Stephanie Nielson, a well-known blogger, came to BYU-Idaho to share the story of her personal experience during a plane crash in 2008 and her recovery process.
Seven and a half years after they were married, Nielson and her husband Christian boarded a plane that crashed soon after take off.
Lauren Claspell, a senior studying child development, said she liked how Nielson discussed her reliance on the Atonement of Christ in order to be healed.
“I loved how she connected that to her self-esteem as well,” Claspell said. “I think that’s something that college students kind of need to hear, that they can love themselves.”
Nielson said even though she knew she had a divine purpose given to her from God and that she was irreplaceable in the eyes of her family, she still found it difficult embracing her new body. She said she offered a prayer before she could face her reflection.
“Please, Heavenly Father, help me. Help me like what I see. Help me be brave,” Nielson said.
Nielson said she turned over the mirror. She stared at her chest and worked her way up to seeing portions of her face.
“My face scared me, and I knew if it scared me, it would scare anyone,” Nielson said.
Nielson said she found comfort when she saw God in her eyes as she looked at her reflection for the first time after the accident.
Jessica Draney, a junior studying elementary education, said she found Nielson’s experience looking into the mirror for the first time particularly powerful.
“I think one of my favorite parts was when she was talking about looking in the mirror, seeing a woman of faith and a woman that had strength and courage even though that was hard for her to see at first,” Draney said. “She was able to recognize Christ within herself.”
Nielson said her experience brought her closer to Christ and strengthened her relationship with her family.
“The motivation for me to keep going is my family,” Nielson said. “It’s also you. It’s also people. Somebody’s always going through something,” Nielson said. “And maybe along the way we can inspire people and help people.”
Nielson said it is this motivation that keeps her sharing her story. She said that it was her faith in God and Jesus Christ that she was able to uphold a balanced perspective throughout her recovery.
“We need to know the basics: that God lives, that Joseph Smith restored the Gospel—Simple things,” Nielson said. “Knowing those things, it’s certainly helped me understand the Atonement better. I learned slowly that in order for me to be healed I had to believe in the basics of the gospel.”
The Nielsons said that it was through these little things that they had created a spiritual reservoir that was able to carry them through the depression, physical therapy, and all the aspects of their healing.
“When we visit people, there’s one thing we can say with perfect assurance: that the Atonement of Christ has no bounds,” Christian Nielson said.
Nielson said that it was during this time that she learned of the limitlessness of Christ’s sacrifice.
“The Atonement isn’t just for sinners,” Nielson said. “It’s also for people who are sick who need help and who need strength. I knew that it would cure anything and everything but I didn’t apply it to my life until I was going through this hard time. I just asked Heavenly Father to heal me so I could be a mom again.”
Nielson said she knows for herself that Christ lives and that he has enabled her to have the life that she has today.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, offered the following words of encouragement as Nielson began her new life.
“We look for Christ’s scars because they are evidence of what He did for us. They will be the first thing he shows us when we see him again,” Holland said. “Your scars tell a story too. They might not make you feel attractive. They are the witness of a miracle that God wants you to live and that you have accomplished very difficult things.”