LDS Podcast "Latter-Day Lights" - Inspirational LDS Stories

Unwavering Faith Despite Persecution, Trials & Challenges: Thomas Holton's Story - Latter-Day Lights

August 06, 2023 Scott Brandley and Alisha Coakley
LDS Podcast "Latter-Day Lights" - Inspirational LDS Stories
Unwavering Faith Despite Persecution, Trials & Challenges: Thomas Holton's Story - Latter-Day Lights
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What would you do if someone set your house on fire for being a member of the church?

Or, what if an entire gang barged into your home and threatened to kill you because you're LDS?

Join us this week as Thomas Holton shares his story of growing up in Ireland in the 70's and 80's as a member of the church under intense persecution, and how his mother's incredible faith helped them remain true to their beliefs.

Thomas also shares how a series of difficult health problems as an adult nearly took his life, and how God preserved him.

Listen, learn, and be inspired by Thomas' resilience, his journey, and his unwavering faith in the face of adversity.

To WATCH this episode on YouTube, visit: https://youtu.be/pQ3v4AGibmI

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To READ Thomas' first book "Alive in Christ", go to (direct link): https://www.cedarfort.com/products/alive-in-christ-1

To READ Thomas' second book, "Cultivated in Christ", go to (direct link): https://www.cedarfort.com/products/cultivated-in-christ

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Also, if you have a faith-promoting or inspiring story, or know someone who does, please let us know by going to https://www.latterdaylights.com and reaching out to us.

Scott Brandley:

Hi everyone, I'm Scott Brandley.

Alisha Coakley:

And I'm Alisha Coakley. Every member of the Church has a story to share, one that can instill faith, invite growth and inspire others.

Scott Brandley:

On today's episode we're going to hear how persecution in the past taught one church historian that God will always support us in our trials and afflictions. Welcome to Latter-day Lights. Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Latter-day Lights. We're so glad you're here with us today. We're really excited to introduce our guest all the way from Ireland, Thomas Holton. Thomas, how are you doing today?

Thomas Holton:

I'm doing excellently well, thank you.

Alisha Coakley:

Thomas, I'm so excited about your accent. Yeah, but we have a lot of Irish in our ancestry line and everything like that, like my last name's, coakley, so obviously right. But oh man, I've been telling my husband, the first time that we ever get to really go out of the States for a good vacation, I want to go to Ireland and I want to stay in a castle. So I have to ask you have you been in a castle? Is it really cold and wet, like everyone says? Is it awesome?

Thomas Holton:

Yes, I have been in a castle. I've been in more than one castle, oh, really yes yes.

Alisha Coakley:

Do you have a favorite?

Thomas Holton:

there. No, really, most of them have been around for such a long time that they're decayed. They're not in perfect condition. There are some that are only partial castles that are remaining, but there are some that are nice, that are well worth going to. One of the castles that I like is Malahide Castle, which is right on the coast, and it's really beautiful beautiful gardens, a lot of room to maneuver and to go and have a look, and you really feel like you need to be wearing a knight's armor or a maiden's dress, because it really feels like you're back in the past. So absolutely.

Alisha Coakley:

Oh, that is so cool. Alright, I'm going to have to get that name written down so that that can be on my wish list, and then I'll come visit you. We'll come say hi.

Thomas Holton:

Absolutely Get some corned beef. Sometimes what we do is you can go to a castle and they'll have a Shakespearean play, say, quite late at night, and they'll do that in a castle surroundings. So that's quite an experience to go to a. Shakespearean play in a castle, setting at night.

Alisha Coakley:

Oh my gosh, that sounds totally dreamboard vision worthy. I love it.

Thomas Holton:

Absolutely.

Alisha Coakley:

Very, very cool. Well, so from Ireland, how did you come across our show?

Thomas Holton:

So, because of my interest in all things Latter-day Saint on YouTube, I was searching various different channels and content that I found to be inspiring, and that's how I came across Latter-day Lights, and so I was so happy that I did, because, to see on the internet there is a lot of content that is oppositional to the church from my perspective. So it's really wonderful to see content that is faith promoting. So I was really drawn to it from that perspective, to see people who have struggled but have faith in the process. So that's how I came across the show.

Alisha Coakley:

Oh, I love that. Well, we're very happy to have that.

Scott Brandley:

That's why we made it. Yeah, that's why we made it, because there is a lot of just junk, antagonistic, negative, right Like things that are out there, and we just need more light, more good things out there to inspire people.

Thomas Holton:

So yeah, absolutely. I love the name Latter-day Lights. I think that's perfect. It's a light on a hill, such a scriptural concept. But I really think it's true. There's a lot of positivity in that energy, because sometimes people only perceive what's negative about an organization, but you're showcasing that there's so much that's positive and good and I think that's critically important. So well done.

Alisha Coakley:

Thank you, thanks. Well, we've had fun. It's been a great journey. We've loved it.

Scott Brandley:

Well, and you're part of it now.

Alisha Coakley:

Yeah.

Scott Brandley:

I know so happy, so happy, yeah. So, thomas, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thomas Holton:

Okay, so I grew up. I was born in 1973 in Ireland and we weren't members of the church at that stage, but obviously that's a long time ago. I'm 50 now, so we've been in the church for a long time, since 1976. Essentially, my story is I've done all the things that you do in the church, grow up in the Aaronic priesthood and, after being baptized. Then I served a mission in England for two years. In fact, jeffrey Orr Holland was the area president. He lived in our mission, so I got to see him a few times. Yeah, he came to our mission in Birmingham where they're building the new temple, incidentally and so that's where he served and that's where I served my mission. So it was a fantastic experience. And then, since I came home, I've been involved in the church and in leadership. Mostly since I came home 30 years ago, I'm married to my wife, who was actually baptized in the ocean in Galway. Wow.

Alisha Coakley:

Yeah, so you have a Galway girl. Yes, like an insurer.

Thomas Holton:

Yes, yes, and they are. They make an impact. Let's put it that way. Yeah, and we have a lot of stories, we both. She joined the church when she was 18. I joined the church, obviously, as a child, but, yeah, we have one son who's an adult and he's served a mission and we love the church, we love the gospel, we love to serve. And I saw, as my interests really are, reading and epic movies. I love Lord of the Rings and movies like that. So that's pretty much me.

Alisha Coakley:

That's awesome, Very cool. Now what did you do professionally?

Thomas Holton:

So I work as a senior manager in the civil service. I work for the Irish department of justice. I'm one of the managers in the legal side of the department, so that's my career. I've been a manager for 20 years longer than 20 years so I love it. Problem solving that's awesome. Yeah, it keeps me busy, I love it yeah, I bet Absolutely.

Scott Brandley:

Very cool. Awesome. Well, Thomas, the floor is yours. My friend, Tell us your story.

Thomas Holton:

Okay, I will. So I was thinking about where to start on this and really I suppose it's important to start at the beginning and to give a preamble before I explain the story. It's important to note that there is a happy ending and the context really of what I want to say is faith promoting, even though at points it may not seem that way, so if you just bear with me. So in 1975, the latter part of 1975, my mother was baptized in January 1976. She really took to the gospel like a duck to water. She loved the Book of Mormon, she loved the scriptures, loved having the missionaries to our home and we were all in really, at that point. We did live in a very poor part of Dublin at that time, which was actually Ireland, was quite a poor country compared to what it is now. It was really poor and we were really poor within a poor situation.

Thomas Holton:

So it was particularly acute for us, and so my mother was a single mother and she had three boys to look after. We would invite the missionaries to our home every week, without fail that I recall. I don't remember missing having the missionaries to come for dinner and share some time with us, and we noticed that there was a fair degree of hostility towards us for being members of the church. People would call us Mormons in a negative, pejorative sense and not a good way, and so that was understandable, I suppose, because the church was so distinctive from Catholicism, which was the main religion at that time, and so it wasn't a great appreciation for the blessings and the good things that the church does. It was just seen as we were seen as strange, seen as we're seen as different, so we were persecuted for that. There's three events that I think I would like to focus on that for me really showcase the persecution that we experienced, which was very severe. One was when we were at a church activity and we came home that night about nine or ten PM was quite late and we found that someone had tried to burn our house down. So we had behind the door we had a curtain and someone had obviously put in something, some fire product in through the mailbox, and the curtain had caught fire and completely melted. Now, thankfully, the fire didn't spread, which was a miracle because there was a lot of wood in that house. But it was just really strange. It took us a while to get the door open and then obviously it took us a while to clear off all the charred remains of the curtain. But we were so blessed we felt like, because we were at the church activity, because we were doing the Lord's work that he protected us and we were grateful that we weren't there at home when it happened. But we're also grateful that our house was still standing when we came home, because those houses were actually all connected together. So if our house had a burned, the houses beside it would have burned too. That was a very dangerous thing that someone did to our house, but the Lord protected us. It was an example of His power.

Thomas Holton:

The second event that strikes me was a situation where we were under pressure and about 20 teenagers a gang of 20 teenagers came into our house, came into our living room where myself and my mother and my two brothers were, and they were threatening my mother, saying that they were going to kill her. Oh my gosh. So I was about 10 at the time, so, needless to say, that was a very severe moment. I can still remember the trepidation I felt because these teenagers were much bigger than us and at a certain point my mom spoke to the teenagers and managed somehow to calm them down. I don't know exactly how she did that, but it was a miracle to my mind and so they left actually left without causing us any harm. So that was really interesting. That that was able to happen Again. It was a blessing of the Lord.

Thomas Holton:

The third event which happened was the smashing of all our windows, so a lot of windows in the house, and they were all smashed by, presumably, young people. We had a lot of young people in the area and some of whom didn't like us because we were members of the church. So they smashed all the windows. So we replaced them, which cost us a fair bit of money, and my mum was not well off. She was a single mother and so they were searched again. So then, after that second time, we couldn't afford to fix them.

Thomas Holton:

So what happened was my dad, who was separated from my mother this day. He was living in England. He didn't move over. He came to visit and he had some carpentry skills. So essentially we bought some wood panels and he cut them to size and essentially put them in the place of where the windows were. So we had eventually a boarded up house that we were living in which was fully operational, although from the outside it looked like it was empty. And to bring friends I remember bringing some friends there. I actually had some friends come from school one day to surprise me and they were girls and they came and surprised me and found me living in a house that was boarded up with wood and they couldn't understand why and we had to explain. Now we're members of the church and people don't really appreciate that. So they smashed our windows. So that was really humiliating at the time and I suppose eventually we did get the windows replaced and we were able to move to a different location and my mum was blessed to be able to go back to work and to get a mortgage on a house in a much better area. And again, that was the blessing of the Lord.

Thomas Holton:

In fact she had a wonderful experience around this time. She said she was kneeling at her bedside and she was in tears because of all the trouble we were having, all the persecution, all the difficulty which was relentless, and she said that she felt like the Saviour was at the bedside and she didn't see him, but she felt like he was there saying everything to be OK, I'm protecting you and your three boys. And she always recounts that story sacredly, feeling like, ok, the Lord literally does protect us in a time of need. And so so those three experiences, they were difficult to go through. They were very hard to go through.

Thomas Holton:

Having said that, I don't want to present it as if it was all negative, because our experience with the church was great. We love the gospel, we love the church and we felt like the Lord was compensating us, that the Lord was watching over us, that it was protecting us, and we felt many great blessings during that time. Even though there was great trouble, there was great peace in the gospel and the Holy Ghost tells us to know that things would be OK. I do remember that we would feed the missionaries every single week and I feel like the Lord really appreciated that and that the Lord watched over us because of that, because we were feeding His servants. We were saying, ok, you might be having hostility in another place you go to, but when you come to our home you're welcome, you're servants of the Lord, we recognize you and if the Savior was here we'd invite Him in and give Him a meal. So that's the way we treated the missionaries and we felt like the Lord really blessed those and prospered us.

Thomas Holton:

And because of that that was a difficult experience, to have lots of difficult experiences, but I think it built and nurtured our faith.

Thomas Holton:

It made us stronger. It might seem ironic, it might seem strange to say that you could have experiences like that and not turn against the church or not turn against God, but we found that we had to be true to what we knew to be true. And so the reason I share that those experiences, which are very personal but very difficult, is because of the Lord sustained us, he comforted us, he was with us, he didn't abandon us in our time of need. And I think that's so important to remember because in this day and age that's a long time ago the experiences I was talking about, in this day and age the persecution is a bit different, it manifests in a different form, but it's still the same core issue that if we love the Lord and if we rely on Him, he will be our support and our strength and he will do it personally to each one of us, whatever our situation or our circumstances are at the time.

Alisha Coakley:

Right. So, thomas, how many years did this go on with you and your family? Like how long?

Thomas Holton:

was this kind of persecuted and stuff we were there for from 1975 to 1986, so 11 years Wow, oh my gosh 11 years yeah.

Thomas Holton:

And then we moved to a new area and there was still some trouble in the new area, but it wasn't as bad, it was a lot less difficult. But in some ways we felt like why is this happening? When you're a child, you don't actually fully understand why things are happening, but as I've grown older, I've realized that sometimes people persecute you because they're afraid or because they're malicious or because they just don't understand for lots of different reasons, and so, regardless of the reasons, we can know that the Lord will comfort us and bless us. I found personally that really hurt me to be able to weather the storm which I'm going to tell you about my own personal challenges with help, but I found that those difficulties I had when I was young actually prepared me to go through very serious difficulty as I got older, and so I think the Lord doesn't waste these experiences. He uses them to cultivate us, to help us to become something more than what we are.

Alisha Coakley:

Yeah, I love that.

Scott Brandley:

Yeah. So I was going to say your mom must be an amazing person for one to go through persecution like that and still just be strong and open your house to the missionaries, almost like a safe haven from the world, because I'm guessing that they were persecuted too. So that's amazing, that your mom was going to do that. And I'm sure that made a huge difference in so many missionaries lives, knowing that there was a safe place they could go.

Alisha Coakley:

And you know what I was thinking. Even the friends that you had that stopped by. I don't know why, but just when you told me that part of the story, there was this thought. That kind of popped in my head was like maybe it showed them like here they already had a friendship with you. They wanted to hang out with you and then for them to realize what you were going through, that they had no idea. It might have taught them a little bit of compassion too. It might have stirred something within them so that maybe later on they could look back and they could say that was a seed that was planted where perhaps they'll remember, perhaps missionaries will knock on their door one day or something will happen where they'll have a chance to learn about the gospel. And you never know how far reaching that trial period of you guys' lives really can go. Cheese.

Thomas Holton:

Absolutely. Yeah, I agree with you. We don't really know the impact that these things can have. We don't always see the long-term outcome of what can happen. So, yeah, definitely my friends had a different perspective and they were my genuine friends were genuine. So it is interesting. You're absolutely right. And yes, scott, to your point.

Thomas Holton:

The missionaries did get a lot of trouble in that area, but they still came and it was fertile ground in a way. And so sometimes we have to go through the fire, don't we? We have to wade through the deep waters in order to find the blessings that the Lord has. I'm glad that the missionaries actually came, because if they didn't come to that area, we wouldn't have joined the church. Well, hopefully the Lord would have found another way. But my mum is still in contact with those missionaries and they're happy to hear that we're still active in the church all these years later. So it just shows you the implications we don't always see. I don't think we can see as humans, we can't actually see the full implications of what we do. It just isn't possible. But God can see it, and so obviously those missionaries may have thought. Some missionaries think they're not successful, but they really have no idea how many people they're impacting through their service.

Alisha Coakley:

Yeah, and you know, I had another thought too when you were talking about this. It's not that Heavenly Father makes us go through the trials, right Like. He's not convincing people to go burn down our houses and smash in our windows and call us names and all of those things, right Like. But he allows it to happen sometimes. He'll just let it play out because he, like you said, he does see the bigger picture and he knows there's going to be some bumps and bruises along the way, but it's going to be so much better for us in the end if we can learn how to get through that, right. And so it's not that he's like a, you know, a mean parent or a puppeteer that's just making life miserable for his entertainment, right?

Alisha Coakley:

I think sometimes it's hard for us to remember that when we're in the inflection, we keep asking God why are you, why are you doing this to me? You know, why aren't you stopping this? But I love from your perspective, thomas of you know, you don't know, you don't know how far the effects will go from it in a positive way, you know. So what happened next in your story?

Thomas Holton:

So I mean, yeah, the next area that we moved to was much better. So we still had some some persecution relating to being members of the church, but it was a lot less pronounced. And I suppose fast forward then to later on experiences that we've had lots of experiences that were, that were difficult, but we've also had lots of joyful experiences, and I do want to emphasize that we've had lots of rich blessings that the Lord prospered of and given us opportunities. So I suppose, if I fast forward a little bit to after my mission and then I was in university, and in my final year of university I started to feel really unwell and I felt like this cramping feelings in my stomach and I didn't know what it was. But I went to the doctor to be tested and I had a series of medical tests and it turned out that I had an ulcer which I got treatment for which worked very effectively. But after that experience and that was 1997. So that's 26 years ago After that experience I found that I just had one health issue after another.

Thomas Holton:

So after the ulcer, then I had food poisoning and then I had IBS, ibd and various other things, and so I had to go through a process of testing and medication, and I tried lots of different medication which would work for a while and then stop working. At a certain point my ulcer recurred and I had what they call triple therapy treatment and so ulcers wear away the stomach lining and so I had to have treatment for that medical treatment. So then at a certain point, it started to get much, much worse, where I would have very serious pain and this is a little bit graphic, so just because she's at that, but I would feel like someone was carving my insides with a screwdriver. So it was phenomenally nasty pain at a certain point and I would have to take days off work and I would be really really unwell. So again, I went through various tests and procedures and they really couldn't tell what was wrong with me and they just said well, it's just general issues, that doesn't have an exact definition.

Thomas Holton:

And so I remember going into work on the 18th of December 2010. So I arrived in work and at lunchtime I had my lunch and then, a couple of hours later, I felt like I was going to die. I felt really really bad and I went into the special room that we had in work in our office and I just got sick everywhere. I just vomited everywhere. It was pretty horrible. And so my boss called an ambulance and so I was put in the ambulance and I was brought to the hospital and I was really really poorly, but they gave me painkillers which made little or no difference. So, anyway, they did a CT scan and they couldn't tell what was wrong with me.

Thomas Holton:

So at that time of the year, actually, ireland was in a serious frost. It was really really cold and the place was covered in snow and frost, and so my wife wanted to bring me home, because I was in Dublin at that time, but we actually lived out here in the Midlands. So she brought me home that night, and so then the next day I was fine for a little while, but then at a certain point I just felt like a rupture inside of me, and so we had to rush to the emergency room and I actually couldn't even tie my seat belt. I was in so much pain. It was really difficult. And then we went into the hospital and they actually thought they did another CT scan in a different hospital. They thought I actually had a twisted bowel, and so that's what they were prepping me for surgery for a twisted bowel, but actually when the surgeon opened me up he realized it was a ruptured intestine, so it just exploded like a bomb. He showed me the pictures afterwards and it looked like a bomb had gone off. So it was really bad. But I had an excellent surgeon. He removed not all of the diseased area but most of the diseased area, but it was a five, six hour surgery. Five or six hour surgery it was really long and so, yeah, when I woke up I was in intensive care and stayed there for four or five days. So it was really very difficult because having the morphine and everything else was quite an experience, having hallucinations and things. But I suppose to move on from that.

Thomas Holton:

After the surgery I started to recover and to recuperate. My wife had been worried that I would pass away, but thankfully I didn't and so essentially I recovered very quickly. Actually, the doctors, physiotherapists, they were all really shocked at how quickly I recovered and I related to the word of wisdom and just trying to live a healthy lifestyle and the blessing of the Lord, and so I did recover. When I was in the hospital, the psychologist came to see me and she thought I was very depressed, which actually is not unusual for someone who's had major surgery like that, which is on the verge of death. I found out later that if I didn't get hospital treatment within a certain time I would have been dead because all the toxins would just engulf your body. So I was so grateful that I got the medical treatment. The surgeon said to me you're a very brave man, because, he said to my wife, your husband is really, really sick.

Thomas Holton:

So anyway, I had the process of recovering. I had a feeding tube, didn't have any solid food for six weeks, and my wife actually brought in my laptop relating to the fact that the psychologist had said I was depressed, that I needed something to give me a bit of a boost. And so my wife came in and brought me the laptop and said I should write my life history. And so that's what I did. I wrote my life history in the hospital and actually from that came my books that I've written the two books that I've written that have been published and then the new one that's going to be published in October. And part of the process I think I learned through that suffering and it was phenomenal.

Thomas Holton:

Suffering and was that suffering can be a great education. It can really instruct us in the ways of the Lord. It can teach us things and obviously the Lord didn't cause my sickness. It was, as it turns out, what I have. I was diagnosed with an aggressive variant of Crohn's disease, so I'm on chemotherapy for that. I have been for 11 years, which is similar treatment you would have if you had bowel cancer, and the chemotherapy is very effective. I've been in remission for 11 years and I still do my regular checkups with the surgeon, but that powerful medicine really helps.

Thomas Holton:

So just the reason I wanted to share that experience was because it was another example of having something very, very difficult. I haven't told you all the details, but there were times when I was in so much pain where I actually literally had to make myself sick. It was the only way I could get relief because I was so sick inside. It was like a fire going on inside of me and I had to literally force myself to get sick. It was not pleasant and obviously you would hope people wouldn't have to have an experience like that in their lives. But sometimes these things do happen. Sometimes people get very sick, and I was very sick for a long time, but I'm grateful that the doctors were able to help me. I had a wonderful surgeon who was just a wonderful man and he really helped me and, of course, more important than that, is the blessing of the Lord to make sure that I still had a work to do on the earth and I was able to live.

Thomas Holton:

It wasn't my time to die and since then, those last 11 years, I definitely had a different appreciation for the importance of life. And this life really is fragile. One experience I will share briefly and I won't share all of it, but when I went into my surgery I was in and out of consciousness and for a moment I had a feeling that I was on the threshold between this life and the next and I just felt safe. I just felt total sense of security. I just felt like the Lord was there for me, that there is a life after this one and it is real. Just that feeling that death is not something we need to fear and that really the Lord will take care of us. I felt like I was in his hands at that time when I had that surgery and I felt like he was taking care of me and my family. That's really the experience I wanted to share.

Thomas Holton:

Those experiences about how life carries difficulty with it. From my perspective, greatness can come from difficulty. There are trials that come into our lives, but these trials are not intended to derail us. They are not intended to overcome us. They are intended to help us. Whatever way they come into our lives, whatever source they come into our lives, they can be turned to good by the Lord. He can use them to educate us and to teach us and to inspire us.

Thomas Holton:

Also, I feel like it wouldn't be right for me to keep my experience to myself. I feel like I have this experience and I need to share it. That's one of the reasons why I'm glad I'm here today. I don't share everything about it. There are some things about those experiences that I had that are just too sacred and too personal to share.

Thomas Holton:

Suffice it to say, I came away from that surgery with a very clear understanding that the Lord is real and that he watches over His people and he really is real. I know we believe that and we talk about that, but to sense it and to feel that the Lord is literally involved in our lives and that he ministers to us in our affliction, that was the way I felt. I felt like, okay. The Savior really is real and he helped me to feel like there's nothing to fear on the other side and that this life, if we live it in the way we're intended to live it, it's a glorious life. I don't take it for granted anymore, because I know it is fragile and life can be gone very quickly. But we don't need to worry, we don't need to be afraid. The Lord will always support us. He will always sustain us in our troubles.

Thomas Holton:

The Book of Mormon speaks about that. I know for myself that that's true. I don't need to wonder is that true? I don't need to think oh, is there a life after this one? I know that there is because of the experience that I have. Again, I don't talk about all the details of it because it's too sacred, but I know that the bliss and the happiness that awaits us on the other side is far greater than even the most blissful things we've felt in this world. The most wonderful things we've experienced are just a shadow. They're a dark shadow compared to what we're going to feel on the other side.

Thomas Holton:

I'm grateful that the Lord preserved my life. I'm also grateful that he educated me to know that suffering is not an end in itself, it's a means to an end, and whether it be persecution, whether it be illness, whether it be financial trouble, these things can educate us. That's not just a slogan. It really is true. I'm so grateful. In a way it sounds ironic, but I'm grateful that I had those experiences. I wouldn't give them up for anything, because they taught me so much about life that I just couldn't have learned in any other way. I feel like I understand when other people are suffering, because I've been there. I know what it's like to suffer terribly. It just helps me to have empathy and resilience, to know that I just need to keep going, one day at a time, one step at a time, and the Lord will always be there for us in our need.

Alisha Coakley:

Oh man, I can relate. I'm sure it's probably a little bit different or whatever for you, but I had well, I guess I technically still have a form of leukemia. I was on a daily chemo, a little pill. Is that kind of what you're doing too?

Thomas Holton:

Yeah.

Alisha Coakley:

The oral chemo for seven years. I mean, I get it. It is so crazy. I often say my leukemia really has been a blessing, because of the same thing that you were saying. It gives you this perspective of mortality, but it also gives you a perspective of what's to come. It helped me to know that I didn't need to be scared, but I also wasn't ready to go. I was like you know what? I only have this life. I don't know how much longer my illness is going to stay in remission. I don't know if the medication is going to keep working. I don't know.

Alisha Coakley:

I really wanted to make sure that if I had to leave anytime before the age of 100, that I would leave. I would go out with a bang. I was going to be that person who was not afraid to try things. I wasn't afraid to share my story. I wasn't afraid to love hard and forgive easily. There were just things that I and it wasn't all at once, it was a little here and a little there that I kind of learned. It's given me this beautiful perspective on life where, just like you, when I go through hardships, I'm able to see what it is I'm like okay. I know that this is something that has a lesson in it for me, even if it's not 100% for me. I know that someone in my life needs me to go through this so that they can learn something too.

Alisha Coakley:

I started changing my questions. It used to be why why me, heavenly Father? Why is this happening to me? Why do I have to go through this? Instead, I shifted to what? What do I need to learn? Who? Who do I need to help in this situation? Who needs a lesson? How can I grow closer to you? How can I become more of the person that you need me to be because of this trial? Instead, I've just kind of changed those questions and even the where. Where do you want me to go with this? What do you want me to do with this?

Alisha Coakley:

It's really been helpful in my own experience and it sounds like in years two to remember that those trials and those afflictions that we're going through, like you said, they are not the end. They are a means to an end, the end of a lesser version of you, the end of going, maybe even like a part of a testimony, to going to a conversion. Maybe, I know, for me, like the death of my brother that showed me that I had always believed there was an afterlife, but it wasn't until I lost him that I had to know I had to do that research and figure out for myself. Is that really a strong part of my testimony now?

Alisha Coakley:

It took a while and it was hard and it was painful and I hated it and I don't ever want to go through it again, necessarily. But I also don't ever want to give it to anybody else because I know how much I was able to grow from it. I know now that there's not a single person on this earth that could tell me that there's not a better place, that there's not a more beautiful place, that Heavenly Father doesn't exist. I love that you had those messages and that you're still learning.

Alisha Coakley:

It doesn't mean you're done, because you're still here, You're still going to have hardships, but you're still going to have amazing opportunities to learn and to grow and to have your testimony truly converted. I just think I just love your whole story. It's hard.

Thomas Holton:

I agree with you. It strikes me that, in a way, to experience difficulty is a compliment from the Lord because he knows that you're ready for the next level. That sounds almost arrogant, but I don't mean it as arrogant. But I mean he knows that you're genuine, he allows something, even if he doesn't give it. He allows something to happen, but he knows he can turn it to good. We are always growing, that's. One of the things I've learned is that we need to keep growing and it's easy to get stuck in whatever the past, or stuck in a routine of living, but we have to break free. We don't have to break free, but we choose to break free and to become better.

Thomas Holton:

I feel that way. It is a compliment from the Lord. If you have a burden, he thinks you can carry it. He thinks you can become something more than what you already are. That might seem like it's scary, but I think it's okay to be scared because you can break through that fear and eventually feel better about yourself. I'm not going to be ashamed in the next life when I meet Joseph Smith or any of the other saints who have suffered, because I can say, well, I know what it is to face hardship and I know what it is to try to be good. Obviously imperfectly, I've done lots of stupid things and failed a lot of times, but I've been genuinely trying to improve and be better than I am. I won't feel ashamed to meet the apostles and the saints who have suffered, because I feel like, yeah, I know what it is to suffer, but to keep my faith and let it be bright, let it be obvious that I believe and not hide it and not shy away from it, but let it shine.

Scott Brandley:

Right. One of my favorite things about doing this podcast is it allows me to learn from other people's perspective Even your story, Alisha, the things that you've had to go through. I actually am able to grow from your story, from your perspective, same with you, Thomas. Just hearing other people's perspectives on God, on struggles, on overcoming hardships in their lives, it can help me to grow as a person, even though I didn't experience that thing directly. So I really appreciate both of you and sharing your stories and your perspectives here. My question is how has your perspective changed, how you look at the world and how you treat your family specifically?

Thomas Holton:

Yeah, that's a really excellent question. So I would say there's two things. One is I think I've learned that we as individuals are actually much stronger than we think we are. We can endure difficulty that is far more difficult than we realize. We've got more in us that's latent, that just needs to be called forth, and sometimes our perspectives can be that we can't do something, we can't overcome a trial, or we can't face a particular challenge, or we can't forgive someone or whatever. I've learned that that really isn't true, that each of us, we really are created in the image of God and we're royalty, spiritual royalty and it doesn't matter where we come from, if we're born in poverty or riches, it doesn't matter how rich we are or how famous or how uneducated or educated. Those things don't really matter in the sense of we can become something more than we are, and God is calling each of us to do that. So I really believe that we have a potential far greater than what we realize. Each one of us. We can endure more, we can learn more, we can become more than we think we can, whatever the horizons are, what we believe about ourselves, that our Father in heaven will change that if we allow Him to. So I've learned that, and I think I tried to think about that for myself, but also for other people and especially my family to think, ok, what's their potential? Not just what am I seeing in the moment, like the things that might grind me down or the things that might disturb me to expand my horizons and see in them something of the future, of their future possibility. And so I think it helps me to. It's helped me to love my family better, and other people as well, to see them in terms of what they could potentially be rather than what they're already doing. So that's the first thing I would say. The second thing is I have come to understand that the Savior is actually much more impressive than we think he is. The Savior is impressive, but I actually believe he's more wonderful than we believe and he's more impressive. He's more virtuous, he's more good, he's more loving, he's more generous, he's more gentle and more brave. And so I've learned that the Savior really is stronger. He's stronger than we think he is, and he's more intelligent than we think he is, and he's more loving than we think he is. And so I've learned that for myself, that the Savior really is amazing. He really is good to the core and there's no one better than Him. I mean, he is the pinnacle of goodness.

Thomas Holton:

And I felt that in my suffering, because there was. I remember one night when I was on the bathroom floor suffering before I had my surgery, and I was really, really sick. I had vomited in the bath and it was at midnight it was actually after midnight and I was just in the depths of despair and I was praying to Heavenly Father to know well, why is this happening to me? And I heard a voice in my mind, not a literal voice, but a voice in my mind saying well, tom, I'm not going to take this illness away from you, but what I am going to do is give you an opportunity to share your testimony with other people, to know, so that they will know, that you have a testimony of the Savior, that you have a testimony of His Atonement, to know that you have an authentic testimony, a genuine testimony, that you had an experience. Not that I understand the Atonement fully none of us can but that I've had a bit of a glimpse, a tiny glimpse, into the fact that the Savior really did suffer for us and he suffered for me, he suffered for you, and so I'm so grateful to be able to bear that testimony that the Savior really did take upon Himself our burdens. I know that he knows what it's like for me to experience very serious bowel perforation and he knows from the inside what that was like. I don't have to lecture Him, I don't have to teach Him or educate Him about it. He knows what it's like and he can help me to feel comfort in my affliction. So you know those two things, that we are stronger than we think we are, and I really believe that.

Thomas Holton:

I believe all of us have a potential that we're only beginning to discover, and this life has a way of helping us to dig deep. It demands of us that we look deeply, but sometimes we run away. We're afraid of what's in us, the light that's in us, the potential we have for goodness. We're afraid of it, and I've learned not to be afraid of that, to just let it be. Let the Lord, you know, bring that light forth out of me.

Thomas Holton:

And the second thing is the Savior really is better than we think he is, and I really believe that he's stronger and he can help us in ways that we might think, oh, he can't help me, but he really can. You know, if we have a problem with pornography, he can help us to overcome it. If we have a problem with our temper, he can help us to calm it and to become peacemakers. Whatever we have a problem with, he can really help us to become the opposite. So, you know, I'm just so grateful for the experiences that I've had, hard as they were and they were bitter to go through, and sometimes they still are, because I'm still unwell sometimes.

Thomas Holton:

But I realized there's a larger picture, there's a grander design there and it's so important to try and look, take the long-term view, and not just get stuck in the moment of trouble and look to what's coming ahead of us. That's a real solace to me, to have faith in the Savior, and I know that he's our Comforter. So there are the two things I think I would say about what I've learned. How we should treat other people is see the potential in them, one by one, each person, not as a group, but as an individual. Each person can do amazing things and that's not just the slogan. I really believe that, that we have potential. We just need to bring it forth.

Alisha Coakley:

Yeah, you know when you're speaking. It made me think of the talk by Elder Bednar where he says I believe he's talking about maybe his dad or something, and he said I know you have the faith to be healed, but do you have the faith not to be healed? Sometimes we have to ask ourselves do we have the faith to have this trial remain with us for however long it needs to remain with us? Maybe it's for the rest of our lives, maybe it's for 11 years, maybe we don't know, but do we have the faith to continue on with it when things aren't going to change that much in our circumstances? And I don't know why, but that just popped in my head really powerfully Sometimes that is going to be part of our trial is that we have to be faithful, even if, or what was the?

Alisha Coakley:

There was another talk, the, but if not right. I know that the Savior is able to take this from me and I know that Heavenly Father is strong enough to change my circumstances and I know that all of this can just turn into butterflies and rainbows, but if not, I still have the faith.

Thomas Holton:

Absolutely.

Alisha Coakley:

Right and that's. It's so easy to say right, but it's so wonderful to experience, even if it's just for a moment. Guys, sometimes we're going to be like, okay, I have the faith not to be healed for like five minutes. That's good. Next time make it six. Like it doesn't, you don't have to be all the time happy and joyful and yage for trials. But as long as you keep checking in with that perspective, I think that there's a lot of good that can come from it. Yeah, I love that you said.

Scott Brandley:

Thomas about you were you know I'm not he told you he's not going to take it away from you, but that, but because it's, because it's so you could relate to what the pain that he went through and give you a better perspective on life and on the atonement. That was really powerful to me.

Thomas Holton:

Yeah, it's so true, isn't it? Because we sometimes think, because the Savior was the Son of God, that he just sailed through life and that everything was easy. But I don't think that's true. I think life was hard for him and he really he's a suffering servant. It's not that he it's not just suffering Obviously he has joy as well, but he serves even though he's suffering.

Thomas Holton:

That, for me, is the key that life is intended to be difficult, but it's not so we are going to be derailed. It's not so we can fail. It's so that we can become something that we couldn't otherwise become. So, yeah, I was really stunned when the Lord said to me Tom, I'm not going to take this away, but I was really comforted that he was honest with me, that he just told me that he didn't try to you know deceive. He just said, yeah, this is what's going to happen. You're going to have suffering, but I'm going to give you a meaning, I'm going to give you a reason, a why, and so it's so much easier to endure when you understand that that your why is to become more like the Savior, and it really is. That's our purpose is to become like the Savior, and the Lord is serious about that. If we're serious about it, then so is he.

Alisha Coakley:

I love that. I love if we're serious about it. So is he, you know. I think that a lot of times we just want Heavenly Father to fix it all right, just take this away from me and just do this, just do that. But he wants us to learn for ourselves. He wants us to, you know, figure it out sometimes and sometimes, you know, just like he did with the Savior he withdraws a little bit. You know he's still there watching, but he withdraws a little bit because he knows it's something we can do, right, we can get through it, and we know that he's going to be there on the other side of it. So I have a question for you. So you mentioned that you have a couple books that you wrote about your life and everything. What are those books called? Are they, I mean, some people?

Thomas Holton:

So the first one is called Alive in Christ and it's published by Cedar Fort there in Springville, utah, and that really talks about my experience in the surgery.

Thomas Holton:

The book really was born out of that experience that I had, because I realized that I could have died, but I didn't, and so I didn't want to take my life for granted. I didn't want to take my faith in Christ for granted. I wanted to share it. I didn't feel like I should keep it to myself, and so that book really comes out of that gratitude for the Savior and the feeling that he really can give us a newness of life. Because sometimes people say, oh, your health is your wealth, or if you've got your health, you've got everything. I actually don't think that's true. I think health is really important, but I think you can learn a lot of things from being sick as well. So for me, I learned that you can actually find new types of life and sickness that you didn't know when you were healthy, and so that's why I wrote that book. The second one is Cultivated in Christ, which is a natural follow on. Again, that's by Cedar Fort, and really what that talks about is some of my experiences growing up, like the persecution we faced as a family when we joined the church. But my mom is still active in the church, she serves in the temple, she's very faithful, she loves the Book of Mormon, she loves the prophet, she loves the gospel. And it's not about our circumstances. It's about are we willing? Because the Lord knows our circumstances, he knows they're not ideal, but are we willing to trust Him? And that's what she did. She's not perfect she would say that but she's a great woman and I think her faith rubbed off on me. I think it's a way. Faith is a bit like it's transferable. You can almost pass it to other people. It's a domino effect, it's contagious, and so I feel like I garnered a lot of my faith from her because she said oh well, president Benson said let's read the Book of Mormon as a family every day. So that's what we did, so that's what I do in my family. So that's really why I wrote.

Thomas Holton:

Cultivated in Christ is to talk about some of those experiences, about how we're going to have trouble, sometimes unexpected trouble that we don't foresee, but the Lord will sustain us, he will help us to get through it If we rely on Him, if we ask for His help, and sometimes it's as simple as saying help me, I'm in trouble, I'm drowning here. And in my own life I know sometimes I've wanted to do things alone, do it myself. But I've learned if you really want to do it right, you've got to ask the Lord for His help and just be humble and not be saying, oh, I'm going to do it myself. So that's what Cultivated in Christ is about. And then the new book is out in October, which is about perfected in Christ, so it's the culmination. It's about, I suppose, what we can do for the Savior when we go through this process of becoming more like him, what we can then offer to him and his service.

Alisha Coakley:

So, yeah, Well, those sound fantastic. I'm going to have to go look them up, I'm pretty sure.

Scott Brandley:

Cool. Well, Thomas, do you have any last thoughts or comments you would like to share?

Thomas Holton:

So I suppose I want to share my testimony that I'm so grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that Joseph gets a lot of stick. He gets a lot of negativity and criticism, but as a 10-year-old boy I gained a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that he really was in the sacred grove and what he said happened, really happened, and I felt that by the power of the Spirit that that's true. It's actually true what Joseph said and I know people say various things about him. Throughout my life I've heard various things about him inside and outside the church. People have differences of opinion, but it's my testimony that Joseph really is a prophet and just every bit as much a prophet as Peter, James and John. He's a prophet and the work that came through him to me is a miracle and I regard the church as one of the greatest blessings in my life. The gospel is the greatest blessing in my life. It's totally changed my life. I mean, some of my friends growing up are in trouble with the law and in trouble with drugs and various other things and I'm so grateful for the gospel that came through Joseph Smith. He was the instrument, Imperfect, but a good, faithful man, and I'm so grateful for the Book of Mormon.

Thomas Holton:

I've read portions of the Book of Mormon every day for as long as I can remember, and that's just a personal goal of mine. I'm not saying that anyone else needs to do that, but just for me. The Book of Mormon is so important to keep me calibrated, Because this world is treacherous. This is a difficult world we live in, and the Book of Mormon reminds me. Okay, you need to be on track, Remind yourself constantly of where you need to be. So I love the Book of Mormon. I know it's the word of God, it's scripture. I love President Nelson. I know he's a prophet.

Thomas Holton:

What a man I mean you know he's just such an incredible man, the things he's achieved, but he's humble and he really is so gifted but he's not arrogant and I just feel blessed that we're led by a man like that and I know he represents the Lord. And then, I suppose, finally, the Savior. I know that the Savior lives and, with all that those simple words imply, I know that he lives and all that that means. And we may not always see him, we may not always hear him, but he lives and he is interested in our lives personally. He knows those by name, he knows our needs, he knows our troubles and he knows our triumphs. He knows us better than we know ourselves and I don't have to rely on someone else's opinion to know that. I know it for myself. I know the Savior knows me perfectly and I know that he's the Son of God. I know that he will return again soon. Whatever soon means, I know he will come again and I just want to be ready.

Thomas Holton:

This is not a time to be asleep spiritually. It's not a time to be diverted. It's a time to be focused because the Lord is going to come again soon and I want to be on the right in the right way, be prepared for when he does come. I love the church. I think the church. I know sometimes people have criticisms of the church. I just maybe I'm naive, but I just think the church is brilliant. I love being a part of it. I love to serve. I do more if I could, and so I just want to bear that testimony that I know these things are true and I know that they're beautiful and I know that they will bless our lives if we give them a fair chance.

Scott Brandley:

I love that. Thanks, Thomas.

Alisha Coakley:

Yeah, seriously, this has been such a wonderful, wonderful interview. I'm going to invite you to come back on at some other point because I'm sure that you have even more stories that you could share with us, whether it's your own or church history stories, because we mentioned in the beginning that you're a church historian over there in Ireland and I just I love that you've been able to take your experiences and your stories and be able to share them today with all of our audience, and so thank you so much. We really really appreciate you jumping on with us.

Scott Brandley:

Yeah, you feel like a kindred spirit. I feel like I could just come and hang out with you, like tomorrow, and In a castle, we could just be buddies. Oh yeah, I would have to be in a castle.

Alisha Coakley:

Well, you're welcome, we're royalty, so we belong in a castle yeah, yes.

Thomas Holton:

Yes, yes, ireland is beautiful. It's a beautiful country and there are so many special places here, so anyone that comes loves it. So, yeah, come Beautiful, okay.

Alisha Coakley:

You convinced me I'll take it Awesome.

Scott Brandley:

Thanks, thomas, once again for coming hanging out with us, and thank you for those of you who have hung out with us today and watched Thomas's story. We really appreciate it, and if you have a story like Thomas's or your own story off of course that you'd like to share, go to Latterday Lightscom and tell us about it. Let's get you on the show and help you share your light, just like Thomas did today.

Alisha Coakley:

And be sure, guys, to hit that share button. Do our five second missionary work. Hit the share button, get Thomas's story out to other people as well and let it light up their lives the way that it's lighted, litten, lit, lit up ours. I'm just making up stuff now. I don't even know, guys, it's okay, I'm royalty, I can fumble on my words sometimes. So be sure that you guys like and share. Drop us a comment. Let Thomas know what your favorite part of his story was, what kind of stood out to you and what you know just touched your heart. We would love to hear what you guys thought about it. With that, we are so excited to see what comes next week for another great story on Latterday Lights. I hope that you guys all have a beautiful week and that you can make sure that the savior stays close to you throughout. With that, we will talk to you later. Bye.

Scott Brandley:

Take care.

Persecution and Faith in Ireland
Persecution and Faith
Persecution, Trials, and Blessings
Finding Strength Through Suffering and Faith
The Strength and Potential of Believers
Sustaining Faith and Testimony