~by Karen Burton
My parents are first-generation Americans, both descended from Portuguese-speaking ancestors from the Azores which are islands about 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal. As you might guess, that background comes packaged with a thick Catholic heritage. I grew up going through all of the Catholic rituals of baptism, catechism and eventually confirmation. My family attended church weekly, and though we never talked about religion at home, we knew that the church bonded us together by giving us a strong link to our past. I am the oldest of five children in a very close-knit, tightly united family, which now embraces 4 different religions. As a mother to adult children I can more realistically imagine the struggle my parents must have had when I, unknowingly, started the trend against my religious upbringing by choosing another way. But I would like to make it perfectly clear that I was not rebelling, per se, as much as I was looking for something more meaningful to my soul. And I found it in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Once I was baptized, at age 19 (my Catholic parents in attendance I might add), I spent another year attending a private college in the Shenandoah Valley in my beautiful home state of Virginia. But it wasn’t long before I realized that I craved a fellowship with my own kind, so my fabulous parents agreed to my request to attend BYU [Brigham Young University], and by the following summer they packed up the station wagon and the three of us went on a road trip to the Rockies. There was a real symbolism to this trip as we drove farther west than any of the three of us had ever been before. Just passing through Wyoming felt like a kind of reality check, and the gate to my new western life that, little did I know, would be my future home with my own little family someday soon.
I had been baptized by a young man I had fallen for in high school, and after he left on his mission to Japan I knew I had to get my feet planted firmly in the gospel in order to be prepared for my future. I dug in at BYU and welcomed my missionary home at the beginning of my senior year, only to be engaged and unengaged in a matter of weeks. His parents, still my friends to this day, were so good to call me regularly to see how I was feeling and to encourage me in my still-new membership in the church. I was already all in, so I stuck it out at BYU and soon met my future husband, Gideon. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple two weeks prior to my graduating with my bachelor’s degree in Education, and settled down in Provo for two more years while he finished his degree in English. He is my best friend.
During these two years we welcomed the first of four sons to our family, and soon we were ready for an adventure, so we left for Los Angeles, where my husband earned his PhD in Rhetoric, Language, and Linguistics. A few years later we took a job at BYU and carted our, by now, 2 little boys back to Utah where we bought a home in Springville. We had 2 more sons during the next 4 years and have been in Springville ever since. Our oldest son just returned from a mission to the Kenya Nairobi area, and our second son leaves next month to serve in the Mexico Monterrey mission.
While here over these past 15 years I have served in my ward in a variety of callings, including 1st counselor in the Primary, 1st and 2nd counselor in the Young Women, Gospel Doctrine Teacher, Relief Society President, and now a Relief Society teacher. I also am a Special Education Kindergarten teacher.
I have been blessed beyond measure by having the gospel in my life. It has given me purpose and promise. Purpose in that I know I am to use my life to help others. I know I am meant to teach my children about bigger things. Promise in that I now know more about my Savior, who died for me. I know he loves me still and that he is my advocate. How do I live a life full of thanksgiving for so many blessings? Although the debt can never be repaid, I try and live what I believe. And I believe in the principles demonstrated in the atonement. Love, service, repentance and forgiveness.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
For more Portraits of Mormon Women, please click here.