Bryan Kehl's big Mormon family and the blessings of adoption

Published: Thursday, June 16 2011 4:00 a.m. MDT

Mason Woodward, a friend of Bryan Kehl, is a running back at Syracuse High School. Like Kehl, Woodward is adopted.

Roger Woodward Family

Editor's note: At the time this story was written, Bryan Kehl was with the St. Louis Rams. He recently signed with the Washington Redskins.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God." (Romans 8:28)

In the predawn hours of Saturday, June 16, 1984, a baby was born, wrapped in a white blanket and purposely kept from the young woman on the hospital bed. The infant male with bits of black hair was fed a bottle by his grandmother before he received a priesthood blessing at the hands of his grandfather. As the women looked on, the grandfather gently kissed the little one's forehead and handed him to the nurse.

Then he was gone.

More than 25 years later on a night in early December, the mother, Amy Smith, was preparing her five children for bed when the phone rang. An old friend delivered news that landed like a bombshell. The child Smith had given up for adoption in 1984 had found his biological father and was interested in meeting her. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine this day would come. Now the Smiths had a major decision to make.

Initially, revisiting the past caused some anxiety and awkward feelings. But fear eventually evaporated into hugs, joyful tears and expressions of love.

As he celebrates his 27th birthday today, Bryan Kehl, the adopted baby, says reconnecting with his vast biological family has been a glimpse of heaven. The incredible experience illustrates that given time, the Lord can extract the most good out of some unfortunate circumstances.

"Nobody owns anybody, we are all brothers and sisters, and we are down here (on earth) to help each other struggle through the difficulties of life. When you have that perspective, it really changes you," said Kehl, an NFL linebacker for the St. Louis Rams. "This could be what it's like whenever we die and go to the other side. We will be introduced to family members and ancestors we have never known."

* * * 

"We glory in tribulation also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience." (Romans 5:3)

In the early 1980s, Amy Evans (Smith) was a student and Aggiette at Utah State. She was dating an Aggie football player named Maurice Turner when she discovered she was pregnant. Initially, she assumed they would get married. Turner loved her but didn't think marriage was the solution.

Not prepared to raise a child on her own, Evans opted for adoption. Turner asked her not to give the baby up, that he and his family could raise the child, but Evans didn't think so. She felt strongly that having the child placed in an LDS home where he could be sealed to a family was the right thing to do. Turner objected but didn't stop the adoption.

"I felt at peace with the whole decision. It was the right thing to do," Amy said. "Now when I look back at all the timing of it, I feel like Heavenly Father had the whole situation in his hands and he knew what would happen, and … things would work out the way he wanted them to work out."

The biracial child arrived in the capable arms of two very experienced parents, Gary and Nancy Kehl. They named him Bryan. He became one of nine children in the Kehl home, and one of six adopted.

The Kehls are generous, compassionate people. Over an eight-year period, Gary and Nancy welcomed in and cared for 13 different unwed mothers. They have also sponsored 23 foster children. They did all this while raising and adopting the other children. Bryan was in good hands.

A year later, Amy had her life back in order. She was attending Weber State when she began dating a returned missionary named Brian Smith. As their relationship deepened, Amy knew she needed to tell Brian about her past. It was not easy.

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