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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.
Dream A Little Dream
Stories in this episode: Ken’s professional future is uncertain until a unique series of dreams leads him down the right path; A challenging move to Fiji and a brush with dengue fever leave Craig and his young family desperate for a message from Heaven;. After the death of her colleague’s son, Emily receives a unique message of hope for her grieving coworker.
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KaRyn Lay 0:05
Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay and if you can't tell, I have a cold. But don't worry, you can catch it through the podcast so I think we're safe. And I hope you can still understand me. I'm not exactly sure where I got the dream book, probably in the discount section of Barnes and Noble where I got almost all of the books that were not textbooks in college. Or maybe it was a gift. But wherever it came from, it was a hit at parties. Someone would just mention the word dream in casual conversation and I'd immediately run to the shelves and come back armed with this book that was somewhere between a dictionary and a comic book. I think it was even called "The Dictionary of Dreams." So anyway, I'd have the person tell me all the specifics of their dream, every little detail, and then I would look up every symbol so that we could try to interpret the dream together. Did you dream your teeth were falling out? Well, according to the book on page 72, you are feeling insecure about some aspect of your life. There was a chicken in your dream? Page 193 says that something new and exciting is coming around the corner. Abraham Lincoln showed up fighting vampires in your last dream? You have a strong and honest character, or you don't and you need to clean something up. Like I said, hours and hours of party fun. Now I know what you're thinking, "Wow, I really want to come to one of KaRyn's riveting parties." But maybe you're thinking, "That's a load of psychobabble," as my dad would call it. And I have to agree on some level. As hokey as all of this dream stuff might sound, there is definitely precedent for dreams and their interpretation making an appearance as an important tool for revelation of truth. Lehi's dream ring any bells? Well, today we've got three stories about the way God sometimes uses our dreams to talk with us as we navigate our way through discipleship.
Our first story comes from Ken, whose experience with two revelatory dreams in his life helped to guide him in his career in two very different directions. Here's Ken.
Ken Alford 2:13
In the fall of 1978, I was wearing an ROTC uniform to the first day of class at Brigham Young University. It was a political science class, I still remember the classroom. And just as the class was ready to begin, we had no professor in the room. And the professor came running into class just seconds before the class began, had a big stack of books, dropped it on the desk, and we all expected he was going to begin class. Instead, he looked around the room, he zeroed in on my army cadet uniform and ran up to my desk and said, "It's just so good to see a uniform."
And so I said, "Well, why would you say that?"
And he said, "Well, I just retired, after 30 years, serving the country in the United States Army and now I'm a professor here at BYU."
And so I asked what was probably the dumbest question I could have asked. I said, "You can do that?" Well, obviously you could do that because he had done it. But he was very patient. He said, "Yes, I, I just retired just a week or two ago. And now I'm teaching here." And in the back of my head, I could hear the spirit say, "If you do it right, you can do this too." And that day in 1978, the seed was planted to come back and be a faculty member at Brigham Young University. So after that experience in that classroom, I finished my senior year, along the way got engaged to the cutest girl at the school, and she became my wife. That actually was quite a week. On Thursday, graduation week, I was commissioned in the army by my father. The following day, I graduated from Brigham Young University. Then five days later, I married my sweetheart over the altar in the Salt Lake temple. And then the following day, we left for Fort Harrison in Indianapolis and that began kind of a whirlwind experience in the army.
I had a very unusual military career. I never served in a division. I had the opportunity in my career to do lots of educational things. First, the army sent me for a master's degree. And then I taught computer science at West Point for four years. And then I had the opportunity after working in the Pentagon, to reapply to West Point and I was selected again, this time for a Ph.D. in computer science. And then I went back to West Point for four years. But while I was doing my Ph.D. program, I was kind of, quite frankly, a fish out of water because I had a political science background as an undergraduate. I had a Master's at that point, but I hadn't done anything really advanced in computer science. My Ph.D. dissertation was on large scale databases, and they had given me three years to finish what's—the average in our program was four and a half to five years—and they gave me the loving advice "Be dead or be done." And I decided I would rather be done than be dead so I was going to finish in three years. But what that meant was that you had to do your dissertation research in a very compressed manner. And at that time, large-scale database search engines, Google was brand new, they were on the cusp of what was happening and we were all trying to figure this out together. And so I reached a point in my research where I was kind of stuck. Because in the sciences and computer science included, you have to advance the field in order to get your Ph.D. You just can't report what others have done. I went up to talk to research lab personnel and other Ph.D.'s and they said, "Yeah, you're kind of stuck." And what happened was in December in January of 1999, and then into the winter of 2000, over a period of about three weeks, I had the most amazing experience. I would dream—it wasn't every night but it was most nights—I would dream the next portion of my research and my dissertation. And I would wake up in the morning and it had been handed to me. And I would get up and write it down and it would work!
One of the problems that I had was trying to figure out how to load quickly such large amounts of data. And the answer just came in a dream and I did it and it worked and it ran in just a fraction of the time of what I'd been doing. And it's cut weeks off my research, and it came from a dream. Other times, I would wake up and I knew exactly what to write, I knew exactly how to approach the problem. And it was just day after day after day, and it got to the point where it was exciting to go to bed because I couldn't wait to see what the next part of my dissertation was going to be. And then, as soon as I reached the point where I was kind of over the hurdle and now just needed to write it up, it stopped. It just stopped. It was just—I don't know what else call it—it was just a tender mercy. But it came at the exact right time, in the exact right amount. If I'd gotten the whole thing in one night, I would have been frustrated, I couldn't have remembered. But it became in just these doses that were perfect to help me finish my Ph.D. And I finished on time and went to West Point and taught as a Ph.D. professor. And I was not dead. The experience I had over that series of weeks, and from my perspective, it was just truly miraculous, it was just a wonderful, wonderful time. And exciting to see what was coming next because I was just sometimes as surprised as anyone else. And I remember my advisory Professor kept saying, "Where'd you get this from?" And I really didn't know how to answer the question. I couldn't say, "Well, I dreamed it last night." But it was one more confirmation kind of along the way that the thought I'd had, the impression I'd received in 1978, that If I do it right, I can return to BYU one day, was just kind of confirmed along the way.
So I was able to finish my Ph.D. on time. And really, quite honestly against all odds as my dissertation chair kept telling me, and then we went to West Point just a few weeks later and began four wonderful years there. Fast forward, in 2006, I went into the kitchen in our home in Virginia, and there was a Michael Buble, a song called "Home." And my wife and I started dancing in the kitchen. And I just turned to her at the end of that song after one of the lines and I said, "It's time." And she said, "It's time." It's time for us to start thinking about what's next. And so that's when we turned and began looking at applying to BYU to see if what had happened in 1978 we could bring it to fruition. Throughout my career, especially in Virginia, Brigham Young University used to send out to recruiters and they would talk about what you have to have to even apply to teach at BYU. And so I went to several of those meetings before I had my masters or before I had my Ph.D., and learned what the requirements were. And so I just kind of made sure I did all of those. I don't know if the folks in the church history and doctrine department had planned on having that requirement filled with a computer science degree who had published on databases and taught at the Military Academy, but it met the requirements of the law. 30 years as a full military career, I was approaching the 30-year mark. And it's a fairly traumatic thing when it's time to leave that military environment. It's similar, in many ways, to the kind of environment that the church provides, people just as wonderful I will say. There was never an opportunity in my entire career where the military ever tried to place me in a position where I had to consider whether or not I would compromise any of our values, or break the word of wisdom or anything else connected with the church. I worked with just a wonderful group of people.
But in the back of my mind, I wanted to pursue the opportunity with Brigham Young University. And so I had applied to teach religion. I had been teaching institute and seminary as a volunteer for over 20 years and wanted to do something different in retirement other than leadership or computer science. And what had happened is I was kind of in a box that I really didn't see the way out of because of timing. Brigham Young University is a wonderful place and has wonderful things. But one of the things it does very slowly is hiring. I've heard them described as glacial. So what was happening is I would not hear from Brigham Young University whether or not I had been hired until the window would have closed for me to submit my retirement papers in time to begin the fall semester at Brigham Young University should I actually be hired. We were trying to decide what to do. It was a matter of our daily prayer, my sweetheart and I were asking the Lord, you know, what's the way forward? What's the way out of this?
So I went to bed, and in the dreams of the night, and it's just as vivid today as when I had the dream—the details of this dream are just so vivid. I found myself viewing a meeting. It was in a small office, there were several individuals seated around a small little table and they were in the process I could see of counting votes. And so I listened in, I recognized two of the people in the room and knew exactly who they were. And they were counting votes and discussing a vote that had just taken place among the faculty. And I soon, very quickly realized that I was watching the hiring meeting where the faculty had voted on whether or not would be selected as the next faculty member. And the votes were tallied. And at the end of the meeting, the department chair said, "Well, then it's agreed. We will send forward Ken Alford's name to fill this position that we're looking for on the faculty." And they went around the room and everyone concurred with that decision. And then the meeting ended.
When I woke up, I recognized that that dream was just different. There was just a spiritual nature about it. And I was just absolutely comfortable that the time was now that I was to go ahead and "drop papers" as the army slang is, that I was to drop my retirement papers and to move forward in faith. Even though I hadn't heard from Brigham Young University yet that I was hired, I had absolutely no fear at all whatsoever. I talked with my wife, I said, here's what happened. She felt very good about it as well. And she said, "Are we going to do it?" I said, "We're going to do it." And about two days later, I turned in my papers and then several weeks later, it was actually about two months later, I got the call from the department chair. He confirmed what I had seen in the dream and I was hired to be a professor in church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, in many ways, against all odds.
From the time we arrived and kind of signed in to the university, it's just felt like home. That was just so wonderful. And then after I arrived at Brigham Young University, several years later, someone just mentioned, just off the cuff, "Oh well I was on the hiring committee at the time you were hired." And it was one of the individuals that I had recognized in my dream. The other individual, I recognized, the department chair at the time, and when I saw the room where the meeting was held, I recognized the room from my dream. I recognize that these revelatory dreams that I'd been blessed with—and they're really a rare event. I'm in my mid-60s and it's happened a couple of times in my total life. But I recognize, I just see them as just tender mercies, just kindness that they came in times when I'd reached a point where I needed outside help. I needed information I didn't have or I needed an understanding that I didn't have. It's just so wonderful and reassuring to know that Heavenly Father knows who I am, He knows what I need, and He's just so willing to help. The revelatory dreams I've shared here that happened with my dissertation, and then also to know that it was okay to go ahead and retire and leave the army at that point. They all, even at the time, they just kind of seemed to fit with the thoughts that have been placed in my head and 1978. It just seemed to be kind of like the next piece and I was just getting a little nudge and it was just really fun to be on the receiving end.
KaRyn Lay 15:15
That was Ken Alford. Ken is one of the authors of a new book called "Dreams As Revelation." And he, along with Craig Mansell, whom we're going to hear from next and Mary Jane Widger have spent years researching and seeking to understand the nature of our dreams from a spiritual perspective. After he was done telling his story, I asked Ken a few questions about how dreams work in real life.
So, Ken, I have this reoccurring dream and it's where I'm in a station wagon. I'm in the front seat, but you know how they used to have those benches in the old station wagon?
Ken Alford 15:46
That face backward?
KaRyn Lay 15:47
Yeah. So I'm in the front seat, but there's no seat belt and I'm in the middle and there are no pedals. And I can't stop it and it's going over a cliff. So, that's not revelatory, right?
Ken Alford 15:58
I think not.
KaRyn Lay 15:59
Okay, okay, that gives me some peace. Actually, I don't think I've ever had a dream that is revelatory. I think God speaks to me in a totally different way. As the author of this book, you've done tons of research about dreams as a revelatory tool. What would you say to someone like me who's never had a dream that we can count as revelation?
Ken Alford 16:19
While researching this book, we learned very quickly that revelatory dreams are the exception and not the rule. And not everyone has them and that's okay. God speaks to us each individually in many different ways. And some people seem to be more prone to these, that God can speak to them this way. Other people have other ways of receiving information from the Holy Ghost. And it's an individual matter and there's nothing wrong with anyone if they haven't had these. And in fact, quite frankly, those who do have them, when they look at it objectively they're very rare. This is a very rare event over the course of your life.
KaRyn Lay 16:58
Yeah, because you said you'd had them a couple of times—smaller ones—before that dissertation "Bonanza," I don't know what else to call it. And then the big dream that helped you to know to "drop your papers" before you knew what was coming next.
Ken Alford 17:15
Very briefly, it's kinda like this. We think of the Apostle Paul as a visionary man and we talked about Paul's visions, the road to Damascus. But when you look at Paul's life, it is a very rare event, even in someone who is considered a visionary. Or Joseph Smith, we consider him as being so visionary, but if you look, most days are not attended by angels, most days are not accompanied by visions. And it's absolutely the same situation for even people that do experience occasional revelatory dreams. They are a rare and unique and wonderful opportunity, but they are not the only way God surely communicates with man.
KaRyn Lay 17:54
So what would your advice be to somebody who does have one of these dreams?
Ken Alford 17:59
First, I would just caution that you listen to the spirit to see if this is a revelatory dream. Because we don't want to convince ourselves that something that's occurred is something that it's not. It's also important to recognize that revelatory dreams fit within your stewardship. You won't receive dreams to direct others, you won't receive dreams to direct the church, and that this is something sacred from the Lord. And, for example, the dreams about my dissertation, I haven't really shared that much until now. But I felt the time was right to be able to do that.
KaRyn Lay 18:38
So seek counsel from our Father in heaven about how and when you share these things?
Ken Alford 18:42
I would say very much. You need to be comfortable and recognize that there's a time and a place for everything and every place is not the time to share everything.
KaRyn Lay 18:52
And just be grateful.
Ken Alford 18:54
Oh absolutely. Be grateful when it does occur, but be open to all of the ways that the Lord can speak to you.
KaRyn Lay 19:01
Thanks for sharing.
Ken Alford 19:02
KaRyn Lay 19:04
So, friends, there's the good news. Not every dream that you have about vampires and Abraham Lincoln under your bed is a revelation. And one thing that I really appreciate about Ken's book is that it contains some pretty well-researched guidelines that can help you and me as we try to determine whether our dream is revelatory, or just that late-night Philly cheesesteak coming back to haunt us. That actually happens to me. We're going to have an excerpt from that part of the book in our show notes because we all need a little bit of help figuring out what's real.
Another thing that I, as a storyteller, really love about this book is that it's essentially a collection of stories written down from church history, from Joseph Smith to modern-day prophets and apostles and visionary women, covering all the many ways that those dreams can appear. The dreams in their purposes and the stories are as varied as the people who experienced them. For instance, some dreams are warning dreams and some dreams are teaching dreams. Some are guiding like they were for Ken and some, like the one in the story we're about to hear from Craig, they just help us to know that we're exactly where we should be doing exactly what we should be doing.
Not all dreams are revelatory, but some are. We have Lehi's, and that dream led his family out of Jerusalem into the wilderness.
I had been led out of Ogden, Utah, into the wilderness and life was tough.
I grew up in the Ogden area, and I come from a small family farming community called Farr West. I worked on a 250 cow dairy herd all my life. I knew what hard work meant. I love the mountains. I love to be, you know, around my family, that was everything to me. Soon after my mission, once faced with the decision of a career, I knew I wanted to be a teacher because I love to see what the teacher does in the classroom and how ideas change people's lives. And coming off a mission, I wanted to teach religion. So if I could teach Latter-day Saint doctrines, concepts in history, I would love that. And I would love to be able to work with the youth of the church. And so I was fortunate enough to be hired at seminaries and institutes. I began teaching in the Ogden area, and I was now living my dream. I met the sweetheart of my dreams and we married, we had had two children, we were teaching seminary, life was grand. And then a phone call came.
Administrators from seminaries and institutes, we appreciate all this and, and then he says, "Craig, we have a new assignment for you if you choose to receive it."
I go, "A new assignment? I've only been in my assignment here for just six months and now you would like me to change it?
He says, "Yes. We need someone to teach English as a second language in Suva, Fiji and we need to know the answer within 24 hours." I decided whatever the Lord asked me to do—discipleship was very important in my life—and the Lord's hand would be in it. Others were inspired, we took time to pray about it, talk to our parents, they all said, "Don't go." And I turned to my wife and I said, "The hand of the Lord is in this. We are to go."
And she says, "I'll support you." And we call them back and in two months, we found herself as Suva, Fiji. Now our administrators might have known how much of a cultural shock this was going to be because they gave us a round trip airfare, meaning we could come home if this wasn't going to work out. My wife, Jana, had never lived outside of the United States, let alone hardly Utah. And while I served a mission and traveled a little bit, this was new to her and she was very homesick. And so she was suffering from a lot of things, trying to deal with the language, trying to figure out how to, you know, make meals in a different culture. She would have to take a bus downtown to the open market area, and she would have to learn a different money system, different kinds of vegetables she's looking at, and the meat was on the hoof, or it was live. And I remember she said to me I'm going to bring home dinner."
I said, "Great. What's that going to be?"
She says, "Chicken." She says, "And oh, by the way, the chicken will be live. You're gonna have to kill it."
And I go, "Okay, yeah."
She said, "You grew up on a farm, you'll know what to do about that."
I go, "Yeah, but my dad's not here to show me what to do." And the truth of the matter is, is what happened is the chicken got loose on the bus and was sort of flying around. A Fijian lady grabs the chicken by the neck, and ringed it and killed it right on the bus. And she came home and the chicken was dead. And she says, "I'm sorry the chicken lost its life on the bus." And that was our first experience having our meal. And I plucked the chicken, cleaned the chicken and we had chicken.
It wasn't long after when we were there, we all came down with a fever. We learned that was called Dengue fever, which is a mild form of malaria. We suffered through that. Our two children were suffering with heat rash because it was so hot. We were sweating profusely and the humanity was high, I mean, we were just going through all of this. We began to question, "Oh my gosh, what have we gotten ourselves into? We have no friends other than the new people we'd just been introduced to up at LDS Technical College—which is the school I was now asked to teach at. They call it a college, but it really is a high school. And it had forums 3, 4, 5, and six. I was called in to teach forms four and five. And my job was to be able to help the students successfully pass the British system school cert exams. If you don't pass the exam, you cannot go on to form five, which is the pre-course to go to a university. And both math and science and English, all those courses at the school were failing and the students were not being able to move forward to the university. And the church went out on a limb and built this school and Fiji, primarily for its members, so that they could further their education of their young people, the dreams of their parents. And what the school has become nicknamed was "The low down school." Low down because they're so low on their scores, they'll never get their students into university. So the church took action and brought three "pelongis," three of us white folks into this multicultural, diverse situation to bring the scores up. And I was then, teaching English as a second language, something I had really never been trained to do. And so that added to the stress and the difficulty of making the adjustment. My biggest fear was whether I would succeed because if you don't have 80% or above, you have failed and mom and dad will take them out and just put them on the plantation. And their life is pretty much you know, that's what it's going to be the rest of their life.
So there I was, day in day out, I was working through what I was doing with my work. I needed something. I needed some answer, that this was the Lord's well for me. And I prayed about that, I fasted about that and I received my answer. It was in the form of a dream.
I remember, the dream is if it was yesterday, it never leaves my mind. I was in my very classroom, in the building that I teach at. I remember I was teaching. But as I was teaching, my students started looking and pointing, and they could see something behind me that I couldn't see. And I turned around and there was someone standing in the air, and he was dressed in white and immense light. And no words were spoken and I could see his feet, and I could see the wounds hit his feet.
Now at that point, everything in the classroom had just dissolved. The students who were there, they weren't part of the dream anymore. But I remember seeing His feet and I bathed His feet in my tears. And I held them close. And I recall, He lifted me up to Him. And He then encircled me in His arms, His ever-loving arms, and He pulled me close. And He said to me, you can do this.
And I woke up. I woke up at that point, I sat straight up in bed. I thought I was going to be in the presence of the Savior when I woke up. And then I clearly understood it was a dream. I left our bedchamber and walked over into our of the room. I sat there, just stunned what had happened. And I knew that this was different, a different experience than I had ever had before, my first experience of a revelatory dream.
I could not journal it for the longest time. I couldn't bear to write it down in words because it was so sacred to me. And I was filled with this love that He had—my Savior—had shared with me. I was filled with this love that overcame all the obstacles that we had felt. I soon realized that I had transcended the pain and the obstacles that were still in front of us. But my wife had not because she was still suffering and I had now come above that suffering and could understand. She had noticed that something had happened to me. And I finally realized I must tell her about this dream. And so I sat her down and I shared it with her. And I said Jesus said, "We can do this." We can do this. And she says, "I knew something had happened to you. You've changed over the last couple of weeks." She says, "That makes all the difference to me, because if you can do this, then I can too." And it changed our life forever. We stayed three years. And what happened after the students had their exams, they went from the low 50-60 percentile that year, to 86%. And the following year 91%. And then the third year, they were up into the 94 percentile. We won the spelling bees and we won the drama events, we had the best yearbook competition. Every different way we could find to make English live in the lives of the students through lots of curricular activities with them. And it happened for science and for math and for English. When we left, they've never had to bring in a plunge again. And they've continued on and to this day, for 40 years. And from that experience in Fiji, every time the phone call comes, and they have come several of them. Jana, we've got another phone call. And she says, "Where are they asking us to go?" And I will tell her and she says, "Are we going to go?" I said, "We're going to go."
It comes back to the dream. You can do this. Not just Fiji, but it meant anything the Lord would ask me to do. I learned that God knew my thoughts and the intents of my heart that I wanted to be a disciple. But it was hard at that time. He knew my thoughts. I believe the Lord knew how to succor me and how to give me that answer. And for me, it was in a dream.
KaRyn Lay 33:50
That was Craig Mansell, one of the three authors of "Dreams As Revelation." That moment in Craig's dream when the Savior encircled him, is such a beautiful image. It makes me wish that I could remember a dream that I've had at some point in my life. I love to think that Heavenly Father can and does sometimes use our dreams just to comfort us, and in the process reveals something about ourselves that can help us move forward. For Craig and Jana, his wife, it was that reminder that our strength and sustaining power to complete our missions and callings here on Earth, doesn't have to come from us. Because when we are yoked with the Savior, embraced by him, we move together, and we have access to his power. And we can have hope in that kind of success so that when the phone rings next time, we're ready to heed the call and head wherever we're asked to go. Our final story comes from Emily who learned that while we can't receive revelation for another person, sometimes God does use our dreams to help us minister to one another.
When I came back to work full time, the man in the cubicle next to me became a really good friend. He had been hired by the same man who hired me. He was a mutual friend of ours who had died of cancer some years previous. And this colleague of mine had spoken at his funeral and we just were really close and had a great relationship. This colleague had a son, his only son, who had been introduced to drugs in elementary school and struggled with them for years and years. And finally, as parents they had to make him leave the home and have him try to figure out on his own what to do with his life. And he was figuring it out and had actually come home as an adult and was working on putting his life back together and making really good progress. So you can imagine how shocked they were when one day the sheriff showed up at their door and said that their son had died of an accidental drug overdose.
It was a terrible, terribly sad turn of affairs and my friend was devastated and sad, but faithful. And he spoke at his son's funeral, which I thought was incredibly courageous. When you're in that much pain and have that much grief, I just, I can't imagine having the strength to be able to speak at that funeral. But he wanted to tell his son's story. He wanted to be sure that people understood the whole picture, and how he knew that his son had been doing his best to return to the light.
So some months after the funeral, one night, I had a very vivid dream in which I dreamed of this young man who had died. The son of my colleague and it was really strange because I didn't ever meet him. I didn't know him at all, and I'm not even sure I knew what he looked like. But in my dream, I knew that that was who it was. And while I was watching him, a man came and put his arm around him and started walking with him and was sitting down with him, and clearly talking with him and working with him. And it was clear again to me that this man who was doing this was our mutual friend who had passed away, the man who had hired us. That it was that friend who was now working with my colleague's son on the other side of the veil. It's so interesting to think about how I recognized that it was our mutual friend who was helping this boy. I'm not even sure that I knew it from looking at him, although, you know, he was very familiar to me, of course, his face would have been very familiar to me. But it was almost more a feeling that I had, and it made so much sense to me, that it would be him because that was the kind of person that he was, that was the kind of friend he was. And I know he would have done anything he could have for my colleague. If he'd been here he would have. And so it made sense that he would continue to feel that way on the other side of the veil.
When I woke up from that dream, I felt so calm and clear. And it was so clear in my mind that what I had experienced a certainty about what I had seen, and a clarity of detail in that whole interaction. I didn't hear anything that was said, I'm not even conscious of there having been sound, just of being an observer of this interaction going on. But I do remember feeling an urgency to capture that while it was clear in my mind, so I could share it. The next day, I wrote a letter to my colleague who had since retired. When I thought about sharing the dream with my friend, my first thought was, "That's a little presumptious." Like "Who am I to be getting a dream for you?" Which is why when I wrote to him, I tried very hard to make it clear, "I don't know why but I just want you to know this is what happened." So a little nervous, just because it seemed unfair, in a way, that it should be me and not him that would get the dream. And I said, "I don't know why I was given this dream and not you. It seems very strange to me because I don't have any skin in the game. There's no reason for this to have come to me, except that I think Heavenly Father knew I would tell you about it, I would share it with you and that maybe it would mean more to you, or might be easier for you to believe it, if it came to somebody who just didn't really have a stake in this. Maybe you would have thought it was wishful-thinking if it had come to you, but I want you to know that this is what I dreamed, and this is what I saw. And I feel certain that our friend is taking care of your son on the other side." Just another really interesting message that people who cared about us here, continue to care about us. That we have people who have been in our lives who really are a lasting part of our eternal lives and our eternal progression. I have wondered why Heavenly Father gave me that dream. The more I have thought about it over the years, the more layers I uncover about what it really means to me and what I've learned from it. And it was a really rare occurrence. It's not a way that the Lord typically speaks to me. And I think part of it is because he knew that I had the kind of friendship with my colleague that I would share it with him. And then I would actually write it and share it in a form that he would keep that is sort of my form of communication is writing so that he knew it would be a record for my friend. It makes me want to listen to my friends more. Someone says, "I've been thinking about you," or some of those kinds of things, it makes me want to listen more to my own feelings. I've been thinking about somebody, I should tell them, I better let them know that means something. I don't always get it that clearly, as clearly as it came in that dream. Not that I think you should get revelation for other people or should plan on doing it, because I don't believe that but sometimes I just think He's just generous in that way. But it was a good reminder that the Lord really does want to communicate with me and with his children, all his children. It really helps me to know that there are things that I can learn that are specific for my development or for the help of people that I love, that the Lord really wants to help us and He'll do it through whatever avenue will get us the help that we need.
KaRyn Lay 43:02
That was Emily.
I love that Emily's experience with this dream was a personal call to action. It would have been really easy for her to brush it off, or even share that one time and call it good. She didn't. And as a friend of Emily's, I can attest to the fact that she often sends the scripture, the note, the poem at just the right moment. And that is the beauty of our relationship with revelatory experiences and ministering. They're meant to open a connection between our earthly existence and our heavenly one, to unite our spirits and our bodies for a brief moment so that we can be different forever. And so I take two lessons from Emily's story. First, to be the kind of disciple God can trust to write it down. And second, to be the kind of disciple God can trust to let the dream or the prompting or the ministering assignment, change me.
While I've never had anything more than anxiety dreams, like the one I mentioned to Ken. Our producer, Sarah, has had so many symbolic and revelatory dreams. In fact, she even shared one with us in Episode 12 of this podcast. It's the episode called "Love Is What Brings Us Together Today." So of course, I had to ask her thoughts on this theme. And first of all, she echoed what each of the storytellers says about the dreams that they've had that have revealed something. They said, "This dream felt different. Other dreams are mostly nonsense, but for some reason, this one felt special, and I knew it immediately." Sarah also shared this thought, "In our dreams, we are sort of uninhibited. We're free from some of the constructs and constraints of real life, like the laws of physics or the passage of time. But also, we're not always free from some of the social constructs or the limits that we put on our thinking. And I think that juxtaposition of the freedom of physical law and the ways that we're still tied to the earth, I think that's kind of where the rubber hits the road. The contrast opens us up to seeing our world in new ways or learning something that we didn't expect to. Messages can come through with different clarity because we're in a different kind of world. I personally love that idea that God can use this unique revelatory tool to cut through some of what I often call 'Earth dust.' 'Earth dust' is that feeling that settles on us little by little that lulls us into thinking that the ways of the world are the ways of God, or that who we are here right now is all we'll ever be. That earth dust can be so subtle and so insidious, and really detrimental to our spiritual growth. I can't help but think what a gift it is to have a dream, a moment of otherworldliness and connection with our heavenly parents through revelation. Which by the way, the word revelation comes from the Latin, 'to unveil to uncover or lay bare.' Through revelation, however it comes to us, we are laid bare as true children of God in those moments and we see ourselves, and our true nature as problem solvers, creators, teachers, just as Ken did. Or we see ourselves as worthy, capable and embraced by Christ as Craig did. And we see ourselves as true friends and trusted allies in the work of ministring as Emily did. Every one of those revelatory moments helps us to be better able to move forward in our discipleship, despite the inevitable accumulation of more and more Earth dust. Revelation is a clearing off, a starting over. Whether your moments of heavenly connection and uncovering come through dreams or one of the myriad other ways God uses spiritual gifts to communicate with us, what we can absolutely trust is that He is doing everything He can to reveal us and our true nature to ourselves so that we can win, so that we can come home to Him.
That's it for this episode of "This Is The Gospel." Thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks for putting up with my winter voice. And thank you to Ken, Craig, and Emily for sharing their stories and their faith. We'd also like to offer a special thanks to Dr. Mary Jane Woodger for helping us to make this episode happen. If you want more stories about dreams and revelation, well, you definitely need to check out the show notes at LDSliving.com/thisisthegospel. We'll have a link to "Dreams As Revelation," as well as an excerpt about the different guiding principles that can help you determine if your dreams are a revelation, or indigestion.
We really appreciate those of you who've taken the time to leave a review on iTunes for this podcast. You're probably sick of me asking but, hey, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I know that if we don't ask, we don't receive. So if you haven't already told us in a review how you feel about our stories about the podcast, please take a minute to do that. It really does help more people find the show. All of our stories are true and accurate as a firm by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, well we want to hear from you on the pitch line. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179 and you can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. This episode was produced by Sarah Blake with story producing and editing by me, KaRyn Lay, Katie Lambert, and Kelly Campbell. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix At Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at LDSliving.com/podcast. Have a great week.
|Dec 09, 2019|
Angels Among Us
Stories in this episode: Encouraging words at a low point in Matt’s mission show how missionary work can be done beyond the veil. Melissa finally finds a way to share her testimony with her extended family after an unusual prompting. Amidst her son's battle with cancer, Cheryl finds angels sometimes come in the form of a kind neighbor with a red wagon. Brooke learns how angels can help us in ways we don’t always anticipate after the unexpected passing of her mother.
This Episode of This Is The Gospel is sponsored by LIGHT THE WORLD. Join us as we #LightTheWorld this Christmas and sign up to get daily service prompts through text message or email. Text the word “LIGHT” to the number: 71234 or visit LighttheWorld.org. That's also where you'll find "The Christ Child", a brand new short film that New Testament scholars are calling the most historically accurate depiction of the Nativity ever filmed.
To see pictures, and find links to things mentioned in this episode, go here.
To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :)
Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.
Last year right around this time, I was lucky enough to attend the Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concert featuring Kristin Chenoweth. And even though our seats were far from fancy, my friend and I were literally going to sit in the nosebleed section of the conference center, you know those seats up at the very top that makes you feel just a little bit dizzy if you look down too quickly? I didn't even care. I am such a huge musical theater nerd that the thought of watching Glinda from Wicked singing with Mack Wilberg, it totally had me fangirling.
But then, just moments before we made it into the Conference Center to find our seats, I got a phone call from my mom telling me that my grandma, my nanny, was not doing well and was not expected to live through the night. And even though I knew this might be coming, I found myself unable to keep my emotions at bay. I cried all the way to my nosebleed seat. I wept through the first half of the concert. I ran out of tissues by intermission. And I really thought that the tears were not going to stop.
But as I sat there listening to that beautiful music, suddenly they did stop. Somehow, in the midst of my feelings of deep loss and sorrow, something else came over me. And I don't really know what else to call it, but it was a wave of comfort, of sweetness. It washed over me, and I was finally able to breathe again. The theme of that concert was "Angels among Us" and many of the songs were pointedly dedicated to the angels, both earthly and beyond, who point us towards the Christ child. It might seem strange to say this, but as the choir and sweet Sister Chenoweth, as I like to call her, sang about the work of angels to herald the birth of Jesus, it's like I could feel the angels there with me too, reminding me that heaven and earth are not that far removed from one another. And that I can take comfort in the birth and the life of One who restores the distance that does exist.
My nanny surprisingly rallied. And, in fact, she's still with us today. But I knew when we were thinking of story themes for this season, that I wanted to honor that moment in the conference center with stories about angels. About the angels in our lives, both earthly and heavenly, who continue the work of drawing us towards the Christ child. And today, we've got four stories that do just that.
Our first storyteller is Matt, who didn't realize he needed the help of angels until it was already in progress. Here's Matt.
I was the first person in my family to be called on a mission that required the learning of the language. I had been called to serve in Nicaragua, Spanish speaking, and I didn't get any insight or counsel from my brother, for example, or my dad because they didn't know what it was like to learn a language.
I was naive at the time and for whatever reason, I thought that the gift of tongues was something that came more immediate. I was four days into my stay at the MTC, and I was thinking to myself, "Gosh, this is just not coming to me." With hindsight and perspective now, it's funny as I look back on that. That I would have thought that somehow four days in I'd be learning and understanding and being able to speak the language.
I was in a meeting one day and I had my head down, and I was discouraged. I was really discouraged. I was missing my, my house, my family, and having a difficult time with what I perceived to be the inability to learn Spanish. While in that frame of mind, and with my head down, I began to wonder, "Can I even do this? Is this worth it?" And I had a very clear message come into my mind. It was the voice of a man, nonaudible but almost felt audible. And he said, "Elder Hill, pick up your head. I need you to find my family." And I thought, "Wow." I knew it wasn't me because it wouldn't have been a thought that I would have had at the time. My thoughts were far distant from that thought. My thoughts were, "How do I get out of this? How do I go home?"
I wrote in my journal that night and thought nothing of it. I actually didn't even mention it that night. It wasn't until the next day it, almost as an afterthought, I wrote in parentheses, almost as like a P.S., "Oh yeah, by the way, while in a meeting the other day, I heard the voice of a man tell me to pick up my head because he was counting on me and needed me to find his family." And then I wrote, "I guess he's dead. I guess we'll have to see if I can find his family." And that was it.
You know, I didn't think much on this experience the rest of my stay there. I didn't even share the experience with anybody. Nobody in my district there at the MTC, I didn't write about it in any letters, it was something that just had taken place that day. And I thought, "Well, I guess I'll write a little bit about it. And we'll see at some point if that ever really translates to anything."
I know it sounds funny that I put this thought in parentheses almost as like a P.S. at the end of my journal entry, but there's a reason for that. I had an experience prior to my mission in a similar nature came while in the Logan temple one day. I had just received my mission call and I was going into be confirmed for the dead. And I close my eyes and out of nowhere, I felt the presence of my grandpa, who I have never met. My grandpa passed away when my dad was nearly turning 12 and so I've never met him. And so for me to have an experience where he's there, it seems like this would be something kind of out of that world, but it just felt so natural. I knew that it was my grandpa. And I'm not sure how I knew that. I could see him in my mind's eye. And I absolutely felt that it was him. I knew it was him. As I think back and reflect upon that, that experience, it seems odd, even to my mind, to consider and to think on that. How did I know it was him? I instantly knew. There wasn't a second guess. I close my eyes and there was my grandpa.
In fact, the very second I perceived his presence I said, "Hey gramps, how are you?" And his response to me was, "So Nicaragua, huh?" And he expressed how proud he was for my decision that I had made to go and to serve a mission. And I got the chills. And I immediately was just so, it was like a longing, like a, "I haven't seen you forever," kind of a feel. And that's the way it felt is, "Grandpa, how are you?" And I missed him, and I knew I had missed him. And I guess it was my spirit who knew him and who missed him. Because like I said, I had never met him before. So the idea of that sounds very strange that I may have known him. And he told me that he had come to tell me he was going down to prepare the hearts of people that I would come in contact with and to give me a bit of advice, and he gave me some advice. He told me that, "While on your mission, I want you to make sure that you are obedient to the mission rules." Because I will find protection and safety through my obedience. And then he said, "I want you to go home and I want you to tell your mother that you will be protected on your mission. She is worried about you, where you've been called to serve."
And I went home and I told my mom the experience and she broke down, and she had hid it really well. My mom had hid it, I had no idea that she was concerned and that she was worried about where I was going. She'd been looking up all about it that they had recently had a war not long prior, a civil war in the country. And I was pretty clueless. I was just excited to go. I had prepared for it and was excited and had no idea that my mom was beat up inside about this. And so I look back on that experience with my grandpa in the temple that day, I think in part it was maybe for me. But I think the bigger reason, I should say, for the experience was more for my mom to give her some peace of mind.
Three months later, I was walking out of a pueblo one day with my trainer, that the pueblo was Sunny Isidro. And as we were walking out of the pueblo, I looked over to the right at the very last house in this little pueblo. And I saw two little kids playing out front in the dirt. I kind of looked at him and then continued to walk forward. And I had an impression that we should go talk to that family. So I turned to my trainer and said, "Hey, do you mind if we go introduce yourself to them real fast?" He said, "Okay, yeah, let's do it." So we get into the house and my campaign starts to talk with the mom and she was knitting a little piece of clothing at the time and sitting in a rocking chair. And I, as I mentioned, I didn't speak very much Spanish. I had kind of suggested we'd come introduce ourselves here.
And, and one thing my dad, one bit of counsel he gave me before I serve my mission, he said, "You know, when you go into these homes, look at the walls and look at things that are on the walls. Typically, those are things that have meaning to people and comment on them." So, I made that a practice of mine and I noticed a picture on the wall of a police force. I walked over to the picture, and I looked at it, there was about 15 or 20 policemen in this picture. And as I was looking at the picture, there was a man who jumped out at me, and I didn't know why. With my limited abilities in Spanish, I said, "Quien es el?" Which meant, "Who is he?" And I pointed at him. And the mom as she was knitting, she put her head down, and she began to cry. She said, "He was my husband. And he was shot and killed this last year."
I immediately had the chills overtake my body and the hairs on my arms stood up. And I was so excited because I knew this, the Holy Ghost had confirmed to me this is that man's house. And I knew I had found the family. And so my reaction, I know that the normal, typical reaction in a scenario such as this would be to say, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry for your loss." But inside what I was feeling is just complete joy and excitement and I wanted to scream out, "Your husband is alive and he cares about you. And he wants you to be happy. And he spoke to me." I had no words, I couldn't speak Spanish. I knew I had no chance at articulating that thought, and I knew the moment wasn't right to express joy and to be excited. And so what I did is I said, "I'm sorry." But inside, if she could have seen my true emotions, my emotions were jumping for joy. And that's how I felt. I had forgotten about the words that I had come into my mind in the MTC, I'd forgotten all about it. It had been months and there I was, standing in that home and connection was very vivid and clear. This is my family.
We left that home. And I said to my campaign, my trainer, I said, "Elder, they're going to join the Church. They're going to accept the gospel. And he looked at me and he kind of chuckled, he says, "You know, I felt the same way. You know, when I was new, I felt the same way about everybody I came in contact with." And I left it at that. He was, he was getting close to going home and I didn't feel like the moment was right to share the experience I had had.
So a couple of weeks later, my trainer went home, and I was sent a new campaign. His name was Elder Wilson. Elder Wilson only had himself maybe three or four months out in the field as well. And so he came and said, "Hey, tell me about who we are teaching in the area." And I said, "Elder, I want to share an experience I had in the MTC a few months back." And he looked at me and he said, "Elder Hill, if we do nothing more together with the time that we have then help this family by giving them every opportunity to join the gospel, I believe our time together will have been a success. And I thanked him for that. And I said, "I agree." And he said, "We cannot and we will not give up on that family." And, oddly enough, I started to laugh and he looked at me, he said, "What are you laughing about?" And I said, "I'm laughing because of the idea and thought of you and I going out and trying to teach this gospel because you don't speak much Spanish and I speak far less." And we both just started to laugh as we envision what it might be like to receive the gospel in that way. And we realized that in there, it wasn't going to be much what we did. It was really going to come down to the Spirit testifying that whatever we were trying to say, was true. And we relied heavily upon the Spirit more so during that phase of my mission than any other just simply because of the fact we didn't have the benefit of our words to help express what we were trying to convey.
We didn't give up on that family. And a couple of months later, I was in the baptismal font watching as the mother entered the waters of baptism with tears coming down her face. And I was in a similar emotional state at the time and I was crying as well and we embraced. And again, I wanted so badly to tell her so much about her husband and how excited and happy he would be because I knew it. But, again, I didn't have the words in Spanish to express and convey that message.
The next day she received the gift of the Holy Ghost, her and her daughters. And it was fast Sunday and she bore her testimony. And in her testimony, she said, "Ever since my husband passed away, I have felt the yearning to come to this church. And I haven't known why. Now I know why." She said that this gospel, with the limited time she has spent in it and learned about it, has brought her so much peace and joy. And she is convinced that her husband is super happy with her and her daughters' decision.
Having the perspective of being a father myself, there isn't anything that I wouldn't do for my children. It connects me with the father who spoke with me in the MTC in a very real way now because I have the perspective that he has. I understand the, the longing that must be present there as he watches his family live their lives in his absence. It helps me to know that I would do the very same thing. That I would do anything in my power to help my family in any way possible. I didn't have the ability to ever have a full conversation with that family, to express to them what had happened to me and what their dad had come and told me. And I look back on that and maybe I'm grateful that I didn't have the words to express that, because maybe they joined the gospel more free willing of their own accord rather than feeling like they were doing it for their dad.
I don't think there's anything special about me, per se. The times where these experiences have happened. It has always been for the benefit of somebody else. And why I've been having the ability to have that happen or to be able to perceive those words and those thoughts, I don't know. But I do believe that our Heavenly Father does know how to reach us. And oftentimes I think the way He chooses to do that is different for all of us. The gospel of Jesus Christ is very important to those that are living and those that have passed on. I've learned that our Father allows those on the other side to be very much a part of the work that we are doing here. He allows my grandpa, as an example, to go and to go in advance of me and help prepare people for people I would meet. And every time I had somebody accept the gospel, I would always think back on my grandpa, and I would think, "Man, I'm grateful to have a grandpa that cares enough to be out here. And that cares to help me find these people."
That was Matt.
Matt first shared his story with us on the pitch line and when we contacted him to develop it for the episode he, like so many others, wondered if this experience was too sacred to share. I get that. Telling our stories is a sacred business because our stories are powerful. And because of that, we have a duty and an obligation to seek counsel with the Lord about how we share our stories and when we share them.
I'm always humbled when the right place and time to share the story is on our podcast and even more humbled when someone realizes that the time is not right. I honor that. Ultimately, the choice to share a personal witness of a sacred experience is between the storyteller and the Spirit. In his own process of determining the timing to tell this story, Matt found this beautiful quote from Elder Holland's message entitled "For a Wise Purpose" from the January 1996 Ensign. In that message, Elder Holland said, quote:
I really believe that our stories, when used for a wise purpose or gift to one another, testify of Jesus Christ and His power and His glory.
Our next story bearing witness of the ministry of angels comes from Melissa, who believed she was alone in her new faith until a unique heavenly message helped her see that she was anything but alone. Here's Melissa.
I grew up with the memory of my cousin. She was nine months old when she passed away. She actually passed away before I was even born. But I was named after her, my middle name was after her, and I missed her. And I couldn't figure out why, I didn't understand why I missed her so much. But I knew that I wish that she could be here.
That was until I learned about the plan of salvation. And I learned about how we live before we were born. I learned about how we had relationships, and we chose to come to this earth to be able to progress. It made sense that we had relationships because I felt this bond that I probably was best friends with my cousin. And she's probably been rooting for me this whole time. So I knew I had to be a part of that kind of truth.
But joining the Church wasn't really the easiest thing in the world. My mom wasn't very excited about it. Neither my mom or dad were excited about it. I think it was because I was 18 years old. I was just graduating from high school about to move away to a new world, a new life away from them. I was the oldest too so it's the first time any of us are going through it. So not only my throwing in moving away and experiencing life but also I threw in a new religion and a new way of life. And I think my mom at one time told me she just couldn't go with me. She couldn't follow where I was going. And it really broke her heart. And it was hard for me because I felt like I was going to truth and I was going closer to my Savior, and if anything, I was doing things so that way my family could be together forever. So going to Church was a little bit tough. As much as it's so exciting, and I felt so whole and connected to my Heavenly Father, my Savior, it was very lonely going to church.
I would walk into church and you see all these families, regardless of probably how hard it was to keep everybody reverent during sacrament, you can feel and tell the love that just embodied everybody and their families. And it was, I was so jealous to see that and be able to have those families sit together and be able to share these experiences together.
And don't get me wrong, I was pretty popular. Everybody wanted me to sit with them. They always wanted me to make sure I felt welcome and loved. And so definitely was not a lack of support from anybody. But it was hard when you go with friends when they go through the temple of the first time and you see this crowd of family at the luncheon afterwards. And you just see this, people from so many different sources, whether aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, all there to support you in your decision and your journey spiritually. So I always felt super lonely and just really sad and longed for the day that I could be able to be sealed to somebody and be able to have family that I was able to share the gospel with.
Luckily, my husband took me on, and we have four beautiful children. And we've been sharing testimonies and stories and it's wonderful to have that. But again, it's so, it's just saddened because I wish that I can share it with my family, too.
About a couple years ago, I started hearing this voice in my head, "Ugh, aye mi hija!" And my grandmother has passed away 10 years ago. When I was a kid growing up, I did a lot, a lot of dumb things. And whenever she'd catch me doing something she'd be like, "Aye, mi hija!" And she was so disappointed in me for being, making just dumb choices. And I was hearing that sound, "Aye, mi hija!" And I knew what it was. "Aye, mi hija!" It was my grandmother. "Aye, mi hija!" Why have you done my work yet? Why have you not gotten me sealed to your grandfather yet? "Aye, mi hija!"
So I knew I had to get her work done. Because I was not gonna be here that was the rest of my life. So I start, I started working hard getting all of her work done. Through my grandparents, who had passed away, I was able to get all of their parents' work done and sealed. And so we got this nice lot of work done now for my family. And it was super exciting to be able to get all that stuff done.
Well, a couple of months ago, I was training for a marathon and I was on a 20-mile run that day. I had to leave at four in the morning. I was 10 miles into my run, and it was just a beautiful, was a beautiful day. The sun hadn't come out yet and the stars were shining. The area that I happened to be in was a gated community so there wasn't any streetlights. So the stars were able to even shine brighter, and it was a completely clear sky. So I looked up to the sky and it was just gorgeous. And I couldn't help but admire how beautiful this creation that God had given me, this earth that just naturally brings beauty. And then as I was running, I felt somebody running beside me. And I knew it was my grandmother. She started running beside me. And then, then someone became beside her. And on the other side, there was someone else that came beside, and all of a sudden I had a row of angels running beside me. And I knew It wasn't just angels. It was my family. It was my grandfathers, it was my cousin, it was my great-grandparents.
And they ran with me for a little bit. And so I started bearing my testimony, my soul, sharing up all the wonderful things that I have found by coming to know of the truth of the gospel, that I was able to share my testimony and able to share my experiences with my family.
Because of that experience, I have felt them so much more lately in my life. I even felt them actually on my marathon. I was running, and I was only at mile seven, and I felt them coming down and I was like, "Wait on guys, hold on, hold on. Appreciate you coming down. But I'm going to need your help around mile 18. Mile seven, I'm good, keeping good pace." And they did come at mile 18 and had to stay with me the whole entire time because I barely made it till mile 26.
I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants when the Kirtland Temple was being dedicated. And it talks about how to leave this temple with angels having charge over us. It made me really connect that to my family, that the angels being charged over me are not just any random angels, they're my family. That loneliness has been able to to go away because I do have those family members that are part of the gospel. That were most likely there when I got sealed to my wonderful husband. That had been there when my sons have gotten baptized. That will continue to be there as we go through these great moments. I am so grateful to have that knowledge, to have those angels with me as I go forth.
That was Melissa.
I love the image of her ancestors coming to run next to her. Every time I think about it, it reminds me of some kind of scene from the end of a movie. It's like, after the montage and there's this amazing music playing and then all of a sudden the heroine looks to her left and looks to her right and realizes that she is not alone. And honestly, couldn't we all use a little shove in the middle of a marathon from those who've already finished the race? I know I could.
Our next story is a short and sweet one from Cheryl whose angel came right to the front door. Here's Cheryl.
My son Lincoln was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is the cancer of the blood when he was 2-and-a-half years old. We also had a 1-year-old, Sawyer. So our hands were pretty full, and it was pretty devastating to get that diagnosis.
About six months later, we moved to Greenville, North Carolina, so my husband could do his residency program. Shortly after we moved to North Carolina, things got really hard for me. Lincoln was in a phase of his chemotherapy treatment that was really intense. And he was on these medications that made him super cranky and really agitated, particularly the steroids that were bad. They caused him to want to eat constantly. He ate so much, he retained so much water that he had what the doctors called moon face because his face got so big and round that it looked like the shape of a moon. On top of all that, I was pregnant and in my first trimester. I just remember being so nauseous and waking up with Lincoln, sometimes multiple times a night, to spoon-feed him chicken broccoli casserole and Pasta Roni, those are the two things he always wanted because he was so hungry. And it broke my heart to see him so uncomfortable and so miserable.
Meanwhile, Sawyer, his little brother, was almost two and I felt so guilty for the life that he'd been experiencing for the past several months. I felt so bad for him being stuck inside all the time with a sick brother and a sick mom day after day, and I did, I just didn't have the energy and I couldn't do much about it. I couldn't take him out and play with him and go to the park, anything like that. And we just moved to the area so I didn't know anybody so I didn't feel like I had friends or support to draw on at the time.
And I remember one day, I just hit an all-time low and had a bad night hadn't slept. And I just I picked up my phone, and I text my three sisters who live all across the country. And my text said something like, "This is awful. I can't do this anymore. Help." And I'm a very dramatic person so I knew that text would be alarming to them. But I was just so desperate.
Right after I send the text, my sister Wendy called, but I was busy and I couldn't answer the phone. So then about five minutes later, she called back again and that time I, I did answer. About a minute into our conversation, the doorbell rang. And I told my sister and she said, "Well, go answer the door." and I said, "I'm not answering the door. I am not expecting anyone. I don't know anyone here. My house is a mess. I look horrific. I'm not answering the door." And then she told me that for the past five minutes since she received my text, she'd been on her knees praying that someone would come help me because she couldn't. So I swallow my pride going out to the door, and standing there was my neighbor who lived down the street. And I had only met her once before that, maybe twice, just in passing. And she was there with her daughter who was in a red wagon. Carolyn told me she felt like she should just come see how I was doing and she wanted to know if Sawyer, my son who had been feeling particularly bad about neglecting, if he might want to go on a wagon ride with her daughter around the neighborhood.
It was such a simple act, such a simple gesture, but it meant the world to me. I started crying and I told her that I felt like she was an angel and that God had sent her and she was an answer to prayer. And I'm sure she thought I was a little bit crazy but in that moment, I was just so grateful. And I really, truly felt like she was an angel that had been sent. I knew my Heavenly Father was aware of me and I felt His love so strongly. It just washed over me. I knew He'd heard my sister's prayer, and I felt His love and His awareness so strongly that I just, I couldn't deny it, and I still can't deny it today.
Though nothing really changed drastically after that day, Lincoln and I continued to feel sick and struggle together. But I had received a witness that God was aware of me in my darkest hour, and He sent my neighbor who I barely knew as a ministering angel to offer the perfect act of service. And that was just enough to keep me going.
Lincoln continued to have chemo treatments for another three years but he made it through and he's cured. He's in remission now and he's been cancer-free for the past four years. And I'm just so grateful.
I often look back on that experience with Carolyn and it just reminds me that we can get through hard times. And we can be angels for other people just like she was for me. So we can lift each other, and we can be the hands of heaven here on earth.
That was Cheryl.
Do you ever worry that what you're offering is weird or wrong or might offend somebody? I know I do. And I think that sometimes that stops me from showing up for people in their time of need. But Cheryl's story is exactly what I needed this week to kick my shame to the curb. Ministering is all about trusting that who you are and how you move in the world is already enough for the people you've been paired with or prompted toward. And that God will transform your offer of a red wagon ride into exactly what your neighbor needs. I also think it helps me to remember that the work of heaven and angels is not limited to those and other realms. We get to be a part of that work, too. And what a privilege that is.
Our final story today comes from Brooke and if you've been silently listening to today's stories, wondering where your angels are, well, this one's for you. Here's Brooke.
I was on a conference call with Whitney and Soni, the two girls that I sing with. And we were discussing our upcoming tours and I got a phone call from my mom. My mom was diagnosed with the flu the day before, so I thought, "Oh, she's just calling to tell me how she's feeling." And she kept calling. She'd call hang-up, call hang-up, which is normal for my mom. That's, that's what my mom does until you answer the phone. So I finally texted her and just said, "Hey, I am on a conference call, I'll call you back as soon as I'm done." And I sent this text and as soon as I sent the text, she called again. And I thought, "Okay, that, that's not like my mom." It was my dad calling from my mom's phone and told me that my mom had stopped breathing and the ambulance was on their way and to just hang tight until they got to a hospital. And then he would call us from there. But I live fairly close to my dad so I told him I would just jump in the car and just run over and just be with him until they get that figured out. And I remember driving and just praying, "Just let her be okay." I just assumed she'd be okay. It's the flu, right? It's 2018, it's not 1740, so I felt okay about it but obviously a little nervous.
When I got there, there was two or three ambulances there and a police car and they were rolling out a stretcher, the stretcher was empty. And I thought, "Oh, maybe she's okay." So I asked them quickly, "What happened? Where's my mom?" They said, "Well, are you Brooke? Just go inside." And my dad was standing there with the most blank look and said, "There's nothing they can do. They couldn't do anything." And I just froze. I couldn't believe this was actually happening. And I even remember kind of yelling at the, yelling at the EMTs saying, "How long did you try? You didn't try long enough." They just kind of stared at me. And I just I couldn't believe that I had lost my mom to the flu. You know, she'd been at my house three days before just loving on my kids and she was, she was gone.
My mom was very full of life. I know that sounds cliche, but I don't know how else to describe her. Everything she did was so big: her actions were big her, her voice was loud, just her hair was big. She even would had this whistle. And, you know, it was interesting no matter where you were, what event you were at, what school play you were at, you knew where my mom was sitting because of this whistle that would just kill everybody's ears. That was her signature thing.
She was the person that would walk up to strangers, even like homeless people, and hug them and talk to them. Sometimes the, the stranger's face would have a look of confusion like, "Who is this lady touching me and why is she touching me?" But a lot of times you'd almost see their faces just kind of melt just, "I just I really needed that." Even though she's a stranger, you know.
We found out all these really great stories about her after. She would visit her Young Women with flowers when their sister moved away to college because she knew that this little girl was struggling with her sister leaving. Or, she'd show up at lacrosse games or she did tea parties for my kids. She was a grandma that came to things and showed up. I think we definitely took it for granted.
I don't know if you're ever really done grieving. I think the first year was fog and a lot of drowning. And I think that's typical. Second year, maybe it's a little bit easier. That first year was horrible. I still have a lot of triggers. It sounds so funny, but she loved "Downton Abbey." She thought she was British. We always laugh like, "You're not British, Mom." But she thought she was British so she loved "Downton Abbey." It was her ringtone on my phone. And after she passed away, you know, the show is not on anymore and I was sitting in the movie theater just a couple months ago and the preview for the new movie coming out came up. The second I heard the music, it was just, just waterworks. You know, I don't expect to be sitting in a movie theater crying about a song that represents my mom. There's triggers everywhere and I just, all the firsts you expect, but the little things are hard. I don't even know how to tell somebody how to get through this other than I just know you become a part of this crazy club of people grieving lost ones. And so there are days where you feel really alone and days that you know you're not.
One of the things that comforted me after I lost her was that I knew angels existed and I knew that they were very present in our lives. I have had experiences with that before. I have felt my great-grandmother with me through really hard times. My great-grandmother was a singer and there was no other singers in my family. And so I've always felt connected to her. I've never met her, but I felt her presence. I don't know how to explain the feeling. I don't see her or hear her. I just know she's there. Even times before I'm going to go on stage and I'm nervous I felt my great-grandma with me. You know, she's a singer so she knows what it's like to to step on a stage and be nervous.
During the birth of my last baby, it was a really traumatic experience where we almost lost her, and it was bad enough that even my life was in danger. I was, I had to be sedated for that one. Waking up and kind of slowly opening my eyes, I could see my husband and I could see my mom in the room, but the room felt full of people. And I just kind of sat there thinking, "Who else is here?" And the room was just filled with love, a bigger love than can be contained in just the two people that were there. And, even from that moment, I've always felt like my youngest, Claire, belongs to a collective group of people. I just get to be her, her mom here.
Having had those experiences, I had an expectation that I would have the same experiences with my mom. And my patriarchal blessing even talks about angels and that the presence of my loved ones will be very important to me in my life. I expected my mom to come and visit me just the way I had been visited in the past. I thought that she won't feel very far away. She'll always feel close. What added to that belief was that a couple years before my mom passed away, I had a very strong impression to study angels, not just because they were mentioned in my patriarchal blessing, but I was really intrigued with the idea of them. So I studied scriptures and talks and books and I went to the temple, they're talked about all over in the temple. I would read experiences that people have had, and I just really gained a huge testimony in their existence and in their roles in our lives. All of these things led me to believe and to expect that my mom would come to me in certain ways, and I will feel her presence on a regular basis. But I haven't.
I haven't felt my mom since she's passed. It's been a year and a half, and I had all these expectations. Maybe when I was, after the year when I could see more clearly or I wasn't in this fog or during some big life thing that would happen: my daughter's baptism, during my dad getting remarried. Would I feel her that week? And I haven't, I haven't felt her.
That's been difficult. It's been hard because I have expectations. And I know what it feels like and I know it's possible. So why, why not my mom? Why my great-grandma, why people that I don't know? Why can I feel angels but not my mom? Why does it talk about my patriarchal blessing how important they'll be in my life, but the one who's the most important feels silent?
So the questioning did come to a point where I, I was angry. And it's interesting because, throughout the entire process, I never felt angry at God. I know death is a part of this experience. I saw His hand in all the service and all the love that we were given. I even looked back and saw all the ways He actually prepared us for her passing. I was never mad at God. I really wasn't, until one night I really wanted to talk to my mom, and I don't even remember, honestly, what it was about. And I remember praying out loud and I was in the car driving and I was praying out loud. And I asked him, "Why? Why have you let me have all these experiences and gained such a testimony of angels and their existence and their involvement, how close they are. And I've been led to so much study and pondering and praying about the subject of angels. Why have you not let me feel my mom?" And it was a really clear moment, a really clear answer that came to me and it's, I don't have a lot of those in my life. I have seen the Lord's hand and the Spirit has spoken to me, but this is one of those clear like, "I hear the words. I'm sitting on your shoulder in your ear." And He said, "I had to come to that knowledge, I had to study all of this so that you would know she was there even when you don't feel her."
Everything kind of turned at that point, my vision shifted a little bit. I started to look for my mom in different ways. It's interesting because I still, still haven't felt my mom the way I felt my great-grandma. But I see my mom through the actions of other people. Right when she died, a sweet friend did a painting for me. And she said, "I felt like somebody took my hand and the paintbrush and painted this," and had a painting out in 10 minutes. I wish like everybody can see this painting. It's a painting of an angel, which she didn't know that that's my love. You know, I have an angel wall in my office and the colors that she used were all the same colors on my wall and the angel looked just like my mom. Big hair, you know, and she's never met my mom.
It was just really interesting that I thought, "Oh, that's my mom. She knows I love angels, of course." In fact, even at Christmas time, this gal in my neighborhood, she had a very strong impression for two weeks, "You need to buy Brooke an angel." And she kept saying, "Why? I don't even know Brooke that well. That's gonna look so weird." And so she's like, "I'll just buy her a candle or something like that." She bought something else. But it kept coming, "No, buy her an angel. Buy her an angel." So she's like, "I finally just bought you an angel. I'm so, I don't even know why." She doesn't know that I have this love of angels.
You know, I got a letter, this beautiful letter from a friend that said, "Was listening to your song and your mom was there with me and this is what she told me and this is what she wants me to tell you." And it was a really beautiful moment for my friend that became a really beautiful moment for me. We were both blessed from this, you know, and that's how my mom operates. That's what she, that totally sounds like my mom. My mom works in heaven the same way she works on Earth. She works with other people a lot and I, it's interesting because I think she'll do something to bless somebody who will then turn and tell me so that we kind of both get blessed. So it's like a two birds with one stone kind of a thing you know, she just, she knows she can bless two people with one action. So that's what she's gonna do. And it makes sense to me that she's going to do the same things in heaven that she did here on Earth. They don't change, you know.
I still want to feel her all the time. I think I'll always miss her and there will always be moments where I'm just kind of, maybe angry is not the right word, but sad. Sad she's not here with me. It's been interesting to see the compassion that's grown and how much I've learned to lean on Heavenly Father instead. Like, I had an experience one night. I was praying and telling Heavenly Father I was frustrated I couldn't talk to my mom about my, my mothering. My mom was really good at telling me I was doing a good job. I can't talk to my friends about that because we're all, everybody's in the trenches together. We all think we're a horrible mom. All of us think we're ruining our kids. But my mom was out of the trenches and could tell me from a different perspective I was doing okay. And I remember praying and saying, "I miss my mom being here to tell me I'm doing a good job. And the Spirit said, "Well, I can tell you you're doing a good job." I thought, "Oh, of course, why don't I just go to Christ? Why don't I tell Him everything?" And honestly, it's been interesting because I've never before relied so much on Him, even as being a connection to my mom. I can't tell you how often I've said in a prayer, "Will you please tell my mom I love her?" And how often the Spirit has said to me, "She knows."
So even though I can't feel my mom, or even sometimes I don't know if she hears what I was saying, He does. Christ knows how I feel. He knows what I'm saying. He hears my thoughts. And if there's something that my mom needs to know, He'll make sure it happens. And I trust that.
That was Brooke.
Brooke Stone is one-third of the music group Mercy River, and she first shared part of this story at Time Out for Women where I heard it and realized that it had to be a part of this episode.
We celebrate heavenly visitation when it happens because in these latter days, we do believe in angels. We believe in a realm beyond this one, but we also believe as with any friends form of divine communication, that heavenly visitation is only one way that God reaches us in our need. And just like Brooke said, how we receive that revelation is no indication of our goodness or lack of goodness. We may long for and work for and study and seek for angels only to find that God needs us to hear His message a different way at a different time.
Like Brooke, I don't understand the whys of revelation. I don't understand why one time it's an angel and the next time it's a feeling and the next time it's silence. But I do know that someday it's going to all make sense. And I hold onto that day with hope that I'll rejoice in my heavenly, "Aha," moment.
One thing that is clear from our stories today is that the work of angels is always beautifully related to the work of discipleship. As I was sitting in the Conference Center listening to what felt like a choir of angels heralding the birth of the Savior with those tears for my grandma falling freely, I heard the lyrics from the chorus of the song "Angels among Us," and I felt something shifted in me. I felt a new understanding beginning. Here's a little piece of that song for you.
That guiding light of love that the song speaks about? Well, that light was the guiding force for Matt and the families he taught as a missionary. It was the homing beacon for Melissa as she found her place in the family of Christ. It was the knock at the door for Cheryl who just needed to know that she was known. And it was the gentle reminder for Brooke that even in her grief and her loss and her longing for comfort, He can be the one to tell her she's getting it right, that she's not alone, and that she's got back up. Our angels, whether we feel them or not, will always show up. And they will always point us towards the true light of all love, our Savior, Jesus Christ. So as we feel inspired to, as Elder Holland suggested speak of and believe in and bear testimony of the ministry of angels more than we sometimes do, we can trust that those inspired expressions will also bear witness of Him and His holy life and His holy work.
That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thanks for joining us today. And thank you to Matt, Melissa, Cheryl, and Brooke for allowing us to help tell their stories of divine communication.
We'll have so many good things in the show notes for this episode, you guys, so many good things. You really, really want to go there. We're going to have a transcript of the episode along with some pictures and we will have a link to the Tabernacle Choir's Angels among Us album, which is so beautiful and it has that song that we played from Kristin Chenoweth and the choir.
You can also follow us at @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook to get more about the podcasts and about this episode. All of our stories on the podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers.
If you have a great story about your experience living the gospel of Jesus Christ, well guess what? we have a pitch line and we want to hear from you. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. We're still looking for some stories for season two, so don't hesitate to call and leave that message. You can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast.
Don't forget to tell us about your experience with this podcast. Take the time to leave a review on the Apple podcast app or on Bookshelf PLUS+ app from Deseret Book. We really do appreciate it. We love to hear your thoughts about the episodes, about the podcast as a whole, and it really does help more people to find our stories.
This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story producing and editing by Katie Lambert and Kelly Campbell. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by Mix at 6 Studios, and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at ldsliving.com/podcasts. Have a beautiful week.
|Dec 02, 2019|
Stories in this episode: Jim feels conflicted about receiving a life-saving kidney until three words change his perspective; A surprise friendship leads Arthur to see the connection we have with others is far more precious than material possessions.
Today's episode was sponsored by TOFW.
To see pictures, and find links to things mentioned in this episode, go here.
To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :)
Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay. Annyeonghaseyo! Okay, I know that sounded like I knew Korean really, really well. But I don't really speak any other language besides English. I tried to learn Spanish in high school and American Sign Language in college and I really tried to learn Korean when I lived in South Korea for two years working. But unfortunately, and despite my best efforts, it turns out, I'm pretty useless as a second language learner. Besides being able to communicate the kind of food that I want, which is very important, and where I'd like the taxi to turn, the only real words that I got down in all those years of praying for the gift of tongues, were Hello, "annyeong." And of course, thank you, "Gracias," "Dangsinboda." I think it's interesting that whether we're a toddler or 30-year-old, or it's our first language or 21st, words of gratitude are some of the very first that we learn. Offering gratitude and communicating gratitude are such a huge part of both our social life and our spiritual life. But "thank you" is only one part of the gratitude equation and today, what happens after "thank you" is the focus of the two stories that we have for this episode. Our first story comes from Jim, whose unique experience with gratitude helped give him a glimpse into what it might feel like when he comes face to face with his Savior. We recorded Jim's story remotely from his home in Pennsylvania, so you might notice a slight difference in the recording quality. Here's Jim
As the months and years ticked by, my anxiousness grew, and I feared that I'd suffer a similar fate as my mother. I followed up with a kidney physician in my town, we kept track of my blood pressure and my kidney function. I was eventually put on a donor list, which, you know, most of the time it takes a very long time to receive a kidney. Eventually, the doctors and I felt like a preemptive transplant would be the best situation for me—being as young as I was—from a live donor. So we decided to look up the two siblings that I had that did not have the disease to see if they were a match. My sister Christine was a perfect match, and she gladly agreed to donate one of her kidneys. Now, this was a time that, unfortunately, I have to confess that I was not living the Gospel life I should have. It had been years since I had really connected or reconnected with my church roots. I'd served an honorable mission but had not held on to what I knew to be true when I returned home. Why that was? I don't know why, but it happened. And I subsequently was at a time in my life that things were not the best with regard to my spiritual growth and development and actual participation in church. But after my sister was deemed a match, and committed to give me a kidney, my life and the way I was living became an issue. When I say it was an issue, I didn't change a whole lot in my behavior, but I was overcome with a sense of guilt and spiritual loathing. I didn't feel worthy or deserving of what my sister was willing to do. It takes great sacrifice to donate an organ. Things can go wrong during surgery, pre or post-surgery. It's not like getting a tooth pulled, it's a serious surgery and major veins and arteries are involved. I decided since I lived relatively close to Palmyra, New York, that I'd go and maybe spend some time in the grove.
I was searching for comfort from the Lord. I guess I thought perhaps that that was a good place to search for it. My wife is a nonmember of the church but is a strong Christian woman. I worried that she would wonder, you know, what the heck is going on with my husband? And I explained how I was feeling and that I wanted to go spend some time in the grove. She was more than supportive. I should also say that, although she was not interested in the church per se, with regard to converting or investigating the Church, she continuously hammered me about going to church and living the way I was brought up to live. So she also understood very well, what the grove meant and what had taken place there and why I wanted to spend some time there. It was a beautiful day in upstate New York that day. I remember some of it, but what stood out to me the most was the quiet that existed in the grove. I was alone there that day. There were no visitors or people walking around taking pictures. It was kind of the offseason. I was thankful that I could be alone. I remember how quiet it was and it had a great calming effect on me. I believe I was comforted. I don't believe I had a burning of the bosom or an earth-shattering experience in the grove, but it was quiet and reverent. And although I was comforted, I also felt that I needed to change some things in my life. I eventually resolved my guilt, to an extent, and allowed the surgery to take place.
So the surgery was set for September 2007. I had the surgery down at the University of Pittsburgh medical center's Montefiore Hospital. My sister and her husband had flown in from Utah—that's where they still lived—to prepare for the surgery. The procedure on the day of surgery is quite unique. Typically, they take the donor down to pre-op, roughly a half-hour before the patient that's set to be the recipient of the organ. When they took me down, the place was a madhouse. There were people everywhere. There was a nurse that was barking out orders sending some people one way, and other people the other and it seemed like she was at this big desk. And it reminded me of a judge sitting there handing out sentences as people were wheeled in. When they wheeled me into my slot that they had there, I look to my right and lying on the gurney next to me was my sister Christine. She was in the process of answering questions probably for the 20th time. And meanwhile, I had an anesthesiologist asking me the same questions for the 20th time. Suddenly it seemed as though, while all this was going on, Chris and I were kind of just aware of each other. I finally looked over at her and said, "Hey."
She said, "What?"
I said, "I want you to know how much I love you."
And she said, "I love you, too."
I, again, said, "Hey," a few minutes later, and she again said, "What?"
I said, "Are you scared?"
And she said, "No, are you?"
I said, "No." We had both received Priesthood blessings and I was confident in the power of those blessings. Shortly thereafter, they started to wheel her away to surgery. And I once again said, "Hey."
And she said, "What?"
I think I remember her being somewhat annoyed. And I said, "Thank you."
She looked back at me and said, "You are welcome." This was a moment in time between my sister and I, that was full of love and sacrifice. It was an example to me from what true sacrifice is and what Christlike love looked like.
In the years since, thankfully, I've straightened myself out spiritually. I've never resolved in my mind, however, or my heart, the willing gift of my sister. It was an unselfish gift that I am forever grateful. And we have a bond that will live on as long as I live. As I study these days, particularly when studying about the Atonement of Christ, I often think of that exchange between my sister and I, in that pre-op room. I'm doing everything I can to prepare myself spiritually, live the gospel as best I can, and do the things that I know I should be doing. My hope is that someday when I stand before the Savior, I can apologize for the suffering my sins caused him. I hope to say "thank you" and I ultimately hope to hear, "You are welcome."
KaRyn Lay (13:11)
When I had finished my degree at Brigham Young University, I had spent four years there, I was the captain of the men's soccer team. I loved, loved my time at BYU and playing for the soccer team and I knew I wasn't quite ready to be an adult yet. So I was kind of looking for an adventure. And the Olympics had come to Salt Lake City and an organization called, "Right to Play" that was started by Johann Olav Koss, a gold medal-winning speed skater from Norway came. And I kind of got excited about their work and what they were doing and the way I could maybe bring my soccer knowledge and experience to the refugees in war-torn Uganda. And so I interviewed and became a volunteer for "Right To Play." There was a moment when I was leaving U.S. soil on the airplane and flying over the Atlantic when I thought, "What have I gotten myself into?" And you fly over the Sahara, and you fly over all the desert of the Sudan, I think even as we were coming in, and it's very surreal, and it doesn't feel like anything you're comfortable or familiar with. I mean, I was very much out of my comfort zone for the first little bit. We were flying into a little tiny village called Arua, Uganda, which was the hometown of the Ugandan president, Idi Amin, who had just absolutely decimated certain tribes within Uganda, massive genocide taking place before that. Still a lot of scars. And you have, you know, as an American, as a white kid from Utah, you have a little bit of a sense for the legacy of not just Idi Amin and the Ugandan history, but the history of colonialism, the history of, you know, European and white colonizers in that part of the world. But, I mean, I was clueless. I was completely, completely clueless. And so here we were sort of, you know, there's a group of about six or eight of us who are coming in working with the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and tasked with the job of implementing sports programs for kids in these refugee camps. And the refugee camps were about an hour and a half drive on terrible dirt roads outside of Arua. You're working with refugees that are coming across the border from the Congo, and from the Sudan, from those civil wars, from those conflicts. And refugee life is a completely different equation than even this little bush town of Arua, where you can still get meals and there are little hotels and televisions to watch, you know, football matches on and some of the amenities. But you go into those camps, there is just nothing. Some people are new arrivals who are just sitting there with a pot to go to the bathroom and that's it. They're exposed to the elements, they don't know where they're going to get their next meal, they've traveled from these distances to just escape the violence of those conflicts. You're looking at real poverty, real desperation, real need, and you're supposed to have answers and you're supposed to have solutions. And the truth is, we really didn't.
And here are these kids from America or Canada, or some from Europe, who are saying, "Hey, let's play sports together! Let's run soccer clinics." Who was I to sort of say, this is going to help children feel better, you know, psychologically, physically, this is going to help them overcome the trauma of war. Like, are you kidding me? Really? I mean, it's such a ridiculous notion that we would have anything to offer. But we're there and so you have to sort of pretend like you do have something to offer. I mean, I wanted to help people. I felt like I had benefited so much in my life from playing soccer. From that sport from the teamwork and the camaraderie and it was just something to, I mean, you're in the moment, right? And if giving these kids a moment to play football, so they could forget about the world they were coming from, they could forget about the poverty, they could forget about the violence, I wanted that to happen. That was my reason for going. But there was a part of me too if I'm honest, that was, you know, I wanted people back home, they were saying, "Oh, you're so brave. You're so altruistic. You're such a good person," right? And that sort of feeds your ego and then you get there and you realize you have no answers and there's so much hubris. I asked myself every day I was there, whether or not we should even be there. It was that complicated. Which is why, and I'll get to the point of the story when we met Ayub and interviewed him to be our driver—we had to buy a vehicle and have some way to transport ourselves back and forth between the village of Arua where we'd get supplies. And then we'd go out to the refugee camps and stay for a week or two at a time sometimes because it was just hard to go back and forth. And we were trying to service two different refugee camps with populations of over 50,000 people in each of those camps: Rhino camp, and Invepi camp. And so we go through all of these interviews with these different drivers, potential drivers, right? And they're desperate for money, they're desperate for a job. And you see the tangible dependence that they have on our being there, even though we don't have real solutions to these long, systemic problems that are occurring in the refugee camps, right? Displacement, war, poverty, violence, illness, like we haven't, we have no answers, but we've got to find a driver to get us over. That's our only task. And so their motivations and our motivations sort of gets complicated too, which is when Ayub walks in. And he's missing a tooth, and he's laid back and it was almost like he couldn't care if he got the job or not. And we take him up this like big, rocky mountain thing to see how his driving skills are. And we and we do things like put in American rock music to just see how he'll handle it. And he just rolls down the window, puts one arm out, drives with one hand on the wheel, completely laid back. And then while he's driving tells us the story of how he missed his tooth, how his big front tooth was missing. Because on another caravan on another job for another NGO, the truck had rolled, and it rolled into a river, and he dove in to try and save somebody and busted his tooth on a rock. And we're like, that's our guy. We're hiring him. He's amazing.
I started to sort of develop a friendship with Ayub and became very, very close with him, closer than some of my other colleagues even. I was so close to him he invited me into his home. And Ayub was Muslim and he was the first Muslim that I knew well and I knew personally, it was my first experience with that religion. And so I was in Uganda long enough that as Ayub and I started to become friends, it happened to be the holy month of Islam coming up, or Ramadan, when they fast from sunup to sundown. And it's a time of sort of Thanksgiving, but also special focus, religious focus, but it was a sort of a poignant, intense spiritual time. And we knew Ayub was going to be participating in Ramadan, he was going to be fasting. That meant while we were out at the refugee camps, and we were eating, he was not going to be eating. There's already not a lot of resources, it's hard to get food. You know, we're buying chickens on the side of the road and we're, you know, having people in the refugee camp slaughter goats for us, and it's a big deal to eat and he was going to be foregoing that. So it became really meaningful to me and deepened our friendship when he was willing to share that religious experience with me. And we were traveling back and forth between the camps and its long, dusty, terrible road. Sometimes if it was in the rainy season, there's mud and cars are sliding off the road. And as soon as the sun would go down during Ramadan, he would pull over and walk into a stranger's hut who had prepared a meal for anybody who happened to be traveling through or traveling by. And he would always include me and bring me into that intimate, sort of brotherhood of Islam that was especially poignant during Ramadan. But it occurred to me when we were— not just during Ramadan, but all throughout my time in Uganda, I had nothing in common with Ayub. I mean, really, nothing in common. And so one day when he said—we were driving back from one of these Ramadan meals, you know, he just turned to me and, and said, "Tomas," they called me Thomas, not Arthur. They couldn't pronounce my name very well. He said, "Tomas when we breathe, we breathe in the name of God."
And I thought that's the only thing we have in common. It's just the air we breathe. We don't have the same religion, we don't have the same socio-economic, we're from different continents. And it was so meaningful to me. I was so grateful that my young, naive idealism could be manifested in a tangible, practical way through this man. That all the things I believed about the commonality of humanity was real and it was true, it wasn't just a good idea. And it manifested itself through Ayub. When the only thing we had in common was the air we breathe, but it came from God, we had the same maker, we had the same Heavenly Father.
He used to like to put his finger up to my finger and push really hard, our index fingers would touch and he would say, "Tomas, you are my brother." And make sure we made contact like that. For me, that was important, that two people, we could transcend race, we could transcend religion, we could transcend a history of colonialism and violence. We could transcend all that stuff and we really could be unified. We could really be brothers. I didn't feel like I was an imposter or I was a wannabe white savior figure, I felt like I was Ayub's friend. So when I had to break a rule of my NGO to take the vehicle to drive him to another village close to the Congolese border for his mother's funeral, I didn't think twice about it. I did it because Ayub was my friend and he didn't see me as just a means to an end. He didn't see me as money or a resource. It was a friend helping his friend get to his mother's funeral in a faraway village. And that relationship, I think, carried me through my six months there and we're not in contact now. And you know, I have no idea what's happened to him. But because of that closeness and that recognition that I was more than just a foreigner who was coming in with ideas about how to save the world and fix things, I mean, how ridiculous is that. But he allowed me to just be me and to see me for who I was to and not just an interloper who's caused a lot of problems in that part of the world for him and his people. But as a true brother. He should not have seen me as a brother, but he did.
What Ayub taught me is to be grateful for connection more than for things. I mean, the things are easy to see and to and to assess, and to make a judgment on. But the harder thing is to find a way to connect with somebody that cuts through all of that stuff, all of the labels and all of the layers of identity that we carry around with us based on our religion, our skin color, our gender, all of those things. They end up just stacking up so many walls and obstacles to getting to the heart of connecting with somebody. And so when you can find someone you can cut through all of that nonsense with and see them for who they really are, that's when I feel welcome. That's when I think what gratitude means and what feeling welcome means and when real charity can live. I always come back to that line he said to me during Ramadan, "Tomas, when I breathe, I breathe in the name of God." And every breath is a gift.
KaRyn Lay (27:16)
But, what if like Jim's sister Chris, we really could dig into "your welcome" and mean it with all the possible depth inherent in the phrase. You know, in Spanish when someone says "Gracias," you reply with "De nada," which is loosely translated to mean, "it was nothing." In Korean, when someone says "gomabseubnida," you reply with "cheonman-eyo," which is a polite way of saying "No, no don't thank me." But in English, and a few other languages, we get to say "you are welcome." Think about that. It's really actually an amazing thing to say to another human being, an acknowledgment of our agency and intent to offer ourselves and our service with the truest charity, the pure love of Christ. You are welcome to what I've just given you. You're welcome. What might change in me if I started to say that with some intent? Now listen, I don't want to get all creepy about it. Like I'm not going to start staring deeply into stranger's eyes when I open a door for them at the grocery store and pronouncing "you're welcome," as if it was a blessing upon generations of their family. But maybe I could start to do things that I do for others with the kind of charity, the pure love freely given, that when you say "thank you," and I say, "You're welcome," even in a perfunctory way, I really mean it. No resentment, no obligation. You are welcome. And maybe the key to gaining that kind of welcoming heart is to start with our own "Thank you's." Elder Uchtdorf suggested that as we develop a sense of gratitude for all that we've been given, and gratitude for the things that we have in common because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can't help but be filled with charity towards others. In his April 2014 general conference address, "Grateful In Any Circumstances" he said, "In any circumstance, our sense of gratitude is nourished by the many and sacred truths we do know. That our Father has given his children the great plan of happiness, that through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, we can live forever with our loved ones. It must have been this kind of testimony that transformed the Savior's apostles from fearful, doubting men, into fearless, joyful emissaries of the master. When the apostles recognized the risen Christ, when they experienced the glorious resurrection of their beloved Savior, they became different men. Nothing could keep them from fulfilling their mission. They accepted with courage and determination, the torture, humiliation and even death that would come to them because of their testimony. They were not deterred from praising and serving their Lord. They changed the lives of people everywhere. They changed the world." That testimony of the Savior and His Atonement filled the apostles with gratitude and that gratitude fueled their gift to the world as they taught and offered themselves to the disciples of Christ. They were filled to the brim with "You are welcome." Just as Arthur and Ayub's friendship was filled to the brim with "You are welcome," and Jim and Chris's exchange of a kidney was filled to the brim with "You are welcome." This is possible, I believe because first, they understood that when they breathe in, they breathe in the name of God. And as Arthur said, "Every breath is a gift." Elder Uchtdorf continued with this, "You do not need to see the Savior as the apostles did to experience the same transformation. Your testimony of Christ born of the Holy Ghost can help you see the bright future that the Redeemer of the world has prepared." I hope this week as we seek to have a little bit more gratitude for the sacrifice of our Savior and its power in our own lives, that will, in turn, put just a little more meaning behind every one of our "your welcome's" as we strive to become more like Him.
That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thanks for joining us today. And thank you to Jim and Arthur for welcoming us into their stories and their faith. We'll have the transcripts of this episode along with some pictures and a link to Elder Uchtdorf's talk in our show notes at LDSliving.com/thisisthegospel. All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you on our pitch line. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. You can find out what themes we're working on right now and what we need for the pitch line by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. If you love the stories that we've shared, please leave us a review on the Apple Podcast app or on the Bookshelf PLUS+ app from Deseret Book. We love to hear your thoughts about certain episodes, and every single review helps more people to find this podcast.
This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story producing and editing by Katie Lambert. It was scored, mixed and mastered by "Mix At Six Studios," our executive producers Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at LDSliving.com/podcasts. Annyeong!
|Nov 25, 2019|
There's No Place Like Home
Stories in this episode: After a close call with a missile in their homeland of Lebanon, Nazar and his family move to a new country where “home” continues to elude him until a fortuitous introduction changes everything; Audra’s urgent feeling to put down roots after a recent move to North Carolina unexpectedly leads her back to the spiritual home she'd left years before.
This episode is sponsored by TOFW.
To see pictures, and find links mentioned in this episode, go here.
KaRyn Lay: Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.
For anyone who might not recognize it, today's theme comes directly from the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz. After a harrowing journey through dark woods and narrowly escaping the sleepy poppy fields along the yellow brick road, and then finding her voice after a whirlwind adventure into glitzy city life, Dorothy has a choice to make: Should she stay in the bright lights of Oz, or should she go home to the black and white world of Kansas? In the end, the call of home and Auntie Em wins out. While I know I can't be the only one whose childhood was slightly marred by those flying monkeys and shriveling feet under the tornado house, I also know that I'm not the only one who found comfort in that moment. That moment when Dorothy realizes she only has to click her heels together three times and repeat the phrase, "There's no place like home" to be transported back to her Kansas farm. The truth is that now, as a 42-year-old adult human being, I sometimes, like Dorothy, wonder where I am and how exactly did I get here? I can be filled with a sense of not quite belonging to my surroundings, just like she did in that technicolor Land of Oz. Maybe you've felt that too. I sometimes wish I owned a pair of Ruby Slippers or a Star Trek transporter or something that has the ability to send me off in the direction of home with little more than a blink of an eye. Sometimes that home that I'm longing for takes the shape of the Keystone state and hills covered in trees. And sometimes it looks like just doing the dishes with my mom and dad in the kitchen in South Carolina. And sometimes I find that the home and the family that I'm really wishing for, is actually nowhere to be found here on Earth.
Well, today we've got two stories about the way that we define home and the way that home can come to define us. Our first story comes from Nazar for whom the idea of home was always a bit of a moving target. Here's Nazar.
My ancestors have been moving around from place to place to find a home, to find a place of refuge and a place of just peace to be able to live for over 100 years. I was taught by my parents and my grandma about the genocide that took place in the early 1900s. Armenians in Armenia were massacred, over a million Armenians were killed. And when that happened, a lot of them obviously, to avoid being killed, were kind of scattered everywhere. And because of that, the Armenian people have been displaced for over 100 years. I remember hearing stories from my grandma that when she was younger because she grew up in that, she was a young kid during the genocide. I believe her father was killed and she had to eat dirt, to try to get some type of nutrients so that she could stay alive while she escaped the genocide and—just horrible experiences and horrible stories that I was told by people that actually lived through it. And so my ancestors went from Armenia to Turkey, from Turkey to Syria, from Syria to Lebanon, and that's where I was born. And my parents emigrated to California. So we just kind of moved around from place to place. And it was really tough learning the English language, and I had no friends and it was just a, you know, like most people that move around, it was a difficult time. I remember I would a lot of times walk home from school. I would notice all the houses around me. We didn't live in a house, we lived in an apartment building. And I would look at these houses and I wonder what the inside looked like. And I would wonder where the kitchen was and how the kitchen looked, and the bedrooms and living room and I wondered who lived there and what type of life they had and always yearning to be able to have that. Just yearning to have a home that symbolized permanence and it symbolized safety and security and comfort.
When I was about 13-years-old, my father informed us that we had a cousin that he knew that had, you know, lived in Fresno, which is up north in California, where—we lived in Southern California. When I was 13, we went and visited her. And I remember as we were driving up, it was a very, very long drive. And we finally got that was excited to be able to be out of the car and they had a pool, so we were swimming in the pool. And for some reason, my sister who was 14-years-old at the time, felt impressed to ask our cousin about God. And to give you a little bit of background on my thoughts on God, at that ripe old age of 13 is that I was always an inquisitive kid. When I saw people that were blown up to pieces back in Lebanon, or just in general when people pass away, I always inquired about or wondered about why we're here? What is the purpose of this life? And I wondered if there was an existence before we came to Earth, and what happens to people when they die? That always puzzled me. And I would ask my parents, I would ask people around me what the purpose of life was. And I would ask these questions, and no one had an answer that made any sense. Now Armenians claim to fame is that they're the first, you know, group of people or you know, nationality to accept Christianity. And so they were staunch Christians, Armenian Orthodox is what the religion was. It's kind of similar to Catholicism. I'd go to church and I'd asked the priests there and I would ask my friends, and all of them what say that I just need to have faith that there was a supreme being, there was a God, and that He could be everywhere and that He could be next to you and He was all-powerful and all-knowing, and it was just so mysterious. It didn't make a lot of sense to me.
And so I've, in my mind, decided that God was just an answer to the unanswerable questions. And what I mean by that is that I just felt like if there was a question that no know the answer to, they would just either blame God or have God be the solution, right? And so I decided that I was going to be an atheist, that I didn't believe in God. When we arrived at my cousin's house, we're playing around, my sister felt prompted to ask my cousin about God. My cousin could have easily given her a one or two-sentence explanation of that God is our Heavenly Father, and that He loves us and we're His children? But she didn't just stop there. She said, "You know, I could explain about God. But I've got two friends that could do a way better job of explaining to you who God is." And so she invited the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to come and have dinner with us that evening. They're pleasant and nice. And the very next day, they wanted to come back and have some missionary discussions. Well, my parents didn't have intentions of staying there for the week, becasue they had to go back to work, but they allowed my sister and I to stay there for that one week so that we could spend some more time with our cousins. Well, while we were there, the missionaries came to the house again and started talking about God. And I quickly told them my opinion on God and how I didn't believe in Him and I thought He was made up. And they, you know, respected my belief and my opinion, and they asked me to just listen to them. But while I was up there, my cousin had a pool and so I had no desire to really listen to what they had to say. I was more, you know, excited as a 13-year-old boy would be, to swim in the pool when it was hot in the summer. So I didn't pay much attention to them there, but after the week, my parents picked us up and brought us back down to Southern California where we live. And those missionaries contacted the missionaries, you know, by where we lived, and those missionaries came to our house. Well, this time I didn't have a pool and so I felt a little more obligated to listen to them. And I told these missionaries that I had no intention of listening to them, that I didn't believe in God. And I thought it was just all phony and fake. Well, these Elders said, "I appreciate you saying that just hear us out, listen to what we have to say about God."
And I said, "Listen, I don't care about God. But if you could answer me this, then I'll listen to you." I said, "What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? Did we exist before we came to earth and what happens after we die?" I didn't care to hear what they had to say because I thought that they would give me the same answer that I'd heard before, that I needed to have faith. So it was kind of my way of just shutting them up and stumping them.
And these missionaries had a very large grin on their face and they said, "Well, actually Nazar, we know the answer to all of those questions."
And I was taken aback and I said, "No you don't."
They said, "We absolutely do."
I said, "Well, tell me!"
They said, "Well, we would love to tell you but that's on lesson number four.
I said, "What are you talking about?" They said, "Well we've got a total of six lessons, and the answer to your questions on in lesson number four. So you'll have to listen to the first three lessons, and then we'll tell you what you want to know."
So I was a little frustrated, but also, for the very first time, I was very interested in what they had to say. For the next couple of weeks, I was able to listen and learn about God, about Jesus Christ and his role as our Savior and our Redeemer. And I learned about the apostasy and about Joseph Smith, and being a 13-year-old boy, his story of him being 14 and searching for the purpose of life and to know which church is true, truly resonated with me. And so I started reading the Book of Mormon. And the missionaries asked me to pray about the truthfulness of all those things that I had been taught. And honestly, I really didn't pray at that time. But the long day finally arrived where I got to learn about the plan of salvation. It was absolutely captivating and amazing to hear all that they said. I was astounded. I was astounded at what it was that detailed, that organized. And they told me this is exactly what life's all about. Life's about being able to return back to Heavenly Father. We're not here to collect as much wealth as we possibly can. We're not here to do anything, but to learn and to grow and become like our Heavenly Father.
And then they told me, they said "Nazar, we want you to pray about what we teach you. Every single principle we teach, we want you to pray and gain a testimony for yourself if these things are true or not." And I remember after hearing those things, I knelt down on my knees at night, and I prayed to Heavenly Father, truly for the very first time, and asked Him if these things were true. And I remember feeling so warm inside. I just felt this burning in my chest. And my body started to tingle a little bit and I got goosebumps. And I just felt and I knew that what I had been taught was true. That the plan of happiness through the plan of salvation is true and that God had, once again, through Joseph Smith restored His church on this earth. And I was so grateful but more than being grateful, I was so happy and ecstatic to finally know why I was on this earth.
Living my life for 13 years being completely in the dark about the purpose of life was a very frustrating 13 years. When I finally had that knowledge, when I finally had the knowledge of why I was here, and to know that Heavenly Father had a plan for me, that I actually mattered, and that Heavenly Father had a plan that I could become like Him. That gave me so much power, so much happiness and joy that I can use that as my foundation to grow on this earth.
I, obviously, listened to the rest of the discussions and my sister and I both were enthusiastic and excited about joining the gospel. In fact, the first day we went to church was kind of a fun experience. I remember walking in and finding it all strange because it's a lot different than a Catholic or an Armenian Orthodox Church. Everyone was so warm, everyone was so inviting and kind and wanted to know my name. And it was such a different experience. It just reaffirmed me how this was where I was supposed to be. So you think that the story was wonderful and ended there, but unfortunately, it didn't. My dad put a stop to all of their missionary efforts. But what had happened is that he had asked a friend of his about the church, because he knew nothing about it. They never sat in any of the discussions we had with the missionaries, they didn't get to hear what we heard. And my dad asked a friend, and that friend knew of a different friend that was a member of the church, apparently, and that person was awful to his wife. He was a shyster when it came to business and was unethical. And so, therefore, because this person was not a nice man, all members of the church were not nice, so it was not a good thing. And therefore my dad said, "You can't go to church anymore. You can't meet with the missionaries anymore. I'm putting a stop to all of this." which was, for me, a devastating thing. I was very upset and frustrated, but I couldn't argue with my dad. I stopped meeting with the missionaries, so did my sister, and a couple of years went by. At 13, I had made it my decision that when I turned 18, that I would get baptized, cause then I wouldn't need my parent's permission. That I'd want to serve a mission for the church because I'd want to let everybody else know what the purpose of life was because I felt like it was such an amazing and important thing for everybody to know. But from 13 to 15, in those two short years, I'd kind of forgotten about the church. I started doing some things that were not the best. My sister, by that point, had her license, becasue she was 16, and we were driving back home and we saw these two missionaries. And all of a sudden I said, "Pull over!" So she pulled over and I got out of the car and I ran to these missionaries. And I think they were kind of afraid of me for a second. They were unsure of who this person was and why I was running towards them. I was excited to see the missionaries because it brought back all those memories that I had when I was 13. It made me remember how much I missed it. And what that represented to me at one point. And I remember—I think I remember—going up to them and telling them, "Hey, my name is Nazar, I've listened to your lessons, I've been to your church. I'm going to get baptized in your church when I'm 18 and serve a mission."
And they said, "Wow, that's fantastic! Can we meet with you today?"
And I said, "No, I'm sorry, you guys can't come to my house. You know, my parents won't let you guys come in. But you know, when I'm 18 I'm gonna join the church."
And they said, "Well, Nazar, we really think we should meet with you." And so we met at a local park a couple of days later, and they started teaching the discussions to me again. They quickly realized that I had remembered most of the things they had taught, and especially about the plan of salvation, because that's the most important thing to me. And they said, "Well Nazar, you need to get baptized."
And I said, "I know, but I can't right now. When I turn 18 in three years, I'll get baptized, and I'll go on a mission when I'm 19."
And they said, "Well, why don't we fast about it?" And I didn't remember what that was. And so they explained to me that if I went without food and water for a 24-hour period, and I prayed to Heavenly Father that he would, you know, potentially help my parents soften their heart, so I could get baptized.
I said, "You're kidding, right? You think that if I go without food and water for 24-hours, that magically my parents are going to be okay with me getting baptized?"
They said, "Well, we believe in fasting. Let's give it a shot." And I said, "All right, that's fine." So the two missionaries and myself picked a day—I think it was the next day or two days after— to go ahead and fast. And so I fasted and I gotta tell you, as a 15-year-old that was not a fun experience for me, but I did it anyway. And after 24 hours, I started eating again and that was the best meal of my life at the time.
And the very next day, I was walking home from school and when I got home, I went inside my bedroom like I normally did to put my stuff down and I saw, to my surprise and shock, all of my clothes ripped up into pieces all over my bed. Now my mom had told me, the beginning of that school year when she bought me all these clothes that she was not happy about the fact that I was dressing the way I was dressing. And she said, if you do anything bad at school, then I'm going to rip all your clothes out and rip your clothes into pieces and I'm gonna buy you the clothes that I want you to wear. Well, I had been skipping school and hanging out with some people that were questionable. You know she had caught me because the school had called her and told her that I was absent again from school. And so she finally got the nerve and cut my clothes into pieces and it was on the bed. When I got in there and I saw that I was so upset. I went to the kitchen, my mom was inside the kitchen, she was cooking dinner, and I went in there and we both went to town. full of yelling at each other and I was very upset with everything she was doing and she was ruining my life. And you know, she was saying that I needed to change my life. And all of a sudden, out of the blue—now she had no idea that I had been meeting with the missionaries again, not even my sister knew I was meeting with them by myself. All of a sudden she said, "Well, I'd rather you go join that dumb Mormon church then do all the stupid things you're doing Nazar.
I said, "Fine!" I stormed off back to my bedroom slammed the door. I sat down in my bed and it just actually dawned on me what just happened. My mom finally gave me permission to get baptized.
I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was very quaint, it was short. Two little talks were given by the missionaries. My nephew, who joined Church at one point in time, was the one that was able to baptize me. I remember when the hands were placed on my head, I was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints and was given the Holy Ghost. What I felt inside was just an immense amount of love and peace. Just this clarity to know that I was finally on the right path back to my Heavenly Father. We moved right after that, went to a different ward. I had an amazing time growing up in the church from 15 to 18, and even 19 when I was able to serve my mission. It's kind of interesting, because two months before I turned 19, or two months before I turned my papers in to serve a mission, came a call. The Armenian mission opened up for the very first time. And I thought, "Oh my gosh, this is it. I speak Armenian. I am Armenian. This is a Schumann, I'm going to get called there. And so when I got my call and then opened it, and it said, I'm going to Brazil, I was kind of shocked and had no idea why I was being sent there. And when I served my mission, I realized that Heavenly Father doesn't care about what language we speak. He doesn't care about where we live on the earth. What he cares about is helping every single one of his spiritual children returned back to him. And obviously, as you can imagine, my favorite lesson was lesson number four, when I was able to teach other people the plan of salvation.
As an adult, the profession that I've chosen is to be a real estate broker. So I help people find homes and sell houses for a living. The reason I love what I do for a living is because it allows me to be able to be a part of that experience that a person has, where they're making a move, and they're looking for that next place. It's interesting that being a part of that process kind of gives me, not the spiritual sense of the moving, finding a place, but at least a little bit of that place of comfort. The meaning of home has changed for me in many different ways now that I have the gospel in my life. Initially, it was all about a physical dwelling. It was a four walls and a roof that gave me that sense of peace and a sense of safety, if you will, from everything that was outside. But when I was introduced to the gospel, I realized that even though the homes that we live in today does give us that safety and it makes us feel at peace, and hopefully, it does, if you live in a home that's like that. But the gospel sheds light and helps us understand that this home on this earth is just really a glimpse that our true home is back with Heavenly Father.
That's what I love about the gospel is that it gives us hope. It gives us clarity about who we are. And that one day, we can all go back and live with Heavenly Father again in our home with him. I think it's interesting that if my ancestors were never displaced if the genocide never took place, if my parents would have never left, my parents would have never come to California. If they'd never come here, trying to escape the wars and displacement of their people to come to find refuge, I would have never been able to be introduced to the gospel. Even though I don't wish upon all the suffering that they went through, I am grateful that their desire to find a home, a physical home, allowed me to find a spiritual home through the gospel Jesus Christ.
Our next story of home comes from Audra, who found her home in one of the last places she expected or wanted to find it. Here's Audra.
Audra: I look up and across the field coming from the parking lot, I see this man coming. And the thought that went through my head was, "Oh no, please don't let that be our coach." He keeps walking towards us and sure enough, he stops right at our field and introduces himself as the coach of our children's team. And the reason for my "Oh no," is as he came closer, I realized that he was decked out head to toe and BYU attire. And while this might not seem strange, what you need to know is that I live in North Carolina. And here in North Carolina, we know two blues. We know Duke Blue, and we know Tar Heel blue. If you're not a member of the church, you don't know what BYU blue is. But I did. And so I knew immediately that he was a member of the church. So right then and there, I made the decision that I was going to stay as far away from this coach as I could.
I grew up in what I would consider a pretty traditional house. My dad was the full-time breadwinner. My mom was a stay-at-home mom who got involved with all of the activities that her children were involved with. We were active in our community. We were active at church and I basically just had a really happy childhood. I graduated high school, I packed up and moved out to Utah to go to BYU. I met my husband in a Book of Mormon class and we both graduated from BYU the same year. We got married in the temple and I just kind of figured that's how life went. As we started to get into careers and starting to have a family, the trials started to mount. And while I don't think that anyone actually expects the challenges that come their way, the ones that started come were just things— they'd never even crossed my mind because I didn't really know of anyone struggling with these things. Things like mental health issues and infertility and loss and moving around frequently. Just things that I never planned on. And as these started moving more and more, I felt like the trials, they started becoming more frequent and they started getting harder. At one point, I sank into a really deep depression and suffered really badly with anxiety. My body kind of went into a fight or flight mode where I just really struggled to even get out of bed and make sure that my kids were getting fed each day. And around that same time, I was really starting to struggle with some doctrinal and cultural issues with the church. I hadn't taken a whole lot of time in earlier years to really think about what I believed and how I felt about certain things. But I was kind of at a point in my life where I was spending a lot of time alone at home with two small children and my husband was working really long hours and I didn't have a lot of friends because we were moving pretty frequently. Our average to stay in any one place was 18 months and so I just spent a lot of time by myself, which really made me go into my own head and start thinking about things that I had never considered before. And so I'm dealing with all these questions and issues while I'm in a deep depression, we had just moved to a new place again, and I just didn't want to do it. I couldn't handle having spiritual issues on top of the daily struggles I was already facing. And so I was kind of at a point in my life where I decided to walk away from the church. I just didn't want to do it anymore and I was not interested in staying to fight for answers. I had no plans to come back. I stayed that way for five years.
Flash forward a few years, life continues. We moved again and I had just had our third child. And I was really struggling with feeling lonely in our new place. I had a one-year-old, a six-year-old, and I think my son was nine at the time. And my kids were all really struggling with anxiety and starting at a new school and I was just tired, I was exhausted from all the moving we had done. I was exhausted from having babies and spending so much time alone. And when we moved to our new location, the thought I kept having was, "I just want to put down roots. I want this place to feel like home. I'm tired of always being on the go And I just wanted to make a life here." One of the things that I had done to try and make some friends and put down some roots was I got involved with the PTO board at the elementary school. And so I'm emailing back and forth with another mom that is volunteering with PTO. And at some point in time, we had become friends On Facebook. And so during our email conversation, she asked me, "Hey, how do you know this mutual friend that we had?"
And I emailed her back and said, "Well, she was one of my best friends growing up. We lived right up the street from one another and we hung out almost daily for years."
And she said, "Oh, that's so interesting. She was one of my roommates at BYU." And I just kind of giggled to myself. And then as our conversation via email went on, it came out that I told her, I said, "I am a member, but I have not been actively participating for several years now, and I'm not really interested."
And she said, "Oh, okay, that's fine. I'd still love to, you know, meet up with you and get to know you some time. But if you ever are interested, here's where the building is, and this is what time we meet."
I said, "Okay," and then we just kind of carried on our conversation. So probably about a week later. And at the time, I was teaching group fitness classes at a local gym. And I went in to teach one of my classes one day and a new participant showed up about midway through the class. And so at the end of everything, and everyone was filing out of the room, she came up to introduce herself to me, and we started talking. In the course of our conversation, she tells me that she and her husband had both gone to BYU. And so then I proceeded to tell her "Oh, yeah, that's where I graduated from too." And she asked the next obvious question about if I was a member or not. And again, I told her, I said, "I'm not actively participating and I don't really want to." And she said, "Okay," and then carried on our conversation. So all of this happens. It was less than two weeks time that this was all taking place. And one morning I dropped my children off at school and was driving back home, which is literally a five-minute drive. And I had an experience that I will never forget because it has changed my life. I had the thought, "Maybe I should give it a shot. Maybe I should just try going back." And as soon as that thought entered my head, I was immediately fighting against it, saying, "Nope, I don't want to do that. I have no desire to do that. I still have the same questions and the same issues. I don't want to do that." And you know how sometimes when you're talking to a child or a friend, and you just, you really need them to understand something, and they're arguing with you and so you just, I don't know, I get the urge to grab them by the shoulders and like, "Just trust me! Oh, my gosh, just listen to me!"
That's what happened to me. The Lord showed up in the passenger seat of my car that day. And it was like he was grabbing me by the shoulders and looking me straight in the eyes and just saying, "Just trust me. Do it. Just trust me." And as much as I could cross off all the other instances as being a coincidence, I could not deny the fact that the Lord was there in the car with me that day telling me to just go back to church. And so as soon as I got home, I emailed the PTO mom and told her, I said, "I think I'm going to go back this Sunday. I'm going to go check it out." And her reply was, "Great! I'm not going to be there. But let me know how it goes and I will be there next week." And so my initial reaction was, "Oh, well, the person who could hold me accountable isn't going to be there so I don't need to go." And that was a little bit strong, but I pushed it away. And that Sunday, I walked back through the chapel doors for the first time in five years.
I wish I could say that angels were singing and it has been all wonderful since then. It hasn't. In fact, that first Sunday as I walked in and sat down, I felt nauseous. I felt like I was going to be sick to my stomach. And as sacrament meeting progressed, I kind of looked over at my kids and I said, "We're going to leave probably when the closing song starts, we're going to get out of here, so no one can say anything to us." But for some reason I stayed. And the interesting part of all of this is that that soccer coach and PTO mom ended up being the bishop and his wife in our ward and they had sent people specifically to welcome us that day. And I had more people that one hour after sacrament meeting say hi to me and sit with me and talk to me, then I had the whole previous year that we had been living in this location. As I've thought back on this experience, the past couple of years, the Lord has made it very clear to me. He said, "Don't you see what I did? You wanted to be home and I brought you home. These people, this ward, they can be your family. You can put down roots here, and you can be home. This is it." And I am just so thankful that the Lord knew where to find me. He knew that he could send someone to a soccer field wearing BYU attire. He knew that he could send someone to my fitness classes. And He could show up in the passenger seat of my car because that's where I was and He came to me. As I have let myself be immersed in this new family, not only have I felt at home at church, but I have felt more at home and at peace within the walls of my own home. And I know that He has brought me to this place and I am exactly where He needs me to be right now.
KaRyn Lay: That was Audra. It's not that unusual to see a BYU hat or a sweatshirt when you're on the West Coast but as someone who once had a stranger jump out of their car at a McDonald's drive through, just to tell me their joy at finding a Pennsylvania fighting Quaker in Utah, I totally get Audra surprise and her chagrin at finding so much BYU blue in North Carolina. I also find inspiration and her willingness to hear and see the Lord's hand and helping her to find a home at church. That takes a lot of humility, especially when, like Audra, you're in the midst of a period of deep questioning and unresolved concern. But isn't that the thing about home? If it's built on a foundation of the Savior the way our God would have it designed for us, it really can be a place where we feel supported and safe while we figure it all out. I'm thinking more about how I can help make my ward that kind of a home, the kind that Audra found in her ward, especially for those among the body of Christ who might need someone to sit with them, to simply sit with them in their unbelief, in their questions or their doubt. You know, with the holidays around the corner, my internal sense of longing to be safely gathered in, while my family home is far away from me is really heightened. And because of that, I've been thinking a lot about this week's theme. Nazar's story was such a great reminder that the plan of salvation provides us with the comfort and the promise of a permanent and immovable heavenly home. But what about those times when we need to know that we've got people, family, home, right here right now like Audra wanted and needed. I think that as we talk about the spiritual power of Christ's ultimate sacrifice to heal us and to bring comfort, it's worth noting another unique gift of the atonement. Elder Bruce C Hafen taught, "The restoration offers people not only the hope of an embrace with the Lord, but also a full understanding of what that embrace can mean. For being clasped in the arms of Jesus, as it mentions in Mormon chapter five, verse 11, symbolizes the fulfillment of His Atonement in our lives, becoming literally at one with him belonging to him and mortality as well as in heaven." Here's the thing: While I love imagining that feeling of being clasped in the arms of Jesus, that's an individual experience. But when we're at one with Christ, we're better able to extend that feeling beyond ourselves. Stick with me, I'm about to make sense, I promise. Picture this: you're in sacrament meeting, renewing those covenants with the Savior, renewing your promise to act as part of His family. And as you look around, you notice all the people in your pew are also partaking of the sacrament, renewing that same covenant, choosing to become the children of Christ, and choosing to become brothers and sisters in more than just our birthright, but in the Gospel covenant. Well, that communion with deity creates community, we become a chosen family of sorts. When I imagine each of us in the loving embrace of the Savior, I'm reminded that I actually am surrounded by home, right now, because I am surrounded by Christ with others. It doesn't always change that longing for home or that homesickness, but here's the thing. Dorothy didn't click her heels three times and say, "There's no place like Kansas." Home was her people. And with God's help, I really believe that we can make His people, our people, wherever our house or ward might be right now. It might mean that we have to spend a little bit more of our creative energy envisioning those around us encircled in the love of the Savior that we ourselves have felt. But when we do, I know that we'll find home, even when home feels far away.
That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thanks for joining us today and thank you so much to Nazar and Audra for sharing their stories and their faith. We'll have the transcript of this episode, pictures of our storytellers and more in our show notes at LDSliving.com/thisisthegospel. In fact, those show notes are the place to go if you're missing anything. If there's something you want to know, go to the show notes. You can also follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook to get more of the podcast and of this episode. All of our stories on the podcast are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers. And if you have a great story about your experience in living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you on our pitch line. So leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. We listen to every single one of them and really appreciate your time. You can also find out what themes we're working on right now for upcoming shows by following us on Instagram and Facebook. Again, that's @thisisthegospel_podcast. I just listened to a podcast, one of my other favorite podcasts, they had an amazing episode that I couldn't stop thinking about. So I left them a review and I felt so good about myself because I knew that that review would help them in more ways than one. So if you've had a great experience with one of the episodes of this podcast or the podcast as a whole, please leave us a review on the Apple iTunes app, or anywhere that you listen to your podcasts.
This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay with story producing and editing by Kelly Campbell and Katie Lambert. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix At Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts like the "All In" podcast, at LDSliving.com/podcasts. Have a wonderful week.
|Nov 18, 2019|
The Kindness of Strangers
Stories in this episode: Crishelle and her friends' trip through Europe is threatened by a traveler's worst nightmare until a group of Swiss sisters steps up to help; When Elisha’s newborn is hospitalized, prayers from a local Baptist church help her to keep going; After moving to the US to fulfill her dream of attending BYU, Michelle receives unexpected help in her search for a place to live; Lillie gets a second chance at a life-long goal thanks to a complete stranger.
Today's episode was sponsored by TOFW.
To see pictures, and find links to things mentioned in this episode, go here.
Special thanks to Davi Johnson.
KaRyn Lay: Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.
If you spend any amount of time reading, watching or listening to the news, you may like me, find yourself wondering, "Where is the good in this world?" I don't think that it is overstating things to say that the way that we consume media has changed and sometimes it can feel like all we're getting is the bad news. Well, a few years ago, in response to some particularly difficult or traumatic time, there was this meme that started to make the rounds on social media. Maybe you'll remember it. It had this picture of Mr. Rogers from "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood," looking as kind and as thoughtful as he ever had. And it said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.'" While this quote was specific to helping our children process traumatic events in the news, and was meant to be part of a larger conversation, I was moved by the reminder that in times of darkness, we can find the light if we open our eyes to see it.
The helpers. Look for the helpers.
Well, today we have four short and sweet stories about those moments when the helpers show up. Moments when our collective kindness trumps our fear or discomfort and offers us opportunities to show God's love to someone we might not know.
Our first story comes from Chrishelle. You may remember Chrishelle from one of our earlier episodes, she has such a unique name. It was called "The Strength to Forgive." And in that episode, she shared a lovely story about the power of forgiveness to heal us. Well, this time she has a story about a different kind of spiritual adventure. One where she had to accept the kindness of strangers when she was traveling in a foreign land. Here's Crishelle:
Crishelle: After I graduated from college, I had an opportunity to join two of my friends that I had worked with through college, to go to Europe. And we were going to be gone for a whole month. And what was really awesome about this trip is we were going to travel all through Europe and see all of these amazing things that we'd all wanted to see. But we were also going to get to do some work with the refugees. My friend's sister worked for a refugee organization in Greece, and we had the opportunity to take supplies over to them and to spend some time just meeting some of the families that they'd been working with. It was so humbling to meet these families that had lost everything and to sit with them as they told us about their story and as they told us about their lives in Greece. And they told us how they were waiting to hear if they could join family and loved ones in other parts of Europe and throughout the world. It was just really a beautiful experience, so humbling and truly wonderful. Probably the highlight of the trip.
Because we were taking these supplies over, it worked best to rent a car and to take our luggage around that way. That way we weren't checking bags all the time. And so we traveled through Europe in a car and it was such an adventure. We left Greece and went to Italy. And we decided to spend three days in Rome seeing everything we possibly could and it was so fun. We ate tons of gelato, we saw everything we possibly could. And our last day in Rome, we packed up our stuff to leave our hostel. And I had this thought while we were packing up, "Maybe we should leave our stuff at the hostel." And then I was like, No, that's silly. That will take so much time to come back. Like, let's just pack our stuff up. We'll go to the Vatican will be super smart about where we park, we'll make sure that it's not a sketchy area and it will be fine. Everything will be fine. And so we packed up all our stuff in our car and we drove to the Vatican and we drove around the Vatican a couple of times just to find the safest parking spot. And we did, we found one right next to the Vatican police and the Italian military were across the street. And while we were parking couple policemen drove by. And maybe that should have been a sign, but we took it as like, you know, heaven-sent, we're like "Oh, we'll totally be good. Everything will be wonderful. Let's run in and toward the Vatican." And we went and saw the Sistine Chapel, which was as beautiful as I imagined and St. Peter's Basilica. I am still blown away as I remember how big and grand that cathedral is. We were feeling a little anxious so we quickly left after our tour was over and we came back to our car and as we turned the corner, something felt off. We like hesitantly approached our car and as we did, we noticed that one of the little windows had been broken.
Everything was gone. Everything. They'd taken all of our luggage, and all we had left was what we were carrying. That meant that one of my friends lost her passport. We lost laptops, I lost my retainer, which is so silly, but that was the worst thing ever because it's just gonna be sitting in a dumpster somewhere like that doesn't even matter to anyone. And it was so heartbreaking. In the moment, we lost everything. And we had no friends in this area, we had no one to reach out to, we couldn't just like call our parents. It was earth-shattering. It was one of those moments where like, please tell me that this is a joke. Unfortunately, it wasn't. We were so grateful that it wasn't like our lives or anything worse than that, but this was pretty tragic for us. We still had two and a half weeks of this trip. And we now just have what we're carrying. And so we prayed, we went and asked the Vatican police and they told us, "No, we don't help with those kinds of things." We went and asked the military guys across the street and they're like, "No, we don't speak English." And we found the police station and they weren't the most helpful or kind. And it was really hard. And we felt so lost and we felt so alone.</p>
Being robbed, I didn't think that it would be such a violating experience, but I felt so violated. I felt so vulnerable because these things that I had brought in order to take care of myself were now gone. We regrouped, we tried to go to the embassy, we weren't able to get to the embassy that day. And then we decided you know what, the most important thing for us to do right now is to go get some gelato, and to buy some toothpaste, and three toothbrushes and to leave Rome. We need to just leave Rome and we'll figure everything else out tomorrow. And so we did that. We went and got our gelato, and we found a pharmacy that thankfully somehow had the contacts that my friend needed. It was such a miracle, just the exact right prescription for her. And we left, we left Rome behind us. We traveled up to northern Italy and spent a couple of days up there. And it was Baptism by fire in minimalism. We went from having everything we possibly needed to, we were washing our clothes every night. It was such an adventure. Just that time it was just so funny, it was like the joke is always on us because we lost everything and it's okay, we were making it work.
We eventually left Italy and we went up to Switzerland and we were getting to Switzerland on a Sunday. We had been planning on camping in Switzerland, but all of our stuff had been stolen, so that plan was out the window. We thankfully were able to make some arrangements for sleeping. Mostly, we were just determined to continue on and to have a good time. We went to a farmer's market and got little dresses and skirts super cheap. And I'm sure we looked like bums and stuck out like sore thumbs. And we went to church the next day.
After sacrament, the Relief Society president came up to us and she said, "Are you the girls that got robbed?" And we were like, "Yeah, we did. We are those girls." We'd reported it and told her story on social media, mostly in like joking terms of we got robbed and Joke's on us, but we're still having the best time. As the Relief Society president explained, she had heard about us. She'd heard that we were coming and that we were planning on coming to church. And she had asked all of the women in her ward of early society to bring their extra clothes that they're getting rid of, and to bring anything that three girls traveling through Europe that didn't have anything might need. And she took us into this room and there were piles of clothes, and a suitcase and shoes and socks. Switzerland was a bit chillier than everywhere else we'd been. And we didn't have our jackets and coats like we'd packed. And she said, "This is for you girls, take what you need." It was really difficult to receive it. Our first reaction was to be like, "No, we don't need this." Somewhere in my head, and looking back, it was probably the spirit reminded me that often the greatest gift we can give to people is to receive the help that they're offering. And I just looked her in the eyes and I said, "Thank you." And it was so humbling.
And in that moment, I also thought of the refugees that we had seen and I remembered how difficult it was for them to receive the help that they so desperately needed. And in no way were we refugees, in no way were we in the same situation as those refugees, but I really felt for them. Because I was now in this position where I didn't have very much, and people were offering to give me things and to give me the things that I needed in order to continue on in my journey, and it was difficult to receive it. And I feel like that is so much of what the gospel is about. The gospel of Jesus Christ, we all stand in need. We all stand in need so desperately of our Savior and sometimes it's so hard to receive that help. We are all strangers, I was a stranger and they took me in. We are all strangers, and he takes us in and that is what the gospel is about.
KaRyn Lay: That was Crishelle. I've been trying all week to find a way to talk about the nuances of our theme, "The Kindness of Strangers." And I think I just realized that Chrishelle's story does it for me. The reality is that there are strangers on both sides of each of these stories. Yes, it was a group of strangers in Switzerland who were kind to these weary travelers. But those weary travelers were also strangers to the women of that Relief Society. How easy it might have been for them to view them and their struggles as none of their business. I mean, they were definitely foreigners and absolutely unknown to the women who helped them. But those Swiss sisters took their call as disciples seriously, and chose instead to see Chrishelle and her friends as sisters, and what a difference that made to all of the people in this story. That idea of a stranger is, in some ways, a construct that we can use to separate and divide us. But the gospel of Jesus Christ asks us to question that construct, to redefine the word "stranger," where possible, and to see one another with new eyes.
Our next story comes from Elisha who saw firsthand the power of the kindness of strangers when her family needed it most. Here's Elisha.</p>
Elisha: I've always known that God doesn't leave us alone in our time of need, but I really came to know this several years ago. Our son Cooper was born on November 8, 2007. When he was about three weeks old, we took him to church to be blessed. We had family in town, and it was the Sunday that worked for us. And so as we sat down at church, a sister who was sitting behind us, and who was a nurse, mentioned that I really shouldn't be bringing him out during RSV season. I honestly didn't really know what RSV was, didn't know how you could get it. We live in the south and we don't really have harsh winters and so it's just not something that I really knew that much about. And I thought she was well-meaning, but honestly, I just didn't think too much about it. And so I turned back around and we had the beautiful baby blessing and I packed up things and we all went home right after sacrament meeting to avoid him coming into contact with anyone who's sick.
A really dear sister in our ward took the time to write down the blessing on paper and give it to me, which was really a special thing. I'd never had a written copy of any of our baby blessings before. And I read through it and I loved some of the words that were on it. One of the things in the blessing said, "We bless you with health and strength necessary to fulfill your role and your mission, and that his spirit might warm the lives of those that he will come in contact with." Of course, I thought this was a really neat blessing and I set the paper aside and kind of went on with my week.
Just a couple of days later, I noticed in the evening that Cooper's breathing seemed kind of labored. We called her pediatrician who assured us that everything was probably fine and that if we were still concerned in the morning, we could bring him in. And so as a new mother, I was in and out of his bedroom for several hours and I couldn't stop the worry. And at one point, it became evident to me that he was really not doing okay. And I prayed because I didn't know what to do. And in that moment, I heard that voice say, "This is RSV. He needs to get to the hospital." So I went into our bedroom and I woke my husband up and I called my parents to come and stay with our other children. And we went straight to the hospital.
And when we got there, the hospital staff that was attending to our son said that he probably would not have survived much longer had we not gotten him in to be seen. His pulse oxygen level was really low and his breathing was extremely distressed. One of the ER nurses asked my husband and I how long it had been since we'd eaten last and at this point, it was probably five o'clock in the morning and we both were, you know, saying, "Of course, we haven't eaten anything overnight." And so she disappeared for a moment and then she came back with a styrofoam container from the cafeteria with a biscuit and eggs and bacon and just all the things to make a breakfast sandwich. And we were so touched by the kindness that she would go and do this for us. It did turn out that our son was very sick, and he was in the hospital and eventually moved into the ICU. And it was a really trying time in our lives. The words to that blessing came back to me and I just kept thinking about what a blessing it was that not only did he have that blessing, but that it had been typed out for me and that I could take some comfort in the fact that he would be in good health at some point.
Throughout that time, we had so many kindnesses from others. One of our nurses saw that I hadn't left the room in quite a long time and came and said, "I will sit with him. Please, go take a moment for yourself. Go take a shower, go downstairs, go walk around outside." And she ensured that I would actually leave that hospital room for a few minutes from time to time. We also, at the time, had our two older children in a little Baptist preschool near our home, which we loved. And we love the people, they were so kind. But one morning, my husband was taking our two older kids to preschool to drop them off and then to come and be with me at the hospital. And as he pulled into the carpool line, a couple of the ladies came out and opened the door and said, "Let us take your kids right now, even though it's early, it's 15 or 20 minutes early. We will take them so you can get on your way and be with your wife." And we were so touched. And then they mentioned that in their prayer circle, they'd been praying for us all week. Another sister brought a bag of healthy snacks and some things to read and do to the hospital and dropped them off and it really touched us. We really felt the love of those around us working to do his work for us.
I can't think back on that experience without becoming tearful and realizing how much we were loved and cared for by those around us, and how much our every need that I hadn't even had a chance to express, was met by those around us. I'm not a person who likes to ask for help and I just found that I really never even needed to because people picked up on things that we needed, and they did them for us without us even asking.
Today, Cooper is an 11-year-old and he just received the Aaronic Priesthood. Several weeks ago, I was sitting in sacrament meeting and I watched as he was passing the sacrament, and I was overcome with emotion and the realization that he has been completely healed. He did live a lot of years with some episodes that happened with flaring up and breathing issues, but he has outgrown that. And he plays basketball and he swims and he's an athletic kid, and he does bring light into everyone's life. And it just makes me realize how much God is in the details of our lives. He knows what we're going through, He knows who we are, and He's there for us.
KaRyn Lay: That was Elisha. I love the image of that Baptist prayer circle praying for her family. Women, and men linked together to use their collective faith to bless someone they barely know, or perhaps didn't know at all. I am positive that God hears the prayers of those close to us who know the ins and outs of our hearts. But I imagine that he finds deep joy in watching his children extend themselves beyond their inner circle, even if it's only in prayer.
Our next storyteller, Michelle, shares her difficult first days as a true foreigner in a new land. Here's Michelle.
Michelle: So when I was about 12-years-old, I decided that I want to attend BYU. The catch for me was that I lived in Tasmania, Australia. So it was not anywhere close to me, it was across the other side of the world. So after many, many years of planning and saving when I was 19, I left for BYU. And I honestly was just a terrible mess, I was an emotional disaster. It was just really, really overwhelming. And I think part of it was just being away from home for the first time, but also being in a whole new country. I remember before my plane took off, I was just sobbing in my seat. And basically the whole entire plane ride I cried. And this was like 24 hours of flying and traveling. My first night there, I remember I went down to—we were at a hotel—and I went down to a payphone to call my mom with a calling card that I had. And as I was trying to just dial the numbers, my hands were shaking, and I could not get my calling card to work. So I ended up just calling her collect. And I was just sobbing that whole entire phone call, I could not even speak really. It was just being kind of like make noises to her to confirm what she was saying.
I stayed with a cousin for a little bit while I was trying to work out what my next steps were. So I didn't have anywhere to live, and I didn't want to live on campus, mainly because I was worried about feeling really old in the dorms. I had learned from other people I had talked to that most people lived off-campus after their freshman year. So I had planned on just finding an apartment off-campus. And so I wanted to get a feel for what they were like, so I'd walk the streets of Provo and I would walk around and I would just stop people that I saw that looked like they lived in a certain place and asked them questions about the complex and if they liked it. I actually went and looked at quite a few different apartments and one of them I remember I walked into the bathroom and it looked like a public restroom. It had little stalls in cubicles and concrete floors. And I was like, "Is this where I'm going to have to live? I don't understand." And then this other one, I stopped at a house and there were some girls that lived in the house. And then they said, "We don't have any room up here, but downstairs, check with them." So I went down, and it was a basement apartment, and there was just this older lady that lived there and honestly, it was very creepy. It was very small, it was like a wire, creaky bed. I remember feeling like, "I have to get out of here."
So I had stopped quite a few different people at different places. And I met a girl from Texas, and she was really, really kind to me and she answered all my questions. And then she said, "I'll give you the phone number for the apartment." And I was like, "Oh, I actually don't have a phone so I can't call right now." And she's like, "You don't have a phone?" And so we started talking about that and then she offered to take me to the store to get a phone. And I was sort of amazed that this stranger would just completely offer to take me. She didn't know who I was, I could have been a crazy person for all she knew. She went and grabbed a friend to come with us. And right before we went and got in the car, I tripped and I hurt my toe. And I didn't look down, I sort of just was like, "It's fine, it's just fine." And instead, I could feel my whole foot—my whole shoe was like sticking to my foot and it was warm and I was like, "Oh, no." And they looked down and she's like, "Your foot is bleeding." And I was like, "I know and I didn't want to say anything." And so she got out a water bottle and she washed my foot for me. And then, she didn't just take me to one store and drop me off and just say, "Okay, here you go. Good luck!" She drove me around to three different stores, different phone carriers, and then we went to Walmart and I got different supplies I needed there, and this was a huge chunk of time, this wasn't like 15 minutes of her time. This took a couple of hours probably. She just really went out of her way to help me—someone that was a complete stranger I had never met her before.
What's funny is the phone never actually helped me find the apartment that I went and lived in. I found my apartment by walking the streets and talking to someone else. I did eventually find one that way, which is funny to me now. But it definitely, what it did do is I was able to talk to my family. Because previous to this, I'd been using pay phones to call them. And I would go up to campus and I would use my email and I would just email them. So having the phone helped me to be able to communicate with my family, which is something that I really needed in that moment because I was just so homesick and overwhelmed. It really made a difference for me to stop being like okay, I can handle this and then when I call my mom at like, five o'clock, then I'll be able to tell her all these things. And it really, she really helped me to be able to adjust and like, tell me "You can do it, it's going to be okay." And I think without that encouragement, and without that connection to home, I don't know if I would have lasted as long as I did.
I ended up staying for a full year in the end. At first it was like, let's just take the first step, I'll stay through the end of the summer. And then I ended up loving it so much, and it all ended up so well, that I ended up staying for the full year. I actually met my husband and then we started dating and we got married the following year. So then I stayed forever.
This experience to me always has reminded me of how our Heavenly Father uses other people to answer our prayers, and how, through this complete stranger, my prayers were answered in a way I didn't expect. At the time I was just invested in finding somewhere to live and taking care of that part of my life, I think. And He could see the big picture and see that I needed a little help in maybe other ways also. I think it can be easy when we get busy with our lives to just sort of see needs and just sort of brush them off and be like, "They're going to be fine. It's gonna be fine." She could have very easily said to me, like, "Oh, good luck! I hope that you get everything sorted." Which is what most everyone that I stopped, said to me and there was nothing wrong with that. They were very kind people also, but she went above and beyond. And I think for me, it's always been a reminder that that is important. I should be always looking for chances that I can to go above and beyond and help those and serve those willingly, to hopefully help them in the same way that I was helped.
KaRyn Lay:That was Michelle. My husband Justin has always loved this quote from Spencer W. Kimball, "God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs." We have it on a huge magnet on our refrigerator. And I've often thought about how interesting it is, that quote means different things to me at different times in my life. Sometimes I read it, and it reminds me to look. To see God and the kindness of others. And sometimes when I read it, it reminds me to do. To go and to be the hands of God for others. And I think Michelle's story is a perfect example of the wisdom of that duality. It's really okay for that quote to mean different things to me at different points in my life. Sometimes it really is all we can do to notice God and the goodness of others. But, when the Spirit speaks to us to move, to do, to act, we can be ready and willing.
Our final story today comes from Lillie. Lillie and her family are currently living in Paraguay, so the quality of the sound is a little bit different than all the other stories in this week's episode. It's a great story about that small moment when somebody, a total stranger, stood up for her in a time when it really mattered.
Lillie: I think I always wanted to be a singer, kind of secretly. But I kind of wanted it to be like somebody would discover me or something and just think I was so great. But I didn't like to put myself out there. Anyway, so I actually auditioned for all the choirs at Ricks College, which is now BYU Idaho. And it turns out, in our church culture, everyone sings. They grow up singing you know, in primary everyone sings and it's very competitive to get into the choirs at Ricks at that time. So anyway, I auditioned for all of them, I did not get into any of them. Except I did get into the girl's chorus which has about 200 girls in it. I mean it's huge. I mean it's just like an auditorium filled with girls. And I didn't know anyone in there, but I was happy at least that I got to sing and that I got be in a choir.</p>
And our choir Professor chose a song for our choir to sing and I just loved it, I loved the song right away and it had about four small solo parts in the song. And the teacher announced that there would be tryouts the next week or so and we just needed to sign up and go to his office to audition. So you know, I got that feeling in my stomach like, "I think I want to do that. I think I want to audition for that." So I did it, I signed up, and I went to go audition for one of the solos. And I was pretty nervous but I went in and I don't know how I somehow got the part and was super excited. I felt, you know, validated like "See I am a good singer." I felt like that was kind of proving it to me. We get into class and this song comes up in the rehearsal. So I knew, "Okay, I'm gonna sing my solo in front of all these girls and probably half of them tried out for the song." You know, and I started to feel nervous like they were going to judge me if I wasn't good enough and then I felt nervous that may be that I would mess up. I was the third soloist during the song. We started singing the song, the other girls did great. Maybe that made me nervous hearing how good they were, you know. It came to my turn, I start singing and I knew right away that it wasn't that great. It didn't come out very well. I think I was trying to be loud you know in this room full of girls, I tried to maybe project, I didn't have the support I needed and it was terrible. And I was super embarrassed and the teacher says, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no, that's not good. That's not good. Let's try it again." So I had to do my part again. And when I did it again, it was no better, it was really bad. And he says, "That's not going to work at all. Can somebody else..." You know, he was kind of looking for someone else to do the part right there in front of everyone. It was super awkward, all the girls were sitting there and maybe some of them were like, "Yes, maybe I'll get the solo because she couldn't do it. And it also went through my head how much I'm sure all these girls are thinking, "Yeah, I could do a lot better. Why did she get the solo? Right? I just sat there, I was so embarrassed. And it's like all the negative self-talk's coming out. You know? "You really aren't that great. You really aren't a singer. What are you thinking?" I just felt—I actually was nervous that I was going to start crying in front of all these girls and like kind of make a scene so I was trying to, you know, just really really quiet, just really kind of holding it in. I wanted to leave and it came through my head like, "I'm not gonna audition for stuff anymore. This is so humiliating.</p>
Just as I was in the depths of my negative self talk, out of nowhere, this girl says, "Give her a chance! She can do it, she can do it. Give her a chance, she's got this." The truth is, at that point, I didn't even think—I didn't believe in myself. But this random girl who did not know me, she was not like my friend sticking up with for me, she had no idea if I could actually do it. She stood up for me and he listened to her. And I got to keep the solo. I don't even know her name, I don't think we ever spoke. But because she believed in me, I was able to get another chance. And I worked hard on that solo. After I did the solo, I specifically remember, it felt really good. It was just this honest, like, I'm just going to do my best. And I sang the solo there in that cool concert hall that had awesome acoustics there at Ricks. And I had a couple of people come up to me and say, "You have a very unique voice. I really enjoyed that." So I think that I had something to give though it wasn't like, I'm not the best, but I had my unique thing to give. I've taught in the primary for many years off and on and I use this story a lot, mainly cause stories help the kids listen. But, I use this story a lot to help them think about the kind of person that they want to be in different social situations when we see someone that is in a vulnerable place, or who maybe needs a friend, needs someone to stick up for them when nobody else well. I always say, "Be like this girl. She went to bat for me and she did not have to, she didn't even know me." That's literally what the Savior does for each one of us. He lets us keep trying. He believes in us and knows that we have the potential to be better and to improve and He really doesn't give up. You know, He does know us though, and that's the only difference is that He does know us but He sticks up for all of us, right? He knows that we can do it and He goes to bat for us.
KaRyn Lay: That was Lillie. I think her question to those primary children after she shares that story is something I'm going to be thinking about for a long time to come. What kind of person do I want to be? I think most of us, as willing disciples of the Savior, would say that we want to be the kind of person He was. An advocate, a healer, a friend and light to the stranger, the foreigner, the marginalized, the bullied. But. how? How do we find the motivation, the courage and, frankly, the time.
I recently heard a wise woman suggest that if we feel overwhelmed by the idea of all that's wrong in the world and our own inability to fix everything, one place to start is to simply show up. To put our bodies in places where they can represent our support of others and tangible numbers. We don't have to know exactly what to do or even how to do it. But if we show up, then the Lord can tutor us on what comes next. It reminded me of a part of Sister Linda K. Burton's talk from the 2016 General Conference. When the "I Was a Stranger" initiative was announced.
She shared the story of those, including the women, who stayed behind while the men went to rescue the suffering members of the handcart companies. Not only did they immediately donate all their extra petticoats, socks and warm things to the effort, but as the rescue teams got closer to the valley, they gathered in the tabernacle to prepare to receive the sick, the needy, the stranger. President Brigham Young exhorted those gathered to receive them as your own children and to have the same feelings for them. I'm positive, I'm positive that there were some who were nervous about how to proceed, just like you or me. Could they handle the hard things they were about to see and hear from those suffering people? And maybe they were uncomfortable about not knowing the right thing to say or the right thing to do. But they showed up anyway. And in the end, sister Lucy Smith said, "We did all we could to comfort the needy, and we did not cease our exertion till all were made comfortable. I never took more satisfaction, and I might say pleasure, in any labor I've ever performed in my life. Such unanimity of feeling prevailed, what's next for willing hands to do?"
Whether the strangers we are meant to help or in other countries, in the hallways at our school, across the street, in our neighborhoods, or sitting next to us in a women's choir. Sister Burton promised us that "We can be assured of Heavenly Father's help as we get down on our knees and ask for divine guidance to bless his children," I hope this week as we think about our own stories of kindnesses given and kindnesses received, of those moments when maybe we were the stranger. That we'll all be just a little more attuned to see and be the helpers in whatever story comes next for us.
That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thanks for joining us today. And thank you to Chrishelle, Elisha, Michelle, and Lillie for sharing their stories and their faith. We'll have the transcript of this episode and pictures of our storytellers, as well as a link to Sister Burton's talk, in our show notes at <a href="http://www.ldsliving.com/pages/this-is-the-gospel">LDSliving.com/thisisthegospel.</a> Truly, if you haven't read that talk in a while, it gave me all the feels again as I revisited it, and I know it will for you too. All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, well, we want to hear it. We're still accepting submissions to our pitch line. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. You can also find out what themes we're working on to help focus your pitch <a href="https://www.instagram.com/thisisthegospel_podcast/">by following us on Instagram and Facebook </a><a href="https://www.instagram.com/thisisthegospel_podcast/">@thisisthegospel_podcast</a>. And don't forget to tell us all about your experience with this podcast. Take the time to leave us a review on the Apple podcast app, or on the Bookshelf PLUS+ app from Desert Book. We love to hear your thoughts about certain episodes and about the show as a whole. This episode was produced by Sarah Blake with story producing and editing by Davey Johnson, Danielle Wagner, Katie Lambert and me, KaRyn Lay. It was scored, mixed and mastered by <em>Mix At Six</em> Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other<em> LDS Living</em> podcasts at <a href="http://www.ldsliving.com/pages/podcasts">LDSliving.com/podcasts.</a> Have a great week.</p>
|Nov 11, 2019|
Climbing the Mountain
Stacy Taniguchi grew up as a Buddhist in Hawaii and joined the Church so that he could marry his girlfriend who was a Latter-day Saint. He confesses that his testimony and knowledge of the gospel was minimal before a harrowing climb on Denali, the highest peak in North America, forced him to put his new faith to the test.
Today's episode was sponsored by TOFW. Come be inspired by great stories at the Salt Lake City TOFW event November 22-23 and get $10 off your registration by using the promo code GOSPEL2019 at checkout.
To see pictures of Stacy on some of his many climbing adventures, go here.
Special thanks to Joyce Madsen and Julianne Gray for helping us to make this episode happen.
Sarah: 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 filling in today for our regular host, KaRyn Lay.
I will be forever grateful that I got to spend the first 30 years of my life in the Rocky Mountains, living in Colorado and Utah and Idaho and Montana. I've always loved the presence of the mountains around me, but I would say we never really got acquainted until I was in my 20s. I was living in Salt Lake City, and my sister Liz and I got hooked on hiking. And we started a tradition we called "Summit September: a peak a week." As the name implies, we would summit a mountain every weekend in September. And we carried on the tradition for four years before life took us in other directions. But now, I love to look back on those four amazing "Summit September's" where we spent our Saturday's walking and talking in the autumn glory of the Wasatch Mountains. I should also mention that because we thought it was funny and we were trying to prove a point about how you don't need a lot of fancy gear to go hiking, we climbed in wool skirts and tights that we got at the thrift store. So now you have a visual. Two sisters and raggedy skirts, climbing the Rockies. Now I live in Virginia. And although here there are many opportunities to walk through mosquito-infested forests that smell like rotten swamp water, I hardly ever hike. In case you can't tell, I am much less motivated to get out and hike in Virginia. I've been thinking lately about why that is. And I think that for me—although it's true I don't dig the bugs and humidity—what's really missing is summits. There is something so special about getting to the top of a peak. The sense of achievement is great for one, but most of all it's that view. There is nothing else like it. To stand on the top of the biggest thing you can see and look around you 360 degrees, everything spread out around you and beneath you, and you, a tiny speck at the top of this huge and rugged world. I could drink in that view and that feeling forever. And part of what's so powerful about a summit is knowing that there is no other way to get there, except to put in the effort step after step after step after step after step, until you have earned that moment of godlike perspective, with the exertion of every cell in your exhausted but exhilarated body. We know from the scriptures and from the fact that the temple is sometimes called the mountain of the Lord, that our Heavenly Father uses mountains as special places for sacred experiences. And today, we have a story of a personal moment on a mountain from a lifelong adventure who has experienced more of the dangers and glories of summit's than most of us will ever know. Here is Stacy.
Stacy: God can convert me and anyone however He wants. But we always have to remember the eternal principle of agency is something that He will never disrupt. And it has to be our choice. He can put opportunities in front of us, He can put challenges in front of us, but we ultimately have to make the choice whether we accept those opportunities, which opportunities we choose. I think He knows me very well that for me, things have to kind of like explode in front of my face to really get what's going on. If He tries to do something subtly, I could easily pass over it—I guess it's just my personality. But this was one in which He had to Get me to be in a position where this is like in your face, it's happening now and the time to think through and pretend and whatever is over.
I was born in Hawaii, on an island that most people probably never go to when they go visit Hawaii. It's called Molokai. It's probably most well-known because it's the place where the leper colony existed, but that was just a small peninsula on the island. My father was a rancher. He was the foreman of the Molokai ranch, and that's where our family was raised. So I could have just stayed on the island lived a very rural Hawaiian, tropical life, surfing and doing that all the time. But I had run across an article that came from a magazine. It was called Life Magazine and I just was always fascinated looking at the pictures. And in the very back, kind of the picture of the week, there was a gentleman holding up a piece of paper, and it just looked like it had an itemized list. And the caption at the bottom was "He completed his list." And basically what it was is he had created a list of the things that he wanted to do and learn and accomplish in his life. And he had finished the list. And I thought, "That's kind of interesting." And so I thought, "Yeah, I should probably make a list." And so I did, you know, as a young man. And over a period of probably 10 or 12 years, the list grew to 100 things. And one of the things on that list was to climb mountains because Hawaii doesn't have huge mountains and Molokai definitely doesn't have anything that's of any substance. But for some reason, I just thought climbing a mountain would give you a better view of things. And climbing has really made my life one in which I left the island of Molokai and I've been around the world several times. I moved from Hawaii to Japan, because my sister married a gentleman who was in the military and got stationed there. I lost my father when I was only a year old. But he became my father figure. And so we traveled a lot with my sister and my brother in law. And being in the military, we moved around a lot. So Japan was the first change, California, Illinois, Washington, and then eventually to Alaska where I got there when I was, you know, older teenage years. Then eventually, coming to Utah was because of opportunities that I had in Alaska that I took advantage of. One of my former coaches, when I was skier, invited me to help him do a study. But I needed to be close to Park City. I had never been to Utah before. And so he gave me several choices of universities that I could go to. Brigham Young University was one but you pretty much were a member of the church to have any interest in going there.
So the U of U was definitely the ideal. And so that's where I applied and started my master's program there. And I met a young lady who was down in Provo at the time. I think when you live in Utah for any period of time, obviously, the exposure of the church is everywhere. I don't think you're going to find very many people that can't say that there's something about members of the church, that they are striving to do good in this world. I recognized that when I was a student at the U of U, but not a member of the church. So when I met my wife, obviously, I was very attracted to her. And she was the one that I felt like I wanted to live with for the rest of my life. And she's an active member of the church. And I'm thinking, "Okay, how bad is this to join an organization where they're really trying to do good?" And the thing that really caught my attention was, they're not wishy-washy and gray areas. You either do this or you don't do this. And I'm probably about as wishy-washy as anybody. You give me a little bit of gray area, and I'll take advantage of the gray area. And I thought, you know, what, if I'm going to be a husband, and I'm going to be a dad, I don't want to be wishy-washy. And I thought, "You know what, I need that in my life." But again, the reason why I'm first interested in this religion is not because of the philosophy of the religion, it is because of the young woman that I've fallen in love with. And if she wants me to join this church, then I'm going to do it. Because I don't see anything like really bad about it, you know, it's a good group of people to be around.
So I got baptized, really for ulterior motives. We moved back to Alaska, and my wife, being new to the 49th state, went to the church to get friends and I went with her. And then, of course, you receive callings, which kind of gives you some purpose and that was very important to me. And so going to church was never an issue. Being raised the Buddhist, a Jesus figure is not relevant. But it was an interesting concept for me. So everything that I learned from the religion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was relatively new and it was fascinating. Did I have a testimony of Jesus Christ? Probably not in the sense that most members of the church would say. But did I believe He existed and He was doing good things and trying to make people better people? Absolutely. For me, He became more of a role model of how I should live my life, rather than my Savior, so to speak. That came later.
Well, back to Alaska. One of my jobs in Alaska was a wilderness adventure guide. And every year I was guiding people on Denali, which is the highest mountain in North America, it stands at 20,320 feet. And on one particular expedition, one of the clients was a police officer who his dream was to climb the "Nali." And he came from a police department that sponsored one of their police officers every year to accomplish something that they're doing if they can tie it in with a charity. And so this gentleman, he was going to get pledges for every thousand feet that he would gain on the mountain. So that was his thing. But what was interesting about him was not him so much, as his girlfriend who was at this gear check. We usually about a couple of days before we leave for the mountain—the guides, myself and my two assistants—we met with our clients and we call it a gear check. We go through all of their gear and we look to see whether they have everything or they’re taking too much. And we start to get to know each other because we haven't met anybody personally, all we've seen is applications and things. And she came up after we had done all of our minglings and checking the gear and she said, "Stacy, I am Denny's fiance. And we're going to get married about two weeks after you get back from the mountain, so I need you to do something for me." And I thought, "Okay, what do you want me to do?" And she says, "I want you to promise me that you will bring him back alive." And I was a little taken aback. I thought she was kidding. So I said, "Oh, yeah, sure. He'll be back." And then, I could see in her eyes, she was very serious. And she said, "No, I want you to promise me." And I told her I said, "I mean, I can't promise that but I will do all that I can to protect my clients. I have not lost a client yet. I will do my best." She says, "That's not good enough, you need to promise me." So to kind of like, okay, I just got to get out of the situation, I just nonchalantly said, "I promise." And then she turned around and walked away. And I didn't really think anything more of it. So a couple of days later, we're flying into the mountains and we arrived at the base camp, which is at about 7000 feet, and we begin our journey to climb this mountain over the next three weeks. And it takes us that long because Denali being a very high mountain, it's a high altitude mountain. It's one of the Seven Summits of the world. And even though we don't use bottled oxygen, we have to climatize to get used to that kind of an altitude. So typically the way we do it is we make a camp, then we carry everything we don't need at that camp to the site of the next camp, which is usually anywhere between four to six miles up the glacier and up the mountain. And we bury the gear and supplies and we bury it very deep, and then we wand it so that it can be identified when we come back the next day. And then we go all the way back to the lower camp and we spend the night. The strategy's called "climb high, sleep low." And it has shown to help in a climatization. Then the very next day, we get up, we break the camp, and we now move everything to the site of where we left the gear the day before. And then we set up a new camp and we repeat this process all the way up the mountain. We may take a rest day every now and then and we have some storm days where we can't move. So all in all on the average to climb a mountain like Denali, you're looking at anywhere from 12 to 19 days to try to get to the summit. And on this particular trip, Denny, this police officer, we started to notice fairly quickly that he was not as strong as the other members of the climb. But, like in any other team effort, your team is only as strong as the weakest link. So we kind of took our time, tried to keep an eye on him. And as we progressed higher and higher up on the mount, we noticed it was not getting any better. He wasn't sleeping well at night, he couldn't eat very much because the stomach was always upset. He was showing all the signs of what we call "acute mountain sickness." So when you're not sleeping and you're not eating, and you're having basically oxygen starvation in your body, you are just getting weaker and weaker as we go. So we made it to the 14,000-foot camp, which is about midway up the mountain and the next day, we are carrying a load up the steepest part of the climb called "The Headwall." 2000 feet of just blue ice, very hard, frozen ice. So you know if you've seen a glacier, you've probably seen the blue ice there. So if you can think about going up a very steep staircase, probably more than 45 degrees. And this is 2000 feet of this kind of ice, this is a pretty steep and very technical and hard section to climb. So we have crampons, spikes on our boots, ice axes in our hands, and we have a rope that's fixed on the slope that the climbers can clip into in case they slip and fall, they won't go very far. And as we're going up, I'm in the very front of the group. And about three-fourths of the way up, I hear my assistant guide who is further down starting to yell, "Stacey, we're having problems with Denny." And so we stop and I turn around and look, and I can see there are people around Denny. And so I have to now work my way back down to where he is, which is probably a couple hundred feet. And as I'm getting closer, I notice, down by Denny's feet, there is a red spot on the ice. And I'm thinking, he just has an upset stomach. He probably threw up the cherry Kool-aid that we gave everybody that morning to put in their water bottles. But as I'm getting closer, I'm realizing that's not Kool-Aid. That's blood.
So I know this is getting bad. We're moving from acute mountain sickness to probably pulmonary edema, which basically means fluid is building up in his lungs. So the decision is made that I'm going to take him down by myself, back to the lower camp and hope he starts to improve. If he doesn't, I'm going to drop him another thousand feet lower, and hopefully, improve enough that we might be able to move back up the mountain and catch up with the rest of the team. That was the plan. But when we get back to that lower camp, he's actually getting worse. It's not improving at all. His trip is over, this is as far as he's going to go. I told Denny, I said, "Hey, you know what, you're going to be able to go home, get more time to get ready for your wedding. That's an exciting part of your life." We radio up to the team and we tell them that we're headed down and they can go ahead and continue up. So Denny and I together, are roped together and we're heading down the mountain. Now, we've been gone for about a little over two weeks and we had beautiful weather during that whole time. So on the upper half of the mountain, having that kind of beautiful sunny days, it's just wonderful. But it's not good on the lower part of the mount because the heat is high enough that it's melting the snow. So when we get to the glacier at the bottom of the mountain, we have six miles to go from the base of the mountain to the base camp where the planes come in to fly people in and out. And that glacier, two weeks previously had had a lot of snow on it. So we could walk fairly straight and get to where we needed to go. But now, because we've had such good weather, the sun had melted out a lot of the snow and we start seeing the cracks in the glacier. Now, these cracks we call crevasses. Glaciers, I'm not sure people know what it is, but it's basically a frozen river of water. And it's just where snow accumulates faster than it can melt. And so over hundreds of years, this ice just builds up. Well, the glacier we're on has been estimated to be over 3000 feet thick. So that's a big chunk of ice. And because the bottom has to move over the irregularities of the earth, it moves slower than the ice up on top. So it causes cracks. And some of these cracks are big enough that you could take the car that you own, drop it in the hole, and you will never hear it touch the sizer at the bottom. So you don't want to fall into these things. So as long as you can see the cracks, you're okay because you know I'm not going over there. So you have to zigzag around them, look for places where you can cross. The danger comes in is where you can't see the crevasse because it's still being covered by snow on top. And some of that snow is thick enough—we call them "snow bridges"— that you can cross the cracks. But some of them are not thick enough that your weight will cause it to collapse. And if it collapses, you fall into the crevasse. So we are roped together, we have 150 feet of rope. We're tied in at the one third and the two-third marks of the rope. So there are 50 feet between us. And each of us has a 50-foot tail that we coil around our body that we can use for anything that we might need to use it for.
Denny is in the front, I'm in the back. And the purpose of that is when you're going downhill if something bad's going to happen, it's usually going to happen to the guy in the front, and you want the person who's the most skilled and knowledgeable to be not in the crevasse. And we have ski poles in our hands and we're using ski poles to probe the snow as we walk. Now, I have never been in the military and I've never been to war and I definitely never had to go through a minefield, but this is probably the next closest thing because every step you take the snow is soft enough that your foot sinks in. Now most of the time, it'll sink into your ankle or maybe to your mid-calf. But sometimes you're on one of those weak snow bridges and your foot pops all the way through. And you know you're on a very delicate bridge that hasn't collapsed but your foot is underneath. So we prob with every step. So now what probably should only take us a couple of hours to get six miles completed the base camp, we're into this traveling about four hours because we're zigzagging back and forth, we're looking for the snow bridges. We're sinking up sometimes to our ankles, sometimes to our knees and then sometimes one leg pops through. Denny stops and he says, "Stacy, I can't handle this anymore. My stress level is so high. I'm freaking out. We have to trade places, you have to be in the lead." So I switch places with him so now I'm in the lead. Now we're each carrying a backpack that probably has about 35 pounds of gear in it. And we're each dragging a sled and it probably has anywhere about 50 to 70 pounds of gear in it. And then we have the 50 feet of rope. I'm probing with each step and it's—I totally understand where Denny's coming from because I never know if my foot sinking into a crevasse or I'm just on some soft snow. So you prob with every step and as you walk, you're just wondering, you know, is this the step that's going to collapse under me and it's just very, very tense. Nobody else is around on the glacier. All you're hearing is the crunching of snow below you but there is no other sound because the snow on the ground is buffering any other noise and you've got these huge mountains that are just on both sides of the glacier. It's actually when you stop, it is dead silent.
So we're walking, we're walking for probably another couple of hours. And then all of a sudden, boom. I'm up to my armpits on the glacier, and I can feel nothing under my feet. And I realized, whoa, this is a snow bridge. And it's at least deeper than what I can reach under my feet. So I'm very cautious because I don't want this snow bridge to collapse because if it collapses, I'm going in. I'm in a hole, and my arms are the only things that are keeping me from going through the hole. And I've got my arms stretched way out as far as I can, just to try to kind of disperse my weight. So I slowly mantle myself out, not wanting to push too hard because I just don't know how thick this bridge is. And when I finally get my body out, I literally crab crawl as best I can on my stomach to where I think the edge of the curve is, which is probably another 10 feet away. And when I feel like I'm on solid ground, I stand up and I turned to Denny and I tell Denny, "That's a snow bridge that's waiting to collapse." Now I'm not a very big person, I'm five foot six probably weigh, at the time, maybe 120 pounds. But Denny is a police officer, six foot four, probably 230 pounds, and he's pretty fit. So I know that if I popped through that snow bridge, he has a much better chance of not just popping through a hole, he could collapse the whole bridge. So I tell Denny, "You can't follow my path. Go to the far right or to the far left of my path. Keep the rope tight, and you prob with every step that you take. And he says he's got it. So I take a step, he takes a step forward, I take a step, he takes a step forward. So when I turn around after about four or five steps, I see that he's now moved to the right where I was going. And I think he's probably in a good place. So we start walking a little bit faster, but we're still probing. And then all of a sudden, I'm on my back, and I'm sliding backwards. He's just fallen through and he didn't just fall through a hole, he's going to the bottom of the crevasse and he's pulling me in. And I'm on my back, sliding back and I'm going, "Oh, my heavens." Now, most people hopefully don't spend a lot of their time in their life thinking about how you're going to leave this earth. But at that particular moment, I was realizing that unless I stop, Denny and I are going to disappear off the face of this earth. We're going to both go into this crevasse, which could drop maybe a couple thousand feet, maybe the whole 3000 feet, and no one will know where we are or what happened to us. And I was thinking like, "Wow, that's an interesting way to go." But then I also thought, "I don't want to die yet, so I've got to try to stop somehow." Well, when you're on snow and ice, the typical way and the best way to stop is you need an ice ax and you do a technique called a self-arrest. The ice ax has a pick on it and if you can plant it into the snow and ice and put your body weight on it, it can cause enough friction that could stop you. The only problem is I don't have my ice ax in my hands. I have ski poles because I was using that to probe. And I'm thinking like, "Oh my gosh, where did I put my ice ax?" I'm thinking all this as I'm sliding back and I'm sliding back fast enough, where seconds are counting. And I remember that morning when we started off, I had placed the ice ax on the outside of my backpack. But I can't remember if it was on the right side or the left side. And I know I don't have time to make the wrong choice.
Now, the story of my life is I'm never picking the right thing the first go around. When I go to church on Sunday, I come to the double doors, I always pick the door that's locked. The other door's the one that's open. I can come back the next week and say, "Oh, well, that door was locked last week, I'll pick this door. No, that door now is locked, I got to use the other door." So I'm thinking like, "Oh man, my chance of getting it right the first time is not very good. And I'm just—I got to make a choice, though. And it's a 50/50 choice. At the time, my calling in the church was, I was teaching primary, CTR 8. And believe it or not, that's what I thought of at that time. CTR, why not choose the right? So I reached up with my right hand, and for the first time in my life, I picked the right one the first time. I pulled it out immediately, slammed the pick into the ice, rolled over as fast and as best as I could, and just tried to plant that pick into that glacial ice, which is not easy. But as we were moving, I'm noticing I'm slowing down but I'm not stopping. And I've got to be very close to the edge now. So I keep pushing and pushing and pushing, and finally, I'm starting to slow down enough where I think I might be able to stop in the next maybe foot or so. And then I come to the stop just as my toes feel nothing. In other words, my feet now are over the edge over crevasse where Denny went into the hole. And I just lay there for a while, and I'm just thinking, "I might survive this." But now Denny is in this hole. And he's about 40 feet down. So now I have to unhook myself from the rope, anchor the rope off so that I'm free to move around. And remember, I have 50 feet a rope coiled around me, so that rope now becomes my safety line. So I rig up anchors the best I can to hold Denny's weight. And then I take the other 50 feet and tie it into me so that I can now crawl over and look down in the hole where Denny's at. And Denny is dangling into this dark abyss, 40 feet below. He's fine, he's shaken up obviously, and Denny's gotta let go of some of his excess weight. So the first thing he has to let go is the sled that's got about 50 pounds of gear in it. And mountaineers typically carry some kind of a knife close by where we can get to it usually on the strap of their backpack or in a pocket on their outer jacket. And I tell Denny, you got to cut the rope, let the sled go. Well, kind of funny, he goes, "No, my brand new climbing gear is in the sled." And I said, "Denny, we don't care about the sled anymore. You got to cut it otherwise you're not going to get out of there." So kind of reluctantly, he takes this knife out and he cuts the rope that's attached to the sled and we watch the sled—which is the orange plastic sled that you see kids sliding down hills, that's what we use—we see this orange thing disappear into the abyss and we don't hear it. It's not hitting anything, we don't hear it touch the sides, we don't hear it touch the bottom. So we know this is a big, deep crevasse. Now Denny's gotta let go of his pack. And he really doesn't want to do that, because a lot of his personal climbing gear is in it and stuff, but it weighs about 30 to 35 pounds. I said, Denny, you gotta let it go. I'm sorry, but you gotta let it go.
So again, he's kind of reluctantly taking this pack off, he drops and we watch it disappear into the abyss. Now he has to try to get himself out. The only problem is his hands are getting cold. So when you're in a crevasse, you're basically in an icebox. And typically, the temperature in a crevasse is 40 degrees colder than being outside of the crevasse. And that morning, I had taken the air temperature at about 10 degrees above zero. So Denny's in an icebox of about minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit and his hand aren't operating very well, which is bad because now he can't handle the equipment that he needs to get out. So now, the second option is I have to get him out, I have to somehow pull that rope that he's attached to out. But in the meantime, what had happened was the rope as it crossed over the edge of the crevasse had now melted into the edge. And the ice above it now has refrozen. Now I could try to chop it out, but I take a risk that if I hit too hard in the wrong direction, I could cut the rope and then he's gone. So I don't want to do that. And so now I know this is not good. I don't know how I'm going to get him out. By this time, a couple of hours have gone by and he is getting hypothermic very quickly. Now I do have a stove. I had a thermos and obviously plenty of snow and ice. So I'm melting snow, heating it and boiling the water because I know I need to keep his core temperature warm. I lower the thermos down so that he can drink it and keep his core temperature. So I think that helped keep him alive for at least now. But I'm on my radio and this is back in the day where we don't have cell phones or we don't have sat phones. So I'm on a CB radio just calling, "Mayday, Mayday, I need help on the glacier." And, of course, nobody's answering because nobody's there. And this is going on for probably four hours. And Denny is slowly losing it. And I'm yelling at him, "Denny, don't fall asleep. Because if you fall asleep, I lose you. You've got to stay with me, talk to me and keep drinking the hot water." But I can tell this is not turning out good. He is dying on me. And then I remembered the promise.
I had promised his fiancee that I would bring him back alive. And that hit me like a ton of bricks. At that moment, I knew I'm gonna break this promise. I'm gonna go have to go home and tell her, "I'm sorry, but we lost Denny." So at that moment, with nobody around to help, we've tried everything that I know how to do to get him out, and he's slowly dying of hypothermia. I remembered that when I did join the church, I was told by many people, that I would receive a priesthood. The authority to call upon the powers of heaven. That power that created the earth. That power that can heal. That power that could move mountains. And again, remember, I'm a convert. If you ask me back then, "Did I really have a true testimony?" I would probably have to say, "Nah, I don't think so." I had ulterior motives. But now I'm in this predicament where I'm thinking, "Okay, if this church is true, and what they tell me about this priesthood is real, I need to move a mountain right now. And it's got to happen pretty quick. So if you can imagine, I get on my knees in the middle of this glacier, in the middle of Alaska, in the middle of nowhere, with nobody else around and I have a heart to heart talk with God. I said, "If this is real, I need to know now. I have done the best I could to be faithful to this religion. I have practiced and gone to church like I've been asked to do. I've tried to give service when I could. But this is something that I need for myself to know is this true?"
And I don't even know if I said, "Amen." But that's how serious and how desperate I was. So I get on the radio one more time I go, "Mayday, mayday! If anybody's out there, I'm here on this glacier and I need help, and I need it now." All of a sudden there's crackling on the radio. And that's a sign that somebody is on the other end and I'm yelling, "Who is this? Who is this!?" Only to find out it's a mountaineering Ranger who is at base camp, who came in a week earlier than he should have to do a reconnaissance of the base camp to get ready, to clean it up. And he had been falling asleep in his tent, got up early, went to the radio tent, heard the mayday call. He says, "I'm coming down right away." Now he's with his girlfriend, they both get on skis, they rope up together to be safe and they ski down to where we are. It took them about half an hour. In the meantime, he's a mountaineering Ranger for Denali National Park, so he does have a satellite phone. So he's calling for a helicopter rescue because he knows we're going to need a fast evacuation. Now, here's an interesting side note. At the time, I didn't know who that pilot was of that helicopter, but that pilot, his name is James Jury, and he's a member of the church. And for that particular morning, he is flying that helicopter near to where we are. Normally he wouldn't be doing that. But because he's flying that day close by he can be there like in 10 minutes. And so both the Ranger and his girlfriend who happens to be a nurse and the helicopter pilot arrived. And he immediately, the helicopter pilot, drops a cable about 100 feet. I attach myself to the cable he lifts me off the snow and somehow, miraculously drops me into the hole that Denny is in. I grabbed Denny, hook him into my harness, cut the rope that's been his lifeline for like the last five hours and pulls us both out of the same hole, which is a miracle in and of itself. We immediately put him in a sleeping bag, put hot water bottles in the bag, we load him up into the helicopter and we fly him out of dodge. Get him out now.
Now I don't know what anybody else thinks, but for me that day, I converted. The priesthood is real, don't ever underestimate that authority. Call upon it. And if you have faith and know that it's real and you trust the Lord to do the things that you are asking for, miracles will happen. Because there is no reason on Earth why Denny is alive today. Two weeks after this incident, he did get married and he now lives in Alaska as a family, and I know why he's there, and I know why he's alive. Because I know the priesthood is real because of that day on Denali.
Sarah: That was Stacy Taniguchi, who, besides being a riveting storyteller and adventurer is also a retired BYU Professor with a lot to say about how to live an intentional life. You might, like me, need a few minutes to get your heart rate back under control after that story. When you do, make sure you go to our show notes where we have a link to the BYU magazine article that features more of his adventures, and also his top tips for living an intentional thriving life. It's definitely worth a read.
I'll be thinking about Stacy's experience on Denali for a while. But right now the thing that hits me is the way God led Stacy to that personal moment of testimony. Like Stacy said, God knew what it would take to get his attention, and on that mountaintop, on the edge of a crevasse with someone else's life hanging by a thread and a promise to be kept, God had created all the conditions necessary for his son, Stacy, to finally, sincerely reach out and ask for the help and answers he needed. Just like it was for Moses and Nephi and the brother of Jared, the moment on the mountain was personal.
I read something that relates to this years ago from a writer who is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His name is H. Wallace Goddard. I looked and I looked, but I wasn't able to find the article again so I hope I'm quoting it right. Basically, he described that the Savior was perfectly obedient to the will of the Father. But then he said that surely, there were many, maybe even infinite ways to be perfectly obedient to the will of the Father. Even within perfect obedience, there was still agency, still freedom of choice in the way Jesus chose to fulfill his role on earth, and the words he chose to speak in the order in which he did things every day. And here's the quote that has stuck with me for years. "It is beautiful to ponder what elements of the Savior's life are simply reflections of His own sweet style." His own sweet style, I love that. A few years later, after I read this, I stood pondering that idea on a mountaintop in Israel, the Mount of Beatitudes where the Savior gave the Sermon on the Mount. It was an incredibly beautiful day, with a light wind rippling through the white yellow grass on the hill, and the cerulean blue of the Sea of Galilee below. And beyond that, the hills of Galilee and Nazareth stretching out in shades of salmon and purple to the horizon. I stood there and I thought, "Jesus liked this view." We know that he chose to spend a lot of time around there and maybe, I thought, "Maybe he just plain liked it here." He liked the color of the water, the look of those mountains, the feel of that breeze. And I stood there reflecting on his own sweet style in this place that we know is one of Jesus's favorites. And as I stood there I found God answering so many of my own prayers with a wonderful overwhelming sense of okay-ness this with myself. A confidence that God knows me, that He enjoys my own sweet style, and that He trusts me with my life. This answer came at a time when I really needed that kind of confirmation. As I struggled to know if my meandering path through my single years was okay. And it was yet another sweet confirmation of his unique knowledge of me that my Heavenly Father chose to give me that moment on a mountaintop. We can't always climb literal mountains in pursuit of these moments of connection with heaven. Sometimes, frankly, we can't even make it to the mountain of the Lord. But I have certainly felt God create mountaintop moments in my life and get me there to meet him on the summit. Usually, on the craggy peak of some uncomfortable trial, sort of an explode-in-your-face situation like Stacy experienced. But there, with legs, shaking from the effort and the wind whipping our hair in our face, God creates the experiences where he can speak to each of us and greet us as unique individuals and teach us the things that we simply couldn't have learned before the mountain. He calls us to the mountains, literal or metaphorical because he wants us to know Him and to know ourselves. And because it is there that he can give us a glimpse of his world that we can get nowhere else. And I know it is worth all the effort to get to the top and be given that perspective. At the summit of your seeking, there is an experience designed to just for you, the answer that you earned through your own sweat and exertion and faith. Whatever mountain lies ahead of you this week, I hope that you find the power through the Savior's love to keep climbing and trust that God is waiting to teach you something there, and that you will make it safely back to tell the tale.
That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." It has been so fun to share my thoughts in this episode with you. Thanks for joining us today and thank you to Dr. Stacy Taniguchi for sharing his story with us. We'll have the transcript of this episode as well as that article from BYU magazine in the show notes for this episode at LDSliving.com/thisisthegospel.
All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you on our pitch line. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. You can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. Don't forget to tell us about your experience with this podcast. Please take the time to leave a review on the Apple Podcast app or on Bookshelf PLUS+ app from Deseret Book. We love to hear your thoughts about certain episodes too. This episode was produced by me, Sarah Blake. With story producing and editing from KaRyn Lay. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Derek Campbell at Mix At Six Studios. Our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at LDSliving.com/podcasts.
|Nov 04, 2019|
Broken Hearts to Mend
When Dorothy came home from school to find the Relief Society in her living room instead of her faithful but imperfect mom, Rene, she was ill-prepared for how drastically her life would soon change. But, despite the heartbreak of circumstances beyond her control, and with the help and support of her youth leaders Kurt and Naomi, Dorothy found the strength to believe in the healing power of the Atonement for every broken heart, including her own.
Today's episode was sponsored by TOFW. Come be inspired by great stories at the Salt Lake City TOFW event November 22-23 and get $10 off your registration by using the promo code GOSPEL2019 at checkout.
To see pictures and watch the LDS Living Video with Dorothy, Naomi, & Kurt, click here.
Special thanks to Aaron Woodhouse for letting us invade your home and to the LDS video team who helped us get the original audio for this story: Jasmine Mullen, Katie Lambert, Morgan Jones. Texas Forever, y'all!
KaRyn Lay: Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.
I think it's safe to say that not one of us is going to get through this life without our fair share of heartbreak. It's just a very real part of being human and an even more real part of being a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ. There are literally over 18 mentions of the phrase, "broken heart" in the scriptural canon for a reason. We are meant to come to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, but that's not the intended end state of our hearts. Because we believe in a savior whose very existence promises us that a heart presented to him in pieces, shattered by that beautiful hammer of humility, will be given back to us and glory and wholeness as we come unto Him. Well, today we have a moving story of four people whose hearts were broken by circumstances beyond their control, and ultimately mended together by their choice to follow the Savior. First, you'll hear from Dorothy, who shares how her own heart was impacted by the faithful but imperfect life of her mother Rene. And as her story in her life starts to take shape, we'll meet Kurt and Naomi, two more people who are seeking understanding and answers to their own heartache. Here's Dorothy.
Dorothy: So we get home from school and the Relief Society is in our living room. They said, "Kids, your mom's in jail." We're like "Mom's in jail?" We couldn't process it. We needed a glass of milk or something.
My mom was into a lot of drugs. My brother and I are both heroin babies. She did a lot of heavy drugs with us. And she was part of a biker gang. And this biker gang was pretty well known and pretty dangerous and she wanted out. Around the time that we joined the church, my mom wanted to kill herself. And so she took us and sent us to our grandparents. And we spent a lot of time at my grandparents' house when I was little. She would disappear for months at a time, we wouldn't see her and then she'd pick us back up. And I don't know the time frame, but two sister missionaries found my mom in San Diego and taught her about Joseph Smith and about Jesus Christ. And I think that was the first time she felt that she mattered. She didn't know about Jesus Christ, she didn't know about the gospel. She turned to what the world taught. And I think that's the only reason she went down that path. So then when she heard about Christ, she became even stronger. She took what she learned and was trying to be better and she was using her strength. So a very incredible woman, incredible woman. So my mom picked us up from my grandparents' house and then that following weekend, we went to church and I've been going to church ever since.
She had a boyfriend in that biker gang and when he found out that my mom was trying to get out of this biker gang, she got beat really bad. And my mom went to the bishop and the bishop told my mom, he said, "Rene, you've got to get out of here. You got to take your kids and you got to go. It's not safe here. You're trying to change your life. You need to go." The rival of this biker gang in California is in Texas. And so she put a map of Texas on the wall because she's not going to find a lot of her old crew hanging out in Texas. And so she put a map of Texas and spun my brother around and he pointed to Corpus Christi. And so we moved from San Diego to Corpus Christi, not knowing anybody but the Church. So when we moved to Corpus, we were going to find ourselves homeless. And so my mom over a period of
time, I'm not sure the length of it, started writing checks to herself forging her boss's
signature. And she stole close to $30,000 from this company over a period of time. I think the reason she stole that money was because she was in a hard spot. But she was also stuck between the natural man in her and she went back to her worldly ways for a second and then realized, "I don't want to be like this. This isn't who I am." She went to the temple, and she felt awful. She said that when she went to the temple, she wanted to climb out of the walls, she felt so sick to her stomach. And so I guess she came home, she wrote a letter to her boss, and then she called the cops on her herself, she turned herself in. I think how amazing that must have felt knowing that nobody's there to take care of your kids, but you're still willing to sacrifice to make it right with the Lord. And so I'm not quite sure if it was a few weeks or a month that she was in jail. But instead of putting us in Foster, they moved us from family to family in the ward and they took care of us until the judge put her on probation. I just remember every Friday morning or something, we would take the city bus and she would have to go see the probation officer. And she had to pay back her debt. So not only were we really poor, but now we're poor, almost homeless, and the only money that's coming in is now trying to pay back what she stole. Obviously, naturally, she lost her job. And so she got another job, and that job moved her up to Austin, Texas. We joined this amazing ward with amazing people.
Naomi was my young women's president and Kurt was my Sunday school teacher.
Kurt: The story of Dorothy started, for me, one Sunday I was called to be a Sunday school teacher. And I was in the classroom talking to the kids, I hear this [noise] and Dorothy walks in the room and she's like making all this noise.
Naomi: I instantly fell in love with her. She's super spunky and she became kind of a staple in our home. So we had a plan in our head how life should work out and it was the complete opposite. We always wanted a big family, we'd always wanted four or five kids. We wanted to have children right away, and I just wasn't getting pregnant and I think that was the biggest challenge. We did fertility for 15 years. We had three failed adoption attempts, lots of money, lots of tears, lots of emotions.
Kurt: I never worried about having kids, I kind of always had in my mind that "Oh, it will happen someday." And we got to the point that I felt like we were trying to push her body so hard to do something that it did not want to do. And I remember we were standing beside our bed and I just, I just held her my arms, I'm like, "Babe, we're fine. We have each other things will work out. I trust that the Lord has a plan for us, I don't know what that is. It would be nice to know maybe sometimes, but you don't really have to. And he's got something ready for us."
Dorothy: Around my 18th birthday, my mom had gone to the judge. Her probation was coming to an end and the judge said "Rene, you owe a lot of money still. You're going to spend a couple of years in prison because you're gonna have to pay off the rest of your debt." And so he goes, "I want you to come back in a week and I'll give you your sentence." And so she came home and it was just her and I, and she sat me down at the kitchen table and she said, "Dotty, I'm gonna go to jail." She said, "I don't know how long but then I can be free of this debt."
And I said, "Okay, Mom. Don't worry about me. I'm okay." I went to my closet that night, and I prayed. And I said, "Heavenly Father, my mom's gonna go to jail and I don't really have anybody." I was really scared.
Kurt: Her mom came to us, she told us her backstory and some of the challenges she'd gone through and what she was going through currently and was afraid that she was going to have to be out of Dorothy's life for some time.
Naomi: She asked if we would take Dorothy into our home for her senior year.
Kurt: And obviously, we're like, "Yeah, of course. We'll take care of her, we love Dorothy."
Naomi: We didn't bat an eye at that. We would take Dorothy at any time. It was very
heart-wrenching. I remember exactly where they are sitting on the couches, I remember all of it. Rene told us how sorry she was. And she looked at Dorothy in the eyes and told her how sorry she was that she had made those decisions and that she was making it right. And she was making restitution for what she had done.
Dorothy: So we continued to pray and I think my mom fasted again. And the judge completely cleared her record, took everything and cleared it.
Naomi: I wish you guys could have seen her. She was just bouncing down the hall and she just had this glow about her and she was so happy and she threw her arms around me. And she said, "Naomi, the judge cleared me of all my charges." And I will remember this for the rest of my life, she said, "The Lord could take me now, and I will feel like my work is done."
Dorothy: I always think to myself that my mom had done everything she could to be a better person. And I like to look at that as Christ, how he can clear our records. And she would tell everybody that, "Whatever happens, I'm okay, because I'm free. I'm free." And she was doing exactly what the Lord wanted and she had changed.
After my mom was cleared from her records, she was able to go to the temple. She went to the Dallas, Texas temple, and she had a feeling that she needed to give me away. And so she came home, and she went back to Kurt and Naomi.
Naomi: And I told Kurt, I remember on the way home, I told him, I said, "Weirdest conversation with Rene, like, so awesome that she got clear, but she said these words: 'It's so great to know if something ever happened to me that you would take care of Dorothy.'" And I said, of course, we would take care of Dorothy. It's not even a question.
Kurt: It's not—I mean, there was never a hesitation, you know. And again, I never thought anything would ever happen. And like, that's fine, that's cool. Sure.
Naomi: So Kurt was on a business trip in Boston, and I get a phone call from one of the other young women and she said, "Naomi, Dorothy and her mom have been in a serious accident." And I said, "Well, what happened?" And she didn't have much information. But she just said they got in a rollover accident, and we need to get up there as soon as possible.
Dorothy: I don't remember the car accident. I do remember us upside down and I just remember this banging sound. And it was the jaws of life, they were trying to pull our car
apart and get us out. When they pushed us through the emergency room, and I don't remember saying this, but they said is there anyone we can call? And I said I'm from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was in the pre-operating room, and they were prepping me for surgery. And the doctor walks in and says, "Ma'am, you have company." And it was the Bishop of this area, his wife and his first counselor. And this was on a Friday and he turns his phone off, they were on a date night. But that night he had a feeling to leave his phone on. And so he gets a phone call and I remember him walking through the room and I felt at complete peace. I didn't know anything about my mom. I was kind of in and out but seeing him, I knew that I was okay. I said, "I think I was in a car accident, can you give me a blessing?" And so he gave me a blessing. I don't remember anything that was in it. Then, a knock on the door and it was the officer. And the officer came in and said, "Ma'am," and I said, "Yeah?" And she said, "Honey, your mom didn't make it through the car accident." And I held that bishop's hand and the warmest feeling came over my body. And I knew at that moment, that my savior, I knew he was with me. And I never worried about my mother. At about three in the morning, I woke up in my hospital bed, and I felt someone holding my hand. And I look over and it was the bishop's wife. She had stayed with me the whole night and she held my hand. And I think that's what—I think that's what the Lord would do. And I think that's what ministering is, is listening to the spirit and being there when someone needs you. The next day, Naomi came up.
Naomi: When I got there, it was surreal. And I walked into Dorothy's room, and I instantly felt like a responsibility to her. Like I instantly felt that she was going to be part of our family.
Dorothy: She called Kurt who was on a trip in Boston and they talked about it. And she said, "Dorothy, I talked to Kurt. We were praying, we were thinking really hard about it and we think your mother knew. And I think if you want to be a part of our family, we would love that." And I said, "Okay." And what was funny was I never worried where was I going to live? What was I going to do? Nothing like that crossed my mind, and normally, that's terrifying. I just lost my mom, which means I'm losing my house. Everything I know is gone. And I never felt any anxiety or fear. I just knew that I was okay. I am okay.
I show up to their house and I didn't go to my house, I went straight to her house. Which was so weird because I'm so sick, I had just lost my mom, I'm showing up to this couple's home, you know, that is absolutely spotless and I did not grow up spotless. And I just remember feeling very, almost out of place. I think just naturally it felt like a dream. And something that was difficult was joining Kurt and Naomi's family, I had my mother, I had my life before, you know, I almost couldn't feel a bond with Naomi.
Naomi: I think that Dorothy and I being so close in age definitely had a lot to do with us fighting. It was probably more like an older sister. She never had a dad. So her and Kurt were best friends from the second that she walked into our house. It was a little bit of a different dynamic for her and I because I was her fun young women leader, and then I turned into more of a motherly role.
Kurt: She didn't need another mom.
Naomi: She didn't need another mom, she already had a mom. And you know, there were many talks that, "I'm the queen of the house," that sort of thing. Which, I didn't know what I
was doing at all. And you know, there were times that Kurt had to say, "Naomi, you go to your room and Dorothy you go to your room we're going to convene back in 20 minutes and we're going to talk about, you know, what we need to talk about." We learned together a lot
Kurt: We learned. It's hard getting a teenager
Dorothy: It almost felt like she was intruding, but it wasn't really intruding, she was adding to what my mom was already giving me. She added her strength and her divine to my life. It's almost like we're two sisters now instead of two different people trying to figure things out. They helped me with my education, they helped me see a better way of life and they helped me get on my mission. That was the biggest thing. They taught me how to rely on my Heavenly Father. And I think my mission is what set my foundation for who I am today.
Kurt: The fact that she wanted to go on a mission was amazing and to see her change was incredible. She came back a different woman.
Dorothy: When I was on my mission, I was teaching other families the importance of being sealed together and I wasn't sell to anybody. And when I got home, I asked Kurt and Naomi, I said, "You know, there's a reason we need to be sealed in this life."
Naomi: I'll never forget the day that she asked us to be sealed to her as a family. She told us that she had been praying about it and that her mom wanted her to be sealed to us. And we always wanted that, but we didn't want to ask, we wanted it to be her decision.
Dorothy: So we went to the courthouse, and we filled out the adoption papers and the judge looked at us crazy, like, "You're adopting a 22-year-old?" And so they legally adopted me and I got sealed to them.
Naomi: I longed to be a mom and I thought when I got Dorothy that it would just be automatic, and it wasn't. It was hard, it was work and it put me in a dark place, emotionally, sometimes when it didn't work out the way that I thought it should, just like so many other things in life. And when we knelt across the altar at the temple, like instant walls were coming down and there was a healing that I didn't know could happen. And that's when my dreams came true. She completed our family and I didn't worry about all the failed infertility, I didn't worry about the adoption, I didn't worry about kids anymore because we had a daughter. And it was a long wait, but it was so worth it.
Dorothy: I remember we were in the temple, and we were sitting across from each other. And at this time in my life, I felt I could not control my emotions. I knew that I was doing the right thing by being sealed to them. And I knew that my mother was there supporting me. My mom wanted—she wanted the best for me. And she knew that going and living with Kurt and Naomi would provide everything that I needed to become better and to break the chains and to spiritually find myself. I think to myself, "I don't think I pushed my mother out. I think we just added more family members." I have received blessings from being sealed to Kurt and Naomi in ways that I can't explain. It's a feeling that is very deep in my heart but that I know I did what was right. And I love my Heavenly Father for having that plan. Naomi and I, our relationship, after she corrected the things that she needed to and I started to change my attitude, and that sealing in that we had, we saw each other in an eternal aspect instead of a
temporal. Our relationship has changed. The Lord put two broken people and put us together to make us whole. Isn't that funny how He takes broken hearts and he mends them with other broken hearts? And it's kind of crazy. They are grandparents to my children, and they take care of them, and they call them "Papa Kurt" and "Nona."
Naomi: Being a grandma is the best. It's the best. We have London, Maverick, and Jackson. They come play at our house and we swim and we jump on the trampoline and run around and eat and eat and eat.
Kurt: Maverick loves to eat.
Naomi: He loves to eat.
Kurt: I don't know how he does it.
Naomi: Yeah, it's so fun for me to have her and the kids and the family come over. Through this experience, I have a greater faith that the Lord knows each of us individually. And he's not always going to make it easy and it's not always going to just be a smooth road.
Kurt: There's no doubt in my mind, the Lord has a plan for each and every one of us. It's going to be better than you even thought. It's going to be better than you could plan for yourself. We had a plan, and it didn't happen. And this is better.
Dorothy: The Lord has been in my life, every single step, even in times that maybe I didn't feel Him there, He was always there. Just like He was always in my mom's life from the very beginning. He had a plan for her. He has a plan for me. He has a plan for my children and I'm excited for my life. I am today, I think, even better because I have the strength of my past and my mom. And I have the testimony and how to grow in the Gospel because of Kurt and Naomi.
KaRyn Lay: That was Dorothy, Naomi, and Kurt. There's this one part of the story that I've now heard, oh, probably 20 times since we first recorded with Dorothy and Naomi and Kurt in Texas. It's that part where she tells us about her relationship with Naomi and how it was healed in part by the power of the sealing ordinance. You'll probably remember when she said, "The Lord took two broken people and put them together to make them whole." And I really love that part where she says, "Isn't it funny how He takes broken hearts and He mends them with other broken hearts?" It really doesn't matter how many times I hear that, I ugly cry every single time. Because there is a deep and poignant gospel truth in those simple words.
When we seek the master of our hearts, we inevitably find ourselves drawn to the covenants and promises that He has in store for us. Just as Dorothy felt that clarion call to the sealing ordinance during her mission, that sealing power binds us to one another and ultimately to him through the Holy Spirit of promise, which President James the fast explained is the sealing and ratifying power of the Holy Ghost. He said, "To have a covenant or ordinance sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise is a compact through which the inherent blessings will be obtained, provided those seeking the blessing are true and faithful. That compact is binding on Earth and in heaven." So while God's goodness and the healing power of the atonement are not limited to work only in the constraints of the sealing ordinance, there's
absolutely power in binding our hearts together through those covenants. When we bind ourselves to one another by covenant, God is bound to us and then we are bound to Him. And that binding pulls us closer to heaven while we're here on this earth. Closer to the source of all healing, closer to the source of all wholeness, all hope, and restoration. And isn't there an even deeper beauty in that unorthodox way the sealing happened for Kurt, Naomi, Dorothy, and Rene? I don't know about you, but sometimes I can get caught up and worrying about how it's all going to work out. I suspect that there are very few of us who have what we think is an ideal family situation. In my case, I have no biological children of my own, and I won't. And though I love my stepchildren with all of my heart, we're not sealed to one another.
Sometimes I get pretty tempted to let my fear of the unknown take over and besides my very justified concerns about who will feel obligated enough to pluck my chin hairs in the nursing home, I sometimes wonder too how the love I feel for them here on earth is going to translate into eternity. But here's what I learned from Dorothy and her mother, Rene, who were never able to be sealed together in this life: We don't know everything there is to know about the binding power in the life after this. And in fact, President Oaks said just that in the recent October General Conference in his talk, "Trust in the Lord." So we do what we can here, in the sphere of our influence, and we trust that we will all be connected in all the right ways in the life after this. And we wait for further light and knowledge. And if our hearts are broken about it, if the wondering, and the concern and the not knowing weigh heavily upon us, as I suspect it does for many of us, myself included, I know that we can bring that, that heaviness and that heartache to the Lord for mending too.
That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you for joining us today and thank you especially to Kurt, Naomi, and Dorothy for sharing their story and their hearts with us. We'll have the transcript of this episode as well as the LDS Living video of this story, pictures and links in our show notes at ldsliving.com/thisisthegospel. That's ldsliving.com/thisisthegospel. Go there, find the episode and the show notes are listed right under the episode.
All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you on our pitch line. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. You can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram or Facebook at @thisisthegospel_podcast. And please don't forget to tell us about your experience with this podcast. Every review that you leave for us on the Apple iTunes app or Bookshelf, help us to be seen by more people who could use a little storytelling magic in their week. We love to hear your thoughts about the podcast as a whole, as well as individual episodes.
This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay with story editing from Kelly Campbell. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Derek Campbell at 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 ldsliving.com/podcasts. Thanks for being with us.
|Oct 28, 2019|
Be Still My Soul
Stories in this episode: A tragedy at Columbine High School hits close to home and creates chaos for Kelli on the same day as her first trip to the temple; April receives the gift of peace while learning to accept a detour in her life plan; Jacob and his family test out different ways to make their home more peaceful and rediscover the power of the Sabbath day.
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You can find pictures, links, and more info from this episode HERE.
KaRyn Lay: Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.
I want to be honest about something. It has been hard for me to find the right words for this week's episode. I feel like I've been staring at a blank Word document for at least four days because I just didn't know what to say to kick off this beautiful episode about peace. In fact, I have felt downright unpeaceful about it, squirmy even. I think it's because the only authentic way to kick this thing off is to tell you that I rarely feel AT PEACE, in all capital letters. It's so rare for me, in fact, that when I do feel it, it's worthy of a long journal entry and a commemorative Instagram post. I am prone to chaos and the swirl of emotion that accompanies that. And I have been from the time I was young. So I keep busy. So, so, so busy. Busy enough that I don't have to notice or feel much of anything, but I especially don't have to feel that lack of peace. And that's a vicious cycle. All that business well, that leaves little room for quiet, stillness, and the sweet sense of settling that are the fruits of peace. At the end of the day, I feel like I'm left longing for some kind of a magical, cosmic, weighted blanket that can settle over all of my busy doing. I know I can't be alone in this, but actually, maybe I am. Maybe the rest of the world is filled with peaceful Zen masters who have it all figured out. But I'm actually feeling pretty confident that's not the case. For example, listen to the lyrics from the hymn, "Be Still, My Soul," which just so happens to be the inspiration for today's theme.
“Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain”
Those words were written by Catarina von Schlegel, in the 18th century—over 200 years ago. Apparently, in disorder, change, tumult, grief, pain, disruption and chaos. We're all very much a part of that universal experience then. So, it feels like we're in pretty good company guys. Those of us who seek peace and have a harder time finding it, we're not alone. But the good news is, peace is possible, and it comes through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Today we've got three very different stories about seeking peace in tumultuous times from three storytellers whose experiences with stillness can hopefully teach me and you a little about leaving it to our God to order and provide. Our first story comes from Kelly, whose very first visit to the temple as a 12-year-old came at a time when her whole Colorado community was reeling from tragedy. If you're listening with young children, this story unavoidably talks about violence in a school setting and you might want to preview it before sharing it. Here's Kelly.
Kelly: I remember sitting in my classroom hearing the announcement come over the speakers, saying that we were on lockdown. April 20, 1999, was a very very scary day. But also, it was probably the most spiritually memorable day of my life. It was the day that the Columbine High school shootings happened.
Columbine was the first mass school shooting in the history of the United States and 13 people lost their lives. I grew up in the same county as Columbine, so my own school was on lockdown. There was no real explanation really of why, so we just kind of went on with the rest of the day and breezed over the whole event. When I got home from school, my brother was there and he had just gotten home as well. He was in high school, so we were at different schools and I asked him, you know, "Was your school on lockdown today? What was the deal? Do you know anything?" And he said he knew a little bit but we went to the TV and we turned it on and started watching the news. There was heavy coverage, continuous, uninterrupted. And we just sat there and watch with our mouths absolutely dropped to the floor.
I saw many images on that TV screen that I'll never forget. I saw lots of kids running as fast as they could away from the school. And there was a boy who was trying to get out of the second-story windows, these windows were all broken out. And there were some firefighters on top of an ambulance just under this window and they were trying to help him get out of those windows and get him to safety. I couldn't really understand or grasp what this whole event meant, you know, how could this happen? How was this real? Why would anyone do this to anybody in any setting, much less to school kids in their own school?
There was all this chaos going on in the world around me and I was like, "Oh yeah, I'm going to the temple for the very first time today. Wow." When we got there, we went to the side door where the baptismal area was and I remember just kind of pausing and looking at this magnificent door. It wasn't even the main door, but it was still really, really magnificent. And I was so excited to partake in this ordinance and I was so ready to step into the temple for the first time.
It was very literal. The very first step that I took into the temple. I literally felt the world get stripped away from me. I felt an incredible peace and I didn't think of anything going on outside the entire time I was in the temple. I felt very safe in there and that peace that I felt was so comforting in a time that was so chaotic, so confusing, so scary of a day. When it was time to go, I took my very first step outside of the temple. The only way I know how to explain it, it was like somebody was waiting out there with a bucket filled with water, and they were just getting ready to throw it on me. And the water in the bucket was everything awful in the world. And I was instantly saturated by the world again. It was like a literal wave of water hitting me. And I very physically felt the world come back to me. And I thought, "Oh, yeah, Columbine happened today. Wow. I completely forgot." And all those things came back immediately.
This experience is such a huge part of my testimony of this church and this gospel. Because that day, it was proven to me that the world is not allowed in the Lord's house and the temple is truly his house. It made me realize how saturated we really do get, being among worldly things and out in the world. And that's why it's so important for us to go to the temple. That's why our leaders tell us to attend the temple as often as possible so that we can feel that peace, that peace that only our Father in heaven can give us. My Heavenly Father is real because I know He was there with me that day. And I got to go into His house and feel of His love and feel of His comfort and feel of His peace. And I will forever be grateful for that throughout my entire life.
KaRyn Lay: That was Kelly. We are so grateful for her willingness to share such a formative and special experience with us. While most of us might not be so physically close to such a traumatic event, we can all take something from that lesson she learned about the power of the temple to help us cut through the chaos of the world.
Our next story from April is a perfect example of the way that peace can come even when we're in the middle of our difficulty. Here's April.
April: Infertility isn't something that I ever thought would be one of my struggles in life. When my husband and I first started to have kids, we had two fairly fast that we're 20 months apart and didn't think that we would struggle if we decided to have any more children in the future. And I had known family members and friends who struggled with infertility and I always felt bad for them, and sorrow that they couldn't enjoy experiencing that, but I didn't know how how deep it went until we decided to try for our third baby.
It started off with a miscarriage. I was not very gracious. I was mad I was so angry at Heavenly Father. How could you do this to me? I wanted this baby. And I had people reassure me that it's for the best, probably wasn't healthy, you can try again. And that's what we did. We kept trying and after about a year, nothing was happening. We went through different tests to see what was wrong, how we could fix it. And I spent my entire growing up learning and knowing that the harder I work at something, the luckier I get. If I want to achieve this accomplishment, I need to do step one, step two, step three. Through going through this journey of trying to get pregnant, that was just not the way it works. I had no control over it and it was very hard. People would say relax, you just need to relax and it will happen. And that was one of the worst things I could hear, I hated hearing that so and so got pregnant as soon as they relaxed. I'm like how do you relax when this is something that you want so bad? How do you just forget about it? How do you just move on and not worry about it? We entered doctors and started just try some infertility treatments. And during this time, emotionally, I was really struggling because a lot of my friends were having babies They were in this club of, "Hey, when are you due? Are you having a boy or a girl?" And I didn't want to hear about it. I really isolated myself, I was mad. I pretty much only had my husband to lean on because I didn't want anybody to know I was struggling. People would say, "When are you having another baby?" "Are you going to have another baby?" And I'd just be like, "Oh, not yet. We're not ready yet." But inside I wanted to die because we've been trying for one for a long time. And it was very hard. I felt ashamed like I was less than somebody because I couldn't get pregnant.
Physically, it was very difficult with all the drugs that you need to take for your body to help you get pregnant and I was in pain from that, moody. So that was hard to be a mom because I didn't feel good. I was so busy going to doctors’ appointments and I started living my life every two weeks—in two-week cycles. Two weeks to work through treatments, to try to get pregnant and then two weeks of waiting. Two weeks that involve me mentally trying to convince my body that it was pregnant. And always, you know, do I feel nauseous? Am I sick, is this it? Then finding out that I wasn't pregnant, and then going through that all again the next month. And it was exhausting, it was very difficult. I would get after myself because I thought, I have two beautiful children here. What is my problem? Why am I given this desire and this want that's so intense when I have two beautiful children. And there are women who struggle for years with infertility and I am so ungrateful. It was very hard because I couldn't shake those feelings.
I heard somebody relate secondary infertility to having chocolate cake on your kitchen counter. And you get to walk by that chocolate cake every day, you get to see it, but you can't taste it. You can't have any part of it. You get to see your kids and be with them, but you don't get to have another and add to that. It was just a very difficult time in my life emotionally and physically. After our sixth time of going through a fertility treatment and finding out that it had failed, I found myself one night sobbing in my closet on the floor. The pain, emotionally and physically, was just too much, I was done. I needed to just be able to be happy and move on and I was praying to Heavenly Father, begging him to take those feelings away because I could not function feeling that way I wanted to move on. I wanted to be a better person and be okay with this challenge that was given to me. So I finished my prayer, cried a little more, crawled into bed, cried a little more and fell asleep.
The next morning I woke up and I have never felt so light, so full of hope, so full of joy. And I almost couldn't believe it because it was so distinctly different from what I had been feeling for months and months and months. It was like the sun had come out of these dark clouds. And it lasted for about a month. And I kept testing it going, "Is going to go away?" I feel good. I'm not worried about this, I'm happy, I want to go out with my friends. I want to be there with my kids, I'm not just stewing over if I'm going to get pregnant or not. My infertility problems were not solved right away. But I am so immensely grateful for that tender mercy of calming my soul and for Heavenly Father letting me know that He is completely aware of the situations that we go through. He knows how hard they are and that He has control over everything, that He can bless our lives if we let him. He can take that burden if we let him.
It came to my realization that, you know, this might not be anything that has to do with me, this trial might be mine to hold because it's just not right for a child that I'm wanting to have right now. I know that Heavenly Father loves me and that He hears my prayers and that when I go to Him in prayer, when things are hard, that He can lift that burden and He has an ultimate plan for us. And if I trust in His timing and in His grace and in His love, I can trust that everything is going to work out and be all right.
KaRyn Lay: That was April. I can relate to her pleading prayer for peace in her heart. We can't always control what's happening around us but we can sure work towards making our spirit an unshakable vessel for the Lord's peace. Sometimes, our lack of peace situational like it was for April through her struggle with infertility. And sometimes our lack of peace is clinical like it was for me when I was a missionary. During the first few months of my service in the mission field, it became pretty clear, pretty quickly that something was not quite working. I was tired and deeply emotional, which isn't really that unusual for a new missionary. But when you pair that with the constant stream of negative self-talk, confusion, and anxiety, well, there was a darkness and an emptiness that overtook my days, and I couldn't shake it with a prayer or with work. I'll always remember the day that my lack of peace hit an all-time low. I was crying through study time and wishing that I could just disappear, feeling like that would be better for everyone. I wrapped myself tightly in a thick blanket, like a sad, exhausted, desperate burrito. And then I rolled under my bed into the back corner against the wall so that the darkness could envelop me. I stayed there for a really long time, staring at nothing. I don't even know how long I was there, but it felt like days or months or maybe even years. However long it was, it was long enough to know that I needed more help than me to find and access the Lord's peace. And frankly, so did my long-suffering mission companion. We went to the doctor, and eventually the mission therapist. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and honestly, it was devastating at first. To think that I had a broken brain, well that was really hard for me because I've always been someone who prided myself on being a good thinker. And I definitely didn't want to live up to that damaging stereotype of the crazy sister missionary that's just not true. But thank goodness that my need to feel peace outweighed my perceived humiliation. And although it was so difficult to do my part to engage with myself and my father in heaven in humility and faith, eventually, through His grace, and a good therapist, and careful doctors, and necessary medicine, my body, and my brain were ready to feel the peace that the Savior was always offering. First, it came in a trickle, then a stream. And finally, on really good days, that peace flowed like the river that the Savior promised. He didn't see me as crazy, He saw me as His, always His.
And even now, feeling peace can be a tricky thing. But I truly believe that if we're willing to do whatever it takes to prepare our spirit, even if that means admitting that we need help, our peace can become solid, strong and stalwart like an eye in the middle of our own personal storm. Maybe you are feeling the same way. Maybe peace is just so far away right now that you're not sure how to get it. If that's the case for you, I pray that the Lord will guide you to the people who can help you open your heart to that kind of peace.
Our final story today comes from Jacob and if you've ever wondered what it would be like to spend seven days in absolute silence, well, this story is for you. Jacob is a mental health professional who regularly participates in week-long silent retreats for work. And what happens when you come home to three little boys after seven days of silence? You're about to find out. Here's Jacob.
Jacob: So when you arrived for the first time, at a seven or 10 day silent retreat, it's kind of a panicky moment where you give up your cell phone and your schedule. And you finally send your last text to your family and say, "I'm going in." And there's a physiological kind of angst that sets in as you realize you're really doing this and you're going to be with yourself, by yourself, for 10 days without the thousand flavors of distraction we have.
So you wake up and instead of filling the day with all sorts of things to check and this and that, you go and sit, and sit in silence, and you do that for a couple of hours before breakfast. And then after breakfast, you do it for a couple of hours, until lunch. It's not entirely silent because you have a teacher there who is guiding you, leading you, helping you. You're silent, but the teacher is not. And then you practice for a couple of hours and then it's dinner. And then you practice for a couple of hours and it's bedtime. And it sounds boring, dreadfully boring, but that's actually the point. So I'm feeling the angst and the anxiety and the normal fears that come up. But then, I sat with them and I just experienced them and I said, "Well, I've committed to this, I'm going to try it." And as day two finished and we moved on to day three, things started to settle more, and get calmer and get quieter. And then as three went to four and day four went to five, there's a change that happens that's interesting, where I just started to feel more and more peace and deeper and deeper settling and calm. So by the time I got to the end, it really was deep insights coming up and clarity around things that I've been grappling with for a long time. And a sense of okay-ness and joy and impressions, spiritual impressions. And a sense of revelation on questions that have been on my mind. All this is coming up just naturally as the silence is going along. For me, in a typical day, there's so much to pay attention to and be distracted by that I don't often notice what I'm actually feeling or what's going on inside. So retreat, for me, is a chance to bring complete attention to that and really notice where my heart is and my mind and my body. So by the time we're ready to go home, all that initial craving for the schedule and the emails and the work, I felt a repulsion like, I don't want to go back to that.
As I get home, I arrive in the driveway and my kids are there waiting for me and excited to see me and my ride drops me off with all my bags and my kids run and throw themselves on me and it was just like this beautiful moment I'll never forget. And not only are they beautiful, but I'm fully present and I'm this dad that's 100% there and nothing to do, no place to go but be with my kids. And then I look over at my wife, and it's very apparent that she's had a very different week.
At the time, we had three boys, all toddlers of different ages, full of energy and fighting every other minute, then forgiving each other, then fighting again, that sort of constant rolling chaos. And my wife had been steeped in that all week while I was off on a silent retreat, she had very much had a noise retreat. And she's exhausted and she's smiling because she's glad I'm home, but she's not refreshed. The dramatic contrast between my experience and my wife was a real powerful moment for us as a family. So one of the natural questions that came up for us as a family is number one, how can we hold on to some of this silence and space and stillness? Not just for me, but for my wife who was, at this point, wanting more of this and wishing that there was a way that we could experience this more as a family. So the last couple of years since the retreats, we have pondered and prayed about a lot of ways we as a family can bring more stillness and silence into our home. And we've experimented with simple things like three breaths before prayer. Before anyone starts to pray, just have three breaths. And three little boy breaths is not very long, but it gives us a chance to just settle our minds and kind of be still and calm before speaking. We also experimented with vacationing, in a way. Instead of going all these places with little kids, which is like a form of torture in some countries. We would go to one place with our kids that was contained and literally say we're going on vacation in a retreat-like way at a cabin, or to a hotel room. And so we've oriented our vacationing a little different. And we went through all these kind of crazy ideas like we considered having a day where my wife and I would be silent, but our kids wouldn't. And we just said, "Okay, this is our day when mommy and daddy get to just like, not talk." But pretty quickly we realized if our boys were sort of rolling chaos with us talking, it just sort of like overflowed when we went into silence so that that was sort of an eh okay moving on.
But the biggest difference for us as a family came when we realized that we may not need to do anything exceptionally Eastern or Buddhist as a family because we've got this thing called the Sabbath. That for us, as a family, has often been the more stressful day of the week. We have found the Sabbath sometimes, at the end of the day, feeling exhausted and anxious to get back to our schedule, right? So rather than a day of deep rest and reprieve like I found on the retreat, we had often experienced the Sabbath, quiet the opposite. Lots of screaming as the boys were corralled into getting their clothes on and their hair combed and getting up in time to make it to church and eating breakfast without spilling it on their clothes that they just put on, and drama. I mean, I only have boys but they can do drama as well as any little girls. And fighting and complaints and we're late for church again and all this. And then church itself is sometimes a production and who's going to be willing to go to class without crying? After church, we head off to some family dinner, which happened a lot. And we would get in the car and zip off and then get home, exhausted, go through the whole routine and put them to bed, and be exhausted as we start the week and end our Sabbath.
Something about that felt really wrong to us. Isn't this supposed to be a recharge of some kind? At the end of one of these painful Sabbath's, one of these exhausting Sabbath's, where we both felt like this isn't right, this isn't the way we want to do this. There's got to be a better way. There has to be a way to do and practice Sabbath that isn't exhausting. It just seems kind of contradictory. And on the heels of the mindfulness retreat, that taught me that, my goodness, if we can experience even a portion of that, if we can create some atmosphere that's more mindful, maybe we could end the Sabbath feeling a sense of recharge as a family, ready to reengage life in a different way. So we decided to try a number of things just to see if we could get closer to that goal, including, like lots of people try to lay aside their email and place their phone in different places so we're not just on the screens all day. That did work. Another thing that has worked is structuring the morning so that there's more space and we're not rushing to have to get everything ready. We'll set up things the day before, so clothes are all out so that our Sabbath morning is not so rushed. But the biggest experiment that we tried, and maybe the scariest, was letting our family know that we may not be showing up as often to these family dinners. We realized that if we went to a family dinner—and I love my family, and I love food, and there's nothing about like gathering with them that isn't enjoyable, except that the drive there and back, the kids, it adds a kind of hectic, chaotic sort of "going to an event" energy that made the rest of the day kind of follow suit. The first time I told one of my sisters that we weren't going to make dinner, there's like a what? Like, this is what we do. And that conversation was a little awkward, but it wasn't bad, because it opened up a conversation about what our experience had been. And it turns out that others also feel exhausted on the Sabbath. And so we're kind of giving them permission to try out things. So we experimented, we went to dinner, then we said, we're not going to go, we're going to just see what it's like to stay home and make more time for just being together. And yeah, eating simply, not putting on an elaborate meal. And we literally practiced sitting on our couch and opening up books, sometimes talking with the kids, but sometimes sending the kids downstairs to play and spending hours talking, reading, sometimes watching something or listening to something, but quiet time, the kind of like, kindergarten time, "Okay, it's quiet time." We, as a couple, found that even making time for an hour or two or three of this kind of time on the Sabbath meant an oversized impact on our refreshment. And I actually woke up Monday morning happy, like, so happy. And I'm like what just happened? It's like dramatically different than my typical like, end of Sunday, beginning Monday routine. And it hit me, I ended the Sabbath similar to how it ended the retreat. I was able to reengage life from a very different place on Monday morning because I had to actually stop. And that allowed me to start in a way that wasn't this frenetic, crazy energy. I have actually ended a Sabbath day I can say, many times, feeling like this. Instead of, "Ugh, I gotta get back to work." It's a miracle. And it seems to me like finding a way for us to make the Sabbath a refreshing day has been a miracle.
Now, it's something that if we miss, if we actually have an event, we run to a dinner, we miss it. Even if it was a fun event, we're like, there's something we didn't get. In the past, I have sometimes tried to pursue more of a relationship with the Savior by doing more, like trying to serve a little bit more and make another call or read a little bit more, pray a little more. What the Sabbath has been teaching me is sometimes it's doing less and stopping all the doing, that I feel closer to the Lord. That's been the big revelation is that sometimes my mind's going so fast in so many directions that I just don't think there's a whole lot of space for the spirit to reach me. And if I just kind of push back a little bit, like I'm a terrible basketball player, but I can rebound. That's the only thing I know how to do in basketball. It kind of requires a little bit of elbowing back, pushing back a little bit. So there's space for the most important thing to happen. And of course, that is connecting with the Lord and feeling His presence and feeling His love. I think with the best of intentions, we sometimes fill our Sabbath day with so much stuff, so many activities that no wonder we end the day surprised that we're exhausted because we're doing so much good. But should we really be surprised if we don't actually rest? I think the Lord knows we're exhausted, I really do. I think He wishes we would see this day as like, not just a day to have to get a bunch of other stuff done. But actually a day where we can lay that aside and say, I just need to stop for my own sanity and my soul, and my family and my marriage and just be. I would just say to any other of my brothers or sisters out there, who are like asking these same questions, don't give up on the possibility that you could end this day not exhausted, and actually start the next day from a very different place. So make it an adventure, kind of an ongoing experiment where you try out different things, knowing that things can move in a better direction.
KaRyn Lay: That was Jacob Hess. Jacob is one of the authors of an upcoming book called, "The Power of Stillness: Mindful Living for Latter-day Saints," that I am so excited about. It's coming out at the end of this year from Deseret Book and I can't wait to learn more about using mindfulness to bring peace. In fact, I've already started by adding those three cleansing breaths before my prayers. So thanks for the top tip Jacob.
I was thinking about how Jacob's pursuit of peace on the Sabbath required that he and his family opt-out of some experiences that are generally good and worthwhile. And while peace is ultimately a gift of the Savior, our quest for that gift, I think sometimes requires that we lay something upon the altar too. Maybe it's a kind and gentle "no," or strong boundary where there needs to be one. Maybe it is a heartfelt prayer in a closet to a Lord that you're not sure is listening. And maybe it is laying down your pride and accepting with humility that you need help. When Christ was on the boat with his disciples resting, a terrible tempest arose. I've always loved James E. Talmage's description of the storm in "Jesus the Christ," which incidentally, I read as a missionary. “The storm increased in fury; the wind rendered the boat unmanageable; waves beat over the side; so much water was shipped that the vessel seemed about to founder. The disciples were terror-stricken; yet through it all Jesus rested peacefully. In their extremity of fear, the disciples awakened Him, crying out, according to the several independent accounts, ‘Master, Master, we perish’; ‘Lord, save us: we perish’; and, ‘Master, carest thou not that we perish?’ They were abjectly frightened, and at least partly forgetful that there was with them One whose voice even death had to obey. Their terrified appeal was not wholly devoid of hope nor barren of faith: ‘Lord, save us’ they cried. Calmly He replied to their piteous call, ‘Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?’ Then He arose; and out through the darkness of that fearsome night, into the roaring wind, over the storm-lashed sea, went the voice of the Lord as He ‘rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.’”
Like those disciples, our faith may be little at times. I mean, big storms kind of have that effect on things don't they? They make everything around them feel and look just a little bit smaller, a little less significant. But if we take whatever amount of that little faith we have to reach out to our Savior, laying aside our pride, our people-pleasing, our avoidance, our fear of failure, our business and placing it on the altar, He can and He will calm our seas. And according to our sweet poet friend Catarina von Schlegel:
"Then shalt thou better know His love His heart
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears
Be still my soul the waves and winds shall know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below”
That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thanks for joining us today and thank you to Kelly, April and Jacob for sharing their stories and their faith. We'll have the transcript of this episode as well as pictures and links from the stories in our show notes at ldsliving.com/thisisthegospel. So go check it out. And if you're as anxious as I am to get your hands on Jacob's book, "The Power of Stillness," follow us on Instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast. We'll let you all know when the book is available at the end of the year.
All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you on our pitch line. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. You can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram or Facebook. If you love this podcast, please take the time to leave us a review on the Apple podcast app or on Bookshelf PLUS+ from Deseret Book. We love to hear your thoughts about certain episodes and we read every one. This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story producing and editing from Katie Lambert and Kelly Campbell. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Derek Campbell at Mix At Six studios. Our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and the other LDS Living podcasts at ldsliving.com/podcasts. Have a peaceful week.
|Oct 21, 2019|
Stories in this episode: Sarah longs for a new perspective after loss and finds it with a feisty group of octogenarians in LA; A kilt-wearing stranger shows up to Brian’s weekly game night and volunteers to take a road trip with him; Emily promises 99-year-old Mac she’ll get him to 100 and finds the best friend she was promised by God in the process.
To see pictures and videos from our storytellers this week, go here.
KaRyn Lay: Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay, and I'm here with my friend and fellow producer Sarah Blake.
Sarah: Hi, everybody.
KaRyn Lay: Sarah, why are we here together today?
Sarah: Because today's episode is about unexpected friendships. And we're talking about friendship and our friendship is something to celebrate.
KaRyn Lay: It's totally something to celebrate! Sarah and I first met, actually, I don't remember the moment that we first met, do you?
Sarah: No, me neither.
KaRyn Lay: I just feel like I've always known you. But I do know that we first met in a singles ward in Salt Lake City in our 20s when we were just doing the things that single people who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do in their 20s. So like, I'd see you at FHE and occasionally like at a "Munch and Mingle," if we felt like we had the energy to go to that and try to flirt with a boy, right? I feel like you and I just always had so much in common. So it was really easy for us to be friends.
Sarah: Yeah, really natural. We're readers, we're writers, we're prolific Goodwill shoppers.
KaRyn Lay: I was always jealous of your red boots.
Sarah: Those were my best find ever.
KaRyn Lay: Yeah, that was a good find. So we've been thinking about friendships and how it's really easy to be friends with somebody who has a lot of things in common with you. And it's much harder to be friends with the people who seem different.
Sarah: Or maybe it's, maybe it's that it's harder to start those friendships, right? It can be unexpectedly easy, but you weren't looking for it and you didn't know how to start it.
KaRyn Lay: And I think Sarah, the reason that you're here, beyond just us celebrating our friendship, is that you have a story about a really unexpected friendship that you want to share with us, right?
Sarah: Yeah, when we picked this topic, this story of my own immediately came to mind. Do you want me to tell it?
KaRyn Lay: Of course I want you to tell it. I love a good story.
Sarah: Okay. So when my husband Casey and I were first married, we lived in Los Angeles. And it was a very fun time. We were renovating this duplex we had bought, we lived pretty close to the beach, sometimes we saw movie stars. It was pretty idyllic in a lot of ways. But we had this little dark rain cloud in our life, which was infertility.
We really wanted to start our family but we just didn't get pregnant, didn't get pregnant, then I had a miscarriage. And then we couldn't get pregnant and had another miscarriage. And it was a hard time for me and I wasn't talking to very many people about it. I just couldn't even bring myself to say the words of what I was struggling with. And I remember even a couple days after my second miscarriage, I went to babysit for my friend's kids, so she and her husband could go to the temple. And I really wanted to do that for my friend, I also thought it'd be good for me to get out of the house instead of laying around crying. So I went and her kids wanted to watch the Disney movie, "Tarzan." And that opening scene where the gorilla mom loses her baby, I mean, I just sat there crying and crying in the dark, trying to wipe away tears so her kids—my friend's kids—wouldn't see how sad I was. But I still didn't tell her even, like I didn't tell my friends at night when she got home what I was dealing with. I just couldn't talk about it. But I needed someone who understood. And I think heavenly father knew what I needed.
So in our ward, there was this row of old ladies, what do you call a group of old ladies? A gaggle? A pew? They all took the back row in the chapel and everybody knew that was their place. And these women were in their 80s and 90s. They had all moved to LA in the 40s and 50s for their husbands to work for Howard Hughes Aircraft stuff. And then they'd all had a ton of kids and their kids are all grown and their husbands were all dead. And now they had each other in this awesome sisterhood that sat together. They were spunky, feisty, interesting women. And one day I was sitting next to one of them in Relief Society and she mentioned that they had formed a chapter of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. And I really identify with my own, like Utah pioneer ancestry. And so I said, that's super cool. And they invited me to come to a meeting. So I went to a meeting and I didn't know what to expect, but it was just all the ladies from the back row of the chapel. I don't know if they'd ever invited anybody young before or if anybody else had ever been interested, but they were really excited to have somebody new there. And somebody gave a presentation about a pioneer ancestor, and we all stood with our hand on our hearts and recited something and we sang a song and scheduled the next meeting. But then it got really fun when they broke out the deserts and just sat around talking. And I realized that as a young woman growing up, you don't very often get to see older women in their natural habitat, you know, just like letting loose and talking with their friends. And I know my mom had good friends and those friendships were important to her, but I never saw them quite like this, and my grandmother's, too. But what was amazing to me was these women sat and talked about their lives, and they were just reminiscing, but they were telling the stories of the worst things that had ever happened to them. And then they were laughing their heads off because like life had moved on and they saw it with this perspective that I think you can only get in your 80s. Like, "Remember the time when all our husbands got laid off at the same time and one of the husbands had to lay off half of them?" Or the time the kid jumped off the roof and broke his arms. Or, one of them had a disabled son and she spent literally decades fighting with doctors to keep him out of institutions. And another woman had this daughter who just did everything wrong that she could, like doing drugs and running away to follow a rock band and saying the most outrageous and rude things. And they would tell a story and then they would just like laugh until they cried, wiping the tears from their eyes and slapping their knees and stuff. And it was amazing to me.
And I didn't even realize quite how it was causing a shift in me. But I remember driving home from that meeting. And I don't think there's very many moments in life where you feel changed by just a few hours, but this was one of those for me, because I realized that I had been just, I felt surrounded by these walls of my doubt and my self-pity, my tragic sense of how hard my life was right now. And it was like all those walls had been pushed way back by the perspective of older women. Seeing it in their own lives really, truly, "Time heals all wounds," and "This too shall pass," and life will go on.
I suddenly had a vision that there's a future me out there in her 80s, maybe she's surrounded by loving posterity or maybe she's not. But either way, she's okay. And like, it's going to be okay. This is just a moment, and life is still full of joy.
And none of my younger friends could have taught me that. Anybody saying you know, "You're probably going to get pregnant soon, it's going to be fine." It wouldn't have done it for me, it wouldn't have been what I needed in the same way it was just rubbing shoulders with these women whose own life experience could show me truly it is going to be okay.
KaRyn Lay: First of all, I adore the visual of you in your 30s, sitting in this room full of octogenarians, slapping your knees and laughing.
Sarah: I wish you could have met them. They were so great.
KaRyn Lay: It sounds so great. And I love that that friendship was exactly what you needed at that exact moment. And the other friendships with people that you would have immediately been drawn to, maybe that had something more in common with you like age or stage of life, wasn't actually what you needed.
Sarah: I think that is probably true for a lot of hardship. Like when you're going through something, your usual friends might not be the ones you need the most.
KaRyn Lay: So how do you find these kinds of friendships? Like, what's the secret for opening yourself up to a kind of friendship that you wouldn't maybe naturally look out for?
Sarah: Well, I think a lot of it is just a gift of God sometimes, right? And being open to that. But I think in the stories in this episode, there's an element of risk. And on the other side of a little risk is the reward of a new friendship.
KaRyn Lay: So true, so true. And like you said, today we've got two more stories from people who took that risk, who opened themselves up and found friendship that absolutely surprised them in the best ways. Our first story comes from Brian, who was perfectly content and happy with the friends that he had when a kilt-wearing stranger offered to accompany him on a road trip. Here's Brian.
Brian: So I guess it's kind of ironic that in a room that included dwarves and elves and ogres, that it would be the bald human that would have such a profound effect on my life.
Growing up, I was always a real introvert, I only had a couple of really close friends. And it stayed that way until I got home from my mission and started going to a young single adult ward. I started to become friends with a group of guys there and found out that they got together on a regular basis to play "Dungeons and Dragons." I grew up as a geek, I like superhero things, I like fantasy and all that kind of genres. But I had never played "Dungeons and Dragons." And I thought, well, this would be like a cool experience to go sit in and see what it's like.
So I asked them once if I could come over and just watch and they said, "Sure." And they told me what time they were playing. The day that I went over, it turned out that one of the guys that was in the group at the time wasn't able to show up that day. And so they asked me, you know, "Do you want to play so and so's character?" And I remember saying, "I don't know what I'm doing this just literally, I'm just sitting down at this table for the first time ever." And they said, "Well, that's okay. You know, we'll show you what to play and don't worry." And now 26 plus years later, we're still playing. We've had different people come and go, but there was a core group of us that have stayed together all these years. When we started out, obviously, we're all single, We were all in this single adult ward. Now we're all married with children. We have one grandfather in that group and we still get together every other Monday night and play. And in fact, two of the guys that I play with were my best men at my wedding reception because I couldn't pick between them, we were that close.
After we had been playing together probably 10 or 15 years, someone from our core group, Dave, brought a new friend that he had met to play. This new player looked very different than the rest of us. Let's just say he had a shaved head, earrings, rings on his fingers, I know that least one of them was made from a nail. Had either sandals or bare feet, I don't recall which, I would guess bare feet based on how well I know him now. Just really different than what the rest of look like. But I remember thinking, "Dave, what have you brought into our group?" Which, I look back on now, and I'm so embarrassed that I ever thought that, but I did. I was really protective of this group because it really was the first time I had a close group of friends, I mean, we did everything together. But I thought, okay, you know, let's invite him to play and, and he was good at playing, he had played before, so he fit right in that way. He took over someone's character, and he became part of the playing group, but he wasn't part of our group.
And then something happened. For the job that I used to have, I traveled extensively by car. I would drive all over the western United States. So I'd spend a lot of time in the car, and I would always invite my buddies. And they would always say no, you know, they had jobs, so I understood that but it was always fun to ask them and see if they could go. And then one day, I said, "Hey, I've got a trip down to Vegas next week. Is anybody interested in going with me?" And Russ piped up and he said, "Yeah, I'll go with you!"
And I remember thinking, "Oh, I, okay." I didn't expect it because, you know, we didn't do anything outside this group. But it would have been rude to say, you know, "No, I meant all the other guys, not you." So, well, you know, he said yes, I invited, he said yes and I always say I want someone to go with me so let's, okay. I drove down to Utah County and picked him up really, really early. And I think looking back that I was kind of glad that it was dark outside because it was almost a barrier because I was maybe a little uncomfortable. So we started talking very safe subjects, geeky subjects, you know. Can you name all seven members of the Justice League's original lineup? Can you name this? And what artists do you like? What's your favorite title? Just very safe subjects. We tried to figure out who among us was the bigger geek. And we decided that he ended up winning simply on the fact that his father-in-law's name is Bruce Wayne, which, obviously to any geek that that's a trump card that just can't be beat. So it was a good way to break the ice, you know, to stick to those safe subjects. We had a lot of driving ahead of us, obviously down to Vegas. And it was a week-long trip. So we were going to be spending a lot of time together. And then we kind of started branching into other subjects. I'm very much a creature of habit when I go on the road. I eat the same restaurants at the same place, eat, you know, the same thing, everything just like that. Even some hotels I'd stay in the same room. And he was very much against any type of chain. He was very much, let's look at that little hole in the wall diner over there. Or let's ask the person in the store, "Hey, where would you go to eat?" And so as he would do that, it was fun too because it was something new for me. It's like oh this is, you know, I would never do this. And I started to kind of come out of my shell not only around him but just in general, I think because it was new and it was fun. And he kind of taught me that a lot of times, those are the best places to go, you know, some of the best food you'll ever try. If you spend a week with someone, you're either going to come home, not speaking to them at all, or you're going to be a lot closer, and I realized that, hey, this guy's pretty cool.
Over the next few years, we did travel a lot together. The shortest trip we took was a day trip and the longest trip he's been with me on was 17 days, where we went all over Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. We ended up creating a world together because you really have a lot of time in the car. We're very different in our views on a lot of things. I'm very conservative in a lot of my views and he's very liberal. My music would be Billy Joel, Elton John, Michael Buble, and his Metallica and Flogging Molly and Dolly Parton. So we're very different in that way. But when we talk and we discuss these differences, there's never any animosity. We can discuss politics for instance, and not have any bad feelings towards one another. We're able to see the other person's views and there's never any bad feelings, which I think is a lesson to a lot of people.
He really changed my life in a lot of ways. He's taught me not to pass by life, not to stay in that shell. He does wear kilts a lot on the road, which is a lot of fun because I'll walk in a store four or five seconds behind him, and I do it on purpose. And he knows I'm doing it on purpose. Because if I walk in behind him, especially in little small towns, that's the best because the looks he gets from the people that are in the stores are priceless. And I know in my head that they're doing the same thing in their own way that I did when Dave brought him into the group. You know, they're, they're judging him based on his external appearance. Like when I said, you know, "Dave, what have you brought into our group." As it turns out, what he brought into the group was a brother. He is one of the few people that when I talk to him on the phone, there's times at the end, when I will just say, "Hey, I love you, man." And he'll say it back. He is someone that I will call when I just need someone to talk to. He's always, he's a great listener, and he is very good at counseling. And I like the fact that he doesn't just agree with me and say, "Oh, you know, yeah, you're right of this," but he will point out, "Okay, how can you grow from this?"
I think God puts people like that in our lives to teach us lessons. It would be easy to say that God put him there to teach me not to judge people. And that is an easy answer. And I think he did, I think he put him there to teach me that. But I also think he put him there to make me a better person in a lot of other ways. I think God knew that there were going to be times that I would need Russ. He was there for me during one of the lowest points in my life. I was battling—still battle—with depression. And I had gotten to the point where, as I would drive, there were times that I would think, "If I didn't turn this corner up here, it would look like an accident." And when I needed to talk to somebody, he was always there and didn't matter what time, and he would just listen and he would love unconditionally. And I don't want to downplay those other guys I play with because they are very much brothers to me. They showed up one night at my house at 11 o'clock at night, because they knew what I needed. So I don't want to downplay them at all. He's just become, he's become a brother. It makes no sense, it really doesn't because we are so different in so many ways. And maybe that's what makes it so fun is that it doesn't make sense that we should be friends. But I know that he was put there to teach me a lot of things and to be there, almost as a stand-in for my older brother. I'm the oldest but I mean, you know, my heavenly older brother to put his arm around me when I needed it.
A scripture comes to mind when it says that "God looketh upon the heart." And I think that Russ is a great example of that because when you see him, you're going to make judgments based on the way he looks. But if you get past that Bulldog exterior to the puppy dog that's beneath, you see the way that Christ sees him.
I think that I hope that I'm a little more understanding now, a little more willing to get to know people underneath rather than just judge by that first four seconds of seeing them. And I'll be forever grateful for the bald human that entered the dungeon that day.
KaRyn Lay: That was Brian. When I first heard the story on our pitch line, I was immediately drawn to it. Partially because I love a good story and Dungeons and Dragons was involved, but also because I have a few gamers in my family. And I know how close-knit and connected those 12-sided-die groups can be. So when I heard that Brian was talking about friendship, I wanted to hear about it even more. I love his willingness to admit that he was protective of that friend group when Russ first came into the circle. It kind of reminded me of that childhood feeling that we have sometimes when the new kid comes to school and you immediately are like, "No, they're not like us." Sometimes new friendships or the possibility of new friendships can feel like a threat to our system. But I love what Russ and Brian found out: Love is an infinite resource. There's room in our hearts for new friends, there's room there. And if we don't think that there's room there, God can help us to create that room. And letting new people into our lives is absolutely going to bring change in one way or another. Whether it invites us to try that new hole-in-the-wall local restaurant instead of the Olive Garden or letting someone see the hardest things in our hearts. It takes real courage and sometimes an act of God, like Sarah said, to get us to open up to the possibility of a new friend. But I really believe that on the other side of that is more love, more connection, and growth, which is exactly what our Father in heaven wants for each of us. Our last stories from Emily with a special appearance from her friend, Mac. It's a story of a friendship that might not have come without the intervention of a loving Heavenly Father. Here are Emily and Mac.
Emily: For years, I felt like I never had friends and I felt really lonely. I think a lot of it is our perspective of how we think of ourselves and how we feel like we are around people. And for me, I just felt like I also was a person that didn't always connect with people on that deeper level. And so I love to be with people and serve them, but then all sudden, it's like when I'm not around people, I'll have that like, real sense of loneliness, kind of that bitterness. And it kind of bites, like sometimes it's really hard and sometimes tears are shed.
I was really lonely and I had prayed for years to Heavenly Father, "Can I have friends in my life? Can I please have a friend?" And it's just really interesting how my friend came to me. Before I met Mac, I had just transitioned from living in Ecuador and serving in the orphanages. I was there for two months and it was an incredible experience. I loved it. It changed me. And then I moved back to the States and I was so lost. When I moved, I was actually going to live in a whole different city, and just circumstance after circumstance I ended up living in a different city than I had planned. And so I ended up in this apartment by myself. I was 24 at the time, single, and it was just like, like, what do I do with myself? I just feel so lost.
I've always played the piano since I was eight years old. It's just been my thing my entire life. And so it's just always been my de-stressor. It's been my entire life, it's what I do. Growing up, my mom used to get so mad at me when it was time to get ready for school every morning, bless my mother's heart, she'd have to be like, "Emily stop playing the piano and please get ready for school." And I'd always be like, "Mom, I don't want to," Every day because it's just me, like the piano just feeds out of me, songs just constantly. When people would be having conversations like sometimes I just don't even talk because I have music going through my mind. And I don't really want to talk, I just want to play your piano that I see in the corner of your room. And no joke like, still to this day, like, I would rather go play your piano and talk to you while I'm playing the piano, but I don't want to just stand here and talk to you if there's a piano in the room. It's kind of like a kid who has a problem with candy-like, it's constant.
So the piano, I feel like, allows me to express myself. It's almost even hard to explain, like, there's no words for it. And so it's one of those connections that we can have with people is music. And that's my latest connections. And maybe that's why I would rather talk to them as I'm playing the piano because it's like connecting our souls. I really think that's what happened with Mac and I. Heavenly Father knows me. I always have loved older people, but to get that deep level of a friendship he involved at starting around a piano, around music and so the day I met Mac, I had been praying for opportunities to play the piano and praying for opportunities that could bring me joy. I'm outside running, down the street, have music playing in my ear, do my normal run. And then all sudden, this prompting came into my mind, my nose tingled and it was like, "Go play the piano now." I'm like what? And I turned my head, and there's an assisted living center there. And I had never seen it and I'd ran that same street for three months. And I thought, "Oh, that's funny." Still, with the music playing in my ear, I just started running again. And the voice came again, loud, "Go and ask if you can play their piano now." Honestly, when that prompting came, and I heard that, like, other voice in my head, I just learned you don't even doubt them. Because why would I be thinking to go play a piano in the middle of a run? Like I wouldn't be. And so I just learned that like promptings come at the most interesting time, and I have to follow those. And so that prompting came and it just honestly didn't even surprise me. It just surprised me that it was right then and it said to do it now. Because I thought, "Well, I can go tomorrow or I can go another time." So I step into the assisted living center. and I asked the front desk like, "Hey, would you be open to if I come and play the piano for you sometime?"
And they were like, "Sure, why not right now?"
I'm like, " Wait, what? Right now?"
And she was like, "Yeah, sure."
So I like literally, still in my running clothes, go to where they have their piano, and I just start playing. And in walks this cute little old man with his walker, with his little pep step, walking towards the piano. And he's like, "Hey, when's the show start?"
I was like, "What show?" I was like, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
He's like, "No, when's the show start?"
I was like, "I'm just here to play the piano."
He goes, "Oh, that's great!" And so he sat down on the piano bench with me started talking.
Mac: I can't remember just how it was, but I was so impressed with Emily, not only a beautiful girl but a wonderful piano player. I was so impressed that you would take your time out to do something like that for an old duffer, to come and entertain us show people.
Emily: My first thought was like, "Who is this funny old man?" He was so hilarious and he was just so with it. And I was like, he's really asking real questions. And so then I asked him, "I was like, how old are you?"
And he was, like, "99 years old."
And I was like, wow. And then I was like, Wait a moment. You're 99. I asked him, "When do you turn 100 years old?"
And immediately, his demeanor changed. He got all depressed and all sudden he goes, "In six months."
I was like, "Wait, what? That's so exciting. Like, you're going to be a century like no one ever lives to be a century." And he did not act excited at all. He didn't care. And it bothered me and I was like, that's it. This man has got to live to be 100 years old. Like no one can say that, right? It's so funny, I'm not a person that likes to make bets or deals, I never have been. Literally, I knew Mac for maybe 20 minutes. It just came out of my mouth and I was like, "I want to make you a deal. I'm going to keep you alive until you are 100 years old by coming to play the piano for you once a week."
He laughed at me and he's like, "We'll see about that." And I was like, deal. Game on we're gonna keep you alive till 100 years old."
Mac: You say, "I'm gonna get you to 100." I just thought somebody has an interest in me. When I first came here, I thought well, I'm not gonna stay there any more than 30 days. They said, "Why?" I'm not old people like they are. They're just old people and I don't know, they looked like they were from the Valley of the Lost. People moving along without a purpose.
Emily: Making this deal for Mac, just like sparked this thing in me that helped me to fill this purpose like, I got to keep this man alive. But I also felt like if I come and serve him, it will be a friend for him. And that it would be something he could look forward to. Just the conversation that we had that day on that piano bench, like, it just kept me like wanting to go talk to my friend. And so then I started going once a week, but quickly, that turned into the daily thing. And so I literally would go do my runs and then stop there on my way home and I'd go play some songs for him. But then it just evolved. He started inviting some of his friends, of the residents that live there. Pretty soon he'd say, "We need to go pick up so and so from their room." And by then, I also had made friends as well with residents that I would see in the hall as I was walking through and I would say "Hey, come we're gonna play some music."
Mac: Oh I, kind of, I looked forward to that every week. She had kind of a schedule. She'd come to my room and pick me up and she'd call me "Duffer," and I'd call her "Clapper." Called the Duffer and the Clapper.
Emily: So then I'd go pick him up, but we definitely could not leave the room without his golf shoes on, insisted his hair was combed, and we had to grab his harmonica and then we were good to go.
Mac: I guess I was so proud of how I looked. I always felt like I had to look my best.
Emily: And he is so funny, his personality that we'd be going to each room and then he'd start saying, "Watch out. We're getting the gangs out, the party's just getting started." So here's some that can hardly walk, so they're holding onto my arm, with their a little cane, we're going down the hall. Here's some that would be willing themselves, like so funny. And then we all meet at the piano, a gathering place.
Mac: She would stop by, pick up several of the people here and get with those, get around the piano, anxious to get right there by the piano and listen to her play. She was wonderful. And then with nearly all of us singing along with different songs, and Emily promoted that all alone and so she became a great fixture. People looked forward to that music. That's how I got to convince, well maybe I can do something with my harmonica. So I started playing a little bit.
Emily: While doing this, things just changed inside of me. I was like, wow, I'm not so lonely anymore. The more I was around them, I felt like life's gonna be okay. It just was like one of those friendships that when you meet, and it just clicks, you're just like, "Whoa, like, where's this friend that I've been praying for for a long time?" Just one of those connections when you meet people you're like, "Well, that was definitely God putting them in my path." And my favorite thing of my friendship with Mac is that we both have a talent of playing music, and we love to share it with people. And the funny thing is, is I've played my whole life. Mac started when he was 10 years old, but he would only play the harmonica when he was using it to call the sheep in. And it wasn't until we met that both our talents blossomed, that we started playing for people, that his harmonica skills became incredible. He'd start with only one or two songs when I first knew him, and then he would be playing five or six by the time we were done with each dance party.
Mac: Oh, thank you. Anyone that can get music into their lives has a better chance of having a complete and happy life.
Emily: So, about six months of building this friendship with Mac, I started feeling yucky. Like I was so tired all the time. And I noticed that I started feeling like I had the flu every single day, it was the weirdest thing. Because I'd wake up, go for a run and then I would just start to feel so yucky and my arms would burn, my hands would burn. And then I noticed my feet started burning. And I noticed when I was starting to run, I would start to trip because I couldn't feel my feet. My fingers would all sudden just have no feeling and I would be playing a song and they would ache and throb up so bad and the burning got so bad, that I'd have to stop in the middle of a song. And when I would go play for Mac, I'd sit there on the piano bench with him playing songs, have to pause, tears are streaming down my face, Mac's blind, so he couldn't even see and he didn't understand what was going on.
It was really hard for me. Every doubt and fear ran through my mind as I was sitting there on a piano bench. Will I ever be able to play the piano like I used to? Will I ever have that back again? Well, my whole life be like this? Is this something that's been taken from me one of my favorite things that brings me the greatest joy in my life? God, did you take this from me? Will it ever come back? God when I'm here serving your children, where are you and why can't I continue to help them? I think that's when I had to realize too, that sometimes we can't serve in the way we want to, but oftentimes, it's always in the way we need to. And so some of those days, maybe those residents didn't need to hear as much music and they just needed friends.
And so we would just start talking. Here they were sharing their stories with me of when you know, their spouse had passed away or an illness that happened to them and they didn't do it as in a rude, like "Get over it, Emily," or something like that. It was always such a teaching moment that I walked away just so inspired by their examples. When I realized that true friendships are when we open our hearts, and that we're not focused on ourselves, but that we share stories and things that we've learned, but it just brought such closeness and realness. And it wasn't just a service and happy friendship, and how are you doing today? And it was real. I mean, it was the deepest friendships I've ever had. And it just made me laugh because I'm like, how am I have more friends that are older, that are in their 80s or 90s than truly than my own age. But always, every time I left that building, I would leave a happier person than I was then when I walked in because they taught me such valuable lessons. I had finally gotten a diagnosis that I had Lymes disease. I had never told Mac, but he could tell just by my voice, or by how I gave him a hug, he could tell when days that I didn't feel good. And he started picking up on it and he would say, "Have you had a good day today?"
And I'd say, "Yes."
And he goes, "No, you haven't."
And I'd say, "Yeah, you can tell huh?"
And he goes, "You don't feel good today, do you?" And it really meant a lot that he was there as a friend and he would ask. But he knew that it took all that I could to get out of bed, to get him and those residents so that we could play. I mean, I was terrified. I'd lay in my bed when I was so sick. And think if I don't get up today, this man's gonna die. And I made him a deal to keep till 100. I have to go, I have to go get him. And I always pick myself up, get over there, drag myself over there and do all that I could.
Mac: I didn't realize I was doing any good. She always says I helped her as much as she helped me. I always felt our purpose in life was not what we can do ourselves. I wondered, maybe God should tell me what my purpose is. So I guess my purpose was to help Emily along and her purpose was to help me along.
Emily: The more I got to know Mac, I learned that he had family that came to visit him every day. And so sometimes I'd wonder like, should I be continually coming to visit him every day? Does he even enjoy these visits? I really realized these visits meant more than anything. He was looking for friendship as well. He needed that. People need friends, we need each other, at any age. He wanted to make a difference, I wanted to make a difference. And when our friendships have the same goals that we want to do, it's amazing how God puts each of us in each other's path and that we were able to make that difference.
Around the same time I was diagnosed with Lymes disease, Mac made it to 100. We made it to 100 years old, and I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe we had done it. Now he had definitely had to do all the breathing, but I was so relieved that we made it to 100 years old. I felt like I accomplished what I said I was going to do for him. And that I kept my end of the deal.
His family through a huge party for him, lots of people came, we're all at the party mingling and Mac comes over to me and He says, "So, now what? You didn't promise me anything else." I didn't even know what to tell him. I was like, I'd only just made it a goal to keep them alive till 100 years old. That's all I felt. And now what? And yet, reaching 100 wasn't the end for us. In like a month, he'll be 103 and I will be 28 years old. He's also taken it upon himself to be my dating consultant. And it's not working out for me. So far, his success rate is zero. But I haven't given up on him yet.
Mac: "I'm gonna get you over 100 years old." She mentioned that many times. And I said I'll make a promise. I'll do that if you find somebody to get married to." She said she'd do that, so I'm still plugging along, so she's got a lot of work to do.
Emily: The other day I was telling him about my friend that's going to get engaged. And he goes, "You know, I can't keep living all these years just waiting for you." I said, "I'm trying" and he goes, "So am I." Never did I ever think I'd still be best friends and have a dating consultant who's 103 and is blind.
Even now, to this day, Mac and I get asked to play the piano and his harmonica at funerals, and events. We actually go on tours. It's hilarious. And when we're playing at these funerals, Mac will lean over to me and say, "This is hilarious we're here playing for someone that's much younger than me. This isn't even my funeral."
Mac: Emily supervises and we played at three different funerals. And I found that I've really got a purpose here. I feel closer to the Savior all the time I listen to Emily play because that melody comes through and puts meaning to life.
Emily: Mac's amazing. He's my best friend. I still feel lonely at times and knowing that his time will come soon, there's always that sense of will I feel loneliness again? I question that. But I have such a greater peace now and trust that I know the Savior's there. Mac would always say that if you have a heartbeat, you have a purpose. And I realized through this whole experience, I wasn't focused on myself, I wasn't focused inward. I was focused on loving others, that they're here too, that they're lonely too. We need each other. We're not here to be alone. Like we're here to be together, we're here to be friends. We're not here to suffer life alone.
Mac: I guess the Lord doesn't want me to come back. He wants me to stay here to understand that we're here for a purpose. And until we go to the other side, our purpose is to try to make other people happy. Maybe I'm here to help Emily and she was here to help me.
KaRyn Lay: That was Emily and her 103-year-old best friend, Mac. Well, almost 103. If you want to hear some of Mac and Emily's musical collaborations, we'll have a link to the album that they made together in our show notes. I promise you will want to hear Mac's harmonica stylings. I also wish you all could have been in that room to feel the adorable energy between Emily and Mac when they came in to record. I think energy is really the right word for it because what their friendship did is energized each of them for their unique challenges. For Mac, it was finding a reason to live again at 99 years old. And for Emily, it was finding a way to fight through her loneliness and a debilitating illness. And isn't that the thing about inspired friendships? However, they come to be, those friendships set off a chain reaction of discovery and mutual joy just as it did in their story. And that makes us better. It makes us better for everybody and it teaches us more about the love that our Father in heaven has for us. I do remember Sarah. I do remember how we met. Well, I don't remember how we met, but I do remember the circumstances in which our friendship came to be. And that is because I took a risk to move to Salt Lake City. I didn't have a job. When I first moved there, I had no job and no place to live. And I rolled up into Salt Lake and God kind of— I felt like God sort of put me into this, this avenues space like the avenues in Salt Lake. And so then we were in the same ward together. And do you remember what we used to joke about, that ward at that time, we called it the—
Sarah: The Island of Misfit Toys?
KaRyn Lay: The Island of Misfit Toys, and X-Men school.
Sarah: Oh, totally!
KaRyn Lay: Because we all felt like we were developing specific talents and gifts that God wanted us to use in our lives. And I think it's really interesting that he puts us where we need to be so that we'll meet the people who can change us and show us something different, something new about ourselves that we didn't know before. And you did that for me and I hope that our friendship never ends.
Sarah: Me too.
KaRyn Lay: That's it for this episode of "This Is the Gospel." Thank you to Sarah and Brian and Emily and Mac for sharing their stories and their faith. And special thanks to Susan Bender, Mac's daughter, who helped us to get those fun recordings of her dad. We'll have the transcript of this episode as well as some fun pictures and links from the stories in our show notes at LDSliving.com/thisisthegospel. All you got to do is go and find this episode and click on it and right there you'll find all the show notes. So check it out.
If you have a great story about your experience Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you on our pitch line. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. You can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram and Facebook at @thisisthegospel_podcast. That's @thisisthegospel_podcast. If you loved this episode, will you please leave us a review on the Apple App or Bookshelf PLUS+ from Deseret Book? We love to hear your thoughts about individual episodes or the podcast as a whole. We read every single one.
This episode was produced by Sarah Blake with story producing from Katie Lambert and me, KaRyn Lay, With story editing by Danielle Wagner. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix At Six Studios with additional mixing from KC Blake. Our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts, like the "All In" podcast at LDSliving.com/podcasts. Have a great week.
|Oct 14, 2019|
Stories in this episode: Kristen moves from her hometown to a new city for a new job after a spiritual prompting and quickly finds herself headed toward even bigger transitions; only six months after his reactivation in the Church, Derek struggles to make sense of his new culture at the Missionary Training Center.
KaRyn: 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's a well-known theory about the way we experience and adapt to a culture that's new or unfamiliar to us. It's the theory of culture shock. And even if that's a new phrase to you, you're probably a little bit familiar with the four stages. They show up all the time in pop culture, on TV, and in other spaces. First, there's the honeymoon phase. And if you've ever been in a new relationship, you know this stage. Everything is rosy and beautiful and romantic. And you're captivated and excited by the differences between you and whatever your new love is, whether that's a new city, a new romantic partner or a new job, or maybe it's even a new faith tradition. Well, that honeymoon is exciting and it makes you feel alive but just around the corner is the negotiation stage. This is when all the differences between your culture of origin and the new culture feel completely overwhelming, difficult, maybe even disgusting. For me, this stage was embodied by the Korean shrimp. That's right, you heard me, shrimp. About three months into my new life abroad, after the glow of all the lantern festivals had worn off, I started to notice that the shrimp were fully intact in my food. Not just legs or shells, but like full heads with great, big, beady eyeballs, like something from outer space or the Black Lagoon staring at me from my soup. And it couldn't handle it. I was filled with an unholy rage every single time I would order food that I thought was shrimp-free, only to be surprised by a hidden eyeball or a hidden leg popping out of my noodles. I just wanted shrimp that looked like shrimp. American shrimp. I know how ridiculous that is, now. I get it, they're just shellfish. But at the time, those shrimp came to represent everything that was difficult or hard about living in another country.
The good news is that after that negotiation phase where everything feels difficult, eventually, you move into the adjustment and finally, adaptation phases. This is where you can finally see the good in both the new and the old, and find ways to integrate them into your current life. Sometimes it takes months and sometimes it takes years. And in some cases, it never actually comes. But in all cases, that culture shock changes us. And if we let it, it can change us in good ways. Well, today we've got two stories about the way these shocks to the system play out in our spiritual lives and how God can use them to help us see ourselves and his plan for us in a new light.
Our first story comes from Kristin, whose experience with culture shock came in two very distinct waves that had everything to do with one another. Here's Kristin.
Kristin: I am definitely the type of person who is pulled into challenging situations so that I can learn and so that I can experience because I am a creature of comfort. I'm not a huge risk-taker. So it takes God kind of pushing me over the edge to go give it a shot.
I am from Las Vegas, Nevada and I currently live just outside of Buffalo, New York with my husband and my two stepkids. And I never in a million years imagined I would live outside of Buffalo, New York with a husband and two stepkids. In Las Vegas, I worked often with the public affairs office or church headquarters, and then when there was a job opening, they kind of asked if I'd be interested in applying and I kept saying no because I loved my life. I had a great life in Las Vegas, I loved my job. I had a house, I had a great ward, I had, you know, I was from Las Vegas, and I loved my crazy hometown. I had no interest in moving. But then one day they called and I was decorating the church gym, it was for Christmas party, the ward Christmas party. And they said, "Hey, we have this job opening, you know, we'd like you to consider it." And I was literally on the ladder in the church gym and I said, "Oh, okay, I'll consider it." I felt like I needed to at least investigate it. I still wasn't thinking it was something I would be interested in, but I went ahead and flew out for the interview. And I remember when they called me to say that out of all the applicants that they wanted me to take the job, and would I consider it and I was standing outside of my office in Las Vegas. And I stood there and I thought, I guess I'm moving to Utah. And it just so matter-of-fact, it was one of those very few times that the directive was that clear for me. And so that's what I did. I picked up and moved to Utah.
I moved to Salt Lake City in January 2014 with me and my dog, I had a chocolate lab named Jazzy. And I didn't really know people in Salt Lake. I didn't really know Salt Lake outside of Temple Square. So it was like moving to truly a foreign place. And when you don't know people, if you're someone like me, I'm more of an introvert than people would imagine. It's always hard to move, no matter where you are, you know, you're excited, you're scared, you're nervous, you can't wait, you get in touch with every single emotion. And so the job itself was really interesting, I think it's very different than most people imagine. When you say that you are a church spokesperson, I think a lot of times they think, it's like you're working at the temple or something like that, but it's really not. So it was different, it was a bit of a culture shock that way. It's tricky. I mean, working in public affairs, or being a church spokesperson is filled with really high highs and really low lows. At least it was for me because you hear the best of things and you get to experience some of the really great things in our religion. But then you also hear the really hard and you feel the really hard, you feel people's anguish over a policy they don't like or when a missionary is hurt or killed on their mission. I mean, you hear it all. So it was, it was challenging on days and some days it was really happy and some days it was really hard.
It's funny, I never expected to be a church spokesperson, I don't think I fit the stereotype of what people expect a church spokesperson to look like. I mean, I obviously don't wear a white shirt and tie, I think people expect that. I was in my 40s, single. I have been known to swear now and then, I drink Dr. Pepper on a daily basis. You know, I just had this whole different life experience. But when I got there, I found out that's exactly why they wanted me was that I wasn't the stereotypical person and I had a different set of experiences. So if you go back in my life to my teenage years, and even my early college years, I definitely had a life plan figured out. And it was a good plan. I'd always wanted to go on a mission, and then I figured I would get married by the time I was 23 or 24. I would have five kids, they would be all boys. I even had like a list of names picked out. And you know, I'd be the stay-at-home mom that had the really good stacks and the fun holiday decor. And I would maybe work at a home decor store so I could get discounts or something. That was my plan for my life. That was, I mean, that was the dream, right? But it didn't turn out that way. I did go on a mission, I went to Ecuador. And I came home, and I went back to school, I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And I really did fall into public relations. Or I guess I should say, it feels like I fell into public relations, but if we're looking at it with a spiritual lens, I'm quite certain that it was some sort of guidance from God saying, you know, try this out, you'll be good at it, because you're going to need to make a career out of it. That job was very much one of those kinds of situations. Where it was God saying, "Okay, here you go. This is what he had in store for you— go. Here you go." And yeah, my life didn't turn out as I had planned at all. But thank goodness it didn't.
When I first got here, to Utah, I had talked to a couple of people who had worked in this position before me and I had asked them for insight and advice and tips and whatnot. And I remember one of the people had said, "Oh, you're going to need at least three years." It's funny, I didn't quite— I didn't think I felt quite settled, but I remember going home back to Las Vegas on a road trip, and that didn't quite feel like home. And I was eager to get back, I was eager to get back to my little place. And I was eager to get back to my little world that I had created here. And I think that was you know, it was well over a year into it. That was a really interesting feeling for me to feel, you know because I hadn't quite considered Salt Lake home yet. But the fact that I was kind of longing to get back was, was telling to me. I think one of the things that really helped me to feel settled was just some of the people, the amazing people that I was suddenly finding myself surrounded by. That was one thing that really helped me to adjust. And I would say the same about life in Las Vegas or life in Buffalo. It's really made all the difference is the people that you meet along the way and the connections, these very soulful connections, that you make. People cross our paths, and that's not coincidental. For example, one of the friends that I met in Salt Lake, that I do believe that God put right in my path, and at the time, I had no idea why. And this friend was about my same age, she had gotten married in her 40s to someone who had children, she was the second wife. And it became such an important friendship, almost like a mentorship. And so when it came time for me, she was kind of like my wedding coach.
It was interesting, I had kind of sworn off dating for a long time because my job was so stressful. And I never quite knew if people wanted to meet me because they wanted to meet the person in the job or if they wanted to meet me, which was a really interesting position to be in. But with Matt, I remembered his goodness. And I tell people that all the time, I remembered that he was just a really good guy. And he's an even better guy now. But I remembered his goodness. And so that's kind of where I was like, "Well, okay, it's Matt, of course, I'll meet up with him." So I met Matt as a freshman in college in 1991, we lived at Desert Towers, and we became friends freshman year, and we were friends all through college. After my mission is when I had a little crush on him, but he was dating somebody else. And that was that and it was 25 years later, before we ever crossed paths again. So we didn't even cross paths on like social media or anything until after he was divorced. And then the same friends who had tried to set us up and college, set us up again. And that's how we got reconnected. I was living in Salt Lake at the time, he is a law professor in Buffalo. And so when our mutual friends set us up, it was a really quick reconnection. I got married at age 43 and this was in the fall of 2016. And I kind of did everything at once. I got married, became a wife, became a stepmom, moved, left a career—did it all at once. Just rip off the band aid and go for it, so I dove in big time. And it was a lot. I mean, it is a lot. Those are all big life transitions on their own, but we did it, I did them all at once. My co-workers and I all joke that I was the reverse pioneer. So I move, you know, pack up my stuff and move east this time. And again, it was kind of the if you want to feel every single emotion, move somewhere new, where you don't know anyone. We had to make this work, right? But it was, I felt like it was great for our relationship because it made me just bond really quickly with my husband and with his kids because they were the only people I knew. It's been great, but it's also been really hard for the first, gosh, even the first year, I got physically just sick from the stress and the unknown and the ambiguity that was suddenly in my life. And my job for 20 plus years has been to control situations, you know. And so that is what I'm good at, is to put out the plan, put the implementation plan together, get everything lined up and make it all a great. That has been my job for 20 years. And I thought I was kind of good at it. But here I was, thrown into this new Western New York Life that I had chosen to be part of and I suddenly had none of that. And I was sick all the time, just physically sick from the tension and the ambiguity and the unknown. And I tried to not tell people about that and tried to not make a big deal of it. And I hadn't even told my friends this, but two of my friends that I had made in Salt Lake City, called me up and said, "We're coming out there, here's the dates, are you okay with that?" And I said great. And so they get out there and we spent like a day at the quick care because I had been so sick, I was so dehydrated that they had to take me to the quick care and get IV's and things like that because I had been so physically sick over this. And we jokingly refer to that as their "FEMA Trip," that they were my rescue, they were my FEMA rescuers that weekend.
When Sharon Eubank gave a talk a couple of years ago, she talked about the incident in Florida, where there were two kids that had gotten washed out in the waves. The rescuers couldn't get the kids, but this couple on this, on the shores, saw what was happening and they gathered people together and they formed a human chain of like more than 80 people leading out to these kids. And they were eventually able to rescue those kids. And I think that, especially throughout the past five, six years, so between the time I left Las Vegas, and now the time in Buffalo, I feel like I've been the one out in that wave, in that whirlpool, and there are at least 80 people making that chain to rescue me and to help me through these culture shock periods of my life. And I've been on the receiving end of that and it's been remarkable.
One thing that I now think is kind of funny, at the time it didn't feel very funny. I had never realized how much I associated my job and my career, my paycheck, with my self-worth, until I didn't have that. Because when I moved, I suddenly didn't have a job and I didn't have a career. And that's been a really big adjustment for me, I really didn't realize how much of my own self-worth was tied up into that job. And so it's been really tricky for me to kind of separate those two things and kind of rediscover my worth and the contributions I make and remind myself that I do bring value to the things that I am doing. One day, I remember just feeling a little bit lost. I do some little freelance projects and a little bit of contract work here and there. And I was just thinking, oh, I just really miss having a team. I wish I had a team, I'm so much better when I work within a team to bounce ideas off of people. And the impression came to my mind, "You are in a team. It's team Dimick." It kind of stopped me dead in my tracks because I do have a team. It's just a whole new team and it's a whole new focus on this team. It's a distinctly different role than I've played in the past. I've never been the wife, I've never been a stepmom before. But that's where God has placed me right now. And I am figuring out how to do it little by little.
There have been a lot of moments when I've thought, "Oh, wow. I don't know anything about this." Like everything from you know, helping my stepdaughter learn how to read better or become more confident in her reading skills, to things like making dinner and having meal plans or budgeting. Like these things that are so every day to most of my friends, because they have been married 25 years. But this is brand new to me. Because before I got married, you know, I spent time working on careers and things and I made a really mean chocolate chip cookie, but I'm telling you I had yogurt and scrambled eggs for dinner most nights. And so I'm finally feeling like, okay, I can make a decent dinner. And I know how to grocery shop now and put together a meal plan for the week. But those even simple things like that were really new to me. I think there have been a lot of little things, little gifts of God's grace or tender mercies that have really helped me see that this is okay, that this is God's path for me. I was taking my stepson to seminary one morning, it was cold and wintery. I mean, and remind you, I live in Buffalo. So it is legit winter. And we were driving, I'm driving him to seminary, it is pitch black and cold. And he got out of the car and ran into the church building. And I started driving back and I just thought, oh wait, this is exactly what I had dreamed of. This is the kind of moment that I had dreamed up. It's different than I thought it would be, but this is still exactly what I had dreamed of. Little things like family moments, dropping kids off at seminary, contributing to something bigger than me, putting together a life with these humans. It's pretty great. Now I can look back and see very clearly, that my move from Las Vegas to Salt Lake was very much a preparation for this next big phase of life because Salt Lake has a winter. Las Vegas winters are like in the 50s, Salt Lake actually had snow. But that was totally preparing me for winter in Buffalo, like I bought my first pair of snow pants in Salt Lake. But just getting through that process of learning how to move and learning how to adjust and learning how to make friends and reestablish a new life was really, really a good preparation for me into this next phase. It was a baby step into transition.
So I think Heavenly Father sometimes has to shock us into new phases of life or new places or new anything. If He needs us to get going, if He needs us to get going further than we think for ourselves, I think sometimes He has to throw these things in our way. Because we are really creatures of comfort, it is easy to be comfortable and not progress as much as maybe we need to or as much as he needs us to. I think that's where the tricky thing comes in, is like how much do we trust that God has a plan for me? When we do trust that, I think that's when it makes it easy for us to—not easy— it makes it clear for us that we need to keep going through the hard, through the scary, through the unknown, because we believe and we trust that God has a bigger plan for us and that He's not going to let us down. Recently, I was worrying about something. By nature, I am a worrior. And and so the whole trust thing, even though God has continually helped me through my life, I still worry. I'm trying not to, but I do. But the other day I was in primary helping and they started singing the song, "My life is a gift. My life has a plan. My life has a purpose in heaven it began." And I grabbed my phone as soon as I could and I started recording it. And I've listened to it so many times. And of course, the kids are screaming at the top of their lungs, just like they do. And it is so fantastic. And I just keep thinking, okay, it's that simple. It's that simple. It's, "My life is a gift. My life has a plan. My life has a purpose." And I hope that I can have that same trust and enthusiasm that these little babies can, these little kids can because I really do believe that our heavenly parents have this very distinct plan for us, they're not leaving us hanging. And if it's anything like the rest of my life has been, the plan for the future is going to be more than I ever envisioned for myself, so I better just go along for the ride.
KaRyn: That was Kristin Howey Dimick, a proud member of Team Dimick and former spokesperson for The Church. I think sometimes we assume that a foreign culture is only about geography. But what I loved about Kristin's story was that reminder that we are surrounded by the unique traditions and social customs of others in so many different spaces in our lives. New jobs, new family structures, those can all be very real kinds of culture shock. And as we shuffle our way through the transition, sometimes gracefully, and sometimes, well, not so gracefully, (remember the shrimp?), it's not a bad idea to remember that God is present in the shifting and trust that our ability to navigate in our new culture is filled with His grace. And sometimes that grace is manifest in the kind of friends who spend the weekend with you at the InstaCare.
Our next storyteller is Derek, whose entrance into the MTC, the Missionary Training Center, came with its own brand of culture shock. Here's Derek,
Derek: As I entered the Missionary Training Center for the first time, I looked around at all the other missionaries, and I kind of felt like a fish out of water. I never planned on going on a mission or being involved in the gospel at all. But instead, here I was. How did I end up here? I grew up in a place that had a large population of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and my family, even though we really weren't actively engaged in the gospel, we still went to church because it was the thing to do. Like in a way, we were punch card members, you know? We'd punch in and we'd punch out. When I was seven years old, my father had a work injury that really changed our family's lives in a lot of ways. And it made us a lot less mobile and a lot less able to do things that we were usually able to do. And so one of those things that we kind of took out of our lives was church. When I graduated high school, I was hanging out with my friends and doing what I wanted to do. Life was kind of going, you know, in neutral, if you will, but nothing was really happening. Honestly, I always had the question in the back of my mind, what am I doing with my life?
So, I was sitting at home, and I heard someone knock at the door. And a guy was there, who was dressed in a suit, he was in his like, mid-40s and he asked to speak with me inside. So I said, "Okay, sure, I guess." And at that point, I knew he was from the church. My friends were all trying to get me to go to church. And so I'm like, oh, maybe this guy is from, from the ward, and he wanted to talk with me about going to church. So he sat down and he started to tell me that he was my home teaching companion. And I said, "I'm not sure I'm following here, but I don't go to church."
And he said, "That's okay. You don't have to go to church to be my companion." And he said, "I'd like to go on some visits with you if that's okay, to some of these families."
And I said, "I don't think I'm going to do that, I'm sorry. But thank you, I appreciate the offer."
And he says, "Well, I have your number, so why don't I send you a text every once in a while, let you know when I'm going. And if you feel up to it, then we can go."
So, I said, "Alright, cool." And then he left. A couple weeks later, he sends me a text and says,
"Do you want to come see this family with me? No pressure, you don't have to teach or anything."
And I said, "No, I'm fine." So this went on for like a month or two where he just would text me randomly and say, hey, I'm going to go visit these people, do you want to come along?" And I'm just still confused on why this guy's even texting. I just didn't understand it. And one night, I got this text and I was like, all right, let's see what he wants, sure. And he said, "Hey, no teaching tonight but do you want to go out for dinner? I'm hungry, are you?" I was usually out with my friends, vut I was home and I was hungry. I'm always hungry. I said, "All right, that's fine. Let's do this."
We go out to a restaurant and he actually took the time to talk to me instead of wanting me just to come to the next event or whatever. Nobody has ever done that for me. I want to say a month later or so, he sent me a message saying, "Hey, just a little reminder, I'm going to see a family. Do you want to come?" And I just had to say yeah. I just really liked his company and he just was really nice to me. And I'm like, "You know what? Why not? I've got a free night. I'll give it a shot." So I went to go see this family. And we talked to them, had a great time, actually. And as time kept going on, I kept going. And I started to really fall in love with this teaching thing. This was kind of cool to me. Well, one night, he was dropping me off. He just sat in my driveway with me and we just talked about everything. And in my mind, I was always still thinking about what was happening in my life. Was I progressing, was I doing anything with my life? And he must have had a spiritual impression to talk to me about that. Because he started to really pick apart my issues and say, "What are you doing with your life?" I told him, I have no idea. It's a great question. He said, "You should go on a mission."
I said, "I don't know about that. I've got a girlfriend, I've got a job, I'm probably gonna go to college." And he just was really nice and supportive and said, "You know what, College is a great, great thing. And I think you should stick with that." And then he said, "But I really feel like you would do so well on a mission. I feel like you can touch people's hearts in a different way than anybody else. I feel like if you go, there's going to be somebody that will need you and only you." And it was a little heavy for me. I remember thinking about my mom, even though we weren't active in the church at all, my mom still said prayers every night without fail. I knew that because I walked into a room plenty of times while she was praying. And so I wanted to give this a shot. Got down on my knees and I said a prayer and I said, "Heavenly Father, please just guide me to where you want me to read so I can get whatever answer I need to get out of this sense of confusion." I said "Amen" and I opened it up, it was the Book of Mormon, and all I read, and I didn't know much about the Book of Mormon, but it was talking about the Nephites and the Lamanites, and they're going to war. An impression that I felt was "Whose side are you on? Are you on the Lord's side? Are you on Satan's side?" And it hit me hard. So at that point, I just really felt prompted to say another prayer, but this time, get on my knees and say one vocally and start talking to Heavenly Father, because if He gave me that kind of answer, then maybe He can give me more. So I got on my knees and I started saying a prayer. I just started feeling that I really needed to do something with my life. And that thing was actually to go on a mission. The first people I told were my parents. And initially, they were both a little shocked, because they never thought that I would go. It was funny because my mom was actually very skeptical. Because I mean, she even looked at me and said, "Wait a second, I'm not sure if I'm speaking to my son. You know, I'm a little confused here, where my son go?" And I said, "No, this is real. This is really what I want to do." And they both embraced me and gave me so much love and support.
The next person I wanted to tell was my home teaching companion that kind of helped me get to this point. And I simply told him, like, Let's meet for lunch, I got something to tell you. And so we went to a place to sit down and eat. And he said, "So what's this all about what's going on?"
And I just said, "I want to go on a mission." And I remember he just, he stopped eating his lunch. I think he dropped his fork, like actually, physically dropped the fork. And he was like, "You're lying to me, you're pulling my leg, this can't be real." And I said, "No, it's it's real."
We both started to cry together. Because this was something that he knew that I needed, and other people needed. And I knew that I needed it to.
And so after that, I told my Bishop and said, "Hey, I'd like to prepare to go on a mission." And obviously, he was shocked. And he said, "Well, I guess we need to get started on on the process of going." And so, you know, I went through the repentance process, and I started to do the right things so that I could prepare to go. And so he said, "You know, I have some scriptures for you to read. And also I'd like you to go into mission preparation classes." This was about March or April or so. And so we were a little bit into the year, and I kind of missed out on some of the lessons. And I didn't really know what was going on necessarily, because it was all kind of new to me. But I felt like I was getting so much more knowledge and it was amazing. And as I was going through these classes and kind of meeting my Bishop every week, you know, I expressed to him that I just don't know if I have enough knowledge to go on a mission. I just didn't know if I did. And he looked at me, he says, "You know what, a talk just came out recently by Elder Neil L. Anderson, it's called 'You Know Enough.' Go home and read that. And I just want you to know that you do know enough, that you've got this." So, for the next 60 days, I just prepared as much as I could, getting as much knowledge as I could. And in August, I left on my mission.
In the Missionary Training Center, you do a lot of role-play teaching, where you teach other missionaries the lessons that are in "Preach My Gospel" and help them to teach you back so that you're ready to go out in your mission field. I remember we were about to teach the first lesson, which talks about the restoration of the church, and I remember just reading over it and being like, "Oh yeah, I got this. This is fine. The restoration, Joseph Smith, First Vision, lots of things, I knew a lot of that. And so I said my part and then my companion took over. He started talking about the Book of Mormon, and how the Book of Mormon was the writings of the ancient people here in America about Jesus Christ. And I looked over and I was like, wait, what? I kind of did like this doubletake. And I was so blown away because I had no idea that the Book of Mormon, the whole thing is actually about the people here on the American continent. I had no clue. Talk about culture shock. The one key piece of our gospel is the Book of Mormon, and I had no idea that the entire thing was based here.
Another experience I had in the Missionary Training Center, we were all gathered together for a devotional, all the missionaries were gathered together. And the opening hymn was a hymn that I'd never heard of, and it's "Hope of Israel." And I remember all the missionaries, every single one of them, at least I felt like, all of them were seeing with such fervor and such power. And they were all like— it's like they've known this since they were young. And I was clueless. And I just sat there in silence, looking at all the other missionaries and I knew at that point that this is definitely something that I'm going to have to work on, you know. And that I didn't, I didn't have a lot of the knowledge that I feel like all the other Elders and Sisters had. As I progressed on my mission, I finally read the Book of Mormon, all the way, cover to cover and I was able to feel that it was true, instead of just having a little scriptures here and there. There was a quote from Elder Anderson's talk, "You Know Enough," that I always kept with me, that helped me to keep going and to feel like I actually was doing the right thing. And he said, "Nearly 40 years ago, as I contemplated the challenge of a mission, I felt very inadequate and unprepared. I remember praying, 'Heavenly Father, how can I serve a mission when I know so little?' I believed in the church, but I felt my spiritual knowledge was very limited. As I prayed, the feeling came, 'you don't know, everything, but you know enough.' That reassurance gave me the courage to take the step into the mission field."
You know, when I first read this, I thought, wow, like, what he was going through 40 years ago, was the exact same thing that I was going through right now. That quote helped me to conquer all these feelings of inadequacy and lack of understanding. This whole experience really taught me a lot about myself. And even though I didn't have all the lingo and all the knowledge of the gospel, and all the songs memorized, or any of that, my desire to serve the Lord and my desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ was enough. And I'm so grateful for that.
KaRyn: That was Derek. While Derek's experience at the MTC was definitely unique, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any returned missionary who didn't think going on a mission was a shock to their system. I actually think it's built that way on purpose. Truly, truly, because transformative experiences require a sort of humility that is quickly invoked when we have to rely upon the Lord for everything. And what better way to invite us to be humble than to give us moments where, as Derek put it, we are truly fish out of water.
I don't know about you, but I hate to feel stupid. Nothing makes me feel stupider than being wrong. And there's nothing that can make you feel more wrong, and bumping up against a different way of moving in the world. Because if my Korean friends can eat their shrimp with those big dangly black eyes and 4 million legs on them, and I can't, what does that mean about me? My anger during the negotiation phase of culture shock was often a result of my fear of being wrong. That fear may have been irrational most of the time, but it was still present, I had to deal with it. And here's what's amazing about that talk that Derek shared from Elder Neil Anderson, at the beginning of the talk, Elder Anderson says, "You don't know everything, but you know enough." That tightrope act of not knowing everything, but still knowing enough requires that we let our Father in Heaven guide our steps when we're faced with surprising new situations and experiences. A while ago, I was in Florida for work, and we attended a sacrament meeting in a ward that was filled with so many different cultures. If you've ever been to South Florida, you understand this. There were so many different ways of understanding the world present in that one room. And everything in the meeting seemed totally normal, completely in line with the church culture that I was accustomed to. But when it came time to bless the sacrament, the young men in that ward did not get up and stand in neat rows in front of the sacrament table like I was used to. Instead, they gathered around the table tightly, shoulder to shoulder with one or two boys even standing on the steps of the rostrum to get closer. It looked like a football huddle. And everything in me wanted to say, "Whoa, whoa whoa, that's not how you do it. Line up, get in line." But the spirit pierced my heart and told me just watch, see things in a new light. As they prayed and blessed those Sacrament emblems, suddenly, I understood that ordinance better than I had ever before. This was a family feast and those were Christ's children circled as close as they could, to the body and blood of our Savior. They were rejoicing together, celebrating the beauty of that shared and yet miraculously individual touch of the Master's hand through the sacrament. And I was humbled because I don't know everything. And in fact, my way of doing things isn't the only way to do things. But I do know enough to know that God was present in that huddle. Culture shock is a gift, an opportunity to let down our carefully guarded walls and our ever-present need to be right so that we can see things differently. Maybe, more importantly, so that we can see ourselves differently. And when the honeymoon is over, and we're done negotiating, we can find adjustment and adaptation through God's greatest gift, the grace of Jesus Christ's atonement, which is actually the only culture that truly unites us all.
That's it for this episode of "This is the Gospel." Thank you to Kristin and Derek for sharing their stories. We will have the transcript of this episode as well as the links to Elder Anderson's talk and Kristin's best advice for surviving big life transitions in our show notes at ldsliving.com/thisisthegospel. You can find the episode on the list and then the show notes are on the individual page, so go there and check it out. We love hearing from you on our pitch line. If you have a story to share, leave us a short three-minute pitch at (515) 519-6179. You can find more about this episode and what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. And now that we're back in the full swing of the season, would you do us a favor? Will you please share your experience with the podcast on Apple or Bookshelf PLUS+ by leaving us a review? We have instructions on how to leave a review on the website if you're new to it. We really do read every single one and they are an important way for us to get your feedback and help other people find the podcast.
This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay with story producing and editing from Kelly Campbell. It was scored mixed and mastered by Mix at Six studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at ldsliving.com/podcasts. Have a great week!
|Oct 07, 2019|
On the Road Again
Stories in this episode: Brooke’s love of buying cars on eBay sends her on an epic road trip through Church history; an unexpected breakdown in a small town puts Cheryn’s family in the path of miracles; Retta discovers the power of reaching out when her travels to the Greek Isles land her in a precarious position.
To see pictures of Brooke with her trusty eBay cars and Retta in Greece, go here.
KaRyn: 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 honestly don't think there's anything quite as satisfying as that moment on an airplane after you've been herded down the jetway, and you've listened to the safety instructions and put away all your devices. That engine starts to whir and your body lurches back against your headrest as you barrel down the tarmac for takeoff. I love that little stomach flip as the plane takes flight. Or what about when you finally settled into your spot in the backseat of the family station wagon, and you've got pillows tucked all around you and a huge bag of Twizzlers—not Red Vines, never Red Vines—and you're ready with the next installment of your book series. And don't even get me started on the virtues of trains and boats. I love traveling. There's just something about that space in between everything. Between where you've been and where you're going, that seems to ignite every ounce of my imagination. And listen, I'm also a huge fan of arriving at my final destination, especially if I've been squeezed into a middle seat in coach. But I think it's possible to focus so much on the endpoint that we might miss some of the beauty inherent in the act of getting there. This can be especially true of our spiritual lives as we labor in our faith. Well, in this episode of the podcast, forgive me for saying it, if course I have to say it, we are celebrating the joy we find in the journey. We've got three stories of travel and how the trips we take can become solid spiritual touchstones along the road of discipleship. Our first story comes from Brooke, whose epic solo road trip started with eBay, and ended with a very important lesson about where we put our time and our energy. Here's Brooke.
Brooke: Okay, I just need to tell you, I never wanted a new car. And when I say new car, I mean a used car because I don't buy new cars. And in my life, cars have always been a thing. I grew up with a dad who just had a thing for cars, not nice cars, not fancy cars, not fast cars, just cars. And when we would hang out together, he and my mom and I would go out to town. And we could cruise the used car lots. And that's what we did. And he tell us all the specs and the make and model and why this is good. And so I knew a lot about cars. And the funniest part about it is my dad had, you know, back in the early 90s, mid 90s, I guess discovered eBay. And so all of a sudden, this was a new source of cars. People would put a car on there for $1,000 and then the bidding war would start and then you just, you win or you don't, you know, and it was very exciting, this adrenaline rush, plus, you get a car out of it. And then, since my sister was a flight attendant, he would jump on a plane and, you know, go look at the car and usually drive it home to Montana. And so all through graduate school, I drove just kind of a clunker car that got me from here to there. I mean, they were kind of these, like it was an Acura, but it had like 200,000 miles on it. And if a car could get you from point A to point B, that's all we really needed. And so as we're nearing graduation, we're, all the classmates, are talking about what we're going to do with that first paycheck and what they're going to buy. And a lot of my classmates wanted, you know, a new car. And they were all driving clunkers, well, I was driving the clunker and I was totally fine with that. And I didn't need a new car. And my dad's eBay wisdom was working for me where I hadn't had a car payment, didn't need a car payment, didn't need a fancy car. Well, sure enough, my first day as a therapist, I am, you know, making a left-hand turn and another woman just went through a red light and t-boned me and totaled my car that I was just going to drive forever. So here I found myself needing a new car with the first paycheck that I was going to have as an adult. So what do I do? Look on eBay. I knew what kind of car I wanted. And again, nothing fancy. It was $8,000, which is more than I'd ever spent on a car. So I bid on this car, and I won and the car was in Florida. Great, perfect. So I get on an airplane and I fly to Florida to pick it up.
PILOT’S VOICE: Ladies and gentlemen this your captain speaking, prepare for takeoff.
Brooke: Now mind you, I'd done this the time or two. But this is probably the longest distance that I'd ever traveled to purchase the car. But you know, excited. I'd never really spent any time in Florida. I get the car, it's everything I thought it would be, it runs great. So I start driving. Of course, I was smart enough to pack a huge binder of CDs. This was actually 2005 and so I had a cell phone. But you know you didn't have music anywhere else besides CDs. And so I had a binder of CDs and realized very quickly that there were at least 40 hours of driving I was going to be doing and my CD and music selection was probably going to get boring, and definitely did. As I was flipping through my CD binder to find something new, I came across the CDs of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. So my dad had burned these CDs for me, probably, I don't know, maybe two or three years prior. And you know, going to school and I was working full time. Yeah, I just didn't think I had the time to, or maybe even didn't want to, you know, listen to the Book of Mormon. And I'm about 25 and I would say I'd kind of coasted in my life a little bit spiritually, I was focused.
I'm in the car, I'm somewhere around Tennessee, Nashville and I find these CDs of the Book of Mormon. I'm like, all right, well, all I got is time now, so maybe now's a good time to, to start listening. And I'd read the Book of Mormon a couple of times, just kind of going through the motions. So I pop in the CDs to start listening. And I was surprised like it was one of those CDs where, I can't remember the narrator, but he kind of comes in and gives a little inserts about what's happening in the Book of Mormon at that time. So it kind of helped me understand on a new level. And I was kind of like, oh, wow, I'm learning a lot here. This is great. I realized pretty quickly, like, Hey, I have all this time. And I don't really have to take this southern route home. Man, I could probably hit some church history sites like that's out here somewhere, right in the Midwest. So you know, I pull out my Atlas— and oh, I literally had an Atlas. There was no Google mapping at that time, or at least probably not that I was savvy enough to use. But yeah, I pull out the Atlas and realize like, Oh, hey, if I just went north a little bit, like I could hit Nauvoo. So I called my dad, which he was obviously well versed in road trips with all of his eBay car purchases. He's like, yeah, you should really yeah, you should go to Nauvoo and then you could hit Independence and Liberty Jail and you can kind of do that route. And I was like, cool.
So I start heading north, and I'd gotten, you know, probably halfway through the Book of Mormon and I realized, oh, I'm headed to these church history sites. And I have all these Doctrine and Covenants, CDs, maybe I should get some background. And so I popped in the CDs for the Doctrine and Covenants and started listening. You know, pioneer stories, that sort of thing we're never really a huge part of my life, my parents are converts and I didn't grow up in Utah. And so I just feel like I probably breezed over that in seminary and just, you know, thought, oh, must have been hard for them.
So as I'm listening to the Doctrine and Covenants, and I get to Nauvoo, again, never having been there before, and probably not really feeling the sacrifice and having the vision of that place. I was really just struck. I think when I walked up to Carthage Jail, and, you know, just reading the plaques and the story, again, I don't know how to explain it. It just, I mean, it touched me, it hurt a little, it felt like, how did I not know this? Or how did this even happen to our prophet? And I think that's really what it was, is that the Spirit confirmed to me that Joseph Smith was a prophet there. I mean, I feel like I knew that, kind of. Because honestly, if you would have asked me, I would have said, "Yeah, you know, I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet." And, of course, I believed that those people, the saints, and the pioneers made that journey, that was never a question in my mind, necessarily. But it was almost like this fable that had come true to me. You know, it's something that I'd heard for so long, but it was real. And the people were real. And their hardship was intense and real. I spent a long time in Nauvoo and it was the most gorgeous night. I mean, the sunset was incredible on the river. And I just sat there for a long time and I remember just lingering there. And I didn't leave until dark. I think I just, I think, really, my mind was blown.
So I finally I left Nauvoo and the next day drove to Independence, Missouri. And again, you know, now all the sudden, this, like fire was inside of me, like this curiosity. I was like, oh, give me all the church history. Why don't I know about any of this stuff? Like, who has been keeping this from me? And I'm calling my parents like, "Okay, what happened next? What's in the story?" Like what, you know, and where do I find all of this, and my dad is probably laughing at me. But I think he was also like, really eager to share, which was fun. I'm like still kind of listening to the Doctrine and Covenants and then the Book of Mormon, you know, I kind of switch back and forth. So I come to Independence, Missouri. Well, first of all, when you pull into a church history site, and there's missionaries and senior couples everywhere, and you know, people eager to show you the sites or help. And they're like, "Hey, what are you doing here?" And I said, "Oh, I'm on this road trip."
"Oh, why are you on a road trip?"
"Well, I bought a car. And I'm driving, you know, back home."
"Oh, well, who are you with?"
Well, I'm by myself."
And oh, that sets off alarms with these senior couples, they get very worried about you, by yourself. So I raised a lot of eyebrows, I think, and again, cool experience there. And that just kind of learning about what had happened there and drive from Independence to Liberty, Missouri. When I arrived there, I remember a senior missionary couple, greeting me and welcoming me and, you know, asking again my story about why I was alone, traveling, and I think I was the only one at Liberty Jail at that moment. And if you've been to Liberty Jail, you know, there's kind of a visitor center section, and then they walk you down where you can sit right in front of the room where Joseph Smith was held. They led me down to the jail area. And it felt a little awkward because this senior couple was kind of following me around a little bit and hovering, which was kind of nice. But then, she sat me there on the bench and we just kind of sat in silence for a minute. And then she left. And I was just alone. Before I got there, I had listened to the Doctrine and Covenants, to those verses that Joseph wrote during the jail and his hardships there. And so of course, my emotions were definitely on the surface. And I just was sitting there with this piece of history of the church. But I think even more than that, it was like the piece of the puzzle of just the restoration for me, the gospel, like what I believed in. I don't think I ever questioned that Joseph Smith was the Prophet, but he was so pivotal to this gospel, and that he, being a human, being flawed, just like the rest of us could receive such inspiration and guidance, and to set that example, that I can do the same thing. And I think I learned that in those moments, especially in Liberty Jail when he was at such a dark place, questioning himself probably, questioning was this revelation, was this his path? Was this what God wanted him to do? I mean, I think we've all been there. And if he did what he did, and all these saints did what they did, to bring forth this book, that I was now gaining this understanding of the Book of Mormon as I was listening, that I knew that my savior lived and, and died for me. So it was a moment that I'll never forget. And I feel so grateful to have had that time to just be quiet, and to listen, and to feel the words of the Book of Mormon, the words of Joseph Smith, and to feel their sacrifice. I mean, it really is, you know, kind of this anchoring point as the years go by, and a witness that I feel like I can never, that I can never deny.
When I got home from my road trip, I started back into work. But I realized, I think I realized what I was missing. There was this desire that had never been there before. I started taking three Institute classes. I just, I just that's what I wanted to do. I took a church history class, and I think I had an institute three or four times a week, different classes. And the funniest part about it is that's how I met my husband at an institute class. But to have a desire as now "adult" to learn, and really, like, dive into the gospel. I feel like Heavenly Father knew that I was kind of coasting. And I, you know, I've done that since. There are definitely moments that I coast in my spirituality. I remember saying this in church, actually, this year, when we change to the "Come, Follow Me" program. And I was like, oh, man, wait a minute, this isn't being spoon-fed to me anymore. And I think that's what that road trip taught me is that I have to seek after it, I have to go after it. I have to make the time, I have to be present, be open to learning, be quiet. Because I can coast, I can fake it and if I don't take the time, I won't receive a witness. I won't have that desire, that fire to make my testimony grow, unless I'm quiet, unless I take the time.
KaRyn: That was Brooke. Since that road trip, years ago, Brooke's eBay car-buying criteria has changed just a little bit to include room for four more people and some car seats. And as you can imagine, the time for quiet seeking is even harder for her to find. But that's the whole point of Brooke's story, right? We have to choose to keep the fire of our testimony even when, and especially when it's harder to do. I also find it so interesting that it wasn't until Brooke was on the road with a relatively solid plan that God offered her the opportunity to take that detour that would affect her testimony so powerfully. Maybe those unexpected but holy deviations in our path are the place where God finally has our attention fully enough to show us something new. And I also think that whether they are thrust upon us, or offered as an option, we have a choice to show up to those detours with a curious heart to learn what he wants us to learn along the way. Our next story comes from Cheryn and while it's also about a car and a road trip, her experience is so unique and so surprising that we couldn't help but share it here Cheryn.
Cheryn: Around Christmas time my family had gone to visit my grandparents who lived in Preston, Idaho. When it was time for our trip to end, we headed home. We were going along and as per normal for a family road trip, our car broke down. My dad got out of the car to see what was wrong. And if it was something that he could fix, but it was so cold. And the thermometer said that it was 17 below outside and that didn't take into account the wind chill factor and it was crazy windy. It was so windy I remember sitting in the van and it was just shaking from the wind blowing it. And he kind of looked to see if there was anything obvious that he could see and he got back in the car. And we said a prayer. And I remember that we prayed that we could figure out what was wrong, that we could get somewhere where we could fix it or that we would you know at least get home safely. As we waited in the car, a state trooper stopped and he asked us what was going on. And he actually called the tow company for us. So we were towed to the closest town which was on the border of Utah and Nevada. Now I had six kids in my family growing up. And this was before you could ride in the car as it was being towed. And so we had to all pile into the cab of a tow truck with the driver. And it was so crowded and cramped and crazy. And the tow truck driver kept asking my brother to get his foot off of the accelerator because there was just no room and his foot kept spilling over into his space and he'd move his leg and his knee would pop the gears out of place. We were very cramped, there was a lot of groaning as we would turn or hit a bump and a lot of laughing. We just laughed so hard because it was exactly something that would happen to us on a vacation. But we ended up at a gas station.
We all slithered out of the tow truck as our legs were numb from sitting in those positions for so long. As we were there at the gas station, my dad was trying to figure out what was going on. But it was so bitterly cold that taking his gloves off, it just was killing his hands. And so he couldn't have his gloves off for very long, which made it difficult to figure out what was going on and how to fix it. Meanwhile, the kids, you know, it was just an adventure for us. We were running all around trying to stay warm and to stay positive and play. One by one, we each needed to use the restroom. And so my mom, you know, first she took my oldest brother, they went to the bathroom and came back and five minutes later another had to go. And then later another had to go. And so she kept going back to this gas station bathroom. And you could tell that they were not very happy with us there. She even bought snacks to try and you know, say well, we're customers, can we use your restroom? But they were getting irritated. And by the time my youngest sister had to go to the bathroom, my mom was feeling a little insecure about the thought of using the restroom again. And so instead, we walked down a little ways to a little cafe that was open so that we could use their bathroom.
When we walked into the restroom, I saw a woman from my Sacramento, California ward in the bathroom. And I said, "Mom, look!" And they, you know, they looked at each other and they recognized each other and they started chatting.
"Well, what are you doing here?"
"Well, we were visiting family, we're headed home. What are you doing here?"
“Well, we were visiting family, but our car broke down. And so we're stuck here just trying to figure out where we go from here."
And as they chatted about it, they decided that they were not going to leave us until they knew that we could get home safely. And so they joined our family at the gas station. And the two dads together tried to fix the car. And after not having any success with that, decided that they were going to use the 20-foot tow rope that my dad had in the car, and they were going to tow us home. So most of my family joined them in their van. And they had a lot of kids too. I can't remember exactly how many they had, but I think that there were about 13 of us in their van. And it was a, you know, big passenger van. And I think if I'm remembering correctly that all of the seats were taken out except maybe a couple of them. So we were just a pile of kids, tons of blankets, lots of pillows. And I remember being very warm. I remember being in there very tight and snuggly and secure. And we were singing and playing games and falling asleep on each other.
But my parents and my older brother had a very different ride home. They rode in our van and it had no power to keep them warm. So they were bundled up in sleeping bags. They were just really cold in the van riding home and trying to keep that tow rope tight. We were traveling home over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which were very, you know, it was the middle of winter, so it was really icy and very slippery. There were five times that the driver of the good van would, the brother and our ward would start too fast and the rope would snap. It snapped five times. And they would stop and you could just feel, you know the van as a kid, I just remember thinking, oh, you know, there's a little extra power here. And that's because the tow rope had snapped and they'd have to pull over, back up to my parents. They'd get out, retie the rope, and we'd be on the road again. We really finished our trip with about seven foot of the rope left because it had snapped and broken so many times. So they ended up taking us all the way home from the border of Utah and Nevada to Sacramento, California to our little suburb of Alberta. And they dropped us off at our house. I remember thinking how grateful I was. And I remember, at 10 years old, how that experience solidified my testimony of prayer and that prayers are answered. Because we got home, we didn't know, you know, we didn't fix it. We hoped we could fix it, we hoped we'd be able to get ourselves home. And it didn't work that way. But because of the love of our neighbors that we found in a bathroom, in the middle of nowhere, 520 miles away from home, we were able to get home and they were willing to make their trip home harder in order to get us home safely. Through the years I've thought about this, as my struggles have come personally or as a parent now with a family of my own. There are times that you just you feel maybe a little defeated. But I know, because of this experience that I had when I was 10 years old with my family, that prayers are heard and answered. And you never know how they're going to be answered. And you never know who's going to answer them. I just hope that someday that I can be the hands of the Lord in the life of someone else who needs a miracle.
KaRyn: That was Cheryn. We received Cheryn's story from our pitch line and while I love the miracle of bumping into her board member at a random cafe, I honestly think my favorite part was the role the grumpy gas station owners played in helping God's work get done. It's a total testament to me that our Heavenly Father can use every circumstance, including people who are not having their best human moment, to show us His goodness. It's an invitation for all of us to give everyone in our stories, including the ones behaving badly, just a little more grace than we might otherwise.
Our final story of travel comes to us from Retta, who despite her best attempts to learn the language, found her communication skills lacking when she was struck with a sudden illness on a trip overseas. Here's Retta.
Retta: I don't really consider myself an adventurous person, although I love to travel. Even though I really wanted to see the theater of Dionysus and the theater of Epidaurus, Greece seemed a little far. It just seemed a little too exotic and out of my comfort zone to go there. So when my son called and said their friends had backed down on a trip that they had planned for Greece, my husband and I were up for it, a little nervous, but we thought it'd be really fun and I thought it'd be pretty exciting to see the Parthenon. My daughter-in-law had planned this trip out to the T, we knew exactly how many days we were in Athens, how many days were in the Peloponnese. Everything was planned out, where we were staying, everything. So we felt secure about that, it's just the difference in culture, language. I had tried to learn some Greek before I left. I put an app on my phone and found out how terrible I am about languages. I kept getting the wrong consonant sound. I couldn't say much. That made me really nervous because I like to at least know how to say, "Where's the restroom? How much does this cost? Is it left of the building," or, or whatever, just little common things that you could say. It took me forever to learn to say "thank you" and "hi" in Greek. And it just seemed impossible to me. When I landed in Athens, we took a bus into town which took about an hour and a half. It was like a spiritual experience looking up and seeing the Acropolis and the Parthenon up there. I took my breath away every time I looked at it. I've been a high school and middle school theatre teacher for many, many years, so it was exciting to see all of the things that I had been teaching all those years.
So we're moving along on the agenda, and everything's going wonderful, but I'm starting to feel some pain. And I have had some health issues a number of years ago. So I knew exactly where this was headed. And I started to get a little concerned that I was going to be very sick because it comes on pretty rapidly. So we had, for our next destination, just a little town. And by this time, I'm really not feeling well. We arrived in the early evening, we had dinner, I'm starting to feel more and more pain and feeling more and more concerned. And we are in lodging that's called the "Captain House." And it's a beautiful, redecorated home that that's very old and historic. But I can barely enjoy it now because I am feeling so much pain. And I asked my husband if he could give me a blessing. Because in the past when this happened, I would end up in the hospital and I had surgery. He didn't have any oil, but he gave me a comfort blessing. And he started to search on his iPhone for some medical facilities. We found out there were no medical facilities. We were like two and a half hours to three hours away from Athens. We were out in the middle of nowhere, literally. And in this little town of Galaxidi, they had a clinic that was open once a week from seven to 10 on Monday morning, and that was it. This was Friday night and I knew that would not make it, especially when we're supposed to fly out Sunday.
So he looked around in the area to see if there was anything that was even available. And he found a little Hospital in a little place called Amfissa and it was a half-hour away. But that was the closest thing. So we thought, that's a possibility. But as the pain increased, I just really felt the strong need to reach out to some of my friends and my niece to pray for me. Now, this is really unusual. This is not something I do, I feel very private about health issues. I know that Heavenly Father answers prayers for other people. I just didn't think that this is something that I needed to ask for. So this was really unusual. And my husband was shocked when he asked me, "What are you doing?" And I said, "I'm texting to have my friends pray for me." And he gave me a strange look because he knew this was very, very unusual. And then he, I think he thought is that bad that you really feel like you have to ask people to pray. In fact, I was getting to the point where I just felt like I needed to go home. And it was just ridiculous. The flights were like 10-hour layovers in London, another layover in New York would've been like 20 hours. And I knew with this kind of pain, I would not make it. So what we decided is that in the morning, if I could make it through the night, we would drive up to Amfissa, the little town that had the hospital. I think the blessing helped me through the night, I really do. I know the Heavenly Father could have just stopped the pain and healed me right then, but that didn't seem to be the answer that I needed. But I did make it through the night. So I felt blessed. I felt like I had been blessed. So my son drove us 30 minutes away up to the little hospital. And when we pulled into the emergency entrance, we pulled clear and back at the hospital because we didn't know how to get to the front. And you went in and there was a little desk and the two doctors that were on duty were around that little desk talking. And then there were three beds, not far from that desk where, I guess, they'd put people who'd come in for the emergency. And I thought, "Oh, dear." It was so different than our medical facilities in the United States. But they asked me what was wrong. My son understood some Greek, but not anything medically. And I couldn't say anything but hello, or thank you. But the two doctors did speak some English. And then they had explained to me that I needed a blood test and some lab work. When they got the results, they called me in and said they were actually quite surprised that the infection was as bad as it was. They said, "You need to stay in the hospital tonight." This was Saturday and we were supposed to fly out of Athens for Naxos the next day, that was the next step of our agenda. And I was going to ruin the trip for everyone. And I said I can't stay in the hospital tonight, we're supposed to fly to Naxos tomorrow. And the doctor looked at me horrified, "You can't go to Naxos." And I said, "Well, I can't stay here." I said, "Is there a train or some way I can get to Athens from here?" And she said, "No, I'm sorry." And I said, well, then I have to leave with my family tomorrow. I was starting to panic because the pain was really, really severe at this point. It was nonstop, it didn't even let up. I didn't know what I was going to do. And then she told me I had to stay in the hospital that night. And I thought I can't do this. It's going to ruin it for everybody and I have no way to get home. So I was really panicking. And she looked at me and she said, "Well, what we can do is admit you and put an IV in with some very strong antibiotics and just see what it's like from there." And I said, "Please," because that sounded like our only option. So she sent me up on the second floor.
No one, and I mean, no one was in the hospital. A nurse came in who didn't speak English at all, and she let me know, "No English." That was what she said, don't even attempt to speak English to me, because I don't understand one word. So we would gesture, but she put the IV in. They said that this would take till five o'clock. That was the time my son was supposed to come back and pick us up. And the doctor came in to talk to me for a little bit. And she said, "Are you sure you can't stay tonight?" And I told her that wasn't a possibility. So she gave me a very strong prescription that we need to fill at the pharmacy and gave me, before they took the IV out, a very strong painkiller. And that is the last pain I had. It was like a miracle. Because the doctor had told me I would not feel well. She still tried to talk me out of the flight, she said, "You will not feel well tomorrow, you could probably go to the even the next day where you're not going to feel well." But the minute I left that hospital, I felt better. And I kept feeling better and better until the next morning. I literally woke up and felt great and I knew that I could get on the flight to Naxos. I made it through the rest of the trip without any further incident. I took it easy, but I was fine. When we finally landed in Naxos, I texted my friends and my niece back because they were concerned how I was and had found out that not only had they prayed, but they had texted their extended family and had them pray. And my niece called and had my name placed on the prayer roles in two different temples. Besides the blessing my husband gave me, I really felt like their prayers were answered. I guess it was just— this was a time where I needed to learn that sometimes you're in a situation where you need more than your faith. Sometimes Heavenly Father wants you to know that you have to ask others to help you. And as uncomfortable as that may be, to ask other people to pray for you, sometimes maybe that is going to be your only solution. That their prayers, their faith, sometimes when you're feeling weak, and not strong enough, their prayers can get you through it. And maybe that's why I wasn't just healed immediately. Whoop dee doo, I'm, you know, I'm healed, you know. So maybe that's what I had to learn, that no matter where you are, even if you're in a little remote area in Greece, where you don't speak the language, where you don't have access to church members or the most up-to-date medical facilities, I could have other people pray for me, and that I was taken care of.
KaRyn: That was Retta. When we were recording this story. I was so surprised to hear her say that while she believed that her prayers for others reached the heavens, she wasn't sure that prayers from others could help her. Because I have truly never met a person who embodies generosity of spirit more than Retta. But I actually think that the lesson she learned is one that we could all use, I know I could use it. If it was only so easy to strike that balance between selflessly extending God's love to others while also believing ourselves worthy of God's love, I don't think the Savior would have had to spell it out so clearly when he told us that greatest commandment to love others as we love ourselves. Asking for help and seeking support is one of the most self-loving things we can do. And sometimes, I think it can take a lot of courage to believe that we're worthy of it, and welcome to it. But the thing that struck me about Retta's story is that God knew. He prompted her to reach out and when she courageously obeyed, she was blessed to know just how He felt about her. We have one more part of Retta's story that I wanted to share. It's short, but I think it's important. Here's Retta.
Retta: I do have to say, though, I listened to "This is the Gospel." The night I was in pain, I sat and listen to other people's stories. And I particularly listened to the podcast about the simple things. And when the lady told about the story about the woman from Nigeria, bringing her a cup of sugar, it really touched my heart and gave me the strength to spiritually stay strong, even though I was so frightened.
KaRyn: There's this part of any trip that doesn't work really make the cut when we're picking out all the pretty pictures for our Instagram feed. It's that moment when you've been driving for seven hours and everyone else is asleep, but you. You're in the middle of nowhere and the radio is just a mishmash of jumbled signals. You're tired, but you have to keep going because what waits for you on the other end of the cornfields on those never-ending cornfields is something worth driving toward. Or maybe it's that dark night in a Greek hospital bed, wondering if the pain will subside in time for you to make it to your scheduled flight off the island. Those lonely moments where exhaustion and doubt and even boredom threatened to derail our hope is the exact moment when we need our fellow travelers to find us. Of course, God knows where we are, but He definitely expects us to help illustrate it to one another. To meet each other on the road or in the cafe bathroom on the border of California and Nevada. He needs us remind one another that our travels are worth it and that we are connected to something more than ourselves. He wants us to walk together as we traverse the sometimes rocky terrain toward our Savior. And isn't it amazing to think that your stories, our stories, can do this for one another even when we can't be there in person? We give each other strength in the middle of our travels and detours and dark nights when we bear witness of His goodness with our authentic true experiences. They don't have to be perfect, we don't have to be perfect. We just need to show up and get on the road, He'll take care of the rest.
That's it for this episode of "This is the Gospel." Thank you to Cheryn and my friends Brooke and Retta for sharing their stories and their testimony. We'll have the transcript of this episode as well as some fun pictures from Brooke and Retta's stories in our show notes at ldsliving.com/thisisthegospel. That's ldsliving.com/thisisthegospel. Go to the episode and then down at the bottom you'll see the transcript and the show notes. So head on over. We love hearing from you on our pitch line. If you have a story to share, leave us a short three-minute pitch, a story pitch at 515-519-6179. You can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. And don't forget to tell us about your experience with this episode or with the whole podcast. Take the time to leave a review on the Apple Podcast app or on Bookshelf PLUS+ from Deseret Book. Believe it or not, your reviews actually help us to move up in the rankings on Apple, which helps more people find it, and couldn't everyone use a little more storytelling in their lives?
This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story producing from Katie Lambert. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at Six Studios and our executive producer is, as always, Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at ldsliving.com/podcasts. Have a great week.
|Sep 30, 2019|
BONUS: Sneak Peek of Season 2 (with Katie and KaRyn)
We might be on a break, but we're still working hard to gather your stories! In this bonus episode, KaRyn and Katie give you a sneak peek at some of the themes for season 2 so you can submit your stories to the pitchline AND share a pitch that made it into one of our upcoming season 2 episodes.
|Aug 05, 2019|
A Worthwhile Pursuit
Stories in this episode: Vai Sikahema was a small boy in Tonga when his family sold everything they had to go to the temple in New Zealand to be sealed. Decades later, that experience helps him be the right person at the right time in a meeting that could very well decide the fate of another temple; When Keala Sikahema decides to put the temple at the center of her family life, she sees its power emanating in ways she didn't expect.
LDS Living Video about the Sikahemas and the Philly Temple: Temple Blessings from Tonga to Philadelphia
President Howard W. Hunter's message "A Temple-Motivated People"
Click here to view the ChurchofJesusChrist.org's temple landing page.
|Jun 24, 2019|
To the Rescue
Stories in this episode: A surprising request from a frightened mother reminds Steve that being spiritually prepared is just as important as physical preparation in rescue work; Lindsey feels guided to save the elderly man under the tree but her plans are changed when she realized what she’s really there to do; With a mysterious illness plaguing his wife, Baron’s flagging faith gets a boost from allowing others to serve his family.
Remember how I said that there was another story for another day? well here it is.
How Neighbor Steve Saved Me from The Backyard Burglar by KaRyn Daley Lay
I didn’t even know that anything was wrong until I opened the door to find the police standing on my porch. I had heard the pounding knocks while I was getting out of the shower and quickly threw some clothes on thinking that it was probably a neighbor or a salesperson (although, why in the world would there be sales people at 8:30am on a weekday?Pest Control?). Instead, I was greeted by two of Salt Lake’s finest who informed me that my neighbor had called 911 regarding a home invasion that was in process at my house. RIGHT NOW.
Stunned, I walked with them to the back of my house where they pointed out the footprints in the fresh snow that seemed to be going back and forth between two windows, both of which had bent frames where someone had clearly tried to jimmie the window open --- One of those was the window to the bathroom where I had been just minutes before. Apparently, when the intruder had not found luck with the windows, he had tried to kick in the back door. The door was damaged, but had not quite given in. Thank goodness.
I was shaken to say the least. I called my husband Justin who had already left for work and we tried to piece together what must have happened. We’d had a rash of burglaries in our neighborhood in the recent months, so that part wasn’t at all surprising. But the fact that someone had tried to get in while I was home was super weird. We figured that they had made their way to the back of the house in the time that I was gone to the gym (back when I did such things) and Justin had left for work, and while they were going between windows and doors, I had come back and gone into the house to shower. Maybe they were so tweaked out on drugs or adrenaline that they hadn’t heard the car drive in? Or maybe they had. I shuddered to think about the latter option.
We learned later that there was another drama playing out at the house just behind ours. We share a fence with Steve and his wife Rachel and when we’re standing on our respective porches in the winter when the trees are bare, we can just barely peek over the fence and see the back of each other’s houses. That morning, Rachel was making breakfast when she noticed something outside the kitchen window. She couldn’t quite make it out, but it looked like someone was trying to break into our house. She yelled to her husband who, because of his SWAT training and emergency work was the resident neighborhood protector. Steve, who was in the middle of getting ready for the day and wasn’t even fully dressed yet, threw on some sweat pants and grabbed his gun while Rachel called the police. He told me that he was just waiting for them to break in so he could hop the fence and catch them mid-burglary because then the police were sure to catch them...He ran to his porch, barefoot in the snow, waiting and watching.
And then he saw my car in the driveway and realized that I was in the house. As Steve says in the podcast, he “loves making decisions under duress in a time competitive environment” and he now knew that the stakes were much higher so he made a decision right then and there to change tactics. He yelled loudly and waved his gun around at the burglar letting them know he was there and he was coming for them. The burglar got spooked and ran off.
The police took pictures of the shoe print in the snow and left with the promise to contact us if anything came of it. We replaced the back door which was severely structurally compromised and only moments from giving way when Steve intervened. We got a few new deadbolts, some motion sensor lights for the carport, and I baked my very best loaf of “thank you for saving my life” chocolate coconut banana bread for Captain Steve, who shrugged the whole thing off as if it was a daily occurrence. Thank goodness for good neighbors who can hop fences in their bare feet with a gun, but don’t.
|Jun 17, 2019|
The Hero's Journey
Losing their dad in a plane crash when they were just kids left KC and Brian without someone to do the things that dads do—like building a pinewood derby car and making sure they made it to the father-son campout. When the men in their local ward stepped up to fill the gap, KC and Brian learned how a Heavenly Father uses others to be there for us when he can’t.
|Jun 10, 2019|
The Paths We Choose
Eric and Chris were best friends and drinking buddies during and after high school and while Chris was a member of the Church, religion was definitely the farthest thing from their minds. When a personal crisis led Eric toward God, his lifelong friendship with Chris and their shared experiences years before showed them both that the path back to the Savior can look very different from the way you might expect.
Watch our THIS IS THE GOSPEL: Converted Unto the Lord video series featuring eric's conversion story.
|Jun 03, 2019|
In the Line of Duty
Stories in this episode: As a newly enlisted soldier in the Royal Canadian Navy, Warren finds himself and his faith at odds with military tradition during a fancy dinner; Verdi makes a surprising traffic stop on a late night policing shift that changes his perspective about human dignity; Nicole learns what it really means to trust God when she is left to hold down the fort during her husband’s military deployment.
I didn't mention it in the host segments, but Nicole and Chris Fairall grew up with me (KaRyn) in Pennsylvania. Nicole and her mother and three siblings all joined the church and joined our little branch in Northeastern PA when we were in our early teens. It has been such a joy to reconnect in our adulthood as we've migrated to Utah for various reasons. You can see pictures from this episode here.
Thanks for listening! If you loved this episode, please leave a review for us on Apple iTunes. Click here and then click on "listen in iTunes" - once iTunes is open, find the RATINGS AND REVIEWS tab and click on it. That will get you ALMOST all the way there... once you're on that page, you'll see WRITE A REVIEW. That's it! Click and write. We really appreciate it.
Our sponsor is Bookshelf Plus. You can get a free trial for 30 days here!
|May 26, 2019|
It's The Little Things
Stories in this episode: Emily finds a tiny but meaningful evidence of God’s care for her in a convention center bathroom; A disappointing answer to one prayer leads Alexandra to a new kind of prayer with interesting results; Scott returns to a difficult area from his mission five years later and is met with a happy surprise; one creatively placed word helps Serena find hope; Marianne sees the hand of God in a perfectly timed knock at her door.
We referenced this talk from the April 2005 General Conference. You've probably already heard it once or twice, but it's ALWAYS worth a revisit! Happy reading!
"The Tender Mercies of The Lord" - Elder David A. Bednar
Emily Belle Freeman, our first storyteller in this episode, is the author of a lot of really awesome books about coming closer to the Savior She's also a TOFW speaker and her 2015 talk called "Finding God's Fingerprints" is available here.
Looking for the picture of the safety pin on the bathroom stall door? Head on over to the show notes on this episode at LDSliving.com/thisisthegospel.
Thanks for listening! If you loved this episode, please leave a review for us on Apple iTunes. Click here and then click on "listen in iTunes" - once iTunes is open, find the RATINGS AND REVIEWS tab and click on it. That will get you ALMOST all the way there... once you're on that page, you'll see WRITE A REVIEW. That's it! Click and write. We really appreciate it.
|May 20, 2019|
“Going to high school as an adult is hard! Way harder than when you were a teenager!” When Lauri decided to get her diploma in her 40’s, she was unprepared for the way it would stretch her. But when she realized that going back to school was connected to her efforts to come back from excommunication, the difficulties and lessons she learned took on new meaning.
|May 13, 2019|
The Gifts God Gives
Stories in this episode: A missionary visits a recent convert in jail and leaves with a crazy new plan for her post-mission life; Erin gets a crash course in motherhood when she takes four small children to a restaurant for the first time by herself; Years of unrequited love in her dating life prepare Megan for a surprising twist when she becomes a mother.
|May 06, 2019|
How We Move Forward
After a year of asking and waiting, Donald finally got permission from his mom to join the church when he was 15. Being a part of this new church family felt like the right next step for this Jamaican immigrant living in Florida, but he soon learned that while the restored gospel was perfect, the people weren’t. In this story, Donald shares the moments that left him wondering about his place in the body of Christ and what helped him to chose faith and forgiveness.
We met Donald Kelly and his wife Cristina when we were filming in Florida in the fall of 2017. In fact, the audio for this story was taken from the video that we made of donald for the VIEWPOINT series. You can watch the video HERE on our youtube channel.
This episode of This is the gospel is sponsored by BookshelfPLUS+ . --- With BookshelfPLUS+ you can have unlimited access to every audio book that Deseret Book has ever released from all your favorite authors -- fiction, non-fiction, even the newest books like Sheri Dew's "Insights from a Prophet's Life" which is full of stories, and well, insights from President Nelson's extraordinary life of service Read by the author.00:00:25So if you want more uplifting, good stories after this episode is over, try BookshelfPLUS+ free for 30 days by visiting deseretbook.com/thisisthegospel.00:00:48KaRyn: 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 are now over 16 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints around the world. And when you think about it, that's a lot of people who've put their hearts and their souls into the hands of a church family seeking opportunities to learn together and grow together as we individually work towards our salvation. That's a lot of people from a lot of different cultures meeting in the proverbial chapel every Sunday.00:01:26I come from a family with seven kids so I understand that the bigger the family the more room there is to feel neglected, misunderstood, or forgotten or in some cases, even overly protective of your status in the family structure. In fact, I understand this because my favorite book when I was a little girl was called "Noisy Nora" (by Rosemary Wells) and it was about a mouse who was constantly making noise just so her family wouldn't forget she existed When a new baby came. So, I get it. But here's the other thing that I know about big families. They also give us more opportunities to brush up against the kind of, what I like to call, "divine friction" that can only come from so many different personalities, backgrounds, races, and cultures engaged in the work of God. And that "divine friction" asks us to change and to be better. Sometimes we get it right. And sometimes we get it wrong.00:02:20Today our story comes from Donald, whose conversion at 15 (sic) and membership in the Church was often complicated by some of this divine friction around race. As a black member living in a predominantly white stake of the church in Florida, his experience with racism sometimes left him wondering about his place in that body of Christ. How he chose faith and forgiveness is a story that truly is the Gospel.00:02:45Here's Donald:00:02:48DONALD: I'm 33 years old. I was 31 and I was called to be a bishop and it was definitely something that I was not expecting. He definitely has a lot of trust.00:03:00Anyone who wants to be a Bishop... they're more than welcome to be the Bishop. It's a lot of work when you're a bishop.00:03:08Why I do what I do? For the money, man!!! (laughter) It's all about the money -- the bling bling, baby. (laughter)00:03:15The reason why I do what I do because I feel people need to know it.00:03:20My life has been changed because of the truthfulness of the Gospel, the direction that it gave me.... and I know that there is more, there are more Donalds and out there and more people who need that direction. And that's why I do what I do . It's because of the love Jesus had for me and spared me so I can go and do his work and help spare somebody else.00:03:45I grew up in Jamaica and moved to the United States when I was nine years old and my mom was a single parent raising two kids. Then my sister came along later on and there was three of us. And when I moved... in Jamaica they refer to anyone in the United States-- you're a "Yankee" so the Jamaican term, "You're a Yankee man, turned yankee man no junior!"00:04:09My mom came to the United States for a better opportunity. Jamaica economy had different challenges especially in the early 90s.00:04:17So she came here with hopes of a better life earning more money and also providing for us. Giving us the opportunity as her children to get quality education and to get an opportunity just to better ourselves. My mom did everything to make sure that opportunity came through. She worked hard. She is a hard worker. She still works right now. You're not a Jamaican unless you have two jobs. So she embodied that, where she worked multiple jobs and just, I call it "the hustle" hustled and did whatever she could to provide for us. And it didn't seem like much -- making thirty thousand dollars a year.00:04:53I grew up in a not so safe neighborhood and it was... a lot of us in the neighborhood were poor and some people were poor and didn't know it. But, some of us knew it. I knew that I was poor but my mom always made sure we had what we needed. We never went hungry. We always had food and we always somehow found out a way to get clothes... if we got to McDonald's? That was cool. (lau00:05:23My childhood growing up and my early adolescent going into teenage years, I went to middle school, Bear Lakes Middle School and that was.... I had some friends who were kind of rough around the edges and my mom raised us as a good good kid. I never drank, never smoked ...I never never saw her drink or smoke and it was just this good environment and it was... it rubbed off on me. So when I selected friends, I just selected friends who were people in the neighborhood and even though they did things that I didn't necessarily agree with or approve of, they were friends. We hung out with them. So the four of us one evening, we were hanging around in the neighborhood and went to this fence and we were being teenage boys and the neighbors thought we were breaking into his house... came outside and he chased us. I got caught out of the four of us and I was arrested that evening and wasn't taken to jail but I was booked and released back to my mom. And I was put on house detention - no bands on your legs, you're just put on house detention so I just was home and my mom being a strict Jamaican mother, she said, (donald in Jamaican accent) "you're grounded for life." So I was was... I was grounded for ever. Pretty much that was my prison was home.00:06:44we went to church every so often. After being arrested and being at home and now having a lot of time to myself, a lot of time to think, I knew I need to get back into a church. I know what church or any church. So one of my friends, Ralston Campbell, Dane we called him. He introduced me to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints. Invited me at a National Junior Honor Society meeting to come to scouts and play basketball on Tuesday nigh00:07:09I blew him off but then he reminded me and invited me again and I took him up on it. I went to church, my first time was on Easter Sunday 1999. I think it was a General Conference that time and then I had all these questions and he said, "I have two friends for you." and introduced me to the missionaries. So I started taking lessons and the missionaries invited my mom to take the lessons and to learn about it but she was stuck in her ways and didn't want to learn anything about it. But didn't have a big deal with me go to church and it was a good thing for me at that time of my life.00:07:41Growing up in Jamaica is really interesting though. People don't get baptized until you're later. It's kind of like you're done making all your mistakes in life -- your sinning. Your're an adult, you understand what you're doing. So when I approached her that I wanted to get baptized... I started going to church April and I approached her really soon after getting to the lessons that I want to be baptized. And she said, "no, you need to wait until you're 18."00:08:03and then she pushed it back "until you're 16." So several months later I asked her and she said, "no." So the missionaries were transitioning through and then it came down to the end of the year was December and I really want to get baptized so I asked her. I remember seeing all my friends passing the sacrament and I was like I want to do this too. And she said no.00:08:23It Was a fast Sunday so all of us the teachers and the young men's and some of the members they said we're gonna do a joint fast. And we fasted that my mom would allow me to get baptized. She had said at 16 at this time and I just turned 15. So we went that Sunday again in December. I asked her and she said, "yes, you can get baptized." It was amazing. So that gave me a huge huge testimony of fasting. And if you have something, you bring it to Lord to help you. And I was baptized when I was 15.00:08:58We went on this high adventure (scout campout) and I remember we were in North Carolina and there's, you know, five six of us kids... scouts... that were black and the majority of us were just white and we all friends and so forth. But we're gathered together and some of the other kids had doubts about the Church and about the Book of Mormon and the blacks and the priesthood and I remember that really hitting me.00:09:21And that was the one time I started to think like, "well, is something wrong here? Is something wrong with the with the Church... is something wrong with that?" And I really... I stopped reading the Book of Mormon. You know, something doesn't seem like it's right. I had good leaders at the time who gave me good mentorship and guidance and taught me to study the scriptures, to go to get an answer. So I read the Bible and I read the Book of Mormon and I would study and picked up and I came to know that it was true but it's still in the back of your mind.00:09:54The High school I went to was predominantly white and I didn't have any black leaders. I didn't necessarily see it as an issue but one time there was a guy named brother Carter and he came to our ward and he was a bishop previously. But seeing him in the churchv- that he was a black man that was a bishop at one point. It was like, "that is cool." I remember the day that when I did see that, it was awakening to say - oh, Brother Carter. It just gave me that vision that - oh, you know, we can have opportunities." It was just interesting. It was just different.00:10:29For the majority of our life my mom was a single mom raising us and my stepfather was in the picture for a little bit of the time. He was... it was an abusive situation... physically abuse, domestic abuse from my mom and he was in the picture for a few years and he was thrown in jail.00:10:45So that left us with a financial situation. My mom was recovering from abuse and missed a couple of weeks of work. And that led us to being evicted from our home. I remember coming home seeing the fluorescent orange sheet of paper on the door and you know what it was because you've seen it before in the neighborhood. Somebody is getting evicted. And that was us.00:11:07I knew things were rough but not that bad. And we threw everything in a small storage unit and my mom, brother, and sister went to live with one of my cousins on the other side of town and I stayed with another relative, a cousin, because that was the busing route to my high school.00:11:25One of my best friends in the Church is Andrew. So we always hung out, always spent time together. a few of us together. And so when I stopped we got evicted and I lived with my cousin and his small apartment. I stopped going to seminary because I didn't have my rides to pick me up and take me to seminary anymore so he knew something was wrong. So I just pulled it out of me and I told them what was going on. That we were evicted and family was separated and I was staying with my cousin in the laundry room. He said, "well you know, we're already brothers already like brothers. I think my parents be fine you come and stay with us."00:12:00And I went home with them that evening and they said, "Of course you can stay with us." And I used to live with them for about a year until my mom got back on her feet. T hey have seven kids and always the extra was Donald. I remember the youngest son Matthew, He was so confused because he was a little kid at a time when I lived with them...00:12:21but they would say, "yeah we have six kids and seven kids." and hew was like, "What about Donald?" (laughter) And it was always uh... cute.00:12:30My friend who introduced me to the church at 14, He's also Jamaican and black American as well. And his mom left the Church... he left the Church too.00:12:46There was that thing that started it... someone at the time was teaching Relief Society and said (or some meetings) said that the blacks were the seed of Cain and taught that false doctrine and it was very difficult for her. I can see how tough it was. So not seeing her come to church and not seeing Dane come to church, It was really hard for me to figure out how I was going to get to church.00:13:13I knew I was right. I knew deep down that it was right. So I kept going and it was again that escape for me and I went and went. Those questions came later on. There were times... I remember one situation where a girl that I had interest in and she had interest in me, But her parents would not approve because the fact that I was black and it's that that idea. How do you feel about that? When people read and misunderstand the Book of Mormon and to say don't mix your your seed with someone... like, what did I do? And that was really a difficult time to grasp that again.00:13:47But the Church was like the thing for me. It was an escape away from, you know growing up and in the way I grew up, in the environment. And being in a wholesome environment... having a vision. And I did get my Eagle Scout and naturally that's the next progression. You go on a mission. And I knew I wanted to but going on a mission I got called to Detroit Michigan. And Detroit. It's a lot of African-Americans, right? And being a black missionary in Detroit it was like a big deal for our mission. So I got placed in the inner city a lot of times and it was it was really neat to be in the city. But stuff came up.00:14:24Out of the hundred and fifty, one hundred and twenty missionaries only a couple that are black, the population of the Church majority are not black. So people ask that question, "how can you be a part of a church like that?" And it brought me to think a lot. I knew that this was the Church of Jesus Christ and knew it was restored. There are things that I didn't understand and it brought a lot of questions and I can humbly say it did bring me to question certain things.00:14:53"Is this the right place for me? Is this correct? How come blacks couldn't have the priesthood?" and and it brought me to my knees a lot to study and to try to understand. How can I teach people, how can I go out every single day and tell people that this is a church for them when no one looks like them.00:15:16The cool thing about Detroit, they saw us as Christ followers -- Christians who were out there doing the Lord's work... but it was... there was a tension. The members in Detroit, you have to be rock solid. You have to gain that testimony to know that, "yes, I understand there were issues in the past but I know without a shadow of a doubt that is true."00:15:35And I've seen so many of those members that became the bedrock and the foundation in establishing the Church. When Gladys Knight became a member of the Church that... she is in Detroit ... that was pretty big as well because that helped people understand somebody who's prominent who is African-American as well was also remember the Church. It brought the church out of this obscurity that it's a church for everyone.00:15:57The history in the past happened but it doesn't mean that the Church isn't Christ's Church. Things happen. That helped to see those strong members and that guided us and gave us direction and companions who are just like you know you saw us brothers who were just really awesome. I can tell you the thing that kept me going was just getting on your knees and praying and knowing that Jesus is the Christ that he truly did die for my sins and he truly did made the way. He (was) resurrected and gave us an opportunity. That doctrine, that ideology is the bedrock that kept me grounded. To understand that this is Jesus' work. It was that guidance that helped me through. Through all of that even understanding that people make mistakes and that we're not perfect and if that was the case there would be no need for the Atonement. Made me realize that everyone makes mistakes and people can repent and can change and in due time they will come to understand and I hope they did and I hope they do.00:17:02But for me, it doesn't make sense to hold a grudge or to be angry. It makes sense to keep going in the testimony of Jesus Christ and I do have and that has guided me and forged a path and kept me going and led me to the opportunities in life I have today .00:17:22Being a bishop and being African-American, younger folks come to me and ask, "Well,I have trouble with this. I have concerns about this. And why did this happen in the past in the Church?"00:17:33And some of them, I really don't have answers to and I think that's one of the interesting thing with life. We don't get answers to everything.00:17:39And I remember, being one of the times as early as a bishop I went back into some of those studies and I studied for a couple days and just diving into more on the topic and a final answer it came back down to that I give to people as my final answer is that they're imperfect people in the church and some people say things are not right. But the truth is the gospel is restored. And don't let anyone take that part away from you. And though we may not have all the answers --I can't give you everything about "why" -- In due time those answers will come . But I can tell you instead of the "why", I can tell you how you move forward.00:18:21And how we move forward is by focusing on Jesus Christ because we're all, black, white, Jew, gentile, green, whatever color you are, We are all His sons and daughters.00:18:33And he wants us to go back and live with Him.00:18:46KaRyn: That was Donald Kelly. I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to hear those stories of times when we as members of the church didn't quite get it right. And I really appreciate Bishop Kelly's personal revelation that helped him make sense of the things that we don't yet understand or know about our history. I also recognize that there are many brothers and sisters who are still waiting for that personal revelation that will heal their wounds. But I revel in the hope that each of us can be healed through Jesus Christ and those of us who have done the wounding, whether intentionally or not, can seek repentance and forgiveness. And isn't that just like being part of a family?00:19:25There's this part in "The Family:A Proclamation to the World" that says, "Successful families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion,, work and wholesome recreational activities."00:19:41I think as a church family, we've got that recreational activity part down if our Ward's block parties and chili cook- offs are any indication. But what if we could do better at all the other things to help make our family, our ward family, our stake family, our church family more successful? I asked Donald to share his thoughts about what we could all do better to minister to our brothers and sisters of color. And here's what he shared:00:20:05DONALD: Now, this is a very sensitive topic for both black members and white members as a whole and I feel the answer is complex but still yet could be very simple. But, in order for us to understand it simply we must recognize or go through the complex answer that I feel first. .00:20:21It comes down to education and empathy. Hear me out on this for a second. Personally, this is my opinion, personally I feel for years that many members of the Church don't talk about race because they just don't understand enough about race or don't talk enough about blacks and the priesthood because they don't understand enough about blacks and the priesthood or they don't understand where members are coming from with it or just simply don't have an answer. And is ignorant to what they should be saying or how they can help other members go through it. So the easy answer, "let's ignore it. Put our heads in the sand, so to speak, and maybe what will happen... They just won't experiment with anything.00:21:01It is not easy to talk about. We can do what Stephen Covey said, "Seek first to understand then to be understood."00:21:07Because what happens, especially when I served my mission in Detroit, Sometimes you will find that members, they were they were taught years ago by the missionaries. These two guys came through the neighborhood started preaching about scriptures, about the Book of Mormon, about the restoration of the Gospel and it made sense. They felt something. They knew, they had this spirit tell them that this was true. They made the decision to get baptized and then maybe couple years later somebody mentioned this idea about blacks and the priesthood and then they start to question like, "wait, what do you mean about that??"00:21:43Now understanding you're probably saying, "yes they got a testimony so why in the world would somebody start doubting?" It's not necessarily doubting and this is where empathy needs to come in play. It's putting yourself in a person's shoes. Oftentimes these individuals who are maybe newer to the church and first time hearing about race and blacks and the priesthood, they probably... they feel... and this is what I'm just sharing what I've heard is.." I feel like I wasn't told everything upfront before I made a decision."00:22:13This caused them to have some kind of question and start questioning everything. How come the missionaries didn't say something about it? How come my bishop didn't talk to me about it? How come some of these things are not taught to me? And then those questions lead to more questions. And more resentment. And then more confusion and frustration.00:22:31Now when they start having conversation with, say a member of the church about it, Because We don't necessarily understand how to Have that conversation with A black member, We go back to just simple saying, "You need to just have more faith. And stop doubting."00:22:49It's depicted, "Well, This person just seems like they don't believe in the fact that we have The restored gospel or that we have prophets on the earth today because if they believe that, They wouldn't ask these questions." Which by the way, is totally not true. It is because I do believe that there is a restoration because it is because I do believe that there are prophets and apostles On the earth. It is because I do believe in the fact that we have priesthood authority. That's why I am asking -- to get better understanding. Again, having a question isn't bad. Maybe you recognize -- yes someone has questioned or going through this challenging time in their life and they're trying to figure things out. Help them. Don't shun them. Don't say they're not faithful. Read scriptures with them. Study with them. Have them over for come follow me.00:23:36Or maybe you can... There are things that you research and you could talk about with them. And just maybe as a bishop, you have more dialogue. As the elders quorum or Relief Society or Young Man or Young Woman president. Taking time to recognize someone's questions and helping them. And for black members of the Church or any one of the Church that may have doubts or have questions, who have these these things they wrestling with, I share this a lot, but I just say, don't jump out of the boat. Stay. In. The boat. Right now. You are safe. You're protected. You may not understand everything. Stay in the boat. Continue to progress. Serve in your calling. Help the ward. Help the members share the gospel of Jesus Christ ,live the gospel of Jesus Christ.00:24:19And as you continue to do this, I pray and I hope that you will gain the answer and insights and revelation that you need. And perhaps maybe we will all come to a better understanding. As we have more of an open dialogue. So again my answer is quite complex. But it comes back down to the simple part. Of. Us. All. Making sure that we educate ourselves and to have open dialogue. And to have empathy. I think those things will help. 00:24:45KaRyn: Donald is always quick to say that he doesn't speak for every black member of our church family so I was thinking that one of the ways I could put his ideas into practice would be to actually ask my friends of a different race, "What is it like for you to be a part of this church?" and then to really listen to their story --not to try to fix it for them or to offer solutions-- but to simply listen and make space for the hard things they might say. And then we can celebrate together the shared faith that brings us all to the sacrament table every week to feast together as brothers and sisters in the same family of Christ... while vowing to do better at being part of that family.00:25:26Well, whatever you feel inspired to do to make our church family better, I hope you'll write it down this week and find a way to put it into action. Let that divine friction change us so we can be better.00:25:41That's it for this episode of This is the gospel. Thank you to Donald for sharing his story and his faith.00:25:46And if you have a story to share whether it's funny touching or miraculous we'd love to hear it. Call our pitch line at (515) 519-6179 leave us a message with a short synopsis of your story. You can also listen to our bonus episode that tells you all about how to become a storyteller on this is the gospel. We've heard from so many of you that this podcast is making a difference in your day. I f so would you please take the time to leave a review on the Apple podcast app? Or anywhere you listen to your podcasts and be sure to tell your friends. The more people know about us the more we're able to keep telling great stories.00:26:21This episode was produced and edited by me KaRyn Lay and Sarah Blake with story editing by Davey Johnson. It was mixed and mastered by mix at six studios and our executive producer is Erin HALLSTROM.00:26:32You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS living podcasts like the ALL IN podcast at LDSLiving.com/podcasts . Have a great week.
|Apr 28, 2019|
Paradise Lost and Found
Stories in this episode -- from the campfire in Paradise, CA: Charelle watches from afar as fire engulfs the town she grew up in and finds comfort in the things she didn’t see; Bryant follows a seemingly hopeless prompting only to discover the real reason God sent him into the fire; Emily and her family narrowly escape danger while trying to find one another in the chaos and reunite to a new future.
|Apr 22, 2019|
BONUS: How to Become One of Our Storytellers
Do you have a story to tell but you're not sure how to do it? TITG story producers Davi Johnson and Sarah Blake are here to help! This bonus episode will give you insights into the story producing process with tips and tricks to help you get your story ready... AND! They'll share upcoming themes for the episodes. When you're ready, call our pitchline: (515) 519-6179
|Apr 18, 2019|
Hope in the Atonement and Resurrection
Phil was just a boy when he and his friends made an impulse decision on a scouting trip that would reverberate throughout their lives and challenge their faith and the faith of an entire community. Though it seemed that the guilt and shame of that experience might haunt him and his future forever, a desperate prayer finally led Phil to a place of peace and understanding through Jesus Christ.
|Apr 15, 2019|
This Grand Gospel Adventure
Stories in this episode: Erik takes a huge professional risk as a Broadway theater producer that doesn’t quite turn out the way he prayed it would when failure leads him somewhere surprising; When Emily, a born adventurer, finds herself in the tedium of young motherhood, another woman’s last minute trip to Peru sends her to her knees to ask God what he has in store for her.
|Apr 08, 2019|
General Conference, Personal Connection
Stories in this episode: A talk at General Conference answers DiDi’s reluctant prayer about the truthfulness of the missionaries’ message; Naveen makes a joyful 2 a.m. phone call to India after a surprise prophetic announcement; Cynthia starts on a path of redemption and healing when a seemingly personal message from an Apostle shows her that forgiveness and change is possible.
|Apr 01, 2019|
The Roots of Faith
Stories in this episode: An extraordinary lesson from her family history helps Sister Linda K. Burton find the right words to minister to the women of the Relief Society when she is called as president; Deserey is called to be the Family History specialist in her single adult ward and receives a special spiritual confirmation from her father beyond the veil about the value of her calling.
|Mar 25, 2019|
When God Speaks...And When He Doesn't
If there was ever a time when Calee needed to hear the voice of the Lord loud and clear, it was the year she found herself in the midst of a difficult divorce navigating life as a single mom. The fact that the heavens seemed completely silent might have driven her further from her faith, but Calee’s determination to hold out for more from God takes her to new and exhilarating places when she seeks to understand the quiet.
|Mar 18, 2019|
A True Change of Heart
When Dusty first came in contact with anti-Mormon literature, he had no idea that his desire to refute it would eventually lead him to become a vehement persecutor of the Church he once loved. What does it take to come back from the precipice of lost faith? Dusty’s unique story of belief lost and found is a reminder that the Savior’s atonement reaches for us even in our seemingly unreachable places.
|Mar 11, 2019|
Change is an exciting and inevitable part of our lives as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this episode, Christie shares her story of being sent with her family on a work assignment to Senegal West Africa where they discovered that being part of the growing church means making room for personal spiritual growth and flexibility and trusting in God’s purposes.
|Mar 05, 2019|
Finding the Light in the Darkness
When Jon was asked to turn off his flashlight in the depths of a cave during a youth activity, he had an experience with darkness and light that stuck with him the rest of his life. That dark cave and its lesson in opposition became a spiritual anchor to Jon when he and his wife Emily were faced with the real ups and downs of a life-threatening illness.
|Feb 26, 2019|
You can find the beauty even in the hardest things when you put your faith in God. Stories in this episode: Teresa has a strange prompting that helps her find the compensatory blessings from God when her plans for retirement are upended by loss; A bid for a spot on the village council places Shauna in some crazy situations, with outcomes that only God could have foreseen.
|Feb 19, 2019|
Love Is What Brings Us Together Today
Stories in this episode: A last ditch quidditch match in the MTC brings Rylan and Diana together years later when they reconnect at the temple; Tyler’s side hustle as a singing telegram puts him in the unique position to find real love; Sarah’s wild dream about a flying kite proves the key to her courage when love comes in an unexpected way; Friendship takes a turn toward romance on a disastrous road trip for Melea and Dean.
|Feb 11, 2019|
The Landscape of Faith
Stories in this episode: When an undercover rescue operation takes a dangerous turn, Tim rediscovers a truth about how faith works in his life; Davi gets a prompting to do something that seems counterintuitive as she prays to receive healing in depression; A friend’s loss of faith offers Adam an opportunity to search out where to focus his own doubts and faith.
|Feb 04, 2019|
The Strength to Forgive
Stories in this episode: Crishelle learns how to move forward after a deep betrayal causes her to question everything she once knew about her family; After a traumatic car accident, Kaitlyn discovers forgiveness is a process and not a one-time event; A very naughty puppy teaches Sarah the love and understanding that can come through Christ’s Atonement.
|Jan 28, 2019|
Behind the Scenes - The Moli Family
Ashley and Alo Moli always imagined themselves with a large family but struggled with devastating infertility. Brittany and her 5 siblings prayed every night in their group foster home for parents who could love and care for them. A miraculous phone call from Alo’s brother set them all on a surprising path that showed them how God has been and always would be working behind the scenes of our pain to bring us joy.
|Jan 21, 2019|
New Year, New Me
Todd was far from religious or even spiritual when he started meeting weekly with a Latter-day Saint bishop in search of a new life beyond his addictions. What happened over the next four years, including an inspired trip to a roadside lemonade stand, changed the course of his life in real and lasting ways.
|Jan 14, 2019|
The Spirit of Christmas
Stories in this episode: A missionary in Guatemala learns that Christmas sometimes means emptying buckets; When Christmas service gets real, a surly teen has a change of heart; Making amends brings a recovering addict and his family closer to the real spirit of the season; Newlyweds with nothing to give discover the secret to a full and rich Christmas.
|Dec 24, 2018|
Lessons from the Desert
When Brittani McLeod’s job led her to a remote village in the deserts of Morocco, she thought she would have to leave behind everything familiar. She didn’t expect the miraculous ways that her Heavenly Father would remind her that He is EVERYWHERE.
|Dec 21, 2018|
Waiting Upon the Lord
In this episode, Isaac Thomas shares the story of how he gained a testimony and joined the church in 1976 at a time when he, as a black man, could not receive the priesthood. He recounts the heartbreak and joy he found as he faithfully served and waited for a revelation that would restore the Priesthood to every worthy male member of the Church.
|Dec 14, 2018|
Love Notes from God
Stories in this episode: A trip to the temple reveals the six words that help Danielle remember who she is to God; Two strangers on rollerblades give Robyn the miraculous answer to her prayers; A moment of pure revelation helps Spencer navigate a painful divorce with grace.
|Dec 05, 2018|
Choosing a Beautiful Life
The story of Carol Decker's life has inspired people around the world to choose love and gratitude despite their challenges. In this episode, Carol tells us what it was like to go to the hospital with what she thought was the flu and wake up to an irreversibly different world and body.
Carol's website: https://www.caroljdecker.com/
|Nov 27, 2018|
The Primary Program
Stories in this episode: A dad with a special needs child courageously decides not to skip town the Sunday of the Primary Program with hilarious and touching results; A primary president discovers the unexpected real rewards of putting it all together; A visitor on the back pew of a Chicago ward wonders, “where did they find these kids?”
|Nov 19, 2018|
How We Minister
Stories in this episode: A High School Student tries to find his tribe when he moves with his parents to Eastern Europe; A no-coffee, no-swearing study-abroad with BYU students sets one woman on a path to Christ; and a congregation in Virginia shows us what it means to truly love every person as they are, where they are.
|Nov 14, 2018|