Before joining the BYU faculty, Dr. Thackeray was employed at the Utah Department of Health, Bureau of Health Education. Dr. Thackeray spent a sabbatical year working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Marketing in Atlanta, GA. She earned a B.S. in Community Health Education from Utah State University and a Master of Public Health degree and Ph.D. in health promotion and health education from the University of Utah.
Dr. Thackeray served as a member of the Young Women general advisory council (formerly general board) for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 2014-2018. She currently serves as a stake Relief Society president.
This I Believe
Thank you Alex for that testimony and thank you President Kusch for the invitation to be here today. I hope whatever you write in your notebooks it is something that the spirit tells you and not necessarily something that I say. As President Kusch was doing the introduction, I thought of my neice and she would say “Rosemary, you sound kind of fancy”. But really I am just like one of you, I just have a few more years of experience behind me.
But it doesn’t seem too long ago, that I was where you are today– beginning a new school year. I remember how it was both exhilarating and overwhelming all at the same time. You may have new roommates; you are hoping to find life-long friends; you are choosing what topics to study, getting used to an instructor's teaching style, learning ideas and concepts for the first time; you are adjusting your daily routine, and maybe starting a new job. Trying to find balance, harmony, and peace amidst all these changes can be challenging.
The January 2021 Church News podcast featured a conversation between Sister Wendy Nelson and Sheri Dew. In the interview, Sheri asked Sister Nelson her advice for going through major life transitions. Listen to Sister Nelson's response:
Number one, stick with what you know to be true. Make your list, check it twice, about what you absolutely know to be true. Because in times of high confusion, lots of things to deal with, it's tough to figure out: What do I really believe in? What is really happening here? And everything feels like it's moving. So to have that list and keep adding to it every day. What do you know to be true? And sometimes you start with, "OK, God is my Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ is my Savior. His Atonement is real. There is strengthening power in the Atonement. Prayer is real. Fasting is real. The Scriptures are answer books. If I take a question to the scriptures, I can get it answered." Stick with what you absolutely know to be true and do not look to the right or the left. Then know that you are working with God and with God all things will be possible and you'll have an amazing experience.
Several years ago, there was a National Public Radio program entitled "This I Believe." Individuals wrote brief essays about their core beliefs– those things that guided their daily life. They then read them on-air during the program broadcast.
To believe, by definition, means that you accept something as genuine, true, or real.
Today, I will share my "This I Believe" essay with you. I have selected three simple truths from my list. When I face difficult situations, when the future seems uncertain, when my heart hurts, or when I feel unsettled, reiterating these truths in my mind helps me to get re-centered and re-focused.
Number one. I believe that God is in the details of our lives.
Heavenly Father knows us by name. He knows where we are, what we are doing, and the deepest desires of our hearts. In fact I think President Kusch’s devotional a couple of weeks ago illustrated this point beautifully.
In a recent Latter-day Saint Women podcast, Sister Barbara Thompson, former counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, shared the following experience. Sister Thompson had been assigned to speak at a single adult conference. Her flight was delayed due to bad weather. When she finally arrived at the airport, it took her extra time to get to the exit due to construction. The stake president who was there to pick her up started to get worried, wondering if she missed her flight. So he said a prayer that included a plea– "please help everything to come together here." The words he heard in his mind were: "Don't worry. It's okay. She is my daughter. I will take care of her."
Sister Thompson continued. "The message I got from that [experience] is that Heavenly Father knows each one of us, married or single, He knows us. We are His precious children. He cares about us. He knows where we are. He knows if we are having trouble. He knows if we missed our flight. He knows if we are in a storm. He knows what is happening."
When we are in what Elder Neal A. Maxwell called the "muddled mortal middle," it may be hard to see how our life will unfold. We may wonder if God can accomplish His purposes in our life.
One time I was praying about something that I felt was an appropriate desire. The answer came as a "no." I was discouraged and could not understand the reasons. As I prayed, the thought came to my mind– "Heavenly Father wants your happiness even more than you do."
I have repeated that phrase to myself many, many times.
My life has not turned out as I had planned. Perhaps you can relate. In junior high, for a class assignment, I created a timeline for my life. It included these key milestones:
1986. Graduate from high school
1987. Get my first car
1991. Go to Paris
1992. Get married.
1994. First child is born.
2006. Second honeymoon.
Well– I did graduate from high school in 1986. I did not get my first car until 1991. It was 2005 before I went to Paris. I am still waiting to get married. In his then 6-year-old wisdom, my nephew Justin, whose mother is with me today, said to me, "Maybe you should just wish really hard."
When I graduated from college, I started interviewing for several jobs. I was never the interview panel's first choice, but often their second. I found a manila file folder and started saving my "rejection letters." I still have that file today.
As I look at these letters, I am reminded of how far I have come. I am grateful that some of those first job offers did not work out.
Over the last 30 years, I have been provided educational opportunities and career experiences beyond what I could have ever imagined. My plan did not include being a BYU professor or serving on the BYU President's Council, my current position. Yet, I can see how my previous job responsibilities and Church callings have prepared me for today. I am humbled and grateful to Heavenly Father for His constant, loving, and guiding hand. I have seen God in the details of my life.
Knowing that God is in the details does not exempt us from experiencing all that comes with living in a fallen world, including our use of moral agency. It does not guarantee that things will work out according to our timeline and plan. Yet, knowing that God is in the details gives us the confidence to move forward, trusting that God wants what is best for us and that He will do all that He can to help us. Elder Neal A. Maxwell put it this way:
Sometimes He clearly directs; other times it seems He merely permits some things to happen. Therefore, we will not always understand the role of God's hand, but we know enough of his heart and mind to be submissive. Thus when we are perplexed and stressed, explanatory help is not always immediately forthcoming, but compensatory help will be. Thus our process of cognition gives way to our personal submission, as we experience those moments when we learn to "be still, and know that I am God."
If not today, one day, we will look back and see the evidence that God has been in the details, orchestrating our journey.
Number two. I believe God hears us when we pray.
We are commanded to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus, asking for whatever we stand in need of, both temporal and spiritual.
Amulek taught the Zoramites that they should pray in their fields and in their houses, over their flocks, over their household, and over the crops of their fields that they might prosper and increase.
Today, I invite you to consider praying in your classrooms, over your assignments, and over your work that you might succeed and flourish.
When I was teaching, there were many days, most days I left my office going to the classroom and I would say a quick prayer- “Heaveny Father, please help me to teach theses students and be in tune with the spirit.”
In a BYU Women's Conference talk, Sister Linda K. Burton, former Relief Society General President, shared the following story about her great-great-grandmother praying.
In Denmark in 1873, my great-great-grandfather stepped on a rusty nail, got blood poisoning, and was in serious condition in the hospital for 26 weeks. This left the burden of providing for the family of five children to his wife, Karoline. Although she worked as hard as she could to provide for her family, she was unable to make enough money to pay the rent. After the rent was several months behind, the landlord told her she would have to move out unless she could pay all that was due.
Feeling overwhelmed and very tired I am absolutely sure, Karoline wept, but in faith she gathered her five little children to kneel with her in prayer to petition the Lord for His help, testifying to her children that "the Lord will hear our prayer." She then offered a fervent prayer and told the Lord she had done everything she could but she was unable to pay the rent. Then she humbly asked for His help. I am sure it was not the first prayer she had prayed. Upon finishing her prayer, she said, "I have a feeling that somebody will be inspired by the Lord to give us help."
The next day was a day of heavy snow. It always is when you are in trouble, isn’t it? And two of Karoline's little boys, one of them my great- grandfather, stood looking through the front window. They saw a big man dressed in what looked like a uniform coming across the front yard. They called to their mother to come and look. She was afraid the man was a police officer coming to serve her with a notice to move out because she had not paid her rent. The man walked up the inner stairway and knocked on the door. Karoline opened it. The man said, "Is this the place where Mrs. Kjar lives?" She nodded affirmatively. He then introduced himself and said, "My name is Johan Nicolai Madvig. Last night I had a dream from the Lord in which I was told that there was a poor, hard-working woman living in Fiolsthede 29 on the second story in the rear who was in need. Now I came here to help you. How much money do you need?"
Karoline reluctantly told him how much she owed the landlord. The stranger gave her the needed money and said, "If you ever need any more money, don't be afraid to ask me." He then gave her his address.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, Karoline thanked him for his great kindness."Don't thank me," replied the man. "Thank the Lord, for the dream that I had came from Him."
After the generous man left, Karoline gathered all the children to kneel in prayer again. She thanked the Lord for His kindness in inspiring someone to help them. Then she saidto her children, "May you ever remember this testimony of what has happened to us today. For it is indeed a real revelation from God.... Blessed be the name of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ, forever!"
The answers may not come as immediate or as dramatically as they did for Sister Kjar, but they are just as miraculous in our lives. Every answered prayer, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is evidence of God's love for us, His children. He is mindful of us in every circumstance.
When my summer plans for a trip to England fell through, my Dad decided to buy a last-minute airline ticket and come with me. Dad had served as a missionary in the British Isles. He loved everything British. I had previously booked accommodations at a residence hall for women only. When we arrived in London, we had no place for Dad to stay. This trip was pre-internet and cell phones. So we began walking the streets, reaching out to local travel agencies to find a room. One hostel had a bed, but neither of us felt good about the situation. It seemed our options were running out, and I was starting to get worried. After several hours we found an available room at the Imperial College dormitories. The cost was just 28 British pounds a night, and it included breakfast. It was only after the fact that we both admitted to silently praying that something would open up. We agreed that Divine intervention had led us to the college.
As you make decisions about your education, career, and other life choices, be prayerful. As we pray, we counsel with the Lord. One of His titles is "Wonderful Counsellor." Counseling implies both asking and listening and intending to act on the answer received. Heavenly Father will guide us if we ask. I believe that when we pray if we ask specific questions, we will receive specific answers. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland shared the following thought. He said, “God is eagerly waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams just as he always has. But he can’t if you don’t pray and he can’t if you don’t dream. In short He can’t if you don’t believe.”
I believe God hears us when we pray.
Number three. I believe there is power in living our covenants.
Several months ago, as I turned on the television, which I don’t do very often, there was a documentary about women remaking America. The speaker spoke loudly and boldly, declaring: "I believe in my power. I believe in our power." She continued naming other groups whose power she believed in. It captured my attention because I had been studying God's power, as President Russell M. Nelson had invited us to do.
The truth is, we need God's power in our life– we cannot do it alone– whether it is for seemingly routine tasks or assignments and responsibilities that stretch us beyond what we think we are capable of doing.
When we are baptized and when we participate in temple ordinances, we make promises with God; we call these two-way promises covenants. Beautiful blessings accompany those covenants if we are faithful, including having the constant companionship of the Spirit.
One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 41:10.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
In a recent study of this verse from Robert Alter's translation of the Hebrew Bible, I gained new insight as the verb tense was different. The verse reads:
Do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be frightened, for I am your God.
I have sustained you, also have helped you,
also have stayed you up with My triumphant right hand.
To me, the Lord is saying; I have been with you in the past. I have helped you. And so, you can count on me to help you in the future.
I reflected on the times I have felt Christ's strength or power and witnessed miracles and wonders. I am blessed every single day. I share just a few experiences.
I thought of the help I received when working full-time, going to graduate school, and serving in the Church. I learned that when you give the Lord His portion of your time, He will ensure that you have time for everything else. A dear friend recently asked how I balance my job responsibilities at BYU, my service as the stake Relief Society president, and life in general. My answer was immediate. It was the same as in my late 20s– I can do all that is asked because the Lord helps me.
I felt upheld by His hand the summer my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, and then just six weeks later, he and my mom died within five days of each other. All of this at the same time I was starting a new position at BYU.
The Lord made up the difference in my abilities when I was assigned to travel out-of-state to provide training for stake and ward Young Women leaders. It was a demanding week at work, I couldn't prepare as much as I had liked, and I was exhausted. He compensated with the presence of His Spirit in the meetings and gave me the physical strength I needed.
Joseph Smith told the saints in Nauvoo, "We need the temple more than we need anything else."
That is how I felt one recent Saturday morning. It had been a rough week. I thought to myself– I just need to go to the temple. You need an appointment with the pandemic restrictions, so I got online and started looking for the next available opening at a nearby temple. To my surprise, there was one at 11:00. I quickly got ready and was in the temple an hour later. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be in the Lord's house. As I participated in the ordinances, clarity came for the situations that were troubling me. And like other times when I worship in the temple, I left feeling that all is right in the world and I can face whatever challenges will come my way.
In Doctrine and Covenants 82:10, it reads: "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." Having access to the power associated with our covenants requires us to do our part.
My friend Julene and her husband are serving a mission in a country where the electrical power system is different than in the United States. For the first couple of weeks, every day, they spent several hours trying to figure out why their power kept going out and how to keep it on. One day they discovered that nobody had put the tokens in the electrical box in front of their house.
They learned that for the power to stay on, they must deposit the tokens in advance. Once they understood what was required of them to have continuous power, the problem was solved.
The sacrament prayers tell us what we need to do to experience power from our covenants. Each week when we worthily partake of the sacrament, we promise to willingly take the Savior's name upon us, be obedient to His commandments, and remember the Savior always.
Like Julene depositing the tokens so she can have power in her home, when we do these things, we are promised Christ's Spirit to be with us, always. The power in our life can be continuous.
That power can help give us insight, courage, and personal resolve to live our covenants.
Susan W. Tanner, former Young Women General President, shared a story of a time that they were living in Brasil that illustrates this point:
"As we drove home in pouring rain from sacrament meeting, we entered a neighborhood intersection. A car pulled out from behind a parked vehicle and hit us broadside. Fortunately no one in either of the cars was injured, but the automobiles were both quite badly dented. As my husband, John, got out to discuss our plight with the other driver, I kept reminding him that it was not our fault. Soon he returned to the car and slowly drove back to the little farmhouse where we were living, with metal grinding against the tires on every rotation. The other car followed. All John said was, "I'll explain later."
When we got home, John found our little envelope of emergency cash, and he paid the family to get their car repaired. They happily left. I was astonished. Then John gathered our family together. He was somewhat apologetic as he explained his actions. "I know this accident was not our fault, but as I was negotiating with this family, the only thought in my head was that only a little over an hour ago I had covenanted with Heavenly Father to always act as He would. I knew that if He were standing in my position, He would have had compassion on this family and He would have done all He could to help them."
I believe and know to be absolutely true that God is in the details of our lives. He hears and answers our prayers. There is power in living our covenants.
Perhaps you have started to write your "I Believe" list as I have been speaking. If not, I invite you to follow Sister Nelson's advice–make a list of what you believe– what you know to be true, genuine, and real. These truths will keep you grounded when all the world is swirling about you.
I leave with you my testimony. I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I have walked where He walked but that is not where my testimony came. My testimony is come from daily diligent scripture study and the Spirit bears witness of His reality everytime I diligently and thoughtfully read. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet. He restored the gospel in this dispensation of time. I know that Russell M. Nelson is a prophet on the earth today. I know that living the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to have joy and happiness now and in eternity. And I leave that testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.