By Laurie Prusso Hatch, M Ed.
Certified Positive Discipline Trainer and Parenting Coach
My parents taught us to pray and I took it seriously. Always feeling completely alone, scared, and confused, I developed a serious one-sided relationship with Heavenly Father when as a young child I poured out my heart and my needs to him regularly—even constantly. Somehow, deep in my heart, I knew He was there and that He heard me. I didn’t really see evidence that he heard me until I was 11-years old and went to Young Women’s camp for the first time. Of course, I felt alone, scared, and confused, about everything, especially walking in the dark from campfire back to our sleeping bags in an open A-frame. So my constant prayers became intense.
On Sunday, we held a Sabbath fast and testimony meeting on a slab of granite in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. As I listened to the talk of a return missionary as he bore testimony of the atonement of Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost spoke to my heart and filled me with His love. I knew, not only that Heavenly Father heard me, but I knew that the things I knew were true. That undeniable experience and the testimony that accompanied it have never wavered. My activity waivered, but never my testimony of that experience!
My parents divorced a couple of years later. My tumultuous teen years followed and I was not very active in the church, but my testimony never wavered. I got married as soon as I graduated from high school at the age of 17 and had my first son when I was 18. My fifth son was born a month after I turned 27 and my youngest son came 6 years later. I was on an exciting, turbulent, and eventful journey. It was an adventure of sorts.
The year that my baby was born, my now-husband Mark’s wife and my best friend Claudia died of breast cancer, and a month later my husband left me. My baby son was 11 months old; my boys were 15, 13, 11, 9, and 7. The theme of alone, unloved, scared, and confused remained and it seems was even proven and validated by my life experiences.
I was a 33-year-old woman, with a high school diploma and 6 sons. It was a little desperate. I buried myself in the Book of Mormon each day finding strength or answers or reminders of God’s love for me and I started college. Of course, as I walked onto the campus, I felt alone, scared, and lost, but I knew that Heavenly Father loved me and I was committed to being able to care for my family. I became really good at juggling.
Most importantly, my conversion was strengthened as I had no one to depend upon except the Lord and he carried and directed me daily.
I stayed grounded in the gospel and actively involved in church assignments and opportunities and I remained buried in the scriptures. I continued to go to girl’s camp. I believe I went 37 times! It was my second refuge, second to the temple and I could always feel the Lord guiding and directing us in our love of the girls. I felt close to God sitting on the side of a mountain overlooking a lake, or looking up into the sky filled with his creations.
Miracles flowed; some recognized at the time, but others only in retrospect. During the time that I was in school, I was blessed by sisters in the ward who watched my baby and loved him along with their own children. I was blessed with good health and energy. I was blessed with a quick sense of humor and the ability to see and discern the truth from falsehoods that were taught in classrooms.
I was especially blessed with a photographic memory and an auditory memory. If I heard it or saw it or read it, I had near-perfect recall. This applied to my schoolwork and my scripture study. It was an amazing and illuminating time for me. This blessing has not remained, but the harvest of learning from it continues with me.
Over the next several years, as my husband came and went, I became a regular student of the scriptures. I LOVE the book of Enos and sections 121 and 122 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Verses 7 and 8 in section 121 are seared in my soul:
It was, however, the declaration in section 122, verse 8 that provided perspective when I wanted to have a “why me?” pity party.
Of course, I knew I was not greater than Christ and if the perfect Son of God suffered, who was I to think that I should not. One day when I was seeking solace, a passage and understanding that I had not attended to before became an answer to my prayer.
The knowledge that I, that we, could and would eventually receive gave me comfort and such joy and strength that I just kept going. Believe me, sometimes that’s all
I could do, just KEEP going.
During this time, my oldest four sons went on missions and returned. But my fifth son, my precious sweet kind little boy began to wander away. I could not hold him. Prayers seemed unanswered and faith and hope seemed useless. No effort worked. I studied and I worked and I served and I felt alone and scared and confused—so scared and so very lost. I studied the story of the prodigal son over and over for hints of what I could do to save this child but he left home at barely 16 and didn’t return.
My heart was continually wracked with pain and grief and loss and pleading—diligent, desperate pleading, in prayer. I buried myself in scriptures and served and kept going and cried my heart out every night, watering my pillow with my tears.
Sometimes I didn’t know where he was for a year at a time. Children married and grandchildren came. I finished college and went to work. My baby was 13 years old and I felt like I was a hundred years old. And most of the time we didn’t know where Tyler was. Grandchildren brought me great joy!
I finally divorced after 30 years of trying to keep our family together. During this time of the most wrenching heartache and searching, I felt alone, and scared and confused and desperate and rejected and resentful and I wondered where the Lord’s pavilion was. Sacrament songs brought tears. Temple attendance brought tearful peace and inspiration and revelation.
Without realizing it, I was growing in strength and courage and knowledge and wisdom and especially in tenacity. I depended completely on the Lord and I just kept going.
I remembered the scripture in John 14: 26 and 27 and prayed to have it implemented in my life to give me a hint of what I was supposed to be doing.
I believed that if I could only “remember” what I had learned in the pre-mortal existence, I could make some sense of the mess I seemed to have created. It was a greater understanding of the gift of charity and repentance that brought me the most peace.
I learned that forgiveness of another is really my own repentance of the resentment and anger I felt toward that person. I learned that because of Heavenly Father’s great love for Tyler, he would eventually be led home. Perhaps not in this mortal life, nevertheless, he would come home.
I learned that when I was hurt by someone’s actions, they were feeling lost and lonely and scared and needed to feel loved.
I learned that I don’t want others to suffer or pay for their actions, I want them to be able to change and progress and heal and learn and feel loved. I believe this is the Savior’s plan of mercy.
During a particularly difficult and dark time in my life, which had lasted over a year and seemed that there would be no satisfactory resolution, I was overwhelmed with depression. I was often drawn out in powerful and tearful prayer. I studied my scriptures and went to the temple. I cried and felt helpless and hopeless surrounded by darkness.
In faith, I exercised the pattern from the scriptures, I wrestled with this incongruence in my life that I was a daughter of Heavenly Father who loved me and yet at the
same time, I felt worthless and lonely and unloved. With faith in my Savior, I continued to carry out my callings, love my family, and keep my covenants.
Here is something important. You cannot talk someone out of the lens of their problem.
You cannot convince them that they are OK, or loved, or wonderful or worthy or competent or as good as or anything else. These internal perceptions do not derive from logical thought and they will not be relieved in that way. In fact, for a person suffering depression, these kinds of logical conversations might just make them feel worse because your words make perfect sense and they even agree with you, but the dark feeling is so strong and overwhelming that they may feel humiliated and ashamed and then determine not to share their feelings anymore. I could not be talked out of this perception. I prayed…
“Heavenly Father, if thou wilt bring all things to my remembrance. Through the Holy Ghost, bring to my remembrance who I am! Who I was when I was with you! Who I am to become? Make me worthy. Take away this darkness and despair and fill me with hope through thy Grace. Help me to love others and serve them.”Laurie Hatch
I was diligent in my pleadings with the Lord because I was desperate for relief. I was desperate for the light because I was consumed with darkness. There was, I thought, no one to turn to. I held on to my faith, to hope, and to what I had already experienced of God’s love for me. I held on to Mark. I continued to study my scriptures and read and re-read conference talks. I attended the temple as much as I could.
And so, as with Joseph in Liberty Jail, after my diligent and desperate pleadings, and when the Lord was ready, He gave me His grace. Mark knew about my struggle, but not my specific request in my prayers. He was befuddled that I could feel so dark and so alone because He thought I was so wonderful.
One morning we were getting ready for church. We knelt together in prayer; it was Mark’s voice. As he prayed, he hesitated for a long silent moment and we then had, what I will only describe as a miraculous experience. He blessed me using almost exactly the words that I had prayed for. He knew and I knew that the blessing did not come from him, only through him. We were filled with the Holy Ghost and with love.
In an instant! After 63 years I no longer felt alone, scared, worthless or confused. As I had experienced many times before, I knew that Heavenly Father knew me personally and had now, through Mark, taken from me the pain I had suffered for a lifetime. As with other gifts of revelation directly from the Spirit, we both knew that we had experienced a miracle.
I continued to pray for miracles for Tyler and for other family members. I prayed for my children to love each other and to plead for forgiving hearts and for the Holy Ghost.
I know that when there is nothing we can do, Heavenly Father’s watchful eye is over our children. I believe in miracles and pray for them always.
Through a horrible event, Tyler came home to us with his 4 ½-year-old son. Two years later, he got up one morning and said I’m done with the drugs, and he hasn’t touched them since. He is part of our family. He is happily married to a beautiful woman and raising his amazing son. We learned what the Prodigal’s parents learned. It is only love that counts. It is the kind of trust in the Lord that we discover when there is absolutely nothing we can do. It is our love for others and God’s love for all of us.
Just keep loving. When the wishes and expectations and fears and negotiating don’t work, love will work, only love works.
Our life experiences, trials, adversities, troubles, challenges, losses and weaknesses are the very opportunities we need to grow in the very way Father intends so we can become like His son. If we seek Him, humble ourselves to ask for learning and growth, pray with a fullness of heart and with all our might for peace and comfort and strength and courage He will bless us. He knows us. He loves us personally and completely. The blessings will come. There will be peace in our souls and our afflictions
shall be but a small moment, even if it seems like an eternity now.
I believe that there is a necessary connection between our suffering, The Father’s mercy, and personal revelation. It is in our moments, days, weeks, and perhaps lifetimes of struggle, sorrow, pain, and other types of adversity, that as we seek him most diligently in quiet moments of desperation, we come to know that He is indeed listening.
I have come to believe that no one has an easy life. Easy paths do not help us become Christlike. He is crafting us, pushing here, pulling there, and teaching us about love.
His promises are real; “And if thou endure it well, God will exalt thee on high and thou shalt triumph.” (D&C 121:8)