Tiffany McMinn, Layton South Stake Relief Society President
DELIVERED AT WOMEN'S CONFERENCE: EYES TO SEE ON MARCH 11, 2023
Many years ago, my brother and his wife (already experienced and avid divers) convinced my husband and I to get scuba certified before going on a Caribbean Cruise with them. We did a crash course over a couple of full weekends to get our certification in before the trip--with our final test dive being at the Homestead Crater in Midway. I have always loved swimming and being in and around water, which made me extra excited to learn to dive, allowing me to be able to move and breathe deep under the water while taking in all the amazing sea life. We had some great dives planned at some of our island stops.
When it comes to diving, there are quite a few safety rules you learn as part of your certification. One of the biggest is to always have a diving buddy—someone you stay with your entire dive. Then if you get into any trouble they will be right there to help. I was grateful to have my husband Brian as my diving buddy.
Now obviously under water it is hard to communicate. This is where hand signals are important to know and understand. One of the most important hand signals is the okay signal. This is used as a question, not declaration. If things are “not okay” or there is a “problem”, you respond with this hand signal (hand flat tipping back and forth).
On the ascent it’s very important that you allow for safety stops as you come up. Safety stops are designed to allow the gases that have been absorbed in your body tissues during the course of the dive, to be released. Rushing an ascent can be very dangerous, causing decompression sickness, and even death.
The first dive was an awesome reef dive off the island of St. Thomas. I loved it! It was like this new underwater world had just opened up for me. We saw tons of sea life, including a barracuda. There weren’t many concerns about safety stops coming up because our depth for this dive was only around 30 feet. I was hooked!
The second dive was off the island of Barbados to a sunken ship. We would even get to swim through part of the ship. It involved a little more skill going much deeper at a depth of about 90-110 feet. I knew we would be going much deeper and that our safety stop coming up would be mandatory—no panicking and shooting up to the surface. For this dive we descended on an anchor line.
Brian and I entered the water and began our descent to the ship using the anchor line as we slowly equalized. There were so many bubbles around us as we descended (probably due to my husband and I being the last of our dive group and following the same anchor line down). The bubbles made the visibility hard for me and I began to become disoriented with my surroundings and felt some vertigo. I couldn’t see my diving buddy anywhere and I began to start breathing fast looking all around me, confused as to whether I was going up or down. In retrospect, I think I may have been a little nervous, realizing this was a very deep dive and safety precautions were mandatory. And where was my diving buddy? I was counting on his expertise for the dive.
As my breathing continued to speed up (I was sucking air out of my regulator like my tank was almost empty) and I continued to look up and down trying to find my diving partner, the dive master must have recognized my lack of movement down and came over to me. He looked questioningly at me through his mask and did the “okay?” hand signal. With big eyes, my response was a “not sure” hand signal. He then proceeded to point to me and then point to his eyes to follow him. I looked at him and he began to exaggerate slow breathing, having me follow my breathing pattern with his. I began to focus my eyes on him (and not the darkness and bubbles surrounding me) and I began to follow his breathing. As I continued to focus my eyes on him, I began to feel more calm and suddenly it felt like more oxygen had been put in my tank. After he saw my breathing had slowed down and the “shocked deer in the headlights” look fade, he pointed down, and we began to finish the descent to the sunken ship. The bubbles began to dissipate, the visibility was clear, and I found that my diving buddy had been right under me on the anchor line the whole time. I was calm and we had an awesome experience swimming through and around this ship.
As our presidency met with our Women’s Conference Chairs, a few months back, and we discussed this theme of “Eyes to See” for Women’s Conference, this scuba diving experience came back to my mind. Even though that experience happened so many years ago, I specifically remember the change that took place in me that day on my dive—a change from a state of panic to a state of peace. And that change happened once I focused my eyes on my dive master and followed his breathing with my breathing. I had to make a conscious effort to focus on him and not my dark, distorted surroundings. I know this is what can (and does) happen to us when we focus and truly seek for Jesus Christ in our lives. He can open our eyes to things we would not normally see. As the scriptures teach, we can begin to understand, and see “things as they really are, and things as they really will be…”(Jacob 4:13).
The Savior, our true master, has said “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36). He told his disciples the people needed eyes to see to be healed. Healing couldn’t happen if their eyes were closed with spiritual blindness and unbelief (Matthew 13:15).
In our lives are there times when we close our eyes instead of turning to the Son (meaning the son of God), our true source of light? President Nelson said that “our focus must be riveted on the Savior and His gospel. It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought. But when we do, our doubts and fears flee.” I know this is true. When I turn to Him in my daily life, I receive that peace, and I receive needed strength in my struggles, and at times I also receive new understanding.
As we meet today, my prayer for all of us is that our eyes will be opened to specific things each of us can do in our personal lives that will help us come closer to the Savior. We may even ask ourselves the two questions Sister Michelle Craig asks herself each week as she partakes of the sacrament: “What am I doing that I should stop doing and what am I not doing that I should start doing?” As we do this, we will be able to draw upon more of the Savior’s power in our lives—a power that opens our eyes to a larger reality. A power that gives us eyes to see Him.