Sarah Jane Weaver: Amplifying a Prophet’s Voice
After 25 years of documenting the ministry of prophets, apostles, and general officers of the Church, Sarah Jane Weaver reflects on the lessons she has learned not only from Church leaders, but from members of the Church throughout the world. On this week’s episode, Weaver, the editor of Church News, looks back on a career that has taken her places she never dreamed of, both literally and figuratively.
I always say that I look at the church through the Church News window. …I’m certainly not doing anything different than any other member of the Church is, I just have a unique view into what our Church leaders do, how they act, how they minister, what they teach. And that view from the Church News window is profound and it’s beautiful.
Article Sarah wrote about President Eyring and his father's advice: "Find something 'you think about all the time'"
Column that tells the story of Sarah's experience with her teacher: "Thank you 'for teaching me how to write'"
Column about Tongan Relief Society Sisters: "How Relief Society is a 'great circle of sisters'"
Column about LGBT policy: "What the LGBT 2015 policy and a BYU devotional taught me about choosing faith"
Full text of BYU Devotional by President Nelson on LGBT policy changes: "Read President Nelson's full BYU devotional on the love and laws of God, 2015 LGBT policy"
Column about President Hinckley and Cove Fort: "What President Hinckley taught me in an interview where he asked – and answered – all the questions"
Column about President Nelson and teenager in Peru: "What I learned from President Nelson about color – and love"
2:37- A Teacher’s Promise
5:53- Coming to the Church News
7:24- Evolution of Media in 25 Years
13:36- When Questions Require More Information
21:38- The Hallmark of Church Leaders?
28:40- The Support of Those Around Us
34:01- How the Gospel Brings Us Together
38:55- A Prophet and Compensatory Blessings in a Pandemic
43:15- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
In 2007, Sarah Jane Weaver, now the editor of the Church News, wrote an article where she shared the following story.
“As a college student, Henry B. Eyring often worked out physics problems with his father on a basement blackboard.
“One day, his father, a world-renowned scientist, made a simple observation: ‘We were working a problem just like this a week ago. You don't seem to understand it much better. Isn't this what you think about all the time?’
“When the student answered no, the senior Henry Eyring offered advice: ‘Find something, Hal, to do that you think about all the time, that you enjoy so much that when you don't have to think about it, that's what you think about.’”
In 2014, I was going through what could only be described as a returned missionary life crisis when I attended the introductory class for seminary teaching. I had no idea what I was doing with my life at the time. And when the teacher shared this quote, it resonated with me. In my notes, I attributed it to Sarah Weaver who had written the article, rather than President Eyring's father, but I knew I needed to find that thing I thought about, when I didn't have to think about anything else.
It wasn't until years later working at the Deseret News that I revisited those notes and realized that I now worked with the very person who had shared the idea that shaped my life at a pivotal point. To me, Sarah Weaver is a great example of someone who truly loves the work she does, and I believe it's because it's what she thinks about when she doesn't have to think about it.
Sarah Jane Weaver is the editor of the Church News since 1995. She has covered among other things, the Church's welfare services, Church education and social issues impacting Latter-day Saints. She is also the host of the new Church News podcast.
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 Jones, and I am so honored to have Sarah Jane Weaver on the line with me today. Sarah, welcome.
Sarah Jane Weaver 2:14
Thank you so much for having me.
Morgan Jones 2:17
Well, I have been so looking forward to this. And I think it's because I had the chance to work with Sarah fairly closely when I was at Deseret News, and she always has these incredible stories. And so I'm excited for people to get to know you a little bit better today, Sarah.
I was reading in preparation for this – and I originally had a question where I said, you know, how did you initially get into writing and journalism, and then I read an article that you wrote where you talked about your third grade teacher and something that she told you about how you would someday thank her for teaching you how to write, and I wondered if you could start us off by sharing that story, and then sharing what your ability to write has meant to you in your life.
Sarah Jane Weaver 3:05
Well, I'm happy to do that. I had a third-grade teacher who was – she was not big in stature, she was probably the same height as most of her students, but she was fierce. And, and I was probably a harder than average third grade student. So when my teacher, her name is Bonnie Oatley, and when she noticed my desk was messy, and it typically always was, she would dump the contents onto the floor and make me clean it.
And you know, it was one of those processes where you always found like crinkled missing assignments. I remember, my mother spent a lot of time talking to my teacher that year. And she had us – she had the entire class do an assignment every week. And the assignment was "Thought of the week," she would give us a thought of the week and ask us to write an essay on it. And one of the particular essays that I remember the most was this thought of the week that said, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."
And I could not figure that out, in terms of what that meant. And we had quite an ordeal. It was one of those third-grade experiences where I pouted and I cried and I sat at my desk and I missed recess. And ultimately, I took the thought home as homework, and I figured it out, and I don't remember what I wrote, and I don't remember much of thinking that I did a good job with it. But when I turned it in the next day, my teacher turned to me and said, someday you will see me on an elevator and you will say, "Thank you, Mrs. Oatley for teaching me how to write."
And I really didn't appreciate it at the time. I think I . . . in fact, I don't think, I know I told her, probably in a pretty quiet third grade voice that I would never do that. But I did not forget those words because she told me I could write. And I believed her. And that led to writing for the junior high newspaper and the high school newspaper and pursuing a degree in journalism at BYU.
I'm one of those rare people who never had to figure out what they wanted to do when they got to college. I didn't have to explore other things. I declared my major before I ever went to school, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I knew I wanted to tell stories. When I was, when I was a child, my mother said that she loved it. I would come home with all the information about all of the neighbors and then one day she realized that I was probably telling them all the information about our family, which, which was true. So anyway, that led me to a career at the Church News.
Morgan Jones 5:53
So tell me how you ended up initially at the Church News, because I don't think I've ever heard the story.
Sarah Jane Weaver 6:00
I graduated from BYU, I did a fellowship is called the Pulliam Fellowship in which . . . it was sort of an intensive additional training program for people who wanted to pursue a career as a journalist. I spent some time at the Arizona Republic, and got a call one day, I had done a, I had also done an internship with the Deseret News Washington bureau, and learned a lot from the Deseret News Bureau Chief, Lee Davidson. He's still a journalist in this market. And the Deseret News called and said, "Would you like to interview for the Church News?" and you know what, at the time, I wasn't sure about that. I wanted to win a Pulitzer Prize. I wanted to be a political reporter. I enjoy daily deadlines. The Church News is a weekly publication . . . and, but I came in for the interview. And when I left that interview, I knew my life had changed, because I knew I was going to take that job. And I came to the Church News and never looked back.
Morgan Jones 7:11
And you've been there for how many years now – 26?
Sarah Jane Weaver 7:14
So . . . I celebrated 25 years this June. So, a quarter of a century.
Morgan Jones 7:22
Wow. That's amazing. I think that you, Sarah, are a great example of somebody that just is kind of immersed in their job – and not in a bad way, like in a totally healthy way – and you take your job seriously, you try to do a very good job. And it is not an easy job. Having observed it, I think people probably don't give you enough credit for how much work being the editor of the Church News is, so I wanted to ask you a few questions about your experience there. How have you seen the media change and evolve over those 25 years as a reporter and editor for the Church News?
Sarah Jane Weaver 8:05
Well, you know, when I started my career, we did not even have spellcheck on our computers. We certainly did not have the internet – email was just coming on. My email address is just Sarah@DeseretNews, because I don't think anyone realized everyone in the world is going to have one of these email addresses the day we set those up.
And so, we have moved from, from what was then, you know, a very deliberate digital print, I mean, a print strategy where you wrote an article and it went to presses and people read it in print, to where we've seen digital media evolve. And, just this January, the Deseret News, which is the company that publishes the Church News, announced that after 170 years, they were going to not publish a daily newspaper. Now, they replaced those products with other great print products, including a weekly newspaper, and the Deseret News national edition, which has been distributed with the Church News and a new magazine, but for the most part, it signals a move where the Deseret News is going to focus entirely on digital publishing.
Morgan Jones 9:25
Yeah, which is wild – so wild. I think it was, it was super cool, and maybe we can find a way to link this in our show notes but reading your post about the end of the daily print paper and seeing the picture of you as a young reporter was so neat for me to see. What would you say, Sarah, are some of the unique challenges that you face as editor of the Church News specifically, that might be different than those of other media outlets?
Sarah Jane Weaver 9:58
Well, you know, I'm so glad you mentioned that post. That was a huge computer. I mean, and you should know Morgan, I didn't get to use that computer all by myself. We had to share those, we had to share those computers, the company didn't have enough computers so you kind of scheduled your time to write your story and you would do some phone interviews, or you'd go out and fill your notebook and come back and then you'd schedule your time that you could have on the computer to write it up.
And everyone was super glad that we had computers. You know, we were right moving to new technology back then that that made that possible. And I said in that post, how much I loved going to the presses and seeing papers come off the presses and smelling you know, ink and getting a little of that newspaper ink on your fingers as you read it. I absolutely am going to miss getting up and running outside barefoot, to pick up the paper in the snow, curling up to read it – because there is something about me that likes that medium.
But you know, as everything changes, we have to adapt and change as well. And there's some really great things that have come. And one of it is at the Church News. One of the things that makes the job so wonderful is that we get to amplify the words of people that we sustain as Prophet, seers and revelators. And what a great mission to be able to come to work and say, "How can I amplify the words of prophets today?" And so the work is so much less about each of us individually. And we hope it's about the words of people that we sustain and lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints.
I was so happy that you shared the story of being inspired by the words of President Eyring's father, because it's not whether or not I wrote the story or not, it's that we were able to take words that someone shared and put them in a medium that makes them accessible to people and the internet has changed that.
Now at first that was an interesting transition. Because you go from producing a weekly paper to having news that is updated minute by minute. And it changes the processes of publishing, I think in a really positive way. And so, and then we've actually had to reach out and look at other forms to share the messages. You know, the Church News just started a podcast. A few years ago, we started producing Church News videos. We send a lot of our content out in weekly newsletters, where they go, you know, where people access them by email. It didn't come naturally, but I love social media now. And we often live tweet events. And so that was – that's been some of the challenges for me personally is learning how to adapt, to take the message to the mediums where people can find it.
Morgan Jones 13:08
Yeah, I think that that is true of so many, so many jobs in general, but especially in the media, just that idea of having to continually adapt. And we're so . . . I talked with Devin Graham about this a few episodes ago, about having to pay attention to algorithms and kind of being victim to the or subject to algorithms, but we change and we evolve and adapt.
What do you wish – Sarah, I think one thing that you have had a unique glimpse at is just how much Church leaders care about the members of the Church, and how hard they're trying. And so I wondered, what do you wish people who have faced questions or doubt understood about Church leadership? And how is working with them shown you that they are truly directed by God? And I will preface this by saying one of my favorite things that you have ever written was the piece that you wrote about the policy change. And I thought that was such a great example of approaching questions and doubts. So if you feel comfortable sharing any of that, I think that'd be awesome.
Sarah Jane Weaver 14:24
I'm totally happy to share that. It is interesting – when I started my career, I knew I was going to take the job at the Church News, but as we always do, we go to people we trust and love and respect for some advice and direction at those sort of hinge points in our lives. And I went to a professor of mine at BYU and I asked her about a career at the Church News. And her response has been burned in my memory because she said, "Well, I hope you have a testimony of the Church because if you work there, you're going to need it." And what she was saying, turned out to not be true at all.
But she was saying that as you get closer and see the inner workings of the Church, it will cause you to question your faith. And actually, the opposite on every front has happened. As I have seen and gotten to know the people, both the leaders of the church and the employees of the Church, and Church members worldwide and what they sacrifice and what they do for the Church of Jesus Christ, my testimony has been strengthened in really, really profound ways.
Now, that doesn't mean that I personally haven't also had moments of question or pause. And I did write about that. One of those came the day that the Church released the policy on blessing and baptizing the children of LGBT couples. And a member of my staff called my cell phone, and I still remember where I was driving on the freeway and said, "Have you heard this?" And I said, "I, I don't think that sounds quite right. I bet you've got some bad information." And I, and I pulled over, and I read the statements that I could find online. And I immediately called my husband. And I still remember what I said, I said, "For the first time in my life, the Church feels unfamiliar to me.” There was something about the Church that had always felt so familiar that felt unfamiliar. And, you know, we cried a little, and I remember, we just said, "Let's just put this in a box." "Let's just, let's just put this in a box until we have more information, more understanding, more insight, till we've been able to pray about it, to fast about it, to ask more questions." And so that's what we did.
I said, "Okay, I'm gonna, I'm gonna put this in a box." I called it a "theoretical box." And then I actually went back to the office, and I personally authored the Church News article on that policy. And in coming days, I learned a lot about that policy and that it was motivated by love. And I was able to interview some of the Church leaders who were able to share some of their motivation. And then as we all know, a few years later, President Russell M. Nelson gave a historic address to BYU students, where he also talked about the motivations behind that policy, and why the policy was ultimately reversed.
And he gave us such a profound guide to learn how to deal with things whenever we have challenging questions, you know? And so that right there was what was so interesting for me, because, because we learned from President Nelson, sort of how to deal with things and he asked us to deal with things by studying things that we knew to be true. And I remember listening to him talk and thinking, well, these are truths that I do know. I do know that God loves me and that I'm His daughter. I do know that eternal laws direct my life. And President Nelson talks a lot about laws. We were on a trip in Brazil, and he was doing an interview in Brasilia, Brazil, and he talked about how laws govern everything, including Scrabble. And that if he follows the laws of Scrabble, he can always win. And that is a good way to look at things. And he talked about that in that historic address, he said, "Eternal laws direct our life."
And he gave us a promise in that, he said, "Great blessings and happiness come to us as we live by those laws." And he said, "The prophets and apostles are always going to promote those laws." And ultimately, he said that we, as a church, can know all those things for ourselves. So I think the piece that you talked about, you know, I said the thing that was most profound about me listening to a prophet talk about laws and love and how the brotherhood feel about each of us and how our Heavenly Father feels about us is that maybe I don't need a box anymore. Now, that's not to say that, that that's not a good philosophy. I think it is when we have questions, when we have concerns, sometimes if we just table those until we can get a little more information, then the outcome or the way we feel about them may change over time.
Morgan Jones 19:45
Yeah. Well and I think that it's important to realize that when we talk about you know, putting things on a box or on a shelf or whatever, we're not saying just put it away and don't worry about it. The process is to continue to seek more information, to pray, ask questions, kind of to do the homework with it. We're not just saying, "Just don't worry about it." And I think sometimes that's the way that people think about something like that. And of course, we know that that policy was eventually changed. And so time has a way of changing things as well.
Sarah Jane Weaver 20:25
And, you know, the thing that I thought was most interesting about President Nelson's address is he said one of the things that motivated the change is that they received letters from LGBT families, and they studied those requests. And that is what we're talking about – more information. And sometimes that can come from the scriptures, sometimes that can come from our current leaders, sometimes that can come through prayer and personal revelation. And often that comes from some conversations with other faithful friends and people that we trust.
Morgan Jones 21:01
Yeah. Yeah, and I think that it's important to recognize, like, those sweet families – and that was actually one of my favorite parts of that talk too – but those sweet families who took the time to write and express their thoughts and things, I think that's so important to recognize that the brethren, the leaders of the Church are also willing to receive feedback, and then to take those things to the Lord. And I think sometimes we kind of frown upon offering any kind of feedback but thank goodness that those families did.
Sarah Jane Weaver 21:38
And you know, you look at the makeup of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, and, frankly, almost every General Authority, Seventy – these are people who come to Church leadership after years of experience and years of unique preparation. The Lord prepares each of them in unique ways. And all of them have these very prestigious backgrounds in law, in education, in business, in whatever field that they come from. And yet when you talk to them, that is not what you hear. That is not what you think. You know, you don't think wow, this is a really prominent attorney.
I – the thing that I take away always, is that they are kind. It is amazing to me that the number one quality that I see in the leaders of our Church is kindness. And that was, that was illustrated to me so very early in my career.
One of my first assignments outside of the Wasatch Front, after I joined the Church News was to go to Southern Utah to Cove Fort. And at the time, President Hinckley had been assigned to go there, there was a . . . it was the 1996 Wagon Train, we were celebrating the centennial of Utah statehood. And there was this 75 wagon procession that was going from Logan, Utah and ending at Cove Fort. And President Hinckley, he had come off of this huge trip. I mean, I can't remember all the details. I think he'd visited 16 or 17 countries on two continents. He dedicated the Hong Kong temple and he had broken ground for a temple in Spain. And, and now he's at Cove Fort, and it was a hot day. And when my editor you know, so I'm a brand-new reporter, I have never been in the presence of a prophet before. And when my editor gave me the assignment, he said, "Go to Cove Fort, bring back a good story and stay out of President Hinckley's face."
And you know, it was very clear – do your job, don't get in the way. And so I get down there, it's hot, the wagon train is delayed. And this cute missionary couple that lived at Cove Fort said, "Why don't you come in our house and have a drink?" So I go in and I'm sitting on the couch and in comes President and Sister Hinckley. And Sister Hinckley sat by me on the couch and President Hinckley sat on a chair, you know, right on the other side of me.
And they, you know, we're having some small talk. And then there's this moment where someone in the room says, "Hey, Sarah, you know, while we're waiting, do you have any questions for President Hinckley?" And you have to remember, I'm a journalist, I'm paid to ask questions, like that is the job – I cover the Church, this is the leader of the Church. And, and I couldn't think of any questions. Like I – my mind went blank. I didn't, I didn't have any questions. I tried to think of one, I remember feeling a little dizzy, I, you know, you know that panic, your face turns red?
Finally, I just said, "No." And President Hinckley looked at me with great empathy because he knew that a good reporter would have a question for the president of the Church, and he said, "Would you like to know about my family's history at Cove Fort?" And, you know, his family has like a great history at Cove Fort. Like Brigham Young had sent President Hinckley's grandfather, Ira Hinckley, down to build the fort. And it had been the stopping point for travelers between Salt Lake and central Utah. So he kind of, he kind of, you know, answers his own question.
And then the interview actually continues that way, with President Hinckley asking, and then I'd say, "Yes, I'd like to know about that," and then answering the questions. And, you know, you think about that. This is a leader of than 16 million people, you know, who would in just a few minutes after our interaction, go out and speak to the largest crowd who have ever been gathered at Cove Fort. And yet, in that moment, he cared not about the millions, or the huge crowd of thousands gathered outside, he cared about one. And he could have responded a lot differently. He could have been like, he could have rolled his eyes and said, "Okay, she doesn't have any questions." But he did not do that.
And in the – I wish I could say I got a great story out of it, because he shared a lot of information. But my notebook, my hands were shaking. I mean, like, but, you know, I did get some things from that. And what I did get was this idea that the Prophet cares about every member of the Church individually. And that is something that was – that I've observed, again from President Monson, that I've observed again from President Nelson, and from so many other leaders of the Church.
Morgan Jones 26:51
I love that so much. And I think it's funny, because it's amazing to me that so many times we walk away from those experiences with Church leaders, and you know, they can share these amazing things, but perhaps most importantly, is walking away with the way that they made us feel. And I think – I don't know if I've told you this story, but when we – a few years ago, did the the General Authority list for Deseret News for the General Authorities birthdays, President Nelson – I had been asked to come and meet with one of the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve. And as I was getting on the elevator, I was standing there and President Nelson walks up to the elevator, and he says, "Hello. How are you?" And I said, "I'm doing well, how are you doing?" And he said, "I'm doing well." And then we're just standing there awkwardly. And you know how slow that elevator is in the church administration building.
So I'm just like, do I say something else? Do I just continue to stand here and wait? And I turned to him, and I go, "You've got a birthday coming up this week." And he looks at me and he goes, "And how do you know that?" And I was like, "Oh, wow." And so then I tried to explain really quickly, I was like, "We're doing these birthday lists, and I was here meeting with Elder Cook. And, and your assistant already sent me pictures. So I'm good there." And then we get on the elevator, and as we're getting off, he says, "Good luck with your article." So, but it was like, so sweet, you know? He could have been totally weirded out by me acting like a creep that knew that it was his birthday. But – Sarah, one thing that I think is so cool that you've had the opportunity to do is to travel around the world with leaders of the Church, like President Nelson, you were able to go on parts of the ministry tour prior to COVID. First of all, how do you balance traveling all over the world, being a wife and a mother? And are you still the Relief Society president in your ward?
Sarah Jane Weaver 28:57
I am the Relief Society president in my ward. We – my husband and I have been married 25 years. We have three daughters. Our oldest daughter is at BYU, my middle daughter is in Crittenden, Kentucky serving a mission amid COVID and having a really, really profound and remarkable experience. We're so grateful that she has that opportunity and can serve right now. And then my youngest daughter's in high school.
And that has come with some unique challenges when the, when the kids were little and I would travel for work, my husband would take the time off work so he could be home and drive to the piano lessons and the soccer games, and so the way that it's worked, is that everything we do in life is usually because other people support us. And I think that if anyone looks at my life or the people that know me, it is simply because I have an amazing husband who has been a really profound support to me, as well as great friends who helped when I was in a bind when the kids were little.
And I live in this amazing neighborhood. And so when people say, "How on earth do you function as the Relief Society President?" I function as the Relief Society president because Relief Society is this remarkable organization for women to display their discipleship of Jesus Christ. And so in my ward, ministering functions at a higher level out of necessity, because there's a lot of things that have to happen on the ministering level. And it, it sort of makes me emotional to even think of what happens every day, because women ask for and receive and act on personal revelation.
And they elevate their lives and the lives of others. And in my neighborhood and in my ward, that works in ways that I cannot begin to articulate. From the smallest things of a phone call when someone's lonely, to bigger things where someone is giving someone a ride to a doctor's appointment, or even to stay with relatives in a different city. There's just so much that happens every day.
And if you think about that, and multiply that across the world, and I remember, not too many years ago, I was on an assignment in Tonga, and I went out to this small island in the middle of the Pacific, to write a story. And there was no hotel, there was no stores, there were just homes of members, and two Latter-day Saint meetinghouses. And the mission president – even though it is not standard – because there was no place else to stay, said I could sleep at one of the meeting houses.
And I remember walking into this classroom in this meeting house, in the middle of the Pacific on a small remote island, and the women there had brought mats and a pillow and they had made that room into something that was very special. And then two sisters from the ward came and they stayed in the building. And the bishop said, 'Well, you don't speak Tongan. And if there's a problem, we just thought someone should be here that does." But think about that, think about that message, that wherever we go in the world Relief Society is there for us. And it can make us feel at home and it can make us feel protected. And it can strengthen us spiritually, and it can do stuff for us that we could never do alone.
And, you know, I think – I tell my daughters, you know, they're just at that age where they're leaving Young Women and going out into where they think that they, you know, it's not as fun to go and spend Sunday with the old ladies. And I say all the time it – this is the greatest thing that will ever happen to you in your life. Your membership in Relief Society is the most profound thing that will ever happen to you. Because wherever you are, there is someone who's going to be your friend.
Morgan Jones 33:16
Yeah, I served with a lady in a Relief Society presidency and she told this story always about how one night she went to go check on some girls that were not active in our YSA Stake, and she knocked on the door and this girl came to the door, then kind of under her breath. She said, "Oh, Daddy" – as in like her dad had transferred her records so that she could be found. And this Relief Society president had some children at the time that were not active, and she said “That has stuck with me, because I hope that somebody somewhere knocks on my daughter's door.” And that, “If my daughter happens to wander into Relief Society, that somebody sits next to her.” And so I just think, I think that is a powerful thought.
Sarah, I love that you mentioned the experience with the members in Tonga. You said that your favorite assignments include reporting on temple dedications and writing about members around the world. And I love that you've shared experiences with that and talked a bit about the global nature of the Church. But I wondered, what have you learned as you've traveled around the world about how we are all more the same than we are different? Because I think, you know, we hear those stories about members in Tonga, and here in Utah, we're like, I can't even imagine that. But I think also, there's this powerful foundation that we're all children of God. So how have you seen that?
Sarah Jane Weaver 34:54
You know, so many of the trips that I have taken for the Church News, I've taken alone. Where someone's given me a camera and a computer and a plane ticket, and then I'm in the Philippines. And there's always a moment where I think, "Okay," – this, travel never came easy for me. It made me extremely anxious. I, it's ironic that I have traveled as much as I have for my career, because if someone had asked me if I wanted to travel when I was younger, I would have said no. And it's been such a profound blessing to see the Church around the world.
I'm also grateful to have seen countries and cultures, but that's not the blessing. It's the Church members and it's getting off a plane. I remember after a horrible storm hit Tacloban, Philippines, and flying in and having all of this destruction and no power, no water, and getting off the plane and looking around and immediately knowing who the bishop was that had come with his counselor to pick me up. Because you could tell it.
Because the Church had elevated their lives and they look different. And then watching – having the opportunity to go and see how the members were doing after that horrible, horrible storm. And the members of our Church, most of them had fared better than so many others, because their stake president had asked them to spend the night in the stake center, which was a little more stable, and damaged a little less than some of the homes. And then they had all gone out in mass and found the people that were other members, or neighbors or others who needed help and our buildings were a refuge where people got medical treatment and water and were able to sleep and got food.
And then in coming weeks, the Church had this program where people could rebuild, they could get some tools and learn some skills and rebuild their own home. And then they would rebuild 10 other homes, and then in the process get a certification to be a builder in the country. So, coming out of the storm, they actually had a self-reliance path forward, as well as a home, as well as – and in the process, nine other people had homes built for them.
And so you think about that little thing that's happening across the world. And it doesn't matter where you go, it doesn't matter who you meet. I remember walking with a woman along the shore of the Amazon River in Manaus. And we talked about the Church and our place in the Church as women. And we talked about – the Church had just released "Daughters in My Kingdom” – and we kind of compared stories from there. And, and really, when I was flying home, I thought about that experience. You know, she lived in Manaus, I lived in Salt Lake, each of those experiences were relevant to both of us in our lives. And it's just like you said, Morgan, there's far more things that connect us than divide us.
Morgan Jones 38:11
Yeah, I think that is, you know, that's true. I think, regardless of whether we're talking about geographically or life circumstance, or marital status, that's one thing that I feel like I have been grateful to have gained a testimony of is, is that at our root, the most important identity that we have is that we're children of God.
Sarah, before we wrap up, I did want to ask, I feel like your job has probably changed quite a bit in the last 10 months with COVID. And one thing that I have noticed is how much the Church leaders seem to have relied on Church News to get messages out to members of the Church, whether it be through video or podcast or written content. And so how would you say that your work has shifted during the pandemic? And what have you observed being the focus of Church leaders right now?
Sarah Jane Weaver 39:09
Well, you know, it's so interesting. You think of President Nelson's ministry as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in the first two years as Prophet he visited 35 nations, he visited six continents, he traveled thousands of miles. I received the assignment to go on many of those trips with him. And he's ministering to people in really large gatherings. Thousands and thousands filled a stadium in Guatemala. And then just a few months later, he traveled to Vietnam and met in a hotel ballroom with hundreds. And both were powerful and both were meaningful and both showed a prophet ministering to people. And then COVID comes, and he can no longer travel to a country and speak to people in their own language and have one on one interactions that changed their life.
And yet, all of those things did not cease. Because, you know, President Nelson is an early adapter to technology. He knew how to use it, he felt comfortable with it. And the brethren just immediately – the work of the Church did not stop. It just went forward. And they had messages to people, we did an interview with President M. Russell Ballard shortly after everything shut down from the pandemic and he spoke with such peace and such confidence that we would overcome this pandemic, and that we would move forward, and that the path forward would be one that would – even though hard – would hopefully leave us better than we started it.
And he spoke like a grandfather, but he spoke with confidence and peace. You know, I've met with him a few times since and he's talked about reorganizing stakes with video conferencing. The brethren have shifted in what – when they used to go down and speak at the Provo Missionary Training Center, and they broadcast that to other missionary training centers. Now they give a taped message and it's uploaded to the missionary portal and all the missionaries everywhere in the world get to hear that. And, and that has happened on so many other fronts.
You know, we are all a little more tuned in to devotionals. I think of that very first General Conference, where it's being broadcast from a small room at Church headquarters instead of the huge conference center. And yet every single one of us felt the power of that. My father passed away, just as the pandemic was amplifying. And my family wondered, what will we do? We can't, we can't hold a funeral, there wasn't even huge restrictions yet, but we didn't know what to – we didn't know how mourning would look in a pandemic.
And that Sunday was the first Sunday of home church. And so we had gathered together just a few of my siblings and I to plan and to figure out, you know, to finalize the details of the funeral and all that has to happen when you lose a parent. And then we had a church service in my sister's home and we took the sacrament. And you think of the compensatory blessings that come during this time. Now I'm not saying that this has not been a horrible, isolating troubling time for so many, both, both physically and economically, and socially, and many, many other things. I think all of us are desperate for connection. But something that has truly strengthened my testimony is that the leaders of the Church know that and are helping us feel connected to the Church, to its teachings. They're sending messages out not only through the Church News, but through their own channels, through social media, they're making videos. They're doing all they can, and they're succeeding at it.
Morgan Jones 43:12
For sure. I could not agree more. Sarah, it has been such a treat to talk with you today. My last question for you is what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Sarah Jane Weaver 43:25
Every aspect of my life is better and elevated and defined by my testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints. You know, it's been a great blessing for me to observe the Church. I always say that I look at the Church through the Church News window. And what I mean by that is that I am certainly not doing anything different than any other member of the Church is, I just have a unique view into what our Church leaders do, how they act, how they minister, what they teach, and that view from the Church News window, it is profound, and it's beautiful, and it portrays something that I have a hard time articulating, because it's a prophet who can speak to thousands, and then minister to a 14 year old girl.
We were in Peru, and President Nelson was getting ready to – President Nelson who had just spoken to the President of Peru, so he had met with the leader of that nation, was getting ready to address thousands in a stadium. And as he walked by, a young girl said to him, "What if my parents are not active in the Church?" And he turned to her and he looked her in the eyes and he said, "You and I are just alike." And what he was saying is we both have families that come from places where our parents are not active, or we don't have the support that others might have in the Church.
And then he made her a profound promise that I think about a lot. And he said, "Your family and your friends and others will see the light of the gospel reflected in you. And that's what you do. That's how you move forward." And that – I don't know if I've always been successful, but my hope and prayer every morning when I get up, is that somehow others will be able to see the light of the gospel or the testimonies of those people who have given their life to testify of the Savior, through me. And the Church of Jesus Christ has, in every way, blessed my life and so many lives across the world.
Morgan Jones 45:56
Thank you, Sara. I think, you know, it's neat the way that you put that, and I was thinking about it in terms of like the tagline of the Church News, "A Living Record of the Restoration," and that really, every person's life is a part of that. Every person adding their testimony, whether it be that 14 year old girl in Peru, or you as the editor of the Church News, or those women in Tonga, like all of it adds up to be the living record of the Restoration. And so I appreciate you sharing all of these great stories. And thank you so much for all that you do.
Sarah Jane Weaver 46:33
Thank you for having me.
Morgan Jones 46:37
We are so grateful to Sarah Weaver for joining us on this week's All In podcast. Be sure to check out the Church News podcast for more from Sarah. We are so grateful to you for spending time with us each week. And we're also thankful to our sound guy Derek Campbell of Mix at Six studios for always making us sound good.
We'll look forward to being with you again next week, but if you haven't already, in the meantime, could you do us a big favor and leave us a rating or review on the apple podcast? We would love you forever, if you could, but we'll be here next Wednesday either way.