Local Story: Meredith Smith | Sep 29, 2017
Meredith first shared this story live on the TOFW stage as the local presenter in Arlington, TX as part of the 2017 ARISE Tour.
2013 was a rough year for our family. My husband had been laid off from his job of thirteen years and we had a child who was struggling with severe depression. But the hardest day of that year was the day my husband, who was at the time serving as a Bishop, came to me and said he had some doubts about the Church. He had never once in our married life expressed such things, so I was surprised…and alarmed. What followed in the weeks and months following was a release from his calling and eventual denunciation of the Church.
Supporting my husband in his time of crisis was especially difficult in light of the way I came to the Church and the expectations I had for my life. My faith journey started with an innocent enough question posed to my high school best friend…”What makes you so different?” That question got me way more than I expected and I think I even saw his eyes light up! But that started something that would eventually change my life. After diligent study, several rounds of the missionary discussions, and fervent prayer, I came to my own knowledge that the Church was true. I was baptized after turning eighteen my Senior year of High School much to my family’s dismay. My father is a pastor (so you can imagine how well that went over) and my mother is an educator. Neither were happy with or accepting of my choice, but they are both faithful good people. We have a close relationship today much to their credit. My dream after baptism was to one day live the gospel fully in my own home. And even host a youth fireside! (Because all the strongest LDS families that I knew seemed to host the youth firesides – to me, this was the be-all and end-all!)
I graduated from college, married a wonderful returned missionary in the temple, and we have since had four handsome sons ranging in age from eighteen to two. Together, we have had wonderful opportunities to serve in the Church and consecrate our time and talents. We’ve even hosted a few youth firesides (mission: accomplished!).
I was literally living my dream! I thought we were on a road that would take us STRAIGHT back to our Heavenly home. I was never naïve enough to believe that there wouldn’t be hiccups along the way, but I was always confident that the efforts we were making would make the pathway bright. We were doing all of the things that made for storybook Mormon endings. And that is why it was so painful to feel like I was losing everything.
We Have Decided to Choose Each Other
In June of 2014, we sat our boys down and told them, tearfully, that Dad was leaving the Church. While this has been difficult on our marriage, we have decided to choose each other and choose our family. We continue to be the “selfie-strong” #SmithSix. But at the same time, I had a choice to make. I became more determined than ever to live my covenants.
Later that year, we found out we were expecting a long-awaited, but unexpected fourth baby. What followed was six months of bed-rest and in-home nursing care for extreme morning sickness. I had an IV that I would unplug to bring my boys to church, and eventually a PICC line where I carried a shoulder bag of medication around to my meetings. I did not want my boys to be alone at church, no matter how poorly I felt physically.
After regaining some energy towards the end of my pregnancy, I headed to the Dallas temple with some friends. I was so relieved to be there. I needed the peace and comfort that only the temple could bring. It was a packed endowment session. Extra chairs had been brought in to accommodate a few more people in the room, including a sweet special-needs sister who had a companion to help her. I was on an aisle and she was sitting directly behind me. I could hear her telling her helper how uncomfortable her chair was. Half way through the session, her companion tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I would trade seats with the woman (I had a feeling that was coming). Despite my pregnant state, I said “of course." About five minutes after switching chairs, I realized the woman WASN’T kidding! It was (and I’m not exaggerating here) the MOST uncomfortable chair I had ever sat on! It was clearly used for aesthetics in the temple and not built for long sits. I tried to shift my position and get comfortable, but to no avail. Tears flooded my eyes and Heaven and I had a little chat. “Father, life is so hard right now. Every time I turn around, there is another challenge. I’m trying so hard to do Thy will, but I’m being asked to do one hard thing after another…even in the temple! Please help me understand.”
A few minutes passed, and then clearly into my mind came the words…
”I need you to get comfortable with discomfort.”
I can’t say that I was thrilled with that response. But I WAS comforted by it. It washed over me as truth, straight from the Holy Ghost. It wasn’t a rebuke or a reprimand -- Just a loving statement that life wasn’t going to magically get easier and that I needed to settle in for the ride and learn to love the journey despite the discomfort. And indeed, life hasn’t been comfortable since!
Getting Comfortable With Discomfort
Since that experience in the temple, I have gone on a scriptural journey to try to find those who were uncomfortable. And let me tell you, there are lots! And there is so much to learn from them.
There are the Jaredites, who embarked on a journey to the promised land, but had to endure three hundred and forty four days upon the water, many of those days being described as having “great and terrible tempests”. In fact, the account says that they were “tossed upon the waves”, were “buried in the depths”, and that “mountain waves” broke upon their ship. The “wind did never cease to blow”. And yet they found reason to sing, to give thanks, and to “praise the Lord all the day long (Ether 6:5-12).”
There are the Nephite women, who “did live upon raw meat in the wilderness” in order to feed their babies, but as Nephite describes “began to bear their journeyings without murmurings (1 Nephi 17:2-3).” I don’t know about you, but nursing a newborn in the wilderness while having to eat raw meat to keep your iron and protein levels up, sounds a little uncomfortable. But they decided to try to get comfortable with the discomfort.
Perhaps we, like those Jaredites, feel like the winds in our lives will never cease. But need to learn to find things to be thankful for, even in the depths of hard times. Perhaps we, like the Nephite women, need to learn to somehow bear up our discomfort without murmuring.
Determined to Hold to the Rod
My scripture study led me to want to stop wallowing in my uncomfortable chair, so I decided I needed to serve. I sought out others in my community that I could learn from. With my little six-month old baby, I started delivering for Meals on Wheels. And in doing so met some of the most humble and wonderful people I’ve ever encountered. One in particular is Ms. Brown. What is it about little bald babies that can turn strangers into friends?
Ms. Brown always greeted us with her nightgown on and a comb in her hair, and would exclaim, “there’s my baby boy!” She even asked for some pictures of him that she could hang up because he made her smile. In getting to know Ms. Brown, I learned that her veteran husband had died ten years earlier. She had health problems, didn’t own a car or a washer or dryer, and because of a mold problem in her condemned apartment building, she was facing eviction. Even though there were sometimes tears, she always wore a smile. Perhaps we, like Ms. Brown, can learn to smile through our tears, knowing that discomfort is part of life, and that there are always things to smile about.
I have learned, as our Prophet Joseph did in D&C 122, that all these [UNCOMFORTABLE] things shall give us experience, and shall be for our good. (D&C 122:7). But they will only be for our good if we follow the admonition in verse 9 of that same section to “HOLD ON THY WAY” (verse 9) – the Savior’s way! – staying on the covenant path that leads us back to the Savior.
My own ministry and influence will be felt as I choose to stay on the path that leads us back to our heavenly home. I know that others will come and go from that path. But I am determined to be found consistently on it, holding to the rod of iron with all of my might. If anyone is looking for me, they will know where to find me!
I wish to help others recognize that even in the MOST difficult of circumstances, we CAN follow the Savior. May we all lean into the uncomfortable things in our lives, knowing that the Savior has “descended below them all (D&C 122:8)”, and by doing so, He has the ability to “strengthen us, help us and cause us to stand (Hymn No 85, How Firm a Foundation).” Because of Him, even the most uncomfortable chairs will not last forever. We can be sure of that.