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Casey Hurley
February 20, 2024 11:15 AM

"Can you think of a time in your own life when you wondered, if the Lord is mightier than all the earth, then why hasn’t He delivered me? Especially in a circumstance where it feels like you have climbed your Mount Sinai already. Nephi looks to one of his own scripture heroes for strength: “Therefore let us go up, let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither.”<a href="#_edn8">[viii]</a><br/><br/><br/>Notice how Moses was strong—not in physical strength, but in his exercise of priesthood power. Also notice that Moses faced multiple setbacks to getting his people out of Egypt—even more than Nephi and his brothers. Nephi may have gained confidence remembering how Moses hung in there every time the Pharoah said they could go and then changed his mind."
Thank you for that beautiful music. Thank you Hunter for that beautiful testimony. I am just honored and grateful to be here with you and with President and sister Kusch. We miss them still at BYU Idaho.

When I was in high school, I was asked to speak at Stake Conference. School, activities, work, friends, and music lessons all seemed to get in the way of writing my talk. When I finally got around to it, I wrote down about 5 bullet points on a note card, which I planned to then expand upon while I was speaking. As I delivered my talk, I realized I didn’t have much “expansion” to add to my short bulleted list. I hadn’t really even thought about what else to add—hoping that it would come to me as I spoke. My talk was well-organized, and I delivered it well, but it was under a minute and was basically the outline of what might have been an impactful talk.

After I spoke, two highly accomplished members of the Stake Presidency delivered carefully prepared messages. Listening to them taught me a lesson I have never forgotten: a certain amount of effort is required to do something well. And to do something exceptionally requires exceptional effort. I had been given the opportunity to contribute to a great meeting, but I missed my chance. That embarrassing experience has helped me every time I have been asked to speak since then. I learned that while the Lord magnifies my efforts through the power of the Holy Ghost, I will never give the quality of message I am capable of without putting in adequate time and work to prepare.

You probably remember Sister Joy D. Jones sharing a video in the April 2020 General Conference where Primary children in Palmyra, New York, asked questions of President Russell M. Nelson. Let's watch President Nelson respond to Pearl's question. [i]  

In 2022, “The Lord loves effort” became my theme for the year after a surprising experience I had in the temple. I was in the beginning stages of working with a team to create several courses for BYU Pathway. With these courses in entrepreneurship, we wanted to help solve some of the challenges Pathway students face. BYU Pathway President Brian K. Ashton had promised employees that we would receive the inspiration to solve BYU Pathway challenges in the temple. I believed him, so I went to the temple to seek inspiration about how to create these courses. As I sat in the temple pondering about the project, a distinct impression came to my mind, “get out of the temple and get to work.” I had never in my life been inspired to leave the temple! Of course, the Lord wants all of us to spend time worshiping in the temple. But in this circumstance, I was repeating my high school mistake of thinking I could write a few items on a note card and let the Lord take it from there. As His gentle rebuke came to me in the temple,

I recalled President Nelson’s words: “The Lord loves effort.” [ii] While a mountain is a symbol for the temple, President Nelson’s analogy doesn’t apply here in quite the same way. Simply walking into the temple is not what President Nelson meant when he talked about Moses climbing Mount Sinai. In this situation, the temple for me was more like Mount Sinai base camp—the right place to get started. The Lord gave me the opportunity to work on this project, but now it was up to me to put in the work to make it happen. As I began to put in the work, inspiration and miracles came to magnify everything I did. Additional temple visits where I could ponder on the work that was already being done brought inspiration. However, much of the work my colleagues and I did on this project was grueling. For example, writing four textbooks and spending hours creating grading rubrics. Then doing the grading. Then rewriting the assignments. Then rewriting the rubrics. Even though we saw the Lord’s hand clearly guiding this project, He did not intervene to write the text or create the rubrics for us.

Speaking of textbooks and rubrics, you may have experienced something similar in your school work. President Henry B. Eyring shared his own experience with this lesson in a landmark talk he gave at BYU-Idaho:

“Do your homework, by the way; don’t just pray. I’ve tried. Straight revelation in a mathematics examination—it does not work very well. It’s better to have studied the work ahead of time.” [iii]

President Eyring goes on to say that the powers of heaven will come down to help students learn beyond their natural capacities because of their faith. I experienced this ability to learn better than my natural capacities when I was a law student. I had committed to honor the Sabbath day by leaving my studies for the rest of the week. I had also committed to attend all of my Church meetings and to fulfill my Church callings. One year of law school, April General Conference fell in the middle of final exams. I went to the Church to watch the Saturday sessions, taking my law books to study during the break. Meanwhile, my classmates were spending the weekend preparing for a week of high-stakes exams. I had studied hard all semester. I studied hard that Saturday between conference sessions. As promised, I did not study on Sunday. I told Heavenly Father that I had tried to give my best effort while seeking first the Kingdom of God, then I asked Him to please magnify those efforts.

My corporations law exam was open book. As I worked through the test, I felt confident in my answers, confirming them with my carefully organized class notes. Then I came to a topic that seemed completely new to me. I had no idea what the question was about. But as I turned through my notes, I landed right on the answer. I had no recollection of writing those notes, but the Holy Ghost helped me to succeed beyond my own capacity.

 Elder Bednar has talked about the way the Savior's atoning power enables us to do more than we are naturally able. He explains:

“… In the Bible Dictionary we learn that the word grace frequently is used in the scriptures to connote a strengthening or enabling power:

The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.

… It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts’

Thus, the enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement helps us to see and to do and to become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. I testify and witness that the enabling power of the Savior’s Atonement is real….” [iv]

I add my own witness of experiencing the Savior’s enabling power regularly in my life. Even in preparing this talk, I felt guidance and inspiration that gave me insights beyond my own capacity. One of my favorite scripture heroes shows us how to “receive strength and assistance to do good works” though the “grace of the Lord.”

Most of you can probably recite Nephi’s response when the Lord told Lehi to send Nephi and his brothers back to Jerusalem for the brass plates:

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall  prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

Note that Nephi did NOT say, “I will sit here and wait for the Lord to show me exactly what to do next.” Or, “I will make a last-ditch effort at the last minute, trusting that the Lord will fix everything at the end.” Or, “First I will take a nap and hopefully I will dream about what to do next.” Or even, “I will pack my stuff and then check in to see if the Lord still wants me to go.” I admit to having responded in each of these ways at various times in my own life.

In a favorite family video from about 25 years ago, my youngest sister, Lizzy, performs her interpretation of the primary song “Nephi’s Courage.”

I love the way cute little Lizzy portrays the determination of Nephi and all of us who commit to have courage like Nephi. I am convinced that Liz will go and do!

Of course, it is one thing to sing or say that you will go and do. The real courage comes when the going gets tough. We are familiar with the story: after Nephi makes his bold commitment, the brothers spend at least a couple of weeks trekking back through the desert to Jerusalem. When they finally get there, Laman draws the short straw and goes to ask Laban for the plates. Laban accuses Laman of robbing him and threatens to kill him. So far, not so good. In Nephi’s words, “we began to be exceedingly sorrowful.” [v]

His brothers are ready to give up, but Nephi is not so easily deterred. He knew obtaining the plates might not be easy. He gives his brothers a pep talk about the importance of obtaining the scriptures and their commitment to do what the Lord asked: “let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord,” he says. So, they institute Plan B.

If you pause for a minute and pretend you don’t know what comes next, Plan B seems like a pretty good plan. They are going to offer to buy brass plates in exchange for gold, silver, and all of their precious things. The scripture gives me the impression that the deal they were willing to make was to trade a great quantity of valuable metals and other valuables in exchange for a single book made of less valuable metal. I understand the current price of gold to be about 20,000 times the price of brass. Considering what we know of Laban, you would certainly expect him to choose precious gold over scriptures! As Nephi and his brothers come up with this plan, Nephi might have been thinking that while it once seemed crazy to abandon their wealth in Jerusalem, it must have been the way the Lord prepared for them to buy the plates from Laban.

But of course, we know what happens next. While Laban does want the gold and silver and precious things, instead of bargaining, he just steals everything and tries to kill the brothers. The brothers survive a chase out of the city, but now Laman and Lemuel aren’t just threatening to give up and walk sadly back to the tent in the desert. Now they want to get back at Nephi and Sam by beating them up—to the point where an angel must intervene. The angel finally tells them, “Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.” [vi]

Imagine Nephi and Sam lying in the dirt, having been beaten by their brothers with a rod. It seems fair for them to ask, why didn’t the Lord deliver Laban into our hands in the first place? Couldn’t he at least have done it before the rod-beating incident? Why did he send us to nearly get killed by Laban only to be nearly killed by our own brothers?

Rather than dwelling on such questions, Nephi expresses his faith in God’s power to deliver them:

“Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?” [vii]

Can you think of a time in your own life when you wondered, if the Lord is mightier than all the earth, then why hasn’t He delivered me? Especially in a circumstance where it feels like you have climbed your Mount Sinai already. Nephi looks to one of his own scripture heroes for strength: “Therefore let us go up, let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither.” [viii]

Notice how Moses was strong—not in physical strength, but in his exercise of priesthood power. Also notice that Moses faced multiple setbacks to getting his people out of Egypt—even more than Nephi and his brothers. Nephi may have gained confidence remembering how Moses hung in there every time the Pharoah said they could go and then changed his mind.

Nephi knew that if Moses could succeed with God’s help, then so could he. Just as we can say, “if Nephi could succeed with God’s help, then so can we.” In the words of the primary song, “When I’m discouraged, and think I cannot try, I will be courageous….”

Courageous Nephi is “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do” [ix] to perhaps the greatest struggle of his life finally resulting in obtaining the plates.

Effort in Spiritual Things

That kind of courage born of faith didn’t just come to Nephi without great spiritual effort. We observe Nephi doing the spiritual work to strengthen his faith. When Lehi first takes the family out of Jerusalem, Nephi seeks answers:

“[H]aving great desires to know the mysteries of God, wherefore I did cry unto the Lord…. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou has sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.” [x]

Take note of the actions Nephi took: he cried unto the Lord and sought him diligently. This doesn’t sound like the casual, sleepy prayer, filled with redundant phrases, that we can occasionally be prone to. We might pause to ask, “when is the last time I cried unto the Lord, seeking him diligently?”

Later, when Nephi hears Lehi’s prophecy, Nephi [quote] “was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him….For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost….” [xi]

I notice the effort to see, hear, and know is a continuous effort. Nephi has already accomplished many great things through his faith in the Lord, including retrieving the plates of brass. He has gained a testimony of the prophecies of his father, the prophet. But now there is more understanding to gain, and Nephi decides to diligently seek again. This time, Nephi is rewarded with an incredible vision that includes the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, His Atonement and crucifixion, and His resurrection.

Meanwhile, Laman and Lemuel complain they can’t understand the words of the prophet. “And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.” [xii] I love Nephi’s simple answer in response: “And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord? And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” [xiii] Laman and Lemuel are doing the equivalent of spiritually sitting at the bottom of Mount Sinai complaining that the Lord has failed to come down to them.

Sister Sheri Dew shared the story of a young adult friend who had the courage to climb toward faith. She describes a phone call at this young woman’s moment of crisis:

"Through sobs she blurted, "I'm not sure I believe the Church is true anymore, and I'm scared. What if my family isn't going to be together forever?"
I asked, "Do you want a testimony?" "Yes," she said.
"Are you willing to work for it?" Again, "Yes."
And she was.” [xiv]

This young woman began regular scripture study sessions with Sister Dew and who gave her these instructions: "Bring your scriptures and every question you have. Questions are good. Let's see what the Lord will teach us." Sister Dew continues:

“She took me at my word and brought one thorny question after another. We searched the scriptures and the teachings of prophets for answers. Little by little, she began to realize that just because she had questions didn't mean she didn't have a testimony. The scriptures are filled with accounts of prophets who had questions. And she began to recognize when the Spirit was bearing witness to her-including bearing witness that prophets, seers, and revelators are truly prophets.”Id.

After a time, Sister Dew joined this young woman in the temple as she received her endowment. Sister Dew teaches,

“None of us are entitled to revelation without effort on our part. Answers from God don't just magically appear. If we want to grow spiritually, the Lord expects us to ask questions and seek answers.”Id.

Our living Prophet, President Russel M. Nelson has pleaded with us to put forth the spiritual effort to hear the voice of the Lord for ourselves, as Nephi did. In his address to Young Adults in a Worldwide Devotional, he said:

“Do you want to feel peace about concerns that presently plague you? Do you want to know Jesus Christ better? Do you want to learn how His divine power can heal your wounds and weaknesses? Do you want to experience the sweet, soothing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ working in your life?

Seeking answers to these questions will require effort—much effort. I plead with you to take charge of your testimony. Work for it. Own it. Care for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don’t pollute it with the false philosophies of unbelieving men and women and then wonder why your testimony is waning.

Engage in daily, earnest, humble prayer. Nourish yourself in the words of ancient and modern prophets. Ask the Lord to teach you how to hear Him better. Spend more time in the temple and in family history work.” [xv]

 A few weeks ago, I listened to a Pathway employee share how the entrepreneurship courses our BYU-Idaho team created are meeting an important student need in Nigeria. This time President Nelson’s words came to me again along with the rest of the sentence: “The Lord loves effort, because effort brings rewards that can’t come without it.” [xvi] Indeed, the gratitude that filled my heart at that moment would not have felt the same without the memory of all the hard work we had done.

I bear my own witness that President Nelson speaks as our living Prophet on the earth on behalf of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May we each put forth the effort to come to know Him and accomplish his work.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[i] The Lord Loves Effort, President Russell M. Nelson, April 2020 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
[ii] Id.
[iii] A Steady, Upward Course, Elder Henry B. Eyring, September 18, 2001 BYU Idaho Devotional.
[iv] In the Strength of the Lord, Elder David A. Bednar, October 23, 2001, BYU Devotional.
[v] 1 Nephi 3:14
[vi] 1 Nephi 3:30
[vii] 1 Nephi 4:1
[viii] 1 Nephi 4:2
[ix] 1 Nephi 4:6
[x] 1 Nephi 2:16, 19
[xi] 1 Nephi 10:17
[xii] 1 Nephi 15:7
[xiii] 1 Nephi 15:8
[xiv] Sheri L. Dew, True Blue, Through and Through, BYU Devotional, March 16th, 2004.
[xv] President Russell M. Nelson, Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, May 15, 2022.
[xvi] The Lord Loves Effort, President Russell M. Nelson, April 2020 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

About the Speaker

Casey Hurley

Casey Ann Hurley grew up in Ammon, Idaho. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism from Brigham Young University. She graduated from Wake Forest University School of Law and practiced law in Portland, Oregon. She joined the faculty at Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2003 and is serving as the Dean of the College of Business and Communication. She teaches a variety of business courses including business writing, business law, and small business management as well as a course on religious freedom. 

She has enjoyed serving in many callings, but especially loved being a nursery leader, Sunbeam teacher, and primary pianist. She now teaches the 14-year-old Sunday School class.

She and her husband, Matt, are the parents of two exceptional teenage children.
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