Skip to main content

Focusing Outward and Upward Part 2

Brothers and Sisters, Aloha!

As Sister Walker made clear, we love each of you and truly cherish the opportunity we have to serve as missionaries here at BYU–Hawaii. I am very grateful for her message today and for the spirit of love and kindness she brings into our home—and frankly shares with everyone she meets. I am also grateful to have my mother, Carolyn Walker, here today, and express my deep appreciation to her and my father for their love and sacrifice, and for the opportunities they made available to my brothers and me.

A little over 22 years ago, Sister Walker and I were married in the Salt Lake Temple.

After the wedding, we had the opportunity to come to Hawaii for our honeymoon. At the time, I assumed it may be the only chance we would have to visit Hawaii, so, unbeknownst to Sister Walker, I scheduled as many activities and excursions as possible—including some that started at 6:00 in the morning. For a honeymoon, this was not a good decision on my part. In fact, it may have been one of the first disagreements we had as a couple. However, I scheduled the activities because I wanted us to see and experience as much of Hawaii as possible. I was quickly forgiven, and we enjoyed a memorable week on Maui and here on Oahu—even making it to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Shortly into our marriage, we were accepted to come to school at BYU–Hawaii and live in TVA. Though we were unable to attend and ended up taking a different path, I kept the acceptance letter and still have it today.

I share that because we have always loved Hawaii and have felt drawn here—for reasons far beyond the amazing weather and activities. There was just something about Hawaii that kept pulling on us and perhaps foreshadowed our call here as missionaries and the role Hawaii would play in bringing our youngest son to our family.

One of the many beautiful things I enjoy in Hawaii are the banyan trees. I am fascinated by how they send aerial roots downward from the underside of their branches, which in turn will thicken and grow—even forming a new trunk. Through this process, banyan trees are strengthened as they grow upward and outward. [1]

This kind of miraculous growth is not unlike how we can be strengthened by looking upward toward our Savior and outward toward our fellowmen—achieving lives of true abundance by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While much has been written on the topic of abundance,
I feel to share three principles that have blessed my own life and which will likewise bring happiness, growth, and fulfillment to yours.

Those areas are Gratitude, Lifting and Serving Others, and Consecration.


Let’s think first about Gratitude.

President Russell M. Nelson has said, “…counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems. No matter our situation, showing gratitude for our privileges is a unique, fast-acting, and long-lasting spiritual prescription.” [2]

A life full of gratitude will help you be far more fulfilled and content than a life wishing for the things or circumstances you do not have. With the prevalence of social media in our everyday lives it has never been “easier” to focus on what others have and what we lack. More and more psychologists and sociologists are recognizing that this is a problem with far-reaching impacts on self-esteem and even mental health. Even those people with much will find themselves discontent by focusing on the things they don’t have or wishing for the circumstances of others.

Put simply, true happiness does not come from the things or the achievements we have yet to obtain. Likewise, true abundance has nothing to do with worldly wealth, and comparison robs us of gratitude for all the Lord has given us—whatever our circumstances.

I have often spoken with students who spend much time looking forward to the things of the future, even perhaps at the expense of feeling gratitude for the blessings of today. Truthfully, I was also one of those students at times.

As an undergraduate student taking a full load of classes, I worked a full-time job, and often felt frustrated about my lack of free time- envying others who seemed to have far more time for the “college experience.” I felt frustrated about my lack of money, just scraping by to pay my bills each month—and if something unexpected came up, I was always short. I would look at friends and others who had more and was…again…extremely frustrated.

Also, I did not get married until my last year of college. Although in many places that is considered normal or even “early”, at the time often looked at others in relationships and felt frustrated that my full-time work and school schedule didn’t allow for socializing like I wanted.

These feelings were real for me and perhaps are for many of you. However, sometime in this period of frustration—I don’t know exactly when—I simply got tired of being frustrated all the time. Have any of you ever felt that way?

So, because I was tired of my own complaining, I decided to look for the positives of my situation and find ways to be more grateful. By doing so, I quickly realized that because of my circumstances, I had actually learned to manage my time extremely efficiently—far better than many of my peers. This was something that not only blessed me then as a student but has continued to be a blessing as we have owned and operated companies while raising a family and serving in the church.

Another positive from these situations was that I learned how to value my time and money, including the concept of “return on investment.” In other words, I learned to spend my time and money on the things that provided the greatest benefit while eliminating distractions and less-important pursuits.

Lastly, by having the opportunity to date for many years, the decision to marry my wife was very natural. The experiences I had during all those years of dating made it easier for me to recognize what I was looking for in a wife and gave me time to grow and become the type of person my wife would want to be with. That said, I’m still working on becoming the person she deserves!

Of course, I encourage you to plan thoroughly and look toward the future with excitement, but please do not do so at the expense of being grateful for what you have today. The opportunity to study at BYU–Hawaii is an incomparable blessing. Being here is an opportunity from our Heavenly Father to not only gain an education but to grow spiritually. With that spirit of gratitude, your experience here will bless you and your family for generations to come.

Brothers and sisters, when we take time to count our blessings, we find that life is indeed abundant, and we are able to live with greater joy and peace of mind.

Lifting and Serving Others

The second way in which we can live more abundantly is by lifting others, serving others, and surrounding ourselves with those who lift us.

The scriptures provide us with many examples of the power of lifting others.

The apostle Paul taught the Corinthians, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” [3]

Paul goes on to say to the Corinthians, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s good.” [4]

And in the Book of Mormon, Nephi teaches, "....the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.” [5]

The apostle Paul and prophet Nephi make it clear that service is not just about sharing our resources, but rather about the compassion we feel and show to others. Loving people truly makes the difference. When we serve others, we love and lift them, and in doing so, we also lift ourselves.

In that same spirit, President Thomas S. Monson taught, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” [6]

Many times in business, church callings, or even within our home, I have had to remind myself that the person is FAR more important than any issue or problem to be solved. President Monson’s counsel is a powerful reminder that our focus should always be on the individual. When we prioritize relationships and seek to lift others, we find additional meaning and purpose in our own lives.

President Nelson has taught, “To achieve our highest potential and enjoy the blessings that come from being a disciple of Jesus Christ, we must be positive and optimistic.” [7]

In addition to lifting others, it is also essential to surround ourselves with people who lift us. These people can be family members, friends, mentors, and others who exemplify how the Savior wants us to live. Surrounding ourselves with those who lift us is crucial for our well-being and spiritual growth.

For me, a personal example of this took place during college, which for many of us is a time of growth and change, when we are impressionable and figuring out who we are and what we want to do with our lives. I was no exception to this, and was fortunate to develop some wonderful friendships early in my time at BYU.

These great friends helped me many times along the way. They were kind and lifted others and were always looking to build people up. They were optimistic, generous, and fun to be around—and they always fulfilled their callings in our ward. Because of their examples, I wanted to become a better version of myself—and in that sense, they left an indelible mark on my life.

But it gets even better… One of these individuals ended up introducing me to my wife! She was actually a stranger to him, but he felt prompted when he met her, that I needed to meet her. He was living close to the spirit and felt impressed that we needed to connect. Because of his desire to help and lift others, my life is forever changed, and I received the greatest blessings possible—my beautiful wife and children and the sealing covenants of the temple that bind us eternally.

I’m still friends with each of these individuals today, and they continue to lift and build me in ways for which I will forever be grateful.

Brother and sisters, I promise that dedicating your life to lifting and serving others—and surrounding yourself with people who do the same—leads to immediate and lasting happiness. By looking outward to lift and serve we lead the lives of goodness and discipleship that our Savior would have us live.


The final area I wish to share today is the importance of Consecration.

One of my college professors taught our class something simple that has stayed with me over the years: He said, “If you learn to give while you have nothing, you will know how to give when you have much” If you can only give a dollar, that’s great. Take the opportunity to give. If you only have five minutes to spare, again, take the opportunity to share. It is more important to learn to give than to focus on how much you can give. [8]

In Second Corinthians we read “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” [9]

Consecration is not just about what we give, but also about how we give it. When we serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, we are truly consecrating ourselves to the Lord.

In that vein, it can be instructive to ask ourselves some questions to reflect on our hearts and motives:

Do I help others because I have to—or because I want to?

Do I gladly give of my time in the way I’ve been asked—or am I reluctant and give as little as possible?

The principle of consecration is absolutely crucial to our spiritual growth.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught that “Selfless acts of service and consecration refine our spirits, remove the scales from our spiritual eyes, and open the windows of heaven.” [10]

When we serve the Lord, we put our faith into action and we become closer to Him. Our spiritual growth and connection to God and his blessings are enhanced when we consecrate ourselves to His service.

Sister Walker and I—along with our children—have had the opportunity to serve as missionaries here on campus for almost three years. Why did we “give up” our life at home—including family and friends, business opportunities, comfort, and recreation—to be here? Our simple answer is that we believe it is our responsibility to give and love when we have the chance to do so. We are in no way perfect at this, and frankly, by being here amongst each of you, we have been blessed immeasurably more than we have sacrificed or given up. Being here has opened the windows of heaven to our family and helped us in countless ways. Being amongst you has strengthened our testimonies and has changed our family forever.

Brother and sisters, consecration is not just about what we give, but also about how we give it. When we serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, we are consecrating ourselves to the Lord. Let us be like Amaleki of old and “offer [our] whole souls as offering unto him” [11] by consecrating our hearts to Him and our hands to the service of our fellowmen.

In closing, I encourage each of you to practice gratitude.

I encourage you to lift and serve others, and to surround yourself with those who lift you.

And I encourage you to practice consecration. Please share your time and your talents. Please share your kind words and gestures. And please share your tremendous light and love for our Savior. And please start doing this now!

The paradox of the principles we’ve discussed today is that we experience more abundance in life when we think of ourselves less—much like Jesus himself lived for others and not for himself. Like the banyan tree, let’s grow our own strength by reaching upward and outward instead of inward.

The Master himself has counseled, “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” [12]

As you give of yourself, you will find that you will continue to receive much more than you have given. You will find happiness, you will find peace, and you will enjoy the spirit of the Lord in your life.

We are grateful for you and pray you will feel of the sincere love we have for you and most importantly, you will feel of the eternal and abiding love our Savior has for you.

I testify that God lives and loves you. He wants you to be abundant so that He can continue to pour his blessings out upon you.

I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Banayan Tree
[2] Russell M. Nelson, “The Story behind My Global Prayer of Gratitude
[3] 1 Corinthians 13:3
[4] 1 Corinthians 10:24, JST
[5] 2 Nephi 26:30
[6] Thomas S. Monson, “Love at Home,” Counsel from Our Prophet, August 2011
[7] Russell M. Nelson, “Let Your Faith Show,” October 2014
[8] Bryan Sudweeks
[9] 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
[10] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus,” General Conference April 2011
[11] Omni 1:26
[12] Matthew 16:25