“A Change in Focus in Life” ~ Interview with Melody Wood

Melody:

So I am the great-great granddaughter of William Carter who was the first man to plow in Utah, which is what he is often known for in Mormon history. His life story is more than you kinda expect. He was part of the community that the United Brethren was in. His mom was a very committed Methodist. She was very dedicated to her Gospel learnings and the fact that she was a Methodist and not anything else. When Wilfred Woodruff went further south [in England] and started teaching. you know the story, the minister went and said, “Go tell them to stop” so the guy who went to stop them preaching got converted and then the minister sends a police officer to stop the missionaries from teaching and then he gets converted. There’s like huge upheaval in the community…

One night [William] was working in his blacksmith shop. He heard music. He was like, “What is this music?” and so he went outside to find it and couldn’t find it. But after he left work that night, he was walking down the street and ran into one of the missionaries and asked that person, “I heard some music earlier. Do you know where it was from?” and the missionary was like, “Oh! Let me tell you.” So [the missionary] invited [William] to a service the following Sunday, and he was really pumped about it so he asked his sister and her husband to go with him.

He invited, actually, his whole family to go with him. Nope – didn’t invite his mom, but he did invite his sister and her husband to go with him, and they went, and after the meeting, he was just so moved that he went up and asked the missionaries if he could be converted right then. He was like, “Hey I want to be baptized right now.” But the missionaries were like, “Eh. You’re going to have to learn so more stuff first.” So he was a little frustrated about that, but he wanted to be converted. So when he went home and told his family about this, his mom forbids him from joining the church. His sister was already married and off living life so she and her husband got baptized, and he wasn’t allowed to. So continued going to the meetings in secrete, however. He walked ten miles to be baptized in secret by Brigham Young, actually.

So he was really dedicated and had to do this behind his mother’s back. Then when the saints were invited or asked to go to Zion, he wanted to go to America, as well. His sister and her husband were planning to go, as well. However, by this point, his mom had kinda accepted that he was going to be a Mormon and had to accept it as it was. But at this point when his sister wanted to go to America, his mom was like, “I don’t want you to take my granddaughter away from me.” They were really close, and she was super upset. She asked that the daughter, Elizabeth, would come visit her one last time before they went. Then [the grandmother] refused to give [the granddaughter] back and wouldn’t let her daughter into the house and essentially kidnapped the granddaughter.

So the night before they were suppose to leave for America, William went and explained to Eliza – she was eleven – that they were going to leave for America in the middle of the night, and they had to be quiet. So at three in the morning, he kinda re-kidnapped her back and ran away to America with his sister and husband and family…

He was one of the first saints in Utah and started planting and cultivating the land before the other saints got there.

Me:

How has your family’s heritage in the Gospel impacted your personal conversion?

Melody:

I think if anything my family’s heritage in the Gospel made me decide why they were all so dedicated and why I should be dedicated, as well –
how I could be as dedicated, you know. I tried to avoid being one of those Mormons who was just riding on my parent’s testimony. I always had to know things for myself. I had to know I was building it on my own…

Everything I am is a contribution of those around me, but it’s more that I wanted to know that I could know it for myself. I am very independent , always.

Me:

So how would you define conversion for someone who doesn’t know what that means?

Melody:

I think that it’s just a change in ideals and a change in focus in life. I like the quote, I think it’s Boyd K. Packer quote, that nothing converts or changes behaviors interchangeably like true doctrine. So true doctrine understood changes behavior more than anything, you know.

I think conversion is being able to… change in your focus, in your direction. You can become converted to this new ideal, this new theology of something you want to be. You want that to be your life.

Me:

How would you explain missionary work to a person who has never been introduced to the church before?

Melody:

I would probably explain Mormon missionary work is more of a dedication of either a year and a half or two years of a young person or old person but often a young person’s life where they can dedicate service to their God and Christ and just going out to help others and also spread their beliefs.

Me:

There’s the expression that “every member can be a missionary.” What does that mean?

Melody:

I think that just means that every member needs to remember we’ve all taken upon us the name of Christ, and we are examples wherever we go. For letting the world know about Mormons, we should let the world know what Mormons are about.

Me:

What are ways that you have been a missionary?

Melody:

Just being willing to share what I know and love and being willing to be who I say I am. Follow the standards that I preach. Let others know what my standards are, you know. If other people want to do something that you’re not down with, you don’t need to force your ideals down upon them, but you need let them know that’s what you believe in and maybe why you believe it.

Me:

Sometimes you read The Book of Mormon on the Tube. Why do you do that?

Melody:

Just because I feel like with all The Book of Mormon Musical ads, people are going to recognize the book. First of all, I think it’s a good time to read – it’s nice dedicated time. I could just read it on my IPod, but if I’m reading it with the actual… book, it’s almost a statement letting people know that people do read the book. It’s a subtle invitation to others to let them see that it’s a normal thing, and they could ask about it if they wanted.

Photo Credit: C. A. H., Oxford, England, October 2013

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“A Change in Focus in Life” ~ Interview with Melody Wood

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