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“Is There Hope Smiling Brightly Before Us?”

Students, faculty, friends: Aloha!

Thank you for being here today. You could be anywhere else, and even though you saw my picture on the devotional flyers all over campus, you decided to come anyway. I’ve pondered and prayed about what God wants me to say, and what would be relevant to you, especially the week before final exams. So, I’ve decided to talk about hope.

The title of my talk, “Is there hope smiling brightly before us?” is based on a phrase from the hymn “We Thank Thee, O God for a Prophet.” [1] That hymn isn’t really about the prophet. Sure, the first line talks about how we are thankful for a prophet to guide us in these latter days, but the rest of the hymn talks about the Lord and His goodness, and how we should rejoice in His glorious gospel.

“When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us, and threaten our peace to destroy, there is hope smiling brightly before us, and we know that deliv’rance is nigh.”

Is there really hope smiling brightly before us? It’s easy to think there isn’t. Just check the Internet. There is a lot of contention in the world. Wars and rumors of wars. People’s hearts failing them. Injustice, poverty, corruption, wickedness. Perhaps there are days when we feel if hope showed up smiling brightly before us, we’d want to punch it in the face. But if we look for it, hope is everywhere around us. I think you’d be surprised if you search how often hope is mentioned in the scriptures. It is smiling brightly before us!

My hope today is to persuade you that, yes, there is hope smiling brightly before you. We can embrace that hope, and that hope will see us through the good times and the bad.

I pray that the Spirit will be with me as I speak and with you as you listen. I hope the Spirit whispers to you one or two things that will help your hope. Hope should move us to action; otherwise, it’s just a wish.


Let’s set the foundation of what we will be talking about by defining some terms. What is hope? In everyday words, hope is uncertain: “I hope it doesn’t rain while I’m riding my bike to school.”

The gospel sense of hope is different. The Guide to the Scriptures says, “Hope is the confident expectation of … the promised blessings of righteousness … [the] anticipation of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.” [2] Spiritual hope, based on the foundation of Christ, is confident expectation.

Sometimes it helps to define something by looking at its opposite. An easy opposite to hope is hopeless. For today, I want to define the opposite of hope as despair. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught, “The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful... Despair kills ambition … Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn.” [3]

Perhaps a personal story will help illustrate these opposing concepts of hope and despair. I was not a serious student in high school. I did the minimum amount of effort to get pretty good grades, mostly getting by on my good looks and charm. I was accepted to BYU in Provo and had hope that I’d be an amazingly successful student. My first test of my first college semester was an Economics 110 exam. I had taken economics in high school and knew the basics of supply and demand curves. So, I didn’t really study—how hard could it be?

Well, the exam was hard. Really hard. When I looked at the first question, I had no idea what it was even talking about. I knew I was sunk. I thought about praying for help, and then realized it wouldn’t do any good. Why would God bless me when I hadn’t done a thing to prepare? I did the best I could—mostly by choosing C as every answer, and I turned in the test. I had no hope. And indeed, I shouldn’t have. I got a 22% on my first college exam.

But now here is the sad part. The despair lingered. I figured there was no hope—a 22% on the first test was a hole I thought I could never dig out of. What’s more, my pride was wounded. I had never done that badly on a test before. So, I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time: I just quit going to that class. I didn’t even drop the class—I just quit going.

Here’s a friendly tip to you students: that’s a really bad idea. I could have buckled down and studied harder. I could have gone and talked to the professor. I could have done many things to make the situation better, but since I had no hope, I gave up. And of course, I failed the class.

Let’s continue defining hope. What is the distinction between faith and hope? They are so similar. In the gospel, hope is almost always related to faith and charity. President Uchtdorf taught: “Hope is one leg of a three-legged stool, together with faith and charity. These three stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter at the time.” [4]

In 1997, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “These three attributes are intertwined like strands in a cable and may not always be precisely distinguished. Together, they become our tether to the celestial kingdom.” [5]

So, faith, hope, and charity are often talked about together, and are often intertwined. Let’s turn to end of the Book of Mormon for hopefully some more insight. Imagine Moroni cramming everything he could onto the last few plates he had, choosing carefully what to include that would be relevant to our day. It’s remarkable to me that he included two very similar sermons about faith, hope, and charity.

We read in Ether chapter 12: “And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen … Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith.” [6]

Well, those are powerful words that give me comfort—I love heavenly gifts. But this scripture doesn’t help me understand the difference between faith and hope very much. Let’s look at Mormon’s sermon in Moroni chapter 7: “I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope? Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope. And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.” [7]

It really does seem like faith and hope are so intertwined, as President Nelson said, that we could get too focused on trying to make a distinction when there really isn’t one. Luckily, there is a bit more explanation to help us with this relationship between faith and hope.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell described the interaction of faith and hope in a beautiful way: “Faith and hope are constantly interactive, and may not always be precisely distinguished or sequenced… In the geometry of restored theology, hope has a greater circumference than faith. If faith increases, the perimeter of hope stretches correspondingly.” [8]

We can consider that faith is the center of hope. If we picture faith as the inner circle to our hope, when our faith grows, our hope also grows—it expands outward. This graphic helps me see the interplay between faith and hope. If I want more hope, I increase my faith.

Let’s go back to Ether chapter 12 for a bit. “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” [9] Faith and hope, intertwined, requires action. A trial. Experiment upon the word.

Moroni says, “And I also remember that thou hast said that thou hast prepared a house … among the mansions of thy Father, in which man might have a more excellent hope; wherefore man must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which thou hast prepared.” [10]

A more excellent hope—an expanded hope—comes when we remember that God has prepared the plan of salvation for us. We must hope or we won’t receive our inheritance.

Moroni quotes his father, Mormon: “Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” [11]

Think of these beautiful words—peaceable, rest of the Lord, rest in heaven—in Mormon’s context. He has been at war since he was a teenager. He is without hope in his people, but he still has hope in Christ.

Moroni closes this sermon with what I think is the ultimate expression of hope: “When [Jesus] shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.” [12]

To summarize what hope is:

  • Hope is the confident expectation of the promised blessings of righteousness.  
  • Hope is the opposite of despair. 
  • When faith increases, hope expands. 
  • Real hope is centered on Jesus Christ. 
  • Hope is an action word. 
  • Hope brings peace. 
  • Ultimate hope is exaltation. 

Why is this important for you today? Students, this short time of your life is when you have to make some of the greatest decisions that determine your destiny—decisions of consequence. You need to have hope—you must have hope—to be able to accomplish all God has in store for you.


Let’s look at some examples of hope.

This picture shows the first class of students who attended the first semester at what was then called the Church College of Hawaii, in 1955. Imagine the hope they had! It was a brand-new school. The campus hadn’t even been built yet—they were using surplus Army buildings.

Paul the Apostle wrote that we “should plow in hope.” [13] I love that phrase. Farmers plow not just to keep busy, but because they want good crops. We plant not just because we are told to, but because we hope for a bountiful harvest. Elder Steven A. Snow taught, “Whether we are plowing fields to plant or plowing through life, it is imperative we … have hope. This ‘perfect brightness of hope’ … is the hope in the Atonement [of Jesus Christ] …. This hope has led men and women through the ages to do remarkable things.” [14]

Plowing in hope is a powerful message. Why are you here at school? You are plowing—preparing for your future. You had many reasons why you wanted to come to BYU–Hawaii, but one of them (hopefully) was that you wanted to prepare for a better future. Remember that! When things seem hard, remember WHY you are here! Sometimes our bright hope dims because of challenges or failures. But as we press forward, especially with a steadfastness in Christ, we persevere. When we fail, we hopefully don’t despair.

This is a good time to tell you the rest of the story about my Economics 110 class. When I returned to school after my mission, which had taught me good study habits, the first class I signed up for was Economics 110 again. This time, I had a different kind of hope. I had hope that I would be more disciplined. I had hope that I could probably do better than a 22% on the first exam just by cracking open the book now and then. I had hope that I could tap into the power of my Savior’s atoning sacrifice to enable me to stretch beyond my own capabilities. That hope motivated me to study hard, and ultimately led to a solid A in the class, giving me hope for the rest of my college career.


Hope is smiling brightly before us in scriptures, hymns, and talks in general conference. Besides this past weekend, which was full of hopeful messages, here is just a sampling of some hopeful comments from ancient and modern prophets and apostles:

This past October, President Nelson spoke in a worldwide video to the youth. He said, “You are … the future of the Church and of the world. Not only do I believe in you, but your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ believe in you.” He continued, “As you follow Jesus Christ, you will have all the strength and courage you need to face opposition in this hazardous world. I promise you that,” he said. [15]

That is a hopeful statement from a prophet of God. President Nelson also reminds us that “you were taught in the spirit world to prepare you for anything and everything you would encounter during this latter part of these latter days.” [16] You were prepared for what you are experiencing!

President Ballard in April 2021 said, “I speak of hope in Christ not as wishful thinking. Instead, I speak of hope as an expectation that will be realized. Such hope is essential to overcoming adversity, fostering spiritual resilience and strength, and coming to know that we are loved by our Eternal Father and that we are His children, who belong to His family. When we have hope in Christ, we come to know that as we need to make and keep sacred covenants, our fondest desires and dreams can be fulfilled through Him. […] I have learned over the years that our hope in Christ increases when we serve others. Serving as Jesus served, we naturally increase our hope in Him.” [17]

Paul wrote to the Romans: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” [18]

He is a God of hope! We can be filled with joy and peace. Even during the most troubling circumstances, we can abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. When faced with the impossible task of suffering for the whole universe, Jesus was able to do what even He was afraid to do because of hope—hope that His suffering would heal all wounds and save all souls who wanted saving.

Elder Maxwell says that “hope can be contagious, especially if we are to be ‘ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh … a reason of the hope that is in [us]’ (1 Pet. 3:15).” [19]

Share your hope. Give hope to someone who you can tell desperately needs it! Guess what happens when you share your hope? Your hope gets brighter!

About three months into my mission to France, I was at the point where I realized missions are hard. We were working very hard without much success. I could speak just enough French to realize little children were making fun of my accent. I was a little down. One evening, my companion, Elder Miner, gave me a simple compliment: “Elder Schlag, your French is really improving.” I could tell he was sincere. He didn’t say it was amazing. He didn’t embellish the truth. He just said something nice. To this day, 34 years later, I can remember how that positive comment filled me with hope. I had hope that I would continue learning French. I had hope that I could be what God wanted me to be. That hope reminded me that God called me on a mission, and I could do anything with His help. My hope was shining brightly before me that evening because my companion said a nice thing.


Now we come to the application portion of my talk—something you can hopefully remember and use after the closing prayer.

I present to you a pattern to apply hope in your life. Applying this pattern can give you the tools you need as you think about what you are hoping for, and how you can turn that “lively hope” into success. [20]

These are the steps to attain a perfect brightness of hope:

  • Ask “Why do I hope for this?” 
  • Take the first step! 
  • Align with God’s will. 
  • Expand your faith. 
  • Rinse and repeat. 

Let’s test this pattern with a few hopes some of you have had lately. First hope: “I hope she likes me!” Let’s apply the pattern to turn that hope into something more than just a hope—one approaching more of a perfect brightness.

We first ask ourselves the question, “Why do I hope for this?” For this step, it is essential to be honest with ourselves, to take the long view and to tie our hope to Christ. So, when we ask why I hope she likes me, the first answer might be, “Because every time I see her, I feel all warm, and my heart feels like it’s doing cartwheels in my chest.” That may be completely true, and that’s a good definition of love. By the way, there are times when I hold my wife’s hand, even after 30 years of marriage, and my heart does the same thing.

But if we are more honest, and if we take the long view, centering that hope on Christ, our answer to the question “Why do I hope for this?” might become something like, “I want to find eternal happiness and follow the covenant path.” That’s a more appropriate, faith-based reason to hope.

Next in this pattern is to take the first step. What that means is we envision what success looks like with humility and confidence, and then we think about the very first thing that gets us closer to accomplishing what we envision. In our example, we might envision success by picturing a fun, planned, paired-off, very inexpensive date. We might envision sitting with her at the Aloha Plaza, eating ice cream together, while the setting sun paints a picture-perfect sky that reflects magically in her soulful brown eyes.... You get the idea.

So, with that vision of success, we then think of the very first thing we need to do to move forward. Why the very first thing? Sometimes the vision of success seems so overwhelming that we don’t know where to start. Figuring out the first step helps us to not be frozen in fear by the enormity of the task. In this example, the first thing to do is to find out what her name is. How do I do that? Who do I know who knows her? How can I be introduced?

Next in the pattern is to align ourselves with God’s will. This is a balancing act. God loves us and cares deeply about us. He wants to help us. However, He will often let us figure things out by ourselves; that is how we grow. In this example, aligning ourselves to God’s will does not mean asking, “Heavenly Father, help me to know if this beautiful nameless woman, who makes my heart go pitter-pat, will be my eternal companion.” If we ask for that right off, we probably won’t get an answer. But we can pray, “Heavenly Father, it’s important to me to do Thy will. I’m pretty nervous to ask this amazing woman out. I feel that she is way out of my league. Please help me figure out what to say. Please help me to have confidence. Please help me to have the Spirit with me. Please help me to treat her as Thy daughter.” Then, we listen. God might have some advice for you through promptings, through scriptures or Church leaders, or through friends.

The next step in the pattern is to rinse and repeat. The instructions on a shampoo bottle are: “Lather. Rinse and repeat.” I must confess that I don’t rinse and repeat. My hair just doesn’t need it. But the concept is sound. So, in our example, let’s see what happened after the first date. It went well, but then she put you in the “friend zone.” Your hope is crushed. Despair sets in. Now, this is the time to review what you’ve learned. You’ve learned that you can ask someone out! You’ve learned that as you prayed, you felt the Spirit. You pray again: “Heavenly Father, I thank Thee for helping me on that date. I’m grateful to know she’s just not that into me. Please help me to be friendly to her. Please help me to continue to learn what I need to do to become a righteous spouse. Please help me to be sensitive to spiritual promptings as I search for my eternal companion.”

Then, you rinse and repeat. You start over with a new hope, your heart takes courage, you determine the righteous reasons for having that hope, you envision success, you take the first step, you align yourself with God’s will, you test the results, and you rinse and repeat!

We can receive spiritual confirmation of our hope. That doesn’t mean we will get what we are hoping for immediately, but when we check in with Heavenly Father now and then, He will confirm that our hope is still valid.

Let’s test this pattern on another hope some of you might have in your hearts: “I hope I get a good job.” Why do you hope for this?

At first, you say, “Because I want to be rich and famous, retire when I’m 30, and spend the rest of my life traveling the world going to Taylor Swift concerts.” As you center your hope on Christ, though, you say, “I want to be able to build the kingdom of God. I hope to be able to serve effectively however God wants. I hope to provide for my family. I want to share my blessings with others.” Then, envision success. Picture yourself five years from now. What kind of job will you have? The next step is to take the first step! Think about how you get from here to there—from today to five years from now. Talk to your professors. Research employment trends. Find an internship. Overcome fear—the fear of inaction, and the worry that comes with big decisions. Worry isn’t hope. Worry is when we are trying to bend God’s will to ours. Hope is when we have aligned our will to His. As you take that first step, and then the next and the next, regularly align yourself to God’s will. Check the results. Ask God if it’s right. Expand your faith by relying on God to give you direction, but move forward with faith. Work on how you hear Him. Then, when you get the first job offer and ask, “Is this the only one I’ll get? Should I wait for another?” remind yourself that your hope is shining brightly. Rinse and repeat!

As you apply this pattern in your life, there will be people who will call your hope “vain and foolish.” [21] They are crafty and persuasive. They will make the things of the world seem shiny and bright, carefully attempting to lead you away from the covenant path. Their goal is to distract you with what seems like a brightness of pleasure, or sophistication, or validation, or popularity. Please do not chase after that counterfeit brightness. Don’t dull your perfect brightness of hope for false smiles, which at first seem so pleasant but eventually will turn into wicked grins. Wickedness never is happiness. Leaving the path never brings hope.

Hopefully, you’re getting the idea of how to apply the pattern. Here’s another hope that many of you have: “I hope that I can find peace.”

Why do you hope for this, in a Christ-centered way? Because the world is so dark. Because I want to help others find peace. Envision success. The scriptures say we can rest in hope. To paraphrase the Psalm, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God.” [22] This phrase, “I will put my hope in God,” could be a daily pep talk. When we feel cast down, hope in God! Praise him! Think of a time when you have previously felt peace. Analyze it. Figure out the first step to make that happen again. Take the first step, a step that can be given through a prompting. Pray. Prepare for and worthily partake of the sacrament. Attend the temple, which President Nelson said on Sunday is “the gateway to the greatest blessings God has for each of us.” Feast upon the scriptures. Align yourself with God’s will. Ask if it’s right. Seek for more inspiration. Expand your faith. Rely upon the Savior to give you comfort. The covenants you’ve made that bind you to Him will give you power to pierce the darkness. As you rinse and repeat, you will feel moments of peace. You learn from successes and failures. You practice some more. Your smile of hope shines brightly before you, and others come to rely upon your hope when they cannot see any hope themselves.

Sometimes this step—rinse and repeat—requires spiritual stamina. Elder Holland tells us, “For emotional health and spiritual stamina, everyone needs to be able to look forward to … something pleasant and renewing and hopeful … It is enough just to know … there is the promise of ‘good things to come.’” [23]

Sometimes hope can be more powerful than faith. If we feel our faith wavering, we make sure our hope is centered on the Savior. When I look at friends who have experienced disasters of almost every kind, those whose hope survives intact are those who have clung to the Savior of the world.

As we rinse and repeat, we need to remind ourselves that indeed “we believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.” [24]

Finally, let me share what I’ve been doing lately to apply this pattern with one of my hopes: “I hope I make it to the celestial kingdom.”

Why do I hope for this? Because I know that’s where eternal rest and increase is. Because I love my Savior so very much, and I want to be with Him forever. Because I know that is what God wants—that’s His greatest hope for me! How do I envision that success? I picture myself returning home, and being wrapped in my Savior’s arms, enveloped in love and peace. What’s my first step back to Him? This is important, because I often feel so far from perfection, I feel like giving up. But then I think of the simple things. I think celestial. What am I doing well? What does my patriarchal blessing say? What are the promises given in the covenants I’ve made? I seek continually to align myself with God’s will. What lack I yet? I ask in humility to be shown my weaknesses, and I eagerly accept the loving chastisement He gives me. I rely on the Holy Ghost to provide me comfort and correction. I lean on the redeeming power of my Savior’s sacrifice. I review my progress not compared to other people, but only to my own self. I rinse and repeat, again and again and again and again. I slowly realize I’m becoming what God wants me to become. Centered on Christ, as my perfect example in all things, my faith expands. My hope shines brighter and brighter, until it becomes “firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God.” [25]

Christ is the hope of Israel. As you hope for the celestial kingdom, I encourage you to do all you can to align yourself to God’s will. Perfect brightness of hope means perfect alignment. For some of you, the most courageous thing you will ever do is decide to send that text to your bishop, asking to meet with him so you can clear some things up no matter what it takes. For others, you might have to choose to forgive. For others, it might be to cling to the slightest glimmer of hope while you work through a crisis of faith. No matter what it is you’re hoping for, this pattern can help you. I know that hope can smile brightly before you, because I have seen it in my own life. And I know God has promised it, and I know He does not lie.

The greatest gifts, like a perfect brightness of hope, require the greatest effort. It’s worth it. God bless you as you seek for that hope. God bless you to know you’re worth it.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] “We Thank Thee, O God for a Prophet,” Hymns, no. 19
[2] Guide to the Scriptures, ”Hope,”
[3] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Infinite Power of Hope,Ensign or Liahona, Oct 2008, 22.
[4] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Infinite Power of Hope,Ensign or Liahona, Oct 2008, 21.
[5] Russell M. Nelson, “A More Excellent HopeEnsign, Feb 1997, 1.
[6] Ether 12:6, 9
[7] Moroni 7:40-43
[8] Neal A. Maxwell, “Brightness of Hope, Ensign, Oct 1994, 35.
[9] Ether 12:4
[10] Ether 12:32
[11] Moroni 7:3
[12] Moroni 7:48
[13] 1 Corinthians 9:10
[14] Elder Steven E. Snow, “Hope,Ensign or Liahona, Apr 2011, 54.
[15] “Worldwide Day of Testimony: I Can Do All Things Through Christ” (9:00, 9:41),
See also Russell M. Nelson, in “‘You can do all things through Christ,’ President Nelson promises youth during historic worldwide day of testimony”.
[16] Russell M. Nelson, “Becoming True Millennials,” Jan 2016.
[17] M. Russell Ballard, “Hope in Christ,Ensign or Liahona, April 2021, 54.
[18] Romans 15:13
[19] Neal A. Maxwell, “Hope Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ Ensign, Oct 1998, 63.
[20] 1 Peter 1:3
[21] Alma 30:13
[22] Psalm 42:11, New Living Translation
[23] Jeffrey R. Holland, “High Priest of Good Things to Come,Ensign, Oct 1999, 36.
[24] Article of Faith 1:13
[25] Doctrine and Covenants 138:14