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Just Asking: Ardeth Kapp

One on one with the educator and former Young Women general president.

Q - What has been the most rewarding surprise of your life?

The blessings that the Lord has provided for me. I was told I would be surprised by the blessings the Lord had in store for me. I remember the first calling I had in the Church—I thought for sure that was an answer to what this “surprise” was going to be! And each year, opportunities have come and spiritual rewards and being able to be of service—that’s been the most surprising thing. You know, to be raised in a prairie town of two hundred and fifty people in Alberta, then to be able to travel throughout the world—you’ve got to realize you could never dream of such glorious opportunities.

Q - You met your husband Heber while he was a missionary in Canada. Have you ever felt the need to explain that to Young Women when you’ve met with them?

I love to tell the story. He visited our home one night, and that night, I wrote pages in my journal about Elder Kapp. But when I had a chance to read in his journal, it was confirmed that he was a good missionary—he said, “I met the bishop’s daughter. She was cute, fun, but kind of young.” So my heart was touched because I was just sixteen, but there was nothing that was uncomfortable. You can resonate with a spirit and then wait for the right time.

Q - What experience have you enjoyed most with him?

As life unfolds, you’re always building on the foundation of the past, which enriches and expands the perception of what’s happening now. And in that respect, I guess it’s easy to say that this is the best time so far. Not that there aren’t ups and downs, but the coming together of life’s experiences, when we understand the purpose of life, and we’re constantly asking, “what can I learn from this?” and if we continue to learn from it, then every stage of life is the next grade, the next step, the next opportunity. So it’s the best time so far.

Q - Your struggle with infertility has been a defining experience for you and one that you have often discussed. What do you hope people have learned (and will learn) from your experience?

I think that we all live with unfulfilled expectations. Everything in life doesn’t turn out just how we want—at least not on our time frame. This was the scripture that we have always said, but now we know: “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart; lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). You sometimes have to go through quite a journey to be able to look back and say, “Oh, yes. He was directing my path.” What we learned from that was about the things you have no control over, then you have to use your agency to determine alternatives, and use personal revelation to give you direction, which is a thing that we are each entitled to.

If we can learn to trust in the Lord with all our heart, even when it may not make sense, then in years to come we can feel comfortable that we did the Lord’s will and He blessed us all the way.

And I would just like to say this: the Lord’s first commandment was to love one another, and you don’t have to bear children to love them, or to help someone gain eternal life. You may not be able to give life, but you can help others gain eternal life. And no blessing will be denied, if we live worthily. We’ll all have our children. I say after 450,000 prayers I was given 450,000 young women to be responsible for! One for every blessing.

Q - What has infertility taught you about the unique situations of each member of the Church?

We all have challenges—we’re here to be tried and tested. There are those who would withdraw and separate themselves from opportunities that they might otherwise have had. But if we don’t wrap our arms around ourselves to pull away, but open our arms to reach out to others, then there are unlimited opportunities to love and share and give and bless.

The opportunities are all around us. I live not far from an elementary school, and I have children from the elementary school who come by my door—it’s usually when I’m the busiest, but I never turn them away! We have this little routine—they’ll knock on the door, and I’ll say, “How are you?” And they’ll say, “Better than I was, but not as good as I’m going to be!” Then I’ll say, “What are you going to do?” And they’ll say, “Try a little harder to be a little better!” Then I let them in, and they come in and go to the candy basket and put some candy in a bag, then they go into the library and choose a book—I have a whole row of children’s books—then they read to me. And they always sign the guest book before they leave. I don’t have to remind them—they remind me. Sometimes they’ll write, “Sister Kapp, you’re really cool.” One little boy that brought his friend put his around him and said, “She’s just like a grandma!” So there’s no limit to our opportunities.

Q - During your Church service, what changes for girls are you happiest to have witnessed?

First of all, we were building on a foundation of the past—so we don’t take any credit for ourselves. The time was such that the role of women was really being attacked. So during that period of time, it seemed like it was more urgent for young women to gain a sense of their true identity: the question, “Who am I?”—a question with so many conflicting answers from the world. Then the question, “What am I going to do, given the options?” Then, “In such a troubled world, how do I do it?” And finally, “Why is it that important?” In developing the new program, the question for us was not, “What do we do?” but rather, “What do we want to have happen?” Each of the questions we asked is answered in the Young Women Theme. 

Q - What was the process of coming up with the theme and all the values?

It was part of our goal to identify for the young women that they were a very significant part of the purpose of the Church. We looked at what principles of the gospel were universal—you won’t outgrow them and you’ll take them with you—but give identity for today. When you think of the values, they’re in sequence; some people don’t realize that. The way it happened, we put big sheets of paper along the wall and talked about all the principles we thought were really essential for us to know. Guided by the Spirit, we put them in sequence. It’s interesting that, while we were developing this, we didn’t realize that it was really a parallel to the mission of the Church. So, in a sense, it was not a new program; it was the principles of the program that made them a part of the mission of the Church.

Q - What was the experience of developing it like?

It was almost a year that we were searching and studying and praying. We had a very, very dedicated board that helped us develop it. Revelation comes in the Church offices the same as it does in the local units—line upon line. It’s a process. And while programs change, principles do not. And that’s why it’s lasted for twenty-five years—not because of any magnificent ability of particular leaders as much as it was inspiration of the Lord in meeting the needs of Young Women at that time, in preparation for the future.

We wanted this to be something that would contribute to the continued growth of the Young Women for years to come. We didn’t want to have our term of office set up something that would only work for our term. It was bigger than us—much bigger than us.

Q - Did you have any idea what an impact that change would have?

I hoped that there would be deep roots that would sustain principles that would be internalized, but, no, I didn’t have any idea that in twenty-five years they would still be using the theme. But, in a sense, honestly I never did feel like it was “ours.” I didn’t ever feel like we were identified with that. It was bigger than us—and we knew that. We give thanks for the opportunity to have participated, but we certainly don’t take credit for something that was unique to our service.

It’s sort of like building a house. The plumber knows about plumbing and the electrician knows about electricity, and then people move in and they can just turn on the water and turn on the lights, and they don’t understand the foundation—and maybe they don’t need to. But there’s so much there. Sometimes I hear the young women say the theme—I’ve heard them say it in many languages around the world—and they can just rip through it; but it’s within them.

It helps answer the need for identity—to know who they are. Because if they don’t know that, they’re pulled to gain their identity in the values of the world.

Q - What do you think the Young Women need to hear most today?

I think the current presidency is truly inspired. I think the young women need to be focusing on virtue, because I think they are being attacked on the most vulnerable ground, and certainly virtue and all that encompasses fits the requirement. When we put the Young Women values in place, “integrity” was the last value. In a sense, it encompassed virtue. So it was not that it was never intended to be there, but to have it added gives emphasis to it that is so needed at this time, and it doesn’t diminish any of the others.

I also think that, while we live in the most challenging time, we have to know that we were preserved to come forth at this particular time—and the Lord is counting on us. And we don’t want to disappoint. We can’t change the whole world, but we can change the world in which we live.

Q - What is one virtue you wish every woman could develop?

I’ve thought a lot about that, and I honestly think that, if we really understood the Lord’s first commandment to love one another—if our hearts were filled with love under all circumstances—we would become more Christlike. And while that’s a goal that we won’t accomplish in this life, if that is our focus, we can say to ourselves, not “What shall I do today?” but “What do I want to have happen?” And if what I want to have happen is that I can have more love—feel love from within and not try to get it from outside—then we have a resource that we can draw from to share with others. Love has to be accepting ourselves. If we’re empty inside, and don’t realize how much the Lord loves us, we can’t love anyone else. I think that is really encompassing.

I think if women in the Church could grasp the significance of their influence and power to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands in these troubled times, they would be magnified beyond their greatest imagination.

Q - Do you think that’s a problem for the women of the Church more than with the rising generation, or do you think it’s inherent in all women?

I think it’s inherent in all women. I think we have high expectations, because we want to be perfect, and we see that we’re not perfect and we beat ourselves up. I think we have to learn when to be patient and when to be judgmental of ourselves. If we’re always focusing on the things we don’t do as well as we would like to do, then we waste the energy that we could use to do the things that we’re able to do.

We sometimes try to find our validation outside—it’s within us. We’re the children of God—we have his attributes. But they’re dormant, and we have to nourish them. We always think we can find the strength from somewhere on the outside, but it’s inside. If we’re looking at somebody else’s plot of ground, if we’re envying someone else, we lose the resources we have to nourish our plot of ground. It’s within us.

Q - What’s the most memorable moment of your life?

It becomes an accumulation of things. I think the most memorable moment has to be almost developmental. I think the most memorable moment I can say—I’ll never forget the moment I met my husband and the spirit that I felt. But then, you have to add to that, being in the temple and realizing the magnitude that eternal sealing has to be the most memorable moment. Then, in retrospect, some of those things that didn’t stand out really, in perspective, were very significant moments. Even some of the things I would have tried to avoid, I realize, I see now.

It’s just an accumulation of memorable moments—I guess life is its own memorable moment. It’s hard to categorize, because each step along the way contributes to the next, and the previous. So when you get to be my age, you look back at some of the things you think were moments you’d like to forget and realize they were some of the very memorable, important moments.

You know, I would say that as the years unfold, you realize that instead of life slowing down—which it does of course, in activities—there comes with it an acceleration and anticipation of a deeper understanding of the eternal plan, and the reality of mortality and immortality. And even with an anticipation of that, the day that we’ve studied about all our lives of the return of the Savior, you get a perspective that I think comes with age, and it is exciting and sobering, but a peace that passes all understanding in a troubled world.

Q - What do you think is something most people don’t really know about you?

I don’t think people would see me as struggling with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority as much as I have. And I keep thinking I’m over it; but I believe that some of our inadequacies help keep us humble and dependent upon the Lord. I remember Elder Andersen saying, “You know enough”—and for me that was just a confirmation that I noticed more of what I’d like to be. But I know enough to get back home, and I’m blessed to be in a family with two sisters and a brother that are very intellectually bright—and I have to study. I would not be considered a brilliant person. But I’ve learned this much—that if I give my few fishes and loaves, in the most incredible way, the Lord will magnify that, and that’s enough. I realize, without his magnification, it would be nothing.

Q - You have been identified as many things—educated, confident, childless, inspired. What do you feel defines you?

A desire for obedience. Since I was young, I’ve wanted to be totally obedient. And I think when I was serving at Church Headquarters, the priesthood leaders would agree that my goal was to be totally submissive and obedient.

Q - Is that how you want people to remember you?

Oh, I’d hope they would remember me as being optimistic, enthusiastic, with a sense of humor and a love for people. And anxious to serve.