I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today at the beginning of a new semester on another great day at BYU-Idaho. Sister Clark and I love you very much. I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us today.
Every Monday night, Sister Clark and I meet with one or two of your wards for home evening. We love these opportunities to get to know you better, and we are inspired by your questions! They indicate your goodness and faith, especially in times of trial. Here are two examples, from one home evening, of the kinds of trials you face.
A sister who had suffered abuse in her home, wondering how to ever forgive;
A brother hoping to serve a mission with a father threatening to disown him if he serves.
Life on the strait and narrow path is full of trials. Some come from affliction. Some, like pride, come from prosperity. Times of trial are like turning points in our lives, when we are vulnerable to temptation and yet open to deeper faith and greater hope and love. This is our mortal probation. It is meant to be a time of trial and testing and a time of learning and spiritual growth.
Nephi taught us the way forward through the trials we face to the spiritual growth and learning essential to exaltation and eternal life:
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.”1
In every trial in our lives, the way forward is always faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ and His pure and perfect love. If we choose Christ and the way of faith, hope, and charity, the Lord will bless us with the spiritual gifts and guidance we need to overcome our trials and become more and more like Him.
Faith, hope, and charity are spiritual gifts we both receive and develop. They bring us to Christ, the fountain of all righteousness.2 He is the only way to be “more than conquerors”3 of the trials we face. Being “more than conquerors”4 in times of trial is a lot more than just gritting our teeth and hanging on. The Lord wants us to press forward with faith and hope in Him and with His love so that we overcome our trials and learn and grow spiritually.
No matter where we are now in our spiritual journey, each one of us needs to grow in faith, hope, and charity. As Elder Russell M. Nelson taught:
“Why do we need such resilient faith? Because difficult days are ahead. Rarely in the future will it be easy or popular to be a faithful Latter-day Saint. Each of us will be tested. The Apostle Paul warned that in the latter days, those who diligently follow the Lord “shall suffer persecution.” That very persecution can either crush you into silent weakness or motivate you to be more exemplary and courageous in your daily lives.”5
Brothers and sisters, whatever has been sufficient for us to overcome the trials we already have faced will not be sufficient for what is coming. Our great challenge is to qualify for the gifts of stronger faith, increased hope, and growth in the pure love of Christ to help us overcome and endure well the trials that lie ahead. That challenge is the focus of my talk today.
I begin with a parable that illuminates the power of faith and hope in Christ and His pure love in overcoming trials in our lives.
The Parable of the Nursery Leader
A certain sister was called as the nursery leader in her ward. She was well-trained in child development and had many ideas for activities and crafts the children could make. She decided to make the nursery a showcase.
After many weeks, the sister was discouraged. Nursery was a burden. She dreaded facing the children. Despite her plans, the children fussed and cried every week. Nothing she tried worked well.
In frustration she cried out: “I have done my best; what more can I do?” A thought came into her mind: “Ask Heavenly Father.” Wiping away her tears, she knelt in prayer. She prayed about the nursery—her hopes, her frustration, and her disappointment. She prayed for His help and guidance.
Heavenly Father answered her prayer. She was impressed with the thought that her focus needed to change. The Lord taught her she needed to focus on the children—learn to know them and love them.
The sister knew she had to repent. She needed a new attitude and a new approach to the nursery. She prayed for forgiveness of her pride, her reliance on the arm of flesh, and her attitude toward the children. She sought inspiration from the scriptures asking herself: “What would Jesus do?”
When the sister went to the nursery the next Sunday, she had new hope. She did not know all that she would need to do, but she trusted the Lord. Rather than setting up when the children arrived, she met them at the door with a personalized greeting. Some of the children cried and fussed, but there was a different feeling in the nursery that week.
Little by little as the sister got to know the children better, her feelings about them changed. She looked forward to Sundays. She was excited and happy to be with her nursery kids.
And, inspiration came. One week she took a camera to nursery and took each child’s picture. She prepared a picture board, mounted each child’s picture on the board, and took the board to nursery every week. The children loved seeing themselves on the board. They not only felt important, they felt loved.
After a time, the children loved nursery so much they would run to nursery after sacrament meeting. The children loved being in the nursery, and the sister loved them.
Patterns for Growth in Faith, Hope, and Charity
The parable of the nursery leader has much to teach us about overcoming trials and growing in faith, hope, and charity. I want to focus today on three patterns of action from the parable we can apply in our daily lives:
Feast on the Words of Christ
Look Forward with the Eye of Faith in Christ
Cleave unto Charity, the Pure Love of Christ
Feast on the Words of Christ
After suffering for many weeks, the nursery leader humbly faced up to her failure and cried out: “What more can I do?” In that moment she took responsibility for what she had done, and the Lord blessed her with a message that came as an impression in her mind, through the power of the Holy Ghost: Turn to God and ask Him what you should do.
She followed the Lord’s direction and sought Him in heartfelt prayer. The answer that came was like manna from heaven. It was clear she had to repent, change her attitude and behavior, and focus on loving the children. As she moved forward, she continued to pray with real intent, to search the scriptures, and to seek the Lord’s guidance and direction. She sought to be close to the Spirit of the Lord. She feasted on the words of Christ.
Jesus Christ is the messenger of the covenant.6 The words of Christ are the words of life and salvation. In His words we can learn who He is, what He did, and what His power can do. In His words we learn of His covenants, His promises, and what He wants us to do.
The words of Christ are in the scriptures, in the teachings of living prophets, and in our own personal revelation. When we read, study, and ponder the words of Christ, the Holy Ghost carries them into our hearts and tailors them and their meaning to our personal needs.7 They become Christ’s words for us.
Brothers and sisters, I invite you to study the words of Christ and learn about Him. In His mortal ministry Jesus lived and worked and ministered among the people. He was in their midst. He ate in their homes, drank water from their wells, walked in their alleys and passages, taught in the temple, sat on their hillsides, traveled in their ships, and slept where they slept. And He loved them. Everywhere He went, He healed them and inspired them with pure doctrine taught plainly and simply.
We are just like those people. We, too, can have His words.8 He is with us, in our midst, and He loves us. Through His atoning sacrifice Jesus reaches out with mercy and grace to invite us to have faith in Him, to repent and keep His commandments that He might strengthen and redeem us.
This is who He is. He gives us His words, and we feast on them by doing what He asks us to do. When we keep our covenants, His words become part of us like a well of water springing up into everlasting life bringing gifts of increased faith, hope, and charity.9 When we follow Christ, His words illuminate our souls10 and His voice becomes familiar. When questions like “What more can I do?” burn in our hearts, we will hear His words through the power of the Holy Ghost. As Nephi taught:
“…Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.”11
In times of trial and in every other time, feasting on the words of Christ brings blessings of inestimable worth.
Look Forward with the Eye of Faith
The nursery leader was blessed with direction from the Lord. With that inspiration she could see and feel in her heart a very different future. She could see the Lord blessing her to lead a nursery with happy children who loved nursery and who felt loved. Although she did not know exactly what to do when she approached the nursery the next Sunday, she looked forward with the eye of faith, and she went forward, trusting that the Lord would bless her and the children to realize the promises she had felt. She walked through the nursery door full of hope, and that hope sustained her as she acted with faith in Christ.
Faith in Jesus Christ is the assurance of things that we hope for but cannot see.12 What are the things of Christ for which we hope? They are all that Christ has promised He would do to bring about the Father’s plan of salvation for each one of us. We receive these promises in the ordinances and covenants of salvation; they become a reality in our lives as we keep our covenants. Through His atoning sacrifice, Jesus has all power to redeem and save us from death and sin, to strengthen us in our mortal probation, and to help us become more and more like Him.
When we have faith in Christ, we see these remarkable promises of the redeeming and strengthening power of the Atonement with sharpness and clarity. They come alive in our minds through the power of the Spirit. Our hope for the things of Christ then becomes what the scriptures call lively,13 bright,14 and excellent.15 This is the hope that is an anchor to the soul. This is the hope that sustains and supports righteous action in faith.
The spiritual gifts of faith and hope in Christ are intertwined. Hope in Christ comes of faith in Christ; and lively hope, in turn, sustains and strengthens that faith. We both receive these gifts and develop them through righteous action. As Elder David A. Bednar has taught:
“... faith in Christ leads to righteous action, which increases our spiritual capacity and power. Understanding that faith is a principle of action and of power inspires us to exercise our moral agency in compliance with gospel truth, invites the redeeming and strengthening powers of the Savior’s Atonement into our lives, and enlarges the power within us whereby we are agents unto ourselves (see D&C 58:28).”16
In times of trial (and in every other time) these marvelous blessings can be ours when we look forward with the eye of faith17 and take righteous action. However, looking forward with the eye of faith in times of trial is not easy. The natural man in us looks forward with the eye of fear and sees only darkness, failure, and pain.
Fear does not come upon us slowly. It springs up in us quickly and can cloud our perspective and our vision. As the Lord taught the Prophet Joseph Smith, the eye of fear leads us to “[set] at naught the counsels of God, and [follow] after the dictates of [our] own will and carnal desires. . . .”18 Fear can lead us to take unrighteous action, and it can paralyze us. It can cause our hearts to fail us so that we shrink from our trials. It can cause us to react to our trials with denial, anger, resentment, and self-pity. This is why the Savior said so many times, “Fear not.”19
Fear does not go away easily. It resists our efforts to overcome it. It reoccurs easily. It is hard work to overcome fear and look forward with the eye of faith. It takes an act of will to say over and over again: "I am not looking forward with the eye of fear. I am looking forward with the eye of faith." It takes prayer with real intent and righteous action to make that act of will a reality and to open to us the redeeming and strengthening power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When trials come, remember what the Savior said about looking forward with the eye of faith in Him:
“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”20
Cleave Unto Charity
Before the nursery leader received guidance and direction from the Lord, she dreaded going to nursery. The children were a burden. As she acted with faith in Christ to follow the guidance she received, a miracle took place in her heart and in the children. It was a miracle of charity, the pure love of Christ. She felt Christ’s love, and He blessed her to love the children. The children experienced her love in what she did and what she said. They felt Christ’s love because Christ’s love was in the nursery leader. That miracle of love came because the nursery leader acted with faith and hope in Christ. She came to love by faith.
In his great sermon on faith, hope, and charity, Mormon admonishes us to “cleave unto charity.”21 In this context “cleave” means to bind one’s self to, or be united with, unwaveringly.22 Mormon’s call to “cleave unto charity” is a call to live our covenants and be true disciples of Jesus Christ. That is why Mormon said:
“... charity ... is the greatest of all. ...
Wherefore ... pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ. ...” 23
Like faith and hope, charity is a spiritual gift. When we act with faith and hope in Christ to overcome the trials of our lives, we invite the Holy Ghost to bless us with Christ’s love and to love as He loves. As Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught, such love is possible but only on conditions of faith and obedience:
“Jesus asked us to love one another as He has loved us. Is that possible? Can our love for others really approach divine love? Yes it can! The pure love of Christ is granted to all who seek and qualify for it. Such love includes service and requires obedience.” 24
The nursery leader learned that she had to repent before she could obtain heavenly power to love with the pure love of Christ. Christ’s redeeming love changed her heart. Through repentance and sustained righteous action, motivated by her love for the Savior and for the children, she became more like Christ and she loved more like He loves. Thus, as Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, charity is something we become:
“The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness … is that charity, “the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes.”25
When the nursery leader turned to the Savior for help and began to repent, she turned away from her selfish concerns. She followed the Savior’s guidance and began to focus on the children. As she did, she was blessed to see the power of Christ’s love. That love was so strong that it could move a two-year-old to choose to cooperate and behave. I do not use this example lightly. I believe it is useful to see in that nursery a little microcosm of the way the Lord helps us overcome the trials we face.
Most of our trials involve relationships with other people. There is often someone to forgive whose heart is hard and has done us harm. There is often someone we need to ask for forgiveness. There is often someone to serve or to love when service and love are hard. There is often someone trying to help us through pain, or illness, or repentance.
When trials come, it is natural to pull inward and focus on our own problems, our own pain, and our own needs. That inward focus can invite the very opposite of charity: selfishness, unkindness, impatience, and resentment. Compounded by fear, a focus on ourselves in times of trial can hurt our relationships with the people in our lives. If you had been in that nursery before the nursery leader began to know and love the children, you would have seen an inward focused, very discouraged nursery leader; and you would have seen little children unhappy, lonely, afraid, discouraged, uncooperative, and ornery.
Once the nursery leader began to cleave unto charity, however, you would have seen the power of Christ’s pure love. It is the love that forgives, heals, and sanctifies. It is the love that strengthens us against temptation and protects us from evil. It is the love that moves us to help others when trials come to them. Not everyone involved in the trials we face will respond in righteousness, even when we act with love. They have their agency, and they must choose. If we act with faith and hope in Christ, we will strengthen our righteous relationships and find whatever we need to overcome our own trials and help others overcome theirs through the pure love of Christ.
Christ’s pure love healed the heart of the nursery leader and protected and strengthened her. Because of these gifts and her righteous action, she grew in charity and in faith and hope and His love healed and blessed those little hearts in the nursery. Christ’s love is far more powerful than fear, or anger, or resentment, or anything else; and He will be with us “in every time of trouble.”26 When we cleave unto charity, the pure love of Christ can bless the people involved in the trials we face; and it can heal, protect, and strengthen us.
I began this talk with two examples of trials facing students at BYU-Idaho. Like the nursery leader, the way forward for these students and for us is faith, hope, and charity:
For the sister suffering from abuse, wondering how to forgive, acting in faith and hope in Christ’s power and His love will bring the sweet gift of forgiveness and the healing that only Christ can offer.
For the young man hoping to go on a mission, serving the Lord in faith and hope, with love for His dad, will bring this promise of the Savior: “I will bless you and your family . . . and the day cometh that they will believe and know the truth.”27
I know that the promises of Christ are true. I know this of my own experience through the witness of the Holy Ghost. Sister Clark and I have faced many, many trials in our lives. In all these experiences, I have been an eyewitness of the majesty and power of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have seen His mercy and grace; I have known His power; I have felt His love. I know His promises are true. This is a day of miracles; angels minister among us; and the power of the Holy Ghost is with us because God our Father lives and loves us and Jesus is the Christ, the Holy Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer.
As Jesus said:
“Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.
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.”28
Brothers and sisters, when times of trial come, rely on these divinely ordained patterns: feast on the words of Christ; look forward with the eye of faith in Christ; and cleave unto charity, the pure love of Christ. Behold the Savior, the wounds in His side, the prints of the nails in His hands and His feet. Behold His glorious resurrection. See Him in your midst. He knows you perfectly. He loves you. See Him forgiving you; cleansing you from sin; lifting you; blessing you with His power and strength; helping you grow in faith, hope, and charity and overcoming and enduring well every trial, no matter what it is, now and forever. This is the Christ. Our faith and hope are in Him. He is mighty to save. His love never fails.
I so testify from the depths of my heart and soul, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 2 Nephi 31:20
2 Ether 12:28
3 Romans 8:37
5 Russell M. Nelson, “Face the Future With Faith,” Ensign, May 2011
6 Malachi 3:1
7 2 Nephi 33:1
8 See D&C 18:33-36; D&C 68:4; D&C 1:36; D&C 59:4
9 John 8:31; John 4:14
10 Alma 5:7
11 2 Nephi 32:3, 5
12 Hebrews 11:1
13 1 Peter 1:3
14 2 Nephi 31:20
15 Ether 12:32
16 David A. Bednar, “Ask in Faith,” Ensign, May 2008