From this podium over the years, my brother, father, and wife have all borne testimony of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is good to join them in testifying that our Savior lives and loves us.
I cannot deny the Christ as I have seen too many miracles and have often felt the whisperings of the Holy Spirit penetrate my heart and mind.
Elder Richard G. Scott, a former apostle, instructed: we tend to receive general impressions in our heart, then as we begin to act upon these impressions, we receive further clarity and direction to our mind. I have found this to be true. I am grateful for the peace and guidance of the Holy Ghost.
There has never been a time when the Holy Ghost has been needed more. Especially as we live in an age where "Men's hearts are failing them." The mists of darkness are intense and can be terribly lonely for those lacking a spiritual foundation built upon Jesus Christ.
Whether we seek the adventures the world has to offer or enjoy the relaxed Aloha of Laie, it matters not. What does matter is holding to the iron rod, which as we know represents the teachings of God and His prophets and guides us on the PATH back to Him!
To know the plan of our Heavenly Father and strive to live it means EVERYTHING. Life without a plan means a life without goals. Life without goals means we are just taking up space and are damned in our progression.
Growing up, my brother Tommy and I loved to run. Our event was the mile, and we trained hard.
We would lay in bed at night and look up at the ceiling and talk race strategy. In our boyish minds, our planning was sophisticated. If you don't get ahead on the first lap, then get ahead on the second. If you don't get ahead on the second lap, then get ahead on the third. And if you don't get ahead on the third lap, then for sure GET ahead on the 4th lap.
As simple as that sounds, the plan worked, and we won a lot of races.
Life is like a race. In order to enjoy the GOOD LIFE, we need a plan. We are blessed to live in a time where Heavenly Father's PLAN for us is just a click away. It literally is at our fingertips. His plan is the ultimate plan of happiness and joy.
I remember thinking as a missionary, how will we ever print enough copies of the Book of Mormon to meet the needs of the people? That is no longer an issue in the electronic age. Never have so many people had access to a prophet's voice that leads and guides us and gives us the plan.
For those of us who have taken hard classes, I believe we can appreciate Nephi's words:
"For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding."
The Lord is able to communicate with us in the way we understand best. He wants us to understand the plan. Sometimes the best plans and goals are very simple.
Marvin J. Ashton, a former apostle, once shared, "We learn more readily if things are taught and explained in plainness."
A simple prayer I heard over 20 years ago was one given by my 5 year old niece. It has changed the trajectory of my life.
Near the end of her prayer, she pleaded, "Please, bless us that we can have a lot of fun tonight!"...And we did!
It was a revelation to me that we can pray to have fun. So simple, yet such a profound truth. Since that day, I have always prayed to have more fun, especially as life can be so hard at times. If life is going to be hard, we might as well have a NICE time doing hard things. Some of life's greatest joys are found in accomplishing something.
When our son was in 7th grade, he decided to be a miler just like his Uncle Tommy and me. The only problem was that he liked to eat, and those extra pounds slowed him down.
Regardless, he ran the mile in his first track meet, and it was a disaster. I remember thinking to myself, "I guess that's that."
But NO, that was not "that's that!" He was struck by the love of running and overnight developed an intense passion to run.
He made a plan, he set goals, and trained like ROCKY in the movies. Over the next year, he transformed himself into a mean lean running machine. It was inspirational to watch. This is a picture of Nate running.
As the next track season started, he was the top runner in his school. He had a great track season, winning a number of races and at regionals placed in the top four. I'm always amazed at what can be accomplished in a single year by simple focus and dedication to a plan.
Later that summer, Nate attended a large scout camp. The final event of the camp was an obstacle course several miles long.
I was so excited to watch him run because now he was fast. I kept watching and watching, but I never saw him, and another boy won. The winner happened to be a good friend of my son. His friend was fast, but my son was really fast.
When I caught up with Nate, he said, "Sorry pops, I got so stressed before the race that I simply chose NOT to run." I told him, "It's alright. It happens."
Does this sound like any of us? Perhaps we hear about a great professor, but they are a hard grader, so we choose not to take their class. The only one that really loses is us.
My son's lack of participation was a great learning experience for both of us. We have had many discussions about that moment. We concluded to never let fear influence our decisions. You never know until you try, and if you don't try, you will never know.
Here's my boy gearing up to jump off a cliff in Africa. His mom was NOT happy. Perhaps, we had taken the fear discussion a little too far.
The courageous Apostle Paul said it best, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)
This is a very encouraging verse on how we should strive to live our lives.
Nathan eventually grew up and left on a mission. In one of his first letters home he declared, "The mission is hard, but the only way I'm coming home early is in a body bag!" Talk about commitment. He was all-in. It was a proud "DAD" moment for me.
My son was essentially declaring, "I'm willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for Christ." Meaning, I am willing to sacrifice my life to teach His gospel. He had a simple focus of being present on the mission.
Here is a list of some of his first goals set in the mission field.
Stay awake in All meetings on Monday.
Use the last study time right.
Don't go home for the next 23 months.
Make meaningful goals tomorrow night.
As we can see, goals don't need to be complicated to execute a plan. They just need to be real. The more plain and reasonable a goal is, the better!
It is through the power of focus on small and simple things performed daily that we reach our goals. For example, to become a physician, you just don't wake up one morning and feel like a doctor. It is a gradual process over time, requiring much study and experience. It is the same pattern in becoming like our Father in Heaven.
As we put in the spiritual work, we gradually grow up to be like Him. Think of the personal spiritual growth produced by years of daily scripture study, prayer, going to church weekly, and striving to follow our Savior. It just can't help but change us into better beings. To become like our Father in Heaven is to master the virtues he has commanded us to perfect, such as charity, hope, faith, etc.
When the Savior says be like My Father and Me, He is saying, master the virtues.
Paul concludes, "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
How can we not cherish a God of love and peace?
May we ALWAYS remember that the Lord is in charge. He is here to help us carry our burdens. We need to hold to the iron rod, work hard, enjoy the journey, and NOT get overwhelmed when the mists of darkness close in.
We lose when we shy away from opportunities because of fear. It's ok to be rejected. This is why missions are so good because we learn how to manage rejection. The Savior himself was and still is rejected. What's important is that we keep trying.
Let's go and do great things and stay close to the Lord and His prophets, as they KNOW the way. Keep it SIMPLE, Keep it REAL, and enjoy the journey.
Seeds of Faith are born one prayer at a time, one verse of scripture at a time, one good deed at a time, etc. May we live in the present moment.
May we simplify our lives in order to have more time to focus on Christ and others, and by this shall we live "The Good Life."
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.