Hello, My name is Laurel Taylor. I am the camp director for Menifee Lakes Ward. This week at camp we learned about being survivors. We did a survivor challenge, went through our rotations and had to survive obstacles. We had tribe names, went to tribal counsel, and had our tribal yell. All in all, we had fun. In fact, just this morning we had to survive the early wakeup just to get here in time to listen to this sunrise devotional.
I come to you this beautiful morning and have been asked to speak to you about being a survivor.
I thought long and hard about what message I wanted to talk about today. I’ve decided to talk about what being a survivor is to me. I think being a survivor is about enduring to the end.
Remember in the movie about Sister Stephanie Neilson said that she thought her life was like a fairy tale and everything was just perfect. It reminded me that I have had that same thought about my own life. Last November my husband and I sat across from the Stake President after preparing to go to the temple to be sealed in our recommend interview. I remember telling President Wilson that my life was too good to be true. We were already married and just bought a nice house. He had the perfect job with the Fire Dept. and I had the perfect job in the Sheriff Dept. And were expected a baby in just a couple months. Everything was perfect, it was my own fairy tale. Then in January that all changed. Just like Stephanie’s fairy tale changed in one day, mine did as well. Although her trial is not the same as mine its still a trial. In January, my husband and I lost our baby girl Brianna. She was born 4 days before her due date. She was in distress and just didn’t make it through the delivery. In one day, our fairy tale changed.
The YCL’s made some fleece blankets during their service project for a nonprofit organization I started called Blankets for Brianna. This organization definitely has been a help to me in the months since her birth. Friends, family and strangers have donated all different types of blankets and beanies to this cause. In the few months since Brianna was born, I have taken blankets given to me and given them back to hospitals. We have donated over 175 blankets and over 80 beanies to 6 local hospitals and handed them out to some local chaplains to use in their jobs too. And this is only the beginning. These blankets will bring comfort and love to families going through this trial. The outpouring of love and support in the days following Brianna’s birthday amaze me even to this day. Flowers and cards have filled our home. Our emails and Facebook walls have been bombarded. The love given to us has been huge.
Our emotions are mixed. We have our ups and downs. We miss our daughter every day. I wish I had heard her cry even for a second. It’s a struggle every day to keep going. Our faith has been given a test and so far I hope we have passed. While Brianna is busy in the spirit world, we are on earth. My husband and I are sealed. She was born in the covenant. She came to earth for a split second just to get her body. And what a beautiful, perfect body it was. She looked just like her dad. We all know little children didn’t have to be born and she has already reached celestial glory. Now my husband and I have to endure to the end to return to our Heavenly Father and see Brianna again. In a way, we have to be survivors.
Enduring to the end is easier said than done. While on earth, we are through daily temptations. Having Brianna already in the celestial kingdom, it keeps me focused on gaining that glory myself. I don’t want to miss out on what I didn’t get a chance to do on earth- raise my daughter.
By being patient and focusing on the celestial kingdom, I put off my worldly desires for my treasures in heaven. Without patience, we cannot please God. Patience is a purifying process that requires understanding, deepens happiness and offers hope for peace. In D&C 121:7-8 it states, “My sons (or in our case daughters) peace by unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high. Thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” In the whole scheme of things, our trials are only as this scripture says: a small moment. If we think about it like that, it’s not as hard to be patient.
Some of you may have heard the talk “Your Happily Ever After” (http://www.lds.org/ensign/2010/05/your-happily-ever-after) from President Uchtdorf. It’s a wonderful talk. He talks about how fairy tales all start with a “once upon a time.” Then they all have their trials- Cinderella, Belle, Snow White. But in the end, they all had their happily ever after. They all had to experience adversity. Satan knows us well. He knows where, when and how to tempt us. If we are obedient to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we can learn to recognize the adversary’s enticement. Your trials might not be as big as mine, but no matter what you need to overcome them. You need to be a survivor and stand tall in the last days.
Heavenly Father loves us all. He knows all of us individually. Uchdorf says “If you ever feel your burden is too great to bear, lift up your heart to your Heavenly Father and He will uplift and bless you. Every temptation we overcome strengthens us and teaches us.”
Enduring to the end, or remaining faithful to the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout out life is a fundamental part of salvation in the Kingdom of God. In D&C 14:7, the Lord says “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest gift of all the gifts of God.” Enduring to the end is not just getting by or hanging in there. It is actively living the commandments of God. Enduring to the end is a process filling every moment in our life, every house, every day from sunrise to sunset. It is accomplished through personal discipline and following the covenants of God.
Sometimes being patient and following the covenants of God requires us to trust in the Lord. My last day at work before I went out on leave to have my daughter, a coworker came up to me to offer me some advice. She said that even thought she isn’t married and doesn’t have any children, she had some advice for me about my baby. Not lots of people had already given me advice, but this woman’s words really stuck with me. She said “Trust in your Lord.” This is the strangest advice for having a baby I had ever heard. And to top it off this woman is of the Hindu faith. So she believes in higher beings, but it’s not exactly the same as our God and Lord so I thought it was interesting that she delivered that message. I didn’t forget that she told me to trust in the Lord, and the day Brianna was born I help on to that phrase and trusted in him more than anything. I have spoken to her since returning to work and I believe she followed promptings from the spirit to tell me that. This message was the best for me and I am still trusting in the Lord and being patient as possible. I am trying to follow his commandments to return to him someday.
As Young Women, we are all given tools to help us endure to the end. We have good friends, family, scriptures, seminary, mutual, Personal Progress and the For the Strength of the Youth Handbook. These standards and teachings will guide you and direct you through this adventure we call life. They will help make you the ultimate survivor and will prepare you to make sacred covenants.
To be a survivor, you should stand for truth and righteousness, overcome adversity, be strong, courageous, never give up and be of good cheer.
I know this gospel will lead us all on the right path. You all have such amazing spirits and have accomplished so much this week. Sisters, I hope you all endure to the end and stand tall and clean through the last days. I leave you these words, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.