Does the Journey Seem Long?

Sara Watson: Good morning. I’m Sara Watson from the Shamrock Ward. My husband and I have eight kids and I will be talking about many of them today in my talk. Three at BYU Idaho and five at home. When I was a little girl, I don’t know if you’ve seen this in the hallways where little kids are grabbing their mom’s arms and trying to get them to leave church.

But I was one of those little kids that was impatient and ready to go home. And my agenda was to get out of my dress as soon as possible. And I never won that war. I was the youngest of eight kids, so my mom was experienced, used to that behavior, and stood firm.

Sometimes as an adult, I act in this way towards my Heavenly Father. I want to lead him where I think my life should be going, and persuade him to do my will instead of accepting his will for me. It is difficult to submit to the Lord and wait upon his timing, especially in times of serious trouble and heartache.

The past few years have been indescribably hard for our family.

And many of our experiences involve subjects so tender and personal that I cannot share them in this setting. Fortunately, and unfortunately, there are still plenty of things that I can share about our recent experience. And I pray that it will give you hope on your journey of waiting upon the Lord. A journey that may seem long.

The words to the hymn, Does the Journey Seem Long, written by President Joseph Fielding Smith, will be included in parts of my talk.

July and August 2020 were crazy for our family. It all started when we went up to Idaho City for the Fourth of July. My kids were playing night games and Rebekah, who was, 13 at the time, ran into a metal pole that she didn’t see and she ended up breaking two of her front teeth.

And then the following day, our daughter Mary, who was just about to put in her mission papers, rolled a four wheeler and broke her back. We headed home to a very hot house because our air conditioner had broken during the hottest part of the year. And a few days later, my son Hyatt, who was 15, called from a friend’s house and he said, “Don’t be mad, Mom. I think I’m okay.” I had threatened the kids earlier that no more accidents were allowed. He came home to our 90 plus degree house, laid down on the couch, and asked for a blanket. I knew he was in shock and that we needed to go to urgent care. I figured something was broken.

It took a few weeks to get everyone stable.

Rebekah had surgery on her jaw, two root canals, and restoration of her teeth. Mary had an MRI, a back brace, and strict instructions not to bend, twist, or lift for the next three months. And Hyatt had hand surgery for the placement of three pins in his thumb. On top of that, our daughter Hannah had her tonsils out, and my husband Cameron had a lung abscess that was initially thought to be cancer.

It was a whirlwind of circumstances that were trying for our family. And I breathed a sigh of relief when I thought it was all over. We had successfully endured a myriad of trials, as it says in Romans chapter 5. “But we glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience and experience hope.”

We had made it through. Maybe not well at times, but certainly things would start looking up because trials end, right? I was excited to work harder on family scripture study, do better at my calling, spend time with the family, and have some fun. Little did I know that round two of confusion, calamity, and sorrow was just around the corner.

Does the journey seem long? Verse 1. “Does the journey seem long? The path rugged and steep? Are there briars and thorns on the way? Do sharp stones cut your feet as you struggle to rise to the heights through the heat of the day?”

Tragedy struck our family in February 2021 when our 17 year old nephew Jacob ended his life. My children were all extremely sorrowful. And it led to a mental health crisis for our teenage son. Life was no longer predictable. And the trials continued to heap.

Our son was hospitalized five times over the next year, and family and friends joined together to pray and fast for him.

Then in April 2021, our oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was in a severe car accident. She rolled the car three times off the freeway and she broke her back. It was laughable that we had two kids break their backs within less than a year.

And then a couple of months later, my health declined rapidly because of strangulated hernia. And I ended up flat in bed for two months while my husband, Cameron, took on the role of wound care specialist and Mr. Mom. I became incapable of fulfilling the desires of my heart to care for my family.

Does the journey seem long? Verse 2. “Is your heart faint and sad, your soul weary within, as you toil neath the burden of care? Does the load heavy seem you are forced now to lift? Is there no one? Your burden to share.”

I questioned the Lord. Why, when my family needed me the most, was I incapacitated? Why, when I’m trying to be diligent and faithful, does it seem like nothing is improving? I was ready for our burdens to be lifted, and I was pulling on the Lord. I wanted less adversity and a light at the end of the tunnel. I cannot deny the countless tender mercies we were blessed with. During that time, we were visited and ministered to by many friends, family and church leaders. We were touched and strengthened by the testimonies of others. Brother Jon Hanson came by and shared his sweet testimony of Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, asking, “O God, where art thou? How long shall thy hand be stayed?” ( Doctrine and Covenants 121:1-2)

I knew we were not alone, although more often than not, it felt very lonely. I tried to find comfort in the Lord’s answer to Joseph’s question to “know thou my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7) We’ve heard that scripture a few times in this conference already.

Nothing felt good at that time, and it was hard to imagine coming out on the other side. But the Lord hath said, “Peace be unto thy soul, thine adversity and thine affliction shall be but a small moment.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7)

Over time, some things got better. Hooray.

Two of our daughters went on missions. Our son was blessed with amazing friends and started going to school again. And I began to gain some strength back.

Does the journey seem long? Verse 3. “Let your heart be not faint. Now the journey’s begun. There is one who still beckons to you. So look upward in joy and take hold of his hand.He will lead you to heights that are new.”

Then, a year ago, today, to the day, Hyatt broke his back at a trampoline park. So if you see him today and pat him on the back, know that you don’t have to be as careful as you did before. He can take it. If you’re counting, that is three broken backs within two and a half years.

The staff at the ER gently gave us the news, not knowing that we were seasoned. They were confused by our calm reaction. A few months later, Hannah was honorably released from her five month mission because of continued heart problems and the need for a third heart surgery. At about that same time, Rebekah started having back pain. And after an MRI, it was decided that she needed back surgery to prevent permanent nerve damage. And she wasn’t even one that broke her back. So that came out of left field.

The joke became that I was raising teenagers with geriatric problems. But by this time, I was confident in my knowledge of back injuries and blessed by modern medicine to keep my kids alive and walking.

Gratitude and attitude were not enough to keep hopelessness at bay at all times, but I thought I had arrived at a new ability to go forward through adversity, and then again, I was tested.

My husband Cameron was in a car accident in April 2023 and unable to work, lost his job, a job that he loved. We had to start figuring out what to do next.

The answers and directions we received were not what I wanted or expected. It didn’t make sense to me and I fought it. I wanted safety, security and sanity all at once and felt none. In my struggle, I attended the temple weekly and it was hit with the realization. I had a broken heart. It was broken to pieces, but I was angry, maybe even bitter that I had to be accepting of more.

Having a contrite spirit when I felt I had reached my limit seemed impossible. I had thought my capacity to deal with adversity was sufficient. Hadn’t I proven to the Lord that I had learned enough for now?

The quiet answer to this question was, “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he.” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:8)

Does the journey seem long? Verse 4. “A land holy and pure where all trouble doth end and your life shall be free from all sin. Where no tears shall be shed for no sorrows remain. Take his hand and with him enter in.”

I love the Savior and I’m learning to stand by him as I face the uncertainty of mortality.

He is strong and immovable, much like my mother was. And I have chosen to follow him and practice trusting in his will and timing. Jesus suffered all things so that we can enjoy the blessings of eternal life. I am reminded of our sweet prophet urging us to “think celestial” as we endure the trials of mortality.

Sometimes the expectations of what life should be like looks very different than what it turns out to be. Waiting upon the Lord means trusting in his plan, his timing, and his solutions, especially when the ability to understand the reasons for suffering and sorrow is impossible.

Our journey in the past few years has been arduous for every member of our family, but I am grateful for the miracles we have seen. For physical and mental recovery, for softened hearts and the willingness to try again, and the hope that there will be a resurrection someday with full restoration of life, limb and vertebrae.

I am so grateful for eternal families and for our Savior Jesus Christ and his intimate knowledge of us and what we go through, and his ability to comfort and heal us through it. I know of a surety that if we wait upon the Lord and let him lead, he will bless us and our families more abundantly than our limited minds can imagine.

I am anxiously waiting for those infinite blessings, but I know that we can have hope and joy in this life, knowing that eventually, “God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” (Revelation 21:4). I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ.


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