End of Semester Devotional
Okay. Be careful about the desires of your heart. Last week, I sat right down here with my friends, and I listened to Marisol’s beautiful testimony, and I thought to myself, “I’m graduating in two weeks, and I’ve never had the opportunity to speak in devotional. And two days later the school called me, and here I am. So the Lord is very aware of every desire of your heart. Be careful of what they are because He just might arrange them.
I absolutely love the Business College. I believe that this is one of the best places on earth. And one of the reasons I love it so much is because of the unique invitations that have been extended to us and the unique experiences we can have here. My first semester, I remember the focus was more on this being a temple of learning, and this semester we were invited to “Receive the Gift.”
When this theme was first announced at new student orientation, I wanted to partake and participate in it, but I wasn’t exactly sure how. Luckily, they put ideas of how to participate in this challenge were put BrainHoney because I know otherwise I probably would have forgotten about it. When I saw that, I was curious and looked through some of the articles. The one that I came across that meant a lot to me was by Elder Bednar. And it’s called “In the Strength of the Lord.” He says,
Brothers and sisters, the gospel of the Savior is not simply about avoiding bad in our lives; it also is essentially about doing and becoming good. And the Atonement provides help for us to overcome and avoid bad and to do and become good. There is help from the Savior for the entire journey of life—from bad to good to better and to change our very nature (BYU Devotional Address, Oct. 23, 2001).
He was talking about the enabling power of the Atonement, and it opened my mind in incredible ways because this is something that, I guess, I hadn’t ever really known about before. And I’m a little bit ashamed that before reading this talk, I didn’t know how I could apply the Atonement more in my life because I was pretty happy and content. But after reading this talk, I realized that I could tap into the enabling power of the Atonement.
I want to share just one experience with you. Towards the beginning of the semester, I was already feeling stressed out because I was coming to school full-time, I had just started a new job, and I had just gotten a new calling. Thing after thing was piling on, and I was feeling stressed and I was feeling overwhelmed. And just as I was feeling the most overwhelmed I possibly could, I got a phone call asking me to add one more semester-long commitment to my life. And I didn’t . . . For some crazy reason, I enthusiastically said, “Yes! I’ll help!” And after I hung up from that phone call and I was in my car driving to Institute from work, I prayed to Heavenly Father. And I said, “Heavenly Father, I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I’m completely overwhelmed already, and I just added one more thing, but I know that I needed to.”
So I left it in His hands. I said, “Heavenly Father, I need your help.” And it wasn’t anything bad that was being added; they’re all good things that I wanted to participate in. But instantly to my mind came the scripture: In the strength of the Lord “I can do all things” (Alma 26:12) —not some things, not most things, but all things. And that was what I needed. I realized that with the help of Heavenly Father, I could achieve all the good that I wanted to. I could do everything. I couldn’t do it by myself, but I could do it with Him.
That’s the enabling power of the Atonement. He suffered not only for us when we slip and when we fall and when we make mistakes and need to repent, but He also is there for us in our times of happiness and success, and when we need help to measure up. I promise you that as we enter the last week of the semester—it gets so crazy, and finals are hard—but if you will tap into the enabling power of the Atonement, I promise you He will help you. He will help you measure up because He is there for us. I have felt it in my life this semester, and I am so grateful that I will get to learn more about that and continue to use it throughout my life. And I leave this with you humbly, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I just want to start by thanking Adrian Juchau and President Richards and everyone who is involved in putting together the devotionals of this semester and especially for their efforts to focus on the Atonement. I want to say to you all, thank you. You have blessed my life.
I have prepared something for you, but I am really nervous, and I think I might forget what I have prepared. So I am just going to keep it simple and really talk to you from my heart. I am sure that we all have seen the Easter video the Church made. I like how at the very end, the screen goes black and two words appear, and it is “Find Him” (see “Because He Lives,” https://www.mormonchannel.org/watch/collection/easter-videos/because-he-lives).
There’s a scripture in John 17:3. It says this: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” I think there is a very huge difference between finding Him and knowing Him, or Them. We can find Him in the scriptures; we can find Him here during these devotionals. We found Them in general conference this past weekend. There is only one way that we can get to know Them, and it is by applying those principles that we learn by finding Them in our lives, especially the Atonement.
I once asked myself if I called my Heavenly Father “Father” because that is the title He has or because He really is my Father, and if I call Jesus Christ my “Savior” because that is just the title He has or because He really is my Savior.
I know Them because I have a personal relationship with Them, and like I said, this can only become true in our lives if we apply the Atonement in our lives.
In my life, because of my decisions, I have gone astray a little bit. And when I have done so, I have knelt down and prayed to God and asked Him to please help me because I have realized that I am not strong enough to go back to Him on my own. And when I have done so, I have felt God’s and Jesus’ love for me, unconditionally. Because even when I have done wrong, They have never stopped loving me.
One of my favorite scriptures is found in Alma 7:12. The part I like the most says this: “That his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know . . . how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” And this shows me that He chose to suffer all the things He went through just so He could know how to help me personally. And I know this is true. And I know this Church is true. Because He lives, I can live too. And I just want to share these things with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Thank you so much, choir, for that beautiful number. Nothing invites the Spirit faster than music. I love music.
Have you ever noticed the painting of the Savior knocking at the door? There is something missing—a very subtle but key feature: the doorknob. We receive the gift of the Atonement by opening the door of our hearts to the Savior. I have received the gift this past semester by accepting the commitment to study and apply the Atonement daily. I believe the focus this semester on the Atonement was just right for me. I have witnessed an abundance of blessings flow into my life as a result of making the Atonement the center of my life. It is a quest of mine to come a little closer to understanding the Atonement each day. I am extremely humbled by this opportunity to share my insights about the Atonement with all of you this morning. It is my prayer that the Spirit will teach us personally how to receive the precious gift of the Atonement.
Oh! There is nothing more joyful than overcoming through the power of Christ! The word atonement really means “at-one-ment.” It literally brings us “at one” with God. Jesus Christ made it possible for all of us to be at one with God through overcoming physical and spiritual death.
The Bible Dictionary states that “the Atonement is conditional, however, so far as each person’s individual sins are concerned, and touches every one to the degree that he has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and obeys the gospel” (Bible Dictionary, “Atonement”). Wow. To the degree we have faith in Christ, His Atonement will touch us.
The following quote by Linda K. Burton, the Relief Society general president, deepened my understanding of the Atonement significantly.
Three principles of the Atonement . . . will increase our faith in Jesus Christ: . . .
Principle 1: “All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” . . .
Principle 2: There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Jesus Christ. . . .
Principle 3: The Atonement is the greatest evidence we have of the Father’s love for His children (“Is Faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ Written in our Hearts?” Oct. 2012 General Conference).
An inspired Institute teacher here on campus once said that the Atonement is infinite and intimate (see Merrill J. Bateman, “The Power to Heal from Within,” Apr. 1995 General Conference). This great vicarious gift is such a vital part of our lives, yet sometimes it seems so vast and incomprehensible that it is difficult to grasp. In the attempt to bring it a little closer to home, this past weekend I invited students, family members, and friends to finish the following sentence: The Atonement feels like . . .
I invite all of you to finish this sentence as well. Here are a few examples of what students have shared with me:
· The Atonement feels like an unlimited source of strength and support that is given to me based on my searching for it.
· The Atonement is like light penetrating into my heart, illuminating every fiber of my body.
· The Atonement heals without a scar.
· The Atonement is like the rising sun. It is reliable, dispels darkness, and affects everyone.
· The Atonement allows me to be my best self because Christ sees our potential that we sometimes can’t see with human eyes.
· The Atonement feels like coming home after a really hard day and someone you love is there with open arms.
My mom said, “It truly takes knowing the Savior to appreciate what He did for us. I am grateful that I was raised with the love of the Savior and the scriptures so that I could appreciate the Atonement.”
Personally, the Atonement is like being set free, though often I feel bound like Nephi. When I am bound, I know the Lord is the only one who can deliver me. I start to pray like Nephi, “Give me the strength that I may burst these bands” (1 Nephi 7:17). When I see myself as an agent to act, instead of a victim of my circumstances, that is when the Atonement enables me (see David A. Bednar, “Ask in Faith,” Apr. 2008 General Conference).
More evidence that the Atonement is working in our lives is evident on campus: Mary Crosby’s shining countenance, Holden’s honest heart, Lydia’s perseverance, David’s charity, Boston’s purity, and Lewis’s happiness. I wish I had all day to identify each of your spiritual gifts, because I notice them. Heavenly Father has given them to you, and they are making a difference.
In closing, I want to commit each of you to receive the gift of the Atonement through applying four simple daily habits: R-E-S-T. As students, we need rest, but in this case it’s an acronym. I chose this acronym, REST, because it is essentially what the Atonement provides—rest to our souls.
R:Record tender mercies or evidences of the Atonement in your journal daily. The more you recognize the Atonement, the more you will feel it working in your life.
E:Experience a mighty change of heart daily. How is this accomplished? Read your scriptures until you feel the healing, enabling, and cleansing power of the Atonement.
S:Study how the prophets in the Book of Mormon prayed for divine help or strength. I’ll give you a hint: they first acknowledged their relationship to God. Second, they prayed with the understanding that they are agents to act for themselves (see David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning by Faith,” Liahona and Ensign, Sept. 2007). And third, they humbly plead with the Lord to turn their feeble, yet acceptable efforts into something miraculous. Pray like Alma among the Zoramites that your afflictions may be “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38).
Brothers and sisters, this past semester I’ve done as Alma did, and, using the exact wording of the prophet Alma, my afflictions truly have been “swallowed up in the joy of Christ.” I testify that this works. No matter what your life circumstances may be, you can feel the joy and peace that comes from living the gospel. After all, Joseph Smith declared that if we are faithful, all of our losses will be made up (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 296).
T: Take counsel. This habit is inspired by the scripture, “Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand” (Jacob 4:10). Humble yourselves and seek counsel from the Lord and His chosen servants, from your parents and from teachers. The Lord is the potter; we are the clay (see Heber C. Kimball, “The Potter and the Clay,” Ensign, Jan. 2011). Let us be moldable for the Lord.
We are all in constant need of guidance and direction. If we close the door to the counsel of those around us, we are limiting ourselves. There are people who have walked around the block a few more times than we have, and we need to trust that they know what they are doing.
And I just wanted to bear my testimony of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that He loves me with an infinite love, and I know that He loves all of you. I know that this gospel is real, and that it’s worth it. And I know that we can all return and live with our Heavenly Father again someday if we keep His commandments.
I love this school so much, and I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to attend here. And I say this is the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Thank you students, and thank you choir, for your messages and for the spirit that you brought.
We received instruction that the microphone is supposed to be pointing at our Adam’s apple, and I don’t know if you saw, but I was trying to find my Adam’s apple, and I couldn’t find it. I don’t know if it’s either that I swallowed it back in my throat because I’m so nervous, or maybe my wife is really right—maybe I haven’t hit puberty yet. I don’t know. But if you can’t hear me, just somehow let me know and we’ll go from there.
This has been a fun week. The faculty has been doing mock interview week, and it’s been a joy for me to be able to sit with some of you one-on-one in a room down the hall. If I had the wish of my heart, I would spend all day long meeting with you one-on-one and getting to know you better and to feel of your spirits. And tragically, mock interviewing is not meeting with you one-on-one. But alas, I am but a man and do sin in my wish, and I should be content with that which the Lord has allotted to me (see Alma 29:3). But if I could, I would like to try to take a moment to speak to you one-on-one in an intimate setting now because I have been asked to speak to you a little bit about the Atonement, and I know of no other way to speak about such an intimate subject than in an intimate setting. I know of no more important subject and perhaps no more inadequate person to try to address it. I pray that you will join my prayers that Heaven will be able to teach you something.
After my remarks, I think we’ll be able to hear from our president for a few moments. He’d like to share a thought with you.
I think I will be like Carlos and try to just share a few of the thoughts of my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the Atonement, and I’m not exactly sure what Heaven would have me share with you. There is too much to share. But here are two thoughts that have been on my mind and in my heart that perhaps might be beneficial to you.
For the word atonement in the Hebrew Old Testament, there’s a word kaphar, to cover. The Atonement is to cover. That’s an interesting concept, and I would invite you to think about “to cover,” for example, modesty and garments and all sorts of things. But I want you to know that I am learning that there is nothing—nothing—in your life that the Atonement can’t cover. If you are sick in your body or sick in your mind, if you have a heart that’s hurting, if you want your relationship strengthened, if you want to do better at school, if you want to be made clean, if you made a mistake—the list goes on. There is nothing that the Atonement does not cover. How then can you and I better access the Atonement in our own lives? It’s simply to get ourselves covered by all things Jesus, by all things Heaven, by all things Spirit.
You and I believe in a baptism of immersion, not of dippings or of sprinklings. You want the Atonement to work more in your life? Then pour your heart out in prayer (see Psalms 62:8, Alma 34:17-27); don’t just say them to check off the box at the end of the day. “Feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3, emphasis added); don’t just nibble to get your five minutes in. Don’t just sit through Church; don’t just sit through devotional; don’t just sit through the temple. Do everything you can to get those experiences through you. The more you cover yourself in Christ and bathe yourself in His Spirit, the more fully the Atonement will work in your life. It’s that simple. All we need to do is ask, to turn to Him, to bathe ourselves, to cover ourselves.
I would invite you to think of something in your life today that you would like healed or mended or fixed or cleaned or strengthened. Maybe it’s that you ought to do better at school or do better at work, or maybe it’s that you want to be a better friend or a better family member or you want to be a better person. The Atonement covers those things. Think of just one thing that you’d like the Atonement to cover and then quickly ask yourself and ask your Father in Heaven how you can get the Atonement to work more fully in your life, and watch the blessings come.
I said that the Atonement is an intimate subject. I think I’d like to share with you a few stanzas from a poem that is personal to me and that makes me think of the Atonement. Perhaps something in this poem would be helpful to you. If nothing else, perhaps it will help you feel something of the Savior’s love for you.
This little poem is a poignant portrayal of a man who, like Nephi, recognizes his imperfections and weakness and how much he needs the Lord (see 2 Nephi 4). He, like many of us from time to time, wonders if heaven is really there, and he then comes to realize that of course He is always there and it is us that need to turn to Him, and he recognizes the great blessings that come from doing so. Watch the progression in these stanzas as they go from “O Lord” to “Dear Lord” to “My Lord.”
O what a wretched man I am!
Have mercy upon me, Lord.
I will strive to do all I can
To put off my own natural man.
Unworthy though I yet may be,
My soul shall be redeemed by Thee.
Lord, please forgive me.
What a wretched man I am!
Have mercy upon me, Lord.
When wilt thou come to me again?
I need Thee. Be near me, Lord.
Now, in my hour of dark despair,
I’ll cast upon Thee every care.
I long to feel Thy warm embrace,
And once again behold Thy face.
Canst thou still hear me?
When wilt Thou come to me again?
Be near me. I need thee, Dear Lord.
Now I’ve returned to Thee at last
What comfort, sweet comfort and rest.
Now Thou wilt wipe away my tears,
Restore my soul, cast out my fears.
I’ll dwell with Thee in heaven’s courts above,
Encircled in Thine arms of love.
Great peace and joy are mine,
Now I am home.
I’ll live with Thee eternally.
I love Thee, I thank Thee,
This Easter season, may we remember that He is not only the Savior of the world, He is our Savior. Make Him your Savior. He is my Savior. Not only is He the light and life of the world, but at the same time, He gives me light in my darkness. He gives me life when I need it most. I love Him and I thank Him for the life that He has led, for His teachings, for His sacrifice. All that is good about me and in my life is because of Him. All that is less than desirable about me and my life can be made better through Him. He is the Savior. We cannot save ourselves; our teachers can’t save us; our parents can’t save us; our friends can’t save us. Video games certainly can’t save us. He is my Savior. He lives. He loves us. May we come unto Him and more fully enjoy the blessings of His Atonement, that we can receive that most precious gift, that that gift that He gave is not given in vain. This is my humble and fervent prayer for each of us that I offer in the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior, amen.
Brothers and sisters, thank you for coming today. I have been taught much. Jenae has helped me understand a little bit more about the enabling power of the Atonement. Carlos has sparked my interest in the difference between finding and knowing the Savior. And Liesl—I will never use the word rest again without thinking of the acronym. Thank you very much. And Adrian is . . . Adrian has a heart that helps us understand things in deeper ways than we ever could. I know for myself, like Adrian, I have many things I hope the Atonement will cover.
Let me just leave you with a thought about the Savior’s life and its application through the power of the Atonement for you. It’s something I found—I’m going to read it a little bit so that I get it right for you. But I invite you to consider this: if the Savior caused the blind to see, He can cure spiritual blindness and open our eyes to the possibilities and the opportunities that are before us, and what we need to do to be more serviceable to Him. If He caused the deaf to hear, then He can help us tune our ears to His beckoning, which will help us as we seek to help others. If He caused the dead to rise, He can certainly heal our wounds. If He caused the dead to rise, then He can bury our transgressions and acts of rebellion deep in the earth, as He did for those in the Book of Mormon. If He caused the lame to walk, then certainly He can strengthen our wobbly steps as we journey down the straight and narrow path, holding on fast to the iron rod. If He cast out devils, He can give each of us at least a new heart. If He healed the sick, He can comfort us in our discomfort, in our discouragement, and in our pain. And if He resisted the full force of Satan’s distractions, then He can help us and strengthen our focus when we are tempted and discouraged or feel inadequate about the work that is before us.
If He can look into the vast eternity and see the end from the beginning, He can help each one of us gain a fresh view of ourselves, God, and the world around us. And He who experienced the ultimate betrayal in this life by one close to Him, and the betrayal of one who was called the “son of the morning” (2 Nephi 24:12) in the premortal life, then surely He can help when those close to us seem to have wronged or mistreated us.
And finally, if He suffered to the point where drops of blood came from his pores, then we should find great comfort in this reassuring counsel from Elder Bednar:
There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us do that which we could never do relying upon our own power. Indeed, His yoke is easy and His burden is light (“Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Apr. 2014 General Conference).
Brothers and sisters, may the Lord bless you as we finish this semester; may He magnify your capabilities; may He magnify your spirit—all of which is done through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.