"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
February 12, 2014
Bad Guys
by Emily S. Jorgensen

A heinous crime occurred in our neighborhood this week. An 11-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a stranger on the way to school in the parking lot of our stake center. This happened not two blocks from our home, where my children frequently ride their bikes during the summer months.

The neighborhood, elementary school, our ward, and our family are all reeling in the aftermath. Police officers and camera crews have flooded the neighborhood, the stake center was blocked off with yellow police line tape for a day, and everyone is scared. The perpetrator has yet to be caught.

We decided that to protect them, we really needed to tell our children what happened. We felt it was better to hear it from us than a babysitter or someone at church. Part of me didn’t want to tell them. I want them to feel safe and secure. We want them to live their life without fear. But it feels wrong to do so by withholding the truth about the evil in the world.

I knew they would be upset, and I was right. They all expressed their fear and anxiety in ways unique to their age and personality.

My oldest, who is about the same age as the girl who was attacked, expressed deep sadness that someone was hurt this way, and many of her questions revolved around whether the victim would be OK.

My second child, who often walks herself to the dance studio nearby, expressed fear of going anywhere by herself, and wanted to make sure she didn’t have to. My kindergartner son was convinced this meant bad guys were surely going to come and try to hurt him in the middle of the night.

This tragic event has since become an open conversation in our home for the past several days; a child will ask about it out of the blue, or something will make them think about it and they will need reassurance again at seemingly random times.

Although, for the victim’s sake, I wish things like this would never, ever happen, it has given our family a chance to reflect on why bad things happen to good people.

I can tell my children want me to tell them that nothing like this will ever happen to them; that they are somehow immune from this kind of pain; that we will protect them no matter what.

And I would protect them from anything horrible as much as I possibly can. But I cannot lie to them and tell them that nothing out of their control and terribly painful will never happen to them. I think, in the long run, this false reassurance will not help them.

I hear it all the time in church: “Just follow the commandments, and you’ll be happy!”

Um, since when?

It has always struck me as wrong for Young Women leaders (for example) to testify to their young women that if they live the commandments and prepare to marry in the temple, that life will be just peachy. The irony to me is that these same young women’s leaders do not necessarily have peachy lives. So, why tell our youth the half-truth?

Really, I think our youth can take it. Yes, let’s obey the commandments. Yes, let’s be temple-worthy. Yes, let’s develop our own testimonies of the gospel — not to prepare for a life of incumbent happiness, but so we can best weather the storms that are sure to come.

Let’s tell them how it really is. You may end up divorced because your husband is addicted to porn. You may never be able to have children. You may never get married. You may get married and still spend most of your time feeling lonely.

And, perhaps most importantly: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what will allow you to cope with whatever trials you get served.

In the case of our current neighborhood trial, we’ve told our children there are things they can do to stay safe. We can be more careful, (and we’ve discussed exactly how). I can tell them that they will probably never be hurt by a stranger, that most strangers are perfectly wonderful people.

And, I wish I could tell them that nothing bad will ever happen to them.

But I can’t. I tell them that if something bad ever does happen to them, they can survive it. We will help them, we will love them, we will do anything we can for them. They will be OK.

And, I have been giving them love. Lots of love. Hugs, kisses, expressions of appreciation and affection.

There is a lot of fear circling around our community right now. And as we read in 1 John 4:18, “perfect love casteth out fear.” I realize only Christ can love us perfectly. However, I am going to try my hardest to come as close as I can.

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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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