By Tiffany Tolman
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As a young girl growing up in Illinois in the 1950s, Janace Doelman Stout desired a personal relationship with God with all her heart. While her family wasn’t religious, Jan prayed fervently each night before falling asleep. When Jan was 11 years old, she met a young girl, Marilyn Tanner, while on vacation, who bore a simple but powerful testimony of Joseph Smith and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Jan had never heard of Joseph Smith, but a tender seed of truth was planted in her heart that would remain dormant for several years before springing to life.
For the next 11 years, Jan visited different churches, searching for truth. After graduating from college, she attended a church service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and recognized the answers she had been earnestly seeking. A short three weeks later, she was baptized and dedicated her heart to serving the Lord. Following her baptism, she met the love of her life, Alden Stout, and together they raised four beautiful children, serving the Lord in many capacities, and looking forward to the time when, children grown, they could grow old together. But Jan also prayed fervently for an experience that would purify her before God.
That prayer was unexpectedly answered on July 26, 2010, when, alone in her home unpacking boxes from a recent move from Katy, Texas, to Des Moines, Iowa, Jan felt a sharp pain in her head, followed by numbness. With Alden traveling for work at the time, Jan called 911, underwent a series of tests alone, and eventually learned of the brain tumor that would help accomplish her heart’s desire, a closer relationship with God.
After her diagnosis, her doctor told her to psychologically prepare for a drastically altered life and eventual death. But, characteristic of Jan’s indomitable spirit and attitude, she said, “I would like to think that July 26 was a new beginning, not an end of life as I knew it. I must intensify my efforts to live, not prepare to die. I must love more, and I must walk with God. Adversity has a way of teaching us to be better. I will submit to this new schooling with a smile on my face.”
Over the next several weeks, Jan consulted doctors, researched her options, underwent medical procedures, received priesthood blessings, and learned that “the best years of her life” were now limited by a two- to five-year prognosis. But she set out to live with a purpose. Jan underwent brain surgery and radiation, accompanied by pain and limitations. But in the face of her struggle, she also gained a new perspective on life, a new love for God, and a new understanding of the redemptive power of the Atonement of Christ.
During her trial, Jan kept an online blog of her experiences, praising God, admitting her complete reliance on His goodness, sharing her growth and understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and lifting countless others through her words of encouragement and wisdom. Rather than yielding to discouragement and fear, she dedicated the remainder of her life to becoming purified before God through her trials. In one of her blog entries, she shared some words from President Harold B. Lee. “Don’t be afraid of the testing and trials of life. Sometimes when you are going through the most severe tests, you will be nearer to God than you have any idea” (in Conference Report, Munich Germany Area Conference, 1973, 114).
Shortly after Jan’s two-year mark with cancer, she underwent a second surgery for a new tumor. When an MRI the next day revealed new growth following the surgery, doctors told her to prepare for death within six months. Miraculously, however, Jan lived another two faith-filled years before she concluded her journey on earth, passing away in December 2014.
Her insight throughout her journey is an example to all who face trials and death.
She said, “I recognize the prayers of others and believe that miracles occur and people are healed, and yet there is a time appointed for each of us to die. No amount of faith will save me if God in His wisdom has appointed me to death. It is up to each of us at that time to trust in His omniscience. I feel more childlike in my trust. Although my sight is limited, His is not! There is a greater plan than my own even if I don’t understand what the plan is.
“I will never feel that I lost the battle to cancer. (And I never want to hear any of you say that!) My enemy is not cancer. My fight is to conquer the adversary that we all face in life. Cancer causes me to converse more regularly with God, ponder scripture more deeply, and strive more rigorously for holiness. Even if I pass away from cancer, I hope to win the battle of life and for eternal life.”
In a sweet tribute to Jan’s pioneering efforts to lead her family and loved ones to God through her example, her husband Alden said, “Jan truly showed us the way to pass through mortality with dignity, grace, love, faith, and strength.... She was a pioneer who showed us how to live and die in the Lord.”
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