Stake Conference Talk- Strengthening Families through Adversity

For those of you who do not live near us.  i thought I should post the talk I gave at Stake Conference Saturday night.–

Good Evening Brothers and Sisters:

This is actually the third time I have spoken in a stake conference session. It is usually good for a new outfit, but this time my husband asked me if I wanted to get a new wig for the occasion (which I did not- since it should soon be an unnecessary accessory). I hope members of the stake presidency at least treat themselves to a new tie given they have to speak so often. Since this will be my third time, I pray that the third time’s a charm—especially for all of you!!

I have been asked to speak on strengthening families through adversity, and I’ve prayed for the best way to do that.   Last month, there was a stake youth fireside with parents invited.  We were challenged to use the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet, as a “For the Strength of FAMILIES” study guide.  We have had three weeks of this sweet experience during FHE, and my testimony of the principles found in the pamphlet is already strengthened.  Our children are taking turns teaching the lessons, and I am thrilled at how well they know, or are learning the principles, even my eleven year old.  I have been struck with the importance of the foundation we are building and our responsibility as parents to strengthen our family’s knowledge of gospel teachings and faith in Jesus Christ.

I am making renewed commitments to heed such inspired counsel better!  I also see how my children, and all of us, can avoid the temptations and influences of our modern world!  We are not perfect but we are stronger together and we are moving in the right direction!  In this way I recognized we are strengthening and unifying our family FOR adversity. It is our insurance policy, where we are making a long-term investment that can cover us when stressful, confusing, and dangerous circumstances arise. As President Bunting taught at the Stake Relief Society Conference last year, “Our access to living prophets, scriptures, gospel messages and the temple arms us with everything we need to live righteous lives.”

I am grateful for how we were prepared for the recent challenges we have faced and how we continue to be sustained through adversity and refined as a family. While our adversity has not necessarily been taken away, we have been strengthened and enlightened in ways that have allowed us to endure with patience and gratitude.

Since we are here together on a Saturday date night, I’d like to tell you a love story. There are some of you who know this tale, but for those who don’t, I will start at the beginning

I first met my husband Jon, on a Washington DC youth temple trip. We lived in Philadelphia at the time and the stake always chartered a bus.  I lived in the suburbs and Jon lived downtown.  The bus stopped to pick up groups of kids along the route from the Stake Center. Jon strolled onto the bus—tall, dark, and handsome, with a great sense of humor.  He came to the back of the bus where I happened to be- We had four hours to get to know each other driving to the DC temple, and then four hours back.– Given that there were not a lot of Mormon kids in my neighborhood or school, it was an East Coast teenager’s dream!  Our youthful interest in each other was further enhanced by Youth Conference the next week.  I was smitten.  Jon moved to Hawaii our senior year of high school, but we dated again at BYU our freshman year.  We married in the Salt Lake temple when he returned from a mission in Hong Kong.

Our history together, starting when we were just 14, has been a great source of comfort and steadiness over the years.  I count it as very favorable that we began our relationship going to the temple. We have known each other for over thirty years and slowly over time have prepared ourselves, spiritually and temporally, for richer and for poorer, through highs and lows, to face the future and (as Elder Wirthlin put it) “come what may, and love it”

I am grateful for a husband who is faithful and committed in the gospel. I know he also values who I am and what we are becoming together.  But neither one of us knew what would be required of us in our future.   We have four beautiful children, and life seemed very normal —until we had to make a claim on that insurance policy (both literally and figuratively)!

I have loved to run since I was in high school and always felt I was in good physical shape. But last summer, I became increasingly weaker. Doctors hoped a gall bladder operation would help me feel better. Then I became ill with what we thought was “pneumonia.” We hoped antibiotics would cure it quickly.  Finally after weeks of unresolved pain and discomfort, Jon took me to the hospital where tests discovered a tumor in my lungs which had spread to my brain and other areas of my body.  Not what a healthy, independent woman expects to hear!  We wondered how to tell our children.  We gathered our family around us, we cried, and prayed, and planned for the unknown together.

IF you can’t tell, this is still part of my love story.

I had an identity crisis– going from a strong, independent, expect to do-it-all Mom and wife –to a woman who was sick and dependent on others.  In my misery, I doubted my family could love me as I now was.  Was I still a worthy daughter of God? I worried I wasn’t worth loving; caring for me would be a burden, and maybe not worth the effort.  But we stuck together!  I learned the value of commitment and sacrifice, as I watched my husband and children take over, and become caregivers.  There wasn’t a lot of complaining or “why us” whining. It has been stressful, but with the assistance of our ward family, and tremendous blessing from the Lord, we have managed well and remained rock solid.  This didn’t happen overnight or without occasional stress meltdowns.  Nevertheless, we were blessed through an accumulation over the years of love, faith, forgiveness, priesthood, sacrifice, and service in our home.  (Our insurance policy!)

The basic building block of the family is our eternal marriage covenant.  Our children naturally take much of our time, energy and focus.  It is easy to be distracted and forget that we need to regularly invest in the foundation of the family—our marriages.

I recently read an article on the research of Randal Day, a BYU professor of Family Life. He said,  “Being able to forgive may be the single most important thing a husband or wife can do to keep their marriage and family strong.” (Deseret News—Sunday, Mar 13, 2011.)  Once we have children, our focus shifts to raising children—as it should.  But the importance of the marriage relationship cannot be understated.   Day provides a “Sacred Living Checklist:” and questions we need ask ourselves in each category of Forgiveness, sacrifice, commitment, kindness , and avoiding aggression. A date night quiz…


When my feelings are hurt can I forgive my spouse easily?

Can I move forward after conflicts, or do I pout for days?’

If my spouse upsets me, can I absorb the hurt and find ways of letting go?


Do I sacrifice my time, energy, and even money for others?

Do I put others interest before my own?


Do I act like this is the person I want to be with more than anyone else?

Do I avoid comparing my spouse to other people, and think –just for a moment that someone else might be better for me?


Do I stand up for my spouse?

Am I sensitive to his/her needs?

Relational Aggression:

Do I avoid sharing private information about my spouse behind his/her back?

When I’m upset, do I refuse to gossip about my spouse?

After a conflict, do I stonewall and ignore my spouse, or do I find a way to express my feelings?

As we consider these questions, remember how we set the tone of our relationships and foundation for harmony in the home. How we treat each other influences the value and payout of our insurance policy when disaster may strike. I am grateful to have a supportive spouse with whom I can share power of the priesthood, the wisdom of life experience, the influence of the Spirit, and the Savior’s example of love and compassion. Together we are preparing for eternity.

Last week Jon went to an academic conference in Philadelphia where he presented on “Being a Professional by day, and Caregiver by night.” He used the quote by Rosalynn Carter:

“There are four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

We never imagined my husband would be my caregiver at this point in our lives.  We are grateful for all those who have served and loved our family—from a “Miles for Melanie” run to months of meals and other service.   As Elder Neal  Maxwell said,  “We are not put in our circles of friendship by coincidence, but by divine design.” We have been served by so many caring and wonderful people. We will all need to give or receive such support in the future.

In closing, let me share with you a scripture and quote that helped strengthen my family’s faith in difficult times—It still helps me know I can do all things in the Lord.   D&C 84:88 “And whoso receiveth you, there will I be also, for I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up.”

The Lord is on both my sides through the angels I find all around me.    Thank you for lifting me — virtually up off the ground, spiritually lifting, and helping me realize—with God I can do all things.

President Monson counsels each of us:

“May we adapt to the changes in our lives, that we may realize what is most important, that we may express our gratitude always and thus find joy in the journey.”

I have found focusing on me is necessary at times, but feels out of place.  I am happiest as I love and serve those around mel

I truly am finding joy and lots of techni-color moments for gratitude.

We are still in the middle of this trial.  But I have had moments when I feel the Lord reach right through the veil to awaken my sensibilities, to prod, and to reassure.  I am grateful for the power to rise each time I fall.  Life is short when compared to our eternal life, and I am comforted to know that the Lord is waiting for each of us—to welcome us into His arms.  I look forward to that day!.  I’m excited and optimistic that I will see my grandchildren first!

The gospel is true. I feel my Savior’s love. President Monson is our prophet and mouthpiece of the Lord.  Joseph Smith restored the gospel and we are guided when we not only read, but study, and put into practice the counsel given in our scriptures, and I include the “For Strength of Youth “ (and Families)  as additional revealed truth. It does take effort and vigilance with our teenage children for them to teach us from the For the Strength of Youth/Families each Monday night. I know it is a lot harder with young children, but remember to modify and adapt, even for just 2 minutes as Sister Beck taught—- but the pay-off in is priceless and great insurance to safeguard families

Strengthen and love each other deeply—family relationships, our eternal marriages and our testimony are the things we take with us into our eternal life with Father in Heaven.  Families are forever—our marriages are forever!l

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen

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12 Responses to Stake Conference Talk- Strengthening Families through Adversity

  1. Carl Clegg says:

    Well said and many thank for sharing.

  2. Heather Fenn says:

    Your talk was wonderful. U are an inspirations to all of us. Thank you for sharing that beautiful talk.

  3. DebbieB says:

    Melanie, Thank you so much for sharing your message! I had hoped you would post your talk. 😉 It was thoughtful, inspiring, sweet, and amazing—-just like you! It is a message we all need to hear again and again….esp. on days when life and its challenges seem overwhelming. Thanks for your example in my life…I remember sitting at the kitchen table chatting about our missionaries (loves of our teen lives) looking at the cute illustrations Elder Kau would send you…. and laughing and talking. We both married our hs sweethearts…lucky us! There was always this energy about you when we lived together….Live each day to its fullest, laugh often, and love life! You brought life to that little white house on the corner!!! You are awesome and inspiring!

  4. DeLite says:

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful talk with us. We wish we could have been there. You and Jon have truly had a wonderful love story.

  5. Cindy Mason says:

    Great talk Mel! I am do glad u posted it! Luv ya…

  6. Dawn says:

    Melanie, I found your site through the voices for virtue facebook page. They posted this post. I’ve only read a few of your posts (which I enjoyed), but wondered if you have ever considered doing any “emotional work” regarding the cancer you are experiencing? Did you have any stressful, upsetting, or traumatic/shocking events in the months leading up to your diagnosis? Did you have any experiences that you responded with grief? The lungs often store grief. I just wondered. Blessings to you.

  7. Tiffany Strong says:

    I sometimes just catch myself reading your blog when I honestly miss my own mother. Your words touch me and I thank you for all you say about faith and the ability to allow others to help you. That is something I am slowly learning.
    Thank you for your posts.
    Thank you for your hugs.

  8. Amber McLain says:

    I have neglected to let you know how much i enjoyed your talk at Stake Conference – It was wonderful! Just seeing you up there speaking was a joy. You radiate. I love you my dear friend!

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