It's that time again. As we straddle the fence between 2017 and 2018 and look forward to the fresh possibilities of the next 12 months, let's take a moment to look back and savor those moments that touched our hearts and renewed our faith in 2017. As we review beloved Mormon moments from this year, we encourage you to reflect on touching events from your own life and use the gratitude and conviction that follows to catapult you into the new year.
This year, LDS 13-year-old Evie Clair touched us with her musical talent as she appeared on America's Got Talent, even making it to the finals. What touched us even more, however, was the faith and courage she displayed both on and off the stage during her father's losing battle with colon cancer.
Each of Evie's musical performances was dedicated to her dad. After her performance of "Wings" by Birdie, in which she both sang and played the piano, Howie Mandell said, “You’re living through a story I think all of America can relate to. We need strength, we need heart, and that’s all the things I heard from you. . . . You make me speechless.”
Even after the devastating loss of her father, Evie continued to perform, saying on the show, “My dad taught me after I started something to always finish it. That’s why I’m fighting to the end, just like he did.”
She posted a photo of her father's funeral on Facebook with the testimony, "Families are forever." Evie further testified of this in an interview after her final performance. Her mom wrote on their family blog, "She said in an interview that he was out there on that stage with her and I believe he was."
In addition, Evie quietly lived her faith through both her father's fight with cancer and the pressures of show business. Her mother further wrote, "The whole staff here at America’s Got Talent is now well versed in all things Evie Clair. They know she has special dress standards and that she needs Sunday mornings off for church."
There were many fires all across the United States this year, and there are many memorable stories of those who jumped in and performed miracles when help was needed. One such story that stands out was when missionaries and members in Lethbridge, Canada, rescued 140 seniors when their living complex suddenly burst into flame.
Image from Global News
Before first responders could arrive, Joe Paul rushed out of the neighboring LDS Church building and into the burning building and started helping people out. In addition, 80 missionaries, who also happened to be at the church next door for a training, assisted the senior residents to safety.
During the Utah state cross-country championship race, senior Sean Rausch of Riverton High sacrificed being disqualified from the race by picking up his teammate Blake Lewis and carry him on his back across the finish line. Blake had crumpled to the ground just 200 meters from the finish when he'd suddenly broken his tibia.
.@rhstrackxc here is the clip of Sean and Blake pic.twitter.com/F9dEQVjeyI — C-Rod (@OriginalC_Rod) October 19, 2017
Touching Moments from Elder Hales' Passing
Elder Hales passed away Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, just after the morning session of general conference. We were touched by Elder Andersen's tribute during the final talk of the Sunday afternoon session:
"Because we have an extra minute, I would like to just add a brief reflection about Elder Robert D. Hales. The First Presidency had told Elder Hales that he could give a brief message in the Sunday morning session if his health permitted it. While his health did not permit it, he prepared a message, which he finished last week and shared with me. Given his passing approximately three hours ago, I share just three lines from his talk.
Quoting Elder Hales: "When we choose to have faith, we are prepared to stand in the presence of God...After the Savior's Crucifixion, He appeared only to those 'who had been faithful in the testimony of [Him] while they lived in mortality.' [D&C 138:12.] Those 'who rejected the testimonies...of the...prophets [could not] behold [the Savior's] presence, nor look upon his face.' [D*C 138:21.]...Our faith prepares us to be in teh presence of the Lord."
How kind of the Lord to impress upon President Russell M. Nelson right at the end of this morning's session to quickly leave the building, skip his lunch, and hurry to the bedside of Elder Hales, where he could arrive and be there, his quorum president, with the angelic Mary Hales as Elder Hales graduated from mortality."
Shortly afterward on Facebook, Elder Andersen also shared the touching story of why Elder Hales always wore the same tie at general conference. It was because Elder Hales became "tie buddies" with five-year-old Jason in 2010 after the boy sent him a letter saying he had the same tie as the apostle.
Jason and Elder Hales developed a friendship and correspondence, and over the years Elder Hales has encouraged Jason in preparing for baptism, receiving the priesthood, and going to the temple. Elder Hales declared that the black tie with white polka dots would be given to Jason after his passing, encouraging him to wear it for his missionary farewell in 2023.
Lesbian Couple Shared Why They Divorced to Join the Church
In a powerful video from the Splitting the SkyYouTube documentary series, Courtney and Rachelle shared their story of deciding to divorce and join the Church. We admire the bravery of these two women in sharing their journey. The faith and courage they demonstrate through their decision prompt us each to ponder what the gospel of Jesus Christ means to us, and what we would be willing to sacrifice for it.
Editorial note: This is a personal story of how two women came to join the Church. It's important to remember that every person's journey is different, and we acknowledge that gay members of the Church should find the solution that best works for their situation.
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"I would like to know my Mormon neighbors. I would like for us to share our celebrations and mourn our losses together. I would like to enter into deep relationships with you that allow us to celebrate our differences and lift each other up versus silently judging one another from across the street or the backyard fence. I would like us to hug and share dinners, and text jokes, and go to movies, and have pool parties, and discuss politics, and cry and laugh, and live life together."
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In the letter, Tumolo also shares a list of ways we can encourage our children to show love and be inclusive of those of other faiths. Tumolo's words display a yearning that everyone who has ever been excluded, left out, or misunderstood, can relate to.
And although it might be easy for each of us to read her letter and think, "Oh, I wish other Mormons would just be nice to everybody," looking back at her letter can inspire us each to leap into the new year with more compassion, charity, and a desire to befriend all of our neighbors.
Hundreds Sing "Happy Birthday" to President Monson
President Monson's 90th birthday this year coincided with a total solar eclipse over the United States. But the sky wasn't the only one to celebrate the occasion. Hundreds gathered outside of President Monson's apartment to sing "Happy Birthday" to our beloved prophet. According to Al Fox Carraway, President Monson even looked out of his apartment window and waved to the crowd.
WE SANG PRES MONSON HAPPY BDAY when he looked out his apt window & waved at us!!!😭 #Eclipsepic.twitter.com/FID5OdN83Z — Al Carraway (@22AlFox) August 21, 2017
Twenty years after they served together in the New Jersey Morristown Mission, Branden Seare told his friend Maka Aulava, "I'm here for you if you need something from me, a kidney or whatever, it's yours," according to KSL.
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Aulava had been suffering from diabetes and, in January of 2016, was diagnosed with kidney failure. He faced a long wait on the kidney transplant list until it was discovered that Seare was a kidney match. True to his promise, Seare donated a kidney to his former missionary companion. The transplant was a success.
"I just knew he was going to be a close friend the rest of my life," Seare said.
Elder Ballard Shares Tender Story of His Granddaughter Passing Away
Elder M. Russell Ballard shared on Facebook this year:
We’re on a journey. We left the spirit world. We left the presence of our Heavenly Parents. Life is not simple. It wasn’t intended to be. People think the Apostles don’t have any trials. We’ve had our problems and challenges.
Years ago, a granddaughter was born with a chromosome imbalance, and we knew she would not live long. My son and I went to his home. We knelt and asked Heavenly Father what we should do. We gave little Sara a blessing. She was 4½ months old. As I was blessing her, I seemed to hear her say, “It’s all right, Grandpa. It’s all right. I’ll be waiting for you.” Where do you find such peace anywhere else on the face of the earth? No other church can give you such assurance.
Our daughter had her beautiful 13-day-old baby girl on her lap sitting in church. Little Emily turned blue. She was rushed to the hospital. She died in my daughter’s arms with a heart issue. Now again, the gospel gave us peace. All that we stand for, all that we declare comes rushing into our lives in situations like this. So we have two beautiful granddaughters on the other side of the veil waiting for us.
On a Monday evening, the phone rang in our home. Our grandson Nate, who had served his mission in Lithuania, Russian-speaking, was gone. The airplane in which he was taking his final test with his instructor went down. Three of our grandchildren are on the other side of the veil.
I’m not telling you this to have you feel sorry for us. I’m telling you this because everyone will experience some trials or challenges in this life. None of us will escape from having to make decisions on how we will live our lives. What are we going to do? When those decisions come, I promise if you will hold on to your testimony of the gospel, it will bind you to your family. You must keep the eternal perspective.
We were touched this year when the mission president over the Texas Houston South Mission shared a letter explaining how a hurricane victim exclaimed "I knew the Mormons would come!" as she saw the yellow-clad missionaries in her part of the city.
This declaration sums up the countless hours of service dedicated and the wave of donations offered by members and missionaries across the world after hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, fires, shootings, terrorist attacks, and so many other tragedies. We're grateful to all those who jumped in to serve those devastated by these events and the light they helped share.
Elder Cameron Condie, serving in the Zimbabwe Harare Mission, wrote a letter to the family of his companion Elder Cayden Cazier. Many missionaries who return home early from LDS Missions are wrongly judged and scorned, and many members mistakenly believe that those who return home early have not really completed a full-time mission.
Elder Condie, however, wanted to make sure that everyone knew just how faithful his companion had been, and his powerful letter reminds us all, "if you're judging a missionary that has returned home early . . . just stop it."
We admire the loyalty and friendship of this devoted companion and the service of Elder Cazier despite debilitating pain and difficult circumstances.