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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Brad Wilcox speaks during "Time Out for Girls" at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011.

SALT LAKE CITY — “American Idol” finalist Carmen Rasmusen saw what real beauty was — and wasn’t — when she went to Hollywood for Fox’s singing reality show and shared that with about 600 young women at the first Time Out for Girls in Salt Lake City on Saturday.

While the girls heard from Rasmusen, Deseret Book CEO Sheri Dew, seminary principal Anthony Sweat, Brigham Young University associate professor Brad Wilcox and the musical group Jericho Road, about 4,400 women were in a nearby hall at the concurrent Time Out for Women event on the last stop of this year’s “Choose to Become” tour.

The women on Saturday heard from author and Deseret Book editor Emily Watts, psychologist Wendy Ulrich, retired institute teacher S. Michael Wilcox and Deseret Book vice president Laurel Christensen. Blogger and plane crash survivor Stephanie Nielson also spoke due to a last-minute change in presenters.

Deseret Book’s Time Out for Women events are inspirational events targeted at women. This year, events were in nearly two dozen cities, including inaugural events in Australia and New Zealand and concurrent Time Out for Girls events in seven cities in the U.S. and Canada.

Time Out for Girls

There were two things Rasmusen wanted to change about herself physically when she was in middle school. The “American Idol” finalist wanted to have clear, clean skin and she wanted braces to fix her buck teeth — then she thought she could be happy. She had cut her hair short and with her tiny body, it made her look like a boy.

In high school, her skin had cleared up and she had had braces, but as a self-described late bloomer and someone who didn’t reach 100 pounds until her senior year of high school, she wanted to look like a girl.

Then, for “American Idol” in 2003, she was transported to Hollywood and learned a thing or two about beauty.

“Anyone can look like a movie star,” she told several hundred girls at the Time Out for Girls event, while their moms were at the concurrent Time Out for Women event.

For every show, they would spend at least an hour to an hour and half in the stylist chair.

“You can enter the room looking one way and come out looking completely different,” she said.

But it takes more than makeup, cute shoes and jewelry to have more than physical beauty.

“Things may make you feel pretty,” Rasmusen said. “It doesn’t make me beautiful.”

It’s the light of Jesus Christ, how a person lives their life and a reflection of their testimony that brings real beauty, she told the girls. And she truly felt beautiful after having her first child.

“Each and everyone is beautiful with or without makeup,” Rasmusen said before singing “Shine.”

Wilcox told them how circus mirrors distort and exaggerate an image, “and we laugh.”

Everyone receives different feedback from different people, from parents, teachers, friends and boys.

“Who do you believe?” Wilcox asked the girls as he explained that they were all an exaggeration.

“When you look toward heaven, you get real feedback,” Wilcox said.

Sweat spoke on feeling, recognizing and following the spirit and Dew shared about keeping an eternal perspective in life.

In addition to presenting, Sweat, Wilcox and Rasmusen answered several written questions from the girls.

Ali Paxton of Bountiful brought her two daughters, 13-year-old Hannah and 12-year-old Brienna.

“I love their stories,” Brienna said during the lunch break of listening to the Time Out for Girls speakers. “It’s really interesting to hear what they’ve done in their lives.”

Hannah recognized from the speakers what having self-confidence was like and how to possibly reach out to those who really don’t have a lot of self-confidence.

Ali Paxton said she admires “the optimism, the faith and the hope” that the presenters shared.

Time Out for Women

It was five months after the plane crash that burned 80 percent of her body that Stephanie Nielson looked at herself in the mirror.

“I didn’t want to be ugly,” Nielson told thousands of women at Time Out for Women on Saturday morning. “I was scared I would be ugly.”

She was still in the hospital healing from the burns, and her children wanted to see her. Her doctor told her she needed to see herself first.

Her husband brought her a mirror and she asked him to leave the room. With the mirror, she started at her neck and slowly brought the mirror up to her face.

“Everything looked unrecognizable,” she said of her chin, lips, nose, non-existent eyebrows and the red, healing burns on her face.

There was one thing that hadn’t changed.

“My eyes were just the same. I had my green eyes,” she said, adding that the impression she received then was God telling her he knew who she is and she is beautiful.

Choosing to remember her divine potential was one of several choices she shared that have helped her since the September 2008 plane crash.

Part of remembering that potential and her recovery was becoming a mother to her children again and slowly being able to do simple things for them, like zipping up their jackets and making lunches.

“I had to choose to recover,” Nielson said of the hard recovery of the painful burns. After being transferred from a hospital in Arizona, she was in one in Salt Lake City. Her husband would come to have dinner with her. One night he couldn’t because of a snowstorm.

“I just have to put all of my faith and trust in the Lord,” she said. “I have to choose to decide: I can live in despair or I can choose to be happy.”

Choosing to be happy is “hard to do when you’re constantly in pain,” she said of the recovery from the burns. “I had to love myself again.”

Another decision is choosing to make relationships with those you love better.

As the plane was crashing, she felt like she didn’t have any regrets.

“I count my accident as a blessing,” said Nielson, who is expecting her fifth child. “I’m grateful for a relationship with my Heavenly Father.”

Watts shared some habits that can impede progress on the path of “Choosing to Become,” and Ulrich spoke on finding happiness. S. Michael Wilcox shared about his feelings with the death of his wife along with ways to look at the unexpected things that happen in life.

Christensen said that in setting out to accomplish her “Choose to Become” goal, she learned about faith in learning to pray, think and live with faith, including while training for and facing obstacles with running her first half marathon.

“At mile 12.5, I could see the finish line and I was tempted to quit,” she said. It was people cheering her on that helped her finish the race.

On Friday evening, Dew, Brad Wilcox and singer and songwriter Hilary Weeks spoke to both the women and girls.

Wilcox shared about Jesus Christ’s role as Savior and Redeemer and also receiving answers to prayers.

“God’s delays are not denials,” Wilcox said. “He tried by faith and by doing so, he educated my faith.”

Dew shared how earlier this spring it had taken a week to plant several dozen new perennials to replace the ones that deer roaming her neighborhood had eaten. After finishing up Friday evening, Saturday morning she saw that they were gone — the whole plants had been taken, leaving holes in her garden.

Thinking it was the work of vandals, she called the police. A police officer came and asked her to fill out a report. He found the plants — behind her recently moved in next-door neighbors.

Their 6-year-old daughter, Ella, and her friends had thought the flowers were pretty and didn’t see why they couldn’t have them, too.

The plants hadn’t had time to root, which is why they came up so easily, Dew said.

“How deep are your spiritual roots?” she asked. “The root is more important that the flower. … We pay more attention to the flower, but it’s the root that needs to be tended to.”

The roots in life include attributes that no one can see.

“Some things are simply more important than others,” said Dew of the choices in life on the route to becoming a latter-day woman of God.

Weeks shared several songs, including parodies and a few from her recently released CD, “Every Step.”

At a Relief Society activity, she had heard that people had an average of 300 negative thoughts a day. So to test this out, she bought at clicker counter and began to keep track.

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Giving recognition to negative thoughts only brought her mood down, making her discouraged and a bit depressed even though she had less than the 300 thoughts, she realized at the end of the week. She started watching out for positive ones. In four days, the number on the clicker was 1,262 — and she checked with her family to make sure no one had messed with it.

“During that week of focusing on the positive, I was more spiritual,” Weeks said before singing “Dancing in the Rain.”

By Saturday morning, there was a sign saying the Time Out for Women bookstore had sold out of clickers.

The 2012 “Seek the Good” Time Out for Women tour includes events in two dozen cities. Registration begins Nov. 22 on www.tofw.com.

Email: rappleye@desnews.com