Thursday, August 20, 2009

38d - Gary & Bernice Begay Bitsoie

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The Angel Moroni Appears to Joseph Smith -by Tom Lovell
D. and C. 2: 1 BEHOLD, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
2 And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.
3 If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
That is an extract from the words of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith the Prophet, while in the house of the Prophet's father at Manchester, New York, on the evening of September 21, 1823. HC 1:12. Moroni was the last of a long line of historians who had made the record that is now before the world as the Book of Mormon.

Compare Malachi 4:5–6; also Sections 27:9; 110:13–16; and 128:18. 1, Elijah is to reveal the priesthood;2–3, Promises of fathers are planted in hearts of children. Please pay careful attention as you read a clear example of the fulfillment of Moroni's prophecy quoted in verse 2 above, In those words:  I take it to mean, in your case, planting the promises made to Father Lehi in the Book of Mormon and of other ancestors of yours who were descended from Lehi, in the hearts of modern day Lamanites of which both of you and your children are sure examples.
2 And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers,

The Blossoming II, Chapter 22

Gary and Bernice Begay Bitsoie

Second-generation Latter-Day Saint, Gary Bitsoie, had the blessing of being born into a member family and of being able to watch the conversion of his medicine-man grandfather and his grandmother.  (Neil Birch's Note: You may realize, as I have in reading that, that Gary's Grandfather, by the Holy Spirit, was able to recognize the truthfulness of those things that Gary's Great Ancestor, Lehi, knew to be true. His grandfather's heart had been turned to his fathers (ancient Nephite ancestors of his) and was greatly blessed by that knowledge. And as you will learn throughout this chapter, so was Gary and his family!
“When I was a little boy, I remember my grandpa Cecil Begay saying that he was searching for truth. I attended the missionary discussions with my grandparents while they were investigating the Church. When Grandpa joined, he surprised his friends and family by retiring from being a medicine man and announcing, ‘My search for the truth had ended.’ Even some of his immediate family were upset with him for giving up his reputation and influence in the community for the Church. When confronted, Grandpa would smile readily and take out his Book of Mormon.

Please notice when you are further along in Gary's portion of the Blossoming II chapter I am quoting, there are two other paragraphs I have highlighted in red. They are not one after the other, but there is only one paragraph separating them. In those two paragraphs we see that the same Spirit that guided Father Lehi and others in the Book of Mormon Days also led Gary's grandfather (who was in the Spirit World) to appear to Gary in a dream to counsel him. By that same Spirit, Gary was blessed with a sure testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Also I have highlighted in red the third paragraph from the end of Bernice's section of this chapter (of Blossoming II) regarding her father's conversion. That conversion and baptism differed from Gary's Grandpa Begay's conversion and baptism, but I believe he was inwardly prepared so that when in the Spirit World after his death, he would be able to accept the vicarious baptism Gary did for him.)

These all, in my opinion, relate to the Lord's words quoted by the Angel Moroni to Joseph Smith as recorded in D. and C. Section 2, verse 2. They both, (Gary's Grandfather and Bernice's Father) could acknowledge in their conversions that which Father Lehi and others of his time, knew.

In Bernice's father's case, it didn't all come together until his work was done in the temple by Gary. How great is temple work for the dead! End of Neil's Note.) (emphasis added)

“I spent a lot of time with Grandpa when I was young; he was a big influence in my life. As a Priesthood Elder he had a strong testimony and carried his Book of Mormon with him to read whenever he got a chance. My grandparents were baptized in Lake Powell. Grandpa Begay loved to talk in church. Perhaps his talks were influenced by his medicine-man healing ceremonies, some of which would last for several hours and even days. I mention this fact because I remember some Fast-and-Testimony meetings he participated in, lasting several hours.

“When I was eight-years old, I was baptized in the Page Arizona Stake Center by my uncle John C. Begay. I had good Mormon examples in my family. My grandfather had a strong spirit and was a good example for his children. All of his children joined the Church and the majority of them have remained active.”

Gary was born in the family of Tully and Mary Ann Begay Bitsoie on March 4, 1964, in Page, Arizona, and grew up in the Copper Mine Arizona area, 40 miles south of Page. He was the oldest of eight children (four boys and four girls). He has positive memories of his youth, and especially remembers his parents’ commitment to the gospel. “My parents were converts, and what I would classify, stalwart members of the Church. They have a temple marriage and have always been active.

“I remember that going to church in Copper Mine was wonderful, except in the fall during the NFL football season. In those days, I was a big-time fan of the Dallas Cowboys and I secretly pondered whether they wouldn’t be God’s favorite team also.

Watching their football games became more important than eating or schoolwork. It made me sad to think that there may not be football in heaven! But alas, come ten o’clock Sunday morning, my parents would gather up all the Bitsoie family into our pick-up truck and down the dusty road to church we would go.

“The best part of preschool in Copper Mine was the ride home in the Ford Econoline bus. My uncle was the bus driver and would let me sit in the front. That bus seemed like a roller coaster to me going over the bumps. Kindergarten was held in Page, and I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to be at the bus stop by 6 a.m. I attended school in Page, (Arizona) through seventh grade, and then in the fall of 1976 my family went to Beryl Junction, in southern Utah, to do farm-work with the intention of returning after harvest season.

“Ever since I can remember, my family and my grandparents had gone to Utah, during the potato harvest season, working in Enterprise, Newcastle, and Beryl Junction. For me it was a wrestling match weighing and bagging hundred-pound bags of potatoes.

“One of the things I admired about my dad was what a skilled worker he was. He worked as a carpenter when I was a little kid, building homes for the Navajo tribe. Then, he worked as a security guard in Page. Later, he became friends with individuals at the Utah companies, all LDS members, who hired seasonal agricultural workers.

“That fall, when we finished the potato workout, one of the bosses had an offer for Dad. ‘We have noticed you are a good, reliable worker. Would you please stay and be one of our foremen?’ Dad agreed to the offer, and one job led to an assortment of opportunities. First, he was employed by some ranchers in Cedar City, becoming a truck driver, hauling, you guessed it, potatoes. Eventually he found employment with the Union Pacific Railroad which gave him a regular job. But the negative was that he was gone from his family for two or three weeks out of the month, often working in Montana or Nevada.”

For Gary Bitsoie, despite some longing for the reservation, the move to Utah was an easy adjustment because he had attended an Anglo school in Page. He sadly remembers, however, the initial “welcome,” when he was called “a dirty Indian”, and the fights which followed. But he was soon accepted by his new associates. His family moved from Beryl Junction to Enterprise, then to Newcastle, and finally to Cedar City where he graduated from high school in 1983. During these school years, Gary’s primary interest was sports. “I was always interested in sports. In eighth grade, I was recruited to the boxing team in Cedar City and boxed one year. The instructor was Lenny Hoyt, the son of a famous boxer.

“I played football from ninth grade on, mainly as a defensive player. I was a starter my first two years. Football was king in the fall and I ran track in the spring. I did the shot-put and ran the 440 relay. I played drums in the school band in seventh, eighth, and ninth grades, but declined the invitation to play in high school because I was more interested in sports. I went to seminary during my ninth-grade year only. My parents emphasized the importance of education, but there was no special encouragement to go to seminary and I didn’t see its importance at that time. I was an average student, never really pushing myself academically. We had to maintain a B average to be in sports, so I kept my grades up for that.”

As he neared graduation, Gary struggled with what direction to take in his life. It was most likely that he would follow in the footsteps of many of his family members and go into the Marines. But his life changed one fine day in March when his bishop called him in for an interview on his nineteenth birthday. Gary remembers the interview vividly.

“Bishop Mills said, ‘Son, you are needed in the mission field. Have you ever thought about going on a mission?’ I was mostly speechless, I’d thought about it off and on, but I had never seriously considered it. He continued, ‘I want you to think about it, and then we’re going to start thinking about submitting your paperwork.’ I respected my bishop and his words made a deep imprint upon me.

“I went to the temple and received my endowments that month. I was called to serve in the San Bernardino California Mission. I had a special experience just before entering the Missionary Training Center. “My parents had planned to take me to the MTC, but my mom got really sick and had to go to the hospital, so I had to take the bus alone. I boarded a Greyhound bus at 11 p.m. in Cedar City and traveled to Salt Lake City. We had to take a detour because the freeway was flooded between Scipio and Levan due to a huge summer snowstorm. We headed east almost to Richfield, and then went back into Nephi and into Provo at about eight a.m. A cabbie picked me up, and the driver asked, ‘Where ya’ headed?’ I told him I was looking for the MTC. He smiled and said,
One night my grandpa came to me in my dream and said, ‘You need to be prepared. Be careful in this world that you live in.’ It was a stern warning, and it helped me finish my preparations and leave worthily for the MTC in June.

‘We call that the Missionary Torture Center around here,’
 and then he gave me a free ride to the MTC. I thanked the driver, smiled, and said, “I love Mormon torture. You ought to try some yourself!”

“I was sad because I was alone and scared, and all the other missionaries were with their families. But I got along okay and had a great experience. I loved the Church but I didn’t know for a certainty that it was true. We had classes to learn the missionary lessons, and I had one especially inspirational instructor. I usually sat in the back of the classroom thinking, 'I wish I knew for sure that all of this Mormon stuff is true.’ I’d been forced to go to church most of my life, and now I was struggling with my testimony of the gospel.

One day we were learning the third discussion about Jesus Christ and something wonderful hit me in my mind and heart: All of a sudden, I had an overwhelming feeling that the Church was true. I couldn’t stay seated in class because the feeling was so powerful and pure. got up and walked quietly in the hall. It was quite a strong revelation--so much so that I couldn’t sit still! I kept walking up and down the hall for about ten minutes. It was the first time I’d ever had this deep kind of religious experience. From that day to now, I’ve known the Church is true.

“I remember my first day in the mission field. We flew into Ontario, California, and had supper with the mission president, Howard C. Sharp. The next day we new missionaries met at the mission office and were then dispersed by inspiration into our various areas of service.

I ended up in Hesperia, California, where I was stationed from July to December. As we were driving from the mission home in San Bernardino to Hesperia, I started feeling depressed. My parents had seen me off at the airport, and I had never been far from them, and California seemed so far away from home. I fell asleep and woke up feeling disoriented until I saw a sign that said ‘Welcome to Hesperia’.

“My companion said, ‘We have a lesson tonight. We’re teaching the third discussion about Jesus Christ to a nine-year-old girl.’ I frantically reviewed my lesson manual on the way to the apartment. After we got my things settled, my companion and I reviewed the lesson and discussed what my assignment would be. We went to the meeting, and it turned out really good. The girl was very receptive, and the Spirit was there. That experience stabilized me and I went on to have a great missionary experience.”

Gary returned home and began doing “responsible stuff.” After working in several jobs, he eventually decided to enroll in the electronics program at Southern Utah State College in Cedar City, Utah. After a great two years, he graduated with an Associate’s degree in June of 1987. Almost immediately he obtained a job with the Southern Utah college office as a typewriter repairman, working on IBM Selectric III’s. Eventually, his fascination for computers brought him into the field of computer system repairs.

During those two years at school Gary met his future wife, Bernice Begay, while he was working as a tutor of math and basic programming at the multi-cultural center. As fate would have it, he had actually become aware of her two years prior to their first official meeting. “I first saw Bernie in December 1984 after returning home from my mission. As was customary in the Cedar North Stake, I was sent out with a high councilman on speaking assignments for the first four months I was home. On that particular Sunday I was in the Cedar City Indian branch working my way to the podium, when Bernice, accompanied by her sister, walked in through the front door.
Then, it was as if time stopped. I saw in vision that she was going to be my future wife.
 I was really scared and perplexed, wondering why this was happening!—I didn’t even know who she was! I composed myself quickly in order to give my talk.

“Time passed. I mostly forgot about the experience and went my merry way to college. When I got a job as a Native American tutor, Bernice (Bernie) became my boss. As we got to know each other, she found out that I had become mostly inactive in the church and she made it her mission to get me stalwart again. Also, she became my social coordinator by trying to get me dates with other Native American girls because I seemed a little slow and inexperienced and had never known any LDS Native American girls to date. I felt comfortable in talking to her about anything and we started doing things together.

“That year Thurl Bailey and Hot Rod Huntley of the Utah Jazz came to SUSC to host a basketball conference. I was really interested in seeing it, so I asked Bernie to come along. We had a great time, and after that, we started spending more time together.

“I unofficially proposed in November of’1986, but it didn’t happen in the traditional sense—with me down on my knees with a ring—actually, I was totally unprepared for what I said. We were sitting in her apartment, talking about our future goals and dreams and having a good time. Completely spontaneously, I blurted,
‘Yeah, when we get married, I want to go to Disneyland!’
 Shyly, she looked at me and said, ‘Did you just propose to me?’ I replied, ‘I guess I did. Do you want to marry me?’

“The following Sunday I took Bernie to my parents’ house, and shortly thereafter she was wearing my ring. Bernie was very adamant about getting married in the temple. She said, ‘When I get married, it’s going to be in the temple.’ We were married March 21, 1987, in the Mesa Temple by Edward Lamb, one of Bernie’s acquaintances.”

In 1992 the Bitsoies made the decision to return to the reservation. After working at several different jobs to make ends meet, Gary ended up at the new Hopi Health Care Center, in Keams Canyon, Arizona, where he currently works as the chief computer specialist.

Gary has had many opportunities to serve in leadership positions within the Church, including branch presidency counselor, a member of the Elders Quorum presidency, and branch president at nearby Steamboat, Arizona.

“Every branch or stake president has something that they feel strongly about accomplishing in the time they serve; for me it has been the Joseph Smith admonition regarding, ‘teaching correct principles.’ When I was in the Cedar Indian Branch, I served for several years as first counselor under Lee Sauers. One of his chief concerns and challenges for leaders was ‘Make sure you teach correct principles.’ Brother Sauers along with my grandfather have been big influences in my life. They both helped give me a firm foundation.

“I have had many spiritual experiences while I have been doing my Church service. One time I was speaking on one of my favorite gospel topics in sacrament meeting about agency, (or free will) based on a talk by Elder Neal Maxwell, who is one of my heroes. The Spirit at the meeting was so strong! It almost felt as if the Savior was standing in the room—I felt His presence and closeness in a unique way. For me, it was a very powerful experience.

“There have been several spiritual feasts like that. While I was a young missionary at the Provo MTC, Elder Maxwell spoke to us. After he spoke, we all lined up to shake his hand. When I shook his hand, it was like plugging into a 1000-watt generator. His spirit was so powerful. I knew that he was very close to our Savior. I knew by the power of the Holy Ghost’s witness that he was a true Apostle. It was overwhelming! Along with my grandfather and President Sauers, Elder Neal A. Maxwell has had a big influence in my life. Possibly the biggest influence to me personally has been my grandfather, who played a big role in my early life, setting my true course. Then, Apostle Maxwell confirmed it and President Sauers put the spiritual icing on the cake.

“I also think the present foundation of my life is anchored in my wife Bernice. Since we starting dating, she has been the stabilizing force in my life. Being a father has been a good experience and baptizing my children has been a sought after and humbling experience. Our family is strong. We know that the Church is true.”

Bernice Mae Bitsoie

Bernice Mae Bitsoie was born on May 22, 1954, to Harrison and Laura Jean Begay in Keams Canyon, Arizona. Her mother was a homemaker and cared for their ten children, and her father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a bus driver/caregiver/teacher assistant for the small school in Jeddito, Arizona.

In those days there were only three employees at the small school—teacher, bus driver, and cook. Dad sometimes filled in as a substitute teacher. Bernice’s fondest memory as a child is of those school days in Jeddito. “I thought it was great to see my dad do his different jobs around the school. When he taught us, I thought of him as a real teacher. When he took care of the school, it gave my little ego a big boost. I felt he was a super Navajo dad.

“After Dad began laboring at the school, he and our relatives built a small hogan for our family near the school compound. We didn’t have water or electricity, but the hogan was really homey. My mom stayed home and took very good care of us. She is a very clean person and expected cleanliness from her children who liked to play outside in the sand. She got after us if we got ourselves dirty.

“In 1959, when I was five, I can remember a giant snowstorm. We had to stay at the school overnight, sleeping in the small kitchen, until Dad was able to shovel his way out to our home.”

Bernice was close to her parents and particularly enjoyed the closeness of a loving father. She struggled as her comfortable school situation ended, when as a first grader she was sent to the boarding school in nearby Keams Canyon. “I was used to seeing my dad every day; I couldn’t imagine him not being at school. I felt like I was dumped off at the boarding school at such a young age. I couldn’t see my parents and only got to go home twice a month. School was like a prison to me. My loneliness helped me feel that dorm life was horrible, and bad things happened there intimidation, fighting and stealing) because there was no supervision. So in my lonely, little girl world I hated the dorms, but I did like school. I met some really nice teachers, who encouraged my love of music. We sang in class and I was allowed to try every available instrument: clarinet, drums, and piano.

“During the summer after fifth grade, my cousin and her family came to visit us. She told me about going to Utah to school and staying with a Mormon family. It sounded really fun to me. The missionaries were coming around at that time, so I asked my dad to talk to them about the Placement program. My parents were in favor of my going on up north, so I decided to learn about the Mormon Church and get baptized. Actually, all ten of my brothers and sisters were baptized because we all wanted to try the Placement program. To be honest, we were interested in Mormonism, but we were more interested in LDS foster care.

“Out of the ten of us, my younger brother Harrison and I are the only two who have stayed consistently active in the Church. I don’t remember learning much about the gospel at that time. I just knew that I was excited about going on Placement.

“That fall, before my sixth-grade year, I boarded the bus at Second Mesa. I was a scared worried little girl all the way on the long overnight ride to Provo, Utah. When we arrived in Provo, we had to wash up, eat, and be processed and ready to be presented to our foster families. I was even now more frightened and wished I hadn’t come. I waited a long time and thought either I had been forgotten or wasn’t wanted. After all the other kids had gone, I finally met my foster parents.”

Bernice’s first Placement experience was with the Harris family of Cedar Fort, Utah. The year was a difficult adjustment for her. The family lived in an isolated, small town. There was a lack of rapport with her foster sister, and a lack of bonding with the entire family causing Bernice to feel not completely welcome. She attended Lehi Junior High and made good friends at school and with an elderly couple in the ward. “It was an okay year. I have good memories of my friends.

“Two of the best parts of my Placement experiences were learning how to ice skate on the pond and beginning to obtain a vision of the wonders of the Church. It felt really good to go to church in Cedar Fort. I loved singing the Primary songs. At my young, eager age I related positively to the church and was able to really feel the Spirit. I feel that the Lord must have taken an interest in me because I learned a lot, and by the time I arrived back home, I knew the Church was true. That summer, I tried to share the Book of Mormon story with my parents. I wanted them to learn what I learned because I knew it was from God. When they told me they didn’t want to be Mormons, I felt really bad. I tried a few more times to convert them, but then, I knew I had to back off. As they started to attack some of my new beliefs, I knew it was time to stop religious talk for a time.

“My parents, as members of the Native American Church, every summer would hold a peyote ceremony for us kids to help us do well during the next school year. That summer, because of my LDS beliefs, I decided I would go to the meeting, but I wouldn’t take the peyote. When I informed my father of my decision, I was unprepared for his volatile reaction. My dad was really upset, and criticized me, saying, ‘You need to take peyote; it’s part of who you are; you grew up in this church. Besides I’m your father and you have to listen to me.’ As I responded, I was feeling as angry and hurt as he was, so my response was a strong one. I said I would never do peyote, that he couldn’t force me because I knew it wasn’t right, that I now believed in the LDS Church, I was going to be a Mormon for the rest of my life, and he couldn’t change it. Then, I worried because his face seemed even angrier than before, but then something good happened. He didn’t say anything more!

“That was the first time I defended my testimony; it was a turning point. My dad never asked me to do peyote again. But overall, despite our spiritual alienation, my parents were happy for me because I was learning and going to school regularly. My dad’s philosophy was ‘Go to school, learn English, and get an education so you can get a better job and have a better life than we have.’ He wanted me to become an educated person; it didn’t matter where I attended, just as long as I had a good experience.”

After going home for the summer, Bernice returned to find she had been placed in a different family in Pleasant Grove. Again she struggled with connecting in an intimate way with her foster family. “I lived with the Rhodes, who had three girls and one boy. I had an okay year with them, but again I was closer to my friends than the family. They were a close family, and I felt like I was an outsider. I think they really tried hard to reach me, but I didn’t open up much to let them in.” Following that year’s experience, Bernice chose not to return on Placement for her eighth-grade. Instead she finished junior high in Holbrook, Arizona, staying in the Indian dormitory.

As a sophomore she decided to give Placement another try but got off to a turbulent beginning. “I stayed with a couple from Manila, Utah, whom I didn’t get along with. In the family I had an Apache foster sister, and we got along, but I got her in trouble. Being upset, I begged Brother Shumway, my Placement worker, to let me go home but he encouraged me to stay and work things out. I ran away and went to my sister, who was on Placement in Orem, to ask her for money. I guess her foster mom tattled on me because when I went with my sister to the Indian Youth Conference, Brother Shumway found me in the girl’s bathroom in the church building where I was hiding. I was so stubborn! I wouldn’t come out. I begged, cried, and even told him I hated him. He was really patient and talked me into not going home.

The compromise was that I was placed with another foster family, Brother and Sister Gerald Belliston of Pleasant Grove, Utah. Brother Belliston was a very sweet man, and I got along well with Judy, their other Navajo foster daughter, but my personality seemed to clash with Sister Belliston and again I wasn’t happy in that house. I decided at the end of the year that I wasn’t going to go back on Placement. I went back to Holbrook High School, where I graduated.

“Although I struggled in my relationships with my foster families, having four sets of foster parents in three years, getting along better with the fathers than my foster mothers, overall I think Placement was a positive experience. It helped change my life spiritually; I developed a testimony. I had a desire to be married in the temple and continue to attend church for the rest of my life. The program also gave me the opportunity to make friends in the Church and be in a good environment.”

Bernice graduated from Holbrook high school and went to Brigham Young University before making the decision to serve a full-time mission. She was called to the Arizona Holbrook Mission and had a positive experience. After her mission, she decided to attend a smaller school, Southern Utah State College in Cedar City, which is where she graduated and met her husband, Gary. “Initially my major was music, with an emphasis in vocal music. I was almost finished and ready for graduation when I went to do my student teaching back home in Jeddito, Arizona. I found choral music programs on the reservation to be minimal, low priority, and very difficult teaching situations. At that time, in Jeddito, there was no choir program. The one successful music program was the band, which was really strong. I tried to implement and create more choral interest, but it was really difficult and I got discouraged. Because I planned to return to the reservation to teach, I decided to change my major. I didn’t want to spend the extra time to study the instruments and teach band, so I changed to elementary education and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in elementary education and a minor in music.

“I first met Gary when I worked as a supervisor in the multi-cultural tutoring program at SUSC. He applied for a job as a tutor in math and electronics and I hired him. Although I didn’t realize it at first, I had previously seen Gary on campus. One day I saw a guy walking along in one of those trench coats that missionaries used to wear and a hat, pulled down over his face. My first impression was, ‘I’ll bet that’s a returned missionary who doesn’t go to church.’ Then I dismissed the thought. A couple weeks later he applied for the job. He was a dependable and effective tutor. I was impressed with him. As I got to know him, I found out he was a returned missionary. That’s when I recognized him as the young man I had seen going across campus. I also remembered that I had seen him speak at a Lamanite branch in Cedar City. He spoke about how it was hard for him to remain active, and he confessed that he was struggling in the church.“I made it my mission to help him become active again. I thought he needed a friend, so we became friends. He said it was hard to find LDS girls to date, so I set out to find him one. I arranged a date for him, but it didn’t work out. Then a surprising thing happened! Because we were friends, although I am significantly older than he is, I agreed to go with him to a basketball activity. Although, I’m not into sports, we had a good time because he’s a fun person to be with. A couple of weeks later, he asked me to a movie. I wondered if he thought it was a date but decided it couldn’t be because I am nine years older than he is. At this time of my life, because of my age, I was discouraged about dating and had lost hope of ever marrying. I was resigned to being single for life.

“Gary didn’t seem concerned about my age and just wanted to be with me. It soon became apparent that he was serious, so I became the one who struggled with our difference in age and worried that we were dating each other because there were no other options. He took me home to meet his parents and seemed really proud of me. The family was nice and accepting. I was happy to learn they were all LDS. We spent more time together and our relationship got even closer.

When Gary proposed, I said, ‘No, you’re too young for me.’ He smiled, “Age doesn’t matter because you don’t know how old you are in the spirit world.’ We debated it, and I continued to struggle with my feelings. One day after taking me home, Gary showed me a picture of his Uncle John C. and Aunt Eileen Begay, and explained, ‘I want to tell you about my uncle. He’s married to a nice lady, and they’re a nice couple. They’ve been married in the temple, and they go to the temple regularly. They both serve Heavenly Father and she’s eleven years older than he is.’

“That incident was a happy turning point in my life which convinced me that our marriage could work out. I prayed about it and received a confirmation of my decision. Deep down inside of me, I had always hoped I would marry in the temple and marry into a stalwart LDS family. My prayers were answered—later than I expected---but they were answered. We were married in March 1987 in the Mesa Temple, where I had always wanted to be married. Our families were very accommodating to travel that distance for our wedding. Gary’s parents and siblings attended the temple ceremony with us; my parents waited for us outside. It was a grand experience.

“Our first child Jennifer was born on January 17, 1988, in Utah. I finished my degree after she was born, and shortly thereafter we moved back to the reservation. We had our second child, Elijah, on January 3, 1991. When he was one year old, I went back to work as a music teacher, teaching general music K-8. I also taught an after-school choir for a group of kids who wanted to sing. I worked until Camilla, our youngest child, came unexpectedly. She was born on January 20, 1997. Now I work part-time as a substitute teacher. I think my greatest accomplishment in life is marrying Gary and raising my children in the church.

“As I reflect on how my life has changed positively I feel exceedingly grateful. I recall back to when I was 31 years old, just before Gary and I were engaged. Unhappily, I thought I would never have the chance to have children. Now that we have a family, I feel so grateful for the chance I had been given. Let me tell you about our children:

“Jennifer is now a freshman in college at Tucson University of Arizona. She wants to go into a science field. She plays guitar and sings; she’s very musical.

“Elijah is a sophomore at Hopi High School in Polacca, Az. He plays the guitar and has a beautiful voice, but he is hesitant to share this talent. He likes cars and wants to design automobiles some day.

“Camilla is an enthusiastic fourth grader. She also sings and is learning guitar.

“I have had many opportunities to serve in the Church, including Primary, Sunday School, Young Women, and Relief Society. I was just called as the first counselor in the stake Young Women presidency. When we moved down to the reservation, I learned how to play the piano because there was no one else to play in our church meetings. Since there was no teacher available, I had to learn on my own, and I was terrified. I prayed about it and asked Heavenly Father to help me. I had been able to take piano lessons for a short time in Utah while I was living with the Rhodes family on my second year of Placement. I had always wanted to learn to play the piano, but I was afraid to ask my foster parents for lessons because I knew it was expensive. When I found out my family gave my foster sister’s piano teacher milk in exchange for piano lessons and it wouldn’t involve money, I finally got the courage to ask. I did chores to earn my piano lessons for the last few months I stayed with them. When I received the calling to play the piano in our present branch, I began with the easy arrangements and kept practicing. Soon I was able to play most of the hymns. I’m still the music chairman in our branch.

“I regret that my father never joined the Church. He had many sets of missionaries come to see him. I found out before he died that during my first year on Placement, the missionaries had taught him and he was getting ready to be baptized. He had a feeling that the only way he could survive his change in religion would be to move away from the reservation and he made plans to move to Tooele, Utah, where the family of one of the missionaries was going to help him find a job. My parents were packing to move, and all the relatives came over and begged him to stay. He said it took all day for them to change his mind, but they succeeded. They said, 'You need to give up that Mormon business too.’ He gave in, and my mom just went along with what he did. After that, my dad denied his conversion. When I first heard of it, I thought, ‘Wow—what would it have been like if we had moved?’ I love my dad. I’ve always felt close to him and always wanted him to join the Church. Gary has done my father’s temple work. My mom is still alive and she has asked me not to press her about the gospel, but I have not given up hope.

“I’m learning that I shouldn’t take the gospel for granted. As the time before the Savior’s return draws nearer, it’s just going to get harder and harder. Our testimonies will be tested. If we’re not strong, if we don’t build a strong relationship with Heavenly Father, we can easily be blown away. I really am working on my personal relationship with my Heavenly Father. I’m eternally grateful to the Placement program, and I know that it was Heavenly Father’s program. I wish I had been able to be closer to my foster families. I realize that I was stubborn and it was partly my fault that I didn’t have a closer relationship with my foster families, and with a different attitude I could have made it work. I realize that no family could be perfect.

“The Placement program taught me that it was my responsibility to teach my children the truth and raise them in the gospel. I know that my testimony can strengthen them. I have to be an example. I can’t just say the gospel is true—I really have to help them feel the Spirit. Younger kids are so receptive to the spirit and the gospel. One lesson I want to share with my children and others is to stay the course. When you know something’s true, don’t leave it! They have so many obstacles before them that an early testimony can help them overcome. They really need a home where they can learn the gospel.

“My life is not extraordinary; it’s just simple and very good. I am happy.”


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