My name is Beth Vaughan Cole, and I am a nurse educator, wife, mother of four, and grandmother. I am currently the Dean of Brigham Young University’s College of Nursing.
I was asked to add my testimony of Jesus Christ and of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to this website. A bit awed by the task, I have prayerfully considered this effort and hope it will serve others as they grow in their understanding of Jesus Christ and His gospel.
I was baptized and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after I graduated from college with my baccalaureate degree in nursing from the University of Cincinnati. (It was on July 24th and I had no awareness of the historic significance of the date.) I met with the missionaries for about eight weeks.
My religious background up until I joined the Church was somewhat eclectic. My parents were Christian. My father was raised in a strong Catholic tradition, and my mother was raised Episcopal. My father was a professor, and twelve years older than my mother. They resolved their religious differences by not joining any church.
When I was in the third grade I went with a neighbor to a Methodist church. When the neighbor moved, I would go by myself. I was allowed to attend Sunday School but not the main Sunday service. I liked learning about Christ, and the teachings resonated deep within me. I would attend church with my friends and got a view of other churches. One summer I only went to the Catholic Church a few blocks from my home. They were all interesting. I was active in the Methodist Church through high school and part of college. I searched for my own testimony of Christ and read the Bible daily.
I had many questions about life during college. Should I be a nurse? How should I serve God? Should I choose another field? What was next? Why were people the way they were? And I had many other questions.
Joining the Church
After graduating from college, I had a few dates with an LDS returned missionary who asked the “golden questions.” My response was, “I already know about your church. I have read the encyclopedia.” But, I agreed to listen to the missionaries. Much of what they taught I already believed. The plan of progression and discussion of premortal life, while not new, resonated intensely within me. While reading the Book of Mormon (I read the whole book in a short time), I was very touched by what I read. King Benjamin and his sermon were deeply stirring. Nephi, Alma, the Stripling Warriors, Mormon, and Moroni were additional testimonies of Christ, and they affected me deeply.
Even though the precepts and church writings were good and would build my commitment to Christ, converting to a peculiar faith was troubling. I knew I would be ostracized by my family, even some friends, etc. The future in a new faith was so uncertain. I only knew a few people who were LDS, and I was moving to Boston, Massachusetts, later in the summer for graduate school. What if the people were strange there, or didn’t want me in “their” church? Even though I felt the Church, its teachings, and practices were how Christ would have wanted His Church to be if He were on earth, the decision to join the Church was very, very difficult. I don’t even have words for it. It was like giving up everything I knew or had been a part of so far in my life. Maybe that was why my mother was so upset when I did join the Church.
I am sure the missionaries knew from my prayers that I was struggling with the decision, and they were very kind and patient. It took several more weeks for me to be baptized. I was terrified. My brother attended my baptism. The terror leading up to baptism was totally countered on the day I was baptized. I was calm, reassured, and felt a wonderful confidence that all was well. I would even try to conjure up a feeling of anxiety, but kept being reassured. It was an incredible feeling of peace.
Journey after Baptism
I moved to Boston about a month after I was baptized. I went to Boston University’s School of Nursing, in the master’s program in child psychiatric nursing. I loved school; it was wonderful. I loved learning and was fascinated by what I was learning.
But, personally, it was the loneliest year of my life. There were two very good experiences with the Church. I was given a job leading music in the Primary (a mid-week activity), and worked with wonderful people. The second was that Elder Boyd K. Packer held an early morning class for all the LDS students in the area. I was so new to the Church, I was like a sponge, learning as much as I could.
There were only a few single LDS women in the ward, and we were all involved in graduate studies. After a couple of years, the ward had many singles; some were students and some were working. It had grown and divided several times by the time I moved to Utah six years later. I worked at the University of Utah Hospital and taught at the University of Utah College of Nursing for many years before being asked to be the Dean of the College of Nursing and moving my career to Brigham Young University. There is a lot to my story in the intervening years, but that is enough to help you understand the beginning of my religious journey.
Joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a life changing decision, and a wonderful gift. I have learned so much about Jesus Christ and how to live a more worthy life. I have learned how to serve others in a more Christ-like way. I have tried to give serious thought and effort to how I would dedicate my life to Christ. I married in my early thirties and had children in my late thirties and early forties. I had a PhD and tenure before I had children. After struggling to decide if I really wanted to be a nurse, after graduation I never looked back and never wished I had chosen something else. Full time or part time, I stayed with nursing and developed a career in academic nursing. I believe this was what the Lord wanted for me and the talents and gifts He had given me.
I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is my Savior and my Redeemer in every sense of the word. I have no question that He lived on earth as the Son of God. He is the Savior of the world and my Savior, who makes me whole and perfect with his healing redemption. Through the gift of the Holy Ghost I can receive inspiration and instruction. I won’t be instructed in everything, as I would not develop my own knowledge and capabilities if every decision were made by another. I believe that God the Father does care for us, for Jesus has told us so. The Prophets of old and the Prophets from Joseph Smith through President Monson have testified of Christ, of a Heavenly Father who loves us, and of the Holy Ghost. The Church is divinely organized and led by a Prophet today. I believe that prayers are answered, just not always the way we want. However, the answers are always to our benefit, if we choose to listen carefully, and trust the still small voice of the Holy Ghost.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is beautiful to me. Through its practices and teachings I can know, understand, and partake of an eternal perspective that fills my longing to know who I am and where I am going. The sacrament, Church activities, General Conference, from Relief Society to ward parties, I am enriched by them all. I have been blessed to share my journey with beautiful ward members. Most of all I am blessed by a righteous husband, who cares about me and our children. He works very hard to fulfill his gifts, talents, and role as husband and father. My children make me weep as I behold their divine beauty. Marriages have brought in new family members and, as the grandchildren join our family, I feel God’s trust in me grow, for I am part of a divine heritage.
I pray that you may feel the confirmation that you are a treasured, precious child of a Heavenly Father that loves you. I pray for those who hear the missionaries or find the message of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that they may have the sincere desire to ask if the message is true, and, after the confirmation by the still small voice of the Holy Ghost, have the courage to join and serve in the Church.
I pray for the leaders, the members, and especially for the children. Love the children, for they are precious and need our guidance to return to our Heavenly Father after this life’s journey.
I say this is the name of Jesus, Christ. Amen.
Beth Vaughan Cole has been the Dean of the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University since 2007. Prior to assuming her present responsibilities, from 1993 to 2007, she was a professor of nursing at the University of Utah, where, among other things, she chaired the Acute and Chronic Nursing Division of the College of Nursing and coordinated the nursing doctoral program. She received her first degree in nursing from the University of Cincinnati, and subsequently earned a master’s degree in child psychiatric nursing from Boston University and a Ph.D. in family studies from Brigham Young University.
Her specialties include end of life issues, family, obstetrics (maternal, newborn), and psychiatric nursing. Her research and writing has appeared in such places as the Handbook of Families and Health: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Thousand Oaks, London, and New Delhi, 2006) and in such journals as Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, the American Journal of Critical Care, and the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, and she is the co-author of Family Nursing Practice (Philadelphia, 2003).
In 2000, Professor Cole was honored with the President’s Award of the International Society for Psychiatric Nursing; in 2001, she was named a “Hometown Hero” by Salt Lake City’s KUTV (Channel Two).
Posted August 2010