4-time cancer survivor Jennifer Reeder honors mortality in a breathtaking virtual address


Jennifer Reeder, 19th century women’s history specialist for the Church History Department and the author of First, has already had cancer four times. She has had two transplants and has spent months on oxygen. So, when she got shingles for the second time in January 2021, the diagnosis pushed her to the edge. 

It was then that a friend recommended that she do some journaling about “What it means to honor mortality.” Reeder initially scoffed at the suggestion, but her thoughts ended up being the crux of her BYU Easter Conference address—an address we think is worth watching all year-round. 

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BYU Easter Conference 2021 - Jenny Reeder

“The physical part of mortality is just so physical,” Reeder says. “Physical and mental health, disabilities, broken bodies, disease, virus, age—strangely by design all these things wear us down.” 

Reeder says that many people have attempted to explain her numerous physical battles in mortality but that she rejects many of those well-meaning explanations. 

“I believe that I chose to come to earth to be born into a body in an imperfect world with a possibility that my DNA might slip and produce lymphoblastic cells rather than regular blood cells,” Reeder says. “I also believe in the law of compensation, the gospel of restoration, the good news of Jesus Christ—that a way would open for me, whether that be through well-trained medical doctors, and new drugs and technology, or through fasting and prayer with my friends, family, and ward. Or through a combination of faith and science. It is part of my mortal existence.”

Outlining some of the most wonderful things about mortality along with some of the most terrible and trying things, Reeder says:

Sometimes I wonder, knowing what I know now, if I really did shout for joy upon hearing about this mortal part of the plan or celebrate the courageous act of our glorious Mother Eve in choosing the bitter fruit that would bring us here. I think to an extent, we all experience what she and Adam did: a creation, a fall, a covenant, and time—time to learn how to fill the measure of our creation; to multiply and replenish and create good, beautiful things; to wander through our own wildernesses and deal with the briars and noxious weeds.

Reeder goes on to outline the many ways physical bodies are a part of our Heavenly Father’s plan. Watch the entire address here

From acting as a scribe for the translation of the Book of Mormon to founding the Relief Society, Emma Hale Smith was a key figure in the Restoration. She was also her husband's anchor and the love of his life. But how much do we really know about her role, teachings, and leadership? Drawing upon letters written by Emma to Joseph and to many others, along with minutes from Relief Society meetings and other artifacts, this book sketches a more complete portrait of this elect lady. It allows each of us to become personally acquainted with Emma as we learn more about her essential work as a leader, a wife, and a mother in the early days of the Church. Learn more about First: The Life and Faith of Emma Smith here.

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