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The Heavenly Help is There

Richard Hatch
March 05, 2024 11:15 AM

"It is easy to feel sorry for yourself and helpless at times like these. But don’t fall for that trap! You are not helpless. Heavenly Father has given you the power to act for yourself in righteous ways. As you do, He will provide you the heavenly help you need."
I am so grateful to be with you today. I prayed for help as I prepared, and I hope you will find some inspiration in what I have to say. To begin, here is a picture of my son that I keep on my office desk.

This picture always makes me smile. I have no idea what was going through that large head of his while posing for this, but he looks terrified. Fortunately, these days he cuts a pretty confident figure as you can see here.

But back to the funny one.

Have you ever felt like he looks? I certainly have. I have felt faint of heart. I have felt anxiety over the present and fear of the future. I have felt weighed down by indecision and my own inadequacy.

It is easy to feel sorry for yourself and helpless at times like these. But don’t fall for that trap! You are not helpless. Heavenly Father has given you the power to act for yourself in righteous ways. As you do, He will provide you the heavenly help you need.

When I returned to college after my missionary service, I went through a period of fear and self-doubt. Those who know me best know I love a checklist. Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. To that point in my life, I had always known exactly what was expected of me. I had planned to graduate from high school, attend a year of college, then go on a mission. I had no idea how things would go after my mission, but I figured that the experience gained from my mission would enlighten me to know what major to choose, what career path to take, and who to marry.

But there I was, a returned missionary, and I didn’t have any clue what to do next. There were several decisions I really struggled with for the next few years. One of them was what career to pursue. I was able to narrow down my interests a little, but I couldn’t settle on anything. I began to fear I would make a horrible mistake. What if I chose something I hated? What if I failed? I was jealous of fellow students who seemed to have clear career goals and ambitions. My preoccupation with my future occupation was really getting me down. Does this sound familiar to anyone here?

Well, I prayed and prayed. I went to the temple. I studied the scriptures and conference talks, hoping a heavenly answer would be just around the corner. But no answer was forthcoming, and my anxiety deepened.

As I became more desperate, I summoned up the courage to approach a few professors I admired to see if they could help. I thought if anyone would know what career was best for me, it would be them. After all, professors know everything! Each was kind enough to answer my questions and share their personal experiences. But nothing they said resolved my confusion.

One day, I made an office visit to a professor who was very accomplished and experienced in his field. He was also very intimidating. He taught a very large class and I had never spoken to him before. He listened to me with a stern gaze. I told him I was looking at different career paths but couldn’t make up my mind. Then I asked him the fateful question: “What do you think I should do?”

He was not sparing in his response. I can’t remember his exact words, but it went something like this:

I have no idea what you should do. I don’t know anything about you. Why are you trying to put this decision on me? This is your decision. You are going to have to quit whining and own this decision for yourself. It’s your life after all. Now if you want me to give you information about my field, fine. But don’t come in here expecting me to tell you what to do. Got it? Now get outta here!

I may be embellishing a little . . . but not much.

I don’t recommend this approach to the Ensign College faculty for every situation, but it was exactly what I needed. I left his office stunned but strangely reassured. I realized I had been paralyzed by fear, waiting to be told what to do. I was unwilling to make and be accountable for my own decision. After that meeting, I still had no idea what career to choose. In fact, I don’t think I ever felt an overt spiritual prompting directing me what to do. But this professor’s tough love approach empowered me to make a prayerful, informed decision and then move forward with faith despite my fear and anxiety.

Some of you may think that deciding to be a lawyer was not a very good decision. There have been times in my career when I might have agreed you. But Heavenly Father has blessed me as I have done my best. He has opened professional opportunities to me that I could not have anticipated. It has been a challenging and rewarding career and I look forward to many more years practicing law.

The power is in you.

The Lord summed up through Joseph Smith what I learned from my wise professor:

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned (D&C 58:27–29).

Sometimes we just want the answers without any fuss. We doubt our capacity and want Heavenly Father to show every step of the way. That is not Heavenly Father’s plan. In fact, we rejected that plan because we knew we could not grow to be like Him if we were commanded in all things and never acted for ourselves.

Have you ever gone to a teacher for help with an assignment you don’t understand? You’re frustrated and you just want to get the assignment done so you can move on. Does your teacher ever just give you the answer? Usually not.

Instead, she will ask you questions to get you thinking. She will review principles learned in class. She may refer you to passages in the textbook. She will encourage you to try, fail, then try again until you succeed. As annoying and frustrating as this may seem to you in the moment, these are all signs that your teacher really cares about you. Providing all the answers would be much easier for your teacher, but it would be a great disservice to her students. Think of your favorite teachers over the years—the teachers you truly loved. I think you will find they didn’t give you all the answers. I think you will find that they expected you to actively engage in your own learning. They challenged you to stretch beyond what you thought you were capable of. Most of all, you knew that they believed in your ability—that with some help, you could master the subject matter.

Our Heavenly Father is a wise teacher. He believes in us. He has given us this life to allow us to grow through experience. He does not give us all the answers, but He is there to help if we let Him.

Sometimes Heavenly Father does give us very specific direction. When he does, we should obey promptly and with exactness. Remember “he . . . that receiveth a commandment with a doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned” (D&C 58:29). But Heavenly Father will not micromanage your life for you. He wants you to learn to make righteous choices of your own free will.

You have access to heavenly help.

There is a simple but powerful passage in my patriarchal blessing that I have come to value over the years. “Heavenly Father will lend every power . . . consistent with your own free agency to accomplish this work.” If we use our agency to do His work and seek His will, He will help! But He will never violate our agency.

I was wrong to think that my professors or anyone else would be able to make my decisions for me. But I will be eternally grateful that I turned to Heavenly Father during this difficult time. I continued to pray for heavenly help even though it felt like no none was forthcoming. I continued to be engaged with the scriptures. I attended the temple. I sought guidance from trusted teachers and mentors. I tapped into every resource that I could think of that Heavenly Father had given me. And when He provided the help I needed in the form of a tongue lashing from a cranky old professor, I had the good sense to recognize it.

So often we don’t recognize the heavenly help available to us, especially the subtle direction of the Holy Ghost. Elder David A. Bednar addressed this principle so well when he spoke here at Ensign College in January of last year.

He described the mission call to Steven Burnet in the 80th section of the Doctrine or Covenants. Quote:

He receives his call, is given a companion and then the Lord says, “Go to the north. Go to the south. Go to the east. Go to the west. It mattereth not unto me.” The Lord is not saying, “I don’t care where you go.” He is saying, “Get going. Move your feet.” In essence, I think the Lord is suggesting, “I’m going to get you where you need to be without violating your agency. But you’ve got to be moving for that to happen.” I think too many times we pray and sit there and we wait for something to happen which means nothing is going to happen. When we act in faith, when we ask in faith, and we say amen, we get to work on the thing that we have been praying about and we are guided in ways that most of the time we don’t even recognize (Bednar, David A., Living in Revelation, Devotional Address, Ensign College January 31, 2023).

I have found this to be completely true in my life. We are simply not always conscious of the spirit’s directing hand. But it is there as we do our best to act for ourselves in righteousness.

Heavenly help abounds at Ensign College.

Think of all the heavenly help available to you as an Ensign College student. This place is specifically and uniquely designed to assist you in becoming a trusted and capable disciple of Jesus Christ. The faculty and staff love you and would do anything, short of violating your agency, to help you prepare for a rewarding career and life-long service in the Kingdom of God. You are surrounded by classmates who share your faith and desire to learn. There is an Institute of Religion here where you can go to expand your understanding of the Gospel. The facilities are clean and welcoming. There’s great access to the Frontrunner. And of course, there is a weekly devotional where you get to hear inspiring messages like this one!

I first came to know and love Ensign College through my cousin Emily, who is here with us today. Like many of you, Emily has taken advantage of all the heavenly help Ensign College has to offer.

This is Emily with two of my children enjoying what she loves most, caring for a beautiful piece of land. After graduating from high school in 2001, she pursued her passion for landscaping. She worked for a time at BYU, maintaining the athletic fields that are regularly featured on national television. She also worked maintaining a beautiful country club golf course. Before long she was working for the Church supervising irrigation at Temple Square and maintaining the Church’s greenhouses that grow all the flowers for Temple Square. She loved her job.

Emily considered pursuing a college degree, but something always seemed to get in the way, including life-threatening bouts of cancer in her family—first her sister, then her mother. In 2009, she was on the verge of starting classes at BYU–Idaho when she learned of her mother’s cancer diagnosis. At that point, Emily decided college just wasn’t going to happen. She puts it: “I said to myself, ‘That’s it, I’m not going to school. I can’t leave my mom.’ I never looked back. I never gave school another thought.”

Things changed in 2017 when her supervisor at Temple Square encouraged her to go back to school to improve her career opportunities. Here’s Emily’s description of what followed:

My heart sank. I thought, “How dare he tell me to go back to school! Look at everything I’ve accomplished without going to school!” (This really sounds like Emily, by the way) I told him I would think about it, thanked him for the visit and I left. Honestly after that I didn’t think of it much . . . until I went to bed that night! Long story short, I applied to Ensign College (known at the time as LDS Business College) and enrolled that Fall of 2017 to start working on my associate degree. I picked Ensign College because it was down the street from my work. I could complete an associate degree and I felt like it was the perfect way to get my feet wet and see if this is indeed something I could do. It had been 14 years since I had attended a college class. It was so scary. I was definitely a lot older than most of my classmates around me. But as time went on, I found myself loving it! I found classmates who I still am in contact with, and teachers became amazing mentors to me. Some I still keep in touch with or run into at the Church Office Building when I’m at work. I found Project Management as a major and realized everything I have done for work is project management related. I loved learning how to apply those things I learned in class to my work. It was the beginning of a huge change in my life that I had no idea would happen.

Emily’s time at Ensign College broadened her horizons. After earning her associate degree, she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in construction management and facility management from Weber State University where she will graduate in April.

At work, Emily was asked to take on increased responsibilities and is now serving as Senior Assistant Facility Manager for the Salt Lake Temple. You can imagine how big a job that is right now given all the construction going on across the street.

Emily is thankful she decided to pursue a college degree. She says:

I know all of this wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t go back to school. For so many years people kept pushing me to go back to school. But to me, it was never right. It never felt right. I told Heavenly Father I would do it when it was time, and I’m glad I did. Was it hard? Of course. Working full time and going to school full time is hard. I have had to sacrifice a lot. I have missed out on things with friends and family. But was it the right thing? Absolutely! I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for my time at Ensign College. It taught me so much about myself.

I remember talking to Emily when she was considering returning to school. We talked about Ensign College, and I thought it would be a perfect fit for her. I remember how terrified she was of going back to school after such a long gap. What if she failed? What if it ended up being a complete waste of time? Would it even make a difference in her life?

Despite all of her doubts and anxieties, Emily chose for herself to bring to pass something remarkable in her life. And she did not do it alone. She had the support of loving family members, as well as wonderful mentors and friends here at Ensign College. And of course, she turned to her Heavenly Father for help. Emily says:

I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for my time at Ensign College. It taught me so much about myself. I will always be a big supporter of this amazing college, the teachers, advisors, and students. But most importantly, we can’t do anything without Him. We need to invite Him into our lives every day. He will help lead and guide us. I know this because I’ve experienced it. He wants to help us, and he will help us. We must have faith and never give up. All great things come with time.

You have to do the spiritual work for yourself.

We all recently studied Lehi’s family in Come Follow Me. Laman and Lemuel tended to murmur and lose faith when faced with difficult challenges. Lehi and Nephi had to repeatedly persuade, cajole, and even restrain them to stick with the program. Nephi explains that his brothers murmured “because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them”(1 Nephi 2:12). They complained to Nephi, “[b]ehold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken . . . .” (1 Ne 15:7). In response, Nephi asked, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” 1 Ne 15:8. Their reply is tragic: “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (1 Ne 15:9).

Laman and Lemuel sold themselves short. The power was in them. They could have sought to know God for themselves, but they left all the “spiritual stuff” to Lehi and Nephi. As a result, they always felt coerced and resentful. They eventually completely turned away from God and His prophet.

Sometimes we forget that Nephi also struggled to understand and believe his father’s prophecies. In 1 Nephi 2:16, we read:

[H]aving great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.

Nephi made an effort. Instead of giving into fear or laziness, he sought to know for himself and his heart was softened. When he had to decide whether to follow his father, there was no resentment or rebellion because he knew for himself it was the right thing to do. I believe this experience set the course for the rest of his life and ministry.

President Nelson has pleaded with us repeatedly to do for ourselves the spiritual work necessary to gain and maintain a testimony.

. . . I plead with you now—to take charge of your own testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Work for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don’t pollute it with false philosophies of unbelieving men and women. As you make the continual strengthening of your testimony of Jesus Christ your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life (Russell M. Nelson, General Conference. Overcome the World and Find Rest November 2022 Ensign or Liahona. P. 95).

I love the idea of taking charge of your own testimony. It is empowering. It shows President Nelson’s faith in our ability to seek and know God for ourselves.

Consider a few recent clarifications from the Church emphasizing personal accountability for spiritual growth:

  • Gospel Teaching and Learning. First, gospel teaching and learning is an individual and family responsibility. The Church supports us in these efforts but does not replace the primacy of individual and family gospel teaching and learning. 
  • Ministering. Ministering is not driven by visit quotas. Instead, it is up to us to do the spiritual work to discover what we can do to bless the lives of our ministering families. 
  • For the Strength of Youth. The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet now focuses on principles of righteousness, instead of a list of specific does and don’ts. The youth are expected to learn these principles and do the spiritual work necessary to apply them as they make decisions. 
  • CES Honor Code and Dress and Grooming. Similarly, the new CES Honor Code and Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations are now more principle-based. It’s up to us to internalize these principles and prayerfully apply them to our lives.  
Some seem to think these changes lower expectations because much of the specific direction is gone. But, of course, the opposite is true. More than ever, we have to flex our spiritual muscles to learn and apply eternal principles for ourselves. This requires us to get up and act of our own free will. The Lord knows that the more we do our spiritual work for ourselves, the stronger we become able to withstand the challenges and temptations we face in this life. We also become more reliant on the Lord and more open to His heavenly help.


My friends, if any of you are struggling with uncertainty, and who isn’t, don’t fear! Remember that your loving Heavenly Father has given you the power to “do many things of [your] own free will, and to bring to pass much righteousness.” If the answers don’t seem to be coming, don’t lose faith. Get moving, do the best you can, and you will be surprised how much heavenly help will come your way. I testify of our Heavenly Father’s love for and faith in each of us. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

About the Speaker

Richard Hatch

Rich Hatch grew up in Chinle, Arizona and Gallup, New Mexico. He attended Brigham Young University where he received bachelor’s degrees in political science and Spanish in 2004. He then returned to New Mexico to attend the University New Mexico School of Law where he graduated in 2007.

Rich worked as an attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico for nine years, specializing in defending healthcare providers and systems. In 2016, he joined the BYU Office of the General Counsel where he has enjoyed serving many areas of the university. Since January 2023, he has served as legal counsel for Ensign College.

Rich has served in a variety of Church callings and currently enjoys serving at the branch of an assisted senior living center in his stake. He also served as a missionary to the Venezuela Maracaibo mission.

Rich is married to Claire and they have three children with lots of personality.
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