We must stand firm. We must hold back the world. If we do so, the Almighty will be our strength and our protector, our guide and our revelator. We shall have the comfort of knowing that we are doing what He would have us do. Others may not agree with us, but I am confident that they will respect us. We will not be left alone. There are many not of our faith but who feel as we do. They will support us. They will sustain us in our efforts.
We cannot be arrogant. We cannot be self-righteous. The very situation in which the Lord has placed us requires that we be humble as the beneficiaries of His direction.
While we cannot agree with others on certain matters, we must never be disagreeable. We must be friendly, soft-spoken, neighborly, and understanding.
Now I emphasize a theme already treated in this conference . . . I say, be true. Hold to the faith. Stand firmly for what you know to be right. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “An Ensign to the Nations, a Light to the World,” Ensign, Nov 2003, 82)
In April of 1993 I was given a very unique opportunity to stand before the world via television and testify of truth. I have been specifically asked to share this experience with you today, and I am pleased to do that.
From my youth I stood for what I believed, not only did I stand for this truth, but I also knew what I professed to believe. From an early age I studied the scriptures (the Holy Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price) and as more and more books became available, written by modern prophets, apostles, general authorities and trusted theologians such as Hugh Nibley, Andrew Skinner, Catherine Thomas and Matthew B. Brown, to name a few, my heart and mind expanded in knowledge and understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When I arrived at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho I had developed the ability to stand in front of groups of people and speak about this gospel I loved so much and have come to love so much more. This only increased as time went on. In April of 1995 I came across an anti-Mormon book, which isn’t even worth writing the name here, which presented Mormon women as uneducated, dominated and subjugated. I looked around at my family (I have six sisters), my friends and the circle of my acquaintances and saw lawyers, nurses, doctors, artists, musicians, writers, teachers, ranchers, farmers . . . not an uneducated, dominated or subjugated one in the bunch.
I read excerpts of this same book in a well-known women’s magazine and decided to write a letter to the editor. Now knowing who that editor was I realize my letter found its way into that famous little round file found under her desk. But days after I mailed that letter I noticed the author of that book was going to be on the Phil Donahue Show. I stewed about that for a day or so and then made the decision to fax the producers a copy of the letter I’d written to the magazine. I did give them their own cover sheet. Within hours I’d received a phone call from one of Donahue’s producers.
We spoke for quite some time and although I didn’t feel confident about the interviewing of this sorely disturbed woman, I knew there was nothing I could do about it. A few hours later the producer called me and we spoke at length again. I didn’t know why, I was a lowly Novell employee at the time, not the published author I am today, and I couldn’t understand why she’d called, but I enjoyed the conversation nonetheless. I did ask that with 80,000 Mormons in the Northeastern part of the United States, that she find someone who was a valiant member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons to appear on the show.
In case this moment in time is fuzzy to you, as it would be to me, it was the same weekend as the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles.
The weekend came and went, as did Monday, and on Tuesday morning I received a panicked call from that very same producer. The two men who’d been willing to fly to New York City and appear on the show had backed out because the shooting date had been changed and their schedules were not accommodating to the new date. She now had the author of that anti-Mormon book going on unopposed, she asked if I would fly to New York and appear on the show in defense of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I didn’t hesitate, I only had to clear it with my boss. He graciously gave me permission and I was on a flight that afternoon, reading the aforementioned book as we flew eastward.
I’ll admit, prior to reading the entire book I was quite angry at the author. Once I was done, I felt such immense pity for her it was amazing. She’d ridiculed the prophets and apostles, she’d mocked and twisted truths until they were unrecognizable, and yet, there was something about her that made me pity her greatly.
I arrived in New York City around midnight and was driven to the Drake Hotel in Manhattan. There I dropped off to sleep rather quickly only to awaken in the morning in a complete and utter panic.
Prior to leaving Utah I’d found two co-workers willing to give me a priesthood blessing of comfort and protection. I’d been promised by the Lord, through His willing and worthy servants, that I would not lose my temper, make a fool of myself or the Church and that I would be protected the entire time I was gone. I felt that cloak of heavenly protection settle around me, but when I awakened at 5:00 a.m. in the city where no one truly ever sleeps, I realized a cold hard truth.
While I’d flown to New York to appear on the Phil Donahue Show as Candace Sluyter (my maiden name) who happened to be a Mormon woman, I realized right then that the world would perceive me as Candace Sluyter Mormon Church. To say I was in an unrestrained panic would be putting it mildly. I crawled out of bed, knelt on the floor of that hotel room and began to pray. I prayed more fervently than I had ever prayed. I prayed for peace, for comfort and most importantly, for the ability to listen to Him for any inspiration He was willing to offer me during the taping of the show. I was literally cloaked in terror, but as I continued praying, slowly I began to feel a warmth overcome me. Beginning at the crown of my head it surrounded me completely until I felt it at the very core of my being. Within minutes all my panic and terror were gone and I felt peace and an overwhelming love which enveloped me head to toe. I was where I was supposed to be doing what I’d always loved doing, standing for what I believed in . . . I prayed a while longer thanking my Heavenly Father for always answering my prayers, for always hearing me when I cried unto Him, for always being there when I needed Him.
As the morning wore on into afternoon, I began to prepare myself to be on the Phil Donahue Show. The same producer I’d spoken with before called me and we went over every single thing Phil was going to ask me on the show. I felt a brief return of the panic just before the driver came to pick me up, but I quickly prayed once again and that peace returned.
I also spoke, in length, to my mother. Through and from her I received an additional layer of peace and comfort as she described the continual prayers being offered on my behalf. My mother is an incredibly strong woman and because of her I am the woman I am today.
Through the actual taping of the show I found myself facing the author, who’d had electric shock treatments and showed the effects of that with an incessant giggle and twitching eyes, another woman who’d started some kind of women’s lib organization in her neighborhood for Mormon women and another woman who’d been a Mormon but had her name taken off the records of the Church. In other words, it was me, the lone Mormon against three sorely disturbed women, Phil Donahue and a studio audience that had not a single Mormon in it.
As the show progressed I listened to these women, offered comments when I felt it appropriate and answered all questions put to me. By the end of the show, the audience seemed friendly, the other women somewhat puzzled by me and I felt pretty good about the way things had come down. Certainly grateful that Heavenly Father’s promise had been kept to me, I didn’t lose my temper and I was able to answer every question. One of the women thought I spoke too authoritatively, Phil disagreed. Another thought I was sorely deceived in my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the other had no idea what to think of me at all. She believed I’d suffered no trials or worries in life. Hmmm.
What I do know is that I ended up not only defending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I ended up defending the priesthood, the men, of the Church. Oh certainly, I have known some downright scoundrels, even approaching evil men in my life, both inside and outside the Church. But I have known far more good men in my life than bad. Far more men dedicated to God rather than to their personal gratification . . . and so I willingly defended them and the gospel of Jesus Christ at the same time.
Once the show was finished being taped, Phil asked if we would line up on the stage and allow the audience to ask us more questions. I answered question after question about Mormon doctrine which is, as I have already mentioned, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I answered each and every one until I was hustled out of there to catch my flight back to Salt Lake City.
As I waited outside for my car, I heard “There she is . . ” and I was surrounded once again. I continued to answer all questions thrown at me until my car arrived and I left for the airport.
Throughout the entire experience I have never felt closer to my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ, nor I have felt the strength of protection again that I felt during that 24 hour period. During the taping of the show and the answering of the questions afterward I felt the Holy Ghost testifying to me over and over of the truthfulness of the answers I was giving to those questioning minds.
When I’d left Utah my testimony had been strong. When I returned, with so much having been testified to me by the Holy Ghost, my testimony was three to four times larger than it had been when I left, at a minimum. I know this: I stood for truth. I stood for righteousness. And I stood for the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and for all truths the Lord has provided us in lighting that path through mortality and onward into the heavens.
I testify that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been fully restored and is taught in its entirety in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify we have a living prophet in Gordon B. Hinckley and he is the mouthpiece of the Lord and guides His Church today. I testify that God the Father and Jesus Christ did appear to Joseph Smith, Jr. in the spring of 1820 and over the course of the next fourteen years, Joseph restored Christ’s gospel under His direction. I testify to you that the Book of Mormon is a divinely inspired book and stands as a second witness of Jesus Christ with the record of the peoples which inhabited the Americas from 600 B.C. until 421 B.C. I testify to you that the Savior stands at the head of this Church as its Chief Cornerstone.
Whether on a television show aired in 52 countries, or on the internet where billions can read it, or in a small congregation of a local church I will stand and testify that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the Son of God and is the only path by which mankind may be saved. He lives, and because He lives so do we. Because He suffered the Atonement He has redeemed us if we will but cast off the natural man, fan that spark of divinity within us and fulfill the full measure of our creation. Remember who you are . . . kneel in solemn and sincere prayer and truth will be testified of to you by the Holy Ghost, that Comforter who came to the apostles after Jesus Christ died, was resurrected and ascended into heaven.
Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated that “the world’s greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 475).
And I, as a woman, even a daughter of God, strive to be the greatest champion of Jesus Christ. And this I testify of . . . without concern, without prevarication and without fear, I matter and because I matter, I testify of truth. Seek it out my dear friends, for greater joy you will never know when all the truths He has for you are revealed through the gospel principles, practices and precepts.