In the year 2016, DeseretNews.com readers were lifted by stories of faith and the power of hope.
These themes were evident in continued interest in the story of Elizabeth Smart, whose parents never gave up hope in the search for their kidnapped daughter. They were seen in the family of pianist Jon Schmidt and their conviction that they would one day see their missing daughter again.
Readers gravitated to stories of the faith of people like Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil, who shared his belief in being guided by the hand of God. The story of Josie Solomon and her determination to find light amidst bipolar disorder captivated readers.
Then there was Rosemary Card, who took a leap of faith in starting her own company, and Chelsie Hightower, who made the decision to recommit her life to God and step out of the limelight.
The following are the most-read stories from the Faith section on DeseretNews.com from 2016.
1. Former New York model launches LDS temple dress company
Photo credit: Matthew Thomas
In November 2015, Rosemary Card, a former runway model, launched a line of temple dresses. Just over a year later, Card has sold more than 3,000. But the goal was never “to sell a trillion dresses." It was a desire to follow through on something she felt inspired to do.
“The purpose of this is to help me become who Heavenly Father wants me to become, so I’m working on that, and it’s great that I can try to help others in the process," Card said. "I know that between Heavenly Father and I, that’s the goal."
Read Card's story here.
2. Faith and fame: Former 'Dancing With the Stars' pro Chelsie Hightower shares her story
Courtesy of Chelsie Hightower
Chelsie Hightower achieved notoriety during her time as a dancer on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars,” but Deseret News readers learned about her search for true happiness and the story of a prayer that ultimately led her to walk away from the lights of Hollywood.
“I just said a prayer to Heavenly Father, and I said, 'If this is what is necessary, take this career from me,’” Hightower said. “That was 2013, and I’ve never been on the show since.”
Read Hightower’s story here.
3. As search efforts for Annie Schmidt conclude, family expresses gratitude, faith
Missing Persons Unit
Over the course of the year, there were some faith stories that didn’t have the happy ending readers hope for. The search for Annie Schmidt ultimately ended with the discovery of her remains. But while searching for their daughter, her parents continued to express their confidence that God hears and answers prayers.
"I desire for everyone to know, who has exercised their faith in behalf of our family, your faith has not gone unanswered," Michelle Schmidt, Annie’s mother, wrote as search efforts concluded. "We have been literally carried and sustained through day after day. We have felt a calm and a peace beyond ourselves that have enabled us to get up each morning and function and do what needs to be done that day to continue our efforts to find our daughter. We know that this is a result of your prayers. Thank you (times a million).
"We have been unable to find our sweet daughter’s body at this time. But these things we know. We know that Heavenly Father has heard the countless prayers and combined faith exercised by people literally all over the world. We know he has heard us, and if he chooses to not show us where to find her, then we trust that there is a purpose in this."
Read the Schmidts' story here.
4. Wright Words: The night Elizabeth Smart's experience saved a life
Photo credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Nearly 15 years have passed since Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her family’s home in Utah, but her story continues to inspire and change lives. In February, Jason Wright wrote of a girl named Sariah VanderVeur, who planned to commit suicide. However, on the night she planned to take her life, a conversation in her home about Smart’s experience caused VanderVeur to reconsider.
“Smart’s heroic experiences rang in Sariah’s ears like bells of hope,” Wright wrote. “If she can do all that, if she can survive, if she can devote her life to bringing hope to the hopeless, surely Sariah can do the same."
Read Wright's column here.
5. 'Hand of God moments' lead Philadelphia 76ers CEO to join LDS Church
Photo credit: Hans Koepsell, Deseret News
Scott O’Neil, CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers, shared his personal witness of being guided by the hand of God in his decision to join the LDS Church.
“I guess I would make it analogous of the story of the rock where you pound the rock and pound the rock, it’s like a thousand times that you can hit it and it’s not that last hit but the thousand ones before it,” O’Neil said, referencing a famous quote by Jacob Riss. “Maybe that’s a bad analogy because things were breaking off rather than coming together, but we’ve been really fortunate. We’ve had tremendous friends, we’ve lived in six or seven different cities. We’ve had incredibly strong home teachers, incredibly strong wards, incredible bishops, we’ve had the good fortune of meeting several general authorities, too, and that’s been a good experience. If there was ever a hand of God in giving us an opportunity to make a decision, it was certainly there.”
Read O'Neil's story here.
6. Bipolar disorder can't stop LDS woman from spreading light, joy through The 444 Project
Photo credit: Angie Sloan
Josie Solomon’s story was one of the most-read stories of 2016, but it may have also been the most-heard as it was shared by Sister Carole M. Stephens during her talk, “The Master Healer,” in the October 2016 LDS general conference.
Solomon, who is open about her struggle with bipolar disorder in hopes that it will help others, spoke with the Deseret News about finding light amidst the darkness she experiences in her life on a daily basis.
“Everybody has their darkness, but everybody has light," Solomon said, "and I’ve found that while our darkness varies from person to person, the light that heals and redeems is the same, and that’s the light that comes from the Atonement.
The gospel, and specifically the Savior, is what has carried me through this dark abyss of the past seven years.”
Read Solomon's story here.
7. From ashes to 'blessing'; Provo City Center Temple echoes its legacy as a tabernacle
Photo credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
The Provo City Center Temple carried with it a rich history and a storyline that inspired people around the world.
"This temple is unique because of its history as a tabernacle transformed into a temple," said Sister Rosemary Wixom, the church's Primary general president at the time. "The tabernacle is such an icon and landmark. I think the city of Provo is celebrating."
In this particular article, the Deseret News’ Tad Walch explores interesting things found within the walls of the temple and facts about the temple’s history.
Read Walch's piece here.
8. Arianne Brown: What I've learned in the 10 years since my sister's suicide
Courtesy of Arianne Brown
In her Sept. 20, 2016, column, Arianne Brown demonstrated that while time cannot erase pain, it can heal pain. She explains that the questions she used to ask regarding her sister’s death have been transformed into something more productive.
“All these years later, I have learned not to ask why because only she knows,” Brown wrote. “I no longer ask what I could have done because what’s done is done. I no longer blame myself and others because nobody can be blamed, and blaming others only causes hurt and anger, and I’m tired of being hurt and angry. But, there is one question I ask each time I think of my sister. I ask myself, ‘What, now?’”
Read Brown’s column here.
9. Terrorism didn't diminish Sister Fanny Clain's faith on Mormon missionary's long and winding road to Kirtland
Photo credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
March 22, 2016, was a long-awaited day for Sister Fanny Clain. After serving the first three months of her full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Belgium, Clain finally had her visa in hand and was at the airport ready to fly to her assigned Ohio Cleveland Mission when two bombs exploded in the Brussels airport. But Clain didn’t let this stop her from serving a mission. In May, Walch interviewed Clain in the lobby of the Provo MTC where she was preparing to serve in the Historic Kirtland Visitors Center in Ohio.
"Now, because I have been through all of those things," she said, "I'm asking myself the question, 'If I meet that many obstacles to go there, that seems to be really interesting, then. I really want to see what will happen there, because with so many difficulties to get there, what is waiting there?'"
Read Clain's story here.
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10. Utah mom chooses hope when baby is given 15 percent chance at life
When Nadine Shelley’s baby was given just a 15 percent chance of survival, doctors suggested that she not prolong suffering. However, Shelley knew the matter was out of her hands.
"I didn’t feel like that was my decision to make, whether Brayden lived or died that was up to Brayden and God," Shelley said. "I could choose abortion, but then he would 100 percent not be here, but 15 percent, that’s all I need."
Read Shelley's story here.