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He Is Always With You

Carri Jenkins
October 31, 2023 11:15 AM

"My testimony to you is that as covenant sons and daughters of God we are bound together with God, and we are entitled to call upon Him for strength and direction—to see beyond what these mortal eyes can tell us. We can expect and will receive divine guidance. And no matter how ugly or devastating our falls are, we have a Savior who is running right beside us, urging us and lifting us. It is He who will be leading us back to the loving arms of our Father in Heaven."
What a beautiful rendition of the Lord’s prayer. Thank you. Institute choir, that was just really lovely. Thanks to Diana for her prayer and Isabella for her very thought provoking words. I appreciate the tone that has already been set here this morning. 

I am so grateful to be here this morning with you! Thanks to this opportunity, I have a much richer understanding of Ensign College and the important role this school plays in the Church Educational System.

During the COVID Pandemic, my husband and I created a mini vacation in Salt Lake City. I had never hiked to Ensign Peak, and it was on my bucket list. I had heard stories of the climb up to this peak by Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others. But what I didn’t fully understand was the pivotal role this peak played in the establishment of the Salt Lake Valley by the early saints.

George A. Smith, a counselor to President Brigham Young, described how President Young first saw Ensign Peak while seeking divine guidance following the 1844 death of the Prophet Joseph Smith. "After the death of Joseph Smith, when it seemed as if every trouble and calamity had come upon the Saints, Brigham Young, who was President of the Twelve, then the presiding Quorum of the Church, sought the Lord to know what they should do, and where they should lead the people for safety, and while they were fasting and praying daily on this subject, President Young had a vision of Joseph Smith, who showed him the mountain that we now call Ensign Peak, immediately north of Salt Lake City, and there was an ensign fell upon that peak, and Joseph said, “Build under the point where the colors fall and you will prosper and have peace.” 1

Can you imagine being given such a vision? To be told—just look for this hill, shaped a lot like a cone, and that’s the place you should stop and build Zion. I am sometimes asked by students; how do I know what major to choose? Wouldn’t it be nice if every first-year student could have a vision where they are told, when you see this sign, you’ll know that’s your major. Build your college curriculum under that choice, and you’ll be on the right track.

Usually, life doesn’t work that way. In fact, such thinking might be considered naïve and unrealistic, but sometimes I fear that in our skepticism, we do not see the guiding hand of the Lord in our lives. We don’t see the Ensign Peaks, the guideposts, sometimes as large as mountains, in front of us. Although I can’t identify the exact Ensign Peaks that will appear in your lives, I can share with you some lessons that I have learned about seeking and obtaining divine guidance—just as President Young did.

First, I have found that we must believe that our Heavenly Father cares enough about each one of us to guide us through this mortal existence. Our Father in Heaven cares deeply about his children on this earth. President Russell M. Nelson explains that when we accept the ordinance of baptism, we enter the covenant path. “We thereby create a relationship with God that allows Him to bless and change us.”

President Nelson explains, “Once you and I have made a covenant with God, our relationship with Him becomes much closer than before our covenant. Now we are bound together. Because of our covenant with God, He will never tire in His efforts to help us, and we will never exhaust His merciful patience with us. Each of us has a special place in God’s heart. He has high hopes for us.”2

I am certain that each one of you are here at Ensign College for a very specific reason. Ensign College is the only school the Church has in Salt Lake City—right below the peak that Brigham Young stood upon. There are more than 2,000 of you here committed to being capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.

In studying the history of Ensign College, I was amazed to learn of the scrappiness—as President Kusch calls it—of this school. You have had six names, 16 locations and 13 presidents. You have operated as a junior high, a high school, a two-year college and now a bachelor-degree granting college. Furthermore, in talking with some of you this summer, I know that you personally share the determined attitude that has helped Ensign College persevere through the challenging times and circumstances.

Obviously, Heavenly Father has a special place in his heart for you and for this college. I have no doubt that he has high hopes for you.

But, this is Oct. 31st, and you are right smack in mid-terms, and this is Halloween. Let me tell you, I hated mid-terms. I would take a final any day over a mid-term. Because during mid-terms, you are also writing research papers and completing class projects and planning the ward fall social. And no one shuts down classes and tells you just to prepare for your exams. And, here you are, in school on Halloween, on what is now accepted as our second-most-popular holiday next to Christmas. How unfair can life be?!

Well, my point is that in a matter of a few seconds I have taken you from the promises President Nelson has declared for you to the despair and frustration of this mortal existence. And, as we all know, these can be so much greater … than having to spend your entire weekend studying.

Here is my promise to you that although we grow weary and frustrated and discouraged—and sometimes it doesn’t take long to go from an inspiring sacrament meeting to a difficult Monday—our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ will never tire in their high hopes for us and their efforts to help us. Those promises are constant. This leads to my second observation as to how we can learn from President Young’s example. If we are to see the Lord’s guiding influence in our lives, we must believe that we are truly bound together with him and that we have the power and the ability to call upon Him.

Mormon testified that “the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name” (Helaman 3:27). 3 Aaron taught Lamoni’s father, king over all the land of Ishmael, to “…bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive….” ( Alma 22:16 ).4

Shortly after I was invited to give this devotional, Brother Daniel Diaz in my ward bore his testimony. Daniel is a public defender who works for Salt Lake County, and he talked about a trial he had been a part of that very week, where in three days he had been able to get only eight hours of sleep. I asked him if I could share the final night of that trial with you.

It was 11 p.m. and Daniel had just 20 minutes to prepare his closing arguments. “This was three days of mentally, physically exhausting work, the hardest I have ever worked at any time in my life at this point in my career,” Daniel told me. “So, I was done,” he said. “And I needed divine help because I didn’t have the energy or the stamina or anything to be able to finish, and I needed help. And so, I plead and plead and plead, and I acted in faith…and asked that I do the right thing and [give the jury the right information].”

After the prosecution presented their closing argument, it was Daniel’s turn to give his. “I could barely stand up,” he said. “But in that moment, I felt strength, and I felt clarity, and I felt energy, and I was able to give my closing argument without skipping a detail. It was sincere and heartfelt.”

In his testimony that Sunday Daniel tearfully shared that he has a strong testimony in the Lord’s ability to make us more than we are ever capable of becoming. As he said, “Because I have weaknesses, I have flaws, I am subject to sleep and stress and becoming overwhelmed, but I know in that moment, when I prayed to my Father in Heaven, he stepped up Huge for me.”

Hearing Daniel’s testimony, I knew that his prayer had been heard. When he needed it most, he had received the guidance he had sought, helping lead him from one careful thought to another. Just as those early saints prayed and fasted to be given direction after the death of their beloved Prophet Joseph, we too have “direct access to the power of God.” 4

This summer Kenneth Rooks, a BYU steeplechaser, took a fall that captivated the world. People everywhere were watching this heartbreaking, heart-stopping, tumble. Kenneth went into the USA National Championships in July as the NCAA Division 1 Steeplechase National Champion. But, just two laps into the race as Kenneth approached a hurdle—in the thick of a pack of runners—another runner stumbled and threw off Kenneth’s balance. He fell over the hurdle, rolling twice, while other runners jumped over him. To the absolute amazement of everyone, Kenneth got up and started to run. “I’m going to just get up and see how many people I can catch,” Kenneth said he thought, taking them one by one.5   At the end of the race, a very excited sportscaster, exclaimed, “From falling to the finish and a national championship.”

Shortly after the video of Kenneth’s championship feat appeared, this BYU civil engineering major surprised everyone by explaining that he wasn’t too surprised by that fall—as athletes do tumble in the steeple chase. In fact, before his race, he had thought about what he would do if he fell.

This was interesting to me…and a rather intellectual example of sports psychology at work. The ability to fall and get up and not be overwhelmed—but to keep focused—is something every athlete strives to develop. But it was what Kenneth said in the weeks to follow his race that particularly caught my attention. In a Church News podcast, Kenneth explained that just as he prepared for this fall, he also protects himself and prepares for life’s ever day falls. But most importantly he relies on the Savior’s atoning sacrifice every day to pick himself up and get back in the race.

President Nelson explains that it is the Savior’s atoning sacrifice that enabled the Father to fulfill his promises made to His children. Jesus Christ is at the center of His Covenant with us. To seek divine guidance from our Father in Heaven, we must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.8

This is captured beautifully in a headline I recently saw on your college website:

“He is always with you. At Ensign College, we believe God can help you progress both spiritually and professionally. That is why we seek to become more capable disciples of Jesus Christ in everything we do.”

Adding to these words, I have one final observation that came through personal experience. Over a year ago, I was facing a situation at work that required my full-time attention and then some. At BYU, I work in University Communications, where we serve as a liaison between the university and the public. This often means I am working with the media—sometimes at odd hours of the day and seven days a week.

It was during one of these times that a counselor in the bishopric called me into his office with an invitation to accept a new calling as the compassionate service director. For several weeks, I had not pulled into my driveway until 10 o’clock or even later from work. I was exhausted that Sunday. I looked at this good man and choked out something like, “There is no way I can get a dinner to anyone before bedtime.” He asked me to think about it, but as I got up to leave, I reluctantly turned around and said, “Of course, I will accept this calling.” Through a lifetime of serving in the Church, the one thing I have learned is that the blessings from my callings have far outweighed any sacrifice.

But, as I stood in my backyard that Sunday afternoon, I began to cry. I was looking at our peach tree that was covered in big, juicy, pink fruit. One of the main branches of the tree—so heavy with fruit—had been ripped from the trunk. We would be able to save the peaches, but the branch would die. As I looked at that branch—so overburdened, I asked my Heavenly Father, “Is this what you want of me? Do you want me to break?”

In the exact second of that plea, an image flashed into my mind of not a peach tree—but a pear tree—in my neighbor’s yard. Brother Derring is a master gardener, whose grove of trees each fall are loaded with fruit. For one little pear tree toward the edge of his property, however, this is particularly challenging, as its branches simply can’t bear the extra weight. So, Brother Derring props up 2X4’s underneath these branches until the fruit is picked and the tree can stand on its own again. It was this tree that I saw.

I have taken enough English literature classes in college to recognize the analogy I was witnessing, but more than this, I knew that Heavenly Father was giving to me my own Ensign Peak. In pointing to this pear tree, he was telling me that I would not break and that I could accept this calling. I knew he was also giving me some very strong counsel, however, that I would need the support of the women in my ward to carry out this assignment. They would be my 2X4’s.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and there was a rather urgent need for assistance for a family in our ward. Late one night, we sent out a Google doc with sign-ups for meals—that would be impossible for me to fill, given my work schedule. The next morning around 7 a.m., I opened the Google doc just to make sure it went out. I will never forget that morning—every slot was full, even for that very day when I thought for sure I would be ordering take-out for this family. I have now been in this calling for over a year and have witnessed one small miracle after another just like that one. My 2X4’s have been solidly and lovingly in place.

When you are shown the Ensign Peaks in your life, don’t ignore them. Put your flag upon those peaks and let them guide you—no matter how challenging, how daunting, how unobtainable, or just how plain hard the path ahead may seem. Put your trust in a loving Heavenly Father and in his son—our Savior—Jesus Christ.

“By reaching heavenward and seeking Heavenly Father in personal and family prayer,” President Monson promised us, we and our loved ones will develop the fulfillment of what the great English statesman William E. Gladstone described as the world’s greatest need: ‘a living faith in a personal God.’ Such faith will illuminate our way as the lighthouse of the Lord.”

“When you have an abiding faith in the living God,” he went on to say, “when your outward actions reflect your inner convictions, you have the composite strength of exposed and hidden virtues. They combine to give safe passage through whatever rough seas might arise.”9

In this steeple chase of life that we all get to run, where there are water pits and hurdles at seemingly every turn, will you as students look for the guiding peaks in your life.

My testimony to you is that as covenant sons and daughters of God we are bound together with God, and we are entitled to call upon Him for strength and direction—to see beyond what these mortal eyes can tell us. We can expect and will receive divine guidance. And no matter how ugly or devastating our falls are, we have a Savior who is running right beside us, urging us and lifting us. It is He who will be leading us back to the loving arms of our Father in Heaven.

I leave my testimony with you and these thoughts in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. Dennis A. Wright and Rebekah E. Westrup, “Ensign Peak, A Historical Review,” in Salt Lake City: The Place Which God Prepared, ed. Scott C. Esplin and Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2011), 27-46

2. See Russell M. Nelson, “The Everlasting Covenant”, Liahona, October 2022, 4-11

3. Helaman 3:27

4. Alma 22:16

5. “Mind Game”, Y Magazine, Fall 2023, 17

6. Church News Podcast, Episode 149, August 15, 2023

7. See Russell M. Nelson, “The Everlasting Covenant”, Liahona, October 2022, 4-11

8. See Thomas S. Monson, “Guideposts for Life’s Journey,, 2007, 3

About the Speaker

Carri Jenkins

Carri P. Jenkins directs the work of BYU University Communications, serves as a member of the President’s Council, and acts as the university’s primary spokesperson.

A Utah native, Carri received bachelor’s and master's degrees from BYU in communications. For 12 years, she served as the associate editor of BYU Magazine (now Y Magazine), where she currently serves as the associate publisher. She also has been an instructor in the BYU Communications Department, a university speech writer, and a publicity director.

Carri has a long history with CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education), culminating in her service as chair of District VII. In March 2020, she was named the Nancy Treser-Osgood Tribute Award recipient. She has been a member of CASE’s International Commission on Communication and the CASE District VII Board of Directors and Executive Committee. She has been honored by the Public Relations Society of America with Utah’s Professional of the Year Award and was awarded the Board Appreciation Award from the University Photographer’s Association of America. She is a past president of the Consortium for Utah Women in Higher Education and served on the Mountainland Advisory Board of Utah Valley University.

Carri has loved serving the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a Young Women adviser and counselor; Primary teacher and president; and Sunday School teacher. She has also served in ward and stake Relief Society presidencies and as a stake Young Women president. She is married to Paul Dale Jenkins, and they have two children and three grandchildren.
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