You Can Do Hard Things
Brother Jared Wright
Good morning. It’s good to be with you today. I’m going to have Sister Wolfgramm press the red detonation button now. I want to say how grateful I am to be here with you today. This is actually a fulfillment of a clause in my patriarchal blessing—to be able to stand in holy places and bear testimony. That being said, I’m going to have to ask your forgiveness. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and I may not have any control over that. I’m so grateful to have my wife and three of my children here today. They keep me grounded in my secret identity, and this is my secret identity, right here. If we can keep a secret, then I can never take myself too seriously. We have a great time together.
As was mentioned earlier, I served a mission in Connecticut, on the East Coast. That’s where Connecticut is. It was a wonderful mission. My testimony of this gospel and the teaching of it set me up for the best things in my life—the Best with a capital “B.” For example, I remember one evening my companion and I received tickets to take an investigator to see the BYU ballroom team performing in our area. I had never seen anything like that before in my life, but I got an impression, and this is what is was: “When you get home and go to school at BYU, take a ballroom dance class.” And I thought, well, that’s peculiar, because I’m from Texas, which is down in the middle there. And I wasn’t planning on going to BYU. I didn’t even know I could get in. And I didn’t dance. Not like that.
Now, Sister Wright served a mission in California, on the West Coast. So you’re probably thinking, “Oh, they must have met on their missions.” Just kidding. We met at a BYU dance class after our missions. And we’ve been dancing together ever since. That’s 3,000 miles. So, the lesson out of this is, follow those impressions. If the Lord can lead me to my amazing wife, 3,000 miles away on opposite sides of the country, He can do amazing things for you, too. There we are dancing.
Now, brothers, you might think that she’s from Venus, and you’re thinking, “Run away!” And my sisters, you might be positive that he’s from Mars, and you’re thinking, “Eww.” So now we know the girls are awake and the boys are still asleep. And depending on elliptical orbits, that’s 208 million miles apart. But see, you are in command of this celestial starship USS Charity. And the impulse engines are powered by the pure love of Christ. And say it with me: “Charity never faileth.”
Charity loves at the warp speed of need, from Mars to Venus and back again, so you can see each other the way Christ does. So seek after that, and with God all things are possible. And I wish I was done there. I wish we could just close right there, right? But my remarks today are a reminder that you may be young, but you have it in you to undergo very challenging circumstances. I say that with emotion because I know of some of those circumstances that you are going through right now, and they are not easy. Or you may be young at heart, but you can still endure extremely difficult times.
The War in Heaven—let’s go to this now, because war is full of a lot of heat—the war in heaven continues down here from before we arrived. Satan’s enmity now goes beyond simply using weapons from armies and navies to reign with terror here. He uses smaller, fiery tactics. But we have no need to fear. We have our own munitions—munitions is a military term for a bomb or a weapon—to ward off this onslaught.
The whole armor of God—and I’m getting ahead of myself—but the whole armor of God is intended for defense and attacks. However, we also have healing agents in the way of oils, balms, inoculations, that can aid in repairing wounds incurred in the line of battle. Let’s talk about a few of Satan’s fiery darts, and the gospel inoculations we have as part of our armor to heal from the darts. These inoculations may be different things like oils and balms—I refer to them symbolically.
To those of you who may have been told at significant parts of your life, “Don’t even try; you can’t do that,” and you’ve thought in your heart—that whatever something, the thought had never even occurred to you that you couldn’t do until someone who clearly not listening to the right influential spirit when the thought, the lie, entered their head and said what they said, and you believed the lie and never tried.
Today, let the Spirit be a light to reveal to you why you’re better than that. So that first dart is “Doubt.” Remember when the Savior said, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all thing shall work together for your good.” If you ask, the Savior and the Holy Spirit can take all of your negative afflictions and turn them into positive perspectives. So sometimes light is the best therapy.
To those who, in times past, have not ever been lacking in self-confidence to try anything, anytime, even if you failed the first 100 times—and you have all the scars to prove it. Even if it took you the next 1,000 times to get to that level you knew inside you were supposed to get to. You had something to prove, especially when the only fan in the 100,000-seat stadium of your mind was you. Perhaps you have gotten tired along the way. Perhaps you’ve lost your motivation and your drive.
Today, let the Spirit inoculate a spark for new life. Remember when the Savior said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer”—or in other words, take heart—“I have overcome the world.”
And to those who are new to the afflictions arena and are perhaps a bit intimidated by the prospects, the rigor, or the demands—you are wondering, “What have I gotten myself into? I’m not so sure I signed up for this. No, I definitely don’t remember signing up for this.” Today, let the Spirit anoint your anxieties into a merciful bliss. Remember when the Savior said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” So that’s an oil.
We’ve talked about an oil, an inoculation, and a therapy, to fend off these darts. Remember when the Savior—it’s going to be okay. To paraphrase John Shedd, when he gave us an analogy. He likened each of us to a ship. He said that we may be safe in the harbor, but we’re not made for the harbor. Not now, not at this particular probationary time. We’re here to be tested and proved.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us in April conference, “It is inevitable that after heavenly moments in our lives, we, of necessity, return to earth . . . where sometimes less-than-ideal circumstances again face us.” The author of Hebrews warned us of this when he wrote, “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” That post-illumination affliction can come in many ways and can come to all of us.
We have another munition at our disposal in this war, and it’s a bomb. This bomb was written for us in this day. It is intended for us to be able to withstand the fiery darts of the adversary. This is my nine-year-old nephew, Jonathon. While we talk about hard things, I want to take a moment and let you know that he’s very dear to me. You can’t see it, but he—along with his older brother, David—has a genetic disorder called Fragile X. It’s a form of autism.
Right now, this is his therapy. He’s creating universes out of water molecules, here. As the hymn goes, there are “sorrow that the eye can’t see.” When I look at Jonathon, he has a tornado going on inside his body. He knows that something is not right, and he can’t control it. It’s very difficult for him to control it.
After a very long amount of years, we had an opportunity to see him a couple of days ago. He wanted to swim, so he was swimming. Then he wanted to eat, so we said, “Jonathon, let’s go get something to eat.” But he didn’t want to leave the pool. And then this moment occurred when he had a meltdown, and as he couldn’t control himself, his mother held him very close. And she’s been trained in what to do—she and Jonathon’s father have been trained in what to do to help him during these moments. It took him a while to calm down, about five minutes. In that time, he would hit and he would scratch and he would bite. And it was terribly painful. He would pull her hair. And he knew—all the while this was going on, he would be apologizing, “I’m sorry, Mom. It’s all my fault. I’m sorry.”
And then the superhero came out as he calmed down. His fist would raise to hit, and he would hold it. And he would get the urge to bite, and he would clench his teeth. And he would want to scratch, and he would hold his fists. And he mastered, in that moment, the hard thing of being in a body that does not cooperate.
I want to share with you a poem I wrote for my kids. I wrote it reflecting on different experiences that we’ve had in our life, and I hope you benefit.
by Jared Wright
You’re young but can do hard things.
And you’re learning that with sacrifice the blessings bring these lessons,
And here in this place we make the connections.
These Ceh! . . . Ceh! . . . connections make sparks to your candle,
They bloom to the solar flare arcs of example,
With futures so bright you cast shadows at night,
Creating contagious hope as burning reminder,
Your Celestial Father is making a god out of you,
And to be beacons of light to shine for the nations—
You must be refined through the white heat of hard things,
For the levels of effort and the guts that it takes are the same.
Let me explain.
It’s on a whim and a dare that you break the ice layer on a glacial lake
And jump in to take a run-of-the-mill polar swim.
Forgetting, for the moment, both life and limb.
And decide mid-stroke, newly aware and newly awoke,
That you’re not turning back.
’C’mon, the water isn’t th-th-that cccoooold.
That fire in your belly’s stoked,
And you’re going to the . . . other side!
Teeth chatter S.O.S. messages to your brain.
Shivering vibrations unleashed and uncontained,
And your body concedes that
Suspended animation proceeds a good way to die.
It’s do or do not, there is no try!
And before it goes numb—it stings,
But you’re young and can do hard things.
It’s bike racing straight up a wall.
Who cares that it’s too steep you fall,
And your body’s dragged over a cheese grater.
You say, “I’m ok, I can clean the wounds later.”
Yet the first thought you see,
Through the raspberry elbow and strawberry knee,
Is, “Get up! Get up before these guys on my tail hit me!”
All you know is to spin and to spin,
Infinite revolutions round again,
’Til your legs burn so bad you could fry eggs on them!
And after ascent, you crave the descent.
A sine wave to ride the line like a luge,
For you’ve come so far and it’s huge compared to where you were at.
Pushing through every cramp and strain,
’Cuz you’re young and can do hard things.
Its gazing up at the mammoth peak.
Every step’s on your way to meet your maker.
That picture you take’s not a fake and you’re not a faker.
For climbing 12,000-plus feet,
Nothing can beat that view from the top of the world!
And the words are too few to tell.
All that’s inside explodes as you yell from the top of the world!
It’s from this vantage you realize,
Why, for thousands of years, all the Mount Sinai’s,
Were the closest the prophets could get to their God.
That piece of sod, on top of the world, is holy ground.
So you stop, breathe it in (do it with me—[inhale]), and don’t make a sound.
It’s the purview of kings,
When you’re young and can do hard things.
It’s all the small moments and soft whispers,
Assembled in the heart’s deeper components, discussed in lively vigor,
Molded morals with no malice (for none’s intended),
Shaped heart to holy chalice, ‘til it’s bended to Heaven’s will.
On this lifelong hill many are called but the chosen are few,
You may not be perfect but your perfectly you!
And with practice you master the tactics of this human apparatus to transform rebels of flaws to angels of God and beyond.
It’s the 200-mile relay race,
You joined a team just in case, you know, they needed your help and all.
Then your unmitigated gall quickly unloads when runner one meets road,
4am and you’re on deck, you lace up your shoes and jump out of the truck,
Say a prayer to the heavens you don’t get struck,
By this tempest storm,
Boaring over the ridge, full cause for alarm. And here it comes.
So much your clothes want to clutch to your skin,
Like a cat diggin’ it’s claws in to stay onto you.
Your super suit made of super glue.
And you run ’til the pounds and the plagues can’t keep up,
You run cuz it fills the cup of your vessel brimming,
You run and you wrestle your demons to diamonds dripping off your forehead,
You run ’til your legs aren’t just lead but cast in concrete,
And every mile lays replete with confessions you beat them!!!
Splashing rhythms into flint pavement,
As if the thunder just whipped you to sprint.
And every time the lightning strikes,
It licks your feet with sticks of dynamite . . . blown!
You’re all alone, in those split second flashes,
You see the whole scene.
It’s beautiful, it’s the most serene thing you’ve ever seen.
Then it crashes to black and you’re left with a vision,
To run on in the darkness just you and decision.
For the levels of effort and guts that it takes,
In all these times, and all these hours make,
These are the same.
For you took on His name and that matters.
Don’t let anyone flatter you different.
His blood has been poured, His body was spent.
And on Sabbath day special when emblems are passed,
Yield sighs of relief that on this day you’ll rest,
And give thanks for the blessing His sacrifice brings,
For you’re young and are made to do great things.
And that is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Wow, I think we’re finished. I can just sit down; we can absorb this moment and just ponder it. Thank you. It’s a treat to be able to speak with Brother Wright. He’s a great man, and he’s got an amazing family. I’m grateful to be here with my son Ethan. I love you. My son and daughterWilson and Abby, are not here today, and I know that Ethan will focus today and not do Pokémon Go during this devotional. I have full faith in him.
I’d like to thank Brother Brooksby as well for this opportunity to speak to you today. It’s humbling to be asked to speak because there is so much that I want to make sure that I portray or transfer to the people I am speaking to, and especially in this setting. So I hope that my message is appropriate for you.
I originally had three different ideas of what to speak about, and that’s typically what kind of happens. Two of those ideas occurred when I was hiking, and—if I can just pause for just a minute—I would encourage any of you to go for a hike or a run or a walk, whatever it is that works for you. It’s interesting when we can take ideas and get away from the hubbub of life with a prayer in our hearts—that we can take that idea and get revelation for our personal lives.
Just this morning I was having a hard time sleeping, and I woke up about 4:30 this morning, and this talk was kind of going through my head. As I was editing in my head and then getting on the computer to edit, I decided to go for a run because I can get clarity. So on my run, I was able to sort through some pieces of this talk as well as some things that are happening in my life right now. So, if nothing else from today—go take a hike, or go for a run, or whatever works for you. After developing these ideas, there was one that I settled in on because it’s kind of resonating with me in a deep place.
I think it’s safe to say that every one of us in this room have probably played with Play-Doh or clay of some sort in either elementary school or junior high. I was drawn to the arts as a young boy. I loved working with my hands, especially with clay. There is just something about that—it’s very organic and kind of grounding. So even in college I gravitated to ceramics even though I was studying interior design. I took these upper division ceramics classes because I just wanted to get past the basics and really dive into the techniques and the art of pottery. I loved going into the studio and smelling the clay, seeing my peers working so hard and intently on their projects that they were working with passion on, and kind of visualizing that dream—working on something that you have created in your mind or maybe sketched down on paper, and then starting to develop that with your hands.
During one of my pottery classes, I decided to create a series of vessels. I would sketch them on paper and kind of think about how this technique would work, created those, and then I started working with my hands. It took several days, and maybe even weeks, but the process finally completed. I was happy with them. Of course, the whole time working on them, I envisioned what they would look like. And if you’ve ever done clay or pottery, there is quite a process to it. There is the creation; there’s the firing and the glazing. So, you have this vision of what it will look like, but you just aren’t sure what it’s going to turn out to be until you see the finished product.
So, I completed these. They were ready to fire in the first firing, which is at 1,800 degrees. You fire it, it becomes hardened, and then you go to the glazing process. Glazing is a little tricky because you have to consider the reaction of the glaze to the clay body as well as the temperature and the adjustments of the temperature in the kiln.
The second firing happens, and that is at 2,000 degrees. And after that firing happens, it takes a couple of days for that 2,000 degrees to cool off with all of the kiln and all the pottery that is in that kiln. So, finally the day of reckoning—we opened the kiln, I saw my pieces, and I was thrilled. There’s something about creating something in your mind and then seeing the result of that, because it used to be just mere clay and now there was something that I was able to create. They met my expectations—they actually exceeded my expectations.
So, with these pieces, I displayed them in my college apartment; I was pretty proud of them. And it was time a few months later to move after graduation, so I boxed them up carefully, knowing that they had to be cared for. They are quite fragile. And as I relocated to my new apartment, as I was unpacking the boxes, I noticed one of them had broken. And that’s a tough thing because you had this vision of what that piece was going to be and what that history is going to look like in your life of that piece.
So, as I saw this piece broken and shattered, I thought, “Gosh, can I glue it together? Would that work?” And no, that won’t work. It just doesn’t look right. It didn’t feel right. So, I was discouraged but knew that I just had to let that go and I had to discard those broken pieces. Have you ever felt broken? Have you ever felt like what you have worked so hard for a purpose of life and trying to reach that place just doesn’t sometimes happen? That you are broken and unrepairable?
I have felt broken at times in my life. I want to share something that is very personal to me, and it’s something that I don’t do in a public setting, especially from a pulpit like this. But I have experienced divorce in my life—an event that broke me and my children in what seemed to be a million pieces. My world was upside down. I felt like my purpose in belonging had been for naught. After all, families are forever. And that looked different to me.
I wasn’t quite sure how to move forward. And it was especially hard because I was following the plan—the plan that we teach about in Church. I wasn’t sure how things would work out. And I was taught that when things get tough you just pray harder, you go to the temple, you fast longer, you do those things that are going to change that. And when those things don’t work, we have to adjust our thinking.
I was also not trained during my life how to adjust to loss or unmet expectations because those things happened to other people. In the midst of this broken state, I felt there was no amount of glue or tape that could put me back together. And then the warm embrace of the Holy Ghost allowed me to pick myself up and pick up the pieces and look at those pieces to figure out where I go from here, or at that point. That sense of healing and wholeness came through our Heavenly Father and our Savior. Even though my vessel had been broken, I found hope in my journey and a sense of belonging from an eternal perspective. But I wasn’t sure, again, what that perspective looked like for me.
So, while you and I may have deep hurt that we may never want to revisit, it is having the courage to revisit it and discover that while our identity may have been broken, we are much more than our identity. We are sacred vessels for the contents of our lives. A vessel that stands proud and whole is a thriving testament to the beauty, grace, and resilience of the human spirit—cracks and all.
Let’s just stop for a moment and think of analogies that maybe have come to your mind. A couple that have come to my mind as I have prepared this talk is, first, Heavenly Father is a master potter. He has a vision for every one of us in this room, on this earth, and that’s ever been here or will be here. He knows our destiny, our uniqueness, and He knows we can carry this throughout our lives on this journey.
The second analogy: when we are broken and cracks appear, it allows light to enter into those cracks and it sheds light on the darkness and stillness that exists in an otherwise flawless vessel.
Now, we’re going to fast forward to March of this year, where a good friend taught me about an ancient Japanese technique for repairing pottery called kintsugi, or golden joinery—a powerful metaphor for life, where nothing is truly broken.
The history behind the kintsugi method goes back about 500 years. The story goes that there was a beautiful bowl that this military leader had and loved. And one day when there was a gathering, one of the servants dropped the bowl and it broke into five pieces. The other people in the room were very fearful for this young man that broke the bowl because this leader had a pretty bad temper. So another guest jumped in and kind of improvised and created this kind of poetic joke and lightened the mood for everyone in that room as well as the leader. The bowl was then later repaired using gold to fill the cracks, which added a new sense of vitality and resilience. The bowl had become more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl began the moment it was dropped.
From that day onward, the tradition in Japan is that you would mend the bowl that was broken instead of discarding it, and it would be cherished for generations. They also believe that something that suffers damage and has a history has become more beautiful and valuable, and actually is worth a higher price. So those pieces that are broken cost more than a flawless piece.
From time to time, we all break. Relationships break; aspirations break; we fall into addictions, depression. Friendships break; mistakes are made. We experience failures. Health and wealth suffer cracks at times. And sometimes, we feel incapable of healing or recovering on our own. These are the very times that make us beautiful. All that is needed is faith that whatever is happening has a cause and a reason behind it. Sometimes that’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Often, when we are in the midst of perceived negative events, it is impossible to see the good in the situation. We can indulge in self-pity, and we can wonder, “Why? How come? Why me?” Or we can look at the negative event and use it to make life more beautiful.
So, here is a question I want you to ask yourself. Look back at your life and ask yourself if every crack has actually made you more beautiful. Cracks don’t seem beautiful, but they are. That is part of us. We all come with baggage. I love this image because, you know, when you go through airports or places and you see people hauling all these bags. I think of life, and I think, “Gosh, I need to let go of some baggage. I just need a carry-on.”
The question we have to ask ourselves is, how long can we carry that weight? The sooner we can start accepting our breaks and cracks, the sooner we will be able to transform into something even more worthwhile—a being that is no longer perfect, but perfectly imperfect.
Recently, a good friend shared that he has struggled with perfectionism most of his life. I completely relate to that. He says he is a recovering perfectionist. I’ve adopted that title in my life. And as I’ve come to understand that, I’ve also come to understand that it is through the grace and Atonement of the Savior that helps fill those cracks in my life. That gold that can go in those cracks can take and make me perfectly imperfect.
In a recent BYU Women’s Conference, Sister Amy Curtis said “that the Savior is the master mender and the joiner of souls”—
His infinite Atonement has the power to help us become strong in broken places. . . . We should feel no shame in submitting to His care. He has the power to transform us into something magnificent as we allow Him to heal our wounds. With His Atonement, He can mend and heal the cracks.
I think of examples in our history, men and women who have gone through many trials. I think of Adam and Eve. I think of Job. I think of Abraham and Sarah. I think of Joseph Smith. I think of the man by the pool of Bethesda. It’s one of my favorite paintings by Carl Bloch. It’s easy to think we are broken. It was easy for the Prophet Joseph Smith when he was in Carthage to think he was broken.
Over two thousand years ago, Christ was bruised and broken and torn for you and me. Shortly after His body was cast aside, even though He was resurrected, the signs of His brokenness and His scars for you and me remain. It is because of Him that we experience new vitality and resilience in this life.
Each Sunday, we are offered the opportunity to partake of bread that is broken in remembrance of Christ’s body, His sacrifice on our behalf. Elder James Hamula of the Seventy shared the following in a General Conference talk:
With torn and broken bread, we signify that we remember the physical body of Jesus Christ—a body that was buffeted with pains, afflictions, and temptations of every kind, a body that bore a burden of anguish sufficient to bleed at every pore, a body whose flesh was torn and whose heart was broken in crucifixion.
I have friends that have been broken. I think all of you probably do, or maybe it is yourself. I would ask you to raise hands, but I probably won’t. If there is anyone who is not broken in here, I want to talk to you afterward—or haven’t experienced something like that in your life.
And sometimes we feel like we’re kicked to the curb. And yet we can get back up again. We stand tall; we look to Christ for His love and example. We can be healed through that goal, if you will, that grace and Atonement of the Savior.
I have a profound appreciation for anyone, all of us, who have gone through breaks in our lives. We have more worth than an unbroken vessel. That is how I see my vessel, or if you haven’t guessed yet, my life. I have a vision for what my vessel might look like as it is broken and filled with gold. I must continue to turn it over to the Master Craftsman, who will make of it something greater than what I can do with my own limited talent.
The Master may break me again and again. He may let my cracks open up to let light in. May we each shake off that feeling of being broken. There is beauty in that. And we trust the master potter, our Heavenly Father, with our hearts and lives to create from our brokenness a one-of-a-kind vessel that is priceless. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 1 Corinthians 13:8.
 D&C 90:24.
 John 16:33.
 John 14:27.
 John A. Shedd, From Salt from My Attic (1928).
 Jeffrey R. Holland, “Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You,” Apr. 2016 General Conference.
 Hebrews 10:32.
 “Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” Hymns, no. 220.
 Sonja Carlson, “Depression: More Than a Bad Hair Day,” Church News, May 30, 2014.
 James J. Hamula, “The Sacrament and the Atonement,” Oct. 2014 General Conference.