My Testimony of Trials – Adult Session Stake Conference Talk

I was born to two amazing parents who taught me principles of the gospel from a very young age. Growing up, I always felt very blessed to be a part of my family and to have been given the opportunity to grow up with a fairly comfortable life. I remember feeling like everything was going right my senior year of high school: I was going to graduate at the top of my class, I had been accepted to my dream college, I was a good athlete, and I had the chance to serve in many different leadership positions in seminary and in our ward.

My ardent love for athletics had me very involved in numerous sports, including cross country, track and field, and basketball. During my senior year of high school, my race times were not improving as I hoped, so my coach suggested that I do blood tests for anemia, a fairly common ailment affecting distance runners speed and stamina. The tests came back negative, but doctors noticed that some of my other protein levels seemed unusually high. After almost weekly blood tests, a liver biopsy, and a multitude of doctors appointments, the doctors seemed stumped. Then, I remember coming home from school almost exactly 8 years ago and finding my mother in tears in our living room. Looking at me through her tears, she said that my most recent blood test had revealed that I likely had a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

In what was one of the hardest moments of my life, I ran downstairs to my room, closed the door and got on my knees to pray in a way that I had never prayed before. As I sobbed and offered up my soul to God that afternoon, I had a sacred experience that I can best describe as a warm hug that filled my entire soul when there had previously just been intense pain. In that moment, I felt “encircled about in the arms of His love” and gained a witness that He, my Savior, lives. I also came to understand that the Atonement of Christ was never meant to simply erase our sins. It was meant to transcend all of our weaknesses, to bring light in our darkest moments, and to bring hope when all seems lost.

I would be lying if I said that after that moment, everything has been easy. I have spent many nights wetting my pillow with my tears in despair. I believe that faith was always a natural gift of mine. Growing up, I always trusted that God had omnipotent power and that He could do all things, and I fully believe that at the moment when I knelt down and communed with God, I had the faith to be healed if that was his will at that time. However, the toughest test I have faced in my life is trying to develop, as Elder Bednar describes, the faith not to be healed. I learned that it is much easier to have faith when God’s will aligns with your personal desires. It is much harder to have faith and accept God’s will when it seems contrary to everything you desire and yearn for. Struggling through this process of accepting my unique challenge and trial has been difficult, but it has taught me many lessons.

I would like to briefly share with you two of the many lessons I have learned from this particular trial.

  1. Many of the toughest trials are not immediately apparent, so treat everyone with kindness. For several years, almost no one knew that I had this disease, and that I felt my legs slowly getting weaker. That I was no longer able to run like I loved to do or play basketball, which was a favorite pastime. On the outside, I think I probably looked like I had no trials, and yet there were days of incredible sadness and anger for me. Similarly, we never know when a friend, coworker, or ward member has just had a death in the family, or is experiencing depression, struggling with sin, family problems, or illness. So treat everyone with kindness–as if they are struggling with something–because they probably are. Just like we, at different points in our life, have all struggled with heartache, or frustration, or doubt.  
  2. Life is not fair, but it was never meant to be fair. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, We are all acquainted with other kinds of mortal opposition not caused by our personal sins, including illness, disability, and death. President Thomas S. Monson explained: “Some of you may at times have cried out in your suffering, wondering why our Heavenly Father would allow you to go through whatever trials you are facing.…“Our mortal life, however, was never meant to be easy or consistently pleasant. Our Heavenly Father… knows that we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices. Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure.

I testify that our trials can refine us like hot fire purifies drossy metal. I prayed every night for years to be like the sick and disabled Nephites in 3 Nephi 17, whom Christ healed one by one. I yearned with all my heart for that physical healing that I felt would make me whole again. Nevertheless, I have come to learn that in some ways, an even more incredible miracle is our Savior’s power to heal our broken hearts. I have felt Him heal my heart, and I know that He lives. I know that because of His atonement, we will all be brought to stand before Him and our Father in Heaven again someday, and I hope to kneel at His feet and, like those Nephites in ancient America, bathe His feet with my tears in gratitude for His tremendous sacrifice. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.