The Carla and Perry Taylor Miracle
Attending a new Ward after 29 years in one is worrisome. And to make to make it worse our new Ward was not a Ward but a fledgling, 4 month old Branch in a new area of Fruit Heights that was expected to grow rapidly. There were times when as little as 10 women sat in Relief Society. I didn’t understand at the beginning, that having us all new was a plus. Our new Relief Society president sparkled with enthusiasm. She wanted to bring together all the new move-ins and make them feel comfortable. Her presidency came with dinner when we were packing in boxes; soup, bread, a salad with strawberries. It was nice but I thought, “Someone is moving in every week, can you keep this up?” They did. I learned they had a dozen dinners in their freezers ready to go. I was impressed. It did make me feel welcome. When it was my birthday a month later they all came again with a little gift and well wishes. “Wow, you all are amazing!”
After a year in the Ward I was called to be the compassionate service leader. My job would be to work with my lovely, ambitious Relief Society President, Cherise Cragun. And I hoped I could convince her that the sisters in the Ward needed to take a more active roll in her ideas for helping and serving one another. I could see that burnout might come if she continued to do so much herself. E-mail made my job easy and finding volunteers for help was as easy as a morning e-mail to all the sisters. I was impressed at how eager so many were to help.
Soon after my call Cherise advised me that we needed to find dinners for Carla Taylor’s family 3 days a week. Carla had 2 small children and a teenage son. Her husband had recently checked into rehab to deal with some addiction issues. Carla had gone back to work to support the family. She was not attending church at the time. Someone in the Ward volunteered to take dinner into the family every Monday. (How wonderful of you Jackie Giles). I needed to find two other days. (Plus the RS presidency often did another day here and there) Cherise said this assignment would be ongoing until further notice. I learned, in my new assignment, that there are some you can count on over and over. Mostly everyone wanted to help when asked personally. As the weeks turned into months I started to question the wisdom in so many dinners. Was it too much to ask of the sisters? Thankfully, I never expressed my reservations. It was not that anyone was complaining. Cherise met with Carla regularly. I had to believe that she had a pulse on the situation. Finally we were done. I never saw Carla Taylor during this time.
The little branch seemed to grow in spite of the downturn in the economy and I started to lose the ability to recognize everyone. This is a great little family neighborhood. One Sunday a tall, beautiful woman with long dark hair sat with Mike and I on the short benches. I introduced myself. She said, “I am Carla Taylor.” “Oh, Wow, I am so happy to meet you!” I said.” And I was happy. Of course, this woman would want to come and be with the generous people that had fed her family for months and helped her get through a difficult time. Surely she was confident of our love, concern and support. I began noticing Carla each Sunday in Relief Society with a sweet little girl who was not quite ready to leave her mom for Primary.
I didn’t make the connection at first, but at some point I started to see a big and tall man with dark curly hair, moving around church with his leg elevated on its own little scooter. I talked to him in the hall about his ongoing problem with a foot that split open and would not heal. He could not walk on it. His name: Perry Taylor, Carla’s husband. I noticed that their teenage son was actively involved with the boys in the Ward. Carla told me that his activity was influential in her decision to attend. It gave me a lot of joy to see this little family sit together in sacrament meeting. Perry was not a member but he began meeting with the missionaries and eventually agreed to baptism. I like to look for them on that bench close to the front, glowing in the newness of their spirit. I misjudged and it humbles me.
Several months ago Perry was assigned to be our home teacher with someone who is seasoned in the church to mentor him in the way to do it. I look forward to his visits. We compare our foot problems. We both had foot surgery in January. Perry is walking without his scooter now, sometimes with a walking cast, sometimes in a special shoe. He brings a lesson to teach us. We are impressed as he is working hard to learn the gospel. He feels inadequate to his new life. He read a quote about the Celestial Kingdom from the Ensign once. He said, “I will never go there. I spent too many years as a hard drinker.” Mike wisely brought up the parable of the “Workers in the Vineyard.” The Lord gave everyone a penny whether they came early or late. Yes Perry, you can aspire to the Celestial Kingdom. Isn’t the gospel wonderful!
It has been about 3 years since we began taking dinner into the Taylor family. When Perry came to visit this month he had an invitation for us. He and Carla will take out their endowments on July 12 and we are invited to attend with them. It has been such a beautiful thing for me to watch this story unfold and to learn that God knew Cherise would do the right thing in organizing us to love this family as long as they needed it. It is never hard to love those you serve. I hope I have learned not to question the inspiration that comes with stewardship.
Recently Little Joshua Taylor bore his testimony in church. He said that he was happy that, “a missionary was living with them.” Then the missionary got up. He taught the Taylor family the gospel while serving here. When he finished his mission he moved to Utah and is living with the miracle family he baptized.
The temple experience with the Taylors was sweet. About 35 Ward members attended the session to show their support. I have never seen that many members in the temple together. I sat there thinking about Carla and Perry hearing everything for the first time. I remembered my first time, knowing that it is so different from any other church experience that it can be daunting. But with a commitment to return it will soon be comfortable. There is nowhere on earth with this much peace.
I was surprised to see a fellow writer, Donna Jones, in the session. She and her husband Kent are leaders in the LDS addiction recovery program. She told me that Perry was “one of her boys.” She said when he first started attending the program he told them, “I don’t know why I am here because I don’t like the LDS church.” So, why did Perry come in the first place and why did he stay? Donna said that his teenage son convinced him it was the best place and came with him offering tender support. She said his progress has been a beautiful miracle. And I liked what Donna said about his wife. “Without Carla’s support and love it never would have happened, because, there was a point when she threatened to leave. “—so many beautiful pieces fitting together to make it all happen.
I felt honored to have a little reception in our home for Carla and Perry that evening after the Temple. Three years ago no one could have imagined this. I love miracles.