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Buyanzaya Altansukh has a physical disability, but says ‘I cannot’ is not in her vocabulary

Zaya Altansukh, wearing a white shirt, black jacket, jeans and white shoes in front of the camera, sitting on her red scooter looking up.
Zaya Altansukh on her red scooter she was gifted with in 2019

Buyanzaya Altansukh’s father, Altansukh Jamsranjav, said his daughter has a nervous system disorder that makes it difficult to walk due to weakened joints. The disorder developed from a case of severe laryngitis she had when she was 2, resulting in a 10-day coma. She said she had great difficulty walking on her own but had a great desire to attend Institute. When she prayed, she said she “felt like someone was holding my arms to help me to go to the church.” She attended Institute every week for four years, which she said strengthened her spiritually and physically.

Altansukh, a senior from Mongolia majoring in human resources who goes by Zaya, said it is her faith in Jesus Christ that helps her overcome trials so valiantly. “As I ask for strength, He strengthens me through my difficulties. My challenges sharpen my intelligence and increase my faith. I’m still learning how to change my trials into opportunities. There is no word like ‘I cannot’ in my vocabulary.”

She said she joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January 2004 and dreamed of attending BYU–Hawaii. After two years of preparation and four denials in a row, she was accepted. “When I finally got accepted, I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked I didn’t even notice I was shedding tears of joy. I’m always proud of being a BYUH student.”

BYUH opened her eyes and allowed her to see the world differently, she said. It also gave her the opportunity to obtain a quality education and helped her see her potential, she added.

Jamsranjav said Altansukh went through so much pain and suffering, even when she was young, but said she is a very diligent person who never despairs when life gets hard. “She is a great example for her two siblings and for us. From her obedience and faithful example, we see how reliable and loving our Heavenly Father is.”

Overcoming limitations

Altansukh said attending BYUH was her dream since she was a little girl, so she continued to apply until she was accepted.

“I wanted to get an education at BYUH and to be self-reliant. However, there were times I doubted if I really could do it or not. But my family always supported me to pursue my goals and helped me keep going.”

She said she used to cry a lot because she was worried about the future. “I was not educated and thought I cannot be educated due to my limitations, so I won’t be able to work to support myself, but I was wrong.”

Bayarsaikhan Amarbayar, Altansukh’s sister-in-law, said Altansukh is very patient and is determined to reach her goals. “I never heard her complain about something. She has so much inner strength. No matter how hard the situation is, she always strives to overcome it.”

Altansukh said her full-time mission in the Ulaanbaatar Mongolia Mission, from 2008 to 2010, helped her gain confidence.

“My mission changed my attitude towards life and helped me to be a better communicator. I gained confidence that pushed me to do more things I thought I never could do,” she explained.

Dawn Uyehara, a former service missionary and Altansukh’s former hale mom, said, “Zaya has a wonderful positive attitude towards life. When we first arrived at BYUH, Zaya was walking to and from her job at PCC every day, even though it was very challenging for her to do so. But she didn’t complain. Anyone who knows Zaya has been blessed by her sweet and humble personality. She’s a blessing to our hale.”

A temple guardian

Altansukh served in the Laie Hawaii Temple as a guardian for over a year until the temple was closed due to COVID-19. In the temple, she said she learned how valuable each individual is in the sight of God.

Micheale Webb, a former senior missionary and Altansukh’s former hale mom, said she got to know Altansukh best when she drove her to her dentist appointments. “I found her to be gentle, meek, kind and compassionate. She spoke of her love for family and friends.

“Occasionally, I would see her driving to work on her electric scooter with a smile on her face. Then, one day, I saw her walking to and from work. It troubled me as walking is a challenge for Zaya.” Webb said the next time she saw Altansukh, she asked her why she didn’t have a scooter to help her get to work. She told her she had to sell her scooter to pay tuition. “I saw her determination, tenacity and perseverance. She knew her goals and was willing to sacrifice to meet them.”

Webb said she was amazed by Altansukh’s “steadfast and unfaltering” testimony. “I loved seeing her as she served in the temple. Her weakness is her strength, and she lives life with gratitude and uncomplaining. I love her and feel blessed to have known her. She is a bright light in the world.”

Surrounded by angels 

Altansukh said wherever she lives, she is always surrounded by God’s angels. She said her parents’ care and love for her is divine. “They taught me how to be emotionally strong besides my limitations, which was the primary source of all my success,” she added.

She said she was gifted an electric scooter in 2019, which continues to be a big help during her studies at BYUH. “One day, Sister Webb told me someone donated a brand-new electric scooter to me. It was such a blessing for me. It was actually the biggest gift I have ever received. I don’t know who the generous person is, but I am forever grateful for that person. It saves so much energy and time in my life,” Altansukh expressed.

She also said her BYUH professors are her mentors who help her overcome her discouragements. “Professor PJ Rogers taught me how to face my disability. Every time I attend his class, he shares stories about people who have various disabilities and how they overcame it. He supported me and strengthened me through his lectures.”