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Co-Founder of Vivint Opens Up About Autistic Son

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I can remember it like it was yesterday.  It was August 2000 and I had just bought a cabin in Idaho and I was working on it with my dad before I had to go a City Council meeting for a project in Rexburg.  My wife called and when I answered I could hear the fear in her voice.

She said, “Rose was just here and she thinks Cole has autism.”

In an effort to be a supportive husband I immediately said, “Good thing we found out now. We will get him the best treatment and everything will be fine.”  I can even remember saying “Long term nothing will change, he will still go on a mission and get married”.

As we started down the road it became very apparent that instead of “nothing will change,” everything was changing.  Our dreams were changing and I started to say WHY?  Why is this happening to my child? Why is this happening to our family?  Why? Why? Why?

If you turn to the Gospel you can find all the answers for the mind, but at that time those answers sounded hollow in my heart.  You would hear, “You are so lucky to have a child guaranteed to go to the celestial kingdom”, “You must be special people for the Lord to send him to your home”, etc. Of course all of those things are true, but the everyday grind led me to say to someone, “Do you really think that helps us?” Because the day we found out Cole was autistic, the Cole we were trying to raise did die.

There will be no competitive sports, fishing and hunting trips, girlfriends, college, mission, marriage, or grandkids. And we watch that dream die day by day, week by week, and year by year.  One day, I lashed out and said, “Do you really think we’re special?  Do you want your 7-year-old to drown, or get killed in an accident, or even worse, watch them die of cancer because they would then be guaranteed to go to the Celestial Kingdom?  The answer of course was “No.”

As time went on I began to question everything because life was now out of our control and I like things to be in control. But I couldn’t deny that the Book of Mormon was true. I believed that it is what it says it is, and so if it’s true, then Jesus Christ is my Savior, Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and we have a Heavenly Father.  And so I kept asking why.

Eventually, I learned life’s most powerful lesson, which is that our true test in life is to give up control to the Lord and to trust in Him. Trust that He loves us, trust that if you turn your heart over to Him, He will carry you when you can’t go on. That day was the moment my life changed—because my heart changed. I allowed God to carry the things I couldn’t. The day to day grind still affects us, but it doesn’t control us anymore and we are now excited to see what Cole’s life will be and our role it.


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Keith Nellesen
Keith Nellesen
Keith Nellesen is the co-founder of Vivint, and served as President until 2009. Vivint is one of the largest home automation companies in North America, servicing more than 750,000 customers. He is currently the CEO of McColee Partners, a family investment partnership that focuses on early stage venture capital investing.

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