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Hope for a Better World

Carl Hernandez
March 26, 2024 11:15 AM

"Can you tell the story of when God first revealed himself to you? I promise you, that if you do, it will serve as an anchor of hope for you if at any time you feel that you are in a distant place spiritually, emotionally, or physically. I promise He will visit you there again if you seek Him."
Thank you for that beautiful music that powerfully set the stage for our remarks today. I’m so grateful to Sydney, Zack and Carla for your participation in today’s meeting and bringing the Spirit here, and to President Kusch and Sister Kusch, for the powerful testimonies and witnesses they bore of Jesus Christ.

As you saw, I was baptized when I was 14, and the first thing that the bishop did, is he took me to one of those stake dances, you know, that all the youth go to. And when I walked into that building and saw all those beautiful sisters of the Church, I knew the Church was true! (laughter) The next thing he did was he took me to the temple, where I was able to do baptisms for the dead and to feel of the spirit of the temple that is there, and I testify that in the temple we’ll find peace and learn more of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

My dear friends, I am grateful to be here with you today. For many years I have taught a spring-term course to students who share this great educational campus with you. I have always felt something special about this place, and I have long felt it is because of the special spirit you bring to this campus—perhaps even to the point that my grading has been a little more merciful for my own students that I’ve taught here. We are both the beneficiaries of the wonderful lives that you lead.

In his teachings to members of the ancient church, the Apostle Paul labored diligently to help individuals from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences to live in unity by acknowledging their common primary identity as children of God. [1] He also recognized the struggle of living in a fallen world, and the need to experience suffering as true disciples of Jesus Christ. He taught that such struggles would be worth the reward, and that hope and patience are the catalysts towards receiving that reward. He said,

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

“For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

“But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” [2]

I love American poet Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘“Hope” is the thing with feathers’: She said,

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -

And sore must be the storm -

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -

And on the strangest Sea -

Yet - never - in Extremity,

It asked a crumb - of me. [3]

Hope gives insight, understanding, and voice to the views, yearnings, and feelings of the heart.

Today, I would like to share three ways you can hope for a better world that are centered in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

First, you can have hope for a better world by seeing and knowing the majesty and magnificence of you.

Second, you can have hope for a better world by seeing and acknowledging the light of Christ in others.

Third, you can have hope for a better world by seeing, believing, and amplifying the words of living prophets.

First, you can have hope for a better world by seeing and knowing the majesty and the magnificence of you.

As a small child, I loved the old small wooden shed that my grandfather used to store his tools. He was a migrant farm worker and during the harvest season, he used his tools to pick olives and oranges that grew in the rich soil of California’s San Joaquin Valley. He was a master harvester.

In the off season, my grandfather would clean, repair, and restore old, discarded lawn mowers for resale. The tools he would use to restore these lawn mowers were also kept in the same old wooden shed.

One summer night as a very young boy, I decided to climb onto the roof and gaze into the vast universe that lay before me. This place has become sacred to me, because it is the place where I believe God first revealed Himself to me. It is my earliest memory of my divine connection with Him—and it has stayed with me ever since.

Can you tell the story of when God first revealed himself to you? I promise you, that if you do, it will serve as an anchor of hope for you if at any time you feel that you are in a distant place spiritually, emotionally, or physically. I promise He will visit you there again if you seek Him.

No matter how or where you came into this world, you have an eternal divine identity.

From the moment we enter this world, we are exposed to concepts that are at force, good and evil, that attempt to influence, shape, and form our identity. One of the adversary’s greatest tools of deception is to create doubt or confusion about our eternal identity and he does so through worldly ideologies, philosophies, imagery, and labels.

The term identity is derived from the Latin identitas, which emphasizes choosing our own identity based on environment or experience. In that way, an individual “walketh in his [or her] own way, and after the image of his [or her] own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world.” [4]

By contrast, God teaches us about our true identity through a living prophet and through personal revelation.

President Russell M. Nelson has urged you to “know the truth about who you are.” [5]

“Who are you?

“First and foremost, you are a child of God. Second, as a member of the Church, you are a child of the covenant. And third, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.

“[I] plead with you not to replace these three paramount and unchanging identifiers with any others, because doing so could stymie your progress or pigeonhole you in a stereotype that could potentially thwart your eternal progression.”

“There are various labels that may be very important to you, of course. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that other designations and identifiers are not significant. I am simply saying that no identifier should displace, replace, or take priority over these three enduring designations: “child of God,” “child of the covenant,” and “disciple of Jesus Christ.”

“Worldly identifiers will never give you a vision of who you can ultimately become. They will never affirm your divine DNA or your unlimited, divine potential.” [6]

Pursuing or allowing worldly identities to overtake our primary identity can disconnect us from truth and power that comes from our covenantal connection with our Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ.

When we lose sight of the immutable, or unchangeable, eternal truth of our divine identity we will often lack the ability to recognize it and see it in others.

Second, we can hope for a better world by seeing and acknowledging the light of Christ in others.

Elder Boyd K. Packer taught:

“The Light of Christ is as universal as sunlight itself. Wherever there is human life, there is the Spirit of Christ. Every living soul is possessed of it. It is the sponsor of everything that is good. It is the inspirer of everything that will bless and benefit mankind. It nourishes goodness itself.” [7]

I believe that my life has been immensely blessed by those who saw the potential good in me.

My high school English teacher, Ms. Neva Stevenson, took time to sign my high school yearbook, leaving a note saying that I would be successful with written examinations in college, and that she was never wrong. She inspired me and helped me to feel like I might have success in life as a potential first-generation college student. After I graduated from law school, I returned to my hometown to thank her; to remind her about her written message. She wept.

Identities we assign to others are often exercised in the abstract; that is, we may see and sort others around us to a group or groups based on initial impressions.

Using an exercise like one used by author and scholar Arthur Brooks, [8] I’d like you to consider the initial impressions that come to you as I describe these four individuals:

· A man born and raised in Texas and who organized farm labor in Texas, the Midwest, and California.

· A woman who was born and raised primarily in Utah, travels to China, studied illustration, and enjoys creating non-traditional gospel art.

· A man who immigrates to the U.S., becomes a fruit tree grafter, is drafted into the U.S. army, and becomes a prisoner of war guard.

· A woman born in California, raised in Utah, studied experience design, loves planning parties and comes from Utah pioneer heritage.

What immediate impressions have you developed from these general descriptions?

Now, let’s look at some photos of these individuals. How are your initial impressions of these individuals affected by these photos?

Now, let’s see reveal their true identities. They are; my grandfather, Ignacio Noriega; my daughter, Chrisanne Serafin; my grandfather, Carl Hernandez, Sr; and my daughter Coralee Zabriskie.

You may have developed impressions about them from your lived religious, social, educational, or political experiences. Though you do not know these individuals personally, because you know they are connected to my story, it may have changed your views or perceptions about them. Have you, or can you, see the Light of Christ in them?

Thinking in the abstract about others is easier in today’s world because of our expansive “social environment” with its potential billions of connections that may consume an inordinate amount of our time and that may dilute our opportunity for deeper, meaningful, and face-to-face personal connections.

To be sure, smart phones are valuable tools for searching information, and for supplementing, and not supplanting, real and meaningful human connections.

I invite you to commit less time with one-way abstract social interactions that are mediated by technology platforms, and more real covenantal connections and relationships that are influenced by the greatest of all Mediators, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We are now living in what the United States Surgeon General has identified and reported is an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. [9] His report noted:

“Recent surveys have found that approximately half of U.S. adults report experiencing loneliness, with some of the highest rates among young adults.

Despite such high prevalence, less than 20% of individuals who often or always feel lonely or isolated recognize it as a major problem.” [10]

Astoundingly, the report found that loneliness is as dangerous and can increase the risk of premature death as much as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. [11]

It saddens me deeply to think that anyone within my circle of influence might be suffering from loneliness, and worse, that their lives and life expectancies can be so dramatically affected by any sense of loneliness they are feeling.

To those who are losing, or have lost hope, or are experiencing a sense of loneliness, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, has shared a powerful message in this video clip.

Video presentation “Songs Sung and Unsung.”

I believe we all feel a sense of loneliness at times in our lives. I remember one of those times very vividly in my life of. I had just returned home from serving a mission in Paraguay where I felt a strong sense of purpose and belonging as I served. I had two lofty goals that I sought to achieve at that time. The first was to continue my education at the local junior college to prepare to become a music professor. The second was to find my eternal companion.

My quest to gain an education seemed quite achievable. The second seemed a little bit more challenging because there were few members of the Church at the junior college I attended. I soldiered on with my studies, but my experiences with finding an eternal companion did not seem within reach. After dating some who did not share my values, I became disappointed and discouraged to the point where I thought I was better off not dating at all.

Withdrawing myself from the dating scene was one answer, and the second was to throw myself fully into preparing for and pursuing the next steps in my education. Neither helped with my sense of purpose or of belonging.

One evening I felt that I should take my concerns to the bishop, Bishop Eldon Smith. Bishop Smith took time to meet with me, and to hear my concerns. His counsel was this: “Carl, you will find your eternal companion in the university setting.”

Within a short time of receiving this message, I received a phone call from a mission friend who I had met in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, and who had served with me in Paraguay. His message to me: “You need to go to BYU.” The idea really resonated with me, but then some doubt set in.

I had already made plans to attend a university in California, where I had received scholarships to cover my tuition, and where my housing was secured.

What questions might have flooded your minds? Perhaps you’ve had these kind of thoughts. Would these questions?

Was my future eternal companion already waiting for me at the state university, and what if I changed my plans to attend BYU—will I lose her? Is it even possible to apply to another university this late in the year? How will I pay my tuition? Where will I live? How will I get there?

It didn’t take me long to act on my first impression. Exercising faith and hope, I applied to BYU, and I was accepted. Bishop Smith made sure that I made it to BYU by taking the time and the resources necessary to drive me there. My parents, and other family members and I cobbled together enough money to pay for my first month’s rent. Blair Moser, the missionary companion who invited me to BYU helped me to secure an apartment for me. I received a short-term loan to cover my tuition.

Bishop Smith was right. Blair Moser was right. I needed to go to BYU. I met my eternal companion, Christy Covington in the university setting. It all worked out. She is the love of my life and my greatest supporter. She is filled with the Light of Christ. She is the happiest person I know. One of my greatest hopes is that she will say “yes” to me again when our earthly journey ends and when we re-unite and resume our eternal journey together.

There are people all around us who are lonely and who are searching for purpose and belonging—maybe you are one of them. You are not alone. The Lord is watching over you more than you can see or understand. He most often meets our needs through those He has gathered around us to help us see the way when we are having difficulty finding it ourselves. Your presence is necessary to accomplish His great work—and you should never underestimate how the power of your personal presence and connection can give voice and meaning to the silent hopes of others.

“To belong with God and to walk with each other on His covenant path is to be blessed by covenant belonging.” [12]

 Third, you can hope for a better world by seeing, believing, and amplifying the words of living prophets.

My appointment to serve in the newly created BYU Office of Belonging required that I develop a strategic vision plan for the office. A few months into that work, I was sitting in my home watching the Saturday afternoon session of the General Conference in 2022, when I received a text message, from somebody, that read something to this effect: “Are you listening to conference right now?’

Was I listening? It was incredible! Elder D. Todd Christofferson began his talk stating:

“I would like to speak about what I call the doctrine of belonging in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This doctrine has three parts: (1) the role of belonging in gathering the Lord’s covenant people, (2) the importance of service and sacrifice in belonging, and (3) the centrality of Jesus Christ to belonging.” [13]

Absolutely, it was manna from heaven!

The Lord is gathering his covenant people together in ways that will bless each of us with a sense of covenant belonging. The Book of Mormon bears witness of this gathering in powerful and personal ways.

As a young boy, I learned how to harvest olives from large trees whose branches seemed to tower over me like large green giants. As a result of this life experience, Jacob 5 and the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees has significant meaning to me. One lesson I have learned from this allegory is that the Lord, who has all knowledge and perfect wisdom gathers each of us to places where we will best have the potential to grow spiritually.

The Lord perfectly nourished each of the trees that he planted in His vineyard, and He stresses, with much emotion, that He does and has done everything that he can to exalt us. [14]

“And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant: What could I have done more for my vineyard?” [15]

Isn’t that what Christ’s atoning sacrifice is all about? What more could he have done than His redemption and resurrection? This is His witness to us.

We are the latter-day laborers in the Lord’s vineyard that Zenos and Jacob foresaw. As we labor diligently and keep His commandments, the Lord has promised that He will labor with us, that we will see the good fruits of our labors, and that we will experience joy and unity. [16] In this sense, our covenantal service contributes to our own sense of belonging and to that of others as Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught:

“Although we rarely think about it, much of our belonging comes from our service and the sacrifices we make for others and for the Lord. Excessive focus on our personal needs or our own comfort can frustrate that sense of belonging.” [17]

Central to the doctrine of belonging and to creating communities of covenant belonging is our increased commitment to living the covenants we have made with our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ.

Modern-day prophets, seers, and revelators are helping us today to live in higher and holier ways, and to prepare ourselves, our families, and the world for the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our beloved Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, Russell M. Nelson is showing us the way. He has taught us:

· To stay on the covenant path by making and honoring covenants.

· To increase our spiritual capacity to receive revelation.

· To participate in the gathering of Israel.

· To let God prevail in our lives.

· To take charge of our testimony.

· To be peacemakers.

· To abandon attitudes and actions of prejudice, and to build bridges of understanding rather than creating walls of segregation.

· To think celestial.

These are prophetic teachings that are moving us closer to building Zion, which the Prophet Joseph Smith taught “[w]e ought to have… as our greatest object.” [18] In your work at Ensign College, I encourage you to find opportunities to amplify the words of our living prophet. By seeking to live and share these words, you are increasing hope in the world, contributing to covenant belonging, and building Zion here at Ensign College, in your homes, in your wards, in your work, and in the communities in which you serve.

“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” [19]

In summary, you can have hope for a better world by:

1. Seeing and knowing the majesty and magnificence of you.

2. Seeing and acknowledging the light of Christ in others.

3. Seeing, believing, and amplifying the words of living prophets.

 Our ultimate hope for a better world is through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, …” [20]

“And again, my beloved brethren [and sisters], I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?

“And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of (Jesus) Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.” [21]

 Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the answer to all the unique challenges we each will face in this life. Because of Him, we can truly hope for a better world, today, tomorrow, and forever.

 On this sacred Holy Week, I close with this same witness that angels shared with the distressed, weeping Mary who sought comfort and hope thousands of years ago:

 “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but He is risen.” [22]

I so testify.

 In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] See e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 8:16.

[2] Romans 8:16-18; 24-25.

[3] Poem is in the public domain, see .

[4] D&C 1:16.

[5] Russell M. Nelson, “Choices for Eternity,” .

[6] Russell M. Nelson, “Choices for Eternity,” .

[7] Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ,” Ensign, April 2006.

[8] Arthur C. Brooks, “Love Your Enemies, How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt,”

[9] Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community, , 2023.

[10] Id., at 9.

[11] Id., at 25.

[12] Gerrit W. Gong, “Covenant Belonging,” Liahona, November 2019.

[13] D. Todd Christofferson, “The Doctrine of Belonging,” Liahona, November 2022.

[14] Jacob 5:47.

[15] Jacob 5:41.

[16] Jacob 5: 70-75.

[17] D. Todd Christofferson, “The Doctrine of Belonging,” Liahona, November 2022.

[18] History, 1838–1856, vol. C-1 [Nov. 2, 1838–July 31, 1842]; available at

[19] Moses 7:18.

[20] Ether 12:4.

[21] Moroni 7:40-41.

[22] Luke 24:5-6.

About the Speaker

Carl Hernandez

Carl Hernandez III was born and raised in California’s agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley. He credits a visit to his family by two missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with changing his life at 14. His youth leaders and bishop later inspired him to serve a full-time mission in Asunsion, Paraguay. He and his wife, Christy, met at Brigham Young University, dated, and then married in the Salt Lake City temple. They love spending time with their six children and nine grandchildren.

He has served in a variety of church callings, including counselor in a stake presidency and bishop, and currently enjoys serving as a youth Sunday School teacher.

Carl received bachelor’s, master’s and a law degree from BYU and is a law professor at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. He founded the BYU Community Legal Clinic, which provides pro bono legal services to the poor, immigrants, refugees, and other underserved populations, and he has served as its director since 2017.

He was appointed as BYU’s first vice president for belonging in March 2022. He leads university efforts to implement a gospel-centered approach to building a community of covenant belonging at BYU and assisting the university to achieve the lofty objectives of the BYU Statement on Belonging .
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