November 4, 2014

Disadvantaged Sonya Carson Helps Sons Reach Potential

I have been thinking about Ben Carson's mom Sonya lately.  Elder Tad Callister spoke about her in his General Conference talk on Saturday afternoon session a few weeks ago.  (To read it, click here.Talk ) 

From the talk, we learned that she made her boys read 2 books a week and 'book report' them to her.  Because of that seemingly harsh rule, Ben got a Yale education and became a doctor.  That is remarkable because she had only a 3rd grade education herself and was raising her kids alone in the ghettos. 

I had to learn more about Sonya.  I found out that she had been raised in foster homes her whole childhood and married at age 13 to a much older man.  He pulled her out of poverty and abuse, and gave her a better life.  He treated her like a china doll, lavishing her with gifts and kindness.  Sadly, after her two sons were born, his attention to her waned and Sonya left the marriage. 

That left Sonya alone to raise her boys.  Sonya prayed, "I don't have any friends.  I don't have anyone else to turn to.  God, you're going to have to be my friend, my best friend.  And you're going to have to tell me how to do things and give me wisdom, because I don't know what to do."  She moved her family to Boston and moved in with a sister and brother in law.  She relied on God to help her.  She remembered praying, "Lord, if you can take nothing and make a world out of it, You can take my situation and make it work-- for the boys sake.  I don't care so much about myself, but the boys need help. They deserve a chance."  Her mantra became "Do your best and let God do the rest." 

Sonya worked two jobs in order to take care of her boys.  She cleaned homes and noticed that the wealthy families had lots of books on their shelves.  While she worked, Ben and Curtis (Ben's brother) watched TV after school or played with friends outside.  But they weren't doing well in school.  Ben had gotten a zero on a test; not one answer was correct.  Sonya prayed for several days, then presented the rule about book reports.  She said, "The Lord's told me what to do.  You aren't living up to your potential.  So I'm going to see that you do."  They were to read two books a week, write a book report on each and turn them in to her.  Only 2 TV programs were allowed per week, and homework had to be done before they went outside to play.  That was it.  No argument could budge her.  None of their friends had such strict rules, but the boys obeyed.

Ben had been the dummy in his 5th grade class.  One day his teacher asked a question about something he had just read about for one of his 'mom book reports.'  No one in the class knew the answer.  He was surprised and raised his hand.  The kids snickered, thinking that Ben wouldn't know the answer!  After all, he was the dummy!  Well, Ben surprised them all, detailing the answer so much that he stunned the teacher too. 

Ben described this moment, "I was the one most astonished in the class.  That day-- for the first time-- I realized that Mother had been right.  Reading is the way out of ignorance, and the road to achievement.  I didn't have to be the class dummy anymore."  Ben set out to be the best student in class.  By the time he reached 7th grade, he was the top student in his class.  His love of learning grew, leading him to his extensive education and successful medical career.

Curtis also excelled in school, becoming a manager for Honeywell Corporation.  He works in the aircraft landing division.

Heavenly Father heard Sonya's pleas for help.  He gave her the answers to her problems, which blessed her family abundantly.  He will always help us as we do our part. 


Callister, Tad.  "Parents-- the Prime Gospel Teachers of their Children."  Ensign. November 2014.

Carson, Ben and Cecil Murphey.  Think Big-- Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence. Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Zondervan.  1982.

Komancheck, Wendy.  "Sonya Carson, Mother of Famous Neurosurgeon Ben Carson."

Photo courtesy of Wendy Comancheck.

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