Trusting in the Lord Through a Lifetime

This talk was given at the 2019 stake women's conference.
Image from Used with permission.
by Jannelle L. LaFontaine 

Prayer and personal revelation are a very private and sacred part of our lives. Even on a daily basis, we are engaged in these covenant privileges. In Doctrine and Covenants 90:24 we are taught to search, pray, believe, walk uprightly, and remember our covenants.

I would like to share a story with you that I believe exemplifies these principles, especially prayer and personal revelation.

In a small rural farming community in Aroostook County, Maine, it was 1956. One afternoon, two young missionaries from Utah knocked on the door of Bob and Marian and asked if they knew anything about the Mormon church. Their answer was no, and thus began their conversion. Bob was a very quiet man and Marian was incredibly curious. She asked a lot of questions, and the answers rang true to both of their hearts. They were baptized. That was that!

There were no other members, no meetinghouse, no books to guide them. They were on their own. So they decided to pray. “What do we do now?” A short amount of time passed, and an unexpected answer came. They were pregnant with baby number 3 after trying for six years. Big sister and brother were excited. Upon delivery, Marian and their baby boy developed serious life-threatening complications. Bob prayed, as he had been taught, to a loving Father in Heaven to spare the lives of mother and child, and his prayers were answered in a miraculous manner. After weeks of hospitalization, Marian and the baby came home.

That summer, Bob was offered a job in the city. After much prayer and contemplation, they sold their land and home and moved their family to the city. There were three other families on their street, and one of them just happened to be members of the church. In fact, they were the only other members in a 60-mile radius. So each Sunday a picnic was packed, and along with the other family, they traveled 120 miles round trip to Loring Air Force Base to attend sacrament meeting in an empty barrack with members who were stationed there.

In the winter of 1959, their daughter was baptized in the base swimming pool, and in 1961 their son was baptized. When the family moved to the city, Marian began to feel a prompting to go to nursing school. It came to her unexpectedly, and it did not sit well with Bob. He was always determined that she would stay at home with their children. But after much discussion and prayer, they agreed. So Marian started college to become a nurse.

Marian’s mom came across town to tend the baby while the two older children were at school. Marian excelled in her studies and graduated early with a 4.0. She started working at the local hospital and was offered a job with a doctor in town who had a practice in his home. This worked out well because it allowed her to be home when the children returned from school. So life was good.

In January 1963, Bob fell suddenly ill. The local hospital was unable to diagnose him, so he was transferred to the V.A. hospital in southern Maine. Marian went with him, and her parents came to stay with the kids. Days stretched into weeks, weeks into months. She watched the only man she had ever loved--her light, her life, the father of her children--slip into a coma, go blind, become dependent on a machine to breathe for him. She watched him slowly slip away. She prayed, she begged, she promised everything to the Lord if he would not take him.

But March 10, 1963, Bob was called home to Father. And Marian returned home to tell her 11-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old son that their daddy was not coming home. She cradled her three-year-old baby and knew he would never know his dad. Bob was only 38, and Marian was 33.

Where did she go from here? Bob had no health insurance. The life insurance paid for his funeral and a very small portion of the medical bills incurred at the local hospital. It was the dead of winter in Northern Maine. She had to go back to work. How very blessed, she thought, that she had followed those promptings to go to nursing school.

She could be heard in the wee hours of the morning weeping while she talked to Bob, “Why did you leave us, how can I go on, what is going to happen to us, where do I go from here?” Then the cries changed to her talking to the Lord. “Why did you take him, I can’t live without him, I am so angry with you, tell me what to do now!”

But she found she didn’t have the strength to be angry; her focus became on how they were going to survive. She seemed to have this unspoken faith that if she could just keep moving forward, she and the children would be OK. She believed her prayers would somehow be heard.

Just three months after Bob died, she wrote to her sister in Kansas and said that she had received $15 for each of the children from Bob’s Social Security and they had $250 in the bank after paying the mortgage. She said, "We’re going to be fine," knowing in her heart they might not be fine. But she just kept moving forward.

She continued down this path of survival for almost a year and a half. Fighting the brutal winter, dealing with sick children, asking for very little help from her aged parents--and figuring out how many ways one can prepare baked beans, brown bread, and Spam. In the spring of 1965, Marian received a call from the doctor she used to work for. He and his family had moved a few years before. He asked if she would like to come to work for him again.

The shock of what he said took a while to sink in. You see, he lived in southern California. They talked for quite some time. He explained how he thought it would be good for her little family. There would be opportunities for education, better working conditions in a private practice, more flexible hours, better weather--and the offer of three times the wages she was earning now. That night she walked the floor pondering every aspect of what he said. How could she leave her parents, everything she had ever known? She was just a farm girl from northern Maine; what did she know about California?

She knelt in desperate prayer: “Father, what should I do?” She poured her heart out regarding her concerns for the future and her worries about her ability to make the right decision. A few days went by, and Dr. Brennen called again. He knew she had great concerns about such a big move, so he suggested she fly to California for the weekend and see the area, take a look at some homes, see the practice, and then make a decision. He said he would pay her airfare and she could stay with his family.

So Marian talked with her children and flew to what seemed like another world so very far away. Upon her return, she knew her next step would change all of their lives forever. A few weeks went by, and she took the children and drove to her parents' home for Sunday dinner. As she sat there looking out the window at the fields beyond and then back to the table surrounded by the most precious people in the world, she took a shaky breath and said, “I have talked to the children and to the Lord, and we are moving to California.”

Her mother looked at her and asked, “Are you sure?” Marian said, “It’s what is best for the children.” So the house was sold, everything was loaded into a moving truck, and like a lioness moving her cubs to a better location, she put her three children into their station wagon, waved goodbye to all she loved, and with more courage than she thought she had, left for California.

With faith and belief that this was an answer to her prayers and that somehow Bob was helping to carry her onward, they started their new life. You should have seen the four of them the first Sunday they drove into the ward parking lot! They just stood there looking at this building that many people were entering. They had never even seen a church building. They were greeted by members, a bishop, and a Relief Society president. (Marian thought, "What is Relief Society?") This was all so foreign! They had never even seen a hymn book and had been members for nine years.

They worked together to find brightness in each day. They immersed themselves into the church and their newfound life together. After Dr. Brennen died, Marian went to work at a large hospital where she became head nurse for the operating room, then she was asked to teach anatomy classes at a local college. The children grew and brought her great joy. As a single mom, she sacrificed to be at everything her kids did, take care of home, and work long hours.

Over the years, she saw her nest empty. She paused to watch her daughter marry and move to Europe, her oldest son move away with his wife, and her baby boy drafted right out of high school to play major league baseball.

Alone, what now? So again she sought guidance from her dear Heavenly Father. His answer came from her sweet sister Marie in Kansas. Their mother, Granny Akeley, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 90, and Marie needed help to care for her. So Marian put everything in a U-Haul truck and, with help, drove to Kansas. She lived there for three years until their mother passed away.

While there, Marian decided that after 28 years of nursing she was going to change careers. She started law school and got her degree as a court stenographer. After her mother’s death, she moved to Nevada where one of her sons lived, went back to school again, and became a paralegal. She gained employment with a lawyer in town and started her 14-year career in law. Within that time, her daughter had returned to the States, and her youngest son retired from a 20-year career in baseball and also moved to Nevada. Grandchildren had blessed her life many times over.

Marian found herself being called to many positions of service, including ministering to sisters as Relief Society president and a mission call to serve in the temple. She always seemed to know innately when someone needed her. Many times throughout her life, she would leave home even in the middle of the night and show up at someone’s door or the hospital to render needed comfort or aid. Her life revolved around serving others from her family to friends to complete strangers.

In 2009, Marian went into the hospital for a routine surgical procedure where everything went terribly wrong. She was taken to the ICU where her daughter stood vigil for twelve days, and her sons came each night to be with them. But ultimately, the day came when the doctors told them their mother would never regain consciousness. The daughter looked at her younger brothers and knew that it was time to let her go. It had been 46 years since Marian had seen her beloved Bob. It was his turn now.

The night before they turned off her life support, her children and their spouses circled her bed and held hands. The oldest son offered a prayer of thanks for all she had done for her family. Her strength had blessed them with untold opportunities. Her faith had taught them to trust in the Lord and each other. Her understanding of hard work and courage had taken them to a new place so very long ago and given them incredible blessings: temple marriages, being sealed to their parents, missions. They said their final goodbyes.

The next 29 hours brought sacred miracles that cannot be spoken of here. But the children felt their daddy’s presence as Marian left her mortal existence. Prayer and personal revelation was Marian’s blessing to her family and all those who knew her. She taught them to be one with the Lord. And she was!

I can bear a solemn witness of these sacred things. Marian is my best friend and my hero. Bob and Marian Tingley are my parents. I leave these precious words with you today in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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