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Dear to the Heart of the Good Shepherd

My dear brothers and sisters, President Kauwe, faculty and staff of Brigham Young University–Hawaii, and spouses, what a joyful blessing and a privilege it is to be with you today. I rejoice with you in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’m grateful for the introduction that my beloved eternal companion Anita, shared with you today. She is our family hero. She contributed to 21 baptisms and confirmations of our family members.

I echo my appreciation to BYU–Hawaii for inspiring, educating and encouraging many rising generations to love secular and spiritual learning and to aspire to becoming lifelong learners and disciples.

Anita and I served in the Philippines for four years before our assignment by the First Presidency of the Church to serve in the Pacific Area, so we have served in two of the four target areas of the Church, where students are invited to consider being educated at BYU–Hawaii.

Being here, and seeing so many of you, I am reminded how BYU, BYU–Hawaii and BYU–Idaho have significantly contributed to the establishment and growth of the Church in many parts of the world, through the accomplished students who have become leaders in the Church worldwide.

For instance, two weeks ago I was in Tonga, and I heard of a gathering of 32 teachers. When they were asked to stand if they were graduates of BYU–Hawaii, 28 of them stood up. I had similar experiences in Samoa, Fiji and the Philippines so thank you BYU as an institution.

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a brother in our ward, who was a graduate of BYU–Hawaii about his calling. He said the previous year he was teaching in Primary and now he had been called to teach a class of seasoned adult men or whom we would refer to as high priests group. Acknowledging his feeling about the substantial change, I asked him what was one of the biggest contrasts between teaching children in the Primary organization and a class in the high priests group? His response was interesting: “Brother Wakolo, in Primary we talk about what we know. In the adult class, sometimes we talk about what we don’t know.”

Today I will share an experience and talk about some things that I know.

And by the way, isn’t it an amazing thing that in the next few weeks, we will hear from prophets, seers, and revelators? May I extend an invitation to you? Do you remember in 3 Nephi 11? The resurrected Lord visited the land Bountiful. They did not hear the first voice. The second time, they didn’t understand it, or even the third time. It’s not until they hear with their ears and they look steadfastly towards heaven that they were able to recognize the voice. So next week, I invite you to do just as they did then, to not only listen with your ears but also to listen with your eyes as we receive teachings and prophetic counsels from prophets, seers, and revelators.

In 2018, I was privileged to be assigned by President M. Russell Ballard to visit a stake in Utah. The time I spent in that stake president’s home, and being with him and his wife, truly inspired me.

I was able to hear the life story of Ruth and Lee Hall.

Ruth grew up in the Sugar House area of Salt Lake City. Her parents grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico . . . and came to the United States when they were in their late-teens and early twenties.

Lee lived mainly in Murray, Utah. They met in 1998 when both attended more than two years of Institute at the Salt Lake Community College. They also participated in the Institute Choir. In fact, Ruth didn’t know Lee was in the choir until she met him.

Ruth started to get to know Lee at an activity for a choir group that they both sang in. She asked Lee to a dance that weekend, about five minutes after meeting him. (Lee is convinced that she had a bet with her friends to see who could ask out the biggest loser at the party… and she won for sure. She denies that to this day.) They hit it off quickly and were engaged to be married by the end of July of that year. They were married on December 3, 1998, eight months after they first met.

So yes, for those who are prayerfully seeking an eternal companion, you may get an eternal dividend when you faithfully enroll and attend Institute and all organized activities, just like these two young single adults did. Their love for learning about the Lord brought them together and they were happily married.


Less than one year after they were married, Ruth started feeling extremely sick, passing out for no apparent reason. She also had pain in her abdomen. Her gallbladder was removed, and they thought that was the end of her troubles. For the next year or so, they went to dozens of doctor appointments, and had many tests done – but no one could figure out what was wrong with her. The couple recalls that it was a very frustrating experience, and scary at the same time. Finally, they found a particularly good doctor who wasn’t going to give up his search for her diagnosis until he had figured it out.

In 2001, Ruth was diagnosed with a very rare, chronic condition known as gastroparesis, otherwise known as paralyzed stomach.

This condition affects the stomach by preventing it from emptying properly. Food goes in but doesn’t want to move anywhere else through the digestive tract. It’s like a broken garbage disposal.

There is currently no cure for this condition. Ruth must be nourished via IV. In 2003 she had a G-tube placed in her stomach to help drain it. Ruth is nauseous 99.9% of her life . . . She has a hole in her side where a tube drains her stomach and helps to relieve some of the symptoms. She carries a drainage bag with her 100% of the time. It’s about the size of a small messenger bag.

Ruth’s lifestyle changed dramatically. She was homebound and bedridden. She could not cook, she could not drive, she could not do much of anything. She felt like a burden. There were times she felt her faith was not strong enough because she wasn’t healing.

One of the biggest issues with this illness is that Ruth’s immune system is very weak because she doesn’t get proper nutrition. Her body picks up many illnesses that are going around . . . and every year she can count on contracting the flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections, and other sicknesses.

Lessons They Learnt Thus Far

Yet, throughout the years, Ruth and Lee have personally witnessed the Lord’s tender mercies. Their hearts have been changed, healed, and the words of faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ have been written DEEPLY into their hearts. They have received the marvelous gift of the Savior’s Atonement. A gift that has no expiration date.

The Savior of all humanity suffered and experienced every infirmity, every heartbreak, and the pain of every sin that each person will experience while here on earth. He has felt EVERYTHING that we all feel. And because of that He has perfect empathy.

Ruth testifies: “I know He sent His Only Begotten and perfect Son to Atone for me; to Atone for all of us . . . and I am grateful to know I am not my illness. I am a daughter of God. [We] are all sons and daughters of God. And He loves us.”

Knowing that Ruth and Lee can choose to be happy is empowering.

Ruth stated: “Heavenly Father has blessed me in the best way. He knows I need a husband who is both compassionate and challenges me. Lee married a healthy woman, and he is so patient with a wife who is now chronically ill.”

Lee has taught Ruth through his actions and words that they can still be happy, even through trials and challenges, because he follows the Savior. He has chosen to be happy rather than feel sorry for himself, and recognizes life is a blessing. They laugh a lot together and appreciate the small and simple things. They learnt from one of Sister Linda K. Burton’s talks, “Being thankful is a much more gratifying way to live – “Thee Lift Me and I’ll Lift Thee, and We’ll Ascend Together”[1]

Lee says: “Ruth is an amazing woman! Despite all that she goes through, she has a fantastic attitude. You will rarely see her down or feeling sorry for herself. She is always thinking about what she can do for others. She brightens up the room with her contagious good attitude. People love being around her. We have been married for almost 23 years now, and we have dealt with this illness for nearly 22 of those years. We have tried to make it so this experience makes us stronger together, versus tearing us apart . . . and it has worked! We have worked very hard as a couple to not let it get us down or define us.”

Ruth is still sick and limited. She’s since had other medical procedures. She still wakes up almost every day feeling nauseated. Ruth gets tired very easily, but they don’t let that get them down. A few years ago, they bought a wheelchair, and Lee rolls her around all over when they travel so they can experience more together. They adapt and make the best of any situation.

Ruth still has bad days. She still can’t eat very much. They still don’t have children, but they have 29 nieces and nephews. They try to be the best aunt and uncle they can. About every other year, they take two of them to Orlando and let them experience the theme parks.

Lee and Ruth feel in no other way could they have received some of their blessings had it not been for this illness, recognizing the tender mercies along the way, never feeling alone, trusting, and knowing that God has a plan. They constantly rely on the Lord because they cannot do this alone. They know if they obey the Lord, He will strengthen them, and everything will work for their good. This brings them peace and comfort.

They are so grateful to know Heavenly Father has provided them with a strong support group, a loving and patient family; and for Ruth, an eternal companion who sees her worth in times when she cannot. They are blessed with friends who are not only pillars of strength, but who are also wonderful examples.

They strive to live as directed in Doctrine and Covenants 123:17.

“Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” [2]

Called To Serve As Bishop

Lee was called to be second counselor in their ward’s bishopric in 2005, two years after the G-tube was placed in Ruth’s stomach.

Ruth was weak and very ill. An infection had also spread throughout Ruth’s blood stream caused by a PICC line. (It is a catheter that enters the body through the skin at the bend of the elbow, extends to the larger vein, and stays in place – it dwells within the veins).

A friend visited Ruth one day while she was listening to the hymn, “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd”[3] and gave her a cute wood block with Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s quote inscribed on it: “Faith in God includes Faith in His timing.”[4] This quote changed her thinking to an ‘exaltation’ perspective.

Around the same time, Lee was interviewed by his stake president to be the bishop. Accepting the call, he was reminded, that as an under shepherd, you are dear to the Heart of the Good Shepherd.

Lee was a little worried because he had never heard of someone being called as a bishop who didn’t have children of his own. However, those worries were quickly put to rest as he and Ruth jumped in and served with all their hearts. Not having children helped them relate to members in all kinds of family situations . . . including singles and couples without children. It has turned out to be a tremendous blessing being able to serve as a priesthood leader with his unique circumstances, experiences, and gifts. He is finding ways to “father” the members of their ward, by listening, counseling, and encouraging, one by one, in the Savior’s way.

Ruth wrote in her journal on Sunday June 27, 2010, quote: “I stumbled upon Mosiah 24:14 ‘And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.’ After reading this verse, I knew we were going to be fine. I know that He will ease my burdens and He only asks that I stand as a witness. The Lord does visit His people in their afflictions.”

Sure enough, Christ was there to help ease their burdens through a loving support group, and Ruth was blessed with better health as Lee ministered and served.

Called To Serve As Stake President

In March 2014; 16 years into marriage, Lee and Ruth felt something was about to change in their lives . . . again. On a Saturday morning, Lee had an appointment with two visiting authorities. A little later, that day, Lee was called to be stake president. He was again reminded, as an under-shepherd you are dear to the heart of the Good Shepherd. With her current medical condition, Ruth read a message from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, which perfectly describes her feelings of Lee being called to be stake president.

"I believe we have all been created for greater things than we can comprehend . . . The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead; we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future."[5]

Lee verbalized his thoughts, “We are all enlisted ‘til the conflict is o’er. Happy are we.” Lee also expressed his enthusiasm of hastening the work of the Lord, together.

Both Lee and Ruth felt gratitude and love, knowing that this is where the Lord wants them to be at this time in their lives, and they move forward with faith and feel blessed to take this journey together.

This story of Ruth and Lee depicts their knowledge and understanding, that despite their circumstances, they are “Dear to the Heart of the [Good] Shepherd”

Today I might be speaking to someone who has lost a child, or experienced a miscarriage, or may never have a child of their own in this life, one who may have an estranged relationship, or lost a loved one, someone who has received a ‘Dear John’ letter, or who is struggling with his or her calling, mental or physical health issues; or who struggles with how to use time wisely, study effectively or is beginning to ask the Lord, Why me? Whatever the circumstances, the story of Ruth and Lee Hall, hopefully, is a good reminder to all of us. In fact, it can be our story. Life throws curve balls all the time. But we shouldn’t be distracted by focusing too much on them. We can do that by remembering important doctrinal truths and principles. May I mention three of them:

One: Remember who you are. You are always dear to the heart of the Good Shepherd.

Two: Remember your name and the family whom you represent.

Three: Consider your mortal experiences as education towards exaltation – in other words, always have an eternal perspective.


Remember who you are. We are children of God; He is the Father of our spirits; we are his offspring. [6] As a child of God, you are always dear to the heart of the Good Shepherd. I know that is true.

President Russell M. Nelson taught: “First and foremost, you are a child of God."

“Second, as a member of the Church, you are a child of the covenant. And third, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.

“Tonight, I plead with you not to replace these three paramount and unchanging identifiers with any others, because doing so could stymie your progress or pigeonhole you in a stereotype that could potentially thwart your eternal progression.”

President Nelson continued, “There are various labels that may be very important to you, of course . . . [no] identifier should displace, replace, or take priority over these three enduring designations: ‘child of God,’ ‘child of the covenant,’ and ‘disciple of Jesus Christ.’

“Any identifier that is not compatible with these three basic designations will ultimately let you down.”[7]

Remembering who we are with the three paramount and unchanging identifiers embedded in the marrow of our bones will help us to keep the commandments because we love God. Many of us have been raised with an unintended teaching that we should keep the commandments to avoid the consequences. What a different feeling it is to keep the commandments out of love for God, rather than fear of consequences. All things will work together for good to those who love God.[8]


Remember your name and the family whom you represent. Many of us come from families that struggle to make ends meet, pay for utilities, put food on the table, pay for bus or jeepney fares for school or Church. I invite you to work hard. Leave this BYU–Hawaii campus with success and set a standard for your siblings, cousins, and future generations that they will always remember. Helaman reminded his sons, Nephi and Lehi, quote “I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God. . . I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good . . . I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them.”[9]

What will be our response if we are asked by our family what have we done with our family name?

In an October 2010 session of general conference, Elder Mervyn B. Arnold of the Seventy, spoke of Latter-day Saint Church President, George Albert Smith, who was named after his grandfather. His grandfather appeared to him in a dream and asked him what he had done with his name. President Smith responded: “I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed.”


Consider your mortal experiences as education towards exaltation – in other words always have an eternal perspective. Amulek reminded us, “For behold, this life is the time to prepare to meet God; behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors”[10]

In the New Testament we remember Paul who was active in the persecution of Christians [11] and took part in the martyrdom of Stephen.[12]

He started for Damascus for the purpose of further persecution[13] and on the road saw a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, which changed his life.[14] He was baptized by Ananias.[15] As a convert he was beaten five times with stripes, thrice with rods; once he was stoned; thrice he suffered shipwreck; put in peril of death by drowning, by robbers, and even by false brethren; he suffered weariness and pain, hunger and thirst, and was imprisoned in the cold and in nakedness.[16]

Paul was not deterred as a disciple of Jesus Christ. He understood that whatever the experiences, we will always have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, who will help us to glory in tribulations that bring patience, experience and hope that leads to joy.[17]

In the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, we learn about the Prophet Moroni. His father was killed. He remained alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of his people who were gone. Whether they would slay him he did not know. He didn't have room upon the plates to write. He was alone, all kinsfolk were also slain. He no longer had friends, and nowhere to go, and he didn’t even know how long would be his suffering.[18]

Even with the weight of discouragements, lack of resources, anxiety and sorrows, Moroni understood his purpose and what he needed to accomplish. He and his father Mormon saw well beyond their generations. Moroni was the same that hideth up the record and deposited it in the Hill Cumorah.[19]

The enormous trials and challenges that Ruth and Lee Hall went through, and continue to go through, or those that Paul or Moroni faced, may cause many to think that their own trials and sufferings are of little consequence in comparison. The important lesson is for us to see experiences as learning opportunities towards exaltation.

Conclude and Testimony

My dear friends, despite your individual or family circumstances, you are dear to the heart of the Good Shepherd – always! I invite you to remember who you are every day, every day, every day.

I invite you to always remember your name and family whom you represent every day every day every day.

Consider your mortal experiences as education towards exaltation. In other words, always have an eternal perspective every day every day every day.

I testify of our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. I know Jesus Christ enabled the Father’s plan through His infinite Atonement. He is the Good Shepherd. The Lord’s restored Church has all we need to gain exaltation. I also testify of President Russell M. Nelson’s sacred calling as Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Living prophets always inspire and lead us to the covenant path that binds us to Him, the Good Shepherd, even Jesus Christ.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Linda K. Burton "We'll Ascend Together" General Women's Session, April 2015
[2] Doctrine and Covenants 123:17
[3] Hymn 221
[4] Neal A. Maxwell "Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds" General Conference address, April 1991
[5] Jeffrey R. Holland "The Best is Yet to Be" General Conference address, January 2010
[6] Romans 8:16, 17; Hebrews 12:9, Acts 17:28, 29
[7] Russell M. Nelson "Choices for Eternity" Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults with President Nelson, May 15, 2022
[8] Romans 8:28
[9] Helaman 5:6-7
[10] Alma 34:32
[11] Acts 8:3; 26:10; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6
[12] Acts 7:58; 8:1
[13] Acts 9:1
[14] Acts 9:4-19; 22:7; 26:14; Gal 1:15-16
[15] Acts 9:18
[16] 2 Corinthians 11:23-27
[17] Romans 5:1-11
[18] Mormon 8:3-5
[19] Mormon 8:14