The Talk. But Not “The Talk”

Years ago I was asked to speak at stake conference, the adult session held on Saturday. For those of you who are not familiar with this meeting, it is ALL the wards (group of people who live in certain boundaries who attend church together in the same building) who meet together for this meeting. I am not sure how many wards there are in my stake, but I was sweating bullets and on the verge of making up any excuse I could to get out of it. But I knew, I needed to and being asked to speak is actually a bigger blessing to the person speaking than it is to the audience. So I prayed and prayed and prayed for guidance on what to talk about.

After much praying, I decided to speak on my conversion over to the Lord and the events it took for me to take the Lord into my life and live how He would have me live. I am going to share that talk with you today. I still get people, years later, telling me they remember that talk and how it had uplifted them. So here it is…enjoy!

President Dieter F. Uchdtorf said, God promises the hope of His light—He promises to illuminate the way before us and show us the way out of darkness.

I would like to share my story about coming out of darkness and into the light.

I grew up in a very turbulent home in Kingman AZ.  My dad was an abusive alcoholic. My mom tried her best to stay strong for my brother and I but was battling severe depression. She was given a couple of different medications to try but sadly at the time they didn’t know those medications were not supposed to be mixed together, resulting in her trying to take her life.

It was a weekly occurrence for my dad to come home after the bars had closed and beat up on my mom. My brother who was a couple years older wouldn’t dare get into the middle of their fights knowing my dad would hit him. I however, would jump in the middle trying to get in the way of my dad so he would leave my mom alone. I knew he would never purposefully hit me. Often, thoughts would enter my head that were not my own. Some of these thoughts would be, “This isn’t normal.” “You can do better than this.”

Although my dad had a secure job at my grandparents restaurant he decided that the easiest and quickest way to make a living would be to cook and sell meth. He would leave for weeks at a time with our family car and leave us with no food or transportation and many times without utilities due to unpaid bills. We never knew when he was coming back and when he did, it was not a warm happy greeting. Luckily, I had loving grandparents that would bring us groceries when they knew my dad had left. But due to embarrassment my mom often tried to keep it a secret.

One night my dad came home after being at the bar all night and passed out on our living room floor. My mom, told my brother and I to run to the empty field next to our house and to hide. She was going to collect some clothes and take the car and we were going to go live with my grandma in California. My brother was 10 and I was 8.  We ran behind a bush, that wasn’t nearly big enough to hide us and we squatted down staring at our dark house with fear waiting for my mom. The feeling I had that night is ingrained in my soul. I kept thinking my dad woke up and was beating my mom to death.

Our car backed out of our driveway and the headlights came towards my brother and I. We couldn’t see inside the car due to the brightness of the headlights. All I could think was, “is it my mom or is it my dad?” My brother must have been thinking the same thing, because when he saw it was my mom, we looked at each other with huge smiles and ran to the car. That was one of the many times we left my dad and drove through the night to California. 

In my teenage years it didn’t get any better. My dad was still selling and cooking meth and was now openly cheating on my mom. 

My mom, was starting to become extremely paranoid. She would tell me to be quiet because there were people listening to us, she thought our house was bugged. At first I thought it was the medications that the doctors had her on but one day after school I walked into her room to catch her smoking a glass pipe. She had started doing meth. I was angry and heartbroken. There were no more responsible adults in my home. So I moved out and in with a friend and her mom. I was 15 at the time. 

My friends mom was a christian woman who was worried for me because I was dating an LDS boy. She helped me out by showing me anti mormon movies and counseling me on how satanic mormons were. I watched the movies and just thought, these are so corny and stupid. 

After graduation my friend and I moved to Mesa Arizona, about four hours away.  I went to a trade school at night and worked a job during the day. I had no vehicle so any job I had needed to be in walking distance and I was forced to carpool with people who smoked marijauna on the way to school. I just remember thinking, “please don’t let my teacher think I am smoking it too.” I did not want to be kicked out of school. 

I wasn’t making good choices while living in Mesa. I started drinking heavily. I knew I wasn’t ever going to do meth so I thought I was doing pretty good staying away from the hard stuff. The drinking soon became out of control and I was drinking everyday, and any time I could. After one night of  heavy drinking I got alcohol poisoning. I was on my bathroom floor throwing up for two days. 

My Mormon friend who was going on mission came to my apartment to say good bye to me. He saw the kind of state I was in and said to me, “If you don’t stop this you’re going to die. That one comment caused me to pause and think about the direction my life was heading. I wanted to change that direction so I did something that I hadn’t done in years, I prayed. During that prayer I got a feeling to read the Bible. I didn’t get very far before I felt impressed to get the Book of Mormon that was in the bottom of a moving box in my closet. I opened the book and didn’t get through one sentence before I fell to my knees and wept. I knew this is where I was supposed to be. I felt an urgency to be baptized. I frantically found a phonebook so I could look up an LDS church. Well there were plenty of numbers but with it being on a weekday in the evening no one answered. I found a pass along card that was in my Book of Mormon and called the number on it. When I think back to the conversation I had with the guy on the phone, it makes me smile. When I told him I was looking for missionaries he became frantic. Which weirdly calmed me down. He asked for my address and my name and said, “I will find missionaries for you.” Later, someone told me that I had called the MTC.  

The next day I went to work and mentioned to my boss that I was looking for some LDS missionaries. He looked at me with a weird look and said, “I’m

Mormon and I can send some to your house.” I told him, “Yes! but no, don’t send them to my house, my roommate doesn’t know and she is not fond of Mormons.” So I met them at the Mesa Visitors center. I sat down with them and said, “I want to be baptized this coming weekend.” They were ecstatic, to say the least. I had double discussions at the visitors center all week and I was keeping it from my roommate the whole time. It was getting harder and harder to lie about where I was going and so one night while we were eating dinner the spirit told me to tell her. I was arguing with myself in my head, the argument went something like this, “No I am not going to tell her! Yes! you should this is something you should not hide.” I describe the next feeling like someone stomping on your foot to get you to stand up and say something. I had a “spiritual stomp” and I jumped up and said in a rather loud voice. “I am getting baptized Mormon on Saturday!” She looked angry. With a rather harsh tone she said, “Why?” I told her my experience that had happened to me the week before but she didn’t care. I didn’t care either, I was still going to be baptized.

In that whole week of learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ I was happier than I can ever remember being. Complete strangers would come up to me and say, “You are glowing.” I knew it was the spirit showing from within. As the word spread of my baptism amongst my friends I slowly started to lose them. All of them. Again, I did not care.

I was baptized September 8th 2001. I knew two people at my baptism. My LDS boyfriend at the time and a kid I worked with who wore a large cross around his neck to show the LDS people that he wasn’t interested. That didn’t stop them. He had the first discussion while I was getting dressed after my baptism.

The people that I once called friends were now completely ignoring and avoiding me. It was a lonely time but I had never felt so secure and happy in my life. God’s love was overpowering any dark feelings that came my way from others.

But three days later terrorists crashed two airplanes into the Twin Towers in New York City.  I was mourning for the people of New York and the United States and I remember being scared that something else may happen on our soil.  During this lonely and scary time I started questioning whether or not my decision to be baptized was right. No one was talking to me and I started to feel very lonely. America was mourning and everything around me felt dark. I decided to say a prayer and was immediately comforted and knew that Heavenly Father was there, He never left me. He reassured me it was the right thing to do and even life saving. All I needed to do was call on Him. 

It wasn’t a rare occurrence to have thoughts enter my head that were not my own. Mainly they were directions as to what I needed to do next in my life. I was getting more familiar with promptings from the Spirit, so I listened. I was told to move to Rexburg Idaho. How am I going to get to Rexburg Idaho? Because this was coming from the Spirit I knew I needed to have pure faith in Him to make this happen. So I called my parents and asked them to help me. Even though they didn’t agree with my baptism they did agree to help me get to Rexburg. When they took me to the airport it was the first time I was seeing them in months. They were functioning on a high speed but their eyes looked tired. I could feel that they wanted more for me even though they weren’t fully functioning.

I will forever be grateful for their help. 

I arrived in Rexburg and had nowhere to live so I stayed with one of my boyfriends old FHE sisters who I had become friends with. The next day I went to a school counselor at BYU-Idaho and told him, “I am supposed to be here.” I had no transcripts and I hadn’t applied. I told him my journey getting there and after a minute of him staring at me like a deer in headlights he said, “Ok” and then worked his magic and got me into school that semester. My friends roommate was moving out of her apartment because she was getting married so I was able to buy her existing contract. Everything was falling into place and it seemed as though my life was going to be ok.

My life came out of chaotic darkness and into the light of Christ. I realized after being baptized that God had been there holding my hand my whole life telling me that I was destined for a better life and to keep holding on. He was there every time my dad would bring his drug addict friends home to when I was jumping in the middle of my parents fights, driving drunk on Phoenix highways, getting baptized, moving to Rexburg, being accepted into BYU-Idaho, meeting my wonderful husband, being married in the temple and birthing my six incredibly beautiful children. My hard times have not stopped since baptism I have lost my brother and my dad is dying from hepatitis C and Cirrhosis to the liver. My mom however, is free from drugs and happy and living a life that she has always wanted. I never thought the trials would end with baptism but I did know that I would be able to handle them with a pure faith that God knows best.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said :

God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things. It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn. 

I would like to testify to you, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints saved my life. I leave these things with you in the name of Thy loving Son Jesus Christ. Amen

Since this talk I have lost my dad who I love so much. He was one of the greatest teachers in my life. He taught me about humility, love, acceptance, charity, compassion and forgiveness. We all make mistakes in our lives, we are all trying our best. Give your loved ones a hug today and tell them you love them. Happy Sunday

We Are Not Their Savior

The majority of us, hopefully, all of us, never look at our newborn baby and think, “I hope you are a menace to society.” “I hope when you don’t get something, you throw a huge fit and tell everyone where to go.” I hope you go out and see how much you can get, without giving anything back.”

No, we are not looking at that fresh, unspoiled baby thinking destructive thoughts like that. We want a responsible, wise, patient, loving, contributing, beautiful, humble, force for good, human being that is a mix of yours and your husband’s best features.

We often have great plans for our children when they are little. We watch them play and imagine what will they be when they’re older?

Oh, he’s playing with blocks? He is going to be an architect.

Oh, she loves to read? She is going to be an author.

Oh, he ate his boogers? He’s curious.

But having 6 kids, 4 of them being teenagers, I am here to tell you, it does not work out the way you think it will. One time my two oldest smeared poop all over the walls when they were ages 1 and 2. They are going to be artists! Or they are going to go around town and graffiti it up. Who knows how that cookie will crumble. What I do know, is that as parents we need to try our best to raise them to be positive contributors in this world. To have integrity, to see that lying is a problem, blame shifting and not taking responsibility is a problem. Don’t get me wrong, they will lie, they will try and get out of responsibilites, but we need to keep teaching and not give up. We are not trying to replace their Savior. Jesus is the only one who can save, we are just teaching. That would be too much on our weak shoulders. Our kids have free agency, sometimes I wish they didn’t, but they do. They are going to do things over and over again that has us scratching our heads or brining us to our knees in tears and prayer. I have been there a few times and it is gut wrenching.

In every trial, we need to take a step back and ask, what is the lesson here? What can we learn from this? We may not be able to watch their every step but we can teach them about; (1) honesty, (2) responsibility, and (3) humility. Hold them accountable in their actions. Yes, they have the free will to do whatever they want, but they do not have the choice of their consequences. We want them to learn these lessons while in our home; before they leave and make bigger mistakes and have bigger consequences that are out of our hands. Let them learn these hard lessons while you’re able to guide them. LET THEM FALL!! Let them fall so they can feel how horrible it is and then teach them to rise back up stronger and more determined. Don’t cover for them even though you know they’re at fault. You are not doing them any favors trust me I have seen it play out. Hold them accountable.

Being a parent is a rollercoaster of emotions. Somedays I really love my kids and somedays I’m like…get out. That’s okay, I am human too and I am learning and growing just like they are, just like everyone else is in this world. If we are to see some positive change in our country we have to start at home. Honesty. Responsibility. Humility.

Keep Going

Lately, I have been getting up early to do scripture study. I have tried this before and then would quickly come to terms, that I am not good at “scripture study” because what does that even mean?

Someone once told me, “Well, pick a word in the bible dictionary and then read all the scriptures attached to it.” That way did not keep my ADD attention. So let me let you in on a little secret.

The Book of Mormon Made Easier FOR TEENS edition by David J. Ridges!

Apparently I need Dr. Seuss like books to help me understand scriptures. What if I read right past something that could be detrimental to my soul? I can’t have that happening. With this “hooked on phonics” study guide, I spend most of my mornings thinking, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” Or “Aricka, you should have known that.”

A. B. C. D. YAY!!! Then I move on. Nothing to be ashamed of for too long.

But I am trying, right? That is what counts, try to be better. Strive to be better and when you don’t feel like it, give yourself a break, you are human. But don’t stay there too long.

I want to leave something here with you that stuck out to me in my “readings” this morning.

“Truly, there is no other way to heal the wounds of broken relationships or of a fractured society than for each of us to more fully emulate the Prince of Peace. Let’s consider how to begin a thoughtful, deliberate, and intentional pursuit of becoming as He is by gaining the very attributes of Jesus Christ.” -Scott D. Whiting

If we want GOOD change, this is where it starts. We have to hold ourselves accountable to be more like the Prince of Peace.

P.S. My post picture is of the other books I use to study, volume 1 and 2. They would be perfect Christmas gifts!

In Memory of Accurate Journalism

“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it” this is a quote from founding father John Adams. It is commonly quoted by those who are against freedom of religion. This quote can be quite damaging to those who reference Adams as being a patriotic man of God. But what those individuals who use this quote for their argument fail to do, is mention the sentence that follows directly behind it. “Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell.” 

How many times have you read an article or listened to the news and had your mind made up? You are aware that there are always two sides to a story, but in this case the facts are solid and damaging, and your mind is made. Is there any harm in one sided news? 

Consider this story: A man admitted to authorities to killing 160 people. After further investigation, authorities find his gruesome claim to be true. The man admits to hiding in elevated areas where the unsuspected victims would not see him and he would shoot them before they knew what hit them. He told authorities that he killed in plain sight and got away with it. He seemed to be quite proud of his work.

Most of the population would think, the shooter is a murdering psycho path that needs life in prison, maybe even the death penalty. If they were left with that piece of information alone, they would be justified to think so. Let us ask, is there another side to the story?

Chris Kyle was the deadliest sniper in American history. He had at least 160 confirmed kills, although he and his Navy SEAL teammates say the number is closer to twice that. He served four tours, earned two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor. He was a loving husband, father, and decorated American hero and known among his SEAL brethren as “The Legend.” Does that change your perception on the shooter? 

More than ever we need journalism that is firmly planted on a foundation of integrity. If we are exposed to a one-sided story, we will form a one-sided opinion. This one-sided type of reporting as multiple motives. One being the manipulation of public opinion. The media can sway the public in the direction of doubt or fear with just one headline.

“Spike in Transgender Suicide Rates after Trump Elected” this rumor started circulating right after Donald Trump was elected president. This piece of information was never found to be true. Yet, it did not stop people from retweeting the false claim 13,000 times before it was removed. This claim was proven to be false by researchers, but not before it had its impact of being shared 100,000 times on Facebook creating panic and fear towards Trump’s election. 

 91 percent of news coverage on President Trump is spun negatively. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Previous polls done by ABC, NBC, and CBS said Clinton would be the clear winner. The news reporters did not hide their disappointment when the announcement was made. Who were they polling? The people’s vote did not match the medias reporting. Why would the media claim that the American people favored Clinton instead of Trump? Did they think that people would be more likely to vote for Clinton if they saw that others were?

 Recently, the world has been witnessing massive protests on behalf of the black community. People of all races and from all over, are raising awareness and demanding to stop racism. The media has been documenting this movement and giving the general public a play by play to this moment in history. But what happens when the media does not do their due diligence and gets it all wrong, causing people pain and outrage? Take this headline from the Washington Post for example, “Racist hate for Bubba Wallace was inevitable. Now NASCAR must stand with him.”  This headline is referring to a noose that was found in Wallace’s garage. Bubba Wallace is Nascar’s only black full-time driver. Finding a noose in a black man’s garage, during the black lives matter movement would make one believe that this is a hate crime. This would cause outrage and fuel a very emotional fire. NASCAR was outraged and determined to find the perpetrator, they installed cameras in Wallace’s garage and vowed to immediately expel the one guilty of the crime. This headline hit the press June 22nd, the very next day on June 23rd, this headline was released, “NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace was not target of hate crime, FBI finds.” The “noose” that was in Wallace’s garage had been there since 2019, before he was assigned to that garage. The rope that was described as a noose, was in fact the garage door rope. Not a hate crime, but a life hack to get a better grip on the garage door rope. We often see stories like this one, where the journalist jumps the gun before doing their research, causing stress, harm, and outrage to the public.

How can we obtain accurate, unadulterated journalism? We can start by evaluating our own integrity. Are we falling victim to obvious untrue stories because it lines up with our current beliefs? As imperfect human beings, we are constantly in search for validation of our thoughts and actions. If you look at social media you will witness a lot of people who want to be right. 

Are we willing to accept the fact that we may have been spoon fed wrong information, or jumped to a conclusion too soon? More importantly, are we humble enough to change our stance once the truth comes out? Or do we see the facts and refuse to change, but instead change the narrative to support our original opinion? The integrity of journalism starts with the integrity of ourselves. We should only accept the truth, even if it does not fall into our initial beliefs. We should be as aware and strategic with picking our news source, as we are with purchasing a car. Do your research. Search for facts, instead of opinion-based research. You would not go to Ford to find out about Chevy, so make sure your research is not coming from the direct competition. Do not only study your news source, but study your rights and freedoms of this country that were paid for, by the blood of man. Knowing your rights can help you defend them; ignorance is the oppressors most valuable tool. Poor journalism will always be around, it is up to you to filter through the false narrative and bias headlines.