"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
April 10, 2013
Bloom Where You're Planted
by Emily S. Jorgensen

In this past Saturday afternoon session of General Conference, Elder Stanley G. Ellis’ words struck a chord — or perhaps a nerve — with me.

He spoke about being a stake president in Texas for 16 years, and in all those years only ever getting one call from a relocating family asking which ward needed a good family. All other calls from relocating families asked which ward was the best.

He spoke about how what happens in the home is so much more important than what happens out of it in regards to shaping our children. This is an issue that affects my family right now and has been weighing heavily on my mind for a few months.

Nearly five years ago, when our third child was born, we realized that we had officially outgrown our small home. We had purchased that home before we had children. It was in a fabulous ward — a very high activity level, close-knit (but not so close-knit that newcomers were excluded), a good size Primary, a well-stocked nursery.

That ward was filled with generous, well-meaning people who did their jobs and tried to support one another.

At the time, we were the younger couple in the dumpiest house in the ward, who were still trying to figure out how to be adults in the Church. We learned a lot from those people, and many of them are still our good friends. However, three children in a two-bedroom house is not going to work for long. So we began looking for a new house.

This was before the housing crisis really hit, so it was very difficult to find something that fit both our budget and our needs. It took a year of looking, of trying to keep our house clean so it could show on a moment’s notice, and a lot of prayer.

We would find a house that seemed perfect, pray about the decision, and feel it was not right. I was getting very frustrated.

We began to pray that we would be led somewhere that the Lord needed us, and that our family could make a difference. Although we loved the ward we were in, we felt a bit redundant — we weren’t really needed there.

When I looked at this house we currently live in, I knew it was the right one, even though it would take some expensive adjustments to fit our needs. We prayed together as husband and wife and as a family. It felt right. We moved.

The first week we attended our new ward, our records were read in, and no one really seemed to care. It was months before either of us had a calling. At first I was rather miffed. Why did we come here, anyway?

However, as soon as someone noticed that we actually bought this house and were highly committed to the gospel, well, we haven’t had a break since.

This Primary is tiny, especially when you get to the school age children’s classes. There are often not enough priests to bless the sacrament and never enough deacons to pass it. This ward gets 100 new households per year. One hundred!

There are so many rental properties in the boundaries, that only a minority of the ward is really considered “permanent.” And none of those “permanent” people are my age. There are very few children, if any, for my children to play with. Sometimes I feel quite isolated.

How the heck do you live seven minutes away from BYU, likely in the most LDS member-saturated geographical area of the world, and have a ward with this many problems?

Be careful what you pray for.

I have wondered many times how this environment will affect my children as they grow and mature here. What if they are the only people their gender and age when they enter Mutual? As it stands now, this is looking pretty likely.

Who will be their friends? Who will influence them? Will they get the social experiences and testimony-building experiences they need?

And then I remember the branch I grew up in, in Tacoma, Washington. I was the only Beehive for quite a while. The next Young Woman to enter was my sister. Our entire Mutual, at its biggest, had about 15 people.

We lived in the extreme inner city. We showed up to seminary one morning to find gang territorial spray-paint all over the outside of our church. Our church building had no lawn, only a parking lot that abutted other businesses. There were never outside activities.

There were rarely enough priests to bless the sacrament, and never enough deacons to pass the sacrament.

I am pretty sure there were more widows in that ward than any other demographic.

Being a bishop, Relief Society president or an organist in that branch was pretty much a life sentence.

And somehow, I survived. In fact, I would say I thrived.

I know a family who is moving very soon to pursue the ideal ward. (They are not in my ward — because of course, they live a block away from me, and we are in Utah after all, so naturally they are in a different stake from me entirely).They are unhappy that their teenage daughter has no one her age in their ward. They think this is ridiculous, being in Utah, as we are. I agree; it is ridiculous.

But maybe it is also a blessing. At least, speaking for my family, maybe this is just the right amount of adversity my children need to grow up right. Maybe the Lord was thinking of my children when He prompted us to move here.

Maybe the lack of others to associate with forces us to be more united as a family. Maybe it is a blessing that no one comes knocking on our door asking to play with my kids, because then I get to be a bigger influence on them than the neighborhood.

Maybe, in my heart, I know the answer to Elder Ellis’ question, “Brothers and sisters, do we really think that the critical factor in the salvation of our children is the neighborhood in which we live?”

I am planted here. Maybe it is time to bloom, after all.

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About Emily S. Jorgensen

Emily Jorgensen received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University. She earned her master's degree in elementary music education, also at BYU. She holds a Kodaly certificate in choral education, as well as permanent certification in piano from Music Teacher’s National Association.

She has taught piano, solfege, and children’s music classes for 17 years in her own studio. She has also taught group piano classes at BYU.

She is an active adjudicator throughout the Wasatch Front and has served in local, regional, and state positions Utah Music Teachers' Association, as well as the Inspirations arts contest chair at Freedom Academy.

She gets a lot of her inspiration for her column by parenting her own rambunctious four children, aged from “in diapers” to “into Harry Potter.” She is still married to her high school sweetheart and serves in her ward’s Primary.

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