When Rochelle Tallmadge knelt to pray for missionary opportunities, she did not foresee phone interviews, camera crews or Internet videos in her future.
Be careful what you pray for, said the redheaded Mormon from Fort Worth, Texas, because you will get an answer.
Tallmadge, a 38-year-old wife and mother of four, including two with special needs, was one of 25 LDS members selected from around the country to be featured as part of Mormon.org's "I Am A Mormon" advertising campaign.
Those selected come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, but all share a deep commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, according to the website. The campaign gives readers a glimpse into the everyday lives of typical Mormons.
The request from church headquarters to share her lifestyle and beliefs came at the perfect time, Tallmadge said. One day, she was reading the blog of a church member, and a comment posted by a nonmember caught her eye.
"The nonmember had a question, and someone wrote, 'Go to Mormon.org to find the answer.' The nonmember said, 'Quit sending me to Mormon.org for the party line. I just want to know what a real Mormon thinks,' " Tallmadge said. "I thought that was interesting. Later that day, I got the e-mail and phone call about this. 'How fascinating,' I thought, this is exactly what that nonmember wanted."
As she prepared an evening meal of fish, asparagus, corn on the cob and strawberry shortcake, Tallmadge talked about the reaction people have had to her story and how it has changed her life.
First of all, it was fun. Tallmadge, who grew up in Blackfoot, Idaho, said she was a little nervous as the crew filmed the family during a car ride, at home, her book club and the Special Olympics, but everything worked out. She was pleased that a lot of focus was placed on her sons — Ethan, who has cerebral palsy, and Derick, who has Down syndrome.
This touched a nerve with both members and nonmembers.
A Mormon mother with special-needs children contacted Tallmadge, looking for encouragement after a really rough day. She needed someone who had been there, done that. Her husband showed her the online video of the Tallmadge family, and it was just want she needed.
"She said, 'Do you know what it is like when someone asks you how you are doing and you just burst into tears?' That same thing had just happened to me. I had just had the worst sacrament meeting EVER," Tallmadge said.
"The mother wrote, 'I know this is meant for nonmembers, but did you know how much you could touch a member's heart and how much you could really help someone who needed help that day?' It was sweet because I could write back and say, 'Yes, I have had those days. You think you will never get through it, but you will.' "
Nonmember relatives in Rochester, N.Y., saw the Tallmadge family in the commercial and perked up. Others have read her profile and testimony and said it was beautiful.
"The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People have been so sweet and kind. It's exciting," Tallmadge said. "We'll see where it goes."
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