Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sacrament Meeting Talk

Today I had the privilege of speaking in Sacrament meeting. I was surprisingly not that nervous. I get more nervous teaching relief society. I guess it's because I had it all written down and just had to read it.

I was actually quite worried about the time and actually did go over five minutes :-(. I tried to read it pretty fast towards the end but I didn't really want to cut anything out, because I thought all of the quotes were excellent. In fact, there were many quotes that I wanted to use but just didn't have time. So I didn't include them in my talk. But I will add them at the end. You may notice that the footnotes are somewhat discombobulated. And some footnotes are listed which I didn't end up using but they are the quotes I will add at the end of this blog post.

Thanks to Michael for letting me borrow his boom stand and for lending his "industry" expertise on setting up the microphone.

Thanks to Lisa for doing an excellent job as my page turner.

And thanks to all my family members who came to support me and listen to my talk.

Tammy’s Sacrament Meeting Talk
January 9, 2011

Good morning Brothers and Sisters. A short time ago I mentioned to some of my family members that I have never been asked to speak in this Ward. About three days later I got a call from the Bishop inviting me to speak in Sacrament meeting. So here I am.

I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today. The Bishop left the topic up to me but did ask if I would tell you a little bit about myself and share some of my life experiences with you. I don’t like talking about myself. So, writing this talk was somewhat difficult for me. Lest you start thinking this talk is an autobiography, I will correlate my experiences with a gospel principle.

To help you understand me a little better, I will start at the very beginning. I started walking at seven months. I was walking quite well at nine months. My mom tells me when she would take me to the store and let me walk down the aisles that people’s jaws would drop when they saw me walking at such a young age. They would always ask my mom, “How old is she?” So, even as a baby, I was ambitious.

When I was six years old I decided I wanted to become a doctor when I grew up. I never wavered from that. My favorite toy was my Fisher Price doctor‘s kit with the toy stethoscope, syringe, neuro hammer, and so forth. When I was in sixth grade we had to write a short essay on what we wanted to be when we grew up. I don’t remember if it was the teacher or some of my classmates who told me I would never become a doctor. But, that just made me want to prove them wrong. And I did. I always believed I could do anything I set my mind to.

Since this is the first of the year, I’m sure many of you have made New Year’s resolutions. Everybody should have goals to work towards. I was never one to make a list of goals but I always had several goals in the back of my mind.

Some of my major goals included graduating from college, serving a mission, becoming a doctor, and marrying in the temple and raising a family. I accomplished all those goals except the latter.

I received my bachelor of science in biology, with a minor in psychology from Utah State University. I served a full-time mission in Tampa, Florida. I received my Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree from the California College of Podiatric Medicine, in San Francisco and began a residency program at a small hospital near Texarkana, Texas.

I was on my way to accomplishing the last goal on my list, which was to marry in the Temple and raise a family.  While in Texarkana, I became engaged to be married. My life couldn’t have been better.

Then, one day, two or three weeks after I became engaged, my fiancée and I traveled to Dallas to shop for our upcoming wedding. It’s about a three-hour drive from Texarkana to Dallas. On the way home, we were involved in a single car rollover accident. I’m told the vehicle rolled at least six times. My fiancée was ejected from the vehicle but suffered apparently minor injuries. I, on the other hand, suffered severe, life-threatening trauma. I was airlifted back to Dallas because the first hospital they took me to was not equipped to treat my injuries. I was unconscious and comatose this entire time. So the story I’m relating is what I was told by my family.

Around three o’clock in the morning, my parents received a call from the hospital stating that if they wanted to come and say goodbye to me, they had better hurry. The medical staff would try to “keep me warm” until they arrived. My parents called my three siblings and they all were on the next available flight to Dallas, Texas from three different states.

They all arrived within a couple of hours of each other. The ICU nurse tried to warn them that I would not look like myself. But, nothing could have prepared them for what they saw. I was so badly swollen from the severe trauma I suffered, that I was barely recognizable as human, let alone as an individual. My sister tells me the only way they could recognize me was my fingernails.

The injuries I sustained were not compatible with life. My life expectancy at that time was measured in minutes and hours, not days or weeks or even months. But, apparently my mission on earth was not complete.

My sister called everybody known to the family, and asked them to pray for me. One of my nurses even had Billy Graham praying for me.

During the time I was comatose my family would come talk to me and tell me some inside jokes. When they did, my blood pressure would skyrocket and my life support machines would alarm. They knew I heard and understood what was said.

About two weeks after my accident I came out of my coma, and regained consciousness. But, I was so heavily medicated that I don’t remember anything. I was still unable to speak because I was on life support and had tubes down my throat.

My family didn’t know until a couple of weeks later, when I was well enough to get an MRI, that I suffered a cervical spinal cord injury. Which meant I would be paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of my life.

About 10 days after the accident, my fiancée took a turn for the worse and left this mortal existence. Ironically, he is the one who suffered seemingly minor injuries and was supposed to make a full recovery.

Whereas I was never expected to live. But here I am, eight years later.

There are some experiences I feel are not appropriate to share in this setting. But I will share with you some of the miracles which occurred.

First miracle: The fact that I’m speaking to you is a miracle. Because I was not expected to live, I was intubated for too long. The doctors decided they better do a tracheotomy so that I could be extubated. They told my family that my vocal chords were probably scarred beyond repair from being intubated for so long. And I would probably never speak again. It was several weeks later that my feeding tube was removed and I could try to speak. During that time my vocal chords were healed and I was able to speak.

Second miracle: My spinal cord injury is at the borderline level of being ventilator dependent. My family was told that I would probably be vent dependent for the rest of my life. But once again, I proved them wrong. I was able to get off the ventilator and breathe on my own. I do have some recollection of how difficult and scary it was to not be able to breathe when they were weaning me off of the ventilator. My ability to breathe is weaker and sometimes difficult because I don’t have the use of my abdominal and intercostal muscles to assist in breathing. But I am so grateful to not be dependent on a ventilator to breathe for me.

Third miracle: I suffered severe head trauma. Without being too graphic, while the vehicle rolled, my head took some severe impact. So, the fact that I didn’t suffer major brain damage is another miracle.

Fourth miracle: I’m not blind in my right eye. When I was in intensive care, my right eyelid would not close. So the doctors had to suture my eyelids together for a few weeks, to prevent my cornea from scarring from desiccation. I do have a blind spot on my right eye. But my other eye compensates, and I don’t notice it usually.

The aforementioned miracles are only a few of the daily miracles that occurred while I was in the ICU. I know it was because of the faith and prayers of my loved ones that these miracles occurred. I testify to you that I would not be alive today were it not for the faith and prayers of others in my behalf, for priesthood blessings, and for my knowledge and testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And more specifically, The Plan of Salvation.

My testimony and tenacity gave me the will to live. But the faith and prayers of others in my behalf are the reason I’m alive today. Genetics and tenacity will only get you so far. There is no way I could have overcome the severe trauma I endured without divine intervention.

Because prayer played such an integral part in the many miracles which have occurred in my life, I have chosen prayer as the subject for the remainder of my talk.

Prayer is how we communicate with Our Heavenly Father. Heavenly Father, in turn, communicates with us via revelation through the Holy Ghost.

Elder Richard G. Scott said, “I wonder if we can ever really fathom the immense power of prayer until we encounter an overpowering, urgent problem and realize that we are powerless to resolve it. Then we will turn to our Father in humble recognition of our total dependence on Him.” 1

People tend to turn to God in times of trouble. But we also need to turn to Him, and rely on Him in times of prosperity.

Pres. Henry B. Eyring said this, “Such a turning to fervent prayer when the world seems out of joint is as old as mankind. In times of tragedy and danger, people turn to God in prayer…

Those who submit like a child do it because they know that the Father wants only the happiness of His children and that only He knows the way. That is the testimony we must have to keep praying like a submissive child, in the good times as well as the times of trouble.

With that faith, we will be able to pray for what we want and appreciate whatever we get. Only with that faith will we pray with the diligence God requires. When God has commanded us to pray, He has used words like “pray unceasingly” and “pray always” and “mighty prayer.” 4

What are some ways we receive answer to prayer?

Pres. Boyd K. Packer said, “Some answers will come from reading the scriptures, some from hearing speakers. And, occasionally, when it is important, some will come by very direct and powerful inspiration. The promptings will be clear and unmistakable.” 5

Missionaries often pray for teaching opportunities. There were several times during my mission when teaching opportunities arose. Had I not been obedient and diligent in my morning scripture study I would not have been prepared to teach effectively. Because the answers to the questions being asked, were things I studied in the Scriptures that morning.

I was actually surprised at how often this occurred. And I was amazed at how the Lord had prepared me, as his servant, to be an instrument in his hands. There’s no way I could have known what questions were going to be asked of me that day. And I would not have known the answer to those questions had I not studied it in the Scriptures that morning.

Pres. Henry B. Eyring said, “We can and must go often and carefully to the word of God. If we become casual in our study of the scriptures, we will become casual in our prayers. We may not cease to pray, but our prayers will become more repetitive, more mechanical, lacking real intent. Our hearts cannot be drawn out to a God we do not know, and the scriptures and the words of living prophets help us know Him. As we know Him better, we love Him more.” 4

Sometimes our prayers are answered immediately. But most often the answers to our prayers come after much patience and diligence.

“President David O. McKay testified, “It is true that the answers to our prayers may not always come as direct and at the time, nor in the manner, we anticipate; but they do come, and at a time and in a manner best for the interests of him who offers the supplication.” Be thankful that sometimes God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. Your character will grow; your faith will increase. There is a relationship between those two: the greater your faith, the stronger your character; and increased character enhances your ability to exercise even greater faith.” 1

I would like to share an experience I had with prayer not too long ago. I don’t consider myself to be a very compassionate person. Upon learning that one of my relatives, who is a member of the church, was making poor choices that were not in accordance with church standards, I became quite upset and judgmental. I wondered how this person who was once active in the church, and held several different leadership positions, could be so stupid. So, I decided I should pray for this relative. As I was praying for my relative to wise up and make better choices, I suddenly felt a wave of compassion come over me. I began to feel love, sympathy, and understanding towards this individual.

My prayer was not answered in the way I expected. Instead of my relative changing, I changed. I’m sorry to say that this particular individual is still making poor choices, and suffering the consequences thereof. But, my prayer was answered. Instead of judging harshly, I now feel compassion and love towards my relative.

Do we sometimes feel like our prayers are not answered?

President Boyd K. Packer said, “Sometimes you may struggle with a problem and not get an answer. What could be wrong? It may be that you are not doing anything wrong. It may be that you have not done the right things long enough. Remember, you cannot force spiritual things.” 5

Elder Richard G. Scott testified, “It is so hard when sincere prayer about something you desire very much is not answered the way you want. It is difficult to understand why your exercise of deep and sincere faith from an obedient life does not grant the desired result. The Savior taught, “Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you.” At times it is difficult to recognize what is best or expedient for you over time. Your life will be easier when you accept that what God does in your life is for your eternal good.” 1

I thought of an analogy to illustrate this point. Think of a young child who approaches a parent and asks for a lollipop. The parent tells the child that they cannot have the lollipop right now because it will spoil their dinner. The parent does not elaborate and explain to the child that the lollipop contains empty calories which will displace nutrient rich calories provided in the meal in which they are about to partake. The parent knows the child will not comprehend a deeper explanation as to why certain nutrients are required to maintain a healthy body. But, the parent knows what is best for the child.

We, as children of our Heavenly Father, do not always know what is best for us. Just like the child in the analogy. There is nothing inherently wrong with the child enjoying a lollipop at the right time. But the parent knows when it is the right time.

If we ask Heavenly Father for a righteous blessing. And he denies it, then we must know that it is not expedient for us to receive the blessing at that time. Like the child does not understand why he was denied the lollipop. We do not understand why we do not receive righteous blessings when we ask for them. But always know that it is for our eternal good. And trust in Our Heavenly Father. For he is a wise parent who always knows what is best for us.

I was listening to an audio book By Sheri Dew the other day. Sheri Dew served In the General Relief Society Presidency a few years ago. She related a story which I will paraphrase. Sister Dew was helping her friend house hunt. They had looked at many homes and finally came across one which Sister Dew’s friend thought was perfect. She liked the house so much that she asked Sister Dew to offer a prayer on the spot that she might be able to purchase that house. Sister Dew graciously offered the prayer and included the words, “or something better”. Sister Dew’s friend was surprised at that inclusion and remarked that she hadn’t thought that there might be something better.

We don’t have the eternal perspective that our Heavenly Father has for us. Our vision is narrow. We tend to seek immediate gratification, what we think is best for us right now. When, there may be something better, something more expedient for us if we are patient.

Elder Richard G. Scott said, “He will always hear your prayers and will invariably answer them. However, His answers will seldom come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response. Rather, He will prompt you in quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind and heart. Hence, you should find periods of quiet time to recognize when you are being instructed and strengthened. His pattern causes you to grow.” 1

We live in a world of immediate gratification. Buy now pay later, fast food, on demand movies, etc. When we don’t immediately receive an answer to prayer, we may be inclined to think that we are insignificant, that Heavenly Father doesn’t hear or answer our prayers. Not so!

Elder Richard G. Scott had this to say, “It matters not our circumstance, be we humble or arrogant, poor or rich, free or enslaved, learned or ignorant, loved or forsaken, we can address Him. We need no appointment. Our supplication can be brief or can occupy all the time needed. It can be an extended expression of love and gratitude or an urgent plea for help. He has created numberless cosmos and populated them with worlds, yet you and I can talk with Him personally, and He will ever answer.” 1

Heavenly Father is not a respecter of persons. He loves all of His children unconditionally. It doesn’t matter if you have never prayed before, or if you have a prayer in your heart continually, He will hear and answer every prayer. I think the times we feel least like praying, are the times when we need to pray the most.

Remember Brothers and Sisters that in order to grow, we must face challenges. If all of our prayers were answered immediately, our faith could not increase. In order to progress towards exaltation or Eternal Life we must conquer difficult trials.

Elder Richard G. Scott testified, “If all matters were immediately resolved at your first petition, you could not grow. Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.“ 6

Brothers and Sisters, I testify that we have a loving Father in Heaven who hears and answers all of our prayers. He knows what is best for us. He will always do what is in our best interest. The fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His true Church were restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lives, and guides His Church through His Prophet, Thomas S. Monson. Of this, I testify. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. Using The Supernal Gift of Prayer - Elder Richard G. Scott, April 2007 General Conference.

2.Ask in Faith - Elder David A. Bedner, April 2008 General Conference

3.Our Father Which Art in Heaven - Elder L. Tom Perry, October 1983 General Conference

4. Prayer - President Henry B. Eyring, October 2001 General Conference

5. Prayers and Answers - President Boyd K. Packer, October 1979 General Conference

6. Trust in the Lord -- Elder Richard G. Scott, October 1995 General Conference

The following are quotes that I liked and wanted to use in my talk but didn't have time.

“The object of our prayers should not be to present a wish list or a series of requests but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is eager to bestow, according to His will and timing. 2

Elder David A. Bednar said, “Every sincere prayer is heard and answered by our Heavenly Father, but the answers we receive may not be what we expect or come to us when we want or in the way we anticipate.” 2

President Heber J. Grant, in referring to this matter, said:
“I have little or no fear for the boy or the girl, the young man or the young woman, who honestly and conscientiously supplicate God twice a day for the guidance of His Spirit. I am sure that when temptation comes they will have the strength to overcome it by the inspiration that shall be given to them.” (Gospel Standards, Salt Lake City: The Improvement Era, 1941, p. 26.) 3

Elder David A. Bednar said, “I long have been impressed with the truth that meaningful prayer requires both holy communication and consecrated work. Blessings require some effort on our part before we can obtain them, and prayer, as “a form of work, … is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings” (Bible Dictionary, “Prayer,” 753). We press forward and persevere in the consecrated work of prayer, after we say “amen,” by acting upon the things we have expressed to Heavenly Father.” 2

President Heber J. Grant once counseled us:
“The minute a man stops supplicating God for his spirit and direction, just so soon he starts out to become a stranger to him and his works. When men stop praying for God’s spirit, they place confidence in their own unaided reason, and they gradually lose the spirit of God, just the same as near and dear friends, by never writing to or visiting with each other, will become strangers.” (Improvement Era, Aug. 1944, p. 481.) 3

“Second, use the sacred language of prayer. We should always address Deity by using the sacred pronouns thou, thee, thy, and thine. The late President Stephen L Richards gave us this wise counsel:”

“We have discovered … a lack of proper teaching with reference to prayer. I know that I myself have been shocked out in the mission field as I have heard missionaries called on for prayer who seem to have had no experience or training whatever in the use of the language of prayer. …

“I think, my brethren, that in the quorums and in the classes, you would do well, as in the homes also, to teach the language of prayer—‘Thee and Thou,’ rather than ‘you.’ It always seems disappointing to me to have our Father in Heaven, our Lord, addressed as ‘you.’ It is surprising how much we see of this. …
I think you might make note of it, and avail yourselves of any opportunities that may come in order to teach the sacred and reverential language of prayer.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1951, p. 175.) 3


Dad said...

Hey Tammy, Most excellent talk today. I admire you so much, and marvel at your ability to teach the word of the Lord. You are a very spiritual person, and know that you are loved by many. I could go on, and on about your qualities, but want you to know that we all love you so very much! Love, Dad

Lisa said...

It was an honor to be the page turner. :)
You gave a wonderful talk. I am glad we were able to be there, to hear it in person.

Graham Crackers said...

I loved your talk today. It fit in perfectly with my lesson. You did a wonderful job, thanks for sharing your story with the ward.

ernie said...

Very... Nicee... Blog.. I really appreciate it... Thanks..:-)

Michael said...

You are awesome Tam! Your baby bro. loves you!!

karijean said...

Great talk! Thank you for sharing your experiences..I felt the spirit as I was reading. It also encouraged me to do better as a person and that I can do anything I put my mind to.

MaryAnne said...

Oh how I wish I would have known that you were giving the talk in Sacrament. I loved reading it, but so much more would have enjoyed hearing it in person. I read all the lessons you give for RS and so enjoy those. Thank you for being an inspiration. Now as much as you always have been. I miss seeing you. Love you.