Tammy Uzelac Hall: Embracing the Opportunities God Gives
Tammy Uzelac-Hall won’t lie to you—her life as a single woman was easier than when she married and became an insta-mom to two children who had lost their mother. But she embraced the challenge, gave up her job as a seminary teacher, and dived headfirst into motherhood. Now, as she uses her teaching skills to reach people worldwide through the popular Sunday on Monday podcast, she can see that God had a plan for her all along—she just had to trust in Him.
The Lord is going to take you further than you could take yourself. He's going to do more for you than you would do for yourself.
The “Come, Follow Me” scripture study podcast Tammy hosts: “Sunday on Monday”
Tammy’s Book: Far Above Rubies
Mormon channel video featuring Tammy: “Receiving The Gift of Gentleness: Time Out for Women – Tammy’s Story”
LDS Living video with Tammy teaching Hebrew words: “4 Hebrew Words to Transform How You Read the Old Testament”
LDS Living video where Tammy gives a 5-minute fireside: “Tammy Uzelac Hall’s 5-Minute Fireside: Revisiting the Idea of a Virtuous Woman”
2:16- Seminary Teaching
5:24- Women’s Prison
8:09- Into a Strange Man
15:28- Becoming a Stepmom
20:30- Honesty and Humor
22:45- Student of Hebrew
29:23- Hebrew Words That Change Everything
33:51- Hebrew in All Things
37:20- Where Two or Three Are Gathered
41:15- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
If you've ever heard Tammy Uzelac Hall speak or teach, you've probably heard her say these words, "You are God's favorite." Tammy has a way of making everyone feel like they are God's favorite. And with her self deprecating and honest sense of humor, she is a joy to be around.
I've had the chance to be a guest on the podcast that Tammy hosts for LDS Living, "Sunday on Monday," twice. So I decided it was time for me to turn the tables and learn more about Tammy. I walked away with an even greater appreciation for her and I am convinced she is definitely one of God's favorites.
In addition to hosting, "Sunday on Monday," Tammy Uzelac, Hall has been a host for timeout for women, a featured speaker at Temple Square youth conferences, "Retreat for Girls," Girls camp, and has been a speaker at BYU Women's Conference. She recently authored her first book Far Above Rubies. She is a student of the Hebrew language, a self proclaimed champion Oreo eater, and she believes cheese is God's way of saying, "Hey, everything is going to be okay."
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 excited to have Tammy Uzelac Hall on the line with me today. Tammy, welcome.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 1:21
Hi. Oh my gosh, I'm so excited to be here.
Morgan Jones 1:25
I am so excited. This is so fun for me. I have to tell you, I have been kind of holding on to Tammy, I probably shouldn't tell this publicly, but I've been like because of the Old Testament, and–we're going to talk a lot today about Tammy's love for Hebrew–and so I've been like, Okay, I want to have Tammy on this show. But I also really want her to talk about Hebrew and the Old Testament. And so today, we are going to do that and I will cross it off my bucket list.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 1:53
I love it. I can't wait. I love the questions that you had me think about to come with today and I'm looking over some of my answers, I like jotted down some things that I wanted to say and almost every answer has a scripture from the Old Testament. So–
Morgan Jones 2:06
Tammy Uzelac Hall 2:07
Or Hebrew or something. So, ugh. I love this. I love the scriptures so much. Oh my gosh.
Morgan Jones 2:12
Well, I know that you do and it's contagious, honestly. So before though–before we get into that, I wanted to ask you, when did you first know that you wanted to teach? And how did you become a seminary teacher?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 2:25
Oh my gosh, okay, first of all, I never wanted to be a seminary teacher ever. That was never part of my life plan. I was supposed to be a nurse. I was a nurse's aide in high school. That's how I paid for college. I could not get into a nursing program. Not–I mean, it blew my mind. No colleges would accept me. And I had all the skill set. And I even had good grades. And I just–it just didn't work out.
And then I went on a mission. I came home, I went to BYU and I was like, I just need a degree, I don't even care anymore. So I just picked some random degree that had the least amount of credits I needed, graduated, and became a social worker. And that was my life goal, like the homeless people were my people. And I loved them, and wanted to change their lives.
And so I became a social worker and did it for about nine months and realized, "Oh, yeah, I'm not good at this." Like, not–in my mind. I just figured every homeless person just needs, you know, a credit card, a job, debt–to be financially like me. And that would make life so much better. And they don't need that kind of stuff.
And so I just, I didn't really think I was in the right place. And I had a very wise Bishop of my singles ward, who one Sunday after I spoke in church, he came up to me and he said, "You should think about being a seminary teacher." And I just laughed, and I was like, "Listen, I didn't even like seminary when I was in it. So there." I mean–
Morgan Jones 3:42
I'm not going back to it.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 3:44
No, I'm not going back. And he just looked at me. And it was like that cartoon moment where the cartoon character blinks its eyes, and you can hear it go, blink, blink, because he just kind of stared at me. Like, "Why wouldn't you listen to me?" And so it was right before sacrament meeting. And I sat there and the sacrament came and I'm kind of just saying a little prayer and the thought comes, "You should just take the classes to be a seminary teacher. Just try it. That's all you have to do."
And I was like, fine, I'll just take the classes. So I did, I took them and long story short, usually takes about a year to become a seminary teacher and in six months, I had my interview with a general authority, and I was in the classroom. And that's how it started.
And then I questioned my decision, because the kids I was teaching didn't like me–I took the place of like the Julie Andrews the–what do you call it? What's that's character in the movie "Sound of Music?"
Morgan Jones 4:34
Tammy Uzelac Hall 4:36
Oh, she was the Maria of seminary teachers. And she knows I say that about her. So if you are listening, oh my gosh, she's my favorite human being Sister Boyack. That was her maiden name. Yeah, she was amazing. She even played the guitar. Like I couldn't play the guitar. Kids hated me. And I remember thinking What have I done? I made the biggest–just the worst decision I could have made and then Heavenly Father's like "Knock it off, you're where you’re supposed to be," and then yeah, eight years later, that's how long I taught. And then then I had to quit.
Morgan Jones 5:07
Yeah, well, we're going to–we're going to get into that. I will say this really quickly, I once went to the intro to seminary teaching class–
Tammy Uzelac Hall 5:15
You did it??
Morgan Jones 5:16
I made it through one class. And then I was like, "This is not for me. I'm out." So you outlasted me by eight years.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 5:25
Morgan Jones 5:25
But before we get into when you quit, you also taught–and I don't know, was this before after you quit seminary teaching, but you also taught at a women's prison, which I think this is fascinating. But I wonder what was that experience like? And what did you take away from that?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 5:42
Oh, my gosh, Morgan, it was the craziest. I mean, it is as crazy as you imagine it would be. And it was while I was a seminary teacher.
Morgan Jones 5:50
Tammy Uzelac Hall 5:50
And they were looking for people who would be willing to volunteer–occasionally that happens, the Church Education System will say, "Hey, we need somebody that can teach an institute class here," or "Come and teach in the inner city." And so I would sometimes volunteer to do that.
Morgan Jones 6:04
Tammy Uzelac Hall 6:04
And they said, "We need someone to teach at the women's prison." And I thought, well, that sounds kind of interesting. And I had the time, I was single. So I said, I would do it. And I remember my very first time going, right before I went, my heart was racing, because I did not know what to expect.
And I met with another seminary teacher who was over the program. And he said to me, this experience will change your life. I'm like, "I'm sure it will, because I'm probably going to get stabbed in the middle of my lesson." Like I had every worst-case scenario playing out in my head, you know, this is how somebody is going to get out of here, they're going to use me as a hostage–I didn't know.
And I can remember going to the first lesson, and in walk all of these inmates, all of these women, and the minute they walked in the room, I just felt this love for them. And I didn't know anything that they had done. But boy, by the time I was done teaching there, I knew everything.
And what this man had told me who had been a teacher, and even over the prison system is he said to me, I'll never forget it, he said, "You will come to understand the Atonement in a way you've never known it before." Now listen, I'd been teaching seminary for eight years, I've gone through the repentance process, I'm pretty sure I know what the Atonement's about. And after teaching at the women's prison for almost three years, I think, boy, he was right.
Because I think I truly have come to understand and believe that the Atonement–it works for everyone and everything. And to see these women who are counting on it, I mean, their very spiritual lives–and physical for that matter–they are counting on the Atonement to work. And that's what it was like, for me. It did, it changed my life.
Morgan Jones 7:46
That's beautiful. There's this episode, we had Kirby Heyborne on this, this podcast, and there was an episode of the show that he does, "Making Good" where he goes into the prison at Christmas time and it touched me so much, so I can only imagine when you're the one experiencing that on a regular basis, how that must change you. So then you were faced with kind of a big decision you decided to stop teaching when you got married?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 8:17
Yes, well, the way it worked back in the day, is there was a rule where a woman could teach seminary, and she could even teach married, but the moment she had her first child, she was required to quit. And they don't have that rule anymore. But they did at my time.
And so I remember I went to my area director and said, "Listen, I'm not having a child, do I really have to quit?" And he's like, "I don't know. That is a great question. Let me find out." And two weeks later, he called me back and said, "This one went to the top and the brethren said, 'Yes, she needs to quit,'" because I married into two little girls. And their mother had passed away, I married a widower and became Insta-mom to a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old.
And so hindsight, it was the right decision. But at the moment, it just, I mean, I was excited to get married and be a mom, but boy, I remember that first day waking up as a mom, and not going to teach and not finding my identity as a, you know, a single woman with a career and doing what I want when I want for myself. And that was a real rude awakening.
Morgan Jones 9:19
So I want to come back to the Insta-mom thing. But before we get to that you have a pretty wild story of meeting your husband. And I watched the video that you did for the Church where you told that story in preparation for this–and I had heard this story before but had forgotten about it–and so I wondered if you could tell me a little bit about that. And kind of, you know, I think it's a process when you–you were a little bit older than I am now, in terms of like when you've had a life as a single person and you actually grow to love that life, the decision to . . . you know, take that step forward. I think is a big one.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 10:01
Yeah. Oh, it absolutely was for me. I was excited and terrified at the same time. I had just purchased a home on my own because I realized, I'm probably never getting married. And so I'm just going to live my life, and–I always joke, "I'm going to become a Mormon nun, and just take care of everybody." I really am the Maria of my people. And so I actually bought a home. And my sister was recently divorced with two little kids. So I had her come live with me, and I'm just gonna take care of my family.
And I had been in the home for a little while, and it was the beginning of a new year. It was 2006. And I went to sacrament meeting, and this woman gets up to bear her testimony. And it just blew my mind because she practically ran to the podium. And she stands up there first person to bear her testimony, and she says–she takes a big deep breath–and then she says, "I don't know why I'm up here. I mean, I'm really mad at God. And I haven't prayed for a really long time. I don't know what I'm going to say."
And I just looked her and I thought, "This is so awesome. Like, who starts a testimony like that? This might be the greatest testimony I've ever heard." And she's just sobbing at the podium. And she says, "I just watched my sister die of breast cancer. And she left behind two little girls and a husband. And I don't understand why. Because we fasted and prayed that she would live. So many times we fasted and God still didn't let her stay."
And I remember at that moment, then I started crying. And I'm like, "It's so wrong. Why didn't she live? Heavenly Father, this is the saddest story I've ever heard." And I'm crying and my roommates crying, my sister's crying. And at that moment, this thought popped into my head that said, "You're going to go out with that dead woman's husband." And it really said it like that. And I thought, "Well, that's . . . okay. You know, I probably will, because I've dated the free world." So I–by virtue, you know what that's like Morgan, like, I've been set up by every student, I've dated everyone in the Tri County area, whatever, however you want to say it, I even flew to New Mexico one time for a blind date.
And now of course, the Spirit's set me up on a blind date, of course. So sacrament gets over and I go into Sunday school, and she's sitting on the back row, I've never met her. And I walk up and I say, "Hi, my name is Tammy, we've never met. But thank you for your testimony today and for being so raw and vulnerable." And she grabs my hand and says–and I quote–"I want you to go out with my dad's sister's husband."
And I was like, "Who has a pen and paper?" I could not write my number down fast enough. So I just gave it to her. And he called me on Thursday and asked me out on a date. And we went out on Saturday. And then nine months later, we got married. And that–and it's funny because he went to therapy after his wife passed away. And his therapist said, "Most men in your situation, who are widowers who had a nice marriage usually end up married within nine months to a year," and he said out loud, "Oh, yeah, that will not be me. I mean, I'm not even getting remarried."
And it really was nine months later. So I was teaching Institute at the time, which is so interesting, because during all of this while we were dating, you know this feeling Morgan, like you kind of want to believe it's real, but not really. And it's scary, did–have you felt like that through your engagement?
Morgan Jones 13:10
Well, not through the engagement. But during the dating, yes, for sure. It's like you feel like, should I let myself hope that this is the right thing? You know, I think you've become very protective of yourself.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 13:25
Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, listen, I didn't get to 34 and single by not being good at breaking up. So I knew how to play that card. Totally.
Morgan Jones 13:33
Tammy Uzelac Hall 13:33
So I was like, "It's going to end. It's just going to end, because they always end."
Morgan Jones 13:36
Tammy Uzelac Hall 13:37
And I was teaching Pearl of Great Price Institute class at LDSBC the LDS Business College, which is now Ensign college. And I was teaching Abraham chapter one. And I'm up there in front of these students. And we read verse 16. And that was the verse that changed my life. Verse 16 and verse 18, and this is what it says. So it's Abraham. And he's being told by the Lord, "You need to move," like, "You've got to take your family and get out of here because your dad just tried to kill you."
And we just had this lesson in "Come, Follow Me" this year. And Abraham's like, "I don't know what I'm going to do. What are you talking about I gotta move." And I love how at the end of verse 16, the Lord says, "You need to leave, you need to go away from your father's house and from all your kinsfolk." And then he says, "Into a strange land which thou knowest not of."
And I was like, "That is me." Like I am going into a strange land that I know nothing of. I don't know how I'm going to do this. And I started to cry during this lesson. And then we get to verse 18, where the Lord says to Abraham, "Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee." And I just thought, that is all I have to go on this like the Spirit bore witness to me at that moment, "I will lead you by my hand, you're going to be fine. Just take this leap and go into this land that you know not of and I promise you blessings."
And that was the moment for me where I was like, "I'm going to marry this guy." And it–we got engaged like two months later, but that was . . . that was the Lord saying to me "You can do this. Don't break up." Because I almost did. I almost broke up with him. Makes me laugh because he's like, "I wouldn't have come running after you." I don't get a Nicholas Sparks movie, just FYI. He's like, "I was too old for that. If you would have left me I would have been like, see you later, sister."
Morgan Jones 15:14
He's like, "I already had the Nicholas Sparks movie. Thank you very much."
Tammy Uzelac Hall 15:18
Morgan Jones 15:19
I think that that that's so cool. The scriptures have been a real source of strength to me, I think in dating as well. And so I think that's awesome. Speaking of strange lands, Tammy, you became a step mom to two little girls who were grieving the loss of their mom, which is something I can't imagine at my age. So you've been really open about how hard that transition was, what got you through that? Or what would be your advice to others who are in a similar situation?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 15:54
Well, first of all, strange land is a perfect word to describe that, because what in the world. I can remember truly–the first day that my husband went to work and left me with the two little girls, I organized the spice cupboard. That was the highlight of my day. That was like the most productive I felt I had been–I didn't consider raising kids as productive. It just hadn't even registered in my brain that that was something that was important. It was just like I'm babysitting all day, and then I cleaned a house.
And so it was really hard. So hard, in fact that . . . I mean, the first couple of years, it took a while for the oldest daughter Anna to call me "Mom," which is fine. It should. It was really, really weird. And then our second daughter, she has mild cerebral palsy. I can remember at one point, she said to her older sister, "Why don't you just call Tammy 'mom,' like, what's your deal? Why won't you just say, 'mom'?" And Anna's like, "Because I'm not ready to yet."
And my husband said to the younger daughter who has cerebral palsy, "Well, why do you call her mom?" And she said, "Because Mom only has three letters. And Tammy has a lot more." That's the best like I love that. That's great. Yeah, mom's only three letters much easier to say, it's only one syllable.
So I think a lot of my pride got in the way. And I was a brat. I'll just say it, like, I just was. It was really hard. And I had a couple of little temper tantrums along the way where I thought single was so much easier. And it was. And these kids aren't obeying me and they don't love me and they love their mom more than me–well, of course they do.
And it kind of became this battle where in my mind, the thoughts came, "They should love you more, you do more for her than their mom is doing right now because she's passed away." And Satan really did do a number on me to the point where I became really depressed and sad.
And thought–and that's in the video Morgan that you saw. It's on YouTube, you can just type in the thing "Mormon Channel–Tammy," and it will show my video where I really went into my closet and started crying to Heavenly Father and I just said, "I gotta get out of here. Like, I cannot do this anymore. This is not what I signed up for. And I'm a terrible mom. And these girls hate me and I don't like them. This isn't going to work out."
And my husband came home from work and found me in the closet. I don't know how long I'd been there. In my mind. I'm like, "There I was a couple of minutes, but I may have been there for a couple hours." Alright, Morgan, I'm not going to lie. It was awful.
And he walked in the closet. He's like, "What's going on?" And I stood up and I'm just sobbing. And I just said, "I can't do this anymore. Like I have to leave. I don't think I'm cut out." And I just started, you know, sobbing and crying. And of course, in my mind, I'm looking for a quick getaway, and what clothes am I going to pack and what am I going to need, and I probably need cash, you know, like everything in my head.
And I cried, and my husband just looked at me, and he put his hand out to shake my hand and he said, "Well, I want to thank you for giving it a shot."
Morgan Jones 18:43
Tammy Uzelac Hall 18:43
And while most people think that is the rudest answer, I laughed so hard, because that is my favorite thing about my husband, he makes me laugh every single day. And we laughed, and then he hugged me. He's like, "You're a great mom. You're going to figure this out. Of course. It's hard. He's like, it's hard for me too, being a dad. I mean, parenting is the worst."
And he just really empathized and I decided to take it to scripture, and I just started reading all the different ways to feel the Spirit because I felt like I hadn't felt the Spirit in a long time. And I went to Galatians, 5:22 and 23 that lists all the fruits of the Spirit. And two words stood out to me–long suffering and gentleness. And the Lord was like, "You need that." And so I have prayed for long suffering and gentleness, probably every day of being a mom. Even after having my own two children who I thought it'd be so much easier to raise–yeah, it's not. They're all horrible, just FYI.
So I just–I needed long suffering and gentleness and I think that the Spirit has helped me to be a better mom and to be a better me, because Morgan you lose yourself. It's really kind of scary to be you and be awesome and be Morgan, and then you have kids and you're not Morgan anymore. You're a syllable word, you're "Mom." I know you should find all of your–you know you should find everything about life so beautiful in that but it's not–it wasn't for me, like I missed that. I missed single me. I still do sometimes. She's a really great gal.
Morgan Jones 20:07
Yeah. Well, I think you do such a good job of describing that and that experience. And I think people have probably picked up on this already in this conversation, but there are two things that I love about you, Tammy. And I think they're things other people love about you, and why they listen to you on "Sunday on Monday," is because you're funny, and you're honest. And I think that those two things are really refreshing. And I wondered, why do you think those two things, humor and honesty, are so important in our efforts to be disciples of Christ? Or why have they been important to you?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 20:46
That's such a good question. You know, it really is one of my–laughter is my love language, for sure. And I know, it's not one of them in the five love languages, I made it up. But if people can make me laugh, I will love you automatically. And I just think laughter comes by way of being honest and laughing at ourselves.
I think if we can really just be transparent about who we are and what we're struggling with, and talk about it in an honest way, and then we can laugh at ourselves, then I think it allows for us to do the same for other people when they're stupid. And so when people do things that annoy me, I can just go–wait a minute, let's just be honest about who they are and let's laugh at that and let it go. We're all human. And I think that is what is so important about just the honesty, the rawness and I really like people that are like that.
Morgan Jones 21:33
Well, I think–I think it's like grace. Like that allows you to give people grace, right?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 21:39
Yeah. Oh yeah.
Morgan Jones 21:39
And then–and that's a huge part, I think of being a disciple of Christ, and then being open ourselves. Anyway, I think those things are super important. Okay–
Tammy Uzelac Hall 21:52
If you have friends that are like that, it makes your friendship so much more meaningful, because then really–gosh, you just get to know who they are. And then you know how to help them and you cannot bear someone's burden without literally reaching down and picking up a part of that cross.
Like when you're making someone's burdens light, you have felt that bar like–and Fiona Givens taught this to me, you have felt the cross that they carry. You know the ridges in it. You know where the nails are, or whatever. And so, getting to know someone on that level, when you can be transparent and really know what they're going through, it allows for a level of service–I really struggled with that when I first got married. I thought, how will my husband ever love me the way he loved Michelle? Like he carried her cross all those years with cancer. And, and I've learned he can. He can carry multiple crosses. He's an incredible human being.
Morgan Jones 22:45
Tammy Uzelac Hall 22:46
Morgan Jones 22:47
Another thing that I wanted to make sure that we talked about, like I said, I've been hanging on to this is this love for Hebrew. So you–if anybody has listened to "Sunday on Monday," they know that you love Hebrew, and that you've taught listeners a lot about Hebrew. When did this interest develop for you? Like, when did you first think, Oh, I think I should study this?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 23:15
Well, I didn't. My friend Sharon who's on the podcast, she came up to me one day in church after sacrament, and she punched me in the arm and said, "Hey, I think you should take a Hebrew class with me," which was so out of like–take Hebrew? What? That is absurd. I've got four little kids at home. I'm not taking Hebrew.
Morgan Jones 23:33
“With what time, Sharon?”
Tammy Uzelac Hall 23:35
Yeah, thank you. With what time? And what means, by the way. It's gonna cost me quite a bit of money, like a chunk of change. Even though my husband he jokes, he makes a decent wage, and he does, but still, in my mind, in my single mind, Morgan, you are going to just–that's gonna be so weird. When you don't make your own money. I'm just giving you a heads up.
Morgan Jones 23:51
Okay, got it. [Laughter]
Tammy Uzelac Hall 23:52
It's our money now? What? So I'm like, how am I going to earn the money? Of course, my husband is going to pay for it. So she tells me how much it is. And I said, "I'll think about it." And I talked to my husband. And he's like, "Yeah, you should totally do it." It's every Thursday night for two hours, I think, or three. And I agreed, because I thought, You know what, I'm going to get out of the house for three hours. I don't care what I'm studying.
Morgan Jones 24:16
Tammy Uzelac Hall 24:17
I always joke, "I don't care if you teach me how to hotwire a car. I'm getting out of here. Like, let me go." And that's why I said yes. Because it was just a 40-minute drive down to the Jewish Community Center talking with this beautiful woman, Sharon, who is much wiser–she's older than I, she has a PhD, and those of you who've listened to the podcast, you know her.
Morgan Jones 24:36
She's very smart.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 24:37
Oh, she's so smart. And she's in her–I think she's, well she's in her 80's now, but she started taking Hebrew with me when she was 73. I mean, how about that? And so, yeah, that's how I started. She invited me I said yes. And we started at the Jewish Community Center.
Morgan Jones 24:52
And the first class that you took was from a Jewish rabbi, so tell me, like two Latter-day Saints women walk in to a Jewish Community Center. It sounds like a joke, so tell me how it felt walking into that class?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 25:09
Well, so our first two classes, they were really short. And they were the Jewish Community Center. And it just wasn't cutting it. Like it wasn't what we were looking for, like all I learned was the alphabet and barely even learned it.
So then Sharon kept looking. And she found a Hebrew class that was actually at a synagogue. And so, yeah, so she signed up for it and we went to this one in Salt Lake, and we did, we had a rabbi, and he was young. And we walked in, and I just like, my jaw dropped. I just thought–I am. . . It's kind of weird. I almost felt a little bit like I was home with my people in a weird way.
I always joke if I wasn't LDS, I would for sure be Jewish. It's the most beautiful faith, I love it. And I just loved learning from him and hearing his stories. And he was a little bit quirky. He was a lot younger, I think he was in his 20s, newly married and he is kind of in the line to take over for his father, who's the head rabbi–the rabbi, I guess, here in Salt Lake.
Beautiful people, but to just hear him teach us and tell stories and I felt like I could ask him any question, and he would answer. And he just was a hoot, like, and in fact, he'd teach us and then he'd finish the lesson and walk right into his office, like the show was over, "That's all folks." And then he would leave. And those of us in the class would look around at each other and say, "Well, I guess that's it." "That's it, okay." And then we'd go home, and then come back the next week, and learn more Hebrew from him.
So that's really what got us started. That's–he made a connection for me, he made the alphabet finally become real. And that was when I thought, "Okay, I'm doing this," like, "I'm really going to study Hebrew." And that was about six years ago, that she and I took that class when I thought, "I'm in."
Morgan Jones 26:48
Tammy Uzelac Hall 26:48
And then after studying for a few years, I had an interesting experience. So we studied–there's really nobody to take Hebrew with in Utah, other than this rabbi, and he just taught a basic intro to Hebrew. And we had been praying that we would be able to find someone who could teach us Hebrew.
There's a class at BYU you could take but it's intense. It's six weeks, you have to commit to a morning, class and afternoon, you're all day down on campus, and I couldn't leave my family. And I went to a breakfast with a friend of mine. She came into town from Indiana, and she invited all these friends of hers to come to a morning breakfast.
So I knew everybody at the breakfast. And I'm sitting next to this woman who I actually had never met. And I was like, "You're a friend of Sandy?" Like, "I know all of Sandy's friends." And her name is Mandy. And she says, "Yeah, I'm Mandy." And my friend Holly at the table said, "Oh, Tammy, you're gonna love knowing Mandy. Mandy just got back from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, studying Hebrew."
And I looked at her and I said, "Will you teach me Hebrew?" And she said, "Yeah, of course." So then she became my new Hebrew teacher, Mandy Greene. I mean, it's just amazing how God sent her there to learn Hebrew, so she could teach us, and now she's teaching beginning Hebrew to everybody that wants it. People that listen. And then she introduced me to Dr. Carli Anderson, who has a PhD in Hebrew. And now she teaches advanced Hebrew.
And I think it's amazing because the Spirit said to me one day, "You're either in or you're out, Tammy." Like, "Are you really going to study Hebrew? You've got to get serious about this." And I was like, "Yes, Heavenly Father. I'm really going to study it. I am." And he says, "Okay, you need to make that decision right now." And I said, "I'm in. I'm going to study Hebrew." And then I had Hebrew class that afternoon with Carli. And Dr. Anderson said, "Alright, you guys, you just need to know we're at a crossroads with Hebrew. At this moment, you have to decide are you going to be in or out? Because from this point on, it gets hard."
And I thought that was so interesting, that the Spirit had warned me. And then she said, because at this point, it gets hard. And I'm like, "What? Because it's been hard for the past five years, but alright, so." Yeah, I made a commitment. Like I'm really doing this. So it's a lifelong study. I don't think I'll ever . . . Carli says nobody ever gets perfect at it, so that made me feel a lot better.
Morgan Jones 28:52
So how much time would you say you devote on like a weekly basis to this study?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 28:59
I mean, every day. Every day there is a study for about an hour of either scriptural Hebrew or just doing assignments that we get from Carli, we meet with her every two weeks. And yeah, just memorizing vocabulary, figuring out verb forms. It's–the alphabet takes forever, though. That was the hardest part for sure. But once you get that alphabet down, it just comes alive. It's so fun.
Morgan Jones 29:22
So cool. So, I wondered if you could share a few examples of Hebrew words that when understood, change our understanding of things that we've learned in the scriptures?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 29:37
For sure. My first word that I loved the most was Elohim. Because I've–and I've shared this before in some videos, but growing up as a child, I really thought Elohim was God's first name. Like Steve, Jim, Rick, whatever. And when I learned that Elohim is the Hebrew word for God's–plural, because that I at the 'Im' ending on a Hebrew word is a plural it's how you make the word plural.
And when I learned that Elohim means Gods, it's–oh my gosh, it just opened the whole world of female inclusion like finally women have a place in this Godhead. Like our religion allows for that in the temple, but to have a word in print in my Bible, "In the beginning, the Gods organized the heavens and the earth." And that the Pearl of Great Price corroborates that it says, "The gods created." And so I just, I loved learning that word. Elohim. Huge for me.
The other word was 'peculiar.' Because I had always thought when we say we're a peculiar people that we're weirdos, and then to realize in Hebrew, it's 'segullah,' which means owned, or precious. And that's how I have always thought God thought of me was that I was His precious, because that's what my dad says about me all the time.
And I loved that because I thought, "Oh, yeah, I've always known that. That God thinks I'm precious. I like that more than being a weirdo."
Morgan Jones 30:59
Yeah, who wouldn't?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 31:01
Not that being a weirdo is bad, but I'd rather be segullah, for sure. So those are two Hebrew words that definitely have struck me the most. But just reading through everything, and when you read the Old Testament, I mean, this year has been so much fun to read the Old Testament, and then read it in Hebrew and go, wait, what?
That word–I mean, here's my last favorite word, the word virtue. Because virtue my whole life has meant chastity, or morality, or modesty. But in Hebrew and in Greek, it actually means strength, or power. And so when I went and studied the proverb of a virtuous woman, when I taught that as a seminary teacher, you know, I'd go through all those verses and say, "Oh, look, here, she's thrifty. She never goes to sleep. She makes her own clothes. She's a great cook, she serves the homeless, she's not afraid of the snow." And then I studied it in Hebrew, and it is none of that–it's completely 100%, about a powerful woman who's filled with Christ's power because of covenants that she keeps. And the husband that she's married to is Christ. Like, it's so cool. Yeah, I love it.
Morgan Jones 32:08
So cool. So I will say this, Tammy has done a couple of videos for LDS Living, that tie into this part of our conversation. So I'll make sure that we put that in our show notes. And then, Tammy, you have a new book that's all about this idea of virtue, right?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 32:25
Yes! Yes. Yes, I'm so excited because I've been writing it for seven years. Because I took the proverb of a virtuous woman and defined what it really means. And so I always joke, it's like that Princess Bride line from the big giant when he says, "I don't think it means what you think it means." I think the spirit said that to me when I–after I got married, I went back and read the proverb because I'm like, "Okay, I'm finally married. Now I'm virtuous."
And when I read it, I closed the scriptures, and I slowly walked away. I'm like, yeah, I don't want to be virtuous anymore. That is way too much work. And so it's just this, it's actually the most beautiful poem. It's a poem, Morgan. That's what's so cool. It is a poem. It's an acrostic poem. And those are the poems we wrote as little kids where you'd write your name down the side of a paper, and then each letter, you would have be a word. It's an acrostic poem, but it's the Hebrew alphabet, beginning with the first letter, ending with the last, and every verse starts with the letter.
And it is–they did it that way, some scholars believe as an easy way to memorize because this is amazing–every Sabbath in the Jewish faith, men sing that proverb to their wives. . . . but then, I think how about how sad for those wives because they're under all this pressure to be perfect.
Morgan Jones 33:34
Tammy Uzelac Hall 33:34
But if they knew it was about a relationship with Adonai, Jehovah, it would change everything. So yeah, I'm super excited for people to read and I just want women to have access to this information.
Morgan Jones 33:44
Yeah. Well, I think it's, I think that's so, so cool.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 33:48
Morgan Jones 33:49
How would you say–so as we're in the thick of "Come, Follow Me" with the Old Testament, how would you say that understanding Hebrew not only enhances a study of the Old Testament, but also of the other books–because Old Testament's the last one that we're doing, and then we start over again, right. And so how would you say that it enhances the entire canon of scripture that we read as Latter-day Saints?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 34:16
Oh, my gosh, okay. Well, Old Testament is obvious, because it was originally written in Hebrew. So it just makes sense that we'd study it. The New Testament's in Greek so that's going to be fun, because there will be Hebrew and Greek that you're going to want to know for New Testament, but then you get to Book of Mormon and you're like, "Alright, well, that's in English."
And I think it's so fascinating to me, because, like there's a great scripture in Mormon chapter 9, verse 33, okay, I loved this, I'm just gonna have to share this really quick.
Morgan Jones 34:40
Tammy Uzelac Hall 34:41
Because it's Moroni speaking, okay, and he's writing and this is what he says in Mormon. In Mormon, chapter 9, verse 33, Moroni says this, "And if our plates had been sufficiently large, we should have written in Hebrew, but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also. And if we could have written in Hebrew, behold you would have had no imperfections in our record." Like he wanted to, but we didn't.
But that's why when you read the Book of Mormon, there are so many Hebrew-isms or Hebraisms, as Don Parry calls it. In fact, Don Parry has the greatest book, you can get it on Deseret Book, and it is called Preserved in Translation, and if you want to know all the cool things in the Book of Mormon, that point to the Hebrew language–get this book.
Because one of my favorite ones that I love is in Helaman chapter three, verse 14. In that verse, if you go and highlight all the "ands," there are 18 "ands" in one verse. It's crazy. You would never write like that in English, your teacher would kill you.
Morgan Jones 35:41
It's like a serious run-on.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 35:43
Oh, the longest run-on sentence in the world, and Oliver Cowdery would have known that. He would have been like, "Uh, Joseph, should we just put a comma here and call it a day?" And Joseph's like, "No, write the 'and,' give me a comma, write an 'and.'" So 18 "ands" in one verse. Well, in Hebrew, they don't have commas. They use an ‘and.’ Like, it's a little letter, that means ‘and’ it's a vav.
And so in Hebrew, it would have been a vav every time they meant for a comma. And so isn't that awesome? How here's the Book of Mormon with this Hebrew structure that no way Joseph would have known, and so there's just little things like that throughout the Book of Mormon, that make it–for me–made it come alive when I was like, "Oh, my gosh. The Church is true. Joseph Smith is a prophet. He could not have written this."
Well, after trying to write a book and you know this Morgan, after writing your book, didn't you think, "How did Joseph Smith do this in less than 90 days?"
Morgan Jones 36:31
Tammy Uzelac Hall 36:32
I can't even understand how someone could write a book, he could not have been that brilliant to do something so perfect. So I–that is why it's so important to know these Hebrew words, because if it were written in Hebrew, it would have been, there's a lot of cool Hebrew linguistic styles and themes in the Book of Mormon. But then when you find out what words mean, in the Book of Mormon, in Hebrew, it adds so much more depth and richness. Plus, there's so much Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, you need to know the Hebrew. That's my plug for Hebrew.
Morgan Jones 36:59
It's so fascinating. I think it's so cool. And I love that you've, you know, devoted your time because time . . . time is a commodity. And there are a lot of things that we could do with time that, you know, good things, but I love that this is the thing that you've chosen to devote that time to.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 37:18
Morgan Jones 37:20
One thing Tammy, that you've talked about on "Sunday on Monday" is the power that lies in studying scriptures together with others. Why do you believe–and this is what you give people, I think that's the cool thing about "Sunday on Monday," and I love–occasionally I notice on my Facebook feed, I'll notice like, you know, these discussions that are being had on the "Sunday on Monday" Facebook page, and you always engage in them. And I think it's so cool that you're giving people a space where maybe they don't have neighbors or friends that they feel comfortable studying scripture with but you're giving that space. So why do you believe that it's so important to study the scriptures together with others? And how have you experienced that power in your own life?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 38:09
That's a great question, Morgan. I think of a woman who just recently sent me a message saying that she loves the podcast, but that her Catholic friend listens to the podcast, and has been learning about the Old Testament and has come to love it.
And I think what–the reason why that's possible is because of that scripture. And it's in Doctrine and Covenants section six, verse 32–yeah, I did write it down right. Very good. I'm like, is that right? Yeah–Doctrine and Covenants, Section six, verse 32, that says, "Where two or three are gathered together, in my name, touching on one thing, Behold, I will be in the midst of them."
And that one thing is Christ, how can He not be there? Every time we're talking about Jesus–and this year, I've challenged all of my listeners to find Jesus in the Old Testament, and to talk more about Jesus. It's such–it brings everyone together, no matter what religion you are, Jesus unites everybody. And so if you can find friends and people that you can talk about with and talk about Jesus, it's so cool, that promise that the Spirit will be there.
And I've witnessed that time and time again, every time on the podcast. It has been an incredible experience. So that's why I think I just love that promise. I'm counting on that promise?
Morgan Jones 39:23
Yes. Yes, and I think we should, why wouldn't Heavenly Father be somewhere that people are trying to draw closer to Him? Especially when they're doing it together? And so I think that is–that's really beautiful. And what a cool thing to be able to facilitate for people. So thank you for all the hard work that you put into that.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 39:43
It's just such an easy ask, like, if there's anyone out there listening who wants a friend or needs to find a group or wants to find their people and you feel lonely, just ask somebody at Church, "Do you want to study the scriptures with me?" like form your own group. That's how we've done it. That's how this whole thing got started.
Was that a woman reached out to me–Holly, she's been on the podcast–and said, "Will you come and teach me your seminary lesson on Thursdays?" And then she invited women from her ward, and since then we have become this group we're called "Bible study," we've been friends for over 20 years and we're called, "Bible study." And so, get your Bible study together and study the Scriptures.
And that's what we would say, "Welcome to Bible study," and she'd make us a mint julep or a Totino's pizza roll, and we would just study the scriptures together for one hour. And kids were running–it was chaos. Kids were everywhere, we have pictures of them with marker all over themselves, because they drew on themselves while we studied the scriptures, and it was totally worth it.
Morgan Jones 40:38
Tammy Uzelac Hall 40:39
Morgan Jones 40:40
I love that plug. So thank you for putting that in. Because I think other Church's like–other churches do Bible study.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 40:47
Morgan Jones 40:48
A lot. And I think it's kind of outside of our comfort zone. We're like, oh, we go to Sunday school, or we have Relief Society activities, but like forming your own group, there's a lot of value in it.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 41:00
Oh, so much value. And let your kids run around, throw 'em some crackers, give them some juice.
Morgan Jones 41:06
They'll be fine.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 41:06
They'll be fine, totally. Sharpie eventually comes off.
Morgan Jones 41:11
Exactly. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to be with me. My last question for you is what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Tammy Uzelac Hall 41:22
Oh, my gosh, I love that question, Morgan. And I love that's the theme of your podcast. And I've loved answers that guests have given. And that's my favorite part. I almost sometimes just go to the end so I can hear what that person has to say, like the ending of a book. And then I go back and listen.
Morgan Jones 41:35
I don't blame you for that.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 41:36
Yeah. Like I want to know why they're all in, and then hear their story.
Morgan Jones 41:39
Tammy Uzelac Hall 41:40
For me being all in, I just . . . I just believe. That is my spiritual gift. And I remember in college, someone tried to convince me that it was a weakness. And then I read it's a spiritual gift in the scriptures. I've just always believed and I'm all in and this year as we have studied Abraham, I thought it was so interesting that in Abraham chapter 17, the Lord commands Abraham, it says, "Be ye therefore perfect," but the word perfect in Hebrew is Tamim. And it means whole or complete.
But the root, Tam, remember we said, Im, is plural. Tam, "T-A-M," comes from a Hebrew root word that means integrity. And I think in that verse, the Lord isn't so much saying to Abraham, "I need you to be perfect." I think he's saying, "Abraham, are you all in right now? Yes, you're 100% right. I haven't given you everything I told you I would. You're right. You're old and your wife hasn't had any children yet. Isaac isn't born." He hasn't inherited his land of inheritance. He hasn't been delivered from his enemies, like the Lord promised him clear back when he was being offered as a sacrifice.
And Abraham's paying his tithings, he's trying to do what's right. And he's frustrated, because in chapter 15, of Genesis, he says to the Lord, "Look, you haven't even given me posterity. Should I just make Eliezer, my servant–should he be the person that gets everything if I die? Because I don't know what else to do."
And the Lord's just like, "You know what, Abraham, I get it. It's hard." And then he says to him in 17, "I just need to know though, are you all in? Are you really going to do this? Because I promise if you do, you will be blessed. You know that, I've said it to you over and over and over again."
And I almost feel like he's saying it in a way where he's like, "I'm letting you choose. It doesn't matter. You don't have to be all in. I just need to know right now. Are you all in? And I promise you blessings."
And I love that–I feel like Abraham's like " . . . . I'm in. Alright, Sarah, and I are in." And it will be after that, that everything happens that he's finally able to have children. And I think it's interesting because Abraham never will see the fulfillment of the promises in his life.
And so many of us can relate to that, like, "Really, Heavenly Father? Because you promised me great things, and I'm not there yet." And I just think sometimes the Lord's like, "I'm commanding you to be tamim. Like, are you going to do this? Are you going to be all in because if you are, boy, I promise you really great things."
And they're going to be a lot of moments where we sigh. And there were for me when I first was married, I was like, "I don't know if I want to do this anymore. This is hard." And the Lord was like, "I know. But are you all in? Are you going to do this?"
And there have been times in my life spiritually speaking–I am a believer, but there's some moments where you're like, "Oh, I don't know. This is hard." And I just think back to the Abraham example this year and I think that's what we need to just think about. Am I all in? I'm in. I'm in, I'm a lifer, Morgan. I'm all in. And I just think that's important for us to just think about and know.
And you know what, the Lord has continued to bless me and never in the way that I thought. Never the way that I was like, "Oh, that's how it's going to play out." But it's actually always been better. God really does do more with us than we could do for ourselves. So I think that's what all in is about, is realizing that. That the Lord is going to take you further than you could take yourself. He's going to do more for you than you would do for yourself. And those are the blessings of being all in, so.
Morgan Jones 45:00
That's one of my favorite things is thinking about how much more God can make of us than we can make of ourselves. So I love that you–I love that you touched on that. I love that Abraham example and just thank you so much Tammy for taking the time to be with me.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 45:15
Thank you, Morgan. This was so fun. Oh my gosh, I love it.
Morgan Jones 45:20
Such a blast.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 45:20
I love it. So thank you, friend. And thank you for being on my podcast. For those of you listening, go find Morgan because she's on–one with Michael Wilcox, which is so good.
Morgan Jones 45:28
The one with Michael Wilcox is really good, it's not because of me. So let's just be clear about that.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 45:34
Yeah but you were on one of the earliest episodes ever Book of Mormon year, remember? We just threw you in the gauntlet. You didn't even know you were doing it. We're like, "Morgan. We need another voice." And you just stepped in last minute and you were awesome.
Morgan Jones 45:44
Oh, you're very sweet. Thank you.
Tammy Uzelac Hall 45:46
Thank you. Thank you.
Morgan Jones 45:48
We are so grateful to Tammy Uzelac Hall for joining us on today's episode. You can find Tammy's new book Far Above Rubies and Deseret Book stores now. You can also spend time with Tammy every week by listening to "Sunday on Monday," exclusively available on one of the most used apps on my phone, Deseret Bookshelf Plus.
Thanks to Derek Campbell for his help with this episode. And thank you so much for listening. We'll be with you again next week.