18: The Roots of Faith
Stories in this episode: An extraordinary lesson from her family history helps Sister Linda K. Burton find the right words to minister to the women of the Relief Society when she is called as president; Deserey is called to be the Family History specialist in her single adult ward and receives a special spiritual confirmation from her father beyond the veil about the value of her calling.
KARYN LAY: Did you know that reviews on iTunes help new people find the podcasts that inspire you most? Well, they do. So if you found something valuable in the stories that we share on This Is The Gospel, would you take a minute to rate our podcast and maybe even leave us a review on iTunes? Every written review helps us to show up in the search results for more people who could use a little bit of storytelling magic in their week. We really appreciate it. Welcome to This is the Gospel. An LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay.
A few years ago, I got a phone call from my grandma who we call Nanny. And it was routine stuff. She was telling me all the details for the upcoming family party. So I took notes. I wrote it all down like a dutiful granddaughter and I hung up the phone. About five minutes later, the phone rang again. And it was Nanny. So I assumed she was calling because she had forgotten something. And instead, she proceeded to tell me the exact same thing she had said five minutes earlier, almost word for word. When I hung up the phone, I sort of laughed about it. Because in my family, we have a tradition of finding the humor in just about everything, but it didn't take long for the weight of that phone conversation to settle in. Not long after that nanny was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and it didn't take long for her short term memory, her long term memory, and her ability to communicate clearly, to disintegrate. It was around this time that I also got my very first iPhone. I'm a late adopter. So it took me a little while to get one. But when I did, I realized that it had this app, the voice memo app, and all I would have to do is push a button and It would record anything. So I started to record everything. I would take that iPhone and put it in the middle of the room during family parties, and push the record button, just to try to capture whatever I could. I was looking for stories. I wanted to make sure that even though my grandmother's memory was going away, the stories that she had, wouldn't. As you can imagine, sometimes I got stories. Sometimes I got grocery lists, and sometimes I got testimony and other times I got the tail end of a phone conversation. My hunger for the routine and the mundane have made me a bit of an indiscriminate recorder but honestly, I just didn't want to miss anything. And I'd like to think that I was actually rewarded especially when recently I stumbled upon this little story from my mom.
KARYN'S MOM: Big box that we used to keep up in the storage closet for like in the wintertime our summer clothes went in the box. In the summertime, our winter clothes went in the box. And whenever I would get into trouble, I would go up there and go in that closet and hide under the clothes and cry. And I just be like, "They're never gonna find me." And then I'd be Which house are you talking about?
The one in Middletown. That we added on to on Aspen Street. And I'd be up there singing the song."Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me so I'll eat worms. Big ones, fat ones, small ones, skinny ones. Oh, how I'll eat worms. I'll bite their heads off, suck the juice out, throw the skins away. I don't see how birds can stand them for three meals a day."And the kids would come in that closet and they'd go, "She must be in here. I know she must be in here. Sue? Sue?"And I was just quiet as a mouse. And then they go out and I'd laugh quietly and say, "They didn't find me."
KARYN"S AUNT: Oh my goodness, oh, it's funny how you probably don't even—
KARYN: I am so glad that I captured that moment of unbridled laughter from my Nanny, especially now that she can't remember who I am most days. There's also this really cool little snippet of audio where I caught my mom and my aunt and my grandparents telling the story of their trip to Idaho Falls to receive their temple blessings and to be sealed together as a family a few years after my family converted to the gospel. You will hear my aunt on the phone, in the background, trying to find a place to get scrapple for me. And if you don't know what scrapple is, please don't look it up. You will not think more highly of me after you find out what it is. Anyway, here's the story.
KARYN'S MOM: This year we're actually going to Idaho Falls temple. We had a station wagon
KARYN'S AUNT: ...someplace that has scrapple...
KARYN'S MOM: and the back didn't have any seats.
KARYN: Were all of the kids born then?
KARYN'S MOM: Yeah. Thank goodness we didn't have to have seat belts and car seats and all that junk or we wouldn't have been able to go. And Kathy was responsible for handing out the sandwiches when it was lunchtime. And we were only allowed to take a shoebox full of stuff with us. Each person could take a shoebox. That's it because you didn't have room for right people to bring all their facts. If we wanted to buy any trinkets we had a room in our shoebox to put it or we couldn't get it. And we had- did we pull our camper? Our popup tent? And it sometimes would rain so hard that our sleeping bags would get wet.
Right? It's not hurting but we-
GRANDPA: ...slept in the car, or out in good weather we just slept out on the ground in our sleeping bags.
KARYN: Like did anything difficult happened on the trip?
KARYN'S MOM: Oh yeah the brakes went out.
KARYN'S MOM: Coming down a mountainside
KARYN: Down a mountain?
KARYN'S MOM: Yeah it was a mountainside. Where were we? Yellowstone area?
GRANDPA: I don't remember exactly.
KARYN'S MOM: But it was—
GRANDPA: I made all these side trips too. If there was something interesting, I'd go there.
KARYN'S MOM: Yeah the bear came. One time we were in the sleeping thing. And we started screaming. The Big Rock Candy Mountain. Yeah.
KARYN: So I forgot to ask anything about the actual sealing in that conversation. But it was still so far for me to know about the details of a trip that changed the eternal trajectory of our extended family forever. And aren't we so glad that there are seatbelts now? Though the recordings are totally amateurish and ham-handed. I love listening to them because they represent my newly found desire to hold on to the people, and the places that have shaped me. And all of the stories that are the basis of my own faith. I think we actually call that the spirit of Elijah, right? The turning of the hearts of the children towards their parents and the parents towards their children. Well, today we've got stories from people who found their faith in Jesus Christ rooted in the power of their family history, and that turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers. Our first storyteller is Sister Linda K Burton. And she's telling a story from her family history. The miraculous, yet simple experience from her great grandfather's life that became a guide to her during her time as the general Relief Society President of the church. Here's Linda.
LINDA K BURTON: Well, I don't really remember the very first time I heard this story. I can kind of put it in a time frame of when I was a very young mother, I must have been doing some family history at the time. When the little ones were in bed just to have a break from my regular routine. But I did come across this story of my great-grandfather that he had written down. I don't know at what point in his life he wrote it down but by the time the story took place was when he was about 10 years old. And that intrigued me, but the thing that really intrigued me was the broken English that he wrote it in because he was right from Denmark. And so it was so charming for me to read his own account. And I just was drawn in by this story, because he tells about his mother. And so I could see myself. I could actually relate to her as a young mother of several children. And so this is my great-great-grandmother, Caroline Catherine Holmcare. And at this point in her life, she was pregnant, with I think her seventh child. She had lost one. And her husband had been sick in the hospital for about 26 weeks, so about a half year, six months. And as a struggling young mother, trying to provide for her children with her husband unable to work, she was taking in laundry, she was doing whatever she could make ends meet, and could not make ends meet. So they get to the point where the landlord comes and says, you know, pay up or move out basically. And as it always happens in sad stories, this is in the middle of the winter. So from my great grandfather, Joseph Julius point of view, he remembers looking out the window with his older brother Peter. Well, I'm getting ahead of myself, I got a back up a little bit.
My great-great grandmother was discouraged. And so she gathered the children in prayer after the landlord had come and kind of given his ultimatum. She kneels down with the children in prayer, puts her arms around them and, and says a heartfelt prayer and tells Heavenly Father, she's done everything she can do. She can't do anymore at this point in her life. I remember feeling that way at that point in my life as well. And she told Him that she couldn't think of anything else that she could do. So would He please, please help them. And after she said this beautiful prayer, she didn't get up right away. She said, "I have a feeling that Heavenly Father's gonna send someone to help us. I don't think he's gonna let us suffer anymore."
Well, the next morning is when my grandfather and my great grandfather and his brother looking out the window and it's snowing hard. And so the children are all there in the apartment. That's a second story of an apartment building. And they see a man coming up the walk, and he looks like he some kind of policeman or somebody a little bit frightening, intimidating to them. And they see him go around the back. And then they hear someone coming up the stairs and it frightens them because they think this is the man coming to evict them. So they run to their mother and get her and she hears a knock at the door. And she answers it. And she's I'm sure as frightened as they are. And so this man says to her, "Are you Mrs. Care?" Which kind of takes her back because she doesn't know who this man is. And she says, "Yes, that's me." And he says, "My name is Johan Nikolai Modvic." Sorry, this makes me teary. He says, "I had a dream last night that there was a hard-working woman. And then he gives the address 29 Field Strada who needs my help. I'm here to help you. How much money do you need?" And so she tells him that she needs 30 krona, to bring it current. He immediately gives her the money. And of course, she's just overwhelmed the generosity of this man. She has no idea who he is. And he gives her a card and says, "If you need any more, this is how to contact me." And she goes to kiss his hand and he kind of pulls away and says, "Don't thank me. You thank the Lord because the dream I had came from Him." And then he leaves. And as a sweet young mother, she gathers her children before she does anything else, and kneels in prayer again, and thanks the Lord for sending help in their hour of need, and then she says to the children, "Don't ever forget this. And don't forget the name of this man."
This is the story that my grandfather remembers as a child at age 10, which I think is pretty significant because he didn't forget. There's a sequel to this story I don't tell in the book. So we found out later that Johan Nikolai Modvig, and actually my great grandfather remembered his name wrong. He remembered his Johan Lodvic Modvic. We actually had our friend, he kind of specializes in Scandinavian family history. And so he looked up to see if he could find anything about him. He was the one that discovered that Nikolai was his middle name, not Ludvic, and he was a prominent Professor apparently. And, interestingly, about the time that this story happened, I think Brother Modvic, was actually serving as like Speaker of the House type thing in Copenhagen. This was a wonderful man. So besides the all the things he was doing professionally where he listened to the voice of the spirit in a dream and responded to it. I thought that was impressive about him.
You know, I was thinking about how this story changed my faith. I don't know that it changed my faith as much as it deepened my faith. As a young mother, we had ups and downs financially. Yeah, I knew what meager meant and how does scrape things together. And we had a turn when things were really bad financially, the early 80s. And that's when I think this story I ran across the store. So the timing was significant to us, because we'd had quite a drought in our finances. And so this resonated with me. I could feel to a degree what Caroline must have been feeling. So I was grateful to have a story to hang my hat on. I have also drawn on this story numerous times when I was serving in my calling as General Relief Society President. As you can imagine, I was traveling all over the world and seeing women in difficult circumstances. Everyone is in difficult circumstances. When I would stand up there, and I would sometimes prepare something that I- or an outline what I thought I might say, sometimes I could feel this is not the right thing. And I put it aside and he would bring this story to my mind. And that's what would be what I would share. And almost without fail, it was the connecting point to the sisters, no matter what language I was trying to be translated in. And I was able to say and able to use this story to say Heavenly Father has not forgotten you. He is aware of you in your extremities, and you will kneel on your knees and thank Him for these experience someday because you will know that He has had His eye upon you. Like He had my great great grandmother. She was just a regular little person who didn't feel like she was probably worthy of anything great. And yet He saw her in her need and was able respond to that need because she allowed Him to with her prayer of faith.
We were lucky enough to go to Denmark a few years ago when our daughter was living in, in Ireland with her family for a year. We decided to go visit them. And one of the things my daughter had decided that we needed to do while we were visiting there was to go over to Denmark. It was a not too far of a jaunt to go even though she had three little tiny children at the time. But that gave us an opportunity to tell the story to these three little children. Let them know where we were going to go and that we were going to try and find this apartment where this story took place. And that was pretty precious. To go down that street, see the name of that street that we knew, and then find that number 29 was kind of a sacred moment to stand there in front of that and look up into that second story window where we could match and Joseph, Julius, and Peter, looking down. We didn't have to go there to see that it was real. But just standing there and remembering the faith of that mother, that was influencing my life generations later. It was this connecting point. It was this "I love you" moment. It was like my way of saying "I love you, I thank you for being the kind of woman that's influenced my life for many years now." And that my grandchildren were there with me that I hope this would be significant for them to look back on. I knew they were too tiny to maybe remember it in the immediate future. But as the story is retold to them, they might have some remembrance, they were there too, and that this is part of our sacred heritage.
KARYN: That was Linda. After listening to this story, I was struck by the realization that Caroline, Linda's great-great-grandmother probably had no idea that this tiny moment, in the cold snowy world of Denmark, would someday reach beyond time and space to inspire women across continents to believe and trust in Christ. Her everyday devotion to the Savior has become a legacy so much greater than she or even her family could have imagined. And it makes me want to reevaluate my own faith practice. Am I living in a way that could someday provide a blueprint of faith for the people I love? Am I seeking to demonstrate deep trust in Jesus? And more importantly, am I writing down the moments that have changed me? The fact that a small transformative moment in our lives could have a lasting impact on generations beyond us is something that was actually reinforced to me during a drive through Amish country, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with my mom, I had my phone recorder turned on because that's what I do. And I must have asked my mom to tell me the story of our first known Amish ancestor.
KARYN: Mom telling me why the Amish Fultz got shunned.
KARYN'S MOM: So the story is that the- and I don't remember his name, I think it's John Holes, was raised by the Amish. So they took him in because his parents died on the ship coming over here to America. And he grew up Amish and then he was planting his field and he decided he was going to plant... wasn't malt.
KARYN: Something you could make liquor out of?
KARYN'S MOM: Yes, I can't seem-
KARYN'S MOM: Barley. And it's not unusual to plant barley. But it is unusual for them to sell it to someone who uses it to make liquor. And he did not appreciate them telling him he could not sell it to this man who was making liquor with it. And so because he did that, he was told that he had to leave the Amish and he was shunned by the rest of the Fultz. So that's who we come from.
KARYN: Do you know when that was? Was it the 1700s? 1800s?
KARYN'S MOM: I could tell you if I had my genealogy in front of me but I don't. And kind of found all that out because Uncle Tim was driving down Lancaster County. Came across the street sign that said Fultz Lane and so he pulled over and had his son taken a picture of them. And a Fultz Amish man, whose last name is Fultz, came out. And he told us the story of the Fultz. And sure enough, it was the same, Fultz.
KARYN: That's really interesting that he would... that that's like folklore in their-
KARYN'S MOM: Yep.
KARYN: In their family, right? Like the Fultz who got shunned because of-
KARYN'S MOM: Yep in the Amish eyes we're the bad Fultz.
KARYN: That was my mom Sue O'Daily. Certainly, John Fultz wasn't thinking about the future spiritual growth of his family when he stubbornly refused to stop selling his barley for liquor. I'm sure that shunning felt awful. But regardless of whether you think that was a good thing or a bad thing, it was a choice that opened the door of the world to the Fultz family who became ardent Methodists, and eventually ardent members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's also interesting to note that the same gift of stubborn individualism that sent John Fultz out from the Amish is the same gift of stubborn individualism that sent my Pappy, Robert Fultz, the first in our family to join the church in search of a new faith tradition. Our physical and spiritual genetics are hard to escape. But I'm more and more convinced that they are often the thing that will move us forward along our earthly plans towards the Savior, just as they were meant to. Our next story from Deserey illustrates that connection. That comes to us from honoring those gifts as we work on our family history. Here's Deserey.
DESEREY: So to truly understand my story, I feel like you have to know a lot about hearts. Not only scientifically how they work and how they're made up, but also the hearts of my father, who was a very important man to me, and my brother, who I have not yet met on this earth. My older brother Corbin, he was diagnosed with a heart condition known as aortic stenosis. And this is a defect where your aorta valve is different. So usually, on your aortic valve, you have three cusps, they call them. And when you have aortic stenosis, instead of having three you have two cusps, and that can cause a lot of issues with blood flow and with your aorta. It was recommended that he gets surgery at Primary Children's Hospital. And he was so little and unfortunately, he did not survive that surgery. Fast forward, years later, my dad, he was out working in the yard and came in later that night and was having some chest pain. Well, when he went in to see the cardiologist, they found out that he also had an aortic stenosis. And this kind of shows you my dad's personality and character, because in that moment, when he's finding out this life-altering diagnosis, essentially, that he never knew about his whole life. He felt so bad that he had given that to his son. They didn't know when Corbin was diagnosed that aortic stenosis can be genetic. But in that moment, he turned to my mom, and he said, "I feel so bad that I gave this to my son without knowing." Which just shows how selfless my dad was. He was just always worried about other people more than himself. So, after this, my dad continued on with his doctors, and they recommended surgery for him. My dad's heart was really, really weak after this long, extensive surgery. And so they had trouble taking him off the heart and lung machine. They decided that life flight was needed to come and take him to a hospital that had the equipment that they needed. And while my dad was in the ICU, and life flight was getting ready to take him on the helicopter, he crashed.
My family and I were waiting in the hallway to watch him get put on the helicopter. And unfortunately, we had to watch my dad get rolled down the hallway. With life flight crew giving him CPR and working on him. That was a very, very hard experience for my family to witness. Three days later, after a lot of waiting and a lot of hopelessness, we were informed that we were going to have to take my dad off of life support. We had to say goodbye.
Now I am the youngest of eight children. And after I lost my dad, I was really concerned about him, not being able to be at all my life's big events, I I felt kind of cheated. I was really worried that, you know, I wasn't going to fill him in my life. I was upset that things we could have been doing together that those opportunities were taken away. I had a dream that I was getting married. And I kept looking for my Uncle to give me away. So I said, "Where's my Uncle, he, he needs to give me away?" And I was searching through these crowds of people. And I kept looking. And all of a sudden, I ran into a huge crowd of people. And they were all dressed in white. At the very front was my dad.
I just was shocked. And I said, you're here, you're actually here. And he laughed at me. And he said, "Why I'll always be here. And I've been here the whole time." And I started thinking who were all those other people behind him. And I started asking questions like "Who is he with on the other side of the veil?" And later, within my ward, I was called to be the family history lead. And I had been interested in family history ever since that experience and ever since going through the temple, but I wasn't really sure where to start or how to begin. And I remember driving home from meeting with my Bishop and hearing the news that I was going to be the family history lead. And I just remember the voice of my dad saying. "This is something we can still do together." And, and I could just feel him there with me. He was proud of me.
I know that, that he was he knew my worries, he knew he knew that I was upset that that time was taken away from me and that I was worried that he wasn't going to be there. And this was the way that he was telling me that he was still there. And that there were still things that we could do together, even though he's on the other side of the veil. Ever since then, I have immensely felt his hand in my family history work. And it's been a real comfort to me. And it has really helped heal me and help me in my grief. And I know for a fact that family history work is essential, and that the other side is here with us. And if we could only put on our spiritual glasses, we would see them. When angels minister to us, it's not- they're not strangers. They're our family. They're our ancestors. And I know that him and my brother are helping me on this side of the veil. And I find it so amazing that they're there. And they're working on finding ancestors and teaching them the gospel. And I know for a fact that they helped me find those names so that I could take and do their work for them in the temple
KARYN: That was Deserey. I don't know about you but I'd never thought of family history work quite that way. I love her perspective that it's a bridge and an opportunity to work together with those who have passed on before us. And I think that her perspective will change the way I view this work. I want to see it more as an opportunity and a blessing rather than a boring chore that I feel some guilt and shame about. I'm going to try a little bit harder to see it that way. As I was listening through all of my family's poorly recorded voice memos for this episode, I realized that there was one very important thing missing from my library. Apparently, and all of my recording I'd never asked my Pappy to record his conversion story. He's written it down in a few places. But I wanted to get it in his own words. So I begged my Aunt Kathy to record him. Here's what he shared.
PAPPY: I mean, I was at work when two missionaries came to our door. My wife, she talked to them, and she invited them back when I would be home. And they came and taught us the gospel, which was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I first heard it, as I just suggested another church, but when they taught me, I found out it wasn't just another church. I knew that it was true. I changed churches because when they taught me the word of wisdom, I was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. At that time, and I threw them away and never smoked again. The Gospel changed my life. What I know about Jesus Christ. Christ when on the cross, setting the example for us. "The old, rugged cross where the dearest and best. For a world of lost sinners..." I'm trying to remember it."On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross The emblem of suffering and shame And I love that old cross where the dearest and best For a world of lost sinners was slain So I'll cherish the old rugged cross. And exchange it someday for a crown." What do I like about that song? I like to tell what our Savior did for us.
I love you too.
If I can do anything else for you, just call me.
KARYN: That was my grandfather Robert Charles Fultz Jr. That short sweet story and song sum up so much of what I've learned from my Pappy's legacy of faith: Open the door to spiritual experiences. Bare your testimony through song. Always serve others no matter what's going on in your own life. And believe in the power of Jesus Christ to help you do whatever hard things are in front of you, even if you're trying to quit smoking three packs a day.
Elder Packer once said, "Family history work has the power to do something for the dead. It has an equal power to do something to the living. Family history work has a refining, spiritualizing and tempering influence on those who are engaged in it. I think our stories this week are absolutely proof of that truth to me. We are not alone in our desires to live the gospel well. And I know that we have countless family members whose stories can influence our lives and who are rooting for us, rooting for us to have the kind of stories that will strengthen the faith of those who come after us.
That's it for this episode of This is the Gospel. Thank you for listening and thank you to Deserey and Sister Burton for sharing their stories. If you want to see the gorgeous children's book that they've made out of Sister Burton's family story, head on over to our show notes for this episode at ldsliving.com/thisisthegospel. We'll have a link there to her book "A Mother's Prayer." A special thank you to my family Robert and Shirley Fultz, Susan O'Daily, and Kathy Yanks, for letting me share our family stories and for showing me an example of true discipleship with a sense of humor. If you have a story to share about living the gospel well, whether it's funny, touching, or miraculous, we'd love to hear it. Call our pitch line at 515-519-6179 and leave us a message with a short synopsis of your story. We get so many of our stories from this pitch line and we love hearing what you have to say. This episode was produced and edited by Katie Lambert and me KaRyn Lay. It was mixed and mastered and scored by Mix at Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hollstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and the other LDS Living podcasts at ldsliving.com/podcasts. That's ldsliving.com/podcasts. Have a great week.