Solidifying faith in times of despair: The story of Kyler Russell

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The Russell family after the accident. Photo credit: Kyler Russell

Kyler Russell, a freshman studying exercise physiology, is like any other college student attending BYU-Idaho. He grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, and loves playing basketball, football and every sport in between, but Russell’s journey to BYU-I was not like every other student’s trek to college.

The night before Russell was supposed to drive to Rexburg, he drove down to St. George, Utah, to stay the night with his soon-to-be roommate.

Russell stated that both he and his friend were going to drive with their mothers to Idaho the next day so they could begin their college experience in the fall of 2021.

Russell’s mom, Deedra, decided to stay behind and get things ready before their trip to Idaho. Her plan was to meet Russell and his friend the next morning.

“She’s kind of like a perfectionist, so she stayed for a lot longer to clean the house and make sure everything was nice and ready for my dad to watch (my sisters) for a couple of days,” Russell said.

The next morning, Russell woke up to a phone call from his dad, Troy, who called to make sure Deedra arrived in St. George safely. Russell looked outside for her car and looked in the room she was supposed to be staying in but couldn’t find her.

“I checked Life360, and I saw that her location was still in the gorge, so my thoughts were either a car crash or she got tired and pulled over,” Russell said.

Russell started checking his phone every ten minutes and finally saw her car driving out of the gorge. Forty-five minutes later, Russell’s dad called again to inform him that his mom had been in a car accident, but the Arizona police department told them that she was okay and that it was not too serious.

Russell drove to the hospital to be with his mom once he received this information. After arriving at the hospital, a doctor pulled him into a room to prepare him for what might come next. The doctor told him that his mother might not survive.

”This was a shock to me because I was not expecting it at all,” Russell said. “They told me they were doing everything they could.”

Later, the Russell family would learn that Deedra was hit head-on by a drunk driver.

Russell’s family and friends started filling the hospital within the next few hours. Every time the doctor would update them on Deedra’s condition, it went from good to bad and back again.

Although this was a heartbreaking day for the Russell family, this tragic event did not stop the fact that it was move-in day for Russell.

As Russell was talking to his father about his first semester of college, his father offered him some advice.

“My dad just said that mom would want (us) to keep continuing what we are doing,” Russell said. “So after that, I decided me and my friend would drive up to Idaho.”

Unfortunately, this was not the first trial the Russell family experienced together. In 2015, Kyler’s brother, Austen, was killed in a tragic accident.

Between these two experiences, the Russell family could have turned away from the Lord, but they did the opposite. They let these experiences bring them closer to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

In a BYU devotional on Jan. 18, 2022, Elder Holland said, “As angry as Troy and Deedra might justifiably have been over this terrible experience, they have felt that they should not withhold forgiveness for him who gave offense.”

Russell has followed his parents’ example and has gained the same spiritual attributes they have. Because of this, forgiving the man who caused his mother’s accident was not a challenge for him.

When talking about the man who caused the accident, Russell said, “I never had any hard feelings or hatred towards him … People make mistakes, and sometimes it’s hard, but you should try to forgive people who wronged you.”

It has been a few months since Deedra’s accident, and despite the fact that she has been through many surgeries, she is in recovery.

In Elder Holland’s talk, he continued by saying, “When you stumble in the race of life, don’t crawl away from the very Physician who is unfailingly there to treat your injuries, lift you to your feet, and help you finish the course.”

Although the head-on collision that Deedra experienced was scary for the Russell family, they kept a strong eternal perspective in a moment that could have filled their souls with great despair.

Kyler Russell stated that these two experiences did not change what he believed, but rather, solidified his testimony and made him appreciate the gospel on a deeper level.

“We have the knowledge of eternal families being sealed in the temple forever, so I know that I’ll see my brother again someday, and I know if my mom had passed away that I’d be able to see her again,” Russell said.