Harriet’s Firm Foundation


Her foundation is built on rock along with the strength from her big family.

Harriet Gilbert is the baby of her family. Yes, she’s the baby, even though at 17 she towers over her mother and is tall enough to look her dad straight in the eye. But she is and will always be the baby, the eighth child in her family.

Harriet’s sisters, her two oldest siblings, were grown and gone before she was old enough to remember. They live nearby, though, and Harriet loves spending time at their homes. But mostly Harriet grew up with five brothers, the source of much teasing and adventure. She joined them in their play, making noise and having fun running around the big garden and playing with their toy cars. Then she watched as each of them prepared and left to serve full-time missions, setting an example she still admires.

Five brothers and two sisters soon brought brothers-and sisters-in-law and lots of nieces and nephews, with more on the way. This family—this large, noisy, exciting family—is Harriet’s foundation. They are the bedrock of her life.

“People are amazed,” says Harriet. “They ask how I put up with them all, but I loved it. We really got along well. We would always stick up for each other. Because I was the youngest, I was the little protected one.”

As Harriet gets older, she realizes that her brothers and sisters have faced the same problems and the same decisions she is having now. Naturally, they continue to protect their little sister.

Does she go to them for advice? Harriet smiles at that question. “I don’t have to ask. They are already giving it to me before I even ask. They are going to give me advice no matter what.”

What good examples to give advice! All her older brothers have served missions. All her brothers and sisters have been married in the temple, except Owen who is still on his mission in Perth, Australia. No wonder Harriet considers them her firm foundation.

Looking to Mother and Father

One family story that means a lot to Harriet is the conversion story of her parents, John and Margaret. They were married and living in England, both working at the post office, when a coworker introduced them to the Church. Her mother was baptized then, and her father was later. They made a rather adventuresome decision to move to Australia. They found that the Church was strong in Melbourne, and there was plenty of room for a house that could accommodate so many children. That decision has made all the difference.

Of her own developing testimony, Harriet says, “It’s something that I’ve wanted ever since I can remember. I was brought up with it, and all my family is active. I’ve never been without the Church.”

Other Supports

Harriet and her parents recently moved from their home near Melbourne to the countryside near Mornington, farther down the peninsula. Moving can be difficult for any teen. Even though Harriet had lived in several wards, moving was still a little scary and intimidating. But it has all worked out. “My new seminary class is just the ward group. We meet every day during the school year at 6:30 a.m. At first, I was really nervous, but somehow I just fit in. For an activity, we went on a fishing trip. The theme was becoming fishers of men. Before I went on the trip, I hadn’t seen any of the group. I didn’t even want to go. But everyone was really nice and talkative, especially Naomi and Leirosa. Then Young Women just grew. Some others moved in about the same time, and now we have a big group.”

Harriet considered playing basketball for her school, but practices were on Tuesday nights. That conflicted with Young Women, so Harriet turned it down. “Young Women overrules everything else,” she explains.

Building on the Rock

If you ask Harriet to tell you about her favorite scripture, she knows exactly the one to share. It’s in Helaman 5:12. As soon as she reads it aloud, you begin to understand why Harriet seems to be such a strong and confident person. The verse begins, “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation.”

All afternoon Harriet has been talking about her family and their love for each other and their devotion to the Church. Harriet and her family are building their foundation on the rock that is Christ.

How did Harriet come to love this scripture in Helaman? Did she hear it somewhere being referred to in a talk or in a lesson? No, she says. She just read it as part of her regular scripture reading, and the verse spoke to her. It was so perfect that it made her stop and read it over and over. This scripture has meaning especially for her.

As she continues, the verse becomes more and more interesting: “That when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

Harriet finishes and lowers her Book of Mormon. Yes, that’s it. A foundation built on Christ. A foundation of a loving family. A foundation that will help Harriet follow the examples set by her older brothers and sisters. A foundation that can lead her back to a loving Heavenly Father as one of His precious children.

[photos] Photography by Janet Thomas

[photos] Harriet in the garden and laughing with her brothers and sisters (previous page). (This page, below) Harriet with her mother and father. (Above) Showing off the vegetables she grew. (Far right) Doing her schoolwork; practicing the piano; and participating with the Braeside Stake in a special missionary activity.