Amazing stories of faith and survival from “Independence Through Commitment”

On Friday, Mercury One presented Independence Through Commitment, a panel of speakers including Elizabeth Smart, Stephanie and Christian Nielson, and C.L. Bryant who all spoke about the importance of faith, God, and family. The event was hosted by Tania Beck.

One of the key speakers was Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped at fourteen years old from her home in Salt Lake City. Her captors held her for nine months, and during that time she was a victim of unspeakable acts and assaults. And even though she discussed her traumatic experiences with the crowd, she did so with glowing positivity, optimism, and grace.

After telling the story of her kidnapping, Smart shared the advice that has helped her overcome the memory of her experience. said that her mother told her that even though what her captors did to her was terrible and 9 months of her life were taken that she will never get back, the best punishment she could give them was to be happy. In the end, God is the ultimate judge, her mom told her, and he will make up every pain and suffering you have gone through.

“I’m not perfect at following that advice,” Smart joked.

“We always have a choice to move forwards, we always have a choice to make a difference,” Smart told the crowd. She said that she likes to think the people are not defined by their experiences, but the choices and decisions that people make as a result of their experiences. Smart said that if she hadn’t gone through the kidnapping, she wouldn’t be able to stand up and share her inspiring story with people today.

“I’m grateful for those experiences because of what it’s allowed me to do,” she said.

Tania Beck next introduced Stephanie and Christian Nielson. Like Smart, they had gone through a tragedy, albeit a very different one. When they were in their late twenties, they were in a plane crash that left Stephanie with horrible burns.

On August 16th, 2008, the couple was flying with their friend when their Cessna stalled and fell from the sky, hitting power lines and narrowly avoiding homes before they hit the ground and the plane burst into flames.

Despite their injuries, the couple endured and came out strong on the other end. Both had to go through several surgeries and procedures to recover from their injuries.

Stephanie said that she learned a lot about what true beauty was through her experience. She told the audience that true beauty is confidence and a sense of self-worth, not the reflection in the mirror. She knows she is beautiful because she can look at her family and see five wonderful children and a husband who loves her and knows she is beautiful.

Stephanie’s husband Christian said that a big part of the reason their family was able to get though their experiences was because of his upbringing. He specifically noted that he had avoided “the plague of pornography” all his life, which made a tremendous difference when Stephanie was recovering from her injuries. He warned the audience that pornography creates a warped perception of beauty.

At the end of their talk, both Stephanie and Christian said that nothing was as powerful in the healing process as the power of Jesus Christ.

“There is no medicine or pill or doctor or therapy or social program that is stronger than the healing power of Christ,” Christian said.

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