Have you ever been asked to do something that you know nothing about? Imagine that you have been living in a beautiful garden, after having come straight from the presence of God, but also having forgotten everything you learned while you were with Him. Now you have made a decision to leave the garden so that you can know good from evil and have children. You find yourself in a lone and dreary world.
We are all familiar with this story of our mother Eve, but we don’t often think about what the rest of her life was like. There was so much she didn’t know and hadn’t experienced. She was the first woman to have a baby. She was the first woman to experience colic, sleepless nights, and long days. She was the first woman to deal with hormones and morning sickness. She was the first woman to see death. So many firsts—of joy and sorrow.
Her husband Adam lived to be 930 years old; as far as we know her years were comparable. How many children did she have during those years? How tired did she get? How many problems did she face?
And she and Adam did all this alone. She had no peers; no other women of her generation, and more importantly, no earthly mother. She had no one to walk along the canal with, no one to trade babysitting with, no one to bring her a sodalicious when she was exhausted (and surely she was).
She had no mother to call when her baby had an ear infection or she wasn’t sure how to handle a particular child or she forgot how to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving. I’m sure her daughters eventually became her friends. But mothers never forget that they are mothers.
Imagine how she felt when one of her sons killed another of her sons. Did this act bring her close to her grave as Laman and Lemuel’s did to Sariah? Was this the first time she had seen death or had she seen children die of disease or accidents? How did she feel when she saw many of her children turn away from the truths she so diligently taught them? Scripture records that many of her children loved Satan more than God. Many of us know the pain of a rebellious child, and she saw generations of it.
But Eve remained faithful. She did not give up. She did not give up on herself, the Lord, or her children. We know she has been exalted. Joseph F. Smith saw Jesus minister in the spirit world to “our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God” (D&C 138:39).
How did this happen? How did Eve face and overcome all these trials for so many years? How did she remain faithful in the face of such adversity? Why didn’t she turn away from God? Before we explore the answer to these questions, I want to look at another woman I admire. Her name is Bonnie.
Bonnie was 6 years old when she heard her mother telling her dad that she was carrying another man’s child. That Christmas Eve her mother left. Bonnie was raised by her father and her grandmother. Her father was not interested in the Church and didn’t promote activity among his children. He was a train engineer; often away from home. The home was dirty. If Bonnie got up during the night, she stepped on bugs with every step. And her home was full of contention. Two of her sisters chased each other with knives and threatened to kill each other. Her older sister had two illegitimate children who lived in their home. Her sister did not take care of the children. Bonnie would come home after school and change diapers which had not been changed all day and feed children who were crying with hunger.
Her grandmother was a saving grace. She worked in the Salt Lake temple and taught Bonnie the gospel. And she introduced her to the piano, giving her music that even today comforts her. Somehow, she stumbled through these early years, maintaining some activity in the Church. At age 17 she married her sweetheart Gordon in the temple. Gordon’s father had died when he was 6 years old. Bonnie had not been reared by a mother and Gordon had not been reared by a father. Statistically, the odds were stacked against them. They should have failed.
And indeed, things at first were a little rocky as far as their commitment to the gospel. Every Sunday they went to church, but after church they went to Lagoon and tried to win dishes for their home.
Gordon had a hard time finding good work, so when he finally found a job in Wyoming, they were overjoyed and excited to learn about their new home. Every Sunday after Sunday school (not block system) they’d take off and go driving to see the area. One Sunday, Bonnie asked a life-changing question: “Do you know how many weeks it’s been since we went to sacrament meeting?” When she told him it had been six weeks, he was shocked. The two decided that they would not miss sacrament meeting again. As far as I know, they didn’t.
They went on to have 7 children. The youngest one is intellectually handicapped. The other six married in the temple, and although they have had their share of life’s challenges—some of them very serious—they are all true to the covenants they have made. So far 24 of their 29 grandchildren have been endowed. Gordon and Bonnie had daily family scripture study and family prayer, and weekly home evening. They accepted callings and served two missions. Their handicapped son still lives with them. Gordon is now in his 80s and suffers from Alzheimers. Bonnie carries on, taking care of her handicapped son and her ailing husband. It is tiring work, but she does it with grace and often gratitude. She regularly sends letters to her children bearing her testimony of God’s goodness and of her love for them. Bonnie reminds me of a scripture in Isaiah 58. It describes the blessings of those who are faithful: “thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” Bonnie laid the foundation for many generations, and restored the paths of the gospel for her posterity to walk in.
Bonnie is my mother. I’ll be forever grateful to her for the blessing she gave me and now my children and grandchildren. How did she, a girl from such a dysfunctional family become a woman so committed to the Lord? How did she change the path of her family so dramatically?
One of the qualities I admire in both these women is their relationship with the Lord. Both of them turned often to Him in prayer. Scripture tell us that “Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord.” They prayed—often and fervently—and He answered. Prayer was their lifeline and their comfort. Prayer brought them to God and prayer helped them become like Him.
I’m sure Eve felt deeply this call to pray. Remember all that she suffered? All that she did not know? I can imagine her on her knees pleading with the Lord—often, continually. I’m sure she often sought the Lord’s guidance. Think of how much she had to learn! And no one to teach her but the Lord.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” My mother often felt like this. As she struggled to teach her family in a gospel tradition that was new to her, as she struggled to overcome habits and feelings that were part of her early years, she always sought the Lord in prayer. I often found her on her knees, pleading with the Lord.
Where would we be without prayer? Prayer strengthens our faith. It gives us answers and comfort. It connects us to the love of our Father. It makes us one with Him and His desires for us. Elder Uceda said in the last conference: At the very moment we say, “Father in Heaven,” He hears our prayers and is sensitive to us and our needs. . . . Love and mercy are with Him the very moment you say, “Father in Heaven.”
One day last July, my husband and I were driving to BYU to receive a call from a stake presidency in a YSA stake there. We felt excited and more than a little nervous. On the way I received a phone call from my son who lives in Texas. His wife was miscarrying the little child she was carrying. They were alone with no family nearby and they were heartbroken. I was heartbroken with them—and very helpless. On the way home from the interview my daughter called from Las Vegas. She had gone there with a group of friends to celebrate a friend’s birthday and had attended a concert. The concert was so bad that she could not bear to stay. She left and called me. Her friends had stayed in the concert. I tried to keep her on the phone with me but her phone was dying. She was alone—a single woman—in Las Vegas. I felt grateful for her courage and scared to death for her safety. And again, I felt helpless. So many different emotions. I thought there was nothing I could do. But I was wrong. I could pray. I could plead with my father, who is also the father of my son, daughter-in-law, and daughter. I could ask him to send angels to bless and comfort my children. He gave me—and my family—His love and mercy the moment I said, “Heavenly Father.”
Just a few weeks ago I was listening to one of my daughter’s musical videos on YouTube. As often happens, the next video started before I caught it to stop it. I heard the voice of a young woman, a member of the Church who is gay. She told of her denial, her struggle, and finally her thoughts of suicide. Surely, she thought, the Lord would rather have me die than sin, wouldn’t He? Her therapist, with tears in his eyes, told her to ask the Lord what he thought about her attraction to women. She agreed and went home to ask what she said was the most heartfelt prayer of her life. She did not receive an overwhelming answer, but she did feel peace. She felt that God loved her and that it wasn’t her fault and she didn’t choose this situation. These feelings prompted her to ask, “How am I going to be able to do this?” The answer came simply and clearly: “Just stay with me.”
What a powerful message. “Just stay with me.” We mustn’t let busyness or fear or indifference or anger or sin or discouragement keep us from the Lord. Everything is better when we are with Him. Our whole purpose is to come unto Him. I testify that prayer is one powerful way to come to Him. Testimony.
(Talk given at Stake Conference–January 22, 2017)