I'm not really musically talented, but I like a good song. Oftentimes, before a class, I ask students for recommendations from their playlist to play a song as students enter class. Last semester, one student responded to my request by asking me to just play a song from my playlist. So, today, I'd like to share a song that made it to my playlist.
"The Power of Love" was written by Huey Lewis as a theme song for the movie "Back to the Future." If you haven’t seen Back to the Future, you may consider checking it out from the library on DVD. If you need a DVD player just let me know and you can borrow mine. The movie theme song is called “The Power of Love”.
You can listen to it later if you want. I’m sure you’ll want to add it to your fav 1980s playlist after you hear it. If you are familiar with the movie and the theme song you may find some related Easter eggs in my talk because they helped inspire me.
Today I hope to take you back and to the future to share how ‘the power of love’ has helped me become a more committed lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ.
Like intramurals, devotionals played an important part for me in college. I remember attending weekly devotionals with a group of my friends. It was a blessing to step away from my studies and refocus on other eternal priorities. I was partially motivated to attend devotionals because of one of those eternal priorities…Linda, whom I was often able to see and sit next to at devotional. It's a curious thing what the power of love will do to you.1 Yeah, that’s right. I see you sitting with your “friends” too.
Linda and I met during my first week of college in the summer right after graduating high school. We were in the same ward for only two weeks before her housing contract expired. She then had to move to housing in a different ward boundary, but those two weeks were just long enough for us to connect and start to become BFFs.
I remember the first time I saw Linda. It was a Sunday night at our ward prayer. Our ward gathered together for a musical number, to say a prayer together, and meet our FHE groups. She played the violin for the musical number. She couldn’t see me, but I totally connected with her while she was playing. The power of love was so strong it practically made me want to sing,1 but then I remembered I can’t sing. I also remembered hoping that we would be in the same FHE group. It was destiny. The Bishop must have been inspired because my apartment and her apartment were assigned to be in the same FHE group.
As we all introduced ourselves that night to each other as FHE brothers and sisters, I tried to impress her by doing a backflip. However, I under-rotated during my backflip and belly-flopped on my face. At first, I thought love was cruel1 to me by letting me land on my face, but then I realized I still won 1st place for Linda’s attention. I quickly forced myself to recover so I could play an ice breaker game with my FHE group. We all stood in a circle facing in and put our hands in. Everyone had to then hold random hands and try to untangle without letting go. Yes, I made sure to reach for her “random” hand to hold.
Needless to say, despite belly-flopping on my face, the connection was mutual enough to keep hanging out with each other. Over the next 12 months, Linda and I did a lot of fun activities and became besties. We spent a lot of time hanging out and doing activities that didn’t need money,1 like cooking our roommates’ food, dancing, riding my tandem bicycle, playing at the park, and talking and listening.
We both knew my priority was to prepare for and serve a mission, so we kept things cool and just had fun getting to know each other. We weren’t really a thing, but kind of a thing. We went on dates with each other as well as with other people. The only time I remember holding her hand for the next four years was when we played the ice breaker game that first day we met. We didn’t know what the future held for us, but we knew we really liked each other. Through her friendship, she helped me strengthen my spiritual foundation and lifelong conversion to the Lord.
Over the next three years, we didn’t see each other because we both served missions (First me in Korea and then Linda in Denmark). We stayed in correspondence through old-school letter writing. I returned home a year before she did. After Linda returned home in 2004, we finally reconnected. Obviously, things went well. We had found the power of love. It had gotten a hold of us and with a little help from above1 we were engaged, married, and sealed in the Idaho Falls temple.
Linda is an amazing woman. She is full of love. The love I have for her is tougher than diamonds and stronger than steel1. It strengthens every day.
Fast forward back to the present, 22 years after first meeting. In November, we will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. We have five children. As the Family Proclamation says, we (Linda and I) together have the “solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for our children. Children are a heritage of the Lord.”2 Our children are each so unique and special. It is an amazing responsibility we bear to love and care for them.
While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then Elder James E. Faust said, “While few human challenges are greater than that of being good parents, few opportunities offer greater potential for joy.”3 I think the joy that comes from our children represents, in part, how they are a heritage of the Lord. They bring the power of God’s love more fully into our lives.
You too are a unique and special child of heavenly and earthly parents. You are a heritage of the Lord. Wherever you are from or whatever your family situation may be, please know that you are a heritage of the Lord. You bring joy to God. You bring joy into the lives of your families, friends, classmates, and other people you meet. You share the power of God’s love. You are helping to build His kingdom. You bring great joy into the lives of so many people. You provide so much joy to your friends. I am grateful to all of my friends’ parents for having children. Their children have brought so much joy, love, strength, and fortification to me, in particular during my high school and college years. And your future children will bring strength and joy to so many others.
I encourage you to share the gifts God has given you so you can share the power of God’s love. Be social with each other, go to activities, and get to know people in your wards and classes. Play intramurals! Serve each other, be creative (remember, you don’t need a credit card1 to have fun). I hope your fun can “maintain principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”2 Your ability to develop these types of activities now in college will serve you well as you seek to establish successful marriages and families.
Be wise in the activities you participate in as a student here at BYU–Hawaii. Remember, part of the mission of BYU–Hawaii is to help you develop to be a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ.4 That is really why I love being here (not just so I can keep playing intramurals). I get to share the unique gifts God has given me with you to help you become a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ. You likewise share your unique God-given gifts with me. It is such a blessing to interact with you during classes, internships, open gym, intramurals, at Foodland, surfing, and many other places. We help each other become lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ. Thank you for strengthening me.
Before you even came to BYU–Hawaii you demonstrated the high standards of the Honor Code. I know that, because that is the only way you were able to get an endorsement to come here. That is admirable. That means that when you were in high school prior to coming here, you were already making decisions to be a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ and living your life in accordance with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including repentance.
I highlight repentance because we are not perfect. While growing up, my mom always made sure my hair was neatly cut and combed. I didn’t think much about it because she would always just let me know when it was time for her to cut my hair. At the beginning of my senior year of high school my mom cut my hair to look nice for senior pictures. After senior pictures, I decided to let my hair kind of grow out a little. I know it’s a little hard to imagine, but it was awesome. I didn’t realize how curly my hair was because I had always kept it nicely trimmed. Throughout the course of my senior year, I started loving letting it grow out. I had a lot of comments about it looking so good. When I applied to college and agreed to obey the honor code, my hair wasn’t too long yet and I got my endorsement.
During my freshman year, I just kind of kept letting it grow. I thought it was probably getting close to being out of standards, but I was waiting for someone to tell me I needed it cut and my mom wasn’t there to tell me. There were also a couple of other guys who had long hair and I was kind of justifying my hair length because of theirs. It had been well over a year since I had a haircut. Although my hair was long, it was also curly, so unless it was hanging down wet, you may not have noticed its true length. To try and keep the standards, I had my roommate buzz some of my hair in the back to keep it off my collar. It didn’t really work. I pretended that it did though. I thought no one would notice and that I could big brain the dress and grooming standards.
A couple of more months passed…then one day I was in the temple, doing proxy baptisms in behalf of those who have passed away. After one particular baptism, I remember coming up out of the water. My hair was wet and laid straight, revealing its true length, as I came up. I distinctly remember hearing and feeling the spirit speak to me. He said, “Joel, it’s time to shape up. You can do better.” That was it. Someone finally told me…I wish someone else would have told me first though.
I actually knew that I had been flirting with being out of standards. Now I knew that God knew that I was out of standards. He actually always knew, but I was ignoring Him. Finally, He spoke quite directly to me and I knew that I needed to change immediately. The next day I found a ride home so my mom could give me a haircut. I got my hair back in standards and focused on preparing more diligently for a mission.
I had to be chastened by the Lord to shape up and get a haircut. Maybe that’s why it never grew back.
Why did God chasten me about my hair? Was it really that big of a deal? I don’t know, but I had made a commitment with Him and He didn’t want me on the edge of the Honor Code with any of my behaviors. I think my willingness to comply with the dress and grooming standards in the Honor Code was an outward expression of my inner commitment to follow Him and His Son. I made a choice that did not match my inner commitment of my love for the Savior. I hadn’t lost my commitment to follow the Savior. My testimony wasn’t wavering. Remember, I had a temple recommend and was even attending the temple. But I was still chastened by the Lord. Why? Because he loved me and knew I could be a better disciple of Him. I also loved Him and wanted to demonstrate my willingness to do His will.
The Lord chastens us because He loves us. We see this time and time again in the scriptures.
“The Lord sees fit to chasten his people.”5 Why? Because “except the Lord chastens his people, they will not remember him.”6 “The Lord chastened the Nephites because he loved them.”7
“Sinners are chastened that they might repent.”8
“The brother of Jared was chastened because he remembered not to call upon the Lord.”9 Remember, “whom the Lord loves he chastens.”10
The power of God’s love wants us to be delivered from evil and restored to His presence because “no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore [Christ said] nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.”11 How much do we love the Lord back? Are we willing to change when he chastens us? Remember, He chastens us because He loves us. We repent and change because we love Him back.
I may not struggle with letting my hair grow out anymore, but there are other things I need to repent of daily to be more faithful and let the power of Christ’s Atoning love make me clean. God’s chastening me usually comes as thoughts when I take time to rest and reflect on my day or when I pray. The chastening is usually about how I may have acted a certain way that was inappropriate as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like saying or doing something that was not out of love. Sometimes it is even chastening for not following a prompting. He wants us to be faithful today and every day after. A lifelong disciple.
A lifelong disciple? Can I possibly go a lifetime following the Savior and His commandments? I remember when I was about 15 or 16 years old. About the age of my oldest son now. I was at a friend’s house, probably on a Friday or Saturday night. We were all sitting around chatting it up. Whatever our discussion was, led me to pose a question to my friends.
I asked them if they saw themselves still active in the church and keeping the commandments when they were old, like in their 30 and 40s. I’ll never forget the way one of my friends turned and looked at me, staring at me with this face that said, ‘why would you even ask that bruh.’ He didn’t say that, that is just what his face looked like when he looked at me. What he did say was, “yes, of course!”
I didn’t question his commitment. I could tell he was sincere. He wasn’t trying to flex his testimony. He was just genuine. He had already committed himself to being a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t just him either. Many of my friends from high school and college strengthened my commitment to be a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ because of their commitment. I wish I could tell you about all of my family and friends that helped and continue to help strengthen me in my commitment to be a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ. You can commit to be a lifelong disciple too!
How do we commit and strengthen ourselves to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ? It may be unique for each of us, but let me reveal the pattern that I have shared about the power of love.
When I first met Linda, there was a connection. I’m not saying there will always be an immediate connection when you meet your future spouse, but at some point there will need to be a connection. One thing that helped make and strengthen that connection was finding out that she liked me back. We need to individually make a connection with God. We can be certain that He loves and cares for us too. He is there extending his love to us and hoping, guiding, and prompting us to remember who we are. We are innately connected to God because He is our Heavenly Father. He is the Father of our spirits. When we remember who we really are, a beloved son or daughter of God, we connect with God and we can know that He loves us.
After recognizing this connection, we are motivated to spend more time with each other and develop our relationship. Linda and I spent a lot of time talking with each other. It’s not that our lives weren’t busy, we still had classes, work, life problems, etc… but we prioritized meeting together regularly to talk and strengthen our relationship with each other. When we invite God more fully into our lives through faithful acts such as scripture study, pondering, and prayer we grow closer to Him. When we have the faith, or even just the desire, to plant the word of God into our hearts and give place for His words, it will begin to swell within our breasts and enlarge our soul. We will be blessed with an increase of His love and know that His word is good.12 It’s hard to form a relationship with someone you don’t spend time with. God wants us to talk with Him. He wants us to learn of Him. He wants us to feel His love for us. We just need to begin by exercising a particle of faith to plant His word in our hearts.
After years of Linda and I nurturing our friendship, the timing was finally right for us to more fully commit to each other; to covenant with each other that we would be faithful to each other and always love and care for each other. As our relationship grows with God as we make covenants with Him. Through our diligence, faith, patience, and hope, we will recognize the need to make these covenants. This will allow us to receive a greater fullness of His love. When we covenant with God we open the pathway to return to live with Him. This is only possible because of the Atonement and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.
After making a covenant with Linda and God through marriage, we became responsible to continue to love and care for each other as well as any children that came along. Marriage increased our opportunity for more joy. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t sadness. As you make and keep your covenants with God, you too will have an increased opportunity to receive His favor and blessings.13 After making and keeping covenants with God, you will receive a greater abundance of His love.
As we continue down our covenant path, we will recognize when our thoughts and behaviors are not fully in line with the covenants we have made. We will recognize when our ‘hair’ may be getting a little too long or when we may be getting close to the edge. Heed the promptings of the spirit. He will communicate with you the need to repent and change. When we feel chastened by the Lord it is because he loves us.
How we respond to God’s chastening may influence our ability to feel His love. Will we deny the promptings to repent and try to justify our actions? Will we become bitter when we are reminded to change? Will we be humble enough to ‘look upon the pole with the serpent of brass and be healed and live?’14 Will we humble ourselves and repent and change to repair our relationship with God?
Our choice will demonstrate our love for God. If we can remember who we are, a child of God, and that He loves us, we will have the confidence to make the right choice. When we have need to repent, as we all do, we can remember, “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgive, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you.”10
So how do we commit ourselves into the future to be a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ? We must feel the power of God’s love throughout our life.
- Remember, you are connected to God as His beloved son or daughter.
- Nurture your relationship with God.
- Make and keep covenants with God.
- More fully receive God’s love into your life.
- Be humble and repent.
These are guiding principles that have helped me feel the power of God’s love in my life. I pray that they will be useful to you in your commitment to be a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ. As the song says, let the power of love change you from a mortal hawk into an eternal white dove. I testify that God loves you. I testify that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can become clean and more fully feel the power of God’s love for us.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
- The Power of Love, Huey Lewis.
- Family: A Proclamation to the World. 1995, November. Ensign, 25, p. 102.
- Elder James E. Faust, 'The Greatest Challenge in the World- Good parenting," October 1990, Saturday Afternoon Session.
- Mission Statement, Brigham Young University–Hawaii, 2022.
- 1 Nephi 16:25
- Helaman 12:3
- Helaman 15:3
- Doctrine and Covenants 1:27
- Ether 2:14
- Doctrine and Covenants 95:1
- 3 Nephi 27:19
- Alma 32
- Numbers 21:9
- 1 Nephi 17:35