Look to the Heavens

“Look to the Heavens,” For the Strength of Youth, Oct. 2022.

Look to the Heavens

Looking for asteroids and exoplanets is only one way Laysa P. of Brazil sets her sights heavenward.

Brazil: Young Woman

Illustrations by Peter Bollinger; photographs by Barbara Leite

Gazing at the night sky often fills people with wonder—all those stars, all that vastness. Laysa P., 18, of Minas Gerais, Brazil, has been looking to the heavens all her life.

As a child, “I was curious about the universe and how things work,” she says. She loved astronomy, Star Wars, and Star Trek. She watched Cosmos with Carl Sagan and read books by Stephen Hawking.

That curiosity has led her on an exciting journey into the stars—though she’s never left the earth’s atmosphere.

Points in Space

Laysa belongs to a group of astronomy lovers in Brazil. One day a group member shared a link to an opportunity to analyze telescope images to look for asteroids for NASA. Laysa signed up.

“They send images from the Pan-STARRS telescope at the University of Hawaii,” she explains. “I used the astrometric software to analyze these images, and I was looking for some point movement with the characteristics of an asteroid.”

After scouring images and sending reports for analysis, one day she got a confirmation. She had found an asteroid. For now, it’s called LPS0003. But eventually she’ll have a chance to choose a permanent name for it.

Brazil: Young Woman

This experience has left her wanting more. “I want to find some exoplanets,” she says. “It is one of my biggest dreams.”

It has also fueled her desire to continue her scientific studies. She is currently at a federal university pursuing a bachelor’s degree in physics.

But astrophysics isn’t the only thing that helps Laysa turn her sights to heaven.

Creative Space

While Laysa proudly owns her status as a science geek, the one word she says describes her best is creative.

“Music is a big part of who I am,” she says. She’s been playing music since she was little—first piano and then violin, which she now plays in a state orchestra. And she loves the conductor’s monthly assignment to write a short piece of music.

Brazil: Young Woman Playing Piano
Brazil: Young Woman Playing Violin

Literature also fuels her creativity. “I like to read classic books from all over the world,” she says. “And I like to write stories and poems. I’m always writing something.”

This drive to create is part of her outlook on life. “I truly believe in the power of creativity and imagination,” she says. “I love to be creative in all areas of my life, even in physics.”

And this creativity helps her look to the heavens. “When I create things, I’m closer to my Savior and to my Creator. I remember my Heavenly Father and the knowledge He gave me, these opportunities to learn, and I’m very grateful.”

Looking to Heaven for Help and Guidance

For Laysa, the most important way she turns her sights to heaven is through regular prayer and scripture study.

For example, while she was preparing for the university entrance exam, “the first thing I did was to pray and read the scriptures beforehand,” she says. “I could see the Lord helping me to learn, to be more concentrated.”

She is inspired by Nephi’s example. When his brothers wouldn’t pray because they didn’t believe they would receive answers, Nephi reminded them of the Lord’s promise: “If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you” (1 Nephi 15:11).

“When I read this, I’m inspired to ask my Heavenly Father what I want to know, what I need to know for my life and for the moment,” says Laysa.

She says that prayer and scripture study “help me to be strong and to have an optimistic outlook for the future.” She knows God is there and will guide and help her.

Brazil: Young Woman

Helping Others Look to the Heavens

The more she is blessed by looking to the heavens, the more Laysa wants to help others do the same—beginning in her own home.

“I want to help my family, especially my younger brother, to follow Jesus Christ,” she says. Only Laysa, her brother, and their grandmother have been active in the Church. So setting a good example and helping her family “is one of my greatest goals in my entire life,” she says.

She also loves to share the gospel with her friends. One of her friends was even baptized after Laysa invited her to be taught by the missionaries. “I want to do this all my life,” she says, “to share the inspiration and knowledge we have with other people. They need to have this happiness, this comfort, these answers that we have.”

It’s no surprise, then, that she plans to serve a mission when she turns 19 so that she can share the gospel of Jesus Christ with even more people.

And she wants to work on her family history so that she can help gather Israel on the other side of the veil as well. She has been to the Campinas Brazil Temple and is excited for the temple that has been announced closer to home in Belo Horizonte.

Calm and Stars

Calm and Stars, by Yongsung Kim, Havenlight.com

Keep Looking to the Heavens

If Laysa could share one message with everyone, she says it would be this: “Don’t give up.”

“Do not give up on the things that you love, on the righteous things that you want,” she says. “As we keep on trying, as we keep believing and keep on studying, we can count on the help of the Lord.”

She has seen this in her family. When she was 10, she was asked to give a testimony of baptism in the Primary sacrament meeting presentation. The only thing is, she hadn’t been baptized yet. Her mother had not given her permission. So Laysa wasn’t sure what she would say in her testimony, but she went ahead. Then a miracle happened. “My mother was in church that day,” says Laysa. “I didn’t expect her to be there. That day, I got her permission to be baptized.”

“We’ve made a lot of progress in my family with the gospel,” she says. Her brother has been baptized. They even read the scriptures together with their mother, and she sometimes comes to church.

Because of experiences like these, Laysa knows that “God can perform miracles in our lives.”

“I believe that it’s that simple—do not give up, and trust in the Lord,” she says. “He will take us to a place that we could never imagine.”