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In the Book Episode 15: "Baptism, Her Baby, and the Book on the Shelf: Maureen Sederberg"

Episode Transcript

“Baptism, Her Baby, and the Book on the Shelf” with Maureen Sederberg

Maureen: He was in the fashion shoe business, had a showroom at the Plaza Hotel, and I was already planning to get into fashion.

We had a lot in common. We found we had actually very similar backgrounds with our traditional family dinners and so on. We talked about that actually on our first date.

He drove all the way out from New York City to pick me up on Long Island, all the way back into the Waldorf Astoria. And we just had a wonderful time and seven months later, we got married.

Rebecca: That was a huge decision ultimately

Maureen: It was!

Rebecca: because it was the beginning of this whole trajectory for your life

Maureen: I think that neither one of us was aware of how it would shape the lives of our children and so on, especially into the Church.

Rebecca: Maureen McGovern Hanson Sederberg is from Long Island, New York, has worked in the fashion and cosmetics industries and is currently the publisher and creator of Momomento's Gift Books. [00:01:00] She is a mother of five and lives in Utah with her husband, Tom.

When she and her late husband, Scott, were first newly married and working in the fashion industry together, she commented,

Maureen: We did very well, did not feel a need for God, had no more questions until we had our first baby five years later.

Rebecca: I'm Rebecca Devonas, and this is In The Book.

This is a podcast where we flood the earth with testimonies of the Book of Mormon.

Maureen met Scott at the airport in New York, where she was working. She would see him from time to time, and then on his way through the airport one day, Scott took the chance to ask her out.

Maureen: He said, “You know, I know you always say that you don't go out with strangers, but this is the seventh ticket I'm buying from you. And so [00:02:00] I hope you can consider me not a stranger anymore because I really need a date when I come back at, I need a date for this dinner at the Waldorf Astoria where my partner and I have tables for, Lord Taylor, Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and so on, and I'd love to have a date.

I said, yes, well, let's do it.

Rebecca: Scott had grown up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints but wasn't active and fully invested in his professional life.

Maureen: Did not go on a mission. I'm sure if he did, he wouldn't have been interested in a Catholic girl, but I loved his family right away. They were a lot like my family in many ways. They were affectionate. They, you know, enjoyed family dinners, my family was a little more into music and dance, where their family was a little more, sit around and chat, but a sense of fun for sure, and so I fit in even though I was so different.

Maureen: My Irish family, [00:03:00] which my dad is all Irish, they came over around the 1880s, and my mom's family is half German and half Irish, and they came over about the same time. I think the German family came over earlier, and their records are so respectable and lovely, and both my parents were raised Catholic. And went to Catholic schools all the way through high school, and it was competitive to get into high school, so it was important to them and my father was an altar boy, went to St. John's University Catholic College all the way through his master's and so it was precious to my family.

My grandmother, my father's mother, actually worked - after she raised her children - as a lay teacher in the Catholic Church in the schools.

And then, after my dad got into education, we started having conversations at the dinner table that provoked me to be curious. Up until eighth grade, I used to be increasingly asking questions.

But sister, I'm just wondering, “Like, where do we come from?” She was shocked and then she would just say, “Well, just say the Rosary and don't worry about the other.” And I would say, “But Sister, I'm just wondering, where do we go after we die?”

And again, so by the time I was in 8th grade, I probably had a reputation, not disrespectful, my parents would never allow that, but very inquisitive and didn't quite fit in with the just go along and recite, learn to memorize the Catechism. And, don't ponder. No pondering.

So, I was not fitting in very well. But, by the time 8th grade came, I was in the back of the classroom. She could just ignore me and I wouldn't disturb anybody.

Rebecca: Fast forward and Maureen and Scott were down in Dallas, Texas, close to her in-laws running their own fashion business.

Like she mentioned earlier on, they were doing well and did not feel a need for God. Questions weren't being asked as readily as when she was in 8th grade, [00:05:00] either.

And then five years passed, it was 1981, and they were expecting their first baby.

Maureen: And then we had a plan. I was going to have the baby in Dallas, and at the perfect time, she was going to arrive, and then we'd go to New York, where my little sister was getting married, when Samantha would be about a month and a half old, and we'd get her christened, when all my family was around, and that was the plan.

But then Samantha came three weeks late and by Cesarean and I couldn't even go to the wedding.

So it was this huge weight of responsibility and I literally remember pacing, Oh my gosh, what am I going to do? And thinking, I really don't want to. set her up in a church that I don't believe is the right one for me. And so I wasn't sure what to do.

Rebecca: So Maureen started attending other churches to guide her in her decision. She had been to at least three by the time she [00:06:00] pulled a familiar book off the shelf.

Maureen: I was really searching. and then all of a sudden I thought, Let me just see in the Book of Mormon that my in-laws gave me, which I never thought I would read. It was on the shelf. And I looked up in the index and came to Moroni 8.

Rebecca: Maureen said she will never forget how what she read was a thud to her heart.

Maureen:Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world Not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. The whole need no physician, but they that are sick. Wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin.”

And I remember thinking, of course they're not!

“Wherefore, the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them, and the law of circumcision is done away in me.

“Wherefore, my beloved son, I know that [00:07:00] it is solemn mockery before God that ye should baptize little children. Behold, I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach, repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin. Yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized.”

Parents! That they must repent and be baptized.

“And humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children. And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance, to the fulfilling the commandments, unto the remission of sins.

And it goes on.

But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world. If not so God is a partial God, and a respecter to persons. For how many little children have died without baptism?

I just can still remember how I [00:08:00] felt having immediate respect for this.

I savored these words over and over because it just rang so deeply true.

I had a burning desire, heavy responsibility. I felt the weight of how important it was that I make this decision that would impact my child's entire life.

And I also had the fear that was planted, that this is a very important decision and if you're going to act apart from the big warning that she won't go to heaven if I don't christen her, baptize her, that was a big deal. So that's what drove me to surprise myself and pick up the book.

Rebecca: In addition to Mormon's clarifying doctrinal discourse on baptism to his son Moroni, Maureen found that Lehi's teachings to his son Jacob addressed her wonder about the purpose of Adam, especially as she was thinking about infant baptism.

Maureen: I started feeling resentful that [00:09:00] my child was supposed to have Adam sin when she was born? I just could not believe that. There's a purpose that Adam had. It's more to bless our lives and lead our way through eternity rather than to leave his sin on our babies.

I thought it was a great, exciting challenge to think about being responsible and accountable to God directly for your choices.

And I kept getting that feeling that God had a lot of confidence in us or He, you know, He loved us so much. It's hard to put into words, honestly.

But this was the beginning for me, this particular part of the Book of Mormon. I just can remember how it pretty rapidly started, uh building an eagerness in my heart to get closer to it, to know it better, and so on.

And so this was, you know, a profound epiphany; a huge open door that I really had been looking for since I was a child. I actually was convinced there [00:10:00] was no better way. So finding this was very impactful.

And mind you, when I did find this, I was smoking cigarettes. Now, I didn't smoke during my pregnancy, but as soon as I finished nursing, I was right back on the cigarettes. You know, we drank wine many nights, certainly any time we went out with friends. My family was raised with Christmas and whatever. There was champagne and you know, light sprinklings of that. Coffee after dinner. So, the traditions that are pretty popular secularly.

Rebecca: The Word of Wisdom was some of the first scripture Maureen read after she read Moroni chapter 8.

Maureen: I was completely awed by the power and the principles put forth in the Word of Wisdom and felt they were one of the very best presentations of how to live.

So just everything I read in these books impressed me so much.

Rebecca: Instead of proceeding with the christening, Maureen learned about [00:11:00] what she thought was a much better alternative.

Maureen: Here's what became the perfect idea was to have the baby blessed. That meant no commitment from me. I wasn't ready for that and neither was Scott. But I said, oh, I love that idea of blessing. I feel like I have more respect for that because it's based on these things that I think are true and Scott's grandfather who I love so much, we asked him to bless Samantha. So we had a blessing. It was perfect. And, you know, non-committal and still spiritual. So that was how we handled that.

Rebecca: Then they had their second baby and occasionally they'd show up at church or at the ward Christmas party.

Maureen: I liked this lady who was a fun feisty lady, and she was the nursery leader. She said, you know, Samantha's going to be three, if she starts coming to nursery, she can be in a Mother's Day program. And I was like, I love those primary songs. My mother-in-law gave me a little cassette. We played them every [00:12:00] day. I absolutely loved them. We sang them every day. I kept thinking, I like everything about this!

So sure enough, she went, she was in the children's primary program. And, so the next week, I didn't even plan on it, but that morning, I'm like, I wonder what they're doing today.

So, I got the two children ready, and I didn't even tell Scott, because I didn't even think he was going to want to go. So, he's like, “Where are you going?” I said, “I just want to see what they're doing today over at the church.” So, I got them both over there, and the young women sang, “I Walk By Faith” by Janice Kapp Perry, and that was another one of those wow moments where I thought, and I can still hear the voice that said, this is what I want for my daughter. I want her to know the truth. I want her to be able to sing - what's the word - gracefully and powerfully.

I think that's when I decided I'm going to read the whole Book of Mormon. And I started in the beginning. And I remember coming up [00:13:00] to Lehi's dream, and it was right about then that I had this gentle, it was still powerful, not as first time in my life feelings as I did reading those prior scriptures, but it was still a flood of beautiful surety that this is God's love you're feeling. The feelings were new to me, but I remember thinking, it's God's love.

Rebecca: How would you describe God's love?

Maureen: It was gentle, but very powerful and very nurturing. I felt enlightened and very grateful, and very in sync with him. I kind of like I felt his spiritual arms around me, but it wasn't that definitive, I guess. It was just such a beautiful feeling. And I thought, [00:14:00] it's God's love. And right about then, I also thought, these scriptures, this Book of Mormon is a gift.

After I started reading the book again and felt God's love around Lehi's dream, I was shocked at myself, honestly, but I was like, oh my gosh, “I think I want to get baptized.”

And I said, actually, Scott, “I'd like you to baptize me.” And it was all a surprise to him and his family was so elated.

We were living in Dallas at the time, but came up here for a family wedding and he baptized me in the tabernacle. It was wonderful.

Rebecca: As she continued to turn to the Book of Mormon, Maureen drew parallels to her own life and subsequent strength, especially from the account of the Jaredites sailing to the Promised Land in primitive vessels over 4, 000 years ago.

In Ether chapter 6, the record says, “And it came to pass, that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters, and thus they were driven forth before the [00:15:00] wind. And they did sing praises unto the Lord. Ye the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long. And when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord. And thus they were driven forth, and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them, and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.”

Maureen: And here's my favorite. “And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land, they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.”

I feel sometimes like in my life, I have had some journeys that were [00:16:00] tumultuous. And I realized those toughest monster ways that they talk about were the very thing that brought them to a better place, to where they wanted to go.

And instead of complaining the whole time, like Laman and Lemuel, they were praising God all the day long. And then they got there and remembered to thank God. They shed tears of joy because of the tender mercies. And I have experienced in that very similar thing multiple times in my life when I trusted God, I stayed with him, I felt his love through the tumult.

Rebecca: Is there a tumultuous time that led you to your promised land that you want to talk about?

Maureen: When my first husband died at 55 years old I had five children, the youngest was eight, and I was single 14 years. The situation surrounding his death was very [00:17:00] upsetting. And,so I guess you could say there was an aftermath of grieving that went on just beyond the death as well.

But I can say this, that during those 14 years where I was single, what I focused on was reading my scriptures every day, in particular the Book of Mormon, because I knew that just like these people going through the wilderness, whether it was in the other continent or this continent or wherever they were, the story is the same. They ask for God's help when they were in desperate need and he was there for them and how they stayed to him and at one with him before and after. The people that did that were the most triumphant.

And I can say that I feel reading the Book of Mormon during that time, put light on my path, gave me a deep sense of peace, built my faith, because [00:18:00] of all these other stories I see where he blessed them all that asked.

Those were tough years but it gave me immense serenity, and inner strength and inner calm and very much of a surety that everything was going to be okay; that I was going to get to a better place.

Then in 2015, my now husband, who's so wonderful, reached out to me and we started dating and then we married a year and a half later and we're going to have our seven year anniversary next week.

Rebecca: awesome!

Maureen: I love in the Book of Mormon it gets you to ask questions. It encourages you to have a very personal relationship with Christ himself. So many beautiful invitations to come unto Christ, personally.

We are [00:19:00] created, I think, to feel really beautiful and the best way that I have found is through being close to Christ. And the Book of Mormon is, I think, the best tool that I've found to bring me feeling closest to Christ and feeling the beautiful love.

Rebecca: In preparation for this episode, I listened to Janice Kapp Perry's song, “I Walk by Faith” many times over so I could try to feel what Maureen might have felt the day that she went to church with her children and heard the young woman sing it.

So I decided to look up the words of the song and noticed how they echoed this episode so well.

Maureen's thirst for knowledge as a young girl, the doctrinal clarity she found in the Book of Mormon, and how she walked by faith when that's all she could do.

The words are,

The spirit whispers of my mission, my individual worth.

So I seek for precious knowledge, for [00:20:00] learning, and for growth.

I understand the meaning of accountability.

Every choice for good or ill is my responsibility.

The final words to the song are,

I walk by faith

A daughter of heavenly parents

Divine am I in nature by inheritance

And someday when God has proven me,

I'll see him face to face

But just for here and now

I walk by faith.

If you like this episode and this podcast, send it to a friend and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. And of course, if you have your own testimony of the Book of Mormon, please send it to

I'm Rebecca Devonas, and you've been listening to In The Book. [00:21:00]