After a prayer to save her mother went unanswered, how this Latter-day Saint regained her faith in God

by | Jan. 14, 2021

In this week's episode of  This Is the Gospel, Anna's mother is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. With all the faith her 9-year-old self can muster, she prays for her mother to be healed. But on October 13, 2005, Anna wakes up to the news that her mother had passed away. Full of grief and anger, Anna decides God must not answer her prayers at all. It's not until years later that a scripture changes Anna's mind.

An adapted excerpt from the story is below. Listen to the full episode here or read the full transcript here

Note: This excerpt has been edited for clarity.

Growing up in Primary, I was always taught that if you had a good desire, and if it was a righteous desire, then Heavenly Father was going to answer your prayer. I was always taught about the miracles that happened, you would read about it in the scriptures, and I would hear people bear testimony about the miracles in their own life. 

So when I was 9 years old—I had just turned 9—we found out that my mom's cancer had come back. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 5 and then had been in remission and it had come back. This time, they told us that it was terminal, that she was probably going to not survive it because it had spread so rapidly throughout her body. 

I knew that it was going to be okay. I was like, "No worries, I'll just pray," because I felt that praying for my mom to live and to not die was a very righteous desire. 

So I prayed so hard that she wouldn't die because I didn't want her to and I really believed that if I prayed that she wouldn't die, that she wouldn't. That she would survive. This would be one of those miracle stories. 

But on October 13, 2005, I remember waking up and I looked at the clock and it was nine in the morning. I shared the room with my sister and I thought, "This is the greatest day of my life, my parents have forgotten to wake me up for school. I don't have to go to school." 

My little sister woke up and she started making noises and trying to talk to me and I was like, "No, no, go back to bed. Mom and Dad won't take us to school if we don't wake up." But my dad heard us and he asked us to come out. We went out into our living room and he was there with his mom and his sister, and they told us that my mom passed away earlier that morning—that the cancer had taken her life. I was 9 and my little sister had just barely turned 7. 

I was just bawling. I was like, "What? No! My mom can't be gone." And I can remember telling my dad, "You know, Dad, I'm not gonna pray anymore." I said, "God didn't answer my prayer. So obviously God doesn't love me. God doesn't answer prayers because I prayed so hard and so many people were praying that she wouldn't die." And yet, here I was without a mom here on earth and I was just so upset and I was so angry. 

Anger was like this blanket for me where I would just like wrap it around myself. Anytime I started to not feel angry, I was like, "Whoa, this feels weird, bring it back." My prayers definitely changed after that, where, when I would pray, it would be very routine. It would be, "Please bless that I'll be able to sleep tonight. And I'll be able to wake up and go to school tomorrow and do good things." 

It wasn't very heartfelt. I didn't want . . .  I didn't want to pray. And I didn't really pray on my own. 

To find out what changed Anna's mind about prayer, listen to the full episode here or read the full transcript here

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