John Bytheway and Trisha Topham addressed Women’s Conference participants on finding strength in church doctrine through trials Friday, May 2, at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse.
Bytheway, a part-time religion instructor at BYU and a well-known author, and Topham, who received her BA and MA from the University of Utah, drew from personal experiences and scriptures in hopes of helping the audience better understand and grow from challenges in life.
Topham spoke first, sharing the tragic stories of losing her daughter in a car accident and how one of her sons has spent nearly two decades bed-ridden due to brain damage sustained from a wasp sting. She expressed the difference the gospel of Jesus Christ has made in her perspective and the lessons she has learned from her circumstances.
“Some things cannot be taught. They can only be learned,” said Topham, sharing a quote from Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Topham expressed how studying and applying church doctrine has helped her and her family.
“If not for the sustaining support of the spirit and the comfort of the gospel, I don’t think I could have carried on,” Topham said.
She closed with the perspective she has gained through her personal experiences.
“We know that life is not designed to be all smooth sailing and sunny skies,” Topham said.
Bytheway followed Topham’s address with a joke about how the BYU testing center was his least favorite place on campus during his time as an undergrad in Provo.
He then proceeded with jokes about his last name before sharing how his home was damaged due to a house fire started because of his kids leaving the kitchen stove on while his family was away from home.
“The smoke was everywhere,” said Bytheway of the damage requiring the entire home to be renovated.
He expressed his gratitude for the ward members who volunteered to watch his home to prevent looters.
Bytheway shared the opportunity he had in 1999 to speak to Columbine high school seminary students about the tragic events which they experienced.
“What do I say to those kids that have a lot of ‘why’ questions?” Bytheway said. “Do the scriptures have the answers, or don’t they?”
He shared a solution for trying to understand tragic events and challenges.
“Instead of talking about what we don’t know, why don’t we talk about what we do know?,” Bytheway said. “God is not a god of explanations. Sometimes, things just happen.”
Bytheway, who served his mission in the Philippines, finished with another word of advice for those in attendance.
“Do not let this tragedy define your life,” Bytheway said to those who have experienced hardships. “Your work is not yet finished. That’s why you’re still here.”