A woman whose heart was deeply touched by the LDS Church's first Easter initiative is now having her story featured in the church's latest campaign.
Melody Callier, once pregnant and homeless on the streets of Seattle, recalls meeting with Mormon missionaries and viewing the 2014 Easter initiative, "Because of Him," for the first time. She was moved to tears and later joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Fast forward three years and the African-American LDS convert is one of eight individuals or families being featured in the church's "Prince of Peace" initiative, set to launch Friday, March 31 and run through Easter Sunday, April 16.
"I came to the conclusion that if there is at least one person who will benefit from my experience and see the truthfulness (of the gospel), then I'm down with it," Callier said.
The theme of the campaign — #PrinceofPeace — comes from the Old Testament scripture in Isaiah 9:6: "And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
The purpose of the initiative is "invite all to come unto Christ, learn principles of peace from the Prince of Peace, and share ways to find peace through the Savior," according to lds.org. The first video, scheduled to launch March 31 and available in 33 languages, is two and a half minutes long and illustrates the role of Jesus Christ as the "Prince of Peace."
Eight additional videos will be shared over the course of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday on April 9, through Easter Sunday. Each day will feature a different individual or family and how each has found peace by living one of the following Christlike values: faith, compassion, forgiveness, repentance, gratitude, God's word, prayer and hope. Anyone who likes the videos, memes or other content associated with the campaign is encouraged to share it using the hashtag #PrinceofPeace.
Since 2014, the missionary department of the LDS Church has sponsored Christmas and Easter initiatives, and used social media and other methods to reach tens of millions worldwide.
Callier's story illustrates repentance. Darcee Burnett, whose family story is captured in a video, demonstrates compassion. The two women recently discussed their experiences and the Easter initiative with the Deseret News.
Several others not in the videos but whose life experiences reflect at least one of the eight principles of peace, including Cade and Carrian Cheney, Courtney and Mandi Gubler, and Joseph Carbone, shared their stories to help promote the initiative.
Of the eight principles, Callier believes repentance is the "most fitting and appropriate" for her, as demonstrated by her life experience. But she's not sure she should be featured in a church video.
"Who am I to be the face of the church? I'm a new convert, a single mom, a black girl from the 'hood with 15 tattoos, ex-homeless, ex-drug addict," Callier said. "I felt extremely unworthy, but I hope to help one person, maybe plant a seed of hope. If I can come back and find joy, there is still a chance for others."
Callier was a pregnant and homeless single mom on the streets of Seattle for about seven months before she got into a women and children's shelter. It was there that she and her teenage son met the missionaries and turned their lives around, she said.
For the first time in almost three years, Callier guided a film crew to locations in downtown Seattle where she had slept and panhandled. It was an emotional and therapeutic experience for her, she said.
The peace of the gospel has taught Callier that "we were not placed on this Earth to walk alone.
"The gospel has taught me hope. Now I know that my Heavenly Father walks with me, even carries me when I am weary, and has gone through every single thing that I've ever been through. I will always have somebody who gets it," she said. "My worst day now is better than my best day when I was homeless. We all deserve this gospel. Nobody is beyond his reach."
Another video during Holy Week will depict the Brent and Darcee Burnett family from Portland, Oregon.
In the fall of 2012, the Burnetts lost their young son Keith to brain cancer. During that difficult time, the family was touched by countless acts of kindness and service on their behalf.
For the last four years, they have given back by organizing an annual running event (with a half marathon, 5K and kids race) with 100 percent of the money going to local children's cancer research. Each event has had a superhero theme, inspired by their late son, who admired the long-haired, hammer-throwing Thor. Over the last four years, the Burnetts have raised more than $64,000 for their cause.
Serving others has helped the Burnetts to find peace while still missing their son and brother.
"We've been on both sides of compassion," Darcee Burnett said. "The gospel has given us an eternal perspective that allows us to know that someday our hearts will be healed completely and our family will be reunited. Until then, the peace of Christ gives us a comfort and a peace that can't come from any other source."
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St. George resident Mandi Gubler is a popular do-it-yourself blogger with a website called vintagerevivals.com.
Gubler and her husband, Courtney, also serve as missionaries for a local LDS Addiction Recovery group, where they have shared their battles with addiction, faith and repentance. Their full story is found on their website.
"Everybody makes mistakes," Courtney Gubler said. "Through the Savior's Atonement and strength you can find peace in this life. Isn't it great that we can turn huge weaknesses into something that not only benefits us but benefits others like we are able to by sharing our story? There was a time when I thought life would suck without drugs, but I am so much happier to have true peace in my life and not worry about the other stuff because everything falls into place when I am doing what Heavenly Father wants me to do."
Another one is Salt Lake optician Joseph Carbone, who has been helping children with their vision for more than 40 years.
In 2001, Carbone founded Eye Care 4 Kids as a way to help visually impaired children from low-income families. A 2015 Deseret News article estimated the organization has served more than 100,000 children and given $55 million to children's eye care.
Carbone, also a convert to the church, has found peace in Christ by having gratitude.
"Gratitude is the most important key for finding peace and happiness. Grateful people see the world differently. If gratitude becomes our nature, we will see each other with compassion," Carbone said. "We need to have gratitude, not only for what we have, but who we are becoming."
The faith of Cade and Carrian Cheney has been strengthened through recent trials. Cade Cheney went without a job for more than a year before the couple launched a family dinner website, ohsweetbasil.com, and published a cookbook. Carrian Cheney has also suffered from hyperemesis-gravidarum, an abnormally severe form of morning sickness during pregnancy. Pregnancy withered her down to 80 pounds and she needed feeding tubes. Yet, they survived and counted their blessings.
"You can't make this stuff up," Carrian Cheney said. "We've learned a lot from both experiences. You may think you don't have the faith to do things, but that is why you go through it, to show you who you really are and who you are meant to be. The darkness makes the light easier to see. Peace comes from the light."
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