Elder Robert D. Hales


Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional

February 20, 2007



BYU–Idaho is a unique educational institution with a very unique student body.  I have read the mission of BYUIdaho as background for what we will share together today.  BYUIdaho is a mission-driven organization with four basic elements:

1.  Build testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage living its principles.

2.  Provide a quality education for students of diverse interests and abilities.

3.  Prepare students for life-long learning, for employment, and for roles as citizens and parents.

4.  Maintain a wholesome academic, cultural, social, and spiritual environment.

The result of your educational experience should prepare you to be disciples of Jesus Christ, leaders, and role models—first and foremost in your families, then in the Church and in the world in the coming years.


To accomplish these objectives, you will need the following:

1.  Know who you are—a child of God—and that you are in mortality to be tried and tested.


2.  Understand you have been given gifts and talents to develop, to be lifted up, and then share with others.


3.  Be obedient to the ordinances you have participated in and the covenants you have taken upon yourself.


4.  Always express gratitude for blessings which have been given unto you and be willing to share your testimony and spirit of love and caring with those around you.

Know who you are—a child of God—and that you are in mortality to be tried and tested.

Over the years, I have come to understand that we know where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going.  We know that we were in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ and that in a council in heaven we chose to come to earth and take upon us a mortal body and faithfully strive to achieve eternal progression.


What we fail to remember at times during our life is that when we heard that we were to come to earth “all the sons of God shouted for joy”1 at the opportunity that was being granted us, forgetting that we came to mortality as a probationary period in which, along with joy, we would be tried and tested with all manner of trials and tribulations, temptations, and sorrows.


The wisest counsel I can give you comes from Job.  He was tested physically with boils from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet.  His friends told him that he must have done something terrible to be enduring the physical pain that he was going through.  His wife told him to “curse God, and die.”2  But Job teaches us a good lesson.  The scriptures tell us “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”3  Job further testified that he would one day be in the presence of and see God.4


We are children of God.  He listens to our prayers.  God our Father and Jesus Christ, His son, want more than anything else for us to be worthy of returning to Them to be in Their presence after we have concluded our sojourn here in mortality.


So the first important thing is to know who we are so that when things become difficult in the world, we will have the faith to hold on to the treasured knowledge that we really are God’s children.  “Through him . . . the worlds were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”5


If we understand and hold to this knowledge, we can endure to the end.


Understand you have been given gifts and talents to develop, to be lifted up, and then share with others.

In the 46th section of the Doctrine and Covenants we are taught:


“To every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.


“To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.


“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.


“To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.”6


This scripture further goes on to name different gifts which are given:  faith to heal, faith to be healed, word of wisdom, prophesy, discerning of spirits, speak with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.  Then, most importantly, we are taught:


“And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.”7


One of the greatest gifts is stated in the 28th verse:


“And it shall come to pass that he that asketh in Spirit shall receive in Spirit.”8


That is a gift which has been given to you and me.


“He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.”9

Then we read in the 32nd verse:


“And ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with.”10


With that wise counsel, I think it is important that we don’t get too puffed up with our intelligence quotient we have been given or the unusual gifts which we may become aware of that we possess; because all of these gifts, whether they be physical, mental, or spiritual, are given to us by our Heavenly Father.


It is interesting that section 46 of the Doctrine and Covenants teaches in several places the reason’s why each gift is given to us:


“. . . that all may be profited thereby.”11


“. . . that all may be taught.”12


“. . . for the benefit of the children of God.”13


As a young man, when we walked into a classroom we knew that we would be graded on what was called a bell-shaped curve.  There would be a few students who would get A’s, and the bell shape would go up.  A few more students would get B’s.  The majority would get C’s, and those on the end of the bell shape would fail.  Teachers felt that they were under some obligation to have a distribution of grades metered out from A’s to F’s, for failure.


That is not the case at BYU–Idaho.  As I have said, you are at a unique institution.  Let me give you a challenge.  I would like to give you encouragement to be able to share your gifts and talents so that you can tutor, mentor, be in a study group, or participate in the classroom so that after you leave this institution you will willingly give to others by lifting them and strengthening them.


I give you a promise that if you will live your life in such a manner, you will find that both the giver and the receiver will be better off for their interaction.


I can remember years ago coming out of my first accounting class and feeling like I had just come out of a class where a foreign language had been spoken.  I didn’t have a clue what a debit or a credit was and what it meant in terms of cash flow and a balance sheet.  I didn’t know where to turn.  One of my best friends at the university (not a member of the Church) was studying to be a certified public accountant, and he loved accounting.  I can vividly remember sitting down on a hillside on a grassy knoll, opening our books, and having him tutor me in the language of accounting and its objectives and purposes, which I would take with me into the business world for the rest of my life.  Harvey wasn’t concerned or worried that I would get a higher grade or be able to pass rather than fail.  He was helping a friend in need.  You never forget such gestures of kindness and caring in life.  It is more than an educational process to get a credit.  This is how dear friends are bonded and a realization of why we are here in mortality.


Later in my life at Harvard Business School one of the most magnificent experiences was to be part of a study group which met every evening to review the case studies in preparation for being called on in class and discussing a case method study.  I am so appreciative of the men I associated with in that study group and their willingness to share their intelligence and their background with one another.  Once again, I urge you to think in terms of tutoring, mentoring, and being in study groups. 



Be obedient to the ordinances you have participated in and the covenants you have taken upon yourself.

I have come to understand if we know who we are and if we are aware of the gifts that have been given to us and give rightful credit for them, we then can take the third step of doing what is necessary to achieve that which we have been sent to mortality to gain and experience no matter what the tests and trials may be.


The account given in Genesis 49 has always touched my heart.  Let me give you a setting.  The Prophet Jacob is nearing the end of his life.  He has had the appearance of God to him in Luz and has adopted Ephraim and Manasseh as his own children, has blessed Joseph, and has prophesied that the seed of Ephraim would become a multitude of nations and that Israel would come again into the land of their fathers.  He then called all of his sons before him to give each one a father’s blessing.

“Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.”14

He then proceeds to talk with each of his children.  Reuben, Siemon, and Levi are chastened.  Reuben was the first born and should have inherited the most from his father.


“Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:


“Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.”15


Contrast that with the blessings that were given to Joseph.  Joseph was a “fruitful bough . . . whose branches run over the wall.”16  Joseph was told that “the Almighty, . . . shall bless thee with blessings of heaven.”17


“All these are the twelve tribes of Israel:  and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.”18


Reuben was the eldest.  He should have had all of the birthright, but he was “unstable as water.”  What did his father mean by “unstable as water?”  I have thought about that since I was a young man.  We have been told that we should be true and faithful and endure to the end, but here was Reuben and his father told him that he is “unstable as water.”


When water gets hot, it evaporates.  When it gets cold, water freezes.  When water is uncontrolled, it brings great damage in floods, erosion, mudslides, etc.  How do we make sure that we have great stability?  We must understand that great blessings came to Joseph because of his obedience, and all the blessings that were rightfully Reuben’s could not be given to him because of his moral conduct.


There have been times when I have pondered why the Savior and prophets throughout all dispensations are tested with trials and tribulations when they are obediently doing the work of God the Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We, too, are tested with trials and tribulations even when we are faithful and obeying God’s commandments. 


For example, think of all the suffering Jesus had to endure to complete the atoning sacrifice to become the Savior of the world.  He endured rejection from His own people, disgrace, beatings, trials, suffering in Gethsemane—bleeding from every pore, the walk to Golgotha carrying His cross, and ultimately excruciating death upon the Cross at Calvary—all for us.  Add to this the weight that He bore, knowing that He must complete the Atonement perfectly for Heavenly Father’s children to be able to return to Him.  There was a purpose for the suffering as the Savior, the only perfect man to ever live on earth, took upon Himself our sins so that we could have repentance from our sins if we came unto Him.  Jesus did what His Father commanded and was obedient to His Father’s desires.  But it was not easy. 


Alma explained to his son Helaman that their forefathers had lost their way in the wilderness because they refused to follow the directions given them through the Liahona because the way was too simple.  In like manner, Alma taught, “The words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.” 


He warned Helaman:


“O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us.  The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.


“And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live.”19


This scripture tells us that if life is too easy we may not be accomplishing what we were sent to earth to learn and develop spiritually.  Let us not be slothful because of the easiness of the way. 


Knowing that those who took His name upon them would be hated and as He was hated during his ministry, Jesus prayed in His Intercessory Prayer for them.  Being a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, carries with it an obligation to faithfully endure to the end through all our trials and tribulations.  In fact, we are instructed by our Lord to endure our trials and tribulations well so that we may be granted the blessings that will rightfully be ours for our faithfulness.


In a like manner, the Prophet Joseph Smith was tried and tested as he brought forth the restoration of the gospel in this the last dispensation of the fulness of times.  Joseph was doubted, reviled, tarred and feathered, and ridiculed by mobs and citizenry when he testified of having seen and been in the presence God, Jesus, and angels.  The Saints who believed in the Restoration and who followed Joseph Smith as their leader were driven from their homes suffering untold pain and suffering for their beliefs.  In short, there is a price of discipleship as we follow the Lord and His appointed leaders in this dispensation.


It is touching to read in the scriptures about the Prophet’s frustration and even anger with the Lord when he was in Liberty Jail enduring inhumane treatment while in captivity and separated from the Saints who he felt needed him.  In answer to his fervent prayer he received counsel from the Lord that is precious to each of us as we endure our own trials and tribulations.  Joseph was lovingly taught “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good,”20 and that these trials are “but for a small moment . . . and thy God shall stand by thee forever and ever.”21


It is so important that we understand why we are tested in mortality. Our tests, trials, and tribulations are to strengthen us and build our faith—not to destroy us!  That is why we lift and strengthen one another as brothers and sisters so that all may be sanctified and prepared for eternal salvation.  When we are down, we should seek help in our prayers and also from those who can counsel us with wise counsel as to what we should do to “heal ourselves.”


I would hope that all of you have received a patriarchal blessing.  That really provides an insight into the blessings which we will all have based upon our faithfulness and our dedication.


When tests and trials come into our lives, we can ask ourselves if the test is coming from God or if it is coming because of our own conduct.  Sometimes there is a feeling that if I live a good life I won’t have any trials and tribulations, or if I get married in the temple I will have a happy life with a perfect family.  Remember, Job was a perfect man.22  Tests came to him and even to the Prophet Joseph Smith:


“If thou art called to pass through tribulation . . .


“. . . know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.


“The Son of Man hath descended below them all.  Art thou greater than he?”23


I am reminded of Whittier’s words:  “Of all sad words of tongue and pen The saddest are these:  ‘It might have been.’”24  One of the saddest sentences in life to me contains the words “it might have been.”  I want so much for you to understand that you do not want to live your life in regrets because of poor decisions or disobedient actions which you may take in your life.  The adversary is so clever in his temptation and enticement for us to have a momentary lapse in judgment.  In the process we can lose all of the blessings that Father has in store for us that are rightfully ours.  But if such a moment should come, we must understand that through the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ misery can satisfy the demands of justice through repentance as we turn back to the Father in our prayers and our conduct.  We must live obediently so that we can once again be worthy to receive the eternal blessings that the Father and the Son so want us to have so that we can come back into their presence.


Always express gratitude for blessings which have been given unto you and be willing to share your testimony and spirit of love and caring with those around you.

In Luke 17 the story is given of the ten lepers.


“And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:


“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.


“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests.  And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.


“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,


“And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks:  and he was a Samaritan.


“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed?  but where are the nine?


“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.


“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way:  thy faith hath made thee whole.”25


As we conclude this discussion of what we must do to accomplish that which we have been sent to earth to learn and develop spiritually, it has been my experience in life that the natural man dwells upon his greatest losses and most valued possessions.  He does not realize that the most valued possession he has is that of knowing who he is—a child of God with a Father in Heaven.


The poem Ozymandius by Percy B. Shelley teaches us that all things of the world are susceptible to rust, corruption, decay, etc.


            I met a traveler from an antique land

            Who said:  “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

            Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,

            Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

            And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

            Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

            Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

            The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;

            And on the pedestal these words appear:

            My name is Ozymandius, King of Kings,

            Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

            Nothing beside remains.  Round the decay

            Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

            The lone and level sands stretch far away.26


Don’t spend your life on the things of the world.  We cannot take them with us when we die.  But the things that are of real value to us are our faith in god, our testimony, and our love for our fellow men.  That is how we will be judged after we have endured to the end in mortality.


May I conclude by restating the things we must do to accomplish our objectives in life:


1.  Know who you are—a child of God—and that you are in mortality to be tried and tested.

2.  Understand you have been given gifts and talents to develop, to be lifted up, and then share with others.

3.  Be obedient to the ordinances you have participated in and the covenants you have taken upon yourself.

4.  Always express gratitude for blessings which have been given unto you and be willing to share your testimony and spirit of love and caring with those around you.



1 Job 38:7

2 Job 2:9.

3 Job 1:22.

4 See Job 19:26–27.

5 D&C 76:24.

6 D&C 46:11–14.

7 D&C 46:26.

8 D&C 46:28.

9 D&C 46:30.

10 D&C 46:32.

11 D&C 46:12.

12 D&C 46:18.

13 D&C 46:26.

14 Genesis 49:2.

15 Genesis 49:3–4.

16 Genesis 49:22.

17 Genesis 49:25.

18 Genesis 49:28.

19 Alma 37:46–47.

20 D&C 122:7.

21 D&C 122:4.

22 See Job 8:20.

23 D&C 122:5–8.

24 Whittier, John Greenleaf, “Maud Muller.”

25 Luke 17:12–19.

26 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, The Complete Words of Shelley (Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Co., 1901), p. 356.

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