This is the Gospel Podcast

By LDS Living

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Janae A.
 Nov 3, 2020
this is for sure my most favorite podcast to listen to! stories get all of the emotions going as well as inspiration. thank you for what you do for the community!

Adam Byam
 May 26, 2019
This the most moving and spiritually uplifting podcast out there! Incredible true stories about how people's life's have been changed by faith hope and trusting that there is a God watching over all of us.


The stories we tell matter. They can build our faith, help us empathize with others, demonstrate the true power of God in our lives, and help lead us to Christ. This Is the Gospel, a new storytelling podcast from LDS Living, collects and shares personal stories that illustrate the challenges and triumphs of living in the latter days.

Episode Date
Family Ties
Stories in this episode: A journey to learn more about his grandparents leads Jeff across the world to old chapels, monasteries and hidden towns only to find dead ends––until a chance encounter on a remote mountain side; KC’s inherited pocket watch had long since become a plaything for his kids, until a close inspection of the watch yields an inscription that broadens his definition of “family.” Show Notes:  To see pictures and links for this episode, go to Transcript:  Sarah Blake  0:03  Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm Sarah Blake hosting today in place of KaRyn Lay. I'm happy to report that KaRyn is on the mend after a rough week recovering from COVID-19. Our theme today is "Family Ties." But before I get into that, I want to talk about rock climbing. I am not a cool rock climber, but I have seen some movies. So I happen to know that most of the time rock climbers are clipped in to a whole coordinated system of ropes that are connected to secure anchor points. And then the other end of the rope is held and watched over by other climbers. But there is also this insanely dangerous thing called free soloing where you climb without any ropes. You may have seen or heard about the documentary about climber Alex Honnold's record-breaking, totally legendary, free solo ascent of the El Capitan cliff face in Yosemite National Park in 2017. My husband and I watched that movie at an IMAX movie theater so the screen was several stories tall and the heights were dizzying. I was clutching the edge of my seat and my heart was pounding like I was actually attempting the climb myself. And I felt like I lost about a pound in just hand sweat despite the fact that I already knew how it ended with Alex Honnold surviving the climb. And again, and again, I found myself kind of absent mindedly reaching down to find a seat belt in my movie theater chair, just so you know, I couldn't fall off El Capitan. So this brings us back to the concept of family ties. Family ties is a phrase that we use in English to describe the connections that bind us to our families. For some people, these connections are biological. For some people, when they hear the phrase family ties, they think about the obligations and duties that we owe to each other. For some people, these ties have a lot to do with your shared family culture and expectations about how you live and make choices. And hopefully, for most of us, these family ties are also just about plain love and enjoyment of one another. But I want to say that these family ties, whatever they look like, are part of the coordinated system of ropes that we need while we climb through life. In our spiritual and emotional lives, we all deeply deeply crave to be clipped into reliable ropes with somebody we trust on the other end. And I think that feeling that I had, as I reached for the imaginary seatbelt in the movie theater, I think that's how we feel if we imagine a life without any of those family ties or connections to other people. It makes your emotional palms sweat. Think of climbing through life ropeless, just one slippery handhold away from falling through space. To know where we fit in a web of other people, and how we are tied into the past and connected in the present, and how our connections might last into the future, I think that's a very basic human need and it's part of our eternal and our spiritual DNA. And this week, we have two storytellers exploring these ideas with tales of family ties, and the lengths that we go to find them and the ways that they find us. First, we will hear from Jeff. Jeff  3:23  I think, I think this story really begins with my curiosity about my grandfather because we were so close growing up. He actually wanted me to be a professional golfer so he put a golf club in my hands at age two. But that gave us a lot of time on the golf course and in a golf cart talking and, and sharing stories and things like that. However, he would never tell me where he was from or about his childhood or about his parents or anything like that. Both he and my grandmother would refuse to give me any more information than three points. And that was number one: He was born in the former Yugoslavia. Number two: he was raised in Worland, Wyoming. And number three: he changed his name from Mijušković to Marks. I didn't know anything about his family. I didn't know where he was from. I didn't know what his childhood was like. And if I ever asked any questions, he would always put his fingers to his lips and tell me to shish. My dad, he never even knew anything about his parents. And if I ever asked him about it, he didn't know any more than those three things either. And both of his siblings have since passed away. So I don't have any other way of knowing anything about my grandparents. And it kind of made me sad when he did pass away in 2000 that I just didn't know enough about him because of how special he was to me. Well, in my career, I've spent many years as a pediatric dentist as a remote EMT, spending time in humanitarian clinics all around the world. So I'm used to traveling into remote areas and kind of booking crazy flights and going from place to place. Well 10 years ago, right after the Haiti earthquake, I got called to serve as a volunteer as a first responder there to help with the devastation from that tragedy. And on the flight, there was a gentleman sitting next to me, another volunteer, we were all in scrubs. And he was wearing scrubs with a University of Wyoming logo on them. And I turned over to him and just out of curiosity, I just asked him about his scrubs. And he said that he was a Wyoming fan because he came from a small town in Wyoming that I would have never heard of. And when I asked him about what that town's name was, he said that it was Worland, Wyoming, of all the places and I said, "That is crazy because my grandfather was raised in Worland, Wyoming." He said, he asked me a little bit more about me and where I'm from and also about my name. And he said, "Tell me your last name again?" And when I told him it was Marks, he said, "You wouldn't happen to be related to the Mijušković, are you?" Out of all the things. that most random thing. And I just was completely blown away and he even told me on this trip, that if we make it through this trip, it was kind of a it was kind of a crazy humanitarian aid adventure he, he said, "If we make it through this, I want to meet back in Wyoming so I can show you all about your family show you everything about your family." And so we went back there and he took us straight to the cemetery and I saw  Mijušković gravestone. I saw the two gravestones of my great-grandparents. So these are the parents of my grandpa George. So my great-grandfather, Joseph, who died in 1951. And my great-grandmother, Meliva, who died in 1983. And this I was fairly emotional about this because, again, not knowing anything about my family, seeing the gravestones where my, my ancestors were buried was very special to me. And I had never done anything with family history work, genealogy, anything, my entire life. This sparked kind of this spirit inside me not only of curiosity, but of really, something deeper. Something kind of more organic of who I am and where I come from. And finding my own identity through my grandfather was was kind of a fun adventure. At this point, I came home and spoke to our family history consultant to have her direct me to a 1920 census. And I saw my great-grandfather's name on there, my great-grandfather Joe and his family on this census coming from the former Yugoslavia in a country called Montenegro. So, again, now I have dates. I have names of family members, I even have a country in the former Yugoslavia, which is again, nothing that I ever had before. I was then told that if I was going to find out any more information, she even tried to do some research for me and couldn't find anything else, but I was going to really need a death certificate for my great-grandpa Joe. So I sent a fax over to the Department of Vital Statistics in the state of Wyoming to try to request my great-grandfather's death certificate. And after sending that fax at work, I went and saw a patient that day. And that patient's name, the mom's name, I see kids. And so like the mom's name was Maria, Danlavich. And that of curiosity, and this is literally five minutes after I sent this fax, I went to her and said, "You know, I've seen your kids for years and I've never even put two-and-two together. But I've been doing this family history work and I just sent this fax, and your last name looks an awful lot like my grandfather's last name. And I just wondered what country you're from your family's from?" And she said that she's from the former Yugoslavia in a country called Montenegro. She told me she said, "If you ever wanted any help, you know I'm more than happy to help you with anything but you might want to start with some emails or some letters to the government, if you want to try to find out anything about your family since you're kind of at a dead end here with that trip to Wyoming." And, and since she spoke Montenegrin, which is like a dialect of Serbian, she offered to translate a letter for me saying, you know, "These are my great grandparents, this is my grandfather I'm trying to find any information I can about my family, this is their information, their birth dates, their death dates, where they're buried, is there any information you can provide for me?" And months went by and I never heard anything. So I got on my phone or even on my computer and started doing a little bit of research on how – what it would take to get from Seattle to Montenegro. Just for kicks, if I were to take that letter that she translated for me, go to Montenegro, and even if I had to go door to door to try to find anything more about my family, again, the spirit was burning inside of me to really find out more and it just wasn't enough. I wasn't satisfied with my trip to Wyoming and with this other stuff. And there had to have been something that I can maybe relate to or connect with, on a deeper level that would be meaningful for me and for my family. And I guess after having children, I kind of – I've got two boys now, and I just, you know, I want them to know where they come from. I want them to be able to connect with their past as well. So I went and looked at roundtrip ticket from Seattle to Montenegro – kind of going more directly – was over $6,000. And so of course, I'm not going to be going to Montenegro. I thought well, it's just that's discouraging. I'm not doing this. I guess the Wyoming information is all I'm ever going to get. And then right around that same time, Iceland air established service SeaTac airport where I live, and because I had served my mission there, I was a little bit more excited about the fact that they were running some free stopovers in Iceland on the way to Europe. Doing a little bit more research, if I were to go from Seattle to Montenegro through Iceland, the entire flight with that free stopover was $780. And so I immediately hit the enter button, bought the ticket and then told my wife that I was going on this trip. The only thing that I had with me on this flight over to Montenegro was a few things in my bag. And then these letters that were translated by this patient of mine, spelling out that I'm looking for my great grandparents, and if there's any information they can offer, that would be amazing. So I took these letters over there and I got off the plane and felt immediately a little overwhelmed. I mean, I couldn't read any of the signs, the people didn't speak English, I just didn't know what I had gotten myself into. I got transportation up to the town of Niksic, Yugoslavia, which I discovered was the town where my grandfather came from on that death certificate that came back to me from the department of vital statistics in Wyoming. And driving along this kind of main – it's not really a highway, but this this road that kind of heads up towards Niksic is on kind of a mountain ridge. And there was an adjacent or a parallel ridge on the other side, that just looked pitch black. And all of a sudden that kind of goes really steeply down into the valley where Nicksic – or the city – is. And there was quite a bit of snow on the ground. And for some reason, that was kind of fun to picture my grandfather coming from this place. Because I guess after serving my mission in Iceland, I prefer colder climates. It was really fun for me to kind of see where he came from. And it kind of, I don't know, for some reason, it just brought a smile to my face, knowing that that's where that's the town where he grew up. So I get into Niksic, and I didn't know where I was going to start, but I saw a church or a cross up at the top of the skyline, and knew that I would maybe get more information at a church then maybe even looking in a phone book where I couldn't read the language, I couldn't even navigate any of anything. And surrounding this church was a cemetery, almost surrounding the entire thing. And so I went from gravestone to gravestone with the little tablet that I had trying to kind of translate, trying to figure out which one was a Mijušković gravestone, and it took me hours, and I couldn't find one. I mean, and in all of my stuff, I'm tromping through the snow, nothing's happening. I was a little bit discouraged until I walked around the front of the cemetery, past the church to a funeral home, which I assumed was a funeral home, there was flowers out front, and a nice little lady that was just standing out in front. And I went up to her – because she was smiling – and I went and unzipped my backpack, I handed her one of my letters, and she was nice enough to read it. She called somebody and read it to them, and then she went inside, and I could hear some beeping sounds almost like a fax machine, and then she brought it back out and handed it back to me and blew me a kiss. And that was day one. So nothing had happened. I was obviously frustrated because she didn't have any information for me. She didn't tell me what the person on the phone said, nothing ever happened with that. The next day I started going around to the maybe, the government offices in Podgorica, in the capital city. I thought, well, what if I just went to some of the kind of the more government offices and the bigger buildings there just to see if there's somebody that could point me in the right direction. And I ran into this guy named Gordon Stojovic who was a ministry official. And so he invited me into his office, I gave him the letter and he read the letter, but didn't read it all the way. He kind of just read a few of the words and then asked me if I wanted to go and look around the town. In kind of broken English, as best he could, he at least invited me to get into his car. And we went from coffee shop to coffee shop, while he smoked cigars the whole time and telling me all about his beautiful country, and the architecture and everything about this place. And it was really fun to just kind of hang out with him and to see the city. But I was kind of on a time crunch, and I really needed to find out stuff about my family. So at the end of the day, I said to him, I said, "Gordon, I really love this and thank you so much for inviting me and, and showing me around your town, but I'm really looking for something to do with my family here. If there's any kind of help you can give me." And he goes, "What you look for is miracle." I said "That's exactly what I'm looking for!" And he said, "Well," he said and quote, "The Serbian Orthodox monastery of Ostrog is the most frequently visited pilgrimage site in the Balkans." He said, "Miracles come to those who visit the upper level." So I thought, "Well, that's exactly what I need to do then. I need to go to this monastery, I need to go to the upper level, maybe my whole family will be waiting for me or there will be open books. It'll all be ready for me and I'll have my entire family history right there and this will be amazing." So I took a big long journey the next day up to this monastery and it was up closer to wear Niksic was, just at the kind of on the other side of the mountain there. And driving up this road was crazy. If you google this monastery, it's one of the most, I mean, beautiful monasteries you've ever seen. But the road that goes up to it is this crazy, long, windy road, that takes quite a bit of time to get there. There's no railings on the side, the road is cut through the mountain, like through tunnels. And it is, it's quite a journey. And so I finally get up to the top of this road and get to the monastery, and again, it was almost breathtaking, the way that it's carved out of the mountain, it's painted white, but it literally is carved out of the mountain really high up on this cliff. Again, people come from all over the Balkans to worship their patron saints here. And I was, I was very impressed almost from a, you know, I know when we see our temples, we have that same kind of feeling of awe and beauty, and that's, that's what this felt like to me. And so I went up there, I knew that I had to get to the highest point of this middle tower, and there wasn't anything there other than there was a candelabra and a couple of photos of Christ on the wall. And that was it. And I thought, "Well, that was not exactly what I was looking for here." But looking out the window from this perch I, I prayed. And I prayed hard to see if maybe this miracle could really come that I could find something out about my family. And after about an hour or so it just didn't happen. Nobody came in, nobody talked to me, I didn't see anybody, I didn't see anything else that would indicate anything about my family. So again, once again, discouraged, I went down and got in the car and went to a little coffee shop kind of at the base of the main windy road there in a town called Povija. And I went into this coffee shop and from the coffee shop, there were three roads that kind of branched out from this coffee shop. One that went up to the Ostrog Monastery, one that went back down to the capital city of Podgorica from whence I came, and then there was another road that went around the back and kind of up – just randomly up the mountain. And it was kind of more of a dirt road, a smaller road. And there was obviously nothing up there. But for some reason, I decided to go ahead and travel that road. So I drove around the backside of this coffee shop and started going up this dirt road, not knowing where it was going to go. And then it branched off, it went a little bit, there was kind of more of a main road, and then even a smaller dirt road off to the left. And of course I went off to the left. So I started driving up the smaller dirt road until I run into a guy just standing there in the middle of the road. And he looked ironically, a little bit like me, he was a little bit bigger guy, he didn't have any hair on his head, he was wearing a big, puffy, blue parka. And, but there was nothing around. There was no car, no bicycle, no motorcycle, I don't know how he even got there. There was no homes, no telephone wires, I just it just looked a little strange having him just standing out there in the middle of the road. And I did the exact same thing that I did with the lady at the funeral home, I got out of the car, I smiled at him, I handed him a letter. And he read it and did the exact same thing. He turned and grabbed the phone out of his pocket and started calling somebody and reading the letter to them. Halfway through the letter, he points to the letter and says "Mijušković?" And then he pointed to me and said "Mijušković?" And I started jumping up and down saying, "Mijušković!" pointing to myself thinking that maybe this is it. He understood Mijušković, and maybe he knows something about this. And so he pointed for me to get in my car and to follow him and he started running up this dirt path. So I drive up to a long side of him and point into the passenger side kind of saying, "Hey, you know, would you like a ride?" And he shook his head and kept on waiting for me to follow him. And so I go up this dirt road, he finally tells me to stop. And then to go up even a smaller little path. I mean, this is literally like a little hiking trail up through the brush. And to follow him up into here. Now, this sounds a little creepy, right? I'm up in the middle of Montenegro and this guy is having me go up into this little trail up into the bushes. And who knows what's gonna happen here, but he just didn't seem like a scary guy. I mean, for crying out loud, he had a good look and haircut, I could trust him. So I get out of the car and follow him up this path. And he points to an old old house. And I mean, I don't even know if you could call it a house because all it really was is rocks and a couple of little partial walls almost really broken down and dilapidated. So he pointed to it and said "Mijušković," and then he pointed to another house on the other side of the trail and said, "Mijušković" and kept pointing to both of these houses saying, "Mijušković, Mijušković, Mijušković." And he almost started kind of hitting his head a little bit and smiling kind of just frustrated that I couldn't understand what he was saying. But he was clearly telling me that these two houses had something to do with the last name or the name of Mijušković. So we got done with that. He didn't want to keep the letter he handed it back to me and so I drove off and that was the next day. And so that was all that I had come up with. I now just have two photos of these two houses and obviously not a lot of other information. I get done with this day and I go again through government offices and finally run into the President of the Historical Society in Montenegro. So I thought, "Okay, this guy's got to have something for me, right?" I mean, this guy knows the history of Montenegro. He maybe knows the history of that area, and maybe can tell me a little bit about my grandpa and his family. So his name was Bronco Bondović. And so I go into his office and his secretary was there as well. And then a young girl, she spoke like better English than anybody in the whole country put together this far. So she told me that she was home from school that day and meeting her mom at work, who was the secretary of this Bronco Bondović. So I thought I'd go through her since they didn't speak any English. And she was amazing to just say to them that I was looking for my family, and they read the letter. And then I showed this Bronco my phone where it had the two photos of these two houses. And he went over and grabbed a book out of a bookshelf and brought it over to me and said to me, that all Mijušković descendants in the world come from two brothers in the late 1600s. And remnants of their home still stand on the Kunak mountainside in the town, or above the town of Povija. And this just completely blew me away. So I assumed that the Kunak mountainside was that road that I had gone up behind the, you know, coffee shop where I was. And that all Mijušković descendants, including me and my grandfather, came from one of those two houses where these two brothers lived. And I just, I can't even explain what this felt like. I was grateful more than anything. I was very grateful at that moment that he knew something about the Mijuškovićs and that I came from one of those two houses. I was also curious because I have one brother, and I also have two boys. And so there was just that connection, there was the two brothers and I was one of two brothers. And my kids are two brothers. And I don't know, for some reason, this was just a, it almost felt like a family reunion. I almost wanted to hug this guy and I just, but that would have been awkward for him. But I was so excited about all of this and just knowing that maybe I was on the right path here. And so after meeting with Bronco, the president of the Historical Society, I finally heard back from my patient that had translated the letter for me saying that she had a contact who could maybe help me since he was a UN translator in Montenegro. And he met me in that same building where I was going from door to door trying to find government officials. And when I finally met up with Oliver, it was such a treat because he told me all about Montenegro and the people of Montenegro and the geography and the history. And I was able to understand a little bit better about a little bit more about the country and about my ancestors even and so he offered to make some phone calls for me. And he started with the town that was on that death certificate of Niksić, Yugoslavia, or Niksić, Montenegro. First one that picked up the phone was a gentleman named Ilija Mijušković. And his name is spelled I-L-I-J-A, which ironically looks a little bit like Elijah, but it is IIija. So we met with him at this Povija coffee shop, the one that I had gone to before at the base of the Ostrog Monastery and Ilija asked if he could question me about a few things about my childhood and about my upbringing. And it was good that we had Oliver there, the UN translator, because Ilijia spoke zero English at all, like he couldn't even say hello. But it really was a fun meeting. And Ilija asked me questions that I just was a little surprised to answer. He said, he would ask me things like my upbringing and my, my brother, my parents, their birth dates, what I did for a career and what my education was in what classes I took in college, and in my graduate training, I mean, really took to an incredible amount of detail. And after about an hour of this, I said, "Listen, this is amazing." And I asked Oliver to tell him, I really appreciate meeting with him. And it's so fun to meet an actual Mijušković. But I'm really trying to find out more stuff about my family. But then he said, his eyes kind of lit up a little bit and he was not known, he did not smile at all. He had a big furry mustache. And you can tell he was very stern and stuff, but his eyes kind of lit up and said, "Well, let's go down to the cemetery so I can show you some things." And on the way to the cemetery, he said in these words. He said in the late 1600s, and again about the time that those two brothers were there in those homes, an Ottoman Turkish army executed 72 members of the Mijušković tribe inside a cave fire in the town of Povija and to Mijušković brothers survived. And I just thought, "You know what an incredible story." And Ilija took me to the gravestones and showed me a few things and said that most of the gravestones from my family weren't going to be there because they were all destroyed during these wars. But he said, specifically, "I want to show you this one over here." So we walked me over next to the little chapel that was there. And this chapel was just tiny. I mean, maybe two people could fit in this chapel. But the gravestone next to it, he pointed to this. And I looked up there and Oliver translated for me, and it said at the very top, "Here rest Marco Mijušković." I looked at the death certificate that I had with me and showed Ilia. And it did indeed show that Joseph's dad, father, was Marco Mijušković. So he told me that this was my great, great-grandfather. This was really amazing for me to see this, because, you know, obviously not having any other information Besides this, he had passed away in 1912, and was buried in this spot. And to see this was, was very special for me, and to even feel that the DNA inside this cemetery, or inside this grave, was the same DNA that runs through my blood. And I just, that was special for me to kind of be able to connect with my great, great-grandfather in that way, knowing that my grandfather came from this line in this town. And I just felt something really special there. So then I was about to kind of finish things up, I had taken my photos and I basically had spent $780 to go to Montenegro and find my great, great-grandfather, and it was worth every penny for me to see where he was from, I was kind of ready to go. I mean, I had told Oliver and Ilija, I said, "Gosh, this has been great. Thank you so much. I've got to get going here pretty soon. And I really appreciate all this information." And then Ilija was writing some stuff down on a piece of paper, and Oliver said to me said, "Hey, Jeff, you might want to come over here and take a look at this." And I looked down at the piece of paper that Ilija is scribbling on, and it was a family tree, a handwritten family tree of over 1,800, 1,900 names. And it was a pretty large piece of paper. And I saw, I noticed on this family tree that there was one single track of names that went up, and then branched off with two names, and then huge tree branches off of those two names. And what Ilija explained to me is that the two brothers that lived in those two homes are the two brothers that branch off into these two big trees. Ilija went on to tell me that he has been doing research on the Mijušković family line for 47 years, and that he had put all of this information together on this family tree so that he can eventually publish a book about the Mijušković family name and about all the Mijušković ancestors from the 1200s all the way up until now. What was amazing to me is that he pointed out that one of the brothers was a farmer, one of them was a priest, and that I come from the farmer side of the line. My heart was exploding, I just I couldn't believe that I had found all of this information, my whole ancestry line from the 1200s all the way up until my my great-grandfather Joseph. He then pointed out that there was a little squiggly line at the end of Joseph's line. And it was the only one on the entire page of 1,900 names. Oliver explained to me that Ilija had been looking for my grandfather all of these years that that was the one link that he didn't have on this family tree because my grandfather had changed his name from Mijušković, to Marks. And that was the one name that he didn't have. And he couldn't complete his book until he knew what happened with Joseph's line. And that's why he asked me all of those questions and wanted to write this book. We go back to the coffee shop. And he said to me, that he really wants to write this book, but he doesn't have enough money to publish a book. And so I asked him how much it cost to publish a book there in Montenegro. And he said it would be about 100 Euros. So I gave him 100 Euros, which at the time, I think was about $120. And you can tell his eyes got watery. And he said that he was going to dedicate the book to me and wrote down right there and all over translated this. He said, "My brother Jeff Marks gave me 100 Euros to publish the 47-year history of the Mijušković tribe. He came from America to find his family. And we finally found each other." And this is where it all came true for me where I got to connect with him on a completely different level and that he was looking for me as much as I was looking for him. He had been doing this research for 47 years and was 86 years old at the time. So he wanted to give me these 1,900 names so that I knew where I came from. And in Montenegro, he says that they don't hug but he says that because we're brothers now that we can hug at the end. And so we hugged and now we're family and that was really special. He started calling me his brother, no longer just my name because he says that, and, and Oliver even told me that in their country, brother is a term of endearment And I can only relate to this too because we're members of the Church, but that they call each other brother or sister, even if they're an aunt or an uncle or a distant relative, because they feel a kinship with them. And they share the same DNA, they share the same family stories, the same history. He felt like we are, we're connected in a totally different way. And I was able to really understand him. And he was able to understand me on a totally different level. But I think his looking for me, for this many years, or at least for my grandfather was very special to him because I came to him, you know, he would have never gone to America to find my family or to find George or his gravestone. But Oliver told me how emotional Ilija was about me connecting to him and now making this whole book happen and his whole story happened and that he was just so grateful that we were able to connect. He wrote me another letter, an email, and I could tell it was done with Google Translate. But it said, "Please come back to our homeland very soon so that we can read, so we can write the history of our brotherhood together. I have your book." My son, Max, and I went and traveled over to Montenegro to go pick up this book. We met with Ilija and Ilija really sat down with Max and and wanted to tell him about his family's legacy and the legacy of his last name. And not only handed him this beautiful hardbound family history book of not only the 1,900 male names that were on the handwritten family tree that he had. But now we've got women and children in this book, and we're over 3,000-something names. And each one of the members of this family on this family tree have a paragraph inside this book, including me now, because that's why he asked me all those questions. He also gave Max another book that was just titled "Mijušković" And it was hard bound as well, a little bit thinner. On the inside of this was a picture of the Ostrog Monastery. He told me that my family, specifically my family line, were the protectors of the ostrog Monastery. And this monastery is famous I mean in, in, especially in Eastern Orthodoxy. And so for, for him to say this was really amazing to me. And so he told me a little bit more about the Ostrog Monastery and how our family protected it. And most of our family members died protecting it through these, you know, Turkish invasions all throughout the centuries. Also, he took Max and me down to the cemetery, again, wherein a monument was erected a Mijušković monument, talking about the people the Mijušković that actually protected the Ostrog Monastery. And that that is their legacy. And so he wanted to do a family picture down there. And so I've got this great shot of Ilija and Max and me sitting at the base of this, this monument. And I still talk to Ilija, I'm constantly looking for a way to go back and be with him as my family now because with George gone, he's my new brother.   Sarah Blake  33:12  That was Jeff. I hope Jeff doesn't mind if I share that one of the challenges we had in editing his story was that every single detail was important. I would think we can cut this bit about the coffee shop, right? Just for time. But then, nope, that detail and connection were important because they led to the next connection, and the next one and the next one until finally, it led to the connection with Ilija and through him a connection to thousands of his ancestors and relatives. It is mind boggling to think how Jeff's sort of impulsive decision to go to Montenegro was actually an answer to Ilijas prayers after 47 years of work on his family history. And it is amazing to see how they both were led every step of the way, even in the seemingly random steps by a loving Father who wanted to give them this connection they needed. Jeff also talked about how in this family history search, he felt like he was working with God to do something that needed to be done. I liked that a lot. And I'm going to keep thinking about it, what it means to be working with God to take the actions that make the connections that tie us closer to our families. Our next storyteller is KC. You might recognize KC as a previous storyteller, and also he is my husband. His story is about a different kind of family tie that he found closer to home. Here's KC.   KC  34:37  In 1969, my parents built a house in the foothills of South San Jose, California. And about a year later, another couple built a house next door, the Rudd's. My parents took a plate of cookies over to their house to introduce themselves. And there was an instant connection when it was realized that my dad had been the flight instructor for their son in the Navy. My dad had taught their son Charles to fly fighter jets and trained him to go fight in the Vietnam War. So there was an instant bond between our families. And that bond would grow over the years both through good times and also through a lot of tribulations. The first of those being that Charles was killed in an airplane crash in Vietnam trying to land on an aircraft carrier in very rough seas in the dark of night. In fact, I'm named after Charles. I was born two years after his death and my parents named me Kevin Charles Blake, in memory of Charles Rudd. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of tragedy. A couple years later, Harriet's husband died of a heart attack. My father was the first one over there, helped to move him and administer CPR until the paramedics arrived, but unfortunately he passed. And my mom was there to comfort Harriet during that time. And then in 1983, my father was killed in airplane crash in Angola, Africa. And Harriet became a listening ear and a source of comfort for my mom as she navigated being newly widowed. My brothers and I always had a very close relationship with Harriet. In fact, we didn't call her Harriet, we called her Hottie Dot. I think we call her Hottie Dot because our little mouths can't pronounce Harriet at the time and Hottie Dot was what came out. And that stuck. And Hottie Dot was like a grandma to me and my brothers. She was just a warm, loving, and extremely caring person. I remember going over to her house and she would always have Jazz music playing at her house and she would always have a bowl of cashews sitting on the counter and we eat cashews and listen to Jazz music. And Harriet came from a rich Italian heritage. And she was always making Italian food and trying to feed us. I remember a frittatas. I remember, rich Bolinas meat sauce over pasta. And it was like having an Italian grandma. And she was also the person that I ran to when I cut my finger really badly on my Scout knife when I was seven years old and my mom wasn't home. I remember running over there and she was able to bandage it up until my mom could get home and we could go to the doctor and get stitches. And later, Harriet traveled with us to England and toured all over England with my, my brothers and I and my mom. And she just was part of the family. Harriet was an extremely positive person, she just always was full of hope and happiness. And even in the toughest of times, I remember her saying, "This too shall pass." She just had hope in the future. And even, even when she contracted lung cancer in 1993. And that year, I remember her, just watching her deteriorate and being a lot of pain. And I would go over to help her with things around her house. And I just remember her still smiling and saying, "This too shall pass." Harriet didn't have any close living relatives when she died. And so because of this, my mom became the executor of her will and estate. And she had given almost all of her assets to charity. But my mom was in charge of getting her house ready for sale, cleaning everything out and, and just dealing with all of her stuff. And a lot of that stuff just ended up sitting in our garage for years and years. And about eight years ago, I was helping my mom clean out her garage, and I found this old jewelry box. It was locked and I thought it was really intriguing, of course. So I picked the lock and opened it up and it was full of costume jewelry, nothing, nothing valuable. Most of it was really fun 70s broaches and, you know pretty, pretty out of date stuff, but really fun stuff. Anything of value that had been metal or precious stones had been sold before Harriet's death, but there was one item in there and it was a beautiful old pocket watch. So I was able to do some research on the internet and I found out that this pocket watch made in 1925 was worth a total of about $18 nowadays, which is a real shame when you think of all the craftsmanship and the just the beauty of this piece. But because of that we stuffed everything back in the box and my mom said, "Why don't you take this and your kids can play with it someday?" So I took the box and several years later my daughter became interested in the jewelry box and started pulling out the jewelry and playing with it. Over the years, that pocketwatch came out dozens of times and we would play with it,  but nothing too interesting about it. And then one day, I was looking at it and I realized that the back panel of the watch would pop open. And I'd never realized this before. And inside, you can see all the gears and inner workings and it was beautiful. And then I realized that there was an engraving on the back of that, and it says, "Presented to H.A Cavassa by the employees of Peninsula Drug, December 25, 1925." Now, I don't think I'd ever heard the name "Cavassa," really before if I had I was younger, but I figured this this must have been Harriet's father. So this was really intriguing. And so we started doing some family history research on on H.A. Cavassa, and we were able to find out that it was Harry A, Cavassa, Harriet's father, and he immigrated from Bologna, Italy around 1895. And he had gone to the University of California, Berkeley and graduated from pharmacology school there. And in 1904, he started the first pharmacy in South San Francisco. And remember, this is right before the 1906 earthquake, so he would have been there during the earthquake and subsequent destruction of most of actual San Francisco. Now south San Francisco's its own city, but I'm sure that the whole community was affected by that. And so that drugstore turned into a chain of drugstores called Peninsula Drug, and eventually he married a nurse, Lillian Heifers, who worked for the doctor with whom he shared a building with and they had three daughters. The youngest of which was Harriet. And Harriet, is named after her father Harry, I'm sure that Harry was hoping he'd have a son and he could name that son Harry Jr., but he only had daughters so he had to name one of them after him. And so that's where Harriet comes from. And Harriet had two children, Charles and another daughter lost to sickness in childhood. And none of Harriet's sisters had children either. And so with the death of Harriet's sister, Marianne in 2001, there was no other living member of this family line. Since discovering the inscription on the pocketwatch, it really sparked our family's interest in family history, as we've done some of the work for Harriet and her family, and learned more about them, and thought about how our families have been interconnected through the years, and now how our families will be connected through eternity because of, of this bond that we're forming by doing their work. It's really made me appreciate how important these relationships are. The relationships we have with our family members and those who we choose to make our family members. I know that part of who I am today is definitely because of, I had Harriet in my life and her example. And I love that God chose to create a small miracle by putting that pocketwatch in our way so that we would rediscover that connection with Harriet and her family. I see it as a small miracle in my life to be a part of that. Sarah Blake  43:14 I am holding Harriet's pocket watch right now. I find it so beautiful. And it also feels a little magical how it just kept showing up until we finally really looked at it and let it lead us to their family. Someday we will get their temple work done, but for now I have a feeling that it is good just that we remember them – that they're not forgotten. These were people who made connections that mattered all through their lives. Harry A. Cavassa was so beloved by his employees that they chipped in to buy him a nice watch for Christmas in 1925. And Harriet was the one that little Casey ran to with a cut finger, and the one who taught my mother in law how to cook Italian food and to survive as a new widow. In all of these actions, all these connections are the ropes that made them family and that keep us family. This feels especially poignant to me right now, because here in the United States, it's the week of Thanksgiving, and the Covid–19 pandemic is raging worse than ever. This year, what we thought of as family or traditions or connections are not feeling very normal. This year, your Thanksgiving dinner might be you eating alone and doing puzzles over zoom. There are thousands of families with loved ones in the hospital who they can't visit or even speak to. So many people are showing love in the most counterintuitive ways this year. By canceling travel plans as my sister just did, or by isolating in a bedroom as my other sister has been doing for the past two weeks, or sleeping in the garage as we hear of health care workers doing so their families won't get sick. And let us never forget the families this year who are coming to terms with a more permanent separation. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said, "Whatever problems your family is facing, whatever you must do to solve them, the beginning and the end of the solution is charity, the pure love of Christ. Without this love even seemingly perfect families struggle. With it, even families with great challenges succeed." The tie that really binds our families and the rope that anchors and protects us, no matter what our family looks like, is this pure love of Christ. His pure love for us, and his transformative ability to help us love one another. Christ's pure love is strong enough to transform our strange virtual gatherings into holy and happy Places. And I know it is strong enough to turn strangers into family. And it is strong enough to envelop us in the arms of his comfort, even when we feel completely alone. When I visualize what a family tie looks like, for me, it is a lot more than a shoelace, or an apron string, or even more than a climbing rope. I personally find comfort envisioning a sturdy net made of the kind of crazy knots my little kids tie, quadruple gazillion knotted into a tacky grandma's macro, a hanging plant basket sort of thing. And I like to imagine that each of the little actions we take makes one more knot in that net, tying us all safely together so that no one has to free solo up these crazy cliffs of 2020. Whatever your holidays are looking like this year, I hope that you find ways to tie lots of messy little knots between you and all your people. Your biological family who's in the house with you, your church family in their separate homes, the colleagues on your screen and your zoom call, your neighbors and friends and delivery guys and grocery store cashiers – all the people who connect and hold us and give us a sense of place. This year, I think it's going to take all of our best creativity and positivity and just plain hard work, to feel the connectedness that we crave. And I also think it's going to take a lot of help from our Savior. But I know that we can do it because ultimately whatever our families on earth might look like, we are all children of our heavenly parents and part of their family and being connected to others is what we were made for. That's it for his episode of This Is the Gospel. Thank you to our storytellers, Jeff and Casey. You can see Jeff's pictures with his son Max and his new brother Ilija at the Ostrog Monastery and pictures of Harriet's pocket watch in our show notes at LDS You can also get more good stuff by following us on Instagram or Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. And of course, if you have a story to share about living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please call our pitch line and leave us a story pitch. The best pitches will be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. Call 515-519-6179 to leave us a message. Finally, if today's stories have touched you or made you think about your discipleship a little more deeply, please share that with us. You can leave a review of the podcast on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you use. And if you can't figure out how to leave a review we even have a little highlight on our Instagram page that can help show you how. Every review helps the podcast show up for more people who need this kind of light in their lives. This episode was produced by me Sarah Blake, with story production and editing from Erika Free, Katie Lambert, and Casey Blake. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six studios. Our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at LDS   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Nov 23, 2020
Feed My Sheep
When the demand for potatoes plummeted during the outbreak of COVID-19, Ryan did something unthinkable. He dumped 2 million pounds of potatoes on his farm and, through a Facebook post, invited anyone to take what they needed. Little did he know that this post would reach a single mother in Kenya and give him the opportunity to act on the Savior's invitation to feed His sheep both physically and spiritually. Show Notes:  To see pictures and links for this episode, go to Transcript:  KaRyn  0:03  Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. At the time of this recording, I am currently in quarantine waiting for the results of my COVID-19 test. I'm okay. It's okay. But it is amazing how quickly a little under-the-weather feeling sends us into a downward spiral of brain frenzy. Where have I been? Who was I with? Did I take off my mask somewhere forget to wash my hands that one time? Who did I give this to? It's enough to drive you crazy, whether it's COVID or not. But it also has me thinking about this week's theme and story because in the midst of all the uncertainty and exhaustion I have been fed, literally and figuratively, a simple warm bowl of soup from Chick-fil-A on the porch from a neighbor, a just-checking-in text from a friend, an offer to take things off my work plate, bless you. And a well-timed scripture in my "Come, Follow Me" study that's bringing me a lot of hope. All of these things have helped me to know that I am not alone, even when I'm feeling really vulnerable. And they bring me a sense of safety of peace, and, like I said, hope. I think that regardless how we interpret or act on the Savior's charge after His resurrection to feed His sheep, the end result for those that we care about will be the same—a sense of safety, of peace, of fullness, and of hope. And in today's episode, we have one story from Ryan, a farmer in Idaho who thought he was being prompted to do what farmers do: feed people from the land. But it wasn't the potatoes that ultimately made the biggest difference. Here's Ryan. Ryan  1:47  We farm about 20,000 acres. We do a lot of potatoes and sugar beets, and a lot of other crops as well as cattle. We grow potatoes for both the process industry, which is companies that make french fries, that's our biggest customers is the french fry. And then we also do fresh pack where we're part-owners in the company that packs potatoes into boxes and bags that go to grocery stores and restaurants. This last year, was in 2019, was a great year. We were super excited at the end of the harvest, we had a great crop, things are looking very good and the economy was doing well. People were out in about, you know, eating and restaurants. And there actually was a really good demand for potatoes, specifically. And there also was a little bit of a tight supply of potatoes and so potato prices looked like they were going to be at record levels. So we were really excited about how things look for us. And so a lot of optimism going into the first part of 2020. And then, you know, sometime around, you know, the end of January, in the very first part of February, I started to hear a little bit about this virus. I remember, right at the very beginning having kind of a sick feeling in my gut, you know, this could be something very serious, both for the world but also for our company. And then we started talking about how are we going to control this, we're going to do shut downs and things like that, then the reality really start setting. So the first thing that we saw here was the food service side, the restaurants really took a beating as they began to close down. And so we saw our customers' demand go from very strong to almost a complete stop. I felt a sense of almost panic at the time. I felt like that, you know, we could be in financial jeopardy, that potentially it could take farms out of business. At this time, we were praying as a family that we would be able to sustain through this difficult time, asking for Heavenly Father's help to get through it. I also asked many times, "What is it we need to learn from this experience? What are the correct decisions might be that we continue to support our family here for generations to come?" So I guess April time is planting time, but it's also the time of the year where we have still have potatoes in storage from the previous year's harvest. Usually, we can either sell those to other farmers or we can take those to the dehydrated market make dehydrated flakes. And so I made the usual phone calls to the dehydrating companies. They just laughed at me, they're like, "We're not buying anything right now. We don't see anything opening up." You know, farmers were cutting back because of their contracts and what they were going to plant so there was no one to sell the potatoes to. They were beautiful potatoes. You know, I really struggled with what to do with them. And the other only option that we had was to be to feed them to cattle as we have some of our own cattle. So that's kind of what our initial intent would be to dump them on the ground, we could feed them later to our own cows. But as a as a dumped them there looked at how pretty the potatoes were. And when we were all said and done, we had about 2 million pounds of potatoes. And if you figure about, you know, a half pound is a potato, there's probably 4 million potatoes there. I'm like surely there's got to be something that would be a better use than cattle feed. So I pondered that over for a part of a day. And I had the distinct impression to give some of them away. I knew that people were, some people lost their jobs, maybe struggling financially. So I just made a post on Facebook or something along the lines of, "Due to COVID, we're gonna have to dump some potatoes, you're welcome to come get some if you'd like some." Really, I had no idea that people will take that as seriously as they did. I thought maybe a few friends, neighbors would come gather a few up and the rest would go to cattle feed. But I was wrong majorly wrong. The first day, people started to show up, you know, friends, neighbors, just car after car after car. And I would say hundreds of people the first day came. We were just blown away. We couldn't believe the amount of traffic and it was like a almost like a highway. So then, the next day, I thought things would be over and it would quiet down. But by early morning, this traffic started up again. And same thing, steady stream of traffic going by. And so during this whole time, the Facebook posts started to spread. And I started to get a lot of comments, but a lot of shares, ended up with over 10,000 shares when it was all said and done. So we started to see, after the first few days, people come from far away into you know, Utah, up into the Boise Valley, both a three, four hour drives. Then even brass even farther and I saw people come in from down into Nevada and Elko and Wells, you're starting to talk no more like a five or six hour drive. And then as far as way as Las Vegas and Moscow, Idaho, straight, you know, 10-hour drives. One lady called from Kansas, which is like an 18 hour drive. And after a day or two what really started to stand out to me was the reason why people were coming to get the potatoes. The gas money was way more than what the potatoes were worth in, all circumstances. But I started to get a glimpse of the people just wanted to come and do something good for somebody else. It was the beginning of the lockdown, they been locked in their home. And I think it was just a great way for people to have an opportunity to get a glimpse of something they could do, something kind for other people. And that's really what amazed me. I would say 95% of everyone that came came in for somebody else. You know, I made a connection with a man out of New York City and we shipped a full semi load of boxed potatoes to the Bronx. And they were just trying to do something good for their community. And that was really the story of what I saw. As people reached out, many people wanted to help. We'd get anonymous donations from as far away as New York and Canada. And they felt like, you know, with the potatoes that we were giving away, that was, you know, going to bankrupt us. That really wasn't the case. Initially, I refused that. I didn't want to take money for this. This was something we kind of talked about as a company that we would continue to just give them away. Somebody tried to slip envelopes here and there, but we'd give them back. But I really couldn't stop the money that was coming in from distant lands and anonymous money. So as the Facebook posts expanded, I started to hear from some news agencies. I did interviews with CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, I do a little podcast with NPR. And then some of those stories ended up into the national or the world media. And so I started to have messages and comments and emails from people from all over the world. And one of the people that I noticed on one of the Facebook comments, was a lady named Susan. She's from Kenya, and, for whatever reason, I'll just remember, seeing her picture and this impression that I wanted to just see what she had to say. And so I clicked on her comment. And the comment was something along the lines, "I wish you could send some of those potatoes to me." But just, you know, shipping potatoes to Kenya or even other parts of countries, you know, it's cost prohibitive so it's not going to work. So I responded, "Well, I wish I could. What is it like in Kenya with COVID?" She just commented that she lived in Nairobi, Kenya, and it's a city of about 4 million people. We're talking dirt floor, tin shack, cardboard-type homes, and she just explained how they were living hand to mouth as it was, you know, trying to feed her family. She's a single mother of three children. And then with the lockdowns that the government had put on, imposed upon them in Kenya, you know, they really didn't have an opportunity to go into work and, you know, bring food home to the family. And so as I thought about a little bit, I come back and asked her a little bit later, you know, if there's nothing I can do to help? She really says, "Well, I don't think there's much you can do to help. But we just need something to eat." So I think I thought about that a little bit and in my pickup, I've had $100 bill that had been floating around in the center console of my truck for almost a year. And I'm like, "I'll just, I'm just gonna send her this money." And it's really not that easy to send money to Kenya. We finally figured out how to do it. And so I ended up sending the money over there to Susan. And a couple days later, I think it was over the weekend, so I think on Monday, she sent me a little picture of her family as they come back from the store with their groceries. And she brought back, you know, a big bag of flour, rice, and cooking oil and sugar, and just the staples, beans. And right on the very top a little there's one little teeny pack of cookies. It just struck me funny as we eat here in our country and go shopping, you know, you bring home for frozen pizzas and Snickers bars and ice cream and just things that didn't even cross her mind. And she wrote me back and she sent a picture and just saying, "Thank you. This will fit our family for months." So I continue to have money come into the company to help us. I've been thinking about you know, "Is there something I could do with this money, or something I could leverage to make this something bigger?" And in one of my conversations with Susan, she said, "My dream and prayer is to educate my children and to see them go to the university. I don't want them to raise their children in the ghetto like I have raised them." I don't know, there's something that really struck a chord with me on that. And so almost immediately, I had an idea, I'm like, "That's what I want to do. I'm gonna, I'm gonna help her children receive an education." And so I had the thought, "Okay, I'm gonna take the money that have already been given and put that toward the cause. I'm going to do a GoFundMe and I'll send this out to everyone that was wrote these nice comments and things on my Facebook page, I linked that to it. And so I pondered over it on a Sunday, all day. I started to do a little video to put that out and asking people for help. And I thought people responded really well to it. So we were able to raise more than enough, I think, to put most her kids through college. I think some people felt like maybe it could be a scam, or something like that. But I really felt in my heart, I knew that it was not. I had big, long conversations with Susan. I knew her heart. And so I was so excited about it. I'd share it with the family every day, we sit around the dinner table discussing where we're at what to do, and we've decided that even if we come up short, we as a family, we're gonna pitch in and make the dream happen for them one way or the other. And about then I kind of lost contact with Susan. At first, I was, I was a little bit wary. I'm like, okay, you know, what if something happened to her or. . .  But then I saw a post, and I think she had maybe even posted it herself, on Facebook and of like bulldozers bulldozing buildings and stuff down. And so I clicked on it and it was following that a little bit. And so I looked it up on the news and there was an article on it in the Kenyan news about how the goverment was working on a big waterworks project and this sewer plan, so they decided to knock those homes down. And, and so, as that was all demolished and twisted up in the metal and some of the belongings, and that, you know, I know that it was probably very devastating for, for her. And so the excitement of raising, you know, the money to help her children was kind of overcome with, we just needed to survive the next while. I was very nervous about how they were. Prior to and during this process, I made another friend in Kenya in Nairobi, his name was Titus. And he's a member of the Church there was in the bishopric in one of the wards and he seen an article on LDS Living that had been done about the story. So he reached out to me and just asked if there's something you could do to help. So I asked him if he'd go see if you could find Susan. And I had her phone number, but he was able to track her down and to check in on her. She found some shelter in a church, somewhere in the city for a few nights. And she had family nearby. And so her one sister let her stay with her for a shorter period of time while she got her feet back under underneath her. And so eventually, I heard back from her, and she, you know, she told me what had happened. They were safe. They were sound, they just needed somewhere to stay. She's was very discouraged, and in quite a bit of despair, I would say. So it was about this time that we started to have a little bits of discussions on occasion about God, talking about faith. And I asked her if she'd be willing to meet with the missionaries from my church, and that they would have a message that they would share with her that potentially changed her life, for the better – forever. She willingly accepted. And said she'd be happy to meet with the missionaries. So how do you get in contact with missionaries in a foreign country? Our friend, good friend, Titus, connected us with the missionaries and was able to get her phone number, make the connection, and so the missionaries like right away, they started to teach the first discussion. She'd come over to the church where they met and did a discussion and gave her a little tour of the church, and  . . . But as I've seen before, as I served on my own mission is, you know, sometimes as people start to learn and hear about the gospel, life can get really complicated for them pretty fast. And so, again, I couldn't make contact with Susan for quite some time. Finally, Titus, I think was able to track her down, and she's been robbed, and had been her – had her phone stolen. And I just thought, Well, yeah, this is – she's starting to learn about something that really can have life changing meaning in her life as she prepares to learn about the Savior and the Gospel. And then she's robbed. Like, what else could possibly go wrong? Again, an impression come to me that, you know, sometimes during our darkest hour comes – next comes the light. I really felt like that was going to be the case that Susan would soon see light in her life. And I didn't know exactly what that meant. I really wasn't that optimistic that things would go far with the missionaries, but I knew that there was going to be something good that happened in her life. In all our discussions with Susan, she never asked me for a single thing, and one day, she sent me a little message. And she said, "I feel like that I'm becoming a burden to you." She wanted to become more self–reliant and to be able to take care of her family. She expressed her concern in doing that. She didn't want to be a burden to others. She said that her doctor had told her that she needed to quit doing what she has done for an occupation to help feed her family, and that was doing construction. I have pictures of her packing these huge concrete blocks on her shoulders into the construction sites. And she talked about how how little money that paid how hard it was, and it had done damage to her back. Many times the women over there were taken advantage of and sometimes not even paid for their work. She said that she has an opportunity, that something she knows, to start her own business. And so she asked me the first time for something, and that was "Would you loan me some money so that I'll be able to start this business?" It was just a few hundred dollars, a very small amount. So I told her, "Yeah, I'd be, I'd be thrilled to help you start your own business." And so it had come to me the thought about the self–reliance course on how to start your business. And so I reached out to Titus and asked him if he could come up with the manuals and the books. And he did. And he took them to Susan and gave it to her. And so a week or so later, I asked her, "How's the business start–up going?" And she says, "No, I'm not, I'm not doing any of that, I  want to finish reading the self-reliance manual first." And so she was like, really into it, you know, reading the self-reliance program and how it can help her, and then Susan was able to start her own fruit stand business. So it's about this time that she was pretty quiet about things. And Titus actually told me first that she made a decision to be baptized, her and her daughter. But then the next day, in the conversation with Susan, she told me that she decided to be baptized and become a member of the Church. I was thrilled. I expressed to her that I wish that I could be there for it, because I really wanted it to be. I wish I could just jump on an airplane, fly out there, but I knew that wouldn't be realistic. I asked, "Could you make sure you send me pictures?" And so I asked her that, and she – and they did, they sent lots of pictures. And Titus was there too and he sent me pictures. It was a really special day, just to see the smiles on her face and see them all dressed in white. It was kind of surreal, but it was something that really touched me and our family was in celebration for the whole day. It was just a great experience to see. And I knew this could be a great beginning, that could really change her life and the lives of her children. She's expressed to me many times about her testimony and God and His desire to help her and that she's recognized that things will come in their own due time, in God's own time. We've since taken some of the education fund, and we've got her kids enrolled in private school. Public school in downtown Nairobi, you know it's a very difficult circumstance – 150 kids shoved into one classroom, there's not a lot of learning going and so we felt like if they're gonna have a chance at the university, that private school is going to be the best for them. And it's not a lot of money, a small amount. She sent me a pictures of her boys on the first day of school all dressed in their little uniforms and their books. It was the cutest thing you've ever seen. Her daughter, Serena just enrolled in school, but because of COVID her schools are still shut down, and so we haven't been able to get her in yet. At times in our life, when we think times are the most difficult, and are the most challenges it's really something that can end up being our greatest blessings. And I've seen that many times in my life. It's something that we see on the farm all the time, if the rain comes for 30 days straight – at the time it seems like the worst possible thing in the world because we can't get the work done, can't get it done timely. But six months later, when we're harvesting our crop and we have record crops – then comes the blessing that we see the law of the harvest, of how what seemed like the most difficult thing really ended up being something great. And I think we're seeing that in, in this circumstance with, you know, having to dump potatoes, you know, what seemed like a total disaster ended up being such a wonderful blessing, lead to a family in Kenya, on the other side of the world that could potentially have their lives changed forever. I just couldn't envision that at first. But I knew that as they had prayed, what could we experience, what could we learn from this COVID and from the whole tailored experience of being patient and waiting on the Lord's time for that to come to pass. I really feel like that has come to fruition and really just see somebody's live blessed as we learn to listen to the promptings of our Heavenly Father that come to us and follow them. It's really how we accomplish going about doing God's work that He would do if He was here Himself, to do our Heavenly Father's work. And I really want to envision and look just to see if Susan's family, a decade from now, a generation or two from now, to see what kind of difference that made. Something little, a little thing like dumping a few potatoes out in a, in a pile on the edge of a field, how that can lead to change the lives of many generations to come and really to see great things come to pass. That's really a testament to me of really how God works. We have to have trust in Him and what He allows us to go through and the trials that we have that that He – iti is maybe be what's best for us and really can be our greatest blessing.   KaRyn  26:28  That was Ryan Cranney. LDS Living first shared Ryan and Susan's story in a written article this past spring, and we loved that we could get it in Ryan's own words here on the podcast. And because you know that we love to have all sides of the story here at This Is the Gospel, we did reach out to Susan to see if we could make that happen. But the time differences from Kenya to the US and technological challenges made it impossible right now. We're so grateful for her willingness to be part of the story and we will have more of her own words in our show notes as soon as we possibly can. You know, when story producer Katie Lambert was working on this story, she remarked to me several times, pretty much every time we talked about it, how much she enjoyed Ryan's unassuming demeanor. She is well acquainted with the Idaho farmer life and said that he is an Idaho farmer through and through. Matter of fact about the loss of a major part of his income for the year, and matter of fact about his decisions to give the potatoes away and matter of fact about his prompting to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with Susan and her family. I'm in awe of Ryan solid faith in God's timing and His plan for each of us. He understands something that I feel like I'm still trying to learn every single day. The loss of the potatoes and the money that those potatoes represented was a temporary and temporal setback. But the joy in feeding thousands or helping one soul come home to the Savior's fold, that's an eternal and everlasting joy, nothing temporal about it. And that kind of perspective is exactly what Elder Holland was talking about when he gave his beautiful 2012 General Conference address titled: "The First Great Commandment." There isn't time here to recount the entire address, we'll put it in our show notes, you really need to go and reread it. It's so good, and so important. But Elder Holland shares the story of the resurrected Savior coming to His apostles who have turned back to the work they did before they were first called to leave their nets and follow Him. And after showing them his power to feed the world, physically, by filling their empty fishing nets, He implores Peter three times, "Do you love me?" And when Peter answers have after each question with "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee." The Savior responds with these words, "Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep." Elder Holland goes on to say, quote, "I am not certain just what our experience will be on judgement day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter, 'Did you love me?' I think he will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate and sometimes childish grasp of things. Did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all? Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength and with all thy mind. And if at such a moment, we can stammer out, 'Yeah, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee,' then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty. 'If ye love me, keep my commandments, 'Jesus said. So, we have neighbors to bless. Children to protect. The poor to lift up, the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right and truth to share and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can't quit and we can't go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before." End quote. When I think of Ryan's story, I think of this kind of love. This kind of loyalty. The kind of love that started with a pile of potatoes in an attempt to feed a hungry world. The kind of love that presented a willing heart that some may have seen as naive, ready to engage with someone very different from himself and his circumstances. And finally, the kind of love that knows that the true soul food of this sometimes treacherous, and confusing earth life, the real sustenance for those of us who hunger and thirst looks a lot less like potatoes, and much more like the making and keeping of sacred covenant as disciples of Jesus Christ. So this week, my friends, regardless of what your test results say, or a relentless year flings at you, I pray with all of my heart that we will seek to be filled with that kind of love. And as Elder Holland invites us to do, that we'll move forward, ever forward, to show that love by feeding His sheep. That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel thank you to our storyteller Ryan Cranney and Susan. We'll have more information about them and their story including pictures, as well as the link to Elder Holland's talk in our show notes at LDS You can also get more good stuff by following us on Instagram or Facebook at Thisisthegospel_podcast. The story in this episode is true and accurate as affirmed by our storyteller. And of course, if you have a story to share about living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please call or pitchline and leave us a story pitch. We're currently looking for Christmas stories. Stories about getting it right, getting Christmas right. The best pitches will be short, they'll be sweet and they'll have a clear sense of the focus of your story. So call 515-519-6179 and leave us a message. Did you know that when you leave a review of this podcast on Apple, stitcher or wherever you listen, it makes it so that more people can find the podcast? If you can't figure out how to leave a review, which I totally get, check out our highlights on our Instagram page for some tips. This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay with help from Sarah Blak – bless you Sarah – and story production and editing from Katie Lambert. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Be well everybody! Stay safe.     Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Nov 16, 2020
Practical Religion
Stories in this episode: Armed with yeast and flour, Ben jumps in to make a difference for his community after his involvement in two tragedies; Lecia grapples with three-in-the-morning anxiety until one simple practice brings peace; Chris finds himself stuck in the mud and snow with no way home—except to follow the nudges he gets from the Spirit. NOTE: Ben's story has a brief mention of suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out to someone you trust. You can text 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. Or, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 SHOW NOTES To see pictures and more from this episode, go to to view the shownotes. TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay  0:04  Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay. You know, there are a lot of things about the gospel of Jesus Christ that can feel pretty abstract sometimes. For example, have you ever wondered what it actually means to apply the Atonement to our lives? We throw that phrase around, like it's just a thing we come into the world knowing how to do. But if I'm being totally honest with you, I'm not exactly sure all the time what that looks like in practice. What about receiving forgiveness, or more importantly, giving forgiveness to someone else? And don't even get me started on the concept of receiving revelation or accessing and using the power of the Priesthood? There are so many, "But how?!"– moments in my life. I'll never forget in the October General Conference of 2019, when it felt like President Nelson was speaking directly to me and my questioning heart. He had just gotten done inviting the women of the Church to explore and integrate the covenant power of God in our lives through the priesthood when he said, quote, "Now, you might be saying to yourself, 'This sounds wonderful, but how do I do it? How do I draw the Savior's power into my life?'" end quote. And you know that scene in movies where the main character looks around to see if someone is in the room with them reading their diary? That was me in that moment. It's possible that I had even written that specific question down. "But how?" He continued, quote, "You won't find this process spelled out in any manual. The Holy Ghost will be your personal tutor as you seek to understand what the Lord would have you know, and do. This process is neither quick nor easy, but it is spiritually invigorating." End quote, and . . . mic drop. As someone who can sometimes get caught up in that desire to do everything right, the fact that there is no checklist for how to apply some of these gospel principles in my life? Well, I guess I needed a prophet of God to remind me that the work of discipleship is all about the process, and that the process is spiritually invigorating. So even though we are necessarily on our own personal journey to understand how to "do" the Atonement, and all those other wonderful parts of the gospel – the good news is that we can still learn from one another in our practice. And on today's episode, each one of our storytellers is going to share their experience of taking a principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, from theoretical to practical in their lives. Our first story comes from Chris who fine tuned his ability to follow and trust the promptings of the Spirit, long before he would need it. Here's Chris. Chris  2:47  I got a call from my mother one evening, and she said, "Chris, I heard dad's truck drive by my window, just making sure it's you, because your dad is in the TV room watching TV." And I said, "No, I wasn't me. It must have been somebody else." My mom and dad moved on my 20 acre property about 24 years ago. They live just about as close as, you know, hitting a golf ball to their home. I borrow his truck occasionally, but I usually ask. So she found that this was a little unusual that I didn't ask. Dad had a habit of leaving his keys in the ignition in his truck, because he often misplaces them. And he uses it for everything. Being on 20 acres, he uses it continually. So he just leaves the keys in the truck, and when he needs it, it's always there. So somebody had definitely stolen his truck. We called the police and the police kind of looked over the country a little bit, but they didn't find a thing.   My mom and dad were devastated that the truck was gone. Simply because dad uses it all the time. And mom works and she uses the car, so dad is left without a truck. The next day, I was getting ready for work. I had a strong impression that I needed to go find the truck. And this feeling I had gave me the confidence that I could find it if I just go look for it. That feeling continued to be with me through the whole day, and so when I got home from work, I quickly put my jeans and T-shirt on climbed in the truck, said a prayer in my heart that I would be led to the missing truck.   The area that I live in is out in the country. Our acreage is mostly desert, as well as all the property and countryside. Not a lot of trees. Just a lot of open space. I remember going to the end of the driveway, and I was faced with my first dilemma. Do I go left? Do I go straight? Or do I go right? I tried really hard to listen to the enticement of the Spirit. Basically giving up the steering wheel – so to speak – to the power greater than me.   I've learned through my life that the Spirit talks to me through impressions. And basically speaking to my mind, not in an audible voice per se, but thoughts that are not normally mine or my way of thinking. I think about this experience where I really found this to be true.   A few years previous, I decided to go hunting one Thanksgiving before the Thanksgiving feast that evening. So I took off to the hills with my gun, and very unprepared for anything. All I cared about is just having my gun and my truck and taking off. I went to the mountains and found a road that went for miles. The further I went, the deeper the snow became. And I knew that I could get into trouble. But I thought I was safe. Because my truck has four wheel drive. The snow was getting deeper and deeper. As I came around a corner, I slid off the side of the road. And I definitely got stuck. So I threw in four wheel drive. And it did not seem to help at all, the tires just spun.   It got deeper in the snow and deeper in the mud, and before long I was high centered, there was no way I was getting out of the situation. My only option here was to start walking back to the road. I had been on this road for a long time, and walking it was going to take a long time. So, knowing this, and given that it was Thanksgiving Day, there weren't gonna probably be a lot of people out. And I didn't tell my wife where I was going because I didn't know exactly where I was going. So really, nobody knew where my location was. That was perhaps maybe one of the scariest feelings. Just knowing nobody knew I was there – to help me. I started my journey. And I noticed up on the side of the hill, there was some construction going on. Some removal of brush and some trees and things like that. I thought maybe if I go up there, there will be some tools like a shovel or some things that may just help me to get out. As I walked up the hill, I found really nothing that would help me. But to my right I noticed this huge machine, it was a huge earthmover. I thought man, if I could just drive that down the road and pull myself out, that would be great. It didn't take me long to think, yeah, I think maybe I could do this. I'm gonna go see if I can somehow get this down the road. So I jumped inside, look for the key, as I put my hand down to the side of the seat, I noticed a little pocket on the side and reached in there, and lo and behold, there was a key, and it actually fit the ignition. I tried turning it over. And it started right up – to my amazement. I figured out how to put it in gear, and I stepped on the accelerator. The engine revved a little bit, but it wouldn't move. And I couldn't figure out why I couldn't get this thing to move.   I kept stepping on the accelerator and nothing. Time is starting to get short, I need to do something. Since I couldn't move the machine, I turned it off, put the key back and started walking down the road again. As I was walking, I had an impression in my mind that said turn around and go back and try again. I knew that this wasn't coming from me because I was so set in walking. I knew that that was my only choice. But as that impression came to my mind, I knew that maybe I had another choice, and I was going to give it a shot. So I hopped back in put the key in started it up, hit the accelerator, and still, nothing happened. So I gave up, turned it off, put the key back and started walking again. As I walked, I had that same impression come to my mind. I turned back around, got back in this machine and started it up again. This was the third time and I thought okay, third time, it's got to be the charm. I stepped on the accelerator. Still nothing happened. I was getting frustrated and just wondering what in the heck am I gonna do? And I sat there with the engine running, just contemplating what other choices do I have? I tried one last time – I stepped on the accelerator. And I thought I felt the machine move just a little bit. And that gave me some hope and some courage. The longer I let the machine sit there and run, the more this machine was starting to move. And it suddenly dawned on me that we're dealing with a machine that that works with hydraulics. Perhaps this thing just needs to get warmed up. So I let it warm up a little Bit more stepped on the accelerator, and before long I was moving down the road. And was able to get to my truck and pull it out.   I've learned to trust my impressions since that Thanksgiving experience and realized that is how the Lord speaks to me. By giving me the impressions and gentle enticements, to do something. And now here I am at a crossroad listening to that enticement and being nudged, to take a left. So I turn left and continue down the country road a while when a feeling came over me to turn left on the next road. I slowed down and took a road that veered off through the desert, which was full of potholes, mud, and wondered why I'm going down this road. I drove for 20 more minutes until I came to a canal bank. On one side of the canal was just water. And the other side was probably about 20 – 30 acres of just trees and heavy brush. Then the impressing came to me stop and just get out.   So I got out of my truck and walked down the other side of the canal bank into a thicket of bushes, which emptied into a large field. And I could see the tree line on the left of me going up the field. I got about 500 yards, and the adversary really started to work on me. Putting thoughts into my mind saying, "What in the heck are you doing? Why are you going this way? There's no really possibility of anybody coming down here in a vehicle? There's no roads, there's nothing. This is a waste of time." So as these thoughts hit my mind, I convinced myself that it was probably true.   So I turned back and headed back to the truck, and as I was walking back, I got that same Thanksgiving Day impression, "Turn back around and keep walking." So I made a deal with myself that I would walk to the end of the tree line enough to look around on the back end of the trees. but that was it. That's as far as I was gonna go. As I started to look around the back–end of it, I saw a little red truck, tucked back in some trees. It was my dad's truck. And I stood there with an amazed look on my face, and was humbled to know, I was led by my Heavenly Father, to find this needle in this huge haystack.   I started walking to the truck. And as I got closer, I noticed the perpetrator was still in the vehicle. When I got to the hood, I noticed him passed out, or sleeping. And my thoughts immediately went to: I have no idea what to do now. The blessing of being led by the Spirit though, through this whole ordeal gave me a sense of calmness. Which still applied here. No thoughts of being in danger, but just being aware of the whole situation.   In my attempt to wake this person up, I started banging on the hood really hard. And he didn't wake up. So I started hitting the hood some more and this time, he woke up to me looking at him gazing into the window. This startled him a little bit, and long story short – we had a conversation. For reasons beyond my understanding, I wasn't angry at him. For some reason I had compassion on him and let him walk away without consequences. I even offered him a ride back home, but he rejected the offer.   So, when he left, I went ahead and got back into my truck and went back home and told my mom and dad that I had found the truck. They were in awe, and asked, "How did you find it?" The only thing I could tell them was that I was led and directed by the Spirit.   The way the Holy Ghost speaks to us is different for each person. For me, these promptings come as thoughts. And they're usually followed by a feeling in my heart or my chest that confirms the message is right.   I haven't told very many people this story, just those who are closest to me. But I have had a couple of people ask me, "How do you know that the Spirit actually directed you to the truck?" And what I tell them is that I've learned in life, that when I get impressions, that are righteous impressions, that I need to follow my Heavenly Father's guidance. And I've learned that when I do listen and do exactly what the Lord wants me to do, I always benefit from the results.   Because of this experience, I have had the ability to pay more attention to what the Lord is telling me, especially as the Church is going into the ministering. I've had many experiences now where I'm just driving down the road, and I get the impression that I need to call somebody or go visit them. And I've been amazed each time when I follow through and go visit somebody just out of a whim, that they needed somebody to talk to, or they needed help with something. That is the spirit. That is revelation. Just the ability to recognize when He speaks to me.   KaRyn  15:56  That was Chris. You know, my favorite part of Chris's story, besides that moment when his mom called him, is the way that both his experience on Thanksgiving Day and his experience with finding the truck in the impossible field, transformed the way he ministers.   I heard someone say once that our God is an efficient God. I can't remember who said it. But I think Chris's story proves that. None of our practice sessions with the gospel are wasted on God. It might have taken Chris three times to trust himself with the message from the Spirit and get that earthmover moving, but it only took him one time to trust the message from the Spirit in the field when he got out of the truck. And now as he ministers, it takes him no time to heed the message, when he feels that nudge to check on a neighbor.   It's a beautiful illustration of that eternal principle that we get better and better when we show up to practice. Unless you're me on the JV soccer team in 10th grade. No amount of practice is improving that game. While our next two stories seem to have similar elements at the beginning, with each storyteller making a pretty difficult discovery, they find their own unique path of practical gospel application.   A quick note to our listeners, even though they are told carefully, these next two stories include references to emergency medical events, and a brief mention of suicide. First up, we'll hear from Leica.   Leica  17:20  My husband Jay had a major medical event when he was 42, but that's not the story I want to tell today. But in order to understand my story, you are going to need to hear a little bit of his.   It was a Saturday morning when my seven year old daughter and I found my husband slumped on the bathroom floor. He was not breathing, and his face was a horrible purple gray kind of color that I will never forget. I was a little bit  – not a little bit, I was panicked in that moment. I hollered at my daughter to go call 911. I'm gonna be honest, My hands were trembling so much that I wasn't totally sure if he had a pulse or not. But I assumed he didn't, and so I just started doing CPR, and the people in the 911 phone call agreed with me that that was the best course of action.   And the paramedics arrived, and then they were able to shock him with their defibrillator paddles and got his heart back into a normal rhythm. So they had to defibrillate his heart again in the ambulance, and again, when he first got to the hospital. They had put him in a medically induced coma to prevent brain damage from the oxygen he had missed out on. So they had intended for him to be in this coma for maybe a day or so, but he stayed in for three days. He wouldn't wake up like they had wanted him to or expected him to.   His neurologist came in at one point and said to me kind of harshly, "Quit saying 'when he wakes up' and start saying 'if.'" And that really threw me. I, I couldn't go home for a while when I left the hospital that day because I was upset and I didn't want my kids to see how scared I was. I did think he was going to die. His mother always thought he would live and come out of it, but I did not feel that. And I was scared. And the hospital chaplain came and visited with me and to prepare me for the worst like they do, and that didn't help.   I had four kids at home who I needed to care for and be strong for and I had a son on a mission who was due to come home in less than a month. I was really worried about him. I was worried about him not being there and not seeing his dad. And I spoke about my fears to one of the ICU nurses and she said, "Yeah, if you want your son to see his dad one more time, you should bring him home immediately." So I called the mission President and I talked to them and I talked to my son, and he he felt like he could stay. He felt like he could stay until his release date and so I honored that. And I guess I'm kind of embarrassed that both my mother-in-law and my son had more faith in, you know, a positive outcome. But I just, I think I was just scared.   So eventually, miraculously, and that's a whole other story, but my husband did recover from this event, he came home and he recovered completely. But I almost did not recover.   I have always considered myself to be capable and independent woman. I mean, I get things done, right. That's who I am. But after Jay's incident, I started to come unglued. Things that normally were really easy for me were suddenly very overwhelming. I specifically remember one of my kids coming home from school with a flat tire on their bike, and I just burst into tears. Like the thought of having to change that tire was just too much for me, even though I've literally changed dozens of flat tires for my kids over the years. This one just felt way bigger than the rest.   Everything that happened felt like too much. You know, sometimes when you're having a lot going on, and then you get that one more thing, and it's the last straw? Everything was the last straw. And it's so unlike me, but it just – I don't know – I don't like changing tires anyway, but I can do it, I've had lots of practice with it, but this one, I was just like, "No, I cannot do this." Everything felt like that. Everything made me want to cry, I was just on edge a lot.   I began having panic attacks, I had this weird sense of my own physical vulnerability. So something small would happen, like I would get heartburn or something, and I would be convinced that I was going to stop breathing. That my heart was going to stop, that something really bad was happening in my own body. And it was going to be really scary, the way Jay's had been. And so my heart would start racing, and I would have just a full on panic attack, based on these thoughts and feelings that I couldn't seem to control. I had never had panic attacks before, and they are scary in how real they feel. You, you really feel like something is majorly wrong with your body, and you're gonna die.   I had terrible night anxiety, which robbed me of many hours of sleep. So one night I woke up maybe a few weeks after my husband had come home, and it was the middle of the night and I was gripped by all the usual fear and worry and anxiety that had been bothering me for these few weeks. And, and I started to think about a primary selling that my children were learning at the time. And it describes some of the miracles that Christ performed when he was on the earth.   And I began to silently sing the lyrics to that song in my mind, and as I did, I tried to picture the events that went with them. So things like Christ walking on the water, or calming the storm, or healing the leper. And I found that centering my thoughts on Christ was a lot more effective at calming my night terror than anything else had been. I had tried things like, you know, thinking about something that was fun or exciting coming up in my life, or a good memory that I just had, or you know, some of those Christmas memories that we had just gone through. And it helped a little but not very much.   But, but these thoughts calmed me and I went back to sleep. So it was way better than anything else I had tried. So as I remembered him in those scary nights, as I thought about the words to the song, the miracles he had performed, the way that he loved and cared for people and still does – I felt myself unlocking really powerful blessings. Blessings of having his spirit with me, like he had promised. And the fruit of that spirit, which is peace. And that peace is what allowed me to calm down and go back to sleep.   I still feel anxiety sometimes, although it's not as strong as it was in the month right after my husband's incident, but it is something that I continue to struggle with, that I take medication for and that I often still wake up in the night because of. So, my Christ centered thoughts didn't cure my anxiety, I don't think that there is a cure for anxiety, it's something we all have sometimes, but it did help. It did give me something that gave me relief in the worst moments of it. But I also have a lot of other tools that I use including, meditation and medication and different things like that.   I went for many years not understanding what it meant to access the power of our covenants, and I still don't think I have a handle on it, but I love that he gave me a little bit of it as I went through this experience. The how for me in this situation was always remembering him by thinking about him in moments when I was not strong. In moments when I was weak, I could lean on him for his strength by just thinking about him. Thinking through his life, things he had done for other people, things he has done for me in the past. That was a really practical "how" for me to know that this, this big concept of leaning on the Savior for his strength could be affected by thinking about Him. By always remembering Him.   It wouldn't make any sense to tell everybody, "Hey, to keep your sacramental covenant, you should wake up at three in the morning and think about Jesus Christ while you battle your anxiety." That's just not a useful application for everybody, but it's useful for me.   I love that my Heavenly Parents believe that I can figure it out. That they also see me as a strong and capable woman who, through the Spirit can learn everything that I need to know to live a life that is as practical as it is powerful.   KaRyn  26:21  That was Leica. Talk about calling down the powers of heaven. I am a huge fan of visualization, but I'd never thought about using it to keep Christ continually in my heart, or to dispel chaotic thoughts. I really appreciate Leica's example of allowing Heavenly Father to guide her toward the practical application of the Atonement that would work for her. It makes me think of what President Nelson said about the process. There's no manual because the truth is that the "how" of the gospel is different for each of us. It's deeply dependent upon our needs, our current situation, and our unique spiritual gifts. And what works for Leica might work for me, but it might not. So the trick is to offer my heart to my Father in Heaven, and then wait. Wait for inspiration about what's going to work for me. I actually think it's beautiful that there's no one fits all solution, because that also means that I can let go of comparison and judgment and fear about getting it wrong, and focus instead on getting it right.  figuring out what the practical application of the gospel looks like for me in my life, in my circumstances, and make it happen. Our final story about putting our spiritual theories into action comes from Ben.   Ben  27:39  Last May, I had been asked to speak at a Relief Society function, and I went up to get in my car and realized that my neighbor's car was blocking my driveway. I recognized the car because it was an odd color of green that had a couple of dents in it, and then I realized that it was still running. And I went to the window and the driver was still in there, looked like she was looking in her glove box, I kind of knocked on the window and realized that she wasn't looking in her glove box at all, but was passed out or something was very wrong. I knew it was my neighbor, I'd met her a few times before. I, you know, opened the door and was shaking her leg and was saying, "Wake up, wake up what's going on?" And you know, I don't even know remember what I was saying, but just really, you know, freaked out.   She, she wasn't responsive. I call 911 as quick as I could, and they said you need to get her out and you need to begin CPR. And so I ran into the house, and just you know, yelled at the door, "I need help now!" And you know, my family was still sitting at dinner. My son who was 18 at the time, helped me lift this woman out of the car. We laid her on the grass, it's starting to rain, and I know CPR, but I knew – also knew that she was gone, you know, completely gone. And the fire truck pulled up about a minute and a half after we had her out on the lawn, and they took one look at her and said, you know, "We're not even going to try CPR. She's obviously gone."   The 911 operators is with us the whole time and you know, "Tell me her name. Tell me – How can we . . ." and I couldn't remember this lady's name. I had nothing. And so it's raining, you know, I have to leave I have no way of contacting the people. The paramedics are there and, and basically no they have to wait for the crime scene investigator to come and check everything out. By this point I'm, you know, 20 minutes late already and my son's car was parked out on the street, so I took his car and, and went.   And I think probably one of the most traumatic parts of the story for me is the fact that, you know, I'd known this woman for years, she's, she's been my neighbor for, for 10 years, and I guess I shouldn't say that I really knew her because we wave to each other as we came and went, you know, I knew that she had a partner, they would often sit and smoke cigarettes on the wall, you know, three doors down from me, and I'd wave and say hi, but I had forgotten her name. And, you know, three doors down. I felt like I failed. And I felt like a really, really bad neighbor. And that, that really hurt.   I, you know, promised myself that I would get to know my neighbors better and, and spend more time understanding who they were and a little bit of their story. So, you know, heaven forbid, if anything ever happened like this, again, I'd be able to give it a good answer. So in some ways, I definitely tried to follow through with that, that promise to myself and got to know the guys next door, their names and a little bit of their stories, what they were studying in school. In some ways, I feel, you know, proud that I was able to connect with more of my neighbors after this experience, and recognizing, you know, learning names and, and figuring out a little bit more about their stories, but it really wasn't until another tragedy took place that I realized something much more needed to be done.   A 19 year old neighbor, chose to end her own life. And I was involved with going out and searching for her and reading the note that she had left for her mom's. And ultimately, finding her gone. And in her letter, she talked a lot about feeling hopeless. You know, she had been dealing with some depression for a while, but was getting help and seemed to be doing really well. You know, a sophomore in college and really making good progress – we thought – and then to see this note, and just to see what she, that she just had gotten to the point where she had no hope left in her. And I, and I felt absolutely overwhelmed with the sense that something needed to be done.   My wife and I were on a humanitarian trip in India shortly after this, and spent a lot of time putting together some thoughts and doing some journaling, really feeling like there were some answers that were coming to me about what needed to be done. And one of those came in the form of, I guess, a memory of President Uchtdorf's talk from 2010 that says, "You are my hands." This is the story of Christ, a statue of Christ being bombed during World War Two, and the the villagers as they put their village back together, wanted to repair the statue of Christ. And his hands were badly broken, and they were able to make the repairs on most of the statue, but they decided not to repair his hands and instead hung a sign from the statue that says, "You are my hands."   I felt a need to share some hope and optimism with others. Several months before all this I had been baking bread and taking it and sharing it with my neighbors getting to know neighbors, you know, nobody is ever upset with you when you show up on their doorstep with a loaf of fresh bread. And so, sourdough Sunday had begun with that. So I would start on Saturday nights and and bake on Sunday, and go out and visit people on Sunday afternoons.   Right after we got home from from India, we began a crazy experiment. And that was to move Sourdough Sunday indoors and to begin inviting people, random people, whoever wanted to come, to come and eat a slice of bread and share a story. And so every Sunday until COVID started, we threw open our doors and invited people to come in and just talk. And there was laughter and there were tears and there were strangers that showed up on my door that I'd never met before that saw my post on Instagram or Facebook and wanted to come in and wanted to talk and it was such a crazy experiment, but so much fun. And my kids thought I was completely bonkers. But they joined in. And, you know, I, I baked sourdough, I baked yeast bread, I always had some extra dough sitting around in the fridge waiting to be baked, if more people showed up, you know, sometimes the people would stick around for an hour or two. And sometimes they stuck around for five or six hours. And we had to say, you know, it's time for bed now.   But it created a sense of community and a sense of hope, and a sense of connection, that, that we absolutely needed – that I didn't know that I needed. Many of them came back multiple times, and especially the younger kids that we just returned home from India with, you know, there were, there were kind of a core group of three or four of them that came every week, but it was a different different group every week. And like I said, many of these were strangers, and to see people that weren't members of my faith, but felt a desire to connect to humanity on a Sunday afternoon. To break bread. And you know, maybe that's what pure religion is, right? To learn to love and connect with people. And I felt I felt that connection, so, so strongly during that time.   And when COVID began, we kind of fudged and kept, kept it going for a couple of weeks after COVID was going because I thought, you know, this, this is probably going to go on for a long time, and I don't want to, I don't want to go into hibernation with this for too long. So since since COVID, started, we've continued on with the sourdough Sunday, I bake eight small loaves of bread every Sunday, and it's been really fun to go and deliver these to people at – usually at the end of, especially in the beginning, we delivered at the end of  an 18 foot telescoping paint rod. So, so people would come to their front door, and they just start laughing at this bread that was dangling in front of their faces. And, and, you know, there's some people that we've visited, over and over again, that are a little bit more vulnerable or susceptible to feeling isolated. And just feeling like we got to do something to help people know that we see them.   There's a, there's a great quote that I love from Mother Teresa that says, "If we have no peace, it's because we forgotten that we belong to each other." And I, and I think about that frequently. Especially right now with everything that's going on. We, we have to find ways to connect. We have to find ways to see each other and to recognize the pain and the suffering that we're all enduring.   The idea of, you know, mourning with those that mourn and comforting those that stand in need of comfort is, is a huge part of not only my baptismal covenant, but my my role as a Christian, you know, that we, we absolutely have to see each other. And I've found this to be the case now, as I have always, you know, whenever you go out and visit somebody, your problems disappear, because someone else's issues and struggles and problems. You recognize the pain that they're suffering, and your pains are gone, as you focus more on them, and help them to get through whatever they're going through. And sometimes you can't help them get through it. But just having someone to share that burden with you know, "A burden shared is a burden lightened." And I really believe that's what my religion is all about.   And really, we're probably not living our religion until we, we are getting our hands dirty in the act of loving people.   You know, one woman showed up with her husband, and after spending a couple of hours with us said, "You know, I haven't been active in the Church for 25 years. And this is the closest thing to church that I've had in that amount of time. I think if this is what church is about, I think I need to go back." I don't know what her story is or where it will end, but she knew that I was a member of the Church. It really felt like there was a lot of healing that took place as I listened to her talk about her reasons for leaving the Church and, and as you know, she listened to me testify of the love of God. And I suppose that's really the, the best thing I can share is that there's so many things that I don't know about the gospel for sure, but I do know that God loves me and that he loves all of his children. And if I can, I can help share that with other people, I don't know if there's anything that's more hopeful in this world than that we have a Father in heaven who loves us, and He wants us to be happy. And if we will remember those things, life makes so much more sense and, you know, the problems that we deal with and the challenges that we face, there, there will always be an eternal perspective on those things.   KaRyn Lay  40:53  That was Ben. I'm grateful for his willingness to share these experiences that have shaped his desire to practice charity and share hope. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, please, please reach out to someone for help. You can text: 741741 anonymously from anywhere in the US, or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. I promise you, you are not alone. I first came across part of Ben's story on an Instagram account that I started to follow this past summer during the Coronavirus times. I was feeling really disconnected and helpless, even though I was trying hard to serve my neighbors and my family the best way that I could. Reading the news, watching things start to disintegrate as we got closer to the election – I guess I was just longing to feel some sort of connection and control. I found this account called Protopians United which was sharing stories of people who needed kindness, and offering ways to actually do something kind for them. So I jumped in and started to participate. And then I realized that the person behind the account was actually the artist Ben Behunin, who makes this really beautiful pottery I had admired at the Deseret Book downtown stores for a long time. Now that I've heard the whole of Ben's story, I realized that that Instagram account that I first started following, it's just an extension of those sourdough Sundays. Everyone's invited to jump in and learn each other's names, and love our neighbor in word and in deed. I have always had a thing for vintage dishes and cookware, my collection of jadeite, and milk glass and Mikasa plates from the 1960's started when I was just a wee baby freshman in college. And even though I literally have nowhere to put one more dish in this tiny house, I still can't help myself from checking the glassware section of any thrift store that I ever visit. I do have one rule for myself with these treasures, though. I won't buy it if I can't actually put it to use. I'm not interested in it if it's too precious to slap some potato salad in for the ward picnic – back when those still happened. And that also means that sometimes, sometimes I drop the jadeite cake stand carrying it to the Relief Society social, or a stray ball from an illicit indoor game of catch shatters the rare, milk glass pedestal dish that was holding the mail. The loss of these pieces is sometimes really, really, really painful for a hot minute. But I've decided that I actually get more joy out of the everyday use of them than pain from the loss of one. I guess I like my religion like I like my glassware. I need it to be as beautiful as it is functional. And the good news is that as followers of Jesus Christ in these latter days, we are part of a truly practical faith. President Brigham Young once said this, quote, "The religion of Jesus Christ as a matter of fact, religion, and taketh hold of the everyday duties and realities of this life. The principles of eternity and eternal exaltation are of no use to us, unless they are brought down to our capacities so that we practice them in our lives." What this means is that we can't keep the beautiful concepts of priesthood and revelation, forgiveness, repentance, Atonement, charity, and faith – we can't keep those hidden in some cabinet or high on some shelf with the intention to use them for special occasions, or only when we really, really need them. We have to bring them down to where we are and figure out our personal "how–to," right now. Every day. We have to walk back to the earthmover even though we know the light is waning. And we have to close our eyes and visualize those miracles of Christ while our chest tightens and our breathing grows ragged. We have to swing the doors wide open, or hang bread from a pole to reach one another in these days of distance and anonymity. And while we're bringing these sacred treasures of eternity closer to the ground, we'll probably drop a few vases along the way. Maybe even that one that you inherited from your great grandmother, and that will hurt. But this promise from President Nelson can bring us comfort. He said that as our understanding increases and we exercise our faith, our ability to find and draw upon the spiritual treasures will increase. We will find the next practical piece of our treasure anytime we go looking for it. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers, Chris Leica and Ben. We will have more information about our storytellers including pictures of some of Ben's artwork, as well as links to President Nelson's talk and more, in our show notes at LDS You can also get more good stuff by following us on Instagram or Facebook at @thisisthegospel_podcast. All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers. And of course, if you have a story to share about living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please call our pitch line and leave us a story pitch. The best pitches will be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You can call 515-519-6179.  To leave us a message. If today's stories have touched you or made you think about your practical discipleship a little bit more deeply, please tell us all about it. You can leave a review of the podcast on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen on. Leaving us a review really does make it easier for people to find this podcast when they're just browsing around looking for something to lighten their day. And if you can't figure out how to leave a review – which I totally get – check out the highlights on our Instagram page for some tips. This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay, with story production and editing from Erika Free and Kelli Campbell. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six Studios, and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at slash pad . . . slash podcasts.   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Nov 08, 2020
Decisions Determine Destiny
Stories in this episode: Vinnie’s experience of coming unto Christ is made up of small decisions that end up changing his heart in unexpected ways; Lisa's decisions about which hymns to sing at her son's funeral end up leading to a moment of profound healing. PLEASE NOTE: stories may contain themes addressing topics that are sensitive for some listeners. We suggest previewing before sharing with children or youth. Show Notes:  To see pictures and links for this episode, go to Transcript:  KaRyn  0:04   Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.  Well, here we are barreling toward another election here in the US. And it seems that whether we like it or not, decisions and decision making is in the air and it's on our minds. I, for one, love it. The thinking about the decision making, not the actual making of the decisions that I find desperately difficult sometimes, but the thinking about decision making that intrigues me.  I studied communications in school and the sheer amount of energy that researchers have put into understanding the who, what, where, and why of decision making is amazing. There are theories about the psychology of decisions, the neuroscience of decision making, the economy of decisions, everywhere you look, we human beings are trying to figure out how to make the right choice. Or if I go to my cynical place, we human beings are trying to figure out how to get people to make the decisions that we want them to make.  But there's a reason that we've invested so much effort in trying to figure this out. Decisions can feel weighty and really big. In fact, the origin of the word "decision" actually speaks to that. It comes from a Latin root of a word that I can't pronounce well enough to say it here and embarrass myself, but it means to cut off. When we make a decision, when we choose to go one way or the other, we are literally cutting off another option and all the possibilities that that option represents. If that isn't enough to make you never want to make another decision, I don't know what is. I hate the loss of all that possibility.  But one thing I think most of this research might be getting wrong in that careful analysis of the process is that decision making doesn't have to be so hard. As followers of Christ, we have access to some really powerful tools to help us know what to cut off and what to keep. And whether you are decisive or indecisive or somewhere in between, today's stories about the power of our decisions—both big and small—will get you thinking about what we choose and why we choose it. And how that has everything to do with moving closer to our best selves as disciples.  Our first story comes from Vinnie, who, like most of us, couldn't see the collective power of the decisions he was making until much further down the road. Here's Vinnie. Vinnie  2:37   Small decisions in our lives can lead to either good or bad consequences later on. And it's the small decisions that sometimes we don't even realize we're making that can affect us in so many different ways.  It all started very young. I grew up in a family just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I had great parents, my dad's Catholic and my mom was a convert to the Church. We never went without anything we needed, but we definitely weren't rich or well off in anyway.  My parents both divorced when I was one, so pretty young. And they both remarried at some point when I was about two or three. And I don't know if it was the competitiveness between them. I was probably too naive as a young kid. But I was with my dad every other weekend. And we would go to the youth programs for the Catholic Church and see some of the people there or even sometimes there's activities for youth on Sundays or on the weekends that we were there. And when I was with my mom, we would go to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And so I got to have a taste a little bit of both.  My mom didn't go to church a lot. She went often but not regularly. And we weren't a family that had you know, family home evening that had dinner together. And we weren't a family that prayed together. We didn't do regular fasting. I didn't even know what fasting was until I was 18, 19 years old. And so we didn't have a lot of those basic teachings that you see in the Church now.  I think deep down, there was some feelings that there was a difference between the Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I attended. Both churches teach great things. Both have great principles. But I felt more of something when I attended church with my mom, but I never understood what it was, never really knew what it was.  At some point, my dad stopped taking us to church. And my mom, she let us make a decision when we were about 14 whether we continue to go to church or what we wanted to do. I have two older brothers, one is four years older, the other one is five years older. They both decided not to go to church anymore. They went a totally different direction. I think for me, personally, this small decision that I was making there was that I wanted to please my mom.  And so I would go on occasion. Sometimes I would skip out or go do something else during church and then come back. And so there was some trouble that I got in, there's mischief that I did. And I was not living in any way that was to the standards of the Church. I would occasionally attend the youth meetings for the Church, got some good friends. I shouldn't say friends. They are friends, but one was a particular leader that really helped me. He was a Scout leader and I remember him even asking me, "When are you going to do this more and put more into this?" And I kept telling him, "No, I'm not going there." And so that was one of those decisions that I was like, "No, I don't want to do this." And I would get mad if people would say something about a mission or something like that because it wasn't in my plan. I had no desire to do that.  It was at this point, when I was just about graduating high school, where I had to make some more decisions. And my brothers, I had watched them get into some serious trouble and some really bad situations. And I made the decision that I wanted to get away, I wanted to do everything I could to be the opposite of what I saw. And it was then I made the decision to go to Chicago, at 18 years old, to get away from everything.  And at that point in my life, I was thinking away from everything. Away from church, away from family, I wanted to go do my own thing. By being the mama's boy that I was, my mom made me promise that I will at least try to go to church. So here I am in Chicago by myself, and I went a couple times to a ward that I found. And I was the individual that sat in the back, that wouldn't take the sacrament. And that as soon as it was over, I would run out the back. And I was the person that would complain to my mom, and one of my friends back East that nobody talks to me. But yet I was the one not making any effort at all to talk to anybody else.  And the last time I had gone to that church, I was walking out, and an individual stopped me and he said, "Hey, I've never met you." And I said, "That's okay." I had the East-Coast attitude. And he says, "Who are you? Where are you from?" And we talked for a moment and I said, "Look, I gotta go." He goes, "Hey, I just want to let you know you're going to the wrong ward." I said, "Come on, how many words are in Chicago?" And he gave me the information of the other ward. And I said, "Okay, thanks. I'll see if I can make it." I walked out the door.  And I shared this experience with my mom, and she goes, "You need to promise me you'll try one more time. You need to at least contact this bishop and try one more time, and then I won't bug you anymore about it." I said, "Okay." Now I've got my way, right? I can go do this one more time. It's been the same every single time. And I can move on and not worry about it. And it was here where I called the bishop and he was nice, but I was short. And he gave me directions and it may have been a week or two before actually went. It wasn't like right away.  And so I get in the car and I follow directions. And I got absolutely lost. Here I am in Chicago, lost, no clue where I am. This was before cell phones. So I didn't have any way to call anyone or look anything up. I didn't have a GPS. So I looked at the directions. And I kind of set a prayer off the cuff and just said, "You know, if you want me to go to church, you're gonna have to find this because I don't want to go anymore. I'm done. I have other things I need to do and I don't want to do this anymore." And I looked down at the note and this thought came to me, and again, there's another decision, right? I said a prayer. Whether it was consciously or subconsciously, I wanted his help. But I didn't want it because of my own pride and natural-man self.  And I looked down at the directions. And I just had this thought come to my mind, "What if it's a left instead of a right?" And it wasn't five minutes later, I was parked in the parking lot of the church and I was kind of dumbfounded. I was like, "You got to be kidding me." Here it was at this point where I went, "Well, I made the promise to my mom. I'll do this one time, and then I'm done."  So I walked in and I sat, again, way in the back away from everyone. And I listened and as I sat there, I don't remember who was speaking, I don't remember the hymns that were played, but I remember being scared to death. Because all of a sudden, I felt something that I had never felt before and certainly never that strong, if I ever had felt it. I literally was like, "I don't know what this is," and it scared me. And as soon as they said, "Amen," I ran for those glass doors to get out of that building. I could not run fast enough.  And all of a sudden, this man stops me. He said, "You must be Vinnie." And I looked at him and I said, "What?"And he said, "I'm Bishop Coleman." I mean, here's a bishop that has this whole ward, he knew that I was there and what my name was because he knew every member of his ward. And he knew that he had to run off of that stage to get to me. And he grabbed me and he said, "Come talk to me for a few minutes." And it wasn't long, it was just brief. We sat down in his office and talked for a few minutes. And again, I'm scared to death. I'd never felt this feeling. But I'm looking at this man going, "How on earth did you do this?" And then that's where a series of decisions and choices in my life changed everything. He introduced me to a sweet, sweet lady. She was over the young single adults at that time. And she said, "Come be with us. We have these great single adults here, come upstairs to the classroom." And I said, "No, I cannot do that." And she got my information, I got hers, and I left. And I was like, "I'm not doing this. I can't do this anymore." And I ran away, not wanting to go back, but also deep down realizing something just happened. She was so sweet to reach out to me. And I couldn't say no, because I knew deep down there was something there. And she was a convert from Brazil. And she loves the gospel, absolutely loves the gospel and loves people. And all of her kids were away at college. And she took me in as one of her own boys and taught me and changed my life forever.  So as I was developing a testimony here. I was working in Chicago and also going to school. And in between work and school, I had about an hour of time and I would sit there and I would read the Book of Mormon as I would eat lunch. Here I was going to church and reading the Book of Mormon for the first time ever in my life. And I hung out a lot with these young single adults, they were so much fun.  And I remember one weekend, we were all together, we were playing games, and there were some returning sisters and some return elders that we were with. And they were talking about their mission. They were talking about experiences that they had people that they taught. And I don't know if they'd planned this for me or what, but it worked. Because they didn't pressure me. They didn't ask me about whether or not I was going to serve a mission. They were just being friends. But all of a sudden, it started to stir within me because during this year of being in Chicago by myself, I had began to understand what the Atonement really meant, and what changing your life really meant. And it was here, as I was listening to my friends talk about their mission. And I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to share what I learned.  And that next day was fast Sunday. I had not born my testimony since probably when I was a young kid. And I got up and I poured my testimony about a desire to serve a mission. It was then that the bishop grabbed me right after again and said, "Oh, we're gonna plan this." Next thing I know, I've got my papers turned in.  When I made that decision to serve a mission, I actually called my dad and told him that I was going to serve. And he had already helped me line up a job that I would have after graduating from college. And he was really disappointed at me. He wanted me to take that job and wanted me to help take care of my mom. And our conversations didn't end the greatest. And I didn't say much to him afterwards. I don't think we talked for over a month. And when I called my mom to tell her it was an interesting conversation too.  When I called my mom and I said, "Mom, I've made a decision." She said, "You're not getting married." I said, "No Mom, I'm not getting married." And she goes, "Well you're not coming home." And I said, "Well, you already knew that." And I said, "But I'm going to go serve a mission." And the phone just went silent. And it felt like it was forever. And then after however long, she said, "Are you sure?" And I had to stand up to my sweet mom and say, "Yeah, I'm sure." And she just couldn't believe it. All those little decisions that I had made along the way, even from a little kid, just wanting to follow my mom and please my mom made a huge difference in my life.  You know, I made that decision that I wanted to leave home and never go back and have something different than what my brothers had and what my brothers' decisions were. My brothers are good guys. And they're trying to do what they feel is right. And I still look up to them in many ways. But I wanted to do something different to do it my way.  Little did I know that my way would turn into the Lord's way and how thankful I am because now I've got the most beautiful wife in the world. I've kept six amazing children that are building testimonies. And we're doing our best to live the gospel.  I think we need to create our own way. And if you truly give your heart to Jesus Christ, and you want to make Christ happy because you've built that relationship with Him, then you make the choices necessary, big or small.  I look forward to that day when I can see Christ and he opens his arms. I know in the scriptures that says he'll say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." I don't want him to say a word. I just want to fall down and hug him because he made it possible for me to be forgiven. And he made it possible for me to change everything in my life. And now I have a better way of life. KaRyn  17:15   That was Vinnie.  You know, what I love about Vinnie story is that at the outset, it might seem like it's too small to matter. At least that fear is one of the things that Vinnie said initially kept him from deciding to call the pitch line when he first felt the stirring. But friends, do you know what an epic story is? It's nothing more than a collection of tiny moments of decision that build and build and build upon one another until something has to break, something has to transform. And the transformation is only possible because of all those small moments that led up to it.  In the case of Vinnie's story, the transformation is a testament to the Atonement—from reluctant people pleaser and mama's boy to a willing servant— all in the span of a half a lifetime. That is epic and inspiring in its scope.  And what's coming next is worth noting too. Generations starting from those decisions that Vinnie made, will walk toward their own epic story of building and deciding and building and transforming. And that's big, that's really big.  Our final story of decisions that make all the difference comes from Lisa. A quick note, Lisa's story involves an accident that might be difficult for sensitive listeners to hear.  Here's Lisa. Lisa  18:37   I was aware of three things as I struggled back to consciousness. The first of those was there was a significant amount of pain. The second was I was pretty sure that my son Michael had passed away. And I didn't know why I thought that. And the third thing was I was enveloped in an overwhelming, palpable peace.  I opened my eyes and I was in a hospital room and my husband, Dean, and his brother Philip were sitting there in the room with me. And the first thing I asked was, "Did Michael pass away?" I asked my husband and he said that yes, Michael passed away. And my next question was, "Why do I feel such peace?" I was very confused because losing Michael would make sense with me feel, you know, if I felt devastated and, you know, crushed. But peace didn't make any sense to me.  Earlier that day, we had gone to see a melodrama that my sister was in. And the night of the first performance, no one else in my family could go but I went and I came home and just raved about it. She was so cute. And she sold the show and it was hilarious. And so after I told my family about it, my daughter Abby, who was 14 said, "Well, I want to go." And so I said, "Sure. We can go."  Before it was time to go, my son Michael, who had turned, just turned 23, was there and I said, "Michael, you want to come with us?" And he decided he would go with us. So the three of us went to the melodrama. And it was just a nice evening, then it was time to go.  We walked out of the church house. And as we walk to the car, my son said, and this is a line from a Brian Regan sketch, that comedian Brian Regan. He said, "Backseat middle, my feet on the hump." And that was Michael's way of telling Abby that she could sit in the front seat because he knew that she loved it.  So he sat in the back, and we all got in. And our family has always worn seatbelts. Michael did not put on his seatbelt that night. And, you know, I didn't check. He's 23. We just drove off. And we were about a mile away from the church house when I entered an intersection. This is in a residential, it's 25-miles-an-hour. And we were hit by a pickup truck that was being driven by a man who was intoxicated.  The onboard computer said he was going more than 80 miles an hour. He did not tap his brakes and it hit right behind my door. So the door right behind the driver's side door and spun us around. Our car hit a parked truck hard enough that it broke its axle.  And during that, Michael was thrown from the car. He was killed instantly. My last memory is about two blocks before the accident. And then my next memory is five hours later, when I woke up in the hospital. I was in one room in the emergency room. My daughter was in the other. My husband got there and he was like, I don't like, he didn't know where which room he should go in. And he was told that I was unconscious. And that there was a nurse with me. But Abby was awake. So he went in there because that's where he was needed. After a while, he came into my room and I was unconscious. And there was a nurse who was holding my hand and crying. And that is just so tender to me. I don't know who she is. I don't worry about how do not I have any memories of the emergency room.  But she knew what had happened. She was holding my hand and crying with me. And that's just very, that's sacred to me that this good woman, this good nurse—it wasn't all about just the medical, you know, medical procedures. There was some real caring and loving there for these people who had been through this. I was released later that morning. I had a bad concussion. And most of my injuries had to do with wherever the seat belt was holding me holding me back. But things weren't life threatening. I did have a vertebrae that was broken in my neck, but nothing that impacted my spine. You know, that was all fine. Abigail was released the night before. That morning as it got to be morning, my husband started calling our child or other children and my parents and letting them know what had happened. And our children started gathering and that was a real gift to be together to have them there. You know, of course, emotionally, we're pretty fragile. Physically, I was it was months before I didn't have a great deal of pain every day.  At that point, I was walking but not before. Most nights, I'd fall asleep for a while and the pain would wake me up and it was some nerve pain and there isn't good pain medications that help with nerve pain. It was so painful, it was just an agony. So I would just kind of pace the floor and, you know, try to get through it.  And one night in the middle of that, I had the thought, "He did this to you." And it was true. The drunk driver is the one that had caused this pain. You know the pain, the physical pain, but also the emotional pain. And that was immediately followed by, immediately afterwards, the words came into my mind, "There is nothing worthy about that thought." And I knew that dwelling on that thought would take me farther from God. And I desperately needed God. So I just turned away from that thought. And I didn't ever have another thought along those lines. And every few years, the Lord teaches me more about gratitude. And it's a principle that I've really come to love for the blessings that it gives us. And I just kept feeling, I just kept having the recurring thought that during this saddest, most difficult time, you know, that the hardest thing that our family had been through, that I needed to find a way to be grateful, to still praise God and thank him for his blessings.  And, of course, I was continually grateful for the peace. I am well aware that there have been many good, faithful people who have lost a loved one that didn't have immediate peace like that. I don't know why we had that immediate piece. Everyone's path is different. But that was such a gift.  I mean, of course, we're very sad. And, but you, I couldn't, to say we were devastated, is taking it too far. Because that peace didn't allow for devastation. You know, sadness, yes. A great deal of sadness. But we weren't devastated. So of course, I was grateful for that.  I was also grateful to have my family around. I was also very grateful because our ward and neighbors and extended family just rallied around us, you could feel that their prayers were helping you. There was more food here then we could eat, you know, just people were so kind. So of course, it was, I was grateful for those things.  And, but I still kept having the feeling that we needed to find a way to be grateful. And I have always loved hymns. From the time I was a little girl. I remember having spiritual experiences in sacrament meeting as we sing hymns. So it was very natural for me to, you know, as I'm trying to decide, "So how do we do that?" my thought turned to the hymns.  And we're planning a funeral. And try to find some hymns that were praising the Lord. That's, that, that was the thought that I had, so that we should sing hymns of praise during the funeral. We started with, "I Love to See the Temple" because we always sing that song to our family. And Michael loved the temple. So we started with that, that was the opening hymn, was a congregational hymn. And then partway through we sing, "Sing Praise to Him." And because it was my thought that we should sing hymns of praise, I tried to do that while we sang. Um, because I knew it was Michael's time, that his work on the earth was finished, I could sing and mean it. Well, maybe I shouldn't say mean it. Have faith that it was true, even if I didn't know it. "That within the kingdom of his might lo,. all is just, and all is right".  So that's what I tried to do when we, as we sang. I tried to, to praise the Lord, because he had grown to be overwhelming peace and acknowledge that my son's work was done on the earth. And I wasn't worried about where Michael was. I knew where he was.  We sang as a closing hymn, "Press Forward Saints." And I chose that for a couple reasons. It felt like it's the message Michael would want those that he loved to hear, that all of us might press forward with steadfast faith in Christ. And then at the end, it has those three beautiful alleluias at the end of every verse, so we also got to praise the Lord. And it was interesting. Both my family and my husband's family, we all sing. I wish we sang with more gusto in the Church. In that funeral, we did. It was, it was loud. And during that closing hymn, there just came such a feeling of joy into the room. As I thought back on it, I actually think because every death is actually also a homecoming, I think it's my belief that the Lord allowed us to feel some of the joy of his homecoming.  The song ended, we had the closing prayer. And as we walked out, there was just so much joy in the room, I was actually self-consciousness. We walked out behind the casket, everyone's standing, you know, obviously watching the family as they walk out, and I could not wipe the smile off my face. And I was a little self-conscious, they're gonna think I didn't even love him for smiliing as I walk up my son's casket, but there was real joy in that room. I've never felt anything like that, if you know, before, it was just very sweet.  The pain of losing Michael that had been, it had felt like a raw, open wound. which I'd never experienced peace and sorrow like that. At the same time, I thought being at peace meant you're happy, you know, your content. And I learned that wasn't true. But that raw, open wound, it had been very skillfully stitched closed.The pain wasn't over. But real healing had begun. And I know that the Great Physician did stitch that wound closed.  Um, we've continued to mourn. You know, we still miss him. I cried I think pretty much every day for the first year. You know, I miss his smile. He had amazing hugs. And I just want to fill his arms around me, you know, Michael was the happiest baby I have ever had. And Michael has always been very laid back. He loves everyone. He's always loved everyone. And he was also the kind of kid that, as a parent, if I needed him to actually hear what I was saying, I had to grab his face. And say, "Michael, I'm going to ask you to repeat." Now, as an adult. I didn't say that anymore. But you know, growing up, I'm going to ask you to repeat what I tell you. And he, when he was about 14, or 15, I asked him one day I said, "Michael, where are you when I think you're listening to me, but you're not." And he looked really sheepish and he said, "On a medieval battlefield," which was fantastic. I love that. Before we lost Michael, I would have assumed that when you were mourning someone that you lost that petty much all of your crying and mourning would have been in the privacy of your own home. Um, that was my assumption and that is not how it's turned out. It hits you. Sometimes in the middle of Walmart, you know. There have been times when I really struggled to get out the door because something just made me think of Michael. So I'd just really quickly get out the door and go cry in my car. But I have found the majority of my crying and mourning for Michael. Well, the majority of crying about Michael has happened during sacrament meeting and I didn't want to do it during Sacrament meeting. I wanted to be home where it was private. But I'll be honest, some of the tears are just about missing him. But most of the tears have been gratitude for the Savior's Atoning sacrifice, and that he has overcome both physical and spiritual death.  I have all, I've understood intellectually, that our plight would be desperate without the Savior sacrifice for us. But losing Michael has made it very real to me, how desperately hopeless everything would be if it weren't for the Savior, Jesus Christ. The fact that the Savior overcomes death and sin is very concrete and real to me now. I do believe that the small thing I did, of just finding hymns and then trying to express real gratitude as I sang them, I believe that that small thing resulted in a huge amount of healing. KaRyn  34:58   That was Lisa. Every time I hear her story, I'm struck with the gift that she received from the Spirit to let her move past blame into peace. I've never lost a child or even a close loved one at the hand of someone else, but I imagine that is not the way it plays out for everyone in a similar situation. Our hearts are drawn in love and sustaining for those who are struggling right now to make peace with that particular wound.  And I think I learned something powerful about decisions from Lisa's experience. Making the right decision for us, even one guided by the Spirit, does not exempt us from the experiences of the mortal condition. Lisa chose to follow the prompting to let those feelings of blame go and that offered her peace of mind. But it couldn't protect her from her grief. And isn't that exactly why we chose to follow Christ in the first place? It's why we were so desperate to come to earth and have agency, we wanted to experience life. We wanted to experience all of it. And sometimes I think I put too much weight on my decisions, and I turn them into something more than what they actually are.  Making the next best decision matters, but not because it's going to guarantee me some protection from pain or embarrassment or helped me maintain my pride. I mean, I love to be right as much as the next guy, but if I'm making my decisions with the goal of being right, I think I'm skirting a sacred opportunity to get it right instead.  If you're a longtime listener to the podcast, then you probably remember our episode "The Paths We Choose" from season one. It had a really moving story from Chris and Eric, whose decisions had led them down some wandering paths. Their story reminded us that Jesus Christ is the restorer of paths, especially wandering ones, and that through the Atonement, all roads lead us back to him the minute that we turn our hearts in his direction. It's a miracle really. And maybe knowing that makes us wonder why we even try. If Christ can make up the difference of our failures and fix all of our poor choices, why should I spend my energy like so many researchers trying to figure out how to make the best choice? Well, I think the answer to this is in the realization that our decisions matter because they are a tool for proving where our hearts lie and with whom our hearts align.  In the October General Conference, Elder Bednar reminded us that, quote: "Tests in the school of mortality are a vital element of our eternal progression. Interestingly, however, the word 'test' is not found even one time and the scriptural text of the standard works in English. Rather, such words as 'prove,' 'examine,' and 'try' are used to describe various patterns of demonstrating appropriately our spiritual knowledge about understanding of and devotion to our Heavenly Father's eternal plan of happiness, and our capacity to seek for the blessings of the Savior's Atonement. He who authored the plan of salvation described the very purpose of our mortal probation using the words 'prove,' 'examine' and 'try' in ancient and modern scripture. 'And we will prove them herewith to see if they will do all things whatsoever the LORD their God shall command to them." End quote.  Making decisions, having a choice to make, that's all part of this glorious plan of salvation that we signed up for. We chose it. It's an opportunity to show God here on this imperfect and flawed earth with our imperfect and flawed brains and wills, that we choose him again, and again, and again. And while our decisions don't determine our divinity, they do determine our eternal destiny, which is to find ourselves on the right hand of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  So we pour our hearts into the work of making the next best decision, to say that prayer and try one more time to find the church in Chicago even though it would be easier to just go home. Or to hand over our feelings of anger and blame to the Savior instead of letting them fester in our hearts. We pour over those decisions because they have the power to move us one step closer to that destiny, and we're going to mess up. We'll allow those good decisions to build us up in pride sometimes, and maybe we'll unrighteously judge another person for the decisions that they're laboring with. But ultimately, if we choose to recognize that our decisions are a proving ground, think of it like a series of teeny tiny pop quizzes that will lead to our epic transformation through Christ. We can worry less, and love more, and try again tomorrow. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers Vinnie and Lisa for sharing their stories and their decisions with us. We'll have a link to Elder Bednar's talk, as well as more information about both of our storytellers in our show notes at You can also get more good stuff throughout the week by following us on Instagram or Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast.  All of the stories on this podcast are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers. And of course, if you have a story to share about living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and deciding to follow Him, please call our pitch line and leave us a story pitch. The best pitches are going to be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. Call 515-519-6179 to leave us a message.  If today's stories have touched you or made you think about your discipleship just a little more deeply, will you share that with us? You can leave a review of the podcast on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen on. And if you can't figure out how to leave a review, which I totally get, you can go to our Instagram page in the highlights for some tips. Every review of this podcast helps us to show up for more people who are looking for good things to listen to.  This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with editing and story production help from Erika Free. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six Studios. Our executive producer is as always Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast, including that episode from season one that we mentioned, "The Paths We Choose," and other LDS Living podcasts at Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Nov 02, 2020
Act Well Thy Part
Stories in this episode: Brothers Charlie and Sam start a trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro only to find that the steepest trail ahead lies in their conversations along the way; An important spiritual lesson on-stage leads Broadway performer Sandra to the surprising truth about her most challenging role off-stage. PLEASE NOTE: stories may contain themes addressing topics that are sensitive for some listeners. We suggest previewing before sharing with children or youth. Show Notes:  To see pictures and links for this episode, go to Transcript:  KaRyn  0:03  Welcome to “This Is the Gospel” an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith everyday. I'm your host KaRyn Lay. Our theme today comes from an oft-repeated phrase, "What ere thou art, act well thy part," which has made its way into Latter-day Saint cultural consciousness in really interesting ways over the years, like its cousin, "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it," this phrase is often misattributed. Sometimes it's attributed to the scriptures, sometimes to Shakespeare, and sometimes to the Prophet David O McKay. But it's none of these things really. Nobody really knows where it came from. It was the life motto of President McKay, but that's because he first spotted the saying engraved on a stone in Scotland, where he was a discouraged missionary. The saying brought him comfort, and it helped him to buck up and jump back into the work of gathering Israel with his whole heart. And since then, he has shared it with all of us. And it has come to mean a lot of things to a lot of people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   In fact, many years later, it became a touchstone for Sister Elaine Dalton's ministry, as the General President of the Young Women's organization. And if you are old enough to listen to conference in 2013, you might actually remember her very last talk before she was released. She talked about how this phrase sustained her during a time of deep discouragement. But why? What is it about acting well our part that captures our imagination and buoys us up in the face of disruption or challenge? Well, in today's episode, we have two stories from three people who found out what Shakespeare, or Shakespeare's brothers cousin, or whoever it was, who wrote that, what they already knew, when they carved that phrase into the rock. Our first story comes from two brothers who faced a steep mountain both literally and figuratively, and came down the other side with a clear sense of their part in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We'll start with Charlie, and then you'll hear from Sam as the story develops. Here's Charlie and Sam.   Charlie Bird  2:08  So the first thing I remember thinking was, "Is this real life?" Because I'm looking at this mountain above me. And honestly, I couldn't really see much. It was just like a jungle with trees and vines, and it was just going higher and higher. And then it was just lost in the clouds. And I couldn't believe that I was actually at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. If you know anything about my family, it's that we're kind of extreme and we love physical challenges. I'm there with my dad and my little brother, Sam, and my sister, Hannah. What we decided to do for this Kilimanjaro summit was try to do an unassisted hike. So most of the time, when you're hiking the mountain, you have like porters to carry your food and your water. But we wanted to go unassisted, which means we had everything with us just on our own backs. So I hoist this bag onto my shoulders, and I was like, "Oh my gosh." This is like the first moment that it's actually hitting me that I have to take this bag to the top of the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.   We go to weigh it in, and I can't remember exactly how many kilograms it was, but I did – it was like 30 kilograms, which is roughly 65 pounds. And I'm looking at my brother Sam, and we're like, "Are we cool? . . . Or are we crazy?" And looking back, I think it was a little bit of both. And honestly, all the park rangers there thought we were definitely crazy. For about two years before that I'd become a really avid hiker around Utah. And so I would do Timpanogos on the weekends with friends just for like fun and Angels Landing was a breeze and I was hiking all over the Wasatch Front and all over southern Utah. And I felt pretty good. But about 20 minutes into this hike – Kilimanjaro with 65 pounds on my back – I realized this was not going to be like any hike I'd ever done before.   One of the most incredible things that I noticed immediately was the environment, my surroundings. I've never seen so much foliage and animals, there was monkeys jumping through the trees, the landscape was just so beautiful. And there was these mossy vines that were hanging over this dirt path, the light was coming in, in like filtered scattered bursts illuminating the floor and there were flowers on the jungle floor. This is, this is the kind of trip that you know, everyone wants to go on but I was actually living it. I was like, "I cannot believe I'm doing this." And even better, with some of the people who I loved the most.   A couple hours into the start of our hike, we're just climbing. Elevation is steep and me and my little brother Sam are just moving out. For some reason. We were just feeling good. I think we were just excited to be there. We kind of got ahead of the rest of the pack. And for a while it was just me and Sam on the trail. And it was so interesting to look over at him. And notice that, you know, he'd always been my little brother. He's five and a half years younger. It was always kind of like – he was just little, you know? But now I'm looking at him and he's the same height as me and our strides are matching and I was like, "Dang, my little brother's like – a man." You know, I'm protective of him. I've always been like a caretaker of sorts to him, but now he was an equal and that that was kind of the moment I realized that he was an equal as we're moving out on this trail.   Sam Bird  5:18  Charlie and I had always been close. He had always been my best friend, my older brother, five years older than me. So I've always looked up to him, really in everything. Just the way he's been able to interact with people. He – we always said that Charlie is so skilled and talented in so many different fields that, that he could literally do anything. And I wanted to be like that. And he coached me through a lot of things and taught me a lot of things. And I was just happy to be with him.   Charlie Bird  5:46  You know, sometimes I wish there was a word that conveyed something stronger than brother, because that's how I've always felt with Sam. Growing up, we shared a room, and we basically shared everything. We played basketball – he's a basketball star – I honestly can't remember a single time I've ever lost a pickup game at the Rec Center, when Sam's on your team, like you want Sam on your team. And we just loved adventure. And we would explore and we would sing together and try to cook together and stay up late every night talking just about our lives and what we wanted to do and our big dreams. And then now as adults, we share the same clothes and we bought the same type of car. And just everything we did, we were we were essentially like twins.   And so sometimes using the word "Brother" to describe Sam doesn't seem like it's full enough – that it's meaningful enough, because our relationship was just, was just so deep. But there was one really important part of me that Sam didn't know anything about. And as we're walking up this mountain, and I realize that he's no longer just a little brother, that he's my equal, I'm realizing that I was hiding something really important from him. The fact that I'm gay.   At this point in time, I was putting so much emotional and mental and spiritual energy into trying to figure myself out and figure out how to reconcile my faith with my orientation. And so much of my life was devoted to that. And he didn't know anything about that. And I felt that  – it almost felt like a physical barrier to our relationship. I get asked quite often, "Why do you have to come out? Like, straight people don't have to come out." And in a way, I think that's kind of the point, like, the assumption is that everyone is straight. And so everyone – at this point in time – was assuming that I was straight. And to be completely honest, for a little bit, I liked that. Because for a long time, I wanted to be straight, so bad, I really wanted to fit in. And so when people assumed I was straight, I felt like I didn't have to work so hard to prove my worth. And the paranoia of someone thinking that I was gay, would go away.   But as I became more accepting of myself, and as I started praying about the nature of my orientation, and feeling like I needed to accept it and stop trying to change, everyone else thinking I was straight got really awkward. Because – because I'm gay. And people were like, either always trying to set me up on dates with girls, or talking about my future wife and my future family. And I just felt so weird about it. And especially with Sam. I mean, we're brothers. So like, we talk about girls. And like, that was a big part of our relationship. And it was a part that I had faked my entire life. I just felt so insincere and, and awkward hiding this part of me. So there I am, on what I consider to be like one of the most exciting, beautiful, like vacation, trip, adventures of my life, and now we're three hours into the hike and I'm having this existential crisis. Because I'm like, "Sam doesn't know I'm gay. And no one knows I'm gay." Well, actually, at that point, my sisters and my cousin knew and that was it. And I was like, "I'm living a lie."   And I was trying – really what I was trying to do was just like, be mindful and be in the moment. So instead of like focusing on all of this, like anxiousness and worry, I just start thinking about the trees. Like, "I'm going to focus so much on the beauty of this landscape, that it's just going to push this out, and I can shelf it until I can figure out what to do with it." And so I'm looking at the trees and, and I'm, I'm an artistic soul, and I have a real soft spot for nature and for beauty and for beautiful things. So I'm just trying to focus all of that energy into that side of my personality so I can forget about that I can't tell Sam I'm gay.   And the reason I felt like I couldn't tell him is because I cared about him so much. And I was so, so terrified of any potential rejection. I mean, this is, this is my brother, like, he's an extension of me and, and his role in my life is paramount. And the thought of changing that relationship, or making it weird or divisive, or polarizing or just even different, filled me with such incredible fear. It was crippling. And, you know, on top of that, I'd always kind of been his mentor, you know. I, I was the older brother, he would come to me for advice and with questions, especially spiritual questions. And I – this recurring thought I keep having was, "Is he still gonna trust me if he knows I'm gay? And how am I supposed to teach him anything about life or religion or faith? When I myself am incredibly confused? like, how is he going to trust me?" The weight of that potential rejection was so heavy, and it weighed so heavy on my soul, like it was heavier than my backpack, which by the way, was incredibly heavy, if I can remind everyone it was 65 pounds. I just, I didn't know what to do.   As we're walking, we're sweating. We're breathing heavy. And it's been probably 35 – 45 minutes, where I'm just focusing on the trees, you know? And he's like, "What are you thinking about?" And I was like, "Uh oh, he caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting it." So I just kind of went along with what I was trying to do, which looking back, it was silly, but I was like, "Oh, you know, just like the trees." And so I start describing what I was trying to see in the trees. And, and you know, which is true, like, my goodness, they were beautiful. But I'm trying too hard.   Sam Bird  11:59  Everything was normal. And then all of a sudden, Charlie started talking about the trees, but like, in a really weird way. I know, Charlie, and I know he loves trees, right? And I know Charlie always loves to talk about like, the elements and everything working in sync, and blah, blah, blah. But at this point, I'm like, "Alright, Bro, I get it. The trees are nice." It's like, this is 45 minutes of us talking about trees right now. So I'm done. I'm like, "Okay, what is actually going on?"   Charlie Bird  12:29  And he's like, "Dude, like, why are you being weird? What's actually up? Because I can tell there's something up." And I got the coming out feeling. So, it's funny, people ask me a lot like, "What does it feel like to come out?" And I think coming out is one of the most courageous things anyone can do. Because it's scary, you know, like that potential rejection is a really hard thing to face, especially with someone you care about. And I compare the coming out feeling to the way someone might feel if they had to speak unprepared in front of a group of like, 100,000 people. Or, in fact, the closest thing I've ever got to it is the feeling of when the spirits telling you that you need to bear your testimony on a fast Sunday, but magnified by like, some exponential amount, because it's just so – like, it's like this release that has to happen, and you know, you have to do it. But no part of you wants to stand up and walk to the pulpit. And you're not sure that your legs will support you or you don't know if you're going to pass out or throw up.   So here I am taking that walk to the pulpit, as I'm about to speak and tell my brother that I'm gay. And I started hyperventilating. Which, it's so funny because like, I'm an athlete, and I am a gymnast, and I'm always so in control of my body and my body's reactions to things. And I started breathing so heavy and I was like, like verging on a panic attack hyperventilating, I was so nervous to tell him. And he – I remember he made this joke, he was like, "Well, for being the world's greatest mascot, you're sure not in very good shape." And he's like, taunting me because he's like, "Haha, I'm in better shape than you." And then I was like, I actually couldn't breathe. And so I got it out, I muttered out, "It's not the mountain," Between like – honestly it was like "It's . . . not. . . the. . .mountain." And I remember his face changed, like his, his brows knit together, and he got really concerned and he was like, "Oh, like, are you okay?" And he's like, afraid I'm actually going to pass out because I probably was about to. And he was like, "Hey, there's a fallen log right over there. Give me your bag, I'll take it over there and we can rest for a while and get get some food. I have a Snickers bar, you should eat it." And I'm watching my brother just have so much love for me. I was like I have to tell him. He says "If it's not the mountain, what is it?" I said "Sam," and I waited for a while. I said, "I'm gay. He said, " . . . what?"  And I said, "I'm not attracted to girls." Like I kind of defined it for him. I wanted him to understand what I was saying. I said, "I'm gay, Sam. I'm attracted to guys."   Sam Bird  15:23  At first, I thought it might have been a joke. Because I was confused. I thought Charlie was straight, totally 100% straight. So I was kind of trying to figure out how he could be gay. Because in my mind, it wasn't an option. My mind directed to just, "Okay, then what about this girlfriend? Or what about whenever you told me this or that?"   Charlie Bird  15:47  And honestly, at this point, I still wasn't sure how this conversation was going. I was like, "Is this a successful coming out or not? Because we haven't really gotten anywhere." And he was just confused.   Sam Bird  15:58  And I started asking him questions, and I asked him, I was like, "Isn't it a choice to be gay? Like, why'd you choose this?" I remember him telling me "Why would I choose this? You don't think – " and he went off on like a rant, and it was emotional. He said, "You don't think I want to get married in the temples Sam? You don't think I want all these things – that we all want?" The blow that hit me the hardest was whenever he said that he went on a mission – he served a mission, hoping that if he served well, and if he served perfectly as he said, God would take his "gayness" away from him. And that's when it really clicked for me, that he didn't choose it. Being gay is not a choice. There's so much more than what meets the eye.   And I felt horrible. I felt horrible, because I had said a lot of things very, like derogatory things about gay people. So I apologized for all the things I told him, all the things I'd said, just all my misconceptions. It was tough. I still didn't really know what to do. So I said, "But what are you gonna do? Cause I don't know what to do so like, what are you gonna do?" And when I asked him what he was gonna do, I meant it in a way of like – a futuristic way, as in like, "Okay, what are you gonna do with your life and with everything that we've been taught, and everything that we know, inside the church, even outside the church, like social norms?" So the question I asked was probably kind of a tough question to answer. And it was, and he just said, "I don't know. I don't know what I'm gonna do." And whenever someone you love, so much, doesn't know what to do. I think in any circumstance, it's hard. And so I just told him like, "Bro, I don't care what you do. Like, I'm gonna be here for you, I love you. You're my older brother. We're tight. We're, we're cut from the same cloth, nothing will change. Nothing will change between our relationship." It was an emotional moment, like we embraced. We started crying.   Charlie Bird  18:07  He explained to me that, like he had so much faith and love for me. And that whatever I chose, he knew would be the right thing for me, and that he would support me no matter what. And at this point, I'm speechless. Because I don't think there could have been possibly a better reaction. I'm coming to him with this this huge, weight. Something I was so nervous to tell him. And he said, "I love you. And I trust you." And those were my two biggest fears – that his love for me would change, and that he wouldn't trust me. And I know he was inspired to say that.   Sam Bird  18:49  So we sat on this log, we shared a Snickers bar and we just talked. And I told him I'm sorry. That's mostly what happened – was me just apologizing. Maybe for 30 minutes. I just told him I was sorry. He, you know, he forgave me really quickly said, "It's okay. You didn't know, you didn't know." But I still felt bad. I'm like, "Yeah, but . . . " The worst part was that he couldn't trust me to tell me before, when it was harder. And that's important. I'm glad he came out to me whenever he felt like he was comfortable to, but I wished I could have done something before to make him feel comfortable.   Charlie Bird  19:27  So about 20 minutes later, we're sitting on that same mossy log, and my dad and my little sister and the trail guide came up and caught up to us. Honestly, they were kind of mad. They were like, "Where have you been?" And we're like, lost in Africa, you know? And we're like, "Oh, we were just feeling it." And it was just so funny to know that me and Sam were the only ones who knew that we just had this incredible spiritual bonding experience. And my dad and my sister Hannah are like, "You're so annoying. You think like, what are you trying to prove?" And we were joking with them and we're like, "Dad, you're just, you're just mad because we're so much faster than you, you old man." And you know, Sam's words were still ringing in my head when he said, "This doesn't change anything." And I was like, "Oh my gosh, nothing changed. This feels normal." But at the same time, everything changed, because now all this weight that I was carrying up this mountain emotionally, is gone. And now we can just focus on the physical weight. How great is that? Like, that's the reason I'm here in the first place. I love a physical challenge.   And the rest of the mountain, we just hiked it with this vibrance, and this tenacity. We descended through these beautiful valleys and we walked through these fields of broken obsidian. And I was just feeling so good. And I'm kind of a peacock, and I like to show off. And so a couple of times, we'd catch up to hikers that had been doing it for days. And we – we'd you know been, we'd been skipping campsites because we just felt so good. All four of us. And I would take off my bag and I'd be like, "Hey, Dad, take a picture of me doing a backflip." Just so all the hikers could watch me do a backflip on this ledge. This I mean, like ledges that look over the earth, the whole world just fields of endless clouds.   And at night, it was so cold, the sun would go down, it was just freezing. And me and Sam were sharing a little two person tent. So we would just like get as close as possible and try to sleep. But we didn't have mattress pads or anything because it was so minimalist. You know, we took only like bare necessities. And so these rocks are cutting into our ribs and we can't sleep. So we just talked. And I was honest with him. And I noticed that as I was vulnerable and opened up, he was sharing things with me, too. Things that he'd been struggling with or dealing with or trying to figure out that he'd never really felt able to, to bring to the surface. And the love we had for each other was like gilded in a way. Because we just got so much closer.   On the morning of the fourth day – maybe it was the third day – it wasn't very many days, that's all I know, it's kind of all a blur. But we woke up at two in the morning. And after we'd been at base camp and we took the the final summit to the top of the mountain, the four of us together and it was cold and it was windy and like probably 1000 times I wanted to stop and turn back because it was just so cold. But there was no way we were going to risk missing sunrise at the top of this mountain after we worked so hard to get there. And we're waiting up there, it's it was negative three degrees Celsius. I'm not sure the conversion for that, I'm only good at kilograms. But uh, we're waiting up there shivering next to each other. And we watched the sunrise from the summit of the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. And it illuminated the glaciers and it casts beautiful pink and blue hues. And it was one of the – if not the most magical moment of my life. And I got to share it with the people I love the most.   This Kilimanjaro trip, we talk about it so much for so many reasons. You know, we got up and down in four and a half days, which was unprecedented. Honestly, we got down so fast, because we ran out of food and we were just starving. So from the summit, we just went all the way back down and just did like, I don't know, like 16 to 20 hours of like straight hiking on the way down. And in this trip for Sam and, Hannah and my dad and me, it's become like, almost a legend, you know, some sort of fable that we just love to recount and tell stories. And, "Remember when we did this . . . " and it just, we just really loved this trip. But out of everything that happened for me, and I think for Sam too, the most beautiful thing was that moment where where I came out to him. And he met me in such a wonderful, perfect way for the situation.   Sam Bird  24:03  I never really knew how important the Kilimanjaro trip was to Charlie until he published the book, until he published Without the Mask. And I'm just happy that we're so much closer now. Like now I can tell Charlie anything. And he'd love me anyway. And vice versa. He could tell me anything, and I'd love him anyway. And so we know that. And that trust that we've developed in large part because he came out to me has absolutely strengthened our relationship.   Charlie Bird  24:37  For a really long time I was acting a part that was never my part to act. It was a role. It was it was fake. But when he saw me for who I am, it helped me connect with who I am. And it solidified all the real parts of our relationship. And it kind of made all of that fakeness and that triviality – was gone. It just felt so much more real.   Sam Bird  25:03  He was made for this. I think, I think that he was made to be a leader in this, like this movement of just equality and seeing everyone as Christ would see them. So even a hater who DM's him on Instagram, he tries to see them as Christ would see them, Because that's what he hopes from them, which I've, I couldn't do it, I couldn't do it. I would want to throw hands, I would want to find somebody, I would want to say, "Don't you call my brother that! I'll. . . Ahh!!" But he just responds every time, "Sam, I will not fight hate with hate." The perspective shifts that has been that he has instilled in me has been monumental just for my ability to see people the way God sees them, and the way I should see them. And the way someone should treat someone.   To act well my part, I first need to know my part. And I think that if each person did that we could create change within our families, our communities. And that's why I'm so proud of Charlie, because within our family and our community, it has happened. And the difference has meant everything – I know it's meant everything to him, and because it has meant everything to him, it means everything to me.   Charlie Bird  26:22  When I think about the way that Sam interacted with me, in that moment, one of my most vulnerable, courageous moments, I can't help but think that that's exactly how the Savior would have acted. I believe that he would have shown love, and that he would have shown trust, and that he would have been able to do that same thing and read who I am and what I needed. And it was so beautiful to see the Savior – my Savior – Jesus Christ, emulated in my brother. And I feel like I've learned a lot about how to be Christlike, and how to actually love a human, because of the way that Sam was able to act well his part.   KaRyn  27:17  That was Sam and Charlie Bird. You may recognize Charlie's name from the years that he was celebrated as the BYU mascot Cosmo. And as Sam mentioned, Charlie wrote a book about his time as Cosmo and what it was like to come out to the world in such a public way, and why it was so important to his faith that he do it. The book is called Without the Mask: Coming out and coming into God's light. And that's where we first found the story. But like any good story, there was so much more to it. And we were really happy to be able to share both Charlie and Sam's experiences, I can feel the love that they have for one another, and even more than that I can feel the love that they have for Christ. And that love is what fuels their desire to follow him in whatever role they are asked to play.   In this story, in this moment in time, playing their part will looked different for each of them. For Charlie, stepping into his role meant bringing honesty and vulnerability and a willingness to trust his spiritual promptings to the stage. But for Sam playing it well looked like listening, offering generosity of heart and apologizing. Their roles, their part in the play of life will most likely be reversed at some point. I mean, that's true for all of us. We never step into the same stream twice. But if like Sam and Charlie, we lean into the attributes of Christ that we are so desperately trying to take on ourselves, we'll be able to show up for whatever role is next in our life with confidence. And our final story comes from Sandra, whose time on a big fancy stage prepared her well for a season of life with very little to no fanfare. Here's Sandra.   Sandra Turley  28:59  Our youngest daughter is absolute sweet and sour. She is sickeningly sweet, sometimes, actually, most of the time she's sickeningly sweet, where I feel like there's nobody more angelic than she. There just is not. The cuddles and the loves and the squeezes and the love notes are overwhelmingly loving and gorgeous. And then she comes out with these shockingly sour moments where she's just screaming because she's the youngest of four, and we have trained her to think she's the queen of the world, and that she should get everything that she wants at the moment she wants it.   So a few weeks ago, I was asking her for the millionth time – okay, fine, to be fair, probably the 14th time – to sit down and just finish her lunch. Just finish the lunch. It's been sitting there for an hour, please just finish her lunch. I leave the room I come back in, she's nowhere to be found. In fact, she's outside jumping on the trampoline. So I go outside, try to stay calm, bring her inside, and she knows what's gonna happen, because this is not a one time occurrence. We come inside and I put away her lunch and I take her upstairs and I say, "I'm sorry, you missed lunchtime, time to go take a break." And she starts kicking and screaming that she's starving, and what am I doing to her? If I don't let her eat lunch, she's probably gonna die. She's telling as she's screaming this. And so while she's screaming, I start screaming, "I can't do this anymore! You never listen to me. You really, you have to stop screaming. Right now!" Is what I'm yelling to her. "Please stop screaming" is what I'm yelling, ah. And here is the moment that I find I'm in constantly.   This is a repeat performance for the two of us. And I see a pattern that I am desperately trying to break. The pattern is, I get triggered by a single moment, then I have one initial thought from that moment. And shortly it turns into an avalanche of self loathing, where I completely closed myself off to everything else and figure that I'm the worst person in the world. Meaning in this instance, my first thought, as I shut the door and left her screaming in her room was, "You, Sandra, are so horrible for yelling at her." And then that one thought avalanches into all of these horrible thoughts that I'm a horrible mom, I need to control my temper, "Why can't you just let her be seven? She's going to be scarred for life. You haven't taught her right, it's your fault, not hers, you're never going to get better at this." And then the worst thought of that avalanche becomes, "This is because of your voice." My voice that God gave me, that I have used as a singer and a performer on stage. I've used it to actually bless thousands of people's lives in ways that I could share somewhat of His spirit, is also the same voice that I just used to crush my little daughter's heart.   So in 2003, I was performing on Broadway in Les Miserables. I was performing the role of Cosette, the daughter of Jean Valjean, the main character.  And the whole story is just gorgeous. The whole story is about this man, Jean Valjean his redemption in life and each night, as I was performing in the show, adding my voice to the voices of all the other characters on stage, I was not amiss to the fact that we were sharing the concepts of mercy, and justice and sacrifice and charity. And I heard at the end of every single show, as my character Cosette was down at the very front of the stage, I could hear the sound that was my favorite to hear, which was the passing of the tissue packages from audience member to audience member and the sniffles. Because to me that small little sound meant that lives were being changed. hearts were being touched. Maybe they were thinking, "I should have more mercy or for that person in my life, or maybe for myself." So there's no doubt in my mind that God was in the work that I was doing on stage. No doubt at all. God's spirit was there. Whatever anybody else wanted to call it. I called it the Spirit, the Holy Ghost. That's what I was feeling every night.   I also felt that just as much offstage as I did onstage with maybe a touch more nerves offstage than on because offstage, God was with me as all of my friends, all the cast members and crew members were every single day barraging me with questions about my faith. And that brought probably more nerves than singing a pretty little song in front of 1600 people up on the big stage. Questions just came at me mostly about how young I was. I was just 22 - 23 years old when I was performing. And every day it was like, "Why are you married already? That's weird. How could you have chosen somebody to be with already?" "Why don't you come out with us to party and drink?" "What's the big deal about your underwear?" "Tell me about Joseph Smith." "I want to know about temples." "Can you please explain this polygamy thing?" And, "Are you even Christian?" That was always the one that just that was a gut punch to me. If I hadn't acted in a way that people knew, without a doubt that I was Christian, then I was going to answer that one as clearly as could be.   My whole hope, in these conversations and friendships backstage, was to love the way that Christ has asked me to love. That everyone would somehow know that I would never judge them. And that rather I loved each of them so fiercely. There wasn't a day that I wondered whether I was doing this thing, right or not. This whole Christian thing, and trying to love all the people around me.   But one night, in particular, I was on stage, it was the very end of the show. And there was a man who was playing the role of Jean Valjean. And it happened to be his last night performing that role before he was going to move on to another show. And as I sat at his feet, as his character was dying at the end of the show, and I was his daughter, weeping, literally at his feet. And I couldn't help but think about my relationship with this man, not the character, but with this man. Who was a friend of mine, and who I loved, and who had had so many questions. Who had wondered, honestly, about my faith. And I wept at his feet – not as the character – but as Sandra, wondering, have I done enough? Did I say enough? Did I say the right words at the right time? Did I answer correctly? Did I speak your truth, God? Even regardless of all that, did I love this man enough? And as I wept, I just felt the words, "Well done." I felt them deeply and truly in my heart, and then I wept some more. And it's a dang good thing that my character was supposed to be crying right at that moment. Because I did, I just cried, and I felt God saying, "You're doing it. You're doing it just, just right, Sandra. Good job."   So as I come back, and try to apply a moment like that, to the life that I'm in now, about 17 years later, I'm home, I've got four kids that are not applauding me every day. Like the applause that I receive when I'm onstage. I've got an awesome husband, who shockingly, doesn't ask for my autograph at the end of every day that I perform. And I don't even take a bow after I fold a load of laundry.   But here's the deal. As I'm home with these great kids during this wild pandemic, and virtually homeschooling four kids, and I've got this hard working husband in the makeshift basement office, I think I'm starting to figure out how to break this pattern of having one thought of my own in between my own two ears, that triggers and turns into an avalanche of self-loathing thoughts. Maybe the past six years of my life has been a journey to find some self-healing. From some, you know, mental heartache. I don't know if that's even a term "mental heartache." That's two different organs in the body. But it kind of goes together.   I think that as I've been trying to study all the different ways that I can find more mental balance from depression, anxiety, and keep my body as healthy as possible. I feel like right now, I'm trying to put all of the pieces together that I've studied. And now maybe, just finally, even though God has been a part of that whole process, maybe just now I'm actually really engaging him and saying, "I've done all this work. You've guided me to all of these thoughts in this work to heal myself. And maybe I've left you out of the biggest part, which is to turn to you immediately. The second, something happens that causes me to doubt myself." This is, this is this is the real stuff, because this is this is where I'm living right now. This is that space of, "Dang it, I did it again. Here I go. Here's that first thought.” And I know if I let my brain run free right now, and don't engage with the heavens and don't call God to be with me right now, then I'm going to be in the dumps for the next few days. I am going to fuel my mind with such negative talk about myself. And that's going to be harder to get out of that side.   So what I'm trying to do is try to stop it right at that first thought, and say, "Okay, you've had your time, first thought, you can tell yourself, Sandra that 'You're being ridiculous and naughty, and you shouldn't have done that.' And that's fine. And now let's move forward. Let's invite God into these thoughts in your mind, let's invite the heavens to be part of this process, instead of trying to do this on your own."   What have I finally learned . . . I still yell at my kids. But just last week, I was sitting at our dining room table. It was at the end of a really, really long day of virtual learning gone wrong. It was a day where every child took their turn at a massive breakdown. And all of us wondering, "How on earth is this gonna work? How are we, as a family unit, going to make this pandemic work to our benefit?" And not, maybe not to our benefit, just kind of survive it on a day to day basis. How are we going to deal with the technological problems and the learning problems and teachers over Zoom, and four kids sitting around one table with headphones on, and each of them yelling at each other to be quiet when somebody does something that disrupts their, their thinking.   But at nine o'clock at night, at the end of a long day like that, it was amazing to take a breath for a second, and I looked up, got out of my own brain for a moment. And I saw my oldest daughter, helping our son with his math homework, which he desperately needed help with. I saw our third child walk in with a huge smile on her face, because she had just voluntarily folded the laundry that I had left for probably a week. I heard my husband upstairs telling a bedtime story to our sweet and sour seven year old to try to get her to go to sleep. And as I paused and I soaked in everything that I could see and hear in that moment, I felt again, a really, really soft and quiet. "Well done." We were gonna be able to do this together. And "Well done" at that moment wasn't, "Well done, you've shared the light of Christ with someone who may otherwise not have had it," it was, "Well done. You're living in the light of Christ, in your home with your husband and children who know Christ and love him and are learning more of him. And you're doing it right. You're doing this well." And that's all he ever asks of me, was just to give my best effort.   KaRyn  43:17  That was Sandra Turley. I have been blessed to love and adore Sandra for years now. And one of the things I admire most about her is her unexpected realness. And I say unexpected on purpose, because she knows how to be polished. She knows how to walk on a stage and show the world something beautiful, but her desire to walk on that same stage and show the world real beauty – her testimony of the healing gifts of a God who values progress over performance? That is a true act of discipleship. And what about that laundry, and those kids who refuse to applaud when the mountain on the couch is conquered? Like Sandra knows all too well. There are so many tough roles that will play in our lives that will go absolutely unnoticed by mere mortals. And while we're waiting in the wings for a chance to be seen, we can stop and take the breath and look around and listen. And we'll discover that those moments are not lost to Him who sees all.   The first time I heard the phrase "Act well, the part" was at my very first Youth Conference in Redding, Pennsylvania. The entire conference was centered around a stage play that we were writing and acting during the long-ish weekend, and I was in heaven. Not only because my youth group leader was a very cute 17 year old boy, but also because acting felt like my life's calling at 14. I walked away from that conference with a serious crush on said youth group leader and a basic understanding that to act well one's part, one had to commit fully to the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and in deed. And that stuck with me, although my understanding of it has evolved over the years. At first, as someone obsessed with theater I saw acting well as an outward expression. It was being seen doing the right things at the right time or not doing things so that others would know that I was a good member of the Church. Acting well was a performance directed towards other people. And then as I grew in my desire to be more connected to Christ, acting well became a pursuit, it was still a kind of outward performance, but it was now directed at a different audience.   I wanted the Savior to see my good works, and give me his approval. And I don't think either of these efforts were bad, they led me forward. In most cases. I'll admit that sometimes the approval seeking part of my performance got in the way of actual connection to Christ and His gospel, especially when it faded into perfectionism. But overall, they were both really important phases in my spiritual growth. However, these days, I find myself more drawn to the first part of that phrase, than the last part. "What ere thou art, act well thy part." "What ere thou art –"  what are you? Figure that out first, commit to that. Commit to our role as a beloved child of Heavenly Parents, a follower of Jesus Christ, and a disciple in the work of gathering. Then the acting well comes easily because now it's an act of integrity. It's a deeper promise to be who you are supposed to be, regardless of external influence. It's an inward devotion, a quiet reconciliation with your divinity that leads to a powerful outward expression of God's love for all his children. And it's no longer simply performative.   It's now authentic discipleship. And it expresses itself in the moments that we breathe in, and let God tell us that we've loved enough. Or when we step back from our own biases to meet our brother exactly where he is on his upward hike, or when we finally decide to take off the mask we've relied on for so long, and allow others to be a witness to our deepest vulnerability. I think that's why this phrase is so compelling to us, as disciples of Christ. Why it's stuck around for so many years since President McKay brought it on the scene, because it's an invitation for us to learn what we are, and to understand who's we are, who we belong to, so that we'll know what we do, and why we do it. That acting out of integrity, that changes everything. It makes doing it well or acting our part well the result and not the goal. And that's something that will give us strength and power in the most challenging times.   That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thank you to our storytellers, Sandra, Sam, and Charlie for sharing their stories and their true selves with us. We'll have a link to Charlie's book Without the Mask as well as links to both Sister Dalton's talk, which I re-read and love, and a cool little write up of President McKay's discovery of and love for this saying in our show notes at You can also get more good stuff by following us on Instagram or Facebook at This Is the Gospel_podcast.   All of the stories on this episode are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers. And of course, if you have a story to share about living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please call our pitch line and leave us a story pitch. The best pitches will be short and sweet. But they'll also have a clear sense of the focus of your story call 515-519-6179 to leave us a message.   If today's stories have touched you or made you think about your discipleship a little bit more deeply. Please share that with us. You can leave a review of the podcast on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen on. And if you can't figure out how to leave us a review, which I totally get. They don't call me “Grandma KaRyn” for nothing. Check out our highlight on our Instagram page for some tips. Every review helps the podcast show up for more people who are looking for something to help them stay close to the source of all good things during the week. This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay with editing and story production help from Erika free. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six studios, and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at LDS     Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Oct 26, 2020
Fitting In
Stories in this episode: Finding the bridge between her Indigenous identity as a Cree woman and her love of the gospel feels out of reach for Jalynne until motherhood brings a surprising change in perspective; As a recent divorcée, Suzanne feels invisible to her ward until she takes matters into her own hands. Show Notes:  To see pictures and links for this episode, go to Transcript:  KaRyn  0:03  Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. If I asked you to name a time when you felt like a fish out of water, I bet it wouldn't take too many mental gymnastics for you to pull up that memory. All it would take for me is to cast my mind back to the rigors of middle school and the years that B.U.M. Equipment and Spree-branded clothing were all the rage here in the US. Oh, I needed that label on the front of my sweatshirt to match the label on everyone else's sweatshirt. It's all I asked for for Christmas that year. All I wanted in life, really. I wanted to slide into the massive B.U.M. Equipment sweatshirts and be one with the entire seventh grade. And isn't it funny that I cannot recall if I ever got the sweatshirt? But I remember that feeling. That feeling of longing that surrounded it, that pull to belong to something bigger than ourselves definitely has some strong biological roots. After all, there is safety in fitting in and conforming to the tribal standard.   And from a spiritual perspective, the need for us to be one to be unified was so important to Christ that he prayed to the Father on our behalf in His intercessory prayer. And while I'm pretty sure that He wasn't talking about me and you having matching sweatshirts, it's hard sometimes to know how to execute on that invitation, especially when our differences seem so pronounced.   Well, today we have two stories about what fitting into the body of Christ looks like in actual practice. Our first story comes from Jalynne who struggled to find the balance of both her cultural and spiritual identity. Here's Jalynne   Jalynne  1:50  I was raised on Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation. That's the reservation that I'm from. And that's in Saskatchewan, Canada.   On the reservation, we have different customs, like even at a funeral, there's really different customs. And there's different cultural things that we have, like we go to feasts and to powwows and there's protocols you have to follow and that stuff is just normal. I'm sure to somebody who's never visited a reservation, that would be out of the norm for them but for us, it was just normal. That was just life. And it was a really beautiful environment for me to grow up in for our whole family because we didn't have any reason to feel out of place or different, we're with people who understood.   But I do remember, when I was in grade four, we decided to move off of the reservation for one year. It was like my first real exposure to like life off of the reservation. And I remember, um, I had been nervous to go to school. But I made like this little group of friends. And we were playing and I remember being conscious that I was one of the few First Nations people there. Oh, in Canada, we call ourselves First Nations. Here it's Native Americans in the US, but Canada, it's First Nations. But I remember being conscious of the fact that I was one of the only First Nations people in that class and one other boy.   And so I made this little group of friends. And I didn't really play with little boys that much, but I played with him at one point. And those little girls said to me, "Don't play with him. He's a native.   And I realized they didn't know that I was indigenous. So it was really kind of jarring for me. And that was like, a really young age to learn that, to learn that, "Oh, somebody's reaction to me might not be a positive one." And I don't really recollect a whole lot about the rest of that school year. But I do know that that little boy struggled with friends and finding friends.   Jalynne  4:23  Many experiences happened similar to that throughout my life. But the worst struggle for me was when it would happen at church. We were the only indigenous family at church, and it happened more often than I would have liked it to. Obviously, I wish that it never happened, it should be a safe space for everybody where everybody just feels totally embraced.   Jalynne  4:50  But I do remember this one time we were in a class and we were learning about the Book of Mormon and, and I love the Book of Mormon. . . I love the Book of Mormon. And we were talking about Lamanites and the teacher started talking about how native people were savages. And then he kept kind of going on and I feel like he maybe he didn't say it that much. But in my head, I felt like he just kept repeating it—like native people are savages.   And I remember I was with my brothers. And as a self kind of preservation mechanism, a lot of the times when you're confronted with something that's uncomfortable, and you don't know how to respond, you laugh. And my brothers, we kind of looked at each other and we laughed, kind of out of disbelief, and like, we couldn't, we couldn't believe what we were hearing. We didn't say anything. Like, obviously, we don't know what to say. But nobody else said anything, either. And I think that was one of the harder things. And so after that class, um, my brother, we were kind of talking about it. And my brother, like he just said, really firm, kind of it felt like an affirmation to himself, but also to us, and he said, "Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it say the word 'savage.'" And I don't think that this person who said that was bad, and that, like, people are bad, people are just misinformed. Maybe he was comfortable saying, or maybe he hadn't been corrected on before.   I don't think we told our parents, and to be honest, they, they know like, stuff like this happened to them all the time. This wasn't a new story in our home.   Jalynne  7:01  So those are kind of heavy things to carry. But then I always think about my parents who I felt like weren't carrying them growing up because my dad was just so just gregarious, and just big and loud. And he always met people as his indigenous self, that's the only way he ever met a person.   Jalynne  7:27  And so I always just remember growing up in church, he would be teaching Sunday school, and he'd somehow tie it to our culture somehow, like, all of a sudden, we'd be having a lesson on teepees in the middle of Sunday school. Or, I remember, for the Christmas party one year, my dad, he just decided that we were—and we're not a family of singers—but he's like, "We're gonna go up and we're gonna sing some Cree hymns." And so we went up as a family and sang some Cree hymns. And none of us speak Cree except for my dad. And we were kind of singing these hymns that we didn't really know what we were saying. So, my parents were not about blending in or fading in, at all. I learned how miraculous it was, um, as I got older, and the full weight of my parents' story kind of sunk in.   I talked to my mom and I told her that I was going to be sharing her story. And I asked her if it was okay and she said, "Yes because my story is your story. This is our family's story." The more that we share our story is how we heal ourselves. But also it heals my mom knowing that, that I'm, I'm taking part in her story. And I'm actively being part of that healing process.   My mom, when she was a little girl, Canada had the Indian Residential School program. It began in the United States as the boarding school system and Canada quickly adopted it. And so the whole purpose of it was to strip indigenous heritage from indigenous people. And so it wasn't a choice that they had, it was forced on them.   And so, one day, when my mom was a little girl, two government agent showed up at her home and told my grandparents, my Kôhkum and my Môshum, "We're taking your kids." And they plead with them. "No, don't take them." And they said, "You either let us take them now or you'll never see them again." So my Kôhkum, my grandma, she fell to her knees and started crying as they let them take them from, from their home.   So you can understand how inhumane the system was, almost 3,000 children died as a result of the residential schools.   My Môshum knew the danger that they faced and the abuse that they would endure at those schools. Like all of a sudden, that was like awoken in him, what was going to happen. So he went running out and chased after the van that had just loaded up all of his children. And for the rest of the school year, my mom has this memory of my Môshum running after the car, and tripping and falling and crying in the road.   She had a surgery forced on her, she was not given any warning. All of a sudden, she was being toted away, and she wasn't told what was happening. And, next thing she knows, she's waking up from surgery, and she doesn't know what it was for.   My mom still has P— like, what I think is PTSD. To this day, like she was drinking apple juice and all of a sudden, like, she remembered something that happened to her and that apple juice now was an association for her.   I asked my mom once kind of how she maintained her tenderness and her testimony of the Christ through everything after a school system that was designed to take away her heritage, that was in partnership with it, with a Christian system, how did she maintain her testimony? And she said that she always knew who the Savior was, and the Savior wasn't in that abuse.   And my dad, when he joined the Church, it took him three years of investigation. And then he met my mom in those three years. He introduced the Church to my mom, and she was like, "Oh, that's true," and she joined us as well.   I just remember sitting in a Sunday school lesson and she would all of a sudden, like, be bearing her testimony about somebody like Spencer W. Kimball and all of the work that he did among indigenous communities. And she would go, and she knew all about him. She was always bearing testimony of her culture, and how it tied in with her Christianity.   My mom didn't have my dad's like boisterousness, I guess, it was more like my mom was really firm about teaching us certain things like recognizing racism. One time I was sick and my mom took me to the doctor. And the person there knew that my mom was a teacher on a reservation and that doctor just came in with this attitude. And she, she actually was telling my mother all the stupid things like my mom was doing, like, "This is the stupidest thing you can do as a mother," to my mom. She recognized how she was being treated but she didn't really say much to the doctor until we were done. And then she grabbed my hand and turned around and said, "We're not coming back to see you," and left. And that was all she said and I think that is more like my mom. Like, she was very soft and gentle until she needed to be firm.   So when I think about what my parents went through, um, it was just miraculous to me how it seemed they weren't burdened by these really heavy experiences that they had in their life. And that residential school system, like, it affected both sides of my family. My mom met my dad's sisters before she met my dad because they were at the residential schools together. My dad never, never went because they were phasing it out at the time and he went through his own hardship.   So as a teenager, I really looked up to my parents, but I also kind of felt that where they were was a little out of my reach because I knew that I was going through struggles internally, struggles that I didn't think they were going through.   Jalynne  14:46  I compartmentalize parts of myself into my adulthood. So one of the identifiers when you see an indigenous person is a lot of the times we're wearing beadwork. We're wearing beaded medallions, we have a saying in our community that, "Beading is medicine." And so we bead a lot and we wear beadwork a lot because that's medicine for us. And I never wore beadwork.   Jalynne  15:14  I would be gifted earrings and I wouldn't really wear them. Or if I did, I would, they would be really an identifiable earrings, I guess. And it wasn't on purpose. I don't think I ever did it like with this conscious purpose because I wasn't ashamed of who I was. Wearing, like beadwork or beaded earrings would immediately identify me to people outside of my community that I was an indigenous person. Like, anybody who was First Nations, like, they knew that I was a member of my community, but I guess to people outside of it, I looked more ambiguous. And so, and I'm ashamed of it but I, I use that to my advantage a lot of the time to find out how much of myself I could reveal to a person.   I wanted some element of control. I wanted that control because of that experience with the little boy. I just would always hear, "Don't play with him. He's a native." And when you have experiences like that throughout your life, you realize if you have the power to have any kind of control over somebody's perception of you, then you take it when you want people to perceive you in a good way.   I talked to a friend of mine, and this was after I had gotten married and we came back to, to Saskatchewan to visit and we we met with a friend of mine and his wife and we had dinner. And we started talking about my culture and, and my experiences and he asked me what it was like to be a member of the Church and to be First Nations and to experience those two things together. And I told him that it felt like you're wearing like clothes that are too tight but they look like really good. You knew that they're your best outfit, but they're just a little too tight. But when you're in your cultural community, it's like you're wearing your most comfiest pants like you, you're ready to, to sit and be cozy.   And I think with the experiences that I've had, and many people who come from marginalized communities, feel they might not have those two components together. And so that was my, always my struggle was feeling them together. I felt it at the temple because I think I was just there with, I was just there with the Savior. And I always felt that at the temple. To this day, the temple is my favorite place. Um, but when we don't have that, that protect, protection of just a direct communication with the Savior and you have imperfect people kind of like everywhere, you feel like you're in tight pants.   Jalynne  18:27  And so he was very surprised because he thought like, you know, in our small YSA in Saskatoon that we were a tight group. And like we were, but I never invited anybody to pow wow with me. I never invited anybody to a feast. I've seen too many people accidentally say something ignorant and hurting another friend of mine, or hurting me. And there's nothing malicious at all about their accidental slips of the tongue. But I feel very protective of not only the reputation of my friends in, in our faith community, but the feelings of my friends who were marginalized as indigenous people. I knew that the things that were normal and beautiful for me were strange and uncivilized outside of our reservation.   Jalynne  19:27  I think everything kind of, I don't want to say came crashing down on me. But I think when I realized that my self-preservation mechanisms and coping mechanisms and all these techniques they weren't working was when I became a mother and I realized that my children are learning their worth from me. And all of a sudden, like, it was like this light came off like my parents were teaching us our worth, like my dad, just, you know, just walking in indigenous foot first was really a helpful tool for me. And my mom being very firm about her identity was a tool for me. And so when I became a mother, I, it's like this bright light just went off in my brain and I saw what they were doing.   And I realized I didn't want my son to learn how to mask himself the way I had. I wanted him to, to walk into a room indigenous foot first like my dad does. And so we made the decision to, to grow his hair. We decided to grow his hair because, first of all, in past parts of the residential school system, their hair was cut. So little boys couldn't have long hair, but also, so that's like a way to be honor ancestry and we reclaim our ancestry. But also, when you're growing a little boy's hair from, from an infant, each braid has a meaning, and you always start off as three braids. There's a braid on the top of your head and two braids on the side because that's all you really can do with his little hair. And one of our Cree teachings about hair is that each braid symbolizes three things. One is your relationship to the Creator, two, second braid, is your relationship to other people. And three is your own spiritual relationship with yourself.   And my son's journey is, it's his own little journey. But I wanted to get, if I could in any kind of a way, get his feet planted in his culture as early as possible. And get him, we talked about how loving his hair all the time, in a really positive way. But already, at the age of four, he's been made fun of.   I'm aware of, of what he might face and what he still might go through the journeys that I go, I went through, and that felt really heavy to me one day. And after he had been made fun of, I just kind of felt like giving up and I'm like, it would be so much easier if we just, you know, cut his hair. It'll just, he won't have to deal with that. No one will mistake him for a little girl, no one will make fun of him and tell him, he won't have to worry about that.   And I went to the temple one day and I was just kind of feeling just finished. I just felt like at a hopeless place on the way to the temple. And I said, "Heavenly Father, I'm going to the temple. I don't expect anything to happen but if you could just help me carry this burden just a little bit, I'll be really grateful. And I didn't even expect that to be answered because I thought maybe He's just giving me this, this hard week or this hard emotion of me to, for me to work through because it was good for me. And I got there and this woman I'd never met before just gave me a hug and said, "Thank you so much for coming."   So a Cree teaching is we believe we're all related. And we call other communities of color our relatives. And so this woman, she was Polynesian and so I felt like I was seeing a relative. And it felt like I was being hugged by my auntie, and I really needed, I was missing home. I was missing my home community. And it meant so much to me to be embraced at the time that I needed it in the temple.   And so I went through the session just crying. And I just remember thinking, "I wonder if there's anybody else here with me." And all of a sudden, I felt my Môshum Joe beside me. I felt him in the room with me and, and I knew what he had gone through, what he had seen his children go through, having their culture taken from them. And it just felt like I was on the right path. Like I all of a sudden like felt this answered like, "Jalynne, you are on the right path. And it's gonna be hard but what your family had gone through wasn't for nothing. It wasn't so you could fit in. It was so you could find so much joy in your culture, and so much joy passing that culture on to your children. Heavenly father didn't send you, it wasn't a mistake that He sent you to the earth the way that He sent you."   And so ever since then, like I never, I'm, like I think I'm like my dad now like, I'm just gregarious. Like I'm not, I'm a shy person, but I feel like, I like walk into a room indigenous foot first. And I'm just really grateful for that answered prayer. That Heavenly Father let me know that my attempts to, to be the person that He wants me to be, are accepted by Him. And that He's not wasting this gift, I'm not wasting this gift that He has given to me by being Cree, I'm not wasting it. I'm taking advantage of it and finding joy in it.   If I can teach my children to love themselves where they are, they'll be able to hopefully love other people where they are the way Christ loves us. He can reach anybody anywhere. He can reach my mom when she was a little girl at the residential school. He can reach my dad when he is making us sing Cree hymns at a Christmas pageant. He can reach anybody.   I want my children to know that they are always worthy of it and they don't have to compromise that part of themselves because it has every possibility to enhance their testimony and to enhance their relationship with the Savior like it did for me.   KaRyn  27:02  That was Jalynne.   I admit that I know so little about the experience of my indigenous brothers and sisters, especially in the context of our church life. I feel deep gratitude to Jalynne and her parents for their willingness to share this story, so that I can learn and understand better.   It was especially hard for me to hear the ways that we can sometimes get it wrong as volunteer teachers of the scriptures. But I'm going to take that part of the story as a gentle reminder to tread lovingly when I'm teaching and to seek more guidance from heaven about what to teach and how.   I think like Jalynne, we all bring a few identities with us when we walk through those chapel doors. Maybe they're cultural, maybe they're familial or professional. And some of those identities are easier to reconcile with the gospel than others. But that work of integration can be a holy work that leads us towards the most important identity as children of Christ.   I was reminded in Jalynne story that we will have divine assistance as we choose what to hold on to, and what to let go of in that pursuit.   Our final story today comes from Suzanne, who learned that sometimes in order to find your place, you have to create it. Here's Suzanne.   Suzanne  28:17  My story starts with the decision to divorce my husband. We had been married for 40 years. I was 60 years old and we have seven children, they had, they were all gone from our home at that point.   It was something that had been building for many years but it finally came to the point where I felt like I couldn't stay. And so I was the one who packed up and moved to a different place. That was quite an experience for me. I had either been taken care of by my parents or by my husband. You might as well put me on the moon.   When I got to my new ward I thought, "Okay, you know, I'm going to have great sisters here. It's gonna be okay. I'm gonna make it through this. But it didn't quite happen, at least not for me. I was not treated badly. I would never say that. But they didn't know what to do with me.   I handed the bishop my tithing every couple of weeks. Other than that, we had no contact. I sat on my bench in church. I would sit on this side and I would sit all the way in next to the wall so that if someone else wanted to come and sit, you know, because everybody's looking for a place to sit, my bench would be available. I lived there for two years, and I sat alone on my bench.   It's very difficult to go to church when you don't feel like you have a connection to the people in the church. I really wondered how this was supposed to work. And finally, one day, I talked to my Relief Society president. And I said, "You know, I've lived in this ward for six months. I do not have home teachers. I don't have visiting teachers. I don't know anybody who is in this ward." And so then I did receive home teachers and visiting teachers, and they were wonderful. And I liked knowing them. It was nice to have a face at church and in Relief Society that I recognized. But I still felt very, very separate and practically invisible.   I sold my home and moved to another part of Salt Lake. And I was really considering staying under the radar for as long as possible. It's very hard to stay active, especially if you are moving to a new area where you don't know people.   Because I had felt so frustrated with my experiences in that first ward, I felt like maybe I needed to write a letter and explain that to the people at church headquarters, or at least to tell them my story because I felt like there were so many sisters who they would not be hearing from. And I wanted them to know how difficult that is for a single sister and a divorced sister. I felt like there were many sisters who actually were becoming inactive because they didn't feel that they were being heard or seen. I figured it doesn't hurt to tell them and maybe if someone else writes the letter, then there'll be more than one voice. So I finished my letter, and there was some fear and trepidation that went along with that. But I put a stamp on it and sent it off.   So when I moved into my new home, lo and behold, my bishop came over. I thought, "Whoo! I got a bishop!" And that was a very positive experience. And it was still, it was still a little while before I decided to make the plunge and go to church.   Now when I went to church that very first Sunday, I walked in the door, I was greeted by an absolutely lovely sister, who introduced herself and asked me if I was new, and I said yes. And she was very friendly. And then I went in and sat down alone on my bench. And then, you know, we have Sunday school, then we had Relief Society. And I thought, "Meh, I really want to go to Relief Society, you know. This is, I've done done, my due diligence. I've been here for two hours." But I thought, "Nah, you know, buck up and go to Relief Society."   So I went into Relief Society and the sister who had greeted me at the door when I very first walked in to sacrament meeting came over to me, she said, "Do you mind if I sit with you? Because I don't think anyone should have to sit alone." And I almost burst into tears. I just thought she was so sweet to do that.   But they were handing out, you know how they do those papers where everybody gets a paper, you have to read your little thing and answer your question? When I read what my question was going to be, I realized that the lesson was going to be on temples. And I had just ended a 40 year template marriage. I was not in the mood to discuss temples. I was still trying to figure out where I fit because I am no longer married to the man I'm sealed to, you know. So I really, really wanted to get up and leave. But Relief Society is started and there was no way that I could gracefully get out of that room, or I would've.   So the lesson started, the lady who gave the lesson did a wonderful job. But it was in the responses by the sisters in Relief Society that just about blew me away. We had, of course, lovely sisters who talked about how wonderful the temple was and how much they loved it and how they went weekly or whatever. But we also had sisters who raised their hand and who said, "You know, I had a temple recommend, and I loved going to the temple. But I'm not in that position anymore where I can go, but I would like someday to return."   And I thought, "Wait a minute, we don't discuss this kind of stuff in Relief Society. Nobody comes actually out and says, 'I don't have a recommend.'" And she was not the only sister who said pretty much the same thing. They never disparaged the temple or, or said anything bad about it. It was always very complimentary, that it had been a wonderful place. It was peaceful. It was a place they wanted to be able to go again.   And then, which just almost knocked me off my chair, was the teacher up front said, "Well, sisters, actually, I don't have a recommend either." Um, then I said, "Sisters, I want you to know that I have never been in a group of women like this before." The amount of honesty and the love and the comfort that I felt in that room where each sister felt that she could say what was in her heart.   So I thanked them for having that kind of a spirit. And I told them that I had never, ever experienced anything like this before. And I shed a lot of tears at that point. So Relief Society ended and I had quite a few sisters who came up and spoke to me after. There was such a common thread, it really struck me because I would get this wonderful hug, and they would welcome me and they would say, "You are exactly where you need to be. This is the healing ward." And I truly believed that that was the case.   A month or two after that, I got a call from the stake president. And so I went over and visited with him. I walk into his office and his desk was all cleared and my letter was right in the middle of the desk. And, you know, he just said, "Well, I got a call from the area presidency, and they told me to, I needed to talk to you and see how you were feeling. I told him everything I said in the letter was true and I still believed everything. But that I had been placed in a place where I could heal. And after I finished visiting with the stake president, and he was showing me out, um, we talked for just a moment. And he said, "Well, I just want you to know that we will be changing some of the boundaries in some of the wards." When he told me that, my heart dropped.   Honestly, my heart broke at that moment. And in just a few months, the boundaries did change. I went to the new ward and probably 75% of the people were brand new to me. But the thing I did notice, week after week coming to church, was that the sisters that I had seen in that original Relief Society meeting that had touched my heart so very deeply, were not there. They didn't feel, perhaps, that they had a place, and it broke my heart.   As time went on, I realized that if I wanted to be associated with sisters and have that same wonderful feeling, that it wasn't going to just happen. It had to be made to happen. So as I talked to a couple of the sisters that I was acquainted with, I said, "You know, we really should just came together." So we decided that we would meet every month. And at first I thought, "Well, you know, do we need a book? Or do we need some, like an article or something that we can discuss?" I was dead wrong on that.   We just come together and we talk about whatever's on our minds. If that includes frustrations, then we hear frustrations. If that includes times when we feel like we got to win, then that is there too. And it is such a wonderful feeling to gather with these women because we're all close to the same condition in life, but we all caught here in different ways.   We have one sister who is a widow. We have sisters who were not treated well by their husbands. We have sisters who were never married. We meet together out of kind of in an atmosphere of healing. This is the place we can be ourselves under any circumstance. And I come home, and my heart is full. We're not invisible to each other.   Several of these women would sit on the back row. And so when one of us or when one of us single sisters would walk in, you know, they would motion and say, "Come, come and sit with us." I cannot tell you the difference that that made in my feelings about going to church. The thought that when I got there, even though I was coming by myself, that I would walk in the door, I would see a face that I recognized and they would say, "Come and sit with me." When you walk in, you know that that little section is going to be there for you. And it is huge.   Honestly, there were times before and after I went through the divorce proceedings, that I felt extremely alone. I didn't feel like, like my Heavenly Father really was interested in what I was going through. And I really felt like I was fighting myself to remain active.   After I had the experiences that I did, as I moved into this particular area, it was like a light bulb going off. And as I looked back and watched things that had happened to me and decisions that I had made because of those things, I thought, "I have been put here. I have been placed here very carefully, led by circumstance, but it has brought me to this place. This is the place that I was meant to be." And I was so grateful for that knowledge.   I know that my Father in Heaven is watching over me because I'm here. And all I have to do is look around and I know that I was guided. Now maybe I was kicking and screaming while I was being guided, but I was guided and He does care.   KaRyn  44:08  That was Suzanne.   I appreciate her willingness to be so open and honest about what it was like for her to transition from a space where she felt she checked all the boxes of our church culture into a new phase of life where she felt different, unseen, and even unnecessary. And while Suzanne's experience is unique to her I don't think it's a stretch to say that most of us, as part of our mortal condition, will feel that isolation of not fitting in at some point. And when that happens at church, the one place where we most hope to feel the belonging, the pain can be exponential.   It's so encouraging for me to hear a story like Suzanne's because even though her concerns and her ache aren't completely resolved even now, she has been able to create belonging for herself and others by reframing her expectations of fitting in.   Of course, it's amazing when we feel ushered in and shown to our reserved spot on the front pew. But some of the most exciting and stretching work of discipleship is actually happening on that back row, where we thought there wasn't going to be enough room for us. But if we sidle right in and create the space for ourselves, things around us will shift and will fit with room to spare. And even if that space does feel tight at first, maybe we'll find that that's a gift. Because when space is tight, you can't help but bump into the people around you. And like Suzanne discovered if you're feeling out of place, most likely, you're not alone on that bench.   I think this is important. I'm not saying that people who feel marginalized should have to fight to be part of the body of Christ. Those of us who are currently feeling like we know where to sit each Sunday, we're obligated by virtue of our baptismal covenant to scoot over, to make room for those who don't know where they belong. We can help one another, we can look around, we can raise our hands to make it a little bit easier for those who are searching for a place to find their place.   In the October 2020 general conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook spoke about creating a more unified and cohesive church in his talk, "Hearts Knit in Unity and Righteousness." He reminded us that, quote: "Unity and diversity are not opposites. We can achieve greater unity as we foster an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for diversity."   What does that look like, that "fostering an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for diversity?" What does that look like in practice for me, for you? Well, for me, as someone who currently checks many of the cultural-norm boxes, it starts with listening, really listening to the stories of people who are different for me. It means that I have to become the kind of person who asks the question that Jalynne's friend did, "What is it like for you, in your current circumstances, to be a member of this church?" Then just as importantly, I have to become the kind of person who can be trusted to hear and care about the honest answer, even if it's painful. Not to dismiss it or to justify, but to listen with an open heart when my brother or sister tells me that they feel invisible in our ward. Or that they're afraid to allow people to see all the parts of themselves because they are afraid they'll be mocked, or that a comment in Sunday school made them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. I have to be willing to hear that, to ask, and then to listen with the intent to mourn with those that mourn. And comfort those that stand in need of my comfort, and then figure out what I can do better. I think that's the groundwork, the foundation for the kind of unity that we long to have in the Church of Jesus Christ, that we're commanded to have in the Church of Jesus Christ.   In that same talk, Elder Cook said this:   "If we are to follow President Nelson’s admonition to gather scattered Israel, we will find we are as different as the Jews and Gentiles were in Paul’s time. Yet we can be united in our love of and faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans establishes the principle that we follow the culture and doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the model for us even today."   As you and I move together towards this gathering of Israel, it won't always be easy to scoot over for others or to squeeze ourselves into the pew. It's work, hard, hard work, divine work, but exhausting work. But the end goal is Zion, to find ourselves and our fellow men and women enveloped and belonging, united in our love of and faith in Jesus Christ. And to me, that beautiful end is worth the discomfort and the exhaustion of the work of now.   That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers, Jalynne and Suzanne, for sharing their stories with us.   Jalynne is an artist who makes these beautiful traditional Cree beadwork pieces, and we'll have pictures of her and her artwork along with more information about both of our storytellers in our show notes at You can also get more good stuff by following us on Instagram or Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast.   All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers. And of course, if you have a story to share about living the gospel, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. We find many of our stories for this podcast from the pitch line, and we love to hear how the gospel of Jesus Christ is transforming your life. Call 515-519-6179 to leave us a message.   This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with additional help from Sarah Blake. Our stories were produced and edited by Erika Free. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by Mix at 6 Studios, and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom.   You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Oct 19, 2020
Truth Be Told
Stories in this episode: A phone call to a complete stranger could mean redemption or condemnation for Lindsey as she struggles to overcome a 13-year-old lie; Claire struggles to find relief from challenges with addiction until an unexpected source becomes the catalyst for true change. Show Notes:  To see pictures and links for this episode, go to Transcript:  KaRyn  0:03  Welcome to "This Is the Gospel" an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. How many times in your day do you throw the word "honesty" around? If I'm being totally honest with you, I do it all the time. The phrases "honestly" and "to be honest," have become almost as commonplace in the English language as "like," and "ya know." And if that wasn't enough, all you have to do is parent or teach a six year old for you to really start to wonder if, "I'm being honest, I swear!" has any meaning at all. And truly, that's a bit of a problem for all of us. Honesty, and the pursuit of honesty was so important to God that he etched it into some stone tablets along with nine other really important rules to live by as a human being. And as we seek to understand what's real in this world filled with imitations and imposters, our relationship with truth, whether that's being honest with ourselves, or being honest with others, plays a critical role in our ability to know God, and to know and understand His gospel. So today, we have two stories about the way that honesty or the lack thereof affects our spiritual lives and what happens to our hearts when the truth finally comes out. Our first story comes from Lindsey, who learned the hard way that facing the truth is more freeing than living in the lie. Here's Lindsey.   Lindsey  1:33  So I am rocking my sweet baby in his room and I am having one of those days where I'm thinking about the past, thinking of where we've been, how it took so long to bring him into our family. We had received so many blessings to get him here. And then I started to feel inadequate. I started to think of all the things that, that I wanted for him, to be happy, to make good friends. And to be honest, and I had that same thought that kept coming into my mind, "Lindsey, how can you possibly teach your son to be honest when you yourself have not been honest?" So 13 years ago, I was a live-in nanny. I was 18, I had a huge responsibility of caring for two, six-month-old twins. And I loved those kids. They were my whole world at the time. I did have another nanny that worked alongside me and her name was Liz and she worked part time. She was everything that I wasn't. She was funny, athletic, mature, creative. She had curly hair, but good curly hair, not like mine—poofy and frizzy. And she was a student at BYU and the guys absolutely loved her. In contrast, I was immature. I had no plans of going to college. I did have a boyfriend and he was going to college. And I was hoping that he didn't realize that I didn't have a whole lot to offer. Every Sunday I had a few hours off, luckily. So I was able to go to dinner with my boyfriend and his family. And I go out to head to my boyfriend's house. I get out to the driveway and it's totally covered in snow. There's ice all over. I hadn't used the car for a couple of days so I knew it was going to take a long time to scrape everything off. Because mine was totally covered in snow, Liz offered to let her use her vehicle, which she had been driving so it didn't have any snow on it. Liz was borrowing this truck from her brother-in-law and it was big and kind of intimidating. And in the back of the truck was a big, six-foot toolbox that was nice and shiny and new. And again, no snow so I load in the truck. I go down the windey road, it's windy and slick. So I'm going below the speed limit. I go for about 20 minutes, and I noticed a couple people honking at me. But again, because I'm driving slower than normal, I didn't think much of it. I take a sharp turn and I head up the mountain. So I'm relieved that I get to my boyfriend's house on time and safe. Because of the conditions of the road, I was just relieved to get there. And when I hopped out of the truck, I immediately understood why they were honking. Not only was the tailgate open, but also the toolbox was completely gone. I'm assuming that it had been wavering back and forth, and it had finally toppled over when I had taken that sharp turn. I grabbed my boyfriend and we went back down the hill, we take a turn, and there's the toolbox in the middle of the road with tools scattered everywhere. And I could not believe that, number one, we hadn't caused an accident, and two, that there was no one around. So we hopped out of the truck and with tears streaming down my face, we're frantically picking up the tools. There's padding everywhere that had ripped apart, the drawers are all open, it's dented. So we're picking them up, we throw them into the truck, and we head back to his house to try to assemble this all back together. I, like, I'm past the point of frantic hysteria. I am just quietly crying and thinking of how I'm going to explain to Liz that I have ruined this toolbox. I was just so overwhelmed with this feeling of, "You have messed up." And I wasn't just worried about Liz and how this was going to affect her, I was even more concerned about her brother-in-law, who I had never met. So my boyfriend and I worked on this for probably more than an hour. And we got to where this was an impossible puzzle, we were not going to be able to put the foam pieces in the way that they originally came. So we did the best we could and that was that. The toolbox looked like it had been through war. It looked really, really mangled. I knew that I was going to have to talk to her. I had a plan to go back to the house and to tell her what had happened. I pulled into the driveway, I went into the house, and I said absolutely nothing to her. And she left. She went back to her dorm, and I went to bed that night. I hardly slept. And so a couple of days later, I saw her again, she came back to work. And that is when she approached me and asked me what had happened to the toolbox. And, "I don't know what happened." I, I lied. I lied to her. I straight up lied to her face. And even worse, I acted surprised when she told me that it was ruined. And because of how amazing she was, she left it at that because she trusted me. I'd never given her any other time to where she didn't trust me. So eventually she quit and moved out of state. We eventually connect on social media. And I kind of just avoided her because of that guilt. And I didn't want to pretend that we were such good friends because good friends wouldn't lie to their friends' faces. Fast forward 13 years and, yeah, I still could not get this toolbox out of my mind. And that brings me back to this day, holding my baby. And I just knew that this was it. This was the one thing that was holding me back. So one night, I typed up this huge email to her full of my just gut-wrenching apology to her. I apologized for lying. for damaging the toolbox. I told her that I thought of this in very pivotal moments in my life. When I received the fourth call from the doctor that said that the IVF didn't work. When I got that seventh failed IUI, artificial insemination. I thought of those things every time something bad happened to me, I thought, "This is because of the toolbox. This is because you have yet to apologize and fess up for the toolbox." I don't think that was God or the Spirit that was telling me that. I needed some sense of control in my life. And when things didn't work out the way I wanted to, I had to come up with some kind of explanation as to why things weren't working out for me. So while I'm writing this letter, I tell her to please apologize to her brother-in-law for me, and that I am willing to compensate him for whatever the cost was of a new toolbox. Even though this was years ago, I still needed her to know that I am here and I want to do what's right. I finally send off this email. And I was sick. I was hoping that I was going to feel relief, but instead I just felt this huge sense of doom, like you have just stirred this up. Because nobody knew that I had done this, this was my deep, dark, dirty secret. And hours later, I get an alert that Liz has responded. And I open it and I am reading this and I'm just totally surprised with what I see. She is telling me that she feels horrible that I have been burdened with this. And I scan through a couple other things and at the very bottom, all I see is, "Here is Tyler's number, he wants to talk to you. He too is wondering what happened to the toolbox." This is not what I wanted to read.   Tyler  11:27  I don't remember exactly the circumstance under which I asked the question. But I do remember asking the question to Liz, "Hey, what happened to this toolbox?" So when I discovered the toolbox and how it was so banged up, and yet the bed of the truck was not banged up, and I'm trying to, just trying to solve that mystery. This wasn't just this toolbox fell over, or this wasn't just somebody hit the brakes hard and the toolbox slammed into the side. I mean, this toolbox clearly had been through quite an experience. Her response was, "I don't know." And I think I asked her then to ask Lindsey if she knew what had happened. And there too, it was same response: "I don't know." I remember feeling like something clearly happened. Information is not coming forward as to exactly what happened. I, if I were to, to label how I felt at that time, it was just, it was frustration, the frustration of not being told really what happened. And the frustration of not having to deal with it. So I wouldn't say I felt any kind of anger, I just felt frustration and in terms of my relationship with Liz, no, it didn't affect that relationship at all. Other than I knew, I knew somebody knew the story, and somebody wasn't telling me the story. So I go back into my, my normal daily life and go on about my business. At the time I owned a landscape company and I was doing a lot of business with various hardware stores in the area. I got to know the manager of the hardware store fairly well. And on one occasion, I was there picking up some materials and he's out there with me loading them and sees the toolbox. He and I get into a conversation about that toolbox and I said, "I don't know what happened to that toolbox. But clearly, whatever happened, it didn't hold up too well." And he said, "Well, because you just recently bought it, if you'd like to return it, we'll exchange it out." He exchanged the, the old one, the old beat up one for a brand new one. So at that moment, in reality, I had been made whole. But occasionally thinking over the years that I still wanted, I still wondered what really happened with that original toolbox. So, so a year or so ago, Liz called me and asked if I remember this incident. And I remember the kind of the excitement of getting that phone call, and still, still wondering how that mystery was going to get solved or if it was ever gonna get solved, if I'd ever know. And Liz has somewhat prepped me, saying how much this has affected Lindsey and I didn't want Lindsey to have to suffer any more than she already had. And so I remember being so anxious for her to call. So that, selfishly, a mystery get solved in my mind. But more important, second of all, now that I knew that this had affected her in such a major way, that I could play a role in helping to lay this to rest. Phone, you know, phone rings, she introduces herself to me. I could sense the nervousness in her voice. She went through and told me the story of what had happened, and it finally made sense. And I remember her being very concerned that I would think of her as a liar. And when she said those words, my immediate reaction was "Lindsey, you are not a liar, a liar wouldn't be making this phone call. And I don't remember if she asked me to forgive her at the moment in time, if she explicitly stated something of that nature, I can honestly tell you that I absolutely forgave her.   Lindsey  16:13  As he's telling me this on the phone, I just was in awe because here I am, for almost 14 years, being so sick and heartbroken about this toolbox. But in the meantime, Heavenly Father had paved the way and had blessed him with a replacement. This wasn't his mistake, this was my mistake and he was gifted a new toolbox. So at the end of the conversation of him telling me the story, he pauses and I'll never forget what he said to me. He said, "It is time for you to put this behind you. No longer do you need to be burdened with this. And I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to now teach this lesson to my children. And now you have the opportunity when your son gets older to sit down and teach him this lesson of honesty as well. And I just remember feeling so much peace when he said that. And I knew that that came directly from my Heavenly Father.   Tyler  17:30  You know it just makes my heart ache that she went through all of that grief for all those years. But I was, at the same time, I was very thankful that we were able to have this conversation, to solve the mystery, and to put the issue to rest. Had she just told me at the very onset, or when this incident occurred, had, what had really happened, this could have been easily dealt with back then. And so it's a reminder to all of us to just be honest with each other. The burden that she's carried all this, all these years, is far greater than it needed to be.   Lindsey  18:21  So after I got off the phone with him, I just felt so different. I immediately knew that this was done, that I didn't have to worry about this anymore. And I just felt clean again, and it had been so long that I had felt that way.   Tyler  18:43  And what's so interesting to me as this relates to the gospel, and to the Atonement, is that here a hardware store in this story effectively acts as the Savior. And so here the hardware store made me whole. They didn't cause the damage and yet, they were willing to make me whole because of it. And so it's kind of like what the Savior does for us. It's like kind of it is what the Savior does for us. To hear, the Savior has, He has nothing to do with the things that we do that are wrong, the sins that we commit. But yet He is happy to play a role to make us whole, and that's part of the plan. This is the plan. He has accounted for it. And so that's really where it helps me put everything, it helps put everything into context as to how this is a sampling of what the gospel is all about.   Lindsey  19:46  I often think of the video of the umbrella with Elder Uchtdorf, you know that one where he says, "Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon on us. It is our fear, doubt and sin that like an umbrella block these blessings from reaching us." And I think about that often, just the, the analogy of it. That same phone call, I go back to that when, you know the phone call is ended. And I just picture that umbrella being closed and I can now see that it's possible. Sometimes I think we feel that repentance is an impossible thing because of pride and shame and embarrassment. But it's possible and Heavenly Father will always be there for us.   KaRyn  20:43  That was Lindsey and Tyler. It's pretty rare that you get to hear both sides of a story like this. And we were so grateful to Tyler for letting some total strangers hunt him down and ask him questions about his experience. And since we're being totally honest, as producers, we were kind of wondering if Tyler's story might have some juicy bits of resentment and frustration that could resolve in the course of the story. But I think the fact that what we discovered was a story filled with kindness and forgiveness from the very beginning is absolutely fitting. For years, Lindsey let this lie weigh on her heart and sit heavily on her sense of worth and goodness. And while she was doing and feeling disconnected, God was busy creating compensatory blessings for Tyler that allowed him to flourish and love. We don't tell the truth only because it offers resolution. In fact, God can take care of that without us if He has to. We tell the truth because it is essential fuel for a soul that longs to be connected to our own divinity. If God is truth, and we are the children of God, then striving towards truth will get us closer and closer to that light. Our final story today about coming clean and finding truth comes from Claire.   Claire  21:58  So the very first time that I shoplifted I was about 12 years old. And my friends and I, we hung out all the time, and we would go to this store. We would ride our bikes or walk to the store that was in the neighborhood. And there were some candy that we wanted. And we didn't have enough money, and they were like king-sized caramel bars, I do you remember, so my friend was like, "Well, just, you know, put it in your bag really quick." And we always had like a bag or something like a backpack. And it was with this guy that we really liked and I think we were trying to impress him. I think it was more of like, you know, "Be cool in front of this guy, this skater guy." And so we put the candy bars in her bag. And it was like such a rush, like, "Oh my gosh!" And then leaving the store and going back to the trail and like eating our candy bars and laughing about it, just thinking that we were so cool because we got away with it. And I think that it was a feeling of like being cool that really kind of drew me into doing it all the time with them because I wanted to be accepted so bad. We started with the candy bars, my friend and I, and she was my best friend. She really was like my best friend. We were together all the time. She, we shoplifted not just candy but chapstick and makeup. And then eventually, we started when I was about 14 years old—14, 15—we would ride the city bus to the mall and we would have our backpack and that's when we started shoplifting clothes, and like shoving just tons of clothes in our backpacks. And eventually it just got so easy like I didn't have any conscious of it anymore. As the little candy bar turned into chapstick, turned into makeup, turned into clothes, my, my sense of this being wrong just kind of like left. I was raised to know right from wrong. I went to seminary and the Young Women's Primary. My parents did everything to raise all six kids to be strong members of faith, and have honesty, and a truth, and trying to follow the Savior and all that He teaches. So I kept my shoplifting from my parents by being a good girl. I was good at school. I never have liked contention so I tried not to fight too much with my siblings or to cause too much problems. So I don't think my parents knew at all that there was this little secret that I had. And they were busy. They were very busy. They always had callings, my dad had started his business so he was always busy trying to get his business going. And, and I don't fault them for not knowing because I tried to keep it a secret and I did really good at it, I, you know, was really good at not showing that I had this bad secret. I think when things really start to spiral out of control was when I moved out after graduating high school, and I was on my own. And I stopped going to church, you know, I was 18 and free and I was working as a cocktail server and so I was working the weekends. And, you know, I just thought I was too busy to go to church so there was a big disconnect there. And I was hanging around with the wrong people, my coworkers. And so I really think I just lost myself, I lost what I knew growing up in my home. I don't think I really admitted that my shoplifting was a problem until I got caught. And then I continued to still do it. And then I got caught again. And I got caught like multiple times. And I even did like jail time for it and I couldn't stop. Like, even though I had money, you know, there was like, it was stupid things I didn't even really need. There's no denying that it's a problem when you take stuff that you don't even really need and you've been in jail for it. So there was no denying that was a problem. I don't remember a moment, a specific moment where I thought this is no good. But I, I do remember, as I got to be 18, 19, 20 and the friends that I was hanging out with, we started doing things that I knew were wrong, like partying all the time. And the partying just turned into harder and harder drugs and and experiences and, and doing scarier things that, that I knew were wrong, that were so wrong. And as I started, not just experimenting with these drugs, and these people, I knew I didn't feel happy at all. Like it just felt hollow. Like, I felt a disconnect. I knew that I had disconnected from the Spirit that I felt in my life, it was gone. And I could feel it, I could feel that it was gone. And eventually I started going to different rehabs and went to jail a few times and nothing changed in my life because I wasn't ready, maybe? I thought I was because I thought I was trying to stop. But I, I there was something that wasn't connecting with my efforts. I believe that it didn't actually work because I wasn't honest about how it was really affecting my life. I wasn't honest about how, like I, I think I just thought that it was only hurting me and that I could stop if I wanted to. When I really wanted to, I could just stop and that it wouldn't be that big of a deal. But I couldn't stop. I remember one night I was in my room and I was sitting there using some drugs and I remember thinking this needs to stop. And I remember saying a prayer, "Please help me stop this disease." And that was the most sincere I really asked for help, like ever. And then the next day, I went to jail. Like God was answering my prayer and giving me a way to be all the things that I wanted to be, I wanted to be free of. So He put me away and free from being able to get to those things. I remember sitting in the jail cell and it must be a scripture mastery scripture. I remember the thought, "Experiment on my word." And I remember that thought like repeating in my head. And so I asked the officer in the jail if I could get a Book of Mormon to read. And I started reading the Book of Mormon every day. Eventually, I started to feel the Spirit again. And it was something that I missed, like so much. It was so great to feel it again. After I got released from jail, I committed to reading my scriptures every day, I just decided to see what happens if you just read it every day, just see what happens. And the first thing that fell away was my shoplifting. I realized that I didn't want to do it anymore. I there was, like no desire to put that chapstick or gum in my purse anymore. I remember walking out of stores and feeling so good that I could be in the store without being nervous that I was going to be caught. Like for the first time in years, I could leave stores and not be nervous that there was going to be somebody chasing me down. You know, I knew that it was because I was reading my Book of Mormon and so I knew that if I just kept reading, these, I just got to continue to get better. I think with the scriptures, there's power in the words. I reflect on how, you know, God created words. And by reading and visualizing and thinking about the words, there's the power there, that is a gift from God if we want to tap into it, if we really had the desire and the commitment to tap into the opportunity of the scriptures and the words in it. I started going back to church, and I met up with a bishop. And it was really kind of hard to tell him everything. But then it, it also felt really good to just tell him, to just get it off my chest. And he suggested some things that I should do. And I don't remember specifically what he advised but I do remember that I also committed to pay my tithing and be faithful with that and to come to church regularly and make sure to just be honest in everything that I say. I felt like he didn't judge me and so maybe I'm not as bad as I feel like I should feel. I just remember leaving my bishop's office feeling really good and that gave me hope, gave me hope. After reading my scriptures every day, and after the shoplifting fell away, my smoking, I used to smoke cigarettes and, and all of a sudden I just didn't want to and I would try to and it was gross. And I was like, "Ew, why did I even try that?" I never really was a hard drinker but I didn't even want to hang out with the people that drink I, you know, didn't want to drink. And then I didn't even want to hang out with the people that did. And I didn't want any of the things or the lifestyle that I used to just find so fun. I started hanging around with my family, they became my best friends. I know that they are the biggest support and strength for me and being around them strengthened me more than any of the treatment centers I went to, even though they did help teach me some things to avoid or, I just feel like being with my family and their joy and their love. and their righteousness like was one of the biggest strengths for me. During all my distancing from my family and parents, they always invited me home. They always open their door to me and invited me to family things. And when I was there, they always showed love and never judgment. And so I always knew that they were there for me. I really want to tell parents when they have kids that are straying and they wonder if they should just, you know, block them out, block them off and until they decide to change their ways, I want them to know, knowing that my family was there, no matter what, gave me something to come back to when I was ready. And I think if they turned their backs on me I would have turned my back on me too. I would have given up. Well, I do know that when I was dishonest, my family knew that I was dishonest. They weren't stupid. And they forgave me. It taught me that I needed to forgive. And it taught me that unless you're honest, people don't trust you, and it took a long time to re, re-earn that trust. And I've learned it's a precious thing that I don't ever want to lose, I can't. To me now, an honest life looks like being able to be who I really am, and have fun sharing myself with my family and my friends and being free of any worry of what I've said, or what people think of me. If I'm honest, I know I have nothing to hide. And that is, like such a good feeling.   KaRyn  36:07  That was Claire. Claire has now been clean and sober for about 13 years and really wanted to make sure everybody knew that a huge part of her recovery was being honest with herself about the need to completely disconnect from those old friends and old places of her former life. Claire and I also talked a lot about the value of different kinds of support systems in the pursuit of honesty and sobriety. We both felt it was important to note that there's no one-size-fits-all solution to recovery from addiction. Reading scriptures, counseling with a kind bishop, and being welcomed back to a loving family—along with more professional support from a good therapist or an accredited rehabilitation program or groups like AA or NA—those are just a few of the tools that God has put in our path as we seek a life of wholeness and freedom. And it is a life of freedom that Claire discovered. One of my favorite moments from her story was when she stopped having that desire to shoplift. Her description of what it felt like to finally be free of the worry that someone would chase her down out of a store, well, I could practically feel the lightness that she talked about. I remember a story I heard in stake conference a long time ago about a man who was in law school, and he was poor as most graduate students are. And it meant that every single nickel counted most of the time. And there was a salad bar in the cafeteria that charged extra for bacon bits and anything else delicious that you might want on a salad because, let's be honest, salads are only delicious with a million toppings. And so because many of his colleagues were in the same boat as him, they would pile the toppings on the bottom and then cover it with lettuce to get the cheaper price. Of course, it was tempting to this man to want to do the same. And his classmates actually thought it was really stupid of him not to take advantage of the salad bar loophole. And one day, it got to be too much. He was really getting tired of his bacon-bitless salad and he decided it wasn't really going to hurt anyone if just this once he got that bacon and covered it up. And as he was scooping the beautiful, salty goodness onto the bottom of a salad bowl, he heard a voice. It was a quiet, small voice but it said, "Will you sell your honesty for 25 cents? Will you sell your honesty for some bacon bits?" And he put those scoops of bacon back and contented himself with his boring old salad. But I remember that he said that this was a moment of decision for him that affected the rest of his life. Would he sell his honesty for bacon bits? Would he sell it for a million dollars? The answer from that moment on was, "No." Most of us aren't going to be blessed with a strong or even a quiet voice to clearly warn us about the dangers of the little dishonesties and lies that permeate our days and lives. And we know that it's hard to be completely and totally honest at all times, and in all places, especially in a society that values the white lie. I mean, listen, you and I both know that if I slave over that new, complicated recipe and you hate it, I'm going to be thrilled if you lie to me and tell me that you loved it. But we can start our journey toward that commandment to be true and faithful in all things by committing to be completely honest with ourselves first, to see ourselves and our place in the world as it really is and not just how we want it to be. In the Church's Addiction Recovery Program, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step to any lasting change of heart and behavior revolves around honesty. Admit that you of yourself are powerless to overcome, fill in the blank, and that your life has become unmanageable. And guess what my friends, that's all of us. Whether you struggle with an addiction or not, not one of us can do this life without God's grace and mercy and guidance. But we're not left to do that on our own. Seeing things as they really are and then living a life of honest, self-appraisal is both a commandment and a gift from God. The prophet Ammon understood this when he spoke these words in Alma, chapter 26, verses 11 and 12. He said, "I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom, but behold, my joy is full. Yea, my heart is brimming with joy and I will rejoice in my God, yea, I know that I am nothing, as to my strength, I am weak. Therefore, I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength, I can do all things." There is choice involved in our effort to live honestly. But if we want it, if we're willing, He's going to help us accomplish it. And when that self appraisal leads to action, and we need strength to send the Facebook message, or make the phone call admitting that we lied about the toolbox, or we need the courage to walk into the bishop's office to confess and forsake the years of our deception, we will not be alone. And in His strength, and our weakness, we can do all things. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel," thank you to our storytellers, Lindsey, Tyler and Claire for sharing their true and honest stories with us. We'll have more info about our storytellers, as well as a transcript of this episode in our show notes at You can also find us on social media on Facebook and Instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast, come find us there. Are you as thrilled to listen to these stories as we are to share them with you? Well, if so, tell us all about it. Leave a review on Apple or Stitcher or wherever you listen. It really does help other people to discover the podcast more easily. And I get to read every review. And I sincerely feel all the good feelings to learn the way these stories are blessing your lives. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. All of the stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. And of course, if you have a story to share and want to become one of our storytellers, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. You'll have three minutes to tell us all about your story and what it has taught you about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We found both stories for this episode from our pitch line and we love to hear how the gospel of Jesus Christ is changing your life. Call 515-519-6179 to leave us a message. This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with additional story production and editing from Erika Free. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six Studios, our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom and you can find all the past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Have a great week! Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Oct 12, 2020
Consider the Lilies
Stories in this episode: Roger gets a big nudge from heaven when he sits down at the piano to compose a song for the Tabernacle Choir; Tammy’s run-in with a broken oven sends her to her knees and then to Google for answers; new convert Nicole’s commitment to pay tithing is tested by a broken exhaust pipe; A sick cat causes Mel to see how we can rely on God when everything feels out of our control. Show Notes:  To see pictures and links for this episode, go to Transcript:  KaRyn  0:03   Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. I'm not much of a morning person. And my ideal morning routine consists of complete silence for the hour it takes me to get ready for work. I don't listen to music. I don't talk. I'm actually kind of grouchy. My husband knows this, and generally leaves me to my solitary morning activities.  But a few days ago, I had this overpowering need to listen to something while I got ready. And as I headed towards Spotify and my "Good Songs" playlist, I noticed the Gospel Library app, which I had recently put in the same folder as Spotify next to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, in an attempt to choose Jesus over Hollywood. And this one time, it worked. I clicked on the scriptures, and I just hit some random button for 3 Nephi which I guess was where I should probably be for "Come, Follow Me." And as the robot scripture lady started to read the words of the Savior, it dawned on me that I had accidentally started listening to 3 Nephi chapter 13, where the Savior repeats the Sermon on the Mount to the Nephites. I was overwhelmed as I realized that this was exactly what I needed that morning to prepare for the theme of this episode.  "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spend. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, even so will he clothed you." This little mourning moment was a perfect illustration of today's stories all about the times in our lives when God steps in to take care of our temporal needs. And we thought there could be no better way to introduce a theme like consider the lilies, than to talk to the man who composed the song by the same name that has become a staple in the repertoire of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple square. Our producer, Erika Free, brings us this story from Roger Hoffman.   Erika  2:18   Hi, Roger, nice to meet you sort of in person. I'm Erika.   Roger  2:22   Nice to meet you too. I'm Roger.   Erika  2:24   Thanks for meeting with me today and—   Roger  2:27   Well, I'm excited to do this.   Erika  2:29   So I guess the first question I want to ask you is, how did you get into songwriting? And was it easy for you?   Roger  2:36   I guess it was about 1982. I left my job so that we could do this full time because leaning on the scripture that says, "Seek ye," and I think the JST says, "Seek ye to build up the kingdom of God," you know, first as it were, "and the all these things," meaning the temporal things, "will be added unto you." So we did that. And it was kind of miraculous because when we needed he money, it was there.  I had a friend of mine who I knew at BYU and he came up to me one day after having I hadn't seen him for years and he said, "Could you use a car?" And it was just on the day that ours had died. So we said, "Yes!" Thankfully, and we and we drove it for a couple of years, you know, so it literally was a godsend to us. So a lot of things happened like that.   Erika  3:30   So Roger, is that how you got the idea for the song "Consider the Lilies"? What was it like for you to write that song?   Roger  3:37   Our bishop had let me borrow a key because we couldn't afford a piano. So I went over there and did my working. And one day, I was just sitting at the piano, piano in the chapel, and playing along with little things. And then this melodic device came into my mind, "Dada, dada, dada, dadum, dadum, dadum, and I thought, "Oh my, that's better than what I write." But then words started to flow into my mind. And just about as quickly as I could write it, I probably, I think I wrote it on the back of an envelope, which is where a lot of things are written, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, how they grow." And I said, "That's, that is the image. That is what we want to tell our friends," because you know what comes after, "He clothes the lilies of the field, He feeds the birds in the sky, and He will feed those who trust Him and guide them with His eye." Oh boy, that was perfect. That's what we wanted to say.  And so more, more words came, "Consider the sheep of His fold, how they follow where He leads, though the past may wind across the mountains," and mountains are symbolic of difficulty for me. "He knows the meadows where they feed," He's not going to leave you hanging on the mountains, you know. And "He clothes the lilies of the field, He feeds the birds in the sky, and He will feed those who trust Him and guide them with His eye," cementing that wonderful image and, really, that was all I had come to say. And so I thought, "Wow, that's great, I'm done." And so I got up. But there was almost a kind of a discernible little tug on me that says, "Sit back down, you're not done." All of this, of course, not happening in words, just impressions in your mind. And so I did. And this, this line came to me, which blew me away. "Consider the sweet, tender children who must suffer on this earth." And I thought, "Lord, you can't expect me to answer that huge problem in the next couple of lines, you know." And I got up again, and, I'm done. We could change the key of the chorus and have a nice song, you know.  But then the thought came to my mind, "You're not writing this anyway." Oh. So I sat down, and I just listened. "Consider the sweet, tender children who must suffer on this earth. The pains of all of them He carried. Since the day of His birth, He clothed the lilies of the field." And here it changed. "He feeds the lambs in His fold, children, and He will heal those who trust Him and make their hearts as gold." Oh, my, when that entire passage of thinking came to me, I was just overwhelmed. It was so beautiful. It was so right. So loving of the Lord. So I was kind of a gone man for the rest of the day.   Erika  6:39   Wow, I've always had a special place in my heart for this song, and hearing about how it was written, makes it that much more special. Thank you for sharing.  So real quick, though, back to that moment when you have the line come in about the children and you said, "I can't do this." And you stood up, what, what did that feel like? What else was going through your mind?   Roger  7:02   One of the things was I am not adequate. Wonder if anybody else in the world has ever thought that, you know? Here is this big, giant thing that you've dropped in my lap and I am not adequate to do this.  Of course, the Lord knew that. He said, "I know, I know, but I am. So hold on, stay there, and I'll give you the rest of it," you know. And so anyway, that's, that was kind of what's going through my mind and in my heart at the time.   Erika  7:35   What did you learn about our Heavenly Father or our Savior throughout this experience of writing this song?    Roger  7:43   A thing that I have learned from the experience of "Consider the Lilies," and really our whole lives, is man's dependence on God and God's fruitful, generous answer to man's need.  Moses said after he'd seen all the planets and the whole great plan of God, "Now I know that man is nothing, which thing I never before had supposed." And I almost think the sooner we realize how little we are, and I don't mean little, I mean, like, as an a child, little tiny, you know, developmental person, then the Lord is so willing to just pour into us what we need to grow, we've seen evidence of that. I guess it's been how long? Thirty-seven years we've been doing this. So that's probably the biggest thing I think I've taken from it.   KaRyn  8:50   That was Roger Hoffman.  I don't know if I'm supposed to call a composer adorable but I adore everything about Roger and the story of how the song came to be, from the borrowed key to the back of the envelope to the sweet pushiness of the Spirit telling him to sit back down on that bench he's not done. All of those things are a testament to the sermon that the words of the song teach every time it's sung, God's got this. And if we show up, He'll take whatever cloth we bring with us and spin it into gold. Our next storyteller is Tammy who learned that God can and will use whatever means necessary, including Google, to show us His power. Here's Tammy.   Tammy  9:34   Well, my oven died—again. My oven has died so many times, and we replaced the main control board so many times. But this last time when the man came to replace it, he said to me that our oven is so old, we can't even order the part anymore. And I just knew what that meant. And I looked at him and he looked at me and he just said, "You're going to need to buy a new oven."  Now, that might seem pretty easy, a new oven. But no, no, it's not going to be that simple because apparently I have to replace the entire wall unit, which means a microwave, a warmer, and an oven.  So I have to replace this wall unit, and I know it's expensive. And I'm trying so hard not to completely lose it and freak out in front of this man who cannot repair my oven. So he left and I began talking to my husband about it, we do not have enough money to replace this. But I like have no other option. Without completely redoing my kitchen, I mean, you can't just take the oven out and replace it (because I tried), I thought that was an option. And it just wasn't because it's a wall unit.  So I figured, you know what, it's summer, we don't even need an oven. We'll just, we'll cook outdoors all summer long. And so I'd say for a good two months, we barbecued everything, including cookies. I tried to make cookies on a barbecue (FYI, doesn't really work). After weeks and weeks of not having an oven, now we're into the months of not having an oven. And I can't even do my normal things, like, I can't do normal dinner time, I can't do normal family meals. So we go ahead and bite the bullet. My husband, Jim, and I we sit down, we work through the budget, we come up with the amount that we can pay for after some scrimping and saving to make this work—without having to sell one of our children. But even with that amount of money, like we know replacing this whole wall unit, it just can't possibly happen with the budget we have.  The most inexpensive wall unit that I could find started around twice my whole budget. And I'm like that is this, no, I can't even, I don't even have a place for that kind of money.  So then I started doing more research. And my mom worked for a man who happened to actually sell ovens and he said, "We'll give her the employee price discount," which I thought was so generous. And I went online to look up their ovens and those ovens, they were around four times the price that we were able to pay for a new oven. And yeah, that's not gonna happen either.  And so I was super frustrated and sad. And I finally decided, you know what, I'm going to, I'm going to pray about this because I don't know any other way to get an oven within my budget. And I knew I could ask Heavenly Father for help. I've just always known that, I've had that experience many times in my life, where I could just go to Him with something. Like, anytime I lose something, I always pray to find it and I do.  And so I thought, "You know what? I didn't really lose anything, but I do need to find something. So maybe Heavenly Father can help me find a decent wall unit that's within my budget." And so I did, I got on my knees that night for my nightly prayers and I just said, "Heavenly Father, hi. Listen, I know there's a lot going on in this world, but help a sister out because I need a new oven." And I'm like, "And here's my budget, like real, real small. And so if you could just help me find a wall unit within my price range, I would really, really, really, really appreciate it. But if not, help me find a way to buy an oven, I don't know what we're going to do. We're kind of at an impasse." And that was the end of my prayer. And I just trusted that Heavenly Father was going to help me out and I just left it at that. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where I was going to go. I had no idea.  And so I just let it sit with me for a couple of days. And I'll be, three days later, as I had a chance to just sit down and be quiet for a minute, because I had been so busy for three days, the minute I sat down, the thought popped into my head, "Google where to find wall oven units in Utah." That's where I live. So I Googled it and up popped an ad for this store in Utah that is very expensive. Like completely out of my league. I've been in the store maybe two times only to go in and turn around saying, "I can't afford anything in here." So the thought that I would even click on this is absurd, but I did. And, boom, there is the wall oven unit that is the exact same make and model as the one that I need replaced and it's a newer version, so things can be repaired. And when I looked at the price that this company was selling this wall oven unit for, I didn't believe it. So I had to show my husband, and he didn't believe it. I mean, it was just such a funny moment because we kept looking at each other like, "Wait, is this for real? I can't believe it. Did I just find what I needed on my first click? Is God really that good?" I mean, I'm just, my husband's even thinking this cannot be true. We got to make a phone call.  So we called them and we found out it is true. It's still in stock. And my husband said, "We'll be there in 15 minutes." We've never moved quicker. We got in the car, we drove down to that store, we ran inside. And it just happened to be a wall oven unit that they had been using in their showroom, which had never been used. It was just purely for show. And it was not only within my budget, it came in like 300% under my budget, I think. Listen, I'm not good at the public math, but maybe 3,000% under my budget? All I know is that it came so far in under budget I actually had money left over. I mean it was ridiculous how under my budget it came in.  So we bought the oven. After about two or three more weeks, we finally got it in and we celebrated. The first thing we did was we made cookies. We were so excited. And then every day since, we probably use the oven for all sorts of fun things. Having heavenly father helped me find this oven was just once again a testimony to me from Him, that He loves me. And I will remember, I will remember this story The next time I pray about something that doesn't go the way I'd hoped. I have so many stories in my life where God didn't give me what I asked for. In fact, for 18 years I prayed daily that I would get married and have kids. And I didn't get that for 18 years I'm praying for that. But, you know, I think it's the little things that teach me that He is hearing my prayers, that He is working to answer them in the best way possible.  He helped me with something that seems so simple and maybe stupid to people. I, when Intell the story, sometimes I think people might roll their eyes. But I want to tell the whole world this story because it's just a reminder that God cares. He cared about little Tammy Hall who needed a new oven. And it gives me hope and assurance and faith really, that the big prayers I'm praying for that have gone unanswered I'm still waiting for, I know those prayers are being heard.  This story is taught me the Heavenly Father, He really is my father. And I learned to keep Him involved in my life from the biggest prayers to the smallest prayers. That's what this whole life is all about is asking for His help and letting Him be our father.   KaRyn  16:40   That was Tammy Uzelac Hall. You may recognize Tammy's voice from the "Sunday on Monday" study group podcast where she guides a weekly discussion of "Come, Follow Me."  Tammy told me this story in passing one day right after it happened. And besides being horrified and intrigued by those grilled chocolate chip cookies, I was mostly floored by the way she involves the Lord and the practical aspects of her life. I hadn't really thought of it quite this way before but, of course, He cares about the constraints of our budgets. And of course, he knows what search terms to use to find the answers to our prayers.  Tammy's story reminds us all that while we should maintain faith in the miraculous, we might also do well to remember that miracles aren't magic. God's care sometimes comes to us clothed in the robes of the ordinary and the mundane, but it's there nonetheless.  When our next storyteller, Nicole, first learned about tithing as a new convert, she had no idea how soon after her baptism that commitment would be tested. Here's Nicole.   Nicole  17:44   I grew up going to parochial schools, Catholic schools. My mom's family was Protestant, my dad's family was Catholic, and they were divorced and we didn't really go to church regularly on our own.  By the time I went to high school, I went to public school and I met a good, close-knit group of friends and decided my senior year, after having visited a couple times, I really wanted to ask my best friend if I could go to early morning seminary with her.  I think having grown up going to parochial schools and, and having a religious course of some sort, or a study of God, was kind of ingrained in me a little bit. And I just liked it. And I when I asked her if I could go to seminary with her, she kind of gave me a look. Kind of like, "Okay, sure." And it was an Old Testament year so I mean, really, what a bad year to pick. I feel for a non-member to go to seminary, just intense.  We talked about premortal life, and it was like sunshine for me. I had just always believed that my spirit wasn't new here, then here I was reading it in the scriptures that yes, this is right. And so that right there, Abraham, was what told me that the Church was true.  I guess what a funny way to gain a testimony, right? In early morning seminary as a senior in high school. And through the Old Testament, I was baptized in February of my senior year.  The summer after my senior year, I got a job and I knew that I needed to pay my tithing on my first check. While I knew that, I also knew that I needed to save money for college. And my parents really weren't going to tell me, "Go pay your tithing." They were going to tell me, "Save money for college." But I had decided to join the Church and I had decided to keep the commandments that I had committed to keep and that was one of them. And so I fill out my tithing check, and I got into my car and I got about a half mile down the road when I heard some loud noises, some really bad loud noises from my car and had to pull over on the side of the road.  And when I got out, I saw a good portion of the underneath of my car just lying on the ground. I didn't have a cell phone so I spent the next, you know, 10 minutes walking home in these shoes that weren't comfortable, and got home and called my best friend's dad who was still at home. And he drove, checked out my car, and told me that the majority of my exhaust was on the ground. And he knew a guy and knew a good place for me to send my car, but it was Sunday and I didn't know how I was going to get it there. And the bigger issue for me was, at that time, it just felt like, "Whoa." First of all, I'm not making very much money as an 18-year-old, and I had just gotten my first check in a really long time from a job. And I, here I was on my way to church, and I felt like I was going to be giving 10% of that money away. But now I really have an immediate use for that 10%.  And there was a little bit of conflict that was going on in my, in my mind that, "Well, I mean, maybe I could just use this quickly, to tie that exhaust on my car, and, and get me to my job the next day."  But he drove me with him to church and getting to church and feeling the Spirit just really helped me to realize, you know, I got up that morning with the intent to go pay my tithing. And really, is the broken car going to change my mind on how I felt about that element of the gospel? For me, my answer was no. And I paid my tithing, somehow got my car to the shop the next day, I don't even remember how. It got fixed and I went about my business working all summer.  I didn't really think much of it afterwards. As I went through the rest of the summer, and I was getting ready for college and packing up, I was realizing that I would need even more money than I had initially planned on needing and I was not going to have enough money to cover the rest of the things.  And then about a month before school started, or maybe even a couple weeks before school, school started, I got a letter in the mail, saying, "Congratulations, you've been awarded this scholarship." And I re-read the first section several times because I had no idea where this was coming from. The header was the name of a scholarship that I had never heard of. I didn't apply for it. And as I got farther into the letter, it told me how much I would be awarded. And it just floored me. My goodness, my breath was taken away that I, here I was receiving multiples of the money that I would even owe. And in my mind at that very moment, I was taken back to that first tithing check that I paid that not only was this scholarship covering that tithing check, but it was multiplied so many times.  I feel like this story of tithing is really just a simple story, but it's stuck with me throughout my life. For a long time.  I feel like I would have been able to make enough money or I would have been able to still go to school, the bill would have gotten paid somehow. But the lesson I learned was really by putting trust in my testimony and by following through with that commitment that I had made and that that desire to do what was right, I was able to see those blessings more clearly in my life. And know the instant that it happened, the reason that it happened.   KaRyn  24:29   That was Nicole.  I know it doesn't work out this way for everyone, but I love that Nicole's faith in the promises inherent in the law of tithing was strengthened so early on in her newly minted discipleship. For me, that's the real illustration of God's care in this story, even more than that scholarship. Her Heavenly Father offered her such a powerful experience so soon after her baptism to help her cement one more solid block of a lifelong foundation.  Our final story today comes from Mel whose unexpected encounter with a stranger at a garbage can drove home the Lord's promise to take care of us. Here's Mel.   Mel  25:10   So I walked into the vet and I sat down with my cat and there was a bunch of people waiting in the waiting room. And I remember just thinking, "This cat really needs to live." And I'm not even really a cat person, which is funny. But I knew we had to do whatever we could so she so she could live.  I waited for probably an hour and we finally get called back. At this point, she's just like laying there, like she can't really lift her head. She's not doing anything. So they take her temperature, and she still doesn't do anything. And she's just really sick.  And so the vet came in finally and said, "Well, I have some good news and I have some bad news. We may be able to save her but she's going to need this medication, and she's going to need a lot of it. Two to three-months-worth of this medication ,and they're very expensive medications.  My heart really sank, I don't know that he realized it was such bad news for me. This cat wasn't just a cat. The reason this cat was so important was my two-and-a-half year-old was given this cat by her dad for Christmas before he passed away. Even though this happened almost seven years ago, I remember everything about the day my husband passed away. He told me that he wasn't feeling super great, that he felt like he was getting the flu. And it was late in the afternoon and Olivia was two and a half and I needed to run some errands, which was about 30 minutes into town. And so I asked him if she could stay. And he said, that was fine. He put a movie on and that would be fine. So I gave him a kiss on the cheek and I gave Olivia a kiss and I just walked out the front door and I left and went into town.  When I came back in the house, I had been to the pharmacy, and I'd been to pick up dinner and I had a pizza, and I remember just dropping on the floor. Like the second I saw him, I knew he was in trouble.  My daughter was curled up with him watching a movie and the blue screen was on so it had been over for a while. And she thought he was sleeping, I think, but I could tell there was something very wrong. I called 911 and part of me was so panicked on how to help him. And so I have 911 in one ear telling me I need to get CPR started. And I'm trying to figure out logistically, how can I do this? My husband's much bigger than I am. He's in a recliner, and they're telling me I need to get him on the floor and get CPR started. At the same time, I heard my daughter say, "It's okay, Mom. Like he's okay. He's gone." So she knew, I guess, what had happened and was completely calm and peaceful. She wasn't crying. She wasn't upset. She was just rubbing my hands. They came and tried and tried, and I tried and tried and it just, we just couldn't do it.  At first, I was horrified that she had to be there by herself with him. But then I realized she hadn't been afraid. She just laid with him until I got home.  The night he died, I remember laying with her. And she said, because he had really bad neuropathy in his feet and it was really painful for him to walk, and she says, "So mom, now that he's slept with Heavenly Father, can he walk?" I said, "Yeah," and she goes, "But does it hurt?" And I said, "No." And she said, "Can he run?" And I said, "Yeah, he can run." And she says, "Oh, mom, that's awesome." She was like so happy and I thought, "She at two and a half has such a grasp on what's happening tonight." I always knew that Heavenly Father was there intellectually. And I had times where I felt Him close, but never the way that I felt Him that, like at that time. People would ask me how I was holding up and how I was doing it and I knew I wasn't doing it by myself.  We were living in Arizona and I had driven him to Utah with my girls because that's where we decided to bury him. So we've been gone for two weeks. It was his long drive. I was exhausted physically, mentally. I hadn't had any time alone where I had a chance to think. And it's a really odd feeling, but it's scary. All of these emotions just started hitting. And I walked into my house. And I just looked around, and I thought, "Are you kidding me?" There was throw up everywhere, all over the carpet, all over the furniture. And the second I saw my cat, I knew she was really bad. She's been sick for a long time. I just drove home from burying my husband, and I walked into this, like, are you? Are you kidding me?  So I just scooped her up, turned around, and got straight into the car and went to the vet. And the vet tells me that I've got this medication that she has to have. And I wasn't working and had all of these expenses for my husband's funeral. And I had just found out that morning that his life insurance wasn't going to pay, the one that we'd had for 20 years, because he'd missed some signatures the year before and they were going on his previous election for coverage. I didn't have any money at all. I'd been a stay-at-home mom for the last decade. I was going to have a hard time even justifying taking her in for her appointment. And there was absolutely no way that I could pay for her medications. I just was really not seeing any way out of it at all. There was nothing I could do for her at that point.  So the whole way that I'm driving home, I've got this cat who can't lift her head, in the front seat, and I'm just looking at her thinking, "Okay, how am I gonna tell my kids?" Mainly, I was worried about Olivia, that's my youngest, because it was such a big part of her life, this little cat. It would follow her everywhere, which is funny because she would put perfume on it and she would try to get it dressed and she tried to put makeup on it. And she really, this cat had no reason to like her, but he would sleep on her bed. And that was the first thing she did in the morning and the last one she did at night was to have this little cat. So it's really important to her. This is it. I mean, she just lost her dad. And now I've got to go home and figure out how to tell her, her little friend is gonna die too. Um, she needed this little cat. And I needed this cat to live. So I came home to an empty house. And I walked into the kitchen and I grabbed a bowl of water, a bowl of like hot water and everything I could think of to clean this. So I'm sitting on the stairs and I had this bowl of hot soapy water and a garbage bag and a spatula. And I remember just kind of crawling up on my knees on the stairs. And I just was like scooping in it, I know it's gross, and I'm scooping cat vomit into a bowl and just thinking, "How did, like what is going on? How did I even get here? How am I getting myself out of this?" And I just leaned against the wall and just slipped down onto the stairs and I sat there and I started to cry.  Normally your cat is sick and you think, "Ah, man," but I was devastated. And I had no idea what to do. I had made so many decisions the past two weeks. I had read through every possible scenario about what I needed to do, how I needed to help my family, how I could save my house, what I would do for income where, I should bury my husband. I mean, I have made so many decisions, but at that moment, I couldn't tell you if I wanted a glass of water or a glass of milk without crying, like I just couldn't do it. And I just remember thinking, "I know that I can't physically or mentally figure this out on my own. Like I just need help." And I didn't know what I needed.  I'm glad no one was helping because I just never just crying saying, "Heavenly Father, something has to give. Like if you're here and if you love me and you love my family, like I need some help. Like now." So I sat there for a minute and I felt bad for myself. And I just cried. And I had, I just had one of those like ugly cries where you just cry and cry and cry.  So I had this big bag of garbage and I tied a knot in the top and I grabbed my dark sunglasses and it was garbage day and so I had already rolled the two big bins out to the curb. And I thought, "Well, I don't want to keep this in my kitchen." So I walked out.  I've got this long driveway and I walked out to the street. And I went to lift up the bin, the lid, and I heard someone say, "Excuse me, excuse me." And I thought, "Oh, great, someone's going to see me." I've got these crazy streaky eyes. And you can tell that I've been crying. I've got the nasally sound going on. I'm literally standing over the garbage can with a bag of cat vomit. I've just had this massive meltdown. And I thought, "Oh, gosh, please don't let it be someone I know."  So I turn around and there's this man standing there. And he's in his late 70s and he's, was a neighbor that lived across the street and four doors down. I've never had any interaction with him before. He was just this little, white-haired man.  And I don't know if you know, southern Arizona, but it's hot. And in the summer, you just wave at people, they raise their garage door, they close the garage door, and you don't see them again for weeks. So that's that kind of neighbor. I didn't know his name. I didn't know anything about him. And so I was a little shocked to see him there. And he said, "I had an odd question for you." He said, "I ordered some medications for my dogs. And I ordered them from an online pet pharmacy. And when I opened it, I opened the packaging thinking it was a medication for my dogs, and I realized that it was cat medication. So I called the 800 number and told them, let them know about their mistake. And they said, "No worries, we'll send your dog medication, go ahead and throw that away. You've already opened it, it can't be returned because it's a prescription." And he said, "I don't know if you have a cat. I don't know anyone that does. But if you have a cat, and you, you could use this at all, great. If not, just throw it away or give it away."  And I couldn't even process what he was saying. I knew exactly what he was saying, but I couldn't process it. And all I could get out when he said that was, I just said, "I have a cat. Thank you." And I couldn't, I couldn't even talk. So I walked inside and I just remember sitting back on the stairs that I just been cleaning. I knew without opening the bag, exactly what the medication was. I knew it was the exact dosage that she needed. And I knew that it was at least two-months worth of medication. And I opened the bag. And sure enough, it was exactly what I needed to save this little cat that I had just been stewing about and worried about and praying for. And it was a really odd reaction. I just started to laugh. And I was trying to figure out why I was laughing. And then I realized I wasn't going to have to tell my kids, and especially my youngest, that she was going to lose her cat right after she lost her dad. And it was the hugest weight off of my chest. And I could breathe and I could smile. And I just laughed. I said, "Okay, Heavenly Father, you got me, like you're there. I know you're there. Thank you." It's a weird feeling to explain, but I knew we'd be okay, that we'd figure everything else out. So our little cat is named Lucy, and she is now nine years old. And she still sleeps on my daughter's bed at night. And she curls up right upon, against her face. And she just has this crazy bond with my daughter and she's still around and still just as happy. And my daughter knows the story that her dad gave this cat to her.  And I've heard people say, after death, you have this pipeline, where the veil is very thin. And you're given what you need at the time. But I didn't really understand that until I was in that position.  I can't remember what scripture it is that says that, that God is aware of a bird that falls out of the sky. That, to me, was always so far removed from my life. I didn't ever think of that as literal, you know, like, He does know. And you know what? God has so many people and so many other things going on, but the second like I needed Him the very most, it was cat medicine. And He didn't let me down. And maybe that's what I needed to know is that it didn't matter if it's a cat or if it's losing my husband, like it, like it's, he's aware of whatever I'm struggling with. It doesn't matter if it's in my mind something really big or if it's something menial or just every day, it doesn't matter. He's still there and he's still aware. And I need to not worry so much, like I don't need to be in control of everything. I just, there are times in situations that I just need to resign and say, "Okay, like you've got my back and everything will be okay."   KaRyn  40:09   That was Mel.  Listen, whether you're a cat person or not, I am sure you found yourself cheering, like I did, when the medicine in the bag turned out to be exactly what Lucy needed, which was exactly what Mel and Olivia needed too. Remember how I said that miracles aren't magic? Well, I still stand by that. But that doesn't mean that they can't feel magical. I mean, really, isn't it kind of a miracle every time someone takes care of us in a moment of weakness?  You know, the part of Christ's sermon that I felt I'd been lead to that morning when I listened to 3 Nephi was actually the part of the scripture that tends to get kind of chopped off when we're quoting it. After Christ reminds us that God will clothe us better than the lilies of the field, He ends it with, "If ye are not of little faith." He was speaking these words in the Book of Mormon to his newly chosen 12 apostles who are about to embark in a ministry that would not be for the faint of heart. Those words were meant to propel them forward in their work without wasting precious moments, or brainspace, on the things that you and I worry about everyday: food, shelter, clothing, transportation, safety.  And though I know I'm no apostle, that charge to have big faith so I can see the hand of God in my temporal life, hit me like a ton of bricks that morning. And it reminded me of this story.  A few years ago, my little family was going through a health crisis that took every ounce of spiritual, emotional, and financial resource that we had, there just wasn't enough to go around. And I, I found myself working really hard, and still unable to meet my financial obligations. It was exhausting and heartbreaking and confusing.  For a while, I kind of kept it all to myself believing that if I was just scrappy enough, or if I worked harder, that I could juggle my way out of these problems. And to be honest, I was just embarrassed. I really didn't want to admit that I was in over my head. I mean, what would that say about me if I couldn't provide for myself or my family?  But eventually, with some nudging from my parents, I swallowed my pride, or at least I thought I did, and I went to see the bishop. In his office, I told him that it had come down to me deciding between paying my tithing or paying these medical bills that were piling up. And to be honest, I was thinking that he would just be like, "Here you go. You've been a faithful tithing payer for so long and you've never asked for anything, have some cold, hard cash." But that is not the way the Lord works. The bishop was kind, he was gentle. He told me to keep paying my tithing and to honor that covenant, and that they would start with food assistance to cut that bill down and that the Relief Society president would help me make a food order to the Bishop Storehouse. Of course, I nodded my head and I thanked the bishop. I walked out of his office and immediately decided that I was going nowhere near that Bishop Storehouse.  As a kid, we'd needed assistance a few times, and I totally knew what those cans of tomatoes and peaches, and those bags of Jell-O and orange drink meant. So I did some human math. And I decided that what I would be putting into the quote, unquote, system would be more than what I was getting out of it. And that the best way to meet my current needs would be to put a little mini pause on tithing until I got back on my feet. And so that's what I did. I ignored the bishop. And I ignored that little flutter in my gut that said, "Think again." I leaned into my need to take care of myself the way that I knew how to take care of myself.  While all this was happening, I had a work trip that took me to the East coast where I was lucky enough to spend some time with my mom and my dad. And I know that you'll probably find this really hard to believe, but all it takes is one question from my mom for me to spill all my guts. And she did it. She asked the one question. And the one question was, "How are you holding up?" And when she said that, the whole sordid affair spilled out of my mouth, along with all my justifications for not paying my tithing. And I was adamant that the math didn't add up. I was gonna give the Church money and then get storehouse food in return? It didn't seem fair somehow.  My mom didn't say much. I could tell that she wasn't judging me. But I could also tell that the wheels were spinning in her head. And she just kind of listened to me and she cried with me. And I ended up leaving the conversation just feeling loved, which I appreciated.  The next day, when my parents took me to the airport, my mom slipped an envelope into my carry on bag just as I started walking away towards security. She's always thanking me for coming to her house and eating all her food, so I didn't even think twice about it. And then the buisiness of the airport took over. So it wasn't until I was making my connection in Atlanta that I remembered that there was this card in my bag. So I opened it in an alcove near the Diet Coke machine and I'll never forget it—not because of the money that she had tucked into the envelope, which she had done, but because of what the note inside said. She reminded me that she's seen me do hard things before and that she trusts my relationship with my Heavenly Father. And that even though I am a grown adult with a family of my own, she's my mom. And she still felt an obligation to help me think differently about tithing. The rest of the letter was her testimony of the power and the goodness of God and that reminder that everything we have comes from Him and that He can make miracles happen if we let Him. But most importantly, she wanted to remind me that keeping the covenant of my tithing keeps me worthy to participate in the temple. And while my math might add up in my head, it didn't add up in God's accounting. The most important thing that she wanted me to remember was that the peace of the temple would be more important to me in the complex times that my family was facing. Most importantly, she reminded me that I come from a long line of women who have learned to be creative with food in hard times, and that, and that even Bishop Storehouse food could become desirable with a heart turned to God.  Something shifted in me in that moment. And though I didn't know to call it this at the time, I realized that I had been allowing myself to be powered by little faith for the past few months. And in order to have the power of big faith kick in, I was gonna have to let go of the pride and the fear and the heartache. I would have to stop doing math and start seeking the kingdom of God. And I would have to put in a food order at the Bishop Storehouse. And then, that's when the magic happens. That's when I see that the majestic clothes my Father in Heaven would have me arrayed in—that are more glorious than the robes of King Solomon—might look, to the untrained eye, like a simple, white temple dress.  There was no big temporal miracle for the Lays after I recommitted to my tithing. Circumstances improved enough, and I suspect that they'll always improve just enough. But I keep a can of those peaches, which by the way, are delicious, in my pantry to remind me that God has the power to meet our every need. And sometimes, depending on our unique circumstances, that will look different than we think it should. But it will be exactly what we need. That's it for this episode of "This is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers: Roger, Tammy, Nicole, and Mel for sharing their experiences and their big faith with us. We'll have links to that beautiful arrangement of Roger song, "Consider the Lilies" from the choir in our show notes as well as more information about our storytellers and a transcript of this episode at gospel. All of the stories on this podcast are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers.  Are you as happy to have us back as we are to be back? I mean, honestly, I love putting the show together so much, it really makes every single day just a little bit better. And if it's the same for you, tell us all about it. Leaving a review on Apple or Stitcher or wherever you listen helps other people discover this podcast more easily. I read every review, and I sincerely feel all the feels to learn the ways that these stories are blessing your lives. Thank you for listening, and thank you for being a part of it.  And, of course, if you have a story to share about living the gospel of Jesus Christ, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. A great pitch will be less than three minutes and it's going to tell us all the basic storyline of your experience and show off your skill as a storyteller. We encourage you to leave the written story at the door and just tell us what happened. We often find many of our stories from the pitch line. That's how we found Nicole's story, and we love to hear how the gospel has blessed your life. Call 515-519-6179 and leave us a message.  This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with additional story production by Erika Free. We first heard Mel's story on the "Sunday on Monday" study group podcast, which is available on Desert Bookshelf PLUS+. This episode was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at 6 Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom.  You can find past episodes of this podcasts, we have 55 of them now, and all the other LDS Living podcasts at Have a great week.     Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Oct 05, 2020
Stories in this episode: After her elderly father passes away, LuAnne finds herself in the thick of cleaning out his home as she struggles to know what to let go of and what to keep; Jessie receives her inheritance a little early only to lose it just when it was needed most; After a string of disappointments, Miya is surprised to discover the resilience she longs for in the form of two pieces of paper from a beloved ancestor. Show notes:   To see pictures and links for this episode, go to Transcript:  KaRyn  0:03  Welcome to This is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. So help me out. I cannot be the only one who has a highly developed internal fantasy in the style of Great Expectations, where a previously unknown relative of unimaginable wealth shows up at my door with the life changing news that I am the heir to their vast fortune. And from that moment forward, I pay all my bills without juggling anything, and I add avocado to every salad and every sandwich — devil may care about the additional cost. Is it just me? Okay. All right. That's fine. Nothing to see here, folks. I think it might actually have been this fantasy that got me thinking about today's theme. When you push through all the worldly ideas about wills and rich uncles and millions of dollars, this idea of an inheritance is as deeply ingrained in the gospel of Jesus Christ as just about anything. Mentions of heirs and heritage and inheritance are everywhere in the scriptures. And in fact, one of my all-time favorite scriptures, Romans 8:17, has the Apostle Paul reminding us all that we are children of God, and if we're children of God, then we are also heirs to His throne, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. I just love that idea. I come back to it again and again, when I'm worried that all that will ever get handed down to me are some genetically soft teeth — I'm serious, they're made of chalk — and a penchant for drama. Well, today, we've got three storytellers who are surprised by the things that are handed down to them. And the way that that inheritance changes their perspective on the things that matter most. Our first story of inheritance comes from LuAnne, who worked her way through a mountain of memories to find that what her parents actually left her belonged to her all along. Here's LuAnne. LuAnne  2:03  My three brothers and my sister and I are gathered around the kitchen table of our childhood. We've come in from three time zones, and we've gathered for the weekend. We haven't been together as siblings for — probably since our first brother left home for college. So this is unusual. The reason that we're gathered here today is that my dad has passed away eight weeks previously, and we're here to make a plan to sell his house and to distribute his belongings. And we lost our mom 12 years prior to this time. With my dad, though, 12 years later, we, we lost him and he'd been struggling with Parkinson's disease for three years. And even though five of us are gathered, it feels really empty. My siblings and I are sitting around the kitchen table. And actually, we kind of just fell into our spots that we had in our childhood of where we ate dinner. And it's daunting because we're going through the things of my dad's lifetime, and my mom's lifetime and we're deciding are we going to donate something? Are we going to hang on to it? If so, who gets it? You know, we've seen other families go through this process and have a lot of conflict and leave where they're not friends or close anymore. And that was something that we that we didn't want. And we decided we wanted to try to make a plan that would be impartial and non-emotional. We knew that we were all filled with emotions, we were all grieving still. We didn't really think it was possible to take out all our emotions from this process, but we did want to try to have a process that would try to minimize those misunderstandings that we thought would be happening because we all were coming with so many emotions. And we sat there and we started with a prayer. And the way we did our picks is we each choose a color and that color was equivalent to the first pick, the second pick, the third pick — on down. Like we have things sectioned out like quilts, family keepsake quilts, and we had figurines and we had furniture and so we each would choose something in the group of items. And then after we'd gone through our picks, then we would snake through. So number five would be number one. And then every so often, we would redo our drawing just so the same people weren't getting the first pick in every group of items. And so we did start going through things and we could tell as we went through things, what they cared about by how they kept it. For instance, my dad's Navy uniform is dry cleaned. All three dress and casual uniforms are dry cleaned and hanging in his closet in a bag. We also found things that weren't, weren't so cared for like his files, he may have a birth certificate and a file along with a grocery store receipt. And some other thing that we would have thrown away. Or, the drawer with the kitchen utensils had kind of odd things in the drawer, so that wasn't really something he cared about. The Navy uniform, carefully kept. One thing that my parents kept was Swiss bells that they hung on the wall. And part of our heritage is our grandparents came from Switzerland. And our parents had gone on a trip to Switzerland and then came home with these bells and hung them on the wall. That was by the backdoor. So we all remember as kids, you know, making the bells ring as we ran out the door — in or out the door, we often just kind of did that as habit. To see and discover the things that my dad cared about and my mom cared about too, um, was kind of like a treasure hunt. It was putting together memories, my own memories that I had, but also stories that I heard. And putting the pieces of our life story felt like a treasure hunt to me. I started to understand the role these belongings played. The first and most obvious one is probably the belonging or whatever item reminded me of my mom or my dad, either something they had made by my mom and made by hand or my dad carefully selected it at a furniture store, or maybe he had redone it, and it could take us to our mom and dad, but also, I realized that it was a memory, for me, of who I was as a little child. And how my mom and dad made me feel as a little child. How they made me feel safe, and secure and loved. And so – an object could mean a whole lot more than – as important as that was, it was the memory of my mom and my dad, but I found that it was a memory of who I was. And who I was as part of this family, and that I belonged. And that – even the feeling of being a little child where your parents take care of you and you're not the adult out fighting in the world and making decisions and making adult decisions for your dad's life or death decisions for, for his care. And so I found that the objects took me back to being a cared for, loved, little child. Sometimes we're in business mode of going through things. And other times just one – something would hit us. Like when my brothers were carrying buckets of wheat from the basement to take to the garage to get rid of, I walked into my parents bedroom. They have a big master closet, and this is the place where their personal items have always been. Their clothing – they've kept family heirlooms like quilts that both grandmas have made, they've kept the tape recording of my sister's funeral. They've kept things that are special to them. And it's been full of their memories and memories that we had of them. But when I walked into the room by myself into this empty closet, that, to me, was stunning. It was just the sight of this empty closet that had always been full. It took my breath away, and I had to just stand there a moment and feel the finality of this. This is it. You know, this is the last tie to my mom and dad, and it was like shutting the door and walking into my new role. Not as a caregiver, not as a daughter who has parents on the earth, not – but as the you know, the final buffer, the adult for the family – generation one. But that was the, the feeling of just the finality of seeing this empty closet. There was this one item that had emotions around it for more than one of us. This one piece that was the one thing – if I could only choose one thing that I wanted, was this wooden cabinet that I used to open the door and, and I loved the smell of it. The wood smell. So we kept piano music, we kept magazines in there and I used to, as a little kid, open the door and smell. And you know how smells can take you back to smells and music and sounds and sights? And that's something that took me back to the safety and security of my childhood. And so we weren't sure even with all of our planning and processing, we still had emotions, we still had feelings that – that caused some division between us, and we had to walk away. So we walked away. When I walked away, I felt frustrated. And I felt like I thought we had figured out, you know, the process for this and, and so I felt frustrated and, and helpless. And, um, I felt inner turmoil. And so I just had to walk away from the situation, as did everybody else. Monetary stuff is super easy. You divide it, you take the pie and divide it five ways, but things. . . So I was so frustrated that it was about a thing, an item, because we've been through so much, through our childhoods and through caring for our dad and that this, you know, that one thing, this one thing, could cause division. I was worried how our relationship would play out. If we had these emotions and this discord now, would it seep into the future? That was my worry. When you experience loss, or life transitions – this was both – oftentimes you feel isolated, at least I felt isolated. I felt like – I'm the only one. And sometimes when you're in transition, or you have a loss, you just want people to understand you're desperate to be understood, how this feels, and how, you know, it's like standing in the ocean and wave after wave, you're trying to get your footing and the next wave knocks you down. And I realized through this process that my parents have given me a gift that outlast them, and it's the gift of my siblings. I mean, there are times when I see my brother smile, or the way he walks or my sister, how she's sitting at the piano and playing the keys and it takes me to my mom or my dad. And so really, that's what lasts. The things that we've inherited are things and items that we can put in a trunk. But the – their mannerisms or their characteristics or the things they've given us live on in my siblings, and I get to see that. Even with our – the emotions that seemed to cause division, and frustration, we still needed each other and needed to be understood. And that's a gift that, that my parents gave us. It's the gift of my brothers and my sister who feel this loss just as intensely as I do. And just as deeply. And when it's all said and done, it's not a possession. It's not the thing. But it's the belonging and the safety and security and the love that I have for my brothers and for my sister that last. It's not the thing. Um, we – when we gathered back up, you know there were apologies and there was forgiveness and, and we were able to move forward from that. You know, I was lucky I had a mom and dad who loved me. And I never questioned that. I always knew they loved me. And I think because of that it made it easy for me to believe that my Heavenly Parents loved me. And that I have an eternal inheritance. I have a Father who offers me everything He has – not parts and pieces, not things. But He offers me everything He has, and that He's given me gifts to navigate my life right now. And when He offers everything He has, it's even to become like Him. Which I find the things that I was drawn to in my parents’ house reminded me of that same belonging and feeling of safety and security and love. So, the inheritance from my Heavenly Parents is eternal and infinite. And it still helps me when I see the things that I brought home from my parents’ house. See the things that I inherited from them, the objects that take me back to memories of them, but also the feeling of belonging that they created and love and safety and security. In fact, at the end of – at the end of the weekend, it was, of course, a rush. My, my one brother had waited till the last minute to leave for the airport and so we're all, you know, rushing to give him a hug and say goodbye and realize, time’s over. And another brother just took a minute to try to process what had happened. And he said, "You know, we did a hard thing this weekend. We did lots of hard things." And he said, "We didn't do it perfectly. But we did it together." Which I thought was a great, a great summary of what happened. And I think our parents would have been happy with that. KaRyn  14:55  That was my friend LuAnne. I first saw snippets of this story on her social media feed when she was in the process of cleaning out her dad's house, and I immediately wanted to have her share it with us. But as with all stories, timing is just as important as the story itself. And this one – this one needed some time to settle. But when the time was right, we were honored to have the opportunity to help LuAnne tell it. We all hear those stories about families who allow the inheritance or the lack thereof to tear them apart at the seams. And even when everyone has the best intentions, as they did in LuAnne's case, loss and emotion can complicate things. I think that gentle spirit of reconciliation and understanding that settled upon her family is the truest representation of the Spirit of God and His gifts. And how cool to have that deep, new perspective, that in the end, it's those family relationships that are our true and eternal birthright. Our next story comes from Jessie who received her inheritance a little bit early, only to misplace it. Here's Jessie. Jessie  16:00  So about five years ago, I inherited my mom's wedding ring early. I was cleaning the church with my husband and my family. And I ended up looking down and realized that my diamond had somehow, in the cleaning of the church, been vacuumed up or disappeared. It just wasn't there. And so I was talking to my mom about it. And she said, “I happen to have my mom's wedding ring and if you want, you can have the one that your dad gave me.” And so – graciously and excitedly, I took that ring and it became my own. Which was, timing wise, really sweet because later that year, my dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia, which quickly started spiraling to Alzheimer's. The ring was designed for my mom by my dad and so I loved it. It was beautiful and it was a piece of both of them with me all the time. And since I was across the country from them, I really appreciated having a little bit of my family with me all the time. I clean offices for a little extra money on the side and I often have a habit of tucking my ring inside my pocket when I clean, just to keep it protected, and also because sometimes the chemicals can irritate my hands. I misplaced the ring a few times, but I usually find it pretty quickly in a pocket or on the washing machine. However, there was one time about a year and a half ago that I could not find it. Off and on, I would pray for the ring. I would look in all the normal spots, check pockets, look in drawers and cabinets. I would even get a wild hair and check all the pockets in all my drawers and in all my coats, but no ring. I would wait a bit and pray again and then start the whole process over again. As time went on, I began looking in less likely places like the car or the windowsills, in extra drawers around lamps, like anywhere I could think of – I would look for this ring, but still no ring. By this time, I was traveling a few times a year back home to help take care of my dad and spend time with my parents and give my mom a well-deserved caregiver’s break. I was also giving myself some much-needed time to make memories and say goodbye to my dad. At one point I had a deep conversation with God. I realized that it was possible that maybe I had really lost the ring. Um, I had donated some pants that wouldn't ever fit again to Goodwill and I thought that possibly the ring was gone. That I had accidentally donated it. Fast forward about six months – my mom had called and said that Dad was really sick, she asked us to pray that he would make it to Christmas because we were all planning on spending Christmas with my parents as a last hurrah with my dad on this side of the veil. Again, I took to my knees and asked for help to find the ring. I wanted to give it back to my mom, so she could have her ring when Dad passed. I thought, you know, “If, if anyone knows where the ring is, my Heavenly Father does, and God can help me find it.” I believed that He could send angels that would help bring it home. And so, so I put that prayer out there and then kind of forgot about it. Let it be for a while. Prayers were answered and we were able to spend a wonderful holiday with my family. We made lots of memories and lit my mom's home up with laughter and noise. Little did we know that while we were in Idaho, a little mouse was on the job. Upon our arrival home, my oldest daughter found a hole in her stuffed animal. It was one of those diffuser animals that you heat up and it diffuses essential oils. Well anyway, that tiny creature had spread flax from one end of our house to another. We had opened so many drawers to put away laundry and every time, we would find a little corner full of flaxseed. I was bound and determined to clear out the flax and took a day to clean every nook and cranny. About a week before my dad passed, I was cleaning out the bathroom closet, and found yet another stash of flax. Armed with cleaners and a trash bag, I began throwing away boxes of stuff we haven't used in years. I felt like I should look in that last box one more time to see if there wasn't anything in the box that I might not want to throw away. And the right-hand corner, closest to me, tucked under the flap – was my ring. I think it's beautiful that Heavenly Father used that little mouse to help me find the ring. I know that He is a God of miracles, and that sometimes those miracles take time. And sometimes they don't look the way we think they should look. And I know that we inherit more than rings and things. I'm grateful for the inheritance of faith. For my mom and dad teaching me to ask God for the desires of my heart, and to believe that with God, all things are possible. Even finding your ring. KaRyn  21:46  That was Jessie. Jessie shared her story with us on the pitch line. And though I have never met her, she is clearly my soul sister. Losing something important feels really, really, real to me, and I can just feel her pain and that longing to find that ring again so she can honor her parents. And I think what I'm going to take from this story is the reminder that while like Jessie said, the real inheritance isn't a thing, I think our Father in heaven does use these earthly things to teach us about the Eternal One sometimes. The things we receive, the things we lose, the things we find, and the things we give back, become our spiritual preparation for the things that we will inherit forever. Our final story today comes from Miya, whose rich family heritage of storytelling helped her to find her own narrative through her hardship. Here's Miya. Miya  22:51  I come from a big family. I'm the oldest of five children, but I had many cousins around me growing up. My family is Polynesian. My dad is full Samoan, and my mom, she is Hawaiian and Japanese. A typical gathering of my extended family involved a giant, easy-corner tent, made in my grandmother's driveway, and all the cars being parked on the grass outside of the driveway, so that the children had space to play, whether it was basketball or riding on their scooters. And then underneath the tent, we had those big tables dedicated just to food, but then also other tables dedicated for the adults and the children to gather to talk with one another, but then also to play games. So we played cards or some board games. And that was just typical, we would have that almost every weekend. I loved it. Being a part of a big family, the stories that I heard and were told were always around us, constantly being shared and constantly in my mind, and in my heart. I remember distinctly hearing these stories of my family – of those living and dead – in my bed where my dad would come to my room and sit me down. And he would tell me the story of how my mom and dad met and how they fell in love. And then he would tell me the stories of his grandparents, how they came to America from Samoa. And he would tell me stories of his upbringing with his mother, his mom being a single mom, his parents divorced. He would also tell me two Samoan legends of the islands and how they came to be. My favorite story was the story of the shark and the turtle, and how that legend still lives today. So the legend of the shark and the turtle – there's multiple variations, but the one that I, I was told the most is a story of an old grandma and a little girl who lived in a village. And they were teased because the grandma was blind. And because they were treated so poorly, the little girl wanted to leave the village with her grandma and find somewhere else to live. So together, they got into a canoe at nighttime so that no one would see them disappear. And as they got in the canoe started paddling away, a giant storm came up, and it tipped the canoe over. And both the grandma and the granddaughter were drowning. And the gods took pity on them and to save them because of their love for one another, they turned them into a shark and a turtle. And to this day, you can see where the shark and the turtle are at this point at a beach in Samoa. You can sing the song to them and a shark and a turtle will appear and swim right there in front of you. But the story cautions too, that you cannot point your finger at them because that would remind them of being teased and being outcast and so they'll swim away and they'll never hear you or come back to you ever again. My dad was trying to teach me several lessons one, that it's important to be nice to people and that we should treat people with love and respect. And two, that familial piety is stronger than death. It's stronger than anything in this world. And it can keep you and your loved ones safe and close to your heart, no matter where you go. And those stories, they stuck with me throughout my youth and into my adulthood as well. They are still part of me. Growing up, I always hoped that I would have a family of my own. I always wanted to be married, I always wanted to have a bunch of children like my family does. I knew that if there was a tribe around me, I would never ever be alone. And that was something that I feared growing up was being left out or being alone. So having an automatic family around you was what I desired and needed. And as I grew up, even though I had plans, I recognize that a lot of times those plans didn't happen the way I wanted them to. And to be real, it was very frustrating. And it still is frustrating. Sometimes it's like what's the point of a plan if they don't happen the way you want them to? Some examples include, I went to BYU Provo, specifically to major in piano performance. That didn't happen. My wrist gave out because I practiced so much, and a dream that I had since I was a little girl of performing at Carnegie Hall was put to rest. And then I moved forward with my life and decided to serve a full-time mission. And I was happily called to one of the homelands of my ancestors, which was Japan. And growing up in Hawaii, I was around a lot of Japanese people and I figured that I'd be just fine in Japan because of my upbringing. But as I went out there, I struggled so much with – not only the language, but the culture. And I even struggled with an eating disorder out there. I was severely depressed and anxious, and all of that led to me deciding on my 21st birthday, to leave my mission behind at seven-and-a-half months to go home and take care of myself. I clearly did not have that in my plans. But even in the midst of my disappointments, there were still a lot of blessings and grace there in my life. One of them being I found my husband, my sweetheart, and we got married. When my husband and I were engaged, we were doing our family planning. We were expecting that in a few years, we would start having children, especially after school. And so, as we agreed upon this, we both went to the temple together. And I received a distinct prompting that I needed to have a child immediately. And so, nine months later, literally nine months later, I gave birth to our little boy. So, we planned it, but also it wasn't part of the plan. Yeah. So in terms of having a big family, I thought that because I got pregnant right away that this would be very simple to have a big family. And so we were in the plans and in the works of making that happen still. We had been trying for quite some time to have more children. And nothing was happening, which was a shock because we had our son right away. Why wasn't I getting pregnant again, quickly, like before? It already was a long day, I was tired from trying to balance life. In this pandemic, and working from home, when I received the news that it's highly likely that we won't have a family. I realized quickly that the big gatherings, the big celebrations, the base-support system, that village-like mentality and experience slipped away from me – from hearing that news. And that fear of feeling like I would be alone and my son would be alone was very real. And the thing that I didn't want, was made more of a reality. My conversations with Heavenly Father involved a lot of frustration, where I explained to Him, “I am confused why this is being denied for me, and I want answers.” And the answer that came to me was, “You need to look into the story of your ancestor, Taka Miyamoto,” who I'm named after. And so I logged on to Family Search and I typed in her name, “Taka Miyamoto,” into a general search to see if there were any records that I did not have of her. And as I was scrolling through my search results, I saw that her name was listed under two death certificates. One death certificate naming two twins who both died as stillborns, and then the second death certificate was of another stillborn. And the dates were the same year. And as I saw those death certificates, my heart knew that her, her experience was – as heartbreaking as it was – I needed to find that connection to her through that experience, that her story was going to be the healing point for me to know that I was not alone in these hard times and in this heartache. I knew then that God answered my prayer that, even though this was a good thing, even though having a family is a wonderful thing, that sometimes, even when things don't happen the way they you want them to, He's still there. He still loves us and is still, still has His hands outstretched towards us. That even in the trials and hardships we go through. We have – we've been blessed with resiliency from Him and from our ancestors. Even though I don't know what she did after she had these traumatic experiences, I've just felt in my heart that she still carried herself through those hard times. She still picked herself up and moved forward because she knew she still has something to live for, which was the other children that she did have. The other people that she was around – her husband, her friends, the community. She was still there for them. And their stories of her being such a wonderful, wonderful grandmother, and loving her grandchildren and being present there for them. Even though she couldn't speak English that well – she only spoke Japanese – she still was present. Because she lived, because she carried herself through – I knew that this was a woman of resilience. I'm proud to be a descendant of her. I like to say that I've inherited all of her resilience, but I know that her resilience needs to be shared with everybody else in the family too. But yeah, I like to believe that I've received and gladly have flowing within all the veins of my body, her resiliency, every last bit of it. So recently in my research, I learned this concept of how my ancestors reckoned with time and space. And the way they viewed time was that the future was behind them, and the past was in front of them, so what has already happened is what we can see clearly. It is before us – as in – in front of us. But what we can't see is naturally behind us, we'd have to turn around to look, right? And so when it comes to my ancestors, because they have already gone before me, they are in front of me, guiding me and showing me what I cannot see, which is my future. They're, they're there to prepare me for what I can't see. They're there to teach me what they have already been taught. They're there to walk me through these things that are coming my way. And as I listen to them, and as I seek them out, our hearts are connected. And my ability to move and to endure through life is strengthened because they have done it already, and they're showing me the way. It's my job to listen, to be taught, and to hear them, and to follow them. They're right there in front of me. Now, I think about the story my dad taught me, about the shark and the turtle – I think about it often. And now I know that my love for my family will carry me through any storm, will be there for me no matter what happens in my life. That as I am there swimming with my ancestors, through my life's journey, they will always be there with me. I'll never ever have to fear being alone. No matter how many children I have or don't have, they will always, always be there with me. Their love will carry me through anything in my life. KaRyn  37:21  That was Miyamoto Jensen. I follow her Instagram account the Polynesian Genealogist and when I reached out to her about sharing a story on the podcast, I wasn't sure what theme would emerge from the story she had to tell. So we talked for a long time about her life and her family and her gifts, and there was this sacred moment in our conversation when she spoke of the Spirit’s gentle nudge towards the stories of her ancestors, and we both knew that that was the heart of her story. I love how she described that our ancestors are behind us and before us. And though we're the progeny now, we will someday be the ancestors. And how we connect with God in the here and now is a gift from those who've come before us, and a gift to those who will come next. You know, at this point, I've all but given up hope of that surprise, wealthy relative who makes me the sole beneficiary of an estate worth just enough money to pay off my student loans because I was the only one who remembered to send a birthday card last year. First of all, I'm terrible at remembering birthdays, so that would never actually happen. But also, if we've learned anything from today's stories, it's that expanding our definition of inheritance will draw us closer to our true destiny. Money, rings, land, desirable physical genetics, those really can be life changing. But when the prophets, and the scriptures, and the Savior tell us that we can inherit all that the Father has, they're not talking about a yacht. They aren't talking about a life of ease and creature comforts, and those mansions they refer to all the time – to be honest, I don't even think that's a thing in heaven. I don't think we'll even want it. I think when they talk about "All that the Father has," they're talking about us. They're talking about you, and they're talking about me – His family, His children. We are His work and His glory, and our eternal salvation is his holiest effort. We're the whole reason that any of these things exist in the first place. These worlds, this organized matter. And when we receive our true inheritance, I think we're going to see that it has everything to do with becoming like Him in love for the whole human family. Can you imagine inheriting a heart that is able to fully love the way God's does? Or being given a singular focus towards the salvation of others instead of having to worry about our self-preservation? Now that's an inheritance I could really do something with. And while we're here on earth, we practice to receive a perfect heart like Gods by consciously choosing to turn our own imperfect hearts, by forgiving and reconciling with our siblings, despite our own high emotions, by praying, hopefully to find the ring so that we can present it as a healing offering, by calling upon the shared faith and resilience of our ancestors to help us through our faithless moments. We practice and we practice and we practice some more, until we can start to see the shine of our true birthright, peeking through the earth dust. I'm not getting a check any time soon. And I'm starting to be okay with that. Because if I can work towards that day, when I get to have all that the Father has, all that my Father has, then I believe that that work, and a little bit of grace will make His inheritance – the terms of his inheritance – everything I've ever wanted, and more. That's it for this episode of This is the Gospel. Thank you to LuAnne, Jessie and Miya for sharing their inheritance and their stories with us. We'll have pictures and more information about each of our storytellers in our show notes at To get more great storytelling content throughout the week, you should also find us on Facebook and Instagram @Thisisthegospel_podcast. We share pictures, behind the scenes info, and more there. And if you love hearing stories as much as we love helping people tell them, please consider writing a review for us on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Every review helps other people find us more easily in the land of podcasts, and that helps us to be able to keep telling the stories that move us. And seriously, thank you for telling all your friends about us. We love seeing how you spread the good stuff. If you have a story to share about living the gospel, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. We often find many of our stories from that pitch line and we love to hear how the gospel is blessed your life. Call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less. You can find more information about the pitch line and how to put together a great pitch by going to our Instagram and finding the pitch line in the highlights. This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with additional story producing and editing by Erika Free and Kelly Campbell. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at 6 Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Sep 28, 2020
BONUS: Come As You Are
Stories in this Father's Day bonus episode: While John admits he's not very handy, his attempts to create the perfect swing set falls short when he allows comparison to take over; Donald isn't sure he's got what it takes for fatherhood to begin with but when infertility makes that even harder, he learns that "what it takes" might be different than he imagined.  SHOW NOTES To see pictures and links for this episode, go to TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay  0:03  Welcome to “This is the Gospel” and LDS Living  podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay. For this bonus episode, we have two stories from faithful men who are braving the wilderness of fatherhood. I think we can all agree that parenting, and its accompanying highs and lows is not for the faint of heart. It takes real courage to jump into the woods and even more humility and skill to navigate that path through the forest filled with unknowns, and so many detours. Can you tell that I'm planning a father's day camping trip this weekend? I'll cool it with the outdoor metaphors. But what I will not cool it with, is my admiration for the men in our lives who take that role of fatherhood seriously and with an eye toward the Savior, just like today's storytellers. Our first story comes from John whose attempt at an epic creation for his children is almost foiled by his own weakness. Here's John. John  1:02  A lot of dads are really good at fixing things. But I've got to be honest, I'm not very handy. I cannot fix things is almost literally impossible. If there's a screw, I can screw something in. If there's multiple levels, or if there's an instruction manual, especially, I'm just not very good at following those instructions. It just doesn't make sense to me. Like a few years ago, one of our toilets stopped working. So I tried a few different things. I used the plunger that didn't work, I grabbed a snake. This is the tool by the way, not the animal. That didn't work. And so I gave up I was like, "Well, I guess we'll never be able to use this toilet again." I came home from work a couple days later, and here's my wife, she's rocking the toilet back and forth. She picked it up, I didn't even know you could pick up a toilet. And she threw it on the ground and "click," out popped this little jewelry box that one of our kids had shoved into it. So the good news was the toilet was fixed. But the bad news was I didn't fix it. But you know, you can only call on your ministering brothers so many times to come fix stuff for you before you start to feel like, "I should be doing this for myself." So a couple years ago, I decided it was time for me to build a swing set for my children. So I went to a manly store, Toys R Us, and bought a swing set kit, brought it home and unwrapped it. And it turns out there were about 27 steps to building the swing set. And the first step took me eight hours. It was so painful. I talked with someone recently and they said that their family for fun over the weekend bought and built a swing set. They put the whole kit together in 48 hours. That was not my experience. It took us 12 weeks, tons of help from my brothers in law. But finally the magical day came when the swing set was completed. It was in May, weather was nice, we're eating pizza on the lawn. The only downside was that one of my daughters came up to me and she said, "Dad, I love the swing set. But there's one problem, it just has three monkey bars." And I said "Honey, you will love those three monkey bars cherish each one because I promise you I am never building another swing set." But other than that, it was great. So right now I'm a religion professor at BYU, but at the time when I was building the swing set I was a full time seminary teacher, which meant every day I would teach high school students lessons from the Bible or the Book of Mormon. And so the day before finishing the swing set on a Friday, we had this class focused on comparison and not comparing yourself to others. One of the things that I got really excited about, a little scripture connection I hadn't noticed before was that Moroni was talking with the Lord. And Moroni was really worried that people would make fun of the Book of Mormon and not like it. And he says, Look, I'm not as good of a writer as the brother of Jared was. And I'd never noticed that Moroni was comparing himself to the brother of Jared. And that was the context in which the Lord said to Moroni, "My grace is sufficient, I can make weak things become strong unto you." And I was surprised to see that even amazing heroes from the scriptures like Moroni compared themselves and so then I gave the students a challenge over the weekend. See if you compare yourself to people like Moroni did and how it makes you feel. So that was Friday, finished the swing set on Saturday. On Monday, I was back at seminary teaching and I handed them a little three by five card and I said write down your experience of what happened over the weekend with comparison. Collected all the three by five cards. That night, my family and I, we were driving over to our brother in law's house for a little get together. And as we're driving my wife and I are reading these three by five cards, and I could not believe how many of my students were struggling with comparison. Everyone seemed to say something like, I always compare myself to others, and it makes me feel so terrible. I felt sad. I thought, I love my students, that are high school students, are 15, 16, 17, I thought, Oh, how tender that they're going through this tough time of adolescence. And they're just struggling with comparison, I felt so bad. And I still remember, I got out of the car and I thought to myself, these people have a real problem with comparison. So we parked the car on the street and as we're walking into the backyard, I noticed I think for the first time, that my brother in law had a swing set. I don't remember ever seeing a swing set in his backyard before. I looked at it and it was obviously bigger than my swing set. And I just happened to notice the monkey bars. And I counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 monkey bars on that swing set. And I thought, my swing set is garbage. I think I was particularly sensitive to it because I wanted to build this awesome swing set for my kids. I never fixed anything. I never build anything. And although everyone had had a lot of fun on Saturday playing with the swing set, the one complaint that I'd received was that there were only three monkey bars. So kind of even imagining maybe my kids were looking at his swing set being like, "Oh, now this is a real swing set." Just a couple moments ago, I've been like, Oh, those teenagers have a problem with comparison. I feel so bad for them. But then I realized, I have a problem with comparison. This swing set that I cherished was my prime creation two days ago. Now I hated and the only difference was the comparison, comparing my swing set to somebody else's. I started to notice lots of different ways in my life where I compared myself to other people, it wasn't just the fact that I couldn't fix things. Here's another real example. That probably sounds silly. It does sound silly as I look back on it. But at the moment, it was so raw. I was speaking at a girls camp with Brad Wilcox. Many of you have probably heard of Brad Wilcox, who's this incredible youth speaker. And he was going to speak second. So I was speaking first getting my stuff set up and this little 12 year old girl came up towards me with her camera, and I thought, "Oh, that's so precious. She probably wants her picture taken with me." And she looks at me with these big guys and said, "Are you, Brad Wilcox?' And I said, "Oh, no, that's the next speaker." And she just said, "Oh," turned around and walked away. And I felt so small. I'm like, I am not Brad Wilcox. And, and, then it, but again, I realized I can't be Brad Wilcox. I'm not Brad Wilcox, and I can't compare myself to Brad Wilcox. The day after seeing my brother in law's swing set when I went back to my seminary class, and we talked a little bit more about comparison. It was more real for me. It wasn't a problem that they had or something that I had to help them fix. It was something that we all were struggling with, and something that we could all be working on, hopefully, finding ways to overcome the challenge. I love going back to this phrase from Jesus though, when he says to Moroni, "My grace is sufficient." Because Moroni, I mean, he was working on a really big, important project, and he felt like his efforts weren't enough. And I can relate to that sometimes. And who knows, maybe Moroni, maybe he really wasn't as great of a writer, as the brother of Jared. And maybe I'm not as good as that other person. But the Lord has put me in this place right now. Maybe I'm not the best father in the world, but I am the father of my children. And I don't need to compare myself to other fathers out there. For me, this idea of comparison is obviously a, an issue that I continue to struggle with. I'm struggling with as recently as today. Knowing that I was going to record this story I've been listening over and over again to some of the “This is the Gospel” podcast stories which I've heard before and I've loved but I was listening to them with a different ear today thinking about the story that I was going to be sharing. And I literally thought this morning, my story stinks. Compared to these other stories. These other stories are so inspirational, so powerful, I have nothing to share. And what's ironic is I did not even think for about until about three hours later, oh, I just compared myself again. The more I understand grace, it helps me in my fatherhood, because I realized I don't have to do it all. I want to be a super Dad, I want to be the dad that fixes the toilet. that builds the amazing swing set that does all these super cool things. But I fall short a lot. And understanding that the grace of Jesus Christ is there to strengthen me, to help me get through things that I couldn't do on my own also helps me feel a little bit more patient and understanding with myself when I don't meet my own high expectations. I'm a perfectionist and I want things to be perfect. But I realized I don't have to make things perfect. That's the job of Jesus. I do the best I can, and I don't have to worry about what others think. I don't have to look sideways; I can look up to heaven. He can take weak things and make them strong, His grace is enough. And the three monkey bars are enough. And that brings a lot of peace. KaRyn Lay  9:20  That was professor and author John Hilton. I love the connection that John noticed between his own peace and his efforts to stop comparing himself as a swing set builder and parent. The fact that Christ's grace is sufficient to cover everything from my deepest character flaw to my poor efforts to put together an Ikea bookshelf, that's a powerful truth that can change our lives and our relationships if we let it. And I'm so glad that John with his unique talents was able to illustrate that in his story. I think all of those years researching and writing about the ways we access peace through Jesus for his book, The Founder of Our Peace have already been a huge blessing to so many and to me personally. Thanks, John. Our next storyteller Donald is a good friend of LDS Living . We featured his story in our podcast episode 23, called "How We Move Forward," which I highly recommend, even if you've listened to it before, it's worth going back and re-listening. And today he shares a story about what it takes emotionally, spiritually and mentally to prepare yourself for first time fatherhood. Here's Donald. Donald  10:27  My relationship to fatherhood is, it's been an up and down journey. I didn't have my dad in my home for a long period of time as a kid, then a mom and dad that had separated. And then as I got older, my mom remarried when we came to the United States, and that was Jake. And Jake didn't have like a long tenure in my life. And then we, my sister's dad came into picture several years later. So, I had different individuals that were there, but over the long span of that time period my mom was a single mom, and to not have that steady father figure, it was a, it was an absence that was notable. Luckily, I was able to have the guidance from other people outside that helped me to realize what it is to be a father. And then that's where the church came in the village, so to speak, to help me to see that and now becoming a dad, it wasn't easy because of the challenges and complexities I didn't know about. When I first met my wife, the thing I loved the most about her was that she was the opposite of me. She was quiet and reserved, and I was the outgoing talkative type and I felt that was, there's something was mysterious, and she's cute. So it was that pulled me in. When we were dating and the desire, desire to you know, to eventually get married and courting and talked about the idea of family, we both knew that's something that we wanted, we both knew we wanted to have kids. We had, we had different spectrum though. My idea was not coming from a family of three of us, I was thinking, you know what, it'd be cool to have a big family because again, those families that have friends that I've had in the church, their families were big. And you saw how much fun they had as a bunch of kids. I'm like, yeah, we can, it'd be cool to make a soccer team. Right? Cool to have a bunch of kids that could play you know, play with, at least the basketball team. Christina's idea was, well, maybe one and if there's an opportunity for twin for two, then that'd be great. So you find yourself coming to some quick compromise, but we knew we wanted kids. We, the number was, I'm a salesperson. So, I figured you just you take what you get in and you just keep upselling. But it was 2015. We got married in September 2013. When I was called to be a bishop, a member a couple people saying "Don't you have to have a family to be a bishop to the kids to be a bishop?" Remember people making that, that, that joke, but you know, obviously there's a little bit of jab to that. And obviously, there's nowhere in the handbook where it says anything like that. We were definitely laggers according to societal norms and the ecosystem of the Church, because Christina and I got married when we were 27. So that's, you know, my friends which, seemed like they had grandkids by then. We knew we were gonna have kids but and we knew we wanted to have kids but we just we both felt that we were on the same plane with God, spiritual like, we prayed about it and we fasted, we talked to our Bishop and so forth and you know, the before then they're like, just whenever your take your time on that, and that gives us comfort to know, you just go into when you feel right for you. So not that we were postponing a family for any other reason to just go travel or you know, to get a nice little dog or anything like that. We, we just, it was scary. And we were worried and it, it didn't feel right. I think the biggest thing about becoming a father that made me the most nervous was, Do I have the right stuff? To take care of a tiny human? Do I, what do I not know that I don't know? Am I going to be able to raise this individual in the right way that they're going to grow up to become a righteous priesthood holder or righteous daughter of God? Or do I have what it takes to make that happen? I think that it was, it was definitely like a fear and also like the idea of taking care of somebody. I mean, the challenges with our family in the past, my mom in the situation was, we were, were poor. And it was, am I going to be able to take care of a family? Am I going to be able to always have that? It nags you in the back of your head. What if? What if that was to happen? You want the situation to be perfect, you want the scenarios to be: the planets align and Jupiter to be bright in the sun, in the sky. But the problem is, I don't think it was ever or it, ever was going to be and thats one of the things I've learned, that we're going to go down this path, and we're going to try and we're going to mess up and we're going to keep learning and growing. But for me, being sometimes a little perfectionist, I want to make sure all is right beforehand. And that freaked me out. Donald  15:18  So let's fast forward now. And I think it was 2017 when we said, "Let's, we want to have a family, we want to start doing that." And the thing that helped us to decide that that was the right time and to overcome the fears and the challenges, I think it was just it was timing. For us just felt that it was right. It did not go as planned. At all. So we tried. My ignorance, thinking that you're, yeah, you're gonna have a baby right away when you have a desire to have a baby. But it wasn't. That was a huge upset and it was a huge setback emotionally. I mean, and to be honest, I feel like there was some, like, some guilt in that to say, did we wait too long? Now you're in your early, early 30s, you should have started right when you got married, and it's kind of like validating and everything that people have said, "You should have kids right away should have kids." And it's like, you know, did we miss a window? Do we miss an opportunity? And there was guilt on both sides, right? Because Christina was feeling guilty. Like, "Is it because of me that we're not having kids?" And spiritually, it was, "Well, I'm doing what you said, God, I am serving. Why do we have to face this struggle, and this burden if we're doing what's right, if I'm serving, and giving enough time?" and so forth. I mean, I'm just trying to be real with you. Like, that's what it felt like in, but I knew that just like with, like Abraham or Sariah and in all of those people that had children later on in their life, we had faith that we would have children. But in the moment, that's what that feeling was like. It was "Why us? " So, we found out we were pregnant, and then went to the doctor. That was the hard part. And I remember the ultrasound specialist tech going, leaving out of the room, and she sayings she's going to get the doctor and then you're like, "Okay, so what does that mean? Maybe there's some chance, maybe there's a hope there's something that happened." And then, eventually having a meeting with a doctor, and I knew when I saw Christina's face, she knew that it wasn't, wasn't good. So then we met with a doctor and found out that it wasn't and we had to have surgery. And that was bad. Hearing that news and leaving the day but then the day when she had the surgery, to watch my wife go through that was horrible because there was absolutely nothing that I could do. And it's, it was the, you know her physically in pain and then emotionally and then spiritually in pain and I, no matter what, what can you say? What can you say? "I understand?" No, I don't I can't push a kid out of my body. I can't birth a kid. I don't understand what that feels like. But having as much empathy and love for your wife and trying to console her and take care of her in that situation and physically taking care of her, still having to go and work and running your own business that was does the pinnacle of the worst part, right? I thought that was the pinnacle, until round two. When a year later, everything happened again, the same exact way. And that, if this was a depth of your lowest, then the second time around, it was even lower. I felt physically sick, because I remember going back to work that day, and not telling noone. Not telling team member not telling, my mom didn't know anything. I think the only person that knew was her sister. And it was just like carrying that weight and that burden and then feeling that I can't help her and the guilt that she felt, was saying "That it's, you know, it's my fault," and it wasn't her fault. And I couldn't get that through, she was saying "It's twice that happened, so must be it must be me. And something I'm doing wrong." And, and trying to take that weight from her. That was hard. It was hard. Donald  19:41  We kept it to our self into our immediate family. And it was a lot. I didn't want to validate, I mean, just speaking again, I didn't want to validate anybody's to say, "Yeah, you should have gotten, you should have had kids a lot sooner, you should have tried a lot sooner." So, even some of that was there. So it's like I'm not going to talk to anybody about it. We're not going to do anything. I did talk to my Stake President about it in my one-on-one with him, because he was just we won't know how you guys were doing how we were doing. And he gave counsel and, and was very supportive and helpful in that. And very helpful and supportive to Christina. And that meant a lot to us as well. One of my best friends, he and his wife, it took them a while before they have a kid. It took them 10 years, and came to the point where they said, "You know what, God, you just take the wheel. Really, like if there's a way that we can foster and we're going to foster." And they started preparing their home for fostering, and it was crazy. All of a sudden, they got pregnant and they had a kid. And he was vocal, I mean, he was open to talk about it. So now it gave me an opportunity to say, "I could talk about it to him, and he could then understand what I'm going through." You know, I mean, and I think that's the biggest thing with guys, we assume too much that, "He's my Bro, he knows what I'm going through," as opposed to saying, "I love you. I cannot imagine what that feels like, do you want to talk about it?" Like giving that window and maybe sometimes people are not ready to talk about it yet, but at least they know, "I have somebody that I can go to." It gave me an outlet. It gave me an opportunity to know that I wasn't alone. It gave me an opportunity to know that there', that it wasn't. It wasn't a punishment from God, you know, others felt the same or went through similar challenges as well. It opened up a whole different side to our relationship. That helped me to minister to Christina, my wife, better, because I had hope, more hope. I mean, I had faith but then now it was even more hope, because my friend went through it. We have, we have a hope of something to look forward to, that we could still have the same blessings like he did, he and his wife. So I wish that men in general could feel, could feel comfortable to go and talk to other men, about the struggles and the difficulties that they're going through. Donald  21:59  So my wife posted on social media for uh, nobody knew why. But she was like, "What's a talk? One of your favorite talks on, I think it was like on hope, or to get through a tough time." And then one of our friends, he posted a talk by Elder Holland, it was Elder Holland's talk, "Lord, I Believe" I think that's what it is. And it's like, "Lord, I believe, Help thou my unbelief." Maybe she can recite that talk verbatim now, because she's listened to it over and over. And the idea in that was, "that come with some faith, come with hope, come with something, and I'll carry the rest." And that was very helpful. And then all of a sudden, we had stake conference and Elder Holland came to Florida, and he came to our stake, and we visited with Elder Holland, just for like, probably like two or three minutes to explain to him what was going on. And you know how the talk was good and it helped us. But it's something about him. He looked he just looked and he said, "Don't you worry, you guys will be fine, you guys will be fine. Things will be fine for you." Yeah, so getting that from an apostle was like, "That's kind of cool." At least it gave comfort, right? And we had hope. So we said, "Let's put it back in the Lord's hand, let's just wait and not worry."  And then life went on until 2018. And Christina wasn't feeling good, the end of the year. She said, "Oh, maybe I need to do a pregnancy test." And "We're like, no, it's, that's not the situation." And then "She's like, I think I should." She did. And we were pleasantly surprised. But also equally worried because we're like the third time, if this isn't, it's going to be a huge blow. And I remember we went to the doctor's office, and because we've had two miscarriages before, the doctor wanted us instead of coming in later come in early, so we went in at I think it was six weeks. And there was like a little speck on the sonogram, just like this little, this little thing. But there was something there. And then as we kept visiting saw a little heartbeat and saw a little progress. We couldn't believe that there was something, we were excited. But we were very, very, very scared. Because before we saw stuff, so we didn't want to get the false hope that this was going to work. So we just took it with a grain of salt, and just went one day at a time. I mean, week 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. It kept going. Every week, we went back, there was a movement and kept growing and it was things were looking right. And we weren't clearly out of the woods at all. But our doctor was very excited for us. And then we got the news that yes, it's a, we're having a little boy. We're having a little boy. And it was, um, that day was, it was a, it was, I can't think of a word to describe it. It was happiness. It was peace, that no matter what difficulty, no matter what dark moments you go through, no matter what timing you have, trust in God, and as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but if not, we still gotta have hope. Oh, the day Caleb was born. I was the stereotypical dad because Christina was like cleaning the house and stuff. It was the craziest thing and I would fall asleep and then she screamed, it was like, "Hey, I think my water broke."  I'm like, "What..what?" And I remember , I wish we videotaped it but I was running around trying to, like, "What, what?!" She tells this story better so maybe you can get her side one day. You know, I was running around, "Okay, okay, let's go. Let's get this. Let's get the car seat. Let's get the bag." We went to the hospital and the next day, August 1, he was born. When I first saw him, I could not believe that, that was our child after that whole journey. After that whole time, after the miscarriages after the surgeries, after the emotions, after giving up, after having hope, after feeling false hope, after all of that, that now we were trusted, at this time, to be to be a dad and to be a mom. It was awe inspiring. It was just, it was it made me feel that God is mindful of us. It made me want to be the person that he desired me to be and full circle now to become the father that I didn't have, to this child to help them become the individual that Heavenly Father wants them to be. For guys going through the same thing in the thick of this, we cannot deviate or forget that the Lord is there, and be open. Be willing to talk to somebody else about that it, it does us no good to hold it back. It liberates us when we're able to release it. And we can get ministered to in the scriptures that teaches us that we are here to minister and to help one another with their burdens. But it's kind of hard to help somebody with their burdens if we don't know they have that burden. And I feel that if you feel that way, you're more than willing to reach out to me, I'm more than willing to talk to you. Because I had a buddy and a friend that was there for me during that moment. There is hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel. There's a Father in heaven who is mindful of you and your wife's situation. And He's here and there to help you. KaRyn Lay  27:44  That was Donald Kelly. I laughed out loud when he said that as a salesman his idea is to upsell his wife on the number of kids they have. I'm lucky enough to know his lovely and spirited wife Christina and I can only imagine the negotiations in the Kelly household. The thing I think I will really take from this story is that clarion call to make space for the people around me to really share what's going on in their lives, by allowing others into my life. It's not always easy to do that. Vulnerability is absolutely a risky business. But I think the rewards of this kind of true ministry is worth the calculated risk. When he was talking about this, Donald mentioned our baptismal covenant to bear one another's burdens. And I think there's something really important for us to take note of, as a community committed to discipleship. we strengthen the fathers, we strengthen the mothers, and in turn, we strengthen the children, the future Body of Christ when we allow for all people to share their authentic experiences, so that we can minister in real time to our real needs. Lately, I've become weirdly obsessed with historical novels and books that forced me to imagine myself in a different time with different social structures. I love the creative energy it takes to look through the lens of historical context and try to find myself in the places and the stories of the past. And maybe it's because we're living in this unprecedented time with this pandemic and unrest and all of these things I, I hope someone will look back and read it and try to put themselves here before they judge me. Well, though it isn't a novel I have been reading the book Fathers of the Prophets, which has biographical sketches of you guessed it, fathers of the modern prophets of the restoration, and I have found myself absolutely transported. What strikes me in my reading is the amount of variation in the fathers who parented prophets. Some fathers had no idea their child would be anything special, while others knew by some divine guidance. Some of the fathers were really physically present to their children, while others were called to faraway places for long periods of time. Some were devoted servants of God, while others found little use in organized religion. But in all cases, these fathers and their gifts of imperfection were necessary building blocks to the unique talents and strengths that their children would use in their call to the ministry. Most of us will not raise a capital P prophet or a Relief Society general president. In fact, some days we might even have a hard time seeing that 13 year old who just broke his arm flinging spaghetti at his brother, or that 10 year old who just refused to comb her hair for the sixth straight day in quarantine, as heirs to the throne of much of anything. But I think the lesson from our stories today and the stories of these fathers from the past are the same. God needs us to show up as ourselves in our parenting. Because these kids, they're the future of everything. He needs us to open up to a friend who's been there before, so that he'll have enough hope to keep trying to become a father. He needs us to admit that we can't fix the toilet and then trust him to tutor us on what we can actually fix. He needs us to show up in our pain and our triumph and our weakness and our power so that our children will get exactly what they need from us, as he fills in the gaps of everything else with his grace. And more importantly, he needs us to show up in our less than perfect state so that we can model for them, where to go for peace and wholeness when their own imperfections, will inevitably bring doubt and discouragement into their lives. We may not all be raising a child who will hold a high calling in church structure. But we are all raising children, all of us whether we're biological parents or not. We are all raising children, who will be disciples of the high priests of good things to come. So let's go back to the beginning. Fatherhood, and loving and caring for children is not for the faint of heart. But that's the good news because with humility, trusting God and a brave willingness to let others help us bear our burdens, our hearts, however weak will not fail us. That's the promise.   KaRyn Lay  32:31  That's it for this bonus episode of This is the Gospel. Thank you to John Hilton and Donald Kelly for sharing their stories and burdens with us today. And for helping us all to see that three monkey bars is enough. We'll have pictures of Donald's sweet baby Caleb and John's swing set masterpiece as well as a link to John's book The Founder of Our Peace in our show notes at I'll also add a link to the book Fathers of the Prophets there. Which honestly if you're looking for a last-minute Father's Day gift. This one's so good. Every father will be able to see himself somewhere in the pages of that book. If you aren't already following us on Facebook or Instagram, you really should. We'll have more information about our storytellers there, including follow-ups with some of the stories you've connected to most on the podcast. So, go there, find us at @ThisistheGospel_ podcast on both Instagram and Facebook. Also, we're currently gathering stories for season three. So if you have a story to share about living the gospel, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. We often find many of our stories from that pitch line and we love to hear how the gospel has blessed your life. Call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less. We also have old bonus episodes that give you some top tips on how to pitch your story in a really compelling way. So, go and listen to those on iTunes if you haven't already. This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay, with additional story editing by Erika free. It was mixed and mastered by Mix at Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and all the other LDS Living podcasts at It's that easy. See you soon.   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Jun 17, 2020
BONUS: At The Feet of Extraordinary Women
Stories in this Episode: Sarah and KaRyn share lessons learned from their very first storytelling project over 15 years ago when they invited accomplished, faithful women (like Emma Lou Thayne, Ariel Bybee, Liz Lemon Swindle, Olene Walker) into their living rooms; Leslie, Claire, Cari, Tennisa, & Emily give us 2 minute stories of letting the Lord lead from the start of our THIS IS THE GOSPEL video series. SHOW NOTES To see pictures and links for this episode, go to TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay  0:00  Hello from my home office, which is really just my desk by a window in my stepkids' room that I have commandeered during the social distancing. They're thrilled, as you can imagine, to wake up at eight every day so that I can get to work. But I actually think that my daily occupation of their rooms speaks to the reality of parenting and family and relationships during these tricky times—flexibility, creativity, figuring out what works for your unique situation—well, that's the order of the day. And we hope that you are finding your groove and whatever way you can. We're certainly trying to do that with the podcast, and while we gear up for season three, over the next few months, we're still going to bring you a few bonus episodes that just can't wait until we get back into a recording studio. And so today, we've got a quarantine edition of the podcast with some stories that celebrate the ways that women rely on the Lord and the many roles, including motherhood, that they inhabit throughout their lives.   Welcome to This Is The Gospel, an LDS living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay.   First step, a few stories within a story within a conversation. This Is The Gospel producer, Sarah Blake, and I recently recorded a conversation we had where we tried to remember all the details from the very first, but clearly not the last storytelling project that we embarked on together over 15 years ago.   I don't exactly remember when we decided, A: to call them the gatherings, and then B:I how did it even happen?   Sarah  1:43  I don't remember either because motherhood has erased so much of my memory, but I think it was 2004 or 2005. We were single in our single sport in Salt Lake.   KaRyn Lay  1:56  Yes, everything starts with us being single.   Sarah  1:58  I know. Side note about that though, the years that we were single that felt like a curse have become one of the greatest blessings and like, to me, it's a constant whenever something hard is going on. I'm like, well, that one big one turned out to be the greatest blessing. So I can trust this one will work out too.   KaRyn Lay  2:17  Agreed.   Sarah  2:18  Okay, so we were single in our singles ward, trying to find our way. Right?   KaRyn Lay  2:23  I think at that point, I kind of was like, not that I was giving up. But I, I sort of had the sense that I was going to be single for a while. Like, I was always hopeful. I loved falling in love, but I, I leaned into it, I leaned into a little bit to like, Okay, if I'm going to be a cat lady, who's just sort of doing life on my own, then, like, we better figure out the best way to be single. That's kind of what I think I remember us talking about.   Sarah  2:52  Yeah, but you never did get the cat. So that was that was a hopeful gesture to not...   KaRyn Lay  2:57  That was. I babysat someone else's cat and lost it on the first night that I had it. But where it wasn't actually lost, it was actually just asleep in one of the drawers of my apartment, but I freaked out and called everybody and made them help me look for this kitten that I thought I had lost. So after that I realized being a cat lady was probably not in my future. Until now. Now I have a cat.   Sarah  3:21  Now you have a cat. Go figure.   KaRyn Lay  3:23  I actually think you were the one who had the idea.   Sarah  3:26  I was, yeah. I had the idea first and, and we had a meeting at your apartment.   KaRyn Lay  3:33  I don't even remember this. I don't remember that.   Sarah  3:36  Yeah, we had a meeting in your apartment and you made us a really nice dessert. And we all sat and talked about it. The idea was I felt like I needed to hear from more women. I needed more examples of what it looks like to be a faithful woman. Especially because we were single. I, at least, didn't have any examples in my family of what it looks like to be single in your 20's. Everyone else had gotten married and had kids, and I was like, am I okay? And how do I do this? But also just about how to be a woman, and a faithful woman? And I wanted not just to read about it in a book, but I wanted to talk to someone and ask questions and stuff, right? So we made the list of women we admired that we wish we could talk to.   KaRyn Lay  4:18  I feel like we had an Excel document or something that we packed in all of the names of people that we— this was before Google Docs, so we were we were old school—   Sarah  4:27   Hard to believe.   KaRyn Lay  4:28  I know—old school spreadsheeting it. And we had, like, a list of, we just kept adding to it like Latter-day Saint women that we admired and that we thought were really cool. And then we we decided to just ask them.   Sarah  4:41  And then we started sending them letters—like old school, typed up letters, put in an envelope and mailed it off. Some of them we just found in the phonebook, I think and others we had a contact or someone who knew someone, and then people were so gracious and responded. And when we started having these awesome women come and speak to a gathering of some of our friends like 20 to 30 people just at our houses.   KaRyn Lay  5:06  Who was the first person that came? Because I think after we had the first couple, that's when we were like, Oh, we can pretty much invite anyone we want. But why wouldn't we? We'll just play the sad, single, like late 20s cards.   Sarah  5:21  Help us find our way. So, the first one was Carmen Pingree, who was an advocate for children with autism in Utah, and the first school for children with autism in Utah was named for her because of all her tireless efforts.   KaRyn Lay  5:38  Were you the way invited her Sarah?   Sarah  5:40   I invited her because she was my boss's mom. And I'd met her and I was less scared to do that. But she was wonderful. And then we had Emma Lou Thayne, the poet.   KaRyn Lay  5:54  Yeah, Emma probably one of my favorites. Like, just that whole conversation with her. She was so gracious. I actually dug up my journal from that time because when we would sit there with them,   Sarah  6:06  We didn't have a good way to record it. So we just did notes.   KaRyn Lay  6:09  We did. Actually do you know who was before Emma Lou? Sally Mart, she was somebody that I knew from Pennsylvania, and I think you said that you weren't there, right Sarah?   Sarah  6:19  I had strep throat. I didn't want to get her kids sick, so I couldn't go.   KaRyn Lay  6:23  She was a nurse. She couldn't have children of her own. So she adopted all of these special needs kids from all over the world. And then she was diagnosed with either stage three or stage four cancer. And I remember her saying that when she got the diagnosis, somebody took her kids for the day, and she went into the bedroom and she got down on her knees, and she said, to Heavenly Father, "If we're going to do this, let's make it a doozy." I remember that she used the word doozy, and I was like, "What is she talking about?" She said, "Oh, I loved having breast cancer." She said, "I talked to the Lord and I said, 'I want to learn every possible thing that I can from this experience so don't hold back Heavenly Father, do not hold back on me. Give everything that you've got to me so that I can do whatever it is that you need me to do, to become the woman that you want me to become.'" And I have never heard anybody talk about a trial that way before in my life. And it felt so like, it was shocking and exciting, and it kind of blew my mind and and I, I just realized, Oh, I want to be like Sally, I want to be fearless how fearless of her right?   Sarah  7:33  Yeah.   KaRyn Lay  7:33  How trusting of God's infinite grace that even when she's got all these kids to take care of, she recognizes that this is going to only work if she learns what she needs to learn from it and I,  I've never forgotten that.   Sarah  7:47  It makes me sad. I missed that one. So then we had we had Olene Walker, the first female governor of Utah.   KaRyn Lay  7:55  I wasn't there for Olene so you'll have to tell me what you learned from Olene.   Sarah  7:58  I loved her. I like loved her sense of humor and her perspective that she had from her years of life. And one of the big things that stuck out to me, and I apologize, to Olene and her sentence if I mess up in your stories, but she talked about—she got married and her husband was in grad school, and they had seven kids in 11 years and moved 13 times, or something like that. And she survived all that, and she said it was just a blur. And then when that was over, and they were somewhere stable, she started a PhD when her youngest was two. She's always been a person who didn't need a ton of sleep. So she would help you know, be the mom all day, help her kids with their homework, get them in bed and then start her homework, and do her homework and studying until about two in the morning, and then sleep for four hours and then start the whole thing again. And she was like, "I don't—not that I recommend that to anyone else. But it worked okay for me."   KaRyn Lay  8:53  What has that done for your life?   Sarah  8:55  Well, that's my schedule now, I'm embarrassed to say. But mostly, you know, the thing that I think it was Olene who said this the most clearly, but all of the women said it in one way or another. And this was exactly the kind of guidance I was looking for was this: that in women's lives in particular, there are seasons in your life. And you have to embrace the seasons and accept that, and recognize you can't have it all at the same time. But over the course of your life, you can have it all if you accept the seasons as they come. So like the season of having small children is an intensive, demanding season, and you can't do all the other things at that time. This season of being single is a different kind of opportunity to grow and focus on your own relationship with the Lord. But I think they really showed us by the example of their own lives that if you make the most of whatever season you're in, that's the way to be your best self.   KaRyn Lay  9:52  Yeah. Do you remember Ariel Bybee coming?   Sarah  9:56  A famous opera singer?   KaRyn Lay  9:57  Yes, Ariel Bybee was a famous Latter-day saint opera singer. This is something I won't ever forget. She went around the room after we heard her tell about her life and about all the things that she had learned spiritually. And she asked us, "What are you passionate about?" And she waited for every single woman in that room to answer and we all did, right? I can't remember what I said about what I was passionate about is probably creativity or something. Do you remember?   Sarah  10:24  No, I don't remember what I said. It was probably humanitarian stuff. That's what I did then.   KaRyn Lay  10:29  Yeah. And, and at the end of it, it came back to Ariel and she looked us all I felt likeshe looked every single one of us into our souls like bore into our souls and she said, "Whatever you do, do not, do not do it with mediocrity." She said, "If you are passionate about it, you put your whole soul into that. The world has enough mediocrity. It has enough mediocre art. It needs women who can create with excellence." And I was like, "Ahhhhh." And I don't know if I've lived up to Arial's—   Sarah  11:08  I know, I'm like, "Oh sorry, I'm sorry, Ariel."   KaRyn Lay  11:11  But also, I think there's something beautiful about that, right? Like Ariel's words and Sally's words and Olene's words combined, that there is a season for everything, that God is going to tutor us through them, and that when we're in that season to put our whole soul into it. Like what a cool life plan those women gave us.   Sarah  11:34  Yes. The other thing I think they all spoke about how they were surprised with where they ended up. When you're young you think I'm going to go to medical school and be a doctor you think you have this plan and then this is it and life doesn't ever hardly ever work out that way. Right? We all end up on surprise paths and discover we had a talent we didn't realize or a passion we didn't understand, and, or we're just given an opportunity and sometimes the opportunity looks like a challenge, right? But then it becomes the center of your life's work. And the way to find your best path is by trusting that it's part of God's plan and that those surprises are meant to be.   KaRyn Lay  12:13  What else without that experience do you think you'll take forever?   Sarah  12:16  So I remember in particular, Emily saying, telling the story of when she wrote the lyrics to where can I turn for peace?   KaRyn Lay  12:22  Yeah.   Sarah  12:23  She was struggling with a challenge with one of her kids who was having a really hard time. And she was on the phone with a friend while she did laundry in her laundry basement, and this inspiration hit in the laundry room, like she grabbed a piece of paper, and they co-wrote it together. Inspired by the pain, she was feeling suffering for her daughter. So many of them gave really specific details of the mundane things of life, which are, I mean, there's mundane details for everyone but women's lives often are especially like that stuff is ever present with us the burden of the dishes. The laundry and where did people leave their shoes, and they all mentioned those things and, but with a kind of reverence sometimes that made me feel like the good stuff of life can happen any day, anywhere, in the in your laundry room when you're talking to your friend.   KaRyn Lay  13:16  Here's what I have written in my journal about that.   Sarah  13:18  Yeah.   KaRyn Lay  13:19  It says, "Where can I turn for peace, personal anguish for this beautiful piece of art that has touched and healed so many broken hearts. We are all connected and our life's work is not ours alone."   Sarah  13:31  Yeah.   KaRyn Lay  13:31  I don't know if Emma Lou said that, but that's what I took.   Sarah  13:34  That's what you took from it. It was just so many testaments that the worst times in your life can end up being the best, the greatest blessings that God can turn anything to our good to bless His children. And if we just try to be open to being instruments, then He will use us that way.   KaRyn Lay  13:52  Yeah.   Sarah  13:53  Maybe not today, maybe not this week, maybe not for 20 years, but like, it gave me a sense we can look back and be like, "What a cool life of goodness."   KaRyn Lay  14:01  I was thinking to Sarah, I don't know if you remember this, but we were making those lists of all of those, quote unquote famous Latter-day Saint women. And after we'd done a couple, do you remember that we that we were like, "You know what? We need to talk to our moms.   Sarah  14:17  Mmhmm. And then we had your mom come.   KaRyn Lay  14:19  Yeah. My mom came.   Sarah  14:21  I think she's the only mom that we ever managed to get it done with because then we all started moving away.   KaRyn Lay  14:27  To hear my mom in that setting, talking about her life, like, she and I might have had some of those conversations, but to have this formal evening where all of my friends were gathered at the feet of my mom, literally at the feet of my mom, as she talked about the paths that she has walked. It was such a powerful experience.   Sarah  14:51  That was a powerful experience for me too. I really loved that one was your mom—and I think about some of the things she mentioned all the time.   KaRyn Lay  14:58  Well, and the thing about it as my mom hadn't lived what she thought was an extraordinary life.   Sarah  15:03  Mmhm ,but she had so much wisdom as so many, like, just practical wisdom. And she was so funny. And—   KaRyn Lay  15:10  Yeah,   Sarah  15:10  —fresh and real. Like she was sitting like a queen with us literally—we were because we were crowded in a small living room, but you know, all sitting on the floor and the chairs around her. And we're on the feet of this Queen while she talked about how to successfully fight with your husband. You know,I really liked that one.   KaRyn Lay  15:27  When we were talking about the gatherings, I couldn't have anticipated that some of the greatest wisdom that I would get would come from my own mom. Shortly after that, I think we all started moving to foreign countries, and graduate schools, and all over so it was sort of the, the disbanding of the gatherings happened sort of organically just out of necessity.   Sarah  15:52  Yeah.   KaRyn Lay  15:53  You said at the beginning when we started talking about that the idea for the gatherings came because you wanted wisdom from people who maybe had walked different paths than you as you tried to figure yours out. What did that teach you about womanhood and sisterhood?   Sarah  16:10  The gift that that experience gave us was recognizing—we were expecting that there was a right answer, right. There was—   KaRyn Lay  16:16  Yeah.   Sarah  16:16  They were going to tell us some way we were supposed to do stuff. And instead the answer was: you'll find it. Right? And God has got you. And the answer is going to be different for everyone. And it's going to depend on your, the combination of your inspiration, of course, and your talents and gifts that you're supposed to use, and then the opportunities you're given to use them right? And—   KaRyn Lay  16:39  Yeah.   Sarah  16:40  And that we can find it ourselves. But there's no one, there's no one way.   KaRyn Lay  16:46  And, and that honestly each, each of our lives, whether we deem them extraordinary or not, is extraordinary to God.   Sarah  16:55  The meeting with your mom was the one that that brought home to me—everyone has things to teach us, and we tend to have the great men lens on history, like who accomplished a lot, and who has an impressive resume. But anyone, if we sat them in that chair and we sat at their feet and asked them questions like they're an expert on life, because they are, because they've been living can teach us some amazing things.   KaRyn Lay  17:21  Yeah. And there's value in women telling each other our stories, like, I feel like the gatherings set up a foundation for a large part of the rest of my life. I mean, I it's been 15 years since we did that. And I, and I still have the Sally Mart quotes running through my mind. I still have the moment when Ariel Bybee pointed to us and said that, you know? And I still have that feeling of sitting in a room huddled together with 20 women who I admired and loved I still have that feeling that warmth, that feeling of closeness with you, and with the other girls that we did it with. And there's something really powerful about that for me.   Sarah  18:11  Yeah, for me, too. This was good to reminisce.   KaRyn Lay  18:15  I know. I only wish I took better notes. I have no idea what this means.   Sarah  18:19  I only wish I had climbed into the attic to call my journal.   KaRyn Lay  18:25  Maybe next time, Sarah, maybe next time.   I am so grateful to Sarah and our friends Celeste and Carrie for being the catalysts for such an amazing time in my life. I don't know if you're listening. But if you were part of those gatherings, we would love to hear what stuck with you through all these years. And more importantly, we hope that this has inspired all of you to start asking the women in your life to share their stories, in whatever setting makes sense for you right now. We're going to actually have a list of questions that you can use to spark the conversation in our show notes at We know that it can feel pretty awkward sometimes to get those things going, so we'll give you a cheat sheet, so that it's easier to make that happen, especially right now when we have a little bit of extra time. You know, long before This Is The Gospel was a storytelling podcast, LDS living produced a series of videos that were also called, This Is The Gospel. They were simple, and they reflected my amateur filmmaking skills at the time. But I still have such a soft spot in my heart for this humble beginning because, even though the music underneath the stories was a little too loud and unbalanced, it was honest and stripped down. People telling their stories to camera, no props, and a funny little stock bumper at the beginning and the end. We limited the time of each of the stories to about two to four minutes to appease the social media attention span. So they're just little bon-bons of faith. And today, I want to share five of those little stories with you from five women who let God lead them and their families through whatever came their way.   Leslie  20:00  My name is Leslie, when my fifth baby was born—my family and I have seven—lived in a two bedroom duplex, we were squeezed in there. And for weeks and months, we tried to find a new situation for our family. We put money down on lots that fell through, we made offers on new homes that fell through, we just couldn't find a new place to live. Nothing seemed to be working out for us. After a while I finally thought maybe I should take this to the Lord and decided to go to the temple. And I went with a faith-filled heart knowing that the Lord would here and hear my plea and answer our prayer. So I went through the session, and nothing happened. I didn't feel anything. It was quiet. And I finished the session, still feeling a little sad because I hadn't felt anything. I really almost felt like the temple ceiling would open in my little address would fly down from the, from the sky and that I would know exactly what was going to become my family situation. And so I went to the celestial room and sat on the couch, feeling a little sad, and I started to weep. And a feeling of warmth and love washed over me as I sat there, feeling so sad. And an assurance and unknowing came. And I heard a voice say, "Leslie, I know you and I love you and all will be well." The voice was familiar to me, and so sweet and I heard it again, "Leslie, I know you and I love you, and all will be well." And I left the temple that night knowing that heaven was aware of my situation, not knowing my new address, but knowing that heaven was aware. The next day was a typical day of a family of seven. My baby was unusually fussy, and I sing him a lullaby before his nap. And I kissed his little cheek and I put that baby down for asleep from which he would never awake. And my experienced in the temple just the day before, it didn't have anything to do with my new address, but everything to do with the sweet assurance from heaven, that I was known to the Father, and that even in my darkest of nights, all would be well. I knew from that experience, that heaven knew my name. And if heaven knows my name, heaven surely knows your name. And this is the gospel to me.   Claire  22:52  My name is Claire, and I'm a good mom. And that's a hard thing for me to say and most days I struggled to remind myself of that This time last year I was in bed in a basement with feeding tubes and IVs. And my husband had just quit school, so that he could take care of me full-time. And even with all of that, I tried to just continue to have faith that everything would work out. That my unborn child would be healthy, that I would be able to function for my husband, and for my baby. And then the day arrived when I gave birth to her, and it was one of the most beautiful days that I can remember. And I thought, "Wow, you know, I have won the good fight. I have fought my hardest and here's the blessings." And I thought that they were just going to come right like pouring. And then two months later, I wound up in the ER, fighting for my life, because I had such strong urges that I needed to end it. That life wasn't worth living that I was a horrible mom. That everyone was better off without me. And from there, I was taken from my family, my husband and my baby girl. To go spend a couple of weeks up in a psychiatric facility, where I learned a lot I learned a lot about myself. And I learned a lot about my testimony. Because I felt utterly alone when I was taken from them and spent that time away from them. But I was reminded that I'm not. I am now on the up and up, I'm progressing and I can't say I'm completely whole yet but I know that because of the sacrifices of Christ and because of the love of my Heavenly Father, I will get there. And that's enough for me. So even when I'm not enough, I know that Christ's love for me is and that's the gospel to me,   Carrie  25:19  I'm Carrie, and I never imagined that the answer to my prayer that morning would be to willingly send my son to prison. I remember saying my morning prayers and pleading with my Heavenly Father, that I wouldn't get the answer that I so desperately needed. That afternoon as we met with our attorney, my husband, my son, and myself, we were facing the decision of whether to go to trial and face a possible 10 year or more sentence or take the plea bargain that had been offered to go to prison for three years. And I knew as we heard that three year prison sentence offered to us that that was a choice. that we needed to take and I knew it from the top of my head to my toes. I knew I had the answer that I had been looking for. And as I thought forward to when they would take him away from us, and they took him bound in bound hand and foot from that courtroom, I wondered how to get past that day, how to move forward. And I think as you hold that new baby in your arms, and you look into their eyes, and you dream of all the places that they'll go, and all the things that you want for them. I know that this is definitely nothing that you ever see for your child. And I wondered, how will I get past this? How will I help him realize his full potential. I want you know that you do get past it and you get past it by praying and by leaning on your Heavenly Father and that he helps you every step of the way. He helped me and he helped my family and he helped my son through those three years. We spent lots of time on the phone. And I had many visits with him there on weekends where we learned more about each other than a lot of moms get to know about their sons and their 20s. We spent lots of time together and I'm grateful for those times. There were times when I wanted to crawl under my bed and and just stay there, and sometimes you do. Sometimes there are days like that, where you have moments where you break down. I wasn't always strong, but you are able to get back up and get out there and and be there for your family and have those good times and find joy in your journey. And I know that this is just a small moment in time, and this is the gospel to me.   Tennissa  27:47  My name is Tennissa. If you worked at the most stress causing events in someone's life you would find among the top: the birth of a child, the death of a parent, the loss of job, and buying and selling of a home. And our family experience these, recently, in the matter of 15 months. Nine months after my daughter was born, and four months after my father in law unexpectedly passed away, my husband got word that he was losing his job. And it just so happened that at that time our house was under contract, because we had decided to move. And the very day that he found out who he was that he was losing his job, was the same day we were making an offer on the perfect home for our family. So needless to say, we didn't make an offer on that perfect home. But we did sell our house, because we felt like Heavenly Father guided us to do that. And after almost six months, we realized why. One of the tender mercies that He gave us was allowing us to live with my mother, who was in need of company after losing her sweetheart. And it was the best possible place for our family to be. And after interviews and searching, and a long, long period of time, our loan officer let us know that if my husband was unemployed much longer, that it would be extremely difficult for us to get a mortgage. And so with lots of prayers and fasting, and begging people for contacts, three months, three days shy of six months what the deadline was, My husband was offered a job. And so as we looked back over that everything felt heavy, and it was it wasn't the easiest thing we've ever been through. But we know by the tiny things along the way that Heavenly Father was aware of us and He provided the direction he needed. And all of the—lined up the timeline and the people and the experiences that we needed to end up where we are. And we've, we've been in our home that we found like three days after my husband got a job for a year and we felt like it was the money pit because so many things have gone wrong. But because of the journey that got us there, and all the tender mercies that Heavenly Father has shown us along the way, we know it's where we're supposed to be and this is the gospel to me.   Emily  30:45  My name is Emily. Several years ago, I found myself sitting in a hospital waiting room, waiting for my two year-old son, Hudson, to be x-rayed for what I thought was just an inner-ear infection. My son, Hudson, was diagnosed with an inoperable glioblastoma, brain tumor. Hudson was given only one year to live. I have such a vivid memory of sitting on Hudson's hospital bed, and his oncologist coming into the room and sitting down and explaining to us that we could do chemotherapy, and radiation, but that the outcome would be the same, that regardless, the tumor would inevitably start to grow and take his life. So she suggested that we just wait it out, that we make him as comfortable as possible over the next year, and that I go home and enjoy the last year with my son. My family and my incredible Bishop met all together together in Hudson's hospital room and gave Hudson a priesthood blessing. And in that priesthood blessing, they told Hudson that Hudson had more faith than all of the people combined in that room. Heavenly Father wanted us to know that we were to do everything medically possible to save his life. So we made the decision to fight the cancer. Two days into radiation, I remember falling to my knees on a hospital, bathroom floor, pleading with the Lord, to lift the burden, and to just coach me to breathe so that I could survive the rest of the day. Sometime after the procedures my sister had purchased a picture of Christ for me. And I held the picture on my lap and Hudson came up on my lap and with his little finger traced to the eyes and the face of the Savior, and looked up at me and said the name of his great protector, Jesus. I knew that Hudson knew his Savior, and that he testified to me as he traced the Savior's face that the Lord really does visit his people during their afflictions. Hudson is 13 years old today. And although he suffers many post radiation side-effects, his life is miraculous. And despite the threat that the tumor may still grow, I know that no matter what happens in the future I can trust the Lord. For the Son of righteousness arises with healing in his links. The same month that Hudson finished chemotherapy, my marriage of 12 years dissolved, and later I faced my own cancer diagnosis. But what I know now, is that the Lord has and will always be the greatest source of comfort, and He will strengthen me to rise triumphantly to through every trial to the very end. And this is the gospel to me.   Sarah  33:58  That was Leslie, Claire, Carrie, Tennissa and Emily, every single one of those stories has something to teach you and me about living a Christ-like life in a totally different way. It reminds me of that moment Sarah talked about during the gatherings when she described how each woman was transformed into a queen and an expert. As we sat at her feet, it didn't matter how much quote, unquote extraordinary was present in the story of her life. The very fact that she was living it with faith and courage made her life worthy to be told. I was recently honored to have one of my essays about being a stepmother published in a compilation of women's writings called, "All Kinds of Mothers." And at first I was excited that something I wrote had made it into a book. And then, as it always does, the doubt crept in as I stared at the company I was keeping on those pages: Chieko Okazaki, Elaine Dalton, Patricia Holland, Emily Bell Freeman, Emily Watts, Sheri Dew—all women that I've admired and learn from over the years through their powerful words and immediately, immediately, I felt inadequate and embarrassed. I mean, I had made a joke about Brad Pitt in my essay. I didn't belong anywhere near those women, and that heavy wave of imposter syndrome, that washed over my excitement. And to be honest, I didn't tell anyone about the book until very recently. It still feels awkward for me to talk about it. But this past week of remembering the gatherings and the bravery of every woman who steps forward to share her story so that other women can feel validated and honored and heard. Well, that memory has come forward to fight back against my shame, a shame that absolutely doesn't come from a loving Heavenly Father. And instead I can focus on the truth. Someone—maybe just one person—someone needs to hear what I have to say in the way only I can say it. Someone needs to hear what you have to say. We need each other. We need each other stories and our thoughts and we need to hear and feel the diversity of our experiences so that we can be united in our efforts to help one another, make it home to Jesus Christ and toward eternity. And if we're focused on that aim, then we don't need to worry about whether what we say is profound, or extraordinary or even beautiful because it will be made beautiful in its purpose. Our stories of faith have inherent power because ultimately they testify of him. So here's my invitation to you: find your story, believe that it belongs in great company, because it does, and then share it with those you love.   That's it for this bonus episode of This Is The Gospel. Thank you for listening. Thanks to the storytellers who graced us with their presence in our living rooms, 15 years ago, and to the storytellers who graced us with their presence on camera. In our This Is The Gospel video series just a few years ago. We are so lucky to have cross paths with you all will have links to the videos, a few pictures of our journal notes. Well, mine not Sarah's because that attic is the worst. And that list of questions to get you started and gathering the stories of women you love and know, in our show notes at We're currently looking for stories for season three. So if you have a story to share about living the Gospel, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. We often find many of our stories from that pitch line and we love to hear how the Gospel has blessed your life. Call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less. This episode was produced by Sarah Monson, Blake and the KaRyn Daly Lay with story editing and producing by so many amazing LDS Living video production interns over the years. It was mixed and mastered by Mix at Six studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Happy Mother's Day. Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
May 08, 2020
The Heavens Are Open
Stories in this episode: In the early days of his firefighting career, Steve enters a burning home to save a life and is forced to choose between protocol and following the Spirit; Heidi anguishes over her efforts to help create a documentary about Joseph Smith’s life until she receives a special witness from God; Alone in the rainforests of Madagascar, Elizabeth finds herself in dire need of heavenly power to call down a miracle. SHOW NOTES To see pictures and links for this episode, go to TRANSCRIPT   KaRyn  0:01  I have mixed feelings about what I'm about to tell you. I know that we need stories more now than ever, but the time has come for us to take a break here at This Is the Gospel so we can gather and prepare new episodes. We'll be back as soon as we can with season three, filled with totally new themes and new stories on those themes. And in the meantime, we'll still be over on Instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast and on Facebook at This is the Gospel, sharing all of our upcoming themes and pitch line requests, and maybe even a bonus episode or two. And so, while we won't have weekly episodes, we're not going to stop thinking of ways to help us all tell the stories that matter and lift up our week. Now on with the show. Welcome to This is the Gospel. An LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay. I'm feeling pretty inadequate today. I'm sitting in my home office, the day after my very first earthquake, which also happens to be for me the seventh day of an unprecedented self-quarantine due to a global pandemic. And as I've attempted to write something to introduce today's theme, the only thought that keeps coming to me is, "I'm not sure I'm strong enough for these latter days, Heavenly Father. I'm just not sure I can do it." Well, maybe you've wondered the same thing about yourself, or maybe you've been through stranger moments than these and have a sure knowledge of your capacity to make good during hard times. Well, either way, I think it's still difficult to watch as things shut down all around us, left and right. Doors, literally closing, the doors of restaurants, libraries, businesses, and our homes as we step inside to protect our families, our neighbors, and our communities. And that's probably why today's episode took so long to come together. When we first launched Season Two in September, "The Heavens are Open" was one of the first episode themes we had slated to produce and air. And week after week, it got pushed back. First, we didn't quite have the right stories, and then we didn't quite have the time to make it what we wanted it to be, and so it kept moving further and further away from the beginning of the season and landed here instead, the very tail end of Season Two, in the middle of a time when I think maybe there's nothing that I need to know more than the fact that God really is present, that He's still here, and He's pouring His power and His glory and His goodness down on us in the midst of these latter days. He's coming to us in a still small voice, and He's coming to us in the thunder of a general conference broadcast, where despite the fact that we can't attend, we will hear Him in the prophetic council. He's here in the midst of us right now. He is here with us in the trenches of our humanity. The heavens are open if we choose to hear Him, as President Nelson has invited us to do. So today, finally, we have three stories from people who engaged with heaven here on Earth, in their own unique way. Our first storyteller is, a This is the Gospel favorite, my neighbor Steve, who shares a story from early in his days as a firefighter when a choice to follow the spirit over protocol just may have saved his life. Here's Steve. Steve  3:31  So we respond to an early morning fire, probably 5:30/6 o'clock in the morning, and we arrive and it's a call of just smoke. So we pull up on the fire apparatus and we get off and you can see that there's some smoke kind of coming out of the air conditioning unit on the top of the roof, but not nothing really crazy at this point. So we kind of look around, I'm with my captain because I'm a new guy, so I'm following him around, you know, and we kind of look up to the window and the inside of the window is pitch black, full of smoke, and there's always kind of streaks of water that runs down because all that water vaporizes and then kind of condenses on the window, and so you can tell -- so we know there's a fire inside, a pretty significant fire. Pop the door, breached the door, and huge smoke comes out, right? It's on fire. It's burning and it's hot. So I get the hose line and with my partner and we kind of start making our advance into this very dark structure. One of the first things I learned that becoming a new firefighter is not like TV. The real fires, structure fires, when the fire is contained inside of a box, a house, are black, heavy, oppressive smoke, you cannot see, and it's terribly hot. Some of those things that we can't simulate in training is the oppressive heat and just the the density of the smoke. I mean, you literally cannot see your hand in front your face. So I'm kind of bumping around in you know, inside dragging the hose on, and we're trying to find a fire. We can't find it. We can hear it cracking. The heat is oppressive. So we know we're getting close, and there's dense, heavy smoke. You know, we're yelling, "Is anyone in here? Is anyone here?" You know, "We're looking for people," and then somehow I kind of get a little bit separated from my partner and it's getting really hot now and I'm just pushing a little bit farther, a little bit farther, a little bit farther, right, the statement is, "We will risk our lives a lot in a calculated manner to save a savable life. We will not risk our lives at all, to save that which they're already lost or has no value." So I'm in that calculated manner "Save a saveable life." We think someone's inside here. I can notice very distinctly, I can feel through my gloves, the change in kind of carpet to linoleum, so I know I'm in a kitchen, and now it's really hot in the kitchen, so the fire is probably around here somewhere, and I'm only about half a meter inside. And it's one of those rare times in my life and that I hear in my mind, "Stephen, get off the floor." To my shame, I kind of ignore it the first time because I'm looking for someone, right? So I push a little bit, a little bit farther into the room. "Steven, get off the floor and move out of the kitchen." "Okay," so I started backing up. I'm kind of pulling the hose line back, and literally the second I move off that linoleum floor and back into the carpet, the entire floor caves in. Suddenly, you can see everything. There's fire to to the ceiling, fire to the wall. My partner, I hear him call a mayday and he bails out of the window. And now I am, I'm in here and I've lost the hose line. So I don't know where I am. So I'm trying to back up, it's hot. I see a bunch of orange in front of me. And I'm starting to back out and you can hear the radio traffic is escalating on the outside. And I don't know how long I was in there, but I'm trying to bump my way back to the front room through the smoke, and I think I'm just about to the door and this big hand comes in, grabs me by the scruff of the neck, my turnout gear, pulls me out of the front door and kind of stands me up and it's this big, classic, if you were to make a character of any firefighter, it would be this guy. Big mustache, like 6 foot 2,300 pounds, big dude stands me right up on my feet and says, "Hey, are you okay?" and my turnout gear is all smokey and burned and I "Yes, thank you," you know, that kind of thing. And I get out, and then we fight the fire from the exterior, we can't find anyone inside at the time. But it was one of those rare, rare occurrences in my life where somebody cared about me and told me to do something and move, and I moved. Given my experience, I'm pretty sure I would not have survived that, frankly. But I'm so grateful, right, for that experience, and for that loving Heavenly Father and that still small voice. It wasn't loud in the chaos or the fire, wearing my turnout gear, I'm all encapsulated, and it was that still small voice that called me by name and told me to move. Since that time, I have resolved to do the best I can to listen. Now clearly there have been times when I can't tell what it is, if it's just an impression, if it's... who knows? Who cares, right? Doesn't matter. And I've done what I felt like I should have done or what I felt like I was told to do and there was no miraculous, no seminal moment in my life, but there have been other times when I have listened and things have changed. I hope I'm always worthy enough to have that connection. KaRyn  8:48  That was Steve. If you haven't heard Steve's season one story from our "To the Rescue" episode, it's definitely worth revisiting. What I appreciate about the story and about Steve is that acknowledgement, that moments like these, moments of pure and clear revelation, are rare in his life. But when they do happen, if he chooses to listen, things change. And there's something really interesting about the practice of listening that Steve mentioned at the end of his story. You know, sometimes we may have an impression, a thought, or a feeling, and maybe we're unsure of its origin. "Was that the still small voice? Or was it last night's very bad decision to go to Taco Bell?" It's not always easy to discern. But if we practice moving forward with confidence, as long as the impression is moving us towards discipleship and Christ, we will make ourselves ready to receive and obey when the pure heavenly messages reveal themselves through revelation. Our next story comes from writer and historian Heidi who received a special witness from God through a story from the Prophet Joseph's life.   Here's Heidi. Heidi  9:56  I was walking in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. I like to walk, and I love walking into the cemetery because there are all of these grave sites and you look at the names and the dates and you recognize that in each one of those graves is someone who has a host of stories you wish you knew. Now -- I'm a writer and a historian, and so that's very intriguing to me. So as I walk along, I'm often looking at that. Well this particular day, I was walking along in the cemetery, and I had just finished a very major project that had taken me almost two and a half, three years, and it was about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was writing a documentary for PBS. It wasn't for the church. It was for people that didn't know Joseph. It was for people, it had to be what we called "bilingual." It had to speak to them and to members of the Church, but mostly to people who could be a little bit angry. Well, I'm walking along, and I realized that my hands no longer have an opportunity to do anything to that documentary. It's gone off to PBS to be signed off, and to be put up. And I was so sad. I was so sad that as I'm walking along, there are tears running down my face. And I could just imagine that the people who are mowing the grass were looking over at this lady who's walking and she's weeping, and that just doesn't seem to be right. But I was crying because I felt like I had failed. I wrote 47 versions of that documentary trying to get it right. What I wanted to have happen in people's lives because of the film, because of the book that would be out there as well, because of my understanding of Joseph Smith, I didn't want them to just place him in history. I didn't want them to just say, you know, "He did a lot of interesting things." I wanted them to have the experience of having the spirit say to them, "This is a prophet of God." I wanted them to be able to reach beyond everyday life, that linear plane we live on, that date, time, and place, I wanted them to reach beyond that, and have a spiritual experience that can only be administered from the heavens. I love Brigham Young's statement. I felt like shouting "hallelujah" to think I ever knew the Prophet Joseph Smith. I wanted people to feel that because I felt that. I felt like I knew him and I knew him before I came here. I felt like I had the responsibility to tell the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith in such a way that people would be drawn to him who otherwise had no interest or were even negative about his life in his teachings. That I had the opportunity to tell how great he was and how significant he was, not just in the history of the United States or religion as it was growing, but in the history of the world. And I had this grand view, and I didn't feel like I had gotten the documentary to that place. I didn't feel like I had just nailed it. You know how it is sometimes when you feel like, "Ah I got it!" and in this case, there were pieces that as hard as I had tried, I hadn't pulled it together. And so now here I am 47 versions later. I just felt this, "wait," that this is Joseph Smith we're talking about, and so I'm walking along, and I started talking right out loud to my Father in Heaven. I can remember saying to him, "I tried so hard. I can't remember anything being as difficult as this was." I'm telling the Lord about how I feel, and He knows because I was so prayerful while I did this. I was always talking to Him about, "I just don't know how to handle this, and I don't know how to handle that." And I would like to say that, you know, all of a sudden it would just appear on my screen, the Lord would say, "Oh, well, here's what you do with that," never happened. I just had to slog my way through it, and that's the way it is for almost everybody. These things don't just drop down from the sky, and so I'm telling him about how Heidi feels now. I'm putting Heidi back in the picture because Heidi's given two and a half years of her life, lost 28 pounds, worked herself to the bone, and but it didn't matter. None of that mattered. What mattered was that I did my part for Joseph Smith. So I'm walking along and the tears are running down my face and I'm just saying, you know, "I wanted this and I wanted that," kind of some of the things I've talked about. And then all of a sudden this sense of peace came over me, and I remember stopping. I didn't keep walking. I remember stopping and I know right where I was, I was on the hill right below where John Taylor is buried. And I stopped there, and the thought came into my mind, and I'm one of those people the Lord communicates to in words, I don't get those burnings and the tingling’s and I don't get those. I'm a word person, so I think He knows that and He says, "Oh I'll just talk to her and she'll listen." But words came into my mind, and the words were, "Heidi, Joseph had to give the endowment in the red brick store. It wasn't the way he wanted it, but it worked." Now, let me flashback for a minute to the second story of the red brick store. Joseph Smith, in 1840, had stood up before all of the saints who had gathered from many of them from the British Isles and eastern United States, and he said to them, "We need the temple more than anything else." And then he said, "if I can just live to see the temple completed, I'll say, 'Lord, it is enough. Let thy servant depart in peace.'" He gets down the road a couple of years, and it's 1842. This is an important date for Joseph Smith because the temple is starting to rise up on the hillside. It's only to ground level if that, but they are beginning to see that though they're living in tents and in caves on the mountain side, they're beginning to see the significance of this temple that is going to tower over the Mississippi River on this bend, and the people are excited about that. They're giving everything they have. And Joseph is giving everything he has, contemplating that when this temple is completed, he gets to essentially complete his mission, that he has done the Book of Mormon and he's received priesthood power, and he's brought the saints gathered to here they are, they've started doing baptisms for the dead, and the temple is going to be the culmination of their religious experience. Okay, so Joseph knows all of this. It's in his head, and he's just wanting the Lord to let him just see it through to the end. And then 1842, he knows that he's not going to be there when the temple is completed. He sees how slowly it's going, and he recognizes, "I'm not going to be here." And so then he has to make the decision. "What do I do? Well, I've got to give the endowment," and he knows what it is, "I got to give the endowment in such a way and to enough people that it can be carried on when I'm gone and when the temple is completed." He takes them into the second story of the red brick store, nine men to the red brick store, it takes all day, and he gives them their endowment. I just sometimes think about how Joseph Smith must have felt. Here's Joseph watching this last piece, this culminating piece of the restoration slipway, he doesn't get to be there for it, after everything that he's given and everything that he's done. That experience in the red brick store came back to my mind in the cemetery. It was like the heavens had opened and the light came down, and I looked around, wondering if anyone else had heard what I'd heard because it was so pronounced, and it made so much sense to me because it kind of put some closure to Joseph's life for me, but more than that, I felt connected to him in a personal way. I understand now, that you put everything forward and the Lord knew that, and He said, "It wasn't the way he wanted it, and this isn't the way you wanted it, but it worked for Joseph." And then I thought to myself, "It will work." And it was one of those times where the heavens opened, and where the Lord kind of brought the whole thing together for me, not for anyone else. Now, it was just for me. And I have reflected back on that so many times of when things haven't come together just the way I wanted for this or for that, I just say to myself, "Heidi, Joseph had to give the endowment in the red brick store. It wasn't the way he wanted it, but it worked. It worked." And I will say to myself over and over again, "This will work." I don't, I don't think we allow Him to be that much a part of our lives sometimes. I think we want reinforcement from a lot of other places, and that was the only reinforcement that really mattered because it was so tied to what I've been doing, and it moved me legions forward. I think sometimes we expect the heavens to open when we ask for it, and we expect the heavens to open with the answer that we're asking for. And what I found so engaging in my connection to the heavens, is that the Lord came to me with something I didn't expect, but it was far more, it was far broader and far more enveloping for me because He knew what I needed. I think I came to the end of this project with a perspective because I had come to know Joseph Smith in a way that I prize not just my testimony of him and his work, but my witness of his goodness, all the way to his heart and his soul. I learned from him that it was not easy, not ever, to move the work forward, the restoration, it was not something that just the heavens opened and all the answers were there, he had to do a lot of legwork in order for things to get done. It isn't about the work per se. I learned from him that it's about the effort and the willingness to submit to the Lord. KaRyn  22:15  That was Heidi Swinton. Heidi is the award-winning writer of the PBS documentary "American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith," which was recently reissued as part of the bicentennial celebration of the first vision. And aside from her delightful storytelling abilities, Heidi holds a special place in my heart because it was during a deep and meaningful airplane conversation with her four years ago that I first jotted down the phrase "This is the Gospel" in my journal. Her unique knowledge of the Prophet Joseph Smith and her love and respect for him is absolutely inspiring to me. Sometimes he feels really far away and when I talked to Heidi, somehow he becomes real. And isn't it so cool that our God is an efficient God, He parts the heaven for Joseph in 1842, and then uses that experience to pour down his love and grace to Heidi in the 20th century. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and I'll just keep saying it, our stories may just be the instrument that God chooses to use when he opens the heavens to our posterity generations from now. So write it down, write it down now so that it can do some good in the future. Our final story today comes from Elizabeth, who needed a miracle and got it when she discovered just how to ask for it.   Here's Elizabeth. Elizabeth  23:46  I was in this room with just a bed with a mosquito net and a little nightstand. I took off my boots and my sock and my foot was horribly infected. It was red, it was swollen, and I was really scared about how I was going to get out of there because I was three days into a seven-day hike in Madagascar and there were no hospitals. The whole reason I was there was because when I was a kid, I saw the show on the Discovery Channel about Madagascar, and how the forests were all being cut down and that lemurs only live there, and they were all endangered because of all this deforestation. And so my plan when I was a kid was to win the lottery, which I've played the lottery, but I was going to win a million dollars and buy Madagascar, and then everybody had to leave unless they agreed to not cut down the forests. So I've always loved wildlife, and I became a park ranger when I grew up. And I was working at Denali National Park in Alaska, and I had two months off every winter, so I would go someplace warm and sunny. I've been to Africa a bunch of times, to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia. In 2011, I was in Uganda, worked at a clinic for five weeks and then climbed Kilimanjaro. And then in 2013, I finally got to go to Madagascar. And I had three things that I wanted to do when I was there. I wanted to see a fossa. The fossa is the largest predator of lemurs in Madagascar, and I read that the best place to see him was Kirindy National Forest Park, so I went there. And then I wanted to do some volunteer work, so I found a place to volunteer for two weeks with nutrition for kids under age four. And then I wanted to hike in Masoala national park on the Masoala peninsula. So when you hike in the national parks in Madagascar, it's required that you hire a guide. So I flew into Maroantsetra and I went to the park office to arrange the hike, and the only guide they had that spoke English was Claudio, so I hired him. Because it was really hot and humid there, I didn't want to carry my own backpack. So I hired a porter. So the porters, they carry your backpack, they set up the tents, they cook the food, they even cooked lunch, they cooked all three meals. They didn't let me do anything actually, they were really good. And my backpack was kind of heavy, it had everything for six weeks in there, and we still needed food, so I hired another porter. So I had Gerard, who was an older guy, and Jovan and Claudio. Gerard and Jovan didn't speak any English, there's just Claudio. And then the trail was seven days long. We started on a pirogue, which is a little canoe that you can either paddle or push with a pole. After we got off the pirogue, we started hiking, and that was the one place where like the trail was kind of wide, and there were villagers, people living there and there was fruit trees, mango trees, and lychee trees and people were fishing and they had their fish laying out in the sun to dry, and there was a lot of shade on the trail because of all the big trees. So on the first night, we stayed in a hotel which had one one room and there was a shed out back with a barrel of water and a little cup for a shower. And on my way to the shower, after I had taken off my boots, I noticed that I had this big blister in between my big toe and the bottom of my foot. Really strange place for blister, I've never gotten one there before. And I wasn't worried about it, I've gotten so many blisters. It seems like every hike that I go on, I get blisters all over my feet, and it's just kind of an inconvenience, but I'm used to it. And I've never had a, you know, a serious problem, it's just been painful. During the night, my blister kind of filled up with fluid, and so when I started that second day, it almost immediately popped and Claudio told me there'd be river crossings, so I was wearing my sandals that second day. And there were river crossings, but they're also like the trail was flooded because we were walking between rice paddies, and it was really dirty water because there were cows everywhere and the rivers weren't particularly clean either. And so the trail was sometimes up to my shin in water and the river crossings were, you know, mid-thigh, so it was a lot of splashing through water that second day. And at the end of the second day, I thought, "well, I gotta clean this blister as best as I can." So I had some hand sanitizer and I kind of, you know, washed it off with that, but I did find a leech in the broken blister and I pulled that thing out. So I washed it as best as I could and didn't think much of it because it's just a blister. So on the third day, I wore my boots again and I was just hiking along like normal and around the afternoon, my foot started to get pretty sore, and I loosened the laces because I just thought, "Well, maybe I just tied my boot too tight today." But by the end of the day, as we were getting into the village where we're going to spend the night, I was trying really hard not to limp because my foot was so tender just to walk on and I just assumed that I had a lot more blisters. But then when I got to my room and took my boot off and my sock off, I saw that my foot was red, and it was swollen. I couldn't even see my ankle bone. My little toes were like little red sausages, and my foot was hot to the touch, and it was infected. And I didn't know how I was gonna walk the next day because it hurt so bad. So I didn't know how I was gonna get out of there, I didn't think that I was going to be able to walk the next day. And I was so freaked out that I didn't, I was afraid to tell Claudio, and there was nobody else that spoke English, and there were no clinics, there were no hospitals. There wasn't even electricity, there was no running water. I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, and I was really stressed out. I didn't know if the infection was gonna get worse in the next day. I'm 5 foot 10 and I was taller than most of the people I met there and I thought, “they can't carry me out. We're three days in, four days the next way," you know, like, "What am I gonna do?" And I was just in this little room with there's little stick walls, the sticks close together, and you could see people moving around outside, like through the gaps in the sticks. And there's this lonely dark room with just my little kerosene lamp, and I felt so alone because I was feeling really far from anything I knew, and just all by myself out there in Madagascar, in the middle of nowhere, and I really, I really just wanted a priesthood blessing, and I wanted to find a member of the Church to give me a blessing, but there were no churches out there, there were no members of the Church. I had my little iPod touch with me and I hadn't used it because there's no way to charge it, but I knew I had conference talks on there. So I turned it on, and I had October 2012 conference talks on there. I had one by Elder Holland, about the first commandment, and he talks about the apostles and how they must have felt after Jesus was crucified and was resurrected and then he left, and they say, "Well, what do we do now?" And Peter says, "Well, I guess we just go back to fishing." And then he talks about, you know, he paraphrases Jesus saying to them, "Shouldn't this have, you know, being with me for three years, shouldn't it have changed you?" And I thought about how I've been changed by going to the temple and making my covenants there. I just, you know, sitting there in that dark room with just Elder Holland, in that conference talk, it made me realize that I wasn't alone and that I could ask for the power to be healed, I could pray. So I did, I knelt down on the floor outside the mosquito netting, and I said a prayer and I said, "Heavenly Father, I know you can heal my foot. Even if you choose not to, I know you won't leave me here. You haven't abandoned me, something will work out." And I knew that because I try to keep my covenants, I had this power I could ask for; to help me. And the best part was that I got done with that prayer and I felt peaceful. I wasn't worried about it. I knew something would work out. And I didn't feel so alone anymore. After that prayer, I went to sleep. I was able to get to sleep, and I woke up in the morning and my foot was back to normal size, and it wasn't hot anymore, it wasn't red. It was still a little sore, but it was healed. And my foot was better. It was miraculous. The other blisters I had didn't bother me for the rest of the hike. I was able to finish the hike. I had a wonderful time. I didn't even get any more leeches. It was just a fantastic experience, and I am so thankful that I could have that reassurance that I knew that I had that power to draw on and that I wasn't alone, that Heavenly Father wouldn't leave me and that I could ask for his help. KaRyn  33:36  That was Elizabeth. I adore the simple story of healing for so many reasons. but I think my favorite part is this. Yes, waking up to a healed foot overnight is miraculous, but I think the real miracle in a rain forest in Madagascar thousands and thousands of miles from home, was actually her revelation about the Priesthood of God. That it's here, on the Earth right now because of the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation, and as a faithful covenant keeping Daughter of God, she is never without access to its power, whether she's home or abroad. She said she feels grateful to be able to draw on that power. You know, this is a really interesting phrase that we sometimes use when we talk about the priesthood. To draw on something or to draw down something, means that we access a thing that is useful or precious that we've held in reserve. It's used in reference to money or oil or gas or water. There's a sense that when we draw on reserves, they diminish and I know that that's true about my canned peaches, and that's why I hold on to them with a fist of iron, but you know, the Priesthood Power of God is never diminished when we call it down. And the Prophet Joseph Smith promised us that it will, quote, "Never be taken from the Earth while mortality endures, for there will always be need for temporal direction, and the performance of ordinances," end quote. And you know what that means to me? That while everything else seems like it is closing around us, the heavens will never be closed to us as long as we're here trudging through dank waters on African islands with our broken bodies. That we can be sure of. You know, we chose the theme for this episode after reading Sister Wendy Nelson's book with the same title, and as the wife of our Prophet, President Nelson, she has a courtside seat to the continuing revelation and heavenly guidance that defines his role of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the Church. One of my favorite moments in the book was when Sister Nelson shared this, she said, quote, "Recently my husband said to me, 'Wendy, the Lord is just as eager to give revelation to you as He is to give it to me,'" end quote. I think it's easy to forget that we're entitled. By virtue of our divine nature as Daughters and Sons of God, that we're entitled to call down the heavens and all that that entails. Prophets or people with weighty jobs in the Church do not get a more direct line to the heavens just because of the work they do. They may receive different kinds of information or have a different scope to that connection, but our God is no respecter of persons. And while the Prophet has a special calling and specific authority to receive revelation for the Church as a whole, he is no more entitled to the gifts of such connection than you or me. And so how do we do it? In these absolutely wild and crazy times when we might need to draw upon the endless reserves of heavenly power more than ever? How do we move with confidence when the voice calls us by name to get off the floor in our smoke filled spaces, or open the door to the piece of heaven when we're not sure we've done enough? How do we call down healing and hope in the jungles of loneliness? Well, we start with the Savior. We always start with the Savior. Sister Nelson wrote this quote, "As we truly focus on the Savior, as we truly remember Him and His infinite Atonement, as day after day we think of Him more and more, the heavens will open. Our fears and doubts will decrease. Some will even flee! We will be led along. We will know what to do, step by step. We will learn how to draw upon the power available to us because the Savior atoned for us. We will learn how to access His cleansing, healing, redemptive, strengthening power. And we will experience the freedom to be our true selves as we unyoke ourselves from the world and instead yoke ourselves to the Savior," end quote. So for those of you, who like me, struggle with feeling just a little bit inadequately matched to the times ahead, what we have to remember is that we're already here. We're here, and we're already made adequate through Christ, through our best efforts and his grace and mercy. Maybe we're showing up imperfectly and in pieces right now, and maybe we could choose to be a little bit more intentional in those efforts. I know I could. But if we're trying, then we're exactly where we should be, doing exactly what we should be doing, the heavens do see us and they do know us, and they are blessing us as we call upon them and draw down their powers. That's it for this episode of This is the Gospel. Thank you to our storytellers, firefighter Steve, historian Heidi S. Swinton and adventurer Elizabeth. We'll have links to Heidi's documentary as well as Sister Nelson's beautiful book "The Heavens Are Open," and other good stuff including a transcript of this episode in the show notes at All of the stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. We love to hear all the ways that this type of storytelling strengthens your faith in God and love for his children. If you have a minute to leave us a review, and a rating, wherever you listen to your podcast, please do. We've got plenty of time, I know you're sitting in your house wondering what to do. Especially during this hiatus, all the good words help us to keep working hard and know more of the kinds of stories and themes that are most meaningful to you. And, added bonus if you didn't already know, every single review helps us to show up in the search for more people when they're looking for something good to listen to. If you have a story to share about Living the Gospel, please call our pitch line, leave us a pitch. We often find many of our stories including Elizabeth's story today from the pitch line, and we love to hear how the Gospel has blessed your life. And the pitch line is very much open during this social distancing, so call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less. This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story editing and producing by Jasmine Mullen, Katie Lambert, Erika Free, and Danielle Wagner. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by Mix at Six Studios. That is such a tongue twister. Our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Stay healthy, catch up on old episodes, and we'll see you soon.     Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Mar 23, 2020
Kindness Begins with Me
As we all adjust our routines in an effort to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus there is still so much good we can see and do in the world. KaRyn shares a story of a time when her already terrible driving record hit an all-time low (pun intended) and the undeserved kindness of a stranger changed everything. SHOW NOTES: To view shownotes for this episode, go to TRANSCRIPT: KaRyn Lay  0:00   Hey friends, maybe you're like us. You're trying to socially distance right now so you can help keep the novel coronavirus at bay in your community. And if that's what's happening for you, Well done, well done. But we wanted to make sure you know that if you get lonely or you get bored, or you're just looking for something uplifting, we're still here. We're here with you virtually. And you can come find us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. You'll find a community of story lovers there just like you. And we're always thinking about fun ways that we can stay connected during the week and especially during this interesting time. We want to help you use stories to keep your home-centered church-supported efforts engaged so come find us on Instagram and Facebook where we can uplift each other. Welcome to THIS IS THE GOSPEL, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay. Well, this has been a wild week in our little corner of the U.S. You're probably feeling it too, with temple closures, the suspension of church services for the next few weeks and other adjustments to our lives and routines in all of our efforts to practice social distancing. I know. I know. My friends in Asia and parts of Europe have been at this much longer than we have. And believe me, I've been watching and learning from you. All the events of the last few weeks have me thinking pretty acutely about the ways that we take care of one another in our moments of deep vulnerability. I mean, I'm not sick right now and, and I still stand six feet away from everyone and wash my hands like a maniac while I'm singing my ABCs because I know that I could inadvertently be the cause of someone else's suffering. And if I unknowingly pass something off to an elderly neighbor or a friend with a compromised immune system, it will make me feel terrible. And I'm also really aware of the privilege that I have that allows me to work from home and to have more time Toilet paper than I currently need. I promise, I promise I am not hoarding it. But I did go to Costco a week before things got nuts. So, I'm well stocked. Come on over if you need a roll, I'm serious.  After I got over the shock of going to the grocery store and finding nothing on my list, I started to wonder just how the best parts of us as a community, a global community are going to shine during these uncertain times. And I felt a deep twinge of hope run through me. I've been following the Instagram account tiny kindnesses for weeks now and every day I read the stories, small, little stories about the way that we show up for one another in those critical moments when isolation or desperation could make us feel separated. We know how to do this. We have been preparing for this moment spiritually, much longer than most of us have physically. Well, at least me and that's the conclusion I have to draw from the swarming on grocery stores over the last two days. So today in celebration of all that is good in us. I'm sharing a tiny story of my own when I experienced a kindness from an absolute stranger in an unexpected way.  Now, I don't want you to think terribly less of me, but I've never been a particularly awesome driver. I mean, I'm fine. It's fine. In fact, it's been almost 10 years with no incidents. But when I'm overly stressed about something or someone, I really should probably take an Uber. I once made a timeline of my many accidents for a friend who needed to know that she wasn't the only one with a marred driving record, and I was surprised at the amount of collisions that I remembered.  There was the time I backed into a melon truck at the U-pick-it farm, or the time I forgot the car was behind me in the driveway, or that embarrassing time that I rear ended someone because of a spider on my dashboard. And then I had to go to court to tell a judge and an entire courtroom the story. They laughed, and I still had to pay the court fees. Luckily, most of the accidents I've been involved in have not hurt anyone. But that wasn't true the day that I turned a corner without really looking. When I was 28, I did something totally terrifying. I fell in love and I flew to Australia to see if marriage was in the cards for me with my internet boyfriend. I came back to the United States three weeks later, knowing that it wasn't going to happen. The breakup was devastating. I struggled for weeks to get my head back in the game, I was having a really hard time at work. I was having a really hard time at Church. I was having just a really hard time period. And it was like everything in my life was underwater, and I could never come up for air. Nothing felt easy, or even doable, to be honest. So it really shouldn't have surprised me when about a week after I got home, I got a flat tire on my way to work. It was the last straw...I'm telling you. It was the final proof that I needed that life was going to be nothing but sorrow and difficulty from here on out. I was out of money because it turns out that flying to a foreign country to see your internet boyfriend is not cheap, and I was out of hope. And just to put salt in my wounds, when I got to the tire shop to get that tire replaced, they told me that I would have to have all four tires replaced, not just the one with the flat. I don't even remember how I made that work financially, but by the time I left, Les Schwab Tires with four gleaming new wheels..I, I was spent and I was worried and I didn't have any room in my brain for driving. And that's when everything got worse.  Just as I turned the right corner onto the main street from the tire shop, a kid on a bike flew into crosswalk from seemingly nowhere, and I hit him. With my car. I hit a child with my car. He fell off his bike and I screeched to a stop and immediately ran out to see if he was okay. And of course I apologized 400 times. It seemed like he was in his early teens, maybe he was like 12 or 13. And he said he was fine, and he could walk. His bike was clearly damaged, but I didn't know what to do. Honestly, I was so distraught, and I'm sure that I probably should have called the paramedics or the police or someone, but I didn't. I couldn't really think clearly in that moment. So, I just gave him my cell phone number on a crumpled piece of paper from my glove compartment and told him to call me when he got home, or have his mother call me when he got home. I very carefully drove back to my office. I mean, I was devastated. What a horrible thing to have happen. Well, a little bit later, his mom called me and told me that he was totally okay physically, and they weren't taking him to the urgent care anything and they weren't even planning to make an insurance claim. But they did think that it was only fair that I pay for the damages to his bike - to get his bike fixed. So, I agreed that I would meet them at the bike shop so that I could pay the bill. And when I walked into that shop, I took one look at his mom, and it hit me. It hit me really hard. I could have killed her child. I could have killed him. And that's when I lost it. The tears started and they would not stop. I I think she probably thought I was a maniac - like what is wrong with this woman? - but I'd like to say that the tears were for the accident and all the trouble that I'd cause for her family. But in reality, my tears were for everything I'd lost for that hope that hope of a future that was never going to happen. And for the present that seemed so difficult, so painful, and unbearably hard. I was broken. And as much as I wanted to hide it, my heart was just bare,laid out bare and exploding right there, right there in front of these people in a stupid bike shop.  So I awkwardly paid for the fixes to his bike, it actually looked like it was brand new, which was really great. And I thought to myself, "I have bought a lot of tires today, like a lot of tires." And then I headed back to my office. About an hour after I got back, the front desk receptionist called my office and told me that I had a visitor. But you can only imagine my shock when I got downstairs to the front desk and I saw the boy that I'd hit with my car, standing in the lobby. He had his new fixed bike with him and a helmet, which was a new accessory that I suspect was the result of ... me. And he kind of looked at me weirdly and sheepishly held something out to me. And as I held my hand out to receive it, he said, "This is from my mom. She just wanted you to know that she doesn't hate you. And she thought you might like this." It was a $25 gift card to Subway, you know, to get a couple of footlong sandwiches. We still joke about that, that I might seriously be the only person to have ever been rewarded in sandwiches for nearly maiming a child with my car. But in all seriousness, the lesson of that subway gift card wasn't lost on me. And something in me shifted in that moment. I didn't deserve it. I didn't deserve that stranger's kindness. I was just some lady who could have ruined her life, like, in a really big way. I didn't deserve her mercy or her empathy, or her willingness to show forgiveness. But she gave me those gifts with a generous heart and a gift card. And because of that, I believe that I was healed a little bit more than I had been at the start of the day. There was a lot more to get whole again. And I would actually spend the next two years in Korea working on that. But that's simple kindness marked the twist in the dark tunnel. And I could finally see some light  - just a little pinprick - just a little pinprick of light shining through. I don't remember that woman's name. That was literally the last time I ever saw her or her bike riding son. But her kindness at a time when I should have been the one giving, not receiving has stuck with me. It's made me a more aware driver. And it has continued to be an invitation throughout my life to see people instead of circumstances and to reach out even if it's awkward. And isn't that the blessing of ministering? That opportunity to show up for one another with the Subway gift card, or the phone call, or the text message, even when we don't know the right thing to say. To give compassion, even when we're not so sure that the person receiving it really fully deserves it. You know, right now we're all watching as things fan out across the globe, wildfires, viruses, hateful rhetoric, divisiveness, fear. All of these things, whether natural or manmade, start small and work their way through our communities. glomming on to whatever is most vulnerable in their path. They grow and they grow and whatever is not fortified will fall. This feels devastating to our hearts sometimes, especially when we feel powerless to protect the weak and the weakest among us. If you watch the news at all lately, you can't avoid the word, "pandemic." It's defined as an outbreak of a disease that affects large geographic areas. But maybe you didn't know that the word "pandemic" comes from the Greek "pan-", meaning, "all" and, "-demos" meaning, "people." And that up until the 19th century, which is the 1800s. It wasn't really used as a noun by itself at all. It was used as an adjective to describe things that affect all people everywhere. And what that means to me is that there are other things that can be pandemic, like compassion, empathy, love, service, forgiveness, hope in Christ, and kindness. These things also start small and they also have exponential impact. And when we combine these acts of discipleship with the power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, they can radiate beyond borders and generations and time, a pandemic goodness. So, over the next few weeks, as we all lean into our civic duty to protect our communities, I hope we'll also watch for opportunities to lean into our Christian duty to spread the Good News and the good works, to bring light where there's darkness - to minister. We can start small, tiny even. And I know that our efforts will be magnified. That's it for this episode of THIS IS THE GOSPEL. Thank you for all the goodness that you're already bringing into the world and for sharing it far and wide. We'll have a transcript of this episode in our show notes at LDS is the gospel. If you're sequestered and looking for a meaningful activity to pass the time... Well, I've got an idea for you. How about practicing your personal or family storytelling? Pick a theme and ask your friends or family members to take turns telling their own stories around that theme. You can even do this virtually back and forth on Google Hangouts or through text messages. You might be surprised at what you learn about one another and your faith.  We love to hear all the ways that this type of storytelling strengthens your faith in God and love for His children. If you have just a minute to leave us a review and a rating on iTunes, that's another way that you can share the good stuff. Every review that you leave helps us to show up in the search for more people who are looking for something to brighten their day.  If you have a story to share about living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please call our pitch line. We find so many of our stories from this pitch line. And as we prepare for season three, we would love to hear how the gospel has blessed your life. Call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less.  This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by mix at six studios. Our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast to keep you busy while you're at home, and other LDS living podcast at Stay healthy, stay calm and wash your hands! Transcribed by Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Mar 16, 2020
Weak Things Made Strong
Stories in this episode: Bullied most of her life, Julie discovers that the autism that made her different is actually the exact thing that makes her gifted at family history work; A comic book heroine helps Sarah find her own superpowers when it comes to connecting with others; Kurt struggles with the weight of his calling as a bishop until the memory of a red superhero cape reminds him of his true desire to help others.  SHOWNOTES To see pictures of our storytellers and get a look at Sarah's DATING GIRL comic, go to Follow us on instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast and facebook to find upcoming themes and to learn more about our team. TRANSCRIPT KaRyn  0:03  Welcome to This is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.   I can't exactly remember when I first heard the phrase "double-edged sword." It was probably in Mrs. McAfee's eighth grade English class, or maybe Ms. Turse's ninth grade English class. Well, whichever well named English teacher at Rockland Junior High taught it to me, I have never forgotten it. Because a double-edged sword basically describes life.   If your junior high teacher never taught you that phrase, let me explain. A double-edged sword is anything that has the potential to have both positive and negative consequences in our lives. It's that thing that is both a strength and a weakness all at the same time. Need a concrete example? Okay, let's talk about perfectionism. It's the standard answer to the question, "What's your greatest weakness?" in a job interview because it's a strength disguised as a weakness. Or is it a weakness disguised as a strength? Trick question. It's both. And I know this because a desire to get things right is my constant companion, and it spurs me forward in so many cool ways in my life. But it's also the thing that when left unchecked leads to anxiety and deep paralysis. See? A positive and a negative, all in one, a double-edged sword.   I suspect that if we dig deep, it won't take long for each of us to recognize this pattern of strength and weakness coexisting in ourselves. It's what makes us both human and heroic. And today, we'll hear stories from three people who discovered exactly what kind of superpowers were waiting at the other end of their weakness. Our first storyteller is Julie who learned that her greatest challenge in life could be transformed when she focused her efforts in service.   Here's Julie:   Julie  1:54  When my daughter was four years old she was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, and when I was reading through the symptoms of it, I realized that most of the symptoms applied to me as well.   I was very socially awkward as a kid, and I was often bullied for it. I didn't understand social cues or body language very well, and I would come off as rude because I would interrupt people and I would kind of be silly in a way that they just didn't understand. So it was hard to make friends.   I was really fascinated with names and dates and I didn't understand why. I come from a very big family and I would make lists of everybody's full names and their birth dates and how old they would turn that year, and I didn't understand why I was driven to do this and I didn't want anybody else to see it because they wouldn't understand it either.   It wasn't until many years later that I realized that it was because of family history research that I had that unique quality in my mind. In fact, when I was 16, I had my patriarchal blessing and I was told that I would recognize the choice quality of the mind that my Heavenly Father had given me. And I always thought that maybe I would just realize I was smart, but I think it was more to do with my autism, that my mind worked in a unique way from other people, that I would be able to look at different family records and decipher information that other people had overlooked.   And because of that, I was able to break down a lot of walls that we had come to in our genealogy. I think I was given that because Heavenly Father knew that I would be the one to be able to find these people to have their temple work done for them.   After my dad died in 2001, after a couple of years, I had a dream where I saw him in our backyard, and he was bathed in a white light and wearing the purest white clothing, and he was walking toward me and all of a sudden I could see the veil separating him from me, and it was of the finest material that I had ever seen. It was completely see-through. It was like a curtain hanging down.   And he turned to his right and I could see couples standing just behind this veil. And he would point to them and name them off and I recognized the names in the dream of people that I had been researching, but I hadn't done their temple work for them yet. And they were looking at me with pleading in their eyes, smiles on their faces, but this pleading and they never spoke to me, but I felt that they were saying that they wish that their temple work could be done. And they were like, "Please, please, please get our work done for us." And that is something that I've kept with me for 20 years of just remembering that feeling and it's really spurred me on to be able to find these people.   When my oldest was very young, I started doing family search indexing because I had watched my mom do it. And at that time, it wasn't done on computer, it was done where I would have paper copies of documents, and I would transcribe them over to index cards that I would send over to the temple or to the church office building.   And I really enjoyed that aspect of it because I realized that I really enjoyed the data entry part of it. And it was after we started doing indexing on the computer, I realized that touching the keys gave me a lot of good sensory input that really helped calm my mind. Something about autism is people will really like to have sensory input where that sense of touch gives you comfort.   And because of that gift, I was able to do about 90,000 names in indexing because I can type really fast and it feels really comforting to me, and I can do it with a very high rate of accuracy. And I believe that's a superpower that heavenly Father is giving me because now I can help other people find their family members.   In 2002, I went to the Navoo Temple open house with my husband and our young son. And we were going to be staying in the same city that my relatives came from, and I was really excited about that because I could do research, and I dedicated an entire day to be able to go out and do research, but because of our schedule, I ended up with only an hour.   And so we went to a cemetery and I prayed to Heavenly Father to help me to find my family. Even though I had hardly any time, and I went into the office and I found the information that I needed to go out and find their graves, and I found a branch of the family that I only had very minimal information on. And I was really excited that I found... their oldest daughter actually passed away as a child and I had never even seen her name, and I was excited because I was able to record her and submit her for her temple work to be done when I had never even seen her name before, and this was the only way that I would have found her until many years later when those records were available on the internet.   And I really did feel like that was a miracle Heavenly Father had given me. It was at that point that I realized that family history research is really a treasure hunt, and I knew that my unique mind could help me with that. I have an urgent desire to help these ancestors of mine because I'm doing a work that they can't do for themselves. And I really believe that it is helping me build Heavenly friendships and relationships and deep bonds that I struggle to have here on this Earth.   And I like the fact that I can be a savior on Mount Zion and be a hero for them. I like to tell my daughter who's 14 years old now that her autism can be a superpower for her as well. She has an immense love of animals and ecology, and she has an amazing talent with art. And I know that she can go out there and make a difference. And I tell her that. I tell her that she has a unique quality in her mind that she could get out there and maybe think of solutions other people haven't thought of, and that she can help save the world. And I'm just really glad that Heavenly Father gave me this ability because it helps me to help her to make a difference.   KaRyn  9:19  That was Julie.   From the first moment we heard this on our pitch line, one of my favorite things about Julie's story is that as she began to rely on the Lord to tell her who she was, through things like her patriarchal blessing and personal revelation, she could tune out those voices that were telling her that she was awkward and weird, and begin to see her autism as a gift, and a superpower, a superpower that literally helps her to save souls through genealogy, family history, and temple work.   And that's not all. Her autism also helps her to be the coach and the mentor that her daughter needs. I think about that all the time. Wouldn't it be so great if we could all have someone sooner rather than later who tells us that the things that make us feel different might actually be the key to our greatest successes.   And the good news for those of us who are still looking for that reassurance is that it is available to us right now from a loving Heavenly Father. Even if there's nobody here on Earth who wants to tell us that, he really does, and I believe that, and Julie's story helps me to realize that it's never too late to ask and to receive.   Our next story comes from our friend and my fellow producer, Sarah Blake.   Here's Sarah:   Sarah  10:29  Growing up, I lacked confidence in social situations. Somewhere along the way, in my preteen years, I became convinced that I wasn't pretty or fun, no guys would ever like me. And although I was confident in school and the things that I felt like I was good at, I was very unconfident and uncomfortable in standard social situations like parties or dances.   Teenage girls tell themselves a lot of mean things in their heads and I definitely fell into that, and believed in this narrative that I wasn't good at social things, and no boys would ever like me. And so this was how I went into my young adulthood.   I served a mission and then I found myself living in Salt Lake City as a single member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who still believed she was really not good at social stuff, but the greatest desire of my heart was to find love and get married and have a family.   And I began to realize how ill-equipped I was to make that dream come true. One of my survival strategies, actually, pretty much my only trick for getting through social situations was to look around for people who looked more uncomfortable or lonely than me and go be friends with them. I definitely had an identity as a kind person, and so I had the confidence to do that and I still think that's a good thing. I'm glad I learned that skill and that habit, but it did become clear that it wasn't the way to find my people, my match necessarily.   I was living at the time in the Avenues in Salt Lake with a wonderful roommate who was a really good friend who was really pretty, cute, and fun and was really gifted at all the social stuff that I felt kind of inept at. And it would happen all the time that she would get asked on dates and I would be overlooked. And the low point came when I was at a ward mix and mingle, and I look around for someone more lonely and uncomfortable than me, I see this really nerdy guy sitting alone at a table, I go over and sit down and start talking to him, and he barely looks at me, just stares at my roommate and then asks me if I know if she's dating anybody. It was a pretty low blow.   And the next day, I came home from work, I was alone in the house, and I was just pretty bitter and grumpy, and I was saying to myself, like, "How do people even date? How is it even done? Do you have to be like a superhero to date? Because it seems impossible to me." And I had just read a book about the history of comic strips, and so inspired by that and fueled by my bitterness, I started drawing a comic strip called, "The Adventures of Dating Girl."   The plotline was a mild, mannered legal secretary, Mary Shanahan, whose initials were a transposition of mine, was a nice girl, hard worker, smart, funny, spiritual, but just not a dater. And then on Valentine's Day Eve when she's walking home from work, she stops to smell some flowers in front of a florist shop and she is hit by magic cosmic lightning, and there's this huge explosion of roses and her glasses go flying off and when she finally stands up from the pile of sizzling roses, she's been transformed into this mega babe, and her outfit is different. She's wearing boots that say "Dating Girl." And there's a crowd of onlookers, some of them are holding up signs telling her how hot she is now.   That was as far as I ever got with drawing the comic strip, and it was just kind of cathartic and fun that night. A funny thing I thought to do with my bitterness about dating.   But I found I couldn't stop thinking about the story of Dating Girl, and I talked about it with my best friend Megan and it kind of became a hobby of ours to talk about the adventures of dating girl and imagine the continuing storyline. And a couple other friends got into it, and we spent a lot of those dateless nights talking about the mythology of Dating Girl, and the story evolved.   So the rest of the story is Mary Shanahan goes home that night after being struck by lightning and she washes her face and goes straight to bed and she doesn't even look in the mirror or notice that she's become this super babe. And in the next morning, she wakes up and her roommates wake up and discover that they also are kind of magically transformed. And over the next few weeks, they're like, "Something's different. We're kind of looking better," but also they felt like they had some new wisdom or skill in social situations and dating, understanding that they hadn't had before.   As they're trying to figure that out, they find themselves magically transported to this location where they meet a woman, Magda, who becomes their mentor. And Magda tells them that she used to be Dating Girl, but she has since retired and moved on. And there has always been a "dating girl" and there always has to be a "dating girl." And when Magda retired, the new "Dating Girl" had to be risen up and that's why the universe chose Mary Shanahan to be struck by lightning to become the new dating girl. And every dating girl has her sidekicks who are also dating girls, and they all have this power to bring balance to the force I guess or to improve healthiness and wisdom and goodness in dating.   And dating girl also learns that she has power to look out over the Salt Lake Valley and little like heart flares go up and she can tell where she's needed and she can go there and also she can fly, but that's like nothing compared to the power of love that defines her now.   So we came up with a bunch of plot lines for the dating girls. The most significant story arc of which was the rise of her arch nemesis, Matthew Nan, the natural man, who was a very cool, accomplished, smart guy who moved into her their ward who was a natural leader and who should have been an influence for good, but instead used his power for evil to encourage people to be lame in dating, to not try hard, to not take risks, to not think the best of others, to be selfish and insecure. He was just a bad dude and they were constantly trying to thwart him.   So, time went on, and the really interesting thing was that the story began to change all of us. It certainly began to change me. We had a lot of conversations about what exactly is Dating Girl's power? What is the superpower in dating? And I was very insistent that her power was not going on dates, that was stupid, and her power was also not being hot, because that's not a superpower that was just like a random side effect of being struck by magic, cosmic lightning.   But the power that she had was the power that she already had in her that was magnified by becoming a superhero. And the power was Christlike charity or love, to apply that to dating. Thinking about what that meant was really healthy for me to think, "What does that mean for the way you treat the person you're dating or the people you're flirting with or the people you want to know better? How do you Treat yourself, and how do you wish the best and work for the best for both parties in a relationship?"   And out of that came for me what was wisdom and self awareness about the ways that I was kind of competitive with other women and I was embracing my insecurities rather than my strengths. And I was letting bitterness lead me rather than hope, and that I was also really hard on guys.   I realized that if I tried to see my dating scene with Dating Girl's magic supervision, it made me see people more as I think Christ would see them, more for their potential and their hopes, and less their weaknesses and their failings. It made me see that we're all very scared and vulnerable in the scary world of dating and that we all needed people to be kind.   It was interesting to see that I had really gone through a time of thinking my strategy of finding people who are lonelier than me and reaching out to them was a weakness. But in fact, that was part of my strength that I did want to be kind when I dated, but I could also do it with more confidence.   The way the dating girl mythology affected my friends was also interesting. As my friends chose a "dating girl" alter ego, their superpower was something that they themselves thought was a weakness but became a strength.   And I think just the act of sitting around and talking about this, imagining these superhero plotlines, for each of us helped us organically move on to being the daters we had always wanted to be. We thought we were being super nerdy. I mean, we were talking about imaginary superheroes and comic strips but it actually was making us more competent daters, more gifted socializers, and it really made a difference in our lives.   After a while, I found that before I was going to a party or something that had me kind of nervous, I would literally psych myself up by saying, "You can do this. You're Dating Girl. Nobody knows it. Nobody has to know it, but you know it inside and you can do this." Sometimes in dating, I would literally say, "W-W-D-G-D. What would dating girl do?" And I would sometimes make lists of the ways that I thought Dating Girl would handle a certain dating situation, and then realize that that was who I was now, and I could do it.   It gave me so much confidence and comfort with myself, and I think because her superpower was based in something that was a part of me that I'd seen as a weakness, ut through the power of charity was turned into a strength, it stuck and it became a part of who I am.   I think it's so true in life in general. Whatever we believe about ourselves can become true. I'm happy to say that all of the "dating girls" that generation of Dating Girls got married, found love, got married. We all have kids now. And there's a funny ending to the story.   My husband and I run our own business and a lot of our employees have ended up being singleyoung adult members of our church. And I was talking to one of these girls in our home one night after work, she was telling me about her dating woes, and I started telling her the story of Dating Girl and she was really into it, and she's starting to imagine her own dating alter ego.   When suddenly there's this huge flash of lightning and a huge clap of thunder like right on top of the house, the lights go out and everything, and then they come back on and we just looked at each other like, "What just happened?" And we realized a new dating girl has been risen up. I just retired and I'm Magda now and she's the new Dating Girl and the generation continues. Dating Girl lives. She always lives.   KaRyn  22:05  That was Sarah. I never get tired of hearing her stories. And I'm also always surprised by the inventiveness of her imagination. And great news, the original Gating Girl comic still exists, and we'll have it in our show notes, so you can take inspiration as you try to find your own inner superhero.   There are a few things worth taking from Sarah's story about how we seek to understand our weakness and our strengths. I think it's really easy to compare ourselves to others, like Sarah did, or assume that all hero stuff happens to other people and not us. But I think something special happens when we open ourselves up to the possibility that we can become the hero of our own narrative.   We find that our capacity is magnified through Christ, and consequently our capacity to see others in their full heroic glory is also magnified. We begin to realize that there can never be too many superheroes and that our work is blessed by the existence of everyone conquering the natural man together. That kind of unity is what it's all about.   Our final story today comes from Kurt, who describes the experience of growing into a new calling as he accesses the only true superpower, the power of God upon the Earth, the priesthood.   Julie  23:17  Here's Kurt:   Kurt  23:19  It's Sunday, February 6th, 2011, and I've been Bishop for one hour.   I'm sitting in the bishop's office, I guess it's my office, but it sure doesn't feel like that, even though the plaque says that outside the door. I noticed the candy dish that I guess I now preside over, the strange carpet wallpaper, and various pictures that hang in the room, the First Presidency, Christ, and a random temple. And I guess I really am the bishop.   My Ward clerk comes into the office with a stack of papers, "Bishop Francom, I just need you to sign here, there, and one more here. Thank you." I noticed as he leaves the room, that he is going through a group of people outside the office. All these people suddenly look into the office hoping that it's their turn to now see the bishop. Because some for some reason, they think I have the solution to all of their problems.   Do they really understand who they're dealing with? I mean, I'm a 28 year old that was called to be bishop in an inner city ward, not because I'm anything special, but because the list of options was incredibly short. But nonetheless, the responsibility is on me to answer their questions.   It just doesn't sit well yet. I don't feel like a bishop though I am standing there in a suit. It feels like dress up. And believe me, I know a thing or two about dress up. As a five year old. I'm sitting there in front of the TV day after day watching a man I later find out is really named Christopher Reeves flying around on the TV screen, saving people from falling buildings, landing a helicopter that's on fire, and it was remarkable.   This being, this Superman was something to aspire to. I mean, the suit, the cape, I mean the strength that he exemplified. I thought, "I got to be that. I've got to be a superhero." My mother gave me a remarkable home sewn Superman cape, and every day I represented being that superhero and represented becoming that dream by wearing that Superman cape.   And sometimes, sure, my mom needed to go to the grocery store or run some errands. But I protested and said, "I will not leave this house unless this Superman cape goes underneath my clothes because crime could break out at any moment, and I must be ready so that I could become a great superhero." But now as Bishop Francom, that memory, that feeling of being a superhero seems so distant.   I've survived one full year as a bishop somehow because now I'm standing in the clerk's office with the ward clerk. He's busy at the computer printing off checks, one after the other, after the other. This has been such a heavy welfare month. I mean so many requests from so many people. Some I know, some I don't, and everybody turns to me as the bishop to make the decision. "Will I pay the rent? Will I pay the water bill? Will I pay the utilities?" As these envelopes are being in the stack in my hand all stuffed with these checks, going to landlords, going to banks, going to utility companies.   They remind me of another envelope I receive quite often. From Alice Wilkins. Every Sunday she shows up to church, big smile with their bright red lipstick. She's 92 years old and couldn't be a happier person, hands me the envelope every week trusting me that I will use these fast offering funds for the family most in need that needs these funds.   But I don't know, as I stand there, holding the stack of envelopes, it just gets heavier and heavier. I mean, these are sacred funds. These are Alice's funds that she has sacrificed. She skipped meals so that she could contribute. And now it's up to me to figure out how to use these funds? Maybe there's more I could do. Maybe I should think this through before I really place these in the mailbox.   Because what if I'm making a mistake? Maybe I've spent too much money. I've definitely spent way more than the ward's brought in. And should I sign the next check? I mean, I don't know. I don't really know that guy. And so maybe I should look more into it. What if I have disgraced these funds that have been given to me to use through the authority I've been given. Again, the pile of these checks gets higher and higher and higher. And I don't know if I'm being a good bishop.   The weight of this responsibility presses down on my shoulders, and I don't know if I want to do it anymore. I'm so frustrated with it all of the pressure of making the right decision, that I'm tired.   And in the moment, where I'm frustrated, I begin to utter the words under my breath, "I hate this." I couldn't complete that sentence before the spirit rebuked me in my mind with one simple phrase.   "I thought you wanted to be a superhero."   It was in that moment that I realize that capes don't exist or make men fly, but authority exists. Opportunities of service exist. There were so many families in dire need of help. In the sense I was wearing the cape, that could answer their prayers wth one quick, "Yes, cut the check." Suddenly, that stack of envelopes didn't seem so heavy.   Four more years followed of me being bishop, and throughout those years, there were so many decisions that weighed on my mind, so many circumstances, so many situations that were impossible before me, that took me to my knees to make the right decision and to give the right guidance and advice.   And I didn't always give the best advice, and I made a lot of mistakes, but I always went back to those words, "I thought you will wanted to be a superhero," because then I was reminded that I was doing a good work and that I was helping people, even with all my weaknesses.   The authority in which I was acting under as a bishop, the authority of Jesus Christ, the Priesthood of God, the keys that have been restored to Earth that make it all possible to reach out and use his authority as the greatest superhero of all time, where redemption is found, where infinite grace is in abundance. He is the superhero. We can turn to him in the moments when we have to stand in his place and act like the superhero, and he will strengthen us because he is our Savior.   KaRyn  30:53  That was Kurt Francom.   You may recognize his voice as the creator and host of the Leading Saints podcast. Kurt's work is focused on building the leadership capabilities of Church members around the world. So it's great to hear his personal story of feeling inadequate and then finding a way to grow into a leadership role.   I'm sure he's not the only overwhelmed disciple to mutter under his breath, "I hate this," and I'm also sure he's not the only person to discover that there is divine instruction, and divine power in the mantle of his calling to help him move beyond that place. We all have access to that superpower here on this Earth as covenant making and covenant keeping people of Christ.   So here's a confession. I probably wouldn't ever go see a superhero movie of my own volition, if it weren't for my comic book loving 16 year old stepson. I can barely keep track of all the franchises and the zillions of characters with backstories. My feeble brain cannot retain it all. And I'm a little bit partial to romantic comedies, but I will also admit that I regularly find myself weeping into my popcorn and Diet Coke at those same movies because they speak to a universal truth about weakness and strength.   In almost every movie, while the battles rage, the good guys are faced with impossible odds, their weakness is exposed, their strengths are many, but they're still never quite enough. They are always up against impossible odds.   And I feel that. I really, really feel it. Aren't we up against some really impossible odds? Aren't we staring down the cresting enemy with our battered and bruised armor and exhausted resources? Every day, aren't you and I praying and praying and praying that somehow our weakness, our insufficient faith, our fear will be replaced with power and strength and fortification from something bigger than us all.   And in the movies, that help comes often in the form of a magically activated forcefield, or the discovery of a new superpower they never knew they had, or perfectly timed dimensional leap from a long missing friend. Well in real life we don't get X-ray vision or super strength, or my personal favorite superpower, the ability to do 40 things all at the same time on deadline.   But there is in fact a real force in the universe that can transform us weaklings and weirdoes into truly spectacular beings. It's that transformative power that the Savior comforted the Prophet Moroni with in Ether chapter 12, verse 27, when he said, "...I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."   Moroni charged with bringing the Word of God to you and me in these latter days with enough power that we would be convinced to stay faithful. He was convinced that his weakness was going to ruin everything, that he wouldn't be able to accomplish the task place before him.   The odds were against him, but the Lord wanted him to see in that moment that his weakness, his humility would be made his strength through grace. And I think that's what comes through in each of the stories we've heard today, evidence of the Savior's miraculous power to change us, to show us the double-edged sword of our weakness turned to strength, through his grace, his enabling power.   It reminds me of this quote that I love from President Ezra Taft Benson, where he taught, quote, "Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He can deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their mind, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, and pour out peace," end quote.   If that's not superhero stuff right there, then I don't know what it is. At the end of the day, we can feel assured that God wants and needs all of us, our whole selves, including whatever we think is unacceptable or failure -- our overwhelm, our lack of follow through, our social awkwardness, our inability to withstand that one temptation.   What we learn from these stories, from the scriptures, from that President Benson quote, is that if we offer our hearts in humility, he will help us to see our weakness clearly, which isn't always pleasant, but it's necessary, and in turn, he'll offer a hope that is stronger than any superpower we can imagine.   That's it for this episode of This is the Gospel. Thank you to Julie, Sarah, and Kurt for sharing their stories and their faith. We'll have pictures of our storytellers including Sarah's dating girl comic and a transcript of this episode in our show notes at   And if you aren't already following us on social media, there's way more good stuff throughout the week. Find us on Instagram and Facebook at "ThisistheGospel_Podcast."   Thank you so much for sharing the stories that means something to you with your friends and your family. We love to hear all the ways that this type of storytelling strengthens your faith in God and love for his children. If you have just a minute to leave us a review and a rating wherever you listen to this podcast, that's another way that you can share the good stuff. Every review helps us to show up in the search for more people.   All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as afirmed by our storytellers. If you have a story to share about living the Gospel, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. We often find many of our stories like Julie's from the pitch line, and we love to hear how the gospel has blessed your life. Call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less.   This episode was produced by Sarah Blake with additional story producing and editing by Jasmine Mullen, Katie Lambert, Ashley Porter, and Casey Blake. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by Mix at Six Studios And our Executive Producer is Erin Hallstrom.   You can find past episodes, we have 50 of them now of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts, at Have a great week.     Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Mar 09, 2020
Sacred Ground
Stories in this episode: As a missionary in Chile, Brad Wilcox struggles to find the answers to his gospel questions until a transfer leads him to the light and hope he is looking for; Cody finds the spark of her testimony in a barren patch of desert after she prays for the impossible; An empty Primary room becomes sacred ground for Dave as he seeks to come back to the gospel he once knew. SHOW NOTES This episode is sponsored by the Deseret Book FIRST LIGHT Concert Event. To see pictures and links to this week's episode, click here. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT KaRyn  0:04   Welcome to This is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.   Okay, pop quiz time. When you hear today's theme -- sacred ground -- what are the first words that pop into your head? I'll give you just a minute to think about it.  And... now I'll tell you that I conducted a highly scientific study, highly scientific study, around the LDS Living offices, and here are just a few of the words and phrases that came to mind for some of my friends: "trees, light, field, holy place, sacred grove, Joseph Smith, and temple grounds."  Maybe some of those were the same things that you thought of and maybe you thought of something totally different. I for one thought of the words "Native American" because of the beautiful spiritual tradition that culture has around burial spaces. But it was interesting to me that so many of the words that my friends thought of were related to the first vision, "grove, trees, light, Joseph Smith."  It is true that our whole team has been knee deep in participating in President Nelson's invitation to really celebrate the 200th anniversary of that miraculous event. But I kind of think that even if that weren't the truth, we'd still make all of those associations. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we have this unique privilege of having a modern origin story that includes a seminal, transformative, divine event happening in a decidedly ordinary place.  I've been to the grove, and I come from Pennsylvania, the land of groves, it's trees, and grass, a little clearing, and now there's even a well worn footpath in and out of the forest. What makes it special is not the location in and of itself, but what happened there has transformed those trees and that grass into something special and dedicated, set apart, holy. The appearance of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith turned an absolutely ordinary grove of trees into a sacred grove. And we who believe, get to celebrate that event and honor that place. It's so cool.  Well, in today's episode, we have three stories of holy experiences that could have happened anywhere, but they didn't. And how those places became sacred ground for the people who tread there are stories we're excited to share.  Our first story comes from Brad, whose "sacred ground" moment came during a particularly difficult time as a missionary in Chile. Now listen, I know we normally start with just first names, but the voice of Brad Wilcox is so recognizable that it wouldn't be fair to you not to just tell you it's Brad Wilcox. Otherwise you'd spend the whole time wondering, "Is that Brad Wilcox?" We're not monsters.  So, here's Brad Wilcox. Brad  3:06   In Chile, there's a beautiful city that's on the coast and it's called La Serena, which means the "serene." For me, it will always be a sacred grove. It will be a place where I came to know God.  When I was a young man and I received my call to Chile, I was excited to go and share my testimony of the gospel, and it's not that I didn't have a testimony. I mean, I wasn't going on a mission without a testimony, but really quickly, I realized that my testimony was not as personal and not as deep as it needed to be.  Oh, I'd grown up in the church, had a wonderful family, and I had wonderful church experiences and wonderful church leaders, but when I confronted the difficulties of a mission, when I realized that learning Spanish was not going to be a piece of cake, and when I got to Chile, and I found out that the culture was so different, I just realized that this was hard.  I was sent to a little town up in the north of Chile called via na, and my companion and I were the only missionaries there, and it was hard. It was hot. Oh my gosh, you're out there working in the hot sun. I mean, this is in the north of Chile, which is desert. And I just thought while I was out there one day, and somebody had rejected us, and I just thought, "Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this?" When you grow up in the church and you have seminary teachers that tell you, "You must go share the gospel because there are people out there wanting this message."  Oh, I got out there and found out that nobody wanted my message. And that was kind of a, I guess you kind of think that somewhere out there, there's somebody who's just, you know, reading the Bible and just praying for missionaries to show up. And then you find out that they're all just busy getting along with their lives, and they didn't want to take time to talk to a couple of North Americans who couldn't even speak Spanish very well.  And I think I just missed home. I was missing my family. I was missing my friends. I was missing the involvement that my life had had before. Suddenly, I was focused on one little thing and it was hard because nobody cared about it. And I think that's when I said, "Wait, why am I here? Why am I doing this? Why don't I just go home?" But I knew the answer. God needed me. God wanted me. God called me. And I was there.  But then I thought, Well, where's God? It's not that I had all these overwhelming doubts, but it's just that my testimony had not deepened to a point where I knew for myself. So when I was there, and it got difficult, I really said, "Where's God?" And that thought shook me. It really shook me.  And so I think my companion noticed because when we went back to the apartment for lunch, he said, "What's the matter with you?" And I said, "I think I lost my testimony today." And he started to laugh. He's like, "Hahaha. Wilcox, you're so funny. You always just crack me up. Now go wash so we can eat."  So I'm in the bathroom, washing my hands, and I'm thinking, "Man, this is not good," you know, "This is not good. I need an angel. That's all there is to it. I need to see an angel. Joseph Smith saw one and he was younger than me. So I need an angel." And so I got through the rest of the day, and then that night I got up on the top bunk, I always chose the top bunk. One, because it was a little closer to heaven, and two, it was a little farther from the fleas. But there I was, and I knelt down in my top bunk and with all the faith that I could muster, I said, "God, are you there?" And suddenly, my room was filled with light, and then the car passed. Joseph Smith gets a vision, Brad gets headlights. That's what I got. A car passing, and then I was really disappointed because you know I'd finally prayed with faith, really prayed sincerely, and that was the answer that I got? And I felt kind of ripped off because, you know, we've been teaching people that if you read, if you study, if you pray, then you can know the truth. Well, here I was asking, and I felt like my prayer wasn't being answered.  But that was a wake up call for me. Because as I laid there, I thought, "Have I really read as much as I should have? And have I really pondered as much as I should have? Have I prayed beyond the "Thank thee for everything, please bless everybody prayers," that I had given my whole life. And so that was a turning point for me. And the next morning I woke up with such a desire to read. I read the Book of Mormon, I read the Doctrine and Covenants, I read the pearl of great price, I read the miracle of forgiveness, I read a marvelous work and a wonder. I mean, I just read, and suddenly, I just could not get enough as I read and as I pondered. Now, we had a zone conference. And our mission president came and he did interviews and I was a young missionary in the mission. You know, I hadn't been there all that long. And so I was still, you know, really worried about making a good impression on my mission president.  So he did the interview and he said, "How are you elder?"  I said, "Fine. President."  He said, "How's your companion?"  I said, "Fine. President."  "How's your area? How are your investigators?"  "Fine, president."  He says, you know about seven questions and seven "fine, presidents" later. I stood up to leave and then he said something that he'd never said before. He said, "Elder Wilcox, do you have any questions?"  Woah, questions. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I just had a million questions. I mean, let's start with, "Is there a god? Does he even exist?"  I just looked at him and I said, "Me, questions? Oh, no president. You know, I've never even had a cavity. I don't have any questions." A little while after that I got transferred to another area. And I packed my books, I packed my clothes, I packed you know, everything, but I didn't have room for doubts. But inside I packed those also. I just hadn't felt like I had an answer as clearly as I wanted the answer. I realized that I wasn't doing what I needed to do to be able to deserve an answer that I was asking for. I think sometimes until you have a doubt or a question, you don't feel a motivation to learn. I think the questions, the doubts, the unanswered prayer, motivated me to dig deeper. For me, it was like, "Okay, it's time to buckle down. It's time to take this seriously. It's time to do what you know you're supposed to do to get what you want to get." So I dove in. In the new area where I was transferred, my companion and I worked harder than ever. I mean, we just loved that little branch. This was in the town of La Serena, the one I mentioned at the beginning, and we loved our little branch, we loved the people in the branch, we loved the people we were teaching, we worked harder than I'd ever worked on my mission.  We loved with a more genuine love than I'd ever loved before. We served with such a complete selflessness. And yet still, the answers, I mean, I felt good, I knew that I was happier. But the answers that I really wanted were eluding me. And then I got another interview. So there I was, in La Serena, and we met with a mission president.  He said, "How are you Elder?"  And I said, "Fine."  And he said, "How's your companion? How's your area?"  I said, "Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine." And then, as I was leaving the interview, again, he asked me, "Elder Wilcox, do you have any questions?" And I don't know, maybe I'd just been working hard enough and long enough that I didn't care anymore about the fact that he was the mission president. I needed answers.  And I said, "President, is there a god?" And he said, "Yes." That was it. No quotes from the brethren, no scriptures, no judgmental looks. Just one word -- "Yes." And I said, "President, does he know me?" "With all of his numberless children, on all of his numberless worlds, does he know me?" And President Day said, "Brad Wilcox. He knows you by your first name." And then I said, "President, does he love me?" "Me even with all the stupid things I've done and all the dumb mistakes I've made." "Does he love me?" And he said, "Yes." And that was it. The spirit just washed over me confirming the truthfulness of my mission president's words. Suddenly, that answer was so clear and so personal. Suddenly, I knew for myself, the Spirit spoke to my spirit that became such an anchor for my soul, and such a foundation for my testimony. And I thought, "Why didn't you just answer me? Months earlier, why didn't he just answer me the first time I crawled up on my top bunk and prayed, "Are you there?" Why didn't he just answer me then?" But then I thought, "If he had answered me then, would I have studied as hard as I had studied? Would I have read with the ravenous desire that I read? Would I have pondered as deeply as I pondered? Would I have talked to mission companions about the gospel? Or would I have just kept shooting the breeze and wasting time?" I mean, "Would I have served as sincerely as I served?" And I realized that I wouldn't have. If God had still been holding me above the water, I never would have learned to swim. And it's when he finally let my head dip below the water, which scared me. That's what finally motivated me to search and to do what I've been instructed to do. And so even now sometimes when I might wonder, I go back to that moment. And that's why Chile is sacred ground for me. That's why that little town of La Serena is a sacred to me as the sacred grove is to Joseph Smith. That is the place where my testimony deepened to the point that I knew, and I knew that God knew and I could not deny it. KaRyn  17:15   That was author and teacher Brad Wilcox. I love that Chile became a sacred place for him because of both the depth of his struggle and the brilliance of light that he found there.  It reminds me of Joseph Smith's description of that thick darkness that gathered around him in the grove that was trying to convince him that he was doomed to destruction. And then, of course, my favorite part to share when I was a missionary, that welcome moment of illumination when a pillar of light above the brightness of the Sun descended gradually upon him. It seems to me that often our sacred ground is defined by moments that are symbolic of the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Darkness turned to light, death turned to everlasting life, despair turned to hope.  And it doesn't surprise me that my friend Brad is the teller of such a story. He has spent his entire writing career trying to help us understand the atonement, grace, and mercy of our Savior, that he so acutely felt on that sacred ground. And we're all just a little bit better because of it.  Our next story comes from Cody, who allowed a wet, cold, barren patch of desert to be transformed into a place where the fire of her testimony could burn brightly.  Here's Cody. Cody  18:34   I was 15 years old, this is in 1989, and I had a big tennis tournament that I was supposed to be competing in that day. And my family, extended family all showed up to come and cheer me on, but I didn't. I had gotten high with some friends earlier in the day and kind of lost track of time and just really was oblivious to any of my responsibilities.  When evening came, I went home and I remember thinking it was very strange because I had extended family that was there and my mom had laid out dinner on the table. And we were all about ready to sit down for a family dinner, which didn't happen in the middle of the week very often for us. And when we sat down to eat, a knock came at the door.  When it was open, two large men came in, and I was told that I was going to be just living in the wilderness for an untold number of days. And it was a wilderness survival program meant for troubled youth.  At an early age, about 12, I was introduced to recreational drugs, drinking, smoking, and I associated with people that were a lot older than I was, and so I just was surrounded by a lot of influences that affected me at such a young age.  On the surface, I think people probably looked at me as somebody that was a good girl. I grew up in a home that was a pretty normal home as a good family, my parents, you know, members of the church, I was baptized. But I wasn't in a place where I had my own strong testimony. I was a competitive athlete, I was doing well in that, but you know after time, the more and more you get involved in these kinds of things, the more you go down a kind of downward spiral. And by the time I was 15, that was when my parents started recognizing that there was a serious problem that was going on. I think they realized that they needed to do something drastic. So when I first arrived on the top of Boulder mountain, all I saw was just a bunch of pinyon pines and rocks and recognized the vastness that surrounded me. It was just lots of sky, lots of wilderness, and the men that ran this program, were ex Navy SEALs. And so their tactics were to be as frightening as possible. They yelled, they didn't talk, they yelled, they yelled at you.  They gave me these clothes that had been sent down, you know, by my mom, my mom had gathered ahead of time. They said that that's what I needed to wear, but that was all that I was going to possess, that later they would give me a knife, and they would give me an army poncho. Those were the only two items that we had in our possession. I was put into a group. There were some other kids that are my age, so anywhere between 12 to 18 that had been there already for about a week.  I was very frightened. And I just remember feeling like even though there are people there, I'm so alone. I was there for four months. So I went there the beginning of August and came home the day before Thanksgiving in November. During the first couple of weeks that we were there, we had actually a Native American guide that would teach us how to recognize edible plants, and how to find water, and how to build fire, and how to create shelter and things like that. And that's what we used our knife for. We used this kitchen knife to be able to cut down the types of woods that we needed in order to make a fire making kit.  And we learned how to make rope out of yakka fibers or sage bark and things like that so that we could make these bows or traps and things like that. You literally were stripped of every comfort, everything. It was just a rough like I just was angry. I didn't like anyone that was there. I was not going to go about this easy. I was full of pride, you know, full of that, like teenage angst you know, that you would think of?  I was breaking inside, but I wasn't going to show them that I was breaking. I was just going to try to like seem tough. I was so mad at my parents. I never really wanted to see them again. My plan was to never ever go home again. You know, I don't know how I would've worked that out. But that's how I felt at the time. I felt betrayed, I felt more and more determined to not have a relationship with my parents and to just get as far away from them as possible.  So one of the things that we were given an opportunity to do twice during the time that I was there is we had what they call solos. Basically what that means is that instead of being with the group of kids, that they would go, and they would give you an area, like a parameter of like about a mile, maybe a square mile of where you could stay, but you weren't supposed to go past and you were completely alone.  The first solo was for five days. So during that five days, we were supposed to just completely fend for ourselves completely survive on our own. We're supposed to find our own water sources. We're supposed to find our own food, our own shelter, and just have complete, alone time. And then we had an eight-day solo.  During the eight-day solo, they took me to a place that was... it's called Harris Wash and it's kind of a slot canyon in a way, little bit bigger than slot canyon, it's in an area that's very remote, but it's along the Escalante river, and it was raining the day that I started the solo. And so all of the wood was wet, the sand was wet, I was soaking wet. And I just kept getting rained on and rained on with really no way to kind of keep myself dry or warm. And so I was not able to boil any water, I just had to drink the water that was in Escalante river just knowing that it was probably going to make me sick.  I had trapped some mice but I had no way to cook them because I couldn't make the fire. Luckily, you know, being right near the water, I was able to eat bulrush which is just a kind of water weed that grows along the banks of the river, and I would just suck on juniper berries and things like that and anything that I could really just fine, but it wasn't really enough.  It broke me, it broke me.  I felt totally and utterly, like hopeless and in despair and just felt like everything, every attempt that I was trying to make on my own, wasn't working out. That's when I realized that I really can't do this on my own, that I am in need of some other help. I remember having the thought that, "Is there really a god? And if so, why is he allowing me to be like this? He knows that I'm in this situation. He knows that I'm desperate. But yet, where is he?" All of a sudden, like I started kind of having this song that came to me, "I'm a child of God," and the lyrics came to me and I hadn't sung it since I had been in primary as a I don't know, eight or nine year old, but I just started singing it out loud and kind of paying attention to the words and the words you know, I'm a child of God, and the words about you know, "sent me here, loving parents."  I mean, there was all these things that just were kind of flooding me with like a really strong desire to really hope that this was true. My dad's a convert to the church. And I remembered stories about him telling me about some of his first prayers, and that when he had, you know, been asking if there was a God, or if the Book of Mormon was true, that he would kneel and pray and some of the experiences that he had had with that, and the story of Joseph Smith going to the sacred grove that came to my mind, and I kind of almost felt like I was in a similar situation here, just in the middle of this wilderness.  So I kneeled down and I prayed. I remember just praying in a way, like not in a formal way, but almost as if I was just talking to somebody that was right there in my presence. And I just remember having this overwhelming feeling at the time when I finished the prayer that not only is God real, but he's there with me, and that he knows me, and that he loves me because those were the things that I was really desperate to know. I wanted to know if he existed, I wanted to know if he knew who I was, you know, in this huge, giant world, you know, why would he know me? And does he know the situation I'm in, does he care?  And I just remember having this overwhelming comfort and peace that came over me. I was freezing cold, it was rainy, I was wet, but I was warm. And I just remember feeling loved. I felt embraced. I just remember, you know, praying that I could somehow be able to create a fire. And so when I finished the prayer, I went to my fire starting kit, but where everything was wet, it was impossible. There really was no reason that I should have ever been able to make a fire for days because it was that wet.  But I know that because of the prayer that I gave, now it didn't just happen like I instantly you know made a fire, but pretty quickly, quicker than it should have been for sure, I was able to make that fire. So for the remaining days, I was able to keep this fire burning and be able to use it to not only heat myself, but be able to eat and be able to boil water, and just to bring me comfort. That fire was the most precious thing that I had.  And you know, honestly, I have thought about that fire and how kind of it was a representation of what was going on in that moment where I just needed to have that little prayer that was kind of like that little coal or that little spark that I could not find. And then I finally found it and then I was able to spend time tending to it and helping it to grow and helping it to last.  After the eight days, the group of kids they started becoming gathered by the leaders, and they would kind of hike through and gather each one of us and we would join back up with the group and I was out in the wilderness for another, probably another month, we still continued our day to day hiking, but my experience during those hikes completely changed, where I used to be somebody, I'm a pretty talkative person so I would be like talking with the other kids, I would be, you know, giving other people hard time or whatever, I'd like to joke and do things like that, but instead, I became very quiet and kind of reflective. And what I was doing was praying, I was praying twenty-four seven.  And so during that time, that's when I really felt like, my relationship really grew with our Father in Heaven. I recognized that he's not just this like distant being that just, you know, every once in a while, throws down a miracle. You know, it was he's there, he knows me, and he loves me. And he, he wants to just hear all of the random thoughts that I had in my head. He could understand and he would give me a little signs here and there that, "Yep, he was listening and he understood what I was feeling," and there would be little miracles that would happen all of the time where we would find water. I mean, I mean, that's, that sounds like it's not a miracle, but it's hard to explain, you know, when you're in that situation, but I would have a need, it would come, the solution would be presented. And so last month, being there really, really prepared me to be able to go home. So the last day that you're there, they set up what they call a run in. And basically the leaders will take you to this road, and they will say your family is waiting for you down a mile or two. Just keep going.  I remember. I didn't stop running. I just ran with all the strength that I had because I knew I was going to see my family again and I saw my mom and my dad, and I just ran into their arms. I loved them. I wanted to be with them. I had no anger towards them. I had just complete, unconditional love, and appreciation for them.  I had every desire to do what was right. I have often thought about that day and thought about how it symbolizes so much about that same feeling that I felt, I think will happen when it's time for us to go home to see our heavenly parents like that was just something that just really represented that same thing to me. We stayed in a little hotel in Escalon, Utah called the Circle De motel and I was able to take a shower and I took like a two hour shower. And I just kept looking down at the floor to see when it would finally be clear. I was just covered in soot and dirt, and we didn't bathe, we didn't brush our teeth, we didn't do anything like that for four months. And so you can only imagine, but I'm sure I smelled amazing when I hugged my parents. I'm sure they were trying to not gag.  I don't know. I just remember just having all of these little things that we totally take for granted now. That as a 15 year old, I all of a sudden recognized, like how blessed, how lucky we are.  That experience of that prayer and not just total without a doubt answer, that has stayed with me for the last 30 years. But at that time, it didn't immediately, like make me think that the Church was true. It was the foundation, but a lot of times I still didn't go to church, I would go out to the wilderness, I'd go up into the mountains. It wasn't until like a year later that I ended up actually reading the Book of Mormon for the first time and reading it pretty quickly and having a you know, saying a prayer, wondering if this is also true, and just having that confirmation that it's true, then at that point, it was like there's no turning back now. I just wanted to read my scriptures all the time and listen to Janice Kapp Perry, like that's just who I wanted to be, which was so different than what I was before all of this happened.  There has been a lot of criticism about the particular program that I was in. And I know my parents received a lot of criticism from others that thought it was too harsh of a program. I know that this program was eventually shut down by the state. There were a lot of things that happened while we were there. That shouldn't have happened. But I wouldn't be the person that I am. I really, I think back on anytime, actually, any trial that comes my way, that's where my mind goes, is back to that four months that I was out there.  I think that when we think of the sacred places in our lives, that it doesn't always have to be a physical place, a location. A lot of times it can be the times in our life, the place in our life that made the biggest difference that put us on the road that we were meant to be on. KaRyn  33:58   That was Cody. Now before anyone starts to think that sending your teenager into the wild with a bunch of Navy SEALs and no toothbrush is the answer to all of your parenting struggles, we want to make sure you know that we are in no way endorsing intense survivalist programs for youth like the one Cody described from 1989.  The fact that she was able to make something beautiful out of something that could have been deeply traumatic is a testament to her resilience. But we believe that God can work those same kinds of miracles without adding unnecessary trauma.  What I love about Cody's story is the reminder that the ground we are currently sitting on may seem anything but sacred. It may be wet and inhospitable, unable to receive even a spark of warmth, but our Father in heaven has the power, the ability, and the will to transform everything we think is impossible into possibility.  Our final story from Dave makes the case for the everyday sacred ground we might take for granted in our discipleship -- the Chapel. Here's Dave. Dave  35:05   I was not at a place in my life that I ever thought I'd be at. I was about 26/27 years old living in Las Vegas. No license. I had pending charges for at that time my third DUI. I tried lots of different methods to get sober. I feel like I read 10 different self help books from Dr. Phil to Joel Osteen. And I even had spent time in a inpatient rehabilitation center for three months. I even had a sponsor through AA who had 10 years of sobriety who was trying really hard to help me, and none of that was working.  So it all started, I was off my mission about two months, I had never tried alcohol, never tried any drugs. Couldn't even spell the word marijuana probably. And so I found myself on Super Bowl Sunday with my friend that I had known since high school, and that's when I tried alcohol for the first time.  I love the effect of what the drink did for me. It took away the really I think, as I think back on it, and what alcohol did for me is it took away the feeling of shame, and not measuring up and feeling guilty and feeling like I wasn't worthy of God's love. And when I would drink alcohol, all that went away and I could live in the moment.  When I would drink during the week, I would feel like a fake when I was at church because I almost felt like there was a price of admission to get into church, and I snuck in the back of the line. For me to go into church that meant I had to be doing x, y, &, z, to even walk through the doors. And since I hadn't been doing those things, it was like I was there without a ticket. That's what it felt like. I would miss maybe one week and then it's a little easier to miss the next week and long before it is sort of a gradual like falling away, up until where I just was so tuned out to spiritual matters and it just didn't matter to me.  I mean, I remember one time when I was trying to come back to church and it was a sacrament meeting and as soon as that hymn started, this desire to drink, and I think it was just because I didn't feel worthy to be at church that day. And it was that feeling of everyone around me is judging me, I don't belong here, I'm the outcast.  And I remember leaving sacrament meeting in the middle of the opening hymn and going straight to the 7-11 buying a six pack and I was like, as soon as I got out the door of the 7-11 I remember cracking open the can and started to guzzle it and it was just like get rid of these feelings because I don't want to feel this way. And alcohol is very effective at making it so I didn't feel that way.  I thought I was you know, at my rock bottom at that point, and little did I know how much worse it was going to get from then on.  I went into Mexico with one of my friends and brought back prescriptions because you didn't need to see a doctor to buy things. So we were basically like, like mules going into Mexico and bringing some pills back with us. And we stopped to drink right before we got out of the border. And he ended up getting a DUI and I was with him in the car and so next thing I knew I was in downtown San Diego jail.  I probably hadn't prayed in two years, and I was so disconnected from spiritual matters, but at that point, I remember a prayer to Heavenly Father where I just said, "Please help get me out of this jail cell and I promise I will not drink again." And I managed at the time, I feel like I was genuinely... my desire was to stop because I didn't want to keep finding myself in these situations that I thought I never would find myself in, like a jail cell for example, where your freedom is gone, and I remember feeling like a monkey in a cage. And it was just, it was the worst place I'd ever been in my life. And so the idea was, "If you get me out of here God, then I will never drink again and I will fly right. I'll straighten up as a good soldier and I will become active."  And you know, at that point, I thought it was a turning point in my life that I could actually do that. I'm not even kidding. The next day. I remember the guard saying to me "belt roll up" which meant basically get your mattress pad and roll it up. And I said, "Okay, what's going on?" He's like, "You're getting released." And basically all three felonies were dropped.  So yeah, God definitely came through for me. He got me out of jail, miraculously. I think I made it a weekend after getting out of jail that there I was back in the liquor store line buying more whiskey when I thought I was done. As soon as that desire, the temptation to drink came back up, it was like I had no defense against it, I was just I was, I gave right into that temptation again, I was desperate.  My friend Fred, said, "Dave, I know enough of your past to know that your upbringing in the LDS Church and I suggest that you find a way to go get close back to that because I can't really help you anymore." We were basically at that crossing point. And he said, "Dave, reach deep and and see what you can do." It was a Saturday afternoon. And I thought, "Well, I know there's a chapel on Warm Springs and Eastern. I think I'll go there." And I got my bike, and I started to pedal. Immediately, the destroyer, the adversary started to put thoughts in my head like "don't go back to the chapel like give up." This is another thing that he does is tell me if I start, it's all or nothing and it's like, "Okay, you're heading back to the chapel, I hope you know this means that you're going to be temple worthy in a year."  And those are the kind of things that get me discouraged, like, "Oh, that's too insurmountable." But nonetheless, I pushed on, I got to that chapel super sweaty. And I didn't even think that the chapel would be open because there was actually just one car in the parking lot. My plan was actually to go sit under a tree, because it was super hot in Las Vegas, in the middle of July, and I thought I would go sit under a tree at the chapel, but at least I would be at a chapel and that's when I would pour my heart out to God and say, I don't know where to turn next because my life has been ruined by my constant decision to drink alcohol.  I tried a door and it actually opened up, and I went in there and I could hear some beautiful piano music coming from the chapel. I peeked into the chapel, and I saw the chorister playing the organ practicing probably for the hymns for the next day. I still remember walking through the chapel and oh my gosh, what a feeling of overwhelming peace that I had missed for so long. I walked down the hall and flashbacked to when I was a little kid and running through the halls on my way to primary class, and I just remembered back to the feeling I used to have as a kid where the world was great, and I didn't have to worry about what I had done.  I walked down the hall and I opened that primary door and I went in and I grabbed one of those little tiny chairs and I set it down. Again, my thought was, "I just need to sit in here and pray. I'll sleep in here if I can, but I need to feel the Holy Ghost." I was so desperate to feel some spirituality in my life.  I started to pour my heart out to God and just that surrender, "Help me please." There was no real bargaining like I'd done in the past. It was just kind of like "help me" and I looked up and there in the middle of the room of the primary was a picture of the Savior. And it's that picture where he's wearing the red robe, and those eyes were just telling me "I love you, Dave." I felt him saying, "Dave, I'm your advocate. You don't need to do this alone. Thank you for asking for my help, now accept it and embrace it, and let's do this together."  I had that feeling that I was being hugged. I know that I needed to be in the chapel that day because it was a giant step for me to even go back to a chapel, but I think that maybe it displayed some humility, and it allowed me to start on that path back. I had several relapses after that point. But I had some hope. That's when I realized that I was no longer an outcast. God wanted me back in his arms. And I know that his love is what I need every single day. I think the door was open that day because God wanted me to know that the door would always be open for me, that he was never going to shut me out, that I could come back anytime.  God set up the environment for me by giving me an empty building, an open door, and I didn't have to worry about what I was wearing. I didn't have to worry about what I had done. There was essentially no price of admission that day. I know that chapels are for spiritually sick people that need to be well. The temple might as well have been on another continent. There was no way I saw myself getting into the temple. But the chapel was realistic. I'd passed the chapel on the bus and I can go back to a chapel even if just to sit on the grass.  I walk into the chapel now knowing that I'm going to find the Savior inside, and that he's my advocate. He's my big brother that's glad I'm there. He's like, "Dave, I'm glad you're home. Come on inside. Kick your feet back and enjoy the spirit and today, and this will help recharge your batteries, and you're going to learn more about me here. You're going to remember what it was like to be a child in primary and to feel okay." And now I have access to that wherever I go in the whole world now, I don't even need to recommend to go to the chapel. I can go there now and it has become a sanctuary to me. KaRyn  45:49   That was Dave.  When we called Dave after hearing his story on our pitch line, we realized that he and my husband Justin actually knew each other, over 20 years ago when they were both preparing to serve missions. So we orchestrated a little reunion for the recording, and I couldn't help but see that word "reunion" echoed in Dave's story.  Sometimes our sacred ground is a long forgotten friend, a tiny chair in a room with carpet halfway up the walls, or a quiet chapel where the organist is practicing hymns for another day. We may have lost touch, walked away, forgotten that we ever felt grounded in that space to begin with, or we may have even chosen to break the bonds of that connection ourselves.  But our Savior is the Redeemer. He is the reconciler. Through him, what is profaned or desecrated can become reestablished, regrounded, reconsecrated. And I think for Dave as he grappled with his addiction and his pride, the chapel became a symbol of everything that he wasn't. But the minute that he let himself become as a little child, and go toward his Redeemer, he found himself in the space where he could actually hear what God was trying to teach him, and in the process, he was reunited to a place, to that sacred ground where the real work could begin.  You know, the sacred grove would not be the only place that our beloved Prophet Joseph Smith would find holy ground in his earthly existence. It was only the start of a lifetime of transformative experiences with deity and a mix of mundane and exalted spaces -- the Susquehanna River, the home of Peter Whitmer Senior, Liberty jail, the Nauvoo temple, the Red Brick store, Carthage.  Each of these places are held with deep reverence not because of the actual land that they exist on, but because of the way they transformed Joseph's faith, and in turn our faith and the way we practice in our effort to walk the path of the Savior. I believe that as we look back upon the story of our lives, if we are seeking and walking that path of discipleship, I think that we'll find that our journey was actually made upon a path of truly sacred ground. That's it for this episode of This is the Gospel. Thank you to Cody, Dave, and Brad for sharing their stories in their faith. We'll have links to Brad's newest book about the Savior. It's a beautiful one called "Because of the Christ on Calvary," in our show notes, as well as pictures of our storytellers and a transcript of this episode at A big thank you to all of you for sharing the stories that mean something to you with your friends and your family. We love to hear all the ways that this type of storytelling strengthens your faith in God and love for his children.  If you have a minute, just a minute, to leave a review and a rating on iTunes, that's another way that you can share the good stuff. Every review helps us to show up in the search for more people. All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers, and if you have a story to share about Living the Gospel, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. We often find many of our stories and our long lost friends from the pitch line and we love to hear how the gospel has blessed your life. Call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less.  This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay with additional story producing and editing by Jasmine Mullen, Katie Lambert, and Emily Abel. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom.  You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Have a great week.     Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Mar 02, 2020
Glass Half Full
During a week-long break from running track at Utah State University, Brittany fell in love with climbing the red rocks of southern Utah. And a moonlight rappel from a 200-foot cliff with a friend was just the adventure Brittany was looking for. But that night, adventure quickly turned to tragedy, leaving Brittany with a life-changing diagnosis that ultimately led her to a new relationship with her self and her Savior. This episode of THIS IS THE GOSPEL is sponsored by the First Light Concert Celebration of the First Vision presented by Deseret Book. SHOW NOTES To find the pictures and videos of Brittany's story, head to our shownotes at EPISODE TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay  0:03   Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay. We all know that person, you know, the one who takes all the hard things that life sends their way and eats them for breakfast.  The one who somehow finds the way to remain fully cheerful regardless of their circumstances. And can I tell you a secret? I've always been a little bit suspicious of that person. As someone who generally seeks consistent happiness, but sometimes can't find it, I often wonder if it's all a show- a mask- because I felt the pressure to put on a happy face even when I wasn't feeling it, so why wouldn't someone else? And I guess you could say that I'm a little pessimistic about whether it's actually possible for someone to remain fully optimistic in the midst of really hard things. And then I was put into a church calling with someone that I would have described, once upon a time, as painfully cheerful. From the outside, her life seemed perfect. Her children were perfect. Her hair even seemed perfect. And if she was struggling with anything, it would be impossible to know. And I didn't trust it. I made it my mission to try to figure out what was really under all that optimism and hope. I brought all my suspicions to our joint service. And do you know what I discovered? To my chagrin, as I grew to know and love this woman, I learned that life her life was far from perfect, but her choice to see and speak the positive was as real as it gets. In those moments of conversation, when it would have been easy to head below the line, I could actually see the wheels turning in her heart and in her mind as she worked her way back up to the top, finally landing her words in a place of hope, and goodness, and possibility. Now listen, I'm a huge fan of honoring our vulnerability and allowing our vetted safe people to cradle us in our sorrow, but this wasn't about that. She had her people to mourn with her. But she also made a conscious effort to speak hope. To turn her words and her face to the Savior in all things. And frankly, that's something I'm still trying to learn how to learn.  Well, today we have one story from Brittany who learned her lessons in optimism in a unique way that she believes was tailored specifically to her. Here's Brittany. Brittany  2:27   In 2012, I was a 21-year-old student athlete at Utah State and I ran cross country in the fall and track in the spring, and I was always on the go. I rarely sat still. And I just loved being in nature. I genuinely loved running. Running in nature is where I would pray and felt closest to God and just loved every moment of life. I had great friends. I was doing well in school. I was healthy, no stress fractures and I felt closest to the Lord than I ever had in my life. And so just every aspect of my life really seemed to be going my way. And it was just this beautiful, busy life that was spent outdoors as much as I possibly could.  So, in March of 2012, our coaches gave us the weekend off before outdoor track season started. So, I took the opportunity to join some friends down in St. George for a little bit of a spring break climbing trip and it was there that I fell in love with the red rocks. I think I went on like six runs in one day. We started climbing at 7:30am - climbed all day- I fit in six runs in between and ended the night I think swimming. So when I got the invitation to go out for a moonlight rappel... If you haven't gotten the gist, I was always up for an adventure... And so when I got that invitation I, I accepted and, and was all for it. And it was there that we went to Cougar cliffs.  Sitting at the top of the cliff, I was just looking up at the stars and had this peaceful feeling while the fellow I with was setting everything up. And once we started the descent of the rappel, I had no idea how big the cliff was. I hadn't seen over the edge. And so as we started rappelling, that rope was really heavy and I never done a repel like this before, of this size. The cliff was 250 feet. And so as the speed kind of picked up, I tried to slow myself down, and my hand was burning so badly that, just kind of like when you touch a hot stove, it was just instinct to let go. We later found out I had a third degree burn on my hands so I had held on for as long as I could to try and slow my slow my descent but... At that point, it was a free fall for the next 80 to 100 feet. If you've ever been cliff jumping into water, it's that same feeling in your stomach or a roller coaster. I couldn't scream. I couldn't make any noise because I was falling so fast. But I kept wondering, when's the ground going to come? When's the ground going to come? And all of a sudden, just bam, there was.I fell about 80 to 100 feet, I hit the ground. From that moment, things went a little blurry.  After the initial shock of the fall, I kind of came to my senses again. I looked up at the sky and how peaceful it was. And the fellow I was with had gone to call for help so, I was all alone. And I knew something was wrong. I assumed there was some bone sticking out in my legs, so I didn't look down at the damage... But as I looked up at the night sky, I just had this peaceful feeling again, and I thought to pray. And I think it was just instinct. And so I tried to roll over for the first time since I had fallen. I tried to roll over to maybe kind of kneel and pray and I couldn't even roll over. I didn't think anything weird of it. I just decided to stay on my back and look up at the stars and pray and it was kind of one of those desperate. "Heavenly Father, you know, please help me. I know I'm in trouble. I don't know what kind of trouble, but, like, if you help me in this situation, I'll do anything you ask." and maybe kind of bargaining with the Lord. But I I just felt such peace as I laid there alone. Slowly, search and rescue came and found me and started boarding me up. Lifeflight had landed and they were getting ready to take me to the hospital. When search and rescue had been called, they typically get two types of calls: a rescue and recovery. Recovery, they're just going in to get a body and   rescue, they're going in to get someone in danger, someone who's hurt in a tight place. And so when they heard my situation, they assumed they were coming in for recovery just to get a body. And so you can imagine their surprise when not only was I alive, but I was awake. And so from there they life flighted me to Las Vegas. I went through all the initial CAT scans and MRIs. And from there, they whisked me away into surgery, and I woke up 10 hours later, 12 hours later, I think, is how long the surgery took, with my mother by my bedside. She had had time to fly from Chicago- book a flight from Chicago and get to the hospital to be by my bedside. But I was still intubated and couldn't speak and my mom was able to just sit by my bedside and read scriptures to me to help me calm down because I'd woken up really anxious. I knew what had happened, but I didn't know why I couldn't talk or move. And so the scriptures were able to just bring peace and I was able to fall back asleep until they could take all the tubes out of my throat.  And the first few days were just cycles of in and out of sleep and pain medicine. I ended up with lots of broken bones in my legs,a burnt right hand and multiple fractures in my spine, including my T 12 vertebrae, which burst instantly paralyzing me from the waist down. The official diagnosis was a spinal cord injury and paraplegic. And it wasn't until I had been moved out of ICU. I had been filled with a lot of optimism and hope in those moments that I was awake. And it wasn't until I had been moved upstairs and I looked down my legs for the first time. I'd been so afraid that there were bone sticking out. But I figured at this point, I've had surgery on my legs. I've had surgery on my back, like, it can't be that bad. And when I looked down, I wanted to see my strong running legs, my great calves and quad muscles that helped me run fast in college. But instead, what I saw were these swollen, lifeless, cut up and bruised legs. That ...was.... that was my first moment of kind of doubt and discouragement crept into my mind. And that was the first time that I questioned "Who am I anymore?" You know, before I was this student athlete, this rock climber and this runner, all these things that I identified with my legs, and that was no more. So I kind of went through this identity crisis, wondering Who am I? doubting myself for the first time. From Las Vegas, I was eventually transferred to another rehab hospital in Colorado, which was Craig Hospital. It was a hospital just for spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. And it was there at Craig hospital that I learned to live life again in a wheelchair. I learned how to dress myself; how to go the bathroom;  how to drive a car; how to cook in the kitchen. The simplest tasks became such a struggle to learn again, and from  there I went through months and months of intense  rehabilitation and physical therapy. And even after I was discharged from the hospital, I continued to learn how to walk. Once my bones had healed in my legs. I'd regained some muscle function and sensation in my legs enough to walk with a walker. And then eventually I learned to walk with crutches. And I can take some independent steps on my own, but I fall pretty quickly. And so, it was just this juggling act of wheelchair, walker, and crutches. And it was an intense year of physical therapy and healing both spiritually and emotionally.  I think one of the biggest struggles I had, on top of all the physical pain, there was neuropathic pain, which was unlike anything I'd experienced before. Then there was also just a spiritual stretching, which was painful, as I learned so many new lessons. And the hardest thing physically though, was not having running to cope with anymore which was also emotional because running was my therapy. Running was what I did when I was happy or when I was sad, when I was frustrated or when I was excited. And so finding something to fill that hole that running had left in my life.... It wasn't until about a year and a half into my recovery. I had graduated from Utah State. I had student- taught in my wheelchair. I had walked across the stage at graduation. And I had finally kind of slowed down and realized that this is permanent. That this diagnosis wasn't going anywhere. My paralysis wasn't going away. And that's when I kind of hit my spiritual and emotional low. And that's when I faced the depths of grief and depression. And those were the moments where I felt completely alone and wondered where that promise was that that God had given us saying, "I will not leave you comfortless." There I was, feeling pretty dang comfortless and questioning everything that I had... I knew about our loving Heavenly Father. But I came to learn with perspective in hindsight, during those those months of darkness and depression and grief, that Heavenly Father was aware of what I was going through. He was aware of my loss and my struggles and my sadness, but he had to allow me to feel that darkness... to feel that sadness, so I could understand what others have gone through and will go through and are going through. So I can empathize and have compassion towards them and minister to others. It was so meaningful to know that the Savior understood my struggles individually because I was facing some really unique circumstances, some pain, some neuropathic pain that literally caused me to cry out in the night. I couldn't even describe the pain to anyone. And learning to go to the bathroom again, the simplest little task that we learn at two years old, I was learning this again and the Savior knew I was struggling with once again. He knew the pain and the loss that I was experiencing. And that meant so much because even other spinal cord injuries didn't know exactly what I was experiencing or feeling. They may have a better understanding, but only the Savior truly knew and had felt that neuropathic pain - had felt that emotional pain and loss that I was experiencing.  And, it just helped me feel like I wasn't alone at all. But during that season when I wasn't so optimistic when the grief and and loss and depression was so heavy, it was hard to find the light. And that's where I just practiced CPR: church, prayer, reading the scriptures. It was spiritual CPR and I wasn't feeling it for so many months... But as I continued to do those small and simple things, there was no one light bulb moment when everything came together and I was happy again. It was more of a gradual sunrise. It was more of a gradual coming back to myself... coming back to finding joy and and choosing joy. Because we're taught that it's our reaction to adversity, not adversity itself, that that really matters. And so, we don't always get to choose what happens to us, but we always get to choose how we react. And I don't think Heavenly Father's upset with us when we feel the sadness and the darkness, but just as long as we still choose him at the end of the day. I believe in a just and loving Heavenly Father, and I believe he doesn't cause bad things to happen, but he allows them to happen. And that night, he allowed that accident to happen. He allowed the effects of gravity to pull me down to the ground and to cause all these broken bones upon impact. I mean, that's the laws of gravity, like God is not only a just and loving God, but He's the God of order. And, and that's a part of it -- our free agency and those consequences. And so I've found a lot of peace and knowing that Heavenly Father didn't cause this to happen, but he allowed it to happen. But he also did so much more in preserving my life. First off, I mean, the fact that I even survived. I know that Heavenly Father was involved in the details. That he preserved my life and not only my life, but my ability to speak and think for myself, and have relationships... because I didn't have a helmet that night, and that there was no brain damage is such a tender mercy, a miracle in itself on top of the miracle of still being alive. So I know that Heavenly Father was involved in the details, but that he didn't cause it to happen, but he allowed it to happen. My life now is nothing like what I would have pictured myself. If you had asked 21 year old Brittany where she would be in seven years, I would not have painted this picture. But now that I'm living it, it's so beautiful, as I've become a wife and a mother and I have my boys- my husband and my son and my dog --and I still am able to be active and get outdoors. That looks different than what I would have imagined and what I would have preferred running on my own two feet, but I still able to get out there until live a full and beautiful life regardless of my abilities and my circumstances. And each and every one of us can live this beautiful full life that Heavenly Father has planned for, for us as we learn to be content with our circumstances. I learned this before my accident, during my accident and now still. Especially when fall comes around my legs just like yearn to run again in the fall crisp weather. And it's so hard when those feelings of loss and grief resurface. But, then I look at my beautiful life and I realized that gratitude and grief can coexist. You can still mourn your loss. You can still feel the sadness, but you can also still feel so much joy and so much gratitude. And so just allowing myself to feel the sadness, but then to look up and to look around at how beautiful life still is - that I'm still getting out in nature. It may be a little different than it used to be, but I'm still out there. I'm still... I'm still me. I'm still Brittany. And that that has brought a lot of comfort to me knowing that grief and gratitude can coexist.  The other thing that I do is silly and and simple, but I call it two goods and a bad and I've been doing it since I was in high school. And it's just a practice of, you know, you may have a really crappy aspect of your day or life and acknowledging that... but then balancing it out by seeking out good things in life too. And sometimes the bads in our life are really heavy and you have to find 2,3,4,5, 20 good things to help kind of balance out the bad, but, just practicing that two goods and a bad by acknowledging the hard things in life but also seeking out the good and the sweet things.  I came across the scripture in Philippians 4:11 and Alma 29:3 and they both talk about being content with the things which the Lord has allotted you. And the Lord has allotted me so much. He's given me so much. He's given me an opportunity to bear my testimony and to share my light and to become a mother. I don't know if I ever would have slowed down enough to become a wife and a mother if I still had my own two legs to carry me through the mountains and adventure up every peak and canyon. Even if it's on four wheels instead of my own two legs, it still is a beautiful life regardless of my trials. Regardless of my circumstances, I can still become who Heavenly Father... because of my trials and circumstances, I'm able to become who Heavenly Father wants me to be. KaRyn Lay  21:09   That was Brittany Fisher Frank. Brittany's story of incredible optimism has been featured in so many cool places, including the Today Show and People magazine. Like she said, she truly has had so many opportunities to share her testimony with the world as a result of her experience. And were you as struck as I was by the wisdom that she just casually dropped about grief and gratitude coexisting? I can't stop thinking about that. And I really think that that understanding might be one of the secrets to living a more optimistic life.  Here's my deep thought of the day. So many times we define optimism as the choice between seeing the glass half empty and seeing the glass half full. But I don't think that's quite right. If Brittany's lesson is correct, then the glass really is both things at once. And that means that I dont have to ignore the emptiness in order to see the fullness. The glass just perfect balance without judgment. And I can honor the space where there is no water and also be excited about the water that is there. I think what Brittany's story teaches us is the true nature of the principle of opposition and all things. Maybe, just maybe, true optimism is just allowing ourselves to live in a world filled with the word "and" instead of the word "or." We met Brittany when we filmed her for an LDS living video documentary, and if you wonder why you can basically hear her smile as she talks about falling off a cliff?  Well, that's because she IS smiling as she talks about falling off a cliff. In fact, Brittany sent us several pictures for that documentary and I was shocked as I looked through them to see one of her grinning at the camera as she's being loaded into that lifeflight helicopter. And while we might attribute some of that to the effects of adrenaline and shock, I can honestly say how met and spoken to Brittany. That that's just genuinely who she is - no mask, no pretend, authentic Brittany. But if you were listening closely, you probably heard what I heard. Before her accident Brittany was already practicing her two goods and a bad. Before she ever had to accept the truth about her new life, Brittany was practicing the art of accepting gratitude AND grief. Now, you may write this off and say that she's lucky that she was just born with an innate ability towards optimism. And that may be true because there really are as many spiritual gifts as there are people. But we cannot dismiss the truth of the matter. That positivity, perspective, and peace are some of the fruits of practiced discipleship. If, like me, you don't feel that you already have these gifts the way you wish you did. You can seek them. You can practice toward them.  And here's the best news. Our Savior and our heavenly parents are true optimists. Elder Uchtdorf said this in his October 2014 General Conference talk,  "Yes, God loves you this very day and always. He is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits. He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles. He is aware that you reach up to him in heartfelt and hopeful prayer. He knows of the times that you've held on to the fading light and believed even in the midst of growing darkness. He knows of your sufferings. He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed, and he still loves you. He knows everything about you. He sees you clearly. He knows you as you really are and He loves you today and always." Isn't that so interesting? We, you and I, are God's half empty, half full glass of water. He sees all of us and the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to be filled up with and feel the love of God, whether we find ourselves in joyful or dire circumstances, or both. And to me, that is some good news worth smiling about. That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thank you to Brittany Fisher Frank and her family for letting us invade with cameras and recording equipment last year. We'll have links to the video we made with Brittany including that picture of the lifeflight transport and a transcript of this episode in our show notes at LDS  If you have a minute to tell us what you love about this podcast, we would love to hear it. Please leave us a review on iTunes. And if you're not sure how to do that, go to our Instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast and in our highlights  wewill have all the instructions on how to leave a review. It really does help us and it helps more people to find this podcast. All of the stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a story to share about living the Gospel, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. We often find many of our stories from the pitch line and we love to hear how the gospel is blessing your life. Call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less. This episode was produced by Sarah Blake with additional story producing and editing by Jasmine Mullen, Ashley Porter and me, KaRyn Lay. it was scored, mixed, and mastered by mix at six studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS living podcasts at Have a lovely week. Transcribed by Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Feb 24, 2020
The Roots of Faith (2020)
EXCITING NEWS ALERT~This Is the Gospel is going to join Deseret Book at this year's RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City! To celebrate, we are sharing one of our favorite episodes all about the power of our ancestors' faith stories, "The Roots of Faith." Stories in this episode: An extraordinary lesson from her family history helps Sister Linda K. Burton find the right words to minister to the women of the Relief Society when she is called as president; Deserey is called to be the Family History specialist in her single adult ward and receives a special spiritual confirmation from her father beyond the veil about the value of her calling. SHOW NOTES To find pictures and more from this episode, please visit TRANSCRIPT: KARYN LAY: Did you know that reviews on iTunes help new people find the podcasts that inspire you most? Well, they do. So if you found something valuable in the stories that we share on This Is The Gospel, would you take a minute to rate our podcast and maybe even leave us a review on iTunes? Every written review helps us to show up in the search results for more people who could use a little bit of storytelling magic in their week. We really appreciate it. Welcome to This is the Gospel. An LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay. A few years ago, I got a phone call from my grandma who we call Nanny. And it was routine stuff. She was telling me all the details for the upcoming family party. So I took notes. I wrote it all down like a dutiful granddaughter and I hung up the phone. About five minutes later, the phone rang again. And it was Nanny. So I assumed she was calling because she had forgotten something. And instead, she proceeded to tell me the exact same thing she had said five minutes earlier, almost word for word. When I hung up the phone, I sort of laughed about it. Because in my family, we have a tradition of finding the humor in just about everything, but it didn't take long for the weight of that phone conversation to settle in. Not long after that nanny was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and it didn't take long for her short term memory, her long term memory, and her ability to communicate clearly, to disintegrate. It was around this time that I also got my very first iPhone. I'm a late adopter. So it took me a little while to get one. But when I did, I realized that it had this app, the voice memo app, and all I would have to do is push a button and It would record anything. So I started to record everything. I would take that iPhone and put it in the middle of the room during family parties, and push the record button, just to try to capture whatever I could. I was looking for stories. I wanted to make sure that even though my grandmother's memory was going away, the stories that she had, wouldn't. As you can imagine, sometimes I got stories. Sometimes I got grocery lists, and sometimes I got testimony and other times I got the tail end of a phone conversation. My hunger for the routine and the mundane have made me a bit of an indiscriminate recorder but honestly, I just didn't want to miss anything. And I'd like to think that I was actually rewarded especially when recently I stumbled upon this little story from my mom. KARYN'S MOM (SUE): There was a big box that we used to keep up in the storage closet for like in the wintertime our summer clothes went in the box. In the summertime, our winter clothes went in the box. And whenever I would get into trouble, I would go up there and go in that closet and hide under the clothes and cry. And I'd just be like, "They're never  gonna find me." And then I'd be KaRyn's Aunt (Kathy):Which house are you talking about? SUE: The one in Middletown. That we added on to on Aspen Street. And I'd be up there singing the song."Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me so I'll eat worms. Big ones, fat ones, small ones, skinny ones. Oh, how I'll eat worms. I'll bite their heads off, suck the juice out, throw the skins away. I don't see how birds can stand them for three meals a day."And the kids would come in that closet and they'd go, "She must be in here. I know she must be in here. Sue? Sue?"And I was just quiet as a mouse. And then they go out and I'd laugh quietly and say, "They didn't find me." NANNY: Oh my goodness, oh, it's funny how you probably don't even— KARYN: I am so glad that I captured that moment of unbridled laughter from my Nanny, especially now that she can't remember who I am most days. There's also this really cool little snippet of audio where I caught my mom and my aunt and my grandparents telling the story of their trip to Idaho Falls to receive their temple blessings and to be sealed together as a family a few years after my family converted to the gospel. You will hear my aunt on the phone, in the background, trying to find a place to get scrapple for me. And if you don't know what scrapple is, please don't look it up. You will not think more highly of me after you find out what it is. Anyway, here's the story. SUE: This year we're actually going to Idaho Falls temple. We had a station wagon  Kathy (in the background): ...someplace that has scrapple for KaRynnie SUE: and the back didn't have any seats.  KARYN: Were all of the kids born then?  SUE: Yeah. Thank goodness we didn't have to have seat belts and car seats and all that junk or we wouldn't have been able to go. And Kathy was responsible for handing out the sandwiches when it was lunchtime. And we were only allowed to take a shoebox full of stuff with us. Each person could take a shoebox. That's it because you didn't have room for right people to bring all their facts. If we wanted to buy any trinkets we had a room in our shoebox to put it or we couldn't get it. And we had- did we pull our camper? Our popup tent? And it sometimes would rain so hard that our sleeping bags would get wet. Right? It's not hurting but we- PAPPY: ...slept in the car, or out in good weather we just slept out on the ground in our sleeping bags. KARYN: Like did anything difficult happened on the trip?  SUE: Oh yeah the brakes went out.  Pappy: Yeah.  SUE: Coming down a mountainside  Pappy: Yeah. KARYN: Down a mountain?  SUE: Yeah it was a mountainside. Where were we? Yellowstone area?  Pappy: I don't remember exactly.  SUE: But it was— Pappy: I made all these side trips too. If there was something interesting, I'd go there. SUE: Yeah the bear came. One time we were in the sleeping thing. And we started screaming. Pappy: The Big Rock Candy Mountain. Yeah. KARYN: So I forgot to ask anything about the actual sealing in that conversation. But it was still so cool for me to know about the details of a trip that changed the eternal trajectory of our extended family forever. And aren't we so glad that there are seatbelts now? Though the recordings are totally amateurish and ham-handed. I love listening to them because they represent my newly found desire to hold on to the people, and the places that have shaped me. And all of the stories that are the basis of my own faith. I think we actually call that the spirit of Elijah, right? The turning of the hearts of the children towards their parents and the parents towards their children. Well, today we've got stories from people who found their faith in Jesus Christ rooted in the power of their family history, and that turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers. Our first storyteller is Sister Linda K Burton. And she's telling a story from her family history. The miraculous, yet simple experience from her great grandfather's life that became a guide to her during her time as the general Relief Society President of the Church. Here's Linda. LINDA K BURTON: Well, I don't really remember the very first time I heard this story. I can kind of put it in a time frame of when I was a very young mother, I must have been doing some family history at the time. When the little ones were in bed just to have a break from my regular routine. But I did come across this story of my great-grandfather that he had written down. I don't know at what point in his life he wrote it down but by the time the story took place was when he was about 10 years old. And that intrigued me, but the thing that really intrigued me was the broken English that he wrote it in because he was right from Denmark. And so it was so charming for me to read his own account. And I just was drawn in by this story, because he tells about his mother. And so I could see myself. I could actually relate to her as a young mother of several children. And so this is my great-great-grandmother, Caroline Catherine Holmes Kjar. And at this point in her life, she was pregnant, with I think her seventh child. She had lost one. And her husband had been sick in the hospital for about 26 weeks, so about a half year, six months. And as a struggling young mother, trying to provide for her children with her husband unable to work, she was taking in laundry, she was doing whatever she could make ends meet, and could not make ends meet. So they get to the point where the landlord comes and says, you know, pay up or move out basically. And as it always happens in sad stories, this is in the middle of the winter. So from my great grandfather, Joseph Julius point of view, he remembers looking out the window with his older brother Peter. Well, I'm getting ahead of myself, I got a back up a little bit.  My great-great grandmother was discouraged. And so she gathered the children in prayer after the landlord had come and kind of given his ultimatum. She kneels down with the children in prayer, puts her arms around them and, and says a heartfelt prayer and tells Heavenly Father, she's done everything she can do. She can't do anymore at this point in her life. I remember feeling that way at that point in my life as well. And she told Him that she couldn't think of anything else that she could do. So would He please, please help them. And after she said this beautiful prayer, she didn't get up right away. She said, "I have a feeling that Heavenly Father's gonna send someone to help us. I don't think he's gonna let us suffer anymore."  Well, the next morning is when my grandfather and my great grandfather and his brother looking out the window and it's snowing hard. And so the children are all there in the apartment. That's a second story of an apartment building. And they see a man coming up the walk, and he looks like he some kind of policeman or somebody a little bit frightening, intimidating to them. And they see him go around the back. And then they hear someone coming up the stairs and it frightens them because they think this is the man coming to evict them. So they run to their mother and get her and she hears a knock at the door. And she answers it. And she's I'm sure as frightened as they are. And so this man says to her, "Are you Mrs. Care?" Which kind of takes her back because she doesn't know who this man is. And she says, "Yes, that's me." And he says, "My name is Johan Nikolai Modvic." Sorry, this makes me teary. He says, "I had a dream last night that there was a hard-working woman. And then he gives the address 29 Field Strada who needs my help. I'm here to help you. How much money do you need?" And so she tells him that she needs 30 krona, to bring it current. He immediately gives her the money. And of course, she's just overwhelmed the generosity of this man. She has no idea who he is. And he gives her a card and says, "If you need any more, this is how to contact me." And she goes to kiss his hand and he kind of pulls away and says, "Don't thank me. You thank the Lord because the dream I had came from Him." And then he leaves. And as a sweet young mother, she gathers her children before she does anything else, and kneels in prayer again, and thanks the Lord for sending help in their hour of need, and then she says to the children, "Don't ever forget this. And don't forget the name of this man." This is the story that my grandfather remembers as a child at age 10, which I think is pretty significant because he didn't forget. There's a sequel to this story I don't tell in the book. So we found out later that Johan Nikolai Modvig, and actually my great grandfather remembered his name wrong. He remembered his Johan Lodvic Modvic. We actually had our friend, he kind of specializes in Scandinavian family history. And so he looked up to see if he could find anything about him. He was the one that discovered that Nikolai was his middle name, not Ludvic, and he was a prominent Professor apparently. And, interestingly, about the time that this story happened, I think Brother Modvic, was actually serving as like Speaker of the House type thing in Copenhagen. This was a wonderful man. So besides the all the things he was doing professionally where he listened to the voice of the spirit in a dream and responded to it. I thought that was impressive about him.  You know, I was thinking about how this story changed my faith. I don't know that it changed my faith as much as it deepened my faith. As a young mother, we had ups and downs financially. Yeah, I knew what meager meant and how does scrape things together. And we had a turn when things were really bad financially, the early 80s. And that's when I think this story I ran across the store. So the timing was significant to us, because we'd had quite a drought in our finances. And so this resonated with me. I could feel to a degree what Caroline must have been feeling. So I was grateful to have a story to hang my hat on. I have also drawn on this story numerous times when I was serving in my calling as General Relief Society President. As you can imagine, I was traveling all over the world and seeing women in difficult circumstances. Everyone is in difficult circumstances. When I would stand up there, and I would sometimes prepare something that I- or an outline what I thought I might say, sometimes I could feel this is not the right thing. And I put it aside and he would bring this story to my mind. And that's what would be what I would share. And almost without fail, it was the connecting point to the sisters, no matter what language I was trying to be translated in. And I was able to say and able to use this story to say Heavenly Father has not forgotten you. He is aware of you in your extremities, and you will kneel on your knees and thank Him for these experience someday because you will know that He has had His eye upon you. Like He had my great great grandmother. She was just a regular little person who didn't feel like she was probably worthy of anything great. And yet He saw her in her need and was able respond to that need because she allowed Him to with her prayer of faith.  We were lucky enough to go to Denmark a few years ago when our daughter was living in, in Ireland with her family for a year. We decided to go visit them. And one of the things my daughter had decided that we needed to do while we were visiting there was to go over to Denmark. It was a not too far of a jaunt to go even though she had three little tiny children at the time. But that gave us an opportunity to tell the story to these three little children. Let them know where we were going to go and that we were going to try and find this apartment where this story took place. And that was pretty precious. To go down that street, see the name of that street that we knew, and then find that number 29 was kind of a sacred moment to stand there in front of that and look up into that second story window where we could match and Joseph, Julius, and Peter, looking down. We didn't have to go there to see that it was real. But just standing there and remembering the faith of that mother, that was influencing my life generations later. It was this connecting point. It was this "I love you" moment. It was like my way of saying "I love you, I thank you for being the kind of woman that's influenced my life for many years now." And that my grandchildren were there with me that I hope this would be significant for them to look back on. I knew they were too tiny to maybe remember it in the immediate future. But as the story is retold to them, they might have some remembrance, they were there too, and that this is part of our sacred heritage. KARYN: That was Linda. After listening to this story, I was struck by the realization that Caroline, Linda's great-great-grandmother probably had no idea that this tiny moment, in the cold snowy world of Denmark, would someday reach beyond time and space to inspire women across continents to believe and trust in Christ. Her everyday devotion to the Savior has become a legacy so much greater than she or even her family could have imagined. And it makes me want to reevaluate my own faith practice. Am I living in a way that could someday provide a blueprint of faith for the people I love? Am I seeking to demonstrate deep trust in Jesus? And more importantly, am I writing down the moments that have changed me? The fact that a small transformative moment in our lives could have a lasting impact on generations beyond us is something that was actually reinforced to me during a drive through Amish country, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with my mom, I had my phone recorder turned on because that's what I do. And I must have asked my mom to tell me the story of our first known Amish ancestor.  KARYN: Mom telling me why the Amish Fultz got shunned. SUE: So the story is that the- and I don't remember his name, I think it's John Fultz, was raised by the Amish. So they took him in because his parents died on the ship coming over here to America. And he grew up Amish and then he was planting his field and he decided he was going to plant... wasn't malt. KARYN: Something you could make liquor out of?  SUE: Yes, I can't seem-  KARYN: Barley?  SUE: Barley. And it's not unusual to plant barley. But it is unusual for them to sell it to someone who uses it to make liquor. And he did not appreciate them telling him he could not sell it to this man who was making liquor with it. And so because he did that, he was told that he had to leave the Amish and he was shunned by the rest of the Fultz. So that's who we come from.  KARYN: Do you know when that was? Was it the 1700s? 1800s?  SUE: I could tell you if I had my genealogy in front of me but I don't. And kind of found all that out because Uncle Tim was driving down Lancaster County. Came across the street sign that said Fultz Lane and so he pulled over and had his son taking a picture of them. And a Fultz Amish man, whose last name is Fultz, came out. And he told us the story of the Fultz. And sure enough, it was the same, Fultz.  KARYN: That's really interesting that he would... that that's like folklore in their-  SUE: Yep.  KARYN: In their family, right? Like the Fultz who got shunned because of- SUE: Yep. In the Amish eyes, we're the bad Fultzes. KARYN: That was my mom Sue O'Daley. Certainly, John Fultz wasn't thinking about the future spiritual growth of his family when he stubbornly refused to stop selling his barley for liquor. I'm sure that shunning felt awful. But regardless of whether you think that was a good thing or a bad thing, it was a choice that opened the door of the world to the Fultz family who became ardent Methodists, and eventually ardent members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's also interesting to note that the same gift of stubborn individualism that sent John Fultz out from the Amish is the same gift of stubborn individualism that sent my Pappy, Robert Fultz, the first in our family to join the church in search of a new faith tradition. Our physical and spiritual genetics are hard to escape. But I'm more and more convinced that they are often the thing that will move us forward along our earthly plans towards the Savior, just as they were meant to. Our next story from Deserey illustrates that connection that comes to us from honoring those gifts as we work on our family history. Here's Deserey. DESEREY: So to truly understand my story, I feel like you have to know a lot about hearts. Not only scientifically how they work and how they're made up, but also the hearts of my father, who was a very important man to me, and my brother, who I have not yet met on this earth. My older brother Corbin, he was diagnosed with a heart condition known as aortic stenosis. And this is a defect where your aorta valve is different. So usually, on your aortic valve, you have three cusps, they call them. And when you have aortic stenosis, instead of having three you have two cusps, and that can cause a lot of issues with blood flow and with your aorta. It was recommended that he gets surgery at Primary Children's Hospital. And he was so little and unfortunately, he did not survive that surgery. Fast forward, years later, my dad, he was out working in the yard and came in later that night and was having some chest pain. Well, when he went in to see the cardiologist, they found out that he also had an aortic stenosis. And this kind of shows you my dad's personality and character, because in that moment, when he's finding out this life-altering diagnosis, essentially, that he never knew about his whole life. He felt so bad that he had given that to his son. They didn't know when Corbin was diagnosed that aortic stenosis can be genetic. But in that moment, he turned to my mom, and he said, "I feel so bad that I gave this to my son without knowing." Which just shows how selfless my dad was. He was just always worried about other people more than himself. So, after this, my dad continued on with his doctors, and they recommended surgery for him. My dad's heart was really, really weak after this long, extensive surgery. And so they had trouble taking him off the heart and lung machine. They decided that life flight was needed to come and take him to a hospital that had the equipment that they needed. And while my dad was in the ICU, and life flight was getting ready to take him on the helicopter, he crashed.  My family and I were waiting in the hallway to watch him get put on the helicopter. And unfortunately, we had to watch my dad get rolled down the hallway. With life flight crew giving him CPR and working on him. That was a very, very hard experience for my family to witness. Three days later, after a lot of waiting and a lot of hopelessness, we were informed that we were going to have to take my dad off of life support. We had to say goodbye.  Now I am the youngest of eight children. And after I lost my dad, I was really concerned about him, not being able to be at all my life's big events, I I felt kind of cheated. I was really worried that, you know, I wasn't going to fill him in my life. I was upset that things we could have been doing together that those opportunities were taken away. I had a dream that I was getting married. And I kept looking for my Uncle to give me away. So I said, "Where's my Uncle, he, he needs to give me away?" And I was searching through these crowds of people. And I kept looking. And all of a sudden, I ran into a huge crowd of people. And they were all dressed in white. At the very front was my dad.  I just was shocked. And I said, you're here, you're actually here. And he laughed at me. And he said, "Why I'll always be here. And I've been here the whole time." And I started thinking who were all those other people behind him. And I started asking questions like "Who is he with on the other side of the veil?" And later, within my ward, I was called to be the family history lead. And I had been interested in family history ever since that experience and ever since going through the temple, but I wasn't really sure where to start or how to begin. And I remember driving home from meeting with my Bishop and hearing the news that I was going to be the family history lead. And I just remember the voice of my dad saying. "This is something we can still do together." And, and I could just feel him there with me. He was proud of me.  I know that, that he was he knew my worries, he knew he knew that I was upset that that time was taken away from me and that I was worried that he wasn't going to be there. And this was the way that he was telling me that he was still there. And that there were still things that we could do together, even though he's on the other side of the veil. Ever since then, I have immensely felt his hand in my family history work. And it's been a real comfort to me. And it has really helped heal me and help me in my grief. And I know for a fact that family history work is essential, and that the other side is here with us. And if we could only put on our spiritual glasses, we would see them. When angels minister to us, it's not- they're not strangers. They're our family. They're our ancestors. And I know that him and my brother are helping me on this side of the veil. And I find it so amazing that they're there. And they're working on finding ancestors and teaching them the gospel. And I know for a fact that they helped me find those names so that I could take and do their work for them in the temple KARYN: That was Deserey. I don't know about you but I'd never thought of family history work quite that way. I love her perspective that it's a bridge and an opportunity to work together with those who have passed on before us. And I think that her perspective will change the way I view this work. I want to see it more as an opportunity and a blessing rather than a boring chore that I feel some guilt and shame about. I'm going to try a little bit harder to see it that way. As I was listening through all of my family's poorly recorded voice memos for this episode, I realized that there was one very important thing missing from my library. Apparently, and all of my recording I'd never asked my Pappy to record his conversion story. He's written it down in a few places. But I wanted to get it in his own words. So I begged my Aunt Kathy to record him. Here's what he shared. PAPPY: I mean, I was at work when two missionaries came to our door. My wife, she talked to them, and she invited them back when I would be home. And they came and taught us the gospel, which was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I first heard it, as I just thought it was another church, but when they taught me, I found out it wasn't just another church. I knew that it was true. I changed churches because when they taught me the word of wisdom, I was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. At that time, and I threw them away and never smoked again. The Gospel changed my life. What I know about Jesus Christ. Christ when on the cross, setting the example for us. (singing)"The old, rugged cross where the dearest and best. For a world of lost sinners..." I'm trying to remember it."On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross The emblem of suffering and shame And I love that old cross where the dearest and best For a world of lost sinners was slain So I'll cherish the old rugged cross. And exchange it someday for a crown." What do I like about that song? I like to tell what our Savior did for us. I love you too. If I can do anything else for you, just call me. KARYN: That was my grandfather Robert Charles Fultz Jr. That short sweet story and song sum up so much of what I've learned from my Pappy's legacy of faith: Open the door to spiritual experiences. Bare your testimony through song. Always serve others no matter what's going on in your own life. And believe in the power of Jesus Christ to help you do whatever hard things are in front of you, even if you're trying to quit smoking three packs a day.  Elder Packer once said, "Family history work has the power to do something for the dead. It has an equal power to do something to the living. Family history work has a refining, spiritualizing and tempering influence on those who are engaged in it." I think our stories this week are absolutely proof of that truth to me. We are not alone in our desires to live the gospel well. And I know that we have countless family members whose stories can influence our lives and who are rooting for us, rooting for us to have the kind of stories that will strengthen the faith of those who come after us. That's it for this episode of This is the Gospel. Thank you for listening and thank you to Deserey and Sister Burton for sharing their stories. If you want to see the gorgeous children's book that they've made out of Sister Burton's family story, head on over to our show notes for this episode at We'll have a link there to her book "A Mother's Prayer." A special thank you to my family Robert and Shirley Fultz, Susan O'Daily, and Kathy Yanks, for letting me share our family stories and for showing me an example of true discipleship with a sense of humor. If you have a story to share about living the gospel well, whether it's funny, touching, or miraculous, we'd love to hear it. Call our pitch line at 515-519-6179 and leave us a message with a short synopsis of your story. We get so many of our stories from this pitch line and we love hearing what you have to say. This episode was produced and edited by Katie Lambert and me KaRyn Lay. It was mixed and mastered and scored by Mix at Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hollstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and the other LDS Living podcasts at That's Have a great week. Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Feb 17, 2020
Love Lessons
After a devastating breakup, broadcast journalist Tamara decides to do something a little different for her 31st birthday: 31 dates in 31 days. But what starts as a fun blogging experiment quickly turns into big news and an even bigger spiritual eye-opener than Tamara initially assumed as she discovers more about who she is and how God sees the potential in all of us. SHOW NOTES This episode of This Is The Gospel is sponsored by GOSPEL DAY BY DAY. To find pictures and videos, please visit TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay  0:04   Welcome to This Is The Gospel - an LDS living podcasts where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith everyday. I'm your host KaRyn Lay.  A few years ago LDS Living made a video series called, "Love Lessons." You may have seen them. We invited three couples who had collectively been married over 125 years to share their well- earned wisdom about life in the trenches of love and faith. I had just hit five years of marriage myself and was quickly learning that there was still so much I didn't know about this business of tying your life together with another person. I was so grateful to hear these honest stories of work and sacrifice and frankly, longevity. We made four videos with those couples, including the video of our friends, Jim and Lyndia and they are a delight. So, to kick off our theme today, which... we sort of stole from that video series, we thought it was only fair that we share the audio from the compilation video that features Vern and his wife, Myumi, Bonnie and her husband Bruce, and our buddies Jim and Lyndia. Bonnie  1:19   We've been married for 51 years.  Lyndia  1:22   54 years Vern  1:23   we're celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this year. Friday the 13th turned out to be the luckiest day of my life.  Bonnie  1:30   I think what I love the most about Bruce is he's very kind.  Jim  1:35   She's a good cook Vern  1:36   Serene Lyndia  1:40   He is a very compassionate person.  Bruce  1:41   She is truly the person I always wanted to be. Vern  1:47   She is the epitome of serenity. Myumi  1:51   That's not.... Lyndia  1:51   One surprise to me about marriage after all these years is what  a joy it is at this stage. Bruce  1:56   I didn't know that it would be that wonderful again, As it was, you know, before we had all these little screaming Mimi's Bonnie  2:04   Well, it's not easy. And if anybody thinks that you're going to be on your honeymoon for 51 years, It's ridiculous. Jim  2:11   Sometime the tunnel's pretty long,  Lyndia  2:14   and dark. Well, it has been an enjoyable challenge. Because I've been introduced into a culture that I was just totally ignorant of. Bruce  2:23   It was very hard for her, I know that. What hurt so much? Bonnie  2:27   You! I think I had to been like in my 30s or early 40s. And I thought, this is it? This isn't....This isn't fun. Lyndia  2:38   It didn't matter to me that Jim wasn't a member of the church because I loved him very much. And I thought if I only live with him for this time only, then that was what I would be happy with. But a couple years later, when our children started to come along, I realized that was not true. That I wanted to be with my children and him forever,  Jim  2:55   Really, the only reason it worked in those early years... We both loved the Lord. And we taught our children to love the Lord,  Bonnie  3:05   The secret to anything I think, is holding to the rod. If you hold to the rod, and don't give up, when things are hard, there's always a way through. President Hinckley always said it  - that that this will pass and that things will get better and things always do get better. Lyndia  3:25   So you have to be patient and loving and see where it goes. Bruce  3:29   Yeah,  Bonnie  3:30   you're gonna have ups and downs and but it's worth it.  You cannot change someone to fit the mold you want them to be. Myumi  3:38   I just respect his space and he respect my space. I love him the way he is. Vern  3:45   Be sure to buy two tubes of toothpaste. Bonnie  3:50   I will say you are the love of my life. And I'm so grateful that we have stuck it out this long and I see us together another gazillion or Google? Do you say Google now? Jim  4:05   she's my babe. Bruce  4:08   And I love you. And I love the fact that I'm going to have you by my side forever. Lyndia  4:13   I love him so much. love being with him. Bonnie  4:22   How could you not kiss?  Bruce  4:24   Yeah. KaRyn Lay  4:34   You'll have to watch the videos to see those really adorable little smooches that you heard at the end of the audio. And we'll have that,  as well as each individual couple's video in our show notes at . Really, if you're looking for something fun to celebrate the Spirit of St Valentine - This is it. You know, one of the things that I love most about the Love Lessons videos is that they represent the end result of a lifetime of learning about the true nature of love. Each of those couples paid the price to sit on that couch and dish about what love looks like for them.  Well, in today's episode, we have one story about someone at the beginning of that journey, who decided that in order to learn her lessons well, she needed to take an unconventional approach to the world of dating. And whether you are well seasoned in your own understanding of Christ -like love or struggling to make sense of something that sometimes feels like nonsense, Tamara's experienced will probably ring more than a few bells. Here's Tamara. Tamara  5:35   You know, some people would say I'm kind of living this Hollywood love story, because of the way that things played out or the ending or...well, I happen to actually live in Hollywood and work in Hollywood as well. But, I think it's more of this Hollywood love story because I honestly did not anticipate going into this with any expectations. Isn't that the best kind of story?  So, let's go back to New York in 2009. That's when this all started. Before that, I'd gone through two major breakups. You know, those heart heartbreaking types of breakups where it's like, you don't really care if you collapse into a ball of tears in public. You just aren't sure things are ever going to be mended again. And you start questioning yourself, you know, what am I doing wrong? And ... am I lovable? You know all these terrible things that we start to ask ourselves, and that was where I was, and my 31st birthday was coming up.  I was in a Singles Ward, and being in a singles ward and turning 31 means that you no longer go to the singles ward. Instead you go to a family word, and that was tough for me. I'd been in a singles ward since I joined the church in my early 20s. And so leaving a singles Ward was a big deal to me. It was leaving my friends. It was leaving my spiritual connections and kind of truthfully felt like I was a failure, because I was still single. I know that sounds terrible to say, but I did. I remember when I was 21 years old meeting a woman who was 28, who was still single in my ward and thinking, "Ah, how sad."  And then I was 31 and single, and thought, "it's not terrible." But I did feel like I didn't get it at this point... that I didn't understand dating. I wanted to learn something, I wanted to figure out what I needed to do to improve myself.  So I decided that it was time for me to just go back to the very basics of dating. And for me, that was first dates. It had been a long time since I'd just kind of dated I would go out on a first date, and then think. "it's going to be a long time until I have another first date. I should invest in as much in this person as I can right now." And I would decide that I was their girlfriend. They were my boyfriend. And probably way too soon. I decided I needed to just start over and go back to trying to develop friendships with people. I'm a TV news producer, I like to think of things in terms of projects. So I turned this into a little bit of a project. For my 31st birthday, I thought 30...31... 31 dates in 31 days. That's 31 days straight in a row of going out every night with a new guy. I kind of came up with a set of rules. The first 30 dates, I decided, would be a first date, and I would blog about it along the way. I wasn't intending on dating these guys much less marrying them, so they didn't have to meet any of my past list requirements. But I would go out with somebody as long as they didn't give me the creepy serial killer vibe. Basically, I'd go out with anybody who would agree to go out with me You know, I would make sure to do something that wasn't just like, a sit down dinner where it felt like I was like, interviewing the person in front of me. I definitely didn't want to do just your dinner and a movie for 31 days straight. I wanted it to be something more as a way to explore my city around me. And I kind of figured, if the guy and I did not have as much fun of a time  as we wanted, then at least we'd enjoy the scenery a little bit. I wanted to make sure that the date lasted at least 31 minutes. So you couldn't just walk up and say, "Hi, nice to meet you." and then bail. You had to start investing some time. It had to be in a public place. I put a price tag on it. I decided that if I were going to spend a month trying to invest in learning about myself and learning about men, I kind of looked at this a little bit of like my master's class in men. And just like any class, you should be willing to pay for it. So I set a budget of $31 a date And I had a secret rule for myself, no kissing any of these guys.  The 31st date, I decided, would be a second date. One of the guys that I'd met from the first 30 days. I'd hold a poll on my blog... people would help me decide who I would go out with on that second date. And date number 31 would occur on Valentine's Day.  I was afraid of a few things with this. I was afraid of not making it to the end. I was afraid that I would be exhausted. I was kind of afraid of what I would find out about myself. Because I wasn't sure. Like, am I really just not dateable? or I don't know. I had no idea what I would find out. I mean, I I was afraid that I probably wouldn't get anybody to go out with me. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get get 30 guys to go out with me. You know, that's a lot. I had maybe total on a good year, three first dates. You know, I'd have like two days in the summer and a bonus date in the winter. So there's no way that I was thinking 30 new guys would be realistic. I wasn't going into this thinking, "I'm going to find a boyfriend." In fact, that wasn't my goal at all. You know, I had realized maybe a year before that I really was afraid of getting married. In fact, I remember saying that out loud. "I don't want to get married." So crushing. Saying it out loud. It also felt true. For some reason marriage equalled being trapped. And I don't know, that just seemed scary to me. It me, it felt like I wouldn't be able to really be happy or do the things that I wanted to do. And I thought, "Gosh, is that really how I look at marriage? Oh, who who would want that?" If that's the way I look at marriage. I thought, "Finally I've admitted the truth." Kind of felt like I had been dating with this goal of getting married and then all of a sudden I thought, "I don't want to get married. Well, then why am I doing this whole thing?" I wanted to make sure that I was living life on my terms, and with a full connection to Heavenly Father. I wanted to change myself. And I wanted to walk away learning something and having become...having... I wanted to walk away having a greater sense of who I was. I had asked my friend Marcus for a blessing before this began. I figured if I were going into this with my eyes and my arms and my heart wide open, I definitely needed some spiritual support. So, I asked Marcus for a blessing, and it gave me comfort but what it said in the blessing -- he told me that I was going to learn more lessons in this than I realized and that this was going to affect more people than just myself. So I felt as if I had a bigger responsibility than just going in this to have fun and date people.  So, in the beginning of the project, I only had three dates set up. Most of the guys were met either through internet hookups, through friend meetups, friends of friends of friends were most of the guys who I'd met. There were there were a handful of guys who had gone to church -- who were members of the Church of  Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but most of the guys were not guys from church.  My first date was with this guy, Rob, who's a friend of a friend, and, you know, not necessarily the type of guy that I could see myself fitting into his world in... in a few ways. He was from Long Island. He has a thick Long Island accent, and he wrote a motorcycle and he was like a guy's guy. He was the kind of guy who still hung out with guys from his childhood, and was best buds with them... really cool...Like, just dude's dude. By the end of the date, I could see myself riding on the back of his motorcycle, with my hair blowing in the wind and thinking  just how glorious life would be with Rob. And I realized something about myself in that moment -- that I had developed this habit of quickly imagining myself into the future with a guy who I'd found interesting, and I could see how I would quickly fall for these guys. But I didn't have time to really fall for Rob, because I had to go out with Joel the day after. This could actually be good for me and maybe it would help break my first bad habit of falling too quickly.  Date number four was with Ryan. Ryan had just moved to the city from a really small town in Michigan, and I lived in Harlem. And I thought, "let's go walk around Harlem to show him a place that's not like his small town where he's from." And we went to one of those classic Harlem churches that you see about in the movies, gigantic tall ceilings and the singing and the clapping is reverberating throughout the entire room. And we were clapping and singing. And there was a point when one of the people up front asked for people to stand up and testify. And Ryan stood up, and he testified. And he said, "I'm so glad that I came to this church today... never felt more welcome." And everyone said, "Amen." We walked out. I could tell that Ryan was being genuine. Like,there was something about him. And I asked him, "What is it that's happened in your life? Like, what is it that makes you just really feel deeply?" He tells me that when he was seven or eight years old, he was sitting in the second row in their family's van. And back then, people didn't really wear seatbelts. It was one of those seats that was like, just a long bench. And he had his elbows up and his fists under his chin, leaning forward talking to his mom in the driver's seat. Right as that happens, she hits a patch of ice. Ryan goes flying through the windshield. He was in a coma for several months. He had to learn how to walk and speak all over again. He missed pretty much that entire year of school. And he said ever since then, he's realized how precious life is. I could tell. I could tell he didn't take any day for granted. He didn't take anything for granted. And that's when I learned my second big lesson of this project. That there was something special about him. And I realized that there was something special about Ryan, there's probably something special about each of these guys that I was going to meet. So that was my assignment for myself. On every single date, I would ask myself, "what makes this person so special?" And I started to realize, as dates went on, and on, and on and on and on, each person that I met, had something different and remarkable about them. I realized I needed to treat all of these guys with respect, and be extremely open minded. In fact, I started to appreciate more people around me, not just the guys that I was going out on dates with, but I was appreciating every single person and realized that everyone was special.  I mean, I remember sitting on the subway and looking at other people and thinking, "Heavenly Father loves them just as much as he loves the rest of us. Now, typically, before this happened, I would think of the gift of discernment in terms of the gift of having the ability to judge well, right? or make a decision, but I ran across this definition, it says this, quote, "to understand or know something through the power of the Spirit." And then it goes on to say, "it includes perceiving the true character of people." That was what was happening. And I started to feel as if I could really see what made these guys so special. I felt like I had a glimpse of how Heavenly Father saw and that he really loved them. And if he sees all these guys that I'm going out with as special in some way, then he must see me that way too. was the first time that I really started to feel the way that Heavenly Father saw me. I thought it was pretty open minded before and that I, you know, gave a lot of people a chance and was friends with all sorts of different people. Butthis really changed the way that I looked at people. So a lot of times, I hear a lot of people go, "what was the worst date?" Oh, I hate the question. Having a positive attitude, and thinking about what makes a guy so special makes it so that you don't have a lot of bad dates. Having said that, date number 21 was with Derek. And I thought Derek and I had so much in common. We were both from Northern Virginia. And, you know, we kind of like jived well over email before meeting in person. But when I met him in person, he was so cold to me. He just gave me the cold shoulder. I would ask him anything about himself and he would give me one word answers. And it happened to be the date when I had a photographer from the New York Post following me to show how great my dates are going. Oh, it was so terrible. You know, any other day, I would probably think he was handsome, but he was being so short with me. And I thought, "this guy is super rude and nothing is special about him."  So we decided to walk about 10 blocks to go play billiards and I'm freezing and I'm holding my jacket in tight and I'm looking back at the photographer with my eyes rolling of "Can you believe this guy?" And just thinking how terrible this date is... and I say a prayer to myself. And the prayer was simple. It was this. "Heavenly Father, please help me see the good in this guy." Tamara  20:24   And I look up to him, and I think, "that beard's actually pretty cool." Tamara  20:33   I'm thinking he is really... handsome and, you know, just kind of getting him and he starts to open up to me. And then he tells me about how he has run an Iron Man. I was like, "An Iron Man? That's insane! I mean, that's a full- on marathon. 26.2 miles and then you're swimming like an entire ocean. And then you're cycling." I was like, "That is amazing." I said, "Did you love it?" And he says, "No, I hated it." I was like, "Oh, okay." And he said, "so I decided to do another one." What? Why would you do a second Iron Man, if you hated the first one, and he said, "Well, all of my friends told me that I was going to love it so much. And since I hated the first one, I figured I needed to give it another shot." You know, what endurance! I thought this guy was crazy in the best of ways. And we sat and laugh together. And he says, "Have all of your dates been this good?!" Tamara  21:42   And I said, " Well, no, they don't all start out great." Thinking..."Did he miss the entire first hour that we were together?" He said something like, "yeah, I guess I wasn't that warm when we first met today." And I said, "Yeah, what was up with that?" And he goes, "Well, I read your blog." And I said, "Well, what was on... What was on my blog that made you think that this wasn't going to be a good time?" He says, "You went out with all these great, guys. I don't know how you did it. But you found the best guys in New York City it seems like. How can I keep up with that?" I was like, "Derek, are you kidding me? You're amazing. You completed two Ironman competitions, just because... Because you thought, 'Hey, why don't I try that?'" I mean, he was one of the best guys in New York too, but I probably would have missed it had it not been for this project.  Once I started writing about each date, I think people realized, Hey, I'm actually in this for fun - that I wasn't going to be so catty about things. I'm not trying to like, write about, Oh, you know, how terrible this first date was, and I think that helped get more guys to come. And lots of guys were like, "Hey, I'm totally down for that. Let's just go and check out the city." So some guys would read my blog and they'd write me. But most of my dates were friends of friends or friends of friends, friends,  So, crushes. I actually started to develop a lot of crushes. Of course, Derek, you know, who I thought I hated? was one of them. I had crushes on probably a third of the guys. And one of them, you know, was like, "Hey, can we go out on another date?" and I was like, "Well, I happen to be dating a few dozen other guys right now. So maybe after the project, I can go out on a date." But, I just didn't have time. I was working full time during the day, going out on dates right after that, coming home and blogging. And then I still had to maintain the relationships with the guys who I'd already met and try and set up dates for guys in the future. So I had packed days. I was exhausted. Date 14, I wasn't sure that I was going to survive. I was so tired. Dating is tough work. There were a handful who I kept in touch with regularly because I thought I might want to go out with them again after the project. And if they didn't want to go out with me, I realized I actually was okay with that. I had fun with just having a crush on them. I didn't need to have them like me back. That was huge for me. I wasn't crushed by my crushes. So my last few dates come and I needed to figure out who I was going to go out on a second date. But 31st date was a little different. It was Valentine's Day. I wanted it to be big. I blew my budget for it. So I got tickets to a Broadway show. And I was going to pay for a nice dinner. And not only that, but I was going to go on to national television -- "Good Morning America", and "Fox and Friends" and talk about who I'd picked. I was working at "Good Morning America" at the time and, you know, my co-workers were really excited about it. So, they were also going to follow me to dinner for the date that night, and a few other news outlets picked up on it as well. And so this had become bigger than I had imagined. Just like Marcus had told me in my blessing before. So, I reached out to every single one of the guys and I said, "Okay, I would love to go out again with you guys." It was kind of funny saying that to 30 guys, "I want to go out with you again." I told them how much national attention this had been getting and if they weren't into it, then that's fine. I would just hopefully go out on another date with them after the project. So most of the guys were interested in going out with me for the 31st day and thought that that would be fun. Not all of them, most of them, and some of them said, "Not interested, but I'll see you after your 31st date."   I gathered a lot blog readers over this time, which was funny. I thought only my mom and maybe like a handful of my friends would read this. And I said, "Okay, guys, it's time. We're going to figure out who my Valentine's Day date is. Who is date number 31?" And they would get 50% of the vote, and then I would get the other 50%. So I ran the poll with all the guys who were interested in going on national television and having video recorded of their date with me. I was sitting up late that night, my friend Rachel had come over, and we're seeing all the poll numbers come in, and the polls closed right around midnight, and it's down to two guys. And I'm trying to figure out who to go out with, and I say "This one guy. I could see myself dating him, maybe even being in a relationship with him and having a lot of fun. But this other guy, I could really see myself marrying someday." And Rachel says, "Well, there you go then." And I'm like, "What are you talking about?" And she says, "Look, these last 30 days have been so great for you. You have gotten what you wanted. Like, you figured out a lot about yourself. You saw the good in people and realized what makes them so special." She said, "Well, what's Heavenly Father's other purpose in dating? If you think that there might be something there with this guy, then go out with him." And so I did.  And a year later, we got married. And I cannot believe that that is like, my real story. That this whole project to figure out myself and what I was doing, quote unquote, "wrong", turned into this amazing ending that I truly didn't expect. And it's not just because I got married and it's this, you know, happy ending. It's a happy ending because I found love. I found true love, Heavenly Father's love -- the way that he loves all of us. When I realized that I didn't want to get married, that was information that I could work with. I had to redefine, you know, at 30 - 31 years old, what marriage would look like. I thought, "Well, if I were to get married, then what would it have to look like for me to actually want to get married?" Being able to meet one guy and then another guy and then another guy and another guy -- It was pretty easy for me to kind of figure out "Yeah, this is the kind of guy who I could see myself in a relationship with." You know. So it's not like this is the like, perfect formula for everybody to find love. You don't need to go out on a date every day for a month to figure that out. I sure hope that Heavenly Father teaches us each that lesson  in his own different way. This, this just happened to be the way that I needed to learn it. You know, I truly believe that I was ready to learn something about myself and learn something about dating. And that Heavenly Father was probably like, "thank goodness! She's finally opening herself up to let me be in charge of this, like, move over a girl." And I really believe that when we give Heavenly Father the room to teach us well, He will show us lessons and a life way better than we ever could have imagined. He continues to show that to me. So, life is a little different now. You know, that was 11 years ago, and we just had our 10 year wedding anniversary. We just had our third baby girl, and life is pretty fun. It's really simple but It's really fun. It's funny. because I think when they first hear how we met, sometimes people probably think that we like live life like that all the time. But we have our favorite TV shows that we sit and watch after the girls go to bed. You know, we do swim class on Saturday mornings. Life is simple, and it's good. It's better than good. It's, it's great. It's the good stuff.  There's a copy of my book, sitting in our living room. And, you know, the girls, they see this copy, and it's just, you know, a piece of our living room. And I think someday when they're old enough to read it, or to ask me about how we met, the lessons that I teach them are probably the same simple lessons that I learned. That I not only got to meet your dad through this, but I got to meet some pretty incredible people. And I learned how Heavenly Father loves each of us for who we really are. And that he loves them that way too. KaRyn Lay  31:03   That was Tamara Duricka Johnson and her blog, "31 Dates in 31 Days" is still up. Although it's not really being upDATED these days.  Get it? updated?  Get it? Anyway, any date that she would write about now would include her husband Evan, and those three sweet girls who call her mama. Tam and I have been friends since our early 20s. we bonded over our displacement as two East Coast girls living in the rainy rainy jungles of Portland, Oregon. She has always been a go- getter. But when she started this ambitious and exhausting project, I think all of us who knew and loved her realized that we were watching something really unique unfold. Like Derek, also known as date number 21, Tamara was going after the things that she wanted. It wasn't an Iron Man race, but it was a race nonetheless. The difference was that the prize at the end of this grueling course was a deeper knowledge of the kind of love that can actually make a difference in our lives. And really, it's the kind of love that can change the world.  Look, I don't mean to be dramatic, but it's dramatic. When Tamara allowed herself to access God's perspective on the men that she was dating, a spiritual gift that I like to call divine empathy, she saw them differently. And then she treated them differently. Sometimes they acted differently because of it, and sometimes they didn't. But that kind of doesn't matter. Because in the process of seeing the Divinity in them, Tamara came to understand who she was in relationship to God's love more clearly. And because of that, she was changed forever. I think it's important to note that Tamara had to ask for it. She had to invite Heavenly Father to gift her with his perspective as she practice divine empathy. But when it was given to her, she acknowledged it and didn't hesitate to pass it around... to share the love.  Remember that moment on the train from her story when she looked around and saw every person as worthy of God's love? Well, I think that's the definition of what the prophet Nephi described in fourth Nephi chapter one verses 15 and 16, when he wrote, "and it came to pass, that there was no contention in the land because of the love of God, which did dwell in the hearts of the people." I love the idea of love dwelling in our hearts. It means that love lives there, that it's taken up residency and it's settled in, it's become part of the cycles of the blood beating in and out of our true center. And according to ni fi, that dwelling love has the power to calm the envying, the strife and the tumbled so that there could not be as Nephi wrote, "a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God." Isn't that dramatic? What would change in our world -- the small one that swirls around us and the big one that twists and turns around the Sun every day --If we, as a people could find space in our hearts for the love of God to dwell. Well, whether we are seeking a committed marriage relationship with another human being, or seeking a committed covenant relationship with the Savior of our souls, that power of peace that comes from asking for the perspective of divine empathy, and then offering our hearts as a dwelling place for pure love, well, that's worth every 31 day sprint, and every exhausting effort that we take to get there. Those love lessons are the ones that will change the world. That's it for this episode of This Is The Gospel. Thank you to all of our friends who are part of the Love Lessons video series. Shout out to the Knowltons, brave and true and especially to our storyteller Tamara for sharing her war stories and her lessons in love with us. We'll have links to all the videos and Tamara's book and blog as well as a transcript of this episode in our show notes at LDS Hey, it's Valentine's Day. So if you have a minute to tell us what you LOVE about this podcast, we'd love to hear it. Please go to iTunes and leave us a review. If you don't know how to do that. Find us on Instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast, where we will have a story in our highlights that will show you how to leave a review. Every review helps us to spread the love of faith filled stories that really matter. Speaking of good stories, all of the stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a story to share about Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. We often find many of our stories from the pitch line and we love to hear how the gospel has blessed your life. Give us a call at 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less. This episode was produced and edited by me KaRyn Lay with additional story producing and editing by Skyler Brunner. He's the genius behind the love lessons videos. It was scored, mixed and mastered by mix at six studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and the other LDS living podcasts at Happy Valentine's Day! Transcribed by Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Feb 10, 2020
Lost and Found
Stories in this episode: Laric breezes through sleep deprivation games on the Netflix show "Awake," but the final results leave him wondering if God cares about what matters most to him; A lost set of scriptures devastates Mark, but how they come back to him years later is nothing short of a miracle; David struggles to adjust to his mission in the Philippines until losing a contact lens in the mud helps him gain a new perspective. SHOWNOTES: This episode is sponsored by Gospel Day by Day Check out pictures of Laric, Mark, and David at you can also see a picture of the heart necklace and KaRyn's bangs! TRANSCRIPT: KaRyn  0:03   Welcome to This Is The Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay. If you were to ask my husband Justin, what my biggest quirk is, he will easily tell you that it's the fact that I lose everything all the time. Our morning routine inevitably includes him calling my phone three or four times to help me find where I've stashed it in the 30 minutes between waking up and getting dressed. It shouldn't be that hard. Our house is not big by any stretch of the imagination. And still, I lose my phone daily. I find it under a pile of clothing or in the pantry on the shelf next to a jar of pickles. Don't worry, I don't eat pickles for breakfast– usually. Sometimes it's right in the pocket of the pants that I'm literally wearing. Losing things is just part of who I am, in fact, is such a part of me that after two years of living in Korea, I finished out my time in the Seoul military branch by giving a talk in which I cataloged all the things I'd lost while living there. Mostly things I left on buses or in taxis: a computer, an iPod, a hard drive with every poem I'd ever written on it. Books, glasses, a couple of wallets, at least two journals, countless pens, pencils, bobby pins, and papers and most devastatingly my well-worn mission scriptures. Usually, I lose small things, but sometimes every once in a while I lose very big things. When I was in college, I borrowed a friend's truck so I could haul something around the streets of Philadelphia and I honestly can't remember what, but I planned to return it to him in the morning. So as a poor college student, I opted to park it on the street where it wasn't going to cost me anything. And if you've ever been to Philly, then you know that parking in that city is a hot mess, a nightmare with loads and loads of special zones and one-way streets and half cock signage that doesn't actually tell you where you can and can't park. So I did my best to read the signs and after driving in circles, I finally parallel parked on a side street near the corner that seemed safe-ish, and I called it a night. When I woke up in the morning and headed back to that same spot to take the truck to my friend's apartment, it wasn't where I left it. I mean, it wasn't where I thought I left it. I walked around six city blocks convinced that I just couldn't remember where I'd parked. But after the final go-round, it became absolutely clear that the truck just wasn't there anymore. I had lost a truck. So I girded up my loins, I found a payphone and I called my friend to confess. I mean, it really wasn't outside the scope of reality that I could lose something like this. I lost things all the time. So through tears, I explained that I didn't know where his truck was, at which point to my deep surprise, my friend started to laugh. He then made his own confession. He had hopped on his bike and written through the streets near where he thought I might have parked it, located his truck and used his spare set of keys to take it back to his apartment. I will never forget the panic that I felt of believing that I'd lost something of someone else's. And then the sense of relief and anger that flooded me when I realized that I hadn't actually lost it. The real miracle in that story is that this guy and I remained friends. Now, in the years since that traumatic event, I admit that I've become almost cavalier in my attitude about losing things. I still have that sinking feeling when I realized something I care about is gone. But I am so much quicker to move right into my mantra that things are just things. For better for worse, I have reconciled myself to being, well, a loser of things. So today, we have three stories about losing stuff, and finding stuff, from three people who lost something they needed, wanted, or hoped for. In some cases, they found the thing again, but in all the cases their experience helps them to see themselves and their connection to God more clearly. Our first story comes from a Laric who had the chance of a lifetime when he found himself competing on a game show just minutes away from winning a million dollars. Here's Laric: Laric  4:19   So I have wanted to be on a game show ever since I was a little kid. I grew up loving to watch Temple of Doom and all those Nickelodeon game shows and just was always interested in going on one. It just looked like a lot of fun to me. I don't know. I mean, even watching the little kid shows the prizes were just toys and things like that. But I just, I just wanted to go and compete. It wasn't even necessarily about what you could win. It was just wanting to do those cool tasks and challenges that you couldn't do anywhere else. So this desire to be on a game show kind of stems with my oldest sister. We have both loved the idea of going on game shows. And so we both started to apply for certain ones, not every one, just ones that we thought we'd be good at. I'd just google every few months new game shows. And if I think it looks interesting or that I'd be good at it, that's when I apply for it. I applied for a show called The Wall, which I was interesting because I applied with my friend. So he made it on but I didn't get to go with him. So after I applied for The Wall and didn't get on that one, my next show was Awake. And this one popped out at me because all it said was it was a sleep deprivation game. And I'm like, Well, I work 48-hour shifts and 72-hour shifts all the time as a firefighter, where I get little to no sleep frequently. So I figured that that would be a great game for me, even though I have no idea what anything else is. Because it's a brand new game show that just says sleep deprivation. I figured I could do that one. And then they said I was picked to go on the competition. It all happened really fast. It was just a couple, I think it was like two months that it all happened. And they said I'd be filming in Los Angeles within the next month. You know, called me set up my airport that I was supposed to go to and flew me out to Los Angeles. So I knew I wanted to get a good amount of sleep. So I tried to go to bed early because I was going to be up for at least the next 24 hours. But it was a little hard going to sleep though. But once we woke up, I had breakfast and they loaded us up in a couple of vans and drove us to the location where the show would be taped. So all I knew about this show before I went was that it was going to be a sleep deprivation game. I had no idea what the money prize was. I had no idea what we were going to be doing to stay awake for 24 hours or if we were going to be playing games. I just had no idea what was going to happen. It was hard because I usually like to prepare and I had no way to prepare, because I had no idea what was to come. Finally, it comes time and the director comes in or the producer and says, "Okay, I'm going to hand you this paperwork. It's going to explain the game and how it works and all the rules. Once I hand you the paperwork, you're not allowed to talk to each other. Once we've all finished reading it, and you guys sign this paper that say, you understand we will begin the game." And that's when I learned that we're going to be counting quarters for the next 24 hours. And I just like, gasped out loud, like, That's insane. Counting quarters for 24 hours who, who decided to do that? And then afterward, there was the sleep deprivation challenges that we had to perform. And that's when I learned that you could win a million dollars if you counted so accurately and made it to the end of the game. And I was just like, "Yes! I'm doing it. I'm winning a million dollars. This is happening." I am ecstatic. So I'm kind of freaking out. So after we finished reading the contract and found out the money amount and the rules, they immediately got us up and we walked into the room where the game show would start. And so it was within, like, 10 minutes that we read the contract and began the game. I was, well, at least me, I was in frantic mode. And I wasn't thinking I was just counting. While we were counting, there were no clocks anywhere. There was no way to tell how long we'd been counting. And so your mind starts to wander and you start to get a little tired and delirious and, like, legitimately, we were counting for 24 hours and I never actually stopped and took a break, besides the bathroom break. 30 minutes into the show, I decided there's no way I could go for a million dollars. There's no way I'd be right because to get a million dollars at the end, you have to be within $25 of your count. So what you turn in and what you actually counted has to be within $25 I was like, "Okay, I know that I'm missing some quarters." And I thought, maybe I need to just add a certain amount, like 250 or whatever amount of dollars just to account for what I have probably missed. Last second, I thought, "No, Leric, you should just trust yourself, you probably didn't miss that much. Just write what you actually think you counted instead of adding to it." And so that's what I did. Which would come to be my demise later. So the time ran out, and they take our quarters away in these huge were wheelbarrows, which they've taken away multiple times. So we filled up those wheelbarrows a couple of times. So we gave our number to the directors and then we were moved to a different location of the IKEA, and we started a different portion of the game. And this portion of the game was a competition type of thing where we do tasks that are difficult to do while you are sleep deprived. But first, before we start those tasks we are brought up to the stage and all of the sudden, you know, we moved from this warehouse to this really elaborate well-done stage with audience members that were there. And it was just, it was a lot of fun and a really cool atmosphere. But we all get brought up to this stage, we meet the host. And immediately after we're introduced, two of us get kicked off the show.   The person that counted the least gets kicked off, and the person that counted the most inaccurately gets kicked off. After those two get kicked off, we were explained the first game, and the first game is drinking a huge slushy for, I can't remember the time limit but for a certain amount of time, and whoever drinks the most wins. So we play this game and we all play next to each other but we all have dividers up so we can't see how each other did I was drinking it so fast that I never got a brain freeze because it never you get a brain freeze from it touching the roof of your mouth. Well, I never touch the roof of my mouth and was straight down my throat. So I got a chest freeze, and it like right in my heart. And it was the worst chest pain I've ever felt in my life it was very painful. And there's this lady in the audience screaming to me, she goes, "you're not gonna die, you're not gonna die." And I remember thinking like, "you're right, I'm not gonna die. It's just pain." So I kept going and drank it as fast as I could. So that was a lot of fun. So after that was done, we all get brought up, they announced that I won. So I was moved on to the next portion automatically. So the next challenge is the one that made me the most nervous, and it was a sewing challenge. Obviously, when you're sleep-deprived, that precision is hard and your hands tremble and it's hard to really focus on small objects. I was really nervous about this one, because I'm not good at those precision skills anyways, and I'm sleep deprived. But again, so we start that, that competition, and we can't see each other so no one knows how each other is doing. But anyways, same concept we're all brought up after that game is done. And they announce who won, which duh-du-du-duh it was me again. So then I moved on to the next challenge along with two other competitors. So there's just three of us left, and this one was a money catching challenge. And this one I was the most confident on because, you know, I was a receiver in high school football and I have good hand-eye coordination. So I was really excited about this one. So I went and immediately started and once I popped that first balloon, I knew it was much harder than I thought because it was very difficult catching this money. This is the first time I really felt the effects of being sleep deprived. Because I just could not focus on this money falling, I just couldn't find it in the air and keep track of it and catch it with my hands. I had a really hard time finding it. And then we're brought up on stage again, to announce the winner. And this time, to my surprise, I won again, which was awesome for me. So now I automatically get to go to the final two. But then, sadly, I was up against the one person I didn't want to be up against, which was just very disheartening to me. And the last challenge wasn't necessarily a challenge. It was this is where the counting came into play. So between the two of us, whoever counted the most accurately, it wasn't the most it was whoever kind of most accurately was the one who got to move on. And we were offered a buyout and this one was a $10,000 buyout. And that was a little tempting for me, I wanted that $10,000. I didn't want to up against this guy, because I thought that he had counted better than me. But I was on such a winning streak that I kind of took it as a sign that no you should keep going, you know when the countdown started, we get 10 seconds to take the buyout. Nobody took the buyout and I said, I shook his hand and I said, "Dude, I know you beat me." And sure enough, he beat me and he got to move on to the final rounds where I went home with nothing. In that moment, I was still kind of on a high with the whole show. I felt okay, I wasn't that bummed. You know, I said the typical saying that. People say, "Oh, I came here with nothing. I can go home with nothing." It's no big deal. So it didn't really bother me. 'Til I got back to the hotel, I had about eight hours of sleep. After I woke up, that's when it really hit me of what I had done. Not only did I not win as much as I thought I would, I didn't win anything. I could have taken $10,000. And that's when it really hit me, where I regret started coming in, I started to feel sick to my stomach about what I did. I was confused about why I didn't win, you know because I felt like I could have and should have and all types of things were going through my head. I was really hoping to win a large amount of money because I work 48-hour shifts already as a firefighter. And a lot of times I have to pick up overtime shifts and I work 72-hour shifts so that that's a long time away from home, you know because we sleep at the station and were away from our family the whole time. And so I wanted to win this money to just be able to handle our bills easier and not have to work overtime anymore. Like so that means I could stay at home with my kids a lot more, be around my family a lot more, maybe do some fun side projects, things like that. So I just really wanted to get over the need of doing any overtime. And that was like my main goal. I was following all the steps before the competition. The night before I was praying that I would do well. I even watched General Conference talks just to try to help me out and get me in a spiritual mood where maybe I could be taking cues from the Spirit during the show. And so when I lost and didn't come home with anything, it was really hard for me. I had a really hard time understanding why Heavenly Father didn't want to help me out in this matter when I had asked for help, and where I thought that I deserved it. And I had good reasons for wanting this money, you know because it would allow me to spend more time with my family. The next few months were actually pretty, they were just hard for me I had a lot of sleepless nights. Not only did I wonder why Heavenly Father didn't help me with it. I played the what-if game and What if I had done this, What if I counted differently? And just all these things were going through my head? What's interesting is I was going through the feelings of disappointment and not understanding why my prayers weren't answered. And why wouldn't Heavenly Father want me to be able to spend more time with my family and, and I am active in the church and I fulfill my calling,  why wouldn't I get this blessing? At the time I was teaching Sunday school, and we ended up having this lesson about eternal matters. And in that lesson, it talks about how Heavenly Father concerns himself only with eternal matters. That includes our happiness but, but basically the steps that we're taking for salvation and growing closer towards him, and things like that. And it wasn't until then that it kind of finally dawned on me. And I finally let go of all of those bad feelings that I was having because I realized this Show and that money is just an earthly matter. I have everything I need. I even have most of what I want. I work hard for what I get. But at the end of the day, Heavenly Father just doesn't care if I win a game show or not, you know, just like any other thing. He doesn't care who wins the Super Bowl, or who won this championship, or who won that; He's got no skin in that game because it's not an eternal matter. And so I realized that I already have the blessings that I was basically asking for, that he's already given me these blessings. And maybe I just wasn't recognizing them at the time. I wanted to spend more time with my family with that money. But Heavenly Father always helps us find the time that we have and make the time more meaningful. Heavenly Father's going to take care of us. And it doesn't mean He's not going to put us through trials or things that are difficult. But He's going to give us a way to overcome those trials which I look at this as a trial and it was a trial of my faith, but He always gives us a way to overcome those trials and to come out even better than before.   KaRyn  19:24   That was Leric. You can watch Leric's episode of the show Awake on Netflix, which is where my family and I first thought, in my line of work, you get pretty good at spotting someone who might be a member of the Church in various settings. And when my family was watching the show, and Leric said, "O m g, oh my goodness." I turned to my husband Justin. I said, "I bet he's a Latter-day Saint." Well, I reached out to Leric through good old Facebook and the rest is history. I am so glad that we were able to have him tell this story. Our next story of Lost and Found comes from Mark who lost something irreplaceable and the came back to him is truly epic. Here's Mark.   Mark  20:05   I hadn't done a lot of studying before my mission, I kind of went out unprepared. And, you know, I was kind of a scared, timid little boy, with a weak testimony and poor knowledge of the gospel at that point. Still wanting to go out on a mission and do what I was supposed to do, but unfortunately, had not prepared myself at all. And my parents decided to buy me a brand new set of scriptures, it was a leather-bound quad. Because at that point, I'd never really had my own scriptures and they wanted me to have a nice set to take on my mission. And so this set of scriptures they got me became kind of important to me because it was my first set that I was going to be able to go through and read and mark the way that the Spirit directed as I read them. While I was excited when I opened my mission call to Nashville, Tennessee, and when I finally got out there, I realized how hard and trying it was to be on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ. I didn't really realize how hard that would be to make the change from thinking and serving yourself all the time just to serving others full time. Because I went out so unprepared, I found myself in a situation where I would just lock up all the time when teaching discussions. I realized that you can't teach the gospel unless you've prepared yourself in such a way that you know and understand the scriptures and you, more importantly, understand how the Spirit and the Holy Ghost works are able to use that to communicate your testimony to others, I'd been in the mission field for about a year, and I had finally begun to feel comfortable with my teaching skills and my knowledge of the Scriptures. And this level of comfort came in part because of the time and effort I had spent marking my scriptures in such a way that I could find things easily. I grew to love the set of scriptures. There was even a spot at the end of the Book of Mormon where my mom had written in the margins that she loved me and was proud of what I was doing. And you know, this spot the end of the Book of Mormon in Moroni, Chapter 10, verses three through five. This is where she wrote this note to me. Somehow she knew I would be spending a lot of time in those special verses I think.   These scriptures were somewhat of a security blanket to me, especially as I got them marked in the way where I could find things easily and teach out of them. Leaving my apartment one day to go to zone conference, and I set my scriptures on top of the car to unlock the door. And then I jumped in the car and I forgot that the scriptures were on the roof. We headed down the freeway to Dickson, Tennessee. Now as you can guess the scriptures didn't make it to zone conference. Oh, boy. Well, I was devastated. They were the one thing I had that helped me to feel comfortable as a missionary. I wanted to go back and find the scriptures, but we didn't have the miles to go looking for them. And the Spirit had really told me in my heart that they were gone, that I needed to go get a new set and start over. So that's what I did. I think part of the reason that my Heavenly Father wanted me to lose this set of scriptures was because He realized I was probably leaning on them a little too much, rather than teaching by the Spirit. And I think He kind of realized that I may have hit somewhat of a wall. I began to understand that it was more important to listen to the Spirit when teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, rather than constantly turning to the same scripture that I'd used 50 times over. I began to understand how our Feavenly Father works. And more importantly, how much He loves each one of His children and cares for them on an individual basis. And I realized that you can't just go in and teach the same lesson to every single person because our Heavenly Father loves each one of us individually, and knows us individually. And each person is going to need something a little bit different. And so my testimony was strengthened of the love that our Heavenly Father has for us.   Fast forward five years, and I'd been home for quite a while now. My brother Seth received and opened his mission call to Nashville, Tennessee mission. I was very excited for my brother to go to the same mission I did and not only that, that's also where my grandparents are from is from Tennessee. They were converted to the gospel there as they were raising tobacco and running moonshine. They were hillbilly rednecks in Tennessee. So I was, I was excited when I went to Tennessee and I was very excited for Seth to go experience some of the same things I was blessed to experience. Seth had been out in the field for about two weeks. And he was going to church for the second time. And he was struggling with homesickness and a few other trials at the time. Sunday morning, he and his companion entered the chapel. One of the members just walked up to him and handed Seth a set of scriptures. Seth took the scriptures with a kind of a confused look on his face, he tells me and he said, "they're not my scriptures," and the brother was sure they belong to him because he had Elder Mays is written on his name tag. And Seth kind of being green in the mission. He didn't even put a whole lot of thought into what was going on. And so he just took the scriptures, and he brought them home with him. And the next morning, he said that he finally opened up the scriptures and he flipped right to the part where our mom had written in the margins. Feeling that the handwriting was familiar. He then looked on the front page and saw my name and address recognizing it was his home address as well. This is when the Spirit fell over him. And he realized what the Lord had done for him at this difficult time at the beginning of his mission, and it brought great peace to him. So, Seth continued to use my scriptures for the remainder of his mission. And he told me that as he would read my notes and look at the things I had marked, it felt as if I was his personal study companion.   Seth wanted to do some investigating on how these scriptures came into his possession. And so he asked the brother they gave him to him in church, where they came from. And basically, the story was that his brother was a highway worker. And he was doing some work on the highway one afternoon and he came across my set of scriptures that was laying there in the bar ditch. Which obviously it must have been fairly quick right after I lost them. Because my quad doesn't show any water damage or even any real damage from staying out in the sun for too long. So he picked him up and he was not a member of the church, but he felt they looked important so he brought them home with him. And he kind of read them looked at them, browsed them once in a while, and he was interested in them because his brother was a member of the Church, had recently been converted. What he finally decided to do was to return these scriptures to his brother, Seth could tell the story better than I could but from what I understand, he kind of had hard feelings with his brother because he had joined the church and he decided that this was a sign from God that he should mend things up with his brother. And so he went to his brother and told him he was sorry for kind of disowning him. And he gave him my scriptures and said, "These belong to someone who thinks they're important. I can tell by the markings. So would you please return them to the correct owner for me?"And then his brother said that he would but he actually just set them on his shelf and his son began using them as his seminary scriptures taken him to the church every week for seminary study. And one week, he forgot them there at seminary, and this was when the brother church picked him up at church, read the name on the front, and then my brother walked in the church. He looked at my brother, read the name on his name tag and matched up the scriptures with the name tag. Walked over and hand in the scriptures to my brother. When I found out that Seth had the scriptures back in his possession, I can't describe the feeling but just a feeling of great joy. Not only that, I got my scriptures back, which, which did make me happy, but just the thought that our Heavenly Father could show up for my brother during that time of difficulty. In such a personal way that I could never have done on my own. And there's even a little bit more to the story that I'd like to share. When Seth and I were reunited at the airport, I remember him walking down the flight of stairs and he looked so different than when he had left, looked full of the Spirit. And I noticed he was holding my set of scriptures in his hand, I recognized them and we embraced each other. And then with a big smile on his face, he handed me my lost set of scriptures. I took them all my nowhere that they would still be miraculous in my life. As time went by, I began to have some doubts and questions about church and church doctrine. I was just kind of in a place where I was trying to make sense of everything and understanding whether or not I was needing to be all into the gospel of Jesus Christ, or if I should take a step back. And I just wasn't feeling very good about the space I was in and I think I'd kind of lost focus in my life. During this time, I had been studying pretty much everything on the church, other than the actual scriptures that I should have been reading every single day. And I believe this is how I lost my focus. As I sat, thinking about this that's when I caught a glimpse of my scriptures up on the shelf. And the Spirit whispered to me in that moment, I just sat there looking at them. And the Spirit whispered to me, "Mark, these are the words of eternal life. Quit putting so much of your time and effort into the opinions of men." And as I thought about that direction from the spirit, I walked over and picked up my scriptures. And, unfortunately, dusted them off. The Spirit just confirmed to me that I needed to read them every single day to get my testimony back and to get back on track. It was such a clear inspiration that I made a promise to Heavenly Father I just said a prayer and made a promise that I would read out of those scriptures every single morning. And as I did that, everything came together for me. My experience with losing and then finding these scriptures has changed my testimony in such a way that, that there's no doubt. I think of the small tender mercies that our Heavenly Father is willing to bless us with, if we continually try to do His work, at the rate that we're ready for. He's so personally aware of where we're at and how we need things to happen in our life in order to truly understand that he's there for us, and to help our faith grow. That He will do things for us like He did for my brother and I with the set of scriptures in such a personal way, that there's no doubt that He is with you, as an individual person, at all times and in all places.   KaRyn  33:02   That was Mark. Mark's story resonates with me a lot, remember that lost set of mission scriptures that I mentioned before? But what I love about Mark's perspective is that although he lost something he thought he absolutely couldn't live without, that loss was actually the catalyst for some serious spiritual growth. And isn't it so amazing to think that something we lose could actually become the thing that someone else finds when they most need it like Mark's brother? I often think about my own missionary scriptures, riding all alone around Seoul on a bus seat all by themselves. I love to think that someone who was desperate and excited to learn English, pick them up and maybe took them home so they could read it when they needed something to practice with. Who knows the life these scriptures have had, especially considering the life that those scriptures can bring. Our final story comes from David who discovered that losing your sight has more than one consequence. Here's David.f   David  33:59   I've always wanted to serve a mission since primary. And it was just a natural choice. It wasn't anything that I even thought about. When I received my mission call to the Philippines, the call stated that it was like an English speaking mission. So I was to go through an English district in the MTC, but when I got to the Philippines, I didn't hear a lot of English being spoken. And so that was a big shock. I would go to lessons. And in our apartment, of course, the missionaries were all speaking Cebuano and I didn't understand anything that my companion or the families that we were teaching, I didn't understand anything that was being said. It was very motivating for me to learn the language as fast as I could, but it was hard. I felt very alone and isolated, and like I wasn't doing anything to really help. I had been serving about two months in the Philippines. And on one particular night my companion and I had arranged with a fellowshipper in the ward to accompany us as we went teaching. And we had three appointments scheduled that night, spread out in the evening. It was a rainy night, and as we went to our first appointment, their family wasn't there, or we weren't able to meet with them. And so we tried to be productive and do some other things, just visiting with people nearby. And we started walking to our next appointment. And we would try to meet people along the way and use our time. When we arrived at our second appointment, that one fell through also. And so we decided, well, maybe we'll go to our third appointment a little bit early, and we could either spend more time with them or we could get our fellowshipper home earlier. And along the way, we were trying to meet people, maybe knock on some doors, what we call tracting. And we arrived at our third appointment and that one also fell through. And so as I'm going through culture shock, not understanding the language, introduced to new foods, the schedule of the mission, the rigors of the mission, the heat and the humidity, a new nation, a new culture. I was feeling so isolated and alone and that night, having finished a night that just everything fell through. I didn't feel like there was a lot of joy in my mission. Well, as we were, we decided to return our fellowshipper to her home. And it was we were walking along a dirt path, and it was still raining so the path was wet and muddy with puddles, we walked by a little store that we called a sari-sari store. It was like a little shack made out of wood, it had a window in it, not a glass window, kind of a mesh window. And you could buy items there. And the light was on in the sari-sari store. And as we walked by, I turned my head partway a little bit. And I also moved my eyes towards the store and I blinked my contact lens in my eye and one of my eyes popped out. I wear hard contact lenses. I actually I have pretty bad vision, all the way from elementary school up through my mission. My vision was changing so rapidly, and I actually didn't have a pair of glasses that I could see well enough with. And so I work contacts which gave me my best vision. And when my contact popped out under the ground, I panicked. I was far from home, and I immediately realized, if I didn't find my contact lens, writing home to my parents, that letter would take 10 days to arrive and then they would order the lens and ship it that it would take maybe five or six weeks to get a new lens to me in the Philippines. And during that time the contrast between one lens in my eye and one lens out, I had done that before and it kind of caused headaches, it caused distortions. It was just hard to function and work because of how poor my vision was. I just panic, so I dropped down to the ground and started searching for the contact. My companion went to the store nearby and bought some matches and he would strike a match and use the light from the flame until the match burned out and then you strike another match and we would just go inch by inch over the ground looking for this contact lens. But there were puddles everywhere and the lens looked like a drop of water. I realized that I didn't have a good chance of finding the lens. So I began praying, I needed a miracle. And I prayed so earnestly, so fervently for a miracle that we'd be able to find that lens. Well, some Filipino men gathered around us asking what we are doing, and if they could help. They didn't know what a contact lens was. And so I took the other lens out of my eye to show them what it looked like. And then I put it back in my eye and we kept looking. I was grateful for their help, and I didn't want to push them away. I also recognize that they were probably likely to step on it, push it into the mud, or break it or something. I was afraid that their help would not really be helpful at all. After about 20 minutes, I gave up. I felt bad that our fellowshipper was just sitting there in the rain and realizing that the contact have probably been destroyed or permanently lost and just losing hope and faith that Heavenly Father was not going to answer this prayer. I determined right then to talk to my mission president and asked to be moved to a new mission. I was really, really discouraged and I was angry that my prayer had not been answered.   David  38:56   My miracle that I needed so badly, it didn't come. Well, my companion and I, and our fellowshipper began to walk further towards our home and we walked around a corner in this trail, and we heard some excited voices from behind us, back up the trail. My companion grabbed my arm and he explained to me, the men claimed that they had found my contact lens, and I immediately discounted it. I said, "That's impossible. They don't even know what they're looking for. And it's wet. There's just no way they found it. And we have the matches! Unless they bought new matches to keep looking. There's just no way they could have found it." We went back towards the men and they were walking towards us. And as they approached us, there were about six men, and the one in front, held out his palm, and in his palm was my contact lens. It wasn't broken. It was perfect. And I thought how perfect that Heavenly Father would answer my prayer through a real miracle. I didn't find it myself, a man that had never seen a contact lens had found my contact lens in the rain in the dark. It was a miracle and it hit me so hard, but also a series of scriptures came to my mind and I understood the verses immediately. The verses of scripture are found in Alma chapter 33. And it tells the story of Moses, when the children of Israel were being bitten by poisonous snakes by serpents. It starts out, "Behold, Christ, he who was spoken up by Moses, yea. And behold, a type was raised up in the wilderness that whosoever would look upon it might live, and many did look and live, but few understood the meaning of those things. And this because of the hardness of their hearts, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look because they did not believe that it would heal them, but my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes, that ye might be healed, Would you not behold quickly? Or would you rather harden your hearts in unbelief and be slothful that you would not cast about your eyes that he might perish?" those verses of scripture spoke to me and I was taught by the Spirit that I had been acting in unbelief. I wasn't blind from losing the contact lens, but that I had been blind because of my self-pity, because of my doubt, I hadn't been looking to the Savior. I hadn't been loving him and loving the people in the Philippines. I had not been adequately serving him or the people in the Philippines. But through this miracle, the Savior, the Spirit also taught me how I could look and really see that I needed to exercise faith in Christ and in His Atonement, and then teach that. Teach faith in Christ, teach of His Atonement to the Filipino people and to love them and to serve them and that experience, it changed my mission. It changed me in that I became more patient with myself. I became patient with my circumstances, I exercised more faith and gratitude to my Heavenly Father for where I was and what I was called to do. And I knew that I wasn't alone. It wasn't just me in the Philippines trying to adapt, trying to be a good missionary, trying to learn a language, trying to teach. It wasn't just me, but that He really was there with me. And He was mindful of me and that He would help me in my need. It's been over 30 years since that night of the miracle, since having my contact lens restored to me and being taught by the Spirit. But that experience has not faded at all. And it has helped me weather other challenges and trials. I've been able to maintain and keep faith in Christ, knowing that He'll deliver. He has the power to deliver and He can and will deliver me.   KaRyn  42:49   That was David. I remember those gas permeable contact lenses that he's talking about. It was no joke to lose one and I can appreciate the panic that came with the realization that it was lost. I can also appreciate the new perspective that came from finding it. If the lesson from Leric was that God is more concerned with our spiritual gains than our earthly gains, well, then the lesson from David is that God can use the moments when we do gain or regain something in the physical sphere, like a contact lens, to teach us a spiritual principle. If we have eyes to see it. It amazes me always that we will most likely each have a story of losing or finding something in this life. I mean, because after all, we live in a fallen world. And despite the universality of that experience, the lessons that we're going to take away will be completely tailored to our own needs and our own spiritual growth. Take me for example, after all those losses and the rise of my callous attitude, God decided to teach me something precious about hope through losing something. I was at my parents house in South Carolina about a year ago during an impromptu family reunion. I had digitized all of our family VHS tapes for my parents' anniversary seven years ago, and I was planning to surprise them. And then because this is what I do, I promptly lost both the box of VHS tapes and the hard drive that had the newly digitized footage on it. But by some miracle just before this trip, I relocated that hard drive and my mom and I spent quite a bit of time uploading them to one, and then two, and then three different places so that we would have every kind of backup since the VHS tapes were long gone. In the process of all of that uploading, we found ourselves reviewing hours and hours of early 90s camcorder footage. The kind that makes your head spin and its lack of storyline or even clear focus. We watched my baby brothers elementary school Halloween parade for 45 minutes only to see him skip past the camera in 30 seconds near the end. We inexplicably watch 20 minutes of children with mullets, that was us, getting in and out of a swimming pool at dusk. We endured no less than five instances of one of my teenage brothers taping over something semi-important to show himself in his wide-pants-wearing friends skateboarding. And as we were watching what seemed like the third hour of unintelligible Christmas morning footage, I saw my 14-year-old self with a very, very high bangs. Open a jewelry box and held up a golden heart necklace to the camera and say thanks only to forget about it moments later in favor of the box CD set of the International cast of Les Miserables. My mom stopped the computer and said, "Oh my goodness." And then she disappeared without another word. She came back a minute later, dangling a golden heart necklace from her hand. It was the necklace from that Christmas, when I was 14 years old. Fully intact, still shining, still beautiful. I don't even remember losing the necklace. To be honest. I don't remember getting the necklace. I assumed that all my childhood treasures had gone the way of everything else in my life: lost into the ethers. But here was my mom holding that necklace and saying, "I've been wondering where this came from for 20 years. It's been in my jewelry box forever." And then we marveled at how it must have been more than the costume jewelry we both assumed it was back then because it hadn't tarnished or rusted or even become dull. My mom handed it to me and said, "This is yours." Clearly, I undervalued that necklace. From the moment I opened it. That was apparent from the video proof of my half-hearted teenage, "thanks." But now, years later, as I held it again, I felt the weight of that gold heart. I loved it and treasured it immediately when my mom showed it to me in 2019. Partly because it's now tied to her since living in her jewelry box for 20 years, and partly because it's held up, and partly because it represents everything. Everything that we think we've lost through our carelessness, our youthful error, our downright sin. Now, every time I put it on, I'm reminded that someone is holding on to the things that we've discarded, erroneously, or carelessly. Whatever we think we've lost, whether that thing is a contact lens, or a million dollars, or something as complex and painful as our faith in ourselves, or maybe even our faith in God. Whatever we think we've lost is not lost to Him. He is holding on to our hearts keeping them safe and untarnished. And God knows exactly when we'll be ready to recognize their true value so that we can find them again.   That's it for this episode of This Is The Gospel thank you to Leric, Mark, and David for sharing their stories and their faith with us. We'll have links to pictures from this week's stories including the picture of the necklace, and maybe even Bonus a picture of me and my high bangs as a 14-year-old, as well as the transcript of this episode in our show notes. So go to and find Episode 46. Special thanks to my mom for being the keeper of lost things in our family. All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a story to share about living the Gospel, please call our pitch line. That's how we found Mark's story and David's story and leave us a pitch. It'd be great if it included a beginning, a middle and an end so that we can see your whole story in a quick moment. We really do love to hear how the gospel has blessed your life. Call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less. If you've loved having these true stories from real people in your life, please leave us a review on iTunes and be sure to tell all your friends and social networks how This Is The Gospel has helped you. We read every review and really we do truly appreciate your willingness to share the good stuff. This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay with additional story producing and editing by Katie Lambert, Jasmine Mullen and Ashley Porter. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six studios, our executive producer is  Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and the other LDS Living podcast at Have a great week.   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Feb 03, 2020
Converted Unto the Lord
Stories in this episode: Jim, a devout Baptist, sends five of his seven children on Latter-day Saint missions despite his misgivings about what they will teach and finds himself “tapped on the shoulder” by God; Though she grew up a member of the Church, Brooke doesn’t really search out her own testimony until devastating loss puts her faith, or lack thereof, at the forefront of her life; Missionaries go the literal extra mile to find Martin when he moves back to Norway after a visit to temple square; Dumdi finds the strength to remain faithful after baptism despite being alone in her efforts; When Monique’s family moves to a predominantly Latter-day Saint community, she vows to steer clear of “The Mormons” but finds herself drawn to the doctrine despite negative experiences. SHOWNOTES: This episode is sponsored by Gospel Day by Day Check out videos of Jim, Brooke, Martin, Dumdi, and Monique, at TRANSCRIPT: KaRyn Lay  0:04   Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.  If you love to learn about bugs, then you enjoy entomology. But if you love to learn about the origin of words, well then you have a thing for etymology, which is what I have, a thing for etymology. For a really long time, I would get those two "ologies" confused, even though I am most definitely not a fan of things with lots of legs. What I am a fan of is where a word comes from and how it evolved into its current meaning. Take the etymology of the word "convert," for example. When the word is used as a noun, the online Macmillan dictionary defines it as someone who has changed their beliefs in an important way, and I really like that definition. But the actual origins of the word from the Latin add an even deeper perspective. It comes from a mix of "com" meaning together or with, and "vertere" meaning to turn or bend. And I have no idea if I said for "vertere" right, it just sounds kind of Latin in my mind. Well, when I think of the word "convert" with that underlying Latin root, I can practically feel the word. Because with that understanding, when I call myself a convert to Christianity, I'm acknowledging that I am someone who has turned together and bent toward the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word conversion, which is really closely associated with "convert" from the Latin, started to have a religious connotation in the 14th century. It's a turning round, a revolving, an alteration or a change. If I was putting together a video montage reel of the best conversions, I would illustrate that woman at the well turning to face the Savior. And Saul turning towards the angel and his new name. And Alma, and King Lamoni, and everyone who has ever converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ turning, turning, turning their bodies and their hearts to the Savior. Well, in today's episode, we have five little stories of five big turns. Moments when something shifted and led the storytellers towards God and towards Jesus Christ.  Our first story comes from Jim who found that his conversion to Christ as a member of the Baptist faith was an important step in setting the stage for another revolution of his faith. Here's Jim.   Jim  2:30   I grew up as a Baptist. There were very few Baptists in Clearfield, Utah. My parents taught me about Jesus Christ and I went to church every Sunday. I grew up, actually, with kind of an anti-Mormon tilt. The Southern Baptists love the LDS people, but they felt and believed that they were not writing their doctrine and they, in fact, were lost. They were active in trying to save the LDS people get the LDS people to realize they were wrong.  As I met Linda, my wife Linda, she was LDS. Any time we talked about church, it was just me trying to convert Linda or Linda trying to convert me. We learned that that didn't work. We would take the children to church, Linda would take some time and I would take my time. They enjoyed both churches. Ultimately, the challenge left me feeling like it's better to just let them go to the Mormon church. They came time for the kids to be baptized, I was was reluctant to that, feeling as I did about the church. And consequently, when it came time for them to be baptized, the challenge there and the heartache for me was that I was relinquishing my responsibility to teach my kids, I guess, the truth—the truth as I saw it and knew it. It was a struggle, but I let the kids be baptized.  The hard part really for me was when my kids came and wanted to go on a mission. Again, feeling as I did, it was hard to know that they were going to go teach something that I didn't believe. I had taught them and told them that they were no longer responsible to their father, their earthly father. They were more responsible to their Heavenly Father and if that's what He wanted them to do that they needed to go do it and do the best job they could. Through the years with the Lord working with me and tapping me on the chest, I was feeling that, and I knew the Lord had worked with me before like that. That I had no doubt in my mind He was wanting me to do something and telling me something. So when two granddaughters were to be baptized, and one granddaughter to be blessed, that was really emotional for me. That Sunday, a lady stood to give her testimony. She testified of Joseph Smith, the truth of the gospel and Joseph Smith doing that. It was then, that Sunday that my savior told me, "You need to look at the Church with thoughts other than trying to disprove it."  So we went home, I thought how am I going to tell Linda and my family? They obviously had been praying for this for a long time. But I knew I needed to tell her and I couldn't figure out how and I just thought, "Well everybody's together, just tell them." As I call it, there was shock and awe. Everyone was happy, some were crying to know that it might take place. I know some doubted it—that it never would, even then.  I told them that I didn't need to meet with any Missionaries of the church because I had a whole house full of them. Five of my seven children were returned missionaries and all three of my sons-in-law. I asked them if they would read with me and pray with me and help me answer questions that I had. And we did. We met often and prayed every day. As I prayed about it, every time I got a distinct feeling that the Lord wanted me to continue to read and look. Finally, my Heavenly Father showed me that I didn't have to leave the truth that I knew and to turn my back on Him, but He had more truths for me. And through that, I made the decision to be baptized. I was able to tell my bride of 41 years that I was going to be baptized.  A little over a year later, I was able to go to the temple and be sealed to my wife and seven temple-worthy, wonderful children. The most remarkable thing about it was to realize the truth of the eternal family. When we lost a son a few years ago, to know that we would be with him again, that it was just for a short time that he would be with us and we would all be together as an eternal family. To endure something like that without that knowledge would be so difficult. And I testify, the blessings that come through the plan of salvation and knowing that again one day I will see and be with my son. I testify that that is the greatest, the most wonderful thing that there is.   KaRyn Lay  9:19   That was Jim. Jim and his wife, Linda have been friends of LDS Living for a couple of years now when we first filmed them for our love lessons video series back in 2017. And we've been consistently in awe of Jim's willingness to share his story if it'll help others find the peace that the restored gospel has given him. Though we didn't get to hear from Linda in this particular version of Jim's story, I can attest that her resolve to maintain and grow her own faith, as Jim maintained and grew his faith in Christ, was integral to his eventual recognition of the truths of the restored gospel. I hold on to their powerful reminder that timing, plus love, plus consistency, plus allowing for agency, plus Faith, plus a commitment to peace can do way more than pushing and fighting ever could. Those things combined allow us to get out of the way and let God do the work that He is already doing with His children. Our next story comes from Brooke. Brooke's true and lasting conversion happened when she was already a member of the church. Just a quick note for anyone who might be sensitive, Brooke's story discusses infant loss. Here's Brooke.   Brooke  10:27   After out daughter Kennedy passed away, I naturally had questions. Where do we go after this? What is life? And it just kind of led into this prayer. And in that prayer, I wasn't expecting some miraculous thing, but I got something miraculous.  So I was raised in the church. I was baptized at eight years old. I was in young women's, and then I got married at 18. I think once I became an adult, I really started to question what I believed. I got to a point in my life where I realized that I had been riding on my parents' testimonies more than my own. So for seven years, I put my faith on the shelf and I didn't touch it. I didn't think about it, I did everything that I was told not to do. In that, there was good things I experienced, there were really rough, hard things I experienced. But I grew from all those experiences.  I was 37, almost 38 weeks pregnant when our daughter Kennedy passed away. Her heart just stopped and there was no reason why she had passed away. It was heart wrenching for a family. We had tried to have children for three years. We have an 11-year-old son who is amazing and one of my favorite people on this planet, but we wanted more kids and it took us a really long time. And then Kennedy passed away. And it broke me. In that brokenness, I was able to be vulnerable enough to want answers for myself, not for anyone else. One day, I was sitting at my kitchen table, and I decided to pray. And the idea of praying was really uncomfortable. Because I felt so far away from Heavenly Father. I had no idea what really that even meant to me at that time. I gave one of the clumsiest prayers I've ever heard in my life. The questions—the specific question I had was, "Why did Kennedy die?" I wasn't really sure I was going to get an answer. But as I sat there, I felt so much comfort, more comfort than I've ever felt in my whole life. And I felt my daughter around me, and I felt our Savior. And I felt what it meant to have unconditional love around you. Something struck me really, really hard and that was Kennedy's sacrifice to earthly life so that my family could come back to the gospel. And that she could be my beacon and my light.  After that, incredibly clumsy prayer, I opened up a Book of Mormon. The last time I had opened the Book of Mormon was probably in seminary and I probably wasn't paying attention. Once I opened up the Book of Mormon for myself and not for anyone else, I just kept reading. And the more I kept reading, the more relevant it was in my life, which was shocking because it always felt so old and ancient to me. But I was reading things and I felt like they understood what I was going through. And it wasn't until I was about halfway through, that I really started to get this desire to not just attend church, but to really dive all the way in.  So I started getting the discussions again. My son also was getting discussions with me. Then I was prepped to go through the temple. And at this time, I had gotten pregnant again with another little girl and we found out that she was going to pass away also. So in March of 2016, our daughter, Holland, lived for one hour and then passed away. And it was wasn't, it shouldn't have been able to happen, I shouldn't have been able to survive both of these horrific tragedies. And I know for a fact it was from that clumsy prayer at that kitchen table, was because I was able to get through all of this. Because that was the starting point for my life.  You know, with loss comes grief, and can come depression. And I think sometimes you get lost in that. And knowing that I have a hope now that is a living, breathing hope, and His name is Jesus Christ, has laid a foundation in my life. That I now know that I can go through really hard trials and I can go through really hard moments and I don't have to wait for Him, because he's there. I don't have to be perfect, because He's been there the entire time and He comes to my level. The difference in my life now is that fear doesn't own me anymore. Death doesn't really scare me, because I've seen beautiful things happen with death. I used to hear people say that, you know, death isn't the end. I didn't believe them. But I now know it's so much more than that. And I look forward to the day that I can hold both of my girls again. And I look forward to this journey, though. I look forward to now, I look forward to today because there's so much hope in today. And there's so much hope in this life. And I know that through my daughters, I've been able to learn that.   KaRyn Lay  16:45   That was Brooke. Brooke first shared this story as part of our "This Is the Gospel" video series. Much like our pitch line, we don't always know the people who voluntarily share their stories for videos like this, so we hadn't met Brooke until she burst into the studio with all the energy of a woman twice her size. And I have to say that Brooke's love for the Savior and His plan of happiness radiates from her. It is absolutely a gift to witness someone who's experienced such loss, take such comfort in the perspective that the Savior offers.  Our next two stories are short and sweet. Both Martin and Dumdi came to the United States from other countries. And while their circumstances were very different in coming here, they both found the restored gospel of Jesus Christ on their journey. First, we'll hear from Martin and then from Dumdi.   Martin  17:33   I'm from Norway, and where I grew up, there wasn't really much talk about God or religion or anything like that. So when I moved to Utah as an exchange student at the age of 17, the concepts of faith and church really foreign to me. Luckily, later that year I made some really good friends that took me to church and they taught me about faith. And everything I learned there really resonated with me. And I learned about things that I had never even thought about before. It was just a really wonderful experience right there. But when I visited temple square that summer, the sister missionaries there did what I assume they always do and ask the visitors if they would like missionaries to visit their home. And because of what I had learned, I said, "Yes, please." And I was really excited about seeing them. But unfortunately, my family and I, we were planning on taking a three-week vacation in the states before returning home. So the missionaries in Norway, they probably tried to call me several times to try to get a hold of me without any luck. So when I got home, I never heard from them. Until one day, a senior couple finally called one last time trying to get ahold of this reference. I answered the phone and they asked me if I wanted the missionaries to stop by and I said, "Sure, send them over!" However, where I live, there were no missionaries. The missionaries had to travel an hour and a half by plane to be able to teach me, but they did. And we sat there and we talked about the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel, the restoration, and everything just felt so good. And I really liked what I learned and the thoughts about baptism started crossing my mind. But, growing up in this environment where I really didn't know anyone that even was Christian, it was really hard to try to stand out that much. I was really worried about what my family and friends would say. So with all those worries and all those doubts in my mind, one night I knelt down to pray, and prayed about what the missionaries had taught me, and prayed about the Book of Mormon, and prayed about the church. And I was filled with such an immense happiness, something I had never felt before. And knew that this happiness did not come from this world, it came from God. And I knew that I needed to be baptized regardless of what would happen. So that is what I did. I got baptized on November 14, 2010, and none of my worries came true. I just received blessings and happiness from there now. And often I think back about what would have happened if my friends hadn't taken me to church if the sister missionaries hadn't asked for my name and address. If the missionaries in Norway hadn't tried so hard to contact me. And especially if the Norwegian members hadn't embraced me the way I did. And I consider myself so blessed to have experienced that, and I know because of my experiences that there are no coincidences in God's plan. That He loves every one of his children so so much. And He works so hard so that every single one of us will be able to find our path home to Him.   Dumdi  20:56   I was 12-years-old when I joined the church. My family had been in the states for about three years, we came over to the states as war refugees from Nigeria. And it was just, you know, a typical day in Dallas, it was warm and sunny. And we had two, sorry, but these two scrawny white dudes—because like, we live in like a very black neighborhood anyway. And I was really surprised my dad let them in, but he did. And I think that's probably the best thing my dad has done for me, was letting those missionaries in. They taught us and they challenged us to read, you know, they gave us certain verses in the Book of Mormon to read, and I think I was the only one that read them. But I'm always up for a good challenge. So I decided to go ahead and read them and then pray. And it was actually the first time I'd ever addressed Heavenly Father the way that I did when I knelt down to pray about what these missionaries had been teaching us. Because personally for me, just learning that God was my Heavenly Father changed everything. And also made sense, you know that we would have prophets now, just like in the biblical times because I, you know, had been taught about the Bible. I accepted the invitation to be baptized along with my parents and one of my sisters. And I just remember when they lifted me out of the water, they had to baptize me again, because I had this like long hair, kind of like right now, and it didn't all go in. I just remember getting lifted out of the water and just feeling this warmth and it just like consumed my whole body. And I started crying because I had felt this peace that I hadn't felt in a very long time. And I just knew that God was proud of me, that He was proud of the decision I'd made. And I try to remember that when it does start to feel hard. And now I'm the only active member, and it's okay because I love my family. But there are definitely, you know, hard things about being the only active convert in your family. But I have seen God's hands in my life every day, whenever I decided to notice them. But as I pray an I read my scriptures, for me, it's about my relationship with Heavenly Father, and about Jesus Christ. And that's why I stayed. That's why I chose to be baptized. And that's why I'm still here.   KaRyn Lay  23:37   That was Martin and Dumdi. Even though their stories of conversion are different from one another, I love these snapshots of finding faith for the same reason. As a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it can really be easy for me to forget that there are still people who want and need the truths of the restored gospel. I know how that sounds, but hear me out. I don't know what it's like for you, but in this brave new A world of constant communication and connection, I have literally watched so many of the people I love and care about, step away from the church or out of the church for various reasons and with varying permanency. While I honor that agency and seek to always put compassion first, I, for one, feel the loss of those church associations pretty acutely sometimes. When I'm overwhelmed by that grief, I simply lose sight of the fact that faith is actually a living and breathing thing. In one breath, we rally around those who are experiencing a transition in their faith, maybe towards doubt or disbelief for a time. And in that same breath, we make space for the truth that there are still those who long to turn with us, to come closer, to understand new truths or remember old ones. There are still people searching, there are still people longing. And we must still speak of Christ with all the breath in our body so that anyone who knows us can know Him, wherever they are in their path. Martin's friends and Dumdi's missionaries lived that way. And I'm trying. I'm really, really trying.  Our final story of turning hearts comes from Monique who had absolutely no intention of letting the gospel into her world. Here's Monique.   Monique  25:21   It didn't take us long to figure out that the town was different. And the reason that it was different was because they were all the same religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And we just didn't, we didn't like them, and they didn't particularly like us. And I certainly, as a 10-year-old, didn't want anything to do with the religion. So it was my first week of school, I was at recess on the monkey bars with some friends when a little girl asked me, "Do you feel bad that you live in a bad family?" And I didn't know how to answer that question. I didn't know what she meant. But the reason she asked that was because she saw my dad that day. He's a large man, lots of tattoos. And to that little girl, that was what that meant, was that we were from a bad family.  Growing up, I had friends that would say, I'm not allowed to hang out with you anymore. And, you know, I was a really good kid but it was just because they found out that I wasn't a member of their church. And my siblings are treated the same way, that they are just not quite good enough because they don't go to church. It was hard for me as a little girl, I had a lot of anger and resentment built up, just naturally because of the course that my life had taken and some of the things that I had gone through. I didn't know if I believed in God, it was almost easier to think that He wasn't real because if Ge was, then I was being punished for something, or He didn't love me. It was really hard for me for a long time to understand why my family wasn't good enough to be loved by God.  So fast forward to my junior year and one of the families that I had grown close to through baseball, one of their little boys passed away. He was 10 at the time, and we all rallied together to help this family. And they remember on social media, it was posted that we were going to fast and pray for this family the day of the funeral. I knew enough, I had been around long enough to know what fasting was and to know what prayer was. And I decided that that was something I wanted to join in on. So I fasted that day of his funeral, and I said my first ever personal prayer, and I just wanted the family to be okay. And I wanted understanding. We all went to the funeral. And the dad, who I've known for a really long time, bore testimony of Jesus Christ, of a Savior who made it possible for him to see his son again. And it wasn't a question to him, he was going to see his son again.  Six or seven months later, I had a friend who was serving as mission Arizona, and he had access to Facebook. And he messaged me one day and basically said, "What do you believe?" And my initial reaction was, "What do you want?" But I ended up talking to him and his companions through Facebook Messenger for six or seven months. And just taking the discussions and learning about what Jesus Christ taught. There were so many times where I would pull up my phone, I'd messaged my friend and I tell him, "I can't do this, so and so offended me at school today. They said this, they said that this is what you believe, and I don't want anything to do with it."  He'd say, "Monique, listen. This is what Jesus Christ taught. And this is what we believe. And we are all surrounded by imperfect people, but there's a difference between the people and Christ and what He taught." And it was so important for me to have those experiences where I was like, okay, the doctrine and okay the people and to be able to separate those two for me personally.  So I decided to meet with the missionaries in town, the elders, and they extended the invitation to be baptized. And it was the easiest "Yes" I've ever said. I don't think I fully understood, obviously, I didn't fully understand everything. And I didn't fully understand what I was getting myself into. But I knew it was what I wanted. It was extremely hard on my family, they all love me and were extremely supportive. But I remember my mom crying and saying, "So you don't want me to be a part of your forever? You don't want us to be a part of your forever?" Because that was the understanding that we had, that as a whole we didn't get what everyone else was getting because we weren't members of this church. When she asked me that I was like, "No, that's not what I believe. Like, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think we had a chance of being together forever." A year after I got baptized, I went on a mission to Texas. It was absolutely the best experience I've ever had. I got home from my mission. And my family was a lot more vocal about their feelings and about how they had been treated. And I guess their feelings about what I was a part of. I have found a lot, so much happiness and hope and peace in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I'm confident and I know who I am, Heavenly Father's daughter. But it's still so so hard because the ones I love the most don't understand what I'm doing or why I believe what I believe because they're still caught up on a lot of people's stuff. But I trust that truth makes sense. And that phrase has stuck with me. And I go back to it anytime I question anything. And when I'm learning stuff, it's, "Okay, this makes sense." And that doesn't mean that questions aren't going to come up but the answers make sense. And so when my mom asks me, "You don't want me? You don't want us in your forever," that doesn't make sense to me. And so like learning about the doctrine and learning that Christ teaches forever, that makes sense. And that's what propels me forward because I know that we can be together forever. My family and I don't see eye to eye on religion stuff now, and I don't know if we ever will. But I know that Heavenly Father loves us all the same, that we are all His children, and I know how much He loves them. My hope is that I can be a better example, that we all can be better examples for each other. Christ's love is what this gospel really is.   KaRyn Lay  32:21   That was Monique. I'm truly grateful for her willingness to share some of the pain that accompanied her conversion. The turning of our hearts to Christ is a joyful thing. But that doesn't mean that it comes without complexity or nuance. It's an opportunity, a true opportunity for us to be able to hear the reality of life for adult converts beyond that moment in the baptismal font that often carries this sort of mystical quality in the fabric of our cultural storytelling. Stories like Monique's should change us as we minister to the newly converted. How would our succoring and mentoring and loving be a little different if we are more attuned to the possibility that there is most likely a little bit of loss mingled with the newfound joy of a recent convert.  As we've assembled these stories this week, I've been pondering the phenomenon of this thing that we call "conversion stories." We know that our individual conversion is hardly a one-time deal. Conversion, the act of turning to Christ, bending with Christ, is meant to be a lifelong pursuit really, with as many twists and revolutions of our faith as there are days in the year. So what good does sharing the moment of conversion do in our efforts to understand and be reconciled to the long game of discipleship? Well, I haven't fully figured it all out. But this Sunday, I heard something that helped me to understand it a little bit more.  My rescue friend Steve, whom you'll remember from our "To the Rescue" episode, spoke this past Sunday in sacrament meeting. And he reminded me that when emergencies come, and our bodies are flooded with the desire to fight or take flight, we don't recall the thing that we just learned. In those moments, our brains are able to access only what Steve calls our "lowest level of common and consistent training." He then suggested that the same is true of our ability to manage our moments of spiritual duress. The question then becomes not what we'll do when our commitment to Christ is challenged, but rather, what have we already done to secure the lowest levels of our common and consistent spiritual training, so that we don't even have to think about what we're going to do? Well, I submit that we have told our stories. We've shared them, we've written them down, we've committed them to our collective memories. The stories of our moments of conversion, the stories of others moments of conversion, well those become our common and consistent training that we can recall, in duress. This might feel like a stretch, but I promise it isn't. Think about how many times you've used the story of King Lamoni's moment of conversion, or Paul, or any of the other converts in the scriptures to help shore up your spiritual life. We share our conversion stories because then they become part of the community knowledge, they become common among us. And the more we share, the more consistent that information is to our brains in the moments when our discipleship is challenged. We may still have the long road of living a life of conversion ahead, but in that one testing moment, we'll recall a time when we did know. When we felt the peace of the gospel, when our hearts were turned, and we were converted. So if you have a conversion moment, or if you're working towards one—hopefully you'll get there soon—turn it into a story and tell it. It may well be the thing that you or someone you love recalls, and then clings to in the moment of their spiritual duress. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to Jim, Brooke, Dumdi, Martin, and Monique for sharing their moment of their conversion and their faith with us. We'll have links to the videos from our "This Is the Gospel" YouTube series that features the storytellers in our show notes for this episode at We'll also have a transcript there if you'd like to read these stories. All of the stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a story to share, and I know you do, about living the Gospel, help contribute to our lowest level of common and consistent spiritual training by sharing your story. Call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. We often find a lot of our stories from that pitch line and we love to hear how the gospel is blessing your life. Call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less. If you've loved hearing these true stories from real people, please leave us a review on iTunes and tell all your friends and social networks how "This Is the Gospel" has helped you. We read every review and I really appreciate your willingness to share the good stuff.  This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with additional story producing and editing by Katie Lambert, Jasmine Mullen, Hayden Paul and Daniel Garcia. It was mixed, scored, and mastered by Mix at Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. If you want to hear more episodes of the podcast or any of the LDS Living podcasts, we have the "Sunday on Monday" and "All In" podcasts as well, please go to Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Jan 27, 2020
Who Do You Think You Are?
Stories in this episode: When Christie and her brother are left to their own devices after school, their daring adventures at a local hospital lead to a little bit of trouble and a lifelong understanding of their true identity; Artist Kate struggles with her self-worth until an unusual assignment from her stake president leads to a different perspective about who she really is to God.  SHOWNOTES: This episode is sponsored by Gospel Day by Day To see Kate Lee's artwork and Christie's books, check out our shownotes at TRANSCRIPT: KaRyn 0:04  Welcome to “This is the Gospel,” an LDS living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay.   When I was a little girl, I had a deep sort of angst about my name. It's pronounced KaRyn, but if you're looking at it all written out, you'd probably read it, Karyn, at least all of my teachers did. In fact, when I introduced myself to people now, I always tell them that my name looks like Karyn because if they meet me in person, and then they get an email from me later, they're like, who is this Karyn lady? I've never even met her. So there's a capital ‘R’ in the middle just to make things even more confusing. And even though my parents swear that this name is an Irish name, I have literally never met another Irish KaRyn spelled the way that I spell it. And to be honest, I've never been to Ireland, and I don't know very many Irish people. So, if somebody is listening in Ireland, and you've met another KaRyn, please, please please email us. I would love to know that.   Needless to say, when I was six years old, I decided that I needed a different name, a better name, a more beautiful name. And the most beautiful name that I could think of was Rose. I honestly don't even know where that came from. I don't know anyone named Rose. We don't have any Roses in my family. But I distinctly remember telling people that if they wanted me to respond to them, then they had to use my new name, my real name, Rose. And while clearly my renaming didn't stick, it stuck with me enough that I remember it even to this day. My longing to be someone other than plain old KaRyn lasted probably through middle school.   And by the time I finally reconciled myself to my first name, and actually started to think it was pretty cool, it was my last name that wasn't cool enough. I mean, someday I was going to be discovered and taken to Broadway where I would star in Les Misérables and I definitely needed a cooler name than Daily, So I spent what seems like hours doodling my stage name, which was KaRyn Cavanaugh. Doesn't that sound so romantic?   The good news is that I never made it to Broadway. And I eventually grew to love all the parts of my name, especially as I got older, and took on a new family name through marriage, I now see my name as this beautiful tribute to every single person who's ever loved me, and all the things that kept me grounded and make me who I am, and couldn't we all use just a little bit more grounding, a little more sense of ourselves in a world that is constantly challenging our identity in more ways than one. Well, today, we've got two very different stories that explore the question, the spiritual question, “who do you think you are?” And how claiming that true divine identity, our true divine identity, can give us strength and power to fulfill our personal mission here on this earth.   Our first story comes from Christie whose unique childhood set her up for a lifetime of possibility. Here's Christie:   Christie 3:07  In the middle of downtown Salt Lake is a neighborhood called the avenues and it's built on the hills, right above the valley. There are old houses all the way back to pioneer times -- big houses, little houses, old but they all look Victorian and kind of beautiful. To me it reminds me a little bit of Boston when you get right outside of the city. And that's where I grew up.   I was older. My brother was four years old, and I was eight years old when we moved into this beautiful old house that had been in our family for years and years and years and was owned by my great uncle. He lived in a house about three blocks away. And this was just the house where he had raised his family and he wanted to keep it in the family. My mom was a recently single mother and that was a recent development. And here we were this mom in her 20s with these two little kids and she was just trying to make her way in the world.   So my uncle was sharing his home with us. My great uncle was the most eccentric man you've ever met. He had a farm in downtown Salt Lake, he had terrorist the mountain all the way down into city Creek Canyon, which is this canyon right by the Capitol building, and he raised chickens and goats and had sheep in the middle of downtown. It was bizarre, but he was a really well known surgeon, and he was a cancer surgeon, and that's what he did. And he was just the most amazing man. He sang in the Tabernacle Choir with this huge voice but everyone who was anyone knew this guy.   My great uncle and aunt were the closest to grandparents that I had near me; My grandparents all lived far away. And we were happy that in the middle of this really challenging time for our family, where we were going through the divorce of our parents, we had this additional family close by.   So my mom worked a full time job and was trying to support these two little kids. So because our mom was away a lot working, we kind of had the house to ourselves a lot and we were left to our own crazy devices. And so my brother and I would go to school, and when he was in kindergarten, and I was in school, I would stop at the babysitter on the way home from kindergarten and pick him up. And we would go home and wait until our mom got home from work.   So my brother and I would come home from school and have a lot of time to ourselves. We would do our homework, watch TV, we would practice the piano and then we had to make ourselves Dinner, so macaroni and cheese, tuna fish sandwiches, whatever leftover happened to be in the refrigerator. But unless we went over to our uncle's house, we didn't really get hot meals at night.   But making stuff like that doesn't take too much time. And so, we had some extra time on our hands. And we were both little entrepreneurs so we would come up with all different ways to make money and we decided to start a business selling things to our neighbors. So we would cut all of the flowers out of our neighbor's garden and then bring them home and we knew that having a dozen roses was the thing. So we would put them in groups of 12 and then put them in our little red wagon and drive around and sell the neighbors their flowers back that we had just cut out of the yard.   We would paint rocks and sticks and create things with a hot glue gun and then take those and sell them. We sold any canned good that we had, and we would take those door to door and sell them, and then we would share the profits and depending on who came up with the scheme, they got more of the profits, but I think if you asked my brother, he would probably say that I took the lion's share most of the time, so sorry to my brother.   We didn't really know a lot of our neighbors. We knew some of them, but really not a lot. And we just had guts and would go right up to the door and try to sell our wares. And my brother and I just had a lot of hutzpah.   We really never had any neighbors get mad at us for what we were doing or our crazy antics, or anything we decided to do when we put on plays in their yard, or we had a surprise party for our mother once where she had worked a full day at work a single mom, she comes home and her living room is full of these random neighbors from all around the Avenues who had no idea who she was, but we had hand delivered invitations to her birthday party. So I think she spent her 30th birthday party with total strangers.   One time we sold some flowers to a family that we had cut out of their yard and the mom invited us in, she gave us some money, they were getting ready to leave, and there was just a little chaos in their house, and I think they forgot that there were these two children sitting in their foyer, and then everyone left and we went to their playroom and it was awesome.   It had all of the best toys that we did not have at our house and it had this butcher paper that you could pull out of a roll from the wall and you could color all over it. And we just played and played and played and the people weren't even home and we didn't know them. And they were 18 blocks away from our house. We just decided we were done when it started to get dark and so we left the house grabbed our little red wagon -- wagoned home.   So, with all of our sales, we really felt like we were making some money here and what did we want to do with it? We would go and buy penny candy at the Eighth Avenue store, and when that got to be old and we weren't so excited about buying penny candy anymore, we thought we don't want to make ourselves dinner anymore.   Across the street from our house was a big hospital, LDS Hospital in downtown Salt Lake City. Let me describe this hospital. It's right in the middle of the Avenues. It’s surrounded by houses, and I actually grew up with the sound of ambulances and helicopters landing medical helicopters to the point where when we finally moved from this house, I could not sleep. We moved to a neighborhood that was quiet and dark, and I missed the sound of the ambulances and the landing helicopters.   And it kind of was a hub to us. We rode our bikes in the parking lot of the physician's office building. And it was kind of just a home base there. One day we decided to go into the hospital. And we started wandering through the halls and looking at everything and to our little minds, it was so exciting and everyone was dressed up in ‘Dr.’ gear and they knew where they were going.   And so, we started wandering and in one of our wanderings, we saw that there was a cafeteria there. Now being the two kids that we were, we started thinking about that macaroni and cheese and the tuna fish sandwiches and we went, “Why are we eating there when we could be eating fried fish and chips that are seven days old from the hospital?”   So we decided to pull the money from all of our entrepreneurial activities and eat dinner at the hospital at least once a week. So we would sneak into the hospital and walk through the halls. And rarely we would get a look or two, but mostly nobody paid attention. And we went and we would have our dinner in the LDS Hospital cafeteria. And we thought it was a very fancy because we could pick whatever we wanted. We started to become kind of known in the hospital.   And people started to say hello to us and the different workers and orderlies and nurses and doctors and the people who even worked in the cafeteria knew who we were and started to expect us. From my child mind, I just thought that that was normal. From an adult mind, now looking back, I wonder what these people were thinking about these two urchin kids wandering the halls of a hospital day in and day out.   So we started to get more and more comfortable in the hospital and with people knowing us and we started to venture outside of the cafeteria and the hallways, my brother was really interested in surgery. So we pushed the button in the elevator to the surgical level waited until someone had something to open the door and he snuck in to an actual surgical area. It when it was my turn to pick what we got to do, I made my brother Go with me to see the babies. And I would hold him up. And we would press our face to the glass and look at all of the little babies in the nursery. I have no idea why people didn't pay attention to two little kids roaming the halls of the hospital. But maybe it was just in my mind, but nobody really seemed to notice or care or even say anything to us.   We were never scared of getting caught. We never thought that there was anything to get caught about. We did know we were being sneaky sometimes when we would sneak into areas we definitely weren't supposed to be in, but We really just felt a sense of entitlement to be there. We knew that if we ever needed to and if anyone ever said something, we could just drop our uncle's name. We basically thought that being a surgeon meant that you owned the hospital. And so we thought our uncle was the king of the hospital and if we ever got in trouble, we would just use his name and that would be that.   There was this one time when we knew what we were about to do at the hospital might be crossing a little bit of a line. It got to be summertime, and it got really, really hot. And so what do two little kids want to do in the summertime when it's really hot, you want to go swimming, but we didn't have anyone to take us to the neighborhood pool. So we donned our swimming suits and picked out some towels and went to the hospital fountain and we put out our towels, we lathered up with sunscreen, we were very conscientious and responsible children and started swimming in the fountain, and this is when the look started.   So as we were swimming along in the fountain, we noticed that there was an official looking guy that came out of the hospital and he looked a little bit mad. And he was coming our way really intently. And as he approached us, I had maybe a moment where I thought, “Oh, maybe you're not going to be too happy that we're swimming in the fountain.” But I splashed right over to him and he said, “What do you two think that you're doing out here? What do you think you're doing?” And I said, “Swimming.” And he said, “What makes you think that you can swim in the hospital fountain?” And I kind of got a bravado about me, shook my head and said, “Don't you know who our great uncle is? Our uncle is a surgeon,” and then I said his name. And the guy looked at me, and I just was quiet, and he just turned around and walked away. That was enough for him. And I don't know what he thought, but no security ever told us to leave and we went back to swimming and it wasn't the last time we swam in the hospital fountain.   I never really felt guilty about any of it. Even though now as an adult,  it's funny to think about and interesting to think about, and I would kill my kids if they tried to swim in a hospital fountain. Who did those kids think they were?   Looking back the memories with my brother in the avenues in Salt Lake City are actually the best memories of my childhood. That confident little girl in the fountain who knew that her uncle would protect her and had the courage to just be herself, ended up going through a lot of really hard things, and life didn't get super easy for those two little kids, it got even harder than it was.   And one gift that came from this childhood is that I've never questioned whether or not I was alone. No matter what happened to me through the rest of my life and things got kind of intense over the rest of my childhood. Well I was the kid who swam in the hospital fountain. I was the kid who knew that her uncle was there, if she needed him. And just like I knew my uncle was there, I've always known that God is there. And no matter what else happened, I knew that I could depend on that. Having Heavenly Father behind us, makes us capable to do things that we never thought we'd be able to do, and that we could never do alone and gives us that hutzpah and that confidence to go for forward, knowing who we are.   I guess what I would want to tell people is that no matter what you go through, no matter what questions come your way, no matter what trials come your way. No matter how much you feel like you're traversing this world alone, you're not, you have God and you can invoke his name and that will give you the confidence to move forward in whatever you have to face in this life.     KaRyn 17:47  That was author Christie Gardner. Both of Christie's books, “Holy as you Are” and “You are the Mother your Children Need,” are full of personal stories about claiming your divine identity, right now in the midst of your imperfection. And I think that's something that I really love about Christie’s story. When she says that she doesn't really feel bad about doing the things that she and her brother did. Well, we know that it's not because she's full of herself. It's because she understands that all of these experiences have made her into the woman that she is now. And wouldn't the world be a very different place if those of us who are struggling with our confidence acted just a little bit more as though our uncle was the king of the hospital?   Well, the great news is that our father, our Heavenly Father, is the king of the universe. And the humility that accompanies our duty as his child, mixed with the power and entitlement that comes from the gift of our spiritual genetics, can and should send us confidently into the fulfilling of the measure of our creation. I love to think about that and I'm grateful for Christy for sharing this story. Besides making me laugh, it really made me think.   Our next story comes from Kate who's lifelong struggle to believe in her own worthiness and connection to God was challenged by a loving church leader.   Here's Kate:   Kate 19:09  I always knew God existed, I’ve always known he was there. But I always felt like he was disappointed in me and that he didn't have time for me. Growing up, I was incredibly insecure. I was really terrified to go to school, when I went to church and different activities with the young woman or whatever, and I was the odd man out, you know, I just, I felt very awkward. I remember one time needing some kind of strength or comfort, and I knew that other people turned to God. But I knew that I wasn't worthy enough.   I even wrote him a note, which sounds silly, but I did. I was like, “This is how I feel and this is what I need.” I was probably like 10, and I folded it up, and I put it under my pillow and I thought if God loves me, he'll take This note, and I woke up in the morning and it wasn't gone. I know that that sounds silly, but in a 10 year old’s mind, I was like, “Of course he doesn't love me, of course he is not going to take that.” And I remember just crying and crying and crying on my bed that there was no relief for someone like me. I carried that with me into high school and into my mission and into my, you know, my young married life. You know, I really felt like sorry that I'm not enough and I can't fully come to you and to get comfort because I'm just not the person that deserves that or is worth it.   I started drawing when I was really really young. I remember getting in trouble in kindergarten because I would draw more than I would do my work. And I just have always loved it. Like it just something that made me happy. And then in high school is when I picked up painting, and we tried all types of mediums in high school and then watercolor was when I was hooked. But I never ever felt like I was good enough. And so I'd always hide my drawings or my paintings, because I didn't want to be embarrassed.   It was about five years ago that my stake president asked me to do a specific project for him. I met with my stake president. And it really was just for the recommend interview. That's all I wanted to talk about, get in and get out and go. At the end of that interview. He's like, “Is there anything else you want to talk about?” And I was like, “No, I'm good,” like thanks, but I'm fine. And he said it again. He's all, “Sister Lee, is there anything else that you want to talk about?” And I just like bust into tears.   There was everything that I want to talk about, but I was too afraid. I didn't know that I could talk about the things that I felt inside. And so I started telling him, “This is what I feel about myself, and you know, I wish that I could be better. I wish that I could be like good enough for God and I really felt like I was just a huge failure.” Anyways, so we would meet every week and talk about different things. And he'd give me different assignments. There were two assignments that really changed me. First one was just a scripture in Alma, but it's talks about to act and not be acted upon it. Because forever, I always felt like, Oh, I'm just a loser. You know, I'm just not a good enough person, and I'm not good at anything. And he says, “Well, are you going to just live your life like that? Are you just going to continue to believe that about yourself?” And I was like, “Well, how else am I supposed to live?” You know? And he says, “Well, you can either act, or you can be acted upon,” in the nicest way. He basically said, “Stop being a victim and take your life into your own hands.” So he told me to go home and study that those scriptures and to really, like apply that to my life. And I have, I have done that, you know, and it's changed me in ways I never ever imagined it would.   The other assignment he gave me, he said, “What are some things that you think about yourself, how do you feel about yourself? How do you think God views you?” And I told him, “You know, I feel like he is just kind of disappointed in who I am.” And he says, “Okay, well hold right there.” And he pulled out sticky notes. And he put these sticky notes on his desk, and he gave me a pen and he said, “Write down what you think is truth about you.” And so I wrote down, “You are ugly, you're dumb, you're not smart enough. You're a waste of time. You're bad at your calling,” like all of these negative things. And but it was truth, that was my truth. He says, “Well, what are those?” and I said, “Well, this is who I am. This is my truth.” And he said, “No, that's not who you are.” And I said, “Well, yes it is.” You know, and he, he put those ones aside and he put up fresh ones like new sticky notes, and he says, “I want you to take these sticky notes home, and I want you to pray about the ones that you wrote down. And then I want you to write down what God really thinks about you.”   I was like, “No, because God's gonna confirm what I think; I can't handle that.” But he says, “This is your assignment take it home.” It took me two to three days to get the courage to sit down and to actually even just to acknowledge that the sticky notes were there because I was terrified that God would say, “You're right, you're right, you are a waste of time.”   And then the boys one morning left for school, and I was like, “Okay, I can't avoid it.” And I knelt down at our couch. Before, you know, anything came out. It was just this feeling of calm and peace.   Heavenly Father answered all of my questions. And he confirmed that, “No, this is who you are. And this is what you can do. And this is your abilities and just, you know, go forward.” And it was just incredible. And I have my folder upstairs. I keep it with me, always. Because it's a reminder because it's so easy to fall back into that, “Oh, I’m stupid. Oh, I'm, you know, like, I just am a bad artist or I'm a bad mom or whatever it is,” and I keep it with me so that I can remind myself of this is what God said. This is what maybe the world says, but this is what God said. And, you know, I'm going to go with what God said, and his truth. Through talking with my stake president and sharing things with him, it's fully opened my heart to be able to look at my Father as a real Father. Because I didn't, I never understood it like that before. And I didn't believe that he loved me and that he was interested in me, it was really difficult for me to communicate and talk to him because I didn't feel like I was worthy enough to talk to him or that he wanted me to talk to him.   About a month after the sticky note assignment, I went back to my stake president talking to him and he said, “What are some of the things that you like to do, like what do you love to do?” And I named off a few things, you know, like, “Oh I like being outside and I like doing, you know, being on my mountain bike and stuff,” and he’s like, “No, no, like, what do you like to do?” And I'm like, “I like to draw.” And he goes, “Yeah, you like art, right? And I, you know, am like, “Yeah, yeah I love it. I love it. It's so good.” And he says, “I need you to paint me a picture.” I looked at him like this like, What? “I have this scripture that I love, I want you to paint it for me.” And he gave me a scriptural reference in second Nephi about the flax and chords and he said, “Paint this, and paint it how you want and how you interpret it.” And he says, I want it on a really big Canvas, the biggest you can find.”   I was scared to paint that. I believed I was going to fail. I did. It was the whole being acted upon all of the thoughts that I had when I was kid: “Oh, you can't do it. You're not good enough,” came flooding in and every brush stroke was like a heart attack because I was terrified I was going to make the wrong stroke or I was going to ruin the whole painting, and more importantly, though, I was afraid that I wouldn't get the message that he wanted, you know, he had a specific message that he wanted and I was afraid that I wouldn't capture that for him. And it took me nine months to paint this picture. And in that time is when I really discovered my abilities, like I learned to trust myself.   So when the painting was done, it was on Halloween night. The Stake President just walked over to her house to check on the painting, and I almost had a panic attack, because I didn't want to give it to him. I brought it up out of the studio and handed it to him. And he kept saying, “It's beautiful. This is beautiful. This is exactly what I want.” And I was like, “You don't have to be so nice. It's okay. I know it's bad.” And he's like, “No, this is what I want.” And it just was such a cool experience because it taught me this is a gift and this is something that you can share your testimony through this, you know, and that's really the first time that I felt like a real artist was about five years ago. And I didn't realize this at the time, I probably didn't even realize this until a couple years ago, that I had been that girl that was wrapped in these flax and chords that was pulled down by doubt and fear and you know, just experiences from when I was a kid and all of that, and I didn't know how to break free from those flax and chords and it was it was pulling me down. It was keeping me from progression. It was keeping me from knowing Christ. It was keeping me from knowing who I really am.   And I think that, he knew that, and I didn't know that. Anyway, master plan, but he knew that I could paint that that I could start to break free and he was right. And I didn't realize what he was trying to do. But that painting, opened the door to all the other paintings that I do now, you know, had I not done that painting, I would not be here, because I would still be scared. I'd still be the girl in the flax and chords.   I feel like my art reflects that. So the painting, “Faith to be Healed,” is about the woman who has the blood issue, right? And this is a story that I've always loved because she so desperately wanted to be healed, you know, and this image came to my mind, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I want to paint that, like right now,” you know. And so I went into my studio, and I drew it and it just kind of like poured out. And as I was painting it, I imagined what she was feeling, you know, with every, like different color she'd come more and more alive and it was just like, I was connecting with her and I felt what she felt and I was like, “I know how you feel, because that's how I felt.” She wanted to just fit in, in the crowd, you know, but that she didn't and she couldn't. And that's something that I felt like, I just wanted to find a place, I just wanted to have a place where I fit in, but I felt like I just didn't. This lady this is her story, she knew that through Christ, she could be healed. She knew that one touch and Christ’s robe would heal her from the inside. The last thing that I painted was her hand touching Christ. I finished that coat of paint, and it was like, my heart was just whole.   I could see my life and I could see where I was going, what I wanted and what Christ could do for me. For her, it was the same thing. She knew what she wanted, she knew what Christ could do for her. She just had to reach out to Christ, she just had to touch him, you know, and it's the same here. I can't physically touch Christ. But I can reach out to him and I can like, dive into His Atonement and be healed.   I paint my experiences now or my, what I put on paper, and I'm not afraid of it anymore. Like I feel like where before I was terrified that I would be criticized and now I'm like, I hope that this painting can help somebody else feel the spirit. I hope that this painting can you know, bring somebody else to Christ. I hope that they can know that who they are is important. But more importantly, I hope that they can know that Heavenly Father is there watching over them and that they have a Savior. Like I just want them to like, emotionally connect with not just the painting but through the painting they can emotionally connect to Christ, and that they can understand what the atonement can do for them because the atonement isn't just for sins, it's for you know, heartaches and sorrows and insecurities and all of those little things that we carry every day. That's what the atonement is for and so I hope that people can come to Christ through my paintings.   KaRyn 31:50  That was Kate Lee. Kate is an artist if you didn't figure that out from her story, and that painting that she talks about “The Faith to be Healed” painting is beautiful and it's truly evocative of that moment. One of my favorites in all of scripture where the woman with the issue of blood reaches out to touch the hem of the Savior's garments, we're going to have a link to that painting and that first rendering that she did of flax and chords in our show notes at You'll also love to see how Kate's gifts have evolved over time as she put her faith and her trust in God. I know that I can't possibly be alone when I say that I can relate to the self-doubt and lack of confidence that Kate described in her story. It is absolutely a truth that the world has a way of twisting us around so that we never know which way is up and which way is down, and we are definitely no longer recognizable to ourselves in our most divine form.   I'm so grateful that Kate had a wise and loving stake president who was willing to listen to the Spirit and ask a question that he didn't have to ask so that he could help start her on that spiritual path to understanding her worth. Those guides, the people that guide us, however they present themselves to us are absolutely a gift. I believe that they are a gift from our Heavenly Father. For me, it was a perfectly appointed therapist in just the right time and just the right place, who handed me the book “Believe in Christ” in a therapy session. I am forever changed because of that understanding that I got from reading that book. And I'm amazed that our Heavenly Father reaches us in whatever way he knows will most readily hear his voice. Whether it's a book or an art assignment, or a moment of surety in a hospital fountain that has burned itself into our memory, ready to be recalled when the earth dust gets too heavy. It makes me wonder where else have I seen his reaching hand filled with those reminders of my divine origin? What about you? What other places have you seen his hand show up to guide you to a new truth to help you remember who you are? I think we all have those moments if we really dig in and look for them.   As we've recorded and edited the stories this week, my heart has been pulled steadily back towards the story of Moses, that we learn about in the Pearl of Great Price. It's that moment in the first chapter of Moses, the book of Moses, when the Great Deceiver, Satan, tries his very best to shake one of God's most stalwart children. The Prophet Moses had just received his errand from the Lord in verse six of chapter one, and he had been filled with the Spirit of the Lord. And when that spirit withdrew taking with it the spectacular light and glory that had just moments before filled all of Moses, he was left with only whatever light the world provided, which we can all agree is not even close to comparable to God's light. And in that moment, Satan saw his chance, he stepped in ready to offer Moses some light to fill the void. And he says in verse 12, “Moses, son of man, worship me.” But Moses, who had just recently been in the presence of real light, well, he can smell a counterfeit a mile away. So we asked Satan, “Who art thou? And where is the glory that I should worship thee?” And then just on the heels of that, he reminds Satan that he can judge between him and God: “For God said unto me, thou art after the similitude of mine only begotten.” That knowledge of his divine identity was the key to what happens next.   He calls Satan out, and he tells them that he's not about to worship him. And then Satan gets grumpy as he does, and he tries one of his old tired tricks, which is to use his power of fear to impose obedience. And it seems to be working at first. Moses is shaky, and he has to call for backup. Emboldened by his knowledge of who God is to him and who he is to Christ, he starts to claim his power against the fear and he tells Satan to depart, and when he sees that Satan is trembling, he invokes the name of the Savior, the source of all love, all hope, and all true light and Satan must depart, but not without a whole lot of fanfare, no one ever said Satan wasn't dramatic. And Moses is left to lift his eyes to heaven in a holy gesture of, “What was that?” And his father, his real master sends a message. And we find that message in chapter one, verse 25 and 26. And calling upon the name of God, he held his glory again, for it was upon him, and he heard a voice saying, “Blessed art thou, Moses, for I the Almighty have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters for they shall obey the command as if thou wert God, and low I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days, for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel, my chosen.”   The lesson I learned from Moses, and from Kate and from Christie is this: It's not always easy to remember who we are in moments of distress or fear. Satan's tactics may be old and they may be tired, but they've worked for eons, and he's not about to stop now. But we can take courage from the fact that despite the quiver in our voices, or the uncertainty in our stance, when we begin to step into our true identity as Sons and Daughters of God, and when we begin to call upon him with a sense of our true birthright, he will strengthen us to fulfill our mission. The first stroke of the paintbrush may be weak and unsure and full of panic as it was for Kate, but it will not stay that way. With each subsequent brushstroke, and every next moment of facing our demons, and each call for Satan to leave us alone. We will grow in confidence and surety until we to like Moses can lift our eyes to Heaven and know that we will be made stronger than many waters when the time comes for us to part our Red Seas.   KaRyn 38:02  That's it for this episode of “This is the Gospel.” Thank you to my friends, Christie and Kate for sharing their stories and their strength and true selves with us. We'll have links to both of their beautiful creative work in our show notes for this episode at That's also where you will find the transcript of this episode.   All of our stories on the podcast are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers. And if you have a story to share about Living the Gospel, please call our pitch line and leave us a pitch. We often find many of our stories from the pitch line, and while we might not get back to you right away, if a story fits one of our upcoming themes, we will give you a call, and we'd love to hear how the Gospel has blessed your life. So give us a call at 515-519-6179 or you can find that number on our show notes and pitch your story in three minutes or less.   If you've loved having true stories from real people in your life, would you consider leaving us a review on iTunes and please tell all your friends and social networks how “This is the Gospel” has blessed your life. We read every single review and we truly appreciate your willingness to share the good stuff.   This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, that's ‘K, a,’ capital ‘R,’ ‘y, n.’ not Rose, with additional story producing and editing by Katie Lambert. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six Studios and our executive producers Aaron Holstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and the other LDS living podcasts at Have a great week. Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Jan 20, 2020
BONUS: Sneak Peek of The Sunday on Monday Study Group
If you're looking for an engaging and fun way to supplement your Come, Follow Me study of the Book of Mormon this year, the team at THIS IS THE GOSPEL has been working hard to help bring you The Sunday on Monday Study Group  - a Deseret Bookshelf Plus Original weekly podcast with host Tammy Uzelac Hall and friends that digs into the scriptures with real stories, new insights, and a whole lot of humor.  In this bonus episode, we share Episode 2 of the Sunday on Monday Study Group podcast covering 1 Nephi 1-7. If you love it and want more, head on over to to find extensive show notes, transcripts and links to bookshelf plus where the full series lives and then come back in two weeks for brand new episodes of THIS IS THE GOSPEL.  Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Jan 07, 2020
The Best Worst Christmas
Stories in this episode: Tammy’s Rockefeller-worthy Christmas tree doesn’t bring the holiday spirit like she hopes but leads to a new take on Christmas with her blended family; A not-so-magical Christmas causes many of Paula's holiday plans to go awry but helps her reflect on the sacredness of Christ's birth; From gifts gone wrong to hospital holidays, four stories straight from our pitch line show how even the worst Christmas can be the best; Kevin reexamines his motivations to help reunite his family over the holidays after his pornography addiction leads his wife to ask for a divorce. This episode of "This Is the Gospel" is sponsored by Light the World. If you’re looking for a meaningful addition to your christ-centered Christmas traditions, the brand new short film "The Christ Child" at is a beautiful way to go. In our little family, we have a special Christmas Eve dinner and I know that I will be showing this video as part of that celebration. Speaking of gathering with friends and family, Latter-day Saint wards and branches all over the world (that means your ward and my ward!) will be holding a special Christmas service this coming Sunday on December 22. Don’t you think it would really light the world if we could invite everyone—neighbors, friends, family—tocome celebrate the season with us and our temporarily beefed-up ward choirs??? I’m in and I hope you are too as we light the world together. SHOW NOTES To see pictures, and find links to things mentioned in this episode, go here. To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :) TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay  0:00   Merry Christmas friends! Before we hop into our episode, we wanted to let you know that this is "This Is the Gospel" is taking a few weeks off to enjoy the holidays with our people. But don't worry, we'll be back in the new year. So keep an eye on us on Instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast because the pitch line will still be open. And we've got some exciting upcoming themes including an episode dedicated entirely to the new youth theme. So as those stories start rolling at your family gatherings, do not forget to share the stories from your holiday with us.   Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. We're deep in the throes of the Christmas spirit around here. And as we barrel our way towards Christmas Eve planning our word Christmas socials, thinking about our ministry assignments, and trying desperately to learn how to wrap round present, we wanted to take a minute to tell the stories of Christmases past.    You may think our theme this week is a little . . . well, grim for holiday celebration episode. In fact, if you've ever heard of the term "schadenfreude," which is a German word that loosely translates to taking pleasure at someone else's pain, you may worry that listening to other people's stories about their worst Christmas would be like indulging in this terrible practice. But I promise we're no schadenfreuders! Is that a word? Schadenfreude-ers? Schadenfreuders? Well, this is "The Best Worst Christmas" episode.    And now I can hear you asking, "But KaRyn, what does that even mean? How can the worst Christmas also be the best Christmas?" Well, don't worry. Our seven storytellers today are going to show us exactly how that's done. So buckle up for "The Best Worst Christmas."    Our first story comes from Tammy who wanted what we all want at the beginning of a new adventure: magical firsts. Here's Tammy.    Tammy  2:00   I waited 34 years, eight months, and 14 days to get married. . .  finally! I felt like I had totally been prepared to get married, but nothing prepared me for our very first Christmas together.    We had been married for five months when we celebrated the first Christmas, which was so exciting. I married a widower, and with that came two little darling girls so I became instant-mom overnight. So you can imagine my anticipation at celebrating Christmas as a family.    We went as a family and picked out the most beautiful Christmas tree and came home and decorated the house and then got out all the ornaments to decorate the tree. Now, I had had a few ornaments and a few things that I had collected over the years of being single but not really a lot so there wasn't much that I could contribute to the decorating festivities. So we used everything that the family had had before I joined them. And when we got everything out to decorate the tree, I had not anticipated the grief that I would experience.   Ornament after ornament, of course, I'm being a little dramatic. I would say a majority of the ornaments though, were decorated with my husband's name and his wife's name. And after 14 years of marriage, of course they would have ornaments together. And, of course, they would have collected ornaments, but I didn't even think that that would be a thing on Christmas morning. And so as we pulled each ornament out, and I sat on that couch, the girls would pull the ornaments out and go, "Oh look, Dad, remember when you and mom got this?" And I just sat there and it was every ornament they pulled out. My emotions just swelled and I got more and more emotional. And then I started crying on the couch. And I just was so sad and I didn't even think that I would be. And my husband looked at me and I tried to hold back the tears and I couldn't and we both recognized what a difficult Christmas this was going to be for both of us.    So I just did what any adult, responsible, mature woman would do and I had myself a full-blown adult tantrum. And the next day I went out and about my own tree and my own decorations. And I decorated that bad boy and made it the most beautiful thing that I'd ever seen. We put it in another room of the house. we affectionately refer to it now as the Rockefeller Center tree because it was a little bit audacious. It was gigantic, and the ornaments were big. And I did that thinking that that would make everything better. And it didn't because here's the reality and one thing I recognized is that we'd only been married five months, and their mom had only been gone for a year. And those years of firsts are rough. And it was a year first for all of us. Because I think what the Savior taught me in that moment was everybody was grieving. My girls and my husband were grieving the loss of a wife and a mom, and I was grieving the loss of the dream of being just someone's first choice, I guess, first wife. I would never get a year of firsts. I mean, I would have our first Christmas together, but it wouldn't be like a newlywed with no kids. It was just a different kind of first. And so I think I realized that we all were grieving, we all were sad.   We left the Christmas tree up as is and didn't change anything. And then when January came when we took the tree down, my sweet husband took all those ornaments and put them in a separate box. And we've just kept them and stowed them away until the girls grow up and then they can have those ornaments.    I just think it's so important for me to recognize that Christmas really is about Christ, and it certainly was that day. And throughout that holiday season, I feel like He kind of healed all of our hearts. Specifically mine, and I grew up and I recognize that while I didn't get what I hoped for, I definitely got what I wanted, which was a family and a husband who I adore. And I love being a wife and a mom, being a mom is harder than I thought it would be, but I do love it. And we've added two more little girls to the family and Christmas morning is glorious and the festivities are wonderful and we decorate and we have so much fun.    I loved the talk by Elder Wirthlin in October 2006, the year I got married, called "Sunday Will Come." And it just made me kind of think about how no matter how dark our Fridays are and how lost we feel, and that decorating day was a dark Friday for me, my Sunday did come and my heart healed. And everything turned out just wonderful.   KaRyn Lay  6:50   That was Tammy Uzelac Hall. And I'm excited to tell you that Tammy is the host of LDS Living's newest podcast the "Sunday on Monday" study group podcast. It's a "Come, Follow Me"-based scripture study, which is going to be available on Desert Bookshelf PLUS+ starting at the beginning of the new year. Tammy hosts a different group of women each week to talk about, expand on, and explore the gospel through the scriptures. And if you thought she was real here, you will not want to miss her take on the Book of Mormon.    You know, Tammy and I often chat about the highs and lows of step-parenting. And one thing I realized as we were listening to her story is that sometimes, the worst things become the best because of a little bit of empathy. When we open our hearts to even consider the perspective of those around us, like Tammy did with her stepchildren and even her new husband, well I think that opens the door for God to do His work in our hearts just like He did with her. It also doesn't hurt to have a healthy sense of humor about ourselves, which my friend Tammy has in spades.    Our next story comes from Paula, who found herself one Christmas unexpectedly removed from the holiday cheer that she so desperately wanted to be a part of. Here's Paula.   Paula  8:00   Growing up, Christmas was very magical for me. My grandparents would have a huge Christmas gathering for our family on Christmas Eve. When my husband went for the first time, he said it was really kind of like something off of a TV Christmas special. And that was probably my favorite part of Christmas.   When my kids came along, I wanted Christmas to feel as special and magical to them. We had six children, so it got kind of crazy at times. We just kind of would buckle up at the beginning of December and kind of just take it one thing at a time. There were dance recitals and music recitals and Christmas church socials. My husband always had a work Christmas party and both of our families live here in North Carolina so there were extended family gatherings on both sides. I always did kind of feel a little guilty as the Christmas time would come to a close and I would stop and think, "Oh, I've been so busy and haven't really stopped to take a few minutes to reflect like I wanted to." And it just seemed like it kind of came every year and you just kept going.   Christmas of 2002, we had our fifth child at that time, Benson. He was about 18 months old. He had kind of a rough year with some sicknesses. At the early part of December, he had bronchitis that kind of kept me out of the cold with him. We would stay home and there were several things that we missed right at the beginning of the month. You know it was disappointing, but we still had the rest of the month and I thought, "We'll just get him well and then everything will be fine."    But as time went on, it was one thing after another. There was an ice storm. Here in North Carolina when an ice storm hits, pretty much everything shuts down. Everyone goes to the grocery store and stocks up on bread, the bread gets gone really quick. So if you don't get there soon enough, you're out of luck. The bread's gone. And you kind of come home and then when the ice storm hits, you are pretty much house-bound.    I had planned a Young Women's Christmas party at our house that I was really excited about that year. And that just happened to fall during the ice storm so that was canceled. I was pretty disappointed about canceling that because I had put a lot of work into getting ready for it and was excited about having the girls over.    So after this ice storm, then Benson had a relapse from his bronchitis that kind of sent us back inside again. He was pretty sick. And then my husband usually has a work party that he and I would go to. The work party was something I looked forward to every year. It was a chance to get dressed up and have a date night in the middle of all the other stuff that was going on. But this year, I wasn't able to attend that either. There still were several things to look forward to in the rest of the month. But just before all those things happened, we all came down with a stomach bug. It started with one person and it was one of those things that would take a day or two before it hit the next person. And it just slowly went through our whole house. Our Christmas was not turning out very magical at all.    A large part of the month I felt like I spent at home alone with Benson, my youngest. We would sit there and rock with the lights turned down. We'd usually sing him Primary songs if I was getting him to sleep. But because it was Christmas time, I substituted those songs for Christmas carols. As I was alone and had that time to reflect and think about the things that really happened during the first Christmas, I realized that those Christmas carols made those events that happened over 2000 years ago come alive for me. I felt what a silent night it was in Bethlehem. I could almost see the bright stars in the sky and picture the beautiful virgin mother with her little baby and how precious and tender and mild he was. I felt a little bit of the wonder that the shepherds experienced they were visited by the heavenly messengers. And I could hear the songs and the sounds of the angels singing. It was during those times with my little baby boy that the birth of our Savior became so real to me. I felt like I was given a gift and a chance to go back to those many years ago and experience a little piece of it myself.   I think it's interesting that going back to when I was a little girl and the thing that made Christmas so magical to me was the music that I heard at my grandparents' house on Christmas Eve. And then this Christmas in 2002 I had such a special experience with Christmas for myself was also because of the music, that I realized that probably the thing that kept me home and caused me to miss a lot of Christmas that year was because my little boy was sick. But it was that same reason that calls me to have this special experience with the birth of our Savior.   KaRyn Lay  14:46   That was Paula.   I think we can all relate to those seasons in our lives, like Paula had, where God invites us to slow down and just be with Him. It might be hard initially to be very appreciative of that gift because it's easy to feel the deep disappointment of all that we've missed or the fear of disappointing those we love. But what I'm reminded of from Paula's story is that we can find the gift if we're willing to let go of the pressure of our own expectations and open our eyes to the offerings around us. And though I don't have a baby to rock to sleep on the dark nights before Christmas, I'm going to try harder to carve out some quiet time to just sit and dream and think about the things that matter most during this Christmas season.    Our next few stories came to us directly from our pitch line. We asked you to call in with your best worst Christmas stories, and you did. We got so many fun and touching submissions from gifts gone wrong to tragic decorations to difficult moments in your lives that somehow showed forth the power and goodness of God. Well, we got them all and here are a few of our favorites.   Patricia  15:53   Hi, my name is Patricia Henderson. My story begins when I was about 13 years old. I grew up in Northern California and I had, it was Christmas. And I had just received the greatest gift in my little brain and that was a Swatch watch. It was awesome. It was see-through and the band was colorful. It was awesome.    So, the day after Christmas, our family took a trip to Disneyland. And we had stayed at a hotel and I was very careful when I put my watch by my towel at the pool when we were swimming and I forgot my Swatch watch down by the pool at the hotel by Disneyland. So I rushed back down when I realized and, of course, it was gone. I was devastated. I went back to my room and just cried and cried and cried. And I've pleaded with the Lord, "Please Heavenly Father, please help me find my watch."   So the next day was the day we were to go to Disneyland. Disneyland that day was at full capacity. It was so busy, people everywhere. And my heart was heavy because I had lost my watch. And I was so devastated about it. So I went throughout the day kind of standing in line at a ride. And you know how the lines are, they go back and forth and back and forth with people and you just stand there. And you move a little ahead and then you stand there. And I look over on a boy's arm and I see a watch that looked just like mine. And I feel like the Spirit told me, "That's your watch, ask for it." And so I did. I got the courage. I wasn't that kind of teenager. I was very cool, I thought, and I didn't do things like that. But I did. I asked him I said, "Hey, where did you get that watch?" And he said, "Funny story, we staying in a hotel and it was down by the pool at the side of the pool and so I put it on." I said, "What hotel are you staying at?" And it was the same hotel. And I said to him, "I lost my watch down by the pool and that's my watch. I just got it for Christmas." And guess what? He gave it back to me. And I got my watch back on the busiest day of probably the whole year at Disneyland.    To me, that has been a miracle in my life. I was young, I was impressionable, and this was very important to me at that time and my prayer had been answered. I've often gone back to that story throughout my life and remember the undeniable power of prayer. Of the thousands of people at Disneyland that day, Heavenly Father led me to my watch. I've always felt like it was my special connection to heaven. Where this could have been the worst Christmas ever, it showed me the powerful lesson of how aware my Heavenly Father is of me. Thank you.   Suzi  19:07   Hi, my name is Suzi Hjorth. I grew up in Southern California and my grandparents had a Christmas tree farm in Vista. And every year, our family of nine would pile in the Suburban and go to grandma and grandpa's house and we could pick any tree we wanted on the lot. And it was a pretty magical time.    When I was about 12 or 13, my grandparents sold the farm. And for the first time, we had to go buy a tree at the store like normal people. And we all piled in the Suburban and went to the store and were quickly dismayed at the cost of Christmas trees. And we were on a fixed income and my mom finally looked at us and said, "Guys, you want more presence or a tree?" And we left the store without a tree.    But my mom isn't one to be messed with, and so she went out into the backyard and cut a branch off of our pine tree. And then she got a drill and she drilled holes anywhere that there wasn't something green coming out of it. And then she went and cut more branches and she stuck them in the holes and made her own Christmas tree for our family and we put it in the regular spot. But being 12 or 13 years old, I was mortified by this Christmas tree. It wasn't triangle-shaped. It wasn't neat and tidy. It didn't look like anyone else's Christmas tree. It was wild and unkempt. And I could have just died from the shame of that Christmas tree.   People would come to our house and say it was amazing and I would roll my eyes thinking they're just trying to make us feel better about ourselves but we are so lame. Years later, I look back and I realize that was the most beautiful Christmas tree ever. And every year now I make a wreath out of the pine branches that I go and cut off of the tree in the backyard. And every year my kids complain that it's a little too sloppy and it's not round and neat like all of the other people's Christmas wreaths. And it makes me happy and joyful that I've turned out a little something like my amazing mom. Thanks, bye.   Greg  21:15   Hi, my name is Greg Davis. One of my most painful Christmas memories, which is that when I was about 8 years old, all I really wanted was a football for Christmas. I was so excited to get it. And I saw that odd shape under the Christmas tree and thought for sure I knew what it was. And sure enough, I opened it up and it was a brand-new football. So what else do you do on Christmas Day when you get a football besides throw it across the room with your brothers? So I took this brand-new football, threw it across the room to my brother, and he threw it back to me. Only, I didn't catch it but it went off my fingertips and into the fireplace. And inside the fireplace, there was a hot nail sticking out of a board, and it punctured right down the heart of that ball within 30 seconds of getting my brand-new Christmas gift. I watched to sizzling there in the fireplace. Even when we pulled it out, it was not salvageable.    So was I upset? Yes. Did I cry? Probably. But what's amazing about that is even though it was so frustrating at the time, it's now one of my favorite Christmas stories. So crisis plus time equals laughter. We laugh about it now. And things that seem big in the moment aren't always as big as we make them out to be. That's my Christmas story.   Carissa  22:36   Hi, my name is Carissa Abrams. Christmas 2016 was a really hard time for our family. We had recently moved from St. Louis, Missouri, to Richmond, Virginia, for my husband's military training. And shortly after we arrived in Virginia, our baby boy was born 13 weeks early. To give you an idea of how early and how sick he was, he weighed two pounds exactly and just really, really sick. And it was hard because all of our friends were across the country in St. Louis and our closest family members lived in Idaho. It was just really isolating. One of the hardest things was that our daughters, who were six and seven at the time, couldn't hold him. He was too little and too small.    Fast forward to the Sunday before Christmas, I was talking to the missionaries in our ward. We had two sets of elders at the time. They could only talk to their parents twice a year on Mother's Day and on Christmas and I asked them if they were excited for Christmas and excited to talk to their families. The two elders I was talking to looked at each other and they looked a little sheepish. And they said, "Yes, we're really excited to talk to our families, but we're not sure how and when we're going to do that." And I realized that they didn't have any plans for Christmas. No one had invited them over. Immediately, I felt the Spirit whisper to me, "Carissa, you need to have them over to your house." I said, "No, I can't. I have, my son's in the hospital and my family's really struggling. It's a hard year, I just can't." And I felt the impression again so I invited them over.    And it was such a wonderful experience to have them. I actually called all four of their moms to set up the time for them to call. And one of the elder's mom said something that really touched my heart. She said, "I've been praying that someone would be taking care of my son on this mission because every time I get the opportunity, I take care of the missionaries and I see them at my house. So I knew that if I took care of these elders, that someone would take care of my son." And I realized that was just like my family situation. I couldn't take care of my son that year for Christmas. I couldn't see him or really do much for him. There were other women taking care of my son, but I could take care of other women's sons at Christmas.    And we had a great day and it was so healing for me to be able to care for those boys when their moms couldn't. And the real miracle came that night when we went to the hospital and my daughters were able to hold their little brother for the first time. So what should have been our hardest Christmas was our best.   KaRyn Lay  25:22   That was Patricia, Susie, Greg, and Carissa.    Thanks to everyone who submitted their best worst stories on our pitch line. We absolutely loved seeing how many of our friends are able to find the good stuff in the midst of the hard stuff so thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And just to be clear, Patricia, I feel you. All I ever wanted was a Swatch watch, and I never got one so I feel a little bit jealous of you right now.    Our final story today of "The Best Worst Christmas" comes from Kevin, who after 15 years of marriage found himself and his family in very different places during the holiday. A quick note for those of you who might be listening with small children, this story openly discusses addiction. And while there's nothing to really worry about, you may want to preview it yourself before sharing. Here's Kevin.   Kevin  26:09   My worst Christmas actually started in August. It was an August that after many years of having to deal with me and honestly my pornography addiction, that my wife finally decided to take my three children and leave.    She told me that she was going to leave, and I totally understood. She had taken the time through much prayer, and I believe she even went to the temple and considered it. I knew that she needed to do this if that's what she felt, and I didn't blame her. I totally put all the blame upon myself.    She went out to her parents with my three children and it was extremely hard for me. I was absolutely devastated. Let's be honest, I was bawling my head off. It was terrible. I knew at that very moment that this was "do or die" for me. That I had a very, very serious decision to make in my life at this point. Either I make changes or I go into a very, very scary route, one that I did not want to go into.   So I decided at that point that, you know, if she's not there, who's pushing me to do things? Who's pushing me to make these changes? Well, it had to be me, and I knew it had to be me. And I was already starting the repentance process. I was meeting with my bishop regularly, I was going to addiction recovery meetings, and I started to see a therapist. And you know, I was doing these things to help me heal and a lot to try to get my family back. I really wanted my family back. That was, you know, a lot of my motivation at the time. It was if I, if I made these changes, my family will be okay. We're going to be back together. That was my motivation. It was good motivation, but it wasn't quite the right motivation.    It was looking like we were going to be just divorced. And when I talked to her, she'd be like, "Yeah, we're, I don't think this is going to work out." It was Thanksgiving of that year and I was preparing for them to come visit. And I was having a really hard time. I was, I was in a moment of deep depression, deep anxiety, deep, deep fears. They were going to be here for Thanksgiving for about a week, and I wanted the house to be perfect. I wanted there to be no reason for her to come and be like, "Oh, he's not changing." So I was doing things. I just, I got to a point where I couldn't do it. I was, I was cleaning and I couldn't do it. And I, the anxiety totally took over. I was sitting on my bed telling myself, "Kevin, you gotta get up, and you've got to clean more." And not being able to move. I picked up my phone and I called my best friend and then another good friend, to come give me a blessing. I was bawling my eyes out. Not understanding why, why I could not move. Why I could not do this simple task for my family. I went downstairs in preparation to get my blessing and I still could not stop bawling.    I got a phone call from my son Keagan. And he said, "Dad, I just wanted to talk to you. I needed to talk to you." Heavenly Father heard my prayers, and through Keagan, He answered them. Afterward, my wife told me that my son said he wanted to call me and she said, "No, he, you got to go clean your room first." And so he went in to clean this room and he came out and said, "No, Mom, I gotta call Dad." There's no doubt in my mind that, that was the Spirit telling him to call me.   It was most definitely a panic attack that I was experiencing. The brethren came and they gave me a blessing. And at that point, you know, I knew I just couldn't worry about how the house looked. I just had to worry about taking care of them when they're here. So they came and things went well. Things went very well. I was feeling really good thinking, you know, "Oh yeah, things are great. I'm gonna, we're gonna get back together, yeah, yeah." So afterward, I talked to my wife again and she's like, "No, no, we're still on the road to divorce here, Kevin." That hurt, you know, that was really hard for me to hear.   I had made some arrangements for me to be able to go out to my in-laws' where my wife and children were staying for Christmas. Before I'd go to my in-laws, I was going to visit my brother and sister in Utah. When that time came, I flew out with some really difficult flights. But you know, more than happy to do it just to see my family. Had like a Christmas dinner with my sister and her family. It was, it was a hard time. I was emotional because it was family, right? It was a family thing, but it wasn't because my family wasn't there. And so it was extremely difficult for me. And unfortunately, my sister had to feel that from me.    So my wife meets up with me and I transfer my belongings over to the van and we drive up to her parents. The kids are in the car and we're all just, you know, we're having a good time driving up. We get to my in-laws and, you know, I know that my in-laws love me. They're really amazing people. My mother-in-law, so very supporting, and as is my father-in-law. However, I do have to say I was really uneasy when I first got there. I was not sure how my father-in-law was feeling about me. And the reason I was uncomfortable was because I had actually told them why we were separated and called them before she came out there and had apologized to them. It's not an easy thing to talk about. There was a lot of shame involved, a lot of—I had hurt his little girl. Not physically, but emotionally, and it was painful. I'm sure it was painful for both of us. I know it was painful for my wife. So here I am in their home, feeling awkward with my family. But again, not truly with my family. So I'm here at Christmas with the hope of being able to fix things. So I'm, you know, serving I'm helping I'm doing all kinds of stuff. And I'm doing it because I love them but in all honesty, I also was doing it because I wanted them back.   Christmas Day came I, I honestly do not remember a whole lot about the day. My children made these wonderful gifts for me. They got me a drawing tablet because I like to draw. And inside, they wrote me a little note, you know, telling me that they love me and everything and it was wonderful. I mean, the morning felt nice. It did. I mean, it felt nice, but it's still hard because I knew that I was going to be leaving soon.    My wife and I, we had many conversations. I shared things about me, about my life, about my life experiences, and I'm not very good at sharing my life experiences. I'm very guarded about those things. I knew though that if I did not start opening up, that I would definitely lose her. She was still talking about divorce. And so, you know, I had to, I had to open up. I'm always willing to like to listen and I'll talk about things but I don't share. But I know that in a relationship, it's not just about talking but it's about sharing.   So we finished up Christmas and it was again time for me to leave. Things seemed like they were going well, but I felt like things weren't going to be still how I was hoping where we are gonna just reconnect. Everybody's gonna get back together. We were going to be a happy family. I did not feel that. So then as my brother picked me up to take me back to the airport, I was sitting reflecting. I was actually, a lot of, we talked about a lot of things. Um, I don't know if I talked to him about this or if this was just in my mind as he was talking, but it came to me that I was serving, I was trying to serve my wife with the expectation of her coming back to me. With the expectation that if I did all of these things, then she would come back to me. And I realized that no, that's not why I need to be doing this. But I need to be doing it just because I love her with no expectation of anything other than showing my love for her. It was very significant for me to realize this, to realize that, that I needed to do these things for love. And as I realized that, I also realized that my heart was changing.   Before this, I did not feel like I was worthy for Heavenly Father's love. I did not feel like I deserved His love. I know that Heavenly Father was there. I just didn't feel like I was important. I think at this point, I started to begin to love myself. I began, not, you know, not to this degree of, "Oh, yeah, I'm great." No, but I started to understand how Heavenly Father sees me. I still don't fully see how Heavenly Father sees me. But, you know, it was nice to be able to feel a glimpse and to see a glimpse of that. I think the really cool thing about this is I'm pretty sure that Heavenly Father has been trying to tell me that for years. I think that it's through the repentance process that I came to this understanding. And it wasn't necessarily that He told me this because I repented. It's that because I repented, I was now open for this. I was now ready to receive this information, this, this knowledge.   I came back home and it was confirmed she was still talking about divorce. But after the revelation, I believe I was more vested in my personal, mental, and spiritual and physical health. I really wanted to just be a better me. I started to do things that I had never done. I went and saw a doctor. I was starting to recognize the depression that I had and so I went and saw a doctor to get help with that and I continue to see a therapist. And I started to randomly send flowers to her, randomly sent her treats, I randomly just did things. I am, I would get flowers for her home, but there was something else to it.   So as I was starting to send these things, these random things, my wife calls me and thanks me for one of them. And she says to me, "Kevin, why did it take you this long to do this? Why didn't you do this while we were together?" And honestly, in my mind, I thought, "Well, I thought I had done some of this." I think that Heavenly Father was just opening up some more things, again, to be seen differently. But even that at that point, she still was like, "You know, but we're still on this road for divorce." And honestly, at that point, as much as I loved my family, I was okay. I was okay because I knew that I was going to be okay through the Savior. As long as I do what I need to do, as long as I keep Him in my life, as long as I let the Atonement work in my life, I would be okay. That doesn't mean that I still didn't have my struggles with depression and whatnot, but at least I knew that I will be okay.    I am happy to share that that spring, spring break, my family came home to visit. Near the end of that visit, my wife pulled me aside and she started listing off the pros and cons of being with me. That as she did this, I'm like, "Oh crap, this does not sound good for me." But apparently, the things that were pros to her were much more important than those cons because she told me at that point that she was, she was ready to try to make it work too again. That she was willing to give me another try. I know that that was not my, I did not change my wife, but that it was the Savior. It was the Spirit. There is no way that I caused that change. But I do know that the things that I would, was doing, helped, helped get us there.    We're together as of August. They came back and we've been together and we've been working through things. I do know that there's still work to be done as a family, for healing and for, for everything, but with the Lord's help and as long as we're open and willing to share and willing to do the things that we need to, our story will continue. It'll be rocky, but it will continue. I'm so very grateful that my wife had the courage to leave me. And that my Savior, while I felt so alone, made sure that I knew that I was not alone.   KaRyn Lay  42:38   That was Kevin. I am proud to say that Kevin is my brother. And I'm the sister he worried about at that Christmas dinner. But I want to say for the record, that we were just happy to be with him and high emotions are no big deal for the Lay family. So whenever any of you are ready for your breakdown, just come to our house. There's a place at the table. We're ready.    You know, it's hard for me to imagine that a Christmas separated from your partner and your children, a Christmas spent wondering if you'll ever find healing for something that seems like it's held you hostage for a really long time, could possibly become the best Christmas in your memory. But that's the thing about difficult experiences and memory. I heard recently on this other podcast that I love that we are scientifically wired to forget the feeling of the high emotions and pain that we experienced during stressful times in our lives. Otherwise, honestly, no one would ever have more than one baby or more than one family Christmas party. And while that science is helpful and explaining how our minds work, to give us courage to get back in the ring and keep fighting, I think the scriptures teach us how heaven helps our hearts to have that same courage.   One of my favorite scripture passages of all time is in the New Testament when Paul is writing to the Romans. In chapter eight, he's reassuring the disciples in Rome of the nature of Christ and the power of living His law. And he's teaching them how to become conquerors in the cause of Christianity, despite their setbacks and trials. And in verse 28, he says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."    I think I love that verse because it explains how something that is the worst can possibly become the best in our hearts. I think it's really all about perspective. I think that's what Paul was trying to teach us. According to Paul, loving God and seeing ourselves in service to His purpose instead of whatever purpose we've dreamed up for ourselves, those are the only two requirements for all things to work together for our good. And things working together for good doesn't actually mean that the minute we choose faith and belief that our football will be resurrected from the fiery furnace, or our baby will miraculously be healed and home from the NICU in time for Christmas, or our fractured family will need less time to make their way back together. But what it does mean is that through our love and our commitment to His plan, we can see the light in the darkness. Our eyes will be opened, we'll be able to see our baby in the eyes of the homesick missionaries that we comfort and place of their own mothers. We'll recognize the gift of dark nights in a rocking chair while we miss the glitz of the holiday party. And we can feel the hope of our own connection to the Babe of Bethlehem at the exact same time that we feel disconnected from the people we love most. Our hearts are turned and turned again so that we can actually see and believe when Paul says in Romans chapter 8:31, "What shall we then say to these things? If God before us, who can be against us?"   Biology may sometimes lighten the mental load of past pain, but it is our Heavenly Father who lightens the spiritual load. And suddenly, what was worst is now and forever best. We say to these things, "God is with us. We are His. And because of Him, we are made new and whole."    That's it for this episode of "This Is the gospel." Thank you so much for joining us as we celebrate the beauty of Christmas together through stories. And thank you to Tammy and Paula and Suzi and Patricia and Greg and Carissa for sharing their stories. And a special thanks to my brother Kevin and his family for being unashamed of the brave path they have taken to healing.    It's probably not easy to have me and your family or your ward asking you to tell the stories for the greater good. So I'm truly grateful to everyone that I've hit up for stories.    And if you're as excited as we are for the "Sunday on Monday" study group podcast, it launches December 30th on Desert Bookshelf PLUS+, and we cannot wait for you to discover it. You can get a free trial of Desert Bookshelf PLUS+ for 30 days by going to to check that podcast out and to see what we're all talking about. You're going to love it.    As we head into the short break for the Christmas season, just a reminder that we're still gathering your stories on upcoming themes. So follow us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast to find out what's coming up and to keep connected with us during the break. If you have a great story about your experience living the gospel of Jesus Christ, well we want to hear from you on our pitch line. So leave us a three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179.    All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. And this episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, and Sarah Blake with additional story producing and editing by Katie Lambert. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by Mix At 6 Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Have a beautiful, merry, wonderful best Christmas. See you in the new year. Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Dec 16, 2019
Dream A Little Dream
Stories in this episode: Ken’s professional future is uncertain until a unique series of dreams leads him down the right path; A challenging move to Fiji and a brush with dengue fever leave Craig and his young family desperate for a message from Heaven;. After the death of her colleague’s son, Emily receives a unique message of hope for her grieving coworker. This Episode of This Is The Gospel is sponsored by LIGHT THE WORLD. Join us as we #LightTheWorld this Christmas and sign up to get daily service prompts through text message or email. Text the word “LIGHT” to the number: 71234 or visit That's also where you'll find "The Christ Child", a brand new short film that New Testament scholars are calling the most historically accurate depiction of the Nativity ever filmed.  SHOW NOTES To see pictures, and find links to things mentioned in this episode, go here. To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :) TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay  0:05   Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay and if you can't tell, I have a cold. But don't worry, you can catch it through the podcast so I think we're safe. And I hope you can still understand me. I'm not exactly sure where I got the dream book, probably in the discount section of Barnes and Noble where I got almost all of the books that were not textbooks in college. Or maybe it was a gift. But wherever it came from, it was a hit at parties. Someone would just mention the word dream in casual conversation and I'd immediately run to the shelves and come back armed with this book that was somewhere between a dictionary and a comic book. I think it was even called "The Dictionary of Dreams." So anyway, I'd have the person tell me all the specifics of their dream, every little detail, and then I would look up every symbol so that we could try to interpret the dream together. Did you dream your teeth were falling out? Well, according to the book on page 72, you are feeling insecure about some aspect of your life. There was a chicken in your dream? Page 193 says that something new and exciting is coming around the corner. Abraham Lincoln showed up fighting vampires in your last dream? You have a strong and honest character, or you don't and you need to clean something up. Like I said, hours and hours of party fun. Now I know what you're thinking, "Wow, I really want to come to one of KaRyn's riveting parties." But maybe you're thinking, "That's a load of psychobabble," as my dad would call it. And I have to agree on some level. As hokey as all of this dream stuff might sound, there is definitely precedent for dreams and their interpretation making an appearance as an important tool for revelation of truth. Lehi's dream ring any bells? Well, today we've got three stories about the way God sometimes uses our dreams to talk with us as we navigate our way through discipleship.    Our first story comes from Ken, whose experience with two revelatory dreams in his life helped to guide him in his career in two very different directions. Here's Ken.   Ken Alford  2:13   In the fall of 1978, I was wearing an ROTC uniform to the first day of class at Brigham Young University. It was a political science class, I still remember the classroom. And just as the class was ready to begin, we had no professor in the room. And the professor came running into class just seconds before the class began, had a big stack of books, dropped it on the desk, and we all expected he was going to begin class. Instead, he looked around the room, he zeroed in on my army cadet uniform and ran up to my desk and said, "It's just so good to see a uniform."  And so I said, "Well, why would you say that?"  And he said, "Well, I just retired, after 30 years, serving the country in the United States Army and now I'm a professor here at BYU."  And so I asked what was probably the dumbest question I could have asked. I said, "You can do that?" Well, obviously you could do that because he had done it. But he was very patient. He said, "Yes, I, I just retired just a week or two ago. And now I'm teaching here." And in the back of my head, I could hear the spirit say, "If you do it right, you can do this too." And that day in 1978, the seed was planted to come back and be a faculty member at Brigham Young University. So after that experience in that classroom, I finished my senior year, along the way got engaged to the cutest girl at the school, and she became my wife. That actually was quite a week. On Thursday, graduation week, I was commissioned in the army by my father. The following day, I graduated from Brigham Young University. Then five days later, I married my sweetheart over the altar in the Salt Lake temple. And then the following day, we left for Fort Harrison in Indianapolis and that began kind of a whirlwind experience in the army.  I had a very unusual military career. I never served in a division. I had the opportunity in my career to do lots of educational things. First, the army sent me for a master's degree. And then I taught computer science at West Point for four years. And then I had the opportunity after working in the Pentagon, to reapply to West Point and I was selected again, this time for a Ph.D. in computer science. And then I went back to West Point for four years. But while I was doing my Ph.D. program, I was kind of, quite frankly, a fish out of water because I had a political science background as an undergraduate. I had a Master's at that point, but I hadn't done anything really advanced in computer science. My Ph.D. dissertation was on large scale databases, and they had given me three years to finish what's—the average in our program was four and a half to five years—and they gave me the loving advice "Be dead or be done." And I decided I would rather be done than be dead so I was going to finish in three years. But what that meant was that you had to do your dissertation research in a very compressed manner. And at that time, large-scale database search engines, Google was brand new, they were on the cusp of what was happening and we were all trying to figure this out together. And so I reached a point in my research where I was kind of stuck. Because in the sciences and computer science included, you have to advance the field in order to get your Ph.D. You just can't report what others have done. I went up to talk to research lab personnel and other Ph.D.'s and they said, "Yeah, you're kind of stuck." And what happened was in December in January of 1999, and then into the winter of 2000, over a period of about three weeks, I had the most amazing experience. I would dream—it wasn't every night but it was most nights—I would dream the next portion of my research and my dissertation. And I would wake up in the morning and it had been handed to me. And I would get up and write it down and it would work!  One of the problems that I had was trying to figure out how to load quickly such large amounts of data. And the answer just came in a dream and I did it and it worked and it ran in just a fraction of the time of what I'd been doing. And it's cut weeks off my research, and it came from a dream. Other times, I would wake up and I knew exactly what to write, I knew exactly how to approach the problem. And it was just day after day after day, and it got to the point where it was exciting to go to bed because I couldn't wait to see what the next part of my dissertation was going to be. And then, as soon as I reached the point where I was kind of over the hurdle and now just needed to write it up, it stopped. It just stopped. It was just—I don't know what else call it—it was just a tender mercy. But it came at the exact right time, in the exact right amount. If I'd gotten the whole thing in one night, I would have been frustrated, I couldn't have remembered. But it became in just these doses that were perfect to help me finish my Ph.D. And I finished on time and went to West Point and taught as a Ph.D. professor. And I was not dead. The experience I had over that series of weeks, and from my perspective, it was just truly miraculous, it was just a wonderful, wonderful time. And exciting to see what was coming next because I was just sometimes as surprised as anyone else. And I remember my advisory Professor kept saying, "Where'd you get this from?" And I really didn't know how to answer the question. I couldn't say, "Well, I dreamed it last night." But it was one more confirmation kind of along the way that the thought I'd had, the impression I'd received in 1978, that If I do it right, I can return to BYU one day, was just kind of confirmed along the way.  So I was able to finish my Ph.D. on time. And really, quite honestly against all odds as my dissertation chair kept telling me, and then we went to West Point just a few weeks later and began four wonderful years there. Fast forward, in 2006, I went into the kitchen in our home in Virginia, and there was a Michael Buble, a song called "Home." And my wife and I started dancing in the kitchen. And I just turned to her at the end of that song after one of the lines and I said, "It's time." And she said, "It's time." It's time for us to start thinking about what's next. And so that's when we turned and began looking at applying to BYU to see if what had happened in 1978 we could bring it to fruition. Throughout my career, especially in Virginia, Brigham Young University used to send out to recruiters and they would talk about what you have to have to even apply to teach at BYU. And so I went to several of those meetings before I had my masters or before I had my Ph.D., and learned what the requirements were. And so I just kind of made sure I did all of those. I don't know if the folks in the church history and doctrine department had planned on having that requirement filled with a computer science degree who had published on databases and taught at the Military Academy, but it met the requirements of the law. 30 years as a full military career, I was approaching the 30-year mark. And it's a fairly traumatic thing when it's time to leave that military environment. It's similar, in many ways, to the kind of environment that the church provides, people just as wonderful I will say. There was never an opportunity in my entire career where the military ever tried to place me in a position where I had to consider whether or not I would compromise any of our values, or break the word of wisdom or anything else connected with the church. I worked with just a wonderful group of people.  But in the back of my mind, I wanted to pursue the opportunity with Brigham Young University. And so I had applied to teach religion. I had been teaching institute and seminary as a volunteer for over 20 years and wanted to do something different in retirement other than leadership or computer science. And what had happened is I was kind of in a box that I really didn't see the way out of because of timing. Brigham Young University is a wonderful place and has wonderful things. But one of the things it does very slowly is hiring. I've heard them described as glacial. So what was happening is I would not hear from Brigham Young University whether or not I had been hired until the window would have closed for me to submit my retirement papers in time to begin the fall semester at Brigham Young University should I actually be hired. We were trying to decide what to do. It was a matter of our daily prayer, my sweetheart and I were asking the Lord, you know, what's the way forward? What's the way out of this? So I went to bed, and in the dreams of the night, and it's just as vivid today as when I had the dream—the details of this dream are just so vivid. I found myself viewing a meeting. It was in a small office, there were several individuals seated around a small little table and they were in the process I could see of counting votes. And so I listened in, I recognized two of the people in the room and knew exactly who they were. And they were counting votes and discussing a vote that had just taken place among the faculty. And I soon, very quickly realized that I was watching the hiring meeting where the faculty had voted on whether or not would be selected as the next faculty member. And the votes were tallied. And at the end of the meeting, the department chair said, "Well, then it's agreed. We will send forward Ken Alford's name to fill this position that we're looking for on the faculty." And they went around the room and everyone concurred with that decision. And then the meeting ended.  When I woke up, I recognized that that dream was just different. There was just a spiritual nature about it. And I was just absolutely comfortable that the time was now that I was to go ahead and "drop papers" as the army slang is, that I was to drop my retirement papers and to move forward in faith. Even though I hadn't heard from Brigham Young University yet that I was hired, I had absolutely no fear at all whatsoever. I talked with my wife, I said, here's what happened. She felt very good about it as well. And she said, "Are we going to do it?" I said, "We're going to do it." And about two days later, I turned in my papers and then several weeks later, it was actually about two months later, I got the call from the department chair. He confirmed what I had seen in the dream and I was hired to be a professor in church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, in many ways, against all odds.  From the time we arrived and kind of signed in to the university, it's just felt like home. That was just so wonderful. And then after I arrived at Brigham Young University, several years later, someone just mentioned, just off the cuff, "Oh well I was on the hiring committee at the time you were hired." And it was one of the individuals that I had recognized in my dream. The other individual, I recognized, the department chair at the time, and when I saw the room where the meeting was held, I recognized the room from my dream. I recognize that these revelatory dreams that I'd been blessed with—and they're really a rare event. I'm in my mid-60s and it's happened a couple of times in my total life. But I recognize, I just see them as just tender mercies, just kindness that they came in times when I'd reached a point where I needed outside help. I needed information I didn't have or I needed an understanding that I didn't have. It's just so wonderful and reassuring to know that Heavenly Father knows who I am, He knows what I need, and He's just so willing to help. The revelatory dreams I've shared here that happened with my dissertation, and then also to know that it was okay to go ahead and retire and leave the army at that point. They all, even at the time, they just kind of seemed to fit with the thoughts that have been placed in my head and 1978. It just seemed to be kind of like the next piece and I was just getting a little nudge and it was just really fun to be on the receiving end.   KaRyn Lay  15:15   That was Ken Alford. Ken is one of the authors of a new book called "Dreams As Revelation." And he, along with Craig Mansell, whom we're going to hear from next and Mary Jane Widger have spent years researching and seeking to understand the nature of our dreams from a spiritual perspective. After he was done telling his story, I asked Ken a few questions about how dreams work in real life.  So, Ken, I have this reoccurring dream and it's where I'm in a station wagon. I'm in the front seat, but you know how they used to have those benches in the old station wagon?  Ken Alford  15:46   That face backward? KaRyn Lay  15:47   Yeah. So I'm in the front seat, but there's no seat belt and I'm in the middle and there are no pedals. And I can't stop it and it's going over a cliff. So, that's not revelatory, right?  Ken Alford  15:58   I think not. KaRyn Lay  15:59   Okay, okay, that gives me some peace. Actually, I don't think I've ever had a dream that is revelatory. I think God speaks to me in a totally different way. As the author of this book, you've done tons of research about dreams as a revelatory tool. What would you say to someone like me who's never had a dream that we can count as revelation? Ken Alford  16:19   While researching this book, we learned very quickly that revelatory dreams are the exception and not the rule. And not everyone has them and that's okay. God speaks to us each individually in many different ways. And some people seem to be more prone to these, that God can speak to them this way. Other people have other ways of receiving information from the Holy Ghost. And it's an individual matter and there's nothing wrong with anyone if they haven't had these. And in fact, quite frankly, those who do have them, when they look at it objectively they're very rare. This is a very rare event over the course of your life. KaRyn Lay  16:58   Yeah, because you said you'd had them a couple of times—smaller ones—before that dissertation "Bonanza," I don't know what else to call it. And then the big dream that helped you to know to "drop your papers" before you knew what was coming next. Ken Alford  17:15   Very briefly, it's kinda like this. We think of the Apostle Paul as a visionary man and we talked about Paul's visions, the road to Damascus. But when you look at Paul's life, it is a very rare event, even in someone who is considered a visionary. Or Joseph Smith, we consider him as being so visionary, but if you look, most days are not attended by angels, most days are not accompanied by visions. And it's absolutely the same situation for even people that do experience occasional revelatory dreams. They are a rare and unique and wonderful opportunity, but they are not the only way God surely communicates with man. KaRyn Lay  17:54   So what would your advice be to somebody who does have one of these dreams? Ken Alford  17:59   First, I would just caution that you listen to the spirit to see if this is a revelatory dream. Because we don't want to convince ourselves that something that's occurred is something that it's not. It's also important to recognize that revelatory dreams fit within your stewardship. You won't receive dreams to direct others, you won't receive dreams to direct the church, and that this is something sacred from the Lord. And, for example, the dreams about my dissertation, I haven't really shared that much until now. But I felt the time was right to be able to do that. KaRyn Lay  18:38   So seek counsel from our Father in heaven about how and when you share these things?  Ken Alford  18:42   I would say very much. You need to be comfortable and recognize that there's a time and a place for everything and every place is not the time to share everything. KaRyn Lay  18:52   And just be grateful. Ken Alford  18:54   Oh absolutely. Be grateful when it does occur, but be open to all of the ways that the Lord can speak to you. KaRyn Lay  19:01   Thanks for sharing.  Ken Alford  19:02   Thank you.   KaRyn Lay  19:04   So, friends, there's the good news. Not every dream that you have about vampires and Abraham Lincoln under your bed is a revelation. And one thing that I really appreciate about Ken's book is that it contains some pretty well-researched guidelines that can help you and me as we try to determine whether our dream is revelatory, or just that late-night Philly cheesesteak coming back to haunt us. That actually happens to me. We're going to have an excerpt from that part of the book in our show notes because we all need a little bit of help figuring out what's real.  Another thing that I, as a storyteller, really love about this book is that it's essentially a collection of stories written down from church history, from Joseph Smith to modern-day prophets and apostles and visionary women, covering all the many ways that those dreams can appear. The dreams in their purposes and the stories are as varied as the people who experienced them. For instance, some dreams are warning dreams and some dreams are teaching dreams. Some are guiding like they were for Ken and some, like the one in the story we're about to hear from Craig, they just help us to know that we're exactly where we should be doing exactly what we should be doing. Here's Craig.   Craig  20:13   Not all dreams are revelatory, but some are. We have Lehi's, and that dream led his family out of Jerusalem into the wilderness. I had been led out of Ogden, Utah, into the wilderness and life was tough.  I grew up in the Ogden area, and I come from a small family farming community called Farr West. I worked on a 250 cow dairy herd all my life. I knew what hard work meant. I love the mountains. I love to be, you know, around my family, that was everything to me. Soon after my mission, once faced with the decision of a career, I knew I wanted to be a teacher because I love to see what the teacher does in the classroom and how ideas change people's lives. And coming off a mission, I wanted to teach religion. So if I could teach Latter-day Saint doctrines, concepts in history, I would love that. And I would love to be able to work with the youth of the church. And so I was fortunate enough to be hired at seminaries and institutes. I began teaching in the Ogden area, and I was now living my dream. I met the sweetheart of my dreams and we married, we had had two children, we were teaching seminary, life was grand. And then a phone call came. Administrators from seminaries and institutes, we appreciate all this and, and then he says, "Craig, we have a new assignment for you if you choose to receive it."  I go, "A new assignment? I've only been in my assignment here for just six months and now you would like me to change it?  He says, "Yes. We need someone to teach English as a second language in Suva, Fiji and we need to know the answer within 24 hours." I decided whatever the Lord asked me to do—discipleship was very important in my life—and the Lord's hand would be in it. Others were inspired, we took time to pray about it, talk to our parents, they all said, "Don't go." And I turned to my wife and I said, "The hand of the Lord is in this. We are to go."  And she says, "I'll support you." And we call them back and in two months, we found herself as Suva, Fiji. Now our administrators might have known how much of a cultural shock this was going to be because they gave us a round trip airfare, meaning we could come home if this wasn't going to work out. My wife, Jana, had never lived outside of the United States, let alone hardly Utah. And while I served a mission and traveled a little bit, this was new to her and she was very homesick. And so she was suffering from a lot of things, trying to deal with the language, trying to figure out how to, you know, make meals in a different culture. She would have to take a bus downtown to the open market area, and she would have to learn a different money system, different kinds of vegetables she's looking at, and the meat was on the hoof, or it was live. And I remember she said to me I'm going to bring home dinner."  I said, "Great. What's that going to be?"  She says, "Chicken." She says, "And oh, by the way, the chicken will be live. You're gonna have to kill it." And I go, "Okay, yeah."  She said, "You grew up on a farm, you'll know what to do about that."  I go, "Yeah, but my dad's not here to show me what to do." And the truth of the matter is, is what happened is the chicken got loose on the bus and was sort of flying around. A Fijian lady grabs the chicken by the neck, and ringed it and killed it right on the bus. And she came home and the chicken was dead. And she says, "I'm sorry the chicken lost its life on the bus." And that was our first experience having our meal. And I plucked the chicken, cleaned the chicken and we had chicken. It wasn't long after when we were there, we all came down with a fever. We learned that was called Dengue fever, which is a mild form of malaria. We suffered through that. Our two children were suffering with heat rash because it was so hot. We were sweating profusely and the humanity was high, I mean, we were just going through all of this. We began to question, "Oh my gosh, what have we gotten ourselves into? We have no friends other than the new people we'd just been introduced to up at LDS Technical College—which is the school I was now asked to teach at. They call it a college, but it really is a high school. And it had forums 3, 4, 5, and six. I was called in to teach forms four and five. And my job was to be able to help the students successfully pass the British system school cert exams. If you don't pass the exam, you cannot go on to form five, which is the pre-course to go to a university. And both math and science and English, all those courses at the school were failing and the students were not being able to move forward to the university. And the church went out on a limb and built this school and Fiji, primarily for its members, so that they could further their education of their young people, the dreams of their parents. And what the school has become nicknamed was "The low down school." Low down because they're so low on their scores, they'll never get their students into university. So the church took action and brought three "pelongis," three of us white folks into this multicultural, diverse situation to bring the scores up. And I was then, teaching English as a second language, something I had really never been trained to do. And so that added to the stress and the difficulty of making the adjustment. My biggest fear was whether I would succeed because if you don't have 80% or above, you have failed and mom and dad will take them out and just put them on the plantation. And their life is pretty much you know, that's what it's going to be the rest of their life. So there I was, day in day out, I was working through what I was doing with my work. I needed something. I needed some answer, that this was the Lord's well for me. And I prayed about that, I fasted about that and I received my answer. It was in the form of a dream.  I remember, the dream is if it was yesterday, it never leaves my mind. I was in my very classroom, in the building that I teach at. I remember I was teaching. But as I was teaching, my students started looking and pointing, and they could see something behind me that I couldn't see. And I turned around and there was someone standing in the air, and he was dressed in white and immense light. And no words were spoken and I could see his feet, and I could see the wounds hit his feet.  Now at that point, everything in the classroom had just dissolved. The students who were there, they weren't part of the dream anymore. But I remember seeing His feet and I bathed His feet in my tears. And I held them close. And I recall, He lifted me up to Him. And He then encircled me in His arms, His ever-loving arms, and He pulled me close. And He said to me, you can do this. And I woke up. I woke up at that point, I sat straight up in bed. I thought I was going to be in the presence of the Savior when I woke up. And then I clearly understood it was a dream. I left our bedchamber and walked over into our of the room. I sat there, just stunned what had happened. And I knew that this was different, a different experience than I had ever had before, my first experience of a revelatory dream. I could not journal it for the longest time. I couldn't bear to write it down in words because it was so sacred to me. And I was filled with this love that He had—my Savior—had shared with me. I was filled with this love that overcame all the obstacles that we had felt. I soon realized that I had transcended the pain and the obstacles that were still in front of us. But my wife had not because she was still suffering and I had now come above that suffering and could understand. She had noticed that something had happened to me. And I finally realized I must tell her about this dream. And so I sat her down and I shared it with her. And I said Jesus said, "We can do this." We can do this. And she says, "I knew something had happened to you. You've changed over the last couple of weeks." She says, "That makes all the difference to me, because if you can do this, then I can too." And it changed our life forever. We stayed three years. And what happened after the students had their exams, they went from the low 50-60 percentile that year, to 86%. And the following year 91%. And then the third year, they were up into the 94 percentile. We won the spelling bees and we won the drama events, we had the best yearbook competition. Every different way we could find to make English live in the lives of the students through lots of curricular activities with them. And it happened for science and for math and for English. When we left, they've never had to bring in a plunge again. And they've continued on and to this day, for 40 years. And from that experience in Fiji, every time the phone call comes, and they have come several of them. Jana, we've got another phone call. And she says, "Where are they asking us to go?" And I will tell her and she says, "Are we going to go?" I said, "We're going to go." It comes back to the dream. You can do this. Not just Fiji, but it meant anything the Lord would ask me to do. I learned that God knew my thoughts and the intents of my heart that I wanted to be a disciple. But it was hard at that time. He knew my thoughts. I believe the Lord knew how to succor me and how to give me that answer. And for me, it was in a dream.   KaRyn Lay  33:50   That was Craig Mansell, one of the three authors of "Dreams As Revelation." That moment in Craig's dream when the Savior encircled him, is such a beautiful image. It makes me wish that I could remember a dream that I've had at some point in my life. I love to think that Heavenly Father can and does sometimes use our dreams just to comfort us, and in the process reveals something about ourselves that can help us move forward. For Craig and Jana, his wife, it was that reminder that our strength and sustaining power to complete our missions and callings here on Earth, doesn't have to come from us. Because when we are yoked with the Savior, embraced by him, we move together, and we have access to his power. And we can have hope in that kind of success so that when the phone rings next time, we're ready to heed the call and head wherever we're asked to go. Our final story comes from Emily who learned that while we can't receive revelation for another person, sometimes God does use our dreams to help us minister to one another. Here's Emily.   Emily  34:50   When I came back to work full time, the man in the cubicle next to me became a really good friend. He had been hired by the same man who hired me. He was a mutual friend of ours who had died of cancer some years previous. And this colleague of mine had spoken at his funeral and we just were really close and had a great relationship. This colleague had a son, his only son, who had been introduced to drugs in elementary school and struggled with them for years and years. And finally, as parents they had to make him leave the home and have him try to figure out on his own what to do with his life. And he was figuring it out and had actually come home as an adult and was working on putting his life back together and making really good progress. So you can imagine how shocked they were when one day the sheriff showed up at their door and said that their son had died of an accidental drug overdose.  It was a terrible, terribly sad turn of affairs and my friend was devastated and sad, but faithful. And he spoke at his son's funeral, which I thought was incredibly courageous. When you're in that much pain and have that much grief, I just, I can't imagine having the strength to be able to speak at that funeral. But he wanted to tell his son's story. He wanted to be sure that people understood the whole picture, and how he knew that his son had been doing his best to return to the light. So some months after the funeral, one night, I had a very vivid dream in which I dreamed of this young man who had died. The son of my colleague and it was really strange because I didn't ever meet him. I didn't know him at all, and I'm not even sure I knew what he looked like. But in my dream, I knew that that was who it was. And while I was watching him, a man came and put his arm around him and started walking with him and was sitting down with him, and clearly talking with him and working with him. And it was clear again to me that this man who was doing this was our mutual friend who had passed away, the man who had hired us. That it was that friend who was now working with my colleague's son on the other side of the veil. It's so interesting to think about how I recognized that it was our mutual friend who was helping this boy. I'm not even sure that I knew it from looking at him, although, you know, he was very familiar to me, of course, his face would have been very familiar to me. But it was almost more a feeling that I had, and it made so much sense to me, that it would be him because that was the kind of person that he was, that was the kind of friend he was. And I know he would have done anything he could have for my colleague. If he'd been here he would have. And so it made sense that he would continue to feel that way on the other side of the veil. When I woke up from that dream, I felt so calm and clear. And it was so clear in my mind that what I had experienced a certainty about what I had seen, and a clarity of detail in that whole interaction. I didn't hear anything that was said, I'm not even conscious of there having been sound, just of being an observer of this interaction going on. But I do remember feeling an urgency to capture that while it was clear in my mind, so I could share it. The next day, I wrote a letter to my colleague who had since retired. When I thought about sharing the dream with my friend, my first thought was, "That's a little presumptious." Like "Who am I to be getting a dream for you?" Which is why when I wrote to him, I tried very hard to make it clear, "I don't know why but I just want you to know this is what happened." So a little nervous, just because it seemed unfair, in a way, that it should be me and not him that would get the dream. And I said, "I don't know why I was given this dream and not you. It seems very strange to me because I don't have any skin in the game. There's no reason for this to have come to me, except that I think Heavenly Father knew I would tell you about it, I would share it with you and that maybe it would mean more to you, or might be easier for you to believe it, if it came to somebody who just didn't really have a stake in this. Maybe you would have thought it was wishful-thinking if it had come to you, but I want you to know that this is what I dreamed, and this is what I saw. And I feel certain that our friend is taking care of your son on the other side." Just another really interesting message that people who cared about us here, continue to care about us. That we have people who have been in our lives who really are a lasting part of our eternal lives and our eternal progression. I have wondered why Heavenly Father gave me that dream. The more I have thought about it over the years, the more layers I uncover about what it really means to me and what I've learned from it. And it was a really rare occurrence. It's not a way that the Lord typically speaks to me. And I think part of it is because he knew that I had the kind of friendship with my colleague that I would share it with him. And then I would actually write it and share it in a form that he would keep that is sort of my form of communication is writing so that he knew it would be a record for my friend. It makes me want to listen to my friends more. Someone says, "I've been thinking about you," or some of those kinds of things, it makes me want to listen more to my own feelings. I've been thinking about somebody, I should tell them, I better let them know that means something. I don't always get it that clearly, as clearly as it came in that dream. Not that I think you should get revelation for other people or should plan on doing it, because I don't believe that but sometimes I just think He's just generous in that way. But it was a good reminder that the Lord really does want to communicate with me and with his children, all his children. It really helps me to know that there are things that I can learn that are specific for my development or for the help of people that I love, that the Lord really wants to help us and He'll do it through whatever avenue will get us the help that we need.   KaRyn Lay  43:02   That was Emily. I love that Emily's experience with this dream was a personal call to action. It would have been really easy for her to brush it off, or even share that one time and call it good. She didn't. And as a friend of Emily's, I can attest to the fact that she often sends the scripture, the note, the poem at just the right moment. And that is the beauty of our relationship with revelatory experiences and ministering. They're meant to open a connection between our earthly existence and our heavenly one, to unite our spirits and our bodies for a brief moment so that we can be different forever. And so I take two lessons from Emily's story. First, to be the kind of disciple God can trust to write it down. And second, to be the kind of disciple God can trust to let the dream or the prompting or the ministering assignment, change me.  While I've never had anything more than anxiety dreams, like the one I mentioned to Ken. Our producer, Sarah, has had so many symbolic and revelatory dreams. In fact, she even shared one with us in Episode 12 of this podcast. It's the episode called "Love Is What Brings Us Together Today." So of course, I had to ask her thoughts on this theme. And first of all, she echoed what each of the storytellers says about the dreams that they've had that have revealed something. They said, "This dream felt different. Other dreams are mostly nonsense, but for some reason, this one felt special, and I knew it immediately." Sarah also shared this thought, "In our dreams, we are sort of uninhibited. We're free from some of the constructs and constraints of real life, like the laws of physics or the passage of time. But also, we're not always free from some of the social constructs or the limits that we put on our thinking. And I think that juxtaposition of the freedom of physical law and the ways that we're still tied to the earth, I think that's kind of where the rubber hits the road. The contrast opens us up to seeing our world in new ways or learning something that we didn't expect to. Messages can come through with different clarity because we're in a different kind of world. I personally love that idea that God can use this unique revelatory tool to cut through some of what I often call 'Earth dust.' 'Earth dust' is that feeling that settles on us little by little that lulls us into thinking that the ways of the world are the ways of God, or that who we are here right now is all we'll ever be. That earth dust can be so subtle and so insidious, and really detrimental to our spiritual growth. I can't help but think what a gift it is to have a dream, a moment of otherworldliness and connection with our heavenly parents through revelation. Which by the way, the word revelation comes from the Latin, 'to unveil to uncover or lay bare.' Through revelation, however it comes to us, we are laid bare as true children of God in those moments and we see ourselves, and our true nature as problem solvers, creators, teachers, just as Ken did. Or we see ourselves as worthy, capable and embraced by Christ as Craig did. And we see ourselves as true friends and trusted allies in the work of ministring as Emily did. Every one of those revelatory moments helps us to be better able to move forward in our discipleship, despite the inevitable accumulation of more and more Earth dust. Revelation is a clearing off, a starting over. Whether your moments of heavenly connection and uncovering come through dreams or one of the myriad other ways God uses spiritual gifts to communicate with us, what we can absolutely trust is that He is doing everything He can to reveal us and our true nature to ourselves so that we can win, so that we can come home to Him. That's it for this episode of "This Is The Gospel." Thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks for putting up with my winter voice. And thank you to Ken, Craig, and Emily for sharing their stories and their faith. We'd also like to offer a special thanks to Dr. Mary Jane Woodger for helping us to make this episode happen. If you want more stories about dreams and revelation, well, you definitely need to check out the show notes at We'll have a link to "Dreams As Revelation," as well as an excerpt about the different guiding principles that can help you determine if your dreams are a revelation, or indigestion.  We really appreciate those of you who've taken the time to leave a review on iTunes for this podcast. You're probably sick of me asking but, hey, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I know that if we don't ask, we don't receive. So if you haven't already told us in a review how you feel about our stories about the podcast, please take a minute to do that. It really does help more people find the show. All of our stories are true and accurate as a firm by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, well we want to hear from you on the pitch line. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179 and you can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. This episode was produced by Sarah Blake with story producing and editing by me, KaRyn Lay, Katie Lambert, and Kelly Campbell. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix At Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Have a great week. Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Dec 09, 2019
Angels Among Us
Stories in this episode: Encouraging words at a low point in Matt’s mission show how missionary work can be done beyond the veil. Melissa finally finds a way to share her testimony with her extended family after an unusual prompting. Amidst her son's battle with cancer, Cheryl finds angels sometimes come in the form of a kind neighbor with a red wagon. Brooke learns how angels can help us in ways we don’t always anticipate after the unexpected passing of her mother. This Episode of This Is The Gospel is sponsored by LIGHT THE WORLD. Join us as we #LightTheWorld this Christmas and sign up to get daily service prompts through text message or email. Text the word “LIGHT” to the number: 71234 or visit That's also where you'll find "The Christ Child", a brand new short film that New Testament scholars are calling the most historically accurate depiction of the Nativity ever filmed.  SHOW NOTES: To see pictures, and find links to things mentioned in this episode, go here. To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :) TRANSCRIPT: KaRyn Lay Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.  Last year right around this time, I was lucky enough to attend the Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concert featuring Kristin Chenoweth. And even though our seats were far from fancy, my friend and I were literally going to sit in the nosebleed section of the conference center, you know those seats up at the very top that makes you feel just a little bit dizzy if you look down too quickly? I didn't even care. I am such a huge musical theater nerd that the thought of watching Glinda from Wicked singing with Mack Wilberg, it totally had me fangirling.  But then, just moments before we made it into the Conference Center to find our seats, I got a phone call from my mom telling me that my grandma, my nanny, was not doing well and was not expected to live through the night. And even though I knew this might be coming, I found myself unable to keep my emotions at bay. I cried all the way to my nosebleed seat. I wept through the first half of the concert. I ran out of tissues by intermission. And I really thought that the tears were not going to stop.  But as I sat there listening to that beautiful music, suddenly they did stop. Somehow, in the midst of my feelings of deep loss and sorrow, something else came over me. And I don't really know what else to call it, but it was a wave of comfort, of sweetness. It washed over me, and I was finally able to breathe again. The theme of that concert was "Angels among Us" and many of the songs were pointedly dedicated to the angels, both earthly and beyond, who point us towards the Christ child. It might seem strange to say this, but as the choir and sweet Sister Chenoweth, as I like to call her, sang about the work of angels to herald the birth of Jesus, it's like I could feel the angels there with me too, reminding me that heaven and earth are not that far removed from one another. And that I can take comfort in the birth and the life of One who restores the distance that does exist.  My nanny surprisingly rallied. And, in fact, she's still with us today. But I knew when we were thinking of story themes for this season, that I wanted to honor that moment in the conference center with stories about angels. About the angels in our lives, both earthly and heavenly, who continue the work of drawing us towards the Christ child. And today, we've got four stories that do just that.  Our first storyteller is Matt, who didn't realize he needed the help of angels until it was already in progress. Here's Matt. Matt (2:47) I was the first person in my family to be called on a mission that required the learning of the language. I had been called to serve in Nicaragua, Spanish speaking, and I didn't get any insight or counsel from my brother, for example, or my dad because they didn't know what it was like to learn a language.  I was naive at the time and for whatever reason, I thought that the gift of tongues was something that came more immediate. I was four days into my stay at the MTC, and I was thinking to myself, "Gosh, this is just not coming to me." With hindsight and perspective now, it's funny as I look back on that. That I would have thought that somehow four days in I'd be learning and understanding and being able to speak the language.  I was in a meeting one day and I had my head down, and I was discouraged. I was really discouraged. I was missing my, my house, my family, and having a difficult time with what I perceived to be the inability to learn Spanish. While in that frame of mind, and with my head down, I began to wonder, "Can I even do this? Is this worth it?" And I had a very clear message come into my mind. It was the voice of a man, nonaudible but almost felt audible. And he said, "Elder Hill, pick up your head. I need you to find my family." And I thought, "Wow." I knew it wasn't me because it wouldn't have been a thought that I would have had at the time. My thoughts were far distant from that thought. My thoughts were, "How do I get out of this? How do I go home?"  I wrote in my journal that night and thought nothing of it. I actually didn't even mention it that night. It wasn't until the next day it, almost as an afterthought, I wrote in parentheses, almost as like a P.S., "Oh yeah, by the way, while in a meeting the other day, I heard the voice of a man tell me to pick up my head because he was counting on me and needed me to find his family." And then I wrote, "I guess he's dead. I guess we'll have to see if I can find his family." And that was it.  You know, I didn't think much on this experience the rest of my stay there. I didn't even share the experience with anybody. Nobody in my district there at the MTC, I didn't write about it in any letters, it was something that just had taken place that day. And I thought, "Well, I guess I'll write a little bit about it. And we'll see at some point if that ever really translates to anything."  I know it sounds funny that I put this thought in parentheses almost as like a P.S. at the end of my journal entry, but there's a reason for that. I had an experience prior to my mission in a similar nature came while in the Logan temple one day. I had just received my mission call and I was going into be confirmed for the dead. And I close my eyes and out of nowhere, I felt the presence of my grandpa, who I have never met. My grandpa passed away when my dad was nearly turning 12 and so I've never met him. And so for me to have an experience where he's there, it seems like this would be something kind of out of that world, but it just felt so natural. I knew that it was my grandpa. And I'm not sure how I knew that. I could see him in my mind's eye. And I absolutely felt that it was him. I knew it was him. As I think back and reflect upon that, that experience, it seems odd, even to my mind, to consider and to think on that. How did I know it was him? I instantly knew. There wasn't a second guess. I close my eyes and there was my grandpa.  In fact, the very second I perceived his presence I said, "Hey gramps, how are you?" And his response to me was, "So Nicaragua, huh?" And he expressed how proud he was for my decision that I had made to go and to serve a mission. And I got the chills. And I immediately was just so, it was like a longing, like a, "I haven't seen you forever," kind of a feel. And that's the way it felt is, "Grandpa, how are you?" And I missed him, and I knew I had missed him. And I guess it was my spirit who knew him and who missed him. Because like I said, I had never met him before. So the idea of that sounds very strange that I may have known him. And he told me that he had come to tell me he was going down to prepare the hearts of people that I would come in contact with and to give me a bit of advice, and he gave me some advice. He told me that, "While on your mission, I want you to make sure that you are obedient to the mission rules." Because I will find protection and safety through my obedience. And then he said, "I want you to go home and I want you to tell your mother that you will be protected on your mission. She is worried about you, where you've been called to serve."  And I went home and I told my mom the experience and she broke down, and she had hid it really well. My mom had hid it, I had no idea that she was concerned and that she was worried about where I was going. She'd been looking up all about it that they had recently had a war not long prior, a civil war in the country. And I was pretty clueless. I was just excited to go. I had prepared for it and was excited and had no idea that my mom was beat up inside about this. And so I look back on that experience with my grandpa in the temple that day, I think in part it was maybe for me. But I think the bigger reason, I should say, for the experience was more for my mom to give her some peace of mind. Three months later, I was walking out of a pueblo one day with my trainer, that the pueblo was Sunny Isidro. And as we were walking out of the pueblo, I looked over to the right at the very last house in this little pueblo. And I saw two little kids playing out front in the dirt. I kind of looked at him and then continued to walk forward. And I had an impression that we should go talk to that family. So I turned to my trainer and said, "Hey, do you mind if we go introduce yourself to them real fast?" He said, "Okay, yeah, let's do it." So we get into the house and my campaign starts to talk with the mom and she was knitting a little piece of clothing at the time and sitting in a rocking chair. And I, as I mentioned, I didn't speak very much Spanish. I had kind of suggested we'd come introduce ourselves here.  And, and one thing my dad, one bit of counsel he gave me before I serve my mission, he said, "You know, when you go into these homes, look at the walls and look at things that are on the walls. Typically, those are things that have meaning to people and comment on them." So, I made that a practice of mine and I noticed a picture on the wall of a police force. I walked over to the picture, and I looked at it, there was about 15 or 20 policemen in this picture. And as I was looking at the picture, there was a man who jumped out at me, and I didn't know why. With my limited abilities in Spanish, I said, "Quien es el?" Which meant, "Who is he?" And I pointed at him. And the mom as she was knitting, she put her head down, and she began to cry. She said, "He was my husband. And he was shot and killed this last year."  I immediately had the chills overtake my body and the hairs on my arms stood up. And I was so excited because I knew this, the Holy Ghost had confirmed to me this is that man's house. And I knew I had found the family. And so my reaction, I know that the normal, typical reaction in a scenario such as this would be to say, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry for your loss." But inside what I was feeling is just complete joy and excitement and I wanted to scream out, "Your husband is alive and he cares about you. And he wants you to be happy. And he spoke to me." I had no words, I couldn't speak Spanish. I knew I had no chance at articulating that thought, and I knew the moment wasn't right to express joy and to be excited. And so what I did is I said, "I'm sorry." But inside, if she could have seen my true emotions, my emotions were jumping for joy. And that's how I felt. I had forgotten about the words that I had come into my mind in the MTC, I'd forgotten all about it. It had been months and there I was, standing in that home and connection was very vivid and clear. This is my family. We left that home. And I said to my campaign, my trainer, I said, "Elder, they're going to join the Church. They're going to accept the gospel. And he looked at me and he kind of chuckled, he says, "You know, I felt the same way. You know, when I was new, I felt the same way about everybody I came in contact with." And I left it at that. He was, he was getting close to going home and I didn't feel like the moment was right to share the experience I had had.  So a couple of weeks later, my trainer went home, and I was sent a new campaign. His name was Elder Wilson. Elder Wilson only had himself maybe three or four months out in the field as well. And so he came and said, "Hey, tell me about who we are teaching in the area." And I said, "Elder, I want to share an experience I had in the MTC a few months back." And he looked at me and he said, "Elder Hill, if we do nothing more together with the time that we have then help this family by giving them every opportunity to join the gospel, I believe our time together will have been a success. And I thanked him for that. And I said, "I agree." And he said, "We cannot and we will not give up on that family." And, oddly enough, I started to laugh and he looked at me, he said, "What are you laughing about?" And I said, "I'm laughing because of the idea and thought of you and I going out and trying to teach this gospel because you don't speak much Spanish and I speak far less." And we both just started to laugh as we envision what it might be like to receive the gospel in that way. And we realized that in there, it wasn't going to be much what we did. It was really going to come down to the Spirit testifying that whatever we were trying to say, was true. And we relied heavily upon the Spirit more so during that phase of my mission than any other just simply because of the fact we didn't have the benefit of our words to help express what we were trying to convey.  We didn't give up on that family. And a couple of months later, I was in the baptismal font watching as the mother entered the waters of baptism with tears coming down her face. And I was in a similar emotional state at the time and I was crying as well and we embraced. And again, I wanted so badly to tell her so much about her husband and how excited and happy he would be because I knew it. But, again, I didn't have the words in Spanish to express and convey that message.  The next day she received the gift of the Holy Ghost, her and her daughters. And it was fast Sunday and she bore her testimony. And in her testimony, she said, "Ever since my husband passed away, I have felt the yearning to come to this church. And I haven't known why. Now I know why." She said that this gospel, with the limited time she has spent in it and learned about it, has brought her so much peace and joy. And she is convinced that her husband is super happy with her and her daughters' decision. Having the perspective of being a father myself, there isn't anything that I wouldn't do for my children. It connects me with the father who spoke with me in the MTC in a very real way now because I have the perspective that he has. I understand the, the longing that must be present there as he watches his family live their lives in his absence. It helps me to know that I would do the very same thing. That I would do anything in my power to help my family in any way possible. I didn't have the ability to ever have a full conversation with that family, to express to them what had happened to me and what their dad had come and told me. And I look back on that and maybe I'm grateful that I didn't have the words to express that, because maybe they joined the gospel more free willing of their own accord rather than feeling like they were doing it for their dad.  I don't think there's anything special about me, per se. The times where these experiences have happened. It has always been for the benefit of somebody else. And why I've been having the ability to have that happen or to be able to perceive those words and those thoughts, I don't know. But I do believe that our Heavenly Father does know how to reach us. And oftentimes I think the way He chooses to do that is different for all of us. The gospel of Jesus Christ is very important to those that are living and those that have passed on. I've learned that our Father allows those on the other side to be very much a part of the work that we are doing here. He allows my grandpa, as an example, to go and to go in advance of me and help prepare people for people I would meet. And every time I had somebody accept the gospel, I would always think back on my grandpa, and I would think, "Man, I'm grateful to have a grandpa that cares enough to be out here. And that cares to help me find these people." KaRyn (19:59) That was Matt.  Matt first shared his story with us on the pitch line and when we contacted him to develop it for the episode he, like so many others, wondered if this experience was too sacred to share. I get that. Telling our stories is a sacred business because our stories are powerful. And because of that, we have a duty and an obligation to seek counsel with the Lord about how we share our stories and when we share them.  I'm always humbled when the right place and time to share the story is on our podcast and even more humbled when someone realizes that the time is not right. I honor that. Ultimately, the choice to share a personal witness of a sacred experience is between the storyteller and the Spirit. In his own process of determining the timing to tell this story, Matt found this beautiful quote from Elder Holland's message entitled "For a Wise Purpose" from the January 1996 Ensign. In that message, Elder Holland said, quote:    "I believe we need to speak of and believe in and bear testimony of the ministry of angels more than we sometimes do. They constitute one of God's great methods of witnessing through the veil, and no document in all this world teaches that principle so clearly and so powerfully as does the Book of Mormon," end quote. I really believe that our stories, when used for a wise purpose or gift to one another, testify of Jesus Christ and His power and His glory.  Our next story bearing witness of the ministry of angels comes from Melissa, who believed she was alone in her new faith until a unique heavenly message helped her see that she was anything but alone. Here's Melissa. Melissa (21:41) I grew up with the memory of my cousin. She was nine months old when she passed away. She actually passed away before I was even born. But I was named after her, my middle name was after her, and I missed her. And I couldn't figure out why, I didn't understand why I missed her so much. But I knew that I wish that she could be here.  That was until I learned about the plan of salvation. And I learned about how we live before we were born. I learned about how we had relationships, and we chose to come to this earth to be able to progress. It made sense that we had relationships because I felt this bond that I probably was best friends with my cousin. And she's probably been rooting for me this whole time. So I knew I had to be a part of that kind of truth.  But joining the Church wasn't really the easiest thing in the world. My mom wasn't very excited about it. Neither my mom or dad were excited about it. I think it was because I was 18 years old. I was just graduating from high school about to move away to a new world, a new life away from them. I was the oldest too so it's the first time any of us are going through it. So not only my throwing in moving away and experiencing life but also I threw in a new religion and a new way of life. And I think my mom at one time told me she just couldn't go with me. She couldn't follow where I was going. And it really broke her heart. And it was hard for me because I felt like I was going to truth and I was going closer to my Savior, and if anything, I was doing things so that way my family could be together forever. So going to Church was a little bit tough. As much as it's so exciting, and I felt so whole and connected to my Heavenly Father, my Savior, it was very lonely going to church.  I would walk into church and you see all these families, regardless of probably how hard it was to keep everybody reverent during sacrament, you can feel and tell the love that just embodied everybody and their families. And it was, I was so jealous to see that and be able to have those families sit together and be able to share these experiences together.  And don't get me wrong, I was pretty popular. Everybody wanted me to sit with them. They always wanted me to make sure I felt welcome and loved. And so definitely was not a lack of support from anybody. But it was hard when you go with friends when they go through the temple of the first time and you see this crowd of family at the luncheon afterwards. And you just see this, people from so many different sources, whether aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, all there to support you in your decision and your journey spiritually. So I always felt super lonely and just really sad and longed for the day that I could be able to be sealed to somebody and be able to have family that I was able to share the gospel with. Luckily, my husband took me on, and we have four beautiful children. And we've been sharing testimonies and stories and it's wonderful to have that. But again, it's so, it's just saddened because I wish that I can share it with my family, too.  About a couple years ago, I started hearing this voice in my head, "Ugh, aye mi hija!" And my grandmother has passed away 10 years ago. When I was a kid growing up, I did a lot, a lot of dumb things. And whenever she'd catch me doing something she'd be like, "Aye, mi hija!" And she was so disappointed in me for being, making just dumb choices. And I was hearing that sound, "Aye, mi hija!" And I knew what it was. "Aye, mi hija!" It was my grandmother. "Aye, mi hija!" Why have you done my work yet? Why have you not gotten me sealed to your grandfather yet? "Aye, mi hija!" So I knew I had to get her work done. Because I was not gonna be here that was the rest of my life. So I start, I started working hard getting all of her work done. Through my grandparents, who had passed away, I was able to get all of their parents' work done and sealed. And so we got this nice lot of work done now for my family. And it was super exciting to be able to get all that stuff done.  Well, a couple of months ago, I was training for a marathon and I was on a 20-mile run that day. I had to leave at four in the morning. I was 10 miles into my run, and it was just a beautiful, was a beautiful day. The sun hadn't come out yet and the stars were shining. The area that I happened to be in was a gated community so there wasn't any streetlights. So the stars were able to even shine brighter, and it was a completely clear sky. So I looked up to the sky and it was just gorgeous. And I couldn't help but admire how beautiful this creation that God had given me, this earth that just naturally brings beauty. And then as I was running, I felt somebody running beside me. And I knew it was my grandmother. She started running beside me. And then, then someone became beside her. And on the other side, there was someone else that came beside, and all of a sudden I had a row of angels running beside me. And I knew It wasn't just angels. It was my family. It was my grandfathers, it was my cousin, it was my great-grandparents.  And they ran with me for a little bit. And so I started bearing my testimony, my soul, sharing up all the wonderful things that I have found by coming to know of the truth of the gospel, that I was able to share my testimony and able to share my experiences with my family.  Because of that experience, I have felt them so much more lately in my life. I even felt them actually on my marathon. I was running, and I was only at mile seven, and I felt them coming down and I was like, "Wait on guys, hold on, hold on. Appreciate you coming down. But I'm going to need your help around mile 18. Mile seven, I'm good, keeping good pace." And they did come at mile 18 and had to stay with me the whole entire time because I barely made it till mile 26.  I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants when the Kirtland Temple was being dedicated. And it talks about how to leave this temple with angels having charge over us. It made me really connect that to my family, that the angels being charged over me are not just any random angels, they're my family. That loneliness has been able to to go away because I do have those family members that are part of the gospel. That were most likely there when I got sealed to my wonderful husband. That had been there when my sons have gotten baptized. That will continue to be there as we go through these great moments. I am so grateful to have that knowledge, to have those angels with me as I go forth. KaRyn (30:24) That was Melissa.  I love the image of her ancestors coming to run next to her. Every time I think about it, it reminds me of some kind of scene from the end of a movie. It's like, after the montage and there's this amazing music playing and then all of a sudden the heroine looks to her left and looks to her right and realizes that she is not alone. And honestly, couldn't we all use a little shove in the middle of a marathon from those who've already finished the race? I know I could.  Our next story is a short and sweet one from Cheryl whose angel came right to the front door.  Here's Cheryl. Cheryl (30:56) My son Lincoln was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is the cancer of the blood when he was 2-and-a-half years old. We also had a 1-year-old, Sawyer. So our hands were pretty full, and it was pretty devastating to get that diagnosis.  About six months later, we moved to Greenville, North Carolina, so my husband could do his residency program. Shortly after we moved to North Carolina, things got really hard for me. Lincoln was in a phase of his chemotherapy treatment that was really intense. And he was on these medications that made him super cranky and really agitated, particularly the steroids that were bad. They caused him to want to eat constantly. He ate so much, he retained so much water that he had what the doctors called moon face because his face got so big and round that it looked like the shape of a moon. On top of all that, I was pregnant and in my first trimester. I just remember being so nauseous and waking up with Lincoln, sometimes multiple times a night, to spoon-feed him chicken broccoli casserole and Pasta Roni, those are the two things he always wanted because he was so hungry. And it broke my heart to see him so uncomfortable and so miserable.  Meanwhile, Sawyer, his little brother, was almost two and I felt so guilty for the life that he'd been experiencing for the past several months. I felt so bad for him being stuck inside all the time with a sick brother and a sick mom day after day, and I did, I just didn't have the energy and I couldn't do much about it. I couldn't take him out and play with him and go to the park, anything like that. And we just moved to the area so I didn't know anybody so I didn't feel like I had friends or support to draw on at the time. And I remember one day, I just hit an all-time low and had a bad night hadn't slept. And I just I picked up my phone, and I text my three sisters who live all across the country. And my text said something like, "This is awful. I can't do this anymore. Help." And I'm a very dramatic person so I knew that text would be alarming to them. But I was just so desperate.  Right after I send the text, my sister Wendy called, but I was busy and I couldn't answer the phone. So then about five minutes later, she called back again and that time I, I did answer. About a minute into our conversation, the doorbell rang. And I told my sister and she said, "Well, go answer the door." and I said, "I'm not answering the door. I am not expecting anyone. I don't know anyone here. My house is a mess. I look horrific. I'm not answering the door." And then she told me that for the past five minutes since she received my text, she'd been on her knees praying that someone would come help me because she couldn't. So I swallow my pride going out to the door, and standing there was my neighbor who lived down the street. And I had only met her once before that, maybe twice, just in passing. And she was there with her daughter who was in a red wagon. Carolyn told me she felt like she should just come see how I was doing and she wanted to know if Sawyer, my son who had been feeling particularly bad about neglecting, if he might want to go on a wagon ride with her daughter around the neighborhood.  It was such a simple act, such a simple gesture, but it meant the world to me. I started crying and I told her that I felt like she was an angel and that God had sent her and she was an answer to prayer. And I'm sure she thought I was a little bit crazy but in that moment, I was just so grateful. And I really, truly felt like she was an angel that had been sent. I knew my Heavenly Father was aware of me and I felt His love so strongly. It just washed over me. I knew He'd heard my sister's prayer, and I felt His love and His awareness so strongly that I just, I couldn't deny it, and I still can't deny it today.  Though nothing really changed drastically after that day, Lincoln and I continued to feel sick and struggle together. But I had received a witness that God was aware of me in my darkest hour, and He sent my neighbor who I barely knew as a ministering angel to offer the perfect act of service. And that was just enough to keep me going.  Lincoln continued to have chemo treatments for another three years but he made it through and he's cured. He's in remission now and he's been cancer-free for the past four years. And I'm just so grateful.  I often look back on that experience with Carolyn and it just reminds me that we can get through hard times. And we can be angels for other people just like she was for me. So we can lift each other, and we can be the hands of heaven here on earth. KaRyn (36:52) That was Cheryl.  Do you ever worry that what you're offering is weird or wrong or might offend somebody? I know I do. And I think that sometimes that stops me from showing up for people in their time of need. But Cheryl's story is exactly what I needed this week to kick my shame to the curb. Ministering is all about trusting that who you are and how you move in the world is already enough for the people you've been paired with or prompted toward. And that God will transform your offer of a red wagon ride into exactly what your neighbor needs. I also think it helps me to remember that the work of heaven and angels is not limited to those and other realms. We get to be a part of that work, too. And what a privilege that is.  Our final story today comes from Brooke and if you've been silently listening to today's stories, wondering where your angels are, well, this one's for you. Here's Brooke. Brooke (37:46) I was on a conference call with Whitney and Soni, the two girls that I sing with. And we were discussing our upcoming tours and I got a phone call from my mom. My mom was diagnosed with the flu the day before, so I thought, "Oh, she's just calling to tell me how she's feeling." And she kept calling. She'd call hang-up, call hang-up, which is normal for my mom. That's, that's what my mom does until you answer the phone. So I finally texted her and just said, "Hey, I am on a conference call, I'll call you back as soon as I'm done." And I sent this text and as soon as I sent the text, she called again. And I thought, "Okay, that, that's not like my mom." It was my dad calling from my mom's phone and told me that my mom had stopped breathing and the ambulance was on their way and to just hang tight until they got to a hospital. And then he would call us from there. But I live fairly close to my dad so I told him I would just jump in the car and just run over and just be with him until they get that figured out. And I remember driving and just praying, "Just let her be okay." I just assumed she'd be okay. It's the flu, right? It's 2018, it's not 1740, so I felt okay about it but obviously a little nervous.  When I got there, there was two or three ambulances there and a police car and they were rolling out a stretcher, the stretcher was empty. And I thought, "Oh, maybe she's okay." So I asked them quickly, "What happened? Where's my mom?" They said, "Well, are you Brooke? Just go inside." And my dad was standing there with the most blank look and said, "There's nothing they can do. They couldn't do anything." And I just froze. I couldn't believe this was actually happening. And I even remember kind of yelling at the, yelling at the EMTs saying, "How long did you try? You didn't try long enough." They just kind of stared at me. And I just I couldn't believe that I had lost my mom to the flu. You know, she'd been at my house three days before just loving on my kids and she was, she was gone. My mom was very full of life. I know that sounds cliche, but I don't know how else to describe her. Everything she did was so big: her actions were big her, her voice was loud, just her hair was big. She even would had this whistle. And, you know, it was interesting no matter where you were, what event you were at, what school play you were at, you knew where my mom was sitting because of this whistle that would just kill everybody's ears. That was her signature thing.  She was the person that would walk up to strangers, even like homeless people, and hug them and talk to them. Sometimes the, the stranger's face would have a look of confusion like, "Who is this lady touching me and why is she touching me?" But a lot of times you'd almost see their faces just kind of melt just, "I just I really needed that." Even though she's a stranger, you know.  We found out all these really great stories about her after. She would visit her Young Women with flowers when their sister moved away to college because she knew that this little girl was struggling with her sister leaving. Or, she'd show up at lacrosse games or she did tea parties for my kids. She was a grandma that came to things and showed up. I think we definitely took it for granted. I don't know if you're ever really done grieving. I think the first year was fog and a lot of drowning. And I think that's typical. Second year, maybe it's a little bit easier. That first year was horrible. I still have a lot of triggers. It sounds so funny, but she loved "Downton Abbey." She thought she was British. We always laugh like, "You're not British, Mom." But she thought she was British so she loved "Downton Abbey." It was her ringtone on my phone. And after she passed away, you know, the show is not on anymore and I was sitting in the movie theater just a couple months ago and the preview for the new movie coming out came up. The second I heard the music, it was just, just waterworks. You know, I don't expect to be sitting in a movie theater crying about a song that represents my mom. There's triggers everywhere and I just, all the firsts you expect, but the little things are hard. I don't even know how to tell somebody how to get through this other than I just know you become a part of this crazy club of people grieving lost ones. And so there are days where you feel really alone and days that you know you're not. One of the things that comforted me after I lost her was that I knew angels existed and I knew that they were very present in our lives. I have had experiences with that before. I have felt my great-grandmother with me through really hard times. My great-grandmother was a singer and there was no other singers in my family. And so I've always felt connected to her. I've never met her, but I felt her presence. I don't know how to explain the feeling. I don't see her or hear her. I just know she's there. Even times before I'm going to go on stage and I'm nervous I felt my great-grandma with me. You know, she's a singer so she knows what it's like to to step on a stage and be nervous.  During the birth of my last baby, it was a really traumatic experience where we almost lost her, and it was bad enough that even my life was in danger. I was, I had to be sedated for that one. Waking up and kind of slowly opening my eyes, I could see my husband and I could see my mom in the room, but the room felt full of people. And I just kind of sat there thinking, "Who else is here?" And the room was just filled with love, a bigger love than can be contained in just the two people that were there. And, even from that moment, I've always felt like my youngest, Claire, belongs to a collective group of people. I just get to be her, her mom here.  Having had those experiences, I had an expectation that I would have the same experiences with my mom. And my patriarchal blessing even talks about angels and that the presence of my loved ones will be very important to me in my life. I expected my mom to come and visit me just the way I had been visited in the past. I thought that she won't feel very far away. She'll always feel close. What added to that belief was that a couple years before my mom passed away, I had a very strong impression to study angels, not just because they were mentioned in my patriarchal blessing, but I was really intrigued with the idea of them. So I studied scriptures and talks and books and I went to the temple, they're talked about all over in the temple. I would read experiences that people have had, and I just really gained a huge testimony in their existence and in their roles in our lives. All of these things led me to believe and to expect that my mom would come to me in certain ways, and I will feel her presence on a regular basis. But I haven't. I haven't felt my mom since she's passed. It's been a year and a half, and I had all these expectations. Maybe when I was, after the year when I could see more clearly or I wasn't in this fog or during some big life thing that would happen: my daughter's baptism, during my dad getting remarried. Would I feel her that week? And I haven't, I haven't felt her. That's been difficult. It's been hard because I have expectations. And I know what it feels like and I know it's possible. So why, why not my mom? Why my great-grandma, why people that I don't know? Why can I feel angels but not my mom? Why does it talk about my patriarchal blessing how important they'll be in my life, but the one who's the most important feels silent? So the questioning did come to a point where I, I was angry. And it's interesting because, throughout the entire process, I never felt angry at God. I know death is a part of this experience. I saw His hand in all the service and all the love that we were given. I even looked back and saw all the ways He actually prepared us for her passing. I was never mad at God. I really wasn't, until one night I really wanted to talk to my mom, and I don't even remember, honestly, what it was about. And I remember praying out loud and I was in the car driving and I was praying out loud. And I asked him, "Why? Why have you let me have all these experiences and gained such a testimony of angels and their existence and their involvement, how close they are. And I've been led to so much study and pondering and praying about the subject of angels. Why have you not let me feel my mom?" And it was a really clear moment, a really clear answer that came to me and it's, I don't have a lot of those in my life. I have seen the Lord's hand and the Spirit has spoken to me, but this is one of those clear like, "I hear the words. I'm sitting on your shoulder in your ear." And He said, "I had to come to that knowledge, I had to study all of this so that you would know she was there even when you don't feel her."  Everything kind of turned at that point, my vision shifted a little bit. I started to look for my mom in different ways. It's interesting because I still, still haven't felt my mom the way I felt my great-grandma. But I see my mom through the actions of other people. Right when she died, a sweet friend did a painting for me. And she said, "I felt like somebody took my hand and the paintbrush and painted this," and had a painting out in 10 minutes. I wish like everybody can see this painting. It's a painting of an angel, which she didn't know that that's my love. You know, I have an angel wall in my office and the colors that she used were all the same colors on my wall and the angel looked just like my mom. Big hair, you know, and she's never met my mom.  It was just really interesting that I thought, "Oh, that's my mom. She knows I love angels, of course." In fact, even at Christmas time, this gal in my neighborhood, she had a very strong impression for two weeks, "You need to buy Brooke an angel." And she kept saying, "Why? I don't even know Brooke that well. That's gonna look so weird." And so she's like, "I'll just buy her a candle or something like that." She bought something else. But it kept coming, "No, buy her an angel. Buy her an angel." So she's like, "I finally just bought you an angel. I'm so, I don't even know why." She doesn't know that I have this love of angels.  You know, I got a letter, this beautiful letter from a friend that said, "Was listening to your song and your mom was there with me and this is what she told me and this is what she wants me to tell you." And it was a really beautiful moment for my friend that became a really beautiful moment for me. We were both blessed from this, you know, and that's how my mom operates. That's what she, that totally sounds like my mom. My mom works in heaven the same way she works on Earth. She works with other people a lot and I, it's interesting because I think she'll do something to bless somebody who will then turn and tell me so that we kind of both get blessed. So it's like a two birds with one stone kind of a thing you know, she just, she knows she can bless two people with one action. So that's what she's gonna do. And it makes sense to me that she's going to do the same things in heaven that she did here on Earth. They don't change, you know. I still want to feel her all the time. I think I'll always miss her and there will always be moments where I'm just kind of, maybe angry is not the right word, but sad. Sad she's not here with me. It's been interesting to see the compassion that's grown and how much I've learned to lean on Heavenly Father instead. Like, I had an experience one night. I was praying and telling Heavenly Father I was frustrated I couldn't talk to my mom about my, my mothering. My mom was really good at telling me I was doing a good job. I can't talk to my friends about that because we're all, everybody's in the trenches together. We all think we're a horrible mom. All of us think we're ruining our kids. But my mom was out of the trenches and could tell me from a different perspective I was doing okay. And I remember praying and saying, "I miss my mom being here to tell me I'm doing a good job. And the Spirit said, "Well, I can tell you you're doing a good job." I thought, "Oh, of course, why don't I just go to Christ? Why don't I tell Him everything?" And honestly, it's been interesting because I've never before relied so much on Him, even as being a connection to my mom. I can't tell you how often I've said in a prayer, "Will you please tell my mom I love her?" And how often the Spirit has said to me, "She knows." So even though I can't feel my mom, or even sometimes I don't know if she hears what I was saying, He does. Christ knows how I feel. He knows what I'm saying. He hears my thoughts. And if there's something that my mom needs to know, He'll make sure it happens. And I trust that. KaRyn (52:36) That was Brooke. Brooke Stone is one-third of the music group Mercy River, and she first shared part of this story at Time Out for Women where I heard it and realized that it had to be a part of this episode.  We celebrate heavenly visitation when it happens because in these latter days, we do believe in angels. We believe in a realm beyond this one, but we also believe as with any friends form of divine communication, that heavenly visitation is only one way that God reaches us in our need. And just like Brooke said, how we receive that revelation is no indication of our goodness or lack of goodness. We may long for and work for and study and seek for angels only to find that God needs us to hear His message a different way at a different time.  Like Brooke, I don't understand the whys of revelation. I don't understand why one time it's an angel and the next time it's a feeling and the next time it's silence. But I do know that someday it's going to all make sense. And I hold onto that day with hope that I'll rejoice in my heavenly, "Aha," moment.  One thing that is clear from our stories today is that the work of angels is always beautifully related to the work of discipleship. As I was sitting in the Conference Center listening to what felt like a choir of angels heralding the birth of the Savior with those tears for my grandma falling freely, I heard the lyrics from the chorus of the song "Angels among Us," and I felt something shifted in me. I felt a new understanding beginning. Here's a little piece of that song for you.   Oh, I believe there are Angels Among Us, Sent down to us from somewhere up above.  They come to you and me in our darkest hours To show us how to live To teach us how to give   To guide us with a light of love.     That guiding light of love that the song speaks about? Well, that light was the guiding force for Matt and the families he taught as a missionary. It was the homing beacon for Melissa as she found her place in the family of Christ. It was the knock at the door for Cheryl who just needed to know that she was known. And it was the gentle reminder for Brooke that even in her grief and her loss and her longing for comfort, He can be the one to tell her she's getting it right, that she's not alone, and that she's got back up. Our angels, whether we feel them or not, will always show up. And they will always point us towards the true light of all love, our Savior, Jesus Christ. So as we feel inspired to, as Elder Holland suggested speak of and believe in and bear testimony of the ministry of angels more than we sometimes do, we can trust that those inspired expressions will also bear witness of Him and His holy life and His holy work. That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thanks for joining us today. And thank you to Matt, Melissa, Cheryl, and Brooke for allowing us to help tell their stories of divine communication.  We'll have so many good things in the show notes for this episode, you guys, so many good things. You really, really want to go there. We're going to have a transcript of the episode along with some pictures and we will have a link to the Tabernacle Choir's Angels among Us album, which is so beautiful and it has that song that we played from Kristin Chenoweth and the choir.  You can also follow us at @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook to get more about the podcasts and about this episode. All of our stories on the podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the gospel of Jesus Christ, well guess what? we have a pitch line and we want to hear from you. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. We're still looking for some stories for season two, so don't hesitate to call and leave that message. You can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast.  Don't forget to tell us about your experience with this podcast. Take the time to leave a review on the Apple podcast app or on Bookshelf PLUS+ app from Deseret Book. We really do appreciate it. We love to hear your thoughts about the episodes, about the podcast as a whole, and it really does help more people to find our stories.  This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story producing and editing by Katie Lambert and Kelly Campbell. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by Mix at 6 Studios, and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Have a beautiful week. Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Dec 02, 2019
You're Welcome
Stories in this episode: Jim feels conflicted about receiving a life-saving kidney until three words change his perspective; A surprise friendship leads Arthur to see the connection we have with others is far more precious than material possessions. SHOW NOTES Today's episode was sponsored by TOFW.   To see pictures, and find links to things mentioned in this episode, go here. To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :) TRANSCRIPT: KaRyn Lay:  Hey friends, I wanted to take a quick minute to say thank you. Thank you for sending us your stories on the pitch line. thanks for sharing the stories with your friends and your family and thank you for finding us on Instagram and Facebook. I know social media is a mixed bag and sometimes you really need to disconnect for a few minutes, or for a few days, or for a few weeks just to get your bearings. But social media also gives us the unique opportunity to have conversations about these stories that we're hearing together and we love talking with you. We love hearing what you loved about the episodes and how they've affected you. And we love the opportunity to talk back. So if you're on Instagram or Facebook, you can find us @thisisthegospel_podcast. We promise it'll add good things to your day. Now, let's get on with the stories.  Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay. Annyeonghaseyo! Okay, I know that sounded like I knew Korean really, really well. But I don't really speak any other language besides English. I tried to learn Spanish in high school and American Sign Language in college and I really tried to learn Korean when I lived in South Korea for two years working. But unfortunately, and despite my best efforts, it turns out, I'm pretty useless as a second language learner. Besides being able to communicate the kind of food that I want, which is very important, and where I'd like the taxi to turn, the only real words that I got down in all those years of praying for the gift of tongues, were Hello, "annyeong." And of course, thank you, "Gracias," "Dangsinboda." I think it's interesting that whether we're a toddler or 30-year-old, or it's our first language or 21st, words of gratitude are some of the very first that we learn. Offering gratitude and communicating gratitude are such a huge part of both our social life and our spiritual life. But "thank you" is only one part of the gratitude equation and today, what happens after "thank you" is the focus of the two stories that we have for this episode. Our first story comes from Jim, whose unique experience with gratitude helped give him a glimpse into what it might feel like when he comes face to face with his Savior. We recorded Jim's story remotely from his home in Pennsylvania, so you might notice a slight difference in the recording quality. Here's Jim Jim  (2:26)  It had been a late night as I was contacted by my mother and was told that she had been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. We talked about the fact that she might have to get dialysis for the rest of her life if she didn't get a transplant. We discussed the rigmarole around a transplant, and she was down and I could tell that she was struggling with it. My heart ached, worrying about what would happen to her. She did dialysis for about three or four years. Waiting for a kidney was a time of much anxiousness as a family. All of my siblings and I were tested, and none of us was a match. So not only were we not a match, but two of the four of us kids were diagnosed with the same disease. I was one of the two that were diagnosed. I remember being disappointed, but not really upset at first. I was still young and felt nothing would affect my health. I was healthy, I pretty much did anything I wanted. She finally received a kidney between 2000-2001 sometime. As the months and years ticked by, my anxiousness grew, and I feared that I'd suffer a similar fate as my mother. I followed up with a kidney physician in my town, we kept track of my blood pressure and my kidney function. I was eventually put on a donor list, which, you know, most of the time it takes a very long time to receive a kidney. Eventually, the doctors and I felt like a preemptive transplant would be the best situation for me—being as young as I was—from a live donor. So we decided to look up the two siblings that I had that did not have the disease to see if they were a match. My sister Christine was a perfect match, and she gladly agreed to donate one of her kidneys. Now, this was a time that, unfortunately, I have to confess that I was not living the Gospel life I should have. It had been years since I had really connected or reconnected with my church roots. I'd served an honorable mission but had not held on to what I knew to be true when I returned home. Why that was? I don't know why, but it happened. And I subsequently was at a time in my life that things were not the best with regard to my spiritual growth and development and actual participation in church. But after my sister was deemed a match, and committed to give me a kidney, my life and the way I was living became an issue. When I say it was an issue, I didn't change a whole lot in my behavior, but I was overcome with a sense of guilt and spiritual loathing. I didn't feel worthy or deserving of what my sister was willing to do. It takes great sacrifice to donate an organ. Things can go wrong during surgery, pre or post-surgery. It's not like getting a tooth pulled, it's a serious surgery and major veins and arteries are involved. I decided since I lived relatively close to Palmyra, New York, that I'd go and maybe spend some time in the grove.  I was searching for comfort from the Lord. I guess I thought perhaps that that was a good place to search for it. My wife is a nonmember of the church but is a strong Christian woman. I worried that she would wonder, you know, what the heck is going on with my husband? And I explained how I was feeling and that I wanted to go spend some time in the grove. She was more than supportive. I should also say that, although she was not interested in the church per se, with regard to converting or investigating the Church, she continuously hammered me about going to church and living the way I was brought up to live. So she also understood very well, what the grove meant and what had taken place there and why I wanted to spend some time there. It was a beautiful day in upstate New York that day. I remember some of it, but what stood out to me the most was the quiet that existed in the grove. I was alone there that day. There were no visitors or people walking around taking pictures. It was kind of the offseason. I was thankful that I could be alone. I remember how quiet it was and it had a great calming effect on me. I believe I was comforted. I don't believe I had a burning of the bosom or an earth-shattering experience in the grove, but it was quiet and reverent. And although I was comforted, I also felt that I needed to change some things in my life. I eventually resolved my guilt, to an extent, and allowed the surgery to take place. So the surgery was set for September 2007. I had the surgery down at the University of Pittsburgh medical center's Montefiore Hospital. My sister and her husband had flown in from Utah—that's where they still lived—to prepare for the surgery. The procedure on the day of surgery is quite unique. Typically, they take the donor down to pre-op, roughly a half-hour before the patient that's set to be the recipient of the organ. When they took me down, the place was a madhouse. There were people everywhere. There was a nurse that was barking out orders sending some people one way, and other people the other and it seemed like she was at this big desk. And it reminded me of a judge sitting there handing out sentences as people were wheeled in. When they wheeled me into my slot that they had there, I look to my right and lying on the gurney next to me was my sister Christine. She was in the process of answering questions probably for the 20th time. And meanwhile, I had an anesthesiologist asking me the same questions for the 20th time. Suddenly it seemed as though, while all this was going on, Chris and I were kind of just aware of each other. I finally looked over at her and said, "Hey."  She said, "What?"  I said, "I want you to know how much I love you." And she said, "I love you, too." I, again, said, "Hey," a few minutes later, and she again said, "What?"  I said, "Are you scared?"  And she said, "No, are you?"  I said, "No." We had both received Priesthood blessings and I was confident in the power of those blessings. Shortly thereafter, they started to wheel her away to surgery. And I once again said, "Hey."  And she said, "What?"  I think I remember her being somewhat annoyed. And I said, "Thank you." She looked back at me and said, "You are welcome." This was a moment in time between my sister and I, that was full of love and sacrifice. It was an example to me from what true sacrifice is and what Christlike love looked like. In the years since, thankfully, I've straightened myself out spiritually. I've never resolved in my mind, however, or my heart, the willing gift of my sister. It was an unselfish gift that I am forever grateful. And we have a bond that will live on as long as I live. As I study these days, particularly when studying about the Atonement of Christ, I often think of that exchange between my sister and I, in that pre-op room. I'm doing everything I can to prepare myself spiritually, live the gospel as best I can, and do the things that I know I should be doing. My hope is that someday when I stand before the Savior, I can apologize for the suffering my sins caused him. I hope to say "thank you" and I ultimately hope to hear, "You are welcome." KaRyn Lay  (13:11)   That was Jim. You probably caught the part of Jim's story where his desire to be a grateful recipient of his sister's kidney drew him towards the Savior. I think it's such a beautiful reminder that if we let them, the difficult things in our lives can lead us closer to Jesus Christ as we seek to be filled with gratitude. And I have to say, I am filled with more motivation to repent and get right with God as I consider Jim's vision of his reunion with our older brother. Our next story from Arthur illustrates how true charity can be found in the ways that we welcome one another into our lives. Here's Arthur. Arthur  (13:47) Like a lot of young 20 somethings, I was idealistic, and I felt like I need to go make my mark on the world and I'm going to go to Africa. I'm going to do aid work and I'm going to help people. Totally naive. When I had finished my degree at Brigham Young University, I had spent four years there, I was the captain of the men's soccer team. I loved, loved my time at BYU and playing for the soccer team and I knew I wasn't quite ready to be an adult yet. So I was kind of looking for an adventure. And the Olympics had come to Salt Lake City and an organization called, "Right to Play" that was started by Johann Olav Koss, a gold medal-winning speed skater from Norway came. And I kind of got excited about their work and what they were doing and the way I could maybe bring my soccer knowledge and experience to the refugees in war-torn Uganda. And so I interviewed and became a volunteer for "Right To Play." There was a moment when I was leaving U.S. soil on the airplane and flying over the Atlantic when I thought, "What have I gotten myself into?" And you fly over the Sahara, and you fly over all the desert of the Sudan, I think even as we were coming in, and it's very surreal, and it doesn't feel like anything you're comfortable or familiar with. I mean, I was very much out of my comfort zone for the first little bit. We were flying into a little tiny village called Arua, Uganda, which was the hometown of the Ugandan president, Idi Amin, who had just absolutely decimated certain tribes within Uganda, massive genocide taking place before that. Still a lot of scars. And you have, you know, as an American, as a white kid from Utah, you have a little bit of a sense for the legacy of not just Idi Amin and the Ugandan history, but the history of colonialism, the history of, you know, European and white colonizers in that part of the world. But, I mean, I was clueless. I was completely, completely clueless. And so here we were sort of, you know, there's a group of about six or eight of us who are coming in working with the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and tasked with the job of implementing sports programs for kids in these refugee camps. And the refugee camps were about an hour and a half drive on terrible dirt roads outside of Arua. You're working with refugees that are coming across the border from the Congo, and from the Sudan, from those civil wars, from those conflicts. And refugee life is a completely different equation than even this little bush town of Arua, where you can still get meals and there are little hotels and televisions to watch, you know, football matches on and some of the amenities. But you go into those camps, there is just nothing. Some people are new arrivals who are just sitting there with a pot to go to the bathroom and that's it. They're exposed to the elements, they don't know where they're going to get their next meal, they've traveled from these distances to just escape the violence of those conflicts. You're looking at real poverty, real desperation, real need, and you're supposed to have answers and you're supposed to have solutions. And the truth is, we really didn't. And here are these kids from America or Canada, or some from Europe, who are saying, "Hey, let's play sports together! Let's run soccer clinics." Who was I to sort of say, this is going to help children feel better, you know, psychologically, physically, this is going to help them overcome the trauma of war. Like, are you kidding me? Really? I mean, it's such a ridiculous notion that we would have anything to offer. But we're there and so you have to sort of pretend like you do have something to offer. I mean, I wanted to help people. I felt like I had benefited so much in my life from playing soccer. From that sport from the teamwork and the camaraderie and it was just something to, I mean, you're in the moment, right? And if giving these kids a moment to play football, so they could forget about the world they were coming from, they could forget about the poverty, they could forget about the violence, I wanted that to happen. That was my reason for going. But there was a part of me too if I'm honest, that was, you know, I wanted people back home, they were saying, "Oh, you're so brave. You're so altruistic. You're such a good person," right? And that sort of feeds your ego and then you get there and you realize you have no answers and there's so much hubris. I asked myself every day I was there, whether or not we should even be there. It was that complicated. Which is why, and I'll get to the point of the story when we met Ayub and interviewed him to be our driver—we had to buy a vehicle and have some way to transport ourselves back and forth between the village of Arua where we'd get supplies. And then we'd go out to the refugee camps and stay for a week or two at a time sometimes because it was just hard to go back and forth. And we were trying to service two different refugee camps with populations of over 50,000 people in each of those camps: Rhino camp, and Invepi camp. And so we go through all of these interviews with these different drivers, potential drivers, right? And they're desperate for money, they're desperate for a job. And you see the tangible dependence that they have on our being there, even though we don't have real solutions to these long, systemic problems that are occurring in the refugee camps, right? Displacement, war, poverty, violence, illness, like we haven't, we have no answers, but we've got to find a driver to get us over. That's our only task. And so their motivations and our motivations sort of gets complicated too, which is when Ayub walks in. And he's missing a tooth, and he's laid back and it was almost like he couldn't care if he got the job or not. And we take him up this like big, rocky mountain thing to see how his driving skills are. And we and we do things like put in American rock music to just see how he'll handle it. And he just rolls down the window, puts one arm out, drives with one hand on the wheel, completely laid back. And then while he's driving tells us the story of how he missed his tooth, how his big front tooth was missing. Because on another caravan on another job for another NGO, the truck had rolled, and it rolled into a river, and he dove in to try and save somebody and busted his tooth on a rock. And we're like, that's our guy. We're hiring him. He's amazing. I started to sort of develop a friendship with Ayub and became very, very close with him, closer than some of my other colleagues even. I was so close to him he invited me into his home. And Ayub was Muslim and he was the first Muslim that I knew well and I knew personally, it was my first experience with that religion. And so I was in Uganda long enough that as Ayub and I started to become friends, it happened to be the holy month of Islam coming up, or Ramadan, when they fast from sunup to sundown. And it's a time of sort of Thanksgiving, but also special focus, religious focus, but it was a sort of a poignant, intense spiritual time. And we knew Ayub was going to be participating in Ramadan, he was going to be fasting. That meant while we were out at the refugee camps, and we were eating, he was not going to be eating. There's already not a lot of resources, it's hard to get food. You know, we're buying chickens on the side of the road and we're, you know, having people in the refugee camp slaughter goats for us, and it's a big deal to eat and he was going to be foregoing that. So it became really meaningful to me and deepened our friendship when he was willing to share that religious experience with me. And we were traveling back and forth between the camps and its long, dusty, terrible road. Sometimes if it was in the rainy season, there's mud and cars are sliding off the road. And as soon as the sun would go down during Ramadan, he would pull over and walk into a stranger's hut who had prepared a meal for anybody who happened to be traveling through or traveling by. And he would always include me and bring me into that intimate, sort of brotherhood of Islam that was especially poignant during Ramadan. But it occurred to me when we were— not just during Ramadan, but all throughout my time in Uganda, I had nothing in common with Ayub. I mean, really, nothing in common. And so one day when he said—we were driving back from one of these Ramadan meals, you know, he just turned to me and, and said, "Tomas," they called me Thomas, not Arthur. They couldn't pronounce my name very well. He said, "Tomas when we breathe, we breathe in the name of God." And I thought that's the only thing we have in common. It's just the air we breathe. We don't have the same religion, we don't have the same socio-economic, we're from different continents. And it was so meaningful to me. I was so grateful that my young, naive idealism could be manifested in a tangible, practical way through this man. That all the things I believed about the commonality of humanity was real and it was true, it wasn't just a good idea. And it manifested itself through Ayub. When the only thing we had in common was the air we breathe, but it came from God, we had the same maker, we had the same Heavenly Father.  He used to like to put his finger up to my finger and push really hard, our index fingers would touch and he would say, "Tomas, you are my brother." And make sure we made contact like that. For me, that was important, that two people, we could transcend race, we could transcend religion, we could transcend a history of colonialism and violence. We could transcend all that stuff and we really could be unified. We could really be brothers. I didn't feel like I was an imposter or I was a wannabe white savior figure, I felt like I was Ayub's friend. So when I had to break a rule of my NGO to take the vehicle to drive him to another village close to the Congolese border for his mother's funeral, I didn't think twice about it. I did it because Ayub was my friend and he didn't see me as just a means to an end. He didn't see me as money or a resource. It was a friend helping his friend get to his mother's funeral in a faraway village. And that relationship, I think, carried me through my six months there and we're not in contact now. And you know, I have no idea what's happened to him. But because of that closeness and that recognition that I was more than just a foreigner who was coming in with ideas about how to save the world and fix things, I mean, how ridiculous is that. But he allowed me to just be me and to see me for who I was to and not just an interloper who's caused a lot of problems in that part of the world for him and his people. But as a true brother. He should not have seen me as a brother, but he did. What Ayub taught me is to be grateful for connection more than for things. I mean, the things are easy to see and to and to assess, and to make a judgment on. But the harder thing is to find a way to connect with somebody that cuts through all of that stuff, all of the labels and all of the layers of identity that we carry around with us based on our religion, our skin color, our gender, all of those things. They end up just stacking up so many walls and obstacles to getting to the heart of connecting with somebody. And so when you can find someone you can cut through all of that nonsense with and see them for who they really are, that's when I feel welcome. That's when I think what gratitude means and what feeling welcome means and when real charity can live. I always come back to that line he said to me during Ramadan, "Tomas, when I breathe, I breathe in the name of God." And every breath is a gift. KaRyn Lay  (27:16) That was Arthur. When we breathe in, we breathe in the name of God. There is so much that can divide us in this world right now. And when we think about what connects us, what really connects us, like Arthur and Ayub, the breath, the air that we breathe, that is filled with God, well then we are filled with gratitude for all the things. And I think it actually makes saying, "you are welcome" that much easier. This interplay of gratitude and charity is such an interesting concept for me and one that I honestly had never really thought of until I listened to these stories. I started to think about the words "You're welcome." There's something in the way that Jim envisioned the savior offering His Atonement so freely and with such love I mean, at this point in my social development, saying "you're welcome" in response to someone's expression of gratitude is really nothing more than an idiom or reaction like saying, "bless you" after someone sneezes or "sorry," when you accidentally walk into a wall, or at least that's what I do. It's rote, it's automatic. And while it means something, it doesn't really mean all that it could. But, what if like Jim's sister Chris, we really could dig into "your welcome" and mean it with all the possible depth inherent in the phrase. You know, in Spanish when someone says "Gracias," you reply with "De nada," which is loosely translated to mean, "it was nothing." In Korean, when someone says "gomabseubnida," you reply with "cheonman-eyo," which is a polite way of saying "No, no don't thank me." But in English, and a few other languages, we get to say "you are welcome." Think about that. It's really actually an amazing thing to say to another human being, an acknowledgment of our agency and intent to offer ourselves and our service with the truest charity, the pure love of Christ. You are welcome to what I've just given you. You're welcome. What might change in me if I started to say that with some intent? Now listen, I don't want to get all creepy about it. Like I'm not going to start staring deeply into stranger's eyes when I open a door for them at the grocery store and pronouncing "you're welcome," as if it was a blessing upon generations of their family. But maybe I could start to do things that I do for others with the kind of charity, the pure love freely given, that when you say "thank you," and I say, "You're welcome," even in a perfunctory way, I really mean it. No resentment, no obligation. You are welcome. And maybe the key to gaining that kind of welcoming heart is to start with our own "Thank you's." Elder Uchtdorf suggested that as we develop a sense of gratitude for all that we've been given, and gratitude for the things that we have in common because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can't help but be filled with charity towards others. In his April 2014 general conference address, "Grateful In Any Circumstances" he said, "In any circumstance, our sense of gratitude is nourished by the many and sacred truths we do know. That our Father has given his children the great plan of happiness, that through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, we can live forever with our loved ones. It must have been this kind of testimony that transformed the Savior's apostles from fearful, doubting men, into fearless, joyful emissaries of the master. When the apostles recognized the risen Christ, when they experienced the glorious resurrection of their beloved Savior, they became different men. Nothing could keep them from fulfilling their mission. They accepted with courage and determination, the torture, humiliation and even death that would come to them because of their testimony. They were not deterred from praising and serving their Lord. They changed the lives of people everywhere. They changed the world." That testimony of the Savior and His Atonement filled the apostles with gratitude and that gratitude fueled their gift to the world as they taught and offered themselves to the disciples of Christ. They were filled to the brim with "You are welcome." Just as Arthur and Ayub's friendship was filled to the brim with "You are welcome," and Jim and Chris's exchange of a kidney was filled to the brim with "You are welcome." This is possible, I believe because first, they understood that when they breathe in, they breathe in the name of God. And as Arthur said, "Every breath is a gift." Elder Uchtdorf continued with this, "You do not need to see the Savior as the apostles did to experience the same transformation. Your testimony of Christ born of the Holy Ghost can help you see the bright future that the Redeemer of the world has prepared." I hope this week as we seek to have a little bit more gratitude for the sacrifice of our Savior and its power in our own lives, that will, in turn, put just a little more meaning behind every one of our "your welcome's" as we strive to become more like Him. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thanks for joining us today. And thank you to Jim and Arthur for welcoming us into their stories and their faith. We'll have the transcripts of this episode along with some pictures and a link to Elder Uchtdorf's talk in our show notes at All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you on our pitch line. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. You can find out what themes we're working on right now and what we need for the pitch line by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. If you love the stories that we've shared, please leave us a review on the Apple Podcast app or on the Bookshelf PLUS+ app from Deseret Book. We love to hear your thoughts about certain episodes, and every single review helps more people to find this podcast.  This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story producing and editing by Katie Lambert. It was scored, mixed and mastered by "Mix At Six Studios," our executive producers Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Annyeong!         Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Nov 25, 2019
There's No Place Like Home
Stories in this episode: After a close call with a missile in their homeland of Lebanon, Nazar and his family move to a new country where “home” continues to elude him until a fortuitous introduction changes everything; Audra’s urgent feeling to put down roots after a recent move to North Carolina unexpectedly leads her back to the spiritual home she'd left years before. SHOW NOTES This episode is sponsored by TOFW.  To see pictures, and find links mentioned in this episode, go here. To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :) TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay: Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. For anyone who might not recognize it, today's theme comes directly from the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz. After a harrowing journey through dark woods and narrowly escaping the sleepy poppy fields along the yellow brick road, and then finding her voice after a whirlwind adventure into glitzy city life, Dorothy has a choice to make: Should she stay in the bright lights of Oz, or should she go home to the black and white world of Kansas? In the end, the call of home and Auntie Em wins out. While I know I can't be the only one whose childhood was slightly marred by those flying monkeys and shriveling feet under the tornado house, I also know that I'm not the only one who found comfort in that moment. That moment when Dorothy realizes she only has to click her heels together three times and repeat the phrase, "There's no place like home" to be transported back to her Kansas farm. The truth is that now, as a 42-year-old adult human being, I sometimes, like Dorothy, wonder where I am and how exactly did I get here? I can be filled with a sense of not quite belonging to my surroundings, just like she did in that technicolor Land of Oz. Maybe you've felt that too. I sometimes wish I owned a pair of Ruby Slippers or a Star Trek transporter or something that has the ability to send me off in the direction of home with little more than a blink of an eye. Sometimes that home that I'm longing for takes the shape of the Keystone state and hills covered in trees. And sometimes it looks like just doing the dishes with my mom and dad in the kitchen in South Carolina. And sometimes I find that the home and the family that I'm really wishing for, is actually nowhere to be found here on Earth.  Well, today we've got two stories about the way that we define home and the way that home can come to define us. Our first story comes from Nazar for whom the idea of home was always a bit of a moving target. Here's Nazar. 2:10   Nazar: One of my earliest childhood memories that I have is when I was five or six years old, playing in the living room with my older sister who was about a year and a half older than me back in Lebanon, where we lived. And while we were playing in our living room, I heard a sound that caught my attention and I looked towards where my dad was, and he was on the balcony of our six-story apartment building that we lived in. And I saw this huge missile fly right by him. And from my viewpoint, it looked like it was going to hit him in the head, but it was probably about five or six feet away from him and hit the building next door and blew up the building next door. And as a five or six-year-old, you can only imagine how I was confused and scared and you know, quickly thereafter, my dad rushing, picking us up and taking us downstairs to the bottom of the building into the bomb shelter. That was my earliest childhood memory that I had—to escape the war that was happening. My mom had already left. She had moved to California and she was doing all the paperwork needed for us to get our visas and so forth so we could also move to California. And I remember my mom used to tell my sister and me stories of how California was amazing and it was beautiful and there's no trash on the streets and people didn't litter. She painted this picture of this euphoric, beautiful place. We moved here and obviously, it was you know, it's definitely cleaner than Lebanon's was, but it still didn't feel like home to me.  My ancestors have been moving around from place to place to find a home, to find a place of refuge and a place of just peace to be able to live for over 100 years. I was taught by my parents and my grandma about the genocide that took place in the early 1900s. Armenians in Armenia were massacred, over a million Armenians were killed. And when that happened, a lot of them obviously, to avoid being killed, were kind of scattered everywhere. And because of that, the Armenian people have been displaced for over 100 years. I remember hearing stories from my grandma that when she was younger because she grew up in that, she was a young kid during the genocide. I believe her father was killed and she had to eat dirt, to try to get some type of nutrients so that she could stay alive while she escaped the genocide and—just horrible experiences and horrible stories that I was told by people that actually lived through it. And so my ancestors went from Armenia to Turkey, from Turkey to Syria, from Syria to Lebanon, and that's where I was born. And my parents emigrated to California. So we just kind of moved around from place to place. And it was really tough learning the English language, and I had no friends and it was just a, you know, like most people that move around, it was a difficult time. I remember I would a lot of times walk home from school. I would notice all the houses around me. We didn't live in a house, we lived in an apartment building. And I would look at these houses and I wonder what the inside looked like. And I would wonder where the kitchen was and how the kitchen looked, and the bedrooms and living room and I wondered who lived there and what type of life they had and always yearning to be able to have that. Just yearning to have a home that symbolized permanence and it symbolized safety and security and comfort. When I was about 13-years-old, my father informed us that we had a cousin that he knew that had, you know, lived in Fresno, which is up north in California, where—we lived in Southern California. When I was 13, we went and visited her. And I remember as we were driving up, it was a very, very long drive. And we finally got that was excited to be able to be out of the car and they had a pool, so we were swimming in the pool. And for some reason, my sister who was 14-years-old at the time, felt impressed to ask our cousin about God. And to give you a little bit of background on my thoughts on God, at that ripe old age of 13 is that I was always an inquisitive kid. When I saw people that were blown up to pieces back in Lebanon, or just in general when people pass away, I always inquired about or wondered about why we're here? What is the purpose of this life? And I wondered if there was an existence before we came to Earth, and what happens to people when they die? That always puzzled me. And I would ask my parents, I would ask people around me what the purpose of life was. And I would ask these questions, and no one had an answer that made any sense. Now Armenians claim to fame is that they're the first, you know, group of people or you know, nationality to accept Christianity. And so they were staunch Christians, Armenian Orthodox is what the religion was. It's kind of similar to Catholicism. I'd go to church and I'd asked the priests there and I would ask my friends, and all of them what say that I just need to have faith that there was a supreme being, there was a God, and that He could be everywhere and that He could be next to you and He was all-powerful and all-knowing, and it was just so mysterious. It didn't make a lot of sense to me. And so I've, in my mind, decided that God was just an answer to the unanswerable questions. And what I mean by that is that I just felt like if there was a question that no know the answer to, they would just either blame God or have God be the solution, right? And so I decided that I was going to be an atheist, that I didn't believe in God. When we arrived at my cousin's house, we're playing around, my sister felt prompted to ask my cousin about God. My cousin could have easily given her a one or two-sentence explanation of that God is our Heavenly Father, and that He loves us and we're His children? But she didn't just stop there. She said, "You know, I could explain about God. But I've got two friends that could do a way better job of explaining to you who God is." And so she invited the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to come and have dinner with us that evening. They're pleasant and nice. And the very next day, they wanted to come back and have some missionary discussions. Well, my parents didn't have intentions of staying there for the week, becasue they had to go back to work, but they allowed my sister and I to stay there for that one week so that we could spend some more time with our cousins. Well, while we were there, the missionaries came to the house again and started talking about God. And I quickly told them my opinion on God and how I didn't believe in Him and I thought He was made up. And they, you know, respected my belief and my opinion, and they asked me to just listen to them. But while I was up there, my cousin had a pool and so I had no desire to really listen to what they had to say. I was more, you know, excited as a 13-year-old boy would be, to swim in the pool when it was hot in the summer. So I didn't pay much attention to them there, but after the week, my parents picked us up and brought us back down to Southern California where we live. And those missionaries contacted the missionaries, you know, by where we lived, and those missionaries came to our house. Well, this time I didn't have a pool and so I felt a little more obligated to listen to them. And I told these missionaries that I had no intention of listening to them, that I didn't believe in God. And I thought it was just all phony and fake. Well, these Elders said, "I appreciate you saying that just hear us out, listen to what we have to say about God."  And I said, "Listen, I don't care about God. But if you could answer me this, then I'll listen to you." I said, "What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? Did we exist before we came to earth and what happens after we die?" I didn't care to hear what they had to say because I thought that they would give me the same answer that I'd heard before, that I needed to have faith. So it was kind of my way of just shutting them up and stumping them.  And these missionaries had a very large grin on their face and they said, "Well, actually Nazar, we know the answer to all of those questions."  And I was taken aback and I said, "No you don't."  They said, "We absolutely do."  I said, "Well, tell me!"  They said, "Well, we would love to tell you but that's on lesson number four.  I said, "What are you talking about?" They said, "Well we've got a total of six lessons, and the answer to your questions on in lesson number four. So you'll have to listen to the first three lessons, and then we'll tell you what you want to know." So I was a little frustrated, but also, for the very first time, I was very interested in what they had to say. For the next couple of weeks, I was able to listen and learn about God, about Jesus Christ and his role as our Savior and our Redeemer. And I learned about the apostasy and about Joseph Smith, and being a 13-year-old boy, his story of him being 14 and searching for the purpose of life and to know which church is true, truly resonated with me. And so I started reading the Book of Mormon. And the missionaries asked me to pray about the truthfulness of all those things that I had been taught. And honestly, I really didn't pray at that time. But the long day finally arrived where I got to learn about the plan of salvation. It was absolutely captivating and amazing to hear all that they said. I was astounded. I was astounded at what it was that detailed, that organized. And they told me this is exactly what life's all about. Life's about being able to return back to Heavenly Father. We're not here to collect as much wealth as we possibly can. We're not here to do anything, but to learn and to grow and become like our Heavenly Father. And then they told me, they said "Nazar, we want you to pray about what we teach you. Every single principle we teach, we want you to pray and gain a testimony for yourself if these things are true or not." And I remember after hearing those things, I knelt down on my knees at night, and I prayed to Heavenly Father, truly for the very first time, and asked Him if these things were true. And I remember feeling so warm inside. I just felt this burning in my chest. And my body started to tingle a little bit and I got goosebumps. And I just felt and I knew that what I had been taught was true. That the plan of happiness through the plan of salvation is true and that God had, once again, through Joseph Smith restored His church on this earth. And I was so grateful but more than being grateful, I was so happy and ecstatic to finally know why I was on this earth.  Living my life for 13 years being completely in the dark about the purpose of life was a very frustrating 13 years. When I finally had that knowledge, when I finally had the knowledge of why I was here, and to know that Heavenly Father had a plan for me, that I actually mattered, and that Heavenly Father had a plan that I could become like Him. That gave me so much power, so much happiness and joy that I can use that as my foundation to grow on this earth. I, obviously, listened to the rest of the discussions and my sister and I both were enthusiastic and excited about joining the gospel. In fact, the first day we went to church was kind of a fun experience. I remember walking in and finding it all strange because it's a lot different than a Catholic or an Armenian Orthodox Church. Everyone was so warm, everyone was so inviting and kind and wanted to know my name. And it was such a different experience. It just reaffirmed me how this was where I was supposed to be. So you think that the story was wonderful and ended there, but unfortunately, it didn't. My dad put a stop to all of their missionary efforts. But what had happened is that he had asked a friend of his about the church, because he knew nothing about it. They never sat in any of the discussions we had with the missionaries, they didn't get to hear what we heard. And my dad asked a friend, and that friend knew of a different friend that was a member of the church, apparently, and that person was awful to his wife. He was a shyster when it came to business and was unethical. And so, therefore, because this person was not a nice man, all members of the church were not nice, so it was not a good thing. And therefore my dad said, "You can't go to church anymore. You can't meet with the missionaries anymore. I'm putting a stop to all of this." which was, for me, a devastating thing. I was very upset and frustrated, but I couldn't argue with my dad. I stopped meeting with the missionaries, so did my sister, and a couple of years went by. At 13, I had made it my decision that when I turned 18, that I would get baptized, cause then I wouldn't need my parent's permission. That I'd want to serve a mission for the church because I'd want to let everybody else know what the purpose of life was because I felt like it was such an amazing and important thing for everybody to know. But from 13 to 15, in those two short years, I'd kind of forgotten about the church. I started doing some things that were not the best. My sister, by that point, had her license, becasue she was 16, and we were driving back home and we saw these two missionaries. And all of a sudden I said, "Pull over!" So she pulled over and I got out of the car and I ran to these missionaries. And I think they were kind of afraid of me for a second. They were unsure of who this person was and why I was running towards them. I was excited to see the missionaries because it brought back all those memories that I had when I was 13. It made me remember how much I missed it. And what that represented to me at one point. And I remember—I think I remember—going up to them and telling them, "Hey, my name is Nazar, I've listened to your lessons, I've been to your church. I'm going to get baptized in your church when I'm 18 and serve a mission."  And they said, "Wow, that's fantastic! Can we meet with you today?"  And I said, "No, I'm sorry, you guys can't come to my house. You know, my parents won't let you guys come in. But you know, when I'm 18 I'm gonna join the church."  And they said, "Well, Nazar, we really think we should meet with you." And so we met at a local park a couple of days later, and they started teaching the discussions to me again. They quickly realized that I had remembered most of the things they had taught, and especially about the plan of salvation, because that's the most important thing to me. And they said, "Well Nazar, you need to get baptized."  And I said, "I know, but I can't right now. When I turn 18 in three years, I'll get baptized, and I'll go on a mission when I'm 19."  And they said, "Well, why don't we fast about it?" And I didn't remember what that was. And so they explained to me that if I went without food and water for a 24-hour period, and I prayed to Heavenly Father that he would, you know, potentially help my parents soften their heart, so I could get baptized.  I said, "You're kidding, right? You think that if I go without food and water for 24-hours, that magically my parents are going to be okay with me getting baptized?"  They said, "Well, we believe in fasting. Let's give it a shot." And I said, "All right, that's fine." So the two missionaries and myself picked a day—I think it was the next day or two days after— to go ahead and fast. And so I fasted and I gotta tell you, as a 15-year-old that was not a fun experience for me, but I did it anyway. And after 24 hours, I started eating again and that was the best meal of my life at the time. And the very next day, I was walking home from school and when I got home, I went inside my bedroom like I normally did to put my stuff down and I saw, to my surprise and shock, all of my clothes ripped up into pieces all over my bed. Now my mom had told me, the beginning of that school year when she bought me all these clothes that she was not happy about the fact that I was dressing the way I was dressing. And she said, if you do anything bad at school, then I'm going to rip all your clothes out and rip your clothes into pieces and I'm gonna buy you the clothes that I want you to wear. Well, I had been skipping school and hanging out with some people that were questionable. You know she had caught me because the school had called her and told her that I was absent again from school. And so she finally got the nerve and cut my clothes into pieces and it was on the bed. When I got in there and I saw that I was so upset. I went to the kitchen, my mom was inside the kitchen, she was cooking dinner, and I went in there and we both went to town. full of yelling at each other and I was very upset with everything she was doing and she was ruining my life. And you know, she was saying that I needed to change my life. And all of a sudden, out of the blue—now she had no idea that I had been meeting with the missionaries again, not even my sister knew I was meeting with them by myself. All of a sudden she said, "Well, I'd rather you go join that dumb Mormon church then do all the stupid things you're doing Nazar.  I said, "Fine!" I stormed off back to my bedroom slammed the door. I sat down in my bed and it just actually dawned on me what just happened. My mom finally gave me permission to get baptized. I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was very quaint, it was short. Two little talks were given by the missionaries. My nephew, who joined Church at one point in time, was the one that was able to baptize me. I remember when the hands were placed on my head, I was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints and was given the Holy Ghost. What I felt inside was just an immense amount of love and peace. Just this clarity to know that I was finally on the right path back to my Heavenly Father. We moved right after that, went to a different ward. I had an amazing time growing up in the church from 15 to 18, and even 19 when I was able to serve my mission. It's kind of interesting, because two months before I turned 19, or two months before I turned my papers in to serve a mission, came a call. The Armenian mission opened up for the very first time. And I thought, "Oh my gosh, this is it. I speak Armenian. I am Armenian. This is a Schumann, I'm going to get called there. And so when I got my call and then opened it, and it said, I'm going to Brazil, I was kind of shocked and had no idea why I was being sent there. And when I served my mission, I realized that Heavenly Father doesn't care about what language we speak. He doesn't care about where we live on the earth. What he cares about is helping every single one of his spiritual children returned back to him. And obviously, as you can imagine, my favorite lesson was lesson number four, when I was able to teach other people the plan of salvation. As an adult, the profession that I've chosen is to be a real estate broker. So I help people find homes and sell houses for a living. The reason I love what I do for a living is because it allows me to be able to be a part of that experience that a person has, where they're making a move, and they're looking for that next place. It's interesting that being a part of that process kind of gives me, not the spiritual sense of the moving, finding a place, but at least a little bit of that place of comfort. The meaning of home has changed for me in many different ways now that I have the gospel in my life. Initially, it was all about a physical dwelling. It was a four walls and a roof that gave me that sense of peace and a sense of safety, if you will, from everything that was outside. But when I was introduced to the gospel, I realized that even though the homes that we live in today does give us that safety and it makes us feel at peace, and hopefully, it does, if you live in a home that's like that. But the gospel sheds light and helps us understand that this home on this earth is just really a glimpse that our true home is back with Heavenly Father.  That's what I love about the gospel is that it gives us hope. It gives us clarity about who we are. And that one day, we can all go back and live with Heavenly Father again in our home with him. I think it's interesting that if my ancestors were never displaced if the genocide never took place, if my parents would have never left, my parents would have never come to California. If they'd never come here, trying to escape the wars and displacement of their people to come to find refuge, I would have never been able to be introduced to the gospel. Even though I don't wish upon all the suffering that they went through, I am grateful that their desire to find a home, a physical home, allowed me to find a spiritual home through the gospel Jesus Christ.   25:24   KaRyn Lay: That was Nazar. When Nazar and I first spoke, I was totally charmed and delighted by the enthusiasm that he clearly has for helping others find a house of their own. And as he shared even more of his story, I was moved by his deep understanding of the differences between a house and a home. The physical structure of a house is an important symbol of security and freedom and stability and safety. And for the millions of people who've been displaced by natural disasters or war or famines and other types of unrest, and like the Nazar's Armenian ancestors, that symbol is powerful and important to their well-being. And I don't want to minimize that. We cannot underestimate the power that physical space has in cementing our sense of place and belonging. But isn't it amazing that even when his family finally found themselves in a place where some physical stability was possible, the longing for a home didn't cease for Nazar. Not until he found his spiritual home and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our next story of home comes from Audra, who found her home in one of the last places she expected or wanted to find it. Here's Audra.   26:34   Audra: I look up and across the field coming from the parking lot, I see this man coming. And the thought that went through my head was, "Oh no, please don't let that be our coach." He keeps walking towards us and sure enough, he stops right at our field and introduces himself as the coach of our children's team. And the reason for my "Oh no," is as he came closer, I realized that he was decked out head to toe and BYU attire. And while this might not seem strange, what you need to know is that I live in North Carolina. And here in North Carolina, we know two blues. We know Duke Blue, and we know Tar Heel blue. If you're not a member of the church, you don't know what BYU blue is. But I did. And so I knew immediately that he was a member of the church. So right then and there, I made the decision that I was going to stay as far away from this coach as I could.  I grew up in what I would consider a pretty traditional house. My dad was the full-time breadwinner. My mom was a stay-at-home mom who got involved with all of the activities that her children were involved with. We were active in our community. We were active at church and I basically just had a really happy childhood. I graduated high school, I packed up and moved out to Utah to go to BYU. I met my husband in a Book of Mormon class and we both graduated from BYU the same year. We got married in the temple and I just kind of figured that's how life went. As we started to get into careers and starting to have a family, the trials started to mount. And while I don't think that anyone actually expects the challenges that come their way, the ones that started come were just things— they'd never even crossed my mind because I didn't really know of anyone struggling with these things. Things like mental health issues and infertility and loss and moving around frequently. Just things that I never planned on. And as these started moving more and more, I felt like the trials, they started becoming more frequent and they started getting harder. At one point, I sank into a really deep depression and suffered really badly with anxiety. My body kind of went into a fight or flight mode where I just really struggled to even get out of bed and make sure that my kids were getting fed each day. And around that same time, I was really starting to struggle with some doctrinal and cultural issues with the church. I hadn't taken a whole lot of time in earlier years to really think about what I believed and how I felt about certain things. But I was kind of at a point in my life where I was spending a lot of time alone at home with two small children and my husband was working really long hours and I didn't have a lot of friends because we were moving pretty frequently. Our average to stay in any one place was 18 months and so I just spent a lot of time by myself, which really made me go into my own head and start thinking about things that I had never considered before. And so I'm dealing with all these questions and issues while I'm in a deep depression, we had just moved to a new place again, and I just didn't want to do it. I couldn't handle having spiritual issues on top of the daily struggles I was already facing. And so I was kind of at a point in my life where I decided to walk away from the church. I just didn't want to do it anymore and I was not interested in staying to fight for answers. I had no plans to come back. I stayed that way for five years. Flash forward a few years, life continues. We moved again and I had just had our third child. And I was really struggling with feeling lonely in our new place. I had a one-year-old, a six-year-old, and I think my son was nine at the time. And my kids were all really struggling with anxiety and starting at a new school and I was just tired, I was exhausted from all the moving we had done. I was exhausted from having babies and spending so much time alone. And when we moved to our new location, the thought I kept having was, "I just want to put down roots. I want this place to feel like home. I'm tired of always being on the go And I just wanted to make a life here." One of the things that I had done to try and make some friends and put down some roots was I got involved with the PTO board at the elementary school. And so I'm emailing back and forth with another mom that is volunteering with PTO. And at some point in time, we had become friends On Facebook. And so during our email conversation, she asked me, "Hey, how do you know this mutual friend that we had?"  And I emailed her back and said, "Well, she was one of my best friends growing up. We lived right up the street from one another and we hung out almost daily for years."  And she said, "Oh, that's so interesting. She was one of my roommates at BYU." And I just kind of giggled to myself. And then as our conversation via email went on, it came out that I told her, I said, "I am a member, but I have not been actively participating for several years now, and I'm not really interested."  And she said, "Oh, okay, that's fine. I'd still love to, you know, meet up with you and get to know you some time. But if you ever are interested, here's where the building is, and this is what time we meet." I said, "Okay," and then we just kind of carried on our conversation. So probably about a week later. And at the time, I was teaching group fitness classes at a local gym. And I went in to teach one of my classes one day and a new participant showed up about midway through the class. And so at the end of everything, and everyone was filing out of the room, she came up to introduce herself to me, and we started talking. In the course of our conversation, she tells me that she and her husband had both gone to BYU. And so then I proceeded to tell her "Oh, yeah, that's where I graduated from too." And she asked the next obvious question about if I was a member or not. And again, I told her, I said, "I'm not actively participating and I don't really want to." And she said, "Okay," and then carried on our conversation. So all of this happens. It was less than two weeks time that this was all taking place. And one morning I dropped my children off at school and was driving back home, which is literally a five-minute drive. And I had an experience that I will never forget because it has changed my life. I had the thought, "Maybe I should give it a shot. Maybe I should just try going back." And as soon as that thought entered my head, I was immediately fighting against it, saying, "Nope, I don't want to do that. I have no desire to do that. I still have the same questions and the same issues. I don't want to do that." And you know how sometimes when you're talking to a child or a friend, and you just, you really need them to understand something, and they're arguing with you and so you just, I don't know, I get the urge to grab them by the shoulders and like, "Just trust me! Oh, my gosh, just listen to me!" That's what happened to me. The Lord showed up in the passenger seat of my car that day. And it was like he was grabbing me by the shoulders and looking me straight in the eyes and just saying, "Just trust me. Do it. Just trust me." And as much as I could cross off all the other instances as being a coincidence, I could not deny the fact that the Lord was there in the car with me that day telling me to just go back to church. And so as soon as I got home, I emailed the PTO mom and told her, I said, "I think I'm going to go back this Sunday. I'm going to go check it out." And her reply was, "Great! I'm not going to be there. But let me know how it goes and I will be there next week." And so my initial reaction was, "Oh, well, the person who could hold me accountable isn't going to be there so I don't need to go." And that was a little bit strong, but I pushed it away. And that Sunday, I walked back through the chapel doors for the first time in five years.  I wish I could say that angels were singing and it has been all wonderful since then. It hasn't. In fact, that first Sunday as I walked in and sat down, I felt nauseous. I felt like I was going to be sick to my stomach. And as sacrament meeting progressed, I kind of looked over at my kids and I said, "We're going to leave probably when the closing song starts, we're going to get out of here, so no one can say anything to us." But for some reason I stayed. And the interesting part of all of this is that that soccer coach and PTO mom ended up being the bishop and his wife in our ward and they had sent people specifically to welcome us that day. And I had more people that one hour after sacrament meeting say hi to me and sit with me and talk to me, then I had the whole previous year that we had been living in this location. As I've thought back on this experience, the past couple of years, the Lord has made it very clear to me. He said, "Don't you see what I did? You wanted to be home and I brought you home. These people, this ward, they can be your family. You can put down roots here, and you can be home. This is it." And I am just so thankful that the Lord knew where to find me. He knew that he could send someone to a soccer field wearing BYU attire. He knew that he could send someone to my fitness classes. And He could show up in the passenger seat of my car because that's where I was and He came to me. As I have let myself be immersed in this new family, not only have I felt at home at church, but I have felt more at home and at peace within the walls of my own home. And I know that He has brought me to this place and I am exactly where He needs me to be right now.   38:31   KaRyn Lay: That was Audra. It's not that unusual to see a BYU hat or a sweatshirt when you're on the West Coast but as someone who once had a stranger jump out of their car at a McDonald's drive through, just to tell me their joy at finding a Pennsylvania fighting Quaker in Utah, I totally get Audra surprise and her chagrin at finding so much BYU blue in North Carolina. I also find inspiration and her willingness to hear and see the Lord's hand and helping her to find a home at church. That takes a lot of humility, especially when, like Audra, you're in the midst of a period of deep questioning and unresolved concern. But isn't that the thing about home? If it's built on a foundation of the Savior the way our God would have it designed for us, it really can be a place where we feel supported and safe while we figure it all out. I'm thinking more about how I can help make my ward that kind of a home, the kind that Audra found in her ward, especially for those among the body of Christ who might need someone to sit with them, to simply sit with them in their unbelief, in their questions or their doubt. You know, with the holidays around the corner, my internal sense of longing to be safely gathered in, while my family home is far away from me is really heightened. And because of that, I've been thinking a lot about this week's theme. Nazar's story was such a great reminder that the plan of salvation provides us with the comfort and the promise of a permanent and immovable heavenly home. But what about those times when we need to know that we've got people, family, home, right here right now like Audra wanted and needed. I think that as we talk about the spiritual power of Christ's ultimate sacrifice to heal us and to bring comfort, it's worth noting another unique gift of the atonement. Elder Bruce C Hafen taught, "The restoration offers people not only the hope of an embrace with the Lord, but also a full understanding of what that embrace can mean. For being clasped in the arms of Jesus, as it mentions in Mormon chapter five, verse 11, symbolizes the fulfillment of His Atonement in our lives, becoming literally at one with him belonging to him and mortality as well as in heaven." Here's the thing: While I love imagining that feeling of being clasped in the arms of Jesus, that's an individual experience. But when we're at one with Christ, we're better able to extend that feeling beyond ourselves. Stick with me, I'm about to make sense, I promise. Picture this: you're in sacrament meeting, renewing those covenants with the Savior, renewing your promise to act as part of His family. And as you look around, you notice all the people in your pew are also partaking of the sacrament, renewing that same covenant, choosing to become the children of Christ, and choosing to become brothers and sisters in more than just our birthright, but in the Gospel covenant. Well, that communion with deity creates community, we become a chosen family of sorts. When I imagine each of us in the loving embrace of the Savior, I'm reminded that I actually am surrounded by home, right now, because I am surrounded by Christ with others. It doesn't always change that longing for home or that homesickness, but here's the thing. Dorothy didn't click her heels three times and say, "There's no place like Kansas." Home was her people. And with God's help, I really believe that we can make His people, our people, wherever our house or ward might be right now. It might mean that we have to spend a little bit more of our creative energy envisioning those around us encircled in the love of the Savior that we ourselves have felt. But when we do, I know that we'll find home, even when home feels far away. That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thanks for joining us today and thank you so much to Nazar and Audra for sharing their stories and their faith. We'll have the transcript of this episode, pictures of our storytellers and more in our show notes at In fact, those show notes are the place to go if you're missing anything. If there's something you want to know, go to the show notes. You can also follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook to get more of the podcast and of this episode. All of our stories on the podcast are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers. And if you have a great story about your experience in living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you on our pitch line. So leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. We listen to every single one of them and really appreciate your time. You can also find out what themes we're working on right now for upcoming shows by following us on Instagram and Facebook. Again, that's @thisisthegospel_podcast. I just listened to a podcast, one of my other favorite podcasts, they had an amazing episode that I couldn't stop thinking about. So I left them a review and I felt so good about myself because I knew that that review would help them in more ways than one. So if you've had a great experience with one of the episodes of this podcast or the podcast as a whole, please leave us a review on the Apple iTunes app, or anywhere that you listen to your podcasts. This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay with story producing and editing by Kelly Campbell and Katie Lambert. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix At Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts like the "All In" podcast, at Have a wonderful week. Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Nov 18, 2019
The Kindness of Strangers