Kathleen Parker McArthur and her husband moved to West Virginia in 1977 after they graduated from BYU, and never left. They now have eight children, thirty-one grandchildren, two grandchildren on their way to earth, and one great-grandchild. Today she hopes to share her testimony with her posterity.
Let me tell you why I’m doing this – this is for my grandkids. I’m 71. Who knows how much longer I’m going to live. So, I’m hoping to get something recorded that my grandkids can look at and say, “Oh yeah, that was my grandma.” That’s what this is all about.
Tell me about yourself.
Here’s the quick version of me: I was born and raised in Ogden, Utah. I went to Brigham Young University, back when it wasn’t so hard to get into. My future husband, Larry, was in the military and snuck into a dance at BYU – he borrowed his brother-in-law’s student ID card. We were dancing together and I asked what he was majoring in. He said, “I’m not majoring in anything.” “Really? How are you here?” He said, “I’m in the Army, I snuck in.” It was Saturday, February 11, 1969.
We spent a few hours together Sunday afternoon and again on Monday evening. On Sunday, Larry introduced me to his sister, brother-in-law, and two cute kids. Monday, he invited me to dinner and a movie, Camelot. Early Tuesday morning, he left Provo for his new duty assignment in Colorado Springs. During the summer 1969, Larry drove from Colorado Springs to Ogden, Utah, to take me out on a date. Of course, he couldn’t take me out every weekend, because he drove all night to Provo, and then up to Ogden. We would have one date and then he’d drive back to Provo and Colorado Springs. In September 1969, Larry received orders to go to Vietnam. He served for 13 months on a tiny firebase, then discharged to San Diego.
Larry transferred to BYU in January 1971. We got married in December in the Manti Temple. We graduated from BYU on the same day. I was heavy with our second child and so happy to be walking across the stage to pick up my diploma.
Larry wanted to get his Ph.D. and was offered a position at West Virginia University. Our plan was to go back to Utah as soon as he got that degree. But our Northern West Virginia district presidency had been fasting and praying for priesthood holders to move into West Virginia. There were all these little tiny branches, and they needed leadership to grow these branches into wards. When we fasted and prayed about where to get a job, the answer was Elkins, West Virginia. We obeyed the promptings of the Spirit and moved to Elkins. We never left, except to travel, and serve a mission from 2013 to 2015. We’ve just stayed here. My husband was the bishop here 38 years ago when we were young and having babies, and he had a brand new job at Davis & Elkins College. We lived in an old house that needed work. It was a hard time for us.
About a year ago, we decided to move to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We talked to a banker, and I looked at houses online. When we got back to Elkins, I knelt down and said, “God, we’ve decided to sell out and move to Coeur d’Alene. We have two sons, ten grandchildren, a sister-in-law, and a niece all there. We want to be closer to family.” I heard one word, and the word was, “Stay.” Stay?! Let’s go through the numbers—again!!! I have ten grandkids out there! The answer was, “Stay.” We obeyed and we stayed. Within three months, all three families had left Coeur d’Alene, and moved to Hawaii, Utah, and St. Croix. Everyone was gone. I sat back and thought, “Ya know, God, you really do know what you’re doing! I need to apologize for my attitude.”
In December 2020, Larry was called to be the bishop—again. We knew this really is where God wants us to be.
How many children do you have?
We have eight children, thirty-one grandchildren, two grandchildren on their way to earth, and one great-grandchild. It’s tricky having that many grandkids for sure, but we’re happy to have them. Before Larry was called to be the Bishop of our ward, we would drive a large loop around the country to visit the majority of our children. For example, we would drive up in front of our son’s home, and we would sit in the car for a few minutes. And we’d go, “How do we pronounce all of their names?” Then we would say, “What are their family’s rules?” The rules change from house to house, so we refresh all rules in our minds before we go in.
Your husband has been bishop twice, but women are just as involved in building the Kingdom as men. What have you done to support these tiny branches and wards?
Our ward is small, so the number of active people decides how many hats you wear. I’ve taught a lot. It seems like I was in Primary for a long time. I also had stake responsibilities – I was a counselor in the stake Relief Society presidency and later in the stake Young Women presidency. I was called to be a Relief Society president a couple of times. Right now, I’m in Young Women and that’s probably my favorite calling.
President Nelson has spoken a lot about personal revelation and “Hear Him.” How would you teach that to the Young Women group, and to your family? How do you hear the Lord?
If I had my posterity in front of me, or my Young Women, I would say to them: revelation comes very differently to different people at different times. Sometimes it knocks your socks off. Other times, it’s subtle. I’m going to give you an example of both of those.
In December 2020, I was at the store picking up supplies for making Christmas wreaths in Young Women. While I was there, I had a feeling to go over to Goodwill and look at picture frames. “Spirit, I’m pretty short on time here.” “No, no, you need to go over and look at frames.” So I went and saw one that was silver and shiny. I thought, “This is a fun frame,” but I didn’t buy it. A few days later, I thought about it again, and said, “If it’s still there, I will buy it.” It was still there, I bought it. My husband said, “What are you going to do with that?” “I don’t know. The Spirit said to buy it, so I bought it. I just obeyed.” About two weeks later, a dear friend gave us a piece of art – it’s a print of an oil painting by Michael Doig. The painting is a picture of trees and powdery snow, with a young boy wrapped in a wool coat and hat. I knew I needed to frame Mike’s painting immediately. I went upstairs and grabbed the silver frame. The painting fit perfectly in the silver frame and even the matte was the right color and right size. I paid six dollars for the frame. If I’d gone to a frame store, it would’ve been very expensive.
Some people say, “It’s just luck.” No, it’s paying your tithing and the Holy Ghost knowing you’re going to get this painting and you’re going to want to frame it right away. It felt really natural. I didn’t hear a voice, just had an impression to buy a used silver frame, and it worked.
Sometimes I obey the impression. Sometimes I don’t, and then find out later I should have obeyed.
Here’s a story when I didn’t obey: There was a time when an older lady lived across the street. One day, I was getting my four little children in the car to run errands, and I had a feeling to go see if she needed something from the store. I had all these little kids and I was afraid to leave them in the car alone, I already had them buckled in. I talked myself out of going to her home. About a week later, I went across the street to visit her. She said, “Oh Kathy, I needed you so badly the other day. I was running out of medicine and needed someone to go to the pharmacy. I could see you loading your kids in the car, but I was too weak to walk to the door and holler at you.” I blew it. Sometimes the Holy Ghost gives us promptings, but we talk ourselves out of it. We come up with excuses like I did. I felt terrible.
Now, I will tell you a story that changed my life. In 1993, our 12-year-old son Jon started having seizures. We were in California attending a grandmother’s funeral. We took Jon to a hospital and the doctors ran a bunch of tests. They prescribed medication and we were told to quickly drive back to West Virginia and see a pediatric neurologist. At that time, there was only one pediatric neurologist in the entire state of West Virginia. We took our son to him when we got home. That doctor added a second medication and increased the dose. So now my son was drugged with so much medication that he couldn’t walk across the floor and could hardly talk.
We did some research and realized there were much better drugs with fewer side effects. We made another appointment with the doctor and said, “We want you to take him off these drugs and try one of the new drugs.” He was very arrogant and said “No.” He’d prescribed these drugs for twenty years and they work. I said, “They don’t work. My son is still having fifteen seizures a day, even when he’s drugged. They’re not working, so change it.” He wouldn’t change the prescription; his plan was to increase the dose. I said, “I’m through doing business with you,” and left with my son.
I thought about it for a few days. We knew there was a children’s hospital in Pittsburgh, and another one in Richmond, Virginia. I knelt down and prayed, “Lord, should we go to Pittsburgh or Richmond?” These office visits were $250 for each neurology doctor’s appointment. I knew I couldn’t doctor-shop, I had to get it right on the first try. I was praying, wanting this answer worse than I wanted air. I said, “God, where shall we go?” I heard a voice, and it said “Charleston, South Carolina.” I’m not the greatest at geography, and I thought, “Charleston, West Virginia?” The voice said, “No, Charleston, South Carolina.”
I went to the phone – this was before cell phone days – and said to the operator, “Is there a children’s hospital in Charleston, South Carolina?” “Yes, a great big one.” So I got the number and called, “Do you have a doctor there who deals with epilepsy?” They had a whole floor of epilepsy doctors. I told the secretary that I needed to talk to the kindest doctor they had on staff.
Dr. David Griesemer called me back. I explained to him that we needed new medicine. “You come down here. We’ll help your son. By the way, how did you find me?”
I said, “I prayed. God told me to go to Charleston, South Carolina.”
He said “I lived in Mesa, Arizona, and I prayed, and I was told to move to Charleston, South Carolina. Come down. We’ll help you.”
Sure enough, he took my son off those drugs and started him on another medication. My son grew to love this man, and he grew to love my son. As my son got older, the priesthood leadership thought it was too dangerous for him to serve a mission because of his epilepsy. We called Dr Griesemer. It turned out he had family members who were members of the Church, so he knew what a mission meant to Jon. He wrote a letter to the Church, that Jon could serve because he would consistently take his medication. Even though it would make him sick, Jon would take his drugs, and those drugs were controlling his seizures. Dr. Griesemer, “Send Jon to a place that has good hospitals and where ward members will feed him good meals.” Our son was called to serve in the California Roseville Mission. The members fed him wonderful meals and took care of him, and he was able to serve a full-time honorable two-year mission.
He came back from his mission and went to BYU-I, met a lovely girl, fell in love, got married in the Idaho Falls Temple, and now they have three children.
I thank God for telling me about South Carolina and Dr. David Griesemer because I never would have found him on my own. Even now, when I think about God answering that prayer and the long-range effects it’s had on my son’s life, I weep with gratitude for that moment.
It seems to me, at least in my life, when I need an answer so bad, I want it worse than I want air to breathe, I’ve gotten an answer. In this case, I wasn’t even fasting. I was just in my front room on my knees pleading with God, and that’s when the answer came.
I think that’s probably a key to gaining revelation – how badly do you want the answer and how quickly are you going to act on it? Are you willing to act on it? I think that maybe we sometimes ask for information, but God knows we won’t do what He’s about to tell us. He doesn’t want to get us in trouble, so He doesn’t give us the answer. He’s trying to protect us from ourselves.
How did you teach your kids this, so they can pass the principle down to your grandchildren? What were some strategies you used to teach your kids about revelation?
Of course, they all know about Jon. They all know that I heard a voice. When I think about that, it’s probably more accurate to say it was a very clear thought in my mind. So clear that it seemed like a voice, so clear that I thought someone was speaking to me. All of our children know this.
I’ve taught them to fast at critical moments in their lives – we call it two out of three. For example, if you’re considering marrying Susie, you need to think about it logically. You might write down everything you like about Susie, everything you don’t like about Susie. Look at the things you don’t like and think – can I live with those personality traits for an eternity? I’m not ever going to change Susie – this is what she is, can I live with these traits? Then do a fast three times, maybe a month apart, and ask, “God, is this the right decision? If this is right, please bless me with peace of mind.”
That’s how I taught them. To use fasting, prayer, and listening. I think the answers come but we get up too quickly from our prayers. We need to stay on our knees a bit longer and think more, listen, and just see what our feelings are. Sometimes in our busy, busy lives, we say a prayer and jump up and go. We’re busy. Sometimes the answers are coming, we’re just not listening.
One more story. When my husband and I left Brigham Young, our goal was to get through the WVU Wildlife Ecology Ph.D. program without any debt. We were living in married student housing, and it was tiny. One summer, Larry was doing research in a forest about three hours away. So he was gone Monday through Friday and came home Friday night. I was a Young Women leader. I took my children to someone’s house to be babysat, I’d go out and pick up the Young Women girls for the activities, and then I’d do the reverse. I would arrive home very late, and Larry wasn’t there. I carried the kids in one at a time because they’d fallen asleep in the car, and then I would get them settled into bed. One night, my phone rang even though it was late, I picked it up and all I could hear was a person breathing, and I could hear an air conditioner. These were old apartments and they had old funny air conditioners, and they all made the same rattily sound. So I knew it was somebody in the complex who knew I was alone and had probably seen me carry my children in. And was watching me. So I hung up. It rang again, same thing, hung up. I just kept doing that, and I started to cry because I was scared. The phone rang again, and I picked it up, and it was my dad calling from Utah – “What in the world is going on at your house tonight?”
So I told my dad – “There’s a creepy guy calling me, I’m here alone with the kids and Larry’s gone, and I’m scared.” My dad told me to call the LDS family that lived across the street, wake them up, and ask the husband to come over. So I called them, he came over and stayed with me for a couple of hours, and the phone calls stopped.
I’ve always been amazed at that experience. How did my dad know to call me at that moment in time? His first question was not “How are you?” It was, “What in the world is wrong at your house tonight?”
At key points in my life, I’ve been blessed with comfort and guidance, and help from another world.
An add-on story to this – one night, I got the kids in bed, and I scrubbed my bathroom and made it as clean as it could possibly be. I needed a sanctuary. I needed a temple and I wasn’t close to a temple. I went in and knelt down, and said, “God, I’ve had it. Larry’s gone. I’m pregnant, I’m sick. I’ve got three kids. We have very little money. I’m 2,000 miles away from home. I’ve had it, I can’t take this anymore.” And I heard a voice. The voice said, “This too will pass.”
I was touched because the voice wasn’t condemning. It didn’t say, “You’re not crossing the plains. Your feet aren’t bleeding. You’re not walking through a snowstorm.” It wasn’t putting me down. It was a voice that understood that I was fed up, that it was hard, and I had emotionally hit the end of my rope. It was a voice that understood.
I have much gratitude to God for helping me at key points in my life. I can’t thank Him enough.
I think it’s important for people to know that ordinary, run-of-the-mill members can get answers to prayers. You don’t have to be a general authority’s wife or the prophet’s wife. Just regular people. I think that’s what President Nelson is trying to teach us – you guys can tap into this too.
A lot of younger women are talking more about Heavenly Mother, that they want a relationship with Heavenly PARENTS, not just Heavenly Father alone. What’s your take on that?
I’m still working that out in my head. I grew up in the generation where you absolutely did not talk about Heavenly Mother. I heard things like – people might take Her name in vain, so we don’t talk about Her, because we don’t want anyone to blaspheme Her name.
More recently, if you look at General Authorities statements, they are saying “Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.” Our wonderful hymn “O My Father” talks about Heavenly Mother. That was written back in Joseph Smith’s day and the hymn was accepted as part of our religious beliefs. If it wasn’t true, you’d think that a prophet back then would have said, “We’re not going to use this verse.”
Do I pray to Heavenly Mother? No. Do I know that She’s there? I do. Do I know that She loves me? I do. Do I look forward to meeting Her? I do.
In my patriarchal blessing, it says that I have angels and they will whisper words of wisdom and counsel in my ears. They have, over and over. Not only is there a Heavenly Mother, but there are some very righteous women who are angels and helping me get through life. Oh, how I appreciate them and value their cooperation, guidance, and words of wisdom.
I think about women who pray and don’t get answers – I have friends who are in that category. They fast and pray and plead, and they don’t get answers. I don’t have answers for them. I just know that there is a God, and that He loves us, and that there’s a Heavenly Mother who loves us. And I have been assigned angels who have helped me at critical points. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Joseph Smith restored the gospel. I know that President Nelson is a prophet and seer today. As I cling to the gospel and try to obey the commandments, I hope that my posterity will do the same. That’s it.
At A Glance
Name: Kathleen Parker McArthur
Location: Elkins, West Virginia
Marital History: Married December 1971-Present
Children: Larry Dean, McArthur (Kim), Jen, Doug, Jon, Ben, Katie, Scott
Occupation: Retired Middle School Teacher
Convert to the Church: Yes, aren’t we all
Schools Attended: BS Family and Consumer Science, MA Learning Disabilities
Languages Spoken At Home: English – with a little West Virginian
Favorite Hymn: Hark, All Ye Nations
Interview Produced By: Trina Caudle