Student Services and Activities Executive Secretary, BYU-Idaho
My brothers and sisters, I am honored to be here with you today. I have a great love for BYU-Idaho. I love and appreciate all of you students, primarily because you keep me young at heart. I know that I will not teach you anything new today. My hope is that I will help you think a little more about what you should do and accomplish while here at BYU-Idaho. I pray the Lord’s spirit to be with me that I might be able to share my thoughts and my testimony with you, that my heart may speak to your heart and that you will feel of His spirit here today.
After both my parents passed away, my five sisters and I had the task of cleaning out their home to prepare it for sale. Among the items we had to sort through were lots and lots of books. My mother and father loved to read. My mom read some books over and over. We found old books that I remember reading when I was a child, as well as new books which looked like they had hardly been opened. We all took back the books that we had given them and then divided the rest. I stored mine in a box for several months before I had a chance to go through them.
One day, while sorting through the books, one of them caught my eye. It looked brand new on the outside, like it had never been opened. I put it on my bookshelf and moved on, thinking I should read it someday when I have more time. Many times I would walk by this book and think, I should read this. Just a short time ago, I stopped and picked up the book and began to read. I found that my mom had indeed read the book, marked her favorite parts and had highlighted sentences. It was as though I could see what my mom thought was important in this book. The name of this book is “Everyday Miracles, True Stories About God’s Hand in Our Lives.” It is a compilation of stories by people who have experienced the Lord’s hand in their lives.
In a talk given by Elder Zwick, he explained that hands are one of the most symbolically expressive parts of the body. In Hebrew, “yad,” the most common word for ‘hand’, is also used metaphorically to mean power, strength, and might. 1
While we were living in Great Falls, Montana, students from the deaf and blind school attended our ward. Anna was a young lady from the school who was in our young women’s program. She was full of energy and life. Everyone loved her. I have a vivid picture of Anna in my mind as every Sunday she stood and repeated the Young Women‘s theme in sign language. When she came to the part ‘receive the ordinances of the temple and enjoy the blessings of exaltation’, Anna would sign with great enthusiasm. Her hands were expressive, convincing, and powerful as she bore testimony of her love of the gospel and the temple. I shall never forget the message she conveyed with her hands.
Let’s first consider the stages of our hands. To do this, I would like to use my family as the examples. The first stage is that of a child. These hands are just beginning life’s journey. My grandchildren’s hands are tiny and so perfect. Who can resist placing your finger within the grip of a tiny child?
As a child takes the hand of an adult, they trust that they will be led, directed and protected throughout their whole life.
There are the hands of a woman. These hands serve, direct, nurture and guide others to live better. My daughters’ hands are still in the process of guiding and teaching their children. My mother’s hands were stiff with arthritis, but they worked steadily for 88 years in crocheting, doing family history research, humanitarian projects, and serving her family.
The hands of a father are strong and will work their whole life to provide and care for their family. A child trusts that his father’s hand will lead him down the right path and teach him the things he needs to know. My father’s hands were rough and worn from farming and landscaping much of the BYU-Idaho campus and caring for others around him. He loved to help the widows in his ward by trimming their trees and he found joy in caring for his garden and yard. My husband’s hands are a bit worn from giving much service at home, in church callings, at the temple, and in providing for our family. He has packed and moved boxes and furniture for each of our 23 moves, so they deserve to be a bit tired and worn.
As I look at mine, I realize that they are aging and more worn than in years past. They have loved working at BYU-Idaho, serving in Church callings and at the temple, nurturing children and grandchildren, and hope there are a few more years of service left in them. Now take a good look at your hands. They are in the process of preparing for the future. They will open many books and prepare many papers over the next few years and hopefully serve wherever and whenever they are needed. Each of our hands is at a different stage of life. Some have accomplished much while others are just beginning. All of these stages of hands shape lives and touch hearts.
Just as I have thought about my loved ones’ hands, I have also thought about my Savior’s hands and what they must have been like. Mormon states: “Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power?” (Mormon 5:23). What a great scripture! Picture in your mind the authority and power of God’s hands.
We know that in His younger years Christ learned the trade of a carpenter so I visualize His hands as strong and sturdy. We know that they were never idle and that He always used them in serving others. The powerful hand of the Lord created the very world we live in. With His hands he drove the moneychangers from the temple, guided Moses in the wilderness, gave sight to the blind and healed the lepers. I also envision them as loving and tender as he blessed the sick and the little children. I thought of all the times His hands healed the wounds of those who suffered spiritually and physically.
As Peter began to sink into the sea because of his unbelief, Jesus rescued him “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him” (Matthew 14:31).
He promised us in D&C 84:88,“I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
Can you see how the Lord’s hands are capable of all things? They can heal us, comfort us, express love to us, save us, and guide us by helping to bear us up. How do you picture the Savior’s hands? If we can learn to recognize His love, influence, and generosity in our lives we will be greatly blessed and guided throughout our life.
As an illustration, I would like to share with you a personal experience where I was taught to recognize and give thanks for the Lord’s hand in my life.
My husband and I were married in 1970. He graduated from BYU and ROTC and was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force in 1972. Thus began our career with our first assignment to pilot training in Lubbock, Texas. We moved into what we considered a rather nice duplex home at Reese Air Force Base. Craig absolutely loved flying. He didn’t mind getting up at 3:00 am to study and then reporting to the flight-line for a 12 hour work day. We had a great career and future in the Air Force, wonderful friends and neighbors, a great ward, and a beautiful daughter, Jennifer. Craig served as the Elder’s Quorum president and I served in our Relief Society presidency. Life was just so good!
In December, 1972, we took time off from pilot training to go home to Idaho and Utah for Christmas. It was on our way back to Lubbock in early January that I noticed Craig was having some problems. It seemed like every time he picked something up with his right hand, it would simply slip right through his fingers. Once, while stopping at a Dairy Queen in Utah, we were on our way out to the car and he dropped the sack of food three times. While attending church in Moab, Utah, he couldn’t pick up the sacrament and in Elder’s Quorum he struggled with signing his name on the roll. When we got home to Lubbock, I insisted that he go into the doctor to make sure everything was okay. The next week, while at his appointment, Craig called to tell me the doctor wanted him to go to the Air Force neurological center in San Antonio for some tests. The doctor asked if I would want to join him but Craig said probably not because we had a 6 month old daughter and that would be hard for both of us to go. He was then put on the afternoon flight from Lubbock to San Antonio. The next morning, he called and said to me, “I think you better come down and be with me.” You see, while Craig was in the doctor’s office, he looked at his own medical file lying on the doctor’s desk and it said, in bold red letters “possible brain tumor.” Apparently, no one had felt it was necessary to tell him that the doctor was actually looking for a brain tumor.
He asked me to call our families and let them know. The next day, Craig’s brother and his wife left SLC, picked up Craig’s dad in Moab, Utah and drove straight through to Lubbock. They stopped in Lubbock at our home, had a short nap and we were off to San Antonio. Just prior to their arrival, my home teacher and his wife were on my doorstep wanting to help. I learned that news travels fast throughout a military squad room. They offered to take Jennifer to stay with them for whatever time I needed to be gone. I hated to leave our daughter but I knew I needed to be with my husband. So we packed her bag and she was off to their home. Steve and Donna Jensen became the Lord’s hands, serving my family. At this time, Craig and I had been married only 2 1/2 years.
When we arrived in San Antonio, Craig told us that they were going to do a test called a numoinsephlagram the next morning and if they found what they thought they would find, they would immediately do surgery for a brain tumor. This was before the age of MRI’s or CAT scans. That night, my father-in-law gave Craig a blessing of health and healing and told him that brain surgery would not be needed. He blessed us with faith to deal with whatever lay ahead of us. He blessed us that the doctors would be guided and that we would trust in their skill.
The next morning, after the procedure, the doctor came out and told us that as they watched the air go through the brain, they were unable to find any tumor. So, for now, there would be no surgery. My father-in-law, brother, and sister in-law left the next day and went back to Utah. I waited to fly home to Lubbock with Craig a week later. At first, his check-ups were scheduled every three months. Then they went to every six months, then to yearly and finally every 5 years. After the first year, they diagnosed his problem as a cranial disease of undetermined ideology. In other words, they had no idea what had happened. Throughout the years, the tests have always shown scar tissue which means that something happened but they just weren’t sure what.
The doctor recommended that we stay in the Air Force for the time being because if we got out, he would be un-insurable. We were also advised not to have any more children because I could be left a widow raising children alone.
After a period of time, Craig was told he couldn’t fly again. After much fasting and prayer, we followed the counsel about staying in the Air Force but the spirit told us otherwise about having children.
By virtue of not flying again, we realized that this was a life changing experience. This was a hard time for us because all Craig had ever wanted to do was fly. He would never again have the thrill of pulling G’s and soaring among the clouds. This change would affect all aspects of our military career. We would not be stationed at the same bases, meet the same people or do the same things. We would truly be on a different path.
At the young age of 22, I recognized that living righteously does not guarantee bad things would never happen to me. The Lord tells us, “lean not on thine own understanding”. Well, for me, I couldn’t lean on my own understanding because I had very little. I had to lean on the Lord’s hand to help me bear my burden, guide and direct me, love me, and comfort me. Many hours were spent in fasting and prayer to be able to understand and learn what the Lord would have us do. We ultimately agreed together, that we would go and we would do whatever the Lord wanted us to. We knew from this experience and from our prayers that the Lord had a plan for us. We were committed to be faithful in all things and let the Lord’s hand direct our life.
Through our experience, I also learned that I had to become more aware of happenings around me. I knew the Lord had reached into my life and because of His goodness I now had to reach out to those around me and touch their lives. My experience is truly a story about God’s hand in our lives. I cannot begin to tell you of all the small miracles that happened to us each and every day. I felt the Lord’s hand over and over blessing both of us and our family.
In every ward, in every stake, in every family and situation around us, there are those who have felt the Lord’s hand in their lives. Their experiences may not be as serious as mine, some have been even more difficult and some are very simple but all of them are very real. Each of us must know that through any kind of trial, the strength of the Lord is waiting for us if we put our hand in His. Since starting to prepare this talk, I began keeping a small notebook journal. Every time I heard a story or felt an impression that related to the Lord’s hand in lives around me, I would write it down. I wish I could share all those wonderful stories with you as examples of how the Lord reaches down every second of every day and touches our lives with little, small everyday miracles. Once we have felt the Lord’s hand in our life, we have a responsibility to do His work here upon the earth and serve others.
Elder Uchtdorf said:
“Christ knows how to minister to others perfectly. When the Savior stretches out His hands, those He touches are uplifted and become greater, stronger, and better people as a result. If we are His hands, should we not do the same?” 2
“And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the Hands of God to bring about this great work.” (Alma 26:3)
How do we learn to extend our hand and become His hands? Elder Zwick stated that clear instruction came from the Lord to Joseph Smith: “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. . . .Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you” (D&C 19:23, 38). The Lord will provide sustenance and support if we are willing to open the door and receive His hand of divine assistance.”
There must be a trust that if we put our hand in His, He will sustain us, lift us and help us to know how to reach out to others. Each of us can be that earthly angel who helps miracles happen. Thirty eight years ago, the Jensen’s stretched forth their hands and became earthly angels by taking my child into their home. They had an 18-month old and a 3 year old. Taking in a six-month old was not an easy thing. But, they wanted to serve. Let me share a few other simple examples.
In 2008, my mother passed away. For the last several months of her life, there were times when she had to have someone all day and all night with her. There were four of us siblings who lived close by and tried to take turns with shifts. Because my one sister and I were still working, we did the night shifts. However, with work and life’s responsibilities, there were times when the night shift was very difficult. There was an earthly angel who stepped up and said, let me help. Mary Wheeler, a neighbor and friend, was one of those people who never said, call me if I can help. She was one of those people who said, “here I am, put me to work.” So there were many nights when we had conflicts or were worn out, that Mary would sit with my mom all night and help out. It may seem like such a simple thing to some, but to us, she was truly an instrument in the Lord’s hand and an answer to our prayer. Her willingness to serve was a great example to me.
Upon graduation from BYU-Idaho, my son Brady and his wife Erika decided to go to China and teach English for six months until they could begin their masters programs in Colorado. Upon arrival in China, they were met by their Chinese sponsor who took them out to dinner, then to their apartment where they were left on their own. School wouldn't be starting for another two weeks so they had a lot of free time. Their sponsor said if they needed anything, she would be happy to show them. However, they didn't want to be a nuisance nor did they know what they needed, so they remained at home.
The first several days were very lonely because they couldn’t speak the language which hindered them getting around to do some sightseeing. They had a difficult time buying groceries because they couldn’t read the labels, and the food they did have, they didn’t know how to cook. The help they received from the Chinese teachers seemed like just enough to get by. Needless to say, they were feeling pretty alone and isolated. They began to wonder what in the world they were doing there. They also began praying that the Lord would help them and bless them to know what to do.
One day, a knock came on their door. It was a woman from Australian and her two daughters who had previously taught at the Chinese school. The family had heard that Brady and Erika had just moved in and felt impressed that they should come by to introduce themselves and give them an introduction to living in China from a foreigner's perspective. The daughters were so happy and willing to teach them how to get around and what to do. It was somewhat of an instant friendship. Was it a chance meeting or a coincidence? They didn’t think so and neither do I. You see, Brady served his mission in Australia and so there was somewhat of an immediate link with them. This family helped them to be able to get out and use the transportation system, find their way around, shop (even finding a Wal-Mart), and find food to eat and actually figure out how to cook it. They were soon ready to begin the school semester. The most interesting part of it all was that the Australian family was preparing to move to a different area and only remained in town a couple more days. They didn’t need to come over and introduce themselves but something led them to do so. It was just a short time after this that another couple arrived from Canada. Brady and Erika were able to pass on their knowledge and befriend this couple. If you ask them, they will tell you that they truly felt the Lord’s hand reach down into their lives and bless them as a direct answer to their prayers. In return, they knew they were to be His hands in helping someone else.
So, how do we become the most effective instrument to do the Lord’s work? We are taught “I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived” (D&C 52:14). The scriptures teach us the pattern which will help us navigate along life’s path. One of my favorite sections of scripture to study is King Benjamin. His life teaches us how to be prepared to become an instrument and do His work by serving and loving others. I would like to show you the pattern I see in King Benjamin’s teachings.
King Benjamin taught his sons “I would that ye should remember to search them (meaning the records of scriptures) diligently, that ye may profit thereby” (Mosiah 1:7). Our testimony and conversion comes through diligent study and prayer. When we are converted, we can be a light to others. Understanding the gospel will help us be obedient – thus we become truly converted.
“But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind…I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you.” (Mosiah 2:11-12)
King Benjamin never thought of himself as better than his people and recognized that he had his own weaknesses. If we keep ourselves humble, we can be assured that pride will not enter into our lives. Our humility helps us to reach out to others just as King Benjamin reached out to his people.
“And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne.” (Mosiah 2:14)
King Benjamin loved his people and chose to serve them. Service is truly the gospel in action. It blesses both the giver and the receiver. It is a gospel element that helps us be in tune and hear promptings of the things that need to be done in this world. It is what helps us reach out and love our neighbor as ourself. Our service shows gratitude and love for Heavenly Father. “Ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:15).
“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)
Gaining wisdom is a lifelong journey. When we serve our fellowman, we serve our God. As we serve, we gain the wisdom that will guide us and help us return to our Father in Heaven.
Love the Lord and Acknowledge His Hand in All Things
“That ye are eternally indebted to your Heavenly Father, to render him all that you have and are” (Mosiah 2:34). Gratitude is what keeps us grounded. As we acknowledge the Lord’s guidance and hand in our life, we learn who we are and what we should do. Life’s experiences teach us how grateful we should be to the Lord for all that we are. For me, I learned early in life to acknowledge His hand and know that I would be forever indebted to Him. He helped guide me, and taught me to seek Him and to come unto Him. His guidance will also help us understand and know that each of us is a child of God.
Be an Example and Faithful to the End
“For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never ending happiness.” (Mosiah 2:41)
Our example may be the catalyst that helps someone else to be taught the gospel. Being faithful to the end is what our purpose and goal should be.
Mighty Change of Heart
Living our lives as King Benjamin taught will bring about a mighty change of heart.
“Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us;. . .which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5:2)
A change of heart helps us have no desire to do evil but to strive to do good in all things and serve our fellowman. Our heart is the center of our whole being. It gives life to our temporal body. But a mighty change of heart, as King Benjamin taught, gives life to our spiritual body. It helps us hold on to the iron rod and move forward.
If you study King Benjamin’s teachings and life, you will see that he gave us a pattern to teach us how to better serve and be the Lord’s hands here upon this earth. The very best thing about King Benjamin’s teachings is that he didn’t just teach it, he lived it. He reached out to all around him through service and example. I am sure his hands were much like our Savior’s hands, continually serving and teaching those he loved. The scriptures are filled with patterns that teach us how to serve and find our way home to our Father in Heaven.
Brothers and Sisters…The ultimate pattern, example, and use of hands came from our elder brother, as He hung on a cross and was crucified. As the nails were hammered through His hands, He again offered His love to us. Just imagine the wounds in His hands. Those hands which had loved and served so many around him, were now sacrificing everything for you and me.
“Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet: be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Amen.” (D&C 6:37)
President Monson said:
“Pitied is the hand that sins. Envied is the hand that paints. Honored is the hand that builds. Appreciated is the hand that helps. Respected is the hand that serves. Adored is the hand that saves—even the hand of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of all mankind. With that hand he knocks upon the door of our understanding. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.” (Revelations 3:20)3
His hand knocks at the door and wants us to answer and let Him in. We have the opportunity every day to help and see hearts changed, prayers answered and burdens lightened through our hands of service and love. To those of us who have experienced these everyday miracles, we cannot deny that the windows of heaven have been opened to us and that the Lord’s hand blesses and comforts us. Once we learn how to recognize the everyday miracles that occur in our lives, we must then become that earthly angel who helps others have miracles in their lives. You never know what small act can be a miracle to someone else.
What will you do today to be the Savior’s hands? In 1 Nephi 17:13 we find that the Lord tells Nephi: “I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you.” The Lord offers to be our beacon, our light, and our guide to prepare the way for us, I believe, in all things. He says, I will be always be there for you. I ask each of you, since the Lord is so willing to be there for each of us, could we not be there for someone else? Could you not be willing to serve and be His light in someone else’s life?
President Uchtdorf taught:
“When we reach out to bless the lives of others, our lives are blessed as well. Service and sacrifice open the windows of heaven, allowing choice blessings to descend upon us. Surely our beloved Heavenly Father smiles upon those who care for the least of His children. As we lift others, we rise a little higher ourselves. President Spencer W. Kimball taught, ‘The more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls.’”4
How and what can you do? Every day, I watch students and employees across campus. I wonder, what’s happening in their life? What are they thinking? Can I help anyone? My thought is usually the same, why aren’t they looking up and enjoying the walk across campus? Take a minute and sit in the quad or in a building and watch other students. Notice those around you in class that could use a hello or a smile. Help out a roommate and be patient with those around you. Who knows, you may find a new friend or a date or a future spouse! Find someone you can serve. Sometimes the simplest thing can touch someone else’s life and in return bless your own. Looking up and connecting with others is a simple thing, but I think it is a key to noticing and doing the Lord’s work. You never know when a simple gesture may be the thing that brings light to someone else. I know from my own experiences, that if you serve, if you bring light to someone else, you will truly be the benefactor.
Our life is all about choices. The choices you make now will determine who and what you become in the future. Make the right choice today and choose to be the Master’s hands here upon the earth. He works for each of us and through each of us. The Lord will reach down many times throughout your life to guide you, direct you, bless you, humble you, and teach you if you will but unlock the door and let Him in. In return, He expects you to lift the hands that hang down and reach out and bless others around you. As you leave today, I want you to think about how you can serve someone else. I want you to truly mean it when you sing our closing hymn, “Savior, may I learn to love thee, Walk the path that thou hast shown, Pause to help and lift another, finding strength beyond my own” (Hymns, 1985, no. 219).
In 2001, President Henry B. Eyring pronounced a blessing upon this university and all those who are here. He said:
“Now, I leave you my blessing ... I bless you that every day, if you will ask in prayer to be shown where the hand of God intervened in your life that day, I bless you that you will see that. It will be made manifest to you. That you will see that He is leading and guiding and lifting you, and that He knows you. I bless you with confidence that if you will review the day at the end of the day and then pray and ask, you will have revealed to you evidence that the hand of God was lifting you and this institution. I so bless you.”
“I further bless you that you may have the capacity to influence others. I bless you that you will be a lifter, a teacher, and a leader. I so bless you in your families, in the Church, and in wherever place you may go to serve.” 5
Throughout my life, I have experienced and continue to experience the everyday miracles and blessings from my Heavenly Father. I know that He watches over me and blesses me.
I pray that you will ask to see how the Lord intervenes in your life on a daily basis. That you will recognize His hand as He teaches you, guides you, blesses you, and lifts you. I bear testimony to you that He will show you the everyday miracles and help you bless others along the way – if you will but ask. I know God lives. I know He watches over us and blesses us because He has an individual plan for each of us. I am grateful for His Hand in my life as he has blessed me and taught me through everyday miracles. My prayer is that we will strive to live worthy of the day when we can place our hand in the hand of our Savior and be welcomed home. Then will He say to us, “Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father” (Enos:27).