Newsmaker: Krystal Clear Example

Hanging in President Gordon B. Hinckley’s study is a small painting of butterflies. It hangs there, explains President Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, “so that during occasional hours of struggle there will come into my mind the picture of a beautiful little girl, robbed of the use of her feet and hands, gripping the handle of a paintbrush in her teeth to create a thing of beauty” (Ensign, Nov. 1993, p. 54).

Thirteen-year-old Krystal Dee Shirley knew that President Hinckley was going to mention her in his Sunday morning address during general conference in October 1993. (He had called her family to obtain permission.) She knew that President Hinckley was going to show her painting. She even knew that a photograph of her might be shown on television. What she didn’t know was the effect her story would have on thousands who heard it.

Krystal’s story actually began nine years ago when she was hit by a car. Paralyzed, without the use of legs or arms, and ventilator-dependent, the four-year-old faced months of rehabilitation and adjustment. In fact, her injuries were so severe that her parents, Kathlene and Dalby, were advised to institutionalize her.

“We were told that it would take so much time to take care of her that our other children would suffer,” Sister Shirley explains. Not so. While their lives are obviously affected, Krystal’s older sister, Nicole, and younger brother, Chad, have been solidly supportive, says Sister Shirley. Both have learned the complicated medical procedures to care for their sister, and both have developed a deep compassion and concern for others.

But Krystal’s example has extended beyond her own home. Her infectious laugh and solid testimony are an example to those in the Shirleys’ ward, the Civic Center Ward in the North Las Vegas Nevada Stake, where she serves as secretary in her Beehive class. “I know the gospel is true,” Krystal says. “And I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus will always be there when I need them.”

Just a few weeks prior to general conference, Krystal received her patriarchal blessing. In it, she was promised that she would influence thousands. “When President Hinckley shared her story, the promise was fulfilled,” Sister Shirley observed.

Many who heard Krystal’s story have reached out to her. In fact, the day after general conference Sunday, Krystal started high school. Scared and nervous, she prayed for help and strength. Within minutes of arriving at the new school, several Latter-day Saint students recognized her and invited her to attend seminary. “No one could have had a better first day of school,” reported Krystal’s aide, who is with Krystal constantly to provide the medical assistance necessary for her to function.

“I love school now,” Krystal says, giggling as she talks about new friends and new challenges. “I’m familiar with the kids and the school, and I’ve got some friends.”

And among Krystal’s new friends is President Hinckley. “Thank you, Krystal, for what you have done for me,” he said in his general conference address. “I hope the telling of your story will bring a new measure of strength to others who, facing discouragement, have felt they could not go on. I hope that your example will be as a polar star to lead them in the darkness through which they stumble.”

[photo] Still life photography by Matthew Reier

Converted Couple

Rod and Sandy Seagle are converts to the Church. And it changed their lives.

The Seagles were living in Mesa, Arizona, in 1978 when Rod became an environmental technician for the Coronado power plant near St. Johns. They moved to St. Johns shortly after he was hired, living there long enough to learn about the Church and be baptized.

“It was during conversations at lunch with two men who have since become dear friends that I first gained an interest in the Church,” recalls Rod. “Ken Whiting and John Haws shared all sorts of ideas, and I really enjoyed hearing what they had to say.”

One lunchtime, one of them said blithely, “Say, Rod, when are you going to join the Church, anyway?”

Rod’s response surprised them: “When you guys can teach me the missionary discussions, I’ll listen.” Before long, John Haws was called to serve as a stake missionary and was teaching Rod and Sandy the discussions.

Ten months later, Rod, a new member of the Church, was second counselor in the elders quorum. He then served as elders quorum president for three years and is now elders quorum president in the Red Mountain Ward, Mesa Arizona Red Mountain Stake. Sandy serves as Relief Society compassionate service leader.

“I’m grateful for the way the Church gets you out in front of people,” she says. “Having been shy all my life, I would never have seen myself as any kind of leader. Joining the Church has been a wonderful change.”

“My conversion to the Church completely changed what I want for my family,” says Rod. “The gospel has changed what we think is important for our family. And one of the things most important to us has become our time together. Doing fun things with our children is our main hobby.”

In the Spotlight

  • Viengkham (Vince) Insixiengmay, president of the Twenty-second (Laotian) Branch of the San Diego California East Stake, was recently honored for his work with Laotian graduate students and adults. He was also chosen as a member of the International Refugee Coalition. President Insixiengmay works with the Lane Xang Students Association in encouraging Laotians to further their education.

  • For only the third time in Brigham Young University history, two BYU alumni will serve simultaneously as clerks for the United States Supreme Court this coming summer. Thomas Lee, a member of the Willow Canyon Eighth Ward, Sandy Utah East Stake, and Steve Sargent, who is a member of the Lawrence First Ward, Topeka Kansas Stake, were both awarded clerkships this year; Brother Lee will work with Justice Clarence Thomas while Brother Sargent will assist Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

  • Jean H. Mathews, Relief Society president in the Florissant Ward, St. Louis Missouri North Stake, was recently elected president of the Missouri State Board for the Healing Arts. Sister Mathews is the first non-physician to be elected to lead the board, which is responsible for the licensing and discipline of more than twenty-four thousand health professionals. She was appointed to the board in 1991 and served five terms in the Missouri General Assembly prior to her appointment.

Balanced Economy

For the last three decades, Thayne Robson, executive director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Utah, has advised governors, legislators, and business leaders worldwide in matters of economy. As important as the public role of this former Harvard economics professor may be, he has apparently never forgotten the original meaning of economics: the management of the household. “All that I do is for my family,” he explains.

Younger in energy and appearance than his sixty-three years, Thayne credits much of his strength of character to his boyhood life on a farm—a place where excuses don’t work. He is practical, hard-working, and has committed himself to extremely high standards.

Yet he shows another part of his personality when he says, “I have more fun than anybody I know. Life’s too short to live it any other way.” This passion for life allows Thayne to take as much pleasure out of a long workday as some people take from a vacation.

“He’s not all work, though,” smiles his daughter, Elizabeth Romney. “When he gets with his grandchildren and talks in his great Donald Duck voice, gives them ‘horsie’ rides, or gets down on the floor and wrestles with them, he’s as silly as they are. With the older ones, he loves to ask questions that make them think. And when things get sentimental, he isn’t likely to have dry eyes for long.”

Twelve years ago, Thayne’s wife, Lou Jean, passed away. When she died, he took on many of her tasks willingly. One of the tasks that is most appreciated by his children is the gathering of all eight children at his home whenever there is a birthday or other occasion to celebrate.

In his professional life, Brother Robson has had many opportunities for lucrative positions with various companies. But he says, “Wealth has never been one of my personal goals in life. I worry about greed and selfishness and listen to the warnings that are given to rich people in the scriptures. Materialism is a great dilemma for our society and for many Latter-day Saints.”

He loves teaching and working with young people, who have not yet discovered how great their talents really are.Renon K. Hulet, Salt Lake City, Utah

The Right Pulse

Some people are so friendly and comfortable with you, it’s as if you’ve known them all your life. Muriel Wagner is such a person.

A nurse most of her life, Muriel, at age eighty-six, still spends much of her day nursing others. She is retired, but the hospital staff still refers Muriel as a visiting nurse for homebound elderly patients or others who need her special care.

She fixes meals for and visits three people a day, besides nearly always having a patient stay in her home who requires periodic care around the clock. Occasionally Muriel has single sisters board in her home as well. “I’ve never had my own children to care for,” she says. “And caring for others is the thing I do best.”

Muriel’s colorful flower garden and attractive home affirm that she is capable of more than nursing, as do her creative sewing projects, including upholstered furniture. And the youth of the Madison First Ward, Madison Wisconsin Stake, know her generosity with her excellent cookies and cakes.

Still, Muriel is best known for having her finger on the right pulse. Since her conversion to the Church more than two decades ago, after her husband, Frank, died, she has cared for people’s spiritual as well as physical health. She has served two missions for the Church, and she performed name extractions even as her eyesight was failing.Mary E. Corbet, Middleton, Wisconsin

Sharing Gospel Lessons

In Quito, Ecuador, Ivani Cabral appreciates what the gospel has done in her life and in the lives of those she loves.

“The most beautiful thing the Church offers me,” she says, “is the knowledge of how to care for my children and husband—in both temporal and spiritual senses.” Ivani is grateful for her husband, Osiris Grobel Cabral, who holds and honors the priesthood. She and Osiris, a regional representative and regional manager for temporal affairs for Ecuador, have five children.

Trained as an elementary school teacher, Sister Cabral has also devoted much of her time to working with other women, helping teach them how to care for their own and their families’ health and welfare. She sees the enormous change the gospel brings into people’s lives and cites the case of women in their ward whose lives, because of the gospel, are now much different from the lives of those around them.

As Primary president in the Iñaquito Ward, Quito Ecuador Iñaquito Stake, Sister Cabral finds joy in serving others.

Sister Cabral’s service in the Church and in the community have convinced her that people’s lack of education and their tendency to cling to old habits keep them from progressing as they could. “You can see it among members as well as others,” she says. “Where there’s more education, I see more progress. As I fulfill callings in Relief Society and Primary, I sometimes feel like a social worker in the hands of the Lord.”