Lita and Kevin Giddins: Christ and His People Will Ever Be One
As teenagers, both Lita and Kevin were drawn to the restored gospel because of the arts. Both former BYU Young Ambassadors, Lita and Kevin believe representation in the arts is just one way we gather Israel. Later this month, Lita and Kevin will combine their love for the arts and their desire for all to be gathered in with a special event in the Conference Center Theater—an event to help Christ and His People to ever be one.
Art will depict sad things and art will depict joys. Art will depict a trial we experience and it will [depict] the blessings so I love that: Are we a balanced people? Those are great questions to ask ourselves. Every time we're taking a sacrament, every time we go to church, every time we read, do I have balance my life to recognize yes, these bad things are happening but joy comes in the morning.
I Am: The Journey tickets
BYU magazine video with Lita:
Latter-day Saint Center for the Arts video interview with Lita and Kevin:
Latter-day Saint Center for the Arts talk:
Elder Maxwell quote: “'These are [your] day' (Hel. 7:9) in the history of the Church. Mark well what kind of days they will be, days when, with special visibility, the Lord will 'make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations.' (D&C 133:3.) God will also ‘hasten' His work. (D&C 88:73.) He will also ‘shorten' the last days 'for the elect’s sake'; hence, there will be a compression of events. (Matt. 24:22; JS—M 1:20.) Furthermore, 'all things shall be in commotion.' (D&C 88:91.) Only those in the process of becoming the men and women of Christ will be able to keep their spiritual balance."
3:24- Finding the Gospel and Each Other
14:25- Scared of the Dark
16:50- Skin and Sacredness
20:58- Creating and a Creator
26:01- I Am
36:35- The Hope of Christ Coming
44:07- “Christ and His People Will Ever Be One”
55:30- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones Pearson 0:00
I wish you could have seen Kevin and Lita Giddins' reaction when I told them what day this episode would air. On this day, June 8, 44 years ago, a letter announcing a revelation was signed by the First Presidency of the Church. The letter now known as Official Declaration #2 read, "Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that, at some time in God's eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these our faithful brethren spending many hours in the upper room of the temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance. He has heard our prayers and by revelation has confirmed that the long promised day has come when every faithful worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows there from including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color." The date of this episode's release was not intentional on my part, I was just trying to give myself time to turn it around, and then wanted to make sure it would give listeners time to plan to attend the I AM event in the Conference Center Little Theatre on June 18. But I don't think this episode airing on this day is a coincidence. Instead, I choose to believe it is God reminding us of the love he has for all of his children.
Kevin Giddins' experience as an entertainer has ranged from being a lead dancer at the Grand Ole Opry to the dance director for the Hill Cumorah pageant. He is a diversity and inclusion thought leader who has presented to companies like the NBA Ford Motor Company, American Red Cross and Franklin Covey. Today he is a senior partner for Sunlight Works, which seeks to provide professional development and training. He also guest teaches at dance studios from California to New York. Lita Little Giddins is a licensed therapist whose work experience ranges from the performing arts industry to utilizing her academic degrees to teach and help others heal. She has conducted workshops throughout the world seeking to bring greater peace to individuals and their communities. She is currently the Assistant Dean for Diversity, Collaboration and Inclusion for the College of family home and Social Sciences at Brigham Young University. This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Pearson, and I am so honored to have Kevin and Lita Giddins on the line with me today, Kevin and Lita, welcome. I've been looking forward to this and I am anxious to learn from you both. I've had a chance to correspond with Kevin and Lita for a bit leading up to this conversation. And you both have just been so gracious and so kind and, and so I'm looking forward to talking more today. I wanted to start out I watched some videos in advance. And so I know based on those videos, Lita, you are a convert to the church. But Kevin, were you raised in the church? And if not, how did you come in contact with the gospel?
Kevin Giddins 3:38
Yes, I was not raised in the church. I was raised in a foster home in New Jersey with the Jones family. It was a Christian home. I do remember missionaries knocking on our door, and my mother saying Tell them we're Baptists. My father was Catholic. So I guess Baptists and Catholics means I was raised in a Christian home. I came to BYU as a non member as a grad student. And it was at BYU that I got exposed to the LDS church through a group called the Young ambassadors. And after two months being on BYU campus, I joined the church.
Morgan Jones Pearson 4:14
Wow. So was it young ambassadors that brought you to BYU Kevin?
Kevin Giddins 4:18
Yes, I was recruited to be a part of young ambassadors.
Morgan Jones Pearson 4:22
And you're a dancer is that right?
Kevin Giddins 4:24
That's one of the things that I am. I'm a Father, Son of God. A lot of things. The answer is yes. One of the things that I claimed is a dancer.
Morgan Jones Pearson 4:43
So I wasn't far off there.
Kevin Giddins 4:45
I said that because that that world is still a part of me, but I'm doing so many things as far as leadership development and diversity inclusion training. So when I hear that it's like, oh, yeah, I am a dancer. I still am.
Morgan Jones Pearson 4:59
Good You shouldn't lose it.
Kevin Giddins 5:03
I'm still doing it. I'm still doing it.
Morgan Jones Pearson 5:06
And Lita, I know you, like I said, You're a convert as well. Can you tell listeners because I loved hearing the story, how you came in contact with the church. And I know that arts played a significant role from the beginning in that, so maybe you can touch on that as you go.
Lita Giddins 5:22
Yeah, I just think I was just talking to one of our daughters, like, a few days ago. And when you have a love story, you know, like people may or whatever, it's always a gift when you can be tell it. And so that I have a love story. When I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I love retelling that story. But I was 15 in middle school, and I was in a choir class and met this brother and sister, and Shawn and Kim. And I was invited to sing a solo at one of those kind of regional choir festival things. And he sang a solo and his voice was lovely. It was wonderful tenor, and sang "Shenandoah," and I told him how much I appreciate it and loved his voice. And he told me the same. And I was hanging around, you know, just crowds of people, gangs of people that were kind of scary. And there was something about this brother and sister that that intrigued me, right sparked my interest. And we started becoming friends and talking with each other. And then they started inviting me over to their, their home, and we use our talents to go around and sing for assisted living facility folks, and and then they start including me in their prayers. And you know, they'd pray for me. And that was fantastic. But it started in choir. And then even in their home, we would sing together. We did lots of duets, and lots of watching of Broadway musicals and that type of stuff. But it was with music where I feel comfortable, right and safe. That God knew what I needed to help me to walk through those doors and introduce me to the church. And that was the beginning because every single major thing in my life, I think, that helps me to grow and to progress and define more of who I am is because the arts are involved is not a separate thing. Right? Yeah. That's how we he just helps us.
Kevin Giddins 7:40
To this day, she's still involved with the Dennis family who lives in California, she's still in contact with them. I think you'll always be in contact with the family, the missionaries, those who led you to the church, they will have a special partner heart forever. That's why Young Ambassadors, BYU, where I found God, where we found each other on each other, and let's just say found Heavenly Father because I always knew there was a God, but I discovered his name was Heavenly Father, Elohim, when I came to BYU.
Morgan Jones Pearson 8:10
Well, I was going to ask, I was gonna say now when you said, Kevin, "I wasn't a part of that love story," now I want to know how the two of you met. So did you meet at BYU?
Kevin Giddins 8:20
Well, our love story was back in the day, when they have arranged marriages, we were set up, we were pushed together by the gods, when she says the gods, but back in the day, when we were at BYU campus, in the 19 some things, when you saw a Black girl and a Black guy, they must go together. Everyone was trying to get us hooked up. From the president of the university to faculty, I'm not lying, I'm telling you. It's true. And so we were pushed together.
Lita Giddins 8:55
It one of those things where, you know, he was on a mission and had come home from a mission and that was one of the first names I heard was about this guy and how cool he was. So, I wasn't really interested because I, you know, done my stuff in LA, I worked in LA. And I had been in this relationship actually, the guy who introduced me to the church, I wanted to marry that person, you know. And so it was, I was a kind of in a transition from where my life have been in California to be now a student, a full-time student, in Utah. Away from my culture and comfort. But he was on a mission and I thought, whatever because I'm sure I'm gonna find somebody and be like, seriously involved with that person.
Kevin Giddins 9:55
I'm on a mission while I'm on a mission. They're telling her Lita, you need to meet this guy. I mean, Kevin, he's on a mission.
Lita Giddins 10:02
It is what they do in the ambassadors, they kind of repeat a lot of the musical numbers that they do. And so I learned a lot of my parts and dance positions and staging by watching the videos of prior young ambassadors. And Kevin would be on those videos. And they would say, look, there's Kevin, and he's leaping across the stage, and he's doing all this other kind of stuff. And it was just a lot of kind of pressure, you know, because there's this guy that we're telling you about. And so that was a bit stressful,
Kevin Giddins 10:32
and I'm on my mission, I received the blessing before my mission [that] said, I will meet my wife within the next two years. And you can imagine, every time I baptized a Black girl in Texas, someone's thinking, Kevin, that might be your wife. And so I'm at a dinner of a member family, and they show me this playbill of a performance in Salt Lake City that they attended, when they were on vacation in Utah. And who, of course, is in this playbill, big picture. Lita Little and this member families said Kevin, this is a girl, you probably should meet her when you get off your mission at BYU. Well, to make a long story short, I was asked by the church leaders to leave my mission a few months early to join in your ambassadors on a tour. And, of course, who was the first person I met when I came off the plane and it was Lita Little. And the prophecy was fulfilled, because I left my mission two minutes early, I met my wife within the next two years of my mission.
Lita Giddins 11:37
And here's what I was told. And I forgot when I was set apart in the MTC, because again, none of our family are members of the church. And so we didn't get you know, those father's blessings to send us on our way. But in the MTC, when I was set apart, it was a wonderful blessing. And I can't remember a lot of what it said, but I do remember at the close of it, he said, Now Sister Little before I close, the Lord needs you to know that your future husband is being prepared. And he also needs you to know to not be hasty and you make sure that it is one that He has prepared for you. Is that not mind blowing? Right? I'm ready to go on a mission. And you're telling me about this future as well. And I need to be sure and not hasty. And like who it is, and he was on his way coming.
Kevin Giddins 12:20
So when she was told her hasn't been prepared, I was coming to BYU as a non LDS person. So I was literally being prepared.
Morgan Jones Pearson 12:28
Wow, that's amazing. So Kevin has served you served in Texas?
Kevin Giddins 12:36
Texas San Antonio mission. Unfortunately that is where Uvalde is. The brothers and sisters there that are struggling with loss. And we just pray for hope that they will look for hope. Obviously, hope comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ. But my heart, my heart goes here because I served in Uvalde. I served in the area, I knew that community. And so my heart goes out.
Morgan Jones Pearson 13:06
Wow. Yeah, absolutely. When you said San Antonio, I was like, I bet you served in Uvalde. And I think, you know, all of us, Buffalo and Uvalde. That's what's on the everybody's hearts and minds right now. So I appreciate you bringing that up. Lita, where did you serve?
Lita Giddins 13:25
England Leeds. It's in my mind every day. Can't wait. And somehow we'll be in a situation where it takes me back. But we've been back, but I always wanted to go back.
Morgan Jones Pearson 13:39
Well I appreciate all of that background. And I think that will set us up beautifully for the conversation that we want to have going forward. The two of you, since your time with the Young Ambassadors, you've been a presence not only for BYU, but the Church at large I feel like and have done so much good.
Before this opportunity to interview you all came up. I can't tell you how many times your names have come up as like, oh, you should interview these people because they're involved with this. And so I have had you on my radar for a while. But Lita, recently you did a video for BYU for BYU magazine. And it is absolutely beautiful. And I am going to put it in our show notes so that people will go and watch it because I will not do it justice. But you said in that video you started out and you talked about how children tend to be afraid of the dark and that you were one of those children but you said that you were afraid of the darkness of your skin. Can you tell me a little bit about what you mean by that?
Lita Giddins 14:51
Yeah, again, I'm speaking for me but I don't think it's uncommon but it when you grow up and you don't see a lot of representation, and because of the color of your skin, people say very unkind things. Right? And in this targeted just because of my skin, and the color it is. Yeah, I was afraid not of myself, but how people reacted to it and their behavior towards it. And I mentioned that in the video. Yeah, that was a hard thing growing up in Southern California where I was, with very little representation and being I'm small in stature and female, just a lot of things that made it hard. But that was one of the most prominent things. That was difficult how people reacted to my skin.
Morgan Jones Pearson 15:50
Right? Did you feel that way?
Kevin Giddins 15:54
Oh, of course, I think research was done many years ago. And anyone can look it up that often, black children grow up not wanting to be black. In I think it comes to a place where they're maybe in their 20s or 30s, that they get more self-esteem. And they become very proud of who they are. But they're waiting to assimilate. And when they look around and seeing whether it's a Barbie doll or an advertisement on TV, and everything is not representative of them. They want to fit in. And so yes, I was one of those children who looked at my skin and looked at my self as weight and I'm not like everyone in my school, and how do I fit in? So it took a while for me to gain that self-esteem. I'm so glad I did. Because I do love who I am. And love all that who I am. And so that's something that I experienced as well.
Morgan Jones Pearson 16:51
Lita, I loved something that you said in one of the videos, I can't remember if it was that same video or a different one. But you talked about how, when you found the gospel of Jesus Christ, that your skin became sacred? Yeah. And so for both of you, how would you say that the gospel helped you see the beauty of your skin?
Lita Giddins 17:14
Oh, well, once you come to understand, continue to learn more about Jesus Christ and what He's done, and that there are people in heaven, a Mother and a Father who love you, and that you're created, you know, in Their image, and in Their likeness. And that the light of Jesus is in and through all things, and that I truly was created this way for a purpose. And for as part of this plan, it truly became a sacredness in my walk, to know that He sees me, or They see me and They love me. And especially with the work that we're involved in, this is a part of the plan and how we get together, we get together people to Christ in this important work, this is absolutely a part of it. And so who I am, or what I am, or what I do, is a part of this body that is this beautiful brown color. It's a part of it. And so yeah, I feel a sacredness about it, because I know in it, I'm doing a part of a sacred work of my heavenly parents.
Kevin Giddins 18:46
I don't think it's only for black people. I think it's for anyone who discovers the gospel of Jesus Christ, you get a sense of who you are, you get a sense of you are deity, you're part of deity. And I think especially for children who are underrepresented, who feel marginalized when you discover that because of Jesus Christ, you're heir to a throne, and that you take part in this great work you're deity, you grow. For me, when I first went to church, I thought to assimilate, I had to get rid of my gospel music, my leather pants. I just thought I had to get rid of who I was. We didn't see had represented and so but I was willing to get rid of it because I knew the gospel of Jesus Christ is where I belong. And so I knew that this was His church, and I was willing to get rid of it. But as I studied became more wise and understanding the scripture and the doctrine, I discovered that God in His glory created everything and in creating everything as you look around the earth and see the different colors and different textures, different animals, different creatures, the different plants, you begin to realize, in my difference, He created me, and all things that God created is good. And I, I teach this when I teach leaders about, understand the importance of accepting different perspectives. If two people are in a room, and they're saying the same thing, one person is not needed. So my uniqueness is needed in the room, I don't have to assimilate and be the same as everyone else. My Black skin can be glorious. And it can be it can show God's creations. So I think for me, it's when I discover, as I said before, what the gospel is, and who created me and who I am, that's when I began to realize I have worth.
Morgan Jones Pearson 20:52
That is so so well said and it reminded me of something Lita that you said, you said, I am valuable in this world, because I am a work of art. And we're going to talk today about the arts and how the arts are a powerful way to like you said gather people together and to build community. But I love this idea that we are works of art created by a Creator, who teaches us how to create like him. Right? What would you say that knowing and understanding that we were created uniquely can instill in us in understanding our worth, I felt like that something just recently, when President Nelson spoke to young adults, he talked about the importance of understanding your identity and I feel like that's something that maybe we're missing just across the board, no matter what color we are or gender, is this understanding of identity. So how does understanding who created us in that we are a work of art change that?
Lita Giddins 21:56
I'm not sure if it changes, but I think it can add to it. And I know that there are a lot of people who maybe aren't at the place yet, where they can feel the sacredness of the things we've just we just talked about, and we're divine works of art, not just a work of art, but divine works of art. As children, again, of heavenly parents, again, and I love how you said it Morgan of these creators, right? And that's our heritage, that, that we too can be creators, I think it's important to understand that as works of art, that that we are in a space where we get to add beauty, we get to find beauty. And we get to discover the artistic sides of us because Kevin has a work of art, and looks different than Lita being a work of art. And again, how that contributes. But I also know that if we're talking about all of us being children of God, right, and all of us being these works of art, I think it's important, I'm also a therapist, I think it's important to go to that community level, to say, as a work of art, what is distinct about me, you know, because if we're going to be, who are some great artists out there? And I wanted to think, Jorge Coco, we kind of love him.
I love Jorge Coco,
right. And if we can put our stamp on, on what we're contributing to the community and to meet those needs, then that is an artistic gesture. Right. And that's unique to me. And sometimes that art is needed in those communities, that distinct work of art that I bring, Lita, to connect with people, so then they can then come to a better understanding that, "Oh, maybe I am a divine work of art." It's the bridge that I think that helps to change people, or to add to their feelings of who they perceive themselves as being and their connection to divinity. But I think there's more that we aren't understanding and tapping in to understand that art is is viewed and perceived in so many different ways. And it begins with us.
Kevin Giddins 24:37
And that's why with them, that's why I think it's very important to explore diverse kinds of art. Because art is an expression of thought, feeling, attitudes, a voice, and for many years, I think in the community that I'm living, that it was one-sided. I saw one thought, one feeling, one attitude, one voice. You know, I have a friend who talks about his son walking through a chapel and just seeing art depicting angels that are all white and telling his dad who's African American dead. There are no angels that are African American or Black, all angels are White. And he's seen through a child's eyes, he's looking at art. And art is reflecting life and hardens, reflecting attitudes and feelings. His thoughts are African Americans aren't a part of the angel family.
Lita Giddins 25:15
And this particular story is in the I am kind of cultural program. So we get to share the story.
Kevin Giddins 25:36
Yeah. So to me, that's why art needs to be expressed from multiple perspectives, and that every culture needs to share art, share their voice, share their thought, and we need to look and value all perspectives.
Morgan Jones Pearson 25:53
Absolutely, I completely agree. And you just mentioned Lita, and so let's kind of set the stage a little bit. June 18. At the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, there is going to be a presentation at the conference center. The Conference Center Little Theater at 7:30. And this is going to be a special program, a celebration of global Latter Day Saint voices through art, music, and dance. Can you tell people a little bit about what they can expect from that program?
Kevin Giddins 26:31
It actually starts at 630. Yes,
Lita Giddins 26:32
The pre show, so we don't want people to miss out on the pre show.
Kevin Giddins 26:37
I'm afraid people think it's 7:30, they will miss out on the pre-show. So the pre-show is a gathering. And we really believe that diversity inclusion is about the gathering. So diverse perspectives coming together at the gathering of, of performing artists, and visual artists displaying their art, engaging with the audience members as they show up to come to this event. And the first part of this pre show as a gathering just introduces spectators to a diverse perspectives of art. And then they get to come inside the house, they won't give anything away. They'll get to come inside the house and experience art from various perspectives, visual art, singers, dancers, poets, and filmmakers, on screen sharing interviews of thoughts and feelings that artists have of how they how
Lita Giddins 27:39
How they perceive themselves in their, in their divine work of art, and their connection to it, and how it represents divinity to them. It's really, really beautiful. And I just need to just put a shoutout to Center for LDS art, because this is the first time that we get to do something like this. So for them to just allow us to kind of network and collaborate and create this really historic, led by God vehicle as a part of the gathering of Israel is truly a gift.
Kevin Giddins 28:17
And when we say it's very true, and I do appreciate the Center for Latter-day Saints Arts because this is probably the most expensive event that they've done, I shouldn't talk about expense, but when put to put their money where their mouth. I think that that says a lot. But they're investing a lot of time and effort in showcasing artists who are of color and what they're doing. And I really appreciate that for many years, these voices have not been heard. And this is a chance for artists to share their perspective of art.
Lita Giddins 28:53
And how did start again, and this is why we are so grateful to be involved. Because again, just a couple of days ago, it was anniversary of George Floyd's death, murder. And so there was of course, a lot of concern. And reactions to what do we do with this? You know, how do we how do we respond? And that was the beginning of Kevin and I being contacted and saying we need to have a committee about race and inclusion. And we began to talk and to discuss what can we do? And now in a few weeks we're doing I AM: The Journey, but again because of sensitivity and concern and compassion and for these amazing people empathizing with what is happening and us having an opportunity to share how it impacts us, right? We can be at this table and help others voices to be heard, and to help other, whether you're LDS or non LDS, other folks understand what it's like to be a person who is not seen as a majority, you know, who has a position of power? Or who was equitably able to access the things that people can have this access to? It's so amazing to hear the stories and the connection with the foundation of, but there is this Jesus, right? There is this Person who connects us all, who hears us all, who sees us all. And this is how I get to testify of Him and my life amidst all of that.
Kevin Giddins 30:49
And I really believe you can either be reactive to the social friction that's going on with all the shootings and the violence and you can be reactive or you can be proactive to say, what can we do before another thing happens to bring community together? I'm not going to drop any names, but a church person asked me "Kevin, what can we do to celebrate things like June 8, when all worthy men receive the priesthood? What can we do to celebrate like Juneteenth? You know, what can we do people in Utah, the community to celebrate these days?" And one of the things that I shared is that these aren't days to, to be embarrassed of, I think, June 8, the day that they announced the priesthood is a day of celebration a day of inclusion. So it should be something honored, not hindered.
Lita Giddins 31:42
Well, and I won't project and just label people as being embarrassed by it. But there is, with these discussions, the common discomfort people are not comfortable talking about so there is a fear of offending. And again, there's just a lot of different reasons. But it really an uncomfortable topic. And so now we get to help maybe model for people how to talk about it and engage in conversation. Because it's hard, because it's not threatening, and the arts, crosses barriers, you know, with languages and everything. It just is a unifier. So that's our hope with who we are, because the arts are part of life, what we're doing, and this particular event of I Am.
Kevin Giddins 32:32
And that's why it's called I Am: The Journey, how did I get their journey to become who I am? And who are you? Who are we as a people? And it's particularly was strategically placed in the month of June, to kind of couch these wonderful events that are happening in June, whether it's the proclamation and June 8, or Juneteenth, which is now a holiday, and all the other events are happening in June. I believe I don't want to be a spoiler. But This Is The Place Foundation Monument is going to unveil something that brings more unity and inclusion, you'll be hearing about very soon more voices
Lita Giddins 33:15
To the Restoration of the gospel and those of color who contributed to this place that we are here now.
Kevin Giddins 33:25
And I'll just say this a little bit because for people of color, when in this community, they talked about Pioneer Day, and the big celebration that goes on. It's a day that I always am not excited about, because I never felt that I was a part of a pioneer. But now as I've done research and studying, I'm aware that there were many, many, many people of color. who were pioneers and came across the plains with the white pioneers that you don't hear about. And their stories are now being told. And so I'm so grateful for what's about to be revealed. That we get to celebrate Pioneer Day, along with all of this different cultures that were a part of this great work.
Lita Giddins 34:12
Isn't the gathering wonderful? See, that's why this is so exciting, because this is the Lord's work. And I think it's just such an amazing, beautiful message, that these things are coming together things are being brought out of obscurity, these truths are being made known. History is being clarified and re configured Maybe so, so everyone can understand that every single tribe that has been scattered, is being gathered in so many amazing, beautiful ways and at such an important time I know there's all of this hard stuff happening, these horrible things are happening. But on the other end is, Jesus is coming. Right. So let's get ready.
Kevin Giddins 35:10
And that's why the adversary is causing havoc. You know, it's no surprise to those who study the scriptures and aware all these terrible things happening. It is, it's gross, it's, it's horrendous and bad. But if you understand the scriptures, the adversary is fighting his last fight, he's doing as much havoc as he can, because he knows the Savior is coming. And the wonderful thing about artists is we get to be storytellers, and history tellers, so that we can tell the stories in history of what is happening when it's coming so that we can be ready for this.
Lita Giddins 35:45
Praise the Lord.
Kevin Giddins 35:46
And what I mean by that is, through the arts, we tell what has happened. Through the arts, we project what's happening, and through the arts, we predict what's going to happen, or foretell, and true art is divine. And If art is divine, and we're telling, we're creating art, we're almost like prophets through an art foretelling what could be. I think that's a beautiful analogy that we look to the arts, as well as science, as well as religion, to testify of Jesus Christ coming to testify of what has happened, what's happening now. And so I think that's a wonderful commentary of what the arts can bring to our humanity.
Morgan Jones Pearson 36:34
For sure, and Kevin, when you were talking, it reminded me so I just read this talk by Neal A Maxwell this past week. And in it, he says, "These are your days in the history of the church. Mark well what kind of days they will be, days when with special visibility the Lord will make bare His holy arm in the eyes of all nations. God will also hasten his work, he will also shorten the last days for the elect's sake, hence, there will be a compression of events. Furthermore, all things shall be in commotion, only those in the process of becoming the men and women of Christ will be able to keep their spiritual balance."
Kevin Giddins 37:20
He testified. He told us and if we heed the words of the Prophet, yes.
Morgan Jones Pearson 37:31
I think that's what we're experiencing. That compression of events of feeling like things are coming at us all at once. And like, it's like, something really hard happens. And it affects everybody. And we don't even have time to get back up before we're knocked down again. Yeah. And anyway, but I think for me that that statement brought a lot of comfort, because it means like you said, that Christ is is coming. And I think that that is very hopeful.
Lita Giddins 38:07
And let me just again, I love what you said about that. We all are in need of comfort, right? Right now. And I think this is a timely event. Because the arts, I feel that the only purpose for the arts, and again, we've been involved for years is for healing is to help people feel that comfort, and to to help with the woundedness that people globally are feeling right and trying to find a way to—I will say—breathe again. So that's the power of the arts. That's the gift we have for the arts is to help heal our Heavenly Parents' children.
Kevin Giddins 38:53
And I love what you said also the word you use is balance. Having spiritual balance to me means yes, we have trials but let's look at the blessings. Yes, we have pain. But let's look at the joys. Yes, I mean, it's understanding and viewing art. Because art will depict sad things and art will depict joys, art will depict a trial we experience and it will experience the blessings so I love that are we a balanced people? Those are great questions to ask ourselves. Every time we're taking a sacrament, every time we go to church every time we read it, do I have balance my life to recognize yes, these bad things are happening. But joy comes in the morning.
Morgan Jones Pearson 39:38
100 percent. Lita, I love something that you said in one of these videos that I watched you said that you're passionate about helping others come unto Christ. And I think that's been very clear in this conversation about both of you, but that you said everything in your personal life and your professional life align in that purpose and I love the way that you said that with confidence. I think that's something that I always want to feel in my own life is that my professional and personal life align in helping people come unto Christ? How would you say that both of you have been able to get your lives to that place of alignment?
Kevin Giddins 40:17
Well, I think President Uchtdorf said it very well, one of his stories that when he's, every time, he tells the analogy of flying a plane, a plane is knocked off course, constantly through wind and through all the challenges. So when you ask us, How do we get our lives in alignment? It's something that happens every day, you've got to keep getting your life back into alignment through repentance through refocusing your life and understand your purpose. Through all the things that we learn in Sunday school to do those Sunday who answers you've got to continue to align yourself. So when you ask how to how do we get our lives in alignment, we have to keep repenting. We've got to keep doing those Sunday School answers of praying and reading constantly.
Lita Giddins 40:58
And, what we are also involved in because I work at BYU in this work of inclusion, right? And diversity and now they're talking about belonging because we there's this new office that's going to be set up. But even though I get in the car, and I go to BYU, and I go to my office, right, and then I have my meetings, and Kevin's working in the same work, you know, with inclusion and belonging and unity. There are things that I think about and decisions that I make in my conversations where I need to be intentional about my purpose, right? When I am meeting with someone, and it just happened yesterday, and we're talking about mentorship, right? Who is the mentor? Who is the great mentor, it is Jesus Christ, right? When I'm talking with the student, and they're talking about their struggles that they're having, and asking me why I stay. I need to be intentional with the primary heart of how I respond, because I am at work. But what's my response? It's how to connect that person to the spirit, and in turn, connect them to the Savior and testify, find opportunities to testify all the time. And if I'm testifying, and the spirit is bearing witness, in that moment, that is like him and said, that's getting me back in alignment. But I just know that grateful I joined the church, grateful I serve the mission, but every single thing is about the mission. And the mission is the preparation for Jesus Christ. That keeps me in alignment, that is my thought, which affects my feelings, which affects what I do.
Kevin Giddins 43:02
And for me that to be very definitive about what you said, is alignment comes and Lita said the word alignment comes when you're intentional. Questions: What books Am I reading? What are I have on my home? What music am I listening to? What activities am I involved in? How can I keep Jesus with me at work? You know, people ask all the time, you know, BYU movies...people always said the question, even at a place like BYU or in Utah, if Utah such a great is a great place, or BYU is a great place. The question is, are we bringing the spirit to these institutions to this work, to the state, to my community, to my work? I need to make sure I'm being very intentional about that.
Morgan Jones Pearson 43:57
For sure, I completely agree. And I appreciate that the things that you said, I'm going to take those to heart and try to think about them in my own life. I watched a talk where I believe Lita, you finished with this line from a familiar hymn, says "Christ and His people will ever be one." What would you say that the two of you think it would actually look like for Christ and His people to ever be one?
Kevin Giddins 44:27
You know, that's a big question. And I think, for me, I have to go to the source. And to me, that's Jesus Christ, our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ who talks about this idea of the commandments. The greatest commandment is to love God. If we want to be one, we have to love the same God, the only God and the second commandment like it, love your neighbor. If we all are focused on loving God, on loving our neighbor, just focus on those things, I think we can have unity, it's when people have the same purpose in our communities. fear comes here comes because of the unknown. I've always said to, to friends, if you know a person who have color, and you've never asked them what it's like to be of color, you really don't know them. If you are married to a person from the opposite gender, and you've never asked them what it's like being that gender in this at work, or in this country, or in this, this community, you really don't know them very well. My mother, my foster mother always loved the song, (sings) "If you don't know me by now, you will never ever really know me who, who." And I say to my mom, mom, who you sang the song about, and she said, your father, if he doesn't know me by now, he's never going to know me. And so do you know how many people I've met in our community who I'm the first black person they've met? Or if I am at a job, and there's a one single female on the leadership team, and I've never got to know her asked her, How does it feel, you know, we need to get to know each other, we need to experience each other. And when I say that is ask each other, and learn about each other's character and competency, because those things will bring trust, when I know your character. I knew competency I trust you. So when you ask how do we become as one by getting to know each other spending time to go to different art exhibits or fairs? Or, or different cultural events to get to know those things that I don't know of? So I don't have fear. That's one thought.
Lita Giddins 46:52
Love that. Okay, I'm really impressed. First of all, Morgan, I'm a little, I'm just emotional, again, that you found that video because again, that was years ago. And we were in New York, and we had done our presentations, and was really blessed to be a part of a community, I felt like we were introduced and brought into this wonderful community. And so when I said it back then, I'm at a different place now. And so that means something different and deeper, because I wasn't working in this particular area of my profession. And so, really, because so much has happened, you know, we've talked about George Floyd and we've now talked about Buffalo and we're talking about Uvalde and things. And I really, when you ask that I kind of like closed my eyes because I yearn for that. I yearn for us to be one so we can be done with all of this stuff, you know, that is so painful, and so traumatizing. And for me now, I think about community. And I am always in conversations with people who have different perspectives. And maybe don't think the way I do and it's sometimes it can push people away, right? Or, or people are so uncomfortable that they shut down or shut you down. But for me now, for Christ and all of us to be one I, I yearn for the day when in a community, Zion, a beloved community can be a place where it is okay, if I think differently, it is fine. And it's okay, if you think differently about this particular aspect of whatever. And maybe I could learn something from you and again, learn something more about you and we can learn to respect and love each other more, because I want to listen and I want to learn. That doesn't mean I have to change anything about how I think but I learn more about you in that space. And if we can be open to that and still be able to live among each other and have that sense of community and care among each other and love each other then we can be one. Elder Uchtdorf said unity isn't sameness. So that is my vision of paradise, almost heaven on earth, that we can just be in a community where there's no division, no politicizing, no separation of what of what gives us this lack of compassion. But it's a way that we can come together and spiritualize among each other and humanize each other. That is when we can be one. And that is the world that I pray for. When I go to my office, I kneel at my desk. And when I leave, I kneel because I need to see that we need to help bring that about. So let's open up our minds and our hearts to learn from each other and love each other, and, and be compassionate with each other and not be contentious with each other just because I think differently than someone else. It's okay.
Kevin Giddins 51:08
And one of the ways that we do that is through our language instead of I and you we need to say we more. Instead of them, we need to say us more, instead of the right aisle versus the left aisle, Republicans, Democrat, Americans, foreigners, it's got to be our humanity. As leader said, we've got to look at each other because everyone has the same Maslow's hierarchy of needs. We want to eat, we want to have a family, want to raise responsible children, who need shelter, we all need the same thing. We need our Savior Jesus Christ. And if we think about what we all need, and as far as yes, we're different, but let's not focus on that. Let's value our differences. But look to what we have in common. We're all part of this human race. We're all children of God.
Morgan Jones Pearson 51:58
I could not agree more. I'm curious. So when when Center for Latter-day Saint Art reaches out to you and you're like, "I don't really know these people? I don't know what the motive is? Was there any hesitancy on your part to join with them? I just think that's something that I feel like sometimes, like, maybe that's the reason that we don't ask people to participate. Or maybe that's the reason that, you know, is because we worry that there's going to be that hesitancy or questioning of motive.
Kevin Giddins 52:38
I think, always, unfortunately, because of my experience, and being in living in a world that's dominant, has a dominance. I have come to question motive. And ask, is it a box people are checking? Is it because of getting a tax break? What's going on? I have always asked, What's the motive? And in honesty, when I asked this question, what's the purpose? Why? And I hear the response. And the response, that the Center for LDS arts gave was a genuine answer of promoting unity, we say the word gathering, promoting those who are not represented. I realized they are very genuine. And so yes, I said, Yes. So to answer your question, yes, I did question the motive at first. And when asked the question, why. And they fulfilled my need by sharing a authentic, honest answer of why.
Lita Giddins 53:48
Right. And I will say, No, I didn't hesitate because I felt that God was leading us to be involved.
Kevin Giddins 53:58
Lita is always more spiritual than I so.
Lita Giddins 54:02
So I was very excited to be a part and and my why was how come we didn't know about this before, and we could've done this a lot sooner. But that was a really exciting first experience when we went there, because I thought this meant there's something more to it. And I'm grateful that we were able to represent, you know, more diversity and add more diversity to the center. But I thought there's always a bigger picture when it comes to the heavens and purpose and was supposed to happen. And here we are four or five years later, majorly involved. But I was excited and grateful for the invitation extended to be a part because I have received the witness. We are absolutely supposed to be involved. Let's go!
Morgan Jones Pearson 54:52
Well, and I think that there is something I love how you said like you when you're talking about your first experience there in New York and speaking at the conference, like, there is something that's really energizing and brings a lot of joy about that feeling of unity that I don't think you get anywhere else. And so I think that's one reason that people should come to the event on the 18th is just to feel that. At 6:30. Not at 7:30.
Well, Kevin, and Lita, thank you so much for being willing to engage in this conversation with me. My last question for you is the question we always ask at the end of every episode of this podcast, and that is, what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Kevin Giddins 55:44
To me, it goes back to the source, which says, Love God, love your neighbors. And if you're all in, you, not only will save those words, but through your actions, you will show. I know for a long time, I was raised when I was younger, with the idea of grace. I know a lot of LDS were raised with the idea of more than grace, but it's worse. And obviously, it's both. The Lord has grace. But we have to also work and do something, to show forth our love to God to show forth of love to our neighbors. So to answer that question to be all in, it's to recognize that we can't do everything, but through God's grace, we need to do something, and the Lord will make up the rest. So it's to act–to be all in is to act.
Lita Giddins 56:48
What is it about you that you're such a training kind of a teacher?
Morgan Jones Pearson 56:53
Kevin, you're very good at like breaking things down.
Lita Giddins 56:58
Yes. Yes. It's like, here's the point. Here's one point. Okay. We'll give you the spirit. No. And so and then I come from more like the clinical side, you know,
Kevin Giddins 57:11
social worker. And so, I go to therapy a lot.
Lita Giddins 57:14
So for me, I think, what does it mean to be on land? I think this is a fantastic question. First of all, because I think about, first of all, it has to be a very personal thing. I, I can't speak in generality. So for me to be all in is, where am I right now today? Right? And what are the things that are my capacity to do, whether it's mentally or spiritually, to stay connected to the Savior, right? To stay connected to what it means to be a disciple, and sometimes there are people who are just barely coming up for air, you know, there's some mental health issues where people are, again, but then our own family, there's depression and anxiety, so many things are happening. And so they are limited in what they can do, but they are doing the best they can. So yeah, they're being all in today, in that capacity. And it for me is like saying, reverence. Right, reverence is a very sacred thing. And what it looks like, for me, it looks different for someone else. And so I think, that's the point I'm making, being all in looks different, based on how people define it for themselves, and, and what it looks like in their place in life on a day to day basis. So giving a lot of information, but we have two sons, and our sons been served missions, because they were what I just stated, they're in their capacities of what they can do is different, right? And I remember having a conversation with them as their mother. Because you know, sometimes in our in our culture that causes shame, and then what are people going to think about that but I told our sons, that that was not our focus, serving a mission, our focus is if you know who God is, and if you know who Jesus is, you're going to be okay. So, they're on the journey to that. And as they do it day by day, step by step in their way, at their level, where they are, then they're all in. And I love them and support them in that.
Kevin Giddins 1:00:02
And I want to say, a second witness to what Lita just said. And I want you to notice that this idea of diversity. Our sons didn't serve a mission but all of our daughters did. Lita gave her perspective of all in, I gave my perspective. And if you think about it, what Lita said is, I think, to answer that question definitively, and I'm gonna say the real answer is this: We all need to seek the Holy Ghost to find out what that means for us. Because as we talked about diversity and inclusion, my thoughts should be included in what's all in for me, Lita's thoughts should be included. But ultimately, if you ask Lita how did she come to know what she knew? How did I come to know what I need to know to be all in? The Holy Ghost testified it to us. It told us what we needed to do. So to answer your question, I will boldly say on behalf of Lita,
Lita Giddins 1:00:50
No, don't say it, I don't like you speaking for me.
Kevin Giddins 1:00:53
I will get everyone to have a voice. My wife doesn't like me speaking for her. That's because everyone has a voice. But I will boldly say, I feel definitively the answer is seek the Holy Ghost. So the Holy Ghost can testify to you what all in means to you. And I know my wife won't disagree with that.
Lita Giddins 1:01:10
And then that happens when that happens. Again, that's how we live in that Zion community. That is how we get there. And that is how we will be able to exist and be, like it says in 3 Nephi where there was no contention, and they all dwell in peace. That is where we can get and I just pray we can do it. I know we can do it, because this is Jesus's work.
Morgan Jones Pearson 1:01:36
I know we can too. Thank you both so so much,
Lita Giddins 1:01:39
I want to thank you because you are so flexible, and you've worked with us and I really, really appreciate you we're sensitive to our needs. You're fantastic, Morgan. Thank you.
Kevin Giddins 1:01:46
And you listened. You didn't commentate over us or speak over it. You listened. And I appreciate that. And I know you listen because you able to repeat back some of the things we said. So thank you.
Lita Giddins 1:01:57
God bless you, girl.
Morgan Jones Pearson 1:02:00
We are so grateful to Kevin and Lita Giddens for joining us on today's episode. You can learn more and get your free tickets for the I AM program at the Little Conference Center Theater on June 18 by visiting CenterforLatterdaySaintArts.org. Many thanks to Derek Campbell of Mix At Six Studios for his help with this episode. And thank you so much for listening. We'll be with you again next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai