Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bethany's Talk - Aug 2009

Hi! My name is Bethany Harty, and we moved into the Ward at Easter time. The last 3 wards that I’ve lived in, I’ve somehow escaped talking when we moved in. From August to January we lived in my home ward with my parents while Captain America was in Basic Training and school, and I didn’t even have to talk. He came home for 2 Sundays for Christmas, and they got him to talk. But, here we are. We’re really glad to be in this ward, and I wanted to say thank you to everyone who’s taken us in and made us feel at home. Especially when Captain America went off to trainings. We moved into the ward while he was gone. Thanks so much to all of the sisters who took care of us while he was gone. It helped a lot.

Rather than tell you a little bio about myself, I’m gonna intersperse it into my talk.

Neal A Maxwell in the April 1997 Ensign said:

Rather than simply passing through trials, we must allow trials to pass through us in ways that sanctify us.

Trying to comprehend the trials and meaning of this life without understanding Heavenly Father’s marvelously encompassing plan of salvation is like trying to understand a three-act play while seeing only the second act. Fortunately, our knowledge of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Atonement helps us to endure our trials and to see purpose in suffering and to trust God for what we cannot comprehend.

With that in mind, my life has had a lot of learning opportunities. I was born and raised in Florence, Oregon, a little town on the central coast. When I was 8, my family was tracked out by the missionaries, and we joined the church. I have a younger brother who is 29 and a younger sister who is 23. We’re all 5 years apart.

After high school, I went off to BYU, and while at home for a week during my Freshman/Sophomore year, I met Captain America. He was the missionary serving in my home ward. My dad was the ward mission leader at the time, so we fed them one time while I was there. I didn’t think anything of it, and went back off to BYU.

A few weeks after school started, my mom hinted that I should write to Elder Harty because he never got any mail. I wrote him a letter, and on the day he got it, he and his companion were at the lighthouse on P-day. They decided to park above the real parking lot to avoid having to pay for parking. Well, on the way down the trail, Captain America lost his footing, and tumbled. He did a football roll to recover, but felt a little off when he stood.

A few hours later, he knew there was something wrong. He’d busted his spleen. They did an emergency spleenectomy, but he had a hard time recovering. He always jokes that my letter jinxed him, but I counter that my letter saved his life. It’s all a matter of perspective.

He tried until December to heal, but it was a slow process. Finally, a week or so before Christmas, he was sent home with a medical release from his mission. It was a hard thing to understand at the time. He’d waited to go on his mission until he was 23. He was trying to serve the Lord. Yet his mission was over. He was sick. This was one of those trials that the Lord sends to strengthen us.

President Maxwell went on to say the following:

Revealed truths reassure us that we are enclosed in divine empathy. As Enoch witnessed, we worship a God who wept over needless human misery and wickedness (see Moses 7:28–29, 33, 37). Jesus’ perfect empathy was ensured when, along with His Atonement for our sins, He took upon Himself our sicknesses, sorrows, grief’s, and infirmities and came to know these “according to the flesh” (Alma 7:11–12). He did this in order that He might be filled with perfect, personal mercy and empathy and thereby know how to succor us in our infirmities. He thus fully comprehends human suffering. Truly Christ “descended below all things, in that He comprehended all things” (D&C 88:6).

Without the gospel fullness, many understandably have equivocal views not only about human suffering but also about Jesus Christ and the Resurrection. Without freshening and reinforcing modern prophets, the ancient prophets can easily become less read and less revered and can seem less relevant to daily life. Similarly, without the confirming and freshening of additional, attesting scriptures, the Bible is less read, less believed, and less convincing for some. Mankind desperately needs doctrinal nourishment!

Even daily life’s repetitiveness actually occurs for a reason. President Brigham Young reflectively observed:

“Sometimes I think it quite strange that the children of men are so constituted as to need to be taught one lesson all the time, and again it is not so marvelous to me, when I reflect upon … the designed effect … of this state of probation. Men are organized to be independent in their sphere, … yet they have, as soldiers term it, to run the gauntlet all the time. They are organized to be just as independent as any being in eternity, but that independency … must be proved and tried while in this state of existence, must be operated upon by the good and the evil” (in Journal of Discourses, 3:316).

Captain America returned home, and served a 3 month stake mission. He later told me that as he was preparing to leave the mission field, he was praying about it. He got a definite answer that yes, his mission was over, and that his next step should be to pursue me as his wife. Wow! We continued to write the whole time, and after he was released from his mission, we talked on the phone when able. After his 3 month stake mission, he flew to Oregon to live with my family until my semester at BYU was competed.

I returned home the last week in April, and we were married in the Portland Oregon temple on June 14th. Quick, I know. But 5 children and 13 years later, I still know that it was the right decision. Had Captain America not gone on his mission late, or had he not gotten hurt, we wouldn’t be where we are today. What seemed like a horrible thing at the time turned into a great blessing for us.

After we married, we lived in Utah for a short time, then moved to the St. Louis area to be near his family, and for Captain America to finish up school. We lived in 4 different rentals while we were there. We were there for about a year an a half, and had our first child, Jacob.

When Jake was 1, we moved to Oregon. Captain America had just graduated from college with his bachelors in Art Studio, and we were looking for a job. Guess what? An art studio degree won’t get you very far.

He had a few odd jobs, and we struggled financially for a while there. It was hard to understand why he couldn’t find a good job. We’d put in the time to go to school, and did what we felt was right. Why wasn’t Heavenly Father letting us get a job that would provide for our needs?

So often in life a deserved blessing is quickly followed by a needed stretching. Spiritual exhilaration may be quickly followed by a vexation or temptation. Were it otherwise, extended spiritual reveries or immunities from adversity might induce in us a regrettable forgetfulness of others in deep need. The sharp, side-by-side contrast of the sweet and the bitter is essential until the very end of this brief, mortal experience. Meanwhile, even routine, daily life provides sufficient sandpaper to smooth our crustiness and polish our rough edges, if we are meek.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh wisely cautioned: “I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable” (“Lindbergh Nightmare,” Time, 5 Feb. 1973, 35).

We did the best we could, and keep our chin up, and kept looking for a real job. Finally, about a year after graduation, Captain America was hired with the Boy Scouts of America. 2 weeks after we signed a lease on a townhouse, we were transferred to a town on the coast 2 ½ hours away. Again, trial after trial.

We lived there for 3 years, in 2 different rentals, and enjoyed our time. We had 2 more children (Thomas and Emeline), and 2 miscarriages during that time. That was a trying time for me. I was sad, yet knew that I’d get through it. I knew that Heavenly Father was making me strong. Later, I realized that with my experiences, I was able to help a friend when she went through the same experience. Because I had gone through it already, I was able to help her through the sad process.

We were transferred back to Eugene, where we lived when Captain America first got on with the Boy Scouts. After 2 years, Captain America couldn’t wait to move on to something else. We had our 4th child, Joseph, there. We prayed a lot that we could move on to an area where Captain America would be able to work with people who respected him, and who he respected. We were excited to get the call that Chicago Area Council wanted him.

We moved to Chicago, and knew it was where the Lord wanted us to go. But after 6 months, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to financially afford it. Chicago was way over our budget. We bought the very cheapest house to fit our family, on the rough side of our town. We weren’t trying to live above our means. We were just barely hanging on. We had our last child, Jim, while in Chicago.

Captain America was called to be the Elders Quorum president, and I was in the primary presidency. We were serving at church. We were trying to do everything we could to help ourselves. Yet we still struggled.

Elder Maxwell went on to quote Moroni.

Moroni said that only “after the trial of [our] faith” do we receive certain assurances and blessings (Ether 12:6). Taking Jesus’ yoke upon us really does help us learn of Him as we personally experience His special love for us (see Matt. 11:29). We also come to appreciate more His meekness and lowliness.

Part of enduring well consists of being meek enough, amid our suffering, to learn from our relevant experiences. Rather than simply passing through these things, they must pass through us and do so in ways which sanctify these experiences for our good (see D&C 122:7). Thereby, our empathy, too, is enriched and everlasting.

Thus life is carefully designed to produce for us, if we are willing, a harvest of relevant and portable experience. But there is such a short growing season! The fields must be worked intensively amid droughts, late springs, and early frosts. For the disobedient and despairing who refuse to plant, plow, or harvest, theirs is not simply a “winter of discontent” but a despair for all seasons. The indifferent and lackluster who work only on the surface of life will harvest little. Only for the perspiring and “anxiously engaged” faithful will the harvest be manyfold (see Matt. 19:29).

We were definitely being humbled. We had to go and ask the bishop for help many times over those 3 years. While it was not a pleasant experience, it taught us many things. It taught us compassion for others, and to withhold judgment. It humbled us, and took our pride away.

Finally after 3 long years in Chicago, we were able to move. We moved to a tiny town in Southern Rural Ohio. It was a massive change from the massive city of Chicago. It was a much needed change. It seemed like the perfect spot and answer to our prayers.

We lived at Boy Scout camp when we first arrived in Ohio. Our house was on the market back in Chicago, but wasn’t moving. We stayed in a 600 square foot cabin in the woods for 3 or 4 months. The kids had to get up at 6 in the morning for me to drive them 15 minutes to catch a bus to school. It took them an hour to get there. They didn’t get home until after 4pm each day, then had to go to bed at 7pm. I hardly ever saw them. Also, 1 week after being in the ward, Captain America was called into the Bishopric.

I remember when the Stake President came and talk to us while extending the calling to Captain America, he promised us that Heavenly Father wanted Captain America in this position, and that if he served faithfully, everything would work out. And eventually it did. But it got worse before it got better.

We were able to move into a small rental from a member of the ward that had 3 bedrooms. It was double the size of the Boy Scout cabin, so it felt roomy at the time. We decided to home school the kids for a year to make up for the long, hard 3 months previous.

We were in Ohio for about a year. Captain America’s job seemed better at first, but quickly went downhill. He didn’t like the working environment. He didn’t like the way he was being treated by his supervisors. It was a rough year. Our house still hadn’t sold, and we were drowning in debt. Again, we had to humble ourselves and ask for help.

President Maxwell went on to say this in his talk:

There is another very powerful inducement for us to endure well. President Young said of Jesus, “Why should we imagine for one moment that we can be prepared to enter into the kingdom of rest with him and the Father, without passing through similar ordeals?” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 346). The Apostle Paul noted how this sacred process produces an exclusive cadre—those who have known the “fellowship of [Christ’s] sufferings” (Philip. 3:10). These are they who will have the greatest capacity for endless service, joy, and happiness.

President Young observed that real faith requires faith in the Savior’s character, in His Atonement, and in the plan of salvation (in Journal of Discourses, 13:56). The Savior’s character necessarily underwrote His remarkable Atonement. Without His sublime character there could have been no sublime Atonement! His character is such that He went forth “suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” (Alma 7:11), yet He gave temptations “no heed” (D&C 20:22).

C. S. Lewis has said that only those who resist temptation really understand the power of temptation. Because Jesus resisted it perfectly, He understood temptation perfectly; hence He can help us. (See Mere Christianity [1952], 124–25.) The fact that He was dismissive of temptation and gave it “no heed” reveals His marvelous character, which we are to emulate (see 3 Ne. 12:48; 3 Ne. 27:27).

Jesus Christ, who by far suffered the most, has the most compassion—for all of us who suffer so much less. Moreover, He who suffered the most has no self-pity! Even as He endured the enormous suffering associated with the Atonement, He reached out to others in their much lesser suffering. Consider how, in Gethsemane, Jesus, who had just bled at every pore, nevertheless restored an assailant’s severed ear which, given Jesus’ own agony, He might not have noticed! (see Luke 22:50–51).

We were going through our own personal refinement. And we would come through it stronger. While in Illinois checking on our house, we met with our realtor, who was also the High Priest Group leader in our old ward. He mentioned that Captain America should join the army. We’d never considered that as a possibility. We thought he was too old. And too overweight. He’d need to cut 50 lbs to join up.

It looked like the best possible option, though. This was on April 21st, Captain America‘s birthday. By July 28th, Captain America had cut the weight, processed through the MEPS center and was headed off to Ft. Knox for basic training. The kids and I loaded up all we could fit in our suburban and homemade trailer, picked up my mom at the airport, and drove cross country to Oregon. We stayed there with her for Captain America’s trainings.

We were trying to work with the bank about our house, and with the debtors about our debt, but were meet with a brick wall. It seemed hopeless. We did our best, though. It was a hard time to be separated as a family. All 3 of the little kids slept in one bed in my sisters old room. My 2 older boys slept in tents in the backyard until the rainy season it. Then they moved to cots in the garage. I slept on a cot behind the couch. It was less than ideal. We struggled, and again had to ask for help. But I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew that once we were able to go and be stationed with Captain America, all would be better. Being together as a family was what we wanted.

In January, Captain America graduated from Officer Candidate school, and was sent here. We requested that the army station him here after all his trainings, so that they’d let him bring his family with him. So, we all got to come and they paid for it. That was nice.

The kids and I loaded up the trailer and suburban again, and I drove from Oregon to El Paso. It was a long trip by myself, but I made it. I didn’t have many nerves left when I got here, but I made it.

We wanted to live on post, but there wasn’t anything open. We got on a waiting list, and signed a lease off post. I was called into the Primary presidency the 2nd week in the Hondo Pass Ward, and Captain America was quickly called in as Scoutmaster. In April, Captain America needed to go back to Ft. Benning for another training.

Right before he left, we looked into our financial options. We were drowning in money issues. The army legal team referred us to a lawyer off post, and we were able to set our finances in order. It was a very hard choice, but the best one for our family. Financially, we’d hit our rock bottom. The same day this happened, we found out that there was a house on post that opened up, and that we could have. We found out that because of our legal issues, we could get out of our lease.

Captain America left for trainings, and I orchestrated the move. This was at Easter time.

I could see the hand of the Lord in it. There’s no way it could have worked out that well on our own. He was blessing us. Through something so hard and messy, he led us out the other side, held our hand, and showered us with blessings. We were able to move into your ward. We were able to serve again. We were able to have a house on post. We were able to make friends. We were finally able to get our finances in order. It was everything we’d been trying for for the last 13 years.

In the May, 1998 Ensign, Elder Robert D. Hales said the following:

May we be able to say as Paul said to Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept [my] faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

“Behold, we count them happy which endure” (James 5:11).

There is nothing that we are enduring that Jesus does not understand, and He waits for us to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer. I testify that if we will be obedient and if we are diligent, our prayers will be answered, our problems will diminish, our fears will dissipate, light will come upon us, the darkness of despair will be dispersed, and we will be close to the Lord and feel of His love and of the comfort of the Holy Ghost.

I want each of you to know that through all of our trials, we’ve seen the hand of the Lord. At times, it seemed like our life couldn’t get any worse. It seemed like we wouldn’t survive. But looking back, I can see how the Lord was testing and preparing us. He brought us to the point where we are now. I know that the Lord tries us to teach us. To strengthen us. To prepare us for eternal life. I know that each of us has our own trials that we struggle with. I hope that we can look at them for what they are - learning experiences. I know that when we do, we will truly be blessed.

I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

1 comment:

Rubypat said...

WOW, Bethany. What a powerful testimony, and a fitting tribute to a family who loves the Lord and wants to live according to His Word. I pray for you as together you bring up your family with God's love in your hearts. Now I'm going to read what the kids said!