Home Run To Heaven: Team Unity

My talk given June 2013 to the the Poway [a city in San Diego] young woman’s camp whose camp theme was “Home Run to Heaven.”  My subtheme was, “Team Unity”.  If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I recommend at least scrolling down to the adorable animal pics – they will make you smile!

I am excited to speak to you young women tonight.  I grew up in the Poway Stake and have always considered it my “home team.”

Before we came to earth, we were prepared for the “Big Game”

Before we came to earth, we all chose to be members of another home team – The Lord’s team.  We learn from Job 38: 7 that when the great plan of salvation was presented to us in the grand council of heaven that we shouted for joy!  When was the last time you were so happy that you shouted for joy?   Its as if we were so excited to enter the “game of life” that we were shouting “put me in coach, I can do it!”

We were excited at the chance to obtain a physical body, walk by faith, learn obedience to God’s commandments and try to hit a “home run to heaven” by striving to become more like Christ.  We shouted for joy even after knowing all the muscle aches, fatigue, dirty knees and bruised elbows we would encounter because we knew the victory would be well worth any cost.

Just as a coach prepares his team before a big game, we are told by Elder Richard G. Scott that “in the premortal life we were taught and prepared for the circumstances we would personally encounter in mortality…..”

And President Spencer W. Kimball tells us: “We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, pain and comforts, ease and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments, and we also knew that we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and the unfavorable,”

We each knew of our personal circumstances and we all—every single one of us—still shouted for joy to come to earth!  Now that we are here on earth, the trials and disappointments of life can discourage us, break our hearts and even fill us with fear.  The cheers and jeers from the sidelines might bring us down, the smell of popcorn and corn dogs might entice us (okay maybe that’s just me), inning after inning might challenge our endurance, we might even strikeout a few times.

This life is a test of our faith and a test of our obedience

But that is exactly why we are here.  This life is not meant to be a perfect life but rather a perfecting one.  This life is a test of our faith and a test of our obedience.

We are here to learn how “hit a home run to heaven,” or in other words, to become like our master coach, Jesus Christ.  This takes practice, hard work, following his calls and of course, having fun!   And when the game is over and we are being rushed by heavenly crowds, get to hold the trophy of eternal life high above our heads and gaze into the eyes of our proud, master coach, even Jesus Christ, we will be so grateful we stayed the course and gave our all every single inning.

For, as we read in Doctrine and Covenants 58:4, “For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.”

As President Brigham Young said:

We talk about our trials and troubles here in this life; but suppose that you could see yourselves thousands and millions of years after you have proved faithful…during the few short years in this time, and have obtained eternal salvation and a crown of glory in the presence of God? Then look back upon your lives here, and see the losses, crosses, and disappointments, the sorrows … ; you would be constrained to exclaim, “but what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here. We have been faithful during a few moments in our mortality, and now we enjoy eternal life and glory…enjoying the smiles and approbation of our Father and God, and of Jesus Christ our elder brother.”

This glorious future can all be ours as we strive to become like our Savior and hit a homerun to heaven.  We are so blessed to be part of the gospel where we have a team of loving, supportive, teammates to help us achieve this victory.

One of the most important parts of being part of a team, is knowing how valuable you are

You are all MVPs – you are each a most valuable princess

George Q. Cannon repeatedly taught that God reserved his noblest spirits to come forth in the last dispensations.  He said, “God has chosen us out of the world and has given us great mission…”

President Spencer W. Kimball gave this insight:  “…in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments… (that is every single one of you!)…While we do not now remember the particulars, that does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to do.”

Elder Cannon declared that the lord saved for now those spirits who would have the “courage and determination to face the world, and all the powers of the evil one “ and who would “build up the Zion of our God, fearless of all consequences.”

Our coach, our Heavenly Father, He knows our weakness and strengths perfectly, reserved us to come now – in the final innings of the world-, when the opposition would be strongest-  When he would need fearless woman who  would fulfill their divine callings and assignments, woman who would stand strong together, united against the opposing team – the adversary.  He believes in us because he knows who we are and he knows what we are capable of.

Do you know who you are?  Do you believe you are an MVP?  The truth is we are all divine beings having a mortal experience.  Knowing who you truly are and what you were sent here to do will change your entire life.

As President Uchtdorf said, “Much of confusion in life comes from not understanding who we are…”

A few years ago, a greeting card with a profound message caught my eye. On the cover sat a fluffy, white kitten gazing in the mirror.  Staring back in the kitten’s reflection was a statuesque lion crowned with a gorgeous main. The caption read, “What matters most is how we see ourselves.”


Sheri Dew expands:  “It affects the way we behave, the way we respond to uncertainty, the way we see others, the way we handle pressure and disappointment, the way we feel about ourselves, and the way we make choices.  In short, it determines how we live our lives.  So the question we might all do well to ponder is not only who we are but who we have always been.”

Understanding Who You really are will change your entire life

Understanding who I really am –that I am a daughter of a King, my Heavenly Father, He who controls this universe – and how loved I truly am – has blessed me with peace, comfort and hope beyond measure.  It has shaped my entire life.

I was born with the genetic disease cystic fibrosis or CF….When I was born the life expectancy for those with CF was just nineteen years old.  CF is a genetic disease that causes the organs in the sinuses, pancreas and particularly the lungs to produce extra thick, sticky mucus. In essence, the mucus blocks the airways, causing constant lung infections and over time scars and kills the tissue until the individual suffocates to death.

At age thirteen my full, deep breaths had been replaced with the wheezing of tightened, obstructed airways.  I would dread school, church or any other public function because I would cough constantly.  I would hold my breath for as long as I could just to keep from coughing every second.  I prayed every night and every morning to “please help me not to cough a lot.”

Over the years as my health involved more and more challenges, I was increasingly brought to my knees in prayer, seeking both strength and comfort.  Many nights I would feel reassured simply after confiding in my Father in Heaven, knowing He was there, listening, caring.  But on a handful of occasions, as I called on my Heavenly Father with my shallow breath, He answered me with His deep, infinite and tangible love. There was no room to doubt what I already knew:  God is real.  God loves me.  I had nothing to fear.  I had every reason to hope.

True to Sheri Dew’s statement, the knowledge of who I really am – and how loved I really am – has shaped my entire life.  It has allowed me to trust my Heavenly Father and his will perfectly because I know He loves me  – just as he loves you – perfectly.  I know God’s arms of fatherly love are waiting to embrace every single one of us. We are all His literal spirit daughters with infinite worth and glorious potential!

In order to be happy, we must overcome our mortal identity crisis

Unfortunately, Satan, the master of deceit, will do everything he can to keep us from comprehending the majesty of who we are which leads to feelings of inadequacy, discouragement and defeat.  Do you ever have these feelings?  Whenever you feel this way, it is important to recognize that these feelings are not from the Lord.  They are from Satan.  Instead, feelings from the Lord fill us with feelings of confidence, empowerment, hope and happiness.

Satan knows we will never be happy, feel at peace or be able to love ourselves or others unconditionally, and we will definitely never live up to who we are as women of God and “hit a home run to heaven” until we overcome our “mortal identity” crisis by understanding and BELIEVING who we really are.

Sheri Dew states “He offers an array of seductive but sorry substitutes—everything from labels and logos—titles and status—hoping to preoccupy us with the world’s artificial identifiers.”

The media would tell us we have to “buy” our confidence, and to “buy” love for ourselves.  That we will only be “good enough” when we can be “better than” someone else because we have more expensive clothes or a designer purse.

She continues: “Satan would have us see ourselves as the world sees us, not as the Lord see’s us.  The world would tell us that our roles as women and nurturers are not enough.  That we have to do more, be more, have more, juggle more.  That we have to be smarter, thinner, prettier just to feel a little bit good about ourselves.  If we live by the world’s standards, we will NEVER be enough…. The world’s mirror is like a circus mirror in which five foot, ten inch woman appears two feet tall, distorted and minimized.”

The truth is we cannot buy happiness. We cannot buy peace.  We cannot buy love.  If we mistakenly look to the world to feed our identity, we are like the 1 month old baby whale I read about off the shores of Sydney who got separated from her mother and confused a yacht for her mom.  The exhausted baby whale repeatedly tried to feed from the yacht, and obviously came up empty handed.  Wildlife rescuers commented, “The outlook is not good.  We can’t feed it…”

Baby Whale

Like the baby whale, when we look to the world to feed our identity, we will spiritually starve.  We will never be enough.

Elder Holland states:  “I plead with you young women to please be more accepting of yourselves, including your body shape and style, with less longing to look like someone else. We are all different. Some are tall, and some are short. Some are round, and some are thin. And almost everyone at some time or other wants to be something they are not!  You can’t live your life worrying that the world is staring at you. When you let other people’s opinions make you self-conscious you give away your power.”

I love that!  Once we depend on assurances outside ourselves – when we look to the crowds in the stands for a vision of ourselves, we lose control of our life, we lose control of our own happiness and we lose the vision of who we really are.

Elder Holland continues, “The key to feeling [confident] is to always listen to your inner self- [the real you]. And in the kingdom of God, the real you is ‘more precious than rubies.’ ’’

We are all priceless in our Heavenly Father’s eyes – more precious than rubies.  I believe that if we could just catch a glimpse of our divinity and our potential – of who we are as noble daughters of God – of how we used to walk and talk with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ before we came to earth – we would be kicking ourselves for getting down on ourselves, doubting our divine worth and getting deceived by Satan’s deceptive and seductive lies about everything we have to do and become in order to be good enough.                                 

Each and every one of you is good enough.  You are more than good enough.  You are infinitely loved and have infinite worth.  You are MVPs!

Jesus Christ loves and believes in each one of you so much that he gave his very life for you.  That is how special you are.  If you ever start to doubt your worth, I pray that you can always remember that one thing.  Jesus Christ loves you.

I came to know of my Heavenly Father’s  and Savior’s love on a deeper level after my brother Justin passed away at age 19 due to cystic fibrosis.

Life is to be Enjoyed, not merely endured

Justin had the game winning attitude, exemplifying as President Hinckley stated, “Life is to be enjoyed, not merely endured.”  And as Abraham Lincoln aptly surmised, “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be”

At age 18, Justin’s health grew increasingly worse to the point he required oxygen while he slept.  He knew his situation was precarious.  He could have spent all his energy indulging in self-pity, worry or resentment, counting every breath as his body slowly decayed.  Instead, he spent his days uplifting others and building team unity by playing volleyball with one hand to make a friend feel more comfortable whose arm was in a cast, joking that not everyone has both an “innie and and outie” when he had to have a gastro intestinal feeding tube inserted above his belly button, telling his new friend, with his trademark twinkle in his eye that the bump protruding out of his arm (which was really a portacath for IVS) was a tracking device he had to have inserted because he had gotten into some trouble with the law or joking with his friend just three days before he died about how much fun they would have together “cruising the hospital halls looking for good-looking nurses,”never once mentioning the gravity of his health.

Justin Graduation
Justin’s Poway High School Graduation, 1997

Justin was a model of quiet dignity.  In all our talks, Justin never uttered a negative word about having cystic fibrosis.  How often we pity ourselves and even parade our pity over matters that aren’t life or death.

We often like to blame our circumstances for our state of happiness or we postpone our happiness, waiting until the “next inning” to be happy – We are looking for some award or achievement, some life goal, or some game changing event. We tend to compare ourselves, or focus on what’s wrong or on what we don’t have, that we no longer appreciate what we do have.  This leads us to get discouraged and feel helpless and even hopeless.  The ironic truth is that happiness does not come from the accumulation of our wants it comes from being grateful for what we have.

A favorite ancient proverb of mine reads, “I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.”

Because of Christ, we have every reason to be grateful

We can only be as happy as we are grateful.  Even when it seems we have lost everything, when everything is going wrong, we still have all that matters. We have an infinitely loving and merciful Savior who suffered for our sins so that we can repent and be made clean again, worthy to live forever with our families in the kingdom of our Father.

We don’t have to wait for some event or Prince Charming for our happiness, instead we can be filled with happiness as we let the Prince of Peace become the central figure in our lives.  Let him be our foundation, our rock of happiness.

As we read in Helamen 5: 12:  “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

Christ is our rock.  Remember the song about the wiseman who built his house upon a rock?

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the wise man’s house stood firm.


The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the foolish man’s house washed away

Now, I’d like you to consider this question:  Who gets to build their life on the rock and who ends up on the sand?

It is entirely our choice!  I LOVE THE FACT–it’s not a matter of  wealth, privilege or good looks but rather A MATTER OF PERSONAL CHOICE!  So even when the rain pours and your jersey gets covered in mud, if you choose to build your house upon the rock of our Savior, Jesus Christ, you can choose to be happy.  You will be blessed with the peace and assurance that the sun is always shining behind the clouds.

Justin’s faith not only encouraged him to endure all with dignity and a sense of humor, but allowed him to do so. He hit a home run to heaven.  At age 19, Accompanied by angels, Justin met God face to face.  There is no greater accomplishment than that.

Christ’s infinite sacrifice has given him infinite empathy to succor us

As I mourned Justin’s passing, I often felt helpless.  I chose to turn to my Savior, He who knew what I was experiencing firsthand.  There is no physical pain, mental anguish, heartache, weakness, or infirmity that we experience that the Savior has not already experienced.

As Christ bled from every pore and wet His face with our tears, we literally became part of Him.  He declared in Isaiah 49: 15-16, “Yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands…”

Because Christ suffered for us individually, He understands us completely, loves us unconditionally, and knows how to succor us perfectly. As we read in Alma 7:11-12,  “[A]nd he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

Christ wants nothing more for us to utilize His grace in our lives because that is why He gave His.  Why would we strive to endure our challenges on our own when He has already given His life for us so that we don’t have to?  Instead, if we come unto Him and let Him ease our agonizing and grieving, I know we will be encircled in the arms of His love as He cares, comforts and carries us.  I have a testimony this is true as Jesus Christ my Savior, has become Jesus Christ my Savior as I have fallen at his feet and wept again and again and again.

I could not have made it through my challenges without Him; and now I feel I can make it through anything because of Him.

The consequence of following the commandments is perfect peace 

A year after my brother’s death, my sophomore year of high school, the end stages of lung destruction brought on by cystic fibrosis put me in a downward spiral.  I was on constant oxygen, constant IV antibiotics, throwing up constantly and barely had energy to brush my teeth in bed.

Me - oxygen
November 1999, meeting with my donors the night before my double lung transplant

My day-to-day routine was not so bad; but some days, the accumulative effect of not seeing any improvement and not being able to do anything for myself, would cause me to crumble.  I tried not to let my family see me cry, so it was often late at night when the tears would quietly and freely flow, bringing me to my knees…in bed.  With swollen eyes, I would call on the powers of heaven, the very same powers that created this universe.  I would plead for strength—in both mind and body.

I testify of the reality of the Lord’s promise in found in Isaiah 40:29,31:  For “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength…they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles.”

As I struggled for breath and as I struggled for life, it was confirmed to me again and again that God was my companion.  I was filled with sweet and exquisite joy. I cannot comprehend a greater blessing in life – to be filled with peace, hope and joy, every step of the way.  To have nothing to fear, even death!

I was too ill to wait for a cadaveric lung transplant and so a living donor lung transplant was pursued.  Everyone has five lobes – three on the right side and 2 on the side of a heart.  In a living lobar lung transplant, all 5 lobes are taken out of the patient and replaced with the bottom lobe from two donors.  When all of my family members and three friends who were tested were disqualified, 2 family friends  –Graham Bullick and Jim Davies – stepped forward to offer me lobes of their lungs.

At age 16, I arrived at Children’s hospital in LA just a couple days before my scheduled lung transplant.  As I sat in the hospital room with my dad, I told him, “Dad, I think this surgery will be fine, but if not, don’t be sad because I’ll still be fine.  I will either wake up with new lungs or wake up on the other side.  Both would be great.”  I was filled with perfect peace because I knew I had done my very best to follow my Savior

transplant 1999-1
November 1999, 2nd day after my lung transplant

As Boyd K. Packer  tells us, “In morality men are free to choose, and each choice begets a consequence.”  And the consequence of following the commandments is perfect peace no matter the circumstances.  Satan can counterfeit almost every emotion but he cannot counterfeit the Lord’s peace.

For God has promised, “[H]e who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even PEACE in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23)

Needless to say, the surgery was successful!

Children's -1
November 1999

After I was taken off the ventilator after my transplant, the weight of my donor’s sacrifice became even more real as I sat inhaling and exhaling with lobes from their lungs, all the while not feeling like I was breathing at all.

When my donors visited me at the ICU and I gazed at their smiles through the glass, I was overcome with awe and tremendous gratitude for their sacrifice.  It is indescribable to express what it feels like when you are so helpless, can do nothing for yourself and someone steps forward and says, “l will do that for you.”

transplant 1999-3
November 1999

They have given me a greater appreciation for the atonement.  They exemplify one of the reasons we are here on earth: to hit a home run to heaven by striving to become more like Christ.  For as Amulek tells us:

This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God

Most of us won’t have the chance to physically save someone’s life.  But we do have the opportunity, whether we know it or not, to save individual’s emotionally and spiritually everyday simply through our small acts of kindness.

I want to take a minute to share a few stories of some extraordinary acts of love – and unlikely friendships.

[I didn’t read all the captions for each animal story at camp, but feel free to!  The stories are all very endearing.]


Elephant and Sheep

Elephant and Sheep2After this baby elephant ‘s mother died, he was too distressed to eat until he was introduced to Albert, a sheep from a nearby farm who offered him much needed companionship.  They are now inseparable.

Hippo and Tortoise

Hippo and TortouiseAfter Owen, the baby hippo, lost his family to a tsunami in Kenya, he was released in an animal sanctuary.  He immediately ran to a 130-year-old tortoise named Mzee and cowered behind him. The two pals spend their days together feeding, cuddling and napping.

 Kangaroo and Dog

Kangaroo and DogRex, the dog, came upon a dead kangaroo in a road in Victoria, Australia. Amazingly, one of its babies was alive in its mother’s pouch. Rex rescued the baby, took it home, and dropped it at his owner’s feet.   The two are now best friends.

Bambi and Thumper


This fawn was found shivering next to its dead mother on the side of the street so passerby took it home.  After nursing the dear back to health, the deer was introduced to Ben the rabbit.  The two real life Bambi and Thumper have become inseparable.

Corgi and Ducklings

Corgi and Ducklings

Yogi, the Corgi, has taken the place of these orphaned ducklings mother.   The ducklings follow him everywhere and Yogi sleeps by the ducklings’ box and herds them by gently pushing them with his nose.

Frog and Mouse

Frog and Mouse

When summer monsoon rains arrived early in India, a photographer snapped this photo of a mouse staying dry on the back of a frog as flood waters rose.

 Orangutan babies and Tiger Cubs

At a Zoo in Indonesia, one-month-old tiger twins and a pair of baby orangutans shared a room in the zoo’s nursery. The orangutans and the tigers became the best of friends during daily play times and spent naptime cuddling and nuzzling.

French Bulldog and Piglets 

French bulldog and piglets

As soon as these piglets were brought in from the shivering cold, Baby, the French bulldog, ran over and started snuggling them and keeping them warm.  The bulldog has stayed right by their side since then, making sure they’re OK.  It isn’t the first time Baby’s taken to new guests at the sanctuary — she’s also raised raccoons, cats and many other animals.

Cat and Hedgehogs

Cat and Hedgehogs

Russian cat, Sonya, took in four orphaned baby hedgehogs and is raising them alongside her own kitten.

Golden Retriever and Fawn

Golden retriever and fawn

A critically endangered fawn was rejected by his mother and adopted by Geoffrey, a  golden retriever.

Cat and Owl

Cat and owl

Fum, the house cat, is hugging his best friend, Gebra, the barn owl.

Orangutan and Lion Cubs

Orangutan and Lion cubs

Hanama, a three-year-old male orangutan, is only too happy to play babysitter to two baby lion cubs. The ape formed a bond with the boisterous cubs as soon as he met them.

Macaque and Dove

macaque and doveThis macaque was stranded from its mother and taken to a rescue where it soon became friends with the white dove. They ate together, slept together and cuddled.

Kangaroo and Wombat

Kangaroo and Wombat

Anzac, a baby kangaroo has become best friends with Peggy, wombat. Their unlikely union developed after the pair –  both orphans – shared a pouch at a Wildlife Rescue.  One resuce worker says, “One of the reasons the lively duo get on so well is their similar personalities – with Anzac described as very social while Peggy is boisterous and cheeky.”

Lion, Tiger and Bear 

Lion, tiger and bear

Leo the lion, Shere Khan the tiger, and Baloo the bear, were found together as cubs during a police raid of a drug baron’s home.  Rescuers decided to keep the inseparable pals together.

Macaque and Kitten

macaque and kitten

In Bali, a lonely macaque cares for a stray kitten. The young male macaque would groom, hug and nuzzle his feline friend, and the kitten was content to be carried around by him

Tiger and Piglets

Tiger and Piglets

At a Zoo in Thailand this Bengal tiger is nursing and raising six piglets as her own.

Greyhound and Baby Owl

Greyhound and Baby Owl

At an animal center, Torque, the greyhound has adopted Shrek, the owl, as his own daughter and is extremely protective of her.  They often spend their evenings curled up on the couch watching TV.

 Sheep and Dog 

Sheep and Dog

Jack, the sheep, was rescued and brought up with a springer spaniel.  They are now inseparable.  They even sleep together in a dog basket in the porch.  Jack loves to fetch sticks, go on walks, jumps up on his hind legs and even tries to bark.

Orangutan and Coonhound

Orangutan and Coonhound

Suryia, the orangutan, and Roscoe, the Coonhound, spend their days in a sanctuary frolicking around the park together rolling around, swimming.  Suryia will take Roscoe for walks around the enclosure and even feeds him some of his monkey “biscuits.”

Labrador and Rabbits

Lab and rabbits

Koa, a 6-year-old Lab, has taken on the role of mom to orphaned rabbits.

Alligator and Turtle

Alligator and turtle

15 year-old Myrtle, the turtle. and 9 year-old alligator, Georgia, share a two acre pond in South Carolina.  Myrtle jumps on Georgia’s back and when she has reached a bank or wants to get off she just hops off.   Myrtle’s free rides show no sign of stopping.

Labrador and Tiger Cubs

Lab and Tiger Cubs

Lisha, a South African Labrador, is world famous for her mothering skills.  The dog has been a mom to a variety of orphaned wildlife, including cheetah and tiger cubs, potbelly pigs, a porcupine, a pygmy hippo, a weasel and a barn owl.

Leopard and Golden Retriever

Leopard and Golden Retriever

Leopard and Golden Retriever2

Tommy, the lab, immediately took orphaned Salata, the leopard, her under his wing when a family in South Africa brought her home.  The two have been best friends ever since.

 Cat and Chick

Cat and chick

Instead of thinking “lunch” this cat in Russia served as this orphaned chicks guardian all spring.

Rhodesian Ridgeback and Baby Pig

Rhodesian ridgeback and baby pig

When this little piglet was found stranded from her family, this rhodesian ridgeback took to her and treated her like her own pup.

Every Person Deserves our love

Could these unlikely friends be any cuter?  Aside from the cuteness, I think these animals teach us some valuable lessons about love.  In all these situations, these animal friends were brought together by some need… either companionship, protection, or nurturing, and stepped up to offer their love– despite their differences.

Don’t we all just want to be loved?  So much of the heartache in this world is caused by searching for love and validation in all the wrong places.  Feeling loved and appreciated is probably the greatest human need after food and sometimes before it.  I believe, as Truman G. Madsen said, “The cruelest thing you can do to a human being is to make him forget that he or she is the son or daughter of a king.”

Do you ever make others feel less than the son or daughter of a king?  That they are spiritual orphans instead of spiritual deity?

Satan knows how strong and influential we can be as women and especially when we unite together as a team.  He wants us to tear each other down, gossip, and try and make each other feel inferior.  He will do everything he can to keep us from comprehending the truth of who we really are and hitting a home run to heaven.


You have a responsibility as a member of the Lord’s team to rise to the occasion like these animals and help others know that they are a needed, appreciated part of your team who offer a unique set of talents, skills and contribution…that NO ONE can fill their shoes – throw like they throw, catch like they catch, or has a better victory dance.

They need to know you want them right beside you, playing with you against your toughest competitor – Satan.  They need you to tell them and probably more importantly to show them because the other team will do everything they can to do the opposite.  Satan will use all of his cunning, deceit, and lies to discourage, distract, demean and cause despair.  Who will your teammates listen to?  Probably whoever is the loudest.

So I hope you can yell love and encouragement at the top of your lungs, drowning out the adversary with your words and deeds.  This could be as simple as a smile.  What would happen if you smiled at every single person?  Its almost like the secret code between the pitcher and catcher, letting them know that you know who they really are –  an MVP.

What if you were more inclusive in your plays?  Telling the person sitting out on the bench that you need them.  You want them.  You love them.  Making sure everyone feels included, loved and valued.  Often we gravitate to people who are most like us or we want to be seen with just certain types of people to “protect our image,” but like these animals, we need to broaden our horizons and treat everyone like the valuable MVPs they are.

Sometimes – or actually – I would say almost always – a person’s needs are not so obvious to us.  We pass people everyday who are literally and metaphorically hungered, naked, and homeless.  I believe Satan wants desperately for us get caught up in own selves – either or our own problems, pride or insecurities – that we fail to see these individuals as the sons and daughters of God that they are- our very own teammates who the Lord has placed on our team to win the game with us!

I have been blessed by extraordinary teammates who have rallied around me in my times of need. From loving parents who dedicated their waking hours to preserving my health, to selfless home teachers who have given me countess blessings, to friends who have brought me meals, to my donors who offered up the ultimate act of love by risking their own lives to save mine. To the Ottesens who delivered a life size cardboard cutout of Stone Cold Austin to my ICU room after surgery…

Stone Cold Austin
November 1999

To other loving sentiments such as letters, posters, stuffed bears and emails.  I testify that small acts of kindness bring profound healing, both physically and emotionally.

At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by the grades we got in school, the clothes we wear, how skinny we are, how big our house is or what car we drive, we will be judged by “I was hungered and you gave me to eat.  I was naked and ye clothed me.  I was homeless and you took me in.”


“Treat everyone as if they are in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.” 

We must always strive to do as  Elder Eyring counsels and,”Treat everyone as if they are in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”

No one knew the paralyzing pain I was in for months and months after Justin’s death. No one knew the hours I would spend every morning before Poway High doing home IVs, breathing treatments, and fighting fevers.  When I would arrive late to school after  third period, no one know how hurtful their comments were such as  “you are so lucky,”  “its so not fair,” and “I hate you.”

No one knew of Justin’s situation as they gawked at his coughing and no one knew of his health condition as they derided him about his weight. How guilty the ridiculers would feel if they knew these were their last words to him before he was to meet his Maker.

None of us should have illusions about our right to evaluate others or about our time here on earth. We are all going to die someday….or as I once heard it said, “none of us are going to make it out alive.”  It is so important to be loving while we are alive!

We should never withold our love for ANY reason.

Christ loved and served all those who came in his path.  When the women was taken in adultery and brought before the Lord – Jesus did not ask if it was true, about the details, the circumstances, the gossip, he simply stated, “if any of ye are without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

Too often we are guilty of withholding our love because we have judged the individual or their circumstances as not worthy of all of our love. Maybe they have “dropped the ball” in our eyes in one way or another.  But as Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”  Instead, we should do as Christ, and never withhold our love for ANY reason.

The Savior loved and served everyone unconditionally, from the leper to the sinner, from the blind to the believer.  Even as the crown of plated thorns pierced his head, even as his flesh was aching and tearing, Christ said of his murderers and mockers, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)  He was crucified for the sins of the world.  Yours, mine, theirs.  All he asks of us is to follow him, trying in our own small way, to love as he loved.

How we treat the weakest of us is how we are to be judged in the end.  Let us avoid the shame of standing before our Maker, knowing that we have either demeaned, refused to offer a kind word or helping hand, or refused to forgive the sons and daughters of our King: those for whom He gave his very life to save.  Instead, with Christ like charity, we can do as Christ, recognizing every interaction we have as an opportunity to minster and nurture, compliment and encourage: leaving others happier and feeling better about themselves then when we first met them.

As we put off the natural man and strive to serve others, we become more like Christ, developing the character beautifully surmised in one of my favorite quotes by Elder David A. Bednar:

“Character is revealed…in the power to discern the suffering of other people when we ourselves are suffering; in the ability to detect the hunger of others when we are hungry; and in the power to reach out and extend compassion for the spiritual agony of others when we are in the midst of our own spiritual distress. Therefore, character is demonstrated by looking, turning, and reaching outward when the instinctive response of the “natural man” (Mosiah 3:19) in each of us is to turn inward and to be selfish and self-absorbed.”

True service will never be convenient.  That is why it is a sacrifice of either our time or emotions that help us become more like Christ.  I pray that we can strive to be more like our Savior Jesus Christ in all that we do.   That we will be more like those adorable, nurturing animals by seeking out opportunities to lift the weary hands and strengthen the feeble knees of each of our teammates – no matter how different they appear or how inadequate we may feel.

As we do so, we will be becoming more like Christ, able to hold our heads high as we round the bases so when the day comes when we finally reach home plate, the heavenly crowds will rush in from the stands and thank us for our example, our kindness, our love, encouragement and our teamwork.  Finally home, we will be able to look into the eyes of our coach and he will thank us for loving our teammates.   He will tell us how proud He is of the game we have played and more importantly of the person we have become.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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  1. Pat says

    I am awestruck by your story.
    I found y our site while looking for a recipe for candied pecans. Instead, I feel like God lead me here to find answers to questions about my life and my path in faith.
    Thank you for posting your wonderful story.

    • Jen says

      Hi Pat, I am so humbled by your comment and honored you took the time to read my story. I do believe our prayers are answered in many different ways – even while looking for a recipe for candied pecans 🙂 I feel so blessed for my faith and for the peace, strength, hope and guidance it is in my life. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. Much love, Jen

  2. Autumn says

    Hi Jen! I came for the food and stayed for the inspiration! I have made a few of your recipes, and they have all been really yummy. You are my go-to when I don’t know what to make for dinner. I am also so inspired by your story, and your “soul food”. Thank you for your posts. Also, it’s nice to get a little reminder of home from you all the way here in Nebraska (I grew up in Rancho Penasquitos and went to Meadowbrook Middle School in Poway). Keep writing, I will keep reading!!!

    • Jen says

      Hi Autumn! I am so happy you are enjoying my recipes! Being your “go to” is the ultimate compliment!!! But even more than that, I am so honored you have stayed and read some of my “Soul Food,” which is more important to me than any other food 🙂 I went to Twin Peaks Middle School in Poway – (grew up in Poway all my life) – what a small world! Wishing you and yours the very best in Nebraska!!! Hugs, Jen