My name is Tonya Marley

From: Texas

Occupation: MLS Administrator at Lubbock Association of REALTORS

Favorite Food: Mexican Food

Hobbies: It varies on my mood. Sometimes I like to knit. Other times I like to read, go hiking, write, or go pistol shooting. But it’s been a while since I’ve done any of those things. Right now I’ve been doing a lot of adult coloring pages using different apps.

Favorite Scripture: I have lots of favorite scriptures, but I really like the part of 2 Nephi 9:39 where it says, “to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.” because it makes an acronym, S.M.I.L.E. I also really like 2 Nephi 2:25. The two seem to go together for me.

Favorite Hymn: Again, I have two. #29 A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief, and #136 I Know That My Redeemer Lives. I really enjoy singing the words of 29 to the tune of 136. It brings a whole new meaning to the two hymns.

About Me: Gosh, I’m always so bad about this part. I do much better if I can answer a specific question or give my opinion about a topic. Since the topic is me…I’m an only child. I have an opinion on almost any topic, but I usually keep my opinions to myself until I really know the person or group. I’m mostly introverted until I really get to know you, then I’m a lot more extroverted.

I am 43, and I don’t care who knows my age. I don’t color my hair or wear make up because I worked hard for these gray hairs – they’re a source of pride for me. And I don’t wear make up because I feel it clogging my pores within the hour I put it on and I feel fake when I wear it.

I really enjoy my life. I work with the best people on the planet, get to do something I love, have a good balance between being around people and being by myself at work, and feel I really contribute something in what I do each day.

What brings you the greatest happiness?

Helping others brings me a lot of happiness. I am not married, no kids or pets to dote on, so I find a lot of my happiness helping my co-workers and the Realtors I work with. I also really enjoy participating at church by offering an opinion or insight in Sunday School, or offering to read during our women’s group meeting called Relief Society, or even sitting with someone new. I used to sit in the same place every Sunday at church, but now I make a point to get outside my comfort zone and sit somewhere new every time. I get to meet new people, and it tends to shake things up a bit at church 🙂

Not all of my happiness comes from others. I make my own happiness by visiting friends, and neighbors, making plans to do things I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t. For example, I always wanted to learn to dance, so I’m making plans to take some dancing lessons in 2016. I’ve also wanted to travel, so I’m making plans to go on a big trip in 2017, and a smaller trip in 2016.

I also make my own happiness as I strive to overcome the weaknesses I have, and seek help turning them into strengths. I believe we all have certain qualities given to us that are meant to change us into a more Christ-like person. Paul called it a thorn in his side. Others call them character flaws, or personality defects. I believe that is WAY too harsh. We are here on earth to learn.

Our loving Heavenly Father knows us, individually, and knows how we can best learn character changing lessons that will change us from a rough cut stone into a beautiful and precious gem stone. I believe He has given us unique and personalized weaknesses that we may learn and grow into the person He knows we can be. As we learn and become more like Christ, our rough exterior is buffeted away and we are polished until we uniquely reflect the Light of Christ within us.

There is a story that sometimes floats around congregations, or Wards, at church. One of our much beloved leaders in Salt Lake wanted to take the opportunity to thank God for his trials. While I’m not there yet, I am beginning to understand where he was coming from. I have recently come through a trial myself. It was supposed to be a good thing, not a trial. It finally came to an end the Monday before Christmas.

On Tuesday I finally broke down and cried about it. I knew I needed to, but I couldn’t until it was finally over. I realize not every trial has a set end date, but this one did, and it wasn’t until after it was over that I could start to heal. As that process started, and the tears came, I found myself expressing gratitude for the tears, and for the trial itself. I knew I had learned valuable lessons from the trial, ones I would never have learned quite so effectively if I had not gone through the trial I had.

So I am grateful for THIS trial, for the lessons I’ve identified, for the ones I will continue to identify, but I don’t know that I am grateful for all the trials I’ve been through – but I’m open to it. And that makes me happy. I feel through this most recent trial, a chunk of that rough exterior has been buffeted away, which means it can now be polished and I am becoming more like Christ. It may still be raw right now, but as I more fully turn to and lean on Christ, I will become more Christ-like and therefore more and more happy.

Don't you give up. Don't you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead...It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come. Jeffrey R. Holland

What strengthens your faith in Jesus Christ?

My faith in Jesus Christ is strengthened when I turn to Him in times of need, when I feel the Spirit testifying to me that something that just happened was “a God thing”, and when I hear, or read how someone’s testimony was strengthened, or how someone else had a tender experience where they acknowledged His hand in their lives.

While I try to acknowledge His hand in my life daily, and put myself in situations where I can feel the Spirit instead of the harshness of the World, I don’t always make the right decision. In those times, especially, I try to have the courage to go to my literally perfect older Brother and ask for His help to improve my life and make better decisions. I try to see where I went wrong and what I can do better next time.

It’s not always easy, but I try not to beat myself up about it. I try not to make myself suffer, because when I make myself suffer what I’m saying is Christ didn’t suffer for me. That somehow He forgot to atone for MY sins, and mistakes. Or that He tried to atone for me, but it didn’t stick, that what I’ve done is so bad that it is outside the scope of His atonement, so therefore I must atone for my own sins, transgressions and mistakes.

We are told in scripture that no one can atone for their own sins, only Someone perfect could do that. No matter how bad we think our sins and transgressions and mistakes are, we cannot sink lower than Christ’s atonement. He paid for EVERYONE’S sins, transgressions, mistakes, pain, everything.

The ONLY time it doesn’t “stick” is when we don’t accept that wonderful gift of the Atonement, and therefore choose to suffer for our own sin, transgression or misdeed. And knowing that, knowing I can ALWAYS turn to Him, no matter what I’ve done, no matter how guilty I feel, no matter what, strengthens my faith in Him, is why I not only believe IN Him, but believe Him. I’m still mortal, I still live in a fallen world, but when the only perfect Person who has ever lived shows me the way back home, I will believe Him, I will follow Him, and I will trust Him.

And that’s all Faith is, really – choosing to believe and trust and follow because of an inexplicable, powerful and good feeling when you do.

How has one of your spiritual gifts and talents benefited your life?

Another thing I always have a hard time talking about is identifying my spiritual gifts/talents. I have a testimony of them in general and I have identified a couple over my life. I believe the gifts we are given can change over time and as we need them.

There was a time about 10 years ago where I didn’t think I had any spiritual gifts or talents. I wanted to be able to identify what I had because I knew God had given me at least one, I just couldn’t identify it from that pretty small list in the Bible. So I asked God to help me identify what spiritual gifts there were. I prayed to be able to identify spiritual gifts even if I didn’t have them. After much prayer, and contemplation I began to see some of the different gifts God had blessed people with.

Then one day someone said something that sort of startled me. I can be pretty quiet a lot of the time, but this person who was extremely outgoing told several other ladies in front of me that I knew EVERYONE at church, their names, who their visiting teachers were, if they came to church regularly, and a little about them. It was flattering, but also a little embarrassing.

After church that day I got to thinking about what she said and realized I only knew those things because of my calling/what I was asked to do at church. That’s when I realized our gifts change and are added upon when we need them. Because of my church calling I was given the gift to remember names and certain details about all of the women in my Ward. I had that calling for a number of years. I was also working in a position that was similar, in many instances, to my church calling, and I was volunteering in another similar position needing a similar skill-set.

I no longer have that church calling, and am no longer volunteering there, and the work I do doesn’t rely as heavily on my memory. However, when I need to be hyper-focused on recalling something I still have access to that gift, even though I now often forget or don’t pay attention to names, or details about a person (because it’s not what I do anymore).

At another point in my life I was very ill and had to have my gall bladder removed. A friend let me stay at her house for almost a week until I had recovered enough strength to go home. During that time I apparently looked horrible. Another friend who was visiting me asked if I felt I needed to go back to the hospital, because I looked really bad.

I said I would be fine, that I had been given a blessing of healing. The friend I was staying with said I had great faith, and that if I believed I was going to be OK, then I would be. She even told the other friend that if I prayed about it, it would happen because of the faith I had. Now I’m not sure how she came up with that, and I don’t mean to sound boastful, but to an extent it is true. I have prayed to know what to pray for, how to word my prayers, and ask for favors and blessings from God and He has taught me.

I am sad to say there was a more recent time where I had to rely on my past relationship with the Lord to spiritually survive. If I had not had that sure and solid foundation upon which I could rely on, I would not have made it through that trial. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, everyone has at least one spiritual gift or spiritual talent.

For some it is readily apparent, for others it is not. If it isn’t for you, then pray about it. Ask God to help you see spiritual gifts and to identify yours. If you are sincere about it, and put in the work to see them, and rely on God’s timing to show them to you, you will find them – He has promised that, too. (seek and ye shall find)That's all Faith is, really - Choosing to Believe and Trust and Follow because of an Inexplicable, Powerful, and Good feeling when you do. Tonya Marley

How do you know when you’ve received answers to prayers?

Praying and answers to prayers usually come to me through journaling. When I am searching for answers to specific questions, I may approach the prayer part differently than when I am just trying to be open to whatever God wants me to know, but the answers usually come as I journal.

I’m not sure how to explain it, but when I write (my journal is a spiral notebook, nothing fancy) sometimes I approach it as though I’m writing my prayer instead of speaking it or thinking it. When I write in that way the answer usually comes as I’m trying to write out my prayer. We think faster than most of us can write, so I feel that can be a common way to get an answer.

I also can have very messy handwriting, but when I’m writing my answer to prayer, my thinking and writing are very focused and clear. My handwriting is neat and I feel at peace and not stressed or trying to get it on paper before I forget (which is often the case in other types of writing).

When I am writing but I can’t seem to put into words what I’m wanting help with, I will write anything. Sometimes it’s a grocery list or a to do list, or something I want to say to someone. Then before you know it, I am writing about what is laying on my heart. When I write like this, the answer usually comes in the writing of it. It may take three or four pages and my handwriting may go from messy-ish, to neat, back to messy. But I feel in my heart and in my mind and even in my hand that the answer is being written and the words will come as I write.

I think that’s the main idea. I don’t know beforehand what the answer is or will be, I just write. Whatever it is that God wants me to know seems to be funneled, or channeled through the pencil and onto the paper.

Tonya Marley

Tonya’s Conversion Story

My conversion story takes on different lengths depending on the details I include so we will see how the Spirit moves me in this case. I am a convert to the church. I was baptized on June 7, 1992. I met with the missionaries after my conversion. Strange, I know.

Here’s how it started. I graduated high school in 1990. I went to a local Jr. College for a year before my parents and I went on our traditional summer vacation to see family. Unlike most of our summer vacations, my aunt we were visiting decided we needed to go see the play TEXAS a couple of hours away from her house.

My aunt said the town near where the play was being held had a wonderful museum my Mom and I would just love, so we went a few hours early to see the museum. We parallel parked a few spaces from the front door of the museum. When we were getting out of the car, and I stepped onto the sidewalk I had this very strange feeling. It was like I was stepping into my future, onto the path that would lead me to the reason why I was here – here in that city, here at this time in history, here – on this planet.

It was strange. I had never felt something like that before. I almost felt I needed to take a moment to decide if this was the path I needed to take, but at the same time I really wanted to see the museum, and my family wasn’t waiting on me and was encouraging me to “come on”. I finally caught up with them, but still felt unusual. It seemed like every step I took was taking me further along an unknown, yet intriguing path. I began to realize I needed to be there.

There were some places within the museum where I felt these new feelings stronger than others. Near one of the back doors drew me in multiple times. I felt silly standing there by the bathrooms in a corridor that led no where, but I couldn’t be dissuaded – I needed to be on the other side of that door for some reason. All too soon it was time to leave and we had a good time at the play, but I kept thinking about the museum.

I finally asked my aunt what else she knew about the museum. She said it was on a college campus and gave me the name of the college. I started looking into the college and found I had just a few weeks to apply before classes started. I had never given a thought about what I would do after finishing Jr. College, but there I was applying to a college based on a feeling I had while visiting a museum. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be accepted.

In two weeks I received a thick packet in the mail stating I was accepted and needed to be there no earlier than August 23rd. After getting there and unpacking and getting into the swing of things that first semester, some of the girls in my dorm unit and one of the next door units were sitting around talking one evening. Sort of that get-to-know you kind of talk. We talked about everything.

Eventually the conversation turned to religion. Everyone said which religion they were raised in, if they went to church now that they were in college and away from home, and a little about what their church believed/taught. When it came my turn I told them I was Methodist and went to church every Sunday until I came to college but I didn’t know what made the Methodist church any different than any other Christian church. Some thought that was strange, others didn’t.

It REALLY REALLY bothered me that I didn’t know anything about what my church believed. It bothered me so much that I decided to go across the street to the library and see if they had anything in the reference section about what the Methodist church taught. I spent six hours there the first day. I left not knowing any more about the Methodist church than I had come in knowing. Oh, I found several books about the Methodist church, but none of them were concise enough.

I went back the next day and every day for a couple of weeks, each day spending hours and hours there, researching. I finally found this really thick reference book that said it contained a one page write up about every religion in the world. That fixed my problem about the information not being concise, however when I looked up Methodist I found a couple of the creeds I was used to reciting, but the rest was so hard to understand. While it was concise, the jargon used didn’t make sense. I left more confused than ever.

The next day I went back and just sat there for a while. What was I supposed to do? The religion I had grown up with didn’t seem to have the information I was searching for. I started looking up the other religions of my friends from the group discussion we had. There was a Catholic, an Episcopalian, a Church of Christ, a couple of Baptists, a Lutheran, a non-denominational, and some who believed in Christ, but didn’t affiliate with any church. I looked up all I could but their church write ups weren’t any clearer than my own.

Over the next couple weeks I kept researching, reading random pages, and realizing I needed to find a religion that believed what I believed. But what did I believe? I soon found out I could not belong to any church that didn’t center around Christ. I also realized I was missing someone from our group discussion, and that I was becoming more and more frustrated that I couldn’t just find a list of their beliefs. Why were they making this so hard?

Finally, about six weeks into my research I remembered who I was missing from our group, but I couldn’t quite remember her religion – but it started with an M and I felt like I could recognize it if I saw it. …There are a LOT of religions that start with an M. Growing more and more discouraged every day and every hour I decided this would be my last day, and I would leave at 4:00. Either I would find the religion I was searching for, or I would give up until after I finished college. Finals were coming up in a few weeks, I didn’t have time for this anymore.

I continued looking through the M’s, but my heart wasn’t in it. I turned the page and saw at the bottom of the page, at 3:55, Mormon. That was it!!!! That was the religion of the last person from the group! I was so excited – for about 1/2 a second. Right below it was a cross-reference, See Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. WHAT!!! You’re cross-referencing me???!!!! How can you possibly do this to me?. I looked at the clock again. It was time to go. My friends were expecting me.

Then I thought about the time I first entered the city, when I went to the museum. That feeling I had. How I felt I was being drawn here. All of a sudden I knew the reason I was being drawn to this town, this college. And why I had spent so much time in the library on a personal research project that the librarians were convinced I was a Master’s student working on my thesis!

It seemed like time stood still for a few minutes as I realized how everything was coming together in my life for this one purpose. I had to find out about this Mormon religion and if it meant cross-referencing, then so be it. My friends would wait. When I finally found the heading The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it too was at the bottom of the page. However just like all the others it gave the name of the person who founded it, the year it was founded, the place it began and the names of the books of scripture. Then I turned the page.

That was the single most pivotal page turn in my life. That page changed my life. I tear up thinking about it, even now, 23 years later. When I turned the page, I found my list. It was clear, concise, and I found myself checking the 13 items off. Yes, I believed in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

Yes, I believe that men are punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression. Yes, I believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. I didn’t know about this Book of Mormon but I was excited to find out about it. Yes, I believed Faith in Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism and the Holy Ghost were required principles of the gospel.

I immediately believed or didn’t have a problem with all of those basic beliefs they called the Articles of Faith. It was amazing! I had finally found what I was looking for. A church that believed what I believed, yet one that could still teach me things. I was so excited to read these additional books of scripture, yet I was afraid to ask my Mormon friend if I could go to church with her. It took me all week, but I finally asked. She said yes. 

I had a very special experience at church that day. It started when the speaker mentioned that the whole topic of his talk changed when someone walked in about ten minutes after the service and started. We walked in about 10 minutes late. And after he pretty much winged his whole 50 minute talk, during which he and I connected on a spiritual level neither of us had ever had before, my very special experience at church ended with me having a copy of the Book of Mormon, having learned a great deal from the words he spoke, and even more about how my Heavenly Father knew me, individually and loved me more than I could ever imagine.

That was the second Sunday of April, 1992. I read and studied the Book of Mormon for hours almost every night, alternating between it and studying for my finals. In May the college closed all the dorms and made everyone leave campus for the month. During that month I went home and without realizing it fasted the whole month, eating just one small meal a day, and studying the Book of Mormon for 12 – 14 hours a day.

I wasn’t “reading” it, I truly was studying it. In the time I had the book I had only read about 50 pages or so, but I was learning a great deal. I pondered, I asked questions, I prayed. I took notes, I pondered more, I asked more questions and prayed almost unceasingly. I felt I knew this book was true. I felt that any church who taught from this book was on the right track, and if its members also lived and tried to live by it’s teachings, then that was who I wanted to be around.

I wanted to be baptized. It was very clear to me what I needed to do. Then all of a sudden I felt like I should ask God in formal prayer if this was true. The answer came to me in a way it never had before, and never has since. The answer was, “You know it’s true. You’ve always known it’s true. So stop all this wondering. You’ve received your answer, now do what needs to be done.” It was startling.

While I had known God was answering my prayers, and giving me knowledge and information as I asked for it with a sincere heart, this was different. This was not some warm feeling, or a different perspective in my thinking. This was different, even more different than the very special experience I had the first time I attended a Mormon church service. It is still so personally sacred to me that I can’t bring myself to talk about it further.

So, I got up off my knees and started doing what I needed to do to go back to school so I could arrange to be baptized. I go there on a Sunday night. The next day I spoke to the Bishop telling him I wanted to join the church. While there’s a little more to that story, I’ll just say that was when he said I would have to meet with the missionaries. In my 19 year old mind I pictured this little old married couple that I wouldn’t be able to relate to. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

The Bishop set up the first meeting for the next day and by the end of the week I had taken all the discussions, had been interviewed and was baptized the following Sunday – June 7, 1992. For me, everything from that first step on the sidewalk of the museum on campus to the almost desperate search for a list of beliefs, to my first experience going to a Mormon church service, all lead to that beautiful and singularly life changing moment at 4:20pm on Sunday, June 7, 1992 when I was baptized.

But I was converted over a life time. I continue to become converted since I was baptized. I have a LOT left to learn about God, about myself, and about how to become like Him. One thing I realized very early on in my quest was that I didn’t need to learn everything in order to be accepted by God into His church, I just needed to believe and follow my heart’s desire. I knew I was not joining a church so much as I was joining my life to God’s.

Once my heart had changed and turned toward Him, He knew I would need help to learn more about Him and how to become like Him. The way He prescribed that to happen was by joining His church, and that meant baptism, and being around like minded individuals, and learning – lots of learning. So baptism wasn’t the end of my journey, it was just the end of the beginning. It was the end of one quest while at the same time the first step on a new quest.

What are ways you share the Gospel with your family and those around you?

I don’t think I do anything special in living the gospel around my family or friends. I’m just myself. I try to be a good example. I answer questions when I’m asked, but I don’t push my religion on anyone.

While I would love to have my parents and other family members want to learn more about a part of my life that is so integral to who I am and how I deal with the world, I will not push it on them. They all know I am Mormon, and I have made it clear I will answer any questions they may have, but it will be up to them to ask. I will not send the missionaries over unless they ask me to. I will not push them to join, but I also will not deny what I know to be true.

I have asked them to ask me any questions instead of relying upon the answers they may receive from someone who isn’t Mormon. I may not have the answer, but I can get it, then return and report. So far, a few have had questions and I’ve answered them. They in turn have shared that information with their friends and family. I feel like that’s a step in the right direction. Maybe one day someone will want to know more, and that will make my heart smile.

Men are that they might have Joy 2 Nephi 2:25

What is your hope/wish/prayer for all women?

My hope/wish/prayer for all women everywhere is that they will stand up for what they know to be true. I have a VERY strong opinion and feeling that things in this world will not get any better until we women stand against evil, teach our sons that women are important, valued, and have ideas that will make life better for everyone. And until women are brave enough to do this very hard and scary thing, peace will not come.

What is Your Greatest Accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment… I have no idea what my greatest accomplishment is. I feel like right now I’m at the beginning of learning some pretty pivotal lessons about myself and my future and why we (and I specifically) are here. I’ve learned different aspects of these things before, but if I am able to learn and apply this almost higher understanding of these concepts, I feel like that will be a pretty great accomplishment.

I think that’s the way it is with truly great accomplishments, we see them as great accomplishments as we work toward them and maybe for a little while after, but once they have been accomplished, we are on to the next big thing and don’t see what all we have accomplished along the way. We just keep climbing the mountain.


About Delisa Hargrove
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.

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