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How is it Possible

Brothers and Sisters, Aloha. It is a privilege for my wife, Jazzeth, and me to be with you. I like to think we all have our own unique story to tell and should be able to share when called upon. I prayed for inspiration in order to discover my inner message and hope that what I found will be of interest and benefit to you. My wife was also diligent in preparing the introduction of us and our family. It is a blessing to be reminded of how much I love her and what we mean to each other.

No matter your location this morning, it is good to be in your presence. Even though you are a virtual audience because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is amazing how technology enables us to be connected. When I was a freshman at BYU, participating in this way was almost unimaginable. The internet, as we know it, was in its infancy, and it would be over 25 years before applications like Zoom became available.

Remote gatherings have become the norm for many of us. Being present by being online is now a regular part of how we interact and communicate. I am told that since the beginning of fall semester, the University has had students log into Zoom from 45 different countries. From Honduras to Hong Kong, Bangladesh to Brazil, the Netherlands to New Zealand, literally, the world is our campus.

When I was a student, which really wasn’t that long ago, if you told me I could attend a class, or watch a presentation, on a portable device that you could hold in your hand, without cords or cables, I would have been skeptical. But given where I stand right now, knowing that you are out there somewhere, I cannot help but be impressed that it is possible.

When you log in to class or stream a devotional, I hope it prompts a feeling of gratitude and inspires a bit of awe. It is amazing how our lives have changed, and our opportunities expanded. Our ability to learn and worship though-the-Spirit is being extended by electronic means that were mostly unthinkable and seemingly unnecessary not very long ago. Which leads to my devotional topic today, wondering “How is it Possible?”

I begin with the version of this question posed by Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 3:31):

And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?”

In asking the question, Laman and Lemuel are doubting God’s power. Perhaps we can sympathize with their feeling intimidated by Laban’s so-called might. We sometimes react the same way when facing difficult odds. Yet instead of feeling reverence for the assurance just provided by an angel, that the Lord would deliver Laban into their hands, they fear man and disregard God’s will.

From Nephi’s position of faith, he had already answered the question before they even left for Jerusalem. He knew the Lord “would prepare a way” to accomplish his commands. [1] Nephi trusted that the “Lord was able to deliver” them and allowed himself to be “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do,…[n]evertheless, [he] went forth.” [2]

Nephi humbly obeyed the voice of the Spirit and courageously obtained the plates of brass. The plates proved to be critical to Nephi’s future generations in preserving the language of their fathers and the teachings of holy prophets. He demonstrated that it was possible because “it [was] wisdom in God, that [he] should obtain these records.” [3] Nephi goes on to have many powerful spiritual experiences and accomplish remarkable feats because he believed in the Lord’s promises and followed his instructions.

Laman and Lemuel continued to discount the miraculous events of their journey and were indifferent to the Spirit. Their need to be convinced overwhelmed any desire to be converted, and they resisted the guidance, blessings, and love of the Lord. Nowhere is this more tragically envisioned than in their refusal to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life. Their premise of disbelief in asking “how is it possible?” is indicative of them “being hard in their hearts,” and “not look[ing] unto the Lord as they ought.” [4]

The difference in attitude between Nephi and his brothers is instructive. I have sometimes used questionable judgment like Laman and Lemuel. But there have been times when I had the wisdom to respond like Nephi. How we ask and answer the question: “how is it possible?” makes a difference and reflects our faith in and appreciation for the Lord’s influence in our lives. Here is an example of how this played out in my gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon.

I came home to Honolulu after my freshman year at BYU, planning to work for the summer and submit my mission papers. As a way to prepare, I thought it would be a good idea to read the entire Book of Mormon before I received my mission call.

I recorded in my journal that I completed the final interviews with the bishop and stake president for my missionary application on June 3. It was an exciting time, and I anticipated receiving my call a short time later.

After two weeks, my expectations began to build. (I know a two-week wait for anything seems long nowadays). Yet, every day when I checked the mailbox, nothing came for me. After the 3rd week passed, I was slightly worried, but towards the end of the fourth week, I was getting frustrated. I was at a “how is it possible?” intersection wondering what was going on.

In my heart, I was starting to murmur, wanting reasons to blame for the delay. I had followed the process with the then required language test, done the dental check-up, medical exam, and interviews. I was working double shifts at a restaurant to earn money to help support me for two years. How could it be taking so long?

I thought I had done the right things and was disappointed that the situation was not going the way I expected. In reality, it was disappointing that things were not going as they should for a much different reason. It did not occur to me that my slow progress in reading the Book of Mormon might be a contributing factor.

I had been enjoying a care-free summer, and in being honest with myself, when I started reading the Book of Mormon, it was not with real intent. I had not made it a serious goal and was not committed enough in renewing my testimony of it. I had become too casual in my scripture study. I needed to repent, change my schedule as well as my heart, and be humble in my preparation to be a full-time missionary.

When I finally began to act with a “sincere heart” and “real intent,” [5] I stopped thinking about wanting a mission call and instead tried to focus on what Heavenly Father wanted me to learn. The Book of Mormon became a priority, and I found it fascinating to read. As Alma taught, when we plant and nurture a true seed in our hearts, it begins to enlarge our souls, enlighten our understanding, and becomes delicious to us. [6]

When I eventually finished the last chapter of Moroni, I closed the book and said a prayer. I felt a real thrill, a sense of accomplishment, as well as peace. I knew it was true and was excited to share it with others.

At that moment, I also felt assured that my mission call would come the next day. That would be July 23rd, and sure enough, when I went out to the mailbox, the envelope with my mission call to Hong Kong was waiting for me. In reflecting on this experience, I have learned that a seed planted with faith and purpose will grow and bear fruit, whereas a seed planted with hesitation and excuses will result in an empty pot, or in my case, an empty mailbox.

So how is it possible that the Lord would teach me so personally and directly about the importance of the Book of Mormon? The envelope from Salt Lake City had been postmarked the 20th, so the Lord knew of my progress and timed it perfectly, as he always does. It took seven weeks for me to receive my mission call, but it wasn’t just a lesson in patience. It was an investment the Lord made in me with the gift of testimony. I still marvel today how I was specifically tutored. I needed to pay the price to learn what I wanted to teach. As a result, I was able to enter the mission field with motivation and enthusiasm to share the truths of the Book of Mormon. I was able to serve with greater confidence and sincerity because I knew from God how important it was and that it was true.

Now let’s return to Laman and Lemuel, who persisted in their doubts and self-interest. They could only see what was before them and could not reason beyond their own short-sighted concerns. Here is the account by Nephi:

“And when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters.

And thus my brethren did complain against me, and were desirous that they might not labor, for they did not believe that I could build a ship; neither would they believe that I was instructed of the Lord.” [7]

Laman and Lemuel assumed they knew better than their foolish brother. “How is it possible” to build a ship, let alone a ship that can cross the great waters? is implied in their murmuring and complaints. Once again, they doubted the Lord’s instructions and his power to deliver them to a land of promise.

From previous experience, Nephi knew the Lord would tell him “whither he should go” to find ore, to make tools, to construct the ship after the manner which [the Lord] had shown unto [him].” [8] As President Thomas S. Monson has said, “It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help.” [9] The instructions and the means to build the ship were truly inspired and beyond what Nephi could have imagined on his own. Thus, it was possible because the Lord help make it so.

President Russel M. Nelson recently shared a valuable teaching about the word “myopic” to caution us about being nearsighted versus having an eternal perspective. [10] Laman and Lemuel consistently showed their lack of vision and were unwilling to let God prevail in their lives. In essence, they wanted to see before they would believe. Nephi was obedient and chose to let God prevail in his life. He believed and then was able to see more long-term what the Lord had in store.

I will share another personal story that completely changed my life. It is an example of how I was again specifically tutored by the Lord and learned to accept his will.

My first wife, Melanie, was diagnosed with lung cancer in June of 2010. She was 45 years old, an active runner, a non-smoker, and seemingly healthy in every way. She loved her family and was devoted to the Lord.

We first began to investigate her condition when she started experiencing pain in her side and had difficulty breathing. We did not know how serious it was since the various tests and consultations provided no clear indications about her health. One doctor prescribed an antibiotic for pneumonia—another recommended gall bladder surgery. But no explanation, procedure, or medication brought the relief or understanding we sought.

It reached a point where we needed to go to the emergency room one night because her inability to take a full breath was growing more severe. It was then that a CT scan discovered a mass in her right lung. This mass had been causing a large amount of fluid to accumulate around her lung, making it harder and harder to breathe. A subsequent biopsy found the tumor to be malignant.

At the first appointment with the oncologist, we were informed that the cancer had already spread to her liver, brain, lymph glands, and bones. It was considered Stage IV, and the prospects of long-term survival were very low. Treatment options were outlined that could hopefully contain, if not eliminate, the cancer. At the time, we did not fully understand the relentless nature of the disease and how it would eventually assert itself despite the best that medical science could offer.

I can still remember sitting in the living room, trying to explain the devastating news to our children. I shared their fears and questions about how this could be happening. Our lives were not supposed to be like this. How is it possible that someone in the prime of life would be consigned to such a trial? How is it possible that this was not diagnosed earlier before it spread? How is it possible for Heavenly Father to allow such afflictions to happen to his children? The list of anguished and confused questions continued to grow, just like the cancer itself.

The months passed through a gauntlet of different treatments and side effects, good days and bad, doctor visits, and hospital stays. The main constants were Melanie’s perseverance, powerful prayers and priesthood blessings, and innumerable gifts of kindness, charity, and service.

During a scheduled visit with the oncologist in December 2011, we were informed that although the cancer in the lungs and bones had remained stable, aggressive new cancer had developed on her liver. It was, therefore, unlikely that further treatment would be able to resolve the spread of the disease. It was then advised that she transition to hospice care to attend to her final needs and comfort.

Two weeks later, Melanie passed away, free from the pain, nausea, and impairment that could never take away from her courageous example. While her health had declined over the previous 18 months, our family’s faith had increased. As the side-effects of radiation and medications took their toll on her physically, the love, support, prayers, and fasting, truly strengthened our family spiritually. Medical science had been unable to provide a cure. But through the power of priesthood blessings and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we received healing.

My purpose in sharing this account is to show how our perspective is elevated when we turn our hearts to God. It would have been easy to dwell on the “how is it possible?” questions that came after the first appointment and just be angry and feel like life was unfair. Instead, I learned how it was possible to obtain peace by trusting in the Lord, his timing, and his will. I am grateful that through this adversity, we never felt distanced from the Lord by doubt, nor did we lose sight of his tender mercies.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:

“We all must walk through difficult times, for it is in these times of adversity that we learn principles that fortify our characters and cause us to draw closer to God.” [11] One of the main principles that I feel has refined my character and helped me grow closer to the Lord is how he used my personal challenges to my eternal benefit. Just as he taught the Prophet Joseph in Liberty Jail, “that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” [12]

That is why I am so grateful to have my beautiful wife Jazzeth here with me today. Our love and eternal marriage are an amazing “good” that has come from the experiences provided by our Heavenly Father’s plan for us. She is incredible, and a great blessing in my life. I love her for who she is and how she is helping me to become better. Neither of us expected our particular challenges in life, but we are grateful for the blessing of how we met and how the Lord has made it possible for us to keep progressing and finding joy together.

One of those joys is our blended family. It is no small feat to unite families with different backgrounds. Sometimes the answer to “how is it possible?” is “we don’t know yet,” but we do know it is of eternal worth and will serve an important purpose in the days ahead. We want to be an example to our children of how all things are possible to those that love and serve the Lord and love and serve each other. We have asked the question, “how is it possible?” as a way to recognize miracles and express gratitude for this new life and adventure together and not second guess what the Lord has in store for us.

Today, we continue to ask ourselves, “how is it possible” that we find ourselves in Laie, living in the shadow of the temple, engaged in the work of BYU Hawaii, and speaking to you at a campus devotional. Jazzeth and I are united in our gratitude and amazement at being here and trust that it is possible because Heavenly Father has a divine design for our lives. I used to ask, “how is it possible?” when things didn’t go as planned, but I now find myself asking because we feel so blessed.

Heavenly Father has plans and purposes for you as well in ways you cannot imagine right now. But if you will commit to asking, “How is it possible?” with meekness and a desire to learn, and with gratitude and a reverence for God’s will, you will be amazed at what the Lord enables you to do and become.

In a devotional to the young single adults (or True Millennials) of the Church, given on this campus, President Nelson called on us to consider “how is it possible?” when he said:

“You will be asked to accept challenging assignments and become an instrument in the Lord’s hands. And He will enable you to accomplish the impossible. How will you accomplish the impossible? By doing whatever it takes to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ…” [13]

Thank you for accepting the assignment to be instruments in the Lord’s hands, for being able to accomplish the impossible, and for strengthening your faith in the Savior.

I close with words from a much-loved hymn:

I Stand All Amazed [14]

"I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

"I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

"I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

"Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!"

Brothers and sisters, I am amazed at the love, grace, and mercy that are extended to us. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, truly is wonderful. He cares for us, he died for us, and through our faith in him, all things are possible. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] 1 Nephi 3:7.

[2] 1 Nephi 4:6-7.

[3] 1 Nephi 3:19.

[4] 1 Nephi 15:3.

[5] Moroni 10:4.

[6] Alma 32:28.

[7] 1 Nephi 17:17-18.

[8] 1 Nephi 17:9-10.

[9] Thomas S. Monson, “To Learn, To Do, To Be,” October 2008.

[10] Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” October 2020.

[11] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “God Will Do Something Unimaginable,” October 2020.

[12] D&C 122:7.

[13] Russell M. Nelson, “Becoming True Millennials,” January 2016.

[14] “I Stand All Amazed,” Hymns, p. 193.