Home / Testimonies / Shirley Smith Ricks

Having been raised in a family in which both paternal and maternal lines have been in the Church for generations, I probably leaned on the strength of others’ testimonies for some of my growing-up years. I saw nothing but good in the Church and seriously yearned for everything I learned to be true.

My recollections of my baptismal day two weeks after I turned eight years old include a vivid memory not so much of the actual baptism at our stake center as of the fact that my friend’s mother, an Arab Muslim, recognized the significance of the day and gave me a dollar to celebrate.

I participated with my family in reading scriptures in the early mornings (although I can honestly say I wasn’t always wide awake or in a receptive mood). We had regular family prayers in the mornings and evenings and were very faithful in our Church attendance. My seven siblings and I attended Primary and later Mutual during the week. I recall that we were generally willing and happy to go, although I’m sure we occasionally complained about trying to get homework done or being busy with other activities.

When I was old enough, I attended seminary classes for four years in a released-time setting. I never had the “opportunity” to attend early-morning seminary, but I didn’t complain about that. I enjoyed my seminary classes and teachers. I looked up to those teachers as valuable sources of information about the gospel as I was seeking to strengthen my own testimony. I must admit that my comfortable faith received a bit of a jolt when one of my sister’s seminary teachers abandoned his wife and numerous children to enter into polygamous relationships with some of his former students. I was truly troubled that a person who taught the gospel on a daily basis could stray from its current teachings and practices and also lead others away from its firm foundation. I believe this is my first personal encounter with someone who made a conscious decision to apostatize from the teachings and lifestyle of the Church. From my limited perspective, I could not see that his choices brought him any particular joy and happiness.

My patriarchal blessing, received when I was 16, has been a source of comfort and strength to me through the years. I was promised that as I contemplated its meaning and tried to live up to the high concepts outlined therein, I would have reason to rejoice. As I was seeking guidance in selecting a vocation, I often read through that blessing. I sincerely thought that my talents and gifts were leading me in the direction of teaching home economics and bringing the “true pattern of life” to others. Now, after three degrees in home economics and family studies (which were all very beneficial as I raised our family of six children), I have been led to discover that perhaps what the Lord intended all along was for me to bring the “true pattern of life” in a gospel sense to others. As an editor at the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies and later the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, I am constantly able to read, edit, and prepare for publication many works of great worth to the children of men. I am able to rub shoulders with many faithful scholars and to aid in bringing their understanding of the gospel to others.

One opportunity that I have had for years has been my assignment to edit volumes in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. I have been closely involved in preparing volumes 9–19 in this series for publication. My personal associations with this brilliant but humble man have only served to strengthen my own testimony. I was constantly amazed at his insights and his ability to glean the big picture from the thousands of sources he read (and remembered). I have dealt with the issue of the accuracy of Nibley’s footnotes and have concluded that “nothing was made up or fabricated. Even if we were ultimately unable to find a quotation [which was quite a rare occurrence], we always knew it existed somewhere.”1

I was particularly attracted to Nibley’s writings in Approaching Zion, his articles on the temple, and little gems that seemed to resonate with my soul in Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri. It was such a pleasure to interact with someone whose own enthusiasm for the gospel was only bolstered by what he found in his research and studies. To him, his discoveries meant that a divine hand was directing the happenings in the universe. He and the Lord had a quiet understanding about where he could best serve, and he never sought for positions of power or influence. In fact, he was often astonished at the influence some of his writings had on others. Brother Nibley was sometimes asked how we could live the law of consecration in these days, and his reply was, “That is between you and the Lord.”

I have wrestled with the problem of evil, but I personally know that the Lord’s eternal plan for us is much better than I could design for myself. I do not know why my husband experienced a stroke 15 years ago, but I do not question that we have become stronger, better, and more compassionate through the resulting experiences. Not that we would line up for more adversity (in Neal A. Maxwell’s words), but we can learn eternal truths through working to overcome them. I do not know why people suffer poverty, ignorance, wars, natural calamities, etc., but I do know that our understanding of such things is limited. I do believe that the Lord expects us to bless the lives of others and not stand idly by.

I desire nothing more than to be found valiant and unflinching in my testimony and a source of strength to those whose faith is weaker than mine. I trust that my actions will set a pattern that others can follow. I declare to all that our Savior, Jesus Christ, has come into the world and performed a great atoning sacrifice that can alleviate our pain and suffering here and make possible eternal joys hereafter.

I cannot pinpoint an exact time when I knew I had a testimony. In fact, it seems that I have never doubted. Now I realize that many are plagued with doubts, and I can only be grateful that I have been blessed with a sweet testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel and its principles. Along with the Lamanites “who were converted unto the true faith; and . . . would not depart from it,” I wish to remain “firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord” (3 Nephi 6:14).

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Note:
1 See Shirley S. Ricks, “A Sure Foundation,” FARMS Review 20/2 (2008):253–91, at http://mi.byu.edu/publications/review/?reviewed_books&vol=20&num=2&id=728

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Shirley Smith Ricks spent her growing-up years in Provo, Utah, with her parents and seven siblings.

Dr. Ricks filled a mission in Southern Germany, after which she completed her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Brigham Young University in home economics and family studies.

Married to Stephen D. Ricks, she is proud of their six children and spouses and their eight grandchildren.

Her current position as editor at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University has provided her the opportunity of editing many volumes in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley and of serving as the first production editor for the FARMS Review and the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.

Posted December 2009