The list of Steve Mikita’s accomplishments is impressive.
He graduated from Duke and then BYU Law School. He has served as Utah’s assistant attorney general since 1982 and handled numerous cases before the Utah Supreme Court. He has toured the country as a motivational speaker, and he has appeared on “60 Minutes.”
And he has done it from the seat of his wheelchair.
Mikita chronicles the challenges of life in a wheelchair and how he achieved success in his new book, “I Sit All Amazed: The Extraordinary Power of a Mother’s Love.”
Mikita was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a condition that deteriorates the muscles. His parents were told multiple times to prepare for Steve’s death, but he endured. Among the many people and experiences that have shaped his life, he credits three key factors: his mother’s love, the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the example of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who also used a wheelchair.
The idea for the book came in 2008 after the articulate lawyer spoke to a large gathering of LDS singles. Someone asked if he had ever considered writing a book, and the suggestion sparked his interest.
“When I looked back at my earlier years, I soon realized my understanding of Christ’s love came through my mother’s love,” Mikita said, seated behind a large desk at the Utah State Office Building. “My mother helped me interpret the meaning and purpose of my life, and the meaning and purpose behind suffering.”
Mikita lost his ability to write in 1996, so he dictated the book to a typist. Using examples from the scriptures, he wrote with the purpose of helping people better understand and confront their trials.
“I was constantly asking the question, ‘How does this aspect or experience in my life relate to the reader’” said Mikita, who is the brother of KSL’s Carole Mikita. “It might be interesting to me, but when placed out on a broader spectrum of readers, I wanted to reach as many people as I could through this medium. I wanted to help them understand that each one of us has been given a set of strengths and weaknesses, that we are blessed by family and friends, by scripture, and, most importantly, by the Savior, to find our way through mortality, to succeed and be happy, notwithstanding some fairly traumatic bumps, detours and tragedies along our life’s paths.”
The title was discovered after the book was done. Mikita was brainstorming ideas when he found the phrase in the manuscript.
“You don’t need to stand to be amazed at Jesus. You can be amazed just where you are,” he said with emotion. “Sometimes we are too weak to stand, but we are still amazed at the love he offers you and me. He doesn’t care whether we are standing or sitting; he loves us the same.”
Among many highlights in the book, Mikita describes how his mother inspired him to achieve his dream of going to college. After growing up in Ohio, he attended Duke University in Durham, N.C.
“I had a fairly distinctive laugh that mimicked a seal, so when I laughed, that put everyone at ease,” said Mikita, who considers himself to be the original Duke basketball "Cameron Crazy" (he could talk Blue Devils basketball for hours). “I was a really happy child because I was loved. I knew people liked people who were happy and smiling. … I was someone who wasn’t sad or bitter about my disability.”
Mikita's mother was also instrumental in his conversion to the LDS Church and taught him how to laugh at life.
When Mikita reads the book now, he marvels that he wrote it. Some insights were inspired because he said they didn’t originate in his mind. He hopes readers come away knowing mothers matter and Christ’s atonement can help everyone.
“A mother’s love leads us to Heavenly Father and Jesus’ love, that notwithstanding what each of us is called on to face throughout our lives, that each one of us can realize how much beauty, meaning and purpose is given to each one of us, through the good times and sad times,” Mikita said.