Blind but Not Lost
June 2020

“Blind but Not Lost,” Ensign, June 2020

Digital Only

Blind but Not Lost

The author lives in Utah, USA.

My disability has helped me turn to the Savior and in Him find lasting peace.

Corinna Tanner

Photograph of author courtesy of BYU College of Nursing

I awoke one morning when I was 14 and realized that I suddenly couldn’t see very well. At school I had such a hard time seeing the chalkboard that I waited until after class to walk up to the board to take notes as best I could. Reading my textbooks became nearly impossible.

Inwardly I hoped that my failing vision would simply resolve itself and all would be well again. But as time pressed on and no healing came, I had to accept the fact that my life would never be the same again. I was legally blind.

Later, when I became a single mother with three young children and no college degree or work experience outside the home, my disability seemed especially problematic. How could I provide for my family? How could I raise my children alone with this debilitating challenge? My faith was sorely tested.

The Savior and Our Suffering

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provided insight as to why any one of us might be placed in such a circumstance. He said: “We are living—and chose to live—in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive.”1

I came to understand that this struggle was for my good and that the Savior would help me navigate a new course. Renewed, I determined to move forward and, despite my fears, enrolled in nursing school.

The Blind Nurse

On the first day of class in the nursing program, while I sat using a strong magnifying glass to read course materials, a student seated nearby leaned over and asked, “With all due respect, what are you doing here?” Later, during a break, a college employee approached me and said, “I’m sorry, but you are just not going to make it in this program.”

Two weeks later, the program director called me into her office. Visibly angry, she asked, “Why didn’t you disclose your disability?”

“No one ever asked me,” I replied.

“Can you even perform the skills of nursing?” she retorted skeptically.

“I don’t know if I can,” I replied. “But I ask that I be allowed to try.”

When considering my disability, I thought many times that because I did things differently than others, and often more slowly, maybe I should not even make the attempt. But then the Spirit whispered, “At least you have to try.”

Partnering with the Savior

One day at a time, and with the help of the Lord, I eventually graduated from nursing school. Looking back on the experience, I identified four blessings that resulted from my partnering with the Savior to overcome painful barriers brought on by my physical blindness.

1. I received the gift of comfort.

As I studied about the Savior, I came to understand that Jesus Christ descended below all things and thus understands every struggle imaginable. I realized that I was never alone. Through prayer to my Heavenly Father and by drawing near to the Savior, I was blessed to have the whisperings of the Holy Ghost comfort and strengthen me.

At times that comfort was sorely needed. During challenging moments on hospital floors or during graded labs when I was being monitored and assessed, I could call on the Lord for divine assistance. In those moments I learned the truth of His promise: “For I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up”( Doctrine and Covenants 84:88).

Or when I felt discouraged and uncertain about my decision to pursue nursing, His words pushed me onward: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

2. I was blessed with friends who accepted and encouraged me.

As the Lord told Joseph Smith during some of the Prophet’s darkest hours, “Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:9). Similarly, I was grateful to experience the support and encouragement of good friends.

3. I was guided to support groups composed of individuals also suffering.

In my association with new friends who had similar disabilities, I learned valuable survival skills and felt enormous support. Concurrently I was directed to additional worthwhile resources, including vocational rehabilitation that helped me access much-needed blindness training, as well as low-vision aids such as a talking blood-pressure cuff.

4. I was blessed with the gift of perspective.

I have come to understand that in the great plan of happiness, my disability is already perfectly healed. Jesus Christ already paid the price, and the work is accomplished. All I have to do is continue on the journey I began at birth and, with the help of the Lord, endure patiently to the end.

Looking back, I find that the Lord’s words in Ether 12:27 now have special significance: “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

The Savior has indeed made weak things become strong to me. With His help, I successfully completed not only bachelor’s and master’s degrees but also eventually a PhD in nursing. I encountered a few painful limitations posed by my disability along the way, but with the Lord’s help my blindness became not a liability but an asset as I developed expertise as a nurse educator in helping the blind.

Today I maintain a practice at a local hospital and am a faculty member at a university, with specialties in rehabilitation and healthy aging.

Years ago, I had hoped to survive the devastating loss of my marriage and be able to support my children despite my blindness. But partnering with the Savior in my life’s journey has helped me to create a satisfying life and career because of my blindness.