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Rex D. Pinegar

 

Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional

November 1, 2011

  

 

"The Power of Faith"

Rex D. Pinegar

Emeritus Member, Presidency of the Seventy


 

I’m grateful to be at BYU-Idaho, an institution where faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is seen as an essential element of learning and teaching. You are led by a president of great moral strength and courage.

 

With President Clark’s permission, I would like to share, with slight corrections, a quote that appeared recently in the Deseret News. The dateline is Sunday, October 16, 2011. Location of the event: Aspen, Colorado.

“Kim Clark sat on the stage waiting for his name to be announced…That Clark was here, speaking at the prestigious Aspen Symposium of the Forum on the Future of Higher Education, struck him as remarkable. The annual summer gathering draws a “who’s who” of America’s most innovative thinkers and leaders in higher education, including presidents and other senior administrators of America’s leading universities and colleges…

 

“That Clark had been asked to address the group on innovation in American higher education was intriguing to many in the crowd. Clark was the former Harvard Business School Dean; but he now presided over a school in eastern Idaho most people in the audience had never heard of. Once called Ricks College, it had been re-christened BYU-Idaho, and Clark was here to talk about how the school was reshaping the landscape of higher education.

                                                                                                                                                                       

“Midway through his presentation, he shifted to the role faith plays in the BYU-Idaho Learning Model. He introduced a slide entitled: ‘Principles of the BYU-Idaho Learning Model.’          

 

The first line on the slide read: ‘Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a principle of action and power.’ ‘This is the first principle of the learning model of BYU-Idaho,” President Clark declared…’”1

I wish to stay true to this “first principle” by centering my remarks today on the power of faith. 

 

When I was being considered for a teaching position on the faculty of Brigham Young University, I was interviewed by Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve. After a few minutes of friendly greeting, President Packer asked, “Brother Pinegar, what is your philosophy of education?”

 

Although I had anticipated such an inquiry, I wasn’t quite sure how I would answer that question. After pondering briefly, I replied that I only knew of one philosophy for teaching – that was the gospel of Jesus Christ. That must have been the right answer because I was hired.

 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only true philosophy and  “model” for teaching and learning. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a true principle of action and power in all aspects of our lives.

 

President Hinckley taught, “If there is one thing you or I need in this world it is faith, that dynamic, powerful, marvelous element by which, as Paul declared, the very worlds were framed. Faith – the kind of faith that moves one to get on his knees and plead with the Lord and then get on his feet and go to work – is an asset beyond compare, even in the acquisition of secular knowledge by His Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.”2

 

Leo Tolstoy, a famous Russian writer, declared, “Faith is the force of life.” Tolstoy had spent the major portion of his life seeking to understand life’s purpose. He found fame, position, fortune. He married well and had a family. He had experienced success by nearly every measure the world uses. 

 

He sought answers to the meaning of life from his studies of science, philosophy, and other fields of knowledge. However, all the knowledge he acquired, honors he received, and personal accomplishments he achieved, brought no lasting satisfaction. Life still seemed to him meaningless. At this point of deepest despair, Tolstoy asked the question, “How am I to live?” The answer came: “By the law of God.”         

 

Tolstoy had been diligent in all he had done; now he was turning, in faith, to prayer for answers.  He was then compelled to admit that “besides the reasoning knowledge” there is “in every living man another kind of knowledge, an unreasoning one. But which gives a possibility of living – faith. Faith is the force of life.”3 Tolstoy had found that through diligent personal efforts, one can possess about all one could desire of worldly pleasure and acclaim; but without faith in God, accompanied by faithful prayer, life can burden the heart, mind, and even the soul.

 

Faith is the “the force of life;” and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is indeed a true principle of action and power. With gospel truths serving as the foundation for all learning and teaching at BYU-Idaho, how great the advantage to those who teach and study here.

 

As one of my daughters was leaving home to attend college she gave me a sweet message of thanks and appreciation – and then expressed her anxiety about the responsibilities she would now encounter being on her own. She felt she had lived a sheltered life and had relied much on her family to provide direction and strength. She was now beginning to realize that life can sometimes be hard.

 

My daughter’s concerns may have been much like the concerns some of you feel today. This can be a time of trials and testing and you may be asking, “How can I successfully meet the challenges of life?”

 

Leaving home is not easy. Pursuing an education can press us to our financial, emotional and intellectual limits. However, making important decisions, choosing the proper path to follow and pursuing all worthwhile endeavors usually require total spiritual and physical dedication. C. S. Lewis wrote: “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life – the life God is sending one, day by day.”4

                                                                           

We will be able to face and conquer our challenges more willingly and courageously when we understand that such obstacles are encountered as a natural part of living, and that our Heavenly Father has provided the way and the means for us to successfully meet the “unpleasant interruptions” that are part of our “real life.”     

 

The Lord has made available to us, through prayer and faith, powers which will turn our challenges into opportunities. These are powers which will enable us to understand the Apostle Peter’s declaration that such trials of our faith are indeed more precious than gold; experiences that will strengthen and refine us.5

 

I like the counsel Brigham Young wrote to one of his sons who was attending a university in New York:

“As you advance in life you will find every position and occupation surrounded by its peculiar temptations, the great strength and bulwark against all of which is prayer to our Heavenly Father. Cultivate this spirit and you will find that it shall be a wall of fire around you, and your glory in the midst of you. In its practice you will find a safeguard against the wiles of the adversary, and every good resolution will be fortified by it, and every seductive influence will lose its power to annoy you.”6 

With the powerful blessing of prayer we may develop the talents and abilities to deal with every situation. Each of us is to use those talents and abilities we receive from the Lord  to make our way through the tests and opportunities of life. That which we learn through our schooling, our personal efforts and our experience is intended to enhance our natural gifts and to increase our ability to find joy and fulfillment in life.

 

We should not fear the challenges of life, but approach them with prayers of faith and lean upon the Lord’s miraculous strength and mighty power. The Lord has promised, “All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness and prayers of faith.”7

 

As a young man I participated on our high school wrestling team. We were in a tournament that included teams we had met earlier in the year. My opponent was a young man whom I had defeated in our last match. This time when we met with the referee in the center of the mat, he looked at me with a determination and said, “This is my time, Pinegar!” I responded, “Oh, no!  This is my time and I’m going to beat you today!”

 

But, he was serious. He attacked me with a fury I had not seen in him previously. You might say he turned me every way but loose. In the third and final round of the match, he had me in a position that could result in a pin for him. I could feel my grip on him was slipping. He held my body in such a position that the only way I could look was up. As I looked up I saw a rather large man sitting several rows up in the bleachers. His face was somewhat contorted and it appeared to me he was twisting and turning as if to help me get out of my predicament. When the thought came to me that he was trying to help me I knew with his help I could reverse my position and come off victorious.

 

It was as if added strength came to me. With a burst of power I rolled over and pinned my opponent. What a victory that was for me! Then I looked around, wanting to find the man who had given me the confidence I needed to change what seemed a doomed position into victory. I found him – he was my Dad.

 

This experience reinforced my confidence in my Heavenly Father. It is often a reminder to me even now that when we are in trouble or facing a challenge of any kind, we need only to look up. Our Heavenly Father is there, pulling for us. His love will reach out to us and increase our faith and strength to be able to overcome whatever obstacle we are dealing with.

 

When I was in graduate school at the University of Southern California I had the opportunity to teach early morning seminary. We paused at the end of the year to review some principles we had learned from our study of the Book of Mormon. One young lady held up her Book of Mormon showing an illustration by Arnold Friberg. It depicted the two thousand sons of Helaman, known as the “stripling warriors.”  Then in all seriousness she asked, “Tell me, Brother Pinegar. Why aren’t our young men built like this today?”

 

Now, I don’t know that the young men in the days of the sons of Helaman were built the way Arnold Friberg painted them, but her question gave me the opportunity to ask, “Where did the strength of these young men come from?”

 

Those of you who have read the Book of Mormon are familiar with the story of the sons of Helaman. When their fathers were converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ they covenanted with the Lord that they would never again take up arms. But eventually their homes and families were threatened by hostile armies to the extent that the fathers would have to choose to fight or die. And, they would die rather than break the covenant they had made with the Lord. It was then that the two thousand young men, not being bound by the same covenant as their fathers, volunteered to defend their parents and their homes.

 

Helaman, their general, recorded:

“They were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all – they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.”

 

Yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them... And they ... fought as if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength; and with such mighty power.”8

 

What gave the sons of Helaman their strength? It was their faith in God which moved them to action with  “miraculous strength” and “mighty power.”

A young man recently told me, “If I had known how difficult a mission was going to be, I would not have gone. But now I’m glad I served a mission because I learned I can do hard things.” Serving a mission is hard; but because he turned his life over to the Lord, he was strengthened and enabled by the power of faith to do all things that were required of him. He now knows from where his strength will come to face other challenges and “hard things” that may come his way.

 

Some years ago I was assigned to a stake conference in San Diego, California. It was a hot, humid Saturday in June when I stepped off the plane and began searching for the stake president among the faces in the crowded waiting area. Although we had spoken to each other on the telephone we had never met in person. It was not difficult to spot him. He was the one person wearing a dark suit and tie. He was standing against the waiting room wall. As I approached him he smiled and I smiled and asked, “How are you, president?” His reply was a pleasant, “I’m happy!” I loved that greeting.

 

Throughout the day the president used that same response whenever he was asked the proverbial question, “How are you?” I determined that I would ask him about that greeting. As we were driving toward his home that evening, he beat me to it. “Elder Pinegar,” he said, “you want to ask me a question.” 

 

“I do?” 

 

“Yes. You want to know why I say, ‘I’m happy.’”

 

I admitted that I was curious and asked him to tell me the origin of this now familiar greeting.

 

This is his story:

 

He was called to serve a mission at age 19. During his initial interview with his mission president, he told him he did not want to be there. He wanted to go home. The president told him he couldn’t send him home. He couldn’t release him because he was not the one who had called him on his mission. He would have to stay. The young elder resigned himself to being in the mission, but he determined he would not work. Every weekly letter to the president contained a request for a release from the mission. In every personal interview with the mission president, he asked to go home. 

 

After one such interview following a zone meeting, the president said, “Okay, Elder, you are going home. I’ve arranged for one of my assistants to remain with your companion.”  The missionary could hardly believe what was happening. They drove to his apartment where he packed up his things, said goodbye to his companion, and then drove away. He was happy!

He was going home!

 

As they traveled, the missionary began to express his gratitude to the president for allowing him to go home. “Oh,” said the president. “I’m not sending you to your home. I’m taking you to the mission home. I’m turning you over to my wife.”

 

“But I don’t want to go to the mission home. I want to go to my home,” the missionary insisted. They drove on in silence.

 

It was dinnertime when they pulled into the driveway of the mission home. The president’s wife came out to the car. With a bright smile she greeted her husband and then welcomed the frustrated missionary to her home with a question: “How are you, Elder?”  

 

With a frown and an angry voice, he told her he was not happy to be there. He wanted to go to his own home. She smiled and said, “Elder, that’s the wrong answer. Now, look at me with a smile and say ‘I’m happy!”

 

“But I’m not happy! I just want to go home.” 

 

“Wrong answer, Elder! Let’s try that again. How are you, Elder?” 

 

His response was the same. “I’m not happy. I want to go home.”

 

“Wrong answer!” the mission president’s wife replied. 

 

The fourth time she repeated the question, he was tired of what he considered “her little game,” and responded, without a smile, “Okay, I’m happy.”

 

“Good,” she said. “Now we can eat dinner!”                                                                                                                                                                                    

For four days, whenever the president’s wife saw him, she would pester him with the same question. He continued to reply, “I’m not happy! I want to go home!”

 

On the fourth night as the elder was walking down the hallway toward his room he saw her coming from the opposite direction. He knew what she was going to say, but this time he would surprise her with the “right answer.” “How are you tonight, Elder?” she asked.

 

“I’m happy!” 

 

“That’s great, Elder. Now you can go back to work.” 

 

This time he was more emphatic as he responded. He did not want to go to work. He wanted to go home. In a concerned but kind way she invited him to meet with her in the dining room. She had something she wanted to share with him.

 

As they sat opposite each other at a large table, she looked him squarely in the eyes and told him that he should be a happy, grateful young man. He had the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the only true plan of happiness in the world. Only through this plan could he, or anyone, find true joy in living. By following it he could learn everything he needed to know and to do in order to find success and real happiness in life. She told him how the principles of the gospel blessed her life for good; how the power of faith and the atonement of Jesus Christ gave her strength to deal with the challenges and difficulties in life. She assured him that through faith and prayer he would be able to fulfill the mission to which he had been called.

 

As she expressed her deep feelings of faith and joy in the gospel he was filled with the Spirit and somehow his heart changed. He knew what she was saying was true. He was filled with gratitude that the Lord trusted him and had called him to share this great plan of happiness with others. He felt a strong desire to be a missionary, and he received the strength of faith to continue.

 

At the conclusion of their conversation, the mission president’s wife sweetly asked,  “How are you, Elder?” 

 

Now, he sincerely responded,  “I’m happy!”

 

As the stake president concluded his story he said, “Elder Pinegar, from that time until now I have always responded with that truth, ‘I’m happy!’”                                                        

 

And he is! However, life has not always been easy for this man. He and his family have experienced some very trying challenges; but they have retained their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ – the Lord’s true plan of happiness. Everyone needs the strength that comes from having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the understanding, as President Clark declared, that “faith is a principle of action and power.”

 

In a recent Ensign article, President Thomas S. Monson wrote: “Someone has said that ‘the recognition of (a) power higher than man himself does not in any sense debase him.’”9

 

The Savior himself prayed mightily with Heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane as He faced the day of his crucifixion. He pleaded with his Father to remove this trial from him. And He continued in prayer, “saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” As he prayed, “there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” Through faith and prayer he received the necessary strength from the Father to willingly fulfill his redemptive mission.10 

 

God may not remove obstacles or challenges facing us, but he can and does send the comfort, guidance and strength we need to get through the trial. As we diligently move forward on our life’s journey with the power of faith we will find the strength and the will to meet each additional challenge as it comes before us.

 

President Monson teaches of prayer and faith and urges all of us to pray to seek divine help. Then President Monson makes this wonderful promise: “No such sincere, prayerful effort will go unanswered: that is the very constitution of the philosophy of faith. Divine favor will attend those who humbly seek it.”11

 

May each of us approach life with sincere prayer and put into action the power which comes from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We will be blessed. And, we will be happy! I testify to the reality of Jesus Christ, and of the truths discussed this day, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


 

1 Deseret News, Front Page, October 16, 2011

2 Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , 186

3 How I Came to Believe, Christchurch, New Zealand: The Free Age Press, 901, p. 40

4 They Stand Together: The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, ed. p. 499

5 1 Peter 1:7 6.           

6 Discourses of Brigham Young, 41 Don Jesse, Letters, Introduction, p. XXXV

7 Doctrine and Covenants 103:36

8 Alma 53:20; 56:47, 56

9 Thomas S. Monson, “Seeking Help From Heavenly Father,” Ensign, August 2011.

10 Luke 22:39-46

11 Thomas S. Monson, “Seeking Help From Heavenly Father,” Ensign, August 2011.