Aloha. I am so grateful for Monica. She is wonderful, and I love her more every day. Please take her message to heart and build yourself into a person of integrity.
Welcome to spring semester! It is an exciting time. We have nearly 400 new students. They are so new that they can’t fully understand how impressive the new Banyan Dining Hall really is! I want to thank David Keala, Jim Brown, and everyone who helped with the design and construction of that facility, and everyone who is working to run it. It has already been an enormous blessing to our campus.
I want to start this morning by sharing with you a Chinese parable known as “an old man lost his horse.”
A long time ago, there was an old man in the countryside who made his living by raising horses. One day one of his horses ran away and was lost to him. This was a significant loss for his family and livelihood, and the man’s friends came to console him. They were surprised to find that he wasn’t worried at all. He replied to their expressions by saying, “I wish it wasn’t lost but…good news, bad news, who knows?”
Sometime later, the missing horse returned home safely and brought with it a companion horse that was strong and healthy and joined his stable. The man’s friends again heard the news and exclaimed, “You’re so lucky. This is amazing.” To which the old man replied, “good news, bad news, who knows?”
Later that year, the farmer’s young boy was riding the new horse when it became unruly, causing him to fall and break his leg. Again, the man’s friends rushed to his support, and again, the man was calm in the face of this tragedy and reassured his friends saying, “good news, bad news, who knows?”
The old man’s friends and neighbors had come to expect to hear this from him. They expected his steadiness. But still, they questioned what possible positive outcomes could come from this terrible accident.
A year later, the country went to war. All young and healthy men were drafted to participate in the war, and most of them died in battle. The old man’s son was not drafted because of the lingering effects of his catastrophic leg injury. The old man and his son survived the war.
The old man’s response?
Good news, bad news, who knows?
When I was a child my parents shared this story with me. Their lives have included many hardships, such as losing a very late-term pregnancy, significant chronic health issues, and crippling financial struggles. They always did and continue to live by the principle demonstrated in this story. I have vivid memories of them both saying, “good news, bad news, who knows?” during the both the ups and downs of life.
Trials, challenges, unfairness have purpose in this mortal existence
We all know trials, challenges and unfairness are part of life. No one is exempt. In recent years, we have become more and more aware of the human suffering that comes about because of the poor use of agency of our fellow brothers and sisters. This can take the form of discrimination, abuse, deception, and many other types of unrighteous dominion. We have also experienced natural disasters, including a global pandemic, earthquakes, flooding, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and drought. The human suffering that has resulted from these trials is awful. And in many cases, these events continue to cause great pain to those being directly affected as well as those whose hearts are filled with sympathy, empathy, and a desire to provide succor.
We have been taught by the Lord that there is a basis and purpose for all of these trials and challenges. In 2 Nephi 2:11, we read Lehi’s explanation of this to his son, Jacob,
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” 1
In that same chapter, Lehi also teaches, “Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” 2
We know that the trials of this life, whether they come from our brothers and sisters or from the circumstances of nature, have a purpose. The Lord has taught us about this purpose directly, and through his prophets many times.
The purpose of our mortal existence is discussed in Abraham. It says,
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” 3
In Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, he teaches that “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." 4
Trials are still difficult to experience and see.
A few years ago, I lost a dear friend. He and I had spent many hours talking, working, and fishing together. I learned so much from him. I watched as he loved and served those around him in ways that I simply had never seen anyone do before. He was healthy and strong, his work ethic was unmatched. And then, in what felt like the blink of an eye, he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. Left behind were his wonderful wife and eight children, two of whom were still young. In my mind, I can play out dozens of scenarios where his unique personality and capacity would have helped people and made the world a better place. I wish he was still here. I feel like he was taken too soon. It has been a few years, and it still feels like he was taken too soon.
To this day, I do not fully understand the Lord’s purpose in taking Big Wave Dave from this earth.
I do not fully understand why the great Kingdom of Tonga experienced such devastation from the recent volcanic eruption.
I do not fully understand the vast differences in human conditions and circumstances that so many are born into on this earth.
In April 2021, Elder Dale G. Renlund taught us that,
“Some unfairness cannot be explained; inexplicable unfairness is infuriating. Unfairness comes from living with bodies that are imperfect, injured, or diseased. Mortal life is inherently unfair. Some people are born in affluence; others are not. Some have loving parents; others do not. Some live many years; others, few. And on and on and on. Some individuals make injurious mistakes even when they are trying to do good. Some choose not to alleviate unfairness when they could. Distressingly, some individuals use their God-given agency to hurt others when they never should.”
He continued, saying, "My heart aches for those who face such unfairness, but I declare with all my aching heart that Jesus Christ both understands unfairness and has the power to provide a remedy. Nothing compares to the unfairness He endured. It was not fair that He experienced all the pains and afflictions of mankind. It was not fair that He suffered for my sins and mistakes and for yours. But He chose to do so because of His love for us and for Heavenly Father. He understands perfectly what we are experiencing." 5
Amid the pain we experience in this mortal life, it is easy to wonder, how can we endure?
To endure we must have faith in God’s plan of salvation and Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
Elder Renlund reminds us that our Savior, Jesus Christ knows all pain and all sorrow. He also reminds us that our Father in Heaven's plan of salvation, with the Atonement of Christ as a centerpiece, provides the way to eternal happiness.
In 2016, Elder Renlund explained just how important Christ’s Atonement is.
“If life were truly fair, you and I would never be resurrected; you and I would never be able to stand clean before God. In this respect, I am grateful that life is not fair. … Through God’s compassion, kindness, and love, we will all receive more than we deserve, more than we can ever earn, and more than we can ever hope for.” 6
Our imperfection leaves us subject to the demands of justice. But Jesus Christ, our Savior, suffered all things, to fulfill our Heavenly Father’s plan, and bring us salvation.
The prophet Abinadi testified of Jesus Christ’s role in this plan, saying,
“Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.
And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.” 7
We must have faith that His suffering and Atonement are infinite and eternal; faith that the unfairness of this world has purpose; faith to believe that situation is temporary; and faith that all things will be made right, the demands of justice satisfied, and mercy provided through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Second, we must trust Him and be of good cheer.
The scriptures are full of instances where the Lord assures those in troubled circumstances that he knows the ultimate outcome will be in our favor, and that there is reason to “be of good cheer.”
In John 16:33, Christ tells his disciples, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” 8
In this dispensation, the Lord again promised, “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.” 9
In my February 2022 devotional, I spoke about the lens of gratitude and how “gratitude allows us to see happiness and satisfaction through the glare of challenging life events. Without it, we can be overwhelmed by envy, contempt, and misery, rendered completely unable to see the good that is in our lives.” “[Having gratitude] allows us to thrive temporally and spiritually amid...challenges.” 10
President Nelson’s perspective is clear:
“My dear brothers and sisters, 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 lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy.” 11
Think about that again.
When you focus on Christ and His gospel you can, “…feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in” your life. Good news, or bad news, you can find joy in midst of it.
Finally, we need each other to endure these trials.
Think of our little parable. Could the old man have been as resilient and positive if his neighbors hadn’t made the effort to console him in the hard times and celebrate with him during the good ones?
In your baptismal covenant, you took upon yourselves the name of Jesus Christ and promised to always remember him, keep his commandments, and serve him always. Alma taught that this covenant was warranted for people who “…are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” 12 When we seek to honor these covenants, and be more like Jesus Christ, we will certainly feel an increase of love and compassion for those around us and a desire to serve them.
I am grateful to have experienced this in my life. I mentioned previously the difficult experience of losing my dear friend, Big Wave Dave. As the days passed after his death, I was struggling personally to deal with him being gone. During the services held to celebrate his life, I sat and looked into the eyes of his wife and daughters, whom I also love dearly, and I was overwhelmed. I felt their pain. I felt a desire, unlike anything I had felt before, to bear their burdens, mourn with them and comfort them. I tried to do that. I know it wasn’t enough to alleviate all their pain, but I hope it made a difference.
Each one of us can make a difference for others. From that perspective, what a blessing it is for each of us be a student or employee of BYU–Hawaii. We have been charged by President McKay and by prophets, seers, and revelators that have come after him to be a special example to the world. We have a special responsibility to be leaders in establishing peace internationally. We have a special responsibility to demonstrate the power and unity that results from making and honoring covenants with God and living like Jesus Christ. This is not a simple responsibility. It will only be accomplished with great effort and determination.
We have been trusted with vast resources and the active support of our living prophets, of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of our Father in Heaven to do this.
I plead with you to carefully consider your role in this special responsibility. Build your faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, trust in Him and be of good cheer. As you do that, prayerfully ponder how you can lighten the burdens of those around you, mourn with those who mourn and comfort those in need of comfort.
I testify to you that the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to bring peace and good cheer, even amid the trials of this life. You can and will have access to that power as you seek to love and serve as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful to be engaged in this divine cause with you, and to be able to serve you. I love you and pray for your continued progress and success.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
- 2 Nephi 2: 11
- 2 Nephi 2:2
- Abraham 3:25–26
- 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18
- Dale G. Renlund, “Infuriating Unfairness,” General Conference, April 2021.
- Dale G. Renlund, “That I Might Draw All Men unto Me,” General Conference, April 2016.
- Mosiah 15:7-9
- John 16:33
- D&C 68:6
- John S.K. Kauwe III, "Through the Lens of Gratitude," BYU–Hawaii Devotional, February 2022.
- Russell M. Nelson, “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” General Conference, October 2016.
- Mosiah 18:8-9