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Your Spiritual P.H.D. — A Parent, Husband or Help Meet, and Disciple of Jesus Christ

Sisters and brothers, Aloha. I extend to each of you our love and the love of the Savior.

I am grateful Petra and I reached Machu Picchu and the top of Rainbow Mountain together. 😊

I am grateful for the introduction but would shorten it and rewrite as follows: “We are blessed to welcome to our devotional an amazing and incredible teacher and mentor, an intellectually brilliant scholar and author, and hands down the most beautiful person in the world… She is accompanied by her husband who will speak to us today” 😊.

I am grateful for Petra and I love her with all my heart! She is a wonderful mother, eternal companion, and disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. She supported me during my PhD program, and now, I am blessed to support her during her PhD program.

Although BYU–Hawaii does not have a PhD program, I hope that while you are here working on your undergraduate studies, you will also faithfully engage in your Spiritual P.H.D. as a Parent, Husband or Help Meet, and Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that for some of the Lord’s disciples, temple marriage and parenthood may not come immediately or even during mortal life. However, all who are worthy and faithful to their covenants are guaranteed these promised blessings from the Lord.

President Howard W. Hunter taught that “ blessing, including that of eternal marriage and an eternal family, will be denied to any worthy individual. While it may take somewhat longer—perhaps even beyond this mortal life—for some to achieve this blessing, it will not be denied”[1]

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said, “...remember that a loving Heavenly Father is aware of our righteous desires and will honor His promises that nothing will be withheld from those who faithfully keep their covenants”[2]

Now, in your Spiritual P.H.D.:

P is for Parent

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said, “Do we also teach our sons and daughters there is no greater honor, no more elevated title, and no more important role in this life than that of mother or father?... teach them to honor and exalt the roles that mothers and fathers play in Heavenly Father’s plan”[3]

Our Savior’s example has taught us to show reverence for both men and women, both mothers and fathers; and to receive our eternal companion as our equal partner and trusted counselor.

The family proclamation states that “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife” [4] when God blessed them and commanded them to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." [5]

“...the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children… [and] Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs… Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ” [6]

When Petra and I were students at BYU, we were blessed with the birth of our first child just before our first wedding anniversary. It was important for us to counsel with the Lord and prayerfully consider His will for our growing family in regards to our education and job situation. Because there are a variety of individual and family circumstances around the world, this decision may be different for someone else, but in our case, Petra had a strong impression to postpone graduate school to be a mother and homemaker, while I worked 2-3 different part-time jobs to provide for our young family. When I saw the birth of our first child, I just wept, and my love for Petra and her sacred call as a mother deepened significantly with each passing day.

The First Presidency said that “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels." [7]

For some, the gift of fatherhood and motherhood may not come directly during mortal life but may come vicariously instead. We know several covenant keeping women who are not married or who don’t have children, yet they have served as Primary, Young Women, or Relief Society presidents, and as “mothers in Zion.” They have loved and lead countless children of our Heavenly Parents.

Sister Sheri Dew said, “some women are required to wait to have children… [some] must simply find other ways to mother… As daughters of our Heavenly Father, and as daughters of Eve, we are all mothers and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility to love and help lead the rising generation.” [8]

She also said, “When we understand the magnitude of motherhood, it becomes clear why prophets have been so protective of woman’s most sacred role. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning… God the Father and Adam called Eve ‘the mother of all living’ – and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born… Motherhood is more than bearing children… It is the essence of who we are as women.… Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with priesthood ordination. It was the most ennobling endowment He could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women an unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate.” [9]

As a young married couple, Petra and I also worried about our finances and the ability to provide for our growing family. But as we exercised faith and followed Father’s Plan for us, we experienced many miracles at His Hands. As young parents, we made plenty of mistakes; nevertheless, we were comforted by President Harold B. Lee’s reminder that “The [greatest] work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.” [10]

For Petra and I, becoming parents increased our faith and trust in the Father’s Plan of Happiness for us, and provided a graduate level education and understanding of our Heavenly Parent’s love for Their children.

H is for Husband or Help Meet

President Howard W. Hunter taught that “...marriage... [is] a sacred privilege and obligation… Man is not complete without woman. Neither can fill the measure of their creation without the other. [11] Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. [12] Only through the new and everlasting covenant of marriage can they realize the fulness of eternal blessings. [13] As a matter of priesthood responsibility, a man, under normal circumstances, should not unduly postpone marriage.” [14]

We know that “God created man in his own image… male and female created he them.” [15] After man was created, “God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” [16] “Help meet” is an expression that is a victim of translation errors, sometimes mistakenly translated as “helpmate.”

The Hebrew words for “Help Meet” are “Ezer Kenegdo.”

Ezer means “help,” as in “life giver” or “life force,” and appears in reference to God as “One who rescues us” [17] or “He has strength and power to save” [18]. So women are a type of Christ, who have “power to save” or “give life” to man.

Kenegdo means two things next to each other that “corresponds to” or “complements” each other, or “in front of, opposite, or counterpart.”

So “Help Meet” or Ezer Kenegdo means that God created Eve as a worthy and equal counterpart to Adam with the power to rescue, save, and give life. [19]

Let me illustrate…

  • Will each of you please pull out your phone? …Now, I want you to simulate texting the word “together.” Can you text with only your thumbs? Easy, right? 😊 
  • Now, put your phone down and look at your hands next to each other, facing or in front of each other, on opposite sides, as counterparts to each other, they are equal but different, mirror images that complement each other and work together when you are texting. 
  • Now remove your thumbs which are only allowed to work when they are texting together, working in a coordinated united purpose, and also remove 1 hand… you decide which hand will be the husband and which will be the help meet 😊. 
  • Now, with these 4 fingers in one hand, hold your phone and try texting the word “together” again… Go ahead, but don’t drop your phone… No so easy, right? 😊 
  • Now, bring your other hand back and your thumbs now that they are together, to “help” and “meet” your other hand, you might even say that this hand helps, rescues, saves, or gives new life to your other hand when they come together. 

This activity illustrates how my life was like without Petra and how it is today with her as we work together hand in hand, coordinated with a unity of purpose.

Elder Ulisses Soares said: “There is no superiority nor inferiority in the marriage relationship, and neither walks ahead of or behind the other. They walk side by side as equals, the divine offspring of God. They become one in thought, desire, and purpose with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, leading and guiding the family unit together.” [20] President Ezra Taft Benson said: “Adam and Eve provided us with an ideal example of a covenant marriage relationship. They labored together; they had children together; they prayed together; and they taught their children the gospel—together. This is the pattern God would have all righteous men and women imitate.” [21]

[…and who knows, maybe they even hiked to the top of a Rainbow Mountain together? 😊]

Elder David A. Bednar said: “The unique combination of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional capacities of both males and females was needed to enact the plan of happiness. ‘Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord’ [22] … [They] are intended to learn from, strengthen, bless, and complete each other.” [23]

Without my beloved eternal companion, Petra, I would be incomplete and would have no hope for exaltation. She is my help meet, my equal counterpart with the power to rescue me.

Let me share with you the tale of the CEO and the gas station attendant:

“[A chief executive officer or CEO] and his wife were driving along an interstate highway when he noticed that their car was low on gas. [He] got off the highway at the next exit and soon found a rundown gas station with just one gas pump. He asked the lone attendant to fill the tank and check the oil, then went for a little walk around the station to stretch his legs.

“As he was returning to the car, he noticed that the attendant and his wife were engaged in an animated conversation. The conversation stopped as he paid the attendant. But as he was getting back into the car, he saw the attendant wave and heard him say, “It was great talking to you.”

“As they drove out of the station, [He] asked his wife if she knew the man. She readily admitted she did. They had gone to high school together and had dated steadily for about a year.

“Boy, were you lucky that I came along… If you had married him, you’d be the wife of a gas station attendant instead of the wife of a [CEO].”

“My dear,” replied his wife, “if I had married him, he’d be the [CEO] and you’d be the gas station attendant.” [24] 😊

Without my dear Petra, I would still be at the gas station. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” [25]

President Russell M. Nelson said:

“Brethren, your foremost priesthood duty is to nurture your marriage–to care for, respect, honor, and love your wife.” [26]

“Let nothing in life take priority over your wife–neither work, recreation, nor hobby.” [27]

“Material possessions and honors of the world do not endure. But your union as wife, husband, and family can… No sacrifice is too great to have the blessings of an eternal marriage.” [28]

I have not been perfect, but I have tried to consistently tell and show Petra that she is a precious daughter of God, and my beloved eternal companion and queen. I am so deeply grateful that she chose to marry me, and rescue me. Any success that I may have achieved in my life is because of her. I have constantly been blessed by listening to her counsel and moving forward together, side by side, as equal partners, and in a spirit of unity with each other and the Savior.

D is for Disciple of Jesus Christ

The word “disciple” comes from the Latin “discipulus” or a personal follower of Jesus. A disciple of Jesus Christ is one who is willing to take upon him or her the name of Christ and make and keep covenants. Being His disciples, we should be students of His life and His teachings, seeking to become like Him.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that at the center of discipleship is obedience. He said, “When we finally submit ourselves by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, we will really be giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give. Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory.” [29]

The path of discipleship has not always been easy, but it has been worth it and filled with a multiplicity of blessings. Petra and I began our discipleship when we followed the invitation to follow Jesus by being baptized and serving as full-time missionaries, despite strong opposition. It continued as we followed the counsel of prophets to prioritize temple marriage and family over education and employment, contrary to the wisdom of the world. All are important and valuable, but what we prioritize reflects our eternal perspective and understanding.

Petra and I have been blessed in our journey together as we have sought to “Trust in the Lord with all [our] heart[s]; and lean not unto [our] own understanding” but allow Him to “direct [our] paths.” [30]

As we acted in faith and examined questions related to temple marriage and parenthood with an eternal perspective, and sought further understanding through divinely appointed sources, we have been reminded to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” [31]

Our discipleship and efforts to seek first the kingdom of God include for example:

  • Daily prayer, journal, and scripture study 
  • Weekly Church attendance, family home evening, dates and companionship inventory  
  • Regularly donate tithes and fast offerings, hold family council, conduct personal interviews and arrange 1-on-1 dates with each child, as well as serve, minister, and worship at the temple 

Although we have not been perfect, and we have had to adjust based on our family needs and circumstances, we have strived each day, week, and month to consistently and diligently do those things that will bring the Spirit of the Lord into our marriage and family. Discipleship for us is a life-long educational learning process, which will continue into the eternities.

Sisters and brothers, I pray that during your time here and in the hereafter, you will seek to develop your Spiritual P.H.D, as a Parent, Husband or Help Meet, and Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, while also following the guidance from the Lord’s P.H.D., His Prophets, His House (or Temple), and His Doctrine. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for us, we do not have time now to discuss the Lord’s P.H.D., so that will be your post-doctorate homework assignment, to study how the Lord’s P.H.D. can mentor you with your spiritual P.H.D.

I know that as you humbly follow the counsel of His prophets, faithfully worship in His House, and diligently learn His doctrine, you will receive further light and knowledge regarding your Spiritual P.H.D.

As you prepare to leave this devotional, I invite you to get on your phone again, then go to the BYU–Hawaii Facebook page and scroll down to this devotional. You may or may not choose to click on the “like” button, but I invite you to leave a comment and share “What did the Spirit teach you about your Spiritual P.H.D.?”

In a few years, the world may not care what you studied for your undergraduate or graduate degrees, but in the eternities, the Savior will be very much interested in your efforts to gain as much education as possible, including an account of your spiritual graduate level education as a Parent, Husband or Help Meet, and Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I testify that Jesus is the Christ and “this is [His] work and [His] glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” [32] and exaltation requires us to faithfully engage in our spiritual P.H.D., as a Parent, Husband or Help Meet, and Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the sacred and holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] “The Church Is for All People,” Ensign, June 1989, 76.
[2] “Defenders of the Family Proclamation,” General Conference, April 2015.
[3] “Defenders of the Family Proclamation” General Conference, April 2015.
[4] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,”
[5] Genesis 1:28.
[6] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,”
[7] In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75], 6:178.
[8] Sheri L. Dew "Are We Not All Mothers?" General Conference address, October 2001.
[9] Sheri L. Dew "Are We Not All Mothers?" General Conference address, October 2001.
[10] “Maintain Your Place as a Woman,” Ensign, Feb. 1972, 51.
[11] See 1 Corinthians 11:11; Moses 3:18.
[12] See D&C 49:15-17.
[13] D&C 131:1-4; D&C 132:15-19.
[14] “Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, November 1994, 49-51.
[15] Genesis 1:27.
[16] Genesis 2:18.
[17] Psalm 70:5.
[18] Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29.
[19] See Angela Ashurst-McGee, “‘Help Meet’: Women’s Power to Serve,” Ensign, September 2020; Camille Fronk Olson, “Women as a help meet for man,” in Women of the Old Testament, Deseret Book Company.
[20] “In Partnership with the Lord,” General Conference, October 2022.
[21] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson [2014], 183.
[22] 1 Corinthians 11:11.
[23] “We Believe in Being Chaste,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 41–42.
[24] Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanse, “Behind Every Great Man Is a Great Woman,” Chicken Soup for the Couple’s Soul, 1999 [drawn from the tale from 1994’s The Best of Bits & Pieces].
[25] Ephesians 5:25.
[26] “Nurturing Marriage,” Ensign, May 2006, 37-38.
[27] “Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” Ensign, May 1999, 39.
[28] “Set in Order Thy House,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 71.
[29] If Thou Endure It Well, p. 54.
[30] Proverbs 3:5-6.
[31] Matthew 6:33.
[32] Moses 1:39.