As a General Authority Seventy, Elder Foster served in the South America South Area Presidency and in the North America Southwest Area. He also spent time as executive director of the Family History Department.
Elder Foster attended Ricks College focusing on preveterinary studies. In 1971 he started his own company, Foster Agri Business. He has served as a member of the Idaho Potato Commission, on the board of directors for Farm Credit Bank, and on the President’s Advancement Council at BYU–Idaho.
Elder Foster has served in numerous Church callings, including full-time missionary in Texas, bishop, stake president, and president of the California Arcadia Mission (1992–1995).
Bradley Duane Foster was born in Rigby, Idaho, on March 5, 1949. He married Sharol Anderson in May 1971 in the Idaho Falls Temple. They are the parents of four daughters.
Ensign College Devotional
My dear friends, I'm happy to be with you today. I appreciate this invitation to come to you even though it's through technology, but I express my love and support for all you are and all you will become.
I'm impressed at the significant new name you have, Ensign College. What an important and noble lasting name to be part of. Also, you relatively have a new college president. I met your President, President Bruce Kusch, 20 years ago, and I've watched his career in the Church and outside. He's one of those special people who motivate and raise those around him as he builds the kingdom. You won't find a finer man today.
Today, I'd like to tell you a story. Because it's your story, and it's my story. It's our Heavenly Father's story for all of His children, no matter when or where they lived upon the earth. It's a beautiful story. As a matter of fact, you know that favorite hymn, "Called to Serve?" The second verse says, "Far and wide we tell the Father's story." What is the Father's story? And do we really see our place in that story? His story is about His love for all of His children, no matter what their skin color, their religious preference or where they are on their path back to Him, He loves them all. It's part of his plan. And we were part of that plan. He wants us to return and live with Him and to be like Him.
Now, to live with God means eternal life. To be like Him means exaltation. We're all in the process of that plan. The plan begins and some of us think it's the ending spot, but it's only the beginning - to have a testimony of the plan. A testimony is, "I know," but we can't stop there. We have to move to the next level and that is deep conversion. Deep conversion means, "I'm doing," and if we're doing that, it'll move us to the next level, which is sanctification, which is, "I feel." If we begin to feel deeply, it'll move us to the level that we're looking for of exaltation - which is, "I'm becoming."
Some of us might think that having a testimony is the end. Occasionally, we hear people say that they're losing their testimony. It's only the beginning. We have to press forward to be part of the plan, and it's all about becoming.
President Oaks gave us this beautiful quote. He said, "We conclude that the final judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good or evil acts. It is an acknowledgment of the final effects of our acts and thoughts of what we have become." I know that's important. And if we see it in that way, our life experience will be much greater and much more significant.
One of my favorite primary songs, and I'm not sure it was a song when I was young, but I hear my grandchildren sing it all the time. "God gave us families to help us to become what He wants us to be." I really believe that. Yet, what if we had to go through this life alone, or we had a few good friends? But no, no, He gave us a family, and that family and the significance of that is really important in our going through life.
President Nelson said this about that process, "This life is a time to repair for salvation and exaltation. In God's eternal plan, salvation is a personal matter. Exaltation is a family matter." So, obviously, family and the process of family is important in our own exaltation and what we become. In God's house of order, family is the only enduring eternal unit. This world began with families and it will end with families. It's a natural affection. It came with us from the preexistence. Family was not a creation of society. However, in this particular time of the earth, society has abandoned the family.
Now when we talk about families, I always try to use the Lord's vocabulary and His definition or word that he uses, kindred, which means multi-generational families. It's never just your own household or the nuclear family. It's multi-generational families. That's why the Lord said that we'd go to all the nations - kindred - or all the families of the earth to share the gospel. Why? Because family crosses all lives. It crosses your ward boundaries. It crosses the national boundaries, and it crosses the veil. And it connects you and helps you belong to something very important - a multi-kindred family.
Sociologists tell us that human beings need three things to survive. Now, the first two won't be of surprise to you. I think the third might. The first one is we need food to feed ourselves and to function and exist. The second one is we need protection and safety from the elements, from things around us. But the third thing that we need, we have to have, is something to connect or belong to.
Now, in most cases, we want to belong to a family. I've talked to a lot of people that didn't understand kindred and they didn't have a family, but they wish they did. They wish they could, they always wanted to. I'll give you an example. If you don't have a family to belong to, you'll belong to something. People will join gangs, they'll attach themselves. They'll be part of causes that allow them to belong. I just think that is so important as we understand the importance of connecting and belonging to a family.
In many cases, your name connects you back to your kindred, or your family. I suspect if we had a chance to ask you, many of you of your given name or your middle name, would connect you back to someone in your ancestral line. However, some names we take upon ourselves as we go through life. Father is something we assume. Mother, friend, Latter-day Saint. And with those names that we take upon ourselves comes responsibilities. For example, the word father in Hebrew, means "the strength of the house." This won't surprise you, the word mother in Hebrew means "strong water or glue." So, not only do we have given names, we take upon ourselves names, and with those comes very important responsibilities in how we function and navigate this.
These are important things to understand as we understand our role in Heavenly Father's plan for us. In Matthew 13, he describes a time that is our time, and he says that people's eyes would be closed and their ears would be tired of hearing the things we're just talking about. And he said that we need to make sure that we help each other to see when we can't see.
I'd like to tell you a story. There's a man who lived in America that wanted nothing more in his whole life than to go see the famous painting of the Mona Lisa. It's the most talked about, most photographed painting of all time. So, for many years, he saved his money, had enough for passage to Europe. He got there, and he hired a guy to take him to the museum where this famous painting was. He arrived there and they walked in, and he noticed that there's a semi-circle of people just reverently staring at this painting. So, he left his guide back in the back and he worked his way up and found a place in the circle, and he began to stare at this painting. For about an hour, he just stared at it. His dream had come true, and then he backed out of the line and he backed up to his guide and he leaned over to him, and he said, "I don't see what's so great about this painting." And the guide whispered this back, "But I'll bet you wish you could."
Now, young people, you're gonna find as you travel through life, that you're not sure about temple marriage or even family, you're not sure you can see what's so great about it. You may suffer complacency, a lack of desire, a faith crisis, but I know that you would wish you could. Because everybody wants that because the plan gives us purpose. Without the plan, there is no existence, and so we have to help each other when we can't see. Life sometimes makes those shadows on our lives.
Let me tell you a story. When Cheryl and I, my wife, were first married, we were invited to a party where there were young couples, and the game of the party was they dumped a 500-piece puzzle on the table. We took turns putting the pieces in the right places, and if we did it correctly, we were timed and were given a score. Now, I'm telling you, I couldn't see it. I wasn't raised in a puzzle family. Luckily, my wife was, and so she tried to give me hints. She said, "Now Brad, start on the edges." I had no idea what that meant. And then she said, "Blend the colors," as a hint. I didn't know what that meant. Finally, she said, "Hey, just take that piece right there and put it over there." And so I did and the other participants said, "That's not fair. You can't help him." And then she responded with this, "But he can't see it." And I want him to have a successful experience.
Isn't that really what we all want in life? Is to have a successful experience? And we can do that by helping each other when we can't see, which is okay, because there will be times when we can't see. There's a beautiful story about this in Mark 8:22. Here, the Savior comes down to a little town called Bethsaida. And the scripture says he cometh into Bethsaida, and they brought a blind man unto the Savior and asked Him if He would heal him. And I think this is the significant part of this. So, the Savior took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And then He put His hands on his eyes, and He blessed him that he could see. Then the Savior said to the blind man, "Can you see that over there?" And the blind man's response was, "I can see men as trees, walking."
So, he could kind of see after the Savior had tried to heal him, but he couldn't see clearly. I think it's really important what the next verse says. He laid His hands again upon his head, his eyes, and He blessed him. And the man could look and he could see everything clearly. I think it's so important that we be patient with each other on ourselves. You know, that's an interesting story, a parable. Why couldn't Jesus, who created the earth and us, heal this man the first time? We can speculate that maybe the man wasn't ready or he needed to learn these lessons. It doesn't matter.
Here's what I learn from that experience. The miracle of seeing clearly takes time. And we have to be patient with ourselves and with each other, and it's okay. My good friends, you're going to go through life, and there'll be a lot of dark shadows that will want to take away your clear sight. Just be patient, be honest with each other, help each other have successful experiences as you go through all of this.
I think that one of the things that, as a little advice, I might give you is to never love anything that can't love you back. You only have so many minutes in life, so just spend your time loving people or things that can love you back. The world wants to distract us. And so my next advice would be - a distraction doesn't have to be evil to be effective, as long as it blinds your sight for a little while or gets you off course. And so be really careful of that. The third thing is always keep an eternal perspective - the plan and your role in the plan. Then the things that happen won't be so traumatic.
Let me tell you a story. There was once a wise Chinese man who had one son, one horse and one acre of ground on which he made his living. One day, the man's son went out to feed the horse and left the gate open, and the horse ran away into the desert. All of the neighbors and friends came over and said to the wise Chinese man, "Isn't that too bad? You've lost your only horse. How are you gonna make a living?" But the wise Chinese man said, "I'm not sure if that's bad or good." They insisted it was bad, but interestingly enough, the horse run out into the desert and a few days later it got thirsty and came back to the trail and brought with it nine other horses. Now, all the neighbors and friends came over and said, "Isn't that wonderful! You have nine horses." But the wise Chinese man said, "I'm not sure if that's good or bad." They insisted it was good. His son went out one day to try to train some of these new horses to help on the farm, and one of them rared up, came down and severely broke the son's leg. Here they came again, "Isn't that too bad? It's your only son." But the wise man said, "I'm not sure if it's good or bad." A few months later, war broke out into the country. They came through and gathered up all the young men who were able to march off to war. But this young man, this man's son, wasn't able to go. But eventually, all those who marched off to the war were killed.
The moral of this story is this: don't be too quick to judge whether something's good or bad in your life. Be patient, give it time and don't lose focus of your eternal plan. In Isaiah the Lord says, "My ways are not your ways. Neither are your thoughts, my thoughts." Saith the Lord, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" Just be patient.
I want you to know that life has a way of weeding out of us things that matter and things that only seem to matter. I want you to know that I'm in the last 20% of my life, and that's at best. And every year I lose percentage points and filter that out.
I am so grateful for the Father's plan for the Savior voluntarily gave up His life, that He would come and die for us. So that the plan could be effective in each of our lives. I know that the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the Lord's revelation and revealing to us of that plan in the last days - with all the powers, the rights, the authorities to make it so everyone, no matter when or where they lived, could participate in His plan to return to live with Him.
I know that someday the Savior will either come and live with us, and we will see Him, or in some cases, we will go to live with Him, and He will see us as we have become. Eternal life and exaltation has to be our goal. I bear you my testimony of this plan, of its effectiveness for all of God's children.
I think there's a beautiful verse in a song entitled, "Before Thee, Lord." It's a prayer to him. This is what the verse says, "So may my soul be filled with light that I may see and win the fight. And then at last, exalted be, in peace and rest. Oh, Lord with thee."
That's my prayer for each of us, that plan guides us, helps us to see when we can't see and eventually return to live with him and to be like him, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.