They are stories that took place thousands of years ago—stories that, at times, feel so removed from our present day that we feel we just can’t relate. But as she studied the Old Testament in 2022, the same year her world got rocked by a cancer diagnosis, Anne Bednar found that those stories came alive. And the people in them? They weren’t all that different from her. They faced challenges that were not unlike her diagnosis with cancer or her son’s battle with a chronic illness.
On this week’s episode of All In, Anne helps us see just how applicable the scriptures can be to our unique life circumstances if we take the time to study their pages.
The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones Pearson: In May, you began sharing these things that you were learning as it applied to what you were going through. And for me, it was really cool, because I was teaching early morning seminary, and every time I would look at the lesson, I was just like, “Oh boy, this is quite the story.” And then I would read what you had gained from the reading, and I just thought, “OK, it is applicable to whatever it is that we're going through.” And so I wondered if you could share maybe two to three of these takeaways that you've gained from this year's Come, Follow Me.
Anne Bednar: Sure. It's interesting because I feel like so often we hear about someone's connection with scripture, and how it relates to a trial or a tragedy in their life after that trial has passed. And so I found it so freeing and so inspiring to put my thoughts to paper or to words through Instagram, which is fairly out of character for me to do that to share myself like that, but I feel like I've struggled silently before and I would have given anything to connect with someone who is turning to the Savior in their struggle, and in their trial. So for me, it was just a beautiful place to share what I what I was learning.
But the first takeaway I think that I am so grateful for [is] about a scripture, that my son, Sam, who at the time was eight, was given to prepare a talk in primary. It was a scripture found in Genesis 50:20, and the setting for this is Joseph speaking with his brothers after so much has transpired. They [had] left him for dead and he returns and the scripture says “God meant it unto good,” and just how beautiful that concept is.
At the time, I joked with the secretary of Primary, and thought, "Wow, that seems like a little elevated topic for an eight year old to wrap their head around." But at the same time, as I prepared with him, and I talked about his lung disease with him, and then how God has turned that into good for him and for our entire family, I realized that is such a foundational principle for all of us. And it's something I found threaded throughout the Old Testament, that God has the power to turn whatever we face in our life, good and bad, into something that's beautiful and can make far more out of ourselves through that trial if we turn to Him in that. All that they suffered on that long journey, and even after, prepared them for something that was greater. I've been so grateful for that key learning.
Tied with that was an experience I had as a nurse on a night shift; I distinctly remember this. My friend was sitting out at the table after I exited a room of a patient with cystic fibrosis, and I kind of got teary because I was so sad at all this young child had to experience. I asked [my friend] what her greatest fears were in life, and she then asked me the same question. I vividly remember saying, "I fear having a child with cystic fibrosis." And I also said, "I fear having the diagnosis of cancer as a young mom." And as I think back on those responses, and those fears that I had [and we have] similar trials, my son has ciliary dyskinesia, which is very similar to cystic fibrosis. I've seen him suffer in the hospital, just like I saw that child suffer that night. And I've seen how [God has] turned two of my greatest fears into some of my greatest teachers. And I'm so grateful for how those trials have refined me and shaped me. I'm so grateful for that.
Morgan Jones Pearson: It's always so interesting to me, that idea of the thing that we're the most afraid of often being the thing that happens. Ann Romney was on this podcast, and she talked about her friend, and I'm forgetting her name, but she and her sister had had a conversation years earlier, where they had this discussion about what would be the worst thing that you can imagine happening to you. And fast forward, both of those things happen to each of them. And it's just interesting to me because I think sometimes those things that we're most afraid of are the things that we're actually prepared for, and the things that we can actually handle despite the fact that we think we wouldn't be able to handle them. And I love that scripture in Genesis and the idea that everything that we experience, everything that God allows us to experience, is meant for our good. Okay, takeaway number two?
Anne Bednar: Really quick—just to add to that last one—I feel like the Spirit uniquely caters to those fears in a way. … I fear for other people when they're experiencing the worst in their lives, but I've seen how the Spirit uniquely caters to me in helping me through those trials.
So anyway … I feel like the scripture in Jacob where it talks about sanctifying yourselves for tomorrow, the Lord will do wonders among you—I firmly believe that.
The second concept that that rang true for me throughout the Old Testament was the concept of faith over fear. I think about Elisha, and that experience where the concept of "they that be with us are greater than they that be with them" or with Gideon and his army as they faced an army far greater than theirs, the Midianites. And yet God stripped even more members of [Gideon's] army that he thought he needed to fight. And I think about how in that stripping, God was able to work a miracle for that army—and they were victorious. In the stripping, we rely on that daily manna that it talks about in the Old Testament. We rely on obedience and that constant sustenance and sustaining food that comes spiritually from God when we turn to him daily. And so I love that concept threaded throughout.
And then also the pillar of light and the fire that came at night and the clouds that came during the day to guide them. And I can attest that those pillars of light and those clouds have come in this process of being diagnosed with cancer. And through many experiences as young mom, as I've turned to the Lord, I have seen how he has guided my footsteps just as he did the children of Israel.
I met a couple at a BYU dinner shortly after my son Sam was born. And they have three children, one who had passed away from cystic fibrosis and two others who were still living. And I asked them what they would teach me, and they said, "Don't make decisions about your family based on fear." And that has never left me. …
In the decision to get pregnant, we had a 1 in 4 chance that that child would have this disease. And we tried so hard to prayerfully make those decisions out of faith, with faith, instead of in fear. So I'm so grateful for those examples in the Old Testament that remind us that we have an army far greater than we can see, helping us along the way.
In the Old Testament, Moses asked the question, Who am I? And at the time, Moses is a man without a home, he doubted his own capabilities, he was slow of speech. And I often feel like I'm slow of speech and can't find the words to articulate how I feel. But I resonated so much with the self-doubt of so many characters in the Bible. In the Old Testament, in particular, I think of Noah, I think of Ruth, so many women, Ruth, Rahab, Esther, I think of Jonah and Jeremiah, all these characters in the Old Testament who had fear, they had misgivings about whether or not they could fulfill what God had commanded them to. And yet, God made so much more of themselves than they could make of themselves. And Moses, through his journey with the Israelites, I truly came to feel like he was a friend, and I knew he was going to die. I mean, we all know he was gonna die. But I felt like I was mourning the loss of a friend as he goes up onto that mountain and is not able to see usher in the Israelites to the promised land, that was so sad for me.
And yet, I loved the beautiful transition of him from mortality to immortality in that he recognized his need to move on and the need for someone else to take over. And he was so humble in that transition. And none of us know how our lives will pan out or how they're going to end. And I think about how I especially don't know what my second chapter is going to look like or at what point I will transfer from mortality when I die. But I feel like we can seek and expect miracles like President Nelson encouraged us to, just like these prophets. And know that just as prophets in the Old Testament they sought for heavenly help, we too can seek for heavenly help and see with eternal eyes and a new perspective.