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.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
11 Mar 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. SHOW NOTES 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. TRANSCRIPT 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.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
4 Nov 2019
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/ Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
27 Nov 2018
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. SHOW NOTES: To see pictures, and find links to things mentioned in this episode, go here. To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :) TRANSCRIPT: KaRyn Lay Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. Last year right around this time, I was lucky enough to attend the Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concert featuring Kristin Chenoweth. And even though our seats were far from fancy, my friend and I were literally going to sit in the nosebleed section of the conference center, you know those seats up at the very top that makes you feel just a little bit dizzy if you look down too quickly? I didn't even care. I am such a huge musical theater nerd that the thought of watching Glinda from Wicked singing with Mack Wilberg, it totally had me fangirling. But then, just moments before we made it into the Conference Center to find our seats, I got a phone call from my mom telling me that my grandma, my nanny, was not doing well and was not expected to live through the night. And even though I knew this might be coming, I found myself unable to keep my emotions at bay. I cried all the way to my nosebleed seat. I wept through the first half of the concert. I ran out of tissues by intermission. And I really thought that the tears were not going to stop. But as I sat there listening to that beautiful music, suddenly they did stop. Somehow, in the midst of my feelings of deep loss and sorrow, something else came over me. And I don't really know what else to call it, but it was a wave of comfort, of sweetness. It washed over me, and I was finally able to breathe again. The theme of that concert was "Angels among Us" and many of the songs were pointedly dedicated to the angels, both earthly and beyond, who point us towards the Christ child. It might seem strange to say this, but as the choir and sweet Sister Chenoweth, as I like to call her, sang about the work of angels to herald the birth of Jesus, it's like I could feel the angels there with me too, reminding me that heaven and earth are not that far removed from one another. And that I can take comfort in the birth and the life of One who restores the distance that does exist. My nanny surprisingly rallied. And, in fact, she's still with us today. But I knew when we were thinking of story themes for this season, that I wanted to honor that moment in the conference center with stories about angels. About the angels in our lives, both earthly and heavenly, who continue the work of drawing us towards the Christ child. And today, we've got four stories that do just that. Our first storyteller is Matt, who didn't realize he needed the help of angels until it was already in progress. Here's Matt. Matt (2:47) I was the first person in my family to be called on a mission that required the learning of the language. I had been called to serve in Nicaragua, Spanish speaking, and I didn't get any insight or counsel from my brother, for example, or my dad because they didn't know what it was like to learn a language. I was naive at the time and for whatever reason, I thought that the gift of tongues was something that came more immediate. I was four days into my stay at the MTC, and I was thinking to myself, "Gosh, this is just not coming to me." With hindsight and perspective now, it's funny as I look back on that. That I would have thought that somehow four days in I'd be learning and understanding and being able to speak the language. I was in a meeting one day and I had my head down, and I was discouraged. I was really discouraged. I was missing my, my house, my family, and having a difficult time with what I perceived to be the inability to learn Spanish. While in that frame of mind, and with my head down, I began to wonder, "Can I even do this? Is this worth it?" And I had a very clear message come into my mind. It was the voice of a man, nonaudible but almost felt audible. And he said, "Elder Hill, pick up your head. I need you to find my family." And I thought, "Wow." I knew it wasn't me because it wouldn't have been a thought that I would have had at the time. My thoughts were far distant from that thought. My thoughts were, "How do I get out of this? How do I go home?" I wrote in my journal that night and thought nothing of it. I actually didn't even mention it that night. It wasn't until the next day it, almost as an afterthought, I wrote in parentheses, almost as like a P.S., "Oh yeah, by the way, while in a meeting the other day, I heard the voice of a man tell me to pick up my head because he was counting on me and needed me to find his family." And then I wrote, "I guess he's dead. I guess we'll have to see if I can find his family." And that was it. You know, I didn't think much on this experience the rest of my stay there. I didn't even share the experience with anybody. Nobody in my district there at the MTC, I didn't write about it in any letters, it was something that just had taken place that day. And I thought, "Well, I guess I'll write a little bit about it. And we'll see at some point if that ever really translates to anything." I know it sounds funny that I put this thought in parentheses almost as like a P.S. at the end of my journal entry, but there's a reason for that. I had an experience prior to my mission in a similar nature came while in the Logan temple one day. I had just received my mission call and I was going into be confirmed for the dead. And I close my eyes and out of nowhere, I felt the presence of my grandpa, who I have never met. My grandpa passed away when my dad was nearly turning 12 and so I've never met him. And so for me to have an experience where he's there, it seems like this would be something kind of out of that world, but it just felt so natural. I knew that it was my grandpa. And I'm not sure how I knew that. I could see him in my mind's eye. And I absolutely felt that it was him. I knew it was him. As I think back and reflect upon that, that experience, it seems odd, even to my mind, to consider and to think on that. How did I know it was him? I instantly knew. There wasn't a second guess. I close my eyes and there was my grandpa. In fact, the very second I perceived his presence I said, "Hey gramps, how are you?" And his response to me was, "So Nicaragua, huh?" And he expressed how proud he was for my decision that I had made to go and to serve a mission. And I got the chills. And I immediately was just so, it was like a longing, like a, "I haven't seen you forever," kind of a feel. And that's the way it felt is, "Grandpa, how are you?" And I missed him, and I knew I had missed him. And I guess it was my spirit who knew him and who missed him. Because like I said, I had never met him before. So the idea of that sounds very strange that I may have known him. And he told me that he had come to tell me he was going down to prepare the hearts of people that I would come in contact with and to give me a bit of advice, and he gave me some advice. He told me that, "While on your mission, I want you to make sure that you are obedient to the mission rules." Because I will find protection and safety through my obedience. And then he said, "I want you to go home and I want you to tell your mother that you will be protected on your mission. She is worried about you, where you've been called to serve." And I went home and I told my mom the experience and she broke down, and she had hid it really well. My mom had hid it, I had no idea that she was concerned and that she was worried about where I was going. She'd been looking up all about it that they had recently had a war not long prior, a civil war in the country. And I was pretty clueless. I was just excited to go. I had prepared for it and was excited and had no idea that my mom was beat up inside about this. And so I look back on that experience with my grandpa in the temple that day, I think in part it was maybe for me. But I think the bigger reason, I should say, for the experience was more for my mom to give her some peace of mind. Three months later, I was walking out of a pueblo one day with my trainer, that the pueblo was Sunny Isidro. And as we were walking out of the pueblo, I looked over to the right at the very last house in this little pueblo. And I saw two little kids playing out front in the dirt. I kind of looked at him and then continued to walk forward. And I had an impression that we should go talk to that family. So I turned to my trainer and said, "Hey, do you mind if we go introduce yourself to them real fast?" He said, "Okay, yeah, let's do it." So we get into the house and my campaign starts to talk with the mom and she was knitting a little piece of clothing at the time and sitting in a rocking chair. And I, as I mentioned, I didn't speak very much Spanish. I had kind of suggested we'd come introduce ourselves here. And, and one thing my dad, one bit of counsel he gave me before I serve my mission, he said, "You know, when you go into these homes, look at the walls and look at things that are on the walls. Typically, those are things that have meaning to people and comment on them." So, I made that a practice of mine and I noticed a picture on the wall of a police force. I walked over to the picture, and I looked at it, there was about 15 or 20 policemen in this picture. And as I was looking at the picture, there was a man who jumped out at me, and I didn't know why. With my limited abilities in Spanish, I said, "Quien es el?" Which meant, "Who is he?" And I pointed at him. And the mom as she was knitting, she put her head down, and she began to cry. She said, "He was my husband. And he was shot and killed this last year." I immediately had the chills overtake my body and the hairs on my arms stood up. And I was so excited because I knew this, the Holy Ghost had confirmed to me this is that man's house. And I knew I had found the family. And so my reaction, I know that the normal, typical reaction in a scenario such as this would be to say, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry for your loss." But inside what I was feeling is just complete joy and excitement and I wanted to scream out, "Your husband is alive and he cares about you. And he wants you to be happy. And he spoke to me." I had no words, I couldn't speak Spanish. I knew I had no chance at articulating that thought, and I knew the moment wasn't right to express joy and to be excited. And so what I did is I said, "I'm sorry." But inside, if she could have seen my true emotions, my emotions were jumping for joy. And that's how I felt. I had forgotten about the words that I had come into my mind in the MTC, I'd forgotten all about it. It had been months and there I was, standing in that home and connection was very vivid and clear. This is my family. We left that home. And I said to my campaign, my trainer, I said, "Elder, they're going to join the Church. They're going to accept the gospel. And he looked at me and he kind of chuckled, he says, "You know, I felt the same way. You know, when I was new, I felt the same way about everybody I came in contact with." And I left it at that. He was, he was getting close to going home and I didn't feel like the moment was right to share the experience I had had. So a couple of weeks later, my trainer went home, and I was sent a new campaign. His name was Elder Wilson. Elder Wilson only had himself maybe three or four months out in the field as well. And so he came and said, "Hey, tell me about who we are teaching in the area." And I said, "Elder, I want to share an experience I had in the MTC a few months back." And he looked at me and he said, "Elder Hill, if we do nothing more together with the time that we have then help this family by giving them every opportunity to join the gospel, I believe our time together will have been a success. And I thanked him for that. And I said, "I agree." And he said, "We cannot and we will not give up on that family." And, oddly enough, I started to laugh and he looked at me, he said, "What are you laughing about?" And I said, "I'm laughing because of the idea and thought of you and I going out and trying to teach this gospel because you don't speak much Spanish and I speak far less." And we both just started to laugh as we envision what it might be like to receive the gospel in that way. And we realized that in there, it wasn't going to be much what we did. It was really going to come down to the Spirit testifying that whatever we were trying to say, was true. And we relied heavily upon the Spirit more so during that phase of my mission than any other just simply because of the fact we didn't have the benefit of our words to help express what we were trying to convey. We didn't give up on that family. And a couple of months later, I was in the baptismal font watching as the mother entered the waters of baptism with tears coming down her face. And I was in a similar emotional state at the time and I was crying as well and we embraced. And again, I wanted so badly to tell her so much about her husband and how excited and happy he would be because I knew it. But, again, I didn't have the words in Spanish to express and convey that message. The next day she received the gift of the Holy Ghost, her and her daughters. And it was fast Sunday and she bore her testimony. And in her testimony, she said, "Ever since my husband passed away, I have felt the yearning to come to this church. And I haven't known why. Now I know why." She said that this gospel, with the limited time she has spent in it and learned about it, has brought her so much peace and joy. And she is convinced that her husband is super happy with her and her daughters' decision. Having the perspective of being a father myself, there isn't anything that I wouldn't do for my children. It connects me with the father who spoke with me in the MTC in a very real way now because I have the perspective that he has. I understand the, the longing that must be present there as he watches his family live their lives in his absence. It helps me to know that I would do the very same thing. That I would do anything in my power to help my family in any way possible. I didn't have the ability to ever have a full conversation with that family, to express to them what had happened to me and what their dad had come and told me. And I look back on that and maybe I'm grateful that I didn't have the words to express that, because maybe they joined the gospel more free willing of their own accord rather than feeling like they were doing it for their dad. I don't think there's anything special about me, per se. The times where these experiences have happened. It has always been for the benefit of somebody else. And why I've been having the ability to have that happen or to be able to perceive those words and those thoughts, I don't know. But I do believe that our Heavenly Father does know how to reach us. And oftentimes I think the way He chooses to do that is different for all of us. The gospel of Jesus Christ is very important to those that are living and those that have passed on. I've learned that our Father allows those on the other side to be very much a part of the work that we are doing here. He allows my grandpa, as an example, to go and to go in advance of me and help prepare people for people I would meet. And every time I had somebody accept the gospel, I would always think back on my grandpa, and I would think, "Man, I'm grateful to have a grandpa that cares enough to be out here. And that cares to help me find these people." KaRyn (19:59) That was Matt. Matt first shared his story with us on the pitch line and when we contacted him to develop it for the episode he, like so many others, wondered if this experience was too sacred to share. I get that. Telling our stories is a sacred business because our stories are powerful. And because of that, we have a duty and an obligation to seek counsel with the Lord about how we share our stories and when we share them. I'm always humbled when the right place and time to share the story is on our podcast and even more humbled when someone realizes that the time is not right. I honor that. Ultimately, the choice to share a personal witness of a sacred experience is between the storyteller and the Spirit. In his own process of determining the timing to tell this story, Matt found this beautiful quote from Elder Holland's message entitled "For a Wise Purpose" from the January 1996 Ensign. In that message, Elder Holland said, quote: "I believe we need to speak of and believe in and bear testimony of the ministry of angels more than we sometimes do. They constitute one of God's great methods of witnessing through the veil, and no document in all this world teaches that principle so clearly and so powerfully as does the Book of Mormon," end quote. I really believe that our stories, when used for a wise purpose or gift to one another, testify of Jesus Christ and His power and His glory. Our next story bearing witness of the ministry of angels comes from Melissa, who believed she was alone in her new faith until a unique heavenly message helped her see that she was anything but alone. Here's Melissa. Melissa (21:41) I grew up with the memory of my cousin. She was nine months old when she passed away. She actually passed away before I was even born. But I was named after her, my middle name was after her, and I missed her. And I couldn't figure out why, I didn't understand why I missed her so much. But I knew that I wish that she could be here. That was until I learned about the plan of salvation. And I learned about how we live before we were born. I learned about how we had relationships, and we chose to come to this earth to be able to progress. It made sense that we had relationships because I felt this bond that I probably was best friends with my cousin. And she's probably been rooting for me this whole time. So I knew I had to be a part of that kind of truth. But joining the Church wasn't really the easiest thing in the world. My mom wasn't very excited about it. Neither my mom or dad were excited about it. I think it was because I was 18 years old. I was just graduating from high school about to move away to a new world, a new life away from them. I was the oldest too so it's the first time any of us are going through it. So not only my throwing in moving away and experiencing life but also I threw in a new religion and a new way of life. And I think my mom at one time told me she just couldn't go with me. She couldn't follow where I was going. And it really broke her heart. And it was hard for me because I felt like I was going to truth and I was going closer to my Savior, and if anything, I was doing things so that way my family could be together forever. So going to Church was a little bit tough. As much as it's so exciting, and I felt so whole and connected to my Heavenly Father, my Savior, it was very lonely going to church. I would walk into church and you see all these families, regardless of probably how hard it was to keep everybody reverent during sacrament, you can feel and tell the love that just embodied everybody and their families. And it was, I was so jealous to see that and be able to have those families sit together and be able to share these experiences together. And don't get me wrong, I was pretty popular. Everybody wanted me to sit with them. They always wanted me to make sure I felt welcome and loved. And so definitely was not a lack of support from anybody. But it was hard when you go with friends when they go through the temple of the first time and you see this crowd of family at the luncheon afterwards. And you just see this, people from so many different sources, whether aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, all there to support you in your decision and your journey spiritually. So I always felt super lonely and just really sad and longed for the day that I could be able to be sealed to somebody and be able to have family that I was able to share the gospel with. Luckily, my husband took me on, and we have four beautiful children. And we've been sharing testimonies and stories and it's wonderful to have that. But again, it's so, it's just saddened because I wish that I can share it with my family, too. About a couple years ago, I started hearing this voice in my head, "Ugh, aye mi hija!" And my grandmother has passed away 10 years ago. When I was a kid growing up, I did a lot, a lot of dumb things. And whenever she'd catch me doing something she'd be like, "Aye, mi hija!" And she was so disappointed in me for being, making just dumb choices. And I was hearing that sound, "Aye, mi hija!" And I knew what it was. "Aye, mi hija!" It was my grandmother. "Aye, mi hija!" Why have you done my work yet? Why have you not gotten me sealed to your grandfather yet? "Aye, mi hija!" So I knew I had to get her work done. Because I was not gonna be here that was the rest of my life. So I start, I started working hard getting all of her work done. Through my grandparents, who had passed away, I was able to get all of their parents' work done and sealed. And so we got this nice lot of work done now for my family. And it was super exciting to be able to get all that stuff done. Well, a couple of months ago, I was training for a marathon and I was on a 20-mile run that day. I had to leave at four in the morning. I was 10 miles into my run, and it was just a beautiful, was a beautiful day. The sun hadn't come out yet and the stars were shining. The area that I happened to be in was a gated community so there wasn't any streetlights. So the stars were able to even shine brighter, and it was a completely clear sky. So I looked up to the sky and it was just gorgeous. And I couldn't help but admire how beautiful this creation that God had given me, this earth that just naturally brings beauty. And then as I was running, I felt somebody running beside me. And I knew it was my grandmother. She started running beside me. And then, then someone became beside her. And on the other side, there was someone else that came beside, and all of a sudden I had a row of angels running beside me. And I knew It wasn't just angels. It was my family. It was my grandfathers, it was my cousin, it was my great-grandparents. And they ran with me for a little bit. And so I started bearing my testimony, my soul, sharing up all the wonderful things that I have found by coming to know of the truth of the gospel, that I was able to share my testimony and able to share my experiences with my family. Because of that experience, I have felt them so much more lately in my life. I even felt them actually on my marathon. I was running, and I was only at mile seven, and I felt them coming down and I was like, "Wait on guys, hold on, hold on. Appreciate you coming down. But I'm going to need your help around mile 18. Mile seven, I'm good, keeping good pace." And they did come at mile 18 and had to stay with me the whole entire time because I barely made it till mile 26. I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants when the Kirtland Temple was being dedicated. And it talks about how to leave this temple with angels having charge over us. It made me really connect that to my family, that the angels being charged over me are not just any random angels, they're my family. That loneliness has been able to to go away because I do have those family members that are part of the gospel. That were most likely there when I got sealed to my wonderful husband. That had been there when my sons have gotten baptized. That will continue to be there as we go through these great moments. I am so grateful to have that knowledge, to have those angels with me as I go forth. KaRyn (30:24) That was Melissa. I love the image of her ancestors coming to run next to her. Every time I think about it, it reminds me of some kind of scene from the end of a movie. It's like, after the montage and there's this amazing music playing and then all of a sudden the heroine looks to her left and looks to her right and realizes that she is not alone. And honestly, couldn't we all use a little shove in the middle of a marathon from those who've already finished the race? I know I could. Our next story is a short and sweet one from Cheryl whose angel came right to the front door. Here's Cheryl. Cheryl (30:56) My son Lincoln was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is the cancer of the blood when he was 2-and-a-half years old. We also had a 1-year-old, Sawyer. So our hands were pretty full, and it was pretty devastating to get that diagnosis. About six months later, we moved to Greenville, North Carolina, so my husband could do his residency program. Shortly after we moved to North Carolina, things got really hard for me. Lincoln was in a phase of his chemotherapy treatment that was really intense. And he was on these medications that made him super cranky and really agitated, particularly the steroids that were bad. They caused him to want to eat constantly. He ate so much, he retained so much water that he had what the doctors called moon face because his face got so big and round that it looked like the shape of a moon. On top of all that, I was pregnant and in my first trimester. I just remember being so nauseous and waking up with Lincoln, sometimes multiple times a night, to spoon-feed him chicken broccoli casserole and Pasta Roni, those are the two things he always wanted because he was so hungry. And it broke my heart to see him so uncomfortable and so miserable. Meanwhile, Sawyer, his little brother, was almost two and I felt so guilty for the life that he'd been experiencing for the past several months. I felt so bad for him being stuck inside all the time with a sick brother and a sick mom day after day, and I did, I just didn't have the energy and I couldn't do much about it. I couldn't take him out and play with him and go to the park, anything like that. And we just moved to the area so I didn't know anybody so I didn't feel like I had friends or support to draw on at the time. And I remember one day, I just hit an all-time low and had a bad night hadn't slept. And I just I picked up my phone, and I text my three sisters who live all across the country. And my text said something like, "This is awful. I can't do this anymore. Help." And I'm a very dramatic person so I knew that text would be alarming to them. But I was just so desperate. Right after I send the text, my sister Wendy called, but I was busy and I couldn't answer the phone. So then about five minutes later, she called back again and that time I, I did answer. About a minute into our conversation, the doorbell rang. And I told my sister and she said, "Well, go answer the door." and I said, "I'm not answering the door. I am not expecting anyone. I don't know anyone here. My house is a mess. I look horrific. I'm not answering the door." And then she told me that for the past five minutes since she received my text, she'd been on her knees praying that someone would come help me because she couldn't. So I swallow my pride going out to the door, and standing there was my neighbor who lived down the street. And I had only met her once before that, maybe twice, just in passing. And she was there with her daughter who was in a red wagon. Carolyn told me she felt like she should just come see how I was doing and she wanted to know if Sawyer, my son who had been feeling particularly bad about neglecting, if he might want to go on a wagon ride with her daughter around the neighborhood. It was such a simple act, such a simple gesture, but it meant the world to me. I started crying and I told her that I felt like she was an angel and that God had sent her and she was an answer to prayer. And I'm sure she thought I was a little bit crazy but in that moment, I was just so grateful. And I really, truly felt like she was an angel that had been sent. I knew my Heavenly Father was aware of me and I felt His love so strongly. It just washed over me. I knew He'd heard my sister's prayer, and I felt His love and His awareness so strongly that I just, I couldn't deny it, and I still can't deny it today. Though nothing really changed drastically after that day, Lincoln and I continued to feel sick and struggle together. But I had received a witness that God was aware of me in my darkest hour, and He sent my neighbor who I barely knew as a ministering angel to offer the perfect act of service. And that was just enough to keep me going. Lincoln continued to have chemo treatments for another three years but he made it through and he's cured. He's in remission now and he's been cancer-free for the past four years. And I'm just so grateful. I often look back on that experience with Carolyn and it just reminds me that we can get through hard times. And we can be angels for other people just like she was for me. So we can lift each other, and we can be the hands of heaven here on earth. KaRyn (36:52) That was Cheryl. Do you ever worry that what you're offering is weird or wrong or might offend somebody? I know I do. And I think that sometimes that stops me from showing up for people in their time of need. But Cheryl's story is exactly what I needed this week to kick my shame to the curb. Ministering is all about trusting that who you are and how you move in the world is already enough for the people you've been paired with or prompted toward. And that God will transform your offer of a red wagon ride into exactly what your neighbor needs. I also think it helps me to remember that the work of heaven and angels is not limited to those and other realms. We get to be a part of that work, too. And what a privilege that is. Our final story today comes from Brooke and if you've been silently listening to today's stories, wondering where your angels are, well, this one's for you. Here's Brooke. Brooke (37:46) I was on a conference call with Whitney and Soni, the two girls that I sing with. And we were discussing our upcoming tours and I got a phone call from my mom. My mom was diagnosed with the flu the day before, so I thought, "Oh, she's just calling to tell me how she's feeling." And she kept calling. She'd call hang-up, call hang-up, which is normal for my mom. That's, that's what my mom does until you answer the phone. So I finally texted her and just said, "Hey, I am on a conference call, I'll call you back as soon as I'm done." And I sent this text and as soon as I sent the text, she called again. And I thought, "Okay, that, that's not like my mom." It was my dad calling from my mom's phone and told me that my mom had stopped breathing and the ambulance was on their way and to just hang tight until they got to a hospital. And then he would call us from there. But I live fairly close to my dad so I told him I would just jump in the car and just run over and just be with him until they get that figured out. And I remember driving and just praying, "Just let her be okay." I just assumed she'd be okay. It's the flu, right? It's 2018, it's not 1740, so I felt okay about it but obviously a little nervous. When I got there, there was two or three ambulances there and a police car and they were rolling out a stretcher, the stretcher was empty. And I thought, "Oh, maybe she's okay." So I asked them quickly, "What happened? Where's my mom?" They said, "Well, are you Brooke? Just go inside." And my dad was standing there with the most blank look and said, "There's nothing they can do. They couldn't do anything." And I just froze. I couldn't believe this was actually happening. And I even remember kind of yelling at the, yelling at the EMTs saying, "How long did you try? You didn't try long enough." They just kind of stared at me. And I just I couldn't believe that I had lost my mom to the flu. You know, she'd been at my house three days before just loving on my kids and she was, she was gone. My mom was very full of life. I know that sounds cliche, but I don't know how else to describe her. Everything she did was so big: her actions were big her, her voice was loud, just her hair was big. She even would had this whistle. And, you know, it was interesting no matter where you were, what event you were at, what school play you were at, you knew where my mom was sitting because of this whistle that would just kill everybody's ears. That was her signature thing. She was the person that would walk up to strangers, even like homeless people, and hug them and talk to them. Sometimes the, the stranger's face would have a look of confusion like, "Who is this lady touching me and why is she touching me?" But a lot of times you'd almost see their faces just kind of melt just, "I just I really needed that." Even though she's a stranger, you know. We found out all these really great stories about her after. She would visit her Young Women with flowers when their sister moved away to college because she knew that this little girl was struggling with her sister leaving. Or, she'd show up at lacrosse games or she did tea parties for my kids. She was a grandma that came to things and showed up. I think we definitely took it for granted. I don't know if you're ever really done grieving. I think the first year was fog and a lot of drowning. And I think that's typical. Second year, maybe it's a little bit easier. That first year was horrible. I still have a lot of triggers. It sounds so funny, but she loved "Downton Abbey." She thought she was British. We always laugh like, "You're not British, Mom." But she thought she was British so she loved "Downton Abbey." It was her ringtone on my phone. And after she passed away, you know, the show is not on anymore and I was sitting in the movie theater just a couple months ago and the preview for the new movie coming out came up. The second I heard the music, it was just, just waterworks. You know, I don't expect to be sitting in a movie theater crying about a song that represents my mom. There's triggers everywhere and I just, all the firsts you expect, but the little things are hard. I don't even know how to tell somebody how to get through this other than I just know you become a part of this crazy club of people grieving lost ones. And so there are days where you feel really alone and days that you know you're not. One of the things that comforted me after I lost her was that I knew angels existed and I knew that they were very present in our lives. I have had experiences with that before. I have felt my great-grandmother with me through really hard times. My great-grandmother was a singer and there was no other singers in my family. And so I've always felt connected to her. I've never met her, but I felt her presence. I don't know how to explain the feeling. I don't see her or hear her. I just know she's there. Even times before I'm going to go on stage and I'm nervous I felt my great-grandma with me. You know, she's a singer so she knows what it's like to to step on a stage and be nervous. During the birth of my last baby, it was a really traumatic experience where we almost lost her, and it was bad enough that even my life was in danger. I was, I had to be sedated for that one. Waking up and kind of slowly opening my eyes, I could see my husband and I could see my mom in the room, but the room felt full of people. And I just kind of sat there thinking, "Who else is here?" And the room was just filled with love, a bigger love than can be contained in just the two people that were there. And, even from that moment, I've always felt like my youngest, Claire, belongs to a collective group of people. I just get to be her, her mom here. Having had those experiences, I had an expectation that I would have the same experiences with my mom. And my patriarchal blessing even talks about angels and that the presence of my loved ones will be very important to me in my life. I expected my mom to come and visit me just the way I had been visited in the past. I thought that she won't feel very far away. She'll always feel close. What added to that belief was that a couple years before my mom passed away, I had a very strong impression to study angels, not just because they were mentioned in my patriarchal blessing, but I was really intrigued with the idea of them. So I studied scriptures and talks and books and I went to the temple, they're talked about all over in the temple. I would read experiences that people have had, and I just really gained a huge testimony in their existence and in their roles in our lives. All of these things led me to believe and to expect that my mom would come to me in certain ways, and I will feel her presence on a regular basis. But I haven't. I haven't felt my mom since she's passed. It's been a year and a half, and I had all these expectations. Maybe when I was, after the year when I could see more clearly or I wasn't in this fog or during some big life thing that would happen: my daughter's baptism, during my dad getting remarried. Would I feel her that week? And I haven't, I haven't felt her. That's been difficult. It's been hard because I have expectations. And I know what it feels like and I know it's possible. So why, why not my mom? Why my great-grandma, why people that I don't know? Why can I feel angels but not my mom? Why does it talk about my patriarchal blessing how important they'll be in my life, but the one who's the most important feels silent? So the questioning did come to a point where I, I was angry. And it's interesting because, throughout the entire process, I never felt angry at God. I know death is a part of this experience. I saw His hand in all the service and all the love that we were given. I even looked back and saw all the ways He actually prepared us for her passing. I was never mad at God. I really wasn't, until one night I really wanted to talk to my mom, and I don't even remember, honestly, what it was about. And I remember praying out loud and I was in the car driving and I was praying out loud. And I asked him, "Why? Why have you let me have all these experiences and gained such a testimony of angels and their existence and their involvement, how close they are. And I've been led to so much study and pondering and praying about the subject of angels. Why have you not let me feel my mom?" And it was a really clear moment, a really clear answer that came to me and it's, I don't have a lot of those in my life. I have seen the Lord's hand and the Spirit has spoken to me, but this is one of those clear like, "I hear the words. I'm sitting on your shoulder in your ear." And He said, "I had to come to that knowledge, I had to study all of this so that you would know she was there even when you don't feel her." Everything kind of turned at that point, my vision shifted a little bit. I started to look for my mom in different ways. It's interesting because I still, still haven't felt my mom the way I felt my great-grandma. But I see my mom through the actions of other people. Right when she died, a sweet friend did a painting for me. And she said, "I felt like somebody took my hand and the paintbrush and painted this," and had a painting out in 10 minutes. I wish like everybody can see this painting. It's a painting of an angel, which she didn't know that that's my love. You know, I have an angel wall in my office and the colors that she used were all the same colors on my wall and the angel looked just like my mom. Big hair, you know, and she's never met my mom. It was just really interesting that I thought, "Oh, that's my mom. She knows I love angels, of course." In fact, even at Christmas time, this gal in my neighborhood, she had a very strong impression for two weeks, "You need to buy Brooke an angel." And she kept saying, "Why? I don't even know Brooke that well. That's gonna look so weird." And so she's like, "I'll just buy her a candle or something like that." She bought something else. But it kept coming, "No, buy her an angel. Buy her an angel." So she's like, "I finally just bought you an angel. I'm so, I don't even know why." She doesn't know that I have this love of angels. You know, I got a letter, this beautiful letter from a friend that said, "Was listening to your song and your mom was there with me and this is what she told me and this is what she wants me to tell you." And it was a really beautiful moment for my friend that became a really beautiful moment for me. We were both blessed from this, you know, and that's how my mom operates. That's what she, that totally sounds like my mom. My mom works in heaven the same way she works on Earth. She works with other people a lot and I, it's interesting because I think she'll do something to bless somebody who will then turn and tell me so that we kind of both get blessed. So it's like a two birds with one stone kind of a thing you know, she just, she knows she can bless two people with one action. So that's what she's gonna do. And it makes sense to me that she's going to do the same things in heaven that she did here on Earth. They don't change, you know. I still want to feel her all the time. I think I'll always miss her and there will always be moments where I'm just kind of, maybe angry is not the right word, but sad. Sad she's not here with me. It's been interesting to see the compassion that's grown and how much I've learned to lean on Heavenly Father instead. Like, I had an experience one night. I was praying and telling Heavenly Father I was frustrated I couldn't talk to my mom about my, my mothering. My mom was really good at telling me I was doing a good job. I can't talk to my friends about that because we're all, everybody's in the trenches together. We all think we're a horrible mom. All of us think we're ruining our kids. But my mom was out of the trenches and could tell me from a different perspective I was doing okay. And I remember praying and saying, "I miss my mom being here to tell me I'm doing a good job. And the Spirit said, "Well, I can tell you you're doing a good job." I thought, "Oh, of course, why don't I just go to Christ? Why don't I tell Him everything?" And honestly, it's been interesting because I've never before relied so much on Him, even as being a connection to my mom. I can't tell you how often I've said in a prayer, "Will you please tell my mom I love her?" And how often the Spirit has said to me, "She knows." So even though I can't feel my mom, or even sometimes I don't know if she hears what I was saying, He does. Christ knows how I feel. He knows what I'm saying. He hears my thoughts. And if there's something that my mom needs to know, He'll make sure it happens. And I trust that. KaRyn (52:36) That was Brooke. Brooke Stone is one-third of the music group Mercy River, and she first shared part of this story at Time Out for Women where I heard it and realized that it had to be a part of this episode. We celebrate heavenly visitation when it happens because in these latter days, we do believe in angels. We believe in a realm beyond this one, but we also believe as with any friends form of divine communication, that heavenly visitation is only one way that God reaches us in our need. And just like Brooke said, how we receive that revelation is no indication of our goodness or lack of goodness. We may long for and work for and study and seek for angels only to find that God needs us to hear His message a different way at a different time. Like Brooke, I don't understand the whys of revelation. I don't understand why one time it's an angel and the next time it's a feeling and the next time it's silence. But I do know that someday it's going to all make sense. And I hold onto that day with hope that I'll rejoice in my heavenly, "Aha," moment. One thing that is clear from our stories today is that the work of angels is always beautifully related to the work of discipleship. As I was sitting in the Conference Center listening to what felt like a choir of angels heralding the birth of the Savior with those tears for my grandma falling freely, I heard the lyrics from the chorus of the song "Angels among Us," and I felt something shifted in me. I felt a new understanding beginning. Here's a little piece of that song for you. Oh, I believe there are Angels Among Us, Sent down to us from somewhere up above. They come to you and me in our darkest hours To show us how to live To teach us how to give To guide us with a light of love. That guiding light of love that the song speaks about? Well, that light was the guiding force for Matt and the families he taught as a missionary. It was the homing beacon for Melissa as she found her place in the family of Christ. It was the knock at the door for Cheryl who just needed to know that she was known. And it was the gentle reminder for Brooke that even in her grief and her loss and her longing for comfort, He can be the one to tell her she's getting it right, that she's not alone, and that she's got back up. Our angels, whether we feel them or not, will always show up. And they will always point us towards the true light of all love, our Savior, Jesus Christ. So as we feel inspired to, as Elder Holland suggested speak of and believe in and bear testimony of the ministry of angels more than we sometimes do, we can trust that those inspired expressions will also bear witness of Him and His holy life and His holy work. That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thanks for joining us today. And thank you to Matt, Melissa, Cheryl, and Brooke for allowing us to help tell their stories of divine communication. We'll have so many good things in the show notes for this episode, you guys, so many good things. You really, really want to go there. We're going to have a transcript of the episode along with some pictures and we will have a link to the Tabernacle Choir's Angels among Us album, which is so beautiful and it has that song that we played from Kristin Chenoweth and the choir. You can also follow us at @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook to get more about the podcasts and about this episode. All of our stories on the podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the gospel of Jesus Christ, well guess what? we have a pitch line and we want to hear from you. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. We're still looking for some stories for season two, so don't hesitate to call and leave that message. You can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. Don't forget to tell us about your experience with this podcast. Take the time to leave a review on the Apple podcast app or on Bookshelf PLUS+ app from Deseret Book. We really do appreciate it. We love to hear your thoughts about the episodes, about the podcast as a whole, and it really does help more people to find our stories. This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story producing and editing by Katie Lambert and Kelly Campbell. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by Mix at 6 Studios, and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at ldsliving.com/podcasts. Have a beautiful week.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
2 Dec 2019
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5 Dec 2018
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. SHOW NOTES: Today's episode was sponsored by TOFW. 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! TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay: Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. 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.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
28 Oct 2019
Dream A Little Dream
Stories in this episode: Ken’s professional future is uncertain until a unique series of dreams leads him down the right path; A challenging move to Fiji and a brush with dengue fever leave Craig and his young family desperate for a message from Heaven;. After the death of her colleague’s son, Emily receives a unique message of hope for her grieving coworker. This Episode of This Is The Gospel is sponsored by LIGHT THE WORLD. Join us as we #LightTheWorld this Christmas and sign up to get daily service prompts through text message or email. Text the word “LIGHT” to the number: 71234 or visit 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. SHOW NOTES To see pictures, and find links to things mentioned in this episode, go here. To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :) TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay 0:05 Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay and if you can't tell, I have a cold. But don't worry, you can catch it through the podcast so I think we're safe. And I hope you can still understand me. I'm not exactly sure where I got the dream book, probably in the discount section of Barnes and Noble where I got almost all of the books that were not textbooks in college. Or maybe it was a gift. But wherever it came from, it was a hit at parties. Someone would just mention the word dream in casual conversation and I'd immediately run to the shelves and come back armed with this book that was somewhere between a dictionary and a comic book. I think it was even called "The Dictionary of Dreams." So anyway, I'd have the person tell me all the specifics of their dream, every little detail, and then I would look up every symbol so that we could try to interpret the dream together. Did you dream your teeth were falling out? Well, according to the book on page 72, you are feeling insecure about some aspect of your life. There was a chicken in your dream? Page 193 says that something new and exciting is coming around the corner. Abraham Lincoln showed up fighting vampires in your last dream? You have a strong and honest character, or you don't and you need to clean something up. Like I said, hours and hours of party fun. Now I know what you're thinking, "Wow, I really want to come to one of KaRyn's riveting parties." But maybe you're thinking, "That's a load of psychobabble," as my dad would call it. And I have to agree on some level. As hokey as all of this dream stuff might sound, there is definitely precedent for dreams and their interpretation making an appearance as an important tool for revelation of truth. Lehi's dream ring any bells? Well, today we've got three stories about the way God sometimes uses our dreams to talk with us as we navigate our way through discipleship. Our first story comes from Ken, whose experience with two revelatory dreams in his life helped to guide him in his career in two very different directions. Here's Ken. Ken Alford 2:13 In the fall of 1978, I was wearing an ROTC uniform to the first day of class at Brigham Young University. It was a political science class, I still remember the classroom. And just as the class was ready to begin, we had no professor in the room. And the professor came running into class just seconds before the class began, had a big stack of books, dropped it on the desk, and we all expected he was going to begin class. Instead, he looked around the room, he zeroed in on my army cadet uniform and ran up to my desk and said, "It's just so good to see a uniform." And so I said, "Well, why would you say that?" And he said, "Well, I just retired, after 30 years, serving the country in the United States Army and now I'm a professor here at BYU." And so I asked what was probably the dumbest question I could have asked. I said, "You can do that?" Well, obviously you could do that because he had done it. But he was very patient. He said, "Yes, I, I just retired just a week or two ago. And now I'm teaching here." And in the back of my head, I could hear the spirit say, "If you do it right, you can do this too." And that day in 1978, the seed was planted to come back and be a faculty member at Brigham Young University. So after that experience in that classroom, I finished my senior year, along the way got engaged to the cutest girl at the school, and she became my wife. That actually was quite a week. On Thursday, graduation week, I was commissioned in the army by my father. The following day, I graduated from Brigham Young University. Then five days later, I married my sweetheart over the altar in the Salt Lake temple. And then the following day, we left for Fort Harrison in Indianapolis and that began kind of a whirlwind experience in the army. I had a very unusual military career. I never served in a division. I had the opportunity in my career to do lots of educational things. First, the army sent me for a master's degree. And then I taught computer science at West Point for four years. And then I had the opportunity after working in the Pentagon, to reapply to West Point and I was selected again, this time for a Ph.D. in computer science. And then I went back to West Point for four years. But while I was doing my Ph.D. program, I was kind of, quite frankly, a fish out of water because I had a political science background as an undergraduate. I had a Master's at that point, but I hadn't done anything really advanced in computer science. My Ph.D. dissertation was on large scale databases, and they had given me three years to finish what's—the average in our program was four and a half to five years—and they gave me the loving advice "Be dead or be done." And I decided I would rather be done than be dead so I was going to finish in three years. But what that meant was that you had to do your dissertation research in a very compressed manner. And at that time, large-scale database search engines, Google was brand new, they were on the cusp of what was happening and we were all trying to figure this out together. And so I reached a point in my research where I was kind of stuck. Because in the sciences and computer science included, you have to advance the field in order to get your Ph.D. You just can't report what others have done. I went up to talk to research lab personnel and other Ph.D.'s and they said, "Yeah, you're kind of stuck." And what happened was in December in January of 1999, and then into the winter of 2000, over a period of about three weeks, I had the most amazing experience. I would dream—it wasn't every night but it was most nights—I would dream the next portion of my research and my dissertation. And I would wake up in the morning and it had been handed to me. And I would get up and write it down and it would work! One of the problems that I had was trying to figure out how to load quickly such large amounts of data. And the answer just came in a dream and I did it and it worked and it ran in just a fraction of the time of what I'd been doing. And it's cut weeks off my research, and it came from a dream. Other times, I would wake up and I knew exactly what to write, I knew exactly how to approach the problem. And it was just day after day after day, and it got to the point where it was exciting to go to bed because I couldn't wait to see what the next part of my dissertation was going to be. And then, as soon as I reached the point where I was kind of over the hurdle and now just needed to write it up, it stopped. It just stopped. It was just—I don't know what else call it—it was just a tender mercy. But it came at the exact right time, in the exact right amount. If I'd gotten the whole thing in one night, I would have been frustrated, I couldn't have remembered. But it became in just these doses that were perfect to help me finish my Ph.D. And I finished on time and went to West Point and taught as a Ph.D. professor. And I was not dead. The experience I had over that series of weeks, and from my perspective, it was just truly miraculous, it was just a wonderful, wonderful time. And exciting to see what was coming next because I was just sometimes as surprised as anyone else. And I remember my advisory Professor kept saying, "Where'd you get this from?" And I really didn't know how to answer the question. I couldn't say, "Well, I dreamed it last night." But it was one more confirmation kind of along the way that the thought I'd had, the impression I'd received in 1978, that If I do it right, I can return to BYU one day, was just kind of confirmed along the way. So I was able to finish my Ph.D. on time. And really, quite honestly against all odds as my dissertation chair kept telling me, and then we went to West Point just a few weeks later and began four wonderful years there. Fast forward, in 2006, I went into the kitchen in our home in Virginia, and there was a Michael Buble, a song called "Home." And my wife and I started dancing in the kitchen. And I just turned to her at the end of that song after one of the lines and I said, "It's time." And she said, "It's time." It's time for us to start thinking about what's next. And so that's when we turned and began looking at applying to BYU to see if what had happened in 1978 we could bring it to fruition. Throughout my career, especially in Virginia, Brigham Young University used to send out to recruiters and they would talk about what you have to have to even apply to teach at BYU. And so I went to several of those meetings before I had my masters or before I had my Ph.D., and learned what the requirements were. And so I just kind of made sure I did all of those. I don't know if the folks in the church history and doctrine department had planned on having that requirement filled with a computer science degree who had published on databases and taught at the Military Academy, but it met the requirements of the law. 30 years as a full military career, I was approaching the 30-year mark. And it's a fairly traumatic thing when it's time to leave that military environment. It's similar, in many ways, to the kind of environment that the church provides, people just as wonderful I will say. There was never an opportunity in my entire career where the military ever tried to place me in a position where I had to consider whether or not I would compromise any of our values, or break the word of wisdom or anything else connected with the church. I worked with just a wonderful group of people. But in the back of my mind, I wanted to pursue the opportunity with Brigham Young University. And so I had applied to teach religion. I had been teaching institute and seminary as a volunteer for over 20 years and wanted to do something different in retirement other than leadership or computer science. And what had happened is I was kind of in a box that I really didn't see the way out of because of timing. Brigham Young University is a wonderful place and has wonderful things. But one of the things it does very slowly is hiring. I've heard them described as glacial. So what was happening is I would not hear from Brigham Young University whether or not I had been hired until the window would have closed for me to submit my retirement papers in time to begin the fall semester at Brigham Young University should I actually be hired. We were trying to decide what to do. It was a matter of our daily prayer, my sweetheart and I were asking the Lord, you know, what's the way forward? What's the way out of this? So I went to bed, and in the dreams of the night, and it's just as vivid today as when I had the dream—the details of this dream are just so vivid. I found myself viewing a meeting. It was in a small office, there were several individuals seated around a small little table and they were in the process I could see of counting votes. And so I listened in, I recognized two of the people in the room and knew exactly who they were. And they were counting votes and discussing a vote that had just taken place among the faculty. And I soon, very quickly realized that I was watching the hiring meeting where the faculty had voted on whether or not would be selected as the next faculty member. And the votes were tallied. And at the end of the meeting, the department chair said, "Well, then it's agreed. We will send forward Ken Alford's name to fill this position that we're looking for on the faculty." And they went around the room and everyone concurred with that decision. And then the meeting ended. When I woke up, I recognized that that dream was just different. There was just a spiritual nature about it. And I was just absolutely comfortable that the time was now that I was to go ahead and "drop papers" as the army slang is, that I was to drop my retirement papers and to move forward in faith. Even though I hadn't heard from Brigham Young University yet that I was hired, I had absolutely no fear at all whatsoever. I talked with my wife, I said, here's what happened. She felt very good about it as well. And she said, "Are we going to do it?" I said, "We're going to do it." And about two days later, I turned in my papers and then several weeks later, it was actually about two months later, I got the call from the department chair. He confirmed what I had seen in the dream and I was hired to be a professor in church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, in many ways, against all odds. From the time we arrived and kind of signed in to the university, it's just felt like home. That was just so wonderful. And then after I arrived at Brigham Young University, several years later, someone just mentioned, just off the cuff, "Oh well I was on the hiring committee at the time you were hired." And it was one of the individuals that I had recognized in my dream. The other individual, I recognized, the department chair at the time, and when I saw the room where the meeting was held, I recognized the room from my dream. I recognize that these revelatory dreams that I'd been blessed with—and they're really a rare event. I'm in my mid-60s and it's happened a couple of times in my total life. But I recognize, I just see them as just tender mercies, just kindness that they came in times when I'd reached a point where I needed outside help. I needed information I didn't have or I needed an understanding that I didn't have. It's just so wonderful and reassuring to know that Heavenly Father knows who I am, He knows what I need, and He's just so willing to help. The revelatory dreams I've shared here that happened with my dissertation, and then also to know that it was okay to go ahead and retire and leave the army at that point. They all, even at the time, they just kind of seemed to fit with the thoughts that have been placed in my head and 1978. It just seemed to be kind of like the next piece and I was just getting a little nudge and it was just really fun to be on the receiving end. KaRyn Lay 15:15 That was Ken Alford. Ken is one of the authors of a new book called "Dreams As Revelation." And he, along with Craig Mansell, whom we're going to hear from next and Mary Jane Widger have spent years researching and seeking to understand the nature of our dreams from a spiritual perspective. After he was done telling his story, I asked Ken a few questions about how dreams work in real life. So, Ken, I have this reoccurring dream and it's where I'm in a station wagon. I'm in the front seat, but you know how they used to have those benches in the old station wagon? Ken Alford 15:46 That face backward? KaRyn Lay 15:47 Yeah. So I'm in the front seat, but there's no seat belt and I'm in the middle and there are no pedals. And I can't stop it and it's going over a cliff. So, that's not revelatory, right? Ken Alford 15:58 I think not. KaRyn Lay 15:59 Okay, okay, that gives me some peace. Actually, I don't think I've ever had a dream that is revelatory. I think God speaks to me in a totally different way. As the author of this book, you've done tons of research about dreams as a revelatory tool. What would you say to someone like me who's never had a dream that we can count as revelation? Ken Alford 16:19 While researching this book, we learned very quickly that revelatory dreams are the exception and not the rule. And not everyone has them and that's okay. God speaks to us each individually in many different ways. And some people seem to be more prone to these, that God can speak to them this way. Other people have other ways of receiving information from the Holy Ghost. And it's an individual matter and there's nothing wrong with anyone if they haven't had these. And in fact, quite frankly, those who do have them, when they look at it objectively they're very rare. This is a very rare event over the course of your life. KaRyn Lay 16:58 Yeah, because you said you'd had them a couple of times—smaller ones—before that dissertation "Bonanza," I don't know what else to call it. And then the big dream that helped you to know to "drop your papers" before you knew what was coming next. Ken Alford 17:15 Very briefly, it's kinda like this. We think of the Apostle Paul as a visionary man and we talked about Paul's visions, the road to Damascus. But when you look at Paul's life, it is a very rare event, even in someone who is considered a visionary. Or Joseph Smith, we consider him as being so visionary, but if you look, most days are not attended by angels, most days are not accompanied by visions. And it's absolutely the same situation for even people that do experience occasional revelatory dreams. They are a rare and unique and wonderful opportunity, but they are not the only way God surely communicates with man. KaRyn Lay 17:54 So what would your advice be to somebody who does have one of these dreams? Ken Alford 17:59 First, I would just caution that you listen to the spirit to see if this is a revelatory dream. Because we don't want to convince ourselves that something that's occurred is something that it's not. It's also important to recognize that revelatory dreams fit within your stewardship. You won't receive dreams to direct others, you won't receive dreams to direct the church, and that this is something sacred from the Lord. And, for example, the dreams about my dissertation, I haven't really shared that much until now. But I felt the time was right to be able to do that. KaRyn Lay 18:38 So seek counsel from our Father in heaven about how and when you share these things? Ken Alford 18:42 I would say very much. You need to be comfortable and recognize that there's a time and a place for everything and every place is not the time to share everything. KaRyn Lay 18:52 And just be grateful. Ken Alford 18:54 Oh absolutely. Be grateful when it does occur, but be open to all of the ways that the Lord can speak to you. KaRyn Lay 19:01 Thanks for sharing. Ken Alford 19:02 Thank you. KaRyn Lay 19:04 So, friends, there's the good news. Not every dream that you have about vampires and Abraham Lincoln under your bed is a revelation. And one thing that I really appreciate about Ken's book is that it contains some pretty well-researched guidelines that can help you and me as we try to determine whether our dream is revelatory, or just that late-night Philly cheesesteak coming back to haunt us. That actually happens to me. We're going to have an excerpt from that part of the book in our show notes because we all need a little bit of help figuring out what's real. Another thing that I, as a storyteller, really love about this book is that it's essentially a collection of stories written down from church history, from Joseph Smith to modern-day prophets and apostles and visionary women, covering all the many ways that those dreams can appear. The dreams in their purposes and the stories are as varied as the people who experienced them. For instance, some dreams are warning dreams and some dreams are teaching dreams. Some are guiding like they were for Ken and some, like the one in the story we're about to hear from Craig, they just help us to know that we're exactly where we should be doing exactly what we should be doing. Here's Craig. Craig 20:13 Not all dreams are revelatory, but some are. We have Lehi's, and that dream led his family out of Jerusalem into the wilderness. I had been led out of Ogden, Utah, into the wilderness and life was tough. I grew up in the Ogden area, and I come from a small family farming community called Farr West. I worked on a 250 cow dairy herd all my life. I knew what hard work meant. I love the mountains. I love to be, you know, around my family, that was everything to me. Soon after my mission, once faced with the decision of a career, I knew I wanted to be a teacher because I love to see what the teacher does in the classroom and how ideas change people's lives. And coming off a mission, I wanted to teach religion. So if I could teach Latter-day Saint doctrines, concepts in history, I would love that. And I would love to be able to work with the youth of the church. And so I was fortunate enough to be hired at seminaries and institutes. I began teaching in the Ogden area, and I was now living my dream. I met the sweetheart of my dreams and we married, we had had two children, we were teaching seminary, life was grand. And then a phone call came. Administrators from seminaries and institutes, we appreciate all this and, and then he says, "Craig, we have a new assignment for you if you choose to receive it." I go, "A new assignment? I've only been in my assignment here for just six months and now you would like me to change it? He says, "Yes. We need someone to teach English as a second language in Suva, Fiji and we need to know the answer within 24 hours." I decided whatever the Lord asked me to do—discipleship was very important in my life—and the Lord's hand would be in it. Others were inspired, we took time to pray about it, talk to our parents, they all said, "Don't go." And I turned to my wife and I said, "The hand of the Lord is in this. We are to go." And she says, "I'll support you." And we call them back and in two months, we found herself as Suva, Fiji. Now our administrators might have known how much of a cultural shock this was going to be because they gave us a round trip airfare, meaning we could come home if this wasn't going to work out. My wife, Jana, had never lived outside of the United States, let alone hardly Utah. And while I served a mission and traveled a little bit, this was new to her and she was very homesick. And so she was suffering from a lot of things, trying to deal with the language, trying to figure out how to, you know, make meals in a different culture. She would have to take a bus downtown to the open market area, and she would have to learn a different money system, different kinds of vegetables she's looking at, and the meat was on the hoof, or it was live. And I remember she said to me I'm going to bring home dinner." I said, "Great. What's that going to be?" She says, "Chicken." She says, "And oh, by the way, the chicken will be live. You're gonna have to kill it." And I go, "Okay, yeah." She said, "You grew up on a farm, you'll know what to do about that." I go, "Yeah, but my dad's not here to show me what to do." And the truth of the matter is, is what happened is the chicken got loose on the bus and was sort of flying around. A Fijian lady grabs the chicken by the neck, and ringed it and killed it right on the bus. And she came home and the chicken was dead. And she says, "I'm sorry the chicken lost its life on the bus." And that was our first experience having our meal. And I plucked the chicken, cleaned the chicken and we had chicken. It wasn't long after when we were there, we all came down with a fever. We learned that was called Dengue fever, which is a mild form of malaria. We suffered through that. Our two children were suffering with heat rash because it was so hot. We were sweating profusely and the humanity was high, I mean, we were just going through all of this. We began to question, "Oh my gosh, what have we gotten ourselves into? We have no friends other than the new people we'd just been introduced to up at LDS Technical College—which is the school I was now asked to teach at. They call it a college, but it really is a high school. And it had forums 3, 4, 5, and six. I was called in to teach forms four and five. And my job was to be able to help the students successfully pass the British system school cert exams. If you don't pass the exam, you cannot go on to form five, which is the pre-course to go to a university. And both math and science and English, all those courses at the school were failing and the students were not being able to move forward to the university. And the church went out on a limb and built this school and Fiji, primarily for its members, so that they could further their education of their young people, the dreams of their parents. And what the school has become nicknamed was "The low down school." Low down because they're so low on their scores, they'll never get their students into university. So the church took action and brought three "pelongis," three of us white folks into this multicultural, diverse situation to bring the scores up. And I was then, teaching English as a second language, something I had really never been trained to do. And so that added to the stress and the difficulty of making the adjustment. My biggest fear was whether I would succeed because if you don't have 80% or above, you have failed and mom and dad will take them out and just put them on the plantation. And their life is pretty much you know, that's what it's going to be the rest of their life. So there I was, day in day out, I was working through what I was doing with my work. I needed something. I needed some answer, that this was the Lord's well for me. And I prayed about that, I fasted about that and I received my answer. It was in the form of a dream. I remember, the dream is if it was yesterday, it never leaves my mind. I was in my very classroom, in the building that I teach at. I remember I was teaching. But as I was teaching, my students started looking and pointing, and they could see something behind me that I couldn't see. And I turned around and there was someone standing in the air, and he was dressed in white and immense light. And no words were spoken and I could see his feet, and I could see the wounds hit his feet. Now at that point, everything in the classroom had just dissolved. The students who were there, they weren't part of the dream anymore. But I remember seeing His feet and I bathed His feet in my tears. And I held them close. And I recall, He lifted me up to Him. And He then encircled me in His arms, His ever-loving arms, and He pulled me close. And He said to me, you can do this. And I woke up. I woke up at that point, I sat straight up in bed. I thought I was going to be in the presence of the Savior when I woke up. And then I clearly understood it was a dream. I left our bedchamber and walked over into our of the room. I sat there, just stunned what had happened. And I knew that this was different, a different experience than I had ever had before, my first experience of a revelatory dream. I could not journal it for the longest time. I couldn't bear to write it down in words because it was so sacred to me. And I was filled with this love that He had—my Savior—had shared with me. I was filled with this love that overcame all the obstacles that we had felt. I soon realized that I had transcended the pain and the obstacles that were still in front of us. But my wife had not because she was still suffering and I had now come above that suffering and could understand. She had noticed that something had happened to me. And I finally realized I must tell her about this dream. And so I sat her down and I shared it with her. And I said Jesus said, "We can do this." We can do this. And she says, "I knew something had happened to you. You've changed over the last couple of weeks." She says, "That makes all the difference to me, because if you can do this, then I can too." And it changed our life forever. We stayed three years. And what happened after the students had their exams, they went from the low 50-60 percentile that year, to 86%. And the following year 91%. And then the third year, they were up into the 94 percentile. We won the spelling bees and we won the drama events, we had the best yearbook competition. Every different way we could find to make English live in the lives of the students through lots of curricular activities with them. And it happened for science and for math and for English. When we left, they've never had to bring in a plunge again. And they've continued on and to this day, for 40 years. And from that experience in Fiji, every time the phone call comes, and they have come several of them. Jana, we've got another phone call. And she says, "Where are they asking us to go?" And I will tell her and she says, "Are we going to go?" I said, "We're going to go." It comes back to the dream. You can do this. Not just Fiji, but it meant anything the Lord would ask me to do. I learned that God knew my thoughts and the intents of my heart that I wanted to be a disciple. But it was hard at that time. He knew my thoughts. I believe the Lord knew how to succor me and how to give me that answer. And for me, it was in a dream. KaRyn Lay 33:50 That was Craig Mansell, one of the three authors of "Dreams As Revelation." That moment in Craig's dream when the Savior encircled him, is such a beautiful image. It makes me wish that I could remember a dream that I've had at some point in my life. I love to think that Heavenly Father can and does sometimes use our dreams just to comfort us, and in the process reveals something about ourselves that can help us move forward. For Craig and Jana, his wife, it was that reminder that our strength and sustaining power to complete our missions and callings here on Earth, doesn't have to come from us. Because when we are yoked with the Savior, embraced by him, we move together, and we have access to his power. And we can have hope in that kind of success so that when the phone rings next time, we're ready to heed the call and head wherever we're asked to go. Our final story comes from Emily who learned that while we can't receive revelation for another person, sometimes God does use our dreams to help us minister to one another. Here's Emily. Emily 34:50 When I came back to work full time, the man in the cubicle next to me became a really good friend. He had been hired by the same man who hired me. He was a mutual friend of ours who had died of cancer some years previous. And this colleague of mine had spoken at his funeral and we just were really close and had a great relationship. This colleague had a son, his only son, who had been introduced to drugs in elementary school and struggled with them for years and years. And finally, as parents they had to make him leave the home and have him try to figure out on his own what to do with his life. And he was figuring it out and had actually come home as an adult and was working on putting his life back together and making really good progress. So you can imagine how shocked they were when one day the sheriff showed up at their door and said that their son had died of an accidental drug overdose. It was a terrible, terribly sad turn of affairs and my friend was devastated and sad, but faithful. And he spoke at his son's funeral, which I thought was incredibly courageous. When you're in that much pain and have that much grief, I just, I can't imagine having the strength to be able to speak at that funeral. But he wanted to tell his son's story. He wanted to be sure that people understood the whole picture, and how he knew that his son had been doing his best to return to the light. So some months after the funeral, one night, I had a very vivid dream in which I dreamed of this young man who had died. The son of my colleague and it was really strange because I didn't ever meet him. I didn't know him at all, and I'm not even sure I knew what he looked like. But in my dream, I knew that that was who it was. And while I was watching him, a man came and put his arm around him and started walking with him and was sitting down with him, and clearly talking with him and working with him. And it was clear again to me that this man who was doing this was our mutual friend who had passed away, the man who had hired us. That it was that friend who was now working with my colleague's son on the other side of the veil. It's so interesting to think about how I recognized that it was our mutual friend who was helping this boy. I'm not even sure that I knew it from looking at him, although, you know, he was very familiar to me, of course, his face would have been very familiar to me. But it was almost more a feeling that I had, and it made so much sense to me, that it would be him because that was the kind of person that he was, that was the kind of friend he was. And I know he would have done anything he could have for my colleague. If he'd been here he would have. And so it made sense that he would continue to feel that way on the other side of the veil. When I woke up from that dream, I felt so calm and clear. And it was so clear in my mind that what I had experienced a certainty about what I had seen, and a clarity of detail in that whole interaction. I didn't hear anything that was said, I'm not even conscious of there having been sound, just of being an observer of this interaction going on. But I do remember feeling an urgency to capture that while it was clear in my mind, so I could share it. The next day, I wrote a letter to my colleague who had since retired. When I thought about sharing the dream with my friend, my first thought was, "That's a little presumptious." Like "Who am I to be getting a dream for you?" Which is why when I wrote to him, I tried very hard to make it clear, "I don't know why but I just want you to know this is what happened." So a little nervous, just because it seemed unfair, in a way, that it should be me and not him that would get the dream. And I said, "I don't know why I was given this dream and not you. It seems very strange to me because I don't have any skin in the game. There's no reason for this to have come to me, except that I think Heavenly Father knew I would tell you about it, I would share it with you and that maybe it would mean more to you, or might be easier for you to believe it, if it came to somebody who just didn't really have a stake in this. Maybe you would have thought it was wishful-thinking if it had come to you, but I want you to know that this is what I dreamed, and this is what I saw. And I feel certain that our friend is taking care of your son on the other side." Just another really interesting message that people who cared about us here, continue to care about us. That we have people who have been in our lives who really are a lasting part of our eternal lives and our eternal progression. I have wondered why Heavenly Father gave me that dream. The more I have thought about it over the years, the more layers I uncover about what it really means to me and what I've learned from it. And it was a really rare occurrence. It's not a way that the Lord typically speaks to me. And I think part of it is because he knew that I had the kind of friendship with my colleague that I would share it with him. And then I would actually write it and share it in a form that he would keep that is sort of my form of communication is writing so that he knew it would be a record for my friend. It makes me want to listen to my friends more. Someone says, "I've been thinking about you," or some of those kinds of things, it makes me want to listen more to my own feelings. I've been thinking about somebody, I should tell them, I better let them know that means something. I don't always get it that clearly, as clearly as it came in that dream. Not that I think you should get revelation for other people or should plan on doing it, because I don't believe that but sometimes I just think He's just generous in that way. But it was a good reminder that the Lord really does want to communicate with me and with his children, all his children. It really helps me to know that there are things that I can learn that are specific for my development or for the help of people that I love, that the Lord really wants to help us and He'll do it through whatever avenue will get us the help that we need. KaRyn Lay 43:02 That was Emily. I love that Emily's experience with this dream was a personal call to action. It would have been really easy for her to brush it off, or even share that one time and call it good. She didn't. And as a friend of Emily's, I can attest to the fact that she often sends the scripture, the note, the poem at just the right moment. And that is the beauty of our relationship with revelatory experiences and ministering. They're meant to open a connection between our earthly existence and our heavenly one, to unite our spirits and our bodies for a brief moment so that we can be different forever. And so I take two lessons from Emily's story. First, to be the kind of disciple God can trust to write it down. And second, to be the kind of disciple God can trust to let the dream or the prompting or the ministering assignment, change me. While I've never had anything more than anxiety dreams, like the one I mentioned to Ken. Our producer, Sarah, has had so many symbolic and revelatory dreams. In fact, she even shared one with us in Episode 12 of this podcast. It's the episode called "Love Is What Brings Us Together Today." So of course, I had to ask her thoughts on this theme. And first of all, she echoed what each of the storytellers says about the dreams that they've had that have revealed something. They said, "This dream felt different. Other dreams are mostly nonsense, but for some reason, this one felt special, and I knew it immediately." Sarah also shared this thought, "In our dreams, we are sort of uninhibited. We're free from some of the constructs and constraints of real life, like the laws of physics or the passage of time. But also, we're not always free from some of the social constructs or the limits that we put on our thinking. And I think that juxtaposition of the freedom of physical law and the ways that we're still tied to the earth, I think that's kind of where the rubber hits the road. The contrast opens us up to seeing our world in new ways or learning something that we didn't expect to. Messages can come through with different clarity because we're in a different kind of world. I personally love that idea that God can use this unique revelatory tool to cut through some of what I often call 'Earth dust.' 'Earth dust' is that feeling that settles on us little by little that lulls us into thinking that the ways of the world are the ways of God, or that who we are here right now is all we'll ever be. That earth dust can be so subtle and so insidious, and really detrimental to our spiritual growth. I can't help but think what a gift it is to have a dream, a moment of otherworldliness and connection with our heavenly parents through revelation. Which by the way, the word revelation comes from the Latin, 'to unveil to uncover or lay bare.' Through revelation, however it comes to us, we are laid bare as true children of God in those moments and we see ourselves, and our true nature as problem solvers, creators, teachers, just as Ken did. Or we see ourselves as worthy, capable and embraced by Christ as Craig did. And we see ourselves as true friends and trusted allies in the work of ministring as Emily did. Every one of those revelatory moments helps us to be better able to move forward in our discipleship, despite the inevitable accumulation of more and more Earth dust. Revelation is a clearing off, a starting over. Whether your moments of heavenly connection and uncovering come through dreams or one of the myriad other ways God uses spiritual gifts to communicate with us, what we can absolutely trust is that He is doing everything He can to reveal us and our true nature to ourselves so that we can win, so that we can come home to Him. That's it for this episode of "This Is The Gospel." Thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks for putting up with my winter voice. And thank you to Ken, Craig, and Emily for sharing their stories and their faith. We'd also like to offer a special thanks to Dr. Mary Jane Woodger for helping us to make this episode happen. If you want more stories about dreams and revelation, well, you definitely need to check out the show notes at 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.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
9 Dec 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. SHOW NOTES: 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. Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
20 May 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. SHOW NOTES 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. EPISODE TRANSCRIPTShow Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
17 Jun 2019
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.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
14 Dec 2018
The Best Worst Christmas
Stories in this episode: Tammy’s Rockefeller-worthy Christmas tree doesn’t bring the holiday spirit like she hopes but leads to a new take on Christmas with her blended family; A not-so-magical Christmas causes many of Paula's holiday plans to go awry but helps her reflect on the sacredness of Christ's birth; From gifts gone wrong to hospital holidays, four stories straight from our pitch line show how even the worst Christmas can be the best; Kevin reexamines his motivations to help reunite his family over the holidays after his pornography addiction leads his wife to ask for a divorce. This episode of "This Is the Gospel" is sponsored by Light the World. If you’re looking for a meaningful addition to your christ-centered Christmas traditions, the brand new short film "The Christ Child" at LighttheWorld.org is a beautiful way to go. In our little family, we have a special Christmas Eve dinner and I know that I will be showing this video as part of that celebration. Speaking of gathering with friends and family, Latter-day Saint wards and branches all over the world (that means your ward and my ward!) will be holding a special Christmas service this coming Sunday on December 22. Don’t you think it would really light the world if we could invite everyone—neighbors, friends, family—to come celebrate the season with us and our temporarily beefed-up ward choirs??? I’m in and I hope you are too as we light the world together. SHOW NOTES To see pictures, and find links to things mentioned in this episode, go here. To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :) TRANSCRIPT KaRyn Lay 0:00 Merry Christmas friends! Before we hop into our episode, we wanted to let you know that this is "This Is the Gospel" is taking a few weeks off to enjoy the holidays with our people. But don't worry, we'll be back in the new year. So keep an eye on us on Instagram @thisisthegospel_podcast because the pitch line will still be open. And we've got some exciting upcoming themes including an episode dedicated entirely to the new youth theme. So as those stories start rolling at your family gatherings, do not forget to share the stories from your holiday with us. Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. We're deep in the throes of the Christmas spirit around here. And as we barrel our way towards Christmas Eve planning our word Christmas socials, thinking about our ministry assignments, and trying desperately to learn how to wrap round present, we wanted to take a minute to tell the stories of Christmases past. You may think our theme this week is a little . . . well, grim for holiday celebration episode. In fact, if you've ever heard of the term "schadenfreude," which is a German word that loosely translates to taking pleasure at someone else's pain, you may worry that listening to other people's stories about their worst Christmas would be like indulging in this terrible practice. But I promise we're no schadenfreuders! Is that a word? Schadenfreude-ers? Schadenfreuders? Well, this is "The Best Worst Christmas" episode. And now I can hear you asking, "But KaRyn, what does that even mean? How can the worst Christmas also be the best Christmas?" Well, don't worry. Our seven storytellers today are going to show us exactly how that's done. So buckle up for "The Best Worst Christmas." Our first story comes from Tammy who wanted what we all want at the beginning of a new adventure: magical firsts. Here's Tammy. Tammy 2:00 I waited 34 years, eight months, and 14 days to get married. . . finally! I felt like I had totally been prepared to get married, but nothing prepared me for our very first Christmas together. We had been married for five months when we celebrated the first Christmas, which was so exciting. I married a widower, and with that came two little darling girls so I became instant-mom overnight. So you can imagine my anticipation at celebrating Christmas as a family. We went as a family and picked out the most beautiful Christmas tree and came home and decorated the house and then got out all the ornaments to decorate the tree. Now, I had had a few ornaments and a few things that I had collected over the years of being single but not really a lot so there wasn't much that I could contribute to the decorating festivities. So we used everything that the family had had before I joined them. And when we got everything out to decorate the tree, I had not anticipated the grief that I would experience. Ornament after ornament, of course, I'm being a little dramatic. I would say a majority of the ornaments though, were decorated with my husband's name and his wife's name. And after 14 years of marriage, of course they would have ornaments together. And, of course, they would have collected ornaments, but I didn't even think that that would be a thing on Christmas morning. And so as we pulled each ornament out, and I sat on that couch, the girls would pull the ornaments out and go, "Oh look, Dad, remember when you and mom got this?" And I just sat there and it was every ornament they pulled out. My emotions just swelled and I got more and more emotional. And then I started crying on the couch. And I just was so sad and I didn't even think that I would be. And my husband looked at me and I tried to hold back the tears and I couldn't and we both recognized what a difficult Christmas this was going to be for both of us. So I just did what any adult, responsible, mature woman would do and I had myself a full-blown adult tantrum. And the next day I went out and about my own tree and my own decorations. And I decorated that bad boy and made it the most beautiful thing that I'd ever seen. We put it in another room of the house. we affectionately refer to it now as the Rockefeller Center tree because it was a little bit audacious. It was gigantic, and the ornaments were big. And I did that thinking that that would make everything better. And it didn't because here's the reality and one thing I recognized is that we'd only been married five months, and their mom had only been gone for a year. And those years of firsts are rough. And it was a year first for all of us. Because I think what the Savior taught me in that moment was everybody was grieving. My girls and my husband were grieving the loss of a wife and a mom, and I was grieving the loss of the dream of being just someone's first choice, I guess, first wife. I would never get a year of firsts. I mean, I would have our first Christmas together, but it wouldn't be like a newlywed with no kids. It was just a different kind of first. And so I think I realized that we all were grieving, we all were sad. We left the Christmas tree up as is and didn't change anything. And then when January came when we took the tree down, my sweet husband took all those ornaments and put them in a separate box. And we've just kept them and stowed them away until the girls grow up and then they can have those ornaments. I just think it's so important for me to recognize that Christmas really is about Christ, and it certainly was that day. And throughout that holiday season, I feel like He kind of healed all of our hearts. Specifically mine, and I grew up and I recognize that while I didn't get what I hoped for, I definitely got what I wanted, which was a family and a husband who I adore. And I love being a wife and a mom, being a mom is harder than I thought it would be, but I do love it. And we've added two more little girls to the family and Christmas morning is glorious and the festivities are wonderful and we decorate and we have so much fun. I loved the talk by Elder Wirthlin in October 2006, the year I got married, called "Sunday Will Come." And it just made me kind of think about how no matter how dark our Fridays are and how lost we feel, and that decorating day was a dark Friday for me, my Sunday did come and my heart healed. And everything turned out just wonderful. KaRyn Lay 6:50 That was Tammy Uzelac Hall. And I'm excited to tell you that Tammy is the host of LDS Living's newest podcast the "Sunday on Monday" study group podcast. It's a "Come, Follow Me"-based scripture study, which is going to be available on Desert Bookshelf PLUS+ starting at the beginning of the new year. Tammy hosts a different group of women each week to talk about, expand on, and explore the gospel through the scriptures. And if you thought she was real here, you will not want to miss her take on the Book of Mormon. You know, Tammy and I often chat about the highs and lows of step-parenting. And one thing I realized as we were listening to her story is that sometimes, the worst things become the best because of a little bit of empathy. When we open our hearts to even consider the perspective of those around us, like Tammy did with her stepchildren and even her new husband, well I think that opens the door for God to do His work in our hearts just like He did with her. It also doesn't hurt to have a healthy sense of humor about ourselves, which my friend Tammy has in spades. Our next story comes from Paula, who found herself one Christmas unexpectedly removed from the holiday cheer that she so desperately wanted to be a part of. Here's Paula. Paula 8:00 Growing up, Christmas was very magical for me. My grandparents would have a huge Christmas gathering for our family on Christmas Eve. When my husband went for the first time, he said it was really kind of like something off of a TV Christmas special. And that was probably my favorite part of Christmas. When my kids came along, I wanted Christmas to feel as special and magical to them. We had six children, so it got kind of crazy at times. We just kind of would buckle up at the beginning of December and kind of just take it one thing at a time. There were dance recitals and music recitals and Christmas church socials. My husband always had a work Christmas party and both of our families live here in North Carolina so there were extended family gatherings on both sides. I always did kind of feel a little guilty as the Christmas time would come to a close and I would stop and think, "Oh, I've been so busy and haven't really stopped to take a few minutes to reflect like I wanted to." And it just seemed like it kind of came every year and you just kept going. Christmas of 2002, we had our fifth child at that time, Benson. He was about 18 months old. He had kind of a rough year with some sicknesses. At the early part of December, he had bronchitis that kind of kept me out of the cold with him. We would stay home and there were several things that we missed right at the beginning of the month. You know it was disappointing, but we still had the rest of the month and I thought, "We'll just get him well and then everything will be fine." But as time went on, it was one thing after another. There was an ice storm. Here in North Carolina when an ice storm hits, pretty much everything shuts down. Everyone goes to the grocery store and stocks up on bread, the bread gets gone really quick. So if you don't get there soon enough, you're out of luck. The bread's gone. And you kind of come home and then when the ice storm hits, you are pretty much house-bound. I had planned a Young Women's Christmas party at our house that I was really excited about that year. And that just happened to fall during the ice storm so that was canceled. I was pretty disappointed about canceling that because I had put a lot of work into getting ready for it and was excited about having the girls over. So after this ice storm, then Benson had a relapse from his bronchitis that kind of sent us back inside again. He was pretty sick. And then my husband usually has a work party that he and I would go to. The work party was something I looked forward to every year. It was a chance to get dressed up and have a date night in the middle of all the other stuff that was going on. But this year, I wasn't able to attend that either. There still were several things to look forward to in the rest of the month. But just before all those things happened, we all came down with a stomach bug. It started with one person and it was one of those things that would take a day or two before it hit the next person. And it just slowly went through our whole house. Our Christmas was not turning out very magical at all. A large part of the month I felt like I spent at home alone with Benson, my youngest. We would sit there and rock with the lights turned down. We'd usually sing him Primary songs if I was getting him to sleep. But because it was Christmas time, I substituted those songs for Christmas carols. As I was alone and had that time to reflect and think about the things that really happened during the first Christmas, I realized that those Christmas carols made those events that happened over 2000 years ago come alive for me. I felt what a silent night it was in Bethlehem. I could almost see the bright stars in the sky and picture the beautiful virgin mother with her little baby and how precious and tender and mild he was. I felt a little bit of the wonder that the shepherds experienced they were visited by the heavenly messengers. And I could hear the songs and the sounds of the angels singing. It was during those times with my little baby boy that the birth of our Savior became so real to me. I felt like I was given a gift and a chance to go back to those many years ago and experience a little piece of it myself. I think it's interesting that going back to when I was a little girl and the thing that made Christmas so magical to me was the music that I heard at my grandparents' house on Christmas Eve. And then this Christmas in 2002 I had such a special experience with Christmas for myself was also because of the music, that I realized that probably the thing that kept me home and caused me to miss a lot of Christmas that year was because my little boy was sick. But it was that same reason that calls me to have this special experience with the birth of our Savior. KaRyn Lay 14:46 That was Paula. I think we can all relate to those seasons in our lives, like Paula had, where God invites us to slow down and just be with Him. It might be hard initially to be very appreciative of that gift because it's easy to feel the deep disappointment of all that we've missed or the fear of disappointing those we love. But what I'm reminded of from Paula's story is that we can find the gift if we're willing to let go of the pressure of our own expectations and open our eyes to the offerings around us. And though I don't have a baby to rock to sleep on the dark nights before Christmas, I'm going to try harder to carve out some quiet time to just sit and dream and think about the things that matter most during this Christmas season. Our next few stories came to us directly from our pitch line. We asked you to call in with your best worst Christmas stories, and you did. We got so many fun and touching submissions from gifts gone wrong to tragic decorations to difficult moments in your lives that somehow showed forth the power and goodness of God. Well, we got them all and here are a few of our favorites. Patricia 15:53 Hi, my name is Patricia Henderson. My story begins when I was about 13 years old. I grew up in Northern California and I had, it was Christmas. And I had just received the greatest gift in my little brain and that was a Swatch watch. It was awesome. It was see-through and the band was colorful. It was awesome. So, the day after Christmas, our family took a trip to Disneyland. And we had stayed at a hotel and I was very careful when I put my watch by my towel at the pool when we were swimming and I forgot my Swatch watch down by the pool at the hotel by Disneyland. So I rushed back down when I realized and, of course, it was gone. I was devastated. I went back to my room and just cried and cried and cried. And I've pleaded with the Lord, "Please Heavenly Father, please help me find my watch." So the next day was the day we were to go to Disneyland. Disneyland that day was at full capacity. It was so busy, people everywhere. And my heart was heavy because I had lost my watch. And I was so devastated about it. So I went throughout the day kind of standing in line at a ride. And you know how the lines are, they go back and forth and back and forth with people and you just stand there. And you move a little ahead and then you stand there. And I look over on a boy's arm and I see a watch that looked just like mine. And I feel like the Spirit told me, "That's your watch, ask for it." And so I did. I got the courage. I wasn't that kind of teenager. I was very cool, I thought, and I didn't do things like that. But I did. I asked him I said, "Hey, where did you get that watch?" And he said, "Funny story, we staying in a hotel and it was down by the pool at the side of the pool and so I put it on." I said, "What hotel are you staying at?" And it was the same hotel. And I said to him, "I lost my watch down by the pool and that's my watch. I just got it for Christmas." And guess what? He gave it back to me. And I got my watch back on the busiest day of probably the whole year at Disneyland. To me, that has been a miracle in my life. I was young, I was impressionable, and this was very important to me at that time and my prayer had been answered. I've often gone back to that story throughout my life and remember the undeniable power of prayer. Of the thousands of people at Disneyland that day, Heavenly Father led me to my watch. I've always felt like it was my special connection to heaven. Where this could have been the worst Christmas ever, it showed me the powerful lesson of how aware my Heavenly Father is of me. Thank you. Suzi 19:07 Hi, my name is Suzi Hjorth. I grew up in Southern California and my grandparents had a Christmas tree farm in Vista. And every year, our family of nine would pile in the Suburban and go to grandma and grandpa's house and we could pick any tree we wanted on the lot. And it was a pretty magical time. When I was about 12 or 13, my grandparents sold the farm. And for the first time, we had to go buy a tree at the store like normal people. And we all piled in the Suburban and went to the store and were quickly dismayed at the cost of Christmas trees. And we were on a fixed income and my mom finally looked at us and said, "Guys, you want more presence or a tree?" And we left the store without a tree. But my mom isn't one to be messed with, and so she went out into the backyard and cut a branch off of our pine tree. And then she got a drill and she drilled holes anywhere that there wasn't something green coming out of it. And then she went and cut more branches and she stuck them in the holes and made her own Christmas tree for our family and we put it in the regular spot. But being 12 or 13 years old, I was mortified by this Christmas tree. It wasn't triangle-shaped. It wasn't neat and tidy. It didn't look like anyone else's Christmas tree. It was wild and unkempt. And I could have just died from the shame of that Christmas tree. People would come to our house and say it was amazing and I would roll my eyes thinking they're just trying to make us feel better about ourselves but we are so lame. Years later, I look back and I realize that was the most beautiful Christmas tree ever. And every year now I make a wreath out of the pine branches that I go and cut off of the tree in the backyard. And every year my kids complain that it's a little too sloppy and it's not round and neat like all of the other people's Christmas wreaths. And it makes me happy and joyful that I've turned out a little something like my amazing mom. Thanks, bye. Greg 21:15 Hi, my name is Greg Davis. One of my most painful Christmas memories, which is that when I was about 8 years old, all I really wanted was a football for Christmas. I was so excited to get it. And I saw that odd shape under the Christmas tree and thought for sure I knew what it was. And sure enough, I opened it up and it was a brand-new football. So what else do you do on Christmas Day when you get a football besides throw it across the room with your brothers? So I took this brand-new football, threw it across the room to my brother, and he threw it back to me. Only, I didn't catch it but it went off my fingertips and into the fireplace. And inside the fireplace, there was a hot nail sticking out of a board, and it punctured right down the heart of that ball within 30 seconds of getting my brand-new Christmas gift. I watched to sizzling there in the fireplace. Even when we pulled it out, it was not salvageable. So was I upset? Yes. Did I cry? Probably. But what's amazing about that is even though it was so frustrating at the time, it's now one of my favorite Christmas stories. So crisis plus time equals laughter. We laugh about it now. And things that seem big in the moment aren't always as big as we make them out to be. That's my Christmas story. Carissa 22:36 Hi, my name is Carissa Abrams. Christmas 2016 was a really hard time for our family. We had recently moved from St. Louis, Missouri, to Richmond, Virginia, for my husband's military training. And shortly after we arrived in Virginia, our baby boy was born 13 weeks early. To give you an idea of how early and how sick he was, he weighed two pounds exactly and just really, really sick. And it was hard because all of our friends were across the country in St. Louis and our closest family members lived in Idaho. It was just really isolating. One of the hardest things was that our daughters, who were six and seven at the time, couldn't hold him. He was too little and too small. Fast forward to the Sunday before Christmas, I was talking to the missionaries in our ward. We had two sets of elders at the time. They could only talk to their parents twice a year on Mother's Day and on Christmas and I asked them if they were excited for Christmas and excited to talk to their families. The two elders I was talking to looked at each other and they looked a little sheepish. And they said, "Yes, we're really excited to talk to our families, but we're not sure how and when we're going to do that." And I realized that they didn't have any plans for Christmas. No one had invited them over. Immediately, I felt the Spirit whisper to me, "Carissa, you need to have them over to your house." I said, "No, I can't. I have, my son's in the hospital and my family's really struggling. It's a hard year, I just can't." And I felt the impression again so I invited them over. And it was such a wonderful experience to have them. I actually called all four of their moms to set up the time for them to call. And one of the elder's mom said something that really touched my heart. She said, "I've been praying that someone would be taking care of my son on this mission because every time I get the opportunity, I take care of the missionaries and I see them at my house. So I knew that if I took care of these elders, that someone would take care of my son." And I realized that was just like my family situation. I couldn't take care of my son that year for Christmas. I couldn't see him or really do much for him. There were other women taking care of my son, but I could take care of other women's sons at Christmas. And we had a great day and it was so healing for me to be able to care for those boys when their moms couldn't. And the real miracle came that night when we went to the hospital and my daughters were able to hold their little brother for the first time. So what should have been our hardest Christmas was our best. KaRyn Lay 25:22 That was Patricia, Susie, Greg, and Carissa. Thanks to everyone who submitted their best worst stories on our pitch line. We absolutely loved seeing how many of our friends are able to find the good stuff in the midst of the hard stuff so thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And just to be clear, Patricia, I feel you. All I ever wanted was a Swatch watch, and I never got one so I feel a little bit jealous of you right now. Our final story today of "The Best Worst Christmas" comes from Kevin, who after 15 years of marriage found himself and his family in very different places during the holiday. A quick note for those of you who might be listening with small children, this story openly discusses addiction. And while there's nothing to really worry about, you may want to preview it yourself before sharing. Here's Kevin. Kevin 26:09 My worst Christmas actually started in August. It was an August that after many years of having to deal with me and honestly my pornography addiction, that my wife finally decided to take my three children and leave. She told me that she was going to leave, and I totally understood. She had taken the time through much prayer, and I believe she even went to the temple and considered it. I knew that she needed to do this if that's what she felt, and I didn't blame her. I totally put all the blame upon myself. She went out to her parents with my three children and it was extremely hard for me. I was absolutely devastated. Let's be honest, I was bawling my head off. It was terrible. I knew at that very moment that this was "do or die" for me. That I had a very, very serious decision to make in my life at this point. Either I make changes or I go into a very, very scary route, one that I did not want to go into. So I decided at that point that, you know, if she's not there, who's pushing me to do things? Who's pushing me to make these changes? Well, it had to be me, and I knew it had to be me. And I was already starting the repentance process. I was meeting with my bishop regularly, I was going to addiction recovery meetings, and I started to see a therapist. And you know, I was doing these things to help me heal and a lot to try to get my family back. I really wanted my family back. That was, you know, a lot of my motivation at the time. It was if I, if I made these changes, my family will be okay. We're going to be back together. That was my motivation. It was good motivation, but it wasn't quite the right motivation. It was looking like we were going to be just divorced. And when I talked to her, she'd be like, "Yeah, we're, I don't think this is going to work out." It was Thanksgiving of that year and I was preparing for them to come visit. And I was having a really hard time. I was, I was in a moment of deep depression, deep anxiety, deep, deep fears. They were going to be here for Thanksgiving for about a week, and I wanted the house to be perfect. I wanted there to be no reason for her to come and be like, "Oh, he's not changing." So I was doing things. I just, I got to a point where I couldn't do it. I was, I was cleaning and I couldn't do it. And I, the anxiety totally took over. I was sitting on my bed telling myself, "Kevin, you gotta get up, and you've got to clean more." And not being able to move. I picked up my phone and I called my best friend and then another good friend, to come give me a blessing. I was bawling my eyes out. Not understanding why, why I could not move. Why I could not do this simple task for my family. I went downstairs in preparation to get my blessing and I still could not stop bawling. I got a phone call from my son Keagan. And he said, "Dad, I just wanted to talk to you. I needed to talk to you." Heavenly Father heard my prayers, and through Keagan, He answered them. Afterward, my wife told me that my son said he wanted to call me and she said, "No, he, you got to go clean your room first." And so he went in to clean this room and he came out and said, "No, Mom, I gotta call Dad." There's no doubt in my mind that, that was the Spirit telling him to call me. It was most definitely a panic attack that I was experiencing. The brethren came and they gave me a blessing. And at that point, you know, I knew I just couldn't worry about how the house looked. I just had to worry about taking care of them when they're here. So they came and things went well. Things went very well. I was feeling really good thinking, you know, "Oh yeah, things are great. I'm gonna, we're gonna get back together, yeah, yeah." So afterward, I talked to my wife again and she's like, "No, no, we're still on the road to divorce here, Kevin." That hurt, you know, that was really hard for me to hear. I had made some arrangements for me to be able to go out to my in-laws' where my wife and children were staying for Christmas. Before I'd go to my in-laws, I was going to visit my brother and sister in Utah. When that time came, I flew out with some really difficult flights. But you know, more than happy to do it just to see my family. Had like a Christmas dinner with my sister and her family. It was, it was a hard time. I was emotional because it was family, right? It was a family thing, but it wasn't because my family wasn't there. And so it was extremely difficult for me. And unfortunately, my sister had to feel that from me. So my wife meets up with me and I transfer my belongings over to the van and we drive up to her parents. The kids are in the car and we're all just, you know, we're having a good time driving up. We get to my in-laws and, you know, I know that my in-laws love me. They're really amazing people. My mother-in-law, so very supporting, and as is my father-in-law. However, I do have to say I was really uneasy when I first got there. I was not sure how my father-in-law was feeling about me. And the reason I was uncomfortable was because I had actually told them why we were separated and called them before she came out there and had apologized to them. It's not an easy thing to talk about. There was a lot of shame involved, a lot of—I had hurt his little girl. Not physically, but emotionally, and it was painful. I'm sure it was painful for both of us. I know it was painful for my wife. So here I am in their home, feeling awkward with my family. But again, not truly with my family. So I'm here at Christmas with the hope of being able to fix things. So I'm, you know, serving I'm helping I'm doing all kinds of stuff. And I'm doing it because I love them but in all honesty, I also was doing it because I wanted them back. Christmas Day came I, I honestly do not remember a whole lot about the day. My children made these wonderful gifts for me. They got me a drawing tablet because I like to draw. And inside, they wrote me a little note, you know, telling me that they love me and everything and it was wonderful. I mean, the morning felt nice. It did. I mean, it felt nice, but it's still hard because I knew that I was going to be leaving soon. My wife and I, we had many conversations. I shared things about me, about my life, about my life experiences, and I'm not very good at sharing my life experiences. I'm very guarded about those things. I knew though that if I did not start opening up, that I would definitely lose her. She was still talking about divorce. And so, you know, I had to, I had to open up. I'm always willing to like to listen and I'll talk about things but I don't share. But I know that in a relationship, it's not just about talking but it's about sharing. So we finished up Christmas and it was again time for me to leave. Things seemed like they were going well, but I felt like things weren't going to be still how I was hoping where we are gonna just reconnect. Everybody's gonna get back together. We were going to be a happy family. I did not feel that. So then as my brother picked me up to take me back to the airport, I was sitting reflecting. I was actually, a lot of, we talked about a lot of things. Um, I don't know if I talked to him about this or if this was just in my mind as he was talking, but it came to me that I was serving, I was trying to serve my wife with the expectation of her coming back to me. With the expectation that if I did all of these things, then she would come back to me. And I realized that no, that's not why I need to be doing this. But I need to be doing it just because I love her with no expectation of anything other than showing my love for her. It was very significant for me to realize this, to realize that, that I needed to do these things for love. And as I realized that, I also realized that my heart was changing. Before this, I did not feel like I was worthy for Heavenly Father's love. I did not feel like I deserved His love. I know that Heavenly Father was there. I just didn't feel like I was important. I think at this point, I started to begin to love myself. I began, not, you know, not to this degree of, "Oh, yeah, I'm great." No, but I started to understand how Heavenly Father sees me. I still don't fully see how Heavenly Father sees me. But, you know, it was nice to be able to feel a glimpse and to see a glimpse of that. I think the really cool thing about this is I'm pretty sure that Heavenly Father has been trying to tell me that for years. I think that it's through the repentance process that I came to this understanding. And it wasn't necessarily that He told me this because I repented. It's that because I repented, I was now open for this. I was now ready to receive this information, this, this knowledge. I came back home and it was confirmed she was still talking about divorce. But after the revelation, I believe I was more vested in my personal, mental, and spiritual and physical health. I really wanted to just be a better me. I started to do things that I had never done. I went and saw a doctor. I was starting to recognize the depression that I had and so I went and saw a doctor to get help with that and I continue to see a therapist. And I started to randomly send flowers to her, randomly sent her treats, I randomly just did things. I am, I would get flowers for her home, but there was something else to it. So as I was starting to send these things, these random things, my wife calls me and thanks me for one of them. And she says to me, "Kevin, why did it take you this long to do this? Why didn't you do this while we were together?" And honestly, in my mind, I thought, "Well, I thought I had done some of this." I think that Heavenly Father was just opening up some more things, again, to be seen differently. But even that at that point, she still was like, "You know, but we're still on this road for divorce." And honestly, at that point, as much as I loved my family, I was okay. I was okay because I knew that I was going to be okay through the Savior. As long as I do what I need to do, as long as I keep Him in my life, as long as I let the Atonement work in my life, I would be okay. That doesn't mean that I still didn't have my struggles with depression and whatnot, but at least I knew that I will be okay. I am happy to share that that spring, spring break, my family came home to visit. Near the end of that visit, my wife pulled me aside and she started listing off the pros and cons of being with me. That as she did this, I'm like, "Oh crap, this does not sound good for me." But apparently, the things that were pros to her were much more important than those cons because she told me at that point that she was, she was ready to try to make it work too again. That she was willing to give me another try. I know that that was not my, I did not change my wife, but that it was the Savior. It was the Spirit. There is no way that I caused that change. But I do know that the things that I would, was doing, helped, helped get us there. We're together as of August. They came back and we've been together and we've been working through things. I do know that there's still work to be done as a family, for healing and for, for everything, but with the Lord's help and as long as we're open and willing to share and willing to do the things that we need to, our story will continue. It'll be rocky, but it will continue. I'm so very grateful that my wife had the courage to leave me. And that my Savior, while I felt so alone, made sure that I knew that I was not alone. KaRyn Lay 42:38 That was Kevin. I am proud to say that Kevin is my brother. And I'm the sister he worried about at that Christmas dinner. But I want to say for the record, that we were just happy to be with him and high emotions are no big deal for the Lay family. So whenever any of you are ready for your breakdown, just come to our house. There's a place at the table. We're ready. You know, it's hard for me to imagine that a Christmas separated from your partner and your children, a Christmas spent wondering if you'll ever find healing for something that seems like it's held you hostage for a really long time, could possibly become the best Christmas in your memory. But that's the thing about difficult experiences and memory. I heard recently on this other podcast that I love that we are scientifically wired to forget the feeling of the high emotions and pain that we experienced during stressful times in our lives. Otherwise, honestly, no one would ever have more than one baby or more than one family Christmas party. And while that science is helpful and explaining how our minds work, to give us courage to get back in the ring and keep fighting, I think the scriptures teach us how heaven helps our hearts to have that same courage. One of my favorite scripture passages of all time is in the New Testament when Paul is writing to the Romans. In chapter eight, he's reassuring the disciples in Rome of the nature of Christ and the power of living His law. And he's teaching them how to become conquerors in the cause of Christianity, despite their setbacks and trials. And in verse 28, he says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." I think I love that verse because it explains how something that is the worst can possibly become the best in our hearts. I think it's really all about perspective. I think that's what Paul was trying to teach us. According to Paul, loving God and seeing ourselves in service to His purpose instead of whatever purpose we've dreamed up for ourselves, those are the only two requirements for all things to work together for our good. And things working together for good doesn't actually mean that the minute we choose faith and belief that our football will be resurrected from the fiery furnace, or our baby will miraculously be healed and home from the NICU in time for Christmas, or our fractured family will need less time to make their way back together. But what it does mean is that through our love and our commitment to His plan, we can see the light in the darkness. Our eyes will be opened, we'll be able to see our baby in the eyes of the homesick missionaries that we comfort and place of their own mothers. We'll recognize the gift of dark nights in a rocking chair while we miss the glitz of the holiday party. And we can feel the hope of our own connection to the Babe of Bethlehem at the exact same time that we feel disconnected from the people we love most. Our hearts are turned and turned again so that we can actually see and believe when Paul says in Romans chapter 8:31, "What shall we then say to these things? If God before us, who can be against us?" Biology may sometimes lighten the mental load of past pain, but it is our Heavenly Father who lightens the spiritual load. And suddenly, what was worst is now and forever best. We say to these things, "God is with us. We are His. And because of Him, we are made new and whole." That's it for this episode of "This Is the gospel." Thank you so much for joining us as we celebrate the beauty of Christmas together through stories. And thank you to Tammy and Paula and Suzi and Patricia and Greg and Carissa for sharing their stories. And a special thanks to my brother Kevin and his family for being unashamed of the brave path they have taken to healing. It's probably not easy to have me and your family or your ward asking you to tell the stories for the greater good. So I'm truly grateful to everyone that I've hit up for stories. And if you're as excited as we are for the "Sunday on Monday" study group podcast, it launches December 30th on Desert Bookshelf PLUS+, and we cannot wait for you to discover it. You can get a free trial of Desert Bookshelf PLUS+ for 30 days by going to deseretbook.com/thisisthegospel to check that podcast out and to see what we're all talking about. You're going to love it. As we head into the short break for the Christmas season, just a reminder that we're still gathering your stories on upcoming themes. So follow us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast to find out what's coming up and to keep connected with us during the break. If you have a great story about your experience living the gospel of Jesus Christ, well we want to hear from you on our pitch line. So leave us a three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. All of our stories on this podcast are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers. And this episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, and Sarah Blake with additional story producing and editing by Katie Lambert. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by Mix At 6 Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at ldsliving.com/podcasts. Have a beautiful, merry, wonderful best Christmas. See you in the new year.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
16 Dec 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.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
6 May 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. SHOW NOTES Hi friends! This is the last episode for season one of This Is the Gospel, but don't worry! You can still follow us on Instagram and Facebook until season two begins in September 2019. 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. Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
24 Jun 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. SHOW NOTES: Can you do us a quick favor? We are having such an awesome time bringing you the new stories in season 2 and we’ve heard from so many of you that you love it, too. We want more people to find the good stuff and one of the ways that can happen is through reviews. If you’ve had an experience with one of the stories in our podcast, will you share that with others by leaving a review here on the apple podcast app or the bookshelf app? Every review helps us show up for more people. Thank you, Thank you!!! You can find pictures, links, and more info from this episode HERE. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: KaRyn Lay: Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. 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. 3:05 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. 9:58 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. 10:26 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. 19:12 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. 23:03 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. 39:10 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. Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
21 Oct 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. Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
28 Jan 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. SHOW NOTES 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!Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
26 May 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.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
5 Mar 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. SHOW NOTES: 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. TRANSCRIPT: KaRyn Lay: Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 LDSliving.com/thisisthegospel. 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 by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. 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 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.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
11 Nov 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.Show Notes + Transcripts: http://ldsliving.com/thisisthegospelSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
19 Feb 2019