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Just Try...

Aloha! I’m humbled to be here and for the chance to share some of my thoughts with you today.

One of the things that has given me strength are some well-loved mottos or catch phrases. These mottos have driven me and helped me through some tough times, some unsure times. Some of these mottos help me be brave. Some of these mottos have helped me be confident.

The first part of a motto I want to share with you is: “Just try…”
I’m going to count to three and then I want everyone to say, “Just try.” Are you ready? You need to be brave here for a second. 1-2-3 “Just try...”

I’m a convert to the Church. I didn’t join until I was about 25 years old. I investigated the Church off and on for about two years before I was baptized. I ended up getting baptized right at the end of my master’s program. At this time, I was feeling good about the Church, but I still had a ton of questions about it and wasn’t 100% committed to it. However, one Sunday the missionaries told me that the next fast and testimony Sunday all the missionaries in Ohio were going to fast for my conversion. I was so embarrassed, but they were so sincere and kind about it that I decided to get baptized. I thought I’d give it a try, what could happen? I’ll be moving across the country at the end of the month to start my Ph.D. program. If this whole LDS thing doesn’t work out no one will ever know… I’ll just try… Well, I learned a couple of important lessons that month. Fasting and earnest prayer can change hearts as proven in my baptism, and it’s not so easy to disappear into the woodwork when you have a determined bishop. The elders helped me pack up my moving truck and 37 hours later when I pulled up to my new apartment in Louisiana the Relief Society was there waiting for me to help me unpack it. How they knew which apartment was mine and somehow managed to know right when I’d arrive, I’ve never figured out. Needless to say, I was grateful for the help unpacking and for their fellowship that day. Since they figured out after the first 10 minutes of meeting me that I didn’t play the piano, I spent the rest of my time in Louisiana either in Primary or nursery. So, while I feel confident in the fundamentals of the Church -say your prayers, read your scriptures, go to church, popcorn pops on apricot trees, and that once there was a snowman – I don’t feel adequate in ministering to adults. I do know that because of my brave step to “just try…” has led me to amazing things. To find and be sealed to an eternal family and to this amazing job and opportunity. To know in my soul the Lord’s love, and to have a passion to share what I have learned while on this blessed journey of becoming a follower of Christ.

My “just try” attitude led me to another more recent blessing too. In April of this year, I joined a community canoe club: Lāhui ‘o Ko’olauloa. It is so much fun. If you have talked to me for more than five minutes in the last six months you already know all about it and I have tried to recruit, and in some cases, guilt you into coming to try it.

When I was younger, I would do a lot of white-water canoeing and my twin brother was generally the one in the canoe with me. I’d be in back and he was in front. We often had differences of opinions about how we should run a rapid or where to go, which looking back is pretty silly since rivers only run one way. When we got old enough, we each got our own C1, or solo canoe, to reduce the fighting. As things with school got more intense I had less free time to canoe and eventually gave it up. Since arriving on island and driving past Kahana I’ve dreamed about taking up paddling again.

Now when I tell you I have been wanting to take up paddling I have been a lazy stalker of the Lāhui ‘o Ko’olauloa Canoe Club for years. I would always look for the canoes when we would pass by Kahana. When they would be on the beach I’d stop by and walk the beach trying to be obvious but not too obvious hoping someone would be like “Hello stranger, we need one more person in our canoe. You look like you can canoe. PLEASE, join us!” And I’ll tell you what, that NEVER happened. Not even once. In fact, I was shouted at one time to get out of the way.

Then I saw BYUH’s Lahui Va'a Canoe Club hype video at Culture Night last year. It was amazing. I was talking to Dr. Kate McLellan about it, and she told me about a free community six-week canoe class. I thought, what is there to lose? Just try… I did. The first time I went I was nervous, nervous talking to new people, nervous about paddling again. The second time I was still nervous, and the third time. But I kept trying. It wasn’t until about halfway through the program that I wasn’t nervous anymore but excited to go. My excitement for the six-week program turned into paddling on the weekends with the recreation paddling crew and that morphed into paddling with the racing team all summer. Many of the best things in life come after “Just try…” like taking up a new hobby at the age of 39.

Am I the best paddler on the team? No.
Could I be the best paddler on the team? No. Well, maybe with lots of work and dedication, or at least I can get a lot better!
Should that stop me from trying? No. I just love to paddle. Paddling is the best sport to do with a bunch of people. You get to be out on the ocean, see animals, and paddle with some amazing people.

Because I thought I’d “just try…” joining the church I have a deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father, I have a testimony of eternal families, and I know Christ’s love for me.

The 2017 Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual states, “Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the Fall of Adam and also because of man's weaknesses and shortcomings. However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the explanation, 'It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do' (2 Ne. 25:23). [1]

In this life we need to just try. His Grace is what will save us in the end but only after we just try. The Lord makes up for our short comings. We just need to try. How many things have you been encouraged to just try? I know as a parent I’m constantly trying to get my kids to just try things like vegetables, doing their homework, getting along with their siblings… As a professor I want my students to just try to make connections between subjects, just try to answer the questions based on what you know and what you have learned, just try… to read the syllabus…

I think the idea of trying new things, trying to better ourselves, trying to be brave in the face of fear is trying to be more Christlike.

Being bold and having a “just try…” attitude helps shape our souls and open our hearts to do all we can do to be like Him and walk His path. The Lord is our Redeemer and will fill in the rest.

When I’m in a canoe with five other people I can only do all I can do. I can only do my very best and I have to rely on my teammates to do the same. I see a lot of students afraid to try and afraid to fail. If you can get into a “just try…” mind set, amazing opportunities will open up for you.

But “just try…” isn’t the whole part of it, is it? There is also the element of fear of failure that comes along with trying anything new. This fear can be crippling. Making you even afraid to start to try. How many relationships have been missed out on because you were afraid to talk to someone? How many songs weren’t sung because you were afraid someone might hear you and make fun? How many times were you not able to learn from a master because you didn’t want to look foolish?

Well, no worries, there is a second part to the motto that I repeat to myself when I feel my insecurities creeping in. It goes like this, “Just try… it’s only weird if you make it weird.” Let’s say this one together on the count of three. 1-2-3 “Just try... it’s only weird if you make it weird.”

I feel like we, as humans, spend an enormous amount of time trying to not embarrass ourselves in front of our peers. How many of you have thought something in your head that sounded completely normal, coherent, and appropriate but the moment it leaves your mouth you immediately regret saying what you have said? Well, that happened to me last week.

I saw one of my girlfriends, who is also in the paddling club, at Foodland the other day. At first, I didn’t recognize her until she said my name, and the first thing that came out of my mouth was “Hi, I didn’t recognize you with clothes on.” Yep, that sounded completely fine in my head but spoken out loud it sounds completely inappropriate. Now before anyone gets strange ideas about Lāhui, yes, we paddle with clothes on BUT they are clothes we don’t mind getting wet. My friend was wearing professional work clothes at Foodland, not her normal paddling clothes. Now this could have been an enormously embarrassing moment for me, but I told myself it is only weird if you make it weird. We laughed, exchanged pleasantries, and moved on.

In the moment where things could be awkward, strange, or embarrassing embrace confidence and bravely go forward! It’s only weird if you make it weird. When I first joined Lāhui I was scared to huli, or flip the canoe. After being in the canoe once it had flipped, I found out there are much worse things to worry about – like trying to get back into it after it has been righted. Falling out is easy – gravity and momentum help with that. However, getting in the canoe is hard. You must work against gravity to do that. But, just like everyone works together to move the canoe forward, everyone in the canoe works together to right it and get everyone back in. The first time getting back in the canoe I needed some extra pushing and pulling to flop myself into the canoe. It was awkward, uncomfortable, and weird. But I was so overcome with gratitude for my teammates not leaving me in the ocean and paddling off without me that the gratitude I felt for them helped make it not weird. Now that I can get into the canoe by myself (mostly), I have much more compassion and grace for those just beginning out.

Paul the Apostle wrote in Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” [2] In other words, we should be masters of empathy. It should never be “weird” or uncomfortable. If we are trying to be Christ-like then we should be able to accept all, for all that they are, brothers and sisters in Christ. It is never weird because we never need to make it weird. We do not need to be afraid of our failures. We do not need to be embarrassed or shy because of our inequities. We are all here to learn. We are all here to get better and do better. We are all here to develop our talents and bless those around us with those talents.

Do not be ashamed to speak up in class second language speakers, because you might not know all the right words in that moment, but you do know at least two languages. That is amazing. Do not be embarrassed because you answered a question wrong. You were brave enough to try. Do not feel weird that you do not know how to change a tire, make a doctor’s appointment, or fold a fitted sheet. There are lots of things that you are good at, that you do know how to do! Do not feel embarrassed to go to the gym, pool, or work out – you are making strides to improve your health. That is great!

I guarantee none of you were born knowing how to use a spoon and now look at you! Being able to use a spoon while watching your phone at the same time. These things just take practice. We should rejoice in each other’s accomplishments and cheer on those that try and never make it weird.

The third part of the motto is: “I have a plan.”
Let’s say this one together on the count of three. 1-2-3 "I have a plan.”

My family’s motto is “We have a plan!” I think this stems from all of us being planners that don’t like surprises. Besides the fact that I really do like to plan! Some of my plans are better than others and some are more realistic than others. Such as: I have a plan to work out every morning. I have a plan of what to make for dinner every night. I have a plan for what to do if zombies come to Hawaii… Can you guess which plan is the most thought out? Can you guess which plan on any given day is most likely to come to fruition? If you guessed I have a plan of what to make for dinner every night out of these, you would be wrong!

As part of my "summer of fun” canoeing I was blessed to take part in the Nā Pali Challenge, which is a 37-mile canoe race down the Nā Pali Coast of Kauai. The race consists of six women and six men. The two crews are changed every 30 minutes. To change the crews, you jump off the escort boat in the water in seat order and wait for the canoe to come “pick you up.” When you reach the canoe, the person in your seat hops out and you climb in. The race takes roughly six hours, meaning roughly six water changes. When you hop out, the escort boat comes to pick everyone up and you get a little rest until you do it all over again. If this sounds both awful and amazing, you are right!

For each water change we had a plan for how we were going to get off the escort boat, huddle together in the water, get into our canoe, and the pace we would set for the next 30 minutes. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans! One water change we were grouped together and a wave came at the last minute and split our group, so half of us ended up on the wrong side of the canoe.

At another water change we hulied shortly after getting in the boat and I thought, so much for plans… now we are losing time and have to do the hard work of flipping the boat back over, bailing it, and getting back in. I remember thinking, this is hard, and I float pretty good. I wonder if anyone will notice if I just take off towards land. But as an answer to my prayers, the men’s crew leaped off the escort boat to help us, cutting their break short. Hats and sunglasses were lost, we all ended up with bruises and sunburnt, and it was amazing.

Even though we had a solid plan for what do to in most situations, some of the situations we encountered we couldn’t have ever planned for. Like in life, even the most well thought out plans can go out the window in the most marvelous of ways.

Like most of us, I had a plan for my life and the life I’m leading isn’t it. In a lot of ways, it is better. Proverbs 19:21 says “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” [3] This verse is saying that you, me, and the person sitting beside you can make many plans, but it is the Lord’s purpose that will prevail.

We make plans for our life, go to school, learn lots, get a job, save the earth, cure cancer, make a million dollars, etc., but when it comes down to it our life here on earth boils down to a very simple and divine purpose. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website says “Everyone you see around you is a son or daughter of God, our Heavenly Father. He is the Father of our spirits. Coming to earth is part of His plan of happiness for us, which allows us to receive a physical body in His image and continue to increase in wisdom and faith.” [4] It is simple, we are here to receive a body, and I would also add to help our brothers and sisters return home to Heavenly Father. A life not in the service of our fellow humans is a life wasted. Our lives and the plan for our lives according to the will of the Lord for His plan will prevail.

So, if we put my life’s motto together, the thing I chant to myself regularly, boils down to: “Just try… it’s only weird if you make it weird… I have a plan.”

Which could be rephrased to “Be bold and be brave in the service of the Lord,” and if you are you cannot fail. If there is one thing, I’d like you to walk away with today it is that.

I know, as it is written in 1 Nephi 17:35 that “the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one,” meaning that He loves us all, values us all, and desires to bless all of His people. [5] And if you can just try to be bold, be brave and not make it weird, and have a plan and serve the Lord, then blessings will be upon you, both known and unknown.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] 2017 Book of Mormon Seminary Teaching Manual, Lesson 35: 2 Nephi 25
[2] Romans 12:15
[3] Proverbs 19:21
[4] Earth Life Is Part of God’s Plan (
[5] 1 Nephi 17:35