When Your Bow Breaks | Jennifer Paustenbaugh
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When Your Bow Breaks | Jennifer Paustenbaugh

August 15, 2019


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>>THIS DEVOTIONAL ADDRESS
WITH JENNIFER PAUSTENBAUGH
WAS GIVEN ON JULY 7, 2015.
>>GOOD MORNING,
BROTHERS AND SISTERS, AND WELCOME TO OUR
DEVOTIONAL. MY NAME IS BRIAN EVANS,
AND I HAVE BEEN INVITED TO CONDUCT THIS
MORNING’S DEVOTIONAL. WE ARE PLEASED TO HAVE
JENNIFER PAUSTENBAUGH, AS OUR SPEAKER TODAY. WE EXTEND A SPECIAL WELCOME
TO HER HUSBAND, RICH, AND THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS
AND FRIENDS WHO ARE HERE. SISTER PAUSTENBAUGH IS THE
UNIVERSITY LIBRARIAN AT BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY. PRIOR TO COMING TO BYU IN 2013,
SHE SERVED IN VARIOUS ROLES IN LIBRARIES AT INDIANA UNIVERSITY
AND OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY. SISTER PAUSTENBAUGH
AND HER HUSBAND, RICH, ARE ADULT CONVERTS TO THE
CHURCH AND ARE PARENTS TO A SON AND DAUGHTER. WE’LL NOW HAVE THE
OPPORTUNITY TO HEAR FROM SISTER JENNIFER PAUSTENBAUGH.>>IN THE SUMMER OF 2001 I
WAS SERVING AS A COUNSELOR IN THE STAKE YOUNG
WOMEN’S PRESIDENCY IN THE STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA STAKE. FOR VARIOUS REASONS,
THE STAKE PRESIDENCY HAD COME TO US AND ASKED US TO PLAN
FOR THE NEXT YEAR’S GIRLS’ CAMP AT A STATE PARK WITHIN
OUR STAKE BOUNDARIES. THE PARK WE ENDED UP SELECTING
HAD FEWER AFFORDABLE RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
THAN OUR PREVIOUS LOCATION. WE CONSIDERED A VARIETY
OF NEW ACTIVITIES, EACH WITH THEIR
PLUSES AND MINUSES. AS A GIRL SCOUT
LEADER IN STILLWATER, I HAD LEARNED THAT THE LOCAL
GIRL SCOUT COUNCIL PROVIDED A TWO-DAY COURSE THROUGH THE
NATIONAL ARCHERY DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION THAT GAVE
PARTICIPANTS THE TRAINING TO BE ABLE TEACH BASIC
PRINCIPLES OF ARCHERY AND RUN A SAFE ARCHERY RANGE. OBTAINING THE CERTIFICATION
WOULD GIVE US ACCESS TO A SUBSTANTIAL DISCOUNT THROUGH
WHICH WE COULD PURCHASE SIMPLE RECURVE BOWS AND ARROWS. THROUGH PERSONAL CONTACTS
AT THE LOCAL UNIVERSITY, I HAD DETERMINED THAT WE COULD
BORROW ETHAFOAM TARGETS AND OTHER BASIC EQUIPMENT WE WOULD
NEED TO CREATE A FUN AND SAFE EXPERIENCE FOR OUR YOUNG WOMEN. THE GIRLS LOVED THIS NEW
ACTIVITY AND EVEN AFTER I WAS RELEASED FROM THE PRESIDENCY,
I RECEIVED AN ANNUAL INVITATION TO ATTEND GIRLS’ CAMP TO
RUN THE ARCHERY PROGRAM. THE SO-CALLED “FEE” FOR
ATTENDING THE ARCHERY TRAINING WAS THAT I HAD MY NAME
ADDED TO A LIST OF ADULTS, CERTIFIED AS LEVEL 1
ARCHERY INSTRUCTORS, WHO WERE WILLING TO BE CALLED
UPON TO RUN THE ARCHERY RANGE AT VARIOUS GIRL
SCOUT CAMP LOCATIONS THROUGHOUT THE COUNCIL. WHEN IT CAME TIME TO
RENEW MY CERTIFICATION, I WAS ASKED TO CONSIDER GOING
THROUGH THE LEVEL 2 TRAINING, WHICH MEANT THAT I WOULD
BE ABLE TO TEACH THE TWO-DAY LEVEL 1 COURSE THAT I
HAD PREVIOUSLY TAKEN. THE LEVEL 2 TRAINING WAS
MUCH MORE IN-DEPTH, FOCUSING IN GREATER DETAIL
ON VARIOUS EQUIPMENT OPTIONS; PHYSICAL PROPERTIES OF VARIOUS
TYPES OF BOWS AND ARROWS; REFINEMENT OF
SHOOTING TECHNIQUE; AND EVEN HOW TO
USE A BOW STRING JIG, A DEVICE WHICH ALLOWS YOU TO
MAKE A CUSTOM BOW STRING. ABOUT THE TIME I FINISHED
THE LEVEL 2 TRAINING AND PASSED THE WRITTEN EXAM,
I HAD STARTED RE-READING THE BOOK OF MORMON. WITH ALL OF MY NEWLY ACQUIRED
ARCHERY KNOWLEDGE, WHEN I CAME TO THE ACCOUNT
OF NEPHI’S BOW BREAKING IN 1 NEPHI CHAPTER 16,
I REALIZED FOR THE FIRST TIME WHAT A TRULY
REMARKABLE STORY THIS IS. LIKE MUCH OF THE BOOK
OF MORMON NARRATIVE, IT IS FULL OF UNDERSTATEMENT. BECAUSE NONE OF US HERE-
WELL, PROBABLY NONE OF US- IS HUNTING WITH A BOW AS THE
SOLE MEANS OF PROVIDING DIETARY PROTEIN FOR OURSELVES
OR OUR FAMILIES AND BECAUSE NONE OF IS CURRENTLY LIVING
IN THE EXTREME ENVIRONMENT OF THE ARABIAN PENINSULA,
WE TAKE THE BRIEF DETAILS OF THE STORY AT
THEIR SIMPLE FACE VALUE. BUT DOING SO WOULD MEAN NOT
FULLY APPRECIATING A NUMBER OF IMPORTANT TEACHINGS
FOUND IN THESE VERSES. WHILE THE BOOK OF FIRST NEPHI
IS PROBABLY THE MOST READ- OR AT LEAST THE MOST OFTEN READ
BOOK IN THE BOOK OF MORMON- I WANT TO RECALL FOR
YOU THE DETAILS OF THIS PARTICULAR STORY. NEPHI HAD JUST DECLARED
“HARD THINGS” TO HIS BROTHERS WHICH INCLUDED THE TRUTH THAT NO
“UNCLEAN THING CAN ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” THIS HAPPENED WHILE LEHI AND HIS
FAMILY HAD BEEN DWELLING IN THE VALLEY OF LEMUEL AND NEPHI’S
WORDS CAUSED HIS BROTHERS TO “HUMBLE THEMSELVES
BEFORE THE LORD.” FOLLOWING THIS OCCURRENCE,
LEHI FOUND THE LIAHONA OUTSIDE THE DOOR OF HIS TENT. WITH DIRECTION FROM THE LIAHONA,
THE FAMILY TOOK THEIR TENTS AND DEPARTED INTO THE WILDERNESS,
TRAVELING IN “NEARLY A SOUTH-SOUTHEAST DIRECTION”
AND PITCHING THEIR TENTS FIRST IN A PLACE THEY CALLED SHAZER,
WHICH HAS THE MEANING OF A PLACE WITH TREES,
AND THEN ON TO OTHER “FERTILE PARTS OF
THE WILDERNESS.” NEPHI AND HIS BROTHERS BEGAN TO
HUNT WITH THEIR BOWS AND ARROWS AND STONES AND SLINGS AND
WERE SUCCESSFUL IN OBTAINING THE WILD GAME THE LARGE
FAMILY NEEDED TO SURVIVE. GIVEN THE VARIOUS HARDSHIPS
THEY HAD ENDURED DURING THEIR YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS,
THIS MUST HAVE SEEMED LIKE AN ESPECIALLY SWEET TIME. THERE WAS PLENTY OF FOOD AND,
HOWEVER BRIEFLY, LAMAN AND LEMUEL
WERE NOT MURMURING. THE POINT OF THIS STORY IS NOT
TO THINK THAT HARD TIMES ARE JUST AROUND THE BEND WHEN
YOU ARE EXPERIENCING A TIME OF PLENTITUDE AND BLESSINGS. BUT IT IS INTERESTING THAT WE
FREQUENTLY FIND THAT PATTERN IN THE SCRIPTURES AND IN OUR LIVES. IN AN OCTOBER 1995 GENERAL
CONFERENCE ADDRESS, ELDER RICHARD G. SCOTT TAUGHT:
“JUST WHEN ALL SEEMS “TO BE GOING RIGHT,
“CHALLENGES OFTEN COME IN “MULTIPLE DOSES APPLIED
“SIMULTANEOUSLY. “WHEN THOSE TRIALS ARE
“NOT CONSEQUENCES OF “YOUR DISOBEDIENCE,
“THEY ARE EVIDENCE THAT “THE LORD FEELS YOU ARE
“PREPARED TO GROW MORE… “HE THEREFORE GIVES YOU
“EXPERIENCES THAT STIMULATE “GROWTH, UNDERSTANDING,
“AND COMPASSION WHICH “POLISH YOU FOR YOUR
“EVERLASTING BENEFIT. “TO GET YOU FROM WHERE YOU ARE
“TO WHERE HE WANTS YOU TO BE “REQUIRES A LOT OF STRETCHING,
“AND THAT GENERALLY ENTAILS DISCOMFORT AND PAIN.” SO IN CONTINUING OUR
STORY WITH NEPHI, TRAGEDY-AND I DON’T USE
THIS WORD LIGHTLY OR FACETIOUSLY-STRUCK AND
NEPHI’S STEEL BOW BROKE. WHETHER IT WAS FROM YEARS OF
USE A TYPICAL MODERN BOW CAN BE SHOT AS MANY AS 100,000
TIMES WITHOUT LOSING POWER WHEN THE BOW IS DRAWN BACK,
OR FROM CORROSION FROM THE HIGH TEMPERATURE AND
HIGH HUMIDITY IN THE AREA OR FROM SOME OTHER CAUSE,
THE RESULT WAS THE SAME. NEPHI HAD LOST THE MEANS WHEREBY
HE COULD PROVIDE FOR HIS FAMILY. NOT ONLY MUST HIS HEART HAVE
BEEN HEAVY BECAUSE HE AND HIS FAMILY WERE TIRED AND HUNGRY,
BUT LAMAN AND LEMUEL AND THE SONS OF ISHMAEL BEGAN
“TO MURMUR EXCEEDINGLY” AGAINST THE CONDITIONS
THEY FOUND THEMSELVES IN, AGAINST THE LORD,
AND IT SEEMS ESPECIALLY AGAINST NEPHI. THE FACT THAT THEIR OWN BOWS
HAD “LOST THEIR SPRINGS”, FROM BEING OVERSHOT OR FROM
THE SHEER LAZINESS OF NOT UNSTRINGING THEM AT THE END
OF THE DAY AND RELEASING THE TENSION ON THE BOW,
AND THE FACT THAT THEY HAD DONE NOTHING TO REPLACE THESE CRUCIAL
TOOLS SEEMS LOST ON THEM. AS ELDER NEAL A. MAXWELL SAID,
COMMENTING ON THIS STORY, “ONE CAN ALMOST HEAR THEM
“SAYING, ‘LET NEPHI DO IT. THIS TRIP WAS HIS IDEA.'”
WE ARE TOLD THAT EVEN FATHER LEHI,
WHO WAS NOW OLD AND WEARY, STARTED TO MURMUR
AGAINST THE LORD. TRULY NEPHI,
A FAITHFUL AND DEVOTED SERVANT OF THE LORD,
WAS IN A DIRE PREDICAMENT. OR AS ELDER SCOTT
HAS DESCRIBED, THE LORD FELT NEPHI WAS
PREPARED TO GROW MORE. AT THIS POINT IN THE STORY
NEPHI DID SOMETHING THAT WAS REALLY REMARKABLE. HE RECORDED,
“AND IT CAME TO “PASS THAT I, NEPHI,
“DID MAKE OUT OF WOOD A BOW, “AND OUT OF A STRAIGHT STICK,
“AN ARROW; “WHEREFORE I DID ARM MYSELF
“WITH A BOW AND ARROW, “WITH A SLING AND WITH STONES. “AND I SAID UNTO MY FATHER:
“WHITHER SHALL I GO TO OBTAIN FOOD?” NOT ONLY DID NEPHINOTGIVE IN
TO THE ALL TOO HUMAN PATTERN OF COMPLAINING AND FEELING SORRY
FOR HIMSELF BUT HE ALSO DID A NUMBER OF REMARKABLE-
EVEN MIRACULOUS-THINGS. FIRST, HE LOCATED THE ONLY
KIND OF WOOD IN THAT DESERT REGION THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN
SUITABLE FOR MAKING A BOW; SECOND, WITH NO PREVIOUS
SKILL AS A BOW MAKER, HE CRAFTED A BOW THAT WAS STRONG
AND BALANCED ENOUGH THAT HE COULD SHOOT MOVING GAME WITH
SOME DEGREE OF ACCURACY; THIRD, HE FASHIONED A BOWSTRING
THAT WAS COMPATIBLE WITH THE STRENGTH OF THE WOODEN BOW;
AND FOURTH, HE MADE ONE ARROW THAT WAS
STRAIGHT ENOUGH THAT IT COULD BE SHOT ACCURATELY AND SHARP
ENOUGH THAT IT WOULD KILL GAME. AS A FURTHER ASIDE,
SOMEHOW NEPHI WOULD HAVE HAD TO KNOW THAT HE NOW NEEDED A
LONGER ARROW THAN FOR HIS OLD STEEL BOW WITH ITS TIGHTER DRAW. AS HUGH NIBLEY OBSERVED,
“THOUGH IT SOUNDS SIMPLE “ENOUGH WHEN WE READ ABOUT IT,
“IT WAS ALMOST AS GREAT A FEAT “FOR NEPHI TO MAKE A BOW AS IT
WAS FOR HIM TO BUILD A SHIP….” LIKE NEPHI, EACH ONE OF US
IS LIKELY TO EXPERIENCE THE BREAKING OF A BOW–
A MAJOR LIFE CHALLENGE THAT HAS ALL THE MAKINGS OF A
PERSONAL OR FAMILY DISASTER. OR THAT HAS ALL THE MAKINGS
OF AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW. IN AN APRIL 2009 GENERAL
CONFERENCE ADDRESS, PRESIDENT HENRY B. EYRING SAID,
“WITH ALL THE DIFFERENCES “IN OUR LIVES,
“WE HAVE AT LEAST ONE “CHALLENGE IN COMMON. “WE ALL MUST DEAL
WITH ADVERSITY.” SO WHAT THEN DOES THIS
EXTRAORDINARY STORY FROM THE BOOK OF MORMON TEACH US
ABOUT DEALING WITH THE TRIALS AND ADVERSITY THAT ARE PART
OF THIS MORTAL EXPERIENCE? I THINK THERE ARE AT LEAST
SIX PRINCIPLES WE CAN LEARN FROM THIS STORY. GIVEN WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW
ABOUT NEPHI FROM THE FIRST 15 CHAPTERS OF FIRST NEPHI,
EVEN THOUGH WE ARE NOT TOLD EXPLICITLY THAT NEPHI PRAYED,
IT SEEMS INCONCEIVABLE THAT IN THIS VERY CHALLENGING SITUATION
NEPHI WOULD NOT HAVE TURNED TO FATHER IN HEAVEN IN PRAYER. PRIOR TO THIS OCCURRENCE,
PRAYER IS MENTIONED IN CONNECTION WITH A
NUMBER OF MAJOR EVENTS: FIRST,
NEPHI KNEW ABOUT THE VISION OF THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
THAT LEHI HAD RECEIVED, A REVELATION THAT CAME AS
A RESULT OF LEHI’S PRAYER; SECOND, IN RESPONSE TO PRAYER,
NEPHI’S BANDS WERE LOOSED AFTER HIS BROTHERS BOUND
HIM DURING THE JOURNEY BACK INTO THE WILDERNESS
WITH ISHMAEL AND HIS FAMILY; AND THIRD, NEPHI UNDERSTOOD
THAT THE VISION OF THE TREE OF LIFE HIS FATHER HAD RECEIVED
COULD ONLY BE UNDERSTOOD BY INQUIRING OF THE LORD,
THAT IS BY PRAYING. WHEN PRAYER IS A CONSISTENT PART
OF OUR DAILY LIVES AND WE HAVE LEARNED TO LISTEN FOR AND
TO ANSWERS TO OUR PRAYERS, WE DEVELOP CONFIDENCE
IN THAT PROCESS. WITH THE STILL LIMITED
PREPARATION NEPHI HAD AT THAT POINT,
PERHAPS IT WOULD HAVE BEEN TOO MUCH FOR HIM TO UNDERTAKE
A PROJECT AS BIG AS BUILDING A BOAT FOR HIS FAMILY TO SAIL
TO THE NEW WORLD IN WITHOUT HAVING ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCES
TO STRENGTHEN HIS TESTIMONY OF THE POWER OF PRAYER. CERTAINLY IT WAS NOT JUST A GOOD
GUESS ON NEPHI’S PART THAT ALLOWED HIM TO MAKE A BOW OF
HUNTING CALIBER BUT RATHER DIVINE INSPIRATION THAT
CAME OUT OF A VERY REGULAR PATTERN OF CALLING UPON
HEAVENLY FATHER IN PRAYER. MY GUESS IS THAT IN
PRAYING NEPHI DID NOT ASK THAT A NEW BOW,
FULLY FORMED AND READY TO SOLVE HIS PROBLEM BE
DROPPED INTO HIS LAP. IF THAT HAD BEEN HIS STRATEGY IT
WOULD HAVE BEEN MUCH EASIER TO HAVE JUST ASKED TO HAVE
FRESH GAME DELIVERED TO THE DOOR OF HIS FAMILY’S TENT. WE KNOW FROM NEPHI’S ACCOUNT IN
CHAPTER 11 THAT HE WAS ALLOWED TO SEE THE SAME VISION OF THE
TREE OF LIFE GIVEN TO LEHI AFTER “PONDERING LEHI’S
WORDS IN HIS HEART.” ONE WAY OF LOOKING AT PONDERING
IS AS THE INTENSIVE PREPARATION REQUIRED FOR MEANINGFUL PRAYER. IT SEEMS LIKELY THAT
FOLLOWING SOME PONDERING, NEPHI’S WORDS WEREN’T THE
SOMETIMES ROTE WORDS WE USE, “BLESS ME TO…” AS IN “BLESS ME TO MAKE A BOW”
BUT INSTEAD THE MORE THOUGHTFUL QUESTION,
“WHAT CAN I DO TO….?” AS IN “WHAT CAN I DO TO
“MAKE A BOW THAT WILL ALLOW “ME TO HUNT THE GAME MY
FAMILY NEEDS TO SURVIVE?” ONCE NEPHI HAD COMMUNED WITH
FATHER IN HEAVEN IN A HUMBLE, PLEADING PRAYER AND SPENT
TIME LISTENING TO HIS ANSWER, NEPHI HAD TO GET UP
OFF HIS KNEES AND ACT. HIS FAMILY WAS HUNGRY AND
TEMPORARILY AT REST IN AN AREA WITH FEW ALTERNATIVE FOOD
CHOICES TO THE GAME HE CAUGHT. THERE WAS NOT THE TIME FOR
THE SELF-INDULGENT LUXURY OF SELF-PITY OR INACTION. HE FOUND NAB WOOD,
THE ONLY WOOD IN THE AREA OF THE ARABIAN PENINSULA THOUGHT
SUITABLE FOR MAKING A BOW, AND FASHIONED A BOW OUT OF IT. THROUGH INSPIRATION OR THROUGH
ACTUALLY TRYING TO USE THE ARROWS FROM HIS STEEL BOW,
HE REALIZED THAT HE NEEDED A LONGER WOODEN ARROW. THEN SOMEHOW HE WAS
INSPIRED TO MAKE A STRAIGHT, WOODEN ARROW WITH A HEAD
OF SUFFICIENT LETHALNESS THAT HE COULD RETURN
TO FEEDING HIS FAMILY. HIS WILLINGNESS TO GO AND DO,
AS HE HAD PREVIOUSLY DEMONSTRATED IN OBTAINING
THE BRASS PLATES FROM LABAN, WAS AGAIN MANIFEST IN THE
EFFORT HE MUST HAVE PUT FORTH TO CRAFT A NEW BOW. IN MY OWN FAMILY I HAVE AN
EXAMPLE OF SOMEONE WHO REPEATEDLY WENT AND DID EVEN
WHEN WALLOWING IN SELF-PITY MIGHT HAVE SEEMED THE
MORE NATURAL COURSE. I AM SO GRATEFUL
FOR HER EXAMPLE. MY GREAT-GRANDMOTHER
FLORA MAE WALKER WAS BORN IN HILLSBORO, TEXAS
ON AUGUST 14, 1899. ALTHOUGH I SPENT A FAIR AMOUNT
OF TIME AROUND HER WHILE I WAS GROWING UP AND SHE DIED SHORTLY
AFTER MY 27TH BIRTHDAY, I KNEW SURPRISINGLY LITTLE ABOUT
HER LIFE WHILE SHE WAS LIVING. AS A CHILD SHE WAS THE
GRANDMOTHER WHO WAS NEVER TOO BUSY TO READ TO ME,
WHO INVITED ME TO SPEND THE WEEKEND WITH HER
AT HER THIRD FLOOR, WALK-UP APARTMENT IN BALTIMORE,
AND WHO HAD ME WORK JIGSAW PUZZLES WITH HER. IN HER LATER YEARS I WOULD
VISIT HER IN THE NURSING HOME OCCASIONALLY WHEN I
RETURNED TO MARYLAND BUT, BY THIS POINT,
SHE HAD SEVERE DEMENTIA AND THE VISITS WERE FOR ME-NOT HER. THERE WAS NOTHING IN MY
YOUTHFUL INTERACTIONS WITH HER THAT WOULD HAVE LED
ME TO BELIEVE SHE HAD HAD A LIFE FILLED WITH ADVERSITY. SHE WAS THE THIRD CHILD OF
LEONARD NEWMAN WALKER AND MARY V. RINEHART. WHEN SHE WAS BORN HER FATHER
WAS IN JAIL HAVING BEEN CHARGED WITH COMMITTING ARSON. ALTHOUGH I HAD ALWAYS
BEEN TOLD THAT HER MOTHER HAD DIED IN CHILDBIRTH,
A COUSIN AND I ARE NOW PRETTY CERTAIN FROM RESEARCH
THAT WE’VE DONE THAT HER MOTHER ABANDONED HER,
LEAVING HER IN THE CARE OF THE DOCTOR WHO DELIVERED
HER AND THE DOCTOR’S WIFE. FLORA MAE WAS FORTUNATE IN
THAT HER FATHER’S SISTERS LATER TOOK HER INTO THEIR HOMES
BUT SHE MOVED AROUND WITH A GREAT DEAL OF FREQUENCY-
SOMETIMES LIVING WITH HER EXONERATED FATHER
AND SOMETIMES NOT. WHEN SHE WAS 17 SHE MET AND
MARRIED DR. PLAYFORD RUSH, A YOUNG WIDOWED PHYSICIAN
WHO HAD COME TO TEXAS ON ASSIGNMENT WITH THE U.S. PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE. ALTHOUGH DOCTORS DID NOT
ENJOY THE LEVEL OF INCOME THEN THAT THEY HAVE TODAY,
I’M SURE SHE THOUGHT THIS MARRIAGE WAS
SECURING HER FUTURE. ABOUT A YEAR LATER PLAYFORD
WAS SENT TO CAMP MERRITT, NEW JERSEY WHERE HE WAS ASSIGNED
TO RUN A HOSPITAL FOR SOLDIERS WITH SPANISH INFLUENZA AND
OTHER AILMENTS AND TO PROVIDE FOR THEIR NEEDS BEFORE THEY
WERE SHIPPED OFF TO EUROPE TO FIGHT IN THE GREAT WAR,
WORLD WAR I. FLORA MAE WAS PREGNANT WITH
TWIN DAUGHTERS WHEN SHE AND PLAYFORD CONTRACTED THE
SPANISH FLU IN OCTOBER 1918. WHILE AN ESTIMATED 20-50
MILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE DIED IN THIS PANDEMIC,
PLAYFORD WAS ONE OF ONLY THREE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE
PHYSICIANS WHO SUCCUMBED. FLORA MAE SURVIVED BUT SHE WAS
A 19-YEAR OLD WIDOW LIVING 1200 MILES FROM HER FAMILY AND READY
TO GIVE BIRTH TO TWIN DAUGHTERS. FROM PUBLIC HEALTH
SERVICE DOCUMENTS AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES,
I LEARNED THAT SHE HAD TO FILE A PETITION TO RECEIVE ANY TYPE
OF SURVIVOR BENEFITS AND WAS ASKED TO PROVE THAT HER DECEASED
HUSBAND HAD CONTRACTED THE SPANISH FLU AS A RESULT OF
CARING FOR SICKENED SOLDIERS. ONLY A FEW DAYS BEFORE SHE
GAVE BIRTH TO THE TWINS, THE PANEL THAT REVIEWED
HER PETITION GRANTED HER PLAYFORD’S DEATH BENEFIT. FOR THE NEXT FEW YEARS SHE
LIVED WITH FAMILY IN THE HOUSTON AREA AND WITH PLAYFORD’S
FAMILY IN WESTERN MARYLAND. THEN MORE TRAGEDY BEFELL HER. FLOSSIE, ONE OF THE TWINS,
DIED FROM DIPHTHERIA WHEN SHE WAS 18 MONTHS OLD. THE OTHER TWIN,
MY GRANDMOTHER MARJORIE RUSH, SURVIVED. FLORA MAE REMARRIED IN 1923
AND HAD TWO MORE CHILDREN. ON CHRISTMAS EVE 1935,
WHEN THE TWO YOUNGER CHILDREN HAD THE MEASLES,
HER SECOND HUSBAND WENT OUT TO GET MEDICINE AND NEVER RETURNED. SURELY HER BOW HAD BROKEN-
AT LEAST FOR THE THIRD TIME- AND YET SHE WENT AND DID
PERHAPS BECAUSE SHE WAS LEFT WITH FEW OTHER CHOICES. AT VARIOUS POINTS,
DUE TO ECONOMIC NECESSITY, MY GRANDMOTHER MARJORIE
LIVED AWAY FROM FLORA MAE WITH OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS. LATER, DURING WORLD WAR II,
FLORA MAE SECURED A NIGHT JOB WORKING AT THE BENDIX RADIO
FACTORY IN TOWSON, MARYLAND, WHERE THEY MADE MILITARY
AVIATION EQUIPMENT. ALMOST UNBELIEVABLY,
TO SAVE THE STREETCAR FARE OF A DIME EACH WAY FROM
HER BALTIMORE APARTMENT, SHE WALKED THE
16-MILE ROUNDTRIP. I DIDN’T MENTION THAT SHE WAS
BORN WITH A TYPE OF CONGENITAL HIP DYSPLASIA SO THAT SHE WALKED
WITH A LIMP HER ENTIRE LIFE, MAKING THIS FIVE-DAY-A-WEEK
TRIP ON FOOT IN THE HUMID HEAT OF SUMMER AND DAMP COLD OF
WINTER ON THE MID-ATLANTIC SEABOARD A SPECIAL CHALLENGE. JUST AS NEPHI LEARNED,
FOR FLORA MAE THE ONLY WAY TO GET A NEW BOW WAS TO DO THE
HARD WORK OF MAKING ONE. DENNIS L. LARGEY,
IN A 1991 SPERRY SYMPOSIUM ADDRESS OBSERVED,
“INSTEAD OF MURMURING, “NEPHI SIMPLY WENT TO WORK
“AND MADE ANOTHER BOW. “MURMURING WASTES TIME,
“LENGTHENS ONE’S JOURNEY, “AND HARDENS ONE’S HEART… “GOD MAY NOT ALWAYS STOP
“BOWS FROM BREAKING, “BUT HE DOES HELP IN THE
CONSTRUCTION OF NEW ONES.” IF I HAD BEEN NEPHI AND HAD
BEEN ABLE TO SUCCESSFULLY FASHION A NEW BOW AND ARROW,
I THINK MY THOUGHT WOULD HAVE BEEN,
“IF I WAS SMART “ENOUGH TO DO THIS,
“I CAN CERTAINLY FIGURE “OUT WHERE THE GAME IS
THAT I SHOULD HUNT.” AND YET NEPHI, EVER HUMBLE,
DID NOT DO THAT. HE RETURNED TO HIS FATHER,
HIS PRIESTHOOD LEADER, AND SOUGHT HIS
GUIDANCE IN THE MATTER. NOTE THE INTERESTING PATTERN
THAT FIRST HE PRAYED; SECOND HE ACTED ON THE
REVELATION THAT HE RECEIVED, AND THIRD HE TURNED TO
HIS PRIESTHOOD LEADER FOR FURTHER COUNSEL. ONE OF THE GREAT CHALLENGES
THAT EACH OF US FACE IN THIS LIFE IS DEVELOPING
SPIRITUAL SELF-RELIANCE. I HAVE FOUND AND NEPHI’S STORY
SUGGESTS THAT WE ARE MOST PREPARED TO RECEIVE COUNSEL FROM
PRIESTHOOD LEADERS WHEN WE HAVE FIRST COMMUNED WITH HEAVENLY
FATHER AND ACTED ON THE INSPIRATION WE’VE OBTAINED. AFTER NEPHI MADE A NEW
BOW AND A SINGLE ARROW, HE RETURNED TO HIS FATHER’S TENT
AND ASKED HIM TO INQUIRE OF THE LORD WHERE HE SHOULD GO TO HUNT. IN ANSWER TO THIS PRAYER,
THE LORD TOLD LEHI TO “LOOK UPON THE BALL,
“AND BEHOLD THE THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN.” IN OUR DAY, THAT BALL,
THE LIAHONA, HAS BEEN LIKENED
TO THE SCRIPTURES. ALTHOUGH OUR NATURES MAY BE TO
LEAN TO OUR OWN UNDERSTANDING AND WANT TO BE DISMISSIVE
OF DIVINE WRIT WHEN WE ARE FACING GREAT CHALLENGES,
IT IS FREQUENTLY THEN THAT SCRIPTURE DOES HOLD THE ANSWER
TO DEALING WITH ADVERSITY. ON JULY 7, 2011,
FOUR YEARS AGO TODAY, I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH STAGE 2
INVASIVE DUCTILE CARCINOMA, A COMMON FORM OF BREAST CANCER. EVEN THOUGH MY MOTHER’S
MOTHER HAD DIED FROM THIS SAME TYPE OF CANCER AND MY MOTHER
HAD THE SAME DIAGNOSIS AS MINE TWO YEARS PREVIOUSLY,
I WAS IN SHOCK. I HAD THOUGHT THIS MIGHT BE
SOMETHING THAT I WOULD DEAL WITH IN MY LATE 60S AS THEY HAD,
BUT I WASN’T EVEN 50. IN THE SPACE OF ONE PHONE CALL
I WENT FROM SOMEONE THAT I WOULD HAVE CONSIDERED TO BE VERY
HEALTHY TO SOMEONE THAT WAS FACING A MAJOR HEALTH CHALLENGE. MY BOW HAD BROKEN. ONE OF THE KEY IMPRESSIONS
THAT I HAD DURING THE TIME IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THIS
DIAGNOSIS AND TRYING TO DETERMINE WHAT MY OPTIONS
WERE WAS TO REDOUBLE MY SCRIPTURE STUDY. MY INITIAL REACTION TO THIS
STRONG PROMPTING WAS, I AM NOT GOING TO FIND THE CURE
FOR CANCER OR THE NAME OF THE SURGEON I SHOULD GO TO
BY READING THE SCRIPTURES! YET AS I ACTED ON THIS
FEELING AND READ, I RECEIVED VERY CLEAR
IMPRESSIONS ABOUT WHAT I SHOULD DO AND WHO WOULD
BE THE BEST TO HELP ME IN MY PARTICULAR SITUATION. I WAS SO FOCUSED ON THE NEEDS OF
MY BODY BUT I LEARNED THAT THE NEEDS OF MY SPIRIT WERE EVERY
BIT AS GREAT IF NOT GREATER. AFTER EXTENSIVE SURGERY,
IT WAS DETERMINED THAT DUE TO MY FAMILY HISTORY AN AGGRESSIVE
TREATMENT PLAN WAS NEEDED AND THE BEST COURSE OF
ACTION WOULD BE A NUMBER OF ROUNDS OF CHEMOTHERAPY
FOLLOWED BY MORE SURGERY. ABOUT 10 DAYS AFTER
MY FIRST TREATMENT, MY HAIR STARTED TO FALL
OUT BY THE HANDFUL, MY BONES ACHED WITH
A FLU-LIKE INTENSITY, AND I STARTED TO EXPERIENCE
THE NEUROPATHY, THE NUMBNESS IN MY
FINGERS AND TOES, THAT WOULD LAST FAR BEYOND
THE CHEMOTHERAPY TREATMENTS. ALTHOUGH I HAD TRIED MENTALLY
TO PREPARE MYSELF AGAINST IT, A CERTAIN AMOUNT
OF SELF-PITY SET IN. ABOUT THIS SAME TIME IT WAS
FALL 2011 GENERAL CONFERENCE. AS I TUNED IN TO THE
FIRST SESSION, I REMEMBER PRAYING THAT
THERE WOULD BE SOMETHING SAID THAT WOULD HELP ME
IN MY CURRENT SITUATION. IN THAT SATURDAY
MORNING SESSION, THE VERY FIRST TALK WAS GIVEN
BY ELDER RICHARD G. SCOTT ON “THE POWER OF SCRIPTURE.” IN THIS WONDERFUL ADDRESS,
THAT SEEMED TO BE GIVEN JUST FOR MY PERSONAL BENEFIT,
HE STATED THE FOLLOWING, “SCRIPTURES CAN CALM
“AN AGITATED SOUL, “GIVING PEACE, HOPE,
“AND A RESTORATION OF CONFIDENCE “IN ONE’S ABILITY TO OVERCOME
“THE CHALLENGES OF LIFE. “THEY HAVE POTENT POWER TO HEAL
“EMOTIONAL CHALLENGES WHEN “THERE IS FAITH IN THE SAVIOR. “THEY CAN ACCELERATE
PHYSICAL HEALING.” “SCRIPTURES CAN COMMUNICATE
“DIFFERENT MEANINGS AT “DIFFERENT TIMES IN OUR LIFE,
“ACCORDING TO OUR NEEDS. “A SCRIPTURE THAT WE MAY HAVE
“READ MANY TIMES CAN TAKE ON “NUANCES OF MEANING THAT ARE
“REFRESHING AND INSIGHTFUL “WHEN WE FACE A NEW
CHALLENGE IN LIFE.” AGAIN MY ATTENTION WAS
TURNED TO THE SCRIPTURES BUT THIS TIME AS A SOURCE OF
ACCELERATED PHYSICAL HEALING- AS A WAY OF MAKING A NEW BOW. THINKING ABOUT WHAT
WE KNOW FROM NEPHI, IT IS DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE
HIM WHINING OR COMPLAINING AS HE PETITIONED HEAVENLY
FATHER FOR HIS HELP. IT IS HARDER STILL TO IMAGINE
THAT HE WOULD NOT HAVE OFFERED A PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
WHEN HE WAS AGAIN ABLE TO FEED HIS FAMILY. ELDER NEAL A. MAXWELL
ELOQUENTLY STATED, “BROKEN BOWS LITTER THE
“LANDSCAPES OF OUR LIVES, “REPRESENTING YESTERDAY’S
“FRUSTRATIONS. “THESE WERE REAL
“ENOUGH AT THE MOMENT. “DOTTING THE SAME LANDSCAPE,
“HOWEVER, “ARE MANY MORE REMINDERS
“OF BLESSINGS THAN OF “DISCARDED BROKEN BOWS. “MAY WE HAVE THE EYES TO SEE
“THAT WHICH AN OUTSIDE AUDITOR “WOULD SURELY SEE AS HE
COUNTS OUR BLESSINGS.” WE TOO CAN CHOOSE TO BE GRATEFUL
REGARDLESS OF OUR CIRCUMSTANCES- EVEN WHEN OUR BOWS HAVE BROKEN. WE CAN RECEIVE THE CALM
ASSURANCE THAT OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN LOVES US AND IS GIVING
US AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW. IN AN APRIL 2014 GENERAL
CONFERENCE ADDRESS PRESIDENT DIETER F. UCHTDORF COUNSELED,
“WE CAN CHOOSE TO BE “GRATEFUL NO MATTER WHAT. “THIS TYPE OF GRATITUDE
“TRANSCENDS WHATEVER IS “HAPPENING AROUND US. “IT SURPASSES DISAPPOINTMENT,
“DISCOURAGEMENT, AND DESPAIR. “IT BLOOMS JUST AS BEAUTIFULLY
“IN THE ICY LANDSCAPE OF “WINTER AS IT DOES IN THE
“PLEASANT WARMTH OF SUMMER. “BEING GRATEFUL IN TIMES
“OF DISTRESS DOES NOT MEAN “THAT WE ARE PLEASED
“WITH OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. “IT DOES MEAN THAT THROUGH THE
“EYES OF FAITH WE LOOK BEYOND “OUR PRESENT-DAY CHALLENGES. “THIS IS NOT A GRATITUDE OF
“THE LIPS BUT OF THE SOUL. “IT IS A GRATITUDE THAT HEALS
“THE HEART AND EXPANDS THE MIND. “TRUE GRATITUDE IS AN EXPRESSION
“OF HOPE AND TESTIMONY. “IT COMES FROM ACKNOWLEDGING
“THAT WE DO NOT ALWAYS “UNDERSTAND THE TRIALS
“OF LIFE BUT TRUSTING THAT ONE DAY WE WILL.” THINKING BACK TO MY
OWN HEALTH CHALLENGE, IT WOULD BE DIFFICULT TO
HONESTLY FEEL GRATITUDEFORIT. YET I REMEMBER FEELING A
TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF GRATITUDEINKNOWING THAT HEAVENLY FATHER
WAS PERSONALLY MINDFUL OF MY SITUATION AS SHOWN BY A NEARLY
CONTINUOUS STREAM OF TENDER MERCIES THAT HAPPENED
THROUGHOUT THAT ORDEAL-OF SUPPORTIVE PHONE CALLS FROM
OUT-OF-TOWN FRIENDS THAT I HADN’T HEARD FROM IN YEARS,
OF MEALS THAT JUST SHOWED UP AT MY HOUSE,
AND OF THOUGHTFUL ACTS OF SERVICE RENDERED BY FAMILY,
WARD MEMBERS, NEIGHBORS, AND CO-WORKERS. WHEN NEPHI’S BOW BROKE,
HIS LIFE AND THE LIFE OF HIS FAMILY HUNG IN THE BALANCE. WHAT HE NEEDED WAS A MIRACLE
IN ORDER TO FIND A SOLUTION. ON LDS.ORG A
MIRACLE IS DEFINED AS, “AN EXTRAORDINARY EVENT
CAUSED BY THE POWER OF GOD.” IT IS INTERESTING
THAT NEPHI, LAMAN, AND LEMUEL HAD SEEN MANY OF
THE SAME EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS CAUSED BY THE POWER OF GOD
BUT ONLY NEPHI RECOGNIZED THEM FOR THE MIRACLES THEY WERE. FROM JUNE 2013 THROUGH DECEMBER
2014 I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF RECEIVING WEEKLY MISSIONARY
EMAILS WRITTEN BY EMILY LEWIS, A BYU STUDENT WHO SERVED IN
THE AUSTRALIA-ADELAIDE MISSION. SISTER LEWIS FREQUENTLY
CONCLUDED HER EMAILS WITH THE ADVICE TO “REMEMBER TO LOOK
FOR THE MIRACLES EVERY DAY.” INITIALLY, I WAS A LITTLE
PUT OFF BY THIS. HOWEVER,
THE MORE I THOUGHT ABOUT IT, THE MORE I REALIZED THAT
IN LOOKING FOR MIRACLES, WE DEMONSTRATE TO HEAVENLY
FATHER THAT WE ARE OPEN TO AND HAVE FAITH IN HIS POWER TO CAUSE
EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS IN OUR OWN LIVES AND THE LIVES OF OTHERS. NEPHI HAD THE KIND OF FAITH
REQUIRED FOR A MIRACLE– TO BUILD A WORKING BOW FROM
THE VERY LIMITED MATERIALS AT HAND AND TO SUCCESSFULLY HUNT
THE GAME HIS FAMILY NEEDED FOR THEIR VERY SURVIVAL. WE CAN TRUST IN HEAVENLY FATHER
THAT THE GROWTH WE EXPERIENCE AT THE POINTS OUR BOWS BREAK
WILL BRING THE MIRACLE OF BLESSINGS PREVIOUSLY UNIMAGINED. SOMETIMES THE EVIDENCE
OF SUCH MIRACLES MAY TAKE TIME TO RECOGNIZE. IN THINKING BACK TO MY GREAT
GRANDMOTHER FLORA MAE WALKER, I AM SURE THAT SHE HAD
DAYS AND NIGHTS OF DESPAIR, BUT I CONSIDER HER POSTERITY:
DAUGHTERS WHO HAD HAPPY AND LONG MARRIAGES OF OVER 60 YEARS;
GRANDCHILDREN AND GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN WHO
HAVE MADE LOVING HOMES AND HAD PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS;
AND EVEN A FEW GREAT GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN WHO
ARE PURSUING EXCELLENT EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
SUCH AS THOSE FOUND AT BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY,
AND I THINK SURELY THIS IS A MIRACLE SPRUNG OUT OF ADVERSITY. I THINK BACK TO THE HEALTH NEWS
I RECEIVED FOUR YEARS AGO TODAY AND NEVER COULD I HAVE IMAGINED
IN THAT MOMENT OR EVEN THE YEAR THAT FOLLOWED THAT I WOULD BE
STANDING HERE TODAY HAVING THIS OPPORTUNITY TO BE THE CAMPUS
DEVOTIONAL SPEAKER OR SERVING AS THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIAN AT BYU. HOW COULD I FAIL TO
SEE THAT AS A MIRACLE? PRESIDENT THOMAS S. MONSON
WISELY OBSERVED, “OUR MOST SIGNIFICANT
“OPPORTUNITIES WILL BE FOUND IN TIMES OF GREATEST DIFFICULTY.” AS WE PRAY,
ACT UPON THE REVELATION WE RECEIVE,
COUNSEL WITH OUR PRIESTHOOD LEADERS,
FAITHFULLY STUDY THE SCRIPTURES, FEEL GRATITUDE IN
OUR CIRCUMSTANCES, AND EXPECT MIRACLES,
WE, LIKE NEPHI OF OLD, WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE A NEW BOW
WHEN INEVITABLY OURS BREAKS. IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE
DOCTRINE & COVENANTS, WE WILL BE ABLE TO
“COME OFF CONQUEROR.” IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST,
AMEN. ♪♪
>>THIS DEVOTIONAL ADDRESS WITH JENNIFER PASTENBAUGH
WAS GIVEN ON JULY 7, 2015.

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