Stories in this episode: Brothers Charlie and Sam start a trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro only to find that the steepest trail ahead lies in their conversations along the way; An important spiritual lesson on-stage leads Broadway performer Sandra to the surprising truth about her most challenging role off-stage.
To see pictures and links for this episode, go to LDSLiving.com/thisisthegospel
Welcome to “This Is the Gospel” an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith everyday. I'm your host KaRyn Lay.
Our theme today comes from an oft-repeated phrase, "What ere thou art, act well thy part," which has made its way into Latter-day Saint cultural consciousness in really interesting ways over the years, like its cousin, "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it," this phrase is often misattributed. Sometimes it's attributed to the scriptures, sometimes to Shakespeare, and sometimes to the Prophet David O McKay. But it's none of these things really. Nobody really knows where it came from. It was the life motto of President McKay, but that's because he first spotted the saying engraved on a stone in Scotland, where he was a discouraged missionary. The saying brought him comfort, and it helped him to buck up and jump back into the work of gathering Israel with his whole heart. And since then, he has shared it with all of us. And it has come to mean a lot of things to a lot of people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In fact, many years later, it became a touchstone for Sister Elaine Dalton's ministry, as the General President of the Young Women's organization. And if you are old enough to listen to conference in 2013, you might actually remember her very last talk before she was released. She talked about how this phrase sustained her during a time of deep discouragement. But why? What is it about acting well our part that captures our imagination and buoys us up in the face of disruption or challenge? Well, in today's episode, we have two stories from three people who found out what Shakespeare, or Shakespeare's brothers cousin, or whoever it was, who wrote that, what they already knew, when they carved that phrase into the rock. Our first story comes from two brothers who faced a steep mountain both literally and figuratively, and came down the other side with a clear sense of their part in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We'll start with Charlie, and then you'll hear from Sam as the story develops. Here's Charlie and Sam.
Charlie Bird 2:08
So the first thing I remember thinking was, "Is this real life?" Because I'm looking at this mountain above me. And honestly, I couldn't really see much. It was just like a jungle with trees and vines, and it was just going higher and higher. And then it was just lost in the clouds. And I couldn't believe that I was actually at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. If you know anything about my family, it's that we're kind of extreme and we love physical challenges. I'm there with my dad and my little brother, Sam, and my sister, Hannah. What we decided to do for this Kilimanjaro summit was try to do an unassisted hike. So most of the time, when you're hiking the mountain, you have like porters to carry your food and your water. But we wanted to go unassisted, which means we had everything with us just on our own backs. So I hoist this bag onto my shoulders, and I was like, "Oh my gosh." This is like the first moment that it's actually hitting me that I have to take this bag to the top of the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.
We go to weigh it in, and I can't remember exactly how many kilograms it was, but I did – it was like 30 kilograms, which is roughly 65 pounds. And I'm looking at my brother Sam, and we're like, "Are we cool? . . . Or are we crazy?" And looking back, I think it was a little bit of both. And honestly, all the park rangers there thought we were definitely crazy. For about two years before that I'd become a really avid hiker around Utah. And so I would do Timpanogos on the weekends with friends just for like fun and Angels Landing was a breeze and I was hiking all over the Wasatch Front and all over southern Utah. And I felt pretty good. But about 20 minutes into this hike – Kilimanjaro with 65 pounds on my back – I realized this was not going to be like any hike I'd ever done before.
One of the most incredible things that I noticed immediately was the environment, my surroundings. I've never seen so much foliage and animals, there was monkeys jumping through the trees, the landscape was just so beautiful. And there was these mossy vines that were hanging over this dirt path, the light was coming in, in like filtered scattered bursts illuminating the floor and there were flowers on the jungle floor. This is, this is the kind of trip that you know, everyone wants to go on but I was actually living it. I was like, "I cannot believe I'm doing this." And even better, with some of the people who I loved the most.
A couple hours into the start of our hike, we're just climbing. Elevation is steep and me and my little brother Sam are just moving out. For some reason. We were just feeling good. I think we were just excited to be there. We kind of got ahead of the rest of the pack. And for a while it was just me and Sam on the trail. And it was so interesting to look over at him. And notice that, you know, he'd always been my little brother. He's five and a half years younger. It was always kind of like – he was just little, you know? But now I'm looking at him and he's the same height as me and our strides are matching and I was like, "Dang, my little brother's like – a man." You know, I'm protective of him. I've always been like a caretaker of sorts to him, but now he was an equal and that that was kind of the moment I realized that he was an equal as we're moving out on this trail.
Sam Bird 5:18
Charlie and I had always been close. He had always been my best friend, my older brother, five years older than me. So I've always looked up to him, really in everything. Just the way he's been able to interact with people. He – we always said that Charlie is so skilled and talented in so many different fields that, that he could literally do anything. And I wanted to be like that. And he coached me through a lot of things and taught me a lot of things. And I was just happy to be with him.
Charlie Bird 5:46
You know, sometimes I wish there was a word that conveyed something stronger than brother, because that's how I've always felt with Sam. Growing up, we shared a room, and we basically shared everything. We played basketball – he's a basketball star – I honestly can't remember a single time I've ever lost a pickup game at the Rec Center, when Sam's on your team, like you want Sam on your team. And we just loved adventure. And we would explore and we would sing together and try to cook together and stay up late every night talking just about our lives and what we wanted to do and our big dreams. And then now as adults, we share the same clothes and we bought the same type of car. And just everything we did, we were we were essentially like twins.
And so sometimes using the word "Brother" to describe Sam doesn't seem like it's full enough – that it's meaningful enough, because our relationship was just, was just so deep. But there was one really important part of me that Sam didn't know anything about. And as we're walking up this mountain, and I realize that he's no longer just a little brother, that he's my equal, I'm realizing that I was hiding something really important from him. The fact that I'm gay.
At this point in time, I was putting so much emotional and mental and spiritual energy into trying to figure myself out and figure out how to reconcile my faith with my orientation. And s…