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Asking, Seeking, and Knocking: A Compassionate Pattern

Aloha! Welcome to this devotional. My wife and I are thrilled with this opportunity to be here with you tonight. Choosing to join us in this special meeting shows much about your faith, your love for the Lord, and your desire to follow Him. Thank you very much for your presence. I am also grateful to President Kauwe and his staff for their precious service at BYU Hawaii.

President Russell M. Nelson, our dear prophet, sends his greetings and love. He truly loves and cares about all of you more than you can imagine. You are always in his heart. I am a witness of his and the Lord’s love for each of you, and I hope you will feel that through my words and testimony today.

I commend you for your continued efforts in prioritizing your education in this magnificent institution. Many of the greatest church leaders I have met in Asia and Pacific areas got their degrees here at BYU Hawaii. They carried over the education they got here and their strengthened testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ acquired while pursuing their education in this wonderful environment. I hope you all feel a sense of great accomplishment as you prioritize your education balanced with your spiritual progress in the years ahead.

As the Savior concluded His teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, He extended a generous invitation to His disciples by saying: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” [1] Through these teachings, the Savior set a pattern that allows us to access information directly from heaven. Asking, seeking, and knocking, so to speak, is one of the marvelous gifts the Lord offered us when we were sent to earth. Asking requires one to ask God with a sincere heart and real intent, having faith in Jesus Christ. [2] Real intent means that one intends to follow the divine direction given. As far as seeking, it requires that one study the matter diligently. The Lord said, “I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right, I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” [3] And finally, knocking is an act of faith produced by a desire of a believer in God. Such a believer prays in faith for God’s provisions, not just occasionally, but is persistent “to pray [always] and not to faint.” [4] When we actively follow this pattern, the Lord opens the way before us, even if it is different from our own desires.

In the spirit of this compassionate pattern of asking, seeking, and knocking set by the Savior Jesus Christ, a few months ago, through the BYU Hawaii bulletin, we invited you to submit a question to an Apostle that concerns you the most as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I was positively surprised to receive hundreds of questions covering various topics. They are all good and heartfelt questions. Reviewing them was indeed a real blessing because your questions gave me a better perspective of the issues you face daily. To use our limited time wisely, we sought to group your questions by a general topic covering several related questions. I pray that the Spirit of the Lord will assist us as we discuss these topics with you tonight so that “he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.” [5]

The first topic I would like to address from your questions is how we can help those spiritually struggling in their faith while not judging them, standing for the truth, and being a good example.

Your questions about this topic show me your sincere concern for being good disciples of Christ and influencing others for good. Let me share some thoughts that may help us face these circumstances without judging others but bringing light to their lives and to our own.

One of the most striking principles taught by the Savior during His earthly ministry was treating others with compassion. Consider, for example, Peter when he saw Christ walking on water. Peter was awe-inspired by that and wished to do what the Savior did, be where He was, and have the same experience himself. As Peter left the safety of the boat and walked on water, he became afraid of the tumultuous and wild rough wind and began to sink. He then cried, saying, “Lord, save me.” Immediately, Jesus compassionately stretched forth his hand and caught him while he was doubting. [6] Like the Savior, we can immediately show that compassion and stretch forth our best efforts to help those who are sinking in their spiritual struggles. Reassure them of your love and respect and show them that struggling can help us to draw nearer to the Savior, as happened with Peter. Help them understand that their concerns can be resolved by trusting in the Lord and His steady and compassionate hand.

Another thought is carefully listening to others and striving to understand their concerns and explanations about what is troubling them. Do not dismiss any sincere problem or question as unimportant, trivial, unhealthy, or sinful. Remember that the Restoration of the gospel began with Joseph Smith asking a sincere question in faith. This is an opportunity to lift and strengthen others by the guidance of the Spirit—to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” [7]

I also encourage you not to be afraid to live by what you know is true because the Lord will be with you and help you in your challenging circumstances. In the scriptures, we learn about courageous people who lived by their beliefs, even after being threatened with being killed. Daniel, the Old Testament prophet, is one example of that. Despite the immense pressure on him to abandon his old beliefs and adopt those of Babylon, Daniel stayed true to his faith—in word and deed. We can take these examples of the scriptures, try to emulate their attributes, and become modern Daniels in our era.

I know a church school student who told me that in her dorm, she was basically the only student striving to keep the spirit of the Sabbath day. Maybe, by lack of understanding or faith in this commandment, the other roommates treated the Sabbath day like any other day of the week. Even though sometimes she had to seclude herself in the privacy of her bedroom to study the scriptures and pray, she was still very friendly with her roommates. She tried to be a good example of the light of the Savior, without judging or criticizing them but serving the best way she could. Some of her roommates responded well, others did not, but all of them respected her for being a friendly, good disciple of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul taught us that we can be examples of the believers “in word, conversation, charity, spirit, faith, and purity.” [8] As we do so, we will allow our light to shine before men, “that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in Heaven,” [9] as Jesus Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

Next is a group of questions related to dealing with our personal weaknesses and temptations and not feeling discouraged when we fail in our attempts to abandon them.

I would like to invite my dear wife, who is accompanying me in this assignment, to share some thoughts on this matter.

Rosana comes to the pulpit and shares her thoughts.

First of all, to answer this question, we have to know how to distinguish between SIN and WEAKNESS. SIN is the choice to disobey God’s commandments, it’s knowingly breaking God’s laws. SIN is encouraged by Satan and SIN is a rebellion against the Light of Christ within us. SINS have their roots in bad thoughts. When evil thoughts arise—Stop! Think! Control your mind! Visualize a large EXIT sign in your mind’s eye. Immediately change your thoughts. Get off of that avenue of thinking. If we learn how to control our thoughts we can avoid committing sins. [10]

We might define WEAKNESS as the limitation of wisdom, power, and holiness that comes with being human. As mortals, we are born dependent and with various physical flaws and predispositions. [11]

In our weak mortal state we are subject to temptations of many kinds. Temptation is a test. Test of a person's desire to choose good over evil.

Temptation warns us of possible danger ahead. It can alert the mind to turn away from an improper thought or act.

It is through our faith in Jesus Christ that we will resist temptation. Our faith will help us avoid evil. However, it is not enough to only have faith, we must also repent and obey, and live according to the standards that will enable us to receive the constant companionship and guidance of the Holy Ghost. [12]

There are places we can never go. There are websites we can never visit. There are thoughts we can never entertain. There are impure practices we can never be part of. Those things are not worthy of who we are. Elder Christofferson taught: "overcoming bad habits or addictions often means an effort today , followed by another tomorrow and then another, perhaps for many days, even months and years , until we achieve victory". And, our dear prophet President Nelson said we have to be “willing to ‘give away’ even our favorite sins.” [13]

We cannot forget that each day we have an individual battle to win and that battle starts as soon as the day arises. Things happen at home, at work, at school to test our faith, our patience, our honesty, and our purity. Someone told me this story:

“ I remember that one day as soon as I woke up I stayed in bed for a few minutes and suddenly a very bad thought came to my mind, something that I had never thought of before or would have never thought of myself and I immediately aloud said NO. And the thought was gone And I got down on my knees and thanked God for helping me not to entertain that thought, not to allow it to stay and dirty my mind and draw me away from the Spirit of the Lord. That day, I won a battle, but I still have a whole war ahead of me.”

Two important things we can do, are praying and reading the word of God every single day. They are our weapons against the adversary. But I know, sometimes we all get a little confused, because we do some things right, and other things wrong.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from sin and help us overcome weakness. We don't need to fight alone. As we read in D&C 62:1" Behold, and hearken, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your Advocate who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted." [14]

Thank you, dear, for your meaningful comments. I am sure her thoughts can help us deal with personal circumstances.

Let me now comment on repenting and being forgiven of our sins, feeling worthy to partake of the sacrament, and feeling God’s love for us even when we may feel unworthy.

It is interesting to note that the principle of repentance comes after faith in Jesus Christ. Well, I must tell you that God loves us, even if we are deep in sin. We are forgiven when we have humbled ourselves before God, counseled with appropriate Church leaders as needed, and repented and forsaken our sins. Taking these steps brings us closer to the Savior, who can ultimately free us from guilt, sorrow, and spiritual and physical bondage.

We do not know why we sometimes continue to feel guilt even after we have repented for the sins we have committed. Rather than speculating, talk to our Heavenly Father about it. Ask Him this question directly. I know that over time, He will reveal to you what you need. In my case, I still have some memories of some of my past mistakes. As I have prayed about it, the Lord has told me that I have been forgiven, and I should not worry about those things anymore. However, I also feel that those memories are a warning for me to strive to not fall into those mistakes again. So, it is not totally negative having those memories. I see them in my life as a demonstration of God’s love for me as He consistently warns me to avoid taking that route again. As we continually strive to do our best, manifesting through our works the desire to cleanse the inner vessel [15] feelings of guilt and discouragement tend to go away. In time, our experience can be like that of Alma, who testified that after repenting “he could still remember his sins, but the memory of his sins no longer distressed and tortured him, because he knew he had been forgiven.” [16]

An interesting concern expressed through your questions is related to forgiving those who offended us and did bad things to us. 

Well, this is an interesting question. Let us focus on some principles and see how we can apply them. As we study the word of God, we learn that forgiving others brings great spiritual blessings, including peace and hope. Perhaps, the most important of these blessings is that as we forgive others, we can also be forgiven of our own sins. The Lord teaches us that forgiveness is a universal commandment and that we are “required to forgive all men.” [17] However, it may still be difficult.

Sometimes we allow pride, fear, resentment, or bitterness to discourage us and block our ability to feel hope. But the courage to forgive comes to those who put their faith and trust in the Lord. With His help, we can find the strength to forgive others, whether the wrongdoer has committed a serious sin or an unintended offense. Forgiving means letting go of blame for a past hurt. It is also to release a significant burden. It is to move ahead with life.

Regarding forgetting, it is important to remember that “forgiveness does not mean forgetting the offense ever occurred or pretending it never happened. It does not mean that you allow the hurtful behavior to continue. It does not mean that it is possible for all relationships to be healed. And it does not mean the offender will not be held accountable for his or her actions. It means the Savior can help you let go.” [18]

Here are a few suggestions to help in this process:

  • Pray for humility. Humility is the opposite of pride, which is the primary obstacle in our effort to forgive. Pride leads us to focus on feelings of animosity toward others. It also causes us to overlook our own weaknesses, mistakes, and sins. But the Lord promises, “If they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” [19] According to our humility and faith, the Lord will help us become more like Him and truly forgive as He did.. 
  • Express gratitude. Expressing gratitude invites the Spirit more fully into our lives, which can soften and change our hearts. Consider keeping a journal of things you are grateful for. Look for manifestations of God’s love each day. As you cultivate an attitude of gratitude, you may find that you can even identify reasons to be grateful for your trials. 
  • Be patient. Forgiving when you're in great pain may take time. A woman recovering from a painful divorce received this wise counsel from her bishop: "Keep a place in your heart for forgiveness, and when it comes, welcome it in."  You can make room for forgiveness through earnest prayer, study, and contemplation. Feasting upon the words of Christ daily will also help you draw closer to Him and will bring great healing power into your life. [20]
  • Leave the past behind. History is history and cannot be changed. But you can focus your energy on today; for today, you have the power to choose to forgive. Cast your burden on the Lord. Christ beckons, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” [21] Remember that in addition to taking upon Him the sins of the world, Christ took upon Him our pains and infirmities. [22] If you allow Him, He can make your burden light. 

Finding the strength to forgive can be challenging, but the Savior and His Atonement make it possible. Truly, as we open our hearts to forgive others, we will be blessed with peace. I invite you to embrace the healing power of forgiveness.

A common and frequent concern expressed through your questions was finding a balance between the demands of education, personal life, work, and church while not losing focus on the right priorities.  

Thank you for expressing your faithful desire to do everything and to do everything well. This is a reasonable and meaningful question not only for today but for the rest of our life. Let us consider some fundamental principles that may help us in this regard. First, consider prayerfully seeking for the guidance of the Lord about your unique circumstances. Each person is different and lives in diverse situations. The idea that one size fits all doesn’t work in balancing the demands of our life. I could tell you stories of people that I know who were living similar circumstances of life and after turning their heart to the Lord for guidance, they faithfully followed through in different ways from each other. So, I encourage you to ask, seek, knock, and follow what you are prompted to do by the Spirit, and not judge or compare yourselves to others. In the case of those who are married, I would add that learning to work as a team with your spouse and children will be of great benefit in this process.

In your attempt to balance your life, consider what is important at the moment, or in other words, establish priorities. Sometimes that is schoolwork or families like parents, siblings, spouses, or children; sometimes, that is recreation; and other times, that is Church, which includes serving others. God invites us to think in terms of good, better, and best. [23] As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must learn how to prioritize, especially concerning those things of eternal value. God has made that teaching clear and consistent across time.

Please also remember that in all you do, God has given you the gift of agency to choose. As you strive to learn how to use this gift in the best way possible, you should not create the expectation that everything will be perfect. You also must remember that the Lord expects you to become agents unto yourselves. He often gives you opportunities to exercise your gifts and agency to decide what is good for you. So, I invite you to do your best to be faithful and worthy to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost with you and qualify to receive personal revelation. But leave room for God’s wisdom and the management of His answers and blessings.

The last topic I would like to address is increasing our faith in Jesus Christ and in His gospel and its promises while: 

  • Feeling uncertainty about the future 
  • Experiencing disappointments and discouragement in life 
  • Feeling that the right desires of our hearts are not met as we expect 
  • Feeling apathy about the gospel.  

This topic is very dear to my heart. Let me start by saying that developing faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we seek it, choose to believe, and hold onto it. Faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest power available to us in this life. It is the source of living with divine purpose and eternal perspective. It is a practical principle that inspires diligence. It is a vital, living force manifested in our positive attitude and desire to do willingly everything God and Jesus Christ ask of us. When we truly have faith in Jesus Christ, we kneel down to implore our Heavenly Father for guidance and then arise and act with confidence to achieve things consistent with His will.

Elder Neil L. Andersen, one of my senior companions in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught that "the future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice." [24] So, our faith can increase or diminish depending on how we choose to live. According to President Russell M. Nelson, "our faith will always propel us forward…Faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of all belief and the conduit of divine power. Everything good in life—every potential blessing of eternal significance—begins with faith." [25]

My dear friends, choosing to believe and develop faith in Jesus Christ increases our access to godly power, regardless of the disappointments and uncertainties of life.

Years ago, while serving as a mission leader in Portugal, I received a phone call from the parents of one of our beloved missionaries, informing me about the death of his younger sister. In the tenderness of that moment, I remember that this missionary and I discussed God’s marvelous plan of salvation for His children and how this knowledge would comfort our hearts in a circumstance like that. Although stunned and sad, this elder—through his tears and unwavering faith in God—rejoiced in his sister’s life. What really impressed me during that experience was his expressions of strong confidence in the tender mercies of the Lord for him and his family. Despite the difficult situation, he resolutely turned his heart to the Lord. He renewed his commitment to serve Him with all his heart and faith in the promises of eternal life. He kept his awe-inspiring faith in Jesus Christ and did not lose sight of his eternal promises.

President Nelson taught that “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening-or not happening-in our life. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy. … For Latter-day Saints, Jesus Christ is joy!” [26]

My dear friends, please remember that all things are possible to those who believe. From the beginning of Christ's ministry, He invited His followers to come unto Him, come and see, come and follow Him, "and go and do thou likewise." [27] These invitations were nothing but experiencing for themselves the truths, power, and love that the Savior offered. He did this because this is what learning really is. It's not just listening or reading; it's also changing, repenting, and progressing, which requires faith in Christ and diligent effort.

I testify to you that God loves us and that He is real. He is always there for you and me. I know that Jesus is the Christ. He is our divine hope to find joy in this life. His sacrifice was vital for this wonderful plan of happiness. As we focus our lives on the Savior, we will find answers to our souls' deep and essential concerns. I assure you that our confidence and faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ, will strengthen us to continue moving forward despite our challenges. It gives us reason for firm hope and provides a solid anchor to our souls, giving us a lasting inner peace that we need to live in these days and find rest in Him. Through the Savior Jesus Christ and His healing atoning sacrifice, we are enabled to stand tall and strong, even in the face of adversity. The Savior's healing power fills our souls with peace, light, understanding, joy, and love.

As one of His ordained witnesses, I solemnly testify that Jesus Christ is risen, that He lives and directs His Church on Earth through His prophets, seers, and revelators. He is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and through Him, we can be saved and exalted in the presence of our dear Father in heaven. I bear witness that turning our hearts to the Savior will help us feel a fullness that occupies the innermost chambers of our souls. It has been delightful to be with you in this devotional and learn about your faith and desire to follow the Lord as His disciples. I love you and hope you feel how much our Heavenly Father and His son love you. I humbly say these things in the sacred name of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Matthew 7:7-8
[2] Moroni 10:4
[3] Doctrine and Covenants 9:8
[4] Luke 18:1
[5] Doctrine and Covenants 50:22
[6] Matthew 14:24-33
[7] Mosiah 18:9
[8] 1 Timothy 4:12
[9] Matthew 5:16
[10] "It isn't a sin to be weak" by Wendy Ulrich, April 2015 Ensign
[11]"Recognizing God’s Hand in Our Daily Blessings" by Elder D. Todd, January 2012 Ensign
[12]"Helping Others in the Lord’s Way" by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, June 2015 Ensign
[13] President Russell M. Nelson / October/ 2022 Ensign
[14] Elder Rulon G. Craven, “Temptation,”/ May/ 1996 p. 76 Ensign
[15] Alma 60:23
[16] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Point of Safe Return,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007
[17] Doctrine and Covenants 64:10
[18] "Is it Possible to Forgive?" Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
[19] Ether 12:27
[20] 2 Nephi 31:20 and Jacob 2:8
[21] Matthew 11:28
[22] 2 Nephi 9:21, Alma 7:11-12, and Doctrine and Covenants 18:11
[23] Luke 10:42, Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best,” Ensign or Liahona Nov. 2007
[24] "Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice," Elder Neil L. Andersen, Liahona Nov. 2015.
[25] "Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains," President Russell M. Nelson, Liahona May 2021.
[26] "Joy and Spiritual Survival," President Russell M. Nelson, Liahona Nov. 2016.
[27] Matthew 14:29; John 1:39; Luke 18:22; 10:37.