Every family is different. And each of us has his or her own ideas about what an ideal family should be. Stephanie Spann loves and appreciates her family just the way it is—even as she works to make it, and herself, a little better.
At 17, Stephanie is the youngest in her family. Her brothers, Wayne and John, have grown and left home. Her parents, LaRee and Ed, are great examples to her and a big support in her endeavors. Stephanie loves her family, and one of her biggest role models where family is concerned is her grandpa, Frank Arrowchis. “Of all the things my grandpa has taught me,” Stephanie says, “family is probably the biggest thing.”
Stephanie’s mom and grandma are members of the Church, but her dad and grandpa are not. For Stephanie, having a part-member family has its challenges. “I think it would make it a lot easier to know I would live with my family forever. I’ve always planned on a temple marriage,” Stephanie says.
Stephanie’s dad makes time for family home evening with his family and supports her in her schoolwork and at sporting events. She loves that he is always there for her, and she hopes her family will be sealed in the temple someday. “I think he’s coming around,” she smiles.
The Spanns’ extended family is also close, even though they don’t live very close together. “Everyone’s always there for each other. We’re always calling each other to check up on each other,” says Stephanie. “If anyone has anything, like a program or sports, we all always go to it.” Another way she likes to stay close to her family is hanging out with her nieces and nephews. It doesn’t have to be anything big. “We go to the park and feed the ducks. I just enjoy spending time with them.”
Stephanie has a special relationship with her grandpa. “He’s a good guy. He’s my hero,” she says. Stephanie and her grandpa do as much as they can together and with the rest of the family—ice fishing, hunting, camping, and working together on her grandfather’s ranch in Whiterocks, Utah. From her grandfather, Stephanie has learned not only the importance of family but also respect for others and for her Native American heritage.
As part of that respect for heritage, Stephanie, her mom, and her grandmother all work on genealogy together at the Bennion Utah Stake Family History Center. Stephanie has done the research and submitted many family names for temple work, and she is getting better all the time at doing research on her Northern Ute ancestry.
Recently her grandfather was chosen to represent the Northern Ute tribe in the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic torch relay. When officials asked Frank, Stephanie’s grandpa, to suggest someone for him to pass the torch on to, Stephanie was the first to come to his mind. “She’s really involved in sports,” her grandpa told them, “and I know she’s in good shape. I know she can do it.”
Stephanie smiles. “He’s always taught me that girls can do anything guys can do.”
Stephanie is a soccer player for her high school, so she was in great shape to run the torch. She credits her grandfather with helping her succeed there too: “My grandpa has the best work ethic of anyone I know. This work ethic has helped me in my commitment to sports, to my religion, and to my personal goals.”
When Stephanie received the Olympic torch from her grandfather under the picturesque Delicate Arch in southern Utah’s Arches National Park, it seemed more symbolic than real. More important than giving her the torch is the legacy of love her grandfather and family have passed on. She wants to continue that legacy in her own family.
Stephanie realizes her family might not exactly fit the mold of the ideal family many of us picture. But she also knows her family is a good family, doing the best they can to love each other and to stay close to God.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “Throughout your life on earth, seek diligently to fulfill the fundamental purposes of this life through the ideal family. While you may not have yet reached that ideal, do all you can through obedience and faith in the Lord to consistently draw as close to it as you are able. Let nothing dissuade you from that objective. … Do not be discouraged. Living a pattern of life as close as possible to the ideal will provide much happiness, great satisfaction, and impressive growth while here on earth regardless of your current life circumstances” (“First Things First,” Liahona, July 2001, 7).
That’s what the Spann family is striving for. Just as Stephanie was prepared to accept the torch from her grandfather and run with it, she’s prepared to carry on her family’s tradition of love and togetherness. The Spanns are a great family trying their hardest. Stephanie knows if they continue doing their best, they will continue to be blessed.