You know, I have had people ask me what it was like to be a student of President Kusch’s. He is actually a very good teacher and when you major in the discipline that he is teaching, it means that you’re also taking classes from his colleagues. I could never blow off an assignment, or sit and sleep during class because everything I did in the business management department had to be perfect, excellent work because I didn’t want him or any of his friends to think that I was stupid. So, there was great pressure!
A few weeks ago, I was walking on a trail on the top of the mountain near our home. It was early in the morning and the skies were clear. I stopped for just a minute to look out over the valley. From where I was standing, I could see all the way to the Point of the Mountain to the south, the mountain just beyond Ogden to the north, the Great Salt Lake, and even the mountains beyond Tooele to the west. It was beautiful.
Now, just a few days ago I walked that same trail, but because of air quality, could not see even the closest mountains. On a day such as this, to someone who was standing in the exact same spot where I was, it might appear as though the mountains were not there at all because they could not be seen.
Life is often like that - many times we see our path clearly, but at other times it is not so easy to know where to walk.
There are times that we feel inspiration and personal revelation easily, but, at least for me, there have been times in my life when I have had to work hard to know the Lord’s will for me – when the spiritual mountains that remind me that the Lord is near, looked dim in the distance.
But on the morning that I stood there and could not see the mountains, I did not throw my hands up and say, “Well, I could see them in the past, but I can’t see them now, so they never existed.”
Can you see how foolish that would be?
But do we sometimes though, when spiritual mountains are dim or momentarily unseen, hang our heads and say, “The Lord is not there for me. He will not answer nor guide me.”
At times such as these, I can testify from my own experiences that remembering back to occasions when I clearly saw the anchoring spiritual mountains, when I was inspired and felt the Lord near, gave me the strength to keep going and carry on.
I would like to share with you an experience that I had recently that reminded me of the importance of moving forward even when all the spiritual mountains are not clearly in view, and that when we are obedient and giving our best efforts, the Lord will help us.
On January 30th of this year, President Kusch came home from campus and told me about a phone call that he had had with Elder Bednar earlier that day. Elder Bednar explained that both he and Sister Bednar had concluded their trip to the Middle East by visiting a school in Cairo, Egypt on January 23rd.
The article from the Church News that accompanied this picture read:
“One humanitarian stop was at the African Hope Learning Centre in Cairo, Egypt, where LDS Charities has donated computers and other materials. For more than two decades, the school has helped educate impoverished children – up to nearly 500 annually – who have fled from Sudan and a dozen other African nations, often without one or both of their parents.”
During that visit, in talking with the leaders from the school, Elder Bednar learned that most of the teachers there were themselves refugees with little education and no experience in a classroom. African Hope needed help helping their teachers.
So, Elder Bednar’s request to President Kusch was to have LDS Business College create training videos that would help the teachers at African Hope. At the dinner table that night, President asked if I would lead a team to do that.
The team for the project was me, Cathy Carey, Director of Curriculum, and Wendy Porter, who at the time was the Director of Instructional Design. We also had a contact at the school, Jessica McCombie, who was a BYU-Idaho student living in Cairo while her husband was doing research for his Ph.D., and she was a volunteer at the school.
Through emails and video chats, Jessica helped us understand the challenges they faced at African Hope, which were many, and what we might be able to create that would help the teachers.
At our first team meeting we talked about the school, which is a converted house where they literally use every possible space for instruction. We also talked about the teachers, the beautiful students who attended the school and our assignment from Elder Bednar which was to create short training videos for the instructors.
The administrators at the school identified seven topics with which they needed help.
We added two others that we felt would help the teachers not only see their value but also understand how important the students were.
We divided up the topics, making assignments on who would write the material for each video, and then we went to work. At this point we were unclear as to how we would make the words that we had written come to life in the videos, but we were moving along nicely and feeling pretty good about the progress we were making.
Then on the 1st of March, I opened an email from Jessica where she indicated that we had a hard deadline for completion of the videos. This is something that we had not known before.
Everything had to be done and delivered to African Hope by April 30th because of their end of school deadlines. I remember sitting at my desk and thinking, “What? How can we do this?”
Time does not permit this morning for me to share every obstacle and difficulty that presented itself to us during these weeks. There were many, some very difficult. We never said, “We can’t.” But there were countless times that we did ask, “What are we going to do now?”
The end of the story is that we completed everything, and the videos were indeed delivered to African Hope on the 29th of April, one day before their deadline, in time for their year-end training.
This was a physical task that taught us great spiritual as well as practical lessons. How we were able to accomplish something that had never been done before and the lessons that African Hope taught us is what I would like to share with you this morning.
Lesson No. 1 - Leave your ego at home.
We realized from the very beginning that we had to work as a team if we were going to accomplish the assignment given to us, in the timeframe that was required. There was no place for trying to out-do one another in this setting.
During the meeting to review the scripts we had each written, we read them aloud and gave each other honest feedback. There was no fighting or arguing. At the beginning of each of our meetings, we prayed for the spirit of cooperation and we saw that realized each day. There was understanding, appreciation and kindness.
This is a good principle to remember – whether you are faculty or staff working together on a project – or a student working with others to fulfill an assignment. Do not think of yourself as better than the others on your team. Leave your ego at home and instead pray for a spirit of cooperation. This works, and when it does, the Holy Ghost can be present.
Lesson No. 2 - Step back and look at the big picture.
Sometimes this is necessary in order to create a plan on how you will move forward, when spiritual mountains are not in view, so you won’t feel paralyzed.
When we were given the hard deadline from African Hope, stunned, we met together to decide how we could complete this project. Wendy drew a big calendar on a white board, put the deadline date on it, and then we began planning backwards from there.
We knew that the video editor required three weeks to put together the scripts, the pictures, the PowerPoint presentations, the voiceover tracks and the graphics for all nine videos. That meant that everything from us had to be completed by the 5th of April. We had one month to have all of our necessary pieces finished and in place.
I will admit that after we mapped out our plan, we looked at each other and collectively sighed, “How are we going to get all of this done?”
The Lord opened doors for us. He opened our eyes to see things in unique and out-of-the-box kind of ways. We were reminded that nothing is impossible when we are on the Lord’s errand.
So, when you are faced with a project or task that seems like it is so difficult to know how to begin, step back, look at the whole picture, and make small goals and plans that will allow you to see how to proceed. Remember that you can ask the Lord for help.
Lesson No. 3 - Expect twists and turns.
Even when a project is well planned out, nothing moves along perfectly. Expecting that this will be the case will help you not freak out when it happens, but rather will allow you to collect your thoughts, revise your plan if necessary and continue forward.
For us, there were twists and turns and challenges – not a few – but, we came back to what we knew was true. The spiritual mountains were there even though at times they seemed dim and in the distance, but with our efforts and prayer, the Lord would help us see clearly. We knew and relied on this truth. We also knew that because we had been given this assignment by an Apostle, and we were giving our best efforts, that the Lord would help us.
Remember that as twists and turns come your way, just because at that moment the spiritual mountains are not clearly in view, does not mean that they don’t exist. Rely on your past experiences with the Holy Ghost and know that the Lord will answer you once again.
Lesson No. 4 - Ask “How?”
We had many discussions on how we were going to bring our scripts to life. We, of course, wanted it to be the highest quality and easy for the teachers at African Hope to understand and use. But how to do this, I did not know.
I took that concern to the Lord. Early one morning as I knelt to pray, my question was this, “Heavenly Father, I do not know what to do. How can we create these videos? Immediately I clearly heard the answer in my mind, “Fashion your presentations after the temple video.”
This was the answer and it came after my pleading prayer of how.
I am going to show one of the completed videos so you can see how we took the instructions I received from the Lord that morning and used them. This is a short video on how to enhance a lesson for children using objects in the classroom.
The other videos follow this same model.
We certainly learned that rather than saying, “I give up. It can’t be done,” a much better question is “Heavenly Father, how can I accomplish thy will?” It is then that the Holy Ghost can inspire and direct you.
Lesson No. 5 - God loves all His children.
He cares about His children’s education and development, about their happiness and success. He helped us love children whom we had never met. We were able to see them through the eyes of a loving Heavenly Father.
Although we did not know the school or the children, the Lord knew what they needed, and so He knew how to help us create the best kinds of materials to accomplish that.
I am going to show you the video that was created to help the instructors view the precious students in their classes with new and loving eyes.
Always remember that the Lord knows you completely and that you also are a precious child of God. He knows of your dreams and desires. He knows your difficulties and disappointments and He knows perfectly how to help you in all areas of your life.
In our callings in our wards, and as we minister to our brothers and sisters, as we work together here at LDSBC, we can make this our prayer – to see each other through the eyes of our loving Heavenly Father and His son, even our Savior Jesus Christ.
Lesson No. 6 - Prayers are answered.
During those weeks, many prayers were offered both together and individually about African Hope.
During one of our meetings, I told Cathy and Wendy that I had been awakened early one morning, about 3:30, with African Hope on my mind. I was thinking about writing the scripts that had been assigned to me. I was troubled by the looming deadline.
I finally got out of bed, went to my office, and prayed for the Lord to help me. After my prayer, I sat at my desk and began to write. I finished two scripts, changing very little of what I had first written. Finally feeling calm, I went back to bed.
Cathy shared that she had had a similar experience. She also was awakened in the middle of the night with the words from one of the scripts running through her mind. She got out of bed and began writing on a pad that she keeps on her nightstand.
She also told us what had happened with another of the scripts over which she labored greatly. When she finished it, she knew that it was well written, but she was left feeling uneasy and unsettled about the final wording.
She awoke in the morning knowing what she needed to do to fix the script – simplify it. And so she did that and ended up with something even better.
As we each shared similar experiences with each other, the Spirit was strong in our meeting and tears of joy and gratitude were shared as we once again were reminded that the Lord hears and answers our prayers.
What does this mean for you? Do your best. Work hard. Live worthily, staying firmly on the covenant path. This is what qualifies you to receive Heaven’s help. Prayer can help spiritual mountains that once seemed dim, come clearly into view.
Lesson No. 7 - Miracles happen.
We were in need of pictures of children and teachers to use for the videos. We had been working with an African branch that met on the east side of the valley. Our photographer was willing to travel up from Provo, and we were going to use their church building as our school. So basically, we would take the photo shoot to them. It was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
When we were informed Tuesday morning that the members of the branch were not going to be able to help us after all. We were left with a photo shoot scheduled, no one to photograph, and nothing that resembled a classroom. What do we do now?
As I came into devotional that morning and looked around at the students there, I knew what we could do. I asked Kristen Williams to help me. She found LDSBC students who were willing to come and be photographed as our teachers. She even found some children who would be in our pictures in exchange for some pizza and cookies, of course.
Our photographer made the trip to LDSBC from Provo. We turned a study room and a section of the library into a classroom.
We arranged workbooks and puzzles to be used as props, and that Thursday afternoon, we were witness to the miracle of the photo shoot. What had seemed impossible just two days before, became a reality.
Believe that there can be miracles in your life also. Always remember that spiritual help and power can be yours.
So, in the end, all of the videos were delivered on time to African Hope.
Jessica sent these pictures of the teachers on the day that they had their training along with this message:
“The training went wonderfully today! They learned so much in just a little bit and were so excited to go back and watch the videos over and over again. After each video I had them share what they learned, and there were so many thoughts and so much excitement that I had to cut people off at times to get to the next video, because of time.”
This was an opportunity that came along, that Wendy and Cathy and I did not expect and did not ask for. In accepting the invitation to serve in this way, our lives were blessed in ways we could not have ever imagined.
When it was all said and done, I asked the team to tell me what they had learned. Those lessons are what I have shared with you today.
In addition, Wendy sent me this comment:
“Gordon B. Hinckley was right when he would simply respond to issues that appeared to have no viable solutions, ‘It will all work out.’”
Cathy sent this to me:
“The Lord opens doors! Nothing is impossible when we are on the Lord’s errand and great things happen when the right people get in a room.”
As for me, about this experience, this is what I recorded:
“I can testify of something that I have known but have seen with new eyes since working on this project; this is the Lord’s work, and nothing is impossible for Him.”
My friends, if you find that you are standing, looking out over the valley of your life and you cannot see the mountains, do not immediately conclude that they do not exist for you. Rather, remember back to the times when spiritual mountains were clearly in your view and you felt the Lord near.
Keep moving along the covenant path and don’t stop. Be honest in keeping the promises you have made to the Lord. Ask the Lord to guide your steps and then listen and respond to what He is teaching you to do.
As you give your best efforts and prayerfully plead for divine guidance, I can testify from my own experience that you can feel the influence of the Savior in your life.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.