Episode 45: Shannon Allred Cox on the miracle of easing personal trials through service

A powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti on Saturday, Aug. 14, claiming more than 2,100 lives, injuring more than 12,000 and leaving some 600,000 in need of assistance in the nation already affected by poverty and political unrest. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that has made it her life’s mission to assist the people of Haiti through education joins this episode of the Church News podcast.

Shannon Allred Cox is the mother of six children, including two adopted sons from Haiti, and the founder of a nonprofit organization aimed to promote education in the nation. She discusses her membership in the Church, the power of personal revelation, the gift of motherhood and how serving others eases personal trials.

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Transcription:

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with leaders, members and others on the Church News team. We end each Church News podcast by giving our guests the last word and the opportunity to answer the very important question, “What do you know now?” We hope each of you will also be able to answer the same question and say, “I have just been listening to the Church News podcast and this is what I know now.”

A powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the nation of Haiti on Saturday, Aug. 12, claiming more than 2,100 lives, injuring more than 12,000 and leaving some 600,000 in need of assistance. On this episode of the Church News podcast, we are joined by a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that has made it her life’s mission to assist the people of Haiti through education. Shannon Allred Cox is the mother of six children, including two adopted sons from Haiti, and the founder of a nonprofit organization aimed to promote education in the nation. She is here to discuss her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the power of personal revelation, the gift of motherhood and the challenges that come in life. 

Shannon, we’re so excited to have you with us to talk about your family and your service and your ability to hear Him and especially to talk about Haiti.

1:44  

Shannon Allred Cox: Thank you. It’s a really big honor to be here talking with us today.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I know you haven’t been to Haiti since the earthquake, but your thoughts have to have been there a lot. Tell us what you’ve been thinking about in the past several days.

2:00  

Shannon Allred Cox: Oh, so many things, so many things, especially — sometimes we ask, “Why can’t this poor nation catch a break?” But mostly just thinking, “What can they do to help and who can we support?” The organization that I run — we’ve had to learn over the years and gotten better at realizing who is already doing what really well, so that we can support them instead of recreating something. And one of our founders, Isson Joseph, the little town in the south where he was born was 90% destroyed. Good friends of ours that we partner with, they’re an organization called Espere — He is from Les Cayes and had family members killed and their homes destroyed, his family home that he grew up in, and he still had family members living in a Les Cayes, was destroyed. And thinking about other friends: A friend who was down there now who was actually in the earthquake, trapped, in 2010 — and it actually led to his conversion to the gospel — and he is down there now gathering food and supplies and helping his Haitian people down there. And so just thinking about them, and lots and lots of prayers going out. Yeah, all kinds of things the last little bit.

Shannon Allred Cox is the founder of Haitian Roots, a non-profit organization aimed to promote education in Haiti.
Shannon Allred Cox is the founder of Haitian Roots, a non-profit organization aimed to promote education in Haiti. Credit: Haitian Roots

Sarah Jane Weaver: You know, historically, Haiti is a nation that has been rocked by poverty and political unrest and natural disasters, and your reference to the 2010 earthquake that was so devastating for so many people in that nation. And it does sometimes feel like we all want that area of the world to experience some peace and some comfort. I was so happy to know that all of our full-time missionaries were safe and accounted for, and that the Port au Prince Haiti temple was not damaged,  but that certainly doesn’t mean there won’t be need for assistance and help and rebuilding and looking forward. Today, as we look forward to the future of Haiti, I sort of want to look back with you. How is it that you first came to know of this nation?

4:11  

Shannon Allred Cox: I was working for an international adoption agency — I learned Spanish on my mission and fell in love with the language and then majored in it — and I was running their Guatemala program, and as I was doing that, I became acquainted with other international adoption programs. For some reason, looking back now, I can say I actually believe it was a seed that was planted long before I was even born, but it was just ignited when I started learning about this country. 

So I first started learning about Haiti through the international adoptions that they were doing, and there weren’t a lot at the time. Then, right as I started learning about that — this was in 2004 — right as I really started becoming fascinated with Haiti, it suddenly was in the news because there was a coup going on, and international news were giving updates. There was a militia group or a military group that had taken one city and was moving towards the capital. So we were watching this go on, and that’s where it all started, was this interest in the children of Haiti and problems that were happening there and how close it was to us. And then my husband and I decided that we ourselves would adopt from Haiti. So that’s where that all started for me, in the beginning of 2004.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And I can’t imagine a more beautiful thing than building your family and feeling a connection through that nation. Now, you have two sons from Haiti. Sadly, one passed away after your adoption was final, but before you could even bring him home, is that correct?

5:54  

Shannon Allred Cox: Yes, that’s correct. We were able to have him sealed to us, and that was a really beautiful day.

Sarah Jane Weaver: So tell us about the rest of your family.

6:03  

Shannon Allred Cox: We have two daughters. My oldest daughter just left on a mission to Washington D.C. this week, she’d been doing home MTC learning Spanish and training. And then we have another daughter. And then next came Isaiah, who has passed away, and Andre adopted from Haiti. And then we had a break after that. I actually had some major health problems during those pregnancies, and then after the adoption process and visiting Haiti, I became very ill with a hepatitis virus that I had contracted. So we thought our family was complete. But then, about four and a half years later, we discovered and felt it wasn’t. And we have, now, my Miles and Laila, who are 12 and 10 years old.

Sarah Jane Weaver: That’s amazing, and I’m sure that having such strong family connections to Haiti has been one of the things that strengthens your desire to serve in that nation. And we’ll talk a little bit about your organization later, and your desire to help educate people in Haiti, but that service has also had to have benefited your life in ways you had not anticipated.

7:12  

Shannon Allred Cox: Yes, absolutely. As we began the adoption process and came to know Haiti, my husband and I visited Haiti for the first time in December of 2004. And at the time there was an interim government, and very few aid organizations were there. There were some, but not like 2010, when the earthquake really, for better or worse, put Haiti on the map for a lot of people. But for my husband and I going to Haiti for the first time, the first thing in the first couple of days we really felt, we felt so happy and so anxious to see our little newborn son, Andre, and be able to spend time with him. He was just two months old. And the country was in so much chaos at the time. There were UN trucks driving around and there was a lot of fear and a lot of uncertainty and just a lot of despair and sadness and poverty that we saw everywhere. And our initial feelings were, “Wow, we just need to get this adoption done as soon as possible and just get out of here.” But it was when we went to church that Sunday, and we walked into church, it was just a couple blocks from our hotel, and one of our friend’s father came to pick us up and take us. We heard men singing as we walked in the doors. There wasn’t a piano at the time at this Pétion-Ville chapel that became kind of my Haiti home ward, but our first Sunday walking in there, it was just hot, and we were exhausted, and we had our little boy, but we heard the elders singing “The Spirit of God” as they were beginning their meeting, and already just starting the meeting, definitely the Spirit was there. And our hearts were really touched and really changed at that time, to be reminded that God loves all of His people, and we were really humbled that we had had this initial feeling to just get out of here and run. Instead, we felt like, “Oh, wow.” And I kind of knew at that time, although not entirely, but I definitely had a feeling that Haiti was going to be a part of our life for a very, very long time. It wasn’t going to be just get our son adopted and get out.

Shannon Allred Cox, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has made it her life’s mission to assist the people of Haiti through education, with her family.
Shannon Allred Cox, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has made it her life’s mission to assist the people of Haiti through education, with her family. Credit: Provided by Shannon Allred Cox

Sarah Jane Weaver: And there’s so many challenges in Haiti. We experience different kinds of challenges here. Can you share with us some of the challenges that you faced in your own life?

9:41  

Shannon Allred Cox: Well, one of the biggest challenges, I think, the most challenging times was beginning to put my family together, are my first two pregnancies were both very difficult, and it wasn’t the whole reason we decided to adopt but it was one of the reasons. We thought “Well, wouldn’t it be nice if the Lord had told us to adopt, that at least my body doesn’t need to go through all of that.” And then when I brought Andre home from Haiti, I contracted hepatitis, and it was hepatitis A, nobody likes to get that. And I thought I had been vaccinated against it, and I was not up to date on that. But it ended up being a very, very rugged case for me. My doctors told me that they’d only known one other case that was as rugged and that that patient hadn’t survived. My liver had a really difficult time. And my bilirubins were through the roof, and I was just slowly poisoning myself to death. And so that was a really, really difficult time. I had three children under the age of three, and had to somehow learn how to graciously accept service. That was one thing. I think we could use a lot more talks and help with knowing how to do. We are always taught the importance of serving, and I do want to stress that and talk about that, but we’re rarely talked about how to graciously receive service, and that was a really hard and humbling thing. 

It was hard and humbling as well, because I, after about six months, my liver started to recover a little bit. My immune systems, some autoimmune issues that I had before, were really flaring up really bad. And I had a difficult time digesting food and an immune disorder called alopecia that I’d known I had since I was 14 with little bald patches that I would occasionally get, flared up when I lost my entire head of hair. And I had a full head of hair on Christmas, and by January 6, I looked like Gollum from Lord of the Rings and had to shave it off. And that was a hard time for me. So many changes, so much going on in my life at that time that I never struggled with so much pain, and needing help to be able to care for my children and one child that had just been adopted. And also we had just started our organization, we actually started that just before Andre came home. So trying to work through that and make that a reality to be able to send some kids to school that first year. 

I had an experience where I was over at my mom’s house, at my parents house, and they have some big bay windows that go out onto a deck. And it was evening, and I walked into the kitchen, nobody else was around, I walked into the kitchen towards these windows and I saw a tall man standing out on the deck, a tall bald man that I didn’t recognize. And I screamed, I just screamed at the top of my lungs. I was so startled and afraid of the stranger standing there. And then I slowly realized that that stranger in the window was actually me. And as I stopped there, and as it dawned on me, mostly I just started sobbing for a while and felt sorry for myself. But then when I picked myself up, I really started to think about that and think, “Wow, I can’t even recognize myself in my reflection,” and so it made me ask the question: “So who am I really?” And I knew who to turn for that. I served a mission, I had a testimony of the gospel. And I have always known that when we hand ourselves over to God that He can make something better of us that we can make of ourselves. But at that time, I really just desperately needed that help. I really didn’t recognize most of my life or myself. 

But that helped me to be able to start looking and thinking a lot more about my soul, and who I was on the inside and what things were important to me. And like I said, turning those things over to the Lord and serving in Haiti and focusing on that, that really helped me so much as I was going through this discovery period and this whole kind of change about what I consider to be the definition of beauty and who we really are and how I come to know other people not based on anything of their outward appearance. So, I was able to focus on those and serve. 

One of the things I love is a quote from President Kimball where he says, “In the midst of the miracle of serving, there’s a promise of Jesus that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves.” And so I love that. He also calls it the paradox of the gospel, that when we give, we receive. When we have a heavy burden and we take on somebody else’s burden, our burden becomes lighter and that is really a miracle that he called “the miracle of serving.” So I think that as I served and the more I was able to focus on those things and see the Lord’s hand in the lives of His children in Haiti, that my burdens became lighter and I came more and more to really know myself.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I think that is one of the miracles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that as we serve each other, we draw closer to our Savior. President Nelson asked us at the beginning of the year 2020 to evaluate how we hear the Lord. It’s the year of the 200th anniversary of the First Vision and he said, “How do you hear Him, and how can we take steps to hear Him better?” Obviously, so many of the decisions that you’ve made in your life have to have been guided by personal revelation. Where do you think you learned how to ask for and receive inspiration from the Lord?

15:40  

Shannon Allred Cox: My parents definitely taught me that. I was so grateful for this focus on “Hear Him.” But I’m very grateful that my mom told me stories about when she was young and hearing the Lord through Primary songs that would come to her head to comfort her during hard times, or things like that. And I did always look for those throughout my life. And it’s been a theme for me that I’ve just really had to trust. I’ve had people question from time to time and question and question me: “Well, how do you know that’s real? Maybe you misinterpreted that,” and I just thought, “I can’t even go in that direction,” because I so badly need the guidance of the Spirit and have to trust those things. 

Shannon Allred Cox lost her hair after suffering from a severe case of Alopecia and other auto immune disorders. The member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found peace through service.
Shannon Allred Cox lost her hair after suffering from a severe case of Alopecia and other auto immune disorders. The member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found peace through service. Credit: Haitian Roots

I think where some of the biggest inspiration, I hear Him in different ways, but hearing Him through a direct thought: When I was 20 years old and sitting on my bed, it was on a Christmas break after, I think I had probably gotten sick after finals like I usually do and was just in my room. And I can remember it so clearly, a thought coming to me that said, “You’re going to be 21 in nine months. If you want to know about a mission, now is your time to ask.” 

And I was stunned. The voice was inside my head,  I didn’t hear it from outside. But it was a very, very clear thought, a very clear voice that said this to me. And the way I felt stunned, but I also felt like something had just been inserted into my heart in that moment. I also was confused with that: “I actually have my life pretty well planned right now, I have no desire to ask about that, because that’s not in the plan.” But hearing that and listening and beginning to ask if I should serve a mission, that was one of the first things that really led me, my mission itself, as I went through the process of getting that answer, I felt a truth begin to grow in my heart and felt what that felt like. And as I prayed and and felt additional confirming feelings, and then the experiences I had on my mission, I really think that that experience, nine months before my mission, and then ever since then, I’ve really tried to always guide my life by what the Spirit is telling me.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And you ended up serving a mission, in what mission?

17:58  

Shannon Allred Cox: I was in the Texas San Antonio Mission, Spanish speaking.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And now you have a daughter that’s serving a mission. That has to be sort of sweet — to know that a mission had such a great impact on your life, and now your daughter will be able to experience some of those similar things.

18:15  

Shannon Allred Cox: That’s been such a blessing for me. One of those, yes, just really, really sweet things. Also hard because I know how difficult the mission is, but she wasn’t always planning to serve a mission either. And this is something that she went through her first year of college, as she went to BYU and was asking questions for herself, and she’d done before but more than ever really trying to find out about the gospel. So that’s the sweetest thing, is that she found answers, and then that the Lord, you know, that she prayed and felt she should serve a mission. It’s been so sweet and also just fun for me. My sisters — I have four sisters who are my best friends and I also have a lot of other really close female friends, but none of them served missions. And so it was just really the first time that I had another female, that I got to do all of this fun stuff like shopping for dresses and shoes, and then to be able to have her doing home MTC where I got to study the gospel and talk to her about things that are important and questions that she had, and how she was receiving answers as well as studying Spanish together. Just super amazing, sweet blessing for me.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And I can understand that — I’ve sent two daughters on missions. We also did a home MTC, and it was so powerful to direct our prayers and our thoughts towards the areas where our daughters would serve, and so I want to shift a little bit and talk again about Haiti. You founded Haitian Roots in 2005. This is an organization that sponsors education to help those in Haiti overcome the limitations of poverty. Before the huge 7.0 earthquake in 2010, only about 50% of the children in Haiti were enrolled in school. Obviously, that number went down after the earthquake. What is it that you’re hoping education can do for the students there?

20:17  

Shannon Allred Cox: Well, we have deep goals. Our big goals — interestingly, it was in 2010, the World Bank came out with a report about the worst places in the world to be a school child. And Haiti was in the bottom two, I believe, but they said that there’s unambiguous evidence that education beats poverty. And our own leaders have taught us over and over, I thought it was really interesting in 2009, Elder Uchtdorf gave a talk and talked about two principles that we needed, and one of them was “learn.” And he said in there, and I hadn’t really thought of it this way before, but that education is a commandment, that we’ve been not only just counseled and told that whatever we gain in this life will be able to take with us, but that we are commanded that we should gain knowledge and understanding. But since that time, President Hinckley had so much to say about education and the importance of being able to educate and provide opportunities throughout the world. We have the BYU Pathways program, and I know a lot of people in Haiti that have been able to be part of that and are part of that right now. 

But going back before that, is we want to be able to empower and protect and educate the Haitian people, and I feel like to have any long lasting change in their country, despite disasters, but also to even think of — there’s other places in the world that when hit by an earthquake like that would not be nearly the kind of damage that Haiti’s seeing, because of a lot of the things that, through other issues, that they are lacking or don’t have, because of poverty. That buildings will just collapse that maybe in another place that wouldn’t. 

Anyway, our grand goal is, we believe whether there’s a lot of good things going on in Haiti that are necessary, but educating is the best chance for any child to be able to break out of poverty, and to be able to change that cycle that they’ve been in for so long. And they’re protected, they’re less likely to have health problems, they’re less likely to be trafficked, as well as being empowered. And so we have these big goals. And those are the overall goals to be able to make a big difference in the whole country, starting at the root with the children. But a lot of times, we really just need to focus on the one and see what education or the opportunity to go to school just in this person’s life did, because Haiti is one of those places that just keeps getting hit and hit and hit and I’m not sure why. So focusing on the one and listening to the Lord, and then making sure to follow Him and remember that these are His children, that keeps us going when we feel like maybe we’re not seeing the things that we would like to see.

Sarah Jane Weaver: When I think about Haiti, I always think of the word “resilient.” Just so much seems to hit them. It wasn’t too many years ago that the Church started an initiative there to plant trees, and I thought that was so beautiful, to have this symbol of, “We’re going to plant trees, they’re going to grow, and we’re going to invest in this place and beautify this place,” because they knew that there is so much potential there, and it feels like education is a little bit like planting trees.

Petit Pas Hotel is damaged after an earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.
Petit Pas Hotel is damaged after an earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. Credit: Delot Jean, Associated Press

23:44  

Shannon Allred Cox: Yeah, hopefully, that we are planting the seeds that can grow up, the roots can become strong. In Haiti, actually, trees — they have been really deforested. Haiti was known as the pearl of the Antilles after Columbus first came over, and before Spain initially and France fought over the island, but the resources have just really been drained by outside powers, and so anything we can do to help empower them and to be able to really grow the country is really important.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And I was so touched that earlier in this podcast, you mentioned an address by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf. In that address, he also talked about truth and pure knowledge, and then he compared it to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And then he talked about, of all of our knowledge, the most vital is the knowledge to come to know God, and I feel like that is one of the things we can all learn from the people of Haiti, is this strong, strong faith, and maybe it’s their faith that makes them so resilient.

24:48  

Shannon Allred Cox: I love the word “resilient” and I also often tell my son, he came from people with an indomitable spirit, because they just keep on rising up and keep on rising up.

Sarah Jane Weaver: So right now, humanitarian aid from around the world seems to be, again, pouring into the island nation. And the Church is also reaching out there, and they’re providing aid in the form of food and water and tents. I love that they’ve actually organized an emergency committee to evaluate the needs and then look forward and provide aid. And because the Church strengthens people, just like education, just like trees strengthen a nation, so much of the response comes from the direction of local leaders. It has to be gratifying for you to build a people who can then be leaders in both the Church and the country.

25:43  

Shannon Allred Cox: That’s the biggest hope, and one of the biggest blessings that we’ve seen, as we started our program, we started with just sending 23 kids to their own schools, where today, we run our own schools, but they are run completely by Haitians. And we have training programs for those Haitian teachers to empower them as the children are being empowered through education. And so, yeah, it’s very gratifying to be a part of that, as we’re also seeing opportunities for the gospel to be spread. On a certain level, one of the greatest ways we come to know God and the Savior is through the scriptures and things like that, and how much more difficult would it be, or is it for those who can’t read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony for themselves. So on a real basic level, there are things that we’re doing for people to be able to read and read the Bible  and know God that way.

But on another level, as we started our program, we are not a religious-based organization, but the founders, we all happen to be members of the Church, and many of our contacts and those that we find to be very capable and trained — not all of them — at our school, we have teachers and, and others that are not members of the Church who are wonderful, but many of them are members of the Church. And they are also having an impact on the children. A lot of the members of the Church or their kids come to our school. But we’ve also seen individuals get baptized because of their associations with our organization. And two, that we’re in our very first group of now, after a particularly difficult time when Haitian Roots was able to help them out, because of that, their mom said, “Well, these people can’t be all that bad if this is the fruits of what comes from them, and so I guess you can go to their church,” that they had asked before if they might be able to go to and they then became baptized, and both have served missions and one is married in the temple with a child. And so it’s very rewarding to see education bringing light to people’s lives.

Sarah Jane Weaver: So my producer, KellieAnn, was kind enough to look up the distance from your home in Salt Lake City to Haiti, and it’s 2,773 miles, and that’s probably right to the heart of the country, but what I want to talk about is each of us feel directed as we hear Him to turn our focus to certain efforts. And so often, we look towards places like Haiti where there’s so much need. We can also look to needs in our own families, in our own communities. How has the work that you’ve done in Haiti strengthened your resolve to serve the community in Salt Lake City?

28:37  

Shannon Allred Cox: I think it really has helped me, especially starting my own organization and having to work so hard to try to get support for that. It has also opened my eyes to see the good that’s being done everywhere, and also opened the need to realize more and more, “How do I get answers to know what the Lord wants me to do and who needs help?” And also to not judge other people who may not feel drawn when I pour my heart out and say these answers that I’ve had, and these things that are happening and the need in Haiti that don’t feel drawn to that, that feel drawn to another cause or are specifically in their neighborhood. 

Shannon Allred Cox and her son Andre in Haiti after his adoption in 2005.
Shannon Allred Cox and her son Andre in Haiti after his adoption in 2005. Credit: Provided by Shannon Allred Cox

I have a neighbor who has a foundation, she goes in and teaches training programs in prison, and she also works with battered women and battered women’s shelters. And so I am just very open to the idea and so that it’s so important to be able to not judge other people for what we think they might be doing, and then also just to focus inward and on ourselves to say, “What does the Lord want from me?” 

I get really excited — I actually was born and raised in the Ogden area, but then served my mission in Texas, was back in Utah for a while, but then I’ve been in Dallas, Texas, for the last 11 years before moving back here. And that was a really neat opportunity to serve in the ward where my husband and I, where our family was. There was a lot of diversity, racially, culturally and economically, and we had a lot of opportunities to serve there and in our community, they actually created kind of a calling for me as a service community, something with a name that I hadn’t heard, but I loved it, to come up with community service projects and involve especially older homebound sisters in our ward and in projects. So, I’m just very aware — I love, again, it’s President Kimball, but this is one of my favorite little quotes, he says: “God does notice us, and He watches over us, but it’s usually through another person that he meets our needs.” 

And so sometimes, it’s just listening to, “I ought to check in on that neighbor, or to look in my own community, and see what’s going on,” or just praying daily for an opportunity for service. When I remember to do that, those have been some of the neatest and most rewarding experiences, of praying to be able to serve somebody today, and then actually having — this seems kind of silly, but I prayed for that, and then I went to the grocery store. And there was a man, he had a hook for one hand, and another hand was trying to open a plastic bag to put cherries in. And I just happened to be right there, and I said, “Can I help you get those cherries?” And he said, “Oh, yes, please.” And then he was happy, and we smiled, and I was happy. And I just thought, “That’s what God does. He notices us and he watches over us.” And if we asked hHm to use us, whether it’s to create an organization, and trying to do all this thing that some people might think, “Oh, I couldn’t do that,” But I’m just the same person that also had the opportunity to help a guy get some cherries from the store and put it into a plastic bag. And I think that God notices all of those acts, and they’re all important as we serve each other and serve His children.

Sarah Jane Weaver: What a beautiful summary of service. And on that note, we can wind up today, because we have a tradition at the Church News Podcast, and that is that we always give our guests the last word, and we have them answer the same important question, and the question is, “What do you know now?” And so, Shannon, I am so grateful for your life and your testimony, and your example — not only your example of service and motherhood and enduring challenges, but your willingness and desire to seek and respond to personal revelation. And so as you contemplate all that you are as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can you tell us what you know now?

32:53  

Shannon Allred Cox: There’s a lot that I know now or that I know better now than I knew before, but one thing I definitely know now, that’s what we’ve been talking about this whole time. President Kimball — he’s not my only favorite prophet, but I do love President Kimball. I just feel like he speaks to my soul — and another line that I have memorized from him is that “As we serve others in appropriate ways, we have more substance to our souls.” And he says that “We become more significant individuals as we serve others,” he says, “We become more substantive as we serve others. Indeed, it’s easier to find ourselves because there’s so much more of us to find.”

And so I really love to think of that, I’ve truly come to know that. Whether anybody, if I’m in a new neighborhood and nobody knows me, or knows anything about me, or whether I feel like — being involved in Haiti is a daunting, daunting place to serve. It really is. There are times, there are things that my partners and I that we’ve learned over the last 17 years now, times where I just felt totally deflated and defeated. Organizations that I knew at the beginning, are no longer involved in Haiti at all. It can be really… It can be hard. But I do know that as we do the best that we can, one of our mantras is, “do the best you can until you know better and then do better.” And we’ve tried to do that. So whether it’s those times or whether it’s being able to say, “Wow, this amazing thing happened,” we see this child, their life is really different now, and that becomes one of the joys of my life. I come to know myself better. 

I feel like who I am, the reflection of myself in the mirror, and all of those around me, I start to see on so much of a deeper level to think of who we are as children of God and individuals that were saved for this time to prepare the way for our Savior to return to the earth and all that preparation. We were individuals with our own personalities and our own experiences and our own premortal story before we even got here and to be able to know that, to be able to find that in service in the hugest blessing in my life, so I’m grateful to be able to know that.

35:27  

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen, and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on thechurchnews.com