Sunday, March 20, 2016

Risen from the Ashes

{photo from }

Risen from the Ashes

December 17, 2010 - I am finishing my last semester at BYU and packing up the last 4 ½ years into my car, almost ready to make the trek home. My sister, Emily, who has just finished her first semester at Utah State, is coming down with me to be home for the holidays.  We leave the Enclave Apartments in the evening. I drive down University Ave and point out the Tabernacle to Em, telling her how cool it was to go stake conference and see the beautiful interior. We sleep at one of Emily’s friend’s houses in Cedar City and plan to head out early the next day.  
 Friday morning I receive a text from my cousin, Matt, who is still up in Provo, telling me he's at the Provo Tabernacle with dozens of people watching it burn and says I should come over with my camera.  I share the news with Emily and her friend – we are devastated.  The Tabernacle was blocks away from where I lived during the second half of my BYU days. I had attended a Stake Conference there the previous year and loved the history behind it.  The news gives a bit of an eerie feeling to the close of my journey at BYU.

{photos: Deseret News

January 2011Figuring out post grad life begins. A few days after the Rose Parade, my grandma falls at her home and needs more care.  It is definitely a hard week for the Reed Family - we take shifts staying with Grammy at the care facility, while my mom and her siblings work out how they will care for their mother in her own home.  

{It was a hard realization that comes to all adults in time; watching someone strong you've looked up to for so long finally age and be so fragile, and seeing my mom burdened with caring for a parent.}

  A few weeks later, Em returns to Logan for her second semester of classes.  Only a couple of weeks go by, and she begins to have some struggles with her health, so my parents decide to bring her home.  It is very hard and mind-boggling for me to see my sweet, young and healthy sister struggle with sleep, anxiety, and emotions.  I feel completely helpless, and I know she does, too.  My amazing parents are understanding, patient, prayerful, and faithful. 

Labor Day Weekend, 2011 It's the last weekend I have with my family before I enter the MTC (Missionary Training Center). We decide to spend time down in Orange County, and I feel very torn and heavy. My heart is breaking to the point where I ask myself, “Will Emily get better? Things don't seem to be better yet.  Will she have a balanced life and go back to school?”  I even think, “Should I even be going on my mission when I would be leaving my family while my mom has to take care of my sister and my grandma?” 

         I pray a lot that day.  I pray for strength and faith that Emily will get better, that my family will have help and that I will have the courage to serve my mission with faith that everything would be alright.

         September 23, 2011 -  I leave the MTC and enter the Provo Mission to wait for my Visa for Argentina.  It's pretty weird serving near where I have just finished studying! But I sincerely enjoy getting to know the latino families South of Campus. 

October 1, 2011 - My companion and I have the opportunity to watch General Conference at our Bishop’s home with our investigator who has just told he wants to get baptized!  So it's already an exciting morning.

And then the news comes-  a lot of members’ favorite part of announcements given at Conference – temples!  President Monson made a special announcement:  (Play at 3:00)

There is a jubilee all throughout Provo in the following weeks. You can feel it in the air, and when we pass the Tabernacle the following day, we see children's drawings and white flags hanging from the gates.

I receive many letters from Emily. She is hands down the best pen pal, and I cherish all of her letters! 

One P- Day (preparation day) soon after conference, my companions and I go to the Distribution Center to buy some things.  I begin to chat with a sweet lady while she checks out our purchases.  She says, 

"Isn't it amazing that the tabernacle will be a temple?  I love it because it's also a message of the Atonement.  The tabernacle was forgotten and abandoned for a while - many did not believe it would be restored and would eventually be torn down. But it wasn't forgotten and will be turned into something greater, while still keeping its original frame! We at times feel like abandoned tabernacles; we have pain and bad experiences, and unfortunately sometimes feel like others or even the Lord has forgotten us. But that is not true! Through Christ, we can rise from the ashes and be made into temples!"  

 I instantly thought of my sweet little sister, who probably feels worn and broken.  She needed to hear this.  In my next letter, I tell her the simple yet powerful symbol that lady shared with me that day.  I say, 

"Emie - we are all temples! The Lord knows our pain thanks to the Atonement, and he is building us up into this beautiful palace. I know you are thinking positive thoughts - I can see it in your letters.  But I know there can be days where you feel frustrated or lonely or you don't know where your life is going. I definitely felt that in January when I was fighting with my self to figure out what I was supposed to do after BYU.  Heavenly Father is looking out for you, Emie, and so are Mom and Dad! The Lord is placing you in this situation for a reason - and after this trial you will be able to look back and understand why this all had to happen. "  

November 15, 2011 - I'm flying to Argentina.  So unreal, it's finally happening!  My district teased me unceasingly that I would be stuck in Provo like another Elder who never got his Visa to Spain.  I am grateful for the refiner's fire Provo gave me so that I could kick butt in Argentina. 

Thanksgiving Day, 2011 - I get a phone call from my mission President during our personal study.  He tells me that Grammy passed away.  I knew it was coming, and although it is sad to hear, I feel so much peace and relief to know that her suffering is over.  It is intriguing to know how trials offer opportunity. I know that Grammy's last months of life spent in bed gave Emily the chance to serve someone while she was in an obstacle of her own.  She played music for her, read, and spent time at her side, which I know helped Emily feel love and strength. 

{They are together now in heaven!} 

Service is an amazing piece of the refiner's fire.

- As the months go by, I begin to hear through Em's letters that she is attending institute, and taking classes through BYU Idaho's Pathways Program! I am elated to know she is studying again and loving it.

 - Later on, she is hanging out with my dear friends at G7 (the best singles ward in the world) and serving as a ward missionary! 

Our family is forever indebted to the loving and inspired leaders and friends in the Glendale 7th ward - Bishop Price, Brother I, Bishop Hansen, and Brother Frost {who has recently passed}.  You are all heaven sent. I am also so thankful for all of our extended family who gave Em constant love - we have the best family! 

April 2013 - I fly home from my mission and am greeted by the most wonderful welcome party, fit with Argentine & American flags, little faces that aren't as little as I last remember them, and big hugs. 

Emily has been flourishing in Pathways and is months away from starting her first semester at BYU in June! Prayers are answered! I remember pleading at night as a new missionary in Provo for Em to enjoy all the wonderful adventures I had enjoyed - school, friends and social activities in a singles ward.  I am overjoyed that she got them all
and more!

Hands down, The BEST blessing from serving my mission is seeing these opportunities restored to my sister. 

But that's not the end!

Fast forward to today - Emily and her husband, Colby, live in Provo, just a mile away from the Provo City Center Temple, where they have been called to serve as ordinance workers, and will serve with the Temple Presidency, which includes my mission president and his wife! WOW.

I love this gospel. I am grateful for the symbol of the refiner's fire that was given to me and my sister.  

Every time you look at that brand new temple, remember that you are not abandoned.  The Lord knows your trials, and will give you strength, no matter how hopeless it may seem.  So keep going, have faith in yourself and press forward. And then one day you will see how far you have come, thanks to the healing powers of the Atonement, given to us by our loving Savior, Jesus Christ. 

- xoxo hill mill 

Risen from the Ashes 


  1. Hillary, this was wonderful. I think we have all experienced the same path (different details) as emily.

    This was so sweet and touching, I really love your sister, she's incredible and I'm so happy to hear this story! I wish I knew you better!!

    1. I feel the same way about you and knowing you more! Though Em and Colby talk about you and Matt, and Tiny! (and the tinier addition to your family!) all the time! Thank you for being such a dear friend to her. We are so blessed! xoxo h

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  2. I love this! So glad you guys have each other to get through the hard times! :)

  3. Yachts fir sharing so much. Grateful for both of you.

  4. Yachts fir sharing so much. Grateful for both of you.