Read part 1here
Emily is center back, in white. She is seen here with her dance instructor, who performed her baptism, and his family.
Now that Emily is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, she sees herself differently.
“I have found a role and purpose as a woman, as a daughter of Heavenly Father – it has changed everything about me as a woman.”
In a world where Emily once felt very alone, she now has a church full of sisters. That is how the women in the LDS church refer to each other, as sisters. In addition to those loving and friendly ties at church Emily does have family connections.
Although Emily has little connection to those family members who caused her great harm as a child, she has a place in her extended family. When the traumatic events of her childhood forced her into foster care, Emily went to live with her grandmother, where they developed a loving relationship.
The LDS church believes that family connections can be continued after death through sacred ordinances that take place in temples. Emily knew that she wanted to have this eternal connection with her grandmother she loves dearly. So after being a member of the Mormon Church for only one week she was given permission to have eternal ordinances performed for her extended family. This included Emily’s opportunity to be baptized, by proxy, for her grandmother.
Now Emily continues the pattern she learned during her conversion process – taking life step by step. Because of the neglect Emily suffered as a child she has ongoing health concerns. The most serious of these is a heart condition called Cardiomyopathy, scarring of the muscles in her heart. She must go in every 6 months for procedures to remove and monitor the scarring in her heart. Each time this happens there is a chance that Emily will not live through the procedure. She is a young woman, with much of life ahead of her.
Despite all of Emily’s adversity she remains hopeful. She has relied on a talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf [a member of the Church’s First Presidency] as she prepared for her medical procedures and fights the fear that is so natural in this situation. These are a few exerpts that Emily highlighted (notice the references to the heart, as she battles real heart-related health issues):
Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness. Its absence – when this desire of our heart is delayed – can make ‘the heart sick.’
Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.
Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Spirit will fulfill his promise to us… It is confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.
Fear not… Never give in… Never surrender… Never allow despair to overcome your spirit… Embrace and rely upon the Holy One of Israel, for the love of the Son of God pierces all darkness, softens sorrow, and gladdens every heart.
When I asked Emily how she knows that God loves her she said that just being alive is enough to let her know God’s love. Then she said that she feels God’s love in knowing His plan, including the atonement of Jesus Christ. The fact that he taught that plan to her, step by step in a very personal way, communicates his love. Lastly, she knows God’s love for her because,
“When there was every reason in the world for me to believe the opposite, he sent this Deaf girl to dance, of all things, so that I would have a language to understand him and his love.”
Let’s all pray for Emily this week, as she is undergoing the medical procedures necessary to keep her heart going, so that our hearts will be knit together with hers in unity and strength. Pray that God will mercifully give her strength to continue on in this miraculous journey of healing that is such an inspiration to us all.
**Update: Emily’s procedures have gone well. The scarring in her heart has not recurred and the doctors reduced her medications. The hospital has even given her a scholarship, reducing Emily’s financial burdens. Many prayers are being answered!