As each one of us is born, we begin our own personal voyage as a ship on the sea of life, a voyage that bears the promise of returning us to live with our Father in Heaven. Our ships are steered by a helm or wheel. In the beginning, our parents and loved ones are at the helm of our ship, steering and directing. As we age and mature, our parents gradually let us take the helm as we learn to steer and direct our own lives. Eventually, each of us becomes solely responsible for directing our own ship. We cannot turn the helm over to another, for it is required that we steer our own vessel. Our decisions and actions in life determine which direction our personal ship will sail-towards eternal life with our Father in Heaven or in some other direction.
Several years ago, one of my students gave me a wallet-size copy of a painting by Warner Sallman, titled "Christ Our Pilot." It is displayed on the wall of my office as a regular reminder that I am at the helm of my personal ship. However, as depicted in the painting, I am not alone. Christ stands behind me as my pilot for my life's voyage, ready to point and direct as I learn to trust Him and allow Him into my life.
We know that our life's voyage will not always be smooth sailing. There will be winds and storms that will buffet us and toss us to and fro upon life's sea. But there is help.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, emphasis added)
...whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. (Proverbs 29:25, emphasis added)
If we are to safely navigate back to our Heavenly Father, we must learn to trust in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our personal life experiences give us opportunities to develop and nurture such faith and trust. We may not have to endure the trials that Job experienced, but each of us will experience trials. Job had learned to develop trust in the Lord. In spite of his afflictions, he declared,
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him....(Job 13:15, emphasis added)
Job further said,
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:8-10)
Job understood that as he steered his ship, the Savior was behind him acting as his pilot. He could not feel him or see him, but he had developed trust that the Lord was there to direct and help him through his trials.
As I look back on my own life, I can identify several events that have increased my trust in Jesus Christ. With such trust I gain confidence and can better steer my ship as I listen to and obey the Savior's counsel.
When I was one year old, I developed a lump on the back of my head about the size of an egg. My siblings say that it was caused by me rolling off the couch too many times and hitting my head. I was taken to the doctor to have it checked. Eventually, it was determined to be a malignant tumor. It was removed through surgery, and I had follow up radiation treatments. Because I was only one year old, I have no recollection of the surgery or the radiation treatments. However, as a young boy, I do remember my mother often reminding me to be careful while playing so that I would not bump my head. She would remind me that I had gone through surgery to remove the cancer and that because of priesthood blessings, the faith of my family, and the tender mercies of the Lord, I had survived.
When I was six years old, I remember going to see the cancer doctor prior to my starting school. After an examination, he declared that I was cancer free and that I could live a normal life and that my mother had nothing further to worry about. That was great news to me. During the ensuing years, I enjoyed an active life, playing in neighborhood football and little league baseball games. I participated in numerous sports in high school-football, basketball, baseball, and track, with football being my favorite, where I took many a blow to the head. Even today I stay active by playing in that high contact sport called church basketball.
From this cancer event, I concluded at an early age that I must have been blessed to have survived the cancer and that I could learn to do as my family had done, to trust in the goodness of the Savior.
In June, between my freshman and sophomore years of high school, my oldest brother took some of the younger brothers for a few days hiking and camping in the mountains of Central Idaho. This was a welcome respite from the daily chores of life on a dairy farm to which I had become accustomed. We had a great time.
One afternoon, about ten days after returning from our trip, as I was out in the barn performing a deep clean of the milking system, I began to feel quite sick. After finishing the chore, I went to the house and reported to my mother that I had a pounding headache. She told me to go lay down, which I gladly did.
That evening my headache and I attended mutual together. After mutual I went to softball practice for our young men's church team. At the time, our stake played fast pitch softball and while I was taking my turn at batting practice, I was struck in the head with a high and inside pitch. It knocked me to the ground and I was done for the night. I got home and immediately went to bed.
The next day, I felt even worse. My parents and I didn't know if I hurt because I was actually sick or because I had been hit in the head with the softball. On the second day I felt worse yet and could not keep any food down. My head was still pounding, I had a high fever, every muscle in my body seemed to ache, and I nearly passed out every time I tried to stand. A rash began to appear on parts of my body.
My father gave me a priesthood blessing and my mother took me to the doctor. After nearly passing out in the doctor's office, the doctor decided to admit me to the hospital so that I could receive an IV in order to avoid becoming dehydrated. Once there, all sorts of tests were administered, but the doctor couldn't figure out what was wrong with me.
After being in the hospital two days and the doctors yet to determine my ailment, I remember pleading with Heavenly Father to direct the doctors to know what to do. That night my mother was at home fast asleep when she was suddenly awakened. She sat straight up in bed as she distinctly heard the words, "Keith has Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever." She immediately jumped out of bed and consulted her medical books. All of the symptoms described were an exact match of what I had been experiencing and she read that it could be fatal. She immediately called the doctor and told him what my illness was. The doctor consulted his medical books, agreed with my mother, and I was treated for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Even though we had diligently checked for ticks, apparently one found me to be of its liking, burrowed in, and went undetected in our daily examinations. I slowly gained my strength back throughout the rest of the summer and was able to play football that fall. This experience helped me realize that I was developing a greater trust in Jesus Christ and that He personally cared about me. In looking back, I also realize that through my prayers and pleading with Heavenly Father, I was learning to take over the helm of my own ship from my parents.
A few years later, as I entered the Missionary Training Center to begin my mission to Japan, I quickly concluded that I was now fully at the helm of my ship. My parents could no longer help me steer it. Now I really needed to trust in the Lord in order for me to learn the language and to live in a new and strange culture. I learned that through faith and obedience, I could be a successful missionary and my trust in the Lord increased greatly during my two years of service.
Ten days after my fourth daughter, Carolyn, was born, as I was lifting her out of her bassinet that morning, I noticed that she seemed intensely warm and unresponsive. The doctor was called and he gave instructions to bring her in just as soon as possible. On the way to the doctor, I stopped at the college where I worked and located a fellow member of the church who helped me give her a priesthood blessing. When the doctor saw her 104 degree temperature, he arranged for her to be immediately admitted to the hospital.
After probing her little body for what seemed like hours to find a vein into which they could insert an IV, a couple of spinal taps where a long needle was inserted into the spine to draw fluid, and an endless array of tests, it was concluded that she had contracted spinal meningitis. Meningitis is a medical condition that is caused by inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It is potentially life threatening due to the inflammation's proximity to the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can also lead to serious long-term consequences such as deafness, epilepsy, brain damage, or loss of vision, especially if not treated quickly.
For four days, as she lay in the hospital in an unresponsive state, I prayed and prayed that my little girl would live so that I could raise her. On the night of that fourth day, I concluded that I had been praying selfishly. I realized that I had been counseling the Lord regarding my daughter rather than seeking His counsel. Instead of asking for what I wanted, I needed to trust the Lord and accept what He had in store.
In the Book of Mormon, Jacob teaches us,
Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works. (Jacob 4:10.)
My prayer that night took a different form. I thanked Heavenly Father for the opportunity to have this little baby girl in my life, even if it had been for only a short few days. I told Him that I understood that she had received her mortal body and that if His plan was to have her return to Him, then I would miss her but I would accept it. As I prayed, a deep feeling of peace came over me. I knew that regardless of what would happen to this little baby, it was God's will and I trusted in that.
The next day, she began to show a slight improvement. The antibiotics she was given appeared to be working. Each of the following days brought further improvements and on Halloween, after ten days in the hospital, my little girl was able to come home. She has grown up healthy and beautiful and has provided us with our most recent grandchild.
Now this experience not only increased my trust in the Lord, it also provided me with an opportunity to help my daughter learn to trust the Lord. She obviously would not be able to remember the event, buy like my mother did for me, I could remind her often during her growing up years of how her life was spared because of the mercies of the Lord, thus helping her to develop a trust in Him that could serve her well as she learned to take over the helm of her own ship.
When my second daughter, Janelle, was seven years old, we were building a new home. The kids would often play in the piles of dirt around the yard. One day as I was working on the house, she came to me and indicated she had lost her little CTR ring that the Primary gives out, the kind that you squeeze together to make them fit and that cause a greenish color on your finger when you wear them.
I helped her look around the yard for it, but we couldn't find it. The thought came to my mind that we could pray to find it, but I thought to myself that Heavenly Father probably wasn't too worried about that cheap little CTR ring. However, I decided that I would say a silent prayer and not involve my daughter. That way if we didn't find it, she wouldn't be disappointed in God. So I quickly said my little prayer, not expecting to ever find it. As I walked around the corner of the house where we had previously searched, suddenly there was the ring lying on the ground in plain sight.
I learned, "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man" (Psalms 118:98, emphais added).
Tears filled my eyes as I reached down to pick up the ring. Why had I not been more trusting of the Lord? I quickly picked it up and handed it to my daughter, explaining to her that I had said a little prayer and that it had been answered because we had been able to find the ring. Apparently the Lord did care about my little girl and her cheap CTR ring and my faith and trust in Him grew that day as I am sure my daughter's did.
Just over thirteen years ago, my wife at the time, through a series of choices that led her to question her testimony, ultimately decided to leave our marriage and our family and to move out of state. She said that I could have the house and our six children.
I found myself a divorced, single father trying to balance employment, my calling in the bishopric, fatherhood, and an attempt at being "mister mom." My four daughters were 15, 10, 9, and 7 years old at the time, and my two sons were 12 and 5. Boy did I ever need help. I prayed several times a day pleading with the Lord for guidance and direction.
A short time later, a good sister in my ward mailed a note to me which had a profound effect. It said that I should remember, "This is not life, but only an event in life. Pain and suffering are required; misery is optional." I realized that I could not change the situation, but I could control how I reacted. I concluded that I would have to exercise as much faith as I could and place my trust in the Lord to get through this ordeal, recognizing Christ as my rock and my foundation.
Helaman taught his sons the importance of having Christ as their foundation.
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:12)
Mosiahgives us further insight.
But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will...deliver you.... (Mosiah 7:33, emphasis added)
Alma taught this principle of trusting in the Lord to his son.
And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day. (Alma 36:3, emphasis added)
Is it any wonder that Joseph Smith was told that his trials would be good for him? For it was through his trials that he learned more fully to place his trust in the Lord.
Here are the Lord's words to him.
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7)
It is through trials that we learn to put our trust in the Lord. It requires that we humble ourselves and turn to Him as our rock and as our foundation.
But behold, he did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him. (Mosiah 29:20, emphasis added)
During my trial of being a single dad, I learned to do a lot of new things. I learned to cut my children's hair. I learned to use a curling iron on my girls' hair. I learned to take my daughters on those special shopping trips as they matured. My children survived my cooking and my girls' sometimes endured bangs that I often cut too short, but we learned to work together as a team. We placed our trust in the Lord and faithfully continued having daily family prayer and family scripture study, and weekly family home evenings. Through faith, obedience, and an increased trust in the Lord, my children and I were sustained through this difficult period.
A little over a year after the divorce, my parents were visiting and on the morning they were preparing to leave, I asked my dad for a father's blessing. I was promised that if I trusted in the Lord, I would find a new companion. With fear and trepidation, I jumped into the dating game. In a few months I met a wonderful woman. I could quickly tell that she loved the Lord. After a five-month courtship, we were married and together we began the process of blending our two families. I gained a beautiful new daughter and two more handsome sons. My wife and I have been blessed in this effort to blend our families. It has not always been easy, but as she and I work together in a three-way relationship with Jesus Christ and place our trust in Him, we are confident that we will succeed.
I have one more experience that I would like to share, one that happened here at BYU-Idaho.
At the dedication of the Hinckley Building at BYU-Idaho on October, 22, 2002, which I attended, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
The announcement that came in the year 2000 [that Ricks College would become BYU-Idaho] was bold and, I believe, prophetic." (emphasis added)
That day, President Hinckley talked to the community, to the faculty, and to the students. To the community he said:
To the people of Rexburg, I believe you will benefit from this change and I hope that all will unite to assist in this process, realizing that in the presence of this university in this city, you have an immense treasure and an institution worthy of your support in all it undertakes to do.
I believe the community has benefited in several ways since the transition from Ricks College to BYU-Idaho, one of which must include the beautiful Rexburg Temple that sits on the hill nearby.
To the faculty he said:
To this good faculty who are here, I would like to say a word to you. Help these young people. I know you do. But reach a little lower to lift them a little higher. Be kind and generous and helpful and patient and encouraging. Do all that you can to stand before them as examples, teaching them the things, the disciplines that you are called upon to teach. But while doing so, stand before them as examples of faith and faithfulness and rectitude and goodness, I humbly pray.
And finally, here are several quotes of things that he said to the students:
First I want to tell you that I love you. I love you kids, you wonderful young people of this Church....
Now don't ever do a cheap or a tawdry or a mean or an evil thing, my dear young friends. You don't have to engage in these things. The world is on a slippery slide, it is going downhill and it is going fast. And you are as a beacon on a hill....
You don't have to be a genius. You don't have to be a straight-A student. You just have to do your very best.... And somehow, if you do that, God will open the way before you and the sun will shine, and your lives will be fruitful and you will accomplish great good in the world in which you take a part.
There is no end in sight for the good you can do. Do you know it? You are just simple kids. You are not geniuses. I know that. But the work of the world isn't done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people who have learned to work in an extraordinary way....
I repeat. Don't sell yourselves short. You look in the mirror every morning when you boys get up to scrape off the fuzz, and the girls get up to put on the paint, you look in the mirror and say, "I can do the right thing today, God being my helper. And I will do it."
I see a great future for this institution.... It will be increasingly recognized as its graduates move out across the world and fill positions of responsibility.
A year before the Hinckley Building dedication, in a September 18, 2001 devotional address at BYU-Idaho titled "A Steady, Upward Course", which I was privileged to attend, President Henry B. Eyring, then a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, said,
Those graduates of BYU-Idaho will become-and this is a prophecy that I am prepared to make and make solemnly-those graduates of BYU-Idaho will become legendary for their capacity to build the people around them and to add value wherever they serve. (emphasis added)
... I'll make you a prophecy. I will simply tell you: The day will come that that capacity to influence people around you for good will have you singled out as one of the great leaders in whatever place you're in. They will not quite know why, but you will know that the reason you are being singled out is not because of your innate gifts as a leader but because you have done what the Savior would do-learned how to, and did, reach out to those around you to try to lift them, to help them to be better even when it might be a little bit difficult and you might not have been received very well. (emphasis added)
Near the end of his address, he said:
I hope I live long enough to someday meet some employer who employed one of you and says, ‘Where did that come from? I've never had such a person. Why people just flock around that person. And they want to follow. They don't have to be led; they're seeking to go where that person wants to go. And they come up with new ideas. I don't know where that comes from. They seem to find a better way, and the budget doesn't go up. I can't understand it. And I'll smile and say, "Well, you come with me to Rexburg. And I may not be able to show it to you, and I may not be able to prove it to you, but you'll feel it."There will be a spirit here, I so testify, because of the love of God for all of His faithful children. And those blessings will be poured out here in rich abundance.
As BYU-Idaho became a university, I must admit that I was quite skeptical about competing with other universities with much more prestige and recognized names, for employment and internship opportunities, especially in the accounting area. Many of our accounting students struggled to find good internships in the early semesters of our transition. Some even had to accept non-paid opportunities just to land an internship.
Then late in the fall semester of 2004, December to be exact, one of our international accounting students was looking around on the internet for internship opportunities for the winter semester of 2005, which was less than a month away, when he discovered that one of the Big 4 CPA firms in New York City was looking for help. He contacted them and they conducted a phone interview with him. They offered him an internship position over the phone and wanted to know if there were others from our school who might be interested. Subsequently, two other students were also phone interviewed and were offered internships for the winter semester. While none of these three would have been considered geniuses in our accounting program, they certainly became pioneers for our department.
In January of 2005, I became the Accounting Department Chair and shortly thereafter, I was asked to assist in accompanying students from the College of Business and Communication on an internship expedition to New York City. In March of that year, I went on my first internship expedition. As part of the trip, I made arrangements to visit our three interning students and their firm.
During the office visit I was able to talk with one of their managers. She said to me, "Where is this BYU-Idaho? I had never heard of it before your students came on board. And where did these kids come from? They are wonderful. They work hard. They are willing to accept any assignment given. They are always helping one another. They are constantly cheerful and have a smile on their faces. And they don't come to work on Monday mornings hung over."
My thoughts quickly turned to President Eyring's prophecy and while fighting back the tears, all I could quietly say to her was, "Come with me to Rexburg!"
A most peaceful feeling came over me and I knew at that time that our accounting students were going to be alright and that our program would be successful.
After the initial placement of those three students, we have experienced continued success in placing our students with this firm and with others throughout the country.
Our majors nearly always receive full-time job offers from their internships. They are also being accepted by excellent accounting graduate schools and in many cases are receiving wonderful financial packages to attend those schools. I humbly testify that the Lord has his hand in this university's affairs and I am so grateful to be a small part of it.
I am ashamed that my trust was lacking in the beginning. I should have known that because of the prophecies given about this university, the Lord would see fit to find a way for them to come to pass. I don't know why I was fortunate enough to have been directly involved in hearing the fulfillment of President Eyring's prophecy, but I am certainly grateful for the experience. Because of it, my trust in the Lord has been greatly magnified. Psalms 28:7 describes my feelings.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. (Psalms 28:7, emphasis added)
I am very thankful for all of my life experiences. Some have not been so pleasant, but all of them have provided me with opportunities to develop trust in the Lord. I have learned that when I trust in Him and am obedient, He will certainly be my pilot and He will help me steer my ship in the right direction.
My young friends, as you take over the helm of your ships on this voyage called the sea of life, you will have to endure life's storms by sailing through your own trials and tribulations. You will not likely know what your trials may be, but they will surely come. May you learn to trust the Lord and allow Him to be your pilot. He will not forsake you.
May we all learn to do as Nephi so simply, yet eloquently stated: O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever... (2 Nephi 4:34, emphasis added). In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.