This is the Gospel Podcast

By LDS Living

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Subscribers: 208
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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
We Are All Connected
Stories in this episode: Julie, Whitney, & Brooke each have a story to tell about the struggle and surprises of a life lived in pursuit of discipleship, but they can't tell their story without one another and they can't tell their story without the extraordinary life of Jonah, the little boy who brought them all together.  Get more info and shownotes at or find us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast 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 kind of feel like today's theme doesn't need much of an introduction at all. So I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Because if there is one principle of the gospel that we all understand just a little bit better after a full year of social and physical distance, it's the power and purpose of human connection and just how inextricable that connection is, to our spiritual practice. And have we got a story about connection for you.  Actually, it's one big story with two little stories in the middle. And it's kind of hard to explain, but I think it's going to become clear soon enough. First, we'll start with our storyteller Julie, then you're going to hear from Whitney, and then Julie again, and then Brooke, and then back to Julie, and then Brooke and then Julie.  And just a quick note for sensitive listeners that this story does involve some trauma related to loss. Here's Julie: Julie  1:07   Our first son Jonah came into the world 10 days late. It was my first baby and I had all these ideals about what his birth would be like, and my whole pregnancy had been so good, and I had felt so healthy and strong. And all of our ultrasounds that we had were fine. We never had any indication that there would be any problem or any challenges for our baby.  It was just this beautiful experience to be pregnant and to feel him move inside me. I was sure that I was just gonna let him come on his own terms. And 10 days after his due date, my doctor said, "No, we need to induce you."  That day was so exciting. The birth was good, but when he was finally born, the doctor put him up on my belly. And when I first looked at him, I could tell right away that something wasn't quite right. And I didn't get very much time with them because they whisked him off my belly. And all of a sudden there was this flurry of activity around us and the respiratory therapists came in and they took Jonah and kind of moved him away from me. And I remember my mom coming over and comforting me and I just didn't even know what was happening.  I just said remembered seeing his little ears. They looked almost like little flower petals that hadn't quite opened all the way. My husband Jordan was over by the nurses and he was kind of watching what was going on, and he came over to me and I remember him saying, "Julie, he has the most beautiful lips." And I think he was in this moment of trying to process, you know, what we were experiencing. But it turned out that he had a lot of problems with his facial structures. He had a cleft palate, his jaw was underdeveloped, his cheekbones were underdeveloped, and his ears were not fully open, like they had just started to develop and stopped midway through that development.  We didn't know what caused it or whether he'd be able to see or whether he'd be able to hear. We didn't know if he would have any kind of mental delays, but we loved him so instantly. And it wasn't until the next morning after a night of changing diapers and trying to figure out how to feed him that our doctor came in and told us what his diagnosis was. He told us about Treacher Collins syndrome, which is a syndrome that affects the facial structures and development of the face. And the other thing the doctor told me is, "I'm almost 100% sure that you are the carrier of this genetic disorder."  It was good to know what he had because we knew that he would be able to see and he wouldn't be able to hear with the help of a hearing aid, we knew that he wouldn't have any kind of developmental challenges. But I had this place in my heart that just hurt so bad because I knew that I had carried this, you know, thing that was inside me that had . . . that wasn't my fault. But I felt the strange responsibility for being the carrier of that gene. And almost the immediate realization too, that any children that we tried to have in the future would have a 50% chance of having the same experience that our sweet Jonah was having.  We knew that he was going to face a lifetime of surgeries to correct some of those things that he had to deal with, and it was all so overwhelming. And I tried to put on a brave face and I tried to be really present and to be optimistic. But as soon as I could get up and I got into the shower–that's where I just fell apart. I just prayed that Heavenly Father would help me to know how to move forward. And the distinct impression that I received was that Jonah deserved to have a joyful mom. And that there was a lot that we didn't know, and there was a lot that I couldn't control. But I could control how I approach the experience of being this mom. And so that's what I tried to do. After a while, we just didn't think about his syndrome very much. We were just normal parents, and just raising this little boy and that was beautiful. People just were attracted to him and they wanted to know about him. And my husband and I are, well, especially my husband, we're kind of private, you know, we're not the kind that really reach out, but with Jonah, people just came to us. And it was a heart opening experience to watch how people just loved him right away.  But there was also a realization that people could be cruel. As he got older, we had more experiences of people stopping and staring or children saying things that were hard, and he was young enough, that didn't really affect him, but you know, we wondered how that would affect him as he got older. That was a challenge.  When Jonah was 14 months old, my friend had invited us over, she wanted to can spaghetti sauce, and our kids would play together while we made the spaghetti sauce. That morning, I had felt this hesitation that I couldn't put my finger on, but for some reason, I just didn't really want to go. And she was my dear friend and I love spending time with her and I couldn't understand why I wouldn't want to get out of the house and go there.  But we went, and Jonah played with her kids and we made our spaghetti sauce. After a couple hours, she needed to go and pick up her oldest daughter. And I said, "Okay, that's fine. I'll watch the kids." And we were in the backyard playing. And almost immediately after she walked out the door, the kids had been eating snacks and Jonah ate a fruit snack.  I could tell right away that something was wrong. I could see it in his eyes that he couldn't get any air. And I knew that he was choking. And I was holding my friend's new baby and I have these children around me and I looked around and there was a blanket on the ground. So I put the baby down and I scooped Jonah up and I tried to do the Heimlich maneuver and tried to you know, pound this fruit snack out. It wasn't working and I could feel his body just go limp in my arms.  You know, I started to panic. And I grabbed my phone and I grabbed him and I knew I just went to the front of the house because I thought if I can get out there someone can help me. And I left all these kids in this baby in the backyard and ran to the front of the house and laid him out on the driveway and called 911.  They did their best to help me and I was doing everything I knew how to do to help him. You know, I don't think it was very long before the ambulance got there. But just as I looked at him, I had the strongest confirmation I think I've ever had in my life, and the confirmation was that he was not he was not going to make it.  My friend came around, you know, the corner to see these ambulances and fire truck at her house and she ran out and she didn't know who was in trouble, you know. And when she saw that it was Jonah. She said, you know, "This is the time to have faith and this is the time to be strong." And I said, "He's not going to make it."  Within a matter of 30 minutes I'd gone from being the mom of this vibrant, lovely boy to holding him in my arms and his spirit was so clearly gone. That was the most devastating moment of my life.  And I'll never forget leaving the hospital that day with my husband, Jordan. And we got into his truck and we didn't have children with us, you know. And it was so surreal and strange. And we just drove home together. And then just crawled into bed and just cried all night. We just cried all night.  And then the next day people started showing up at our door. They came until . . . you know we went to bed that night, they just kept showing up. We just all grieved together as a community and as a family and this just tragic loss that we had all experienced.  The weeks and months that followed Jonah's death were just surreal. And at night, when I would try and fall asleep, I would see in my mind the experience of losing Jonah, over and over again. And I prayed for Heavenly Father to help me to be able to . . . to let that go and to be able to sleep. And I had a strong impression that I needed to write it down. And so I started by writing everything I could think of in my journal, and I wrote it down. And that night, I slept. And then I had the impression that I needed to write it in a more public way. And that felt really scary, but I decided, since I had this time, that I would begin sharing my experience and start a blog. I remember pressing, publish, and just feeling sick inside, like just feeling like I put my whole heart and soul out into the world, and not knowing how people would receive it. But that blog, and that ability to write became so therapeutic to me.  Another thing that was therapeutic for me, at that time was gardening. And I decided that I needed to put a garden in a new place in our yard, and I went out one day, and I just started tearing out the grass. It was this hard, physical work. That was just like, I was channeling all my anger and my rage into pulling out this grass. I was so angry and so upset. And I wasn't angry at God, but I just had this anger in me from this experience. And so I just began to pull out this grass. And I was just out there by myself and I was quiet.  I just remember having this feeling settle on me. It wasn't a vision, it wasn't a dream, it was just this quiet impression of two little souls that were going to come to our family. Part of me thought, oh, I'm just, you know, dreaming about what I want, then wondered if it was a real feeling. But it was the kind of feeling that just stays with you. And it just kind of sunk into my heart.  When Jonah died, Jordan and I had this immediate realization that if we wanted to have more kids, we had to decide how we were going to move forward and that felt so overwhelming, because we had just experienced this incredible loss that was tied to Jonah's genetic condition. He had a small airway, and that's one of the contributing factors to why he choked on that fruit snack. And so the idea of just having another baby was terrifying.  So we started talking about it and trying to figure out how we could possibly move forward. We knew that there was a possibility that we could do genetic testing, to help us to make sure that we had healthy embryos, and that we wouldn't pass on this genetic disorder. And I felt this real hesitation in that space when thinking about that possibility.  Because part of me wondered if I was somehow rejecting Jonah and the beauty and light that he brought into our home if I chose not to have another baby like him. And if I chose to use science to select out the healthiest embryos, if I'd somehow be denying myself the experience that I just had, that was so powerful–being his mother. And that was really hard for me to wrestle with.  I have always been the kind of person–I want to do what's right, and I want to do what God wants me to do. And I want to be in tune with the Spirit. And I just wondered if somehow I was leaving God out of the equation. There was part of me that felt like if I had real faith, then I would just roll the dice and let God decide, right? That somehow if I were truly faithful, that we would just move forward without a question.  And luckily, my husband didn't feel that way. He felt that it was okay to move forward with genetic testing. That would still require a lot of our faith. And so we moved forward with that. It took a full year for an embryo transfer and we had one healthy embryo that we could work with.  And so all of our hopes were wrapped up in this one moment. And when it came time to do the transfer, my doctors cancelled it. They discovered that I had scar tissue from my first pregnancy, and that it probably wouldn't work. And so after this full year of waiting and hoping we were faced with this new challenge. During this time, I decided that I needed to get a job to fill my time. And I was lucky enough to get a job at the Springville Museum of Art, which was great. And I had a colleague there who was working at the BYU Museum of Art. And they were getting ready for the Carl Bloch exhibit that was coming up.  Carl Bloch is really well known artist in LDS culture, maybe not by his name, but almost everyone would recognize his paintings. They are beautiful paintings of the Savior and His life. And the BYU Museum of Art was in the process of putting together this incredible exhibit of his works. But they wanted to have a spiritual component that connected to real people in their lives.  And my friend Ashley, who was working there asked me to share my experience of losing Jonah, in relation to one of Carl Bloch's, beautiful paintings, "Christ the Consolator," and I was really hesitant to do it, because I don't like being on video. And I knew it would be seen by a lot of people, but I knew from my experience, writing, that the experience I had of losing Jonah was really a powerful story for other people. that I got so much feedback from people about how it changed their hearts, or changed the way that they mothered their children or brought them closer to the Savior, that I moved past my hesitations and decided to go for it. Whitney  17:07   My husband and I were encouraged by lots of family and friends to go to the BYU art museum to see the Carl Bloch exhibit. So on a Saturday, we went for a little day date. And I was told by my mom, "Make sure you get the iPad version of the tour." So I got the iPad and started to walk around the gallery. And I wasn't as familiar with Carl Bloch before going to the museum.  So I walked in, and I just was like, "Oh my goodness, I know that painting, I know that painting." I didn't realize the Carl Bloch had done so many paintings of Christ. I just was blown away how much beautiful artwork Carl Bloch had done. And then as I kept going around the museum, I turned the corner and walked over to a big painting, a very large size painting of Christ teaching.  And I can't remember the details of it, but I very specifically remember there was an image of a little boy in the painting. And this little boy in the painting, was very intently listening to Jesus. There were other people in the painting, who would turn their heads, were scoffing, not paying attention, but this little boy was so significant to me because he was peacefully listening and looking at Jesus Christ.  So as I'm looking at this painting, I looked on the iPad, and noticed there's a button that you can push to have somebody tell you a story about this painting. So then I clicked on that button to hear a testimony of a woman. And she immediately started to tell some things that were happened in her life. She talked about a baby that was born to her and her husband, that didn't look like every other baby you see.  And as she started to describe this baby, my heart just stopped. I didn't have to see a picture of him, but I knew the second she described it. The way she described his eyes slanting downward, and his little chin and his tiny ears, and his missing of cheekbones, and the jaw, I immediately knew she was describing my son, who was born a month earlier.  There's only one out of every 50,000 births that these babies come into this form. And I knew immediately she was describing Treacher Collins syndrome that her little boy had. And so I kept listening and I actually listened to it twice because my heart was just so moved as I heard her journey of not only having a baby who wasn't a baby you anticipate, but then her experience of losing this baby and my heart just broke for her. And my heart was just in pain and suffering as she described this experience, but then listening to her to she described how much she was able to do it because of Jesus Christ.  And it was a very weird, surreal moment to be in so much pain for somebody, but also feel so much joy. Such anguish and peace at the same time. In that moment, in this large gallery, I completely felt and knew that I wasn't alone, and that God knew me. He knew my son. He knew this woman and He knew her son. And people will say, "Wow, what a coincidence." But to me, it was a knowledge that God knew of my situation. And he had a one of his children–one of my sisters–say, "I know what you're feeling. I know what you're experiencing."  I had this eternal connection with this woman. For the first time since my son was born, I felt like somebody understood. After leaving the museum, I became obsessed. And I know that sounds scary, but I became obsessed with trying to find this woman. So I got on the internet, like all stalkers do, and I started Google searching everything I could find. And I searched and searched, I looked, I knew I knew her picture. I didn't know her full name, I just knew her picture.  So I would Google, "Little boy dies choking on fruit snack," I googled, "Treacher Collins syndrome boy." I googled as many things I could find. And then I clicked on images one day, and I saw her picture and I knew that was her. So I clicked on that link, and it took me to her blog. And then I spent the next three days just reading every word of that blog.  And I just . . . my heart became even more endeared to her. Reading the way she beautifully was explaining her circumstances and situation life. It was like I was reading scripture, it was so holy to me to hear how she explained her trials and her good times, and her hard times.  I knew I needed to make contact with her. I knew I needed to connect with her in person. So I did what the best thing I feel like I could do, and I started to write a letter to her. I wrote a letter just thanking her for the peace she brought into my life, the answers that she brought to my life, the realization that God was aware of me. I remember thinking, she's gonna think I'm crazy. This random person, bearing her testimony, having a very spiritual experience, because of her situation, that was a hard situation, she's gonna be like, "This woman is crazy."  Even my husband was like, "Mmm... Whitney this might be a little bit out there for you." But I felt so prompted to write the letter. So that's why I had to do it. I needed to connect with her and let her know that her story changed my life.  But then I didn't know where she lived! So I started to stalk her again, and I googled, as much as I could to find out, and I found an address. I was a little nervous to send it, but then I kind of in the back of my mind said, "But, you know what? She probably might not even get it." So I sent a letter. And to be honest, after sending it, I kind of forgot about her. Like, it kind of left my mind and left my heart. And I kind of stopped being so obsessed.  And so I thought, "Okay, that's what I needed to do. I just needed to send that letter and I would move on." Even if I never heard back from her. That experience in the museum was a pivotal point for the rest of the journey of my life on this earth. Because it was such a defining moment where I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God knew me. He was aware of me. That He knew the prayers I've been praying the last month. He knew the heartache I was . . . the fears I was having about the future of my son. And in that moment, I can still see where I'm standing when I was looking at that exhibit and feeling as if in a huge museum–I was the only one in the room. And God was personally saying, "Whitney, I hear you. I'm aware of you. And I see you." As a mom, I'm constantly telling my children, "Go help your brother and sister do this." "Go help your brother do that." And I truly believe that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are doing that constantly. That they are reaching out to us as their children and saying, "Go help your brother, go help your sister." Because we are all connected. We are all an eternal family and we are all God's children, and our purpose on this earth is to get everyone to come back to Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.  So let's say you get a prompting to send a text message or to go visit somebody or to be even maybe write a letter to somebody like I did, my advice would be just do it. Act on that prompting. Write that letter. Send that text message. Go visit somebody. Because Heavenly Father is inspiring you for a reason. Julie  25:11   We were finally ready to do our first embryo transfer. Everything seemed like it was going to work. And the problems that I had had seem to be fixed. They transferred one healthy embryo that we had, and I miscarried almost immediately. It was so devastating. We decided that we couldn't do the genetic testing again. It was just too many variables, too many questions about why I had miscarried.  And so we decided to try an egg donor. And once again, all of the ethical and moral questions and religious questions came up with this choice and not knowing if we were doing the right thing, or if we should do something different. But we felt okay moving forward. And we chose an egg donor.  Around this time, my sister, Brooke, offered to be an egg donor for us. I didn't even know that that was the possibility. I didn't know how that would be. But I did know what it was like to go through an in vitro cycle, and all of the shots and all the hormones, the doctor's appointments that were associated with it, I just felt like it was too much to ask my sister, so we decided to move forward in a different direction.  We were able to get 12 healthy embryos. And when you're doing fertility stuff, they give you constant updates. So they'll call you after three days and say "This many have developed." And then they'll call you in two more days and they'll say, you know, "Five more are looking good." And so you're just waiting for these phone calls and hoping that things go well. The first call we got was good. They said, "We have 12 and they're developing." And the next call we got was not as good. And they said, "Well, now we only have six, but they're still developing." And then the final call, we got said that none of them, they all just stopped developing.  Our fertility clinic said they had never had that happen before. After the anonymous egg donor embryos didn't work out for us, I felt really strongly that we could move forward with Brooke, my sister, and the offer that she had made to let us use her eggs. My sister is so generous, she always has been and she's so willing to guide me and direct me and help me in every way that she can. And it just felt like, "Of course. This is what we're gonna do." And I don't know why it had been so hard before them because at that moment, it seemed to make the most sense of anything in the world, that these embryos would still be connected to my family through her, you know. And they would still have a connection to my parents and to my grandparents. And that just felt like such a gift that I hadn't even realized that I wanted. Brooke  28:26   Julie and I were just typical siblings. As we grew older–we were three years apart–as we grew older, I think our connection just grew apart as well. We were in different places of our life in different stages. I got married really early, I had my first baby really young. So by the time Julie got married, I had five kids.  My youngest was really close with Jonah, when he was about a year old, I had decided to go back to school and I was working a couple days a week and I was going to school a few times a week. And so Julie and Jonah would go pick up Lindsay from school every day. She just have the sweetest little relationship with him, she just loved him so much.  The day he died I was at the preschool that my family owned, and I got a phone call from Julie's friend saying that I needed to call my mom and have her go to the hospital. And I thought well, you know, I had taken kids to the hospital for stitches and stuff like that. and I think in my deep in my heart, that's what I wanted it to be. But I knew from her voice that that's not what it was. And I said "Okay, I'll call her. Is he going to be okay?" And she said, "No, I don't think so." And I remember the world just going fuzzy. I sat there for a long time trying to think about what to do. I didn't want to be at work. I needed to be there. So as I was driving to the hospital, I called my husband and asked him if he would go pick up the kids from school. So I got to the hospital and I was sitting in the parking lot, and I got a phone call from my mom saying that Jonah had died. And I really don't remember how I got to the doors of the hospital. I didn't do it well, because at some point, a nurse came out of the hospital and walked me in. I just remember her arms around me. And she asked me if I was his aunt, and I told her I was. And she walked me in.  I walked in there and I saw Julie holding Jonah, Jordan sitting next to her. And my heart just shattered. It wasn't very long after that, well, maybe about an hour after that. The same nurse came back in and told me that my kids were at the hospital. I walked into this little side room that they had outside the emergency room and I just collapsed. All five kids came running to me and put my arms around them and told them what had happened. And we just grieved. We just wept.  I did not think that I could inflict another heartache on my kids. Two weeks before, I had asked my husband to move out, my kids were really suffering. And I was already foggy, I was already so confused about what was right and what was wrong. But I also knew that I needed to know what the right thing was to do for my children, for my family, how we were going to move through this grief and this heartache.  So I said goodbye to my kids, they went back with their dad. And I walked out to my car and I sat down in my car. My prayers to God at that point were like David in Psalms. You know, like, angry and sad and hopeful . . . and all of those things at the same time. And I sat in the car and I just cried to the heavens, "You have to tell me what to do today. Because I cannot break the hearts of my children anymore that they're broken."  And I started driving, the same prayer just going over and over and over in my head. And by that night, I knew that my marriage was over. It was a really, really, really dark and sorrowful night. And that night, my kids, all five of them climbed into bed with me and I remember us falling asleep to me singing or humming "Abide with me tis eventide." Cause my whole family, my children, myself, my sister, her husband, my parents, we were all slipping into the darkest dark. We spend a lot of time crying.  Julie took care of me. I remember just being awed by her. And how she just in her profound grief took care of me, took care of my children. And sometimes I felt guilty about it because I just I didn't know if I even had the emotional capacity to be able to do for her what she was doing for me.  My darkest dark lasted about two years and it was really, you know, we sometimes it felt black. But I met a man at the end, as I was nearing the end of that and coming through and healing, I met a man that I really loved and who really loved to me and we decided to start our lives together and bring our families together.  At the same time, Julie was still wandering through that dark, dark. And as I healed, I was even more aware I think of the pain and grief she was experiencing.  I started to have dreams that I had something of my sisters that I . . . but I didn't ever know what it was or how to give it to her. I just knew that I had something that I needed to give to her. I would have them pretty regularly. And I'm not a dreamer. Like I don't, I don't get answers to prayer and dreams. I don't . . . my dreams are usually just super weird. But these felt these felt like there was something there that I was supposed to be paying attention to. And I remember I would wake up and I would just lay in bed and think like, what, what is it? What is it? For a long time, I thought it was just grief, I thought that it was . . . I was supposed to be attending to her grief.  At this point, Julie had gone through a miscarriage and a failed IVF. And my mom came to visit and she was out for a couple of weeks and we were driving her back to the airport. And she said, "Julie and Jordan are thinking about using donated eggs." And it was like just this complete knowing. It was a knowing. That's the only way I can describe it. All of a sudden, I knew exactly what those dreams had meant. I knew exactly what I was meant to do.  And I just said, "Well why . . . why not mine?" Like why . . . why are we not doing this? And from there on it was that was just what was meant to happen. I offered Julie, I told her that I would do this for her. And I remember she she was very thoughtful about it. And she said, she said no. I didn't really feel discouraged. I remember thinking that it was a big thing. And that it was something that doesn't happen very often, at least in our experience and known world.  And so I just told her, it's an open offer, if you change your mind, I will do this for you. I don't remember ever thinking it wasn't going to happen. I just knew that she needed time to really think about it and decide if that was okay. And then she came to me and said, "I'm ready. Let's do this." I remember feeling really excited.  I don't know anybody that is supposed to be a mother more than Julie. And watching her go through all those years of sorrow and heartache and loss . . . I was just so happy to be able to help her be a mother. So I was older, I was 35, had to go through a bunch of tests to make sure that I was, it was even a viable option. I was. So we went through the process. And one of the things that we had to do is speak with a psychologist. And I had to be there, my husband had to be there, Julie had to be there and her husband had to be there.  And the feminist in me it really like pushed against that. I was so like . . . why? Why? Why does my husband have to be there? Why did he have to give me permission to do this? I think part of it too, was pushing back against a former life I had had and I wanted to make these decisions.  In the end, I was so glad that he was there because I was able to see just how much healing had happened in my life. The psychologist wanted to know how I would feel about to raising these babies, if I would be okay with that. And I was stunned because they were never mine. They were always meant to be Julie's. Like my dreams had told me from the very beginning, I had something that was hers. And I was just holding on to them until they were ready, until everybody was ready.  My husband was asked how he felt about it. And I remember him saying that he was going to completely support whatever I needed to do and however I needed to do it. And that was such a departure from my former life. Which is why I was so glad he was there because it was just another reminder of the grace of God, another reminder of healing.  There is a quote by Neal A. Maxwell and I'm just going to paraphrase it because I don't remember it completely, but since the moment I heard it, it has always stuck with me. And he talks about how the Star of Bethlehem was placed in orbit millennia before Christ was born, but it was there so that it could shine on that night, it could lead people to Christ.  And I've thought about that a lot, and how that light, that star shone on that night in the darkest dark. And I think about how there are moments in time that are placed in the orbit of our life, that will shine on our darkest darks. We don't know when and we don't even know what they are, but they're there. And they will come. And we will encounter God in those moments. Julie  40:46   We moved forward with Brooke going through an in vitro cycle, and she was able to get four healthy eggs for us. So we scheduled a time that we could implant two of those eggs. And we felt this renewed energy and excitement about it, that this time, it would work. The process is fairly simple. When they put the embryos in and then you just wait until you have a blood draw. And they can check to see if you're pregnant, and then you wait for another blood draw and see how your progesterone levels and all sorts of other levels to see if it's moving forward.  Initially, we got that first blood draw that said, "Yes, we were pregnant." And we were just so thrilled and ecstatic and hopeful. That part of our hearts was always reserved, because we'd experienced so much lost. And we didn't want to get our hopes up. Then we had our second blood draw, and the news was not good. They told me that my progesterone levels were dropping, and that I would probably miscarry.  We were just devastated and heartbroken and I felt lower than I had in any of the previous losses. Not Jonah's loss, but in the previous miscarriages and setbacks that we'd experienced, because I just felt so hopeful about this time. We got the phone call on a Saturday, and the next day was church. My husband was in a bishopric and he would go over early to have meetings and things and I would meet him later. I wasn't even sure I wanted to go to church. I didn't think that I could, because I was so heartbroken and devastated and sad. And I felt like I could have stayed home, and that would have been okay, but I got myself ready and I started driving and I was just crying in the car.  And on my way, I just felt like I needed to go to Jonah's grave. So I turned and I took a detour and I went to the cemetery and I went to his grave and I just knelt down right next to his headstone. I just felt so alone. And I wondered if God cared about what I cared about, if God wanted the same things that I wanted. If he knew me, if he was aware of me and my struggles, and I just didn't know if I could keep going. You know, it was so emotionally draining to go through this process over and over again.  I just prayed and I asked Heavenly Father to show me, to tell me, to let me know somehow that I was loved, that I was known, that there was a greater plan, and to give me the strength to keep going. I stayed there for a while just being alone there in the cemetery. And I got myself up and I went to church. And I don't remember anything about being at church. I just remember sitting around the hall. I'm feeling so sad. The next day, I went to work and I was gone most of the day, just tried to get through it. And when I got home, I checked the mail and there was a letter. It was a letter from someone that I didn't recognize the return address and I went inside and opened it.  Her name was Whitney, and I'm just going to read what she said. "I hope that this note is something that can strengthen your testimony and reminds you The Lord has a divine purpose and plan for all of us. I hope this note reassures you that prayers are truly answered, because you were an answer to ours. When I read what you wrote, it felt like a direct answer to my prayer the day before." I knew that she had written that note days before, weeks before I don't know when, you know, when she wrote it, but it had come to my doorstep the very day after I had said this really heartfelt prayer.  And it had answered all the questions that I had had about whether God was involved in the little day to day parts of my life. And all of the questions that I had heard about whether He cared about me and loved me and what role He played in our choices, and whether I could ask for the things that I really wanted and needed. This little letter just after that for me and confirmed to me that God loved me. And it felt like the most miraculous and beautiful gift from my Heavenly Father. At the time, we only had two embryos left from my sister. And it had been so devastating to miscarry that I wondered if I would be able to do it again and go through the process and the shots and the appointments, and the phone calls, all of it. But this letter just gave me this hope and energy and this belief that God was with us.  And I remembered that feeling I had in the garden as I was pulling up the grass, and that feeling of these two souls and two spirits. And I just felt like we had to keep moving forward, that we were moving towards a greater plan for our family.  During this time, I had many random experiences in which people told me about a different doctor that we should go to. Everyone from my visiting teacher to my phlebotomist that took my blood seemed to be telling me to go to this new doctor. And we had these two embryos, and we decided that what we had been doing wasn't working, and we need to try something else. So we decided that we would go to a new doctor.  The funny thing was that my husband, Jordan had to go get these embryos, from the fertility clinic, he had to pick them up in this little nitroglycerin case, and drive them on the freeway to the other clinic. And he was terrified. He was so worried that they would fall over and they'd get ruined and they're these tiny little cells that he had to move across Utah Valley to this new place. It was so absurd and strange to think of our . . . these two embryos moving before they were even little people down the freeway. But he was brave, and he did it, and he took those embryos to a new doctor.  And our new doctor immediately identified that I had a blood clotting issue and I had an immune reaction that we didn't know about, and he was able to pinpoint these things that had been ending my pregnancies and causing me to miscarry. That was so helpful to move forward with him and to have some answers to what we had been facing.  Knowing that we only had two embryos left, I finally asked my friends and family to fast for us. And I think part of the reason I hadn't asked for that before is because I had worried that if I asked for it, if we didn't have a successful pregnancy, my faith would just be broken. And it's such a vulnerable experience to go through these IVF cycles. Somehow, it felt safer to do it alone. Even though it felt safer, it was undeniable to me that God could use all of these different people in my life to create a powerful outcome.  So we went ahead with embryo transfer and the really amazing thing is that they show you a picture of these embryos before they put them in. So we were able to see what they look like and have a printed out picture of these embryos. And they were our last hope. They were the last two that we had. They did the transfer and it was right before Thanksgiving and I just remember being terrified. I was having panic attacks and I was so afraid, and we found out that I was pregnant. And then that just made it worse because I was so scared.  I was so scared that I would lose another pregnancy. And so we were just hanging on day to day, just taking it one day at a time moving forward. And we eventually were able to have an ultrasound at like eight weeks and we saw their little hearts beating every step along the way. We were terrified and scared but we just kept moving forward. And it was miraculous and amazing to see them growing.  It was hard and long and stressful, but we made it. Simon and Clara were born just after noon, on July 14. I remember before we went to the hospital, Jordan had talked to me and he said, "We shouldn't let people hold both babies at the same time," because he was so afraid of them getting hurt or something happening. And so I said, "Okay, if that's what you mean, like, we'll tell people they can't hold both babies at the same time."  And when I had the C section, they whisked Jordan back to where they were washing up the babies and the next thing I know, he comes out, and he's holding both of these babies at the same time. And it just felt like we had been through this incredibly hard, five years, and we were so afraid, and we were so hurt. And our hearts had been broken, like over and over again. And here he was holding both of these babies at the same time and it felt so brave. You know, I just felt like we were both so brave, and that God had been with us.  Even though I was afraid that I was leaving Him out of this experience, He had shown up for us all along the way. He showed up for us with my sister, when He'd given me that impression in the garden that was so powerful that stayed with me and kept me going. And He'd given me Whitney at the time that I needed this reassurance in this powerful, powerful way. And now here, Jordan was brave enough to hold these babies at the same time and they were with us, and they made it. We were so grateful. Brooke  52:08   The night, well, the day the babies were born, I got a call from my mom saying that it was time and Julie was going to go in to have a C section. And so I got right in the car, and I bought a plane ticket. And I just . . . so much hope and wonder and I couldn't wait to meet these babies. And I got there and got to the hospital. And Julie and Jordan were both just so exhausted. Both so exhausted, and I offered to spend the night with Julie that night and I stayed up all night and just stared at them.  Just in wonder and awe at the miracle of them. I was reminded over and over that night about the scripture at the end of Genesis where Joseph is talking to his brothers, who had sold him into slavery. And because of that, Joseph had suffered and grieved and had lost so much. And as he's speaking to the brothers, he says to them, "What happened was really painful. And it hurt a lot. But God has made it good and I am in the place of God." And that night as I lay there on that really uncomfortable cot with this precious baby in my arms, I just kept thinking, we are in the place to God. He has always been here in every moment, making it good even when we didn't know that it was good. It was beautiful. I've had the opportunity in my life to grieve. And in the moments of grief, I'm not sure I would have called it an opportunity. It was painful. It really, really hurt. But grief is one of those things that if we allow it to open us up, our grief will tether us to the hearts of other people and we will see how connected we are. We will see how similar we are. We will have compassion and love for other people. And I think when that happens when grief really opens us up, we are given the opportunity to participate in miracles and encounter God in everyone and in every story. Julie  54:47   The amazing thing was that Simon and Clara were born just a week after Jonah's birthday. And so as we went through their first year of life, all of their milestones lined up in the same seasons and times, as Jonah's did. And so we had this incredible reminder of Jonah, all through that first year, because it was just like we were walking through the same space that we had walked with Him.  We had not moved past our fear, we were still very afraid, but we have come to this incredibly beautiful moment where I realized that God and His plans are huge. They're enormous, and they're beautiful, and they're interconnected. And we don't always understand them, but they are divine in ways that we cannot even understand. KaRyn  55:52   That was Julie, Whitney, and Brooke. And I don't know about you, but my heart is just swimming with all the feelings after this story. There's just so much to witness here.  But for me, it's all really summed up in that quote that Brooke shared from Elder Neal Maxwell. She paraphrased it beautifully, but here's exactly what he said, quote, "The same God that place that star in a precise orbit millennia before it appeared over Bethlehem in celebration of the birth of the babe, has given at least equal attention to placement of each of us in precise human orbits, so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light may not only lead others, but warm them as well," end quote.  Couldn't you feel that precision of our placement in orbit as we listened to Julie light the path for Whitney, who lit the path for Julie, so that she could walk towards Brooke who is lighting the path for Julie after Julie lit the path for Brooke? If it sounds complicated or circuitous–it is. But it's also insanely simple. We are all connected to each other by divine design. And when we decide to live our lives focused on Christ and His plan for our happiness, everything we do and everything we are becomes meaningful and useful in his plan. And we can't help but bump into one another in our efforts to live a life of discipleship because we are all pulled into the extraordinary orbit of the Son–together.  And then of course, there is Jonah. Sweet, sweet Jonah and his beautiful life that became the catalyst for so much connection. The whole time I was listening to the story, I was imagining Jonah ascending home like a reverse shooting star, full of joy as he sprinkled his life like powerful star dust to settle on each of these women who longed to see and know God.  I could also imagine his utter delight as he watched them embrace his gift and light up for each other, bringing warmth to the spaces where there was only darkest dark, and knowing to the long, quiet parts of that eternal orbit that felt completely unknowable.  And I could imagine him in that room with Julie and Brooke, and Simon and Clara, testifying that we are all one eternal round, and the connections that we have here on Earth, they're only a tiny part of what waits for us beyond right now. We are all connected. And if we've learned anything from this year of heartache, and masks and air hugs and zoom and loss and reckoning, it's that we can't actually do it alone. We really do need each other desperately. And if we will illuminate the landscape of our individual lives by connecting ourselves inextricably to Christ, the source of all connection, then our light may not only lead others, but it will warm them as well. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel," and I cannot think of a better way to close out the season. Thank you to our storytellers, Julie, Whitney and Brooke for sharing so much of themselves with us all and for showing us the beauty of true connection.  You can learn more about our storytellers in our show notes at LDS All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a story to tell, we want to hear it. You can call and pitch your story on our pitch line at 515-519-6179. And maybe you're listening and thinking I don't have a story to tell. Well, we're going to help you find it. We're working on a few bonus episodes during this in-between time that will help you learn how to find your own story so stay connected with us to know when those bonus episodes are coming by following us on Facebook or Instagram at @thisisthegospel_podcast.  Didn't you love the season? Tell us all about it. We get really lonely during the season breaks and it's so fun to hear from you. You can leave us a review on Apple, Stitcher or whatever platform you listen on. We read every one and truly appreciate your help and knowing what's valuable to you our listeners.  This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay with additional story production and editing by Erika free and Kelly Campbell. And truly they deserve a medal for making this episode happen from just an idea in my head. 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 slash podcast. See you soon   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Mar 29, 2021
Be Prepared
Stories in this episode: The sudden loss of his corporate job throws Dave into a new and sometimes confusing role at home; Jenny's once-thriving life is upended by an unwelcome diagnosis that offers her a powerful connection to some of her Church History idols. Get more info and shownotes at or find us on instagram and facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast TRANSCRIPT KaRyn  0:03   Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," a 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.  When my town experienced a hurricane-level windstorm this past fall, it uprooted century-old trees and it knocked down power lines. And I learned two things very quickly: First, that I take my easy, daily, access to electricity totally for granted. And second, that I am only partially prepared for the loss of that daily access.  We were without power at our house for over five days. And honestly, if it wasn't for our camping gear and a very long extension cord that our neighbor Steve generously draped over the back fence that allowed us to share his generator, I mean, we totally would have survived, but the contents of our freezer wouldn't have and we wouldn't have had access to our cell phones.  Now listen, I know there are many people in other parts of the country and the world who have faced even more perilous natural events than our tiny little windstorm. And I don't want my experience to diminish those struggles. Those are really hard things. But for me, this was a particularly important reminder to think about preparation with just a little more urgency.  The word preparation comes from the Latin root for "Prae," which means before and "Parare" I don't think I'm saying that right, "to make ready." And I love that idea of "to make ready" because isn't that exactly what this earth life is all about? It's getting our hearts and our minds and our bodies ready for whatever comes next.  But President Nelson reminded us in his general conference talk, "Embrace the Future with Faith" that it's not just about making ready for the life after this. If we want to be of good courage and find peace right here, right now, during this most remarkable dispensation, being temporally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared is the key.  We have to make ready before the windstorms and the tumults and the ocean waves come for us. And what that looks like in practice, to make ourselves ready as disciples in our world of disruption, probably doesn't include my most recent plan to hoard Slim Jims and get a longer extension cord. So today, we're gonna explore the many sides of preparation with two very different stories from people who learned how preparation opens the door to opportunity and growth. Our first story comes from Dave. Dave  2:28   I was working at my day job for a luxury hotel and it was 9:15 on an idle Tuesday and I was called into the general manager's office. And they said that across several of their hotels, they were dissolving my position. Effective immediately, I would be released, and "Here's a severance," and "We're so sorry, and it's not your performance. It's not anything you, it's just we dissolved the position. Let us know if there's anything we could do."  My mind is spinning. Well, what's next? You know, will we stay in the valley? Will we need to sell our house and move? Like, you can imagine the tornado of thoughts and ideas. But as that kind of settled in, I was also quickly reminded, wait a second, like my wife, she's an entrepreneur and her business is really picking up right now. And wait a minute, this coaching program that I'm in has really become my passion project. And I realized that, you know . . . and other people's stories of getting laid off or losing their jobs like that is really stressful, and that they might not have backup options. But in this case, it was so clear that Heavenly Father had prepared us with these other business endeavors to allow us to take that initial hit, and run with it.  And now we had the time and the space to dedicate to these other causes that really fulfilled us and really excited us to share more of who we are and to build other people and in lines of work that are sharing light, and love and strength.  My wife and I are both entrepreneurs and her business was growing and is growing and so she had great momentum as Rio's business was in a great place to then take off even more and she now had time. Now I'm an at-home-dad trying to grow his business. I had this lull. I had random coaching calls here and there so it was this almost awkward time of being being dad while still coaching.  I think the hardest part for me in this new role as a stay-at-home dad at first was, that was a role I never thought I'd be in. Like all growing up I thought I'd be the breadwinner, I'd be the one going to work from you know eight to five and that was what I always thought so then boom, here I am with the kids. Here I am changing diapers and making macaroni and it's like wow!  There was like weird feelings of like guilt or like embarrassment, or, you know, in those social gatherings, people would ask, "Oh, how's the coaching going?" and it was going, it was growing, but most of my day was spent stay-at-home dad. And so it was . . . you're just in between worlds, I feel like. Where in social gatherings you're different, and in business gatherings, you're different, as I'm like, at the park with other moms, and like, I'm the only dad there. So it was, at times, I'd say, just funky feelings.  All the while being encouraging and supportive of my wife who I was very proud of. And the work she's doing and like, "Heck yes!" like, "Go for it, ride this momentum that you have." And so that was just an interesting psyche feeling that, and . . . even last night, right? Like Tuesday's aren't my professional work days, and so I had a full day with the kids. And it was beautiful, and I loved it.  But I found myself at the end of the day, like having feelings of, "Well, Dave, you didn't grow your business," and "You didn't talk to this person and you didn't–" and it was like, wow, just beating myself up about what I didn't do. And like society, I feel like puts that pressure on business and growth.  And I was so quickly then–it was just a beautiful feeling, where my heart was just immediately filled with gratitude. And the specific faces of my kids at lunchtime when their faces are messy, but we're all sitting around the table just having lunch together. And it was like, wow, like what a gift. What a gift. What a special sacred time. And I don't ever want to bemoan my kids for keeping me from my professional development. And that's what it's like, what do you really want here? Like, if you had to give up anything for something, what would it be? And it's like, hands down, I'd give it all up for my kids. There's nothing that's more important than family. When I think about it and I dial in, I know God has been preparing and helping me to learn things that he needed me to learn. And experiences I needed to have to be here now as a stay-at-home dad several days a week, to trust that a bummer today is still an opportunity to learn and to grow and to become stronger and wiser because of it. And in those moments of when it's awkward, or when it's you know, I'm not relating to all the other dads in the same way.  It's, it's again, a peace of mind because I've received my answer that is unique to me, that this is where I need to be. This is what I'm to be doing. And in moving forward, that that peace of mind can put me in any awkward situation and I know who I am, I know where I stand.  I feel like God is preparing me now, in this experience we're talking about to really dial in and help me learn personal revelation. I think I've . . . it's safe to say I have sought more personal revelation in the past year and a half than I have in my entire life combined, with leading my business, with leading my family, with being a partner with my wife, and in so many ways, and the more I can understand how the Spirit communicates to me, the more I can navigate future challenges and future opportunities, and that seems to be maybe the biggest takeaway for me. KaRyn  8:39   That was Dave.  Dave and his wife, Rio, are both engaged in work that is all about preparation. In addition to his personal coaching business, they are the founders of Work + Wonder, which is a design company that makes these beautiful guided workbooks that help you get prepared so that you can get more from general conference.  We just knew that they would have something cool to share with us about this principle that they have dedicated so much of their life to. And I think it's really interesting that Dave pointed to their temporal preparation is the thing that saved them at first. But it became really clear throughout his story that without the spiritual preparation of honing his ability to receive revelation, the peace about his current situation would have been far more elusive than it is.  In that same general conference talk that I mentioned in the intro, "Embrace the Future with Faith," President Nelson invites us to learn and apply three principles of preparation from the life of Captain Moroni. He said quote, "First he helped them create areas where they would be safe. "Places of security" he called them. Second, he prepared the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord. And third, he never stopped preparing his people physically or spiritually," end quote.  I can see all three of these preparation principles in Dave's story as he leans into this unique opportunity to actively create emotional and physical security for his children. And as he practices receiving revelation that will anchor him in his faith, and give him continual courage to show up boldly, as himself, wherever he goes.  Our next story comes from Jenny, who was prepared by God for a unique work in a way that no one would have expected. Here's Jenny. Jenny  10:22   I still remember my first symptoms, I was running out of breath, especially when walking or going up the stairs, and I couldn't talk on my phone and walk at the same time, which was ridiculous, because I had a busy life. And I needed that time to do that.  I chalked it up to just being overwhelmed. I had just been called as Relief Society President and I was writing my dissertation, and I was a TA for a history class on campus. But one day, I was talking to my dissertation advisor, and she recommended that I go get my blood drawn and see what was going on in my blood.  So I went to the student health center, they drew my blood, the next day, I was on my way to campus and I got a call from the nurse at the student health center. And she said, "I need you to go to the emergency room." And I said, "Well, actually, I'm on my way to class, I need to lead a study group for an exam." And she said, "Well, if you're driving into campus, why don't you come to the health center? There's a problem with your blood test."  So I got to campus, I went straight to the student health center, and the nurse was a little frantic. And I was only frantic because I still had to get to that classroom. And I was late. But she sat me down, and she said, "Let's call your doctor." So we called and the doctor was out of the office for two weeks. And so she said, "I need to send your test results to the ER, which hospital would you like to go to?"  I didn't know which hospital was there, I'd never been to the hospital in Virginia. So I quickly thought of one that I knew the name of. And she said, "Do you have someone that can go with you to the hospital?" And I immediately thought of my stake Relief Society president who I'd been with the night before. And she said she would always be willing to help me in whatever way possible. So she came to my house and picked me up and we spent the next 10 hours in the ER.  Meanwhile, my Bishop came to visit, brought lunch, came back later to give me a blessing. Doctors were in and out, and finally they decided that they were going to admit me and give me some blood because my platelets were really low. So I spent the night in the hospital getting a blood infusion. And the next morning, the hematologist came in and said, "We need to do a bone marrow biopsy." I started to panic. And the bishop said, "Is it okay if I stay in the room while this happens?" And the doctor said, "No, you need to go out of the room."  So, they prepared me for the biopsy. And my Bishop stood outside my door and talked to me through the door. And it was very painful. The bone marrow biopsy was very painful. So my doctor told me, "We'll,"–it was a Saturday, he said–"We'll discharge you in just a little while and have you come into my office on Monday for the results." And I was like, "Okay." So I was just waiting for the discharge, and the doctor came back and said, "I need to speak to you alone."  And he sent everyone out of the room. And he sat down next to my bed and told me that I had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. And I looked at him and said, "What? Can you write that down? I have no idea what you're talking about." And so he wrote that down and he said, "We need to get you started immediately on chemotherapy." And I was in such a buzz. I didn't even know how to process it.  It just seemed ridiculous to me. I was a marathon runner and I went to body pump class every week, twice a week. And I was busy. I had lots of stuff to do, and this is a ridiculous waste of time. But I knew it was serious just by the way that he talked to me. When my Bishop came back in the room, I asked him if he could call my mom because I couldn't bear the thought of calling my mom to tell her and he said he would take care of that. My brother in law sent my mom on the first plane to D.C. When she walked into the room, it was 11:30 at night. And she walked into the room and we both just started crying and she just climbed into bed with me and held me and told me how much she loved me.  The next day was Sunday and another doctor came in and sat down to talk to me and she said "Now, I want to know what some of your concerns are. Are you afraid of dying?" And I'm like, "What!? No, I am in the middle of so many good things. And I have a mission in life." I had felt compelled to do Latter-day Saint women's history, and I said, "No, I'm not gonna die, and my mission life isn't done. And plus, I've got to have kids. I mean, my patriarchal blessing says that I'll have children." I don't think I used that word because she wouldn't have known what that was. But she said, "Oh, honey, we need to talk." And she explained the gravity of the situation. And I still, I don't think it's really sunk in.  I had felt so strongly about doing Latter-day Saint women's history. It was a circuitous route for me to figure out what my mission in life was. As a research assistant working for two women historians, I was reading the Nauvoo Relief Society minutes. And it was like their words, were speaking to me, I could hear them whispering, telling me that they existed, that they were important people, that they had done a great work. And I wanted to learn more. And I wanted to tell everyone about these women, about Emma Smith, and Eliza R. Snow, and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, and the extraordinary things that they were doing, and I saw how progressive and incredible these women were, the work that they did, and going to medical school, and in storing grain, and I loved them, and I wanted to learn more about them. And I wanted to share their voices with other people.  I did feel like Heavenly Father was communicating to me that this was my life mission, and that he and others would be with me. That is what sent me to graduate school, and that's what sent me to Fairfax, Virginia, to get a PhD in American history at George Mason University. But suddenly, here I was in a hospital in Arlington, Virginia, realizing that my life was coming to a screeching halt.  I was actually grateful that my Bishop decided to keep me in as Relief Society president. It really kept my mind off of the craziness of chemo and going bald, and I was surrounded by love. And it wasn't just the friends or my mom that were there, it was my ladies. It was Emma and Eliza and Emmeline and Zina, and I knew they were there to bolster me up and to help me.  I made it through two years of chemo. And after my chemo, I was in remission. My body still wasn't quite the same. I knew I was never going to run another marathon, but I was able to press forward and finished my dissertation. So I graduated, I landed my dream job working at the Church history department in Salt Lake City. I moved to Utah, I bought the house, I started my first project. And I went in to establish continuing care with a blood cancer clinic at LDS hospital.  And they took my blood and suddenly wanted to do another bone marrow biopsy. And I knew I was in trouble. So I called my mom and she came up to Salt Lake, and I called a neighbor from my ward who came and gave me a priesthood blessing. He told me that this will just be a small blip in your life, you have a lot of things to do. But sure enough, they could quickly tell that my leukemia had returned and that my blood was 98% leukemic. Again, I had been tired, but I just, I just wrapped it up to having moved and trying to settle in and getting started on a really exciting project at work. But this took me out of work for another year. And this time with this second diagnosis of recurrence. I was mad. I had lined up everything. Everything was ready, everything was in place. I was mad that God would allow this to happen. That he had preserved me through that first bout of cancer, and that I knew this was going to be a long road. I was mad at my body for not holding up like I wanted it to. And I was mad that I was going to have to tell my new job that I was going to need to take some time off. And I was mad that the project I was working on wasn't going to get done. I was mad.  And I . . . really, it was really hard for me to pray. I wasn't in a good place with God. I couldn't open my heart to Him because I had closed it up because I was scared and I was mad.  So at this point I needed to have a bone marrow transplant. Now, in preparation for a bone marrow transplant, they have to obliterate your bone marrow, so that when they give you these new stem cells, they'll know to create new bone marrow. Before my bone marrow transplant, I had another priesthood blessing from a man who was a friend of mine in my stake presidency.  And he told me that the Lord had a plan for me, and that my life would be preserved. That nothing would prevent me from filling my mission. He promised me that my health would ebb and flow, but that I would live and that I would be a witness to his mighty hand.  So I did it. I went in for the bone marrow transplant. My brother, Ben, was a perfect match, and bless his hearth, he was such a trooper. It was an awful experience. I had to do full body radiation, I had to do some brain radiation, I was scared to death that I was gonna lose some of my ability to think and write and do research. And I really struggled with that. But I did it. And almost immediately after the transplant, I started experiencing some of those side effects.  My esophagus was inflamed, I couldn't drink or eat anything I was on fluids and nutrients . . . and I was so miserable, I was on a pain pump. And I don't remember hardly anything for probably two weeks. And I remember one doctor coming in and saying, "Jenny, we have to bring you to the brink of death, so that we can bring you back to life." It was a long, hard, seven or eight weeks in the hospital, and then a long hard recovery period. After about a year, I started feeling better. I went back to work, we were doing a collection of women's discourses, a book. And I loved it. Finding these women brought me so much energy and hope and joy. And as my body was recovering, I could feel them pulsating through my blood. The book was coming out, I was so excited. I knew that these women were proud that their words were being made accessible, and that I knew that other women would find such joy and hope and faith in their words. And I was so excited and invigorated and I was ready for my next projects.  When I came to understand at a follow-up at my clinic, that my leukemia had come back. This time it had not entered my bones. My brothers marrow had made my marrow strong enough to stop it from entering the marrow, but my DNA was still wanting to form lymphoblastic leukemia. And so it went to the next blood barrier, which was my bone. And I had leukemic lesions on my spine and sternum and ribs.  I remember I was at the conference, the Western History Association Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. And I got a call from my doctor. And she said, "Jenny, I'm sorry, Your cancer is back, and you're going to have to do another bone marrow transplant." I was done. I was like, "I'm not going through that again. I will not do that again." There's there's such a low chance of success with a second bone marrow transplant. Every time the cancer recurs, you have less and less of a chance of overcoming it and of being cured. I was at my wit's end.  I remember meeting one day with my pulmonologist who told me that his son had died a year previous of a drug overdose. And he said, "Jenny, you're not 80 years old. My son has 0% chance of living, but you, even if you have 10% chance of living, you have to try." And I thought all of a sudden of that priesthood blessing that I'd had before my transplant, where I had been told that I had a mighty work to perform and that my life would not end until that mission had been filled. And I realized that I needed to do everything that I could to keep my body alive. And so I agreed. Just before the second transplant from my other brother. We discovered that I had pneumonia. And we had to get that cleared up before we could move forward with the transplant. But, it was elusive, we couldn't figure out what was causing the pneumonia. So for three months, I was on oxygen, and I have never felt so close to death in my life. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sleep.  I remembered the account of Jane Snyder Richards. She was a woman from upstate New York, who had married and come to Nauvoo, and had a baby. A beautiful daughter named, she named her 'Wealthy." I love that name. And her husband, as soon as the Saints were leaving Nauvoo, her husband was called to go on a mission to England, and she was pregnant with a second baby. And he left, and that baby was born and lived about an hour and died. And her daughter Wealthy, the toddler, was getting very sick, and there was no food to give to her. And Jane also was very sick. And soon, Wealthy died. And Jane had no strength. She had no ability to carry on–she was all alone. And she remembered she said, "I only lived because I could not die."  I thought a lot about that. And I thought about how death wouldn't be so bad. It would be great to be released from this physical body. But I knew that I had to live. I knew that I had to fulfill my mission. I didn't even have the energy to pray or to seek for revelation, I was giving everything I could to surviving. One day two friends came to visit and had lunch. And it was so good to see friends. And I had this little spark of revelation. And it was that little spark that made me realize, "Oh, I have a work to do. We've got to figure this out." And so I realized that I had to do everything that I could to figure out what the pneumonia was so that I could then have the bone marrow transplant so that I could then preserve my body.  So I called my Bishop. And this is a different Bishop in Salt Lake City. And he came over and we decided to have a ward fast. And a lot of my friends joined in and it was a really tender thing. And they prayed that the doctors would discover what was happening, and how we could fix the pneumonia and move on to the transplant. We weren't praying for mighty miracles that I would all of a sudden be healed and be able to run another marathon. We were just praying for information. And it came.  They realized that I had inflammation in my lungs from the targeted radiation to those leukemic lesions on my ribs and spine and sternum. And so they put me on steroids. And almost immediately the pneumonia was gone. And I was able to have that second bone marrow transplant. It just so happened to be on Good Friday, where I received the blood of my brother. And he gave me new life, and I'm so grateful for that. The process wasn't as bad the second time. I was able to stay at home and able to heal quite quickly and I was able to get back into work as soon as possible. At the same time, I received an assignment to write a book about Emma Smith. And I was really excited. It was a slow process. As I learned to listen to my body and give myself naps, and go on walks and build up the energy and the lung capacity.  As I finished the book, I started to feel Emma with me. And I began to understand what she had felt when time after time, something had come up and prevented her from doing what she wanted to do. I knew that feeling, and I knew that she knew that I knew. She received a revelation in 1830 instructing her to select hymns. That didn't happen for six years. She was also taught to expound scripture and exhort the Church, that she was an elect lady. That didn't happen for 12 years, when the Relief Society began 1842.  I felt suddenly, like I was . . . my life experience was really preparing me to understand this length of time and this need to be patient in the Lord. And to–as Emma was told–to take the time to study and learn. I still don't believe that God planned for me to suffer in such a physical way. But I do believe that he intended for me to have an earthly mortal experience. And that he would never leave me alone, that I would have him and my Heavenly Mother, that I would have Jesus Christ, and I would have my host of women with me, and that with them, I can do it.  I loved learning that Emma was the first woman to receive the temple ordinances. And I've often reflected on that as I've healed. Oh, how I loved learning about the promises to our physical body, and realizing that even though my body is imperfect, and a little bit broken, and a little bit scarred, and I even have tattoos from radiation, that my body one day will rise again. And that this life is a preparation for that, in the same way that it was a preparation for me to better understand Emma.  My relationship with God has certainly improved. I've realized how much I need my Heavenly Parents. I need their love, and I need their light. And I yearn for that. And there are days where I'm tired, and where I struggle with energy, but I know that I can draw upon them. I have a great earthly host and a great heavenly host. And I know that just as I was told my health would ebb and flow, that my life will be preserved. And that all of this experience is for my good. KaRyn  32:28   That was Jenny Reeder. I've been privileged to know Jenny since our days in Washington D.C. together, but because I skipped town just before she got her diagnosis, I was stuck witnessing that heroic battle with leukemia from faraway.  I love learning from the story that she always felt her Heavenly host and her earthly army surrounding her. And all of those details of just how this experience prepared her for her mission here on Earth. In fact, you might recognize Jenny's name from her work on several historical books about the women in the early church, including her newest book "First," which is that book about the life of Emma Smith that she mentioned.  It's finally finished, and it is so, so, so good. And in part, I think that's because of what Jenny shared with us here. She was made ready to know Emma in a way that qualified her to do that work. To empathize and to love her because of her humanity, not in spite of it. I also really appreciate Jenny's understanding that God didn't want her to suffer, but he did lovingly allow her to have what she called an earthly mortal experience. And I really believe that it was her spiritual preparation before her experience that helped her to find the truth in the middle of it all, that God would not leave her alone, and that all these things will work together for her good. Now, if you're anything like me, you're wondering how much preparation is enough preparation ahead of the hard things that are coming? How can I know that I've dug enough trenches like Captain Moroni or read enough scriptures to fortify my faith against a layoff or a medical crisis? Or that I've shoved enough cans of dry beans under my bed?  I can be so concrete in my thinking about heavenly things that sometimes, I admit, I get caught up in the worries about enoughness. Well, I had a really cool experience as I was thinking about all of this that I want to share with you.  I'm not a nighttime study-er of the scriptures. But I felt compelled the other night to open my scriptures before bed, even though I literally thought I would pass out of tiredness before I got one verse in, but I followed that prompting, and I just opened to the place where my scriptures naturally fall open. And of course, it was Ether, chapters two through six and the story of the brother of Jared.  I honestly thought there was nothing else for me to see in the scriptures because I have read them so many times and highlighted basically every word in them. But that night, as I was thinking about this theme, I saw something I had never seen before, or at least never noticed before. And I felt like I'd unlocked some secret room in a house that I was so familiar with.  The word "Prepare" is everywhere. In chapter two, verse 25, the Lord tells them that he will prepare them against these things, the mountain, waves, and the winds. That he has to prepare them, because otherwise they can't survive. And then he asks them, "What should I prepare for you so that you can have light?" The brother of Jared shows up with his offering in chapter three, verses four and five, they have prepared the vessels and the stones, and he asked the Lord to prepare them to shine.  Later, in chapter six, it talks about how the Jaredites prepared all manner of food to sustain them on the ocean, and then commended themselves to the Lord their God. And this is what I realized while I was reading this. Preparation is a conversation. It is not a one sided endeavor. The Lord promises that He'll prepare us, because He has to prepare us. We can't meet the winds and the waves by ourself. And then he asks us what we can do so that he can prepare us.  We offer our best ideas, our best efforts, whatever we have to give, even if it's only a long extension cord, or five minutes of sincere prayer and scripture study, at the end of an exhausted day. We prepare the stones, then He prepares the stones. We gather all the honeybees we can find and we put them in the boat, and then he brings the boat back up like a whale in the ocean. You see? It's a conversation. We prepare, and he prepares us. There is no such thing as "enough" in this beautiful back and forth. We just have to keep the conversation going on our end.  We just have to show up for our kids, despite the pressures of society to focus elsewhere, as we teach them that our love is their refuge. And then God gives us revelation that strengthens our heart in our moments of self doubt. We ask our friends to pray and fast with us to find a solution, and then he prepares us to receive that solution.  There was one more use of the word "Prepare" in that section of Ether that I have never noticed before. In chapter three, after the brother of Jared offers the stones to the Lord, he sees the Savior's finger as he lights the stones. And then the brother of Jared is swept up into the presence of the Lord because of his faith. In that sacred place, after all this talk of preparation and preparing, the Lord says this to the brother of Jared in verse 14, "Behold, I am He who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, I am the father and the son, in me shall all mankind have life."  We cannot have any conversation on preparation without acknowledging that from the foundation of the world, before you or I even existed on this earth, Christ was made ready to redeem us. That Atonement covers all of the dot dot dots in the middle of our conversations with God. And while those 16 stones held steady against the darkness, I imagine that it was this understanding of our Savior's sacrifice that was the real true light in that boat with the brother of Jared. When the winds raged and the waves sucked them below the waters. And as we cultivate our own knowledge of his divine mission, as we continue to converse with the Lord, light and hope will be with us as we face our own dark corners, all because of the salvation proffered us in that ultimate act of preparation. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers, Dave and Jenny. You can find out more about our storytellers and the beautiful work that each of them is doing to help us get prepared. Dave and his wife Rio through their Work + Wonder project to get us ready for conference, and Jenny's new book first all about Emma Smith. These will be in our show notes at LDS And you can also find us and more information on our Facebook page or our Instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast. We'd love to see you there.  All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. Thank you to everyone who has bravely shared your story with us on the pitch line. We find a lot of stories that way. And we will be relying on it heavily as we prepare to gather our themes and stories for next season. If you've got a story to share about a time when the gospel of Jesus Christ changed you, we want to hear from you. The best pitches will be short, sweet, and they'll have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch your story when you call 515-519-6179.  Do you have a favorite episode of this podcast? Please, please, please tell us about it. You can leave a review on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen on. We read every single one and really appreciate your help in knowing what's valuable to you as our friends. This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay with story production and editing by 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 Living comm slash podcasts.   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Mar 22, 2021
Letting the Light In
During a grueling, marathon recording of the concert film Lamb of God, cellist Nicole does what no musician working long hours ever wants to do. She asks composer and conductor Rob Gardner if they can record her difficult solo—again. In this song, called “Gethsemane," Nicole's cello represents the Savior. Rerecording pushes Nicole to her physical and emotional limits, but it is there that she not only finds the ability to depict Christ through the cello, but also learns about the Savior's ability to heal the darkness in her life. View show notes at Follow us on instagram and facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast 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 remember the first time I learned that there was even a thing called symbolism. It was in my ninth grade English class and we were reading "Silas Marner," the 1861 classic by George Eliot.  I thought George Eliot was so cool because she was a woman writing with a man's name. But what I didn't think was cool was the way Miss Terse, my English teacher whose name aptly described her personality, mind you, how Miss Terse kept pointing out the number three throughout the book. "Oh, look, the chair has three legs. Oh, look, there are three stars in the sky." I couldn't for the life of me figure out why the number three even mattered.  I distinctly remember using this as a jumping off point for some truly terrible junior high awfulness toward Miss Terse. I don't know if she's still teaching at a junior high somewhere in Pennsylvania and even if she is, I really doubt she's a podcast listener. But if by some small chance you're listening, Miss Terse, I was wrong. Please forgive me for being 14 because symbolism is now one of my favorite things in the whole wide world.  The fact that we can find connection and meaning by seeing ourselves in our emotions reflected in the world around us. To me, that is one of the deepest beauties of being alive on this earth.  Now, I still have no idea what the number three symbolizes. But the symbol of light is actually pretty easy. It's goodness, it's hope reflected in the life of Jesus Christ. In fact, we learn about the symbol in John chapter eight, verse 12, when Christ teaches, "I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."  And today, we have one beautiful story from Nicole all about light and pain and music and symbolism. But more importantly, it's about Christ and His ability to show us what light can really do for those of us who long to be made whole. Here's Nicole. Nicole  2:20   I have this sign that hangs in my office and it says, "A positive thinker sees opportunity in every difficulty. A negative thinker sees difficulty in every opportunity."  Recently, I had the opportunity to learn more about forgiveness. I had a really painful experience and to get to the other side of that experience, I had to forgive someone. And it was an act, I considered unforgivable. That wasn't the kind of thing that was just going to go away. It was going to have really lasting consequences not just for a long time, but to a real depth in my life.  I just got really down. I'm usually really positive person and so I went through the motions of life and just tried to keep my spirits up and push it out of my mind. But the more I tried to push it out of my mind, the more power it seemed to have over me, especially late at night. I stopped sleeping, really started worrying a lot and that's really not very good for anyone.  In the meantime, I was having all these cool things happen in my career. What I do for a living is play the cello. And really what that means to be a professional cellist, at least for me, is I get to do three different things. I get to teach children, which I absolutely love. I get to record really cool music. And then I also perform.I used to perform a lot but, of course, performing lately doesn't really happen.  During this difficult time, I was given the opportunity to do something really amazing, which was to record a concert film of the oratorio the "Lamb of God" by Rob Gardner. An oratorio is when someone tells a story, but they tell that story through singing. Unlike a musical or opera, it's not really acted out. Singers just stand in front of an orchestra and choir that's, you know, the most common way in oratory is sung.  The most common oratory most people would have heard of is "The Messiah." Now, "The Messiah" is about Jesus Christ. This oratorio [the "Lamb of God"] is also about Jesus Christ. In this oratorio, the cello, that instrument I play, represents the voice of Christ. So I have to admit, I was super intimidated because that is a role I never expected to play in my life—and I'm a very human person.  At the same time, it made sense because like all the human characters in the life of Christ are represented through people on stage. So it was really a brilliant way of communicating the divine. The cello represents Jesus. The violin also represents a divine person, he represents Heavenly Father. And by the way, if you end up listening to this piece, the cello doesn't always represent Christ. There's a theme that represents Christ. And it's like this. There are different ways that theme appears, and the marker really is a step down and then a leap up. That's when you know that Jesus is speaking.  Recording is always hard. It's never easy. But this was a particularly difficult recording. We did not record to the click. What recording to click means is that there's like a metronome and everyone's earpiece so that the timing of the piece is exactly the same every time you play it. This is how almost everything is recorded, all the time, everywhere. Because what happens is, we're all human beings, even skilled musicians. If we play a song three times in a row, we might play one section best the third time, another section best the first time and another section best the second time. Or we might play a whole song fabulously, but five seconds is not good.  Well, when you record the click, you can take a few seconds from one take, and just snippet into another take and it works. But if you record without click, then you really must play the whole piece not just perfectly, because that's the wrong word for music, you must play the piece with spectacular precision and exquisite emotion over and over. That is what we were trying to do.  We were doing this recording during COVID, which means that we basically had to record the project as fast as we could before anybody got sick and as safely as we could. What should have been like maybe eight hours a day recording for five days in a row, we instead recorded for almost 12 hours two days in a row.  The reason it's so unusual for music to be recorded this way is tiny muscles don't take the abuse that big muscles and the mind do. The voice gets tired, the fingers get tired, lips get tired. So it's really unusual to ever be asked to record more than eight hours in a day. In fact, a recording day is more like five hours, which makes people think we don't work very hard for what we do. But let me tell you, musicians work so hard singers work so hard. So that was one of the things that made this challenging the compressed schedule.  Then there's the weirdness that goes on. Right now, we're all in masks, we're trying not to talk to each other. There was a lot that was really challenging, but there were really many cool parts of this process. And playing the music was definitely the best part.  I've been able to play a lot of concerts since COVID, which is really unusual. But they've all been really small intimate projects. This one involved a lot of people. Even though we weren't talking to each other and socializing, we were making a lot of music together. So here we are in the middle of this process, trying to tell this really grand, magnificent story. I have the responsibility of expressing the voice of God and we come to this song that's called "Gethsemane." "Gethsemane" is about what happens in the garden, which is the Atonement. The Atonement is such a difficult thing for a human being to wrap their head around, obviously, we're not capable. At the same time, it's important that we make that effort to understand what it is.  So here comes the melody of Jesus, the one I told you about where it goes back and forth down and then rises up. There's some narration at the beginning of "Gethsemane," and then you come to the voice of Christ. It's so beautifully written. It's really hard for a composer to write for a string player, most composers use the piano to write, and pianos have five fingers. The string players only can use four fingers at a time. Many brilliant composers don't understand this. Rob totally does. He writes melodies that work for string players, they fit under the hand, they fit across the strings. It's like he plays the cello. Except at the end of "Gethsemane," the cello has to make these really awkward leaps. I didn't know how I was going to execute them gracefully. This is the most magnificent moment in history. This is why I believe in the Savior. So how am I going to pull this off?  Rob starts conducting and I'm thinking to myself, "Okay, I've got one shot to portray it well, beautifully. I think I can do that, which is a lot of confidence there. But this thing coming up farther on, oh my gosh, how am I going to make that sound good? Let alone be in tune, let alone be connected. So I prayed for help.  I was blessed with a calm feeling and the presence of a word—Abba. It's my understanding that Abba is a really unique and remarkable name for father because it doesn't really mean father, it means daddy. At the same time, it indicates a real depth of respect for a father while having this really sweet connection as daddy. So with that feeling, I was able to play through "Gethsemane" and Rob was happy with it. So we went on.  But even though I recognize the beauty of that gift, of that experience, the truth is that I didn't think I had done it good enough. It just kind of kept nagging at me and I was trying to decide, "Okay, am I being too hard on myself? Do I really need to play it again? Am I being inspired somehow?" I actually ruminated about this overnight, and came back to recording the next day. As I had more clarity, this phrase kept coming to mind. The phrase is, "The Lord appreciates effort." That quote comes from President Nelson. Every time I would think of that, I kept thinking of him smiling when he said it. So I thought, you know, "I think I need to play this again."  I got the guts up to ask Rob. I was kind of worried about what he'd say beause it's really expensive to ask an orchestra, a choir, the camera, the lights, the team, the facility, say "Oh, Rob, I know you consider that song done and who knows how much money it's gonna cost but can we play it again?" So anyway, I got the guts up and he was so nice about he said, "Hey, sure, that'd be great. We can rerecord 'Gethsemane' when the whole rest of the oratory is finished." I must admit, I thought to myself, "Yay!" I think because I was pretty wiped out already by then, but it made sense. We had to finish so if we had time to go back, we would.  We finished the oratorio and only the replay of "Gethsemane" was left. I was excited. I was scared. My arms were on fire. My neck was on fire. My back was on fire. I guess it's kind of like an athlete at the end of a marathon. I've never run a marathon but at that point, I was in the marathon of cello playing. My mind was tired, my muscles were tired. I didn't really think that I could actually play this any better at this moment because I wasn't fresh. I wasn't at my best. And, you know, I'm trying to act like none of that's happening because this is my job. I am a professional, at least I try to be. But I had asked for it. So what am I supposed to say? My thoughts were kind of racing, but I took some deep breaths. I thought, "This is gonna be just fine. It's gonna be okay." And then right at that moment, I noticed some drops of blood on the floor. I was like, "Oh my gosh, I'm bleeding." It sounds worse than it really was because for string players and pianists, honestly, our calluses split open in the winter all the time. There's not a lot of feeling to the calluses. So for me, the way I deal with it, some people super glue it shut, but I just stick a bandage on it and some ointment. Luckily, a violist had some handy so I got rescued, put the bandage on my thumb, and he [Rob] started conducting.  Well, as soon as I put my bow on the string and started playing, I realized that it wasn't just that my callus had split but the thumb, the nail was separating from the skin of my thumb. So even though I was holding my bow really lightly, just that little bit of pressure, and every time I moved, I was pulling the skin away from the nail. This had never happened to me before. It was so painful. I really didn't know how I was going to keep playing. But I knew I shouldn't stop. The musician never stops. So I prayed again. This time, I really cried out in my mind, like, "Help." And right away, it felt as if there were hands on my head. I recognize the feeling. That's that's what it feels like when you receive a priesthood blessing. And even though the pain was excruciating, it didn't change the pain, I knew that there was an angel there. I didn't really have a sense of who it was, but I knew I was being blessed and it comforted me.  We went through the piece. To be honest, because it hurts so much I didn't have a lot of awareness of how it was sounding. I was really connecting with that warmth of that feeling. So when it was all done, you know, Rob gives the conductor cue. He looked over at me and smiled warmly and said, "That was absolutely beautiful. Thank you, Nicole, would you like to do that again?" I didn't want to tell him and what bad shape I was in and what had happened to my thumb. But I looked up and I looked at everyone's faces around me and I could tell everybody was just as tired as I was. I'm usually pretty professional at sessions. I tried to behave professionally, but I looked around and I opened my mouth and I said, "I can't. That's too much pressure." Everybody just cracked up because, you know, they're not used to anyone talking like that. So we all just cracked up. And Rob just said, "Well, hey, listen, we're here. So let's do it again." And I thought to myself, "Oh my gosh, typical musician, typical conductor. Of course, you gave him the choice, he's gonna say, "Let's do it again." It's the musicians only lie: one more time.  So we started again. This time, the pain was just as bad as before and I cried out in my mind for a third time. This time I expected a miracle, right? This time, nothing happened. I didn't feel hands. I didn't feel an angel. I didn't hear voice. I felt so alone. I felt so abandoned. So what I did to deal with it, is I just like crawled inside my head. I crawled inside my body.  What was really amazing about what happened then is I found an awareness of my fingers that I'd never had before. My fingers like had a mind of their own. They started just flying through those notes like they had lived their whole life for this moment. Me, the person, I had just been along for the ride this whole time.  So we got to the end, Rob gave the cut off. I just listened to the silence. I looked up, and all of a sudden, everyone started cheering. That was the first time I realized that I had played it well. Rob said, "Well, man, that is how we end." I was so happy to be done like everyone else. That wasn't just happy to be done. We were proud because a collective effort felt like it was worthy of the work. Everyone always gives their whole heart to what they do as an artist. But when you are deprived of the opportunities to communicate your music because of COVID and that is your chosen passion, your chosen vocation, what you've spent your life doing, that gratitude for the experience of performing was so powerful. We really celebrated. We were happy.  But this is the thing. That was an amazing experience, and surely it helped. But I didn't really snap out of it. Even though I wanted to leave my heart behind and genuinely feel happy, smile from inside when I saw people instead of pretending. As hard as I tried that real heaviness that darkness returned. A couple weeks later, I finally hit bottom. It was in the middle of the night. I actually wasn't making any noise. I wasn't tossing and turning. But my husband spoke out loud. And he said, "Nicole, are you okay?" And I said, "No, I am not okay. I'm so not okay." I have spent so many nights of my adult life sad and alone. I am so blessed that right now, I'm married to the most amazing man. He just held me in his arms, and I just cried.  As I cried in his arms, I realized something. I thought, "You have all these tools at your disposal and you're not really using them. You could be praying more, you could be reading your scriptures more, you could ask your husband for a blessing."  And as all these thoughts quickly went through my mind, I blurted out, "Bryce, would you give me a blessing?" And he said, "I would love to, Nicole. I was hoping you would ask me." He just jumped right up. It was like 3:34 in the morning. And I was like, "Oh, you don't have to now. You can go to sleep. He's like, "Let me help you." So there in our PJs, in the middle of the night, a husband and wife got to connect in a really beautiful way.  Then one day, I thought to myself that I should talk to my bishop about this. I made an appointment with him and I went into his office. I told him this whole awful ordeal and it was the first time I had said it out loud. All of it.  I think for many of us, when we bring things to our bishop, we're embarrassed. We don't want to bring these burdens to their life. I definitely felt that way. He just listened carefully and after I had finished, he explained that it was a bishop's job not to take a burden and keep it. But it was a bishops job to take a burden and to give it to the Savior. And ultimately, my job was to take this burden and to give it to the Savior myself. But in the meantime, he could give this much away for me.  We talked about forgiveness. We talked about what it is and what it isn't. And it's interesting growing in the lessons of forgiveness because they're very simple. I think we all know them. It's so like music, you can know something is supposed to be a certain way as a cellist just because you know, it doesn't mean you can play it that way. It really must be practiced. So I think it's the same with forgiveness.  With forgiveness, we know it's not saying that something's okay. It's not saying something was supposed to happen or should have happened. We can completely reject the event. It's even appropiate to completely set up a boundary with that person. What forgiveness really is, is choosing to leave the hurt, choosing to leave that place of negativity, choosing to see opportunity in this difficulty.  At the end of our meeting, I asked my bishop for a blessing. It wasn't till then, when he stood behind me and placed his hands on my head, that I somehow put everything together that final few seconds of the cello passage and "Gethsemane." The ones that I struggled with in that recording, that few seconds that made me ask to do that piece over again. That difficulty was intentional. It was but a shadow of what the Atonement was for the Savior. The Atonement for the Savior is not something I can understand. But I can understand how hard it is to do that. The bleeding, the nails splitting, I was meant to play that at the end of my limits in pain and feeling totally alone.  There's a painting I love by the artist James Christensen. It shows a woman with her hand outstretched with this little tiny coin in her hand. The widow's mite represents this sweet old woman who has almost nothing to give. But the little that she has to give, she presents to the Savior.  In my mind's eye, as I was receiving this blessing from the bishop, I realized that I was that woman and now it was time to give up and submit. Just surrender not just my own widow's mite that I had to give, but the hurt that was locked inside of me. I saw the Savior reaching out to me, and he was smiling.  In that moment, I understood that he had already paid the price. That when I would give Him this burden, it wouldn't make Him hurt. That part was over. The path that lay ahead was one of light of love, and joy.  When we leave our pain and our hurt to the Savior behind, a new path opens before us a path of love, a path of service, a path of bringing light to other people's lives. And being the light that we didn't get to have. We get to be that light for someone else.  The blessing ended. I actually didn't tell my bishop what had just transpired in my mind. We parted with friendly, warm words. Then I left the church building out into this cold, sunny winter day. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, on my hair, even my mind.  I knew it would be different for me now because I was walking in the light. The light and love that really comes from our Savior–here's nothing quite like it. I took a deep breath and almost felt like I was taking the first deep breath of my life. I smiled a smile that came from the inside, all the way from my heart. And I put one foot in front of the other and walked into the light. KaRyn  28:00   That was Nicole, the principal cellist in the film recording of the oratorio the "Lamb of God."  I'm going to tell you so much more about this film because, as you could tell from that little bit that you heard in the story, it is a powerful testimony of the life of our Savior. But before we can even get to that, we have to talk about the light. Couldn't you feel it in Nicole's story?  I love that shift, that symbol of reaching from the bottom of the string to the top in the midst of her suffering so that she could represent the Savior well with the voice of her cello. That moment when she felt the heavenly hands on her head, only to be asked to enter the pain one more time and this time to be left alone in her suffering, but with a supernatural ability to transform that pain and isolation into beautiful music.  And finally, the realization with her Bishop's support that all of those moments were an echo, however faint, of the very experience of our Lord and Savior when he drank the bitter cup, and as it tells us in Alma, chapter 7, verse 13 when he took upon Him the sins of His people, that He might blot out their transgressions according to the power of His deliverance.  All of these symbols, layered upon symbols of representation were exactly what Nicole needed to understand a simple truth. The truth that when we offer our sorrow and our pain and our infirmities to the Lord, especially the ones we don't know how to handle, the ones that cloud our heads and leave us sleepless with worry, we can trust that He can handle it, that He alone has already handled it.  We can trust that He knows the unique shape and heft of our burdens intimately, because He's already held them as He paid the price of our possible transformation. We accept the gift that he gave us in Gethsemane when we lift our hands up in a full surrender of the things that we cling to, just as Nicole did.  In that moment, the real work of His Atonement can begin in each of us. The real work of changing us from the natural man or the natural woman into a true disciple, a child of light.  And now I'm really excited to tell you that we have the incredible opportunity, for the first time ever to experience this oratorio, "The Lamb of God" this stunning work of sacred music in theaters–as they reopen safely in some areas. And I cannot think of a better way to spend an afternoon–oh, I cry every time I say this, I cannot think of a better way to spend an afternoon or an evening as we ride out the tail end of this pandemic, and celebrate the coming of Easter.  We'll have links in our show notes so that you can find it if it's near you. And I know that theatres aren't an option for everyone, especially our friends who are listening across oceans. So we'll have other links to some of the music, including that overwhelming piece "Gethsemane" in our show notes at  I honestly can't wait to hear how this music transforms your worship this year. I know that for me, it's been an important new expression of my faith ever since I discovered it and I am so happy to be able to share it with you. I hope it brings light, more light, into your life. That's it for this episode of this is the gospel thank you to our storyteller Nicole for sharing her story and her gifts with us. I played the cello for a hot five minutes in that same ninth grade where Miss Terse was, and it didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't very good at it. So I really and truly appreciate all of Nicole's talents and the years and years she has spent honing that gift to testify of her love of Christ.  You can read more about Nicole and the "Lamb of God" oratorio in our show notes at LDS You can also find us on Facebook or Instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast. All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers.  And we find a lot of our stories through the pitch line. We'll be gathering stories and ideas for our next season soon. So get ready, get on there, share your stories. The best pitches will be short and sweet. And they'll have a clear sense of the focus. You'll have three minutes to pitch your story when you call 515-519-6179. And if you're still listening this far into the outro of the podcast, you are a true friend. I tried to make them interesting, but I don't always succeed, so it is no small feat that you got this far. And if you've made it this far, maybe you wouldn't mind taking it one step further and leaving us a review. We'd love to hear how this podcast is adding to your practice of the gospel.  You can find us on social media @thisisthegospel_podcast or leave us a review on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen on. And from one friend to another, thank you for spending time with us. We truly are grateful for you.  This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay with special help from Arthur Van Wagenen. It was edited by Kelly Campbell and 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   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Mar 15, 2021
Safe and Sound
12-year-old Houston and 10-year-old Hadley find themselves stranded offshore after the weather takes a turn for the worse on a paddle boarding excursion. The dropping temperatures and strong currents make their way home feel almost impossible, until the discovery of the family phone gives them a way to communicate with their mom, MeiLani, on shore, becoming a lifeline for them on their journey home. View shownotes at Follow us on instagram and facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast Transcript:  Erika  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 Erika Free, one of the story producers, and I'm filling in for KaRyn today.  I'm a huge homebody. I really like seeing new places, but my favorite moment is when I walk through the door and take my coat off after a long day or long vacation away from home.  I feel like I have an unconscious meter in me that's always telling me how far I am and how long it will take me to get home. And I honestly think it started when I was a missionary in Japan. There was this rule in the missionary handbook that said we should always have enough cash on hand to get back to the mission home at anytime from anywhere in the mission. My mission was decently big, so it created this extra awareness in me of always tracking home base.  I wish I could say that I always track my progress to my Heavenly Father and my heavenly home as much as I do the place where I actually live. I don't do that. But the story that I have for you today really got me thinking that maybe that's something I should do. It's told by some of our youngest storytellers yet. Houston—who's only 12—and Hadley—who's only 10—show their experience out at sea far from home. Whil MeiLani, their mom, tells us about her experience from the shore. We start with MeiLani, Houston and Hadley will join in later. Here's MeiLani MeiLani  1:22   So I was born in Hawaii, then I was actually raised in California. So I'm used to seeing the typical beach scene: the palm trees and the sand, like every picture you usually see of beaches is that type of beach.  But 10 years ago, we moved to the East Coast. We live about three hours away from the beach. And these coast beaches are very different. There are these beautiful, I think they're called like fox tails and reeds that come up really—and these dunes that you go over and you take a long boardwalk out to the water, whether you're on ocean side or the sound side.  The sound side doesn't have all the crashing waves. It's usually a little more peaceful, it's better for fishing, better, sometimes, for paddleboarding easy, that kind of things. Sometimes you'll see like oyster patches that they have a bunch of reeds. So very, very different than the West Coast beaches that I was raised on.  We were headed to a friend's beach house to visit their property because we run Airbnb vacation rentals and so kind of to collaborate on that, but also to hang out with friends. We ended up bringing a couple of our family members. So it ended up turning from 14 people into about 30 people at this big house and we were going to be here for seven days. All seven days had pretty much rain and a little snow. So anytime we would see the sun, we'd be like, "Okay, let's go. Let's go it take advantage of the sun."  So my sweet niece, her name is Dixie. Dixie went and took out two of my kids. Houston just turned 12 last week, and then also Hadley, who is almost about to turn 10, and then went out with one of our friends kids named Owen. Dixie is in her early 20s, so I felt like, "Okay, Dixie can handle this. Dixie can take those guys and all will be well. She's an adventurer. She's lived years in Alaska, like she can handle any sort of adventure." I totally trust her, 100 percent, that I was like, "Oh, okay, I'm down two kids, then I can totally go and hang out and just maybe I might actually read a book." So as I went down, and I was getting my book, and I was so excited because it's so fresh. It's never been opened, but it's sat on my book stand for many months.  I started to open my book and thought, "You know what, you got to take your book to go be out by the kids." I looked out and I was starting to sprinkle a little and so I was like, "Uh, no. It's gonna get my nice, clean book all wet." So I was like, "No, I'm fine." Then once again, I had the thought of, "You need to go out and be by the kids." When this prompting came to me the third time, and probably because we had just been studying Martin Harris a couple of weeks earlier, I really felt strongly of, "Okay, how many more times? Youu can't, I'm not going to give it to you again." So I went straight and got my jacket on, left the book behind and headed out to see the kids. So I started down this long boardwalk and I can see them as I'm walking out. Each of them had their own paddleboard or kayak. So we had Dixie, we had Owen, who is 14 years old, and then we had Hadley and Houston. Just in the period of me starting this walk of what 60 yards, the rain started getting harder and harder and I swear it dropped degrees every second I walked and it was getting colder and colder with this rain.  As they were out there, I saw three of them together and I saw Owen actually had kind of left them. So it kind of seemed as if Owen was like, "Peace out, I'm going back in. It's cold. This is no longer fun." And it's his house, so he's familiar with the terrain.  I can see the other three. I'm terrible with distances, but maybe 50 yards away, we'll say. Okay, maybe maybe a little bit less, maybe like 40. But it was far enough that they couldn't hear me, especially with the pounding rain, and it was really, really windy. So if I yelled, they really couldn't hear me very well at all, if at all, and I was about to yell, "Are you guys okay?" Right at that moment, and by this time, Owen, I see, is right along the reeds on my side. So there's no sand, okay, this isn't a sand beach because we're on the sound side. So they're, he's paddling along the reeds because along the reeds, there's not very much current. So he, you could tell, was seasoned enough to know, ride it down the current, and then paddle back along the reeds.  But that's when I looked out. And I saw, as I was, like, saying, "Hey! Hey!" and they weren't responding, couldn't hear me, I saw them getting out onto one of those big reed patches. I saw them put their arms around each other. I saw him put their arms around each other, and I could tell that they were starting to get scared. They were trying to starting to get nervous.  I thought at that point, "Okay, well, hopefully, I've done something right because they're turning to prayer pretty early. So hopefully, hopefully, that will work, hopefully that we're the right direction. As they finish their prayer, I could see them hug and then release.  During that time, I realized, "Okay, I've got to get, I've got to give them support. I've got to tell them, I've got to figure out a way to get the word out of just do what Owen did, just do it." And I'm trying to yell and they can't hear me. I'm trying to call Dixie's cell phone, and it's not working. By this time, some of my other family members are coming out because it is getting serious enough. I have my other niece there and she was so sweet, another Alaskan just that thinks that she can brave everything. She's like, "I'll go out there and I'll go rescue." Her dad came out and said, "No, I don't want you to go out there right now. Like, let's just focus on getting these ones back instead of losing another one."  But that's when my brother-in-law, all of a sudden, his phone rings. He said, "I can't answer this right now. I don't recognize this phone number." I look over, and I see that that's our family phone number. That's our family phone number. And I said, "No, wait! You answer that. That's them! That's them!"  The side note on this is I had very mixed emotions at this point because I was so so glad that they had a way to communicate. I was so excited as my mama bear instincts were coming out of I just want to, I just want to talk to you, I just want to be able to communicate to you, that I was so glad that I could finally get my message through. But then I was also a little bit ticked because just two days earlier, I had had a very good heart to heart with my 12-year-old son of, "This is our family phone. This is not your thinking-that-you're-already-a-teenager phone. This is not for you to text friends all the time. This is not for you to just use whenever you want. This is the family phone and you need to ask for permission before you use this." So I definitely had this, this the polar opposites of, "Yes, you did it!" But then at the same time, "Oh my gosh, he's not supposed to do that, but I'm so glad he did it."  So I thought I had this lifeline. I thought I was gonna be able to talk to him. So I grabbed the phone, I started to talk to him. It didn't take long to realize that they couldn't hear us very well. We couldn't hear them very well. The rain was so hard. The wind was so hard when i when i was listening in the phone, all you could hear was whooshing with a little here and there. You could hear like one word of every three words.  So we tried to tell him just to ride to the current just ride the current because if you rode the current down the sound so away from the ocean side, right? But it's going to go back out. This is an island. So there's another side to the ocean, right? But to go so that you don't go too far out we could see probably just over a mile down the water down the sound that there was a marina and at this marina where there's going to be boats to dock and stuff but there's also big tall logs like buoys but long logs that maybe you could go and catch on to one of those or something, okay.  So we saw just get down there and we were trying to communicate this but this was really not getting through and we're like, "Even if you get to the marina, that's okay, we'll come pick you up." But then we were like trying to point and so we finally just said, "Just go to the dock," which was about 10 docks down there. Had a green roof. So as we were trying to kind of say this is the plan, this is what you should do.  So they all get back in their boats and Dixie, poor Dixie, is walking back and forth on this reed patch that is full of those oysters. She's just walking back and forth like nothing and trying to move the boats in a different way. But also trying to decide at this point. I can see that she's questioning if all of them are functioning, you could tell that Hadley wasn't functioning so great. And she was stashing it so that, because Hadley couldn't function, she couldn't paddle on her own. So she was putting her Hadley into a boat that Dixie would be in charge of paddling. So Dixie could paddle Hadley's boat for her because she wasn't able to do it on her own. They just had to abandon it. That was actually still while we were on the phone. We could see Dixie tried to do that. To the point that Wayne and some of the other adults were like, "No, don't leave that over there. Like, this isn't our house. We don't want to pay for paddleboard, we don't want to lose it. So this is crazy weather. No, you have to take it."  And bless Dixie's heart. I think that's when she on purpose hung up on us. As if to say, "You do not understand what I'm going through. I'm just trying to get me and these kids back safe, like that paddle board does not matter anymore." Hadley  11:20   l started getting scared when it started, actually like pouring. And we went into the like weeds. Houston  11:31   Dixie was like, "Okay, see that marsh area over there?" There's a, there's these two that are like 10 yards apart. And then there's this other huge one. And we're like, since that huge one's over there, Dixie is like, "The current is going to be a lot softer and easier to paddle." So we tried to trust her. And then we get pushed in. We were so slow because of the choppiness. We just couldn't get there in time, and then we were just stuck there and couldn't really do anything going upwards. We had to go down. Hadley  11:59   That's when I started panicking, when like we just got pushed towards the marsh. I just started panicking. But I was like, "Stay calm, Hadley." Then I couldn't stay calm because then I started really panicking, and I was crying and I was sobbing and I was horrified on what next is going to happen.  And I was scared that we weren't going to be able to get back to the dock, even though it was only like 20 yards away. But like we couldn't like just go. And I was also scared that if we weren't trying to go, I would tip over because I it was really cold water. Houston  12:42   I agree. My two problems were we don't have a way to contact the—my three problems, I guess—we don't have a way to contact people. It's very cold. I'm not wearing shoes. I feel very cold, and it's hard for my muscles just to move because I'm so cold. Then if we tip over, that could make it a lot worse and a lot harder. So that's when we got out of our boats and we're kind of like just standing there thinking of a new plan. MeiLani  13:15   I almost had this self-evaluation of is this, "Should I be getting nervous?" And having this little silent prayer with Heavenly Father in this silent conversation of, "Should I be like calling authorities at this point?" Like is this, but I don't want to overreact. But I also wanted to give it the proper respect of however serious it was. So I had this conversation or the silent conversation of, "Okay, this is starting to get scary. I just wish I could talk to my kids." I just wish that they could hear me because if I was right there, I could, I could touch them. And I could look in their eyes and I could hold their little cute faces in my hands and be able to explain to them that it's going to be okay.  But at this point, I couldn't do that. But I still have this peace of everything's gonna be okay. Which was great for me, but I could tell that they were not okay. I couldn't comfort them, which was really hard. It's really hard as a parent to be so close, but still not be able to do anything to help and to see them struggle and just to have to sit and watch them struggle.  But then it was a few minutes later, I would say you know, as we were waiting and worrying and trying to decide what to do, that we did get another phone call from them. This time it was Dixie. At that point, they were starting to push off and starting to look like they were going in the right way. Dixie said, "Lani, I just don't know what to do. They're just not listening to me anymore. Hadley is not functioning, she's not going to be able to paddle. I'm having a hard time even pushing off because she's so nervous and scared." And I thought, "How can I help? I'm not there. I'm not going to be able to hold their face in my hands. I'm not going to be able to hug them and say you got this."  So I thought, "What could they do? And I said, "Dixie," and, mind you, it's still super windy, super rainy. We can barely hear any words. And I said, "Dixie, I just need you to say to her 'Hocks do.'" Our last name is Hock, and I said, "Just say 'Hocks do.'" And I said it over and over again, "Just say 'Hocks do.'"  And she said, "Wait, what? Just say, 'Hocks do what? Hocks do what?'" I said, "No, just say 'Hocks do.'" And Dixie said to her in the rain, in the rain, and the wind. 'Hocks do, Hadley. I'm supposed to say Hocks do." I could hear my sweet little 10-year-old voice in the background, who was so nervous, and couldn't even function at this point. I could hear her yell back, "Hard things! Hocks do hard things!"  We had taken on this model of Hocks do hard things seven years ago, when my other son, AJ, was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was actually diagnosed on his second birthday, he was actually the day before his second birthday. Then he was rushed into brain surgery on his second birthday. It just happened to be when my fourth child was six weeks old.  As we were rushed into brain surgery, and we were doing radiation treatments, and we were separated for months while we were doing treatments and going through a bunch of different things, we came up with this model that "Hocks do hard things." Because I think if that's, I hope, that that's one of the greatest lessons that my my kids will always take with them. That this it's not about if hard things come. It's about when they come. So I wanted them to understand that it's not that they will come and to know that they can do this. Houston  16:59   It was very muffled. So it's kinda like, we really want to hear what you're saying. We're having a hard time like, over listening. We don't know if you're really there. Like we just didn't know fully like, "Is she there? Is she talking to us?" We kind of were just like, more stuck. I can't hear her. I'm getting one out of three or four words. And then we were able to make out, "Hocks do," and then that changed our whole perspective. Hadley  17:34   We've been through like, more hard challenges, like when AJ had brain cancer. That was probably a ton harder than being stuck on, like weeds. I knew that my mom said it because I knew my dad wasn't there. I didn't think anyone else there on the dock knew. But I knew my mom said it and I was like, "Mom, you totally knew what like what totally change my feelings." So like when she said it, I was totally like, "How did mom come up with that? To like, make me completely change my feelings?" Houston  18:17   We knew that we had two people supporting us, the people on the dock–or two groups of people–the two people on the dock, and then Heavenly Father and Dixie.  I was like, "Dixie, my feet are getting cold and I can feel the cuts in my feet and it's not feeling great." So she's like, "Okay, when you're ready, you just go. So I went." And then . . .  Hadley  18:42   We just kept rowing. And I was like, "We're going so fast!" And I was still crying. Houston was . . . were you still crying? Houston  18:50   No. Hadley  18:51   Houston wasn't crying, but I was still crying. But cause. . . but then I kept saying "Hocks do hard things! Hocks do hard things!" And we heard my mom, she was like on a dock close to us. And I heard her say once, "Hocks do hard things." But it was still super hard to hear her because of all the wind and stuff. Houston  19:13   And Dixie is like, "Alright, you're our leader." So I was the one . . . I  felt more pressure, and I was like, "Okay, so I'm here, I'm the leader now! I'm the line leader. I got to do this." So I passed by three or four docks, and I'm like, no, that's not the one that they want us to go to.  Even though those ones would have been easier for them and easier for us, I kept thinking, no, those aren't the ones they want–they want us to go to. So then once Dixie caught up to me, she's like, "We're going to go to that green dock." They had said that, we hadn't heard that. Because like I said, we were only picking up 25% of the words they were saying so we didn't hear that. And I just felt a prompting like, we need to get to that dock and once Dixie said it was like, alright, I'm not the only one thinking this. Let's get to that dock. MeiLani  20:09   So as soon as I heard Dixie say "Hocks do" and Hadley shout back, "Hard things!" I was like, okay, please, please let this family motto actually mean something and have an effect in this moment. And Dixie, I couldn't hear her very well, there was static, there was wind, and she said, "Oh, okay . . I . I think we're good now."  We hung up the phone and they got in the boat. It took them quite a few tries, and off they went. And they started going. So, so they're heading out and they seem like "We've got this" and I start cheering and cheering an they are just–a Houston is just "Whoo," he's a machine. And, and so I was like, "Just down to the green one! Just down to the green one. Or if you get somewhere sooner than great." And Dixie is having a little bit harder time, a little bit harder time because she's also pushing Hadley and Hadley's not paddling.  But she's paddling, paddling, she's left the other boat, the other paddleboard behind, and Houston is so aggressive that I was like, okay, somebody needs to be there, somebody needs to . . . in that moment, I just wanted to be there to welcome him as soon as he got there. So I wanted to be there, I wanted to be there, wherever he landed, I wanted to be there. So I could hug him.  I start huffing it, and I'm wearing my flip flops and just huffing it. And I run up five houses and I'm running out the dock, the boardwalk area, and but again, at the beginning of the boardwalk, because you have to kind of go up and over the dunes just a little bit you can't see it from the house. So I have to go halfway out the boardwalk before I see, oh, nope, they've already passed me, okay. So I run back boardwalk and go down and by the way, I'm totally just trespassing into these people's backyards at this moment.  And so I get out and I go to the, I see, okay, this is the one with the green hut, with the green roof, that's, that's us! Here I come. And I get out there about halfway out and I can see that they've made it. And at this point, sweet Dixie comes into me, and she is just struggling to walk. And I feel terrible. I don't even know if I gave her a hug and I feel really guilty about that. But I said, "Are you okay?" And she said "Yes." And she lifts up her feet and there's blood just running down her feet from all the cuts from walking back and forth in that oyster patch.  And I said, "Are you okay? I'm gonna go check on the kids." And she's smiling. And she said, "Are you okay?" I was like, "I'm good." You know, at this point, to be honest, I hadn't even cried. But all of a sudden then, I passed Dixie. And I see my two kids that are just barely getting out of their kayak and their paddleboard. And they look at me with these eyes of, "We made it! We made it!" And they both came running. And they both started crying and I started crying and I just held them. And enjoy that moment of, "You did it. I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud of you."  At that point, it didn't matter. It didn't matter that my son had taken the phone when he was not supposed to. It didn't matter. What mattered is that he endured to the end, and then he got there. And that even when it was hard, he knew that "Hocks do hard things." And both of them, just holding them, there was such an overwhelming joy that my heart felt like it was gonna explode. Then we just held each other for maybe the longest hug we've ever had in our life. Houston  23:44   We're like taking off our life jackets, and then our cousin Denim and my mom are both running towards us. And I had–we had both stopped crying I feel like, but as soon as we just had like, as soon as we touched her, we both just broke into tears. And we were like, "We're gonna be okay. Mom's here, we're fine." Hadley  24:12   It made me think of the story of Mary Magdalene and her like, sister or friend and then there's this Bible video of them crying with like, they were crying, I think like their brother, Lazarus, like died or something and then they went crying to Jesus. And then He started crying with them, it just made me totally think of that Bible video and I was like, everything's going to be fine, cause it was like, mommy was Jesus and me and Houston were Mary Magdalene and the other girl. Houston  24:54   What I was feeling was I could see her, I knew that she was watching us, she was there by far the longest, watching us, looking out for us, but once I got to touch her again, it was like, she really is there. It's not just, it's not something I can see, it's something I can feel and I can know. And that was when I felt probably the Spirit the most, because I knew two things. One, we were okay, which was kind of my priority at the time, and then two, or B my mom was there. So we're gonna be fine. I mean, mom is here, what else could go wrong? MeiLani  25:41   I just can't help but relate, as a parent that feels like, I just wanted to make sure that they knew that they were loved. And even though they couldn't hear me as clearly as I wanted them to, I just wanted them to know that they were going to be okay if they just held with it, if they just held in there, if they just endured to the end, they just did the path that we had told them to follow, that it was gonna be okay.  And when I held them in that moment, when we were hugging, I think that's why I finally just broke down crying, because I felt as if there was, there was another hugger in there. And we could feel that spirit, so close.  And I could feel my Heavenly Father saying, "This is how I feel about you.  Is that I want you to know that even if sometimes our lines of communication aren't perfectly clear, that I'm here, and I'm proud of you. And if you just stay on the path that I've told you to, if you just endure more than you think you can, then you will have this joyous reward just like this minute right here, but it's gonna be even more glorious than you can imagine." Houston  26:58   I knew that she was really proud of us cause she–and also, I was really proud of her because she would have much rather–and I know she would have–I knew if she could have she would have, she would have just grabbed a paddleboard and just paddled on out in her sweatshirt and her pants and just not even cared.  She was probably wearing sandals, and she would have just come out and tried to save us. But she just left us there. And I was kind of like, "Is she coming there help us? . . ." But she never did and I'm really glad she didn't. Because I feel like we wouldn't have learned nearly as much if we didn't do it by ourselves, because I feel like after that happened, I was like, okay, I can do things by myself. I don't need my mom holding my hand all the way. She's there to help when we need her help, but she still knows when to realize "They have to do this on their own." And I feel like if she just helped us every step of the way, I feel like I wouldn't be as independent as I am. And I really appreciate that she does that. Hadley  28:07   And like, when we were like 1/4 of the way, the waves just stopped and it stopped raining. And I was like, and then I was like, and then I said a prayer of thanks. I was like, "Thank you, Heavenly Father, so much. Thank you for helping us." And it was just, I was like, so happy and I knew that Heavenly Father will answer my prayers.  I learned that I need to believe in myself, and I need to learn to like, I need to have more faith in times like that, because I didn't completely realize that I still had Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. And I need to have faith that they're there, because our faith totally grew when that happened. Houston  28:57   The thing that I learned was that Heavenly Father–I not only have faith in Him, but He has faith in me. And that we can both rely on each other to be able to do hard things and that we'll be able to be a great team. MeiLani  29:18   He sees me, even when I don't recognize He's there. In those moments when I was yelling, and I was screaming, and my kids couldn't hear me . . . How many times has my Heavenly Father been screaming to say "You, you've got this! You've got this! Even though you can't hear me, you've got this." And that was a new level for me. That was a new level of parenting as my own, but also seeing the way my Heavenly Father parents of–that desperation. Not just, "I love you because I'm your parent, I love you because you're my child," but this desperation . . . to feel that desperatation of how much He loves me and how much He's rooting for me, even if I can't hear it, and how excited He is to have me back in His arms. I'm ashamed to admit that we did get back to the house, and then I did tell them how much I love them, and I did tell Houston, "You're not supposed to take the phone, but it's okay that you took it this one moment." And he slightly said, "Does this mean I should have a phone always?" And I said, "No, no, it doesn't." Houston  30:34   I looked at her and I was like, I can't tell if he's glad I have it, or disappointed because I'm gonna quote Mufasa, "I deliberately disobeyed her."  [Laughter] Erika  30:52   That was MeiLani, Houston, and Hadley. There are so many different things to take from this story, but one thing I kept thinking of was a talk Elder Uchtdorf gave in 2017, called "A Yearning for Home." In the talk, he mentions all these different animals and their instinct to find their way home.  He said, quote, "I can't help but wonder, is it possible that human beings have a similar yearning–an inner guidance system, if you will–that draws them to their heavenly home? I believe that every man, woman and child has felt the call of heaven at some point in his or her life. Deep within us as a longing to somehow reach past the veil and embrace Heavenly Parents we once knew and cherished," end quote.  He describes that yearning for home so perfectly, and it made me think about Hadley's despair when she was stuck in the reeds. Her mom was on the shore, calling to her to come home, but the winds and storm were too loud. Just like Hadley, there may be times where we don't hear Him, where we don't hear our Heavenly Father. But that does not mean that He's not there calling out to us. I  wonder if in those moments, He feels some of those same feelings that MeiLani had, that desperate love for us, and a longing for us to find the inner strength to make it home.  The second thing I learned is that it's hard. This journey back home to our Heavenly Parents is hard. It's rarely smooth sailing. I love that what helped Hadley and Houston when they felt they couldn't move ahead was that reminder from their mom, that "Hocks do hard things." Just the suggestion of that phrase, that their family had rallied around for years was enough to show them that she was there rooting for them, and they could do it. I think we all have those "Hocks do" moments from heaven too, like when we take the sacrament, or listen to a story like this one. These are little points along the road that remind us that God is present even if we can't hear His voice directly.  And yet, even with all those little touch points, there will still be times when we feel stuck in the reeds, or like we're walking barefoot on a bed of oysters. Elder Holland reminded us that, quote, "If for a while the harder you try, the harder it gets, take heart. So it has been with the best people who ever lived," end quote. In those moments we can trust in our Savior and His ability to comfort and strengthen us until we have the strength ourselves to paddle home. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers, Meilani Houston and Hadley for sharing their story with us. I loved working with and hearing from our youngest–but possibly wise-est–storytellers yet. We will have pictures of Houston and Hadley and their kayaking excursion in our show notes at LDS You can also find us on Instagram or Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast.  We love reading reviews. We send all this stuff we care about out there into the world and reviews are one way that we can see what's actually happening with the stuff that we make. So thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. You can leave a review of the podcast on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen on. Reviews help other people find us.  All the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers and we find lots of our stories through our pitch line. We're wrapping up season three soon and we will start gathering stories for season four, call and leave us a pitch about your experience of living the gospel of Jesus Christ. The best pitches will be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch your story when you call 515-519-6179 This episode was produced and edited by me Erika Free, it was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix that Six studios. Our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts, LDS   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Mar 08, 2021
Song of the Heart
Stories in this episode: Steve gets to choose the song at his mission farewell and discovers pirates in the hymnal; Lillie finds herself leading a choir of cloistered nuns in singing her least favorite hymn; The last few lines of a treasured song turn out to be Holly’s only solace as she faces heart wrenching disappointment in her journey to adopt. View shownotes at Follow us on instagram and facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast 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 am really excited because we have something so fun to introduce our theme today. I was scrolling through my social media feed–as one does–and this comedy bit from Steve Soelberg popped up. And as I was watching it, I was like, "Oh, my gosh, he's read my diary about some of the hymns that we sing on Sundays." So I thought there was no better way to get us talking about music and our gospel practice than to start by having a good laugh together. Here's Steve. Steve  0:40   You know, I do have this theory, though. I think it is good to be embarrassed and do things that make yourself feel awkward and kind of out of place and stupid sometimes. And I think that's healthy. I think it's good to do that. That's why I went on a, I went on a two year mission for my Church. Because it made me feel embarrassed and awkward. I had a lot of doors slammed in my face, and I think that's healthy.  One of my favorite parts of it was even before I left. Before I left, they said, "Steve, you get to pick the hymns that the congregation is going to sing before you leave." It was like a little farewell thing. And I thought that's cool. That's a big responsibility and I didn't want to mess it up. So I asked my dad, I was like, "What hymn should we sing?" And my dad goes, "I don't care, just don't sing the pirate hymn." And I was like, "Wait, what? There's a pirate hymn? What are you talking about? We have a pirate hymn?" And I've done some research on the pirate hymn. The pirate hymn–the lyrics are used across many Christian churches. And as far as I know, my Church is the only one that uses this particular tune. The tune is also used by 1950's Disney movie that was about pirates and the ocean. And so I go, "Dad, please explain to me, what is the pirate hymn?" And he goes, "Well, it goes, it goes yeah, da da da da," and I was like, "Okay, that does sound kind of piratey, but keep going." And he goes, "Yeah, da da da da da" And that felt so piratey I was like, "Oohh... and I started the swashbuckle a little bit"–I don't know why my pirates are Irish, but they are. It just feels . . . I don't know why that's how that goes, but I don't know how to do a pirate accent. It's all Irish. Sorry, if you're in Ireland, and you're watching this.  I didn't recognize the song yet. Right? "Ya da da da da da," I  was like, "I don't recognize it yet." And I was like, "Dad, please sing it." And he's like, "Ugh." He didn't want to, but he did. And he goes, "Well, I'm gonna sing it the right way. With the pirate accent." My dad sings, he goes, "Okay, this is the song. 'Who's on the Lord's say who? Now is the time you show.'"  I was like "Oh! That is a pirate hymn." "We ask it fearlessly!" Fearlessly? What is that! Like, running the Jolly Roger up like, "Are you on the Lord's side? Fly the flag then, we ask it fearlessly. Who's on the Lord's side?" And then it doubles down on the pirate theme, it goes yeah, "Ya da da da da da da, ya da da da da da" at that point seaspray is hitting you in the face. My favorite part, "Who's on the large side who," And the whole congregation sings that line, everybody goes "Whoooooo," You have grandma's next year going "Whooo." Is that how we sing that? Then you look up at the top for direction and it goes "Sing pirately." You go, "Oh there we go. That makes sense."  Sing it pirately.  You go, "Are you on the Lard's side?" "The Lord?" "The LORD?" "The Lord?" "The Lord's side! He's on the starboard side." Of course we sang that when I left. I was like, "Dad, I'm shoving off! We gotta sing the pirate hymn." So excited. KaRyn  4:55   That was Steve Soelberg at Dry Bar Comedy. We love Dry Bar and Steve Soelberg for lots of reasons, but the fact that they specifically offer stand up that doesn't make us bleep anything, that's kind of a big deal. In fact, Steve has a whole special that you can watch on the Dry Bar app that doesn't require any bleeping.  So maybe you're a better person than me, but I really resonated with this whole thing. I'm admitting here and now that I have giggled through more than a few hymns in my day, "Scatter sunshine," "Put your shoulder to the wheel," those have always made me feel just a little like we're all "Yo, ho ho ho-ing" through the rest hymn. And I just realized that I miss the rest hymn! I miss it. And if that's not a pandemic miracle, I honestly don't know what is.  Music is such a funny thing in our gospel worship. There are a lot of different camps of opinion about our hymns. Maybe sometimes we wish they were a little more lively or a little bit more modern. Or in the case of the pirate hymns, maybe we wish they were a little less lively? A little more reverent? I think the reason we have so many different feelings and opinions about the music in our church is because sacred music is one of the ways that so many of us connect to heaven. It's the workhorse of our spiritual communion. It can be a conduit of praise and revelation, a way to express our gratitude and keep a prayer in our hearts.  We use it to spiritually prepare ourselves for participating in holy ordinances. And for me, it's often the tool that God uses to soften my heart so that he can correct me and invite me to come closer. Maybe I forgot to list the way that sacred music wends its way into your gospel practice. But if you think about it, I'm sure something came to your mind.  Today we've got two stories about the way our sacred music tutors and blesses us as disciples. Our first story comes from Lillie, whose love for music and languages gave her the unique opportunity to start a choir, quite different from any that she'd been a part of before. Here's Lillie. Lillie  6:50   The year my husband and I got married, I was teaching high school Spanish so I had summers off, and he was still in school so he had time in the summers as well. So we decided to volunteer. I needed more experience with Latin American countries so that I could feel like I was a better teacher. So I decided to–we signed up for this nonprofit to go and do nonprofit work in Ecuador, with a man named Washington Zambrano, he was actually a bishop at the time too, but he was a dentist. We signed up to be there for almost four months.  And when we got there, there were a bunch of nurses there that were volunteering with him, actual dentists, dental hygienists, so we basically did whatever he asked us to do. One particular service we were asked to do was go and help a bunch of nuns that lived in a monastery there in the historical district of Ecuador and Quito. Cloistered nuns take vows to never leave the convent. And they vow to just basically study and pray and be close to God. So it's pretty amazing that these women chose these things.  Some of the women that we met while we were in there doing their dental work, had actual jobs before they had taken their vows. And so some of them hadn't entered the convent until they were in like their 50's. And others were young, there were a couple of nuns that hadn't taken the vow to be a cloistered nun yet, so those were the nuns that would go out and get food or take some of the prepared food that the nuns made, and give it to the homeless population there in Quito.  So when we went to do dental work for the nuns who obviously hadn't had dental work in a long time, we felt really lucky to have been invited. And we kept hearing from the director, "We are so lucky to be here. They don't let people come in." And so we did feel that and we were really expressing how happy we were to be there, and we knew that it was probably the only time we'd be let in there.  They were super excited when we came because they didn't see people very often. They were talking our ears off. It was super fun. And so while one nun was getting her teeth cleaned, we'd be chatting with the other nuns and getting to know them. I do remember two nuns, they were actually radio personalities in their previous life. They were hilarious, and I think that they missed the attention. Oh my goodness, they were wonderful.  So somehow music came up with the nuns while we were there, and they had missed music in their lives and didn't have anyone to lead a choir. And my husband is a musician and he plays the guitar really well and oftentimes when we would go to do the dental work at the schools or in little villages I would play the violin and he would play the guitar and we'd just play music for them. They said, "Well, we would love a choir, can you teach us music? Can we form a choir? Would you come and do that?" And it was like our dream come true, "Yes!" You know, because I mean, dental work is one thing, but doing music is is exciting and super fun. So yes, we said we'd love to.  And so myself, my husband, and so we got it all set up, and I got these folders, I thought they would feel really important having you know, their folders. I wanted them to know that I was taking it seriously. So I gave them their folders, they had a pencil, you know, to mark anything. The real problem was I didn't have music. And the only music I had access to was the church hymns. So I found a hymnal. It was in Spanish, of course. And I chose some songs that I thought were simple. And I was really drawn to, "As Sisters in Zion" And then the other song was, "As I Have Loved You", and "Keep the Commandments." [Nuns singing "Love One Another" in Spanish"  So the "Sisters in Zion" song, it was an interesting one, because I'm going to be honest, I haven't always loved that song. I haven't always enjoyed singing it. Maybe because I grew up listening to Relief Society sisters sing it, and maybe, you know, there were older voices in there that weren't always the most lovely to listen to–I don't know, it just wasn't a song that I always loved. But as I read the words in Spanish, the translation, it's called, "We Serve United." And what I think is neat about that is they are, they were cloistered nuns serving together.  The first line, the first part of the song, "We serve together because we're sisters." And then it's saying that they hope God blesses us in our work, and we will edify his kingdom on the earth, bringing service in love. It's very simple, and there's nothing that says even Zion in it. And I felt like it translated perfectly for their situation, I thought that they would relate to it, and that it would help them feel strength in their purpose.  So when I brought this song in their little folders with their little pencils–which, they were just giddy when we arrived, I still remember their faces. And remember, they're wearing habits, just like on "The Sound of Music," and they were so excited to see us that of course, we were just thrilled. And I remember singing the song with them, they really caught on pretty quickly. And after they sang it, they looked at me and they said, "Wow, did you write this for us?" Like, "No, actually Janice Kapp Perry wrote this, but it does relate," like, they loved it. They just loved it, it almost became their anthem.  And what I love about it is it completely changed my perspective on this song. I cannot sing this song. Without thinking about these sisters. I really, I saw them as my sisters. I–when we sang that together, I just felt so much love that Heavenly Father had for them.  They let us come several more times during that time we spent in Ecuador, and they weren't really preparing for anything, they didn't have a choir concert, I think it was for their own edification. I think they just really wanted to sing.  So I've always loved music, and I feel like music is what helped me build my testimony throughout my younger years and even now, if I have questions, they're often answered while I'm singing hymns. And I feel like this experience solidified that for me, because, as we sang, the Spirit was there. Music invites the Spirit. And it doesn't matter what religion we are, we are all children of God, and singing a song or singing a hymn that speaks words of truth invites the Spirit. And I felt that so strongly and I looked around at these faces of these beautiful nuns singing "As Sisters in Zion," and I could see the love that they had for the same Heavenly Father, and I feel like it really did unite us in a cause for good. And I'll never sing that song again without that feeling. KaRyn  15:34   That was Lillie. We first heard her story on our pitch line and were mesmerized by her description of acquire of cloistered nuns in Ecuador singing "As Sisters in Zion." My favorite spark of gospel from Lillie's story is that when we sing songs that speak truth, the spirits present, regardless of our faith tradition. And that's only amplified when we sing those songs together.  All my fellow choir nerds out there know that something really cool happens when we join our shaky, imperfect voices in praise of Jesus. And I think that something is a taste of Zion. The things that make us different or disconnected seem to fall away as we exert the same kind of effort to take individual notes and individual voices, and meld them into one. I think it's a really transcendent experience, and it can change the way that we see one another.  Maybe it's the erstwhile fiction writer in me speaking here, but I have this vision that someday anthropologists in the year 3000, will find this recording of a Spanish translation of Janice Kapp Perry's, "As Sisters in Zion" in an abandoned nunnery in Ecuador, and it'll spark a historical mystery for our posterity that will end with them coming to the conclusion that we were a unified and connected people across cultures and continents.  I know, it's a little far fetched, but a girl can dream, right? And maybe, just maybe, when we get back from this quarantine, we'll all decide to take another look at joining the ward choir. Just a thought. Our next story about the power of music comes from Holly who needed additional strength to move forward after a devastating setback. Here's Holly. Holly  17:16   My husband and I were married in 1986, it seems like a really long time ago. And in 1991, we did our first adoptions. We had three biological children and in 91, we went to Romania, to adopt and adopted two little girls from orphanages there and decided that we would really want to welcome kids into our home who had been abandoned, neglected, in some way–hard to place, because we also had a biological daughter with disabilities, and so it really opened up a world of possibility for us to add to our family.  When we decided to adopt, when we felt inspired to adopt another child, or add another child, we always took it to the Lord. We always prayed, we always got confirmation, we both had to be on the same page. I think my husband would tell you that, if we had adopted every child that I had felt would be a good fit, we'd probably have 50. And we don't have quite that many, but we always got confirmation. And that was one of the things that I relied on, right? Is feeling confirmation from the spirit that these were the children that I needed to add to my home.  So in 2007–actually beginning in 2006–we started to pursue an adoption from a country in Africa, it's no longer open, but at the time it was open, and we had that same familiar feeling, it's time to go add to our family. We did all of the paperwork, and I traveled to that country prepared to adopt. My husband was going to stay home, I was going to go and I took one of my teenage daughters with me to do this adoption. And we actually spent months there.  We lived there to complete these adoptions, and we found three little girls. One was in an orphanage, and two were actually abandoned in the hospital, and they were legally adopted to us. We got birth certificates, and passports in the Richardson name, the courts released them into my custody and I started taking care of them, while we were still undergoing the rest of the legal process and the court process.  Absolutely bonded, I fall in love with my kids very quickly. The last step is to go to the American Embassy and get visas to bring them home to the United States. We went to the American Embassy and they . . . they said "No." They turned us down. First they said "Well, we need to go verify where these girls actually came from." So we tracked down all the information we had, we tracked down the police report where the kids were abandoned, I mean, we tracked all of this information down, provided all of the paperwork, and then there was another reason. And we just couldn't figure it out. And it started to get concerning.  One day with my teenage daughter who had come with me, we got a knock on our apartment door where we were staying and it was Child Services from this country, and they were coming to take the kids back into their custody. Two of them were newborns, one of them was only three months old, so they were really close in age. And I had been their full time caregiver around the clock for a couple of months at least. And here, these people show up and they're like, "We're here to take your babies." And I'm like, "What? What . . . like, How can that be possible?"  And they just said, "Well, we know you're having trouble with the American Embassy, so you go work it out in America, and we're going to take care of the girls here," and told us to go home and work on the problem at home. And we were just like, I was just stunned. I . . .I couldn't believe it, right. It was really traumatic and very sad.  And here I had been, trying to be faithful, following the spirit, and it had not worked out and I was in shock and grief. I did not feel the Comforter, I did not feel supported, I actually felt betrayed. I felt betrayed by God, that He had led me so far, and then taken away the ability for me to get these little girls home.  I had this realization that I was at a moment of choosing. And I did debate a little bit on on whether this was going to be the last straw for me, because we'd gone through some really rough stuff. I could have said, "Okay, I'm done. I'm out." I had, at the time, this was 2007, so I had a laptop, it  used to have a CD player and I had CD's with me from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. And as I played, "How Firm a Foundation," I was stuck on the last verse. And the last verse says, "The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I cannot, desert to His foes. That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, no never, I'll never no never, I'll never, no never, no never forsake."  And I literally put that on repeat. This music helped calm my soul, it was so soothing, and I just sat there and listened and cried and listened and cried and cried. And made that commitment that I'll never forsake. I'll never forsake, no matter how hard it is, I'll never forsake and that was, that was really my moment of choosing. That music really helped me choose faith.  I heard later, one of the people that was helping us said that they had just participated in a meeting where the woman who had come and taken my children from me, stood up and said that Mormons were not Christian, and that she had saved these children from a fate worse than death by preventing them from coming to an LDS home. I don't know exactly what her difficulties were with my religion, but it was very clear that that was the reason that they decided that they were going to prevent these kids from coming home.  Now what happened is, I went home and I spent, we spent many, many hours with attorneys and working the legal process, and the reality was–it never happened. And they didn't come home.  I entered a period of really dark depression, because I couldn't bring them home. And it just felt so awful that I knew where they were, and I couldn't do anything about it. People would ask me, "How are you doing?" and I would literally burst into tears. I look at pictures from that year, I never did my hair, I never wore makeup, I put on sweats, like I could barely get myself out of bed. But because I chose to stay in the gospel and to do the things that I needed to do to feel the light again, because I didn't for a long time.  One morning, in December of that year, I woke up and I could tell that things were a little bit better. That was the day that I started to really feel like I was healing from that. And now it's been, what, 14 years. And every time I still hear that song, I remember that commitment that I made, both to myself, but to God as well to say, I'm going to stay, and I choose faith.  And I think sometimes. . . II think sometimes people think that, that people stay in the church out of maybe naivete, but, but I choose to stay in spite of the difficulties, and I choose to stay in spite of not knowing. And I chose to stay even when things were really hard and I felt like they were really not fair–and they weren't fair. But I knew that I would have dark times but I also knew that I could rely on Heavenly Father and my Savior, I knew that they would be there, and I knew that I would get through it. And I did it.  And I think part of it for me is knowing that if I hold on during those dark times that the light will come again. I've gone to the temple where I felt not one thing. I've prayed where I felt like not one thing, nobody was listening, nobody cared. But I just did the things I knew I was supposed to do, and the light came back. KaRyn  25:37   That was Holly. Holly and her husband, are parents to 25 children who've come into their family in various ways. And if that doesn't tell you what you need to know about her willingness to commit when the Spirit directs her, I don't know what does.  I appreciate what she learned about the beauty of our hymns as spiritual teachers, that when we listen to and surround ourselves with sacred music as part of our discipleship, we're creating a little well of inspiration that we can dip from when we need to learn something or decide something in a moment, even if that moment is characterized by pain or grief. Those songs will float upward and act as a catalyst for the Spirit. But even better, after we've had that experience with the Spirit, the moment is gonna fade, but that song will still remain.  And just like Holly said, every time we hear it, it becomes this tangible touchstone of a time when we were inextricably connected to heaven, a solid reminder to recommit or to stay strong or to have additional peace.  I suspect that most of us could point to a pivotal moment when a song, a sacred song, offered an answer or comfort to us. I know I can. For me, it always seems to come from the song, "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go." In fact, that song has become kind of an inside joke between me and the Lord. Every single time I don't want to do something scary, or I'm on the fence about following inspiration or revelation. Invariably, I go to church, I sit in the back pew, I argue with the Spirit about it, and then we sing this song for the closing hymn.  This conversation with music and the Spirit happened when I was trying to decide whether to serve a full time mission. And it happened when I was feeling nervous about my decision to leave my job and move to South Korea. And it happened again when I didn't get into a graduate program that I desperately, desperately, wanted to be a part of. And when the answer was to stay right where I was for the time being. It's this line that gets me every time, "But if by a still small voice He calls to paths that I do not know, I'll answer Dear Lord with my hand in thine, I'll go where you want me to go."  I admit that it has some of the lilting of a pirate hymn, but it's my pirate hymn. And every time I hear it, I am reminded that sacred music is a powerful and personal tool of communion between me and my Heavenly Parents. There's one other piece of this that I think is worth mentioning. In a Church Educational System talk the President Nelson gave in 2008 he spoke about the power and the protection of worthy music.  And at the outset, it might seem like our stories today were all about the power of music, the power to unify, to transcend differences, to anchor us to the gospel and soothe our troubled hearts. But when I look a little bit deeper, I can see what President Nelson was talking about when he said, quote, "Music is not only a source of power, but also of protection," end quote.  Surrounding ourselves with sacred music–and that could be lots of different kinds of music, I'm not just talking about hymns, but surrounding ourselves with sacred music offers a shield against the darts of the adversary. It covers our efforts to share eternal truths when disagreements, misunderstandings, or cultural differences could easily drive a wedge between an ad hoc choir director and her newly formed corral of nuns. Sacred music can hold us still, while our hearts break in a hotel room far from home. And it can fill us with a hope that is strong enough to cast out the doubt and the dissonance that threatens to send us far from God's goodness.  In my own life, I've seen sacred music fill the space between the angry words in my head and my sometimes too sharp tongue. It stopped me from saying things that I couldn't take back. And I have experienced the presence of angels after a light filled song open the gates of heaven against a darkness that felt like it could own me.  Worthy music is a power and a protection. Is it any wonder then, that President Nelson warned us in that talk to use that power and care for that protection intentionally, when he said, quote, "Do not degrade yourself with the numbing shabbiness and irreverence of music that is not worthy of you. It is not harmless. It can weaken your defenses. Fill your minds with worthy sights and sounds. Cultivate your precious gift of the Holy Ghost. Protect it. Carefully listen for its quiet communication, you will be spiritually stronger if you do," end quote.  And to that, my friends, all I can say is amen. And in the spirit of our theme today, I want to leave you with one more thing, a hymn that my Pappy used to sing with all of his heart and soul in our sacrament meeting, arranged and sung by some of my favorite musicians. I hope it gives you an added measure of power and protection today. This is "II Stand All Amazed" by the Bonner family. Bonner Family  31:33   "I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me. Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me. Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me. Oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me."  "Wonderful to me. I marvel that he would descend from His throne divine. To rescure a soul so rebellious and proud as mine. Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me. Oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me."  "I stand all amazed at the love, I stand all amazed. Wonderful to me. Wonderful to me."  KaRyn  34:33   That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers, Lillie and Holly, and comedian Steve Solberg and Dry Bar Comedy for sharing their stories and their love for all worthy music, including the piratey ones.  We'll have a link to Steve's full length comedy special–that again requires no bleeping–and more info about each of our storytellers in our show notes. We'll also have a way for you to find more of that gorgeous music from the Bonners. Seriously, they're bringing a whole new energy to our hymns, and I am here for it. You can find our show notes at  One of my favorite things besides the Bonner family and cake is hearing from you. We love to hear how this podcast is adding to your practice of the gospel. You can find us on social media at @thisisthegospel_podcast, or leave us a review on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen on. Reviews are super helpful in pushing us up in the recommended section of a lot of platforms, so more people can find us easily.  All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. We find so many stories through the pitch line and we'll be gathering those stories and ideas for season four soon so get ready to share them. You'll have three minutes to pitch your story when you call 515-519-6179. This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay, with story production and editing 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   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Mar 01, 2021
Good Judgement
Stories in this episode: Brett’s charge to defend a man who has committed heinous crimes is almost too much to bear until a desperate plea to God in the middle of the courtroom restores his hope; As a new judge, Carey faces a crisis of conscience when a temple recommend interview offers new insight; When Jennifer is unfairly judged by her colleagues, the consequences send her into a bitter tailspin that only a vivid dream from heaven can stop. View shownotes at Follow us on instagram and facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast 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.  And I am proud to say that I have only been in front of a judge in a courtroom once in my life. Apparently, if you're trying to kill a spider that drops from the rearview mirror while driving, and you rear end a brand new Jeep in the state of Virginia, you have to show up in court to explain that to a judge, the police, and a courtroom full of only semi-amused onlookers.  And I'm the kind of person that already thinks I'm guilty of things that I haven't done, but this time I actually had done it so I was doubly intimidated to stand in that courtroom and explain myself. I didn't really know what to expect. I was all alone, I was really nervous and feeling really stupid. So when the judge called me to the front of the courtroom to plead my case, I was shaky.  I stood there, I offered my tail of spiders, and woe, and after a surprising amount of good natured laughter from the people in the courtroom, the judge said that she, for one, could totally understand how a spider might distract someone from being fully focused on the road, and that this could have happened to anyone. So she ordered me to pay the court fees, but otherwise, I was free and clear of any charges or additional penalties imposed by the court.  That's not to say that I didn't have any consequences, because I felt those the minute that I saw my car insurance premium spike. Her mercy didn't supplant justice, but I was really grateful that in her determination of the best interest of the law, she was willing to listen to the context of the situation. And I left that courtroom feeling surprisingly better than when I entered, which is saying a whole lot.  Well, whether or not you've had to stand before a judge in Virginia and tell your spider story, this idea of judgment and what constitutes good judgment is something that as a disciple of Christ might be on your mind anyway. We're all facing a really complex world with sometimes seemingly impossible decisions to make. And if it isn't on your mind, then maybe today's theme will give you some space to think about how judgment is connected to our desire to be a better follower of Christ.  We've got three stories from three people who really needed some help honing their understanding of what constitutes good judgment, in the eyes of God. Our first story comes from Brett, a lawyer tasked with defending the indefensible. Here's Brett, Brett  2:33   The hard part about being a prosecutor is that there are some times when the things the person accused of are so harsh, that it's really hard to see the humanity behind the allegations. I am an attorney and I have both prosecuted and defended people who were accused of some very bad things.  On the prosecution side, I get to work closely with victims of crimes, I get to see the pain they are going through, and I get to try to help them make sense of it and hopefully get some kind of resolution. I see the horrific nature of the things that the accused has done, and you want to really make sure that things like that get punished in that, people in society have an idea that laws will be followed and that there are consequences.  More often than not, though, in that situation, you do not get to know the alleged offender. Usually they have an attorney and you aren't allowed to talk to them and see the things that led them to where they were. You don't get to see the small acts of kindness or joy or love that they have both received and given to others. You really don't get to see what makes them human. And sometimes that's kind of hard to do, especially when the things they've been accused of are pretty horrific.  There was a time when I was on the defense side, and it started like many cases with the judge reading the things that he was accused of. And even just the nature of the things was pretty lengthy. It was something like 13 pages long, the indictment, and my client had chosen to plead guilty to just about everything.  But in this forum, before that court, the people accused of crimes, my client, was not allowed to simply say, "Yes, I'm guilty to charges 1 through 13 and I accept whatever punishment you deem appropriate, Judge." But rather, the judge needs to go through the conduct in what we call "Providence Inquiry," where the judge needs to make sure that my client understood what the law was, understood all of the definitions, and then agreed to his actions and agree that his actions actually violated the law.  Now, as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, you get used to being around some of the most disturbing and criminal conduct that people can do. And you have to look at it and make sure yourself what the law says about those things. So you can either prosecute or defend. And so we were going through this, and usually that doesn't take too long. You can always do that in waves. You can do it for 20 minutes, 30 minutes at a time, take a break, and come back to it when you're feeling up to it.  But in this case, because it was so long, we had just pressed through, and for about two hours, we had been listening and seeing some of the most disturbing things that you can be subjected to.  And as we're going through this, I started to feel literally sick to my stomach. I was getting to a point of almost panic, because it was incredibly unprofessional to throw up in the middle of a courtroom. But what I was more concerned about was my client, because one of the great things that I do love about being a defense attorney is that you get to help some people go through some very difficult things.  In many instances it is the most difficult, embarrassing, humiliating experience of their lives. And this was that for my client, and for him to see how much it affected me, I thought could undermine his confidence in me and my belief in him. And he had already lost so much. He lost his family, he lost his job, he was losing his freedom. He had some elderly parents, and it was unlikely that he would see them again before his prison term ended. And I wanted to be there for him. And so when this was happening, I knew that I had to get up in just a few minutes after that was done, and argue for him, both to argue for leniency–to paint a picture of humanity for him–and also to argue about different things that he was alleged of, that he had not done, and defend him in those.  And so not knowing what to do, I thought, well, maybe I just need to ask the judge for a recess, or, you know, maybe the feeling will just go away. Then I realized that it wasn't. It was getting worse. And so I did the only thing that I can think of, I decided to say a prayer. And in that prayer, I just prayed for Heavenly Father to be with me to help me to know what to do in that situation. I looked over at my client, and I felt the spirit enter my mind and body with, like, great waves. It was amazing. It kind of lit up my whole soul. And I could see the love that my Heavenly Father had for this young man. It was regardless of the things that he had done, it was regardless of the harm and pain he had caused so many. It was a pure and powerful love. And when I felt that the nausea, the sickness, it just evaporated, like instantaneously.  I was calm, I knew what I had to do, and I was able to get up and argue for him, for mercy, and to paint a picture for the judge to see who he was, not just the things that he had done.  No matter what kind of trial, the situation has stayed with me. I always try to understand and see these people as my Heavenly Father sees them. It's no justification or excuse for whatever they've done, but it helps me to always go back to this to understand that even those who have done some of the most horrific things, that we are very much more similar than we are different. We are all much, much better than the worst things that we've done. And it changed me in a lot of ways. And I'm very grateful for that. KaRyn  8:54   That was Brett. I can only imagine what kind of spiritual gifts it takes to sit in a courtroom and listen day after day to all the ways that people have hurt one another without losing your hope in humanity.  Brett's willingness to ask for help from heaven, so that he could perceive what seemed absolutely imperceptible in his client, especially as that list of offenses was read, that's a real example to me of truly offering your will to God. And in this particular case, "Good judgment" didn't mean ignoring what was broken in the person sitting next to him. It actually meant that Brett could experience firsthand the dichotomy that comes with being human, which is that we can be capable of doing terrible things, and somehow also be worthy of divine love.  It reminded me of the prophet Jacob, who is given the gift to perceive the evil that lurks in the hearts of his people, while also recognizing the love that God had for them in his desire for them to repent. It was this ability to feel both things at the same time that I think allowed Jacob to speak those hard things, to call those people to repentance, and to do it with a power that could actually change hearts. I personally believe that this capacity to hold space for that dichotomy is exactly why Jesus Christ will be the best "good judge" for you and for me when the time comes to stand before him, and receive our justice, and hopefully our mercy.  And I really hope that Brett's client felt it in some small part through Brett that day. And that we can feel it today in the words of the prophet Jacob, when he says, "Arouse the faculties of our soul, shake ourselves that we may awake from the slumber of death."  Our next story comes from Carey, a new judge who found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place with his first case assignment. Here's Cary. Carey  10:41   I started law school a little bit later, when I was married and had three small children. And during law school, I learned–I realized, that it was important for me to be a judge, I could be an attorney, but I wanted to be a judge. And I wanted to be a judge because I wanted to make the right decisions. I wasn't as concerned–and still not as concerned about finding out who's right, as I'm finding about what's right.  As a judge, you get to determine what's right, based upon what's in front of you, and then make the right call. A year after law school, I got the chance to become a judge. And I was hired by the state of Oregon to serve as a judge in its administrative law program, dealing with agencies and various government entities.  Just a few months after I became a judge, they started a brand new hearing program involving psychiatric patients at State Hospital. These are patients who have been diagnosed with mental illness and either committed on their own, they voluntarily committed, or usually, it's a court that has said, "You need to be taken care of until you're better."  And in order to meet the patient's needs, they developed a program for patients who wanted to object to the medications that doctors wanted them to take. And so it was called "Informed consent hearings" at the state hospital. The agency asked me to do the first hearing involving the first patient to request a hearing under these circumstances.  I was surprised, and then as we approached the hearing, I was very concerned. I had a bit of a crisis of conscience. What it comes down to is, the patient, who may or may not be experiencing significant psychiatric symptoms is told by the doctor, "You must take these psychotropic medications." And the patient doesn't want to. They don't want to for a very specific reason, it makes them feel horrible. These medications are not lightweight, and they do not feel good.  Having known people who have dealt with these medications, how could I, in my mind, make the decision to force someone to take them? In my mind the picture came of someone being held down and being forced with a needle to take these meds, and it would leave them feeling awful. How could I do that? I was all about justice. I was all about honoring people, I was all about making sure it was the right call. And I was very focused on the end result of "Could I be the one to make the decision that would end up with someone feeling very, very horrible, especially against what they would they would hope for?" It felt like I would be making a decision one way or the other that was bad. There were no good outcomes.  And it did not feel good to me. I wrestled. My heart hurt about the possibility that I would either A, caused this suffering on the person because they'd have to take the medication, or B, cause more suffering on the person because they didn't have to take the medication. It did not feel like I had a good result.  I didn't sleep well for the days leading up to it. I couldn't think about much else, other than what was coming up on my calendar and this decision that had to be made. And I could not think my way through to some answer that would give me peace.  I was very fortunate because our temple recommends we're going to expire that month. And so we scheduled unexpectedly to have our temple recommends renewed with a member of the stake presidency the night before the hearing. That was the stake president who happened to be a career counselor and leader of LDS Family Services. I didn't know about his background before I went to the interview. I only knew that I needed help, and I knew he was one of my priesthood leaders.  And I sat down with him and I did my interview and then I said, "President, I need help." And I shared with him my concerns and I told him all about what was going on, and he shared with me, "Brother Meerdink, that sounds like a very challenging decision to make. So let me ask you some questions." He said, "Why would you require this patient to take the medications? Is it out of spite?" I said, "Absolutely not. I don't hate anybody. I'm not got angry with this person." He asked, "Would you want this person to suffer or to be in pain?" I said no, I don't feel anything about this person. No, none of those feelings. And he said, "Well, why would you make this person take the medications?"  "Well, if that's what the law requires, I'd have to do it." And then the light went on for me. He said, "The requirement of the law is what it is, and somebody has to serve as Judge. And if you are the person who serves as Judge, you must do what the law requires." And then he opened up the gospel light for me, emphasizing that the Savior is the judge for all of us, and that He is perfectly just. He's as just as He has to be, but He's also perfectly merciful, He's as merciful as He can be. And oftentimes, that mercy is how we are treated by the Savior or by the judge. And he said, "The only thing you can do is to treat the patient, like a child of God, just like everyone else in the room. You are not there to judge any person based on their value, you are there to decide whether or not the law has been met. And that's what the Savior does."  It was amazing, the peace I had, being able to sleep the night before the hearing. The tension, it relieved immediately, the confusion, the uncertainty, the fogginess was gone. It helped me to know the result is what it is, based upon the process. And it helped me to understand the importance of my role in the process, in this circumstance, and in my role as a disciple of the Savior throughout my life.  After a long hearing, we adjourned for the day, and I ended the hearing. And so I went back to my office, I considered all of the evidence, I looked through the whole thing and I made my decision.  This experience was a real door opener for me, that . . . that even though I'm imperfect and that I have made mistakes in my life, that that's okay. That the mercy is still there. I think the Savior is much less focused on justice than He is on extending the mercy. I think His interest and the reason He spread His arms wide, was to try to bring us in.  Justice will only keep you away from His mercy if you allow it. There's nothing keeping you from Him. KaRyn  18:21   That was Carey, I love that line from his stake president, I kind of wish I had it on some sort of T-shirt or mug, "That Christ is as just as He has to be, and as merciful as He can be."  Isn't that so heartening? The judge of all of us, who is perfectly equipped to mete out the correct amount of justice will also offer us as much mercy as He can. And we know from scripture, and especially the Book of Mormon, that Christ's bowels, which represent the very center of His eternal and infinite being, are filled with mercy and compassion toward us. That's a lot of mercy to give. You and I aren't yet eternal or infinite, but I think it's a really good rule of thumb that if we want to become more like our Savior, one way to do that is to ramp up our compassion. To offer just a little more mercy when it's ours to give.  And it's not going to be easy. Frankly, seeking justice comes way more easily to me. Because there are really clear rules in society about what's fair and what's not fair and what should happen to make something right when injustice has occurred. That's comforting and safe. But mercy . . . mercy is real spiritual work. It's nebulous. It requires more of me and more reliance on the spirit to trust that God has got it all taken care of in the end. It's going to take some real effort to lean into mercy. But honestly, if it's good enough for Jesus, then it's got to be good enough for me.  Our final story on good judgment comes from Jennifer. Jennifer  19:51   When I think about my life, and my career, I think I've faced my fair share of rejections. In fact, sometimes it feels like more than my fair share. And part of that may be that I've chosen kind of a niche job, and so it's tricky to get hired in the fields that I've, I've opted to pursue.  But there was one–there was one rejection that really turned me on my head. It crushed me. And . . . I had been working at this place for a little while. I was temporarily working for this company and hoping for a more permanent position. And an opportunity presented itself that I was so excited to apply for. And I felt like that I'd put forward maybe the best foot that I'd ever put forward, and was really quickly rejected. And it boggled me. I felt like things were going well, I felt like I was well received.  The process of assessing or choosing a candidate for even interviewing is a committee process. And so a group of men evaluate the applicants and then review and make decisions based off of probably a lot of criteria that I didn't understand and thought, frankly, that I was the right person for it, but I was rejected.  And so I wanted some feedback. I took a little bit of time, a couple of weeks to try and process it and then asked my supervisor, if he could provide some kind of feedback. I, by nature, want to please people. So to have felt this rejection, felt like maybe I was not good enough. It was a question of my skills, of my capacity, of things that I felt like I'd spent decades trying to harness. So going into the meeting was incredibly vulnerable for me.  I, I was nervous, I was sweaty, I was a mess. And I remember trying to talk and articulate the clarity that I was seeking. And my words didn't feel clear, like I felt so jumbled, and awkward. And in part, I think I've, I've always kind of struggled being a voice for myself, and to say, "I really want to do this. And this matters." And frankly, our family needed it, so it was pretty intense for me to sit across a desk and to say, "Why?" "Why was I not chosen even to have an interview? What is it about me?" Gratefully my supervisor was very kind. It's his nature.  Still, I struggled through most of the conversation, and when he offered the feedback I was really grateful for it, but I was also very confused, because it felt like . . . it felt like a character attack. And that maybe there was a question about the kind of person that I was. And, again, I think that's an important part of the story is that sometimes, when it matters so much, it becomes more personal. And that, that was hard for me to filter because it felt like a dream. It felt like something I was passionate about, or even a life mission, that I felt called to it. And so there's a lot more at stake.  As I go back and read my journal about that day, I think it took everything I had to not just scream that "You've got to be kidding me. This is, this is what they said about me? And is that who you think I am?" And I think I even said that, "Is that who you think I am?" And he's like, "No, Jenn,. No, that's not who I think you are, Just be patient. And will you give them a chance to get to know you." And I didn't get that.  I just–I wanted I wanted the job then, I didn't want to have to wait another season. There had been years of waiting and years of feeling this same sort of rejection. And and so you make up stories and narratives that start to really weigh on you. And so I started to really question, is this me? Is it them? Who am I really? And I was devastated and defeated. The field that I've chosen has few women in it. That's shifting, but it doesn't have as many women working in this field. So the committee that was evaluating my application was made up of men. So that became personal. I got mad. I spent a lot of time being really angry, but still working there. And so I was still going to be interacting with these people. And suddenly, I'm needing to go into meetings, and walk in and go, which one of you said that about me? And which one of you hates me the most? And well, that maybe wasn't accurate, that maybe they didn't hate me, but the harshness of the feedback was such that I'm like, Hmm, I wonder who it is.  It was, it was hard. And, and there was a lot of times that even just going to work was hard. I'd anything I could to not have to interact with anyone. I would find ways to enter the building differently, or could I get there really early, or really kind of late? Is there any way to just get my job done without being seen? Yet, at the same time, I felt like they need to see me, to know what they're thinking of me isn't true. And so it was this really complicated process of feeling shame, I felt a lot of shame, actually.  And I remember one day driving, knowing I was going to be in a meeting with several of the people that are on the committee that assesses hiring, or applicants. And I was just in that state. I was mad, I was frustrated, and I just said this prayer of "I'm so tired of feeling silenced and oppressed." And whether that was true or not, it's what I felt. And when I stopped screaming, I, I just held still for a minute. And the Spirit said, "You're not being silenced. I just need you to listen right now." And that, to me, was such a game changer to shift in going–maybe this is a chance to observe, or to understand human nature.  I was so self-absorbed in my pain, that I think it was too hard to look beyond myself, at least in this situation. Again, I'm not trying to negate what I felt or what happened, but I needed to shift. And so that day, it helped to listen. And I left less frustrated, but not healed. But it was . . . it was the beginning.  And there were months like that, where I would know, okay, today's a day that there's going to be high interaction. And I'd have to really gear myself up for it. It was a lot of prep work on those days to just go to work.  Maybe two months after the feedback, I started to keep a gratitude journal. I wasn't to the place yet that I was giving thanks about the people that had offered the feedback. But, I was grateful that I had employment. And that it was, that it was perhaps moving me in the direction of what I was hoping for.  The other thing that I started doing in this process was practicing some self care. And as I started to reflect on some of the feedback, I realized, there's so many things that are just so out of our control in our lives, but that I could take care of myself. And that was an interesting thing. The initial prompts were physical care, sleep and wellness. But it was interesting that those things started to soothe my mind, and I was able to start to surrender–trusting, hoping, that God had a plan in it all.  But it didn't stop that anxiety. I was getting ready for a meeting one night and just–I was so worked up. I just was so tired of feeling so inadequate, feeling like I have to prove myself. And I was ranting about it to my husband and just said my prayers and went to bed. And I'm a dreamer, I've always been a dreamer. I've wondered if maybe that's God's way of saying, look, I can't get through to you unless you're asleep. And on this particular night, I had a dream and it was really a disjointed dream. But at the beginning of it, I was in a meeting. I was really vocal, which was not typical of me in this context–I can definitely be vocal. And I just kept saying, "I don't see Jesus in this." Everything they were presenting, everything they were talking about, I just kept saying, "I don't see Jesus in this." And then the dream sort of shifted. Suddenly, I was in this crowd of people, and they were pressing and moving. And I'm like, "What's going on?" And they're like, "He's, He's here." And I'm like, "Jesus? I want to see Him." "Show me Jesus." And it was so cool because I looked and He locked eyes with me. And I woke up, darn it, I woke up. And I fell to my knees and just said, "What do you want me to know? What are you trying to tell me?" And I just kept saying, "Give me Jesus." And suddenly, I had this new mantra, "Show me Jesus." And I knew that if I could walk into that meeting, and if I could find Him in the meeting, that it was gonna be okay.  And I walked into the meeting. And before I walked in the door, I just kind of touched the doorframe. I remember touching the doorframe, and just whispering, "Show me Jesus." And I just started looking around the room, I had this total shift. And He was there. In the eyes and the faces of each of those people sitting around this table. I still was in a hurry to leave afterward, maybe because I had felt this change, and it started to get easier.  Where every time I started to feel inadequate, or every time I was making this false judgment about myself, or about someone else, and you know what, it's not even just about people at work anymore. It's everybody, that I hear just this simple, "Show me Jesus."  Once I saw Jesus, He became part of everything. And I thought I knew that. And I thought that He had always been in my walk–which He was, he was always in my walk–but that simple "Show me Jesus" shifted everything for me.  A new position came open about six weeks after that, and I wasn't going to apply. I was too afraid. And I actually had someone encourage me and say, "Well, do you want it?" "Yeah." And the advice was, "Well then be patiently persistent, and show them you want it." And so I applied again. And I did my best. I brought this broken offering. And I just laid it out. And I wanted to show them Jesus.  It was interesting to actually sit with this committee at a luncheon while I was interviewing, and to look around and know exactly who had assessed me previously,  And to think that maybe it wasn't so much about them changing, but that there had been such a transformation in me. And that I felt like I was sitting with my brothers, and I loved them. I mean, these are the people that I would call on, if I were in an emergency, I would trust them. And so maybe there was something about their feedback, whether it was accurate or not, that created a context for me to be shown Jesus. And I will love them for that. For the rest of my life. I got the job. And I wonder sometimes what would have happened had I gotten it in the first place. How different life would have been. Would I have brought Jesus to work with me in the same way that it took something so hard for me to shift, to shift with every person I interact with at work, at home, at play.  I've given a lot of thought to this phrase, "Show me Jesus," and wondered why? Why then, and why that? I think about President Nelson talking about being myopic, and that it's easy to have a really limited perception. It's part of being in a fallen world, that we don't see things fully. And I've often thought–I wonder if maybe what he was trying to teach me then and now, every day, that He sees me, and then I think, is polishing me to be more just or merciful, in other people's wrestle to see the divine in them.  Because I think that's what it all kind of boils down to, is this constant struggle to honor the divine, and to see it in ourselves, but to see in each other. We're all in a wrestle, and if I could just find Him in them, or in anyone, for that matter, that I could see His power to compensate. And that I could change and not worry so much about any judgment, except for His. And that he would take care of that. KaRyn  36:51   That was Jennifer. "Show me Jesus," what a powerful reminder to seek Him in every single person and every single situation, including the ones where we've been falsely represented or perceived.  I love that she didn't say that our feelings of hurt and betrayal weren't valid or worthy of being acknowledged. When we've been misjudged or our hearts have not been understood, it is healthy and appropriate, to mourn that experience. And I speak from experience, it's really hard, and it takes time to be ready to learn what we need to learn from it.  But I love seeing the progression in Jenn's story from hurt to self care, to reflection, to revelation, to reconciliation. The fact that the colleagues she once hid from, both figuratively and literally, could eventually become like brothers–that's a result of the transformational power of handing our fallen perceptions over to Christ. Handing over both how we're perceived, as well as how we find Jesus in each person that we meet.  I remember the first time I learned that among the more well known conditions of the fall of Adam and Eve, like spiritual separation from God and physical death, we also inherited another condition–a fallen intellect. I was reading Stephen Robinson's follow up to the book, "Believing Christ," which I think I've mentioned is one of my all time favorites.  The book was called "Following Christ," and I stumbled upon this, quote: "We humans trust reason and logic. Some of us trust reason more than we trust God. We have a tendency to think that if we start with what we know to be true and proceed with correct logic, we'll always arrive at correct conclusions. But that is wrong, for human reason is flawed. It is fallen" end quote.  He goes on to share some compelling reasons to understand and believe that our intellect has fallen, along with all the other parts of the fall. And he says, quote, "If we don't maintain a certain humility, and therefore a certain caution about our ability to reason correctly, and thereby to control our own fate, life will wound us dearly. And we are most at risk when we are most sure of ourselves" end quote.  I was only in my early 20's, but I had just finished a mission and graduated from college and I was pretty sure of myself and my ability to reason through most things. Reading that section of the book offered me a paradigm shift that I've never forgotten. Relying on my intellect in matters of judgment would never be enough. And as Brother Robinson says, quote, "Fallen intellect can never arrive at the whole truth on its own. Absent the influence of the Holy Ghost on some level, whether as revelation, inspiration, intuition, or whatever, our reason will eventually lead us to error" end quote.  Our reason, our ability to perceive things without distortion is hopelessly flawed by design. A loving Heavenly Father created a condition in which good judgment is not a function of our earthly reason. It's a function of our relationship to Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. And the only way to access that good judgment here in this fallen world, is to link ourselves inextricably to the spirit, so that when we must, we can discern truth from error with divine perception.  One other thing that's been sparked by these stories for me today is the realization that good judgment is a gift that we can seek after. While only Jesus Christ is qualified to pass final judgment with all his infinite mercy and justice, we can seek to do better in the small courts of our daily lives. We can ask for the ability to feel and to understand the incomprehensible love that Christ has for someone whose actions might otherwise preclude fond feeling. We can ask for the wisdom to fulfill earthly law with as much justice as is required, and more mercy than we thought possible, while also trusting that God's going to take care of filling in the gaps of all of our fallen capacities.  We can ask to find Jesus around the conference room table. And we can ask for clarity against the distortions that plague our self-judgment and our perception of others. And I think that as we practice humble, merciful, judgment now, we'll be way more ready to stand in front of our maker at that final day, at the judgment bar of God, to tell our story without fear, because we'll know some small part of His compassion towards us, because we have felt it towards others. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel," thank you to our storytellers, Brett, Carey and Jennifer for sharing their stories and their good judgment. We'll have more info about each of these storytellers including a link to Stephen Robinson's books, "Believing Christ" and "Following Christ" in our show notes at LDS You can also find us on Instagram or Facebook at @thisisthegospel_podcast.  A huge thank you to everyone who shared the reviews of this podcast and told us about your favorite stories and episodes this past week. And always, we love to hear from you. You can leave a review of the podcast on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen on. Reviews are super helpful in pushing us up in the recommended section of a lot of platforms so more people can find us.  All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers, and we find a lot of our stories through our pitch line. As we're wrapping up production for season three, we don't have any specific themes to share with you. But if you have a story to share about a time in your life, when you learn something new by practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we absolutely want to hear from you. We'll be gathering stories and ideas for our next season soon. And the best pitches will be short, they'll be sweet, they'll have a clear sense of the focus of your story and you'll have three minutes to pitch it when you call 515-519-6179.  This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay with story production editing from Erika Free, Kelly Campbell and Sarah Blake our crack team of awesome. 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.
Feb 22, 2021
The Gift of Curiosity
In this episode, we explore one of the ways that we can become better storytellers and better listeners through cultivating our holy curiosity. In honor of Black History Month, we revisit the faithful story of Isaac Thomas, a black Latter-day Saint who converted to the gospel in the 1970's despite the fact that he would be unable to hold the priesthood or participate fully in the restored gospel he loved. We'll also hear from Tamu Smith and Zandra Vranes, (aka the Sistas in Zion) who give us their tips for better ways to interact with one another across cultural divides.  SHOW NOTES:  If you're looking for ways to get curious about the lived experiences of our brothers and sisters of color in the gospel, you can find a list of resources (as promised!) at 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've ever spent any time with a three year old, then you might not agree with the central tenet of our theme today, that curiosity is a gift. But listen, if we can get past the exhaustion that comes from answering those rapid fire questions of our tiny humans, we'll eventually come to that magical place where we admit that the ability to look into the wide world and ask a million times, "How does this work?" That's pretty awe inspiring. It's interesting, when we talk about the commandment to become as a little child, I think our minds often go straight to humility. But is there anything more humble than acknowledging that there's so much we don't know and so much that we want to know? Curiosity is a function of true discipleship. And when we tap into it, we open the door to so much beauty and possibility in our efforts to become a true child of Christ. Now, listen, I'm pretty sure that I am preaching to the choir when I say this, but I can't think of a business that is more suited to a cultivation of curiosity than the work of storytelling, and it's necessary companion act of listening. When we dive into a story and allow ourselves to feel something from someone else's experience, that's evidence of a curious heart. And that translates when we tell our own stories. Having the spiritual gift of curiosity about others will make us more introspective about ourselves, our motives, our fears, so that when we bear our own stories of faith, we'll convey the heart of the story instead of just the details. If curiosity can really do that, then I think it's something lovely, of good report and worth seeking after. I've also been thinking about how curiosity, storytelling, and listening can be tools for us as we try to accomplish what President Nelson has charged us with, when he said in the October 2020 General Conference, that Latter-day Saints and followers of Christ must, quote, "Lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice." I firmly believe that offering a curious heart to one another and listening from the starting place of, "I don't understand and I want to understand," is the key to beginning that work. So as we celebrate Black History Month here in the U.S. in February, I figured maybe we could start there today. Start by practicing a holy curiosity about a part of our church history, that sometimes hard to hear. Today, we've got a story about faith, pain and hope from Isaac Thomas, an African American Latter-day Saint who converted to the gospel in the 1970's, despite the ban that precluded Black men like him from holding the priesthood. We first shared Isaac's story in season one of the podcast. So you may have heard it before. But even if that's the case, I'm a huge believer that with a little bit of a prayer in our heart, the spirit will show us new insights. Here's Isaac. ISAAC: I was born in Kansas City, Missouri. I've been a member of The Church for 46 years. I was part of the Civil Rights movement, I was involved in the marching and the sit-ins and those types of things, and campaigning and being a non-violent protester for rights not only for blacks but for everyone. That was what I was doing at the time when I first started college. It was 1967 to 1971. It taught me patience, if nothing else, and long-suffering because during the Civil Rights movement to sit in at a cafe, and to be hosed in those things, there's a lot of patience involved in that, and a lot of long-suffering.  I first came in contact with the church through a young man that was in my basic training unit when I was in the Air Force, and he gave me a Joseph Smith pamphlet for me to read. That was my initial contact with The Church. I actually didn't get a chance to read it all. I just got to the first paragraph, explaining who Joseph Smith was. And then my drill instructor took it out of my hand and told me that Mormons were racist and bigots. Oh, okay well, forget that. I don't need racists and bigots in my life. I almost ended it. After that, I went to my next duty station and again, there was another Mormon on base that asked me for, you know, said he’d give me a ride at the chow hall and he asked me to go to his church with him that night. I forgot to ask him what church I was even going to. It didn't occur to me that everybody in the jeep that I was in, leaving base, was white but me. And the church was on the road in Southwest Texas alone by itself, I’m squinting, going where’s the church, and I realize it's a Mormon church. Ahh, it's a Mormon church! It's a Klu Klux Klan meeting and I'm going to be the burnt offering. I was, I couldn't believe it. I said I'll get out of the Jeep. I'll stand here, They'll go in and I'll walk back to base. Nobody moved until I did. I'm walking into this church, I'm going, "Please let there be another person of color in here." There was not. They had a mahogany foyer and I was going, if I stand close enough I can blend in and they won't notice I'm here. I expected for the chapel doors will open I would enter and see the grand dragon with hood in sheet. I could not believe I had gotten myself into such a terrible, terrible situation. KARYN: What Isaac found that day was actually far from what he feared. The rumors were untrue. There was no grand wizard lurking in the chapel, and instead, he felt something sweet and meaningful. He agreed to take the missionary discussions that soon came across some difficult information that was hard to process. ISAAC: The first time I learned that I couldn't hold the Priesthood was when they gave me the last lesson which was added to the series of lessons that they were giving me and they explained it to me. They told me all the reasons, all the reasons that the time that they were told. And I listened. And then I said, "You'll have to tell me that again". And they repeated everything. And then something just said, "It's okay." And I said, "Fine. Fine, I'm okay." The thing that kept me anchored was I knew Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I knew that, got that witness,  can't deny that. I knew the Book of Mormon had been restored by the prophet of God, can't get rid of that one either. If those two are true, then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Church of God. There was some dissonance because I didn't know what other blacks would think of me, how they would accept me. I wasn't sure how the rest of my family members would accept me which troubled me because we were very close family. And so I was wandering in this mist of darkness really, just feeling my way, but I could not deny what I know to be true. I actually joined the church December 15 in 1972 in an old chapel in San Angelo, Texas. I remember just fighting with myself in the restroom, going, "Should I leave? Should I stay? No, Get out of here, this is bad. No, you need to stay this is going to be good for you." But I indeed stayed and I was baptized  and it was glorious for me. Really, I’d never felt so good and all my days. I remember the feeling of being light and forgiven. My parents' reaction when I joined the Mormon Church, my father was not there when my mother asked me, "What church did you join?" And I said, "The Mormon Church," and she dropped the skillet. My cousin left cussing. My brother said, "You did what?" And I just kind of sat there silently. And then my grandparents, when they heard about it, they said, "Just leave him alone, it’s one of his passing things. It'll be okay." But after a while, when I stopped drinking, smoking, carousing, doping and all those things, my grandmother finally said, "I don't care what church it is, hallelujah to it." It got me to be the person that they wanted me to be. Because my grandmother, when I was younger, I was ill and she promised the Lord that if I was saved, or live, that I would dedicate my life to the Lord. And I have to admit, I found that out and I purposely tried not to be that person, but here I am. Well, I decided once I got out of the military that I wanted to go on a mission. That was 1976 or 77. And I knew I couldn't, so I wrote President Kimball a letter and said, "Dear President, I'd like to go on a mission. I don't care if I can't baptize people, somebody else can do all that. All I want to do is be able to get in there and to teach people, just to teach them the Gospel." I got a letter back and it said, "Dear Brother Thomas, we're sorry, you can't go on a mission because you don't have the priesthood." Then, I went, "Women go on missions!" So I wrote him another letter, "Women go on missions!" I got another letter back saying, but they had to go to the temple and take out their endowment. And for you to go on a mission, you'd have to take out your endowment. So you can't go." And I said, I'm going to mission one way or the other, okay? And then my mindset, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Okay, I'm going to go, I'll figure it out, then I'll let them know. That was my mindset. I had not given up, but I accepted what he said, I understood what he was saying and why it was being said. But I figured there was some other way for me to accomplish the thing that I wanted to do. Because after all, the Lord gives no commandment unto the children of men unless He provides a way to accomplish the things that he has commanded.  Well, I realize how to serve that mission. When the kids came home from school and they told me about this song and dance group at BYU that did missionary work, and all they did was sing and dance. And they said it’s Young Ambassadors. And I went, "I can do that!" So me and my friends jumped in his MG, drove up here inAugust of 1977 for me to audition for the Young Ambassadors for my mission. But I got there and I was intimidated by all the talent that was there. I mean, I hadn't had music lessons or dancing lessons so I didn't audition. But then I was getting ready to go do baptisms for the dead and the phone rang and it was the director of the Young Ambassador's asking me to come up and audition. The director of the Young Ambassadors was told to call me because when I was in Thailand, a group from BYU came over to entertain the troops. And I worked the lights for them and Randy Booth was playing the piano and I met him and I was doing USO shows. Apparently, somebody told him that I was there. And a dancer had dropped out of the Young Ambassadors so they had called me to see if I wanted to come up and audition. And so I went up, after I'd gone to the temple, sang and danced, sand and danced, and they said, "Yes, we want you to be part of our group.” We want you to know that you're going to be in a fishbowl, that everybody will be watching you that this won't be easy. There will be a lot of questions, a lot of pressure that you will be under. It was going to be pressure because I was a black member of The Church. And at that time, there were not a whole lot of us around, particularly in a performing group at BYU. And because we were going to be traveling all over, that there will be non-members and other people that would take me to task and take The Church to task on their stand about why blacks could not have the priesthood. And I said, "Well, that's their problem. This is my mission for two years. I don't have time for that." Done. That was one of the greatest learning experiences of my time being a member of the Young Ambassadors. I learned more about performing, I learned a whole, whole lot about brotherhood. When I say brotherhood, I include sisterhood as well. The love and care that they had for me was genuine and real. There would be some that would leave and go on missions and they would tell me, "Isaac, I'm gonna baptize this many people in your name." I was promised that I would have special friends and associates that would be for my good. And that was indeed quite true with that group. When something untoward happened, like a member or somebody would not let me stay in their home because I was black, some of the girls— they got very, very upset—and I didn't like that kind of thing. So I would have to stay in a hotel or something with the director. But they were always there. I never had to worry about my back. Ever. There were some challenges while I was on my mission with the Young Ambassadors, and there was a time where we were doing a number in Georgetown, Pennsylvania and a girl jumped about two inches off the floor, ripped her knee out, hobbled off stage. I was the only one off stage because I had a solo number after that one. And I carried her off and the director came back and said, "Isaac, go get someone that has the priesthood." And he might as well hit me upside the head with a wrecking ball, or taken a machete and just gutted me. I was devastated. He wasn't being mean, it was just a fact. And really, I think for the first time, I really did feel inferior in some way because of that. Like Man's Search for happiness, I just didn't know what was happening in my life because I had no question about the priesthood for six years. I'd been a member for six years, what's going on? And I was talking to Brad Smith, he was my roommate, and I just told him I felt like I was holding on to my testimony by the skin of my teeth at that point. But then, I realized, we have to trust in God because man will disappoint us every time, but God will not. He may not come when you want Him all the time, but He's always on time. So about June, end of May of 1978, we were in Toronto, Canada. And the missionaries brought this young lady to the show for me to talk to, she was black. And the director kept bugging me to talk to her. And I said, "Okay, fine." But when I jumped off the stage, there was a bunch of anti-Mormon people that came to the show. I was surrounded by all these people that are calling me a traitor to my race. That I was an Oreo, an Uncle Tom, and I just didn't need that my life. I finally talked to this young lady and I told her she’d do more for a family in the church and she ever could outside of it. And I left. We jumped on our bus, traveled to Kansas City, June 8, and we had lunch with my mom and we sang songs, we got back on the bus and we start going through Kansas. I went to sleep. Cause Kansa, it’s flat, there's nothing there and I'd seen it before. I went to sleep. They woke me up when we got to Salina, Kansas and told me to get off the bus. I got up, I got off the bus, didn't know what was going on. When I got back to our equipment van that had our costumes and instruments in it, Gary, our piano player was driving that when he said, "Isaac, we heard something on the radio. We don't know if it's true." I said, "Well, Gary, what did you hear?" He said, "Well, we want you to hear, we just don't know what to think." He kept going on and on and on. I recognized the station, it was WHB in Kansas City. I thought they had heard that my mom had been an accident. I said, "Gary, if you don't tell me what you've heard, I'm going to be all of you like stink on a monkey." He said, "They gave the blacks the Priesthood!" I said, "Don't, don't believe that, please. We're in the heartland of the reorganized church, the heartland of the reorganized church. They could be giving the cows the Priesthood for all we know out here. And don't tell anybody on that bus because I can't handle if it's not true. I can’t handle all that disappointment. No, don't want to deal with it. I got in the van, we drove to a mall, the director gets out runs in the mall. I figure we're going to go in, pass out some pamphlets about The Church get some contacts for the missionaries and sing some songs. Done it before, no big deal. Gets back on the bus. The bus pulls in front of the van and I see every, all 40 something people on one side of the bus hands and faces waving. At that point, I knew that they had told them about this fictitious rumor about this Priesthood thing. I went, "How could they do that to me?" and then on the CB radio, I hear, "Elder Thomas, it is true." My entire life passed before my eyes. And I went, wait a minute did I sleep through the Millennium? I was always told what happened in the Millennium. And then I went wait, well who's coming in these clouds? And I didn't know if I should look or not. It was like being in a dream. I get on the bus and they say "Bare your testimony!" I couldn't think of my name. I don't know what I said, I said something and I sat down by the director. At that point, people start singing songs, "The Spirit of God like a Fire is Burning," and then someone would bear their testimony. "I am a child of God." "I know that my Redeemer lives," all of those harmonies from all those talented talented people floated across Kansas. But everybody that I'd ever know from the Laotian border from Karamursel, Turkey, San Angelo, Texas, the family that got me in the church was trying to find me that day. For they had been there supporting me all this time. Praying along with me for this day to come, like many, many, many of the silent majority of the members of The Church, praying for this very, very special thing. It wasn't my letter, either one of them, it was a collective effort for those that wanted this to be done and for the Lord to hear the prayers of His children that were given in righteousness and in devotion unto Him.  After the revelation, our last show was in Loveland, Colorado. The bus pulled up and there was like, hordes of people there to welcome us and at that show that night, the audience was great. Several encores, several testimonies, but when we got back to BYU, it was a little different because there were people that would speak to me and thought I could walk on water because I didn't have the priesthood. Now that I could, they would not speak to me. There were also advertisements taken out the newspaper denying the priesthood revelation that made me feel bad. And it took me a while to understand that that was their choice if they were cheating themselves out of their own exaltation. That was hard, but for the more part, it was grand. I wanted to write someone black, the only black person I had, which was this young lady I met in Toronto, Canada. Well, she came down for General Conference because they were going to be you know, ratifying and talking about the Restoration of the Priesthood for conference. So she came down, stayed with her missionary's that converted her. I met her and we, you know, went to a couple of sessions together and then Sunday night, we were walking on Temple Square, and we were just talking and I asked her what she was going to be doing and told her what my plans were and we got up by the Christus, and all of a sudden I heard these words come out of my mouth, "Will you marry me?" And I was so startled by what came out of my mouth. I couldn't believe it. Because I promised I would never have a Mormon romance, you know what I mean? And she said, "I'll have to think about it." I'm going, it's a good thing somebody's thinking because  obviously I am not. She came back a couple days later and said, "Yes." And we talked about will we get married civilly first? Will we wait and get sealed? And we decided to wait to get sealed. And we got married June 15, 1979. We were the first black couple to be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. There were so many people at my sealing. I can't tell you who was there. All I know is there was standing room, people everywhere, halfway out the door. And when we walked out of the temple, there were all kinds of people taking pictures, it was in the Deseret News and I'm going, okay. But we were, we were so dizzy just from being nervous about being married. But really, it was another surreal experience in my life, but a great one. My testimony helps me when things aren't connected as far as race and understanding in the church. People can say and do anything, there will always be bigots, some knowingly being bigots, some unknowingly being bigots in every religion, they're there. No matter what the trial is, or what the circumstance is or what's been said to me or thrown at me, literally. The Lord is there. We sing a song in my grandmother's church, it went, "I trust in God, I know he cares for me. On the mountain tops, on the stormy sea. Though the billows may roll, he thrills my soul. My Heavenly Father watches over me." KaRyn  23:12   That was Isaac Thomas. I produced the video for LDS Living that first told this story in 2018. And it's amazing to me that I've heard Isaac's story literally dozens of times. And I still heard something new as I listened.  Maybe you found yourself like I did filled with gratitude and wonder at Isaac's faithfulness and his determination, that part about choosing to serve a mission even when he couldn't formally serve, I mean, that just gets me every single time. And maybe you, like me, heard those stories of pain and wounding from Isaac and wondered if maybe you'd inadvertently allowed a bias or lack of understanding to get in the way of another child of God feeling the full stature of their divinity.  If that's the case, well, then good. Good, good, good. That is the gift of curiosity, doing its beautiful job, reminding us that we're still alive here on this earth and that our time is not over yet, we still have some spiritual growth left in us. It can be painful, a real gut punch to be curious about ourselves in that way, to search out the moat in our own eye.  But our love for Isaac and all of our brothers and sisters of color demand that we do it. Our desire to be more like the Savior demands it as well. And I firmly believe that he will help us to push past the shame and the fear that that self examination can bring up if we let him.  In the spirit of practicing curiosity, I want to share one more quick little thing with you today. It's audio from a video series that LDS Living did a while ago called, "What and what not to say at church." We did the series to help us all navigate potentially awkward situations at church with a little bit more love and a little more self awareness.  And one of the topics that we tackled was talking to our Black brothers and sisters. I don't know about you, but I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and my interactions with Black culture were really limited until I was in college in Philadelphia. And I made a lot of mistakes. And I acted on a lot of assumptions. And I know I hurt people.  I really love that saying that is making the rounds lately, "When you know better, you do better." Admitting fault and vowing to do better is the very heart of our gospel practice. And that's true of navigating cultural differences. It's a holy work that requires God to help us complete. But bridging the gap is possible, and listening to others with a different life experience, really listening to them without defensiveness, that's the first step.  So here are Tamu Smith and Zandra Vranes, also known as the Sistas in Zion, with their tips for doing better at interacting with each other at church. And here's a funny thing. This video was done long before President Nelson asked us to stop calling ourselves "Mormons," so you're going to hear that in this audio, but just know that we know that we don't use that anymore. Here you go.   Tamu   Sometimes people will come up to you and grab you hair.   Zandra   If this has ever happened to you at church, you might be a Black Mormon.   Tamu   On a serious tip, at church, sometimes we say things like, "I don't see color," which is not true, but it is awkward. And we understand that. We're going to have some awkward moments, but we're just going to ride it through. And we're going to get through this because we are all brothers and sisters, and we're in this together.    Zandra   Absolutely, so we're going to give some tips.   Tamu   So what do you say to people who just come up to you and touch your hair?   Zandra   So we know you're curious, and that's okay. But we really shouldn't touch people without permission. So if you're interested in my hair, get to know me. Know my name, what are my interests, and once we're friends, maybe we'll get to hair.    When we serve admissions around people of color, we often like to share with them that we've connected culturally with an experience that might resonate with us.   Tamu   Basically, what you want us to know is that you love Black people, and we want you to know we love you back.   Zandra   But while we're seeking connections, there are some assumptions that can actually disconnect us.   Tamu   For example, I'm from California, not from Ghana, where you served your mission.    Zandra   And that sister from Ghana is not from the hood, where you served yours.    Tamu   People think I can sing because I'm Black, so they want me to be in the choir. I'm not a good singer. Also, I'm a convert to the church to the LDS faith. She is not.   Zandra   I am a convert, actually, everybody's a convert to the LDS faith, but I don't have a gangster to gospel story that you're looking for.    All Black people don't know each other. I cannot get Alex Boye to speak at your farewell.    Tamu   So sometimes people will come up to me and they'll say, you know, "Oh, my gosh, I served my mission in Chicago, Illinois. Do you know champagne?" And I'm like, "Yeah!". . . I don't.   Zandra   But the truth is, all Black Mormons kind of really do know each other.   Tamu   Don't speak slang to me if that's not your native language.    It's okay to ask me, "Are you Black? Or are you African American?" I'm both. And I'm also Tamu.   Zandra   When it comes to asking questions, motive matters. If your motive is the loving one, it'll shine through.   Tamu   Sometimes we have these conversations in the church, and sometimes race is a part of it. Don't skip over the race part. We want to be a part of that conversation.   Zandra   Tamu and I don't speak for all Black people, so the best rule of thumb is treat everybody like individuals, get to know them. And then you'll find out what they like, what they don't like. All are like unto God. But that doesn't mean that we are all alike. It means that we're striving to love each other, like God loves each of us.   Tamu   I'm excited to see you on Sunday.   Zandra   Catch me in the pew, how about that?   Tamu   How about that.   Zandra   And when we wear our wraps and hats to church, don't ask us to move to the back row because you can't see over them. Come on up and join us. The more the merrier on the pew.   KaRyn  29:20   That was Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith. We'll have a link to that video in our show notes so you can see what you can't when you're just listening to the audio. Tamu and Zandra have never been shy about sharing what it feels like to be a woman of color in a church that sometimes doesn't reflect their experience.  And I for one, am grateful for their willingness to speak up with plainness and love and self respect. They brought up an interesting point in the video that I had honestly never thought of until just now. It's the difference between a holy curiosity and a nosy curiosity. And here's what I mean.  Holy curiosity respects people's boundaries. It's motivated by love and acknowledges the godliness and the divinity in every person, while also asking, "What's it like for you to be here?" But nosy curiosity is just the opposite. It's actually all about you, and meeting your needs to know, at the expense of another person's dignity.  It's doing what I know I have done before, touching someone's hair because you want to know what it feels like regardless of how that might make them feel. Or asking someone if you've hurt them, only to try to defend yourself.  I love what Zandra said, that our motives matter. And it's going to shine through as we press forward through awkward moments in our attempts to form genuine familial connection. I don't know what it's like for you, but my church life sometimes seems like it's all awkward moments. Ministering, teaching over zoom, accepting ministering, all of these great things require me to be slightly uncomfortable all the time.  So after listening to these tips again, I'm going to try to put this into practice. To ask myself if my curiosity is holy or nosy, to pause before talking and check myself to see if my curiosity is motivated by a desire to really know someone and understand their life on their terms, or if it serves only me.  I'm hopeful that as I do that, that my comfort and ease will grow as I do the work of discipleship. We can't leave this theme of curiosity without recognizing that ultimately, we seek this gift so that we can become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. Talk about a holy curiosity.  Despite the fact that he knew all and could perceive every single thing, Christ asked hundreds of questions during his ministry. And those are only the things that we have recorded in canonized scripture. I'm sure there was more. Christ loved curiosity. And in Matthew chapter seven, verse seven, he promised us that our sacred curiosity would be rewarded, he said, "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you."  So back to that charge from President Nelson to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice, I think it all starts with engaging with the gift of curiosity, asking Heavenly Father to show us what we don't know. And listening to stories from people who've lived it, like Isaac, and Tamu and Zandra, and others. Asking questions with a motivation of love and a commitment to do better, when we know better.  If you're feeling that desire right now, we will have a list of really great resources to feed your curiosity in our show notes, including some links that offer opportunities to hear directly from our brothers and sisters of color who go to church with us. I don't think we have to wait to be perfect to lead out. We just have to be like a little child willing to let people see us and our growth and our curiosity. And then we can truly call ourselves, all of us, the children of Christ. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storyteller, Isaac Thomas, and our wonderful Sistas in Zion, Zandra and Tamu. We'll have more info from all of these storytellers in our show notes at LDS That's also where you can find a transcript of each episode.  If you haven't already started to follow us on social media, go find us on Instagram or Facebook at @thisisthegospel_podcast, we work hard to make sure that it will add to your scrolling instead of taking away.  The stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers, we find lots of our stories through the pitch line. So if you have a story to share about a time in your life when you learn something new by practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you. The best pitches will be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch when you call, 515-519-6179.  If you want to help spread the word about "This Is the Gospel," we'd love for you to give personal recommendations to your friend. Find an episode you love, send it in a text message personal recommendations are the way to go. And you can also leave a review of the podcast on Apple, stitcher, or whatever platform you listen on. Reviews help this podcast to show up for more people in their search functions.  This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay with additional story production from Davey Johnson and the producer director of that "What not to say" video, Skylar Brunner. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six studios, our executive producer is ErinHallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at LDS slash podcasts. Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Feb 15, 2021
Enduring and Eternal Love
Ashley’s life was in full bloom as a talented teenager when a tragic car accident leaves her grieving the loss of her father and her ability to play the piano. Her mother, Michelle, forges ahead to keep her family afloat without her husband when she receives an insistent prompting from the Spirit that will only make sense in the months to follow. In the end, that prompting is the key to Ashley’s healing and a reminder to both that love and family endure beyond the doors of death. Get pictures, bios and more in our shownotes at You can also follow us on Instagram or facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast 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.  Okay, be honest – when you saw this week's theme, did you gag a little bit and think, "Ugh, how cliche for the week of Valentine's Day?" If you did, I totally get it. Even as a person who loves love and finds deep joy in all those red hearts and the explosion of pink that comes with this holiday, it's sometimes hard to reconcile the expectations of love that we're sold in the movies with what actually happens when we attempt to practice this divine principle with human people.  It's funny, we throw the word "love" around like it's nothing when we're talking about our relationship to say – I don't know – a Popeye's spicy chicken sandwich, because well, it's delicious, for one thing, but also, we don't have any expectation that that sandwich is going to love us back.  But people? People are complex and interesting, and oddly enough, human. There's a deep risk to love that can feel way more intimidating and vulnerable than Valentine's Day, or Hallmark, or even Popeye's chicken sandwiches would have us believe. Loving someone means truly stepping into the unknown on so many levels.  So if you're worried that we took the easy way out here at "This Is the Gospel," don't let the theme fool you. Today, we have a story that does not shy away from the risky parts of love. But it also doesn't shy away from the beauty of it either.  Ashley and Michelle, our mother daughter storytelling team, have a tale of love, and loss, and miracles that spans this world and the next. It'll have even the most cynical among us believing in this thing called "Eternal love." A quick note, this story has elements of trauma that – while told carefully – may be hard for some sensitive listeners. First, we'll hear from Ashley and then Michelle will join in the story.  Here's Ashley and Michelle. Ashley  2:01   I've been playing the piano since I was eight. And my mom, was super adamant that all the kids learn how to play because she didn't know how to play and she wished that she did. So we would get up before school and practice half an hour before school and then half an hour after school every single day – piano was just always playing in our house and it was such a huge part of our lives. And I used piano as a stress relief. It was truly like my joy in life.  Family was also a big part of my life, and my dad actually used to love to sit in the living room and listen to me play. That was one of my favorite things to do was to play for my dad. We had such a genuinely good father-daughter relationship.  So when I was 17 – this was actually 17 years ago – my dad came to pick me up from a school event and my youngest brother – who was four at the time – tagged along. And halfway home, I was thirsty and begged him to stop at McDonald's, which was so out of character for me. I would have never asked to go to McDonald's, and he would have probably never pulled over, but he did. Like miraculously, he said, "Okay, let's do it." And while he was inside getting me a drink, I hopped in the backseat, which is also super uncharacteristic, especially for like a 17 year old, who likes to sit shotgun.  I went and got in the backseat, I was going to read to my brother and then take a nap. And I was asleep in the back, so I was unaware that we were in a car accident until it actually happened. And I just remember thinking as the car was . . . I could hear the windows being smashed and I could feel the like hot August air coming in. And I could smell like burning tire, and I knew that this was an accident and like the whole front of the car was gone.  First thing I did when I came to, is I checked my limbs. I checked my hands, and I made sure they were still there. That was the first thing that crossed my mind, I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to play the piano again. And they were still there, but I watched my left hand and wrist just start to crumble and deform before me, and I knew that it was not good. My brother was awake and he was conscious and crying and some angel of a woman who saw the accident came and got him out of the car.  And my dad was in the front, he was unconscious and I didn't know if he was alive or dead. I just knew that he didn't look great. Michelle  4:57   I was cleaning when I got a phone call, and it was 911. And I thought – 911? It just was trippy to me because 911 doesn't call me, I'm supposed to call them if there's a problem. And she told me her name, and she said to me, my family has been in a bad accident, and that if I could find somebody to take me up to the hospital, that was what they needed me to do. I . . . it just took me a moment to register what she was saying. I asked her individually, I asked her, "How is –" each one of them, "How is Jet? How is Ashley? How is Kash?" And I kept going over and over and over, like, how are they? Because I wanted to know what was going on. And she said to me that she didn't know. But she did know it was tragic. Ashley  5:55   My brother went to one hospital, and I went to another. And the hospital contacted my mom and told her where my brother was, but they couldn't find me – they didn't know where they had taken me. So I was alone, in and out of like ER rooms and x-rays and . . . being shuffled around before surgery for like five hours by myself. And no one knew where I was. I didn't know where I was, I didn't know the state of my family, like what was going on.  And I remember thinking on a gurney in some hallway waiting for the doctors, I just remember thinking, Heavenly Father, please, please do not let my dad die. I promise I will do anything and everything to be a good person if you let him live. And I remember feeling, I didn't hear it, but I felt it distinctly in my heart, that – "No, if I take him home, you will do anything and everything to be a good person to live with him again." And at that point, no one had to tell me that he had passed away, I knew that he was gone, because of that confirmation. Michelle  7:07   They accident happened at, oh, about a quarter to four, and I probably was at the hospital by four thirty. Maybe faster, you know, I got there pretty quick. But I can't recall exactly . . . I know a social worker came into the room they put me in. They put me and my kids and my girlfriend who drove me up there into like a room in the ER. And a social worker came in and I can't even recall what she said to me, but the next thing I know a sheriff and the bishop come in. And now there are three women in this room with my kids and the sheriff says, "Which one of you is Mrs. Johnson?" So . . . oh boy.  And he got on his knee – he had Kash's driver's license in his hand – and he got on his knee and . . . probably because that way he could see me face to face because I was sitting in a chair, and told me that Kash had passed away at the scene of the accident. I tried to deny it, like my mind just couldn't accept it. And I think you do anything you can to say "No, that's not him," or "Are you sure?" kind of a thing. And that was really hard to watch my two children that were there react to hearing that their dad had died because I couldn't prep them, I didn't know that was coming.  And um . . . that day in the driveway, I – because he was in a taller car, I just remember standing on the side rail – I'm short – so I stood on the side rail, put my head in the window and kissed him goodbye. . . Sorry. It's a hard memory. But um . . . and he said, "I love you," Of course we always said, "I love you," and "Goodbye." So I kissed him goodbye. And that was the last time I heard his voice or saw him or anything.  At this point we have no idea where Ashley is. No idea. Nobody can tell me – the hospital doesn't know anything about it, nobody can get to the bottom of it. I just think, where's my child? Someone finally said, "We found her." And uh . . . she was next door. She was at the U. And so now I've got to tell Ashley what really happened.  So I . . . my Bishop went with me. But he of course, said it was my job to do that. You can't prepare them or find words to say that to your kid. And I think by nature, when we have bad news, we don't want to say it, we find other things to say. So, you know, I've tried to catch my breath, and I walked into the room, and I can see that she's in pain and . . . and I don't know, do I hug and love her? Do I talk about her dad? What do I do?  And the first thing she says to me is, "How's dad? Where is he?" And I didn't want to tell her, so I told her about Jet. I said, "Well, Jet's in surgery, he's going to be okay," which I didn't know anything about. That was pretty much a good lie. But it felt a little safer, because I did see him alive. And so I told her that, and she pushed it. And I just thought, okay, I have to tell her. And I just said that . . . that he went home to Jesus. I couldn't say that he died, I just couldn't do it. So that's what I told her. I said, "He went home to Jesus."  The day after the accident – it was less than 24 hours for sure – that the organ donation people contacted me. They are the kindest, most empathetic and well-trained people to deal with such a heartache. And were so kind about me losing Kash, that he passed, but they also very tenderly reminded me that he had offered to donate, and if I was willing to honor that wish – and I told them, I would do that. And they said, "Well," you know, they said, "We need to read this to you." They said, "Can we have –" and they started going through the list. And it just became so overwhelming to me.  First, a lot of it was – they were medical terms, things that I wouldn't, I wouldn't call a body part, a layman's word. So some of them I just didn't even know. And at some point, I didn't care. And the list went on and on and on. I just thought, I can't hear this. I don't want to know what you're taking. Just take it all. And I told them that and they said, "We can't." "We have to read you the list, and you have to agree to each, each part." So I let them finish reading the list and I was overwhelmed. I also had the two kids that I needed to get back to at the hospital. So I just said, "Can you call me back in a couple of hours? I'm going to donate. But I have to breathe for a second." And they said, "Yeah, we'll call you back."  And in between that I asked the bishop, "Is this something that the Church is okay with? Kash really wanted to do this, he really wanted to donate." And he said, "Absolutely." So, a couple hours later, they called me back and they went through the list again. And I can't tell you if I paid much attention to the list. But apparently, I must have remembered a few things. And some of them were easy to remember. Like I remember things like heart valve, and I remembered . . . I heard the word "bones," I know what that is, but I didn't remember all the and I knew they were you taking his eyes and . . . but I couldn't tell you a lot of the other parts until it was reminded to me later, but the list was long.  And so I gave them permission. I just said, "Make sure that I can't tell when I bury him." They said, "We are perfectly careful about that." And so respectful. So it was not traumatic at all. And the decision had been made two or three years – two years before.  My husband Kash was a pilot for Delta Airlines. And probably about a year or two maybe before he passed away, he came home from a trip and he was quite emotional about something that had happened. And he told me the story. He said that before they took off on that day that a medical crew came on to the flight and brought an ice chest up into the cockpit, and it wasn't to be touched or anything like that. It just had to be there. And it had organs in it. And he knew that he was transporting it. It was going to a children's hospital.  It just really made him think he said the whole time that he was flying he thought about where it was going. We had five kids at that point and so it was probably really tender, and maybe . . .  it probably made him think about, wow, would I ever donate any of my kids parts or organs, or how would I feel if I was the one that needed to receive it for one of them? So it really touched him. And so that is how he decided that he was going to become an organ donor, just because it was such a tender moment for him.  And he often also said that, flying, he always felt that . . . It's really quiet in the cockpit  – when nothing's going on, of course – he always felt closer to Heavenly Father while he flew, because he could see the earth. And it just was a really spiritual time for him or it was – he could have spiritual moments while he flew. So having those organs in the cockpit with him, just really touched him. And it – enough that he came home and I can tell that something was going on, like "What, what's going on?" And he said, "I have to tell you this." It's just something that we don't think about much. And so he just had a situation that brought it right to his, to his face and his heart and everything else. It was in his presence right there. So it was easy for me to say yes. So that is how I was able to make the donation. Ashley  15:53   My mom eventually found me and she officially broke the news to me right before I went into surgery. For a while I was super angry. I mean, I was 17. And I was superficial and angsty. And it – my perfect life had been ripped out from under me and I was very angry at Heavenly Father.  I never doubted that he . . . I never doubted that my dad was supposed to die. Sounds terrible to say – I never doubted that though. I knew that that was part of the plan of salvation, and that he had work to do on the other side. And . . . but it made me mad. It made me mad that his work on the other side was more important than his work here with his family.  After several surgeries, my hand was still not healed. I couldn't move it, I couldn't move my fingers or my wrist, the blood flow was slowing down and my hand was dying. I couldn't play the piano. I was in a cast for 14 months after the accident. My brother had extensive head injuries, but he fully recovered. I would sit there at the piano and play one handed and just cry, because I didn't think I would ever be able to play again.  So I also danced, and that was over. I couldn't dance, I was too – there were too many surgeries, I was on too much medication. And just – that was over as well. My entire life went from this blossoming, full, happy life to nothing. I had, I felt like I had nothing and everything had been taken away.  My family was super close. And we pulled each other through it, but I think that I, personally, because I was in the accident had kind of a grudge a little bit? Because not only had I lost my dad like them, I was the only one that lost everything else. Like I was the one that was in the accident that . . . that had more than just my dad taken away. I was jealous. I think I was jealous of my siblings. I mean, I was jealous in the self absorbed teenage way. You know, like, I don't know it wasn't it . . . yeah, it didn't ruin any relationships at all.  About three or four months after the accident, my hand wasn't getting better and there wasn't a specific plan going forward, there were just options. And one of the options thrown out there very casually was just maybe we can do a bone graft. And then just as quickly as he said that, he went on to the next option. So it really . . . we didn't know for sure. Michelle  18:48   I just remember one of the times that we were disappointed again that a surgery didn't work, and as I was talking with the doctor about it, one of the things that he had said, "If some of the surgeries don't work, we can always take bone from her hip and do a transplant to her arm." And I did recall him saying that and I just thought, oh, we can't do that. Ashley was devastated when she heard that. She didn't need another surgery and another place that hurt on her body.  I just remember being at home or I couldn't tell you where it was. I have no idea if I was in my kitchen cooking, I don't know at all. I just know that out of nowhere, I had this moment where I went, "Oh my gosh! I donated his bones. Where are they? Oh my goodness. Where are they? Where are they? Where are his bones?" It just kind of like almost hit me – like I was stumped for sure. Because I wasn't thinking about her surgeries or anything, that conversation with the doctor had passed probably weeks before that. It wasn't on my mind, it just all of a sudden – there it was: you donated his bones.  It had been about three months down the road already. And I called the organ donation people and asked them, "Where are his bones?" Like, please – I just had my fingers crossed, please, please, please, I hope they're not gone. And they said, "Actually, they are not even finished being processed. We are about a week shy of them being done." That's when I called the doctor and said, "We donated bones from her Dad, can they be used?" And he's like, "Of course they can." He didn't know anything about that part of it of the story. So he called the – I'm going to say – the bone bank, because I don't know what words it's called, I kind of look at like a blood bank, and reserved what he needed, and then some. He said, "And extra, just to be sure." And so they were just put aside. And we still didn't know if we were ever going to need them. We hoped we didn't, because we didn't want to have to go through more surgeries on a trial basis to get there. Ashley  21:04   But then six months down the line, we knew that that was the last option. The last thing to do to save my hand was a bone graft. And at this point, my mom, the light bulb turned on. She says, "Guess what, I saved some bone, I reserved it for you. Let's do this." And so as I was in the operating room, before I went under, the doctor pulled out this little container, and it had my dad's bone in it. And he said, "Here it is, here's your dad, he's, he's gonna make you better."  And we both cried a little bit together, and then I went under and the surgery worked. My blood started flowing again, my hand, came back to life – I guess you could say. My fingers were able to move again, after lots of physical therapy. My wrist is still paralyzed, but I am so grateful to have a hand, I'll take it.  I think that had I received a transplant from anybody else, my own hip or another donor, that I may not have ever healed emotionally. I felt like I was getting a little bit of him back like he hadn't quite left me. And I also felt like even in death, that he was still my dad. And he was still looking after me and taking care of me and making it better.  The fact that I had lost everything, made it possible for me to get that very special, unique connection with my dad that none of the other kids were able to have. It was kind of the turning point where I could start to heal emotionally. And I think at that point, that I kind of accepted what had happened, and knew that everything was going to be okay. Michelle  23:12   I remembered that a good friend had told me when Kash passed away, that Kash was not released as my husband or wasn't released as the children's father, and that at any time that we needed him that we could call on him and he would be there if he could be, in any capacity that he really could be there for us. And so when we got the bones . . . to me that day, I felt like I had this . . . I don't know, beautiful confirmation from Heavenly Father, that Kash still belonged to us and that he was still a part of their lives – my children's lives – in any way that he could be. Ashley  23:58   My dad is very much alive in our lives still. We talk about him as if he just lived in another state. We talked about Papa Kash and who he was, what he did. We have a picture book of him that my kids look through and know all about his life. A lot of people after they die, we talk them up and we remember all the good things and forget all the bad. But I feel like everything that we talk about, like all the things we talk about my dad in death, that's how we talked about him in life. Like he was that big in life and he was such a good dad, Michelle  24:32   Because of his job, he was – when he was there, he was there all the time. And so his focus was 100% on the family or on the kids, mostly. He just enjoyed every second being with them, so that's what he did. Until his next trip and then he would hurry up and come home and start all over with all the playing and homework and everything else he loved doing. Ashley  24:53   My kids who've never met him like to hold my hand and say, "Oh, it's Papa Kash." And it is, it is fun to think that I literally have a piece of him with me, always.  I think that we are able to do this because we know that we're going to see him again, like we know that he is still alive and present. I mean, truly, if it wasn't for the Savior and the knowledge of the plan of salvation, I'm not sure that I would have been able to get over this. And I really clung to my testimony of the plan of salvation, to kind of understand and accept why my family would lose my dad. Michelle  25:38   At the time of Kash's death, I felt like we . . . I thought that we were doing okay in the gospel, I felt like that we had tried hard or, you know, were obedient and did the things that we were supposed to. But the day that he died, our eyes opened up to the all the truth. We always thought we knew the truths, but when you need them to be true, and you just don't say, "I believe they're true," but you need them to be true, it's different.  I like to use this analogy that the day that he died, our family's ship sunk, and the captain went down with the ship. And we were tossed in an ocean of waves. And then I realized that we were wearing life jackets. And I always say, and that was the Savior who gave those to me. He didn't stop the storm, but he gave us tools to be in it. He gave me life jackets. And did I go underwater, every time a huge wave came? I went down. And thought I would never come up.  The only thing that came to my mind was get those children's life jackets attached to mine. In my mind, that was like, get those kids as close as I came to me every day all day. This is my world, I've got to help these kids survive. And then over time, the waves felt to be a little lower and a little further apart. And as I paid attention, I noticed that I wasn't – we weren't floating anymore. Now we were on like, a piece of wood. And then I noticed it was like a little dinghy. Over time, we figured that we could see – it wasn't like we ever watched it happen, but we could look back and say, "Wow, we've built our own ship now." We are not drowning. But it took us from drowning to . . . until one day we looked and we had rebuilt a life and we had a ship and not one second of that time that we went from being our ship sinking, to getting on to being on our new ship, not once were we not completely aware who was building that ship with us. Whose hand was there. Ashley  28:11   There really is a plan. And the plan of salvation is real and alive and there are no coincidences, there are no accidents, that Heavenly Father really does have the big picture. And even though it doesn't make sense, and even though we hate it sometimes, in the end, everything that He does for us is for our good. KaRyn  28:39   That was Ashley and her mother Michelle. We first learned of Ashley's story when it was featured on the Humans of New York Instagram account not long ago. We love Humans of New York and the work that they do to bring humanity and empathetic stories to our social feeds. So before we even knew the whole story, we were just drawn to the love – that true love – that permeated this family and their experience with their loss.  The fact that Ashley's dad's love could reach from beyond the grave to offer healing to her and so many through the donation of his earthly body, it's really inspiring and hopeful.  Our story producer, Erika, pointed out this really beautiful parallel. It didn't scientifically or medically have to be Kash's bone that was grafted into Ashley's hand, but the fact that it was brought so much healing in a way that no other surgery could have accomplished.  As you and I move through life and love on this earth there are plenty of options for mitigating the natural pain and suffering that come with mortality. But there is only one option, one true option that has the power to bring real healing to us. The atoning gift of our Savior. And every time we accept the offer of the sacrament, that beautiful symbol of his flesh and his blood, every time that we humbly take that into our own bodies, we are grafted into the body of Christ and blessed to see his salvation bloom in our lives. Talk about a love that is enduring and eternal.  I want to go back to what I said in the intro. Loving people the way God loves them is a risky business. We have expectations and hopes when we love deeply that leave us vulnerable to loss and deep sorrow, especially when, as Michelle said, the ship goes down.  It would be really easy to believe that all that love that we poured into that ship is lost under those mountain waves of grief and pain. I had an opportunity recently to revisit a talk that President Nelson gave long before he was President Nelson. It was a general conference talk from 1992 called, "Doors of death." It might seem like a really morbid title for a talk, but as I read it, my heart was filled with that strange fluttering of hope that comes from truth.  One part that really stood out to me was this: President Nelson said, quote, "We mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: thou shalt live together in love, in so much that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die. The only way to take sorrow out of death, is to take love out of life."  Both Michelle and Ashley understand this concept well. That taking the love out of life is not an option. As disciples of Christ we sign up to live the commandment to love, to risk it all by pouring our hearts into one another. C.S. Lewis said in his book, The Four Loves, quote, "If a man is not on calculating toward the earthly Beloved, whom he has seen, he is none more likely to be so towards God whom he has not. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the suffering inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to him, throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and he chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it."  I think what C.S. Lewis and President Nelson are saying is that mourning departures from this life is actually proof positive that we honored our covenants. That deep expression of pure love means that every tear, every dip below the waters is more evidence that love is still with us in its most eternal and everlasting form.  And that it can actually be a tool to bring us closer to the source of true healing and hope. So if you have an ache that lingers after deep loss, that leaves you feeling unmoored and drifting at sea, there's nothing wrong with you. It just means that you have loved well and eternally. And when the time is right, probably just when you think you can't bear one more dip below the waves, you'll remember the reserves of strength and hope that God has set aside for you in your very bones that will bring healing.  You'll remember that you are always encircled about by the life jacket that comes from the gift of the greatest and most eternal act of enduring love. You'll feel and understand what President Nelson said that, quote, "We need not look upon death as an enemy. With full understanding and preparation, faith supplants fear. Hope displaces despair. The Lord said, 'Fear not even unto death. For in this world your joy is not full. But in me, your joy is full.'" That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers, Ashley and Michelle for sharing their story and their love. We'll have a link to the Humans of New York post, as well as more info from both our storytellers in our show notes at LDS That's also where you can find a transcript of each episode.  If you haven't already started to follow us on social media, please go and find us on Instagram or Facebook @ThisIsthegospel_podcast, we promise it will add to your scrolling instead of taking away.  The stories in this episode are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers and we find lots of our stories through our pitch line season over season. So if you have a story to share about a time in your life when you learned something new by practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you.  The best pitches will be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch us your story when you call 515-519-6179. If you want to help spread the word about "This Is the Gospel," there are two ways to do it. Share an episode with your friends, because personal recommendations are kind of the best. You can also leave a review of the podcast on Apple, Stitcher or whatever platform you listen on. Reviews help our podcast to show up for more people who are weeding through the true crime podcasts and other offerings on those platforms.  This episode was co-produced by me KaRyn Lay, with Erika Free who also produced and edited our story. 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.
Feb 08, 2021
Eyes to See
While sorting her late daughter’s belongings, Becky makes a surprising discovery that eventually takes her across the world to India, where her eyes are opened to a whole new world. Consumed with the desire to “do something” but unsure of what to do, the answer to Becky’s prayer is startlingly simple, and begins an effort that will eventually impact thousands, but most importantly, lead Becky to personal healing through Jesus Christ. Get pictures, bios and more in our shownotes at You can also follow us on Instagram or facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast 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.  As someone who works full time – and maybe a little bit more than full time, because I really love my job – Saturdays are my only day to run errands. And when it comes to General Conference, I'm not organized enough to remember to get everything done ahead of the Saturday sessions. So I admit, sometimes I find myself on the road when conference starts. And I tell you this so that you'll understand why I remember that I was sitting in the parking lot of a dollar store when I first heard sister Craig's talk, "Eyes to See" from the October 2020 General Conference.  I picked it up right as Sister Craig was telling the story of a friend who was in the middle of a painful divorce. That friend really just wanted to come to the chapel and go unnoticed on the back pew, because Sunday's had become really hard days for her with the change in her family situation. But there was a 16 year old girl who had other plans.  She saw the sister sitting at the back of the chapel, and then made it a point to go and talk to her, to hug her, to comfort her that Sunday. And then she did it again and again, week after week after week. And Sister Craig quoted this friend who said, "It made such a difference in how I felt about coming to church. The truth is I started to rely on those hugs, someone noticed me, someone knew I was there, someone cared." And I of course, sat crying in my car in the parking lot, having all the feelings, because that concept of seeing others deeply from this talk, it resonated with my storyteller heart.  It's basically the whole reason that "This Is the Gospel" exists. Because seeing people deeply is the key to the kind of charity that isn't just giving things away. It's the kind of charity that demands and offers us Christlike connection to every person, and the kind of charity that defines our Christian discipleship.  The thing I loved most about Sister Craig's talk – look, I'm crying before we even get started – the thing I love about a Sister Craig's talk was that she acknowledged that in order for us to see others deeply, we first have to have eyes to see. And that part is going to take some introspection, and a commitment to examining the terms of our covenants.  So today, we have one powerful story from Becky, a woman who desperately needed eyes to see, and how the Lord offered that gift to her in a truly unique way.  A quick note, this story contains a brief mention of suicide and descriptions of disease that might be difficult for some sensitive listeners. Here's Becky. Becky  2:41   My oldest daughter, Amber, was severely bipolar. Amber struggled in and out of mental institutions when she got into high school, for the next seven years, trying to find healing. And she eventually gave up and took her own life. I was devastated. The loss of a child is always soul rending, but the loss of a child through suicide is absolutely crushing.  She was in college at the time that she died, and when we went through her things, we found that she had been sending part of the money we gave her for college every month to support an orphan in India. I was really surprised to find this out because, you know, typically college students are really struggling to make ends meet. But I think maybe because she suffered so much she just had a tender spot for the underdog. And I think it lifted her and it kind of helped keep her going.  So we decided that her funeral, instead of having people send flowers, we just asked them to send donations to this little orphanage that she was sending money to. People were so generous than enough money was sent in that the orphanage asked me to be on the board of directors. And I thought, okay, if I'm going to be on this board, maybe I better go to India and see what it is I'm doing.  But there was more than that. I was struggling to find healing for this gaping wound that seemed to have hit my own soul. And I was really hoping that when I got to this orphanage and saw what Amber was so involved in, that it would bring some closure for me, also.  When I got to India, the children in the orphanage were darling. 54 of them, and this was back in 2000. As we would go from our hotel to the orphanage and then at night back again, on the streets of India, every time our car stopped at a stoplight, these beggars would just engulf us. Pounding on the windows and these were not normal beggars. Their faces were sunken. Some of them their eyes were gone. They had pus dripping down their arms and rotting hands and feet. I just have never seen anything like it.  They're suffering to me just seemed almost palpable. And they were pounding the windows. And I was with three other women, and so we would just start talking to each other whenever the car started slowing down at a stoplight, because we didn't want to look at them. We didn't know what we could do for them. I said to our driver, "Who are these people?" And he said, "Oh, those are the lepers." I said, "What are you talking about? There's no leprosy in the world today." He goes, "Yeah, we have millions in India."  And I thought, seriously? Millions of people live this way? Why doesn't somebody do something? At night when I would be in my bed trying to sleep, I would just keep thinking about these people. And I just thought, this problem is huge. What can I do? I mean, who am I? I'm a homemaker. I mean, I'm not anyone that could do anything. But I kept thinking, why doesn't somebody do something? And then finally I thought, well, duh, you're somebody do something.  One night, I just started to pray. And I said, "If you want me to do something, you need to teach me. I mean, I have no idea what to do." And the thought just came to me, you can just look at them. And I thought, what? I just have to look at them? I mean, seriously, that's it? But I thought about it, I thought, well, maybe no one looks at them. Maybe they need to be validated or accepted as human beings. So I thought, well, you know, this is a little thing.  Yes. Okay, so I can look at them. So the next day, I was determined to look at them. But, as we got in the car and started to go in the morning, it was just that same sense of feeling – so sad to look at them. I had a hard time. But then we came to a stoplight. And the driver said, "Becky, open the window, stick your head out and tell that woman to back away. I'm afraid that when the light turns green, I'm going to run over her." So I opened the window and put my head out. And here's this woman who had crawled up to the car on her belly. Now, you have to know that everyday in India in the summer in Chennai is over 100 degrees, that blacktop is boiling hot. But she crawled up, she was bone thin. This ragged, sari draping, and of course, saris are just a long piece of material, there's no – they're not really sewn. And so it was, you know, separating as she crawled and she was there scratching the tires on our car trying to get our attention.  And I leaned my head out the window and yelled at her, you know, "Move away, move away." And she looked up, and there was just the split second that our gazes met. And I thought, oh my gosh, she's just a woman. She's just like me. She's probably a mother. I mean, I have no idea, right? I mean, it just, it was so fast. And then the light was green, the car was gone. And that was it. You know, there are moments of life – they're gone. You just can't get them back. And that was one of those moments, but I could not get her out of my mind the rest of the time I was in India.  When I finally got home to Georgia, I had the same problem. I couldn't sleep because these images just haunted me at night. And finally, one morning after a long night, I got up and I thought okay, Becky, well, you can have insomnia forever, or you can do something about this.  And so I called three of my friends who were also homemakers. These were people I'd worked with over the years in different organizations, Young Women's, Relief Society, whatever, and people that I knew were doers. And I said, "I have a project for us. It's a surprise, come on over to my home, and let's talk about it." They came over, we sat around my kitchen table and we talked about my experience. And I said "We gotta do something, ladies."  And they said, "Well, what are your thoughts?" I said "Well, I don't really have any thoughts." "Well, what do you think we should do?" "I have no idea. But you are very creative people. Maybe together we can think of something. At the very least we need to raise money and hire a doctor. Those people over there need to get their wounds treated for one thing." So they said, "Okay, well we could raise money to hire a doctor."  But really, we were clueless. Frankly, we threw out ideas, we didn't know anything, but we were excited. And everybody left excited. So when my husband, John, got home a few minutes after they left, I was still very excited. I said, "John, you are never gonna believe what I did today." He said, "Becky, those are words that strike fear into my heart" –does have a history. But he said, "Alright, hit me." And I said, "Okay, so, you know, my friends came over and we have formed a charity. We are going to serve people in India that have leprosy," and he just was stunned. And he said, "Seriously?" He said, "Becky, what do you know about leprosy?" And I thought, oh, well, nothing. And he said, "Okay, well, what do you know about medicine?" And I said, "Well, not a lot . . .  I mean, you know, nothing – essentially." And he said, "What do you know about India?"  And I said, "I was there. I was there for 10 days." And he just kind of rolled his eyes and he said, "What do you know about running a nonprofit or a business?" And I said, "Okay, nothing." And he said, "Well, what do you think you're going to do?" And I said, "I don't know. But we're gonna do something. And I know, if people donate to us, we're gonna need a license that says that they don't have to pay taxes, you're an attorney, you need to get us that license." And he said, "I see." He said, "That's called a 501C3 license, and normally, Becky, when you ask the government for one you have to tell them what you're going to do."  I said, "Great. Just tell them we're going to do something." And that's how we started. We were four housewives and a secretary. And we thought we were going to change the world, right? But I have learned since then, that it is possible for one person to make a difference in this world. There's all kinds of things written about the power of one, but when one person is joined by others, then that power is multiplied exponentially. And in our case, we just literally saw that happen. Not because we were smart, or we were anything, because we weren't nearly smart enough to create what has followed. And we made mistakes. And we were humbled. We encouraged each other though, rather than give up.  But I kept wanting – when I would go back – to find that one lady, I just kept looking for her. I never did find her again. But God brought many wonderful people to help us. One day, I was sitting in my bedroom in Norcross, Georgia, and the phone rang and the woman was on the phone. As she said, my name is, "Padma Venkatraman and I work in India with people that have leprosy, why don't we partner?" And I just thought, well, who are you? And I didn't learn from her then, but later, I learned that she was the daughter of the former President of India, that she had been the permanent woman's representative to the United Nations from India for 20 years, and that during much of that time, she was the Head of the Council on women's affairs. So essentially, the top woman in the world on women's issues. And so she had all the experience that we didn't have, and she began to teach us and to try to guide us.  In India, there's a very strong caste system. The government claims that it was outlawed, and it no longer exists, but it's very much alive in the hearts of the people. And the leprosy affected know that they're not to be touched. In fact, they're that very, very bottom of the untouchable caste, there are hundreds of well defined levels within each caste. And they are the very, very bottom – they're the most cursed by God. In fact, they are so untouchable that until just the late 1980's, by law, if their shadow touched you, you were considered defiled, and you were justified by law in beating them almost to death.  So they were frightened when we first started touching them. Because in India, typically the lighter your skin, the higher your caste. And since we have light skin, they were afraid that if anyone saw, that they would become angry, and that they would beat them because they were being touched by a high caste person. So they were in fact afraid of being touched by us. So there was a huge gulf there that we had to learn to cross, and they had to learn to be able to cross it.  We could not find a single doctor that would work for us, because the leprosy affected are considered the very bottom of the untouchable caste. And they are so stigmatized that when we tried to hire doctors for any amount of money, they'd say, "Oh. I could never work with people that have leprosy, because then I would become defiled and all my patients would leave me and I would lose my entire practice. And so no, I can't work for you." When Padma joined as she said, "Oh, I've worked with so many doctors at the UN, with leprosy, I can surely find you a doctor in India." And she did. And we were able to start a little mobile medical clinic. But every time I came to India, I noticed that the wounds weren't really getting any better. They seemed to be just the same to me. As I said to our doctor, "Hey, we're paying you all this money, how come these wounds aren't getting any better?" And he just looked so discouraged. He said, "You know what, it's because they never do anything I asked them to do." And I was astounded. I said, "What do you mean, why? Why won't they do what you asked him to do?" And he said, "I don't know."  I asked Padma, and Padma was quiet for a few moments. And then she said, "You Americans. You come to India, and you just give things away. I know it probably makes you feel good, but the truth is, nothing given free has any value. And anytime you give something to someone, you diminish that person, because in essence, all you're doing is making them beggars to you. If you truly want to lift people, make them responsible for their own well-being. You can't just give away medical treatment."  And I said, "They don't have any money". She says, "Well, they can pay two rupees" – which is like about three cents, U.S. – "and they'll feel like they're paying for their medical treatment." But she said, "If you want to lift them, give them the power to lift themselves." And so we started charging two rupees to see the doctor. Well, the amazing thing is the next time I came to India, those wounds were all healing. And the doctor said, "They're doing everything I asked them to do."  So we created a campus at Rising Star Outreach. And in this campus – all of our students have to live on campus because the leprosy colonies are so far spread apart, they couldn't possibly come and go every day. They're not welcomed on public transport. And so the donor who donated the money to build the girls and the boys dorm, they got to name them. And they decided to name the little girl's dorm, the "Amber Douglas Home for Girls," after my daughter, Amber, who really was the one that started all this. And I have to tell you that every time I go to India, and I've now been 66 times – but every time I walk on that campus as see her picture over the doorway, I get chills. And I think you know, there are hundreds of girls on this dorm right now, and there are hundreds, over the years that will go through this dorm, and their lives will be vastly different. They will be able to go back into normal society, they will lose this stigma of being an untouchable. And these girls will one day marry and have children, and those children's lives will be vastly different. Because their mothers came to Rising Star.  And over time, thousands and thousands of little girls lives will be changed for the better, and all because my daughter suffered. I think that God is so incredibly wonderful. That he can take our most terrible tragedies, and he can find a way to bring beauty and joy out of them and healing out of them.  There was a time in 2004, this terrible deadly tsunami hit the Indian Ocean, and was ranked as one of the top natural disasters ever recorded, because it killed a quarter of a million people across several countries. And our little children's home was right across the street from the ocean. And that tsunami, it was six feet high. It was traveling over 500 miles an hour, it destroyed everything in its path. And our children's home was on a hill, and we were above six feet. And so that wave literally came to the bottom of our porch and stopped and pulled back. And it was just this unbelievable, tender mercy of God. We didn't lose the single life. But all around us were tens of thousands of deaths. It was just absolute devastation.  I caught the next flight to India, and spent the next several weeks trying to help these people recover. Trying to help mothers find their children or their husbands. We worked 18–20 hour days with just a few hours of sleep at night. And one day when we came home, the guy who was with me, his name was Gopi. He was the leader of our children's home. And he looked at me and he said, "Becky, I'm afraid I'm losing my belief in God. What kind of a God would do something like this?" He said, "Look at the suffering that we see, all day every day. I just can't believe that you talking about a loving God."  And I felt like I needed to have an answer for him. And so I just sent a little prayer heaven ward, and I truly felt the presence of my daughter, who just immediately was in that car with us. And it was so sweet and so overwhelming. And I knew immediately the answer. And I said "Gopi, the hardest thing I ever did in my life was bury my daughter." And he knew that, because that's what had brought me to India. And he, I mean a little tear came down his cheek and I said, "But Gopi, if I hadn't buried Amber, the children in the children's home that you love – as if they were your own – where would they be today? If I had not buried Amber?" And I said, "You know Gopi, God is so wonderful. He gave the Atonement for us and that's why he can take anything that is so horrible in our lives, then He can bring good out of it. And He will bring good out of this. I don't know how, I have no idea what. But He will bring good."  And by now, his head was in his hands and he was sobbing. Just, I mean, he was so stunned by this whole thing. He went home, years later after he left Rising Star I got an email from him and he said, "Becky, do you remember that night when we had that talk?" and I went, "Oh, do I remember that night. Yes, I do." And he said, "I didn't believe you." He said, "But you know what? You were right." He said, "Look at what's happened." He said, "All these international charities poured into India, those miserable huts that the fishermen lived in, have all been rebuilt, close – further inland, they now have water and electricity and bathrooms. They've made they've built schools for their children."  And he said, "And the best thing of all," he said, "You know what, I just thought about it. I've never seen a higher caste person reach down to help a lower caste person in India. But at that time, they came from all over Chennai. They brought food, they brought blankets, they brought cooking oil, they brought bandages, water, they came by the hundreds. And they came day after day after day trying to help these lower, untouchable people." And he said, "That's the only time I've ever seen India come together as brother and sister." And he said, "Good did come from that."  And I think that little moments like this, I did learn that each of us has a power within us to make a difference in the world.  We work with 65,000 people today, across the nine states of India, 160 leprosy colonies, we have 1300 children in school. And I think, God did this because my daughter suffered.  The other thing that happens is – I have to tell you, I feel her. When I go to India, I feel a closeness with my daughter, that I don't normally feel. And there have been times in India, when that feeling is so overwhelming, it just brings tears to my eyes. I feel like I'm being taught not only by God, but by my daughter. And that because of the sacrifice she made, many people have been healed. And of all the people that have been healed, I feel like I have been the most healed.  And I just have to humbly say how grateful I am to the Savior. Because it was His Atonement, that made this all possible. He was the great exemplar. It was his suffering that made it possible for all of us, to not – to be able to be healed of our sufferings, right? And I just feel like the fact that we can in some small way, do a small thing for others, we are following in His footsteps.  God has equal love for all of His children. I think sometimes we get confused by the term, "Chosen people." But I believe that we're chosen to serve and to bring God's truth to others. But God Himself, I don't believe plays favorites. Because I have seen as many miracles in our school for our Hindu students, as much as I have seen miracles in the lives of the few students that are members of the Church over there. I think that we need to learn to see people that same way we need to see them as God sees them, that every life has equal value. And I have learned that even through tragedy, He empowers us.  We sometimes say, "Who are we?" "I'm only a student, I'm only a wife, I'm only a mother, I'm only a secretary," whatever, "What difference can I make?" But the truth is, we all have a power within us to make a difference, because I've seen it happen. You know, I have to admit that there are times in my life when I would walk past a beggar on the street, and I would purposely not see them. I didn't want them to think I had money and that I could give it to them. Plus, it made me feel helpless to see people that were homeless. And so the fact that this was India was not the first time I had ever not seen someone. But, I don't look at beggars the same way anymore. I see them as people that just haven't had the opportunity to develop their talents, and I don't look away.  If you have eyes to see, if you're willing to see, then you have to also have a heart that cares. And if you will see, and if you will care, then you have to take some action. And once you take that action, you bring the power of God into your life. When our volunteers come to India, they always say, "I'm here to help. I'm here to heal, I'll do anything you need to do. I just can't clean up those leprosy wounds." We go, "Okay, okay." And we assign them different duties to do, working with the patients and they fall in love with the patients. And before long, all those volunteers are cleaning out leprosy wounds.  Because when you love a person, you don't see them as a disease. You see them as a friend. You see them as a child of God, and that makes all the difference in the world. And people who never thought they could do it, they'll sometimes tell us when they leave that that was the most meaningful experience that they had. These are God's children. And honestly, I think when we reached out to help his children, I feel like it opens the heavens and God pours blessings on you and you are healed. And I just think that that's a beautiful thing. That God gave us a gift, that we can reach out to others so that we can find wholeness within ourselves. KaRyn  25:17   That was Becky Douglas. We are so grateful for the years of soul searching and effort that she put into her quest for eyes to see. It led her to an understanding about the true value of every human life.  And we agree, if you or someone you love is struggling with mental health or thoughts of suicide, please, please reach out to someone for help. You can text 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, because there is always hope for healing and light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe after listening to Becky's story, you feel like I do, that there are almost too many lessons to take from it. There is so much good stuff here. But one thing I love about the spirit is that it helps us to hear what each of us needs to hear individually. So maybe what you heard was that when people are united in a righteous cause with hearts turned towards the Savior, they can accomplish anything. Or that sometimes we need other people like Padma and Gopi, to show us what we don't know as we embark on our mission.  Maybe it was the lesson that when we see each other with the pure love of Christ, it transforms any act of service from an obligation to a true joy. Whatever it was, you heard, write it down. Don't forget it. We've been lucky enough to sit together in the Spirit today, to have our eyes open, and it's our privilege to write it somewhere permanent so it can be written in our hearts.  Since first recording this story I've been drawn to look closer at a painting that we have hanging in our living room. It's Carl Bloch's healing at the pools of Bethesda. It shows the Savior moving among people who were by many objective standards, untouchables, like the friends that Becky met in India. They were lame, diseased, disfigured and hidden from society.  In the center of the painting, there's a little shack made of sticks and straw and a drape of fabric covering a man who we learned from scripture is at the pools because he hopes for healing from its waters. But there's no one there to help him get down from his perch and into the water fast enough. And of course, he has no idea that the source of all true healing and hope is standing right in front of him, not until the Savior tells him to take up his bed and walk. That he doesn't need the pool, he's healed without ever having to touch the water.  I love that story. But I love the painting because it shows Christ actively uncovering the hiding place of this man. Lifting the curtain of his darkened makeshift shack, and bringing him into the light so he can be seen and see the miracle that is about to occur.  Sister Craig said this, "Jesus Christ sees people deeply. He sees individuals their needs and who they can become. Where others saw fishermen, sinners, publicans – Jesus saw disciples. Where others saw a man possessed by devils, Jesus looked past that outward distress, acknowledged the man, and healed him." End quote. He looked, He acknowledged, and then He healed.  I loved how Becky put it in her story, if we will have eyes to see, then we'll care and once we care, will act just as the Savior did. Loving action is the natural result of the gift of Godly vision and eyes to see. And that action definitely doesn't have to look like all of us running off to India to do exactly what Becky did.  I always think of Sister Linda K. Burton's talk, "I Was a Stranger," where she wisely reminded us with a story I might add, that as we seek to do good in the world, we should also go home and serve our neighbors. I say let's start there. Let's start by asking humbly for eyes to see what's really going on around us in our current sphere. And let's ask for the courage to look beyond the things that feel strange or different or confusing.  As we practice the spiritual skill of looking, opportunities to see deeply will come. We'll grow in our ability to acknowledge one another the way that Christ did, and it only gets better. From there, our vision, our vision will bloom and grow and deepen and expand until, like those volunteers who couldn't possibly imagine cleaning the wounds of a leper, we will be filled with the love of the Savior that makes it possible for us to do whatever we are called to do. To lift the curtains of those hiding places, to bring one another into the light to be seen, and to finally see the miracles of Christ's healing. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storyteller Becky Douglas and all the people she works with at Rising Star Outreach. We'll have more about Becky and her experiences in India including pictures in our show notes at  You can also get more great stuff by following us on Instagram or Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. We love to hear how this podcast and specific stories have stuck with you, you can leave a review on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen on.  All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storyteller, and we find a lot of our stories through our pitch line. If you have a story to share about a time when maybe you were sitting in $1 store parking lot and learned something new about the gospel of Jesus Christ, well, we want to hear from you. The best pitches will be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch your story when you call 515-519-6179.  This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay with so much story production and help and editing from Sarah Blake, Erika Free 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 all the other LDS Living podcasts at LDSLiving/podcasts.   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Feb 01, 2021
True Beauty
Stories in this episode: Wendy's childhood is fraught with bullies and self-doubt until she asks God to teach her what her parents knew all along; A run-in with a trampoline right before the family reunion sends Cassidy into hiding, but she can't hide from the Spirit; When artist Melissa can't find herself in museum paintings of Heaven, she decides to take matters into her own hands. For shownotes and more, go to Follow us on facebook and instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast 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.  Today, we're talking about beauty. And I have no quippy intro or funny anecdotes or poems. I don't even really have a good etymology lesson about the word beauty for us. Because here's the thing, defining what is beautiful in today's society, and how that's connected to our worth, and our value – that's a really hard thing for me, personally.  I mean, I can look at some flowers or a flaming purple sunset over the ocean, or even a baby wrapped up like a burrito, and somehow I know that there's beauty there. But how those things are beautiful, and why some things are beautiful to me and not to other people? That's just confusing. Maybe you feel the same way, or maybe you think I'm nuts for being tied up in knots about all of this.  But all I know is that I kind of need something or someone a little bit smarter than me to break it down and teach me the truth about beauty and its place in God's plan.  So if ever there was an episode where I need stories to open the door to new spiritual insights, this is the one. And that's what we're going to do today. We'll listen to three stories from three storytellers who grapple with ideas of beauty, and learn something about themselves and God in the process.  Now, I have to acknowledge that all of our storytellers today are women. And I really wanted to find a story about beauty from a man, because I know that women are not the only ones wrestling with this ideal. But hopefully, regardless of gender, we can open our minds and recognize ourselves in these stories. Our first story today comes from Wendy. Our first story today comes from Wendy. Wendy  1:47   So when I was a toddler, I was at the grocery store with my mom, and she was going down the aisles and a woman with a bunch of teenagers came up and pointed at me and said, "Hey, look kids, that kid doesn't need a Halloween costume. She's already got one." And then they all laughed and walked off. And my mom was so shocked. She didn't know what to say.  When I was about two months old, I had a little red dot that was right center of my forehead and it started spreading out and it was a hemangioma, which is a blood tumor. And it was coming out like a golf ball off the top of my head. A hemangioma, it's got lots of blood vessels in it, you can't take it off because there's too much blood, things, going on in the head.  It's kind of purple and red. They usually will deflate a little bit when the child is older, more like nine or ten. Until then you just have to live with it.  So I knew I looked different. My mom was always trying to comb my bangs so that they would cover my forehead. I always had bangs right to my eyebrows, but I was an active kid. So you'd run around the bangs would split and you can't cover a little . . . a ball on your head. So no matter what we did, it was always showing and then I would forget that I had it and then run into a new person that didn't know me, and they would stop and stare and look at me and . . . if it was a kid, well, even sometimes adults, then that's when I would get teased for it.  So when I was in preschool, I was going to a religious school and the teacher told the class that I had the mark of the devil and that they shouldn't associate with me because they might be infected by my badness, just because of how I look. So I came home and asked my mom, "How come I have the mark of the devil?" And my mom pulled me from the school – because she's a good mom – and then we had to go find somewhere else for me to go after that.  So my mom and dad both were very protective of me. And they were trying to be the buffer between me and the world. One time my dad, I had told him that I was being bullied and pushed around on the way home from school, and so he waited for me on the porch. And he saw these kids following me home from school and they were pushing me into the street and pushing me down.  And so he came out and told them, "You don't have to be her friend. But you do have to be kind to her, and you cannot put her in danger." And so he was, he was a protector for me. And then right after that, he went to the school and asked them to have a meeting of all of the kids anywhere near my grade and he talked to them all about it. About what a hemangioma was, and that Wendy was a pretty, pretty neat kid if they'd give her a chance, they could be friends.  When my dad came to my school, I felt very special. And I felt very loved and protected because my home and the protection that I had at home extended to this school at least somewhat. They were trying to reach out and, and just have a little bit of a safety net for me farther out than our home. So when I was about nine, then the hemangioma started to deflate. So it slowly lost the big redness of having all the active blood vessels. And we were able to go and have it removed. I remember in the hospital, my mom was reading me A Wrinkle in Time, as we were getting ready to go back for the surgery. And my mom doesn't even like reading fantasy books, but she would read me anything that I would listen to.  When I came out and had it off, then I traded it for a scar. The scar for a long time was really, really bright. So if I was angry, or exercising or anything, then it was almost as glaring as the thing was to start with. But slowly it faded. And at first I always had bangs, because I was still trying to cover this scar in this place where I used to have this thing that I felt was shameful.  My self worth was something that I did struggle with. Having been someone who was told that I had the mark of the devil, often made me wonder what my worth was. I often felt like there was two faces, because there was this face that the world would see, and then there was the real person inside that didn't have value. Because if I was somebody of worth, then why did I have things like this happen? Why were people cruel?  There just came a point when I realized that I had to make a choice. If I was going to keep feeling this way, if I was going to keep disliking who I was, if I was going to keep doubting whether or not I had any value, or if I was going to believe in myself and believe that I was worth loving. And so I started to read scriptures more and have prayers that were less routine and more heartfelt. And I just started asking that even if I lacked the belief, Christ and Heavenly Father would help me with my unbelief and make up the difference.  A few years went by, and pretty soon I stopped using the bangs, and my parents got me into Taekwondo. And I started pursuing more interests that I loved, like art. So the change in how I perceive myself and where I thought I was, for being worthy to be loved, is not something that happened overnight. But something I had to deliberately work toward. And it's something I'm still working toward, but I think that my mind understands that I am of worth and that I'm worth loving, and that God loves me.  Now my scar, it has faded to the point that most people don't notice it. But I remember what it was like I feel that this whole experience growing up with a birthmark and the other things, I feel that that has really taught me compassion, that when I see someone else struggling, then I try to reach out to them. Whenever I see a kid who has any kind of a birthmark especially, then I run right over and talk to him. I feel it. I know what they're going through. And I know what the parents are going through.  My parents were wonderful examples for me, it was not uncommon for me to go to see them in the evening and to find them on their knees. So in those moments when I didn't have the faith, to believe enough that I had any value or when I didn't have faith enough to believe that someone was there to listen to me, then I could rely on my parents testimonies, because I knew that they believed enough for both of us.  So my whole life whenever I have doubted myself, whenever I have doubted whether or not I was strong enough or smart enough are brave enough to do anything that I wanted to do, then my parents were the ones that were like you can do this. You are a daughter of God and you are of infinite worth. With them believing that, then they were kind of my shield against the world.  And they make it so that I can go out. And I can share my stories and my message and I can achieve dreams that I didn't think were possible when I was little. When I didn't think I had any value at all. And a lot of that is because of the faith of my parents.  So now I have five children of my own. And I have one who wants to be an artist and another who wants to go on a mission and another who wants to make prosthetics for people who are missing limbs, and another wants to be a dancer. And the other one he doesn't know what he wants to do. He mostly wants to snuggle, but the point is that I tell them that they can do anything they want to do, and that they're smart enough and they're good enough, and that they have enough value, that whatever dream they have is valid, and that I will support them in anything they want to do. KaRyn Lay  11:18   That was Wendy. Wendy Swore is the author of, A Monster Like Me, which is a lovely middle grade novel about a girl with a hemangioma. I love that she's been able to take that love of fantasy books and her own experience and translate that into a passion for telling and writing stories that help us find the humanity in one another.  I was struck by Wendy's description of her scar and the transformative effect that it had on her sense of worth. How at first, it was a painful reminder of something that she couldn't control about her body, something that she felt shame about. But as she prayed and asked for help from heaven to see herself and her value differently, eventually those scars became a gentle reminder of her divine beauty, a beauty that was revealed in her ability to offer empathy and compassion to others.  And here are the truths about beauty that I'm going to take from Wendy's story. True beauty is always present when our actions are a reflection of the Savior. And I believe that it's perceived only through the lens of charity or the pure love of Christ. You know, when Christ returned to His disciples after the resurrection, His scars took on new purpose.  They were more than just a reminder of his past pain, they became a tool of testimony. A symbol to His disciples of his power, and His love for us all. And as Wendy showed us, our scars can also be made beautiful tools of testimony if we allow them to be transformed through the gift of Christ's atonement. And that is really beautiful.  Our next story comes from Cassidy, who's run in with a trampoline right before a family reunion left her with some questions about beauty. Here's Cassidy. Cassidy  12:59   It was a few summers ago, me and my two sons, after we ate some lunch, decided to go and have a little bounce on the trampoline in the backyard. And we were bouncing and having fun. And my oldest son just did a really strong bounce and bounced up and hit my nose with his head, and it broke right away. I could tell it was bleeding, and if you could imagine my nose, you know, it's straight now, but it was like completely swelling and it was crooked and I had bruising, and I just did not look like myself.  When you break your nose, they can't just fix it right away. I remember going to the instacare and just wanting them so badly to just like, push it back into place, just fix it right away. But they have to wait for – I think – at least a week, in order to help the swelling to go down and the bruising to kind of calm down so they can actually go in and fix it the way it should be fixed.  I had a family reunion coming up, and I knew that I was going to have to go to that before I could have the surgery to fix my nose. And I was just feeling sad that I had to participate in this fun family thing while I was feeling uncomfortable and quite self conscious, to be honest. I didn't like having to go out and about with my nose looking the way that it did.  I feel like sometimes I have the tendency to worry a lot about what people think of me and worry about how I look to other people. And sometimes I fall into, you know, the traps of comparison or not measuring up and so I think all of those feelings were surfacing as I was going to have to be out in public and with my family with my broken nose.  We got ready to go on our trip. It's funny, I still remember I actually asked my sister to pack some hats for me, I'm not normally a hat person, but – and my sister wears hats more often and I was like, "Can you just bring some hats?" And maybe that will be able to conceal my face a little bit more if we're going out. So she packed some hats for me, we went up to our family reunion.  And this place that we stayed is this little condo in a ski town, and we stayed with a few of my sisters and their families in the same unit. So there were multi-levels. And one morning, I was cleaning up breakfast, and I was washing the dishes, putting things away, I looked down as I was at the ceiling, I looked down and I saw at the top edge of the cabinet, a little label – like the labels that you get, you print off of a little label maker – and it was just on the very top edge of the cabinet door, and it said, "Fire extinguisher below." I remember thinking that was really interesting. And so I curiously opened up the cabinet door and looked inside the cabinet, and there was the fire extinguisher just kind of sitting in the dusty corner.  So I just thought that was interesting and closed it up and finished up my morning cleaning up. Then shortly after I was downstairs, getting ready for the day. Some families were out and about already enjoying their day and my sister was in her room. And I heard the fire alarm going off, and I couldn't smell smoke yet. And so I ran upstairs, ran to the upper floor, the main floor, couldn't smell anything, couldn't see anything.  And as I was running around and trying to figure out why the smoke alarm was going off, I finally went back down into the basement and opened up my sister's room. And as I opened up the door, I saw the closet kind of open and smoke coming out of the closet. Me and my brother in law opened up the closet and saw a fire in the closet.  Because it's in a ski town, they had these interesting amenities where in the basement bedrooms, there was a closet that had a small stove and sink inside. We opened it up and there the fire was going and it was it was getting kind of big. I knew right away, I told my brother in law, I said, "I know right where the fire extinguisher is." Ran upstairs, got under the cabinet and ran downstairs and my brother in law was able to extinguish the fire really quickly. It happened so fast that I think that we were all just grateful that I knew where it was, but there was a moment after when we were all kind of waiting on the street and talking about it, where I just I knew that it wasn't an accident that I had seen that little labeled that that morning.  I remember feeling at that time, a distinct impression that Heavenly Father and Jesus loved me, and that it didn't matter what I looked like, that they could still use me to be a tool to help others and love others and save others even.  Even if it's not about my physical appearance, there have been times in my life where I've felt inadequate or unprepared or not enough. Sometimes throughout the day, I just say, "Am I doing okay? Do you love me?" And I know that I feel His love when I'm trying. And I don't have to be perfect. I can do His work, because He will help me and He will guide me. KaRyn Lay  19:20   That was Cassidy. Her conclusion that God can use us at all times and in all states of being is an important one as we try to understand what true beauty is.  I think that sometimes it's really easy to inadvertently confuse the word beautiful with the word ornamental. And here's what I mean by that. A few years ago, I learned of a concept called self-objectification which is this idea that when we're considering our own physical appearance, we're often thinking about it with regard to how other people are perceiving us. And just like an object, we might start to see our bodies only as useful as long as they're perceived as useful by someone else.  This kind of self objectification can stop us in our tracks. It keeps us from showing up to the family reunion with our broken nose or getting into the swimming pool with our kids or being anywhere else that God might need us to be. And isn't that exactly what the adversary wants from us? He wants us to stop working towards eternity, to stop showing up and to become objects moved only by fear and shame instead of beings filled with the agency to move forward towards salvation.  If he can successfully convince us that these bodies that we were so excited to get, are only valuable or worthwhile if they look or work a certain way, then his work here is done. And here's the truth about beauty that I am going to take from Cassidy's story. These bodies that we live in, and we serve in and we love in – their beautiful right now, as is. Imperfect, weak, whatever. Because beautiful is not the same as ornamental. True beauty is inherent in the gift to act with agency so that we can bless each other and serve one another. And true beauty became a part of us the minute that we chose to follow Christ in the life before this one, to take up this body, and to get to work as part of the plan of salvation.  We've got a few more truths about beauty to discover, and our final story today comes from Melissa who decided to create beauty for others, when she had trouble finding it herself. Here's Melissa. Melissa  21:30   I don't ever remember a time when I didn't love art. When I was little I would always be drawing, I would always be painting and I had the biggest imagination. And thankfully, I had parents who saw value in my hobbies and they cultivated my gifts. And they helped me grow them. They were always buying me art supplies, or children's books.  I grew up in a rural town called Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada. My father's from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and my mom grew up mostly in Connecticut. My dad is from a tribe in central Kasai in Congo, and obviously, that that did affect me growing up because I was one of the only Black people in my school, in elementary school in junior high, and in high school. So I knew that – the obviously the older I got – I knew that I stood out. And I knew that I had to do more to fit in.  One moment I do remember is when I was in second grade, and I realized that I was Black. My brother and I had gotten into a fight. It was like a little dumb fight. I am a lighter complexion, and my mom is white and my father is Black. So in my head, I am white and I am Black. And then my brother said, "Melissa, you're Black." And I remember looking at him just so confused. I looked at my skin I said, "No, I am brown mixed with yellow." Like I remember saying that, because I was looking at my skin literally, like my skin isn't Black. And then I kind of realized at that moment,  the way the world saw me was as a Black girl. And I think that was a defining moment. Because then I just remembered being so shocked that that's how people saw me.  And I knew that there was negative connotations with the word Black. And I remember one of my friends growing up in Church, she would never want to be around my dad. And as a child, I knew it was because he had dark skin. And she thought he was scary because of his dark skin. And me being nine or eight as a children, we have no filter. So I asked her. I said, "Hey, are you afraid of my dad because he's Black?" And I remember her just nodding. And she said, "Yes." And that was the end of the conversation.  When I was drawing as a child, I would often draw my family or me. It wasn't till maybe 12 and above, is when I started to notice that illustrations did not look like me, that I saw in school and at church. It affected me because I didn't really paint Black people, I didn't really paint people who look like me. So I would draw nature, paint nature and sometimes when I would attempt to draw people – which I didn't draw a lot of – they were white, because I noticed Blackness was not associated with pretty. It was more subconscious at that time period.  Most of my awareness came at the end of high school, beginning of BYU. And then I think this world that I had been brushing aside or ignoring really, kind of blew up in my face in a way. I became more aware of racism. I think I felt a little betrayed in a way when I came because I was never taught about a lot of the racism that happened in the Church. And I was like, why was I purposely not taught about these things? Why are we sweeping the hard stuff under the rug instead of confronting it and talking about it?  And once I learned more about history, whether it be church history, or African and European history, and colonization, colorism and internalized racism, that's when I was able to be more aware of myself and more aware of these harmful thoughts that I had about myself that pertained to the color of my skin, or to my ethnicity. And I realized that was damaging, because if I didn't see myself as divine or worthy, the way I was made, then how can I see other people that way as well?  So when I finally got into the BYU illustration program, I was ecstatic because I had applied the first time and I hadn't gotten in, and I had worked my butt off and finally got in the second time. So with our art department, once you got into the BFA of illustration, you spent most of your time in the art lab working on your projects. And it's pretty, it's a pretty exclusive part, there's only around 28 to 30 people in it. And I happened to be the only person in that room who would paint people that were not white. And I, and I noticed it right away. And that was another fueling moment for me.  I was used to being uncomfortable or having uncomfortable moments, whether it came to my friends saying inappropriate Black jokes, or just so many different things that were said that maybe stemmed from ignorance, or maybe because they didn't know better, and I wasn't in a confident headspace where I would, I could correct them, because I was afraid of making them uncomfortable. And so I sacrificed my own comfort for theirs.  I was hesitant to talk to anybody who was white about ethnicity and race, and racism. Because I had a couple experiences when I kind of opened myself up and wanted to talk about these things, because I was ready, and I I understood that it was something that needed to be talked to, and like, "I can confide with some of my close friends, and I can talk to them about it, I'm going to try." And unfortunately, I had a couple of experiences where it was just completely shut down.  They told me I wasn't spiritually in tune, or that I was just being too sensitive, and that my experiences weren't real and that they weren't valid. And I was just heartbroken, because I'm like, these were people who I thought had my back and who I thought . . .  knew me, and they completely invalidated my experiences when it came to like race and ethnicity.  When I first got into BYU, I met one of my closest friends. And I didn't know she was going to be one of my closest friends at the time. But we ended up sitting right next to each other. And it was probably like one of the best experiences I could have had at BYU. And I just remember, just feeling like I didn't have to prove that my experiences regarding racism were true and valid. Like I felt like she saw me and she saw the issues. And she educated herself and I just . . . that anxiety that would sometimes come with having to prove that my experiences were valid or having to talk to someone about race kind of depleted because she literally was the first person who listened to me, she was like the first authentic friend I think I had at BYU.  I was just kind of protective of myself, and I knew that I didn't . . . I just knew right away from her aura that I didn't have to be like that. She was just one of the best listeners I could have ever hoped for. And she still is. Anytime, anytime something inappropriate was said in that room, and if I didn't have the emotional stamina to talk about it or I felt anxiety, she would speak up for me and she would correct people if they said racist things or ignorant comments. And she would do it in like the most Christlike way too. And I felt because of that like I was in a safe space, and I felt like I could completely be myself.  You know, I'm in a, I'm in an illustration department where we're always creating images. And of course, most of . . . 99.9% of those images were European images, or people who did not look like me. I remember walking through the MOA, that's the Museum of Art at BYU, and seeing this huge painting and depiction of heaven. And it was all white people in this heaven. And I'm like, this doesn't make sense. If God is only viewed as European, and angels are only seen as white then . . . when you don't see images that look like you, ever, especially in school, or in church and every aspect of your life, you automatically think that you're not worthy, or you're not . . . just meant to be shown or seen, and that you're not enough.  It feels like you're not worthy of being in a divine space. And it feels like you're not seen. It's like, do they even know that they exist? Or that I have my own story? And that I matter? Like, does God not see me? If all we have are these one sided images, it just hurts, because it feels like you're not enough.  So I decided that – and I knew and I felt my heart that I needed to make paintings of people who did not see themselves as divine, or as beautiful or as worthy of being seen.  When I painted these images, I felt peaceful and I felt calm. Like, I felt like I was doing something, not for myself, but for others. And one of the first paintings I painted, was just simply named "Eve." And I purposely made this painting a dark skinned woman and I gave her an afro. I don't know if a lot of people are aware, but a lot of Black women struggle wearing their hair naturally. I have sisters who struggled wearing their hair naturally, so I remember I'm like I need to do this painting. I really felt like I needed to do it.  And after I had made this painting, I had three different women – probably like the week after – reached out to me, and they were a Black women, and they had dark skin. And they had messaged me, and they had pretty much said, "Thank you for creating this. I've never seen a piece of art that has made me feel so beautiful. And I've never seen a artwork that has showed my skin tone as being divine." And it just like touched me, like I felt like I knew that I was meant to help people feel loved and seen and worthy. And their reactions just confirmed that for me.  I think the more I painted people with skin tones similar to mine, I actually started to feel more confident and more beautiful because I felt like there was a truth in that. Being able to paint people outside of the norm, outside of our society's norm, being able to equally represent people of color has made me redefine in my mind what divinity is and how Christ sees me and all His children.  It's shifted my perception of what God is and who Christ is, because I know God loves everyone the way that they are. I learned that you know, dark skin is divine, and is purposeful, and is beautiful.  I think God sees me as divine, and as enough. And I feel like when I'm in the right mindset and I value myself I can truly value and love others and I can use my gift or talent – which I'm still learning and developing – to be used for good. I can use this talent God gave me to help redefine what divinity and redefine what beauty is. KaRyn Lay  34:49   That was artist Melissa Tshikamba. I first met Melissa because of work. Deseret Book had just added one of her gorgeous paintings to our flagship store in downtown Salt Lake and I was so excited to have something so moving alongside all those other celebrated makers of sacred images. When I learned more about Melissa's journey as an artist in the sacred space, I was even more inspired by her.  I feel really humbled and grateful to her for sharing her gifts with all of us. And I think it's so amazing that she was able to recognize that the ignorance and the silencing that she has encountered aren't fair, and still she chooses to be part of the body of Christ. I also really love that she followed that Spirit that led her to heal and be healed as she puts our brothers and sisters of color back in the pictures of a heaven that, frankly, I want to be a part of.  From Melissa story, I think we all learn the truth that beauty is not actually in the eye of the beholder. It's really in the eye of the Creator. And that as disciples of Christ and Latter-day Saints, it's our privilege to seek out beauty from all corners of the earth, and in every person we meet as evidence of God's goodness.  And if we can, as Melissa does with her talent, help to make space for a diverse representation of that beauty, so that everyone can see themselves in the picture. I really believe that that will be the means of healing for ourselves, and others.  You know, as we've listened to these stories today, this line from the hymn, "Oh God, the Eternal Father" has been just popping up in my mind. "With no apparent beauty that man should him desire, he was the promised Savior to purify with fire." It's a reference to Isaiah chapter 53, verse 2, where he's foretelling the life and the work of Jesus Christ.  I keep thinking about that phrase, "Apparent beauty," and what it means for those of us who are watching anxiously for the Savior today. When Christ came to the earth, the first time, those who were expecting a Savior who conformed to the standards of the day were deeply, deeply disappointed. He was neither obvious, nor clearly recognizable, as beautiful to the people who didn't look close enough. But that didn't stop His work. It didn't matter if people could see who He was and the beauty He possessed. He had a job to do. And His true beauty would soon be apparent across ages, and universes, and the quiet transformation of individuals.  For those of us who seek to emulate the Savior, that's some really, really good news, because it means that like Him, we can let go of expectations of apparent beauty in our own lives right now. We can see ourselves as valuable and capable disciples ready to fulfill our mission without distraction.  It means that we can raise our children to see their own possibility and purpose and we can put out fires and stoke new ones in hearts that have grown cold from feeling unseen, and unrepresented. So what's the big thing that I've learned from these stories today about beauty? It's this: I've got work to do. We've got work to do, and there is no time to let the pressures of Satan's half truths, his smoke and mirrors about beauty and worth stand in the way of accomplishing that mission. And for those of us watching for our beautiful Savior's return with a faithful spirit, it's an invitation to practice now to understand and see true beauty where it exists in others and ourselves. So that when He comes again – this time in full glory – we will recognize Him and His beauty without delay. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel" thank you to our storytellers, Wendy Cassidy and Melissa for sharing their stories and their true beauty. We'll have so much good stuff in the show notes this week, you guys, Melissa's paintings, Wendy's books, pictures and more info about each of these storytellers at LDS  You can also find more great stuff by following us on Instagram or Facebook at @Thisisthegospel_podcast. A huge thank you to everyone who takes the time to write a review of this podcast not only do they offer us great feedback about what themes and types of stories have blessed you most, but they also really buoy us up when we work under these unusual circumstances. We love to hear how this podcast and specific stories that have stuck with you. You can leave a review of the podcast on Apple stitcher or whatever platform you listen on.  All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers, and we find a lot of our stories like Cassidy's through our pitchline. If you have a story to share about a time in your life when you learn something new by practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you. The best pitches will be short and sweet and they'll have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch your story when you call 515-519-6179.  This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay with additional story production and editing by Erika Free and Davey Johnson. 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 all the other LDS Living podcasts at LDS slash podcasts.     Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Jan 25, 2021
Every Living Thing
Stories in this episode: A quest to solve the mystery of bees flying through cracks in their walls lead Kristen and Matt to discover important truths about God's laws of nature; Spencer’s childhood memories of catching bugs under yellow street lamps teaches him what it takes to recognize God’s hands in our lives. To view shownotes for this episode, go to 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. There is something that I have suspected about this podcast for a while now. And this week it was 100% confirmed to me that when we decide on a theme, heaven conspires to put that theme and all of its lessons in my face.  So maybe you'll think I'm being melodramatic, and the reality might be that I just notice things more, but listen to this you guys. This week, our theme is about the way the natural world teaches us principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we have jokingly called it "the bug episode" for months now, because both of our stories somehow revolve around insects.  So, not two days ago, my husband and I were coming home from a little jaunt – sometimes you just have to get out of the house when it's COVID times – and when we pulled into the carport, our headlights illuminate the biggest spider I've ever seen outside of a terrarium.  It's just dangling there – suspended in midair as though it was hovering. And luckily, we saw it in enough time to roll the car in a little bit slower than we normally would so that we didn't hit it. I hate spiders. And I guess it would be more accurate to say that I "fear spiders" since hate is a secondary emotion.  Ever since I saw a documentary about jumping spiders, I'm positive that every spider knows how to jump and they're just waiting to leap onto my body. So the added protection of the windshield of the car made it so that we could actually observe the spider without my anxiety taking over and we sat there for probably 10 minutes in total awe.  As we watched that spiders body twist in eight legged arabesques while she worked her magic spinning silk, it seemed like she was creating it out of nothing at all. Also, I don't know why I keep saying "She," – I assume it's because of Charlotte's Web.  Anyway. It was interesting to me that she was multitasking. That she was climbing the ropes and she was building them at the same time. And I thought, man, if that doesn't describe the work of discipleship, I really don't know what does.  Because sometimes moving along the covenant path can feel like we're dangling in midair with eight busy legs trying to build something just so that we can put one foot in front of the next.  But also – like my buddy, the spider – we can ignore the headlights trying to trip us up and the busy bodies staring us down through their car windshield, if we carefully focus on the task in front of us. Because as children of Christ, we've got it all in us. The tools, the spiritual DNA, the capacity to learn new patterns to harness the power of God here on earth to move his work forward.  See what I mean? One giant spider in the carport at exactly the right moment for today's theme, I feel like it's a little wink from Heavenly Father that He's on the job. And don't you worry, I have not taken out the garbage since we saw that spider, because I am sure that the minute I walk into the carport, it's going to leap on me.  But I also haven't forgotten that image of that spider, and the connection between us and the natural world. It's real. And I think it's a part of our gospel practice. And today's stories promised to give us just a little bit more insight into the ways that nature here on Earth brings us all just a little bit closer to heaven.  Our first story in this episode comes from Kristin and Matt who tag-team their tale of a time when the outside world made its way inside. Here's Kristin and Matt.   Kristen  3:36   Earlier this summer, our neighbor – we have a lovely, lovely neighbor next door who had been furloughed from her job, and so she would be outside all day every day working in her garden.  And one day I just went to say hello to her. And she said, "Hey, Kristen, I think you have some bees. I think you have a beehive." And I went, "What?"  She pointed out to me where some bees – and there wasn't a lot of them, it was just a couple, were walking in and out this little tiny crack in our siding. We have an older house, and it has brick and then it has some siding and it was just kind of this teeniest little space.    Matt  4:18   So we start to check every day, and sure enough, you can see little bees coming in and out of this crack, but I don't know. I don't know what's behind there, right?    Kristen  4:25   Yeah. And we weren't quite ready to peel off the siding or anything. By this time we are we're pretty sure – based on our oh-so-scientific knowledge, that they are indeed honeybees. Because they weren't trying to kill you they weren't wasp-y, they looked more like honey bees.    Matt  4:42   You know, the first reaction we had was, "Well maybe, let's call an exterminator and see what it would cost." And I was ambivalent about it because I really like bees. Bees do – bees do important work. They pollinate, they make honey.  So we got – I think we had an estimate for an exterminator, and it was already a lot of money. So I was like, why not – let's let's pursue the avenue of maybe somebody who's a beekeeper, or who specializes in removing bees –    Kristen  5:17    – What do you even call that bee guy, that would help remove a hive and find it a new home? And so we just kept googling like, "bee relocation," whatnot. And I stumbled on this guy, he finally comes out, and he busts out electronic tools like a little radar thing, a stethoscope,    Matt  5:37   Infrared like heat seeking like camera.    Kristen  5:42   He first starts using the infrared thing to kind of identify where the bees are, and how hard would it be to get to them. And then he uses a like a regular doctor's stethoscope to like listen in on their activity, and whatnot. And it was just fascinating.    Matt  6:00   As we were standing outside with him and looking at, you know, the one place where we knew that they were coming in and out, and I think he just kind of casually said, "Oh, I think you have a second one, too." And sure enough, like 10 feet to the left, there was another crack in the, in the sort of the older brick part of the house.    Kristen  6:17   Right by the fireplace.    Matt  6:18   Right by the fireplace where we saw bees coming in and out, and so then we're like, "Oh, great."    Kristen  6:24   So then he said, "Alright, well, let me think on it. And just watch it. You guys just watch it and let me know." And so for next few days, we're watching and I'm taking photos and videos and things. And one day, it was nuts. It was like the beehive . . .  the bee highway, like it was rush hour. And it was just swarms, thousands and thousands of bees.  And we went, "Are you kidding me?" It was crazy how many there were, and we went outside and I'm filming it. And we couldn't believe our eyes. Like we had no idea there would be that many in there, or if they were all in there, or was it like a convention that they were suddenly coming?  And so we thought, oh my gosh, what are we going to do now? Now, now it's getting serious, because we have just seen that many thousands of bees flying in and out different parts of our house. And that's when we did start getting a little nervous about it.  We're thinking, oh no, like, this can be a lot of damage. This could be really serious.    Matt  7:29   Yeah.    Kristen  7:29   And so then as soon as I you know, stop the video, I text the bee guy the videos, and we hear nothing, nothing at all. He just ghosts us. We never hear back.  I started looking again online, and I happened to tell a co-worker about it. My co-worker tells me about a friend who happens to have bees on the side just as a hobby. He happens to be a roofer by trade, so I call him and talk to him and he's like, "Nope, not what I do." He actually puts it out on a beekeeping group within Western New York.  And somehow one of the guys that's on this Facebook group is interested. That he would like to come relocate it for us. He works with the public gardens that are around town that are trying to establish bees at these different community gardens. And he wants to do this.    Matt  8:28   Like urban, urban community gardens.    Kristen  8:30   Right. And so we thought this is outstanding, how great! These bees could be useful to our community, we'll be giving back, they'll have a purpose, but we still we had no idea what it would entail.  And side note, this guy's like a hobbyist beekeeper person, like –    Matt  8:49   Yeah, it was clear that he was trying to break into this, profession, whatever you call it.    Kristen  8:56   So another interesting component is that this beekeeper that decided he wanted to come and help is deaf. And we don't know sign language, so mostly we're trying to explain the situation via text.  Then we kind of decide a game plan on how we're going to do this. And he kind of talks us through it – texts us through it – you know, and kind of shows us, we're in our family room and he's kind of marking it out. And he says he's going to get all the supplies and he's going to come back another day and it should only take a little while.    Matt  9:30   I was a little bit hesitant, right?    Kristen  9:32   Yeah, well cause he was saying he's gonna cut open the ceiling.    Matt  9:35   Yeah.    Kristen  9:36   And Matt's going, "Are you kidding?"    Matt  9:38   Originally, when the first bee removal guy came, I was under the impression that, yeah, it would work like a Pied Piper. That he would set up a hive, a new hive, outside the house, he would do something to you know lure the bees out of the house and into this new hive, which – great! You know? The you know, minimal damage to the house. I was never very clear, so you know, maybe that was always a completely naive idea of how it's gonna happen, but I thought – right? – that he'd explained it, something like that. So then when the second bee removal guy was here, and he was telling us, "Oh yeah, I'm just gonna cut your ceiling open," Yeah, that – trepidation would be the right way to describe what I was feeling at that point.    Kristen  10:27   But by this point, we were kinda like, what else do we do?    Matt  10:30   Yeah. And he – the other thing that, you know, sort of was setting up expectations, at least for the timing, is the second bee removal guy would send us these YouTube videos of people demonstrating how they remove bees, and the people in these videos, of course, we're very professional at it, and you know, from what it looked, at least to the way in the video, right? Looked like it was a – you know – maybe a three hour job or something, right? They come in, cut open the ceiling, vacuum the bees out, and then patch it up, too and that was it.  So that also gave us the impression that – right? – It would just be a quick and dirty job.   Kristen  11:11   It didn't happen that way.  We set up a day and a time for him to come back, and he came with a bunch of plastic and duct tape and a shop vac and some really rough tools. And just started going. He kind of taped up all of this plastic, he encased himself in this plastic, like a whole corner of the room –    Matt  11:38   Almost like it was a shower curtain or something    Kristen  11:40   Like uh – exactly, like a shower curtain taped to the ceiling, and draping down to the floor. And then he would get in there, and just started cutting open the ceiling. And little by little he starts breaking it open, and we're watching. Like I'm sitting there in the family room outside of the plastic, because I can't turn away. And he cuts it open, and then kind of motions to us to come see. And sure enough, you can see these little bits of hive.    Matt  12:12   Like uh . . . almost like curtains of honeycomb, right. These layers. It's – I call them curtains because they're the – the honeycombs would sort of, they would hang down from the top of the the cavity, you know, like they were curtains or something, hanging down, but they were just like rows and rows of them.  And they were very orderly. Yeah, it was kind of – to me, I thought the whole – I thought it was fascinating. And it was, there was a kind of beauty to it.    Kristen  12:41   Oh, yeah, for sure.    Matt  12:42   Just seeing all these, you know, almost these perfectly maid rows of honeycomb. And then they were just chock full of bees, right? I mean, it was just covered in bees, every – almost every square inch.    Kristen  12:57   Yeah. He texts us something like, "It's bigger than I thought." And so then he shows us that he's gonna have to cut a lot more, because it's a lot bigger. He's kind of showing us up in there. With his phone.  He takes his phone up in there and takes some pictures and you can see how deep it is, and how big these hives are. And we're going, "Are you kidding me?" And this is just the part in the family room.  These particular bees weren't super aggressive. They were just busy, busy, busy working.  Just like you jokingly hear – busy bees. They were doing their work and they just kept on trucking, but it was beautiful to watch. It was beautiful. It was right in front of all these windows in our family room, and so the sunlight was coming in and you could see the intricacies of the beehives and you could see which ones had little babies, little eggs in some of the hives and you can see where there are honey pockets and you can see – I mean it was natural geographic, right in our family room.  And then the beekeeper goes in with this shop-vac type thing, so he's inside the plastic, up in the ceiling, up above the bookcases, and he takes this shop–vac and just starts vacuuming up all the bees, and –    Matt  14:18   Yeah, he's got, he's got a long tube and sucks them through, and then it puts them in a big bucket, where then he can then carry to, you know, whatever place he wants to go.    Kristen  14:28   Yeah. And then – interestingly – so then he takes little by little, would break out really carefully the different curtains of honeycomb and put them in these wooden frames. And then once he got all of their hives back into these little bee boxes, and so he moves the whole bee box, all the new hives that are now in these screens and moves them all out, just outside that family room, so it's kind of right at the entrance to where the crack was. Somehow he knew he had gotten the queen. He could identify the queen, and knew that she was in the new box and so that eventually all the others would come follow. Then he kept that bee box outside of our house for another 24 hours or so.   Matt  15:19   So that process took, what? All day.    Kristen  15:21   All day. I mean, early in the morning till late that evening, and he was just drenched in sweat. And he – and it was just a long, extensive, very – was a lot more than he had anticipated.    Matt  15:37   It was dirty, too. Not gonna lie, right? There's, I mean, whatever, you know, was in that old ceiling, you know, and then, and the honey everywhere, dripping everywhere.    Kristen  15:47   Everywhere. And anything you touched, got it. I mean, we were cleaning bee guts and honey off things for a long time. And so that was just one. And we kind of had to do the whole process again, with the bees that were in the living room. Only this time, they were much more aggressive. The hives looked the same, but they were so distinctly different. Different temperaments, and different everything. It was, it was a lot. And I kind of hit a breaking point, at one point where I was just like, "I can't do this again. Our house is gonna be a mess," it just takes so much work. So much time. And so that process, it did take a lot longer. We spread it out over a couple of weeks trying to get those removed. And then he was, a beekeeper was able to relocate it to one of the urban gardens in downtown Buffalo. And hopefully, they're living happily ever after. He brought us some of the honey from it a few weeks later.    Matt  17:00   You know, we could have, we could have maybe actually paid a little bit more for an exterminator, but probably would have had the job done a lot quicker. If we just, you know, just killed them, got rid of them. But I just, I just never felt comfortable doing that, you know. It seemed like if there was a way to keep these bees alive and just move them to some other location, that would be the better thing to do. Even though doing that ended up taking a lot more time, probably produced a lot more stress for Kristin. But, you know, to treat life the way we do sometimes, you know, it's just an obstacle to our own sort of whatever goal we're trying to get out seems to be not compatible, not respectful with God's creations.   Kristen  17:54   It was awe inspiring to see this happening because even as the beekeeper was cutting open the ceiling and tearing things apart and trying to get to the bees, they just kept on working and kept on doing their thing. You know, they kept producing, they kept building, they kept going for the good of their group. And they were so fascinating to watch.  And I remember thinking, and I don't know where I've read this, I know several Church leaders have commented on this at some point, but that part of why we're so inspired by nature, or that we often will feel the Spirit when we're in nature is because nature obeys God's commands, period. And that's why we can feel so much of the Spirit in nature. Everything around you is obeying God's commands.  And as we were watching this all unfold in our ceiling, I remember thinking about that, that these bees are doing exactly what they were put here on earth to do. And it was, it was remarkable to watch.  Having lived in Utah for a little while, of course, you know, the Beehive State and the whole pioneer legacy with bees and the symbol and the working together and, and all of those things were really evident as we watch this unfold. It was you know, physically challenging, it was messy, it was inconvenient. It was everything. But it was also inspiring. It was nature at work. It was really remarkable to see the determination in those little bees, and just that they do what they were sent here to do.   KaRyn Lay  19:52   That was Matt and Kristen, in Buffalo, New York, and their description of those curtains of honeycomb in the wall get me every time. And we're actually going to have pictures of that, this crazy phenomenon, in our show notes.  I've been so curious about this. So I asked Kristin if they could hear the bees when they were trying to watch TV or smell the honey. And she disappointingly said that they literally had no idea what was happening behind that wall. But you know, the other thing that gets me is that reverence for all life that the Spirit brought into Matt's heart as he watched those creatures at work. There's a reason for that. In Moses, chapter six, verse 63, the Lord teaches us that, quote, "All things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal and things which are spiritual. Things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and the things which are in the earth and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath, all things, bear record of me."  Once you get past all the prepositions in that scripture, it's clear that every living thing has a purpose, a job to do, just like Krista mentioned about the bees. And that job is actually to bear record of the goodness and majesty and love of the Creator. So when Matt gets the chance to witness the earth, and all her parts, filling the measure of that creation in his family room, of course, the Spirit is going to be there to ratify that testimony, and to fill his heart with love for all of God's creation. Our next story comes from Spencer.   Spencer  21:19   One of my very first memories of moving to Texas, I was six years old, and my dad take me and some of my siblings, we walked down to the woods that were at the end of our street. And we went and looked at fireflies. Coming from the Bay Area, I'd never ever seen fireflies and it was this magical moment. It was dark, and all of a sudden these lights popping up everywhere and they're around you. And if you've ever been around fireflies, you know that feeling. There's one right in your face and I'm sure we caught one and held our hands. And it was this amazing moment. Where we moved, just outside of Houston in 1982, was very much frontier. Deep forests, subtropical, and there were bugs everywhere. My dad had been a fly fisherman and kind of grown up near the mountains. And when we moved, none of the fly fishing was available. And so his attention got turned to catching bugs.  At this time, the streetlights were like these bright white streetlights, they're not like the yellow ones you see now because they've learned that those yellow ones don't attract bugs the same way. But these ones would attract bugs like crazy. And so under every streetlight, you've had this illuminated circle that was filled with thousands of crickets, June bugs, and then, of course, all these other like fiery chasers. And you'd get toads and frogs that were coming to eat all those and then you'd have bats flying around eating the moths and the butterflies. And then, of course, cars would be running over them. So every morning there'd be like flattened and crispy bugs, and that was life.  So we'd just go and catch them. It didn't matter, school night, we'd be out till 10 o'clock. We'd go to the car lots that were close to the freeway because they just had these huge, powerful lights. And you had to wait till those closed and so after nine, we would show up. Security guards initially would question us, but then they got to know us, they became familiar with us. And we were walking around with a bunch of boxes and a big butterfly net. And we just kept some of the most amazing things.  And then he went and bought the bug book: "The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders." It had these great color pictures, and really well made. And we would look through that and it would show the habitat and the range of every bug. And you'd be like, "Oh, they're here too." And we'd, kind of almost like birders do, where you're trying to make a list of, "Can we find this?" One of our favorites were walking sticks. They're so cool. They look just like a stick. And we had like an 8-and-a-half inch, it wasn't a walking stick, it was like a walking branch, right? It was huge. As big around as your pinky and scared to death the first time you see it, and you realize these things, they don't bite, they don't do anything. They're just trying to hide. My dad got really interested in preserving this. And so he went to the Container Store, which is like we had downtown, bought these clear boxes of different sizes. And he'd carry them around in his car, actually. We'd always have some in the glove box because you never know what you're gonna see. And we would just start catching things. And if we didn't have it, we would collect it and we'd bring it home and we put it into this little display cases that he bought, mounted on the styrofoam, male and female of everyone. Our little Noah's, little bug ark, right? But they're dead, sorry. And we just started growing this collection. So this became kind of the thing and I was 9, 10 years old. And my older siblings were not super interested in this. You know, they were too cool. So in seventh grade, we had to do our life science bug collecting project. And you're supposed to try and find 50 bugs. Almost every case, kids would come in with like 15 to 20. And I remember bringing my whole collection and we had hundreds, probably 250 to 300 different things like longhorn beetles, click beetles, large eye, small eye, all the different types of moth, polyphemus, IO. And people couldn't believe that we had caught these right around us. And it was always like, "How come nobody else can see these?" In part, it's because maybe they didn't know where to look, or they weren't really trying. Or you also got things that totally camouflaged in. But if you're not looking, if you don't recognize it, then you won't see it. As a kid, as a dad, I feel bad like these are beautiful, why are we killing them? He always said, "Look, most bugs don't live more than maybe a few weeks, a few months, especially when you think about a butterfly or a moth like after they come out of their cocoon, they don't live long in that form. So our preserving them, meant other people could appreciate them and be aware of them." Ever since then, I realizee that we have this all around us. And we can get so stuck up in our own heads, or we can start to see things. When I learned to speak another language I'd have those moments where you'd learn a new word and all of a sudden, you would hear it everywhere. And it wasn't that that word hadn't been said, every single day. And actually it had been hitting your ears, but until you recognize that knew what it was, your brain didn't process it. And in some ways, the same is true with the bugs.  When you learn to recognize a moth, you would learn to see it and all of a sudden, you would see it everywhere. And so with spiritual things, they're there. Once we learn to see how much the Lord is trying to bless us and it's constantly blessing us, once we see that pattern and learn it, we'll recognize it all the time, and we'll recognize that it was always happening. But if we don't pay attention to it, or if we don't learn to appreciate it, we'll miss it. And it's not because it's not happening. It's just that because we are failing to see it. That's why I believe one of the principal values of a journal is even learning to recognize the hand of the Lord in our own lives on a consistent, daily basis. Not just the big, one time this happened, but every day. How do I wake up and learn to have an eye of gratitude and see those things? When I go back to Texas now, on the same street that I grew up, and if you stand there at night, you don't see a single bug under a streetlight anymore. It makes me sound like a million years old because like how could it have changed so quickly. And it really, this has been true probably for the last 20 years, it's pretty rare to see any of the things that I saw. And I'm worried that some of them are gone forever.  And I realized that the amount of time that I'm going to spend with my dad who's now 76 years old, is probably measured in a number of days. We live in separate states, I might spend less than three weeks of cumulative time with my dad, person to person. That kind of thought is sobering. And so all the more I appreciate every moment we have. Even after he is gone, when I see a bug, it will always connect me back to those moments. And it keeps us strong in its own interesting way. I think a lot of times as parents, we're told we're a generation apart. And we're just in different places and trying to communicate directly sometimes with a kid is hard. Now that I've got six, and various ages, but in this, my dad and I had a common bond. I know my other siblings like bugs, but my dad and I are the ones that shared this. You know when you're not actually catching the butterfly, like sure that was exciting, but it was 45 minutes of just banter and just conversation where we built that relationship. We need to have these binding moments with our kids. It's not enough to just be blood anymore. There's so much more things that are more entertaining, more exciting. And so finding ways that we can be in not just proximity, but that emotionally or intellectually, or spiritually, of course, we are teamed up and we are working on something together. I have to find opportunities to create with my kids because that will reinforce who they truly are, and then bind us all together. These kinds of activities, it's something that we do that becomes part of the fabric of who we are that will always keep us close. It lifts our eyes from the mundane to the more divine. It's pretty cool. KaRyn Lay  30:08   That was Spencer. If you have been a longtime listener to "This Is the Gospel," you might recognize Spencer from one of our very first episodes. In fact, he was one of the first people that I called when I needed a good story for the pilot of the podcasts because I knew that he'd be able to spin a good yarn and make some really beautiful gospel connections.  Spencer's story and all the many lessons he learned about the world from his enthusiastic study of bugs with his dad made me think that some of the most powerful spiritual teachers come in all shapes and sizes. And some of them might have wings and too many legs, but it's up to us to open our eyes to the wonder of the natural world if we want to learn from them.  There's a little scriptural passage in Job in chapter 12 that kind of sums it up for me. It starts in verse seven, "But ask now the bees, and they shall teach thee. And the fowls of the air and they shall teach thee. Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee. And the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee." And then it skips to verse 10, "In whose hand is the soul of every living thing and the breath of all mankind?"  Job was in the depths of his despair when he spoke these words. More trouble was coming for him and, and somehow, he understood that turning his heart to reflect on the natural world could actually bring healing and hope and connection in the midst of his pain.  And I'm not sure if this understanding is what motivated Spencer's dad to turn to spending time in the parking lots under the lamplight with his 10-year-old son after a really big move. But it almost doesn't matter. From those hours that they spent collecting their Noah's ark of bugs, Spencer and his dad internalize the lesson that the earth is trying to teach us all. Life is fragile and fleeting and precious. And we are all, great and small, buggin man, father and son, connected by the truth that we were created by the same master.  I'm a huge fan of the word stewardship. It comes from the Old English and it means keeper of the house or guardian of the hall. It's so interesting to me that the Lord uses this word steward and stewardship throughout the scripture to describe our relationship to the earth and all the things in it. In fact, in Doctrine and Covenants, section 104, verses 13 and 14, he reveals to Joseph Smith, "For it is expedient that I the Lord should make every man accountable as a steward over earthly blessings, which I've made and prepared for my creatures. I the Lord stretched out the heavens and built the earth, my very handiwork and all things there in our mind." I've been thinking about what it would look like if my gospel gig was to be a guardian of the halls of God's house. If we think about it as a literal house, I can imagine walking some great marble halls filled with God's treasures, and I'd like to think that I'd be a decent steward. I'd like to think that I could be really attentive to the things around me, always looking for ways to protect them. Maybe I'd wear white gloves and check for dust a little bit more often than I do at my own house, or drink a little more caffeine so that I'd stay alert to anything that might be a miss.  Certainly because I love the master of that house I would care for and honor the things that he made because they're a part of him. But I also suspect that like most things that become routine, after a while, I'd probably get used to all that greatness all around me in those halls and I might lose the sense of wonder and awe that would keep me hustling to be good at my job.  If the Lord's house is this earth, then today's stories are a wake up call for me and I hope for you that while we're in the midst of facing uncertainty and certain difficulty, maybe even as certain as Job's, we can still find solace and spirit and God's creation. It's a reminder to go outside and seek wonder and to pray for new eyes so that we can see the spiders dangling in our headlights or be awed by the bees in our walls. It's a reminder to spend time with people you love in places that testify of God by virtue of their very existence. I really believe that this will invite the Spirit who testifies of Christ into our lives more and it will reawaken our desire to be good stewards, keepers of the house and guardians of the halls of this earth. And it will give us more reverence for every living thing created by a loving father for our benefit. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers, Kristin, Matt and Spencer for sharing their stories and their innate enthusiasm for all the creepy crawly things. We'll have more info about each of these storytellers including a picture of those honey hive curtains in our show notes at We'll also link to the gospel topics from the Church about stewardship. It's a really good read and there's some great things in there that you can learn. Some of my favorite quotes and thoughts about nature are found there.  You can also get more great stuff by following us on Instagram or Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. A huge thank you to every one of you who takes the time to write a review of this podcast on whatever platform you listen, we love to hear how the podcast and specific episodes and stories have stuck with you and helped you on your discipleship journey.  All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers and we find a lot of those stories through our pitch line. If you have a story to share about a time in your life when you learn something new by practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you. The best pitches will be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch your story when you call 515-519-6179.  This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with additional story production from Sarah Blake. It was edited by Erika Free and Kelly Campbell and 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.
Jan 18, 2021
Unanswered Prayers
Stories in this episode: Anna’s teen years are spent in anger and frustration at God for not saving her mom until an unwelcome opportunity sparks a new perspective; Juan is stopped in his tracks on his way into a fast-food restaurant when a sign from heaven sheds new light on an unanswered prayer that haunted him for years. To see our show notes 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.  I wouldn't say I am a huge modern country music fan – I tend to like my country a little bit more dusty, but when I put today's theme into Google, just to see what I could see, only one thing popped up in the search results.  The 1990 Country Music juggernaut of a song from Garth Brooks called, "Unanswered Prayers." It immediately triggered a series of flashbacks to those awkward dances at Rockland Junior High where the only thing bigger than my hairsprayed bangs was all of my anxiety about being asked by an actual boy to dance to a slow song.  And if you're unfamiliar with this particular slow song, let me give you a quick synopsis. It's a story about a teenager begging God for something that he thought he wanted, only to realize as an adult that getting that thing that he wanted, would have precluded him from the gift of his current family and life. The song has all the country feelings – regret, longing, a high school football game, and a nod to a loving Heavenly Father. And it ends with a super catchy chorus.  So if you want to jaunt down American Memory Lane, hit the YouTube give it a listen. But here's the thing, Garth song and its catchphrase, "Thank God for unanswered prayers," is a little overly simplistic for my taste.  It might make for a really great t-shirt at the merch table, but I think that understanding and making sense of our own unanswered prayers can feel a little bit more confusing and even devastating when you're in the middle of the asking and the not getting  Getting to gratitude and thanking God for saying no is sometimes a really long and perilous journey. So today, we're going to dig into the complexity of the spiritual phenomenon with two stories from people whose righteous desires didn't end in easy yes's.  First, we'll hear from Anna, who's wrestle with prayer began pretty early on in her life. Here's Anna.   Anna  2:11   Growing up in primary, I was always taught that if you had a good desire, and if it was a righteous desire, then Heavenly Father was going to answer your prayer, and He was going to give you what you wanted. And I was always taught about the miracles that happened, you would read about it in the scriptures, and I would, you know, hear people bear testimony about the miracles in their own life. So when I was nine years old – I had just turned nine – we found out that my mom's cancer had come back. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was five, and then had been in remission. and it had come back. And this time, they told us that it was terminal, and that she was probably going to not survive it because it had spread so rapidly throughout her body.  But as a nine year old girl I had, you know, all the faith in the world. And I knew that – I knew that it was gonna be okay. I was like, "No worries. I'll just, I'll just pray" – because I felt that praying for my mom to live and to not die was a very righteous desire.  And so I prayed so hard that she wouldn't die because I didn't want her to, and I really believe that if I prayed that she wouldn't die, that that she wouldn't. That she would survive, that this would be, you know, one of those miracle stories.  But on October 13 2005, I remember waking up and I looked at the clock and it – I shared a room with my little sister – and it was nine in the morning. And I thought, "This is the greatest day of my life, my parents have forgotten to wake me up for school. I don't have to go to school."  And so my little sister woke up and she started making noises and trying to talk to me and I was like, "No, no, go back to bed. Mom and Dad won't take us to school if we don't wake up." But my dad heard us, and he asked us to come out and we went out into our living room and he was there with his mom and his sister, and they told us that she passed away earlier that morning. And that the cancer had taken her life and . . . I was nine and my little sister had just barely turned seven.  And I mean I was just bawling. And I was like, "What?" I was like "No!" like, "My mom can't be gone." And I can remember telling my dad, you know, I said I was like, "You know Dad, I'm not gonna pray anymore." Because I said, "God didn't answer my prayer. So obviously God doesn't love me. And God doesn't answer prayers because I prayed so hard and so many people were praying that she wouldn't die." And yet, here I was without a mom here on earth and I was just so upset and I was so angry. And I held on to that anger.  Anger was like this blanket for me where I would just like wrap it around myself, and anytime I started to not feel angry, I was like, "Whoa, this feels weird, bring it back." And my prayers definitely changed after that, where, when I would pray, it would be very routine, it would be, you know, the "Please bless that I'll be able to sleep tonight. And I'll be able to wake up and go to school tomorrow and do good things." It wasn't very, it wasn't very heartfelt. I didn't want . . .  I didn't want to pray. And I didn't really pray on my own. I would pray in like family settings and stuff. But I just really didn't believe that God answered prayers, because he hadn't answered mine. And that was a pretty big prayer that I wanted to have answered. My dad got remarried to my stepmom, and I did not like her, um, because I was just so angry. I was like, "No, you don't get to come in here and like pretend to be my mom, I've been raised one way for nine years." "You don't just get to kind of like come in here and try and you know, tell me what to do." And I would always tell her that anytime she would say something to me, I would be like, "You're not my mom." That was like my card that I would pull out all the time.  And I was just so angry. And I really took it out on her, because I felt that if I loved her – if I loved my stepmom – then I would be forgetting my mom. But I was lucky enough to have a dad who, you know, when I told him that I was done praying, he didn't just go, "Okay, sounds good." Like, "You're right. He didn't answer my prayer, either. Let's just like stop going to church and stop doing things."  But he taught me of the plan of salvation and of eternal families. And it was, it was those truths, that kept me going. I had to hold on to that hope that I was going to see my mom again, and that families are eternal, and that the plan of salvation is this wonderful plan that our Heavenly Father has given us. And that's what really kept me going.  Even though I didn't feel like I could ask Heavenly Father for important things at that time. So I would only ask them for like little things like, "Can you help us find this lost toy?" Or, "Can you, you know, help me on this test?" It would just be like, very little things, and I wouldn't put a lot of faith in Him to, like, fulfill it.  Like, I'd be like, I mean, I don't really know if he's, you know, I don't know if he's actually going to help us find this toy, I don't . . . you know, like, I didn't really have a lot of faith during that time that he would actually answer those prayers. But I kind of started to ask him for little things here and there to kind of, I guess, see what would happen.  All of this kind of started to change when I was in my first year of college, and I was praying to tell God, that I was not going to be serving a mission, that that was not part of what I was going to do in my life. I was literally – I was like, "Heavenly Father, I'm not going to serve a mission. I hope that's okay with you. Thank you, amen."  And then I felt that I needed to open my scriptures. So I just like grab my scriptures, opened it up to a random chapter – to this day, still can't even find that chapter in D&C – and I just read a little bit of the headline, and it just talks about missionary work. And I shut that book so quickly. And I shoved it back and I was like, "Nope. Nuh uh."   And I felt so like, deep within me, like, I've never had an experience like that, where it was just instant, like, "No, you need to serve a mission Anna." And I was like, "Yeah, no, that's not gonna happen." And I was so anxious.  But then I went to the temple, and I prayed, and I, and I just had this overwhelming feeling of peace. It was like, "Anna, you need to go on a mission." And like, "Everything's going to be okay. If I'm asking you to do this, I'm gonna help you through it." And I was like, "Alright, I'm going on a mission." And from that moment forward, I didn't ever look back.  On my mission, it kind of came to this point where I was miserable on my mission for the first little bit because I just like, didn't want to be there – that I had to make a choice. Whether I was going to let misery rule my life, or if I was going to choose happiness, and if I was going to choose goodness, and if I was going to choose Christ.  And I decided I'd rather be happy. And so I really allowed the Savior to enter into my heart. And that's really – I know, and I believe that that's really what what healed me was letting him come into my heart.  It took, like the entire 18 months, pretty much where I think it was close to the end of my mission where I could remember just thinking I was like, "Wow," like, I don't feel that literal . . .  like it just kind of felt like a very heavy burden that had been on me for all those years because I was so angry and upset at God for not answering my prayer.  And I think it was was just the process of, you know, on the mission and missions aren't for everyone, but I do believe that I, I had to serve a mission in order to heal, because I needed to get out of the environment that I was in at home, and I just needed to get like completely thrown out in a new place. And I needed . . . like in a mission like you really have to rely on the Savior, like you can't do it on your own. And so I really had to learn to really trust the Savior, and to trust Heavenly Father. That unanswered prayer of my mom passing away hasn't been resolved, in the sense that, like, my mom isn't alive, you know, she hasn't come back to life miraculously. And there's still been, you know, other prayers, maybe not as big as that in the grand scheme of things that have gone unanswered. And I still don't fully understand why my mom had to be taken from me and my little sister when we were so young. And I don't know if that's something that I'll ever fully understand in this life.  But I just know that He hears the unanswered prayers. And He is there for us. And it may just not be in the way that we want, or the way that we recognize. And it may take years to look back and recognize that God was there for that unanswered prayer.  What changed for me was the perspective. That instead of focusing on everything that went wrong, I just started to focus on the things that went right.  And I started to focus on the fact that, you know, my dad got remarried, like, nine months after my mom had passed away. And he married a wonderful woman, who is incredible, and loves me and my little sister with everything. And then together, they had my two littlest sisters who I love, and who I could not imagine life without.  And that I realized that, you know, I had such a great support group around me. Neighbors and family and friends, who were there to help me. And so I think what changed is that I, I learned that I could ask for help from Heavenly Father, during the midst of trials and after them, and that he would be there to help me, and that he would, you know, lift that burden.  You know, Heavenly Father knew that my mom wasn't going to survive, and I know that he heard that little nine year old prayer. And I think when I was younger, I, I think I had more so of an image of God, kind of just being this kind of ruthless, like hard person who, you know, didn't like me very much, and so He didn't answer that prayer, and He was okay watching me struggle.  But as I got older, I started to recognize and realize that, you know, I'm sure that Heavenly Father wasn't sitting around going, "Oh, I'm so happy that, you know, sweet Anna's mom's gonna die," or watching my mom suffer through cancer . .  I know that He was probably weeping with us, and that He was probably really sad about it too, but that He knew that it was gonna happen, and so He put things in place that He knew were gonna help me and my family after that trial.  And during that trial, I mean, just the incredible amount of tender mercies, and so that specific prayer of like, "Please don't let my mom die," wasn't answered, but then He puts things in my life to help me so that I would be able to overcome it.    KaRyn  13:51   That was Anna. I think we might all be able to relate to that feeling she had, I know I can when she ran headfirst into the dissonance of what she had learned about prayer in primary, and what she learned about prayer while living it.  So many things in our spiritual life can feel like a betrayal when the rubber hits the road of discipleship, and we recognize that there's a little bit more variation in the stories than what we were told in primary.  And anger. Anger is a really normal response to this kind of betrayal, whether it's real or perceived. It's what we decide to do with that anger in the long run that really matters.  I happen to know Anna's stepmother, and I know that while Anna's childhood anger response was anything but pleasant. She was really lucky to have two adults in her life who saw it for what it was and held her more closely during her bouts of rage.  And I think while it might not feel like it – that that's what our Father in Heaven is doing for us. For each of us. He's doing that same thing, drawing us closer during our raging as we learn to manage our expectations against the reality of growth in the Gospel.  Anna's story is a lesson to all of us. She didn't stop praying despite the challenge to her belief about prayer. And that eventually led her to an open heart about serving a mission, which is where her healing was prepared all along.  And though parts of her understanding about that unanswered prayer remain totally unresolved, that's the part of her story that gives me the most hope. It's a testament to humanity's unflagging capacity, to thrive in the in-between spaces. To sit with the pain of the unknown, and still have gratitude for what we do know. To feel the rage of that dissonance and still call out to a father we can only hope is hearing us. To experience the loss of a beloved mother and discover a new love in our little sisters. I really think that unanswered prayers magnified this hopeful truth about each of us.  Our next story about prayers unanswered comes from Juan.    Juan  15:57   Way back when I was a much younger man and full of more energy, my wife and I had decided that at some point in the future, we wanted to own a restaurant. But the big problem here in West Palm Beach, Florida is that most of our restaurants business is done on Saturday and Sunday.  Especially with – ironically – the church crowds. Obviously, we couldn't have a business that works on Sunday because of our own religious beliefs, but we found that Chick-fil-A doesn't open on Sundays, so it seemed to me that would be the perfect franchise to get.  You work six days a week like the Lord commanded, and you're off resting on a seventh day. Win-win for everybody. So we decided that's what we wanted to do. And so we prayed about it. We got great feelings about Chick-fil-A, that was it. That was the answer to our prayers.  Early on in our marriage, we made the commitment to be full tithe payers, because the Lord has distinctly said, "If you give your tithing God will bless you." And we knew that that was the way it is, because we've seen it in other aspects of our life.  So as we were paying our tithing, we were expecting that this is what would happen. You pay your tithing, you get blessings, and one of the blessings that we wanted was a Chick-fil-A.  So we contacted the corporate Chick-Fil-A offices and the franchise department and so forth and we were talking to them, and they told us they had no interest at all in opening here in West Palm Beach, because a few years before that, the one that they had here, there was a robbery, and it resulted in a fatality.  It was a real blow, honestly, you know, because we knew that this was what was supposed to happen. How could it possibly not happen?  Two years later, the news opens up that some entrepreneur guy who's already worth millions of dollars really loved Chick-fil-A. So he bought a lot here in the middle of town and told Chick-fil-A, "Hey, I'm going to build a restaurant, would you like franchise fees?" Instead, he decided having a Chick-fil-A in West Palm Beach would be amazing. You could imagine what I'm thinking, right? He doesn't need any more money. Or at least I didn't think he needed any more money because that's what's supposed to be my money. So it hurt. I mean, I was crushed.  And caused me to question several things. I questioned my own thought process about tithing and about how God could be so unfair when I had been so good. I mean, I see other people around me very successful. And I knew a lot about them that they were not, quote, "churchy people." So I struggled a lot to resolve their success with their lifestyle versus my lack of success with my lifestyle, which I thought was better because I was following the commandments that God wanted, and he's not blessing me the way I want.  It just changed my entire outlook. And it changed my relationship with God and with the Church. I stopped asking for things. And instead of asking for very specific things, you asked for the general things in hopes of not being disappointed.  So it was about two years that I just had this horrible bitterness and then our daughter Zoe was born. A couple years went by, and her pre-k daycare gave out bagels with peanut butter on and she reacted badly. It wasn't threatening her life, but it was close.  And that's when we discovered that she had peanut allergies. And so after that, it was all hands on deck. We scrubbed our house of all things peanut, egg, and milk related because egg and milk are two other allergies she had. We didn't go to birthday parties because we don't know what would be in the cake or where it was made or what instruments they might have used to make it that might have come in contact with everything she was allergic to. And we cut our lives down to one restaurant, a barbecue joint that we were made sure had none of her allergies.  We really cut a lot of things out of our life to make sure that she, honestly, that she didn't die. And it was rough on the other two kids, but they eventually got used to it. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make to keep her with us.  Time passed, and I had mostly accepted that I was not going to be a restaurant owner and I was not going to be a Chick-fil-A owner. But I travel a lot around town for work. My job keeps me out of the office in a work truck. And I would pass by that stupid Chick-fil-A three times a week. And if you've ever been by a Chick-fil-A, there's never a time when there isn't six, seven cars in the drive thru. It's just horribly poppin' and horribly busy. And I was just thinking about all that money that millionaire is getting that I wasn't getting.  So every couple times a week I get a little jab in the side, and I'd move on and try to forget it and then I go past it again. I had mostly let it go, but every now and then it would just get to me a little bit.  One day, I was out in my work truck. And I was driving past Chick-fil-A and my stomach decided to forgive the millionaire guy and go get a Chick-fil-A sandwich. But as usual, there's like 20 cars in the drive thru. And I didn't feel like being in line. So I parked the truck and I went inside. And as I go inside, there's this giant banner across the front. It says, "Celebrating 40 years of cooking with peanut oil."  And I stopped. Everything kind of went blank except for the sign. I stopped breathing. I just felt stunned beyond all belief and just turned to walk back out because going through my head was if I had owned this franchise when my child was born, then possibly the first time I ever held my daughter, my newborn daughter in my arms, having come home from work, a hard day at the franchise. And if anybody's ever worked in a restaurant, you know, you carry the restaurant home in your clothes, it just seeps into you. So I would have carried all that peanut home with me and possibly killed my daughter the first time I held her after work. And that's the moment that I realized that I was being the worst possible son ever. I'd literally been looking at my dad and yelling at him because he wouldn't let me touch the stove, in love. It made me think about all the other times that I didn't do something because I wasn't sure. Or I didn't get that answer I wanted to the prayer. I prayed and prayed and prayed to get that Chick-fil-A.. And if I had gotten that Chick-fil-A, I would have lost my daughter.  Now, speaking from the future, the science has come out that supposedly peanut oil is processed in a way that it removes the proteins that create allergens. But it has the word peanut in it and I'm not taking the chance. It's one of those things you don't want to "if" about.  And so I was angry at my dad for not letting me touch the hot stove. And all he had to do was let me touch the hot stove and I would have been happy, or so I thought. Instead, he didn't let me touch the hot stove. And my daughter just turned 16 two days ago. So, that was a really hard moment because I realized I was being a complete idiot for the past four years. I was actually upset at God for getting a blessing because sometimes the blessing is not getting what you want.  This experience changed the way I think about tithing and prayer. Tithing, and the blessings you get from tithing, doesn't necessarily mean, "Hey, if I pay 10%, God's gonna make me a millionaire." No, that means that, you know, things don't break as often. Friends help you out. You find sales on items that normally don't go on sale, things like that those are robust, and they're tiny. They're small blessings that add up. And that's what that scripture means: but I will pour out blessings upon you until you can handle them anymore. It's the little blessings that add up, not the great big blessing.  Prayer, for me, and I think for our entire family, has become more of a thank you note. We don't really pray for the giant things anymore. We give more thanks. And then we asked for, we asked for protection for our family, we asked for health for everyone, especially right now.  I used to ask God for things and I quit asking God for the big things when all this happened because I was angry. He's, I'm gonna ask him and he's gonna say no anyway. I mean, how many kids have done that? You know, I asked, and asked and asked, and dad always says no. Okay, fine, then I won't ask anymore. But now it's sort of developed into I don't need those big things because he has given me so many smaller things that actually have ended up being a small part of being greater than the sum of the whole.  It sounds strange, but I know that I'm not destined to be that world changer. There are certain people that come into the world that are destined to change the world. Our family is the family of worker bees in the hive. And we know this, and we don't necessarily look for the big things, but we do appreciate the daily comforts that we have. We're the disciples that weren't mentioned in the Bible, the crowds that follow Jesus and follow His commandments but didn't get the spotlight, that's us. And we're okay with that now. And we're happy with the things that we have. We have three healthy children, we have enough for our needs. And enough for an occasional want, and then it's good enough for us. And we love each other as a family and we will do anything for each other. And we know that we're there for each other every day. And then God has our backs. That is a lesson I got from the unanswered prayer.   KaRyn  27:28   That was Juan.  We first featured Juan's story in our "This Is the Gospel" video series back in 2017, I think. And it was really fun to revisit the details and learn more about how he came to understand the gift of his unanswered prayer.  History demonstrates a really cool trick that many of us already kind of do unconsciously as we hit new roadblocks in our journey towards eternity. It's called cognitive reframing, and let me give you a little crash course. In the same way that buildings have a frame that determines the shape of the rooms we live in, many of our beliefs and attitudes act as the frames that determine the shape of our testimony. So when we choose to renovate our homes or reshape our testimony, sometimes we have to make adjustments to that frame. And how we do that might look different for each of us. But in all cases, it's a choice, a gift of our agency.  For Juan, the remodel started with the idea that God doesn't keep his promises and all that bitterness that seeped into his heart every time he drove by that Chick-fil-A. But then with time and a gentle nudge from heaven in the form of a vinyl sign that showed him that maybe his perspective could use some adjustments, he chose to review, to repent, and to take stock of his framework about tithing and about prayer. The result was a totally new perspective, a reframing of, "God doesn't keep his promises," into, "The promise was not to grant my wishes, the promises to pour out blessings that he knows I need."  You know this reframing, this is hard spiritual work, my friends. Some of us are naturally gifted at it, and it just flows from us. But the rest of us, like me, well, reframing takes time. And it takes humility, and it takes practice and sometimes a lot of help from above. But the good news that we saw in Juan's story is that reframing is a skill that can be learned and mastered in this life. And it's a skill that will help us to draw closer to our Father in Heaven, even in the midst of our trials.  This idea of reframing reminds me of one of my favorite lessons from one of my favorite gospel teachers. S. Michael Wilcox wrote a book called, "When Your Prayers Seem to Go Unanswered," and it's a short little gem from the Time Out for Women classics. So some of you actually may even remember this TOFW presentation.  In this book, he masterfully shows us so many ways that we can reframe our belief about God's seeming silence. And I don't have time to tell you the whole book. It's so good, but the part of his message that has been rolling around in my heart today is this, quote, "Occasionally answers aren't given, or the blessings we desire don't come, or the trials we bear continue because there is no place in our hearts for God to put the answer we need. Life must carve or hollow out this place. The very experiences we are going through helped to create these holding places, yet he still hears our prayers and promises the resolution will come in time."  This concept of time and experience carving out the holding place is so beautiful to me. I often think that if the Lord had granted my petitions and shown me the reasons and purpose for some of the most painful unanswered prayers when I was in the middle of begging for understanding, my heart might have been too smooth, to free of the friction necessary to hold the truth in its place. I needed that time, and, frankly, I needed the heartbreak to crack open space for that new perspective. And when the time was just right so that I could see the answer from all sides in its new home in my renovated heart, that's when the understanding came. And isn't it so amazing to see the creation of that holding place in both of the stories that we heard today?  Beyond the anger and the fear, the resentment, that feeling of unfairness and blame, beyond that lay a new way of seeing the world and God's goodness. But first, Anna had to step out of her comfort zone and into her mission to teach others about the power of prayer and the plan of salvation. And Juan had to step into fatherhood and out of his truck to witness what Brother Wilcox calls the given good from God instead of the expected good. With each step, the holding place was being hollowed out of the studs of their hearts, so that they could reframe their experience with God and His love for them. And if like Anna, the full answer to our heartfelt prayers have not yet found their way to us, well, I have to quote Brother Wilcox again, "May we have the patience to wait for life, measured by the wisdom of God, to carve the holding places in our hearts."  Today, I wish you patience, my friends. There are so many questions that God has yet to answer, but the promise is that he will answer them. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers, Anna and Juan, for sharing their stories and their wisdom. We'll have more info about each of these storytellers, including a link to Juan's original "This Is the Gospel" video and Michael Wilcox's his book "When Your Prayers Seem to Go Unanswered" in our show notes at  You can find more of the good stuff by joining us over at Instagram and Facebook at thisisthegospel_podcast. All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers.  If you'd like to become one of our storytellers, the best way to throw your hat in the ring is through our pitch line. We find so many of our stories like Anna's from the pitch line. We listen to every pitch and we love to hear how the gospel of Jesus Christ is transforming your lives. The best pitches are going to be short, sweet, and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch it when you call 515-519-6179. So come prepared. And listen, while we can't get back to everyone who calls the pitch line, please don't give up hope. If you haven't heard from us yet, it can sometimes take months and even years to develop just the right theme for your story.  This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story production and editing from 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.
Jan 11, 2021
Getting It Right
Stories in this episode: A new Christmas tradition challenges Matt to put into writing all the things he has trouble saying; Gracie, Cescily, Paul, & Sheradon call the pitchline with stories of what "getting it right" looks like for them; Leslie's attempt to skip the holidays is thwarted by a wise dad with three poinsettias and a plan.  Find the Pearl S. Buck story "Christmas Day in the Morning" here. For complete show notes for this episode, please visit We'll be back with weekly episodes starting JANUARY 11th. Merry Christmas! 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. Don't even say it. I already know that today's theme is a little bit controversial because what does it even mean to get it right? If we take the philosophical route, we'd probably determine that absolute rightness is a construct that it doesn't actually exist because of the sheer number of relative interpretations, depending on our lived experiences, belief systems, cultural norms, and more. And we might determine that it's impossible to ever actually get anything truly, and purely right. And now that we've collectively had an existential crisis together, maybe we can decide to be a little more generous with the imperfections and inaccuracies of the English language, a little more poetic, maybe, as we tackle this idea of getting it right. I think if we look at it through the lens of the restored gospel, we might be reminded that our God is eternally interested in us getting it right. And he's been really generous with us as we play the long game of perfection. I mean, that's the whole purpose of the plan of salvation and the Atonement. We do our best with faith and humility and he makes it right. And of course, when we apply getting it right to this beautiful season of Christmas, that's a celebration of that perfect act of selflessness. I don't think it takes a PhD in philosophy to recognize our own efforts towards true discipleship, and the efforts of others. Christmas is the perfect time to internalize this truth: that we are all on different paths that lead to the same place when our hearts are turned in the right direction. And today, we've got six really short stories about holiday hearts turned right. These right turns might look a little bit different than your right turns, but that's what's so exciting about storytelling: we get to witness one another's uniquely drawn paths and celebrate both the heartaches and the wins together. Our first short story comes from Matt, a father who found himself wondering if he could be the change he saw his family needed at the holidays. Here's Matt.   Matt  2:14  I don't remember exactly what year it was how it started. It was a while ago, the kids were teenagers. And I remember, though, that we were kind of getting to that point where you're in the arms race of Christmas, as your kids get older. And so you kind of have to, you know, up it each year to try and make sure that they're excited as they get older because the things that they they need kind of get more and more expensive. We're going around fighting the battle to try and get presents and I asked the kids about what they had gotten the previous year. And they didn't even remember. And so I was sitting here in the middle of this battle, trying to get all the presents and go into the different stores and they don't have what you want and whatnot. And then to hear that they didn't really remember what they got the year before. It kind of hit me like, "Well, then what's the point? What are we doing this for?" This is nothing on the kids. They're great kids. But I had, even myself, tried to think back to what gifts I had got the year before. And you just you don't really remember those things, you remember experiences. And so I thought, "Well, maybe this is something that that needs to change." And to understand, I'm not a very empathetic person. I'm not very good at you know, I mean, I try and understand people's feelings, but I'm not, I'm not very good at it. And I'm especially not good at expressing any feelings. And my wife is very good at pointing that out to me as something that I need to improve on. And she had mentioned before, that – I don't know if it was for a birthday or anniversary but – she said, "You know, you don't need to get me a present, I just want to letter. I just want to know how you feel." So with that background, in the midst of this Christmas time and the hecticness and not remembering the presents and my wife saying that, I thought maybe this is a good thing that we can do, is to cut back on the presents, the monetary, actual physical gifts, and we can give letters about how we feel for each other. There was no pushback from the kids, and we didn't cut out presents at all, because it was kind of fun, so what we did is we said – so there's five of us, you know, the parents and three kids – and we said, you know, "Give each other a gift but keep it less than $20." So we still went and found something but because we set that $20 limit, you kind of had to think a little bit about you know, "I don't want to just give him some junk." So I actually got some really thoughtful gifts, and so still kind of fun because we had things to open, but the focus was the letters. So I'd like to say that, you know, I prepared the whole year and took notes and wrote in my journal about all the wonderful things they did, but I wasn't that good. So it would kind of come down to December. And I knew as it was looming, then you start thinking about, okay, what are some of the things that have maybe gone on this year that I can talk about in that letter? And what are some things that I can say that are meaningful, that maybe I didn't say last year? So that it does doesn't become repetitive, you know, saying the same thing each year. And truly, what is it about them that I love and appreciate? As I started to think about my family, it took that focus off of me and onto them, and I start to feel maybe even just a teeny little bit, that true meaning of Christmas, which is the gift that our Savior gave us. And it allowed me to then focus on giving a little bit of myself, to them. You know, each Christmas we hear about, you know, at Christmas, we are the people that we should be all year. Well, I don't even think at Christmas I was the person I should have been all year round, because of this, you know, not being able to express my feelings or not taking the chance. It's something that was always really tough for me to express those feelings. But because it was written, it was easier for me. And the surprising thing was that once we started doing it, how awkward it wasn't. Knowing that it was expected, and that they were expecting this letter from me, helped me to kind of overcome that. And so I guess the surprising thing to me was how easy it was to get into it. And to be able to write those letters, which before felt like such a difficult, awkward, embarrassing thing that I didn't want to do. Hopefully, it's been able to help my kids get better at expressing themselves, to do that. I know it's helped me, and I know that now – I actually, not that I didn't look forward to Christmas before, but I look forward to it with a new – I just I look forward to those letters, and I have them all my journal. I don't know if my kids keep all of their letters, I'm assuming they do. But I know my wife and I keep ours. And it's kind of nice to actually get out and read them sometimes, especially when you're, you know, we all have struggles. And there's times when you feel like you're kind of – "Ah, I made the wrong decisions. And I'm kind of feeling beat down." And you can pull those letters out. And you can look at them and say, "Well, at least there's four people in the world who appreciate me. And I've got proof in these letters." This isn't something that has turned our family into some super holy family that's ready to be translated or anything like that. We still have arguments as a family, it's just something that's helped us to take some of that negative and commercialism of Christmas out of our house and to make it more peaceful, and it's helped us to get closer to each other and I think in that respect, closer to our Savior.   KaRyn  8:29  That was Matt. I first learned about his adventure and Christmas letter writing from his daughter our story producer Erika. We were talking about the story from Pearl S. Buck that they retold at last year's Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert called, "Christmas Day in the Morning," and it's a story all about getting it right. If you haven't seen the concert or read this story, I'll give you a really quick synopsis. It's all about an empty nester named Robert who is grappling with the changes in his life at Christmas time. Now that there are no little children to surprise and delight, it seems like the spark of Christmas has gone out for both him and his wife, and he's not really sure how to get it back. So he remembers a Christmas as a youth when he surprised his father by getting up before him and milking the cows so that his dad wouldn't have to work on Christmas Day. He remembered that that work wasn't a chore anymore, because he loved his father and his father loved him, it was the most joyful cow milking he'd ever done. And that memory awakens in him this truth about getting it right. That when we harness the love that's already been given to us by our Savior, whatever we offer to others with that love will be a joyful, joyful gift. The right gift. And so, Robert is reawakened to the joy of Christmas and he decides to write a letter of love and gratitude to his wife as a gift to her. It seems almost ridiculous how relevant that 80 year old story is right now in the middle of Christmas 2020. Change, grief, disruption, those might define our Christmas season this year, and that's hard. And it's worth grieving. But Pearl's fictional story and Matt's real story remind us that even in the midst of all of these hard things, the right gifts will do more than show love to those who receive them. They're going to transform the giver through the atoning power of Jesus Christ. Those gifts given in His pure love will re-animate the light in us that shines in every direction. Next, we've got four stories straight from the pitch-line from four different storytellers, a high schooler, a missionary, a hiker, and a mom. All with one big thing in common, a desire to get it right at Christmas.   Gracie  10:43  My name is Gracie and I am 17 years old. Christmas time for me is usually very busy. And I remember last year that it was especially busy. I'm a musician. And so I'm involved in a lot of orchestras in my community, as well as just different music groups with friends and family, and I actually teach private music students. So at the time, I had about 20 private music students that I was trying to teach on top of school and everything else. It seemed like I had a performance for Christmas about every single night. And so towards the end of the season last year, I was feeling really pretty burnt out. And I just really wanted a break. And at the same time, I kept having a prompting that I needed to go play music for a man in my ward who was suffering from some pretty severe health problems at the time, and I just kind of pushed it aside because I felt like I was too busy. But I have a really good connection with this man, we actually share the exact same birthday, and I just felt like I needed to. So I talked to my mom about it and we chose one of the only nights that I didn't have anything else going on, it seemed like to go over and played the couple songs for him. And we got there. And the very first song that I played was Jingle Bells. And I remember as soon as I started playing, I looked over at him and he had tears streaming down his face. I thought, why is he crying? You know, this is Jingle Bells. It's not even like a spiritual, pretty song. But by the end of the night, we all were in tears, because we realized how much this simple little concert meant to him, and it really made me reflect on the Savior. Because when I picture the birth of the Savior, I don't picture a town of busy streets full of people and commotion, I picture a sacred, silent night when a King was born. And that's really what I felt that night as I played for this man, because it made me realize that during a season that's meant to celebrate the Savior, I should be focusing on these still peaceful moments made while serving others, instead of everything else that I had going on in my life at the time. And I am especially grateful that I followed this prompting to play for this man that night because it actually ended up being his last Christmas. And so ever since this experience, I really tried to take time out of my busy schedule, to do just simple things, to try to improve the lives of those around me even if they're just really small, because you never know the impact that they will have. And I found that this has brought me so much closer to my Savior than I ever thought that it could, because it's helped me to really forget about myself and my own problems and help those around me and really find out what the true meaning of Christmas is. Thank you.   Cescily  13:40  Hello, my name is Cescily. And my story is on Christmas 3 years ago. I was six months into my mission in New York City, and I felt like I was thriving. I had the best companion, I have the best district, I was in an area that I was close to the members and I was close to the people that we were teaching. And it was just such a happy time of my life. Well a week before Christmas, transfer calls came in. And I found out I was the only one in the district that was leaving, and my heart broke. And when I found out where I was going my heart broke even more because I was going to an area with a companion who was also new to the area – we were getting blinded in – neither of us had had been there ever, and I learned the history of the area to know that the members and the missionaries didn't have the best of relationships and there was nobody in the teaching pool – I  could sense trial ahead of me, for sure. Well fast forward, I get to the area, it was about as hard as I expected, if not more. And Christmas Eve comes and we had nowhere to go for Christmas, because like I said the members and the missionaries didn't have the best of relationships and we could just – we only had like five days to mend that and we couldn't do it. And so we're sitting on our, on our kitchen floor because we didn't have a table at the time. We just had our study desk. And so we're sitting on our kitchen floor, I'm eating mac and cheese, my companions eating tuna fish out of a bowl, because we didn't have time to go to get groceries and I was just feeling so sorry for myself, eating my mac and cheese and just crying. And then after we were done eating, we were just like, "You know what? Let's make this day better. Let's go and do something about it." And so we went and we got on the train, and we just subway surfed. We got our district together and we just sat on the train and we decided to sing hymns. We – it was Christmas Eve and we're just all standing together as missionaries, just standing and just singing, singing Christmas hymns. While we're doing that, I pulled out my little tablet and played the "Light the World" Christ just illuminated the screen. And I could just feel the Spirit so strongly in that subway car. I could feel that people in New York City in the subway car, who looked as if – that Christmas had only ever been a getting a gift for them, and as we all sat in that subway and sing Hymns I could feel the lives of them being touched, and that was the moment that Christmas changed for me. It didn't matter that I was 2000 miles away from my family, it didn't matter that I didn't have a place to go for Christmas. What mattered was that the Savior was born, and other people were learning that too.   Paul  16:41  Hi, my name is Paul. In late 2018 after a snowy day, I decided to go for a hike up a local Canyon. I was listening to conference – had been listening to conference on my hikes before and so I started, I was listening to the about the middle of the morning session, Sunday morning session. The trail up the canyon ends after about two and a half miles. And I didn't want to go back down that same trail. And so I decided to hike up the slope to another trail that came along the ridge. It was a very difficult hike, but I knew that if I got up there by the time of sundown, that there would probably be enough light for me to make my way down that easier ridge trail and make it home. As I was following that ridge trail, conference was concluding, and President Nelson was talking about temples and I thought about how much I love the temple. And as I did this, he announced locations. There was cheering. And it was as if I was one of those people in those, in those places. And my heart just melted. I felt such love and gratitude for my Heavenly Father. So I continued to hike along, reveling in those feelings. The lights of the city indeed began to illuminate my snowy, snowy path. And then I noticed that not only were those normal lights, but there were the many colored Christmas lights. I thought about the shepherd's going to see the Christ child and about the gratitude that they would feel for him. And so I did that, and I was thinking about all of this and looking down this beautiful scene, peaceful scene below me, I realized that this was Christmas Eve. And my heart just burst with love and gratitude and peace and all the blessings of the gospel. And I found a little bare spot under a cedar tree and knelt and gave my Heavenly Father heartfelt thanks for His son and His birth. And then I heard hurried home. Thanks.   Sheradon  19:04  Hi, my name is Sheradon. And a few years ago we had just moved to Dubai and our first Christmas here we decided to take a trip to Jerusalem. We had planned to stay outside of Jerusalem and then over Christmas Eve into Christmas we were going to spend a night in Jerusalem and kind of check out all of the Old City. And so we get into Jerusalem on the 24th. We see – you know – the Old City, we see the Wailing Wall, and the Temple Mount and then we head over to the Garden of Gethsemane. Now it was kind of a shock to me because there were so many people there. So many. And it was just right by this busy road, and honking and driving and it was quite sad to me. I wanted to have this place by myself and have my kids experience this. You know have their own testimony building or I don't even know – just something, but it just was so crowded and loud and, and I was kind of disappointed. So I tried to feel the Spirit as much as I could and teach my boys of the sacred spot. On our way back, we got to our Airbnb, and we were locked out. We couldn't get in the building. So we tried to go and talk to the tour manager that was down in front, and he had no idea what we were saying, no one spoke English, we were getting really worried and frustrated, my husband didn't have any way to contact the person that he rented from. And so we were kind of lost. We finally were able to have someone let us in, we get to our room, and we couldn't get into our room. But it was kind of a fun experience, I was telling my kids that it was kind of like Jesus, not being let in the inn, and so we kind of had fun talking about that. That night, it was cold, the heating wasn't working, but we all kind of snuggled in our blankets and slept. And in the morning, my husband and I had decided not to do any presents, but the kids woke up and they were so excited it was Christmas. We didn't have any decorations or anything, but they're like, "It's Christmas!" Finally, we headed over to the Garden Tomb. We were so excited because it was Christmas, it was just a great time to go, perfect day, we get over there and it's closed, even though we had checked that it would be open. So we waited just a little bit, ringing the doorbell, and then people started coming out. And we we're asking them it, "Is this open? Can we come in?" And they said, "No, we're going to, you know, breakfast brunch, and it's not open today." And we were like,  "Please. We came all this way. This was our big thing that we were going to do on Christmas." And they're just like, "No, no, no." Finally, this one guy, his name was Glenn, and he was from the Foursquare church in California. And he said, "Oh, I'll take them around." And they said, "Oh, but you won't be able to find where we're going to be, you'll be late, you'll miss out," trying to get him to come and not take us around. He said, "Oh no, it's fine. I can make it, I'll be there." And so he went and took us around on a personal tour of the Garden Tomb. And it was beautiful. It was quiet and wonderful. And he didn't rush us at all, he walked us through and let us have our time. It was just such a wonderful gift and tender mercy that we were able to have this time as a family and to spend it alone in this beautiful, quiet garden. It just made the Christmas so much more meaningful, and all about what it's supposed to be, which is our Savior, Jesus Christ and His birth and His life and sacrifice. And I'm just so grateful for that opportunity, and it'll be a Christmas that I will never forget.   KaRyn  23:05  That was Gracie, Cescily, Paul and Sheradon. I love when we can feature so many stories in one episode, because it very quickly demonstrates both the depth and the breadth of the way that God is tailoring our individual spiritual curriculums, and what Gracie needs in order to get Christmas right is different than what Paul needs to get it right. And what getting it right look like for Sister Cecily, three years ago in New York City is going to be different than what it looks like for RM Cescily in December of 2020. So here are some of the questions that I'm asking myself during this strange and beautiful season. How has getting it right changed for me over the years and what is unique to me and the ways that I'm being asked to stretch right now? I'm a little worried because I think that pondering and answering these questions might just be setting me up for some really lofty New Year's resolutions. We'll see. But I still think it's worth doing. Our final short story comes from Leslie who's experience at Thanksgiving helped her to understand what getting it right could look like year round. Here's Leslie.   Leslie  24:10  Every time I come into a holiday season that's been challenging for me in some kind of way or for others, my heart and my mind go back to one of my most difficult holidays, and really what became the miracle of that holiday season in my life and in my heart. I'm a single mom, I have three children and I've been divorced for about 15 years and this was the very first holiday after my separation from my ex-husband. And it was my first Thanksgiving without my kids. You know, you don't go into parenting and into thinking about holidays and seasons sort of planning, "What's going to be my strategy if I ever find myself going from one year were my whole world and holidays revolving around my family and my kids, to suddenly finding myself completely alone?" And I had extended family who live really close, and of course, wanted me to come and invited me to be part of all of the normal holiday activities that our family would do typically on a Thanksgiving. But I just couldn't go. I couldn't join, I didn't want to be around reminders of family. I didn't know how to show up in a way that wouldn't be sad. Because I was just sad. I was depressed, I didn't want to have to pretend. I just didn't feel like I could put a smile on my face. And I'm kind of by nature a positive person, and I, you know, like to try to bring joy and light to a room and a family and an experience and home setting, and I felt like I had nothing to give. And so I just really respectfully said, "I'm just not going to be able to join," and I turned out the lights – which is not like me to do this – and I crawled into bed, and I decided I'm going to sleep away this Thanksgiving Day. Holidays, laughter, family, everything that revolves around that was a reminder of what I was missing, and the pain I was going through. And I remember that afternoon, after my dad had hosted our family dinner that day with my extended family, he came over to my house. And what I remember is him knocking at the door, and my not going down to get the door, and getting a text from him saying, "I'm here. I want you to come down and open the door." Which I did. And he said, "I want you to go get dressed. We're going to go get something to eat."  And he told me that he was going to pick up my sister who was also single at the time. And he said, "I'm going to take you guys to dinner. It'll be just the two of you. You need to get out and you need to be with somebody right now." My sister later told me that he had invited her to come so that you know, I wouldn't be completely alone, that I would have some sense of family, but that she also was single, and they could hold space for me. And so he picked me up, we went and got my sister and we drove to a restaurant. I wasn't dressed up, I didn't have to have a smile on my face. I could grieve. We talked. What ended up with just sadness and no pressure for me to have to answer questions or say anything for things I couldn't yet process. And my dad was also a single dad and divorced at the time. And I think he just knew. By the end of that dinner time, we were laughing and joking and eating and I was already feeling better. We left, and my dad drove to a grocery store. He left my sister and I in the car and he said had to go in and get something. So he went inside. And he came back out with three poinsettias. He didn't say anything yet, he just came back in. I didn't know if the three poinsettias were for us or who they were for, and he drove from there to a rest home. I'd never been there, apparently he knew where it was because at one point we'd had a great aunt who had had a stay at the facility that he had visited. He told us to each get one of the poinsettias, so we did and the three of us walked in. And my dad went up to the front desk and he said, "Could we have the names of three people who haven't had any visitors today?" At that point, I'm starting to realize what we're just about to do. And we went in and we visited with three residents who, on that Thanksgiving Day had had no family. And no one come to visit them. There was a woman and she was lying in bed, I don't know her circumstances, I don't know her condition, she didn't or couldn't sit up. But she was able to turn her head – and her smile. I think that's when something for me shifted, because I completely forgot about everything that I was going through. I forgot about everything I had lost. And suddenly I was just wrapped up in the Spirit and wrapped up in the miracle of the moment of how happy she was to have you sit and visit with her for a few minutes and to set that beautiful vibrant poinsettia by her and to hold her hand and to just look into her eyes and have that moment of sweetness and Spirit and connection. And it was at that moment that I realized that this was so much less about what I was able to share and give to her and suddenly it was so much more about what I was receiving, and the feeling of hope, the love that was starting to flow inside of my heart. As I thought and reflected back often on that experience, I'm so grateful that my dad first held space for the pain that I was in, and he held space for my grief. And he didn't make me show up in some certain way, he didn't force that or push that. He kind of honored the place that I was at, and that was really important. I needed to be listened to, and he was so good at listening. He was so good at caring. I've often said that, you know, I came to know, my Father in Heaven because of how my dad serves. Ever since that moment, I have made sure that I build service into whatever the holiday looks like. Because there is always someone who hasn't had visitors that day. There's always someone who hasn't had a carol or hasn't received a gift or can't afford a Christmas tree. And there are so many ways that we can reach out and bless lives and take a poinsettia to visit someone. I've often felt that I  feel closest to Him when I am in His service. I know that the Lord on Christmas would be seeking to feed the hungry and lift the hands that hang low. You know, He would be putting coats on those who are cold. He doesn't ask questions, He doesn't ask why. He doesn't have to be fancy, He doesn't care what it's gift wrapped in, but He is just constantly seeking to love. And when I have moments where I can choose to go, "Okay Father who needs thy love?" You know, those are the moments I feel closest to Him, to my Savior. And I'm so grateful for the invitation during Christmas time to in fact, seek to be like Him, and for me is that great power and miracle of charity and love, that there literally is no limit to the endless ways in which we can share and give love and bless lives.   KaRyn  32:36  That was Leslie. I learned two things about getting it right from this story. First from Leslie's dad, before we can offer our own life experiences to another person before they can truly feel the balm of our love, and our hope for them, we have to meet them where they are. He didn't lecture, he didn't give advice, even though he was uniquely qualified to do that as both her parent and someone who had experience with being a single parent. Instead, he came to where she was – he literally came to where she was – and got her. And then he sat with her and her sister at that dinner and he let her cry, then and only then was he able to tend to her wounds by offering his example. The second thing I learned is that I want to be more intentional about building meaningful service into my holiday plans. In the same way that I obsess over my Christmas baking spreadsheet and plan months in advance for some of the family experiences that we have. I really want the act of asking Heavenly Father where He wants and needs my heart and energy this season built into that initial planning. And I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to do that, I have a few pieces of inspiration from today's stories, but I know that I felt the call to do better at this from listening to Leslie's story. And that's not to say that how I've been doing Christmas all along is bad or wrong or not enough. I really think that it was exactly what it was supposed to be, and that choosing to make some turns in my discipleship journey when I feel that tug of the Spirit doesn't cancel out all the good that was happening before. Listen, I'm going to sound like a total hippie right now. But it's the only way that I can describe what I mean. And I may have picked up this concept from Marie Kondo and "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up." As we figure out what getting it right looks like for us right now, and as we follow the Spirit into this new, stretching territory, it's not a terrible idea to take a little bit of time to reflect and to offer thanks and gratitude to the years before, in the same way that Mari might invite us to thank a worn out sock for keeping our feet warm before we send them off into the sock drawer in the sky. We could spend some time honoring the work and the effort that brought us such joy and such movement before we got this new call. Celebrating what was, so that we can be fully engaged in what is, right before us – right now. I don't know exactly what it's going to look like for you to get it right this Christmas. To bring it back to that PhD in philosophy, there are literally a million ways that rightness can be expressed in your family culture and your country and your discipleship experience. But I do know that making a right turn is required. And it's possible for us as we look toward the right source of all that is holy, and hopeful and good in this world. As we focus on the Savior who was so much more than just a baby in a manger, we'll know what we need to do. And whether that's climbing a new mountain for some quiet reflection, or slowing down to play the violin for a friend and staying just a little bit longer than you plan to, or persisting at the door of the garden, until you find your way in. Whatever that next right thing is for your growth and the strengthening of your devotion to Him, you'll get it just right. If you let yourself be filled with His love. That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thank you so much to all of our storytellers. We are so grateful for your willingness to share your hearts with us. We'll have more information including some links and pictures on our show notes at LDS This is the last episode until the New Year. We're taking a tiny break so that we can try to catch up and be ahead of the game in the new year. We'll be back with weekly episodes January 11, and in the meantime, you can find us on Instagram or Facebook at @ThisIstheGospel_podcast to get your fix during the holidays. And this is a great time for you to go back and catch up on old episodes you might have missed or revisit some favorites that you have been thinking about. A huge thank you to everyone who shared your reviews of the podcast, we love to hear from you. You can leave a review on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen to. Reviews are super helpful in pushing us up in the recommended section of so many platforms, and that means more people can find us. All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. And as you saw today, we find lots of our stories through our pitch line. So if you have a story to share about a time in your life when you learned something new by practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you. The best pitches will be short. They'll be focused on the story and not the takeaway, and they'll have a clear sense of focus. You'll have three minutes to pitch your story when you call 515-519-6179. This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay with story production and editing from Erika free and Kelly Campbell. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six studios, and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find all of the past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at LDS Merry Christmas.   Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Dec 21, 2020
The Creative Spark
Stories in this episode: Adam is all set for a safe career in engineering when a chance encounter leads him to embrace his true creative calling as an animator; When faced with upheaval and contention in her community, peace-loving Bryn finds solace in repentance and a prompting to fold 1,000 origami cranes. To see our show notes for this episode (transcript, pictures, links, & more!) 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.  You're gonna have to be a little bit patient with me this week as I geek out over our theme. You know how some people have seen every episode of "Star Trek" and they love it so much that they collect "Star Trek" Christmas tree ornaments and own a dictionary of Klingon phrases? (Is that not a thing? Just something my dad does?) Whatever that thing is that you love as much as a Trekkie loves "Star Trek," that's how I feel about the pursuit of a creative life.  I've read like a million how-to books. I collect quotes about the value and purpose of creativity. And when I can't even make time to do my dishes, I make time and space for my creative hobbies and making things. More importantly, when I think about what makes me feel the very most like who I was always meant to be in this life, the thing that comes to mind is the practice of creativity. And it's not just art, or poetry, or music, or even whipping up a really great chocolate babka a la the Great British Bake Off.  I firmly believe that the pursuit of that creative life is the pursuit of a spiritually connected life. I mean, think about it, as disciples of Jesus Christ, who are practicing to be more and more like Him, the creator of universes and the author of salvation, we are actively and regularly engaged in efforts to create. Deeper relationships, light, connection to heaven, binding covenants, every part of who we are as children of our Heavenly Father requires an amount of creativity.  And we have two stories for you about the way the practice of creativity and that nurturing of our divine creative spark can open up worlds of possibility and power for the forward movement of God's work here on the earth.  Our first story comes from Adam an illustrator who accidentally discovered his passion for creativity when he decided to think outside the box at school. Here's Adam. Adam  2:03   In 1999, I had the pivotal moment in my life where I had to decide what classes I was going to take fall semester. And so I was sitting there, looking through a newsprint catalog of classes, trying to decide what major I would become when I returned to BYU and therefore determine the course of my entire life and career.  And so as I dialed up on the touchtone phone, I looked over the classes and I said, "Hmm, this one's interesting, something called 'industrial design.'" But I chose the safe route. I was going to be an engineer. And so I signed up for all those classes. And at the end of the summer, when I returned to BYU two weeks after my mission, I started in the mechanical engineering program.  It was a safe bet. That's what good members of the church did, like they had safe and sensible careers. And that seemed like what I was supposed to do. So in that first week, back at BYU, I was fresh, home from my mission, the sky was the limit.  And I had a bit of a moment where I took the time to explore some options. And I looked into this industrial design major, I thought, okay, let me just check this out. And I went through the classes and went through a tour.  And there were three divisions in the industrial design major. There was a automotive design, which I thought was really cool, I always used to draw cars. Product design, where you design shoes and toasters and things. And then I found this strange little division that was so obscure and didn't quite fit, which was called digital design.  And I was told that there was a computer lab going on with one of the professor's teaching. His name was Brent Adams. And he had started this portion of industrial design called digital design. And I walked in and I saw him using a software package called Maya and he was rotating a sphere up on the big screen. And I thought, "This is it. This is what I want to do for a living. And this is your chance, Adam Sidwell, to make velociraptors and dinosaurs for a living."  I signed up for the major. I got so excited about this. This was what I wanted to do. And I left engineering behind and I didn't look back for one second.  There were no teachers besides Brent Adams, so what that meant is that we took a lot of illustration classes, and then we'd have this one big long class that was about three to four hours, three times a week, where we would sit in the class and just learn hands on how to use this software and how to dive into animation. And it was hard. And especially in a world where the internet had hardly any content on it.  And, you know, I was the best artist in high school. My art teachers loved me. But for the first time in my life, I was with artists who were way more talented than I was. And I would put my work up against theirs, and it just paled in comparison. And had my art looked at and somebody would say, "This isn't good." "This is the problem here, here and here."  And I had many, many moments of doubt of if this was something I could do. And I just wasn't sure if I was learning enough. Because we never had known anyone who had actually graduated from BYU, and gotten a job working in the movie industry. The chances of making it in a creative career are really, really slim in a lot of those careers, because you're up against a lot of competition, and some of it is just pure luck.  There was a lot of prayer involved, there was a lot of soul searching, and usually not about "if," but "how." And my antidote to the discouragement and to the feelings of "Wow, this is really hard," – my antidote to that and my answer was, more work. Work harder. And I remember spending five hour chunks of time in the laboratory. And in the Snell building at BYU was locked away in a room without windows, a computer lab. And they would close the doors to the Snell building at 10pm at night. But that was – for us –  the time when we were just getting started, after having already done our other schoolwork and having already had a computer lab session earlier that day.  And so sometimes, if we had forgotten, or we hadn't made it in time to the doors being closed, there was a second story window, that if you climbed up a pillar, and someone gave you a boost, you could heave yourself onto a ledge and shimmy through a window – that was just about as wide as I was – into another computer lab classroom.  Which, funnily enough, was often occupied at 10pm, and then suddenly, a couple of animation majors would come plopping through a second story window, much to the surprise of the professor or students who were then engaged in the class. And we'd walk through nonchalantly waving "Hello" and moving over to our computer lab so that we could get more work done.  It was nights like that where I often found myself emerging as the sun was coming up, having worked all night, and walking back home to catch a few hours of sleep – or a few minutes of sleep – before my next day of classes started.  And I remember just feeling incredibly happy because of the work that I was doing.  There's something remarkable about having an idea, that goes something like this: "Wouldn't it be amazing if –?" and then you go through a process of sketching it, then modeling it and putting it into computer software, and rendering it until you have something that you can put up on your screen, and you can look at and go "Woh."  And as I dove further and further into computer graphics and animation, and I learned the math and the physics – I got this feeling that we were trying to recreate on screen, the process of creation.  We have to study and understand that there is math and equations behind how water flows. We have to understand, you know, how the anatomy of a human being helps us to move the way that we do. We have to examine the physics and the math behind how light bounces off of surfaces and reacts such that the colors come to our eye and we see things like glass and water. And we get a little glimpse into how God created the world.  And I think God wants us to create because that is the divine mission of all of us. We create life. we are destined to become like Him and be co-creators and heirs to all the He has, and to create worlds to come.  And so I didn't know how everything would turn out. But I hoped. And even if I didn't find success in what I'm doing, there was joy in the creation, and the building of a skill that I knew I could take with me into the next life.  And so here I am in year five at BYU, most of my friends from high school had long since graduated and started their careers. And I was starting to become what felt like to the outside world an old guy in college. As were many of the other animation majors with me.  And I came home one day to find that there was something written on the whiteboard by one of my roommates in the living room, and it said, "Pixar called." With a return phone number. And I thought this must be the biggest joke that they were playing on me.  Because I had sent off a little VHS tape with a couple of blue lemmings with – that didn't even have eyeballs bouncing around on a screen that I had created this crowd simulation algorithm and sent off this VHS.  And it turns out that that was a real phone number. And I called and I had what I think was the first interview of a BYU student with Pixar.  And I remember sitting in the basement of my apartment, and I was talking through what I had created with two of the technical leads from Pixar Animation Studios. And this was the coolest moment. And I completely botched the interview.  I tripped all over my words. I didn't know what I was saying. I was too afraid to take credit for my work and be bold in explaining to them the technical aspects of how it worked. And I never got that job.  But I thought for a second, maybe I'm onto something. So I kept working and a few short months later, I showed a similar videotape, with the same lemmings, but this time they walked and they had fur and they had eyeballs and they had very cool animation.  I showed it to the movie studio that did visual effects and animation called Digital Domain. And right there on the phone call – this was a few days after I graduated and I was still in my apartment at BYU – on that phone call I heard the interviewer pause for a second. He said, "Hold on a second" and he covered the phone but I could still hear him and he said, "So do we want to hire this guy?" And they go, "Yeah, let's hire him." And right then and there. They offered me a job.  I was ready to jump in and do it for free. But they'd offered me a year contract. It was an actual paying job, $13.64 an hour. This was the year 2003. And I jumped in my minivan. I drove away from BYU with everything packed up in it. And with the short stop to my counselor and who said, "Yes, you have enough requirements to graduate. You're out of here, buddy."  And 10 days later, I was in Los Angeles seeking my fortune, working on the movie "iRobot." And since then, animation has taken me all over the world. You know, I got to go work for Peter Jackson for a year in New Zealand, I got to work on some of my favorite films with favorite characters like "Tron" and "Transformers" and "Ninja Turtles." I even got to work for Industrial Light and Magic, which is just surrounded by all the coolest Star Wars memorabilia, and I loved it. And it was like this dream that came true. And I came to this moment where I realized that wow, sometimes things do work out. Sometimes our hard work does pay off.  Each creation that we make is part of telling the story. And for me, you know at the root of it all is the fact that I like to tell stories.  In many ways I think of God as the master storyteller and novelist and creator. He knows the end from the beginning. And there are moments of doubt and despair in the characters lives. And we as the characters don't always know how it's going to turn out. And in fact, sometimes it doesn't turn out. Even in this life. But in the end, when it's all said and done, justice will be served. All wrongs will be righted.  There was one moment when a reporter asked President Hinckley, "How is it that you're so optimistic all the time?" and he said, "Because I know how it's all going to turn out."  And to me, that's what's amazing, is God has written the story. And so He knows how it's all going to turn out, and the story is going to have a happy ending.   KaRyn  16:07   That was Adam.  My favorite part of his story might be the moment when he realized that becoming an animator could be his one chance to make a velociraptor. I've never really wished I could make a dinosaur. I guess I've seen the movie "Jurassic Park" one too many times, but I do love the connection that Adam made between our divine creative spark and our entire purpose here on Earth.  Though his story on the surface was about creating art, it was also about the call to create everything. To gather the elements of godliness and shape them into a life of meaning. I mean, we birth children, we build ministries, we craft family cultures that can sustain our faith.  Sometimes we even make little blue lemmings that dance and twist and run when we harness an understanding of physics and computers. It is so cool.  Our next story from Bryn is a little like an exciting puzzle that unfolds as she tells it. Here's Bryn.   Bryn  17:02   In order to understand my story, and why I'm so passionate about peace, it's important to know that I came from a family that endured the excruciating effects of divorce. It was difficult to feel peace in our home because of it, as hard as my parents tried. And I became very determined to create a different type of environment in my own home and with my own children.  So the summer of 2020 was very difficult for me. I'm very sensitive to conflict. And it was just everywhere. It was online, it was in conversations. And the conversations around racism in particular felt really personal to me. I am a white woman, married to a person of color, and I have biracial children. I met my husband in a very unexpected way. A dear friend of ours set us up. And early on while we were dating, I was just amazed by his light and his ability to love and connect with people in a very genuine way. And as a person that longed for connection, he made me feel loved and safe and important.  And so I quickly fell in love with him, and miraculously, he fell in love with me. But because of my fear of divorce, I was really sensitive to a lot of things that I had heard growing up about what can make a strong marriage.  And I took some of these concerns to the Lord. And I said, "He comes from a developing country. And I just had always heard that it's best to marry someone from your same socioeconomic class. He didn't come from an LDS home, and so I was worried that an interfaith family would be harder. He's a person of color. And I had heard that interracial marriages are harder. The children that I had always dreamt of having my whole life were blond haired and blue eyes. And if I were to have children with him, I thought that my kids wouldn't even look like me." As I was praying about these concerns, I just had this strong feeling of peace and I remembered this moment of personal revelation where I knew he would be my husband and that it would be okay.  And so I went forward with faith and he is without a doubt the greatest gift of my life. We have four kids, three girls and one baby boy. And they're a beautiful spectrum of color and personality. And they carry so much of their father and so much of me in them.  So as I was observing the events of the summer, and watching the way that people were interacting online, as they were discussing issues of race, it brought to light some realities about myself that I had never considered. I became very aware that list of concerns that I took to the Lord – that they were racist. And I felt a lot of shame. Because my life had become so blessed by my husband, and everything that he is.  I also, for the first time realized that because my children are biracial that they were vulnerable to racism, which is something I had never considered before. I don't know why I just hadn't ever thought about that.  As the protests escalated, I spent a lot of time praying, a lot of time crying. I saw so much suffering, and I saw the problems, and I deeply wanted solutions. But I was too scared to really engage much because I didn't want to make any mistakes. I didn't want to offend anyone.  You know, we all have blind spots. And I know that I have them. I had had racist ideas. In my mind. I didn't even know it. I didn't self-identify that way. And so I just was scared to really engage.  I remember one night, I knelt down, and I don't even think I was able to say anything. I just felt so many things. And I just gave the Lord my heart. I asked him to please help me see it the way that He seems to discern to understand because everything felt so messy, and confusing. And all of the feelings were so heavy. I really wanted to believe that there are solutions, I really wanted to believe that I couldn't be part of it. That I could give him my repentant heart. He could do something with that.  I started having a recurring image in my mind of an origami peace crane. And it was functioning as a sort of prism where a beam of white light entered into the cranes triangular shaped wings and fragmented and then dispersed out the other side in the spectrum of human skin tones from light to dark. And I really didn't understand it, but I wouldn't leave my mind.  One of the ways that God speaks to me is through images and vision. And so when I had this lingering picture in my mind, I knew it was from Him. And it made me curious to really try to understand it. So I started to research the peace crane, and I vaguely remembered something about it, but it was all pretty new to me. There is an ancient Japanese belief that healing can come to those that fold a paper crane, and that folding 1,000 cranes will actually grant you a wish. But it wasn't until after World War II that the origami crane became an international symbol of world peace.  There was a young Japanese girl. Her name was Sadako Sasaki, and she was exposed to radiation as a result of the Hiroshima bomb. And she developed terminal cancer at the age of 11. While she was in the hospital, her father told her this legend and so Sadako enthusiastically began to fold cranes from whatever scraps of paper she could find. When folding a crane, she would say, "I shall write peace on your wings and you shall fly all over the world." She wanted to earn the wish to be healed, but as she folded, her wish actually expanded to world peace.  Sadako died three months before she turned 13. And as I learned about her story, I just, I wanted that peace. I really wanted it to fly all over our world, all over our country. So as I learned about this story, I wanted to give it a try, I wanted to try folding a peace crane and see if it would help bring some peace and healing to my heart. And I pulled out a piece of printer paper, watched a tutorial on how to fold a crane, and started folding.  As I held the finished white crane in my hand, I wondered, what is the color of a peace, you know, white has always been the symbolic color of peace. And so I really sat with that question. And it was at this point, that image of the crane as a prism started to make a little more sense. I thought about how Christ is the light of the world. And we are created in the image of God, which is an image of light, then it is an image that is completely inclusive of all colors, and therefore all races. And it made me think that perhaps the color of peace is something more expansive.  And so I ran to the paper store. And I bought paper in as many skin tones as I could find, which weren't very many. There's not a very expensive collection of skin tone colors that the paper store. And so when I got home, I pulled out a piece of black paper. And I folded and I had never seen a black peace crane before. But it was beautiful. And then I folded a brown one, which is the color of my husband, a sandy beige color that is a lot like my children. A yellowish cream, and a white. And they put them all together. And I thought, That is the color piece." At this point, this made me really curious about peace. And it gave me a different perspective on it. And so I started to study with a new curiosity. I wondered why Christ is called the Prince of Peace. Why is He not called the Prince of Love?  I studied the etymology of the word peace. And it actually comes from the root "to bind or to fasten." And this was really curious to me because it sounds a lot like a covenant. And it made me think about how God's kingdom is a kingdom of peace. It's a kingdom in which we are bound to Him and to one another in unity. And that he sent his Son, the Prince of Peace, to reconcile us to both Him and to each other through the power of the Atonement. I thought about how Christ offers the gift of peace, that passeth all understanding to help us and to sustain us through the trials and pains of life.  As I really internalize these thoughts, I started thinking about how being a Christian is actually being a person that pursues peace. And that service and forgiveness and repentance, all of these are acts of helping us to feel connected with God and connected with others.  At about this time, when I was studying all these things, I saw an image circulating on social media of a sculpture of two massive colossal hands that are making the sign language gesture for to serve, and it's located outside the Salt Lake City Public Safety building. It had been vandalized during the riots with red paint, it was spilled across them and dripping down the sides. And for me, the image was heartbreaking. It made me think, for the first time about the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking. And as I pondered these things, I thought, "Those hands need peace. They need to make peace." And so it was at this point where I got the crazy idea to fold 1,000 peace cranes to put in those hands so that they could hold peace, as a symbolic gesture. The work that I believe we all need to do. And for me, it would be a visualization of this wish that was growing in my heart, which was peace for everyone.  I told some friends about the idea, and soon we had families around Utah helping to fold these cranes, and it was going to be a collective wish. Soon I had these cranes all over my house. They were these little symbols of peace that are there started making a really big difference on my behavior. They completely amplified my conscience. Nothing will call out your hypocrisy like pursuing peace. If I felt like yelling at my kids, I'd find in me this restraint to hold my tongue. And if not the restraint, the desire to hold my tongue. And if I saw something that was upsetting on social media, I would really try to understand. When I'd feel anxious, those little cranes reminded me to turn to the Lord more often in prayer. It was as if the symbol had embedded itself into my mind and was literally influencing my behavior. It was really powerful and I started to feel like it could maybe help other people as well. If we could spread symbols of peace, maybe it would help all of us to believe in it, and to strive for it more.  And so at the end of the summer, my husband and I decided to start a grassroots peace campaign, and we called it Let's Make Peace. And shortly after we announced it, my brother actually reached out to me and had downloaded this origami crane stencil that we offered on the website and was making tons of stencils to hand out to people in the park with chalk to do chalk art. His enthusiasm first was really surprising to me, but then I understood. He was a small business owner who lost everything as a result of COVID-19. And I think he just really needed to believe in peace.  My brother, his excitement was really encouraging to me because I had had so little interest from other people. And I had told the Lord, "If this is something that you think could help people I need to know. I don't want to invest all my time into something if it's not going to do any good." And so when my brother was just so excited about the project, it made me think, "Okay, maybe there's something to this." So I kept going with the idea and I kept trying to publish peace.  As tensions were starting to rise around the election, it seemed like the perfect time to place those 1,000 cranes. And so we finished them up and took them up to Salt Lake City and a couple of friends helped me to carefully place them in the hands of that sculpture. And I think we were all filled with hope and with the belief that we could unite in establishing and building peace.  So I had written a few press releases, I hoped that someone would pick up on the story and nobody did. And it was a little bit disappointing because I just wanted so much for people to really start talking about peace instead of all the problems. But as I was editing the pictures that I had taken, I put one side by side with image of the hands covered in red paint. And it was a really powerful moment for me as I looked at those side by side, because the hands painted red reminded me so much of the hands of our Savior in the blood that He spilled. And then the picture of those hands that were now clean and filled with these symbols of hope and peace and transformation, made me think of the healing and redemption that we all need can only come through Him. It also became really clear to me that we cannot establish peace without Christ, that we need Him to transform our stony hearts and then our stiff necks and focus our wandering eyes so that we can love Him and we can love His children. And it's in peacemaking that we can do this.  I recently read a memoir about a female peace activists in Africa. During the Liberian Civil War, she had a dream in which she was told to gather the women to pray for peace. This effort eventually became the force that would stop one of the most violent wars of the modern era. And I thought if a group of women could end a war by poaching peaks, I wonder what that means for me? I wonder what it means for the quiet battles that I face? I wonder what it means for my family? I wonder what it means for our country? I feel so strongly that through us the Savior can do His mighty work of establishing peace. Because I've seen it, I've seen it in myself.   KaRyn  37:17   That was Bryn.  There are so many layers to Bryn's story. It's about a woman and her community creating an art installation of 1,000 origami cranes with the hope that it will spark a desire for peace. And it's about a mother learning to be present to the way she creates harmony and intentionality in our parenting. And it's about a daughter of God who is practicing that imperative part of the spiritual creative process, the one that requires us to break down our old heart through acceptance and repentance, and then hand it over to Christ so we can create a totally new one together with him.  Bryn's story is about the way we take that creative spark all the way down to our core and allow it to change us. It's about being peacekeepers and world makers on every level, and also inviting others to step into their creative powers with us and the Creator of the universe.  Maybe you're listening to all of this right now and thinking, "Yeah, yeah, that's nice, KaRyn. I think it's super impressive when people are creative. But I'm a data entry clerk who does science in spreadsheets and other left-brained activities in my spare time, creativity is just not my thing."  First of all, even though I just got done saying science and spreadsheets are not creative, that's a total lie. Everything at its core is creative if we just expand that narrow definition of creativity to include organization and building and making anything. But I get it, my data entry in the left-brain friend, I totally get it. Admitting that we have a creative spark in us is a daunting and even vulnerable thing because there's a risk in that. If you make things then people cannot like the things you made. Or maybe you're really tired right now and the idea of making one more thing so that you can live up to your divine potential feels particularly exhausting. And maybe acknowledging that inherent creativity is just one more thing to feel inadequate about.  But here's a little quote I've collected about the creative spark from Elder Uchtdorf. He said, "Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something beautiful. The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come." Every time I read that it feels like a mic drop for two reasons. First, it's clear that we are all born with an inherent creative spark by virtue of our divine parentage, and that our opportunity to practice it in this life is a gift from God to get us ready for what's coming next. And secondly, it's also clear that we aren't in this sometimes daunting practice without help or guidance. The Spirit is our master teacher when it comes to nurturing our creativity from a spark into a fully realized flame. And as President Uchtdofr pointed out, as you rely on the Spirit to guide you, you'll have enough capacity to handle the concerns that you have about rejection, exhaustion, motivation, or self doubt.  So here's the challenge. Think about what you've already created. Write it down, I think you'll be surprised at the many ways that you're already fanning the flames of creation in your life. And then take that growing spark to the Lord. Ask him what He wants you to create right now. And listen, who knows, you might be asked to set aside the sensible career choice and dive into classes about the physics of water and how to recreate a wall of running blue lemmings on a computer screen. You might be invited to start folding origami cranes or gathering people to move towards peace. Or you might be invited to create a new heart with Christ, to repent, to burn down and then to rebuild, to create movement in your own life, to take an organized matter, and shape it into something of beauty. And we can face that invitation with excitement because we know that the Spirit is going to guide us in whatever steps to take next, and the power of God here on the earth will support us as we take those steps will grow in our confidence as creators and followers of Christ to create some really, really beautiful things in His name, with His help. That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to our storytellers, Adam and Bryn, for sharing their stories and their creative spark. We'll have more info about each of these storytellers including a link to Brian's peace project Let's Make Peace and some of Adam's cool work in our show notes at And watch for a shareable version of that Elder Uchtdorf quote this week on our Instagram and Facebook. We'd love to hear what the Spirit spoke to you as you participated in the challenge. Find us on Instagram or Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast.  A huge thank you to every one of you who shared your reviews of the podcast this past week and always, we love to hear from you. You can leave a review about the podcast or a specific episode on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen to. Reviews really do help more people to find us.  All the stories in this episode are true and accurate as a firm by our storytellers, and we find so many of our stories through our pitch line. If you have a story to share about a time in your life when you learn something new by practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you. The best pitches will be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch the story when you call 515-519-6179. This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story production and editing from 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 all 63 of the past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Dec 14, 2020
Be Not Troubled
Stories in this episode: When her dreams for a picture perfect senior year of High School get disrupted by Covid, Meg finds comfort and clarity at an imperfect football game; Sue learns an important lesson about what it means to truly trust God as she faces a mountain of boxes and an even bigger mountain of troubles.  To see our show notes for this episode (transcript, pictures, links, & more!) go to Find Elder Rasband's book, Be Not Troubled, here.  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.  Today, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be troubled. I know what it means to be "In trouble." I mean, that's basically my entire early childhood. But I just don't think that we use the word "troubled" anymore the same way we used to. I think we regularly describe the times as "troubling" or "troubled," for sure, but it's pretty rare that I text my friend to tell her, "I feel troubled," unless I'm reenacting a scene from some 1950s movie set in the deep south.  It feels kind of antiquated, right? I think it's because we often associate feeling troubled with being afraid. And as we've grown in our understanding of mental and emotional health, we just have more focused language to describe exactly what we're feeling.  And while I think it's a blessing that we can more accurately pinpoint our feelings –because that makes it easier to figure out what the right kind of relief looks like – I'm sort of on a little mission to bring the word troubled back to describe our state of being. Merriam Webster defines it as, "A state of being agitated mentally or spiritually." And I just don't know that there's a better word to describe spiritual agitation. I also think that while there are medicines for our anxieties and our panic, the only real medicine for our spiritual agitation is the peace of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And we need a word for that, especially right now, in the midst of these times.  So today, we have two stories about what it looks like to be troubled and agitated in our spirits, and how the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of the gospel, can bring us to a place of hope, and calmness.  Our first story comes from Meg, a high school senior here in the US who had high hopes for a picture perfect end to her final year of school, only to find herself troubled by the disruptions of a worldwide pandemic. Here's Meg.   Meg  2:06   I have always loved independence and like autonomy and stuff, and so thinking about senior year, I was so excited. And I remember junior year talking with my friends about all our plans, and in my head, I have like this daydream of our first football game together, because that's like the first activity that you do together.  We would win the game, obviously, and then we would run down on the field and congratulate the team, and then we would take like, this perfect picture that would just be a good memory.  And then COVID hit, and I'm seeing all of my senior friends lose the last third of their senior year, and then the summer goes by, and it just keeps getting worse. And I'm realizing, oh, I have no idea what its gonna look like. This picture is just slowly disappearing. And at first, I felt like, it's not even that big of a deal, like I've so much more in my life, but like, the summer was full of a lot of disappointments. And they were all kind of building up. And I just wanted something small and good to happen. Like, at least I just have this small time with my friends that we can go to the football game.   Fast forwarding to the first football game, it's a week before school starting. I'm walking up late, because I was debating on even going. And I'm just really sad because everyone is spread out and far away from each other. It was good to keep everyone safe, but it was also sad because there was no more room in the student section. And looking around to everyone, no one seems very happy.  The whole time I was just like, "Oh, why did I even come here? This is not a good idea." I was just really sad because this perfect picture I had in my head was – it was impossible for it to happen. I looked over at my friend I was like, "I'm gonna go to the bathroom and I'll come back." When in reality, I was just gonna go to my car and drive home.  And so I walked over to my car. And then I get a text message from one of my other friends and he was like, "Where are you?" He obviously knew something was up because I don't usually act like this. And he was just texting me, he was like, "Where are you? Are you like, are you okay?"  I was like, "Oh no, like, I'm safe. I'm good. Don't worry about me. But I'm just gonna take a breather in my car and I'll be back." Throughout my whole life – my mom's always like, "What? Like, you had this huge cut on your foot!" And I was like, "Oh, I took care of myself. It's okay. I've got it. You don't need to worry about me." I don't like bothering people with that.  So I was like, "You should enjoy the football game. You don't have to come down." And he said, "I'm gonna come down and talk to you because you don't sound like yourself." He came down and it was kind of like, awkward at first because he's like, "What's wrong?" And I was like, "I don't know." He's like, "Well, you gotta say something."  And I was like, "I guess I just I can't be happy right now. It's just too hard. And I don't want to bother anyone with that right now though, because everyone else is sad. And so it doesn't really matter that I'm sad because everyone else is." And he was like, "Ehmm... no, it's important."  And then, slowly, as I realized he wasn't angry with me, and I wasn't burdening him in any way, I was able to just talk with him about what was going on and empathize with each other. And I realized that I needed to acknowledge that I was disappointed about not having this football game, because that meant that everything else is going be gone that I wanted.  And so I decided, okay. I think I should just stay through this. So we walked back up just in time for the game to end. And we won, just like in my little daydream. But we couldn't go on the football field, but we still got a picture.  And as we took that picture, I was like, "Wow, this is a lot better than I thought." Which sounds kind of weird, but I now know that my friends care enough about me to check on me. And I know that we're resilient, and we're a lot stronger than we think we are. And so I look back at that when I want to feel better about what's going on and know that like, God has like a masterpiece, and I have some stock photo from Google that I think looks perfect, but really, it's just so fake. This perfect picture is something that I put in all of my life. I struggle asleep, insomnia, and having like horrible, horrible dreams, where I feel very awake. Night terrors and stuff like that. And they feel so real.  And some nights I'm like, "Okay, God, I can handle it." I always say – I say a prayer on my knees, and then I get in my bed and turn off the lights and I say another one to be able to sleep.  But there was one night when I just couldn't sleep at all. And I was just feeling so much fear. I usually go to my little sister's room and just meekly ask my sisters to come sleep by me. But it was a school night so I don't want to wake them up, so I just thought, "Okay, well, I can just grit my teeth and get through this."  And it's been like another hour. I'm like, "No, I can't handle this anymore. And I just want to go to sleep. But I don't want any bad dreams. I just want to sleep." So I said, Heavenly Father, like, I need you to hold my hand through this. I need you to be right next to me right now. Like, I can't do this alone. I really can't. I'm not strong enough. I don't ask for a lot. Just please give me this." And I was drifting off to sleep and I look over and I see my sister sleeping next to me. And then she grabbed my hand. In that moment, I realized that I was dreaming, and I fell asleep. I wake up the next day I was like, "No, like, that felt really real." And my sister wasn't next to me. She was in her room. And I realized that the Savior used the dreams that usually scare me, as a gift to remind me that He's always there.  And He held my hand through the night, literally. Which is so beautiful, and so much better than my perfect picture of just going straight to bed, not being scared at all, and just making it through the night. It's so much better.  The Savior cares about the smallest things. He isn't asking for me to walk through life and just grit my teeth through everything like "Oh, it's fine. I'm here to grow and I'm here to learn and it's fine and I'm just gonna keep going." He wants me to talk to Him and learn through Him. I think when the Savior says, "Be not troubled" He means, "It's okay to be afraid or it's okay to be sad. But you also don't need to worry about it because I've got you covered. And I've got you covered in the most individual way." Because of these experiences, I look and pause to see the Savior there more, even if it's just three seconds, pausing and like closing my eyes and just imagining Him right there. And just knowing that one small picture of the football game or the dream of my sister right next to me, that didn't cure my depression, or anxieties about life.  It didn't fix anything, but it was like a pause in a marathon – like a glass of water. It was a good break, and a good realization to keep going and to be strong.   KaRyn  11:06   That was Meg. We found Meg's story through our pitch line and really loved the opportunity to help a young storyteller develop her voice and her story about her faith.  I think it's so exciting to see the way these two moments in Meg's life have already weaved themselves throughout her testimony of Heavenly Father and His goodness.  This is something that I'm personally really, really passionate about, especially when it comes to our youth. As we make space for the exploration of their faith stories and help them to see and tell them often at the beginning of their adult life, it's going to make it so much easier for them to recall those moments in troubling times ahead.  The anchor of her story will be invaluable to Meg as she navigates coronavirus right now, and in whatever comes next for her. And I truly hope she keeps finding and telling her stories whenever she gets the chance.  Our next storyteller, Sue, learned that finding calm in the storm sometimes means letting someone else steer the boat. Here's Sue.   Sue  12:06   Order has been important to me my whole life. Even when I was a young girl, I would clean my mother's kitchen while she was away and surprise her when she came home.  I was a housekeeper for 25 years and I was able to go into people's homes and clean it and organize and I just loved it. I really love taking a mess and making it better.  So 2020 found me in a pickle because I was not organized. I wasn't organized because we had been living with my mother-in-law for the past five years caring for her. We had just lost her, and now had to sort through all of her belongings to get the house ready for sale. And it was a very daunting task for one person.  The lion's share of what had to be done fell in my lap. My husband, Mike, still have to work, and his two sisters lived on the West Coast. So I was left with the task.  So in addition to all of that, we were on a time schedule because my husband had to have major surgery on March 16, and everything had to be done before he had that surgery, because it was a very serious surgery. And to be honest, we weren't really sure if he was going to survive it.  The surgery that he was having was a pancreatic surgery, which involved a lot of organs and it was going to take many hours so it was very intense. And adding to my stress was the fact that my parents were in a nursing home in Pennsylvania and we were in South Carolina.  I did still visit them but not as often as I wanted because of the distance. There have been lots of times when I've had to manage a lot of things all at one time. Like raising seven children and running a full time housekeeping business. And there are very few times in my life when I have felt that I was not capable to handle a situation.  So that's what made Coronavirus entering the picture so hard and everything that came with it in my life so hard because I wasn't able to control it. It was controlling me, or it felt like it was controlling me. The first time I heard about Coronavirus I didn't think that it was going to be such a worldwide problem.  It seemed like maybe it was played down a little bit and we really didn't think that it was going to affect our lives in the way that it has. So the day that my husband went into the hospital, COVID It wasn't a big deal. There were no masks being worn and there were no people being kept out of the hospital. Business was, as usual.  The surgery took seven and a half hours. And I was invited to come back to see him afterwards, because he made it through the surgery, which I was so grateful for. And they told me though, that I could only be there for just a very short time, after sitting for seven and a half hours, I wanted to spend more time with him. But he had very high blood pressure. And they were trying to get his blood pressure down so that they could administer pain meds, and he was in a lot of pain. And so they asked me not to stay long.  It was very hard for me, in fact, I went to the car, and I wept. Because I had no control over it. And seldom do things cause me to weep.  So I texted my children and told them that their dad had gotten through the surgery, and that he needed their prayers, so that his blood pressure could go down, and he could get the much needed pain medicine. And then I got a phone call from my oldest daughter. And we had talked about how I was feeling and what she could do to help me. And then she reminded me that as covenant keeping women, we have the power to call down blessings from heaven, for ourselves and for those that we love.  So actually, when I heard that, and we hung up from the phone, I immediately said a prayer and called down those blessings from heaven. And that was such a relief to me to be able to do that. My drive to home was about a 30 minute drive. And as soon as I got home, I called the nurse's station and checked on my husband. And miraculously in those 30 minutes, his blood pressure had reduced and they were able to give him pain medicine, and he was sleeping comfortably.  I was standing in my kitchen, on the phone. And as soon as I hung up, I knelt down on the kitchen floor and I said a prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father that He was able to give that relief to my husband. And I felt His love for me. It would have been nice to think that that was the end of the troubles for us. But then the next day when I went to visit him at the hospital, I showed up at the door. And they said, "Where are you going?" And I said, "To visit my husband who just had surgery yesterday." And they said, there are no visitors allowed at the hospital.  And I said, "But I was just there yesterday, he just had surgery. Please, I need to go see him and make sure he's okay." And they said, "No, I'm so sorry. We can't let you in because of COVID." So I was really very unprepared to have them tell me that I could not go in and see my husband. And at first I was just angry. When things like that happen, your first response is the anger response. And I know it wasn't their fault that I couldn't go in. And this was really the first experience with COVID that I knew this wasn't just some little thing that was gonna pass by quickly.  And so I handed them his phone and his plug and I said, "Please get these to him so that I can at least talk to him." And from that point on the only contact we had with each other was our cell phones and thank goodness that we had FaceTime because that at least allowed me to look at him while I talked to him.  My husband's surgery was March the 16th, and he was in the hospital for three weeks. He was having many complications, infections and other things that kept him from being able to eat and being able to come home. And during that time, they would not even allow clergy to come in to give him a blessing, and that just filled my heart with sorrow and just made me worry even more. But there was one tender mercy through this whole three weeks, and that was that my son's ministering brother learned that my husband was in the hospital. He happened to work at the hospital and he offered to go to his room and offer him a priesthood blessing, and he finally got that blessing and he was able to start to improve.  I do have a strong testimony of the power of the priesthood and what it can do for us in our lives. I know that Father in Heaven is aware of us personally, and that He provided that way when there was no other way for him to receive that blessing.  So on March the 30th, it was my father's birthday. And the celebration was very different this year because no one was able to go into the nursing home to spend his birthday with him. And so my brothers and sisters who live in Pennsylvania gathered around his window and celebrated his birthday with him. But at the end of that evening, my mother's heart started to fail. And so she was taken to the emergency room where she, it was determined that she needed to have a pacemaker. But she was too weak and too frail, and they decided that they would send her home with hospice care.  So I heard about my mother and what was going on from my sister who called me and was crying. And of course, then I started to cry. And even though we had been praying that my mother could be released from the trial of Alzheimers that she had been suffering for many years, and even though it was something that we had been praying for, here it was suddenly. I was very torn because my husband was still in the hospital, and still trying to recover, and my mother was dying. And I couldn't be there with her to say goodbye to her, to thank her for being such a good mother.  That was very hard because, once again, I'm not in control. And I was alone in my mother-in-law's very large house by myself. And it was mostly bad at night when I'm left alone with just my thoughts. You know, it's dark, and you hear noises that you think maybe somebody is trying to get in.  My sons and daughter who lived in the area were coming over to be with me. But they had to wear their masks and we tried to keep social distance from each other. My dear friends in the Church who would have been there for me could only text me or call me, they couldn't come and give me a hug. Though some of them stopped by and put flowers on my front porch, and then rushed away in their cars, I knew they were thinking about me. But it just seemed very difficult.  My biggest concern during that time was not for my mother because I felt happy that she was no longer suffering. But it was for my dad because they've been married for so long and I knew it was going to be hard for him. He was in the nursing home, not because he needed to be there, but because my mom needed to be there and he didn't want to be separated from her. And now she was gone. And I couldn't be there to comfort him.  We weren't really allowed to have a funeral for my mother, and that just felt so wrong. And it did make me somewhat angry that we couldn't do it. The only provisions they made for people whose family members died during COVID was that you could have a gathering at the grave site, but they limited it to about anywhere from 12 to 15 people. And I am from a very large family. My parents had eight children, and all of the extended family all live in Pennsylvania. I'm the only one who lives distant from them. And it was very hard because not everybody could be at the grave site even. But I had a nephew who was able to stream the services so that those of us who couldn't be there could at least participate in that way.  So finally after three weeks of being in the hospital, my husband was able to come home. And I was so happy to have him there. Even if it meant that I had to change his feeding tube and, and things like that. He was home, and he was alive. But he only was able to stay home for two days because he got an infection and had to go back to the hospital.  Of course, I'm a big worrier, so all of the thoughts that he may not survive this had come back and many of my friends were concerned that that might truly be the case also. And we would have conversations about it. I had to try and get myself to a place where if that was what happened, that I would be able to get through it because that's, that's the way I live my life. I try to think of ways to make bad things be okay. I was thinking about, "Is everything in line?  Do I have it all together? Am I prepared if the worst happens?"  and the thought came to me that I had no idea where our life insurance policy was. And so I went down to the basement, where all of our belongings were packed away and ready for us to move to our own home. And I had a stack of boxes that was there was probably a good five feet tall. And so my task that day was to try and locate it.  So I lifted so many boxes, and none of them were the right one. I have a heart condition myself and I'm really not supposed to be lifting too many heavy things, but I just kept pressing forward. And I was so stressed and worried, and I felt that the task was too much for me. And as I was sitting there, thinking about how I couldn't do any more, I realized just how much I've been through the past three months—January, February, March. And I, it all just came crashing down on me. I just had felt overloaded and unable to go forward anymore. And it was interesting, because at that very moment, I got a phone call from my daughter. She had prayed that morning to be able to help someone, that the Lord would guide her to help someone. And she was on her way to work and, and she felt that she should call me.  She reminded me of the last conversation that she and I had had, that I had power to  call down help from heaven in my emptiness and my loneliness. And so after we hung up, I once again prayed for God's help that he would send angels to help me lift these boxes. After that prayer, I could feel heavenly help as I did this overwhelming task. And I was reminded of that, that painting of the woman in prayer and the angels surrounding her. And that's exactly how I felt, that they were there assisting me. I was even able to put those boxes back in the pile when I was finished. They weren't as heavy as they were the first time.  And inspiration came to me to look in a specific box and that is where I found the life insurance policy. And interestingly enough, it would have been so much easier if I'd checked that box first because it was very close to the front of the boxes. And maybe prayer should have been the first thing that I did before I started digging through there.  In my stress, I tend to feel that I have the strength to do, do things and get them done. And what the real truth is, is that even though I do have strength, my strength is much greater when I ask the Lord for help. And I find that many times in my life, I have to be reminded of this, I wish I could just get it in my head and not keep making the same mistakes over and over again. But I also know that through the Atonement, many times we will have to be reminded and will have to repent and try again and that His arms are always open and that He's willing to do that for us as the human part of us takes over and we try to remember to be heavenly creatures here on this earth.  COVID is still around and still making things difficult. And even my dad in the nursing home got COVID. We made a trip up there to visit him and say our goodbyes through the window. Surprisingly, my father was able to get over the COVID. And out of the four men who were in that unit in the nursing home, he's the only one who survived.  My husband came home from the hospital after another weekend there, and he still has more complications and COVID-19 has made his recovery more difficult than it would have been without it.  Even though this has been the hardest experience of my life, and I've had moments of anger, and moments of worry, I've also had moments of peace and calm and assurance that everything is going to be okay. And it's helped me to learn that even though I can't control everything, that if I turn things over to Him, what He has planned for me is what is best, that it all will work out in the end. And I know that that came from Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ. And I am so grateful for the knowledge that I have that they are there and that they love us.   KaRyn  31:24   That was Sue.  And I guess now would be the right time to tell you that Sue is my mom and I'm the lucky kid that gets to talk to her on the phone regularly. And even though I haven't been able to see her in person in over a year because we're really trying to protect my dad's health, I am blessed by my mother. And now you all know where I get my constant tears from.  I remember how she sounded on the phone that day in the garage with all those boxes. I've never, ever heard my mother so deeply troubled, truly agitated, in her mind and her spirit. And I also remember hanging up the phone and knowing that she wasn't actually alone in that house in a good way.    What I didn't know until we recorded this story was just how deeply and profoundly heartbreaking it was for my mom to not be able to fix things for those she loved. But isn't that exactly how God invites us to the adventure of our growth? A little bit of heartbreak, some really troubled days, and then that gentle call to stop holding on so tightly so He can pick up where we are weakest, and send in those angels who are waiting and at the ready. Oh, it is so hard to let go and let God, but I know one other thing, that when we do, that's when we get to see the heavens open.  The phrase "Be Not Troubled" obviously comes from the scriptures—the New Testament to be exact, but we were inspired to use it for the theme of this episode because of Elder Rasband's new book with the same name. It's filled with beautiful reminders of what we can do right now to begin to feel the calm of the Savior's promise even in our troubled times.  Elder Rasband wrote this, quote, "When Jesus Christ says, 'Be still, and know that I am God,' in Psalms 46:10, His words reflect the promise, 'Be not troubled.' He who calms the seas will calm our hearts, shelter us in His arms, comfort us on our very bad days and heal our wounds. Mormon's words to his son Moroni are important for us all, 'May Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death and the showing his body unto our fathers and the hope of His glory and of eternal life rest in your mind forever, and abide with you forever.' With the Atonement of Jesus Christ, His Church, His gospel, and our connection to Him in the heavens, we may always have hope for better days," end quote. Elder Rasband reiterates what these stories have taught me today. First, that Christ's command to "be not troubled" is also a promise. He can tell us to let go of our spiritual and mental agitation. To hand Him our anxieties and our heartache because He's already paid the price of that turmoil. In Gethsemane, He took our troubles upon Him, He held them in His body, in His heart, and His mind, until they were transformed into eternal peace, love and hope. And because of that act of integrity, we can lay it all down at His feet and trust that He can handle all of it, every single bit of it.  And then, as we access the power of our covenants through prayer, through fasting, through blessings, and calling upon the power of the priesthood, through all the tools that God has placed on this earth and the restoration of the fullness of troubled times, we'll find joy, and we will find stillness. We'll recognize that the football game in the time of COVID can offer up just as many sweet memories as it would have in the before times, and we will sleep easily. We'll see that there are mercies and grace present as we lift the mountain of boxes heavy with sorrow, our regret, and fear. We will not be left alone upon the tumultuous waters of this earth life, and its attendant troubles because we will know that He was with us all along. That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thank you to our storytellers, Meg and Sue, for sharing their stories and their hope for a brighter future. We'll have more information about the storytellers, including pictures and a link to Elder Rasband new book, "Be Not Troubled," in our shownotes at gospel. You can also get more good stuff by following us on Instagram or Facebook at thisisthe gospel_podcast.  I mentioned this before, but if you have just a minute to help us out, we love to hear what you're learning as you listen to these stories. You can leave a review of the podcast on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen to. Reviews are so helpful in pushing us up in the recommended section of a lot of platforms so that more people can find us and can hear these stories.  All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers and we find a lot of our stories through our pitch line. So if you have a story to share about a time in your life when maybe you learned something new as you were practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you. The best pitches are going to be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch your story so come prepared when you call 515-519-6179. This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story production and editing from Erika Free. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at 6 Studios, our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom, and you can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Dec 07, 2020
BONUS: Follow up with Stacy Taniguchi & Emily Farmer
KaRyn chats with Emily from episode 34 about her life after Mac’s passing, and how she kept their promise to bring joy to others through music, even after a brain surgery; Sarah learns from legendary Stacy Taniguchi from episode 37 about his life philosophy of thriving, and where it all began for him. Show Notes:  To see pictures and links for this episode, go to Show Notes + Transcripts: See for privacy information.
Nov 30, 2020
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 abou