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Family's faith featured in company magazine

Like many Mormons, Joan Nelson has tried to fill her life with goodness, family and faith, and recently some observers have taken notice in a big way.The upper management of the company she works for made a special trip from Ohio to meet her family, see where they live in Honeyville, Utah, and learn about their values. Nelson works for the direct-selling company Longaberger Baskets, which markets hand-crafted, woven, maple baskets. A saleswoman for 15 years, Nelson said she has just tried to be a good example to those around her."In my own way, I've kind of been the missionary for Longaberger," she said.__IMAGE1__Nelson and her family were featured in the spring edition of the company's quarterly magazine, which is sent out nationwide. The six-page spread features nearly a dozen photos of her family along with historical church sites, and explains much about church history, including details about the first vision, early persecution of the Saints, family home evening and self reliance. She said the individuals who came out to visit were clearly impressed with the focus the church has on the family."I think they came away with this feeling that family is so strong and so important," she said.Nelson and her husband, Bruce, raised six children together, and much of their family live locally.She said she is honored to help provide such good press for the church, and she doesn't think it came about by coincidence."I don't think this was an accident," she said. "I don't think that Heavenly Father lets opportunities like this just happen."The people who came out to visit were amazed by the pioneer heritage of the Mormon Church. They visited "This is the Place Heritage Park" where the first Saints who came through Emigration Canyon viewed the Salt Lake Valley for the first time."It was really moving to them," she said. "They really got their eyes opened … (They) just loved Temple Square."__IMAGE2__The visitors also took an interest in the church's heritage of self-reliance, and how that example carried over into the Nelson home. The family had a large family garden in the summers, from which Joan would feed the family year round."Raising those six kids," she said, "we canned everything. That garden was huge."At one time they had 100 tomato plants, which astounded one of the company heads who has his own garden in Ohio, she said."I figured as long as I could grow it and can it, that would be one less thing to spend money on," she said.It's not as though she woke up one day and people were at her door with questions about her church. The interest came about more slowly and deliberately as she was true to her values in her interactions with others while attending conferences twice a year. She didn't make a big to-do about being Mormon, but would take simple opportunities — such as when people would offer her coffee or champagne — to explain her beliefs.There were a few women she would room with at conventions who were good friends and very interested in Nelson's faith. From midnight until 2 a.m., they talked about the church, she said."It was kind of like we would have Sunday school night."Nelson said being able to joke about some of her seeming peculiarities went a long way to having faith-affirming conversations."I always had a sense of humor about it," she said. "They always loved that … If they know that you can laugh at yourself and laugh at what you do, but still stand strong in the principles, I think it's much easier to relate to them."After visiting Utah for the first time, the president of the company commissioned a beehive basket be made, as she was so impressed with the work ethic and perseverance she found in the state's heritage. Nelson said she has received wonderful feedback, and hopes the magazine feature gets people interested in learning more about the church company-wide."I hope that it gets people curious," she said. "That's when they start digging."