Hope On, Hope Ever!
November 21, 2017
Academic Office Administrative Assistant
Karen Rasmussen Kunz was born and raised in Teton Valley, Idaho to Jack and Marva Rasmussen. She married Dean H. Kunz, who is also from the same area but they never dated until after Dean's mission and he saw the light!
Both attended Ricks College and were engaged during their second semester and married in June.
They have four children, Kyle, Annalee, Melinda, and Clint, who married wonderful spouses and have given them their greatest joy, 14 grandchildren.
Twenty years ago, Dean and Karen began their own business called Spruce It Up Landscaping. They have lived in this area all of their married life. Karen was the office assistant in the business management department when Ricks College became BYU-Idaho. She left to help her husband with the business and hoped to one day return to work here. She currently is the Administrative Assistant in the Academic Administration Office and loves those she gets to work with.
Karen has served in various church callings such as relief society president, gospel doctrine teacher, stake family history leader, counselor in the stake relief society presidency, and is currently serving as a counselor in her ward young women presidency.
In a few sentences on the discussion board, share how the life stories of your ancestors have influenced or inspired you and what ways have you applied what you've learned from them to your life?
Brothers and sisters, it is a privilege to speak to you today. It is a terrifying privilege but nonetheless a great honor. Even though I feel extremely inadequate for this assignment, I have been greatly blessed in preparing this talk. My prayer today is for an abundance of the Holy Ghost to guide and teach us all.
A few years ago, my husband and I found a new pastime that we love. We purchased four-wheelers and decided to go on mini adventures and discover new places that are close by. Truthfully, this purchase was probably more about our midlife crisis and the passing of our youth than seeing the beauty of nature. The beautiful scenery in close proximity to this area is not only breathtaking but also inspiring. On one such day, after noticing several beautiful yellow sunflowers, I felt a strong prompting to stop and take this picture.
As you look at this flower, try to imagine what the surrounding area might look like. Consider how much care and nutrients this flower may require and what purpose it might serve as one of God's creations.
I knew very little about this flower and wondered why I would need to take a picture of it. Nevertheless, I have learned throughout my life that when the Lord is trying to teach us something, we may not understand it right away, but if we are patient and obedient in following the promptings, the lesson or teachings always comes.
In the days and weeks that followed, I started to notice this same flower everywhere. It was along roads, in random fields, and by riverbanks. I started to think I was going crazy, since I had never noticed it before and now it was everywhere I went. What was I supposed to learn from this flower?
At this same time, one of my ancestors' names kept popping into my head. I thought I had read everything about this ancestor, so I wondered why I needed to do anything more. I pulled up the Memories section in FamilySearch on this particular ancestor and, to my surprise, found a story that I had not seen before.[i] It told of an experience this family had when they first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. Food was scarce because most, if not all, of the family's provisions were used on the journey across the plains. Since they arrived in September, it was too late in the season to plant crops. Many of the early pioneers ate the bulbs of the sego lily as a source of food. However, on this particular day, there were no bulbs to be found. The family knelt to pray for guidance in finding something to fill their empty stomachs. They walked a short distance and saw a clump of greens that they had not noticed before. The children ran to the greens only to find sunflower-like bushes. Discouragement started to settle over the faces of the children, but their mother was given the impression to dig at the roots. To their surprise, the flower had a bulb-like tuber that looked edible.
Excited at the prospect of filling their bellies, they gathered all they could carry and returned home with happy and thankful hearts. First, they stopped to share with their neighbors, and it was only then that one of them exclaimed, "Jerusalem artichokes! Where did you find them?"
I had never heard of Jerusalem artichokes, so after a quick Google search, I learned although it looks nothing like an artichoke, it got its name from being a staple food for North American pilgrims and was thought of as a new feed in the "new Jerusalem."[ii] It can be harvested for human consumption and as livestock feed.[iii] However, the most amazing thing I learned is that it was the same exact flower I had been prompted to take a picture of earlier this summer. At that moment, I felt the burning power of the Holy Ghost and knew the Lord was trying to teach me important spiritual principles.
Let us now look at the surrounding conditions of that flower in the picture I took.
Remember the questions I asked you to think about earlier? Are these the surrounding conditions you first imaged for this flower? As you can see, the growing conditions are not ideal. It is barren and very dry, and it looks like rain has been scarce for a long period of time. Did you think there would need to be more nutrients than seen here for this flower to grow? This sunflower is seen so frequently during the fall months that it often goes unnoticed. Many consider it a weed, yet year after year it consistently blooms in imperfect, even harsh, conditions. Being a full sun plant and known for its hardiness and ability to survive extreme heat, it can withstand periods of drought as long as it receives enough water during the development of its root system.
Knowing more about this flower, it became apparent to me that my ancestor had a lot in common with this sunflower. There are four comparisons that I want to share with you today, but first let me introduce you to my faithful, courageous ancestor.
Rhoda Byrne Jared was born in Putnam, Tennessee, in 1820. Her father died when she was seven years old, and, being the eldest of seven siblings, she learned early how to perform many household duties done mostly by adults. She grew up three miles from a neighbor boy named Adolphia Young and married him at the young age of 16. Together they had eight children.
In the spring of 1842, her husband's distant cousin brought the message of the gospel to them. In a life history written by her daughter, it stated, "They were amazed to hear the message of the restoration and it rang true to them. They embraced the newly restored church with all their hearts."
How had Rhoda and her husband lived so that when the time came to hear the message of the restored gospel, they were ready to embrace and recognize its truthfulness? I would like to share the first comparison of the sunflower to this ancestor. Just as sunlight is a required element for this flower to bloom and grow, so is the Light of Christ to each of us. This light better helps us to see things as they really are and gives us the ability to discern between truth and error. In John 8:12 it states, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."[iv]
Since Rhoda and her family accepted the invitation to be baptized, they now had a great desire to join the Saints in Nauvoo. With heavy hearts, they left behind their parents, families, and close friends, since they were the only ones that had accepted the gospel.
The years that followed came with many heartaches and trials but also many miracles.
Arriving in Nauvoo at the very peak of great persecution, and after two years of living and laboring among the Saints, they were among those who first heard the devastating news of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum.
Rhoda's husband worked among those laboring desperately to finish the Nauvoo Temple. In three months' time, from December of 1845 to February of 1846, they were among the 5,615 Saints that received the ordinance of the endowment in this temple.[v]
Elder Robert D. Hales stated:
Their covenants with the Lord in the Nauvoo Temple were a protection for them during their journey westward, as it is for each of us today and throughout our lives....
For these early Saints, their participation in the ordinances of the temple was essential to their testimonies as they faced the hardships, the angry mobs, being driven from comfortable homes ..., and the long and difficult journey ahead. They had been endowed with power in the holy temple."[vi]
The second comparison to share is the way this flower consistently blooms wherever its roots are established. Even in extreme heat or long periods of drought, it not only grew but also thrived. Rhoda's faith was deeply rooted, and because of this, she remained firm and steadfast during times of great persecution. How do we consistently grow and thrive spiritually when the world we live in is not ideal and at times even harsh? Elder David A. Bednar taught us in the recent general conference, "The Sabbath day and the holy temple are two specific sources of divine help instituted by God to assist us in rising above the level and corruption of the world."[vii] Are you consistently partaking of this divine help?
While living in Nauvoo, Rhoda wrote a letter to her mother, which gives great insight of where she found strength to endure. She wrote, "Nauvoo is a city of Saints gathered from all parts of the world, as the old Prophet said, 'Two of a family and one of a city,' to do the commandments of God; even to build a house to His name. With a few exceptions, I believe they are the best people in the world. All is peace and quietness. The people are industrious, virtuous, and temperate, but now are the words of Paul verified, 'They that live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.' But in the midst of our afflictions, our hearts are made to rejoice, for we put our trust in that God who is able to light up a smile in the aspect of woe. His favor is richer than the finest gold, and His wisdom transcendeth all human understanding. His plans are founded in wisdom. He will perform His work and accomplish His purpose. Man cannot prevent it."[viii]
Rhoda found strength and comfort from Paul in the New Testament. Where do you turn for peace and comfort to chase away doubt or fear? For the third comparison to share, just as the sunflower requires certain nutrients to grow, such as enough water to survive periods of drought, we too may be nourished by immersing ourselves in the scriptures and pondering on their meaning. We will find solace and strength. Loneliness and fear will transform to hopeful, joyful, and grateful feelings, not to mention a greater confidence in understanding our eternal role and responsibilities.
After being forced by the mobs from their home in 1846, the family arrived in Council Bluffs, Iowa. One year later, Rhoda experienced the first of her life's deepest sorrows when their 18-month-old baby boy died from ague, or later known as malaria. Many of their family members were also very ill, and it became clear they would not be able to start the journey west. As a family, they decided to give their oxen team, wagon, and supplies to another family who were healthy enough to make the trek west. This humble sacrifice meant that the family would have to start working all over again to obtain the necessary supplies.
The fourth comparison of this sunflower is, just as it fed my ancestor and her family, we too can feed others by serving them.
Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days."[ix]
I hope you have all experienced the true joy which comes from serving or aiding others.
It took four more years to raise the funds necessary to make the trek west, in which time they returned to Tennessee to work and sell their share of the family estate. While living with Rhoda's parents, their 10-year-old daughter passed away after a one-day illness. This was the second child to be buried and left behind since they were still determined to make their way to Zion.
The family boarded a steamboat in St. Louis, Missouri, called the Saluda, carrying many Mormon immigrants bound for Iowa. Along the route, a narrow channel with very strong currents made it difficult for boats to make a sharp turn in the river. After two days of no progress, the frustrated captain ordered an increase in steam pressure, which caused the boilers to explode. Approximately 100 people were killed, but, miraculously, none of Rhoda's family were harmed. All of their possessions were destroyed except for the money that Adolphia had in his pocket, but because of their faith and determination, they eventually joined the Saints in Winter Quarters and joined the Captain Tidwell wagon train. [x]
One hundred miles into Nebraska, cholera struck their camp, and Rhoda's husband passed away on July 5, 1852, and 3 days later, and 50 miles further west, their 8-year-old son also died. This faithful wife and mother buried both husband and son along the trail west without a coffin or marked grave and only a blanket to wrap them in.
At this point, brothers and sisters, I feel it would have been understandable for Rhoda to pick up her remaining five children and return to her family in Tennessee for the much-needed comfort and support. She now had the task of raising her children without a companion, without extended-family support, and without the means to provide for them once they reached Salt Lake Valley. What would you do if you were Rhoda? Would you continue on to Zion? Would you have enough faith in the Lord to stay on the path?
At this seemingly impossible time, Rhoda decided her children needed a family motto to live by and to sustain them. After praying for guidance, the family decided on the motto "Hope on, Hope ever." The family continued with the wagon company and arrived in the Great Salt Lake in September of 1852.
I had read Rhoda's life history many times and marvel at not only her great courage but also her complete devotion to and faith in the Lord. My testimony has been strengthened as I pondered on the many sacrifices and heartaches she endured in order for her family to live and worship among the Saints. It was not an easy journey for her to make, and neither is ours.
Think of what trials or hardships you are facing today. How are you responding to those trials? Whom are you turning to for comfort and direction? Rhoda humbly turned to the Lord in prayer. President Ezra Taft Benson stated, "Prayer will open doors; prayer will remove barriers; prayer will ease pressures; prayer will give inner peace and comfort during times of strain and stress and difficulty. Even during hours of trial and anxiety, it is possible to draw close to the Lord, to feel of his influence and of his sustaining power--that one is never alone, if he will only humble himself before the Almighty."[xi]
I stated earlier that I had not noticed that sunflower before. If you have ever felt or feel unnoticed or not valued, please remember that our Heavenly Father knows and loves each of us individually. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught us, "No one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another.... He loves each of us--insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all.... He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other."[xii]
You might have read the following questions on the devotional discussion board: "How have the life stories of your ancestors influenced or inspired you?" and "In what ways have you applied that to your life?" Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights.
I rejoice with these students in discovering their ancestors' life stories, and by doing so, they have been blessed with examples of strength and courage to draw from in time of need. Even if some of our ancestors' lives are not great examples of faith, we can learn from poor choices or mistakes made and redirect the path of our posterity.
This past general conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard stated, "I have a deep conviction that if we lose our ties to those who have gone before us, including our pioneer forefathers and mothers, we will lose a very precious treasure. I have spoken about "Faith in Every Footstep" in the past and will continue in the future because I know that rising generations must have the same kind of faith that the early Saints had in the Lord Jesus Christ and His restored gospel."[xiii]
In my opinion, the tree-of-life vision given to Lehi is very easy to visualize in this dispensation.
The mist of darkness and the mocking of the people in the big and spacious buildings are easy to understand or relate to in our day.
But if we are worthy of the guidance and comfort of the Holy Ghost, if we partake of the blessings and power of the sacrament and the temple ordinances, if we feast upon the scriptures and pray always, and, especially, if we accept the Lord's invitation to "come unto Him," we will be on that strait and narrow path leading to the tree of life. However, the choice is ours to make.
My dear Rhoda faced many choices throughout her life. Her journey could have told a completely different story. She probably had no idea how her choices were going to affect me and many, many others. However, today thousands of her posterity are inspired and influenced for the better part because of her choices.
This picture was taken that same day on our way home. How amazing it is to me after this experience, for it shows what I believe is the final lesson taught. The decisions and choices we make now not only affect us but generations to come. I believe one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves today is, What will our life story teach our posterity? Will it be an example of faith, commitment, and courage? Will our story tell of trials endured well and service to others because of our love and devotion to God our Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ?
It is my hope and prayer that we may all adopt my ancestor's family motto, "Hope on, Hope ever," and have the courage and determination to stay on the path to Zion. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] "Answer to a prayer," FamilySearch, last modified Oct. 16, 2016, https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/30175991. [ii] "Jerusalem artichoke," Wikipedia, last modified Nov. 20, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_artichoke. [iii] "Jerusalem Artichoke," Alternative Field Crops Manual, Purdue University, last modified Nov. 21, 2017, https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/jerusart.html. [iv] John 8:12. [v] Richard E. Bennett, "Winter Quarters: Church Headquarters, 1846-1848," Ensign, Sept. 1997. [vi] Robert D. Hales, "Temple Blessings," BYU Devotional, Nov. 15, 2005, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/robert-d-hales_temple-blessings/. [vii] David A. Bednar, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises," Ensign, Nov. 2017. [viii] Eleanor McAllister Young, "Rhoda's Letter to Her Mother," History of Brigham Lawrence Young," 21-22, FamilySearch, last modified Apr. 23, 2013, https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/717365. [ix] Doctrine and Covenants 64:33-34. [x] Trail Excerpt, "Aldophia Young was a member of the John Tidwell Company," FamilySearch, last modified Aug. 4, 2014, https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/9058048. [xi] Ezra Taft Benson, "Pray Always," Life of Ezra Taft Benson, 54. [xii] Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Other Prodigal," Ensign, May 2002. [xiii] M. Russell Ballard, "The Trek Continues!" Ensign, Nov. 2017; emphasis added.