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Focusing Outward and Upward Part 1

Good morning and aloha, it is a privilege to be with you today. Elder Walker and I, along with our family, have cherished the opportunity to serve here as missionaries. We've had the pleasure of teaching some of you in the classroom and hosting others in our home. In these settings, we’ve shared our personal wisdom and life experiences in response to your questions and seeking of advice. It would be wonderful to have each of you over for a visit, but since our living room is not nearly big enough to hold everyone here today, let’s imagine for a moment that we are gathered together in our home. We would like to share with you some thoughts that have been on our minds as we have prayed for all of you.

As college students, challenges and difficulties are a natural part of the journey. Today I want to highlight the positive impact of incorporating the Savior into our lives. I call this transformative process the “Three H’s”: He offers hope, facilitates healing, and brings happiness. Our Prophet, President Nelson, has emphasized that by following Jesus Christ’s teachings and seeking the guidance of the Holy Ghost, our lives will be blessed beyond measure. [1]

In the scriptures, we see numerous examples of how God transforms the lives of those who put their faith in Him. Saul, once a fervent opponent of Christians, transformed into one of the most significant apostles of Jesus Christ. Despite being nearly 100 years old, Abraham and Sarah became the parents of Isaac and the grandparents of Israel. Alma the Younger, once known as “wicked and idolatrous,” [2] became a powerful missionary and leader in the Church. The Samaritan woman at the well, whose life was characterized by sin, experienced a profound change and became a strong advocate and witness of Jesus Christ’s ministry. Joseph Smith, a young unschooled farm boy from upstate New York, translated and published the Book of Mormon.

We also see examples of God’s transformative power in nature. All seeds, when planted, orient their growth toward the sun. The Lotus flower thrives and blooms in muddy and murky waters, despite the unfavorable conditions. Its blossoms emerge clean and pure with beautiful petals held high above the water’s surface, reaching toward the sun. The caterpillar undergoes a radical transformation, shedding its old form and emerging as a beautiful, graceful butterfly. This is a remarkable demonstration of God’s transformative power, as He takes something that is seemingly simple and transforms it into something extraordinary.

What is the significance of identifying the pattern of transformation found in both scripture and nature? I believe God wants us to understand that by having faith and trust in Him, we can overcome any challenge or obstacle and attain our ultimate potential. As the scriptures teach us, “all things work together for the good of those who love God,”3 meaning that with determination and faith, we can become our best selves. God invites us to take part in this transformative power for ourselves, and I would like to share with you how I saw this in my own life.

[S3 UP] This is a picture of our family. It was taken the day our youngest son Samuel was sealed to us. He is now 6. He came into our lives in an extraordinary way. His birth parents were students here. Like each of you, they are talented, intelligent, dedicated and have testimonies of the gospel. [S3 DOWN]

They were not married. When they became aware they were expecting a baby—who would not have the opportunity to be sealed to his parents—they were courageous and had the faith to go to their bishop and apply the Atonement. Because of their willingness to let God prevail, not only were their lives transformed, but our family was as well.

An ocean away, Elder Walker and I were raising our four children in Arizona. We were happy with our lives. We experienced our own set of challenges and setbacks, but we were doing our best to follow Christ and teach our children to love the Savior. There came a time when both Jake and I had a clear and powerful impression that our family was not complete. Despite my physical inability to have another child, this thought kept returning. We prayed that a way would be made possible and that we would recognize the chance to expand our family when it arose. We exercised faith and waited on the Lord for many years before our prayers were answered. When Sam’s biological parents selected us to be their baby’s adoptive parents, I immediately felt a rush of the Spirit confirming that this was the child meant to complete our family.

To experience the transformative power of the Savior in our lives, hope must be evident. This involves fully surrendering ourselves to Him and placing our faith in His love and mercy. Obeying His commandments allows the Holy Ghost to guide us and bring peace and comfort into our lives. Despite the contrasting circumstances that connected Elder Walker and me with Sam’s birth parents, we all shared the aspiration to allow God to shape our lives. By exercising and embracing the Atonement, something beautiful emerged from even the most challenging and painful situation.

Along with having hope, we need to embrace the Atonement. Its healing power can cleanse and restore, allowing us to start anew. The difficult experiences we go through can be the source of our most profound blessings. They offer us opportunities to mature, acquire knowledge, and enhance our character—drawing us nearer to God and to our divine nature.4 Both of Sam’s birth parents have been sealed in the temple to kind and loving spouses and have children. They have both completed their educations and are now alumni of this great university. And Sam is sealed to an eternal family and gets to partake of the blessings of that covenant.

The transformative power of Jesus Christ results in joy. As we embrace the Atonement, our hearts will be changed and our lives filled with love. Jesus Christ is truly the “greatest source of happiness and peace.”5

My family’s story of transformation is still being written—it is not finished. Both my story and yours will demand hope and faith, as well as the continued application of the Atonement. By relying daily on the transformative power of the Savior, we draw nearer to becoming the people our Heavenly Father envisions us to be. Allow Jesus Christ to transform your life into something remarkable. He promises us the hope of a brighter tomorrow, the healing power of His love, and the happiness that comes from following His path. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Russell M. Nelson, “The Price of Discipleship,” General Conference, April 2018 
[2] Mosiah 27:8 
[3] Romans 8:28 
[4] Henry B. Eyring,Tested, Proved, and Polished,” General Conference, October 2020 
[5] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Love of God,” General Conference, April 2013