"And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. (3 Ne. 12:6)
Ellen Samuelsen is the Laurel adviser in the Ithaca Ward, Owego New York Stake.
When she was a new member of the ward, she went about quickly getting to know the members of the ward by inviting them into her home, and she has become a loving mentor to the girls that she serves.
Ellen is an inspiring example of one who constantly endeavors to learn and grow and improve herself and serve those around her. She is one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness.
Ellen was 14 when she was first introduced to the Church. She prayed to know if it were true and felt a clear certainty that she should be baptized. Her love of the gospel was centered in her earnest desire to have a loving family.
Her parents were moral people who cared for Ellen and her sisters and taught them standards. But the family was plagued by relationship problems stemming from an inability to give affection and show unconditional love. After her baptism, Ellen attended college and was active in institute where she met a wonderful young man from a strong Latter-day Saint family. They were married in the temple. Ellen's "hunger and thirst" for the righteousness that can build a loving family became more and more intense.
"As I matured and married, I focused on making my own family an eternal one," she said. "But from the birth of my first child, I felt I was not doing a very good job. As each child came into the family, I felt more inadequate to raise these children to the Lord. With each of my angry outbursts, and at times, cruel responses to my children I became more frustrated."
Her fourth pregnancy was a difficult one. Spiritually she knew that it was time for this child to be born but emotionally and physically she felt overwhelmed by the sacrifices ahead. She experienced a spiritual rebirth as she sought many priesthood blessings to comfort her.
"Each blessing communicated great love and patience. I learned through these blessings that Heavenly Father was aware of me and my concerns. When Bryan was born, everything changed.
"I fell in love with him immediately. All that I was promised in those blessings came true. I could then see that Heavenly Father knows exactly what is best for me if I will trust and follow Him."
But then came a difficult move to another state with the accompanying family stresses. On a particularly difficult day, a confrontation erupted between Sister Samuelsen and her daughter. Hurtful words were said and Ellen felt once again that she was failing as a mother and felt despair over her chances of ever being able to overcome the cycle learned in her own childhood.
She hungered for that righteousness that brings a mighty change of heart. She prayed for the Lord to give her a new heart. She searched the scriptures to see how others had their hearts changed and came across the story of King Lamoni who said he would give all his sins away to have a new heart.
"That night I dreamed that an angel came and asked me earnestly,
You would give away all your sins?' With the same earnestness, I answered,Yes.' "
Sister Samuelsen continued her study of the scriptures and looked to the examples of loving families that she admired. She studied many books on parenting and self-improvement. But something always seemed to be missing.
Finally, a crucial insight shared by a friend helped Ellen find the missing puzzle piece.
She said: "I realized that my life is an eternal process. I need to keep uppermost in my mind the great love Heavenly Father has for me. As I began to comprehend the immense love Heavenly Father has for me, I felt humbled and wrapped in a warmth that is impossible to describe.
"Knowing this love, I can now give it," Sister Samuelsen said. "I want to repay this marvelous gift. The Holy Ghost reinforces this desire through peaceful feelings. My gratitude toward Heavenly Father has made me desire to `hunger and thirst after righteousness' all the days of my life. Every day I strive to know and do my Heavenly Father's will."