INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Tamara Haviland grew up walking in the literal footsteps of Joseph Smith and the early saints: Her home in Columbia, Missouri, is just a few hours from multiple church history sites, including Liberty Jail and Nauvoo.
“I think at first I took (it) for granted,” she said. “Having the experiences of being able to visit church history sites that are so close to my home has really strengthened my testimony of church history and of the founding of the Restoration of the Church.”
She said while anyone in any location can have a testimony of the early saints and feel their spirit, it’s much more pronounced while visiting the places they were in.
“It’s given me a greater appreciation for the work that they put in because they lived really hard lives,” she said. “They endured so much so that we can have what we do; the fullness of the gospel means a lot.”
Her testimony of Joseph Smith has been especially incremental in her life. She remembers praying for the first time about whether Joseph Smith was a prophet as a teenager.
“I was very excited as a young kid; I was gonna get an answer,” Tamara said. “I remember sitting on December 23, actually, in my living room, I’d finished the Book of Mormon and I was sitting there and I prayed and I waited.”
But nothing happened.
“At first I was disappointed because I expected something more, you know, life altering,” she said.
Over the course of a few days, Tamara continued to contemplate her question, “Was Joseph Smith a prophet?”
“The answer that kept coming to my mind was, ‘You’ve always known. You’ve always known this is true,’” she said.
Now as an adult, Tamara is using the lessons she’s learned from Joseph Smith to overcome her own trials.
“When I study Joseph Smith’s experiences in his accounts of the First Vision and other revelations throughout his life, I’ve always been impressed by the personal nature of them,” Tamara said. “And that’s something that I have felt, as well as I’ve searched for answers from God. I know I can feel that He loves me and He knows my situation, and He’s providing answers and guidance directly to me.”
Most recently, though, she’s having to learn the hard way that the answers to her prayers don’t always come how — or when — she wants them to. Sometimes the only answer she gets is “wait.”
“The hard answer to get from God is no answer at all,” she said.
“When I’m in these moments where I’m struggling and I can’t find an answer, I don’t always hear words – obviously I don’t get visitations from angels or anything like that – but I do have feelings,” Tamara said. “I think the Spirit speaks to me, especially when it’s guiding my life most when I feel that calm, peacefulness, that clarity of thought.”
For the months going on years, Tamara and her husband have prayed about and felt the desire to start a family but it has yet to happen for them. “It’s a hard thing when you’re in the moment,” she said. “I have to keep reminding myself it’s all in the Lord’s timing.”
Her faith that God knows what’s best for her and her future family has kept her going. She knows that even though her current situation is trying, “all these things shall give (her) experience and shall be for (her) good” (D&C 122:7).
“The whole purpose of why we’re on the earth in the first place is we need to be tested and tried; we need to have this experience of not seeing everything and having to exercise faith,” Tamara said. “Part of learning to develop Godlike qualities and characteristics is learning — learning patience and learning to wait on the Lord.”
Even though waiting for an answer can be difficult, she doesn’t view it as a negative thing but as a compliment. “I think it’s a sign that I think that He trusts His children. He trusts me to make my own decision. And I know that if I am going to do something that I shouldn’t be doing that He’ll let me know,” she said.
In the meantime, she turns to her family, conference talks and the scriptures for support. As she’s been studying The Book of Mormon with “Come, Follow Me” this year, she’s found multiple answers to her questions.
“I’ve read this my whole life, but things have stood out to me and have spoken to me more personally at this time than they have in the past,” she said.
Even though she might not be able to see the plan Heavenly Father has for her, Tamara said she can still feel his presence.
“I think Heavenly Father tries to reach out and let me know,” she said. “If he were standing beside me, he’d always say he loves me.”