Earthquake Safety

Sometimes, it takes the innocence of a child to teach our greatest lessons. Last week in church, I was able to sit in to listen to the lesson taught to the young children. Having heard many a lesson, these young spirits are very familiar with the standard answers to the questions that we all have. What to do when we have doubts? Pray, read the scriptures, and go to church. How do we help a friend in need? Be kind, share, and give them our testimony.

Last Sunday, our lovely Primary President asked the kids, “What is gray, has a bushy tail, and gathers nuts in the fall?”

One five-year-old raised his hand. “I know the answer should be Jesus,” he began, “but it sounds like a squirrel to me.”

It’s wonderful that the gospel is so simple that even the smallest member of our church knows what the answer should be to every question: Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith, our brother and advocate. He is our support and our strength. Camille N. Johnson so eloquently put it in last General Conference:

“Brothers and sisters, I can’t go at it alone, and I don’t need to, and I won’t. Choosing to be bound to my Savior, Jesus Christ, through the covenants I have made with God, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

My husband works on a committee that helps develop a consistent plan for what Utah will do on a governmental level in the instance of an earthquake. As we have seen, the Church has taken this possibility very seriously, retrofitting even the Salt Lake Temple and other temples and to be prepared for the likelihood of this event.

In the October 2022 General Conference address by Jorge F. Zeballos, he spoke of taking an engineering course designed to teach him how to create buildings that were “anti-seismic,” that is, able to withstand the force of any earthquake. He said he learned that NO buildings are “anti-seismic.” That’s a mistake. Because earthquakes WILL happen and nothing you can do will stop them from shaking the ground. But, as Elder Zeballos said, a person can learn to design structures that are seismic-resistant, structures that can resist the forces coming from an earthquake, so that the structure remains standing without suffering any serious damage.

Although he spoke about preparing to live a life that is sin-resistant, I want to take this concept and speak about what it’s like to actually be inside the earthquake of life. Earthquakes that we often have no control over.

These are the hardest parts of the human experience. Sickness, loss of a loved one, same-gender attraction, accidents, mental illness…The bad things that happen to good people. The experiences that make us ask God “Why me? Why now? Why did you let this happen?”

These are the moments that test us to the core. They are the ones the prove to ourselves who we are and what we have built our foundation on. From an eternal perspective, these are the most valuable and challenging moments of this life experience—the ones for which we, as premortal souls, longed for and looked forward to the most.

Not so much when you’re here, though. Amiright?

As a young couple, my husband and I wanted children, but had fertility issues. But we were also too poor to pay for anything cool, so we just kind of prayed and hoped that things would work out. After three years, miracle of miracles! We got lucky with our oldest daughter, Abigail. Nine years later, in a surprise move on the Lord’s part, we were able to have a second miracle in our daughter, Elyse.

In the fall of 2020, when the world was falling apart. We could all feel the earth shake, spiritually and literally. That year, I lost my job. The earth shook. And yet, I was able to find another relatively quickly, but not before starting a new business of publishing books.

Just a month later, our family found out that we were to have another baby. And after a shocking, tear-filled visit to the ultrasound specialist, we found we’d doubled our money on this one—we were expecting twins.

It was the most wonderful news, despite the hardness of the times. And we celebrated by taking the family to the temple to talk about our new babies on the way.

At 18 weeks, halfway through my twins’ pregnancy, we found that they were a rare pregnancy, where the babies shared the same amniotic sac. A one in 60k chance of even existing. We also were told that they had become entangled and had passed away.

The earth shook. It shook me so hard that I didn’t know how to breathe or think. Something inside broke from that earthquake, an earthquake that I didn’t cause nor could I control.

Six months later, I remember standing in my back yard as the doctor told me I had 5-7 years to live. The cancer that had gone unnoticed during my pregnancy was particularly aggressive, and had attacked my breasts, my bones, and liver. He said, “You have years to live, but not decades.”

The earth shook again, this time so hard that I wondered if my foundation could hold. How could God allow these things to happen to me when I had tried so hard to be faithful? How could he allow such hardships to mar our happiness? What had we done to deserve this?

But just then, as the doctor told me that there was no hope, I saw in the beautiful light of the June evening a butterfly. It fluttered through my garden, bright as a beacon. It was here, being beautiful and perfect at the darkest moment of my life. And so, when I called my husband to tell him that I had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, all I could say was, “I saw a butterfly.”

I was not scared. Although I was in the middle of the earthquake, the ground below me did not shake. The earthquake that followed was enormous. Financial, physical, spiritual…but I began to see that, at every point of my journey, at every new rocking blow, Jesus was there make sure that I was on solid ground.

When I lost my job, he had been there with a new one at the exact same pay and in the exact right time so that I barely felt the loss. He had inspired me to start a business which became influential to people who participated and were impacted by it.

When I lost my babies, I was able to hold them and love them with that perfect mother’s love. And Jesus promised me through his modern prophets that I will hold them again through the power of Christ’s resurrection.

When I learned I had cancer, there was that butterfly, telling me that all was not lost and that Jesus Christ was aware of every breath I took. He was taking this journey with me, holding me up through all of the shaking of my life’s ground. As it says in Helaman 5:12:

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

I am so grateful for those earthquakes, brothers and sisters. I have learned so much about love and faith. About pain and loss and sacrifice. I have learned what I am and what I am built on. And the answer? The answer is always Jesus. To every, every question. It may look like a squirrel, my small Primary friend. Or a butterfly. But it’s Him. And he is the coolest guy I know.

A month ago, after having battled with cancer for a year and a half, I was told that they can’t find any cancer anymore. The prayers and medicine and weird diets and great advice…those didn’t come from inside of me. Like the man who was carried by his friends to be healed by Jesus, I have been carried through these earthquakes, sometimes by divine hands, but always in the form of the hands of those around me. And now, through the grace of God, I am able to help carry someone—maybe you—through yours.

At every point of this journey, the one thing that the spirit told me time and time again was this: Fear not. And that is the greatest lesson of all, and the one I leave you with in the words of 1787 poet John Rippon:

Fear not, Jesus is with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For He is thy God and will still give thee aid.
He’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by his righteous, omnipotent hand.

I testify that no matter the earthquake, Christ is always there to hold you up and give you a solid foundation. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but God always offers aid and peace for whatever trial you face. All you have to do is lean on him and wait for the shaking to stop.

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