It has been easy for me to follow my parents and grandparents’ examples, because they have shown me from a very early age the benefits of religion. I am the 7th generation of “ Saints ”, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As I study the lives of my ancestors I can see a strong pattern of devotedness that helped them navigate their difficult lives. They put the Gospel of Jesus Christ first, and have passed on the difference it has made by writing down their thoughts, and expressing feelings and experiences to their children and their children’s children. Their examples and lives have had a profound effect on me.
For instance, one great-great-great grandmother, MaryAnn Frost Stearns Pratt, was the first on my mother’s side to join my church, and then her parents, Aaron and Susana Gray Frost, became members as well. She lived in Bethel, Maine and was born in 1808. After a customary childhood for those times, she met Nathan Stearns who courted her for four years. I think about their weekly visits, managing to get away from their farms and families, and have a few precious minutes together. She was a new bride of a year, in 1833, when Nathan was stricken with typhoid fever while working in the fields. He died soon after. The missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found Mary Ann, three years later, still wearing black, mourning over her dead husband. When Mary Ann learned about the Church’s doctrine of an afterlife it resonated so strongly with her that she converted immediately because she believed she would be able to see her beloved Nathan again.
Mary Ann moved to Nauvoo, met and married Parley P. Pratt, whose first wife Thankful had also passed away. MaryAnn went with him to England on a missionary trip and later they endured jail together, poverty and sickness. Their marriage didn’t make it through the Nauvoo Exodus and Mary Ann did not go to Utah with Parley when it was time to go. Five years later, Mary Ann crossed the plains as a single mother with three children. She settled in Pleasant Grove, and became a midwife. She and Parley were divorced and in 1967 Elder Boyd K. Packer sealed her to Nathan Stearns at the urging of her posterity. For all she endured she could have been very bitter. On the contrary, since her belief was very strong from the very beginning it anchored her throughout her life. Her deep commitment has sustained me through some of my struggles. I just think of Mary Ann and know that whatever challenges I have, hers were much harder.
“I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ, being converted to the truthfulness of its doctrines by the first sermon I heard. And I said in my heart if there are only three who hold firm to the faith, I will be one of that number.”3
“Only three who hold firm to the faith”–out of the WHOLE WORLD–Mary Ann would be one of those three. That phrase is something I have thought alot about since I read it over ten years ago. I lean on MaryAnn’s example often. I think, “If she was strong, I can be strong!”
Imagine that this quiet, modest woman, that no one has ever heard of, can have such an effect on me, and my children and then their children. Being an anchor in a family of strength, belief and faith can lift those around us. Patrick Mason in his book Restoration: God’s Call To The Twenty First Century says that Latter-day Saints can be “light, leaven and salt,” which Mary Ann certainly was. Can we be valiant in our faith for the next generation?