountain that morning — Andreason, an EMT and a firefighter who was out for a morning hike.
Andreason told Spencer Donaldson he was an EMT and firefighter. Spencer said he hazily remembers Andreason calling for a helicopter to take them to the E.R.
“As we were going to the helicopter,” Spencer said, “Stan told me some of the most powerful words I will never forget: ‘It was truly a miracle I had found you while hiking. There was nothing that you have done in the past that you cannot be forgiven for.'”
Spencer Donaldson was taken by the medical staff, and his father hurried to the hospital. For the first time in his life, the young man asked for a priesthood blessing from his dad.
“Spencer embraced every change required for his recovery,” Dave Donaldson said. “As he completed all of the exercises he needed to, his countenance in the hospital just got brighter and brighter every day.”
Spencer Donaldson vividly recalled his feelings of the experience “like it happened yesterday.”
“When something beyond reason like that happens you just can’t help but realize that there is a God out there and that he has a hand in your life,” Spencer Donaldson said. “I just feel so lucky … it’s hard to deny such blatant manifestations that there is a God.”
After he had left the hospital, Spencer said, his dad told him to read Alma 36 while they were in church. He still remembers how the Spirit hit his heart when he read that scripture.
“As soon as I had finished that chapter, I turned to my dad and told him that I wanted to serve a mission,” Spencer Donaldson said.
Spencer Donaldson recovered completely from the incident and left for his mission 16 months later in August 2012. He was even able to run a marathon before he left.
After returning from his mission in August 2014, Spencer enrolled as a full-time student at Utah Valley University. He has also met the love of his life, Belen Gonzalez, and they plan to marry on Aug. 21, 2015.
“Spencer is the most determined man I know,” Gonzalez said. “One thing I admire about him is that if you come to him with any problems he will help you out. He is very loving and is always there for people in need.”
Linda Donaldson, Spencer’s mother, couldn’t be more proud of her son and his decisions.
“I would describe Spencer as very healthy mentally, spiritually and physically,” she said. “He is such a great example in so many ways. He is very humble, always open to suggestions, and is not prideful.”
Dave Donaldson also enjoys seeing the man his son has become.
“He is kinda like a Boy Scout,” Dave said. “If you need anything, he will give it to you and then will ask if you need more. There is nothing that he thinks he can’t do. Everything is possible to him now.”
The essence of Spencer Donaldson has transformed from dark to brilliant. What once was a life of depression, addiction and sorrow has been transformed into confidence, joy and hope for the future.
“It’s been an incredible experience to come to know that I want to be a great student, father, husband and priesthood holder,” he said. “I owe it all to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”