Surrender Your Will to the Lord and Trust in His Love for You
Hello, brothers and sisters. I am really thrilled to be here with you this morning. It’s always a joy to be able to perform with my children and be able to teach them to serve through the talents they have been given. We love to start by performing “Amazing Grace.”
[Musical Number: “Amazing Grace,” Olney Hymns (1779), no. 41.]
I know that Jesus Christ is the life and light of the world. We will find spiritual safety, joy, and contentment as we follow Him and His teachings. This morning I will speak about four vital aspects involved in fully anchoring ourselves to Christ: cultivating our spirituality, understanding our identity as children of God, striving to live a consecrated life, and developing faith in Christ. As we strive to incorporate these values into our lives, I testify that we will find true peace and happiness in this life and the life to come.
Music has always been a big part of my life, and much of my testimony has been shaped and developed through my experiences with music. I am so grateful to my parents who made sure to foster an environment where I could have these spiritual experiences.
I began playing the violin when I was four years old and started performing soon after. These experiences taught me many gospel principles and helped me to develop my testimony. Before every performance, I would kneel down with my parents and fervently pray that I would be blessed to play my best and feel good about my performance. It gave me such strength to know I could rely on the Lord to get me through each scary concert.
Time and time again I would pray, and then a few minutes later I would see my prayers answered as I performed. I came to trust in the Lord and have a knowledge He cares for me and listens to my pleas for help.
My first experiences of the powers of scriptures also came through childhood performances. In those agonizing pre-performance hours and minutes, my mother would quote scriptures such as Doctrine and Covenants 38:30: “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” and 2 Nephi 32:9:
But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
My favorite scripture to hear during these stressful moments was Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
These scriptures were imprinted on my soul as a youth, and they still give me the courage and strength to perform as an adult. They also are good ones just in daily life, the scary lives that we lead. I’m grateful that from my childhood, my parents taught me to constantly look for the Lord’s blessings in my life, and my husband, Matt, and I have tried to teach our children to do the same. We try to acknowledge Him every time something good happens in our lives, every time we avoid something bad happening, and every time we have a particularly good idea.
Proverbs 3:6 states: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” I know as we give credit to the Lord for His blessings, He continues to bless us, and we love blessings. I’m not willing to give up any blessings; I hoard them.
A few summers ago, I had an experience that reminded me just how reliant we are on the Lord. I was invited to perform at the Stadium of Fire, which as many of you know is a huge fireworks celebration on Independence Day concert in Cougar Stadium. For reasons beyond my control, I received my music just four days before the show, and I had to learn and memorize my very difficult part in that short amount of time. I spent the days before the show practicing and praying that I would do my best in front of the audience of more than 50,000 people.
The Lord did bless me to play my best, and as I walked off the stage, I thought that all of my needs had been met for the evening. I kind of thanked Heavenly Father for blessing me and kind of said, “We’ll see you tomorrow,” like, “I’m good. Thank you for blessings. I’m going to go have a great night with my family, watch the fireworks, and You can bless all the other people that need blessings. I’m good.”
And as the fireworks concert and celebration was going on, I noticed some fireworks were shooting into the audience, and that was quite alarming and exciting and scary. But then I saw one shooting right at me, and I was holding my then-three-year-old son, Matthew, on my lap, and he was asleep. I was blessed to turn my torso before the firework hit me. I don’t think it’s possible to move before a firework. They’re faster than we are. But angels turned me, and the firework hit me in the back instead of right where Matthew’s face was on my lap. My gown was burned, my arm was burned a little bit, my hair started on fire. But someone put it out really quickly, and other than a whole in my new gown, which was upsetting, I was okay and more importantly, Matthew was just fine. I came away from the experience so grateful for the Lord’s tender mercies and more aware that the Lord continues to bless us and watch out for us even when we think we’re through our toughest challenges.
My first experiences with priesthood blessings came through my involvement with music as well. As I sought to arm myself with strength to perform, my father would give me a priesthood blessing. And I would cling to the promises from that blessing as I walked onto the stage for various important concerts and auditions. Through each of these experiences, I was learning to rely on the Lord, trust in Him, and have faith that He would bless me. And He did time and time again, until one performance that I had in high school.
I had received a blessing telling me I would play my best. I went to the competition, and I just was—it was not good. It was awful. I had to stop a couple of times, look at the music. It was a total fail. And my mom was there, and she was driving me home, and I was crying, telling her my blessing had not come to pass. I had not been blessed. And I wasn’t very happy about it.
A couple of hours later, after dinner, we received a phone call telling me that I had made the finals of this competition, and my mom said, “Jenny, you march into the living room, get down on your knees, and repent.” So I did. And that night I was able to practice away those earlier mistakes, and the next day I went to the competition, played my very, very best, won the competition, and won a chance to solo with Utah Symphony. But more importantly, I’d learned to trust in the Lord.
Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” That’s a good one. We need to remember constantly in our lives to trust in the Lord because I constantly think that things should go a different way than sometimes they go, and I have been learning over and over to just trust in the Lord. You’ll never go wrong when you trust in the Lord.
While obtaining my bachelor’s degree at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, I learned another very valuable lesson that has blessed my life and increased my faith. I always tried not to practice on Sundays in high school, but when I got to the Curtis Institute of Music—which is considered to be one of the very best music schools in the world—I saw all my peers practicing ten hours on Sunday, and I was very convinced that I would really fall behind if I didn’t practice on Sunday. It was such a huge day of practicing for all of my colleagues, and these were the best kids in the world. And I spoke to my father about it, Elder Oaks, and expressed my concerns, and he promised me that if I would totally dedicate myself six days a week and practice with 100% effort, and then take the Sabbath day off, that would equal more than seven days of kind of 75% practicing.
So I put him to the test, and Monday through Saturday I was one of the first ones at the school. I was always the last one to leave at 11:00 every night. The security guard would kick me out of the practice room. And I did that Monday through Saturday. It was fun—a fun life. But then on Sunday, I didn’t practice at all, and Monday morning I got to school super ready to practice again and rejuvenated and renewed and refreshed and spiritually filled. It truly blessed my life. And I saw my peers, who practiced such long hours on Sunday, dragging on Monday. They did okay—they’re famous around the world. But I know that, for me, I was so, so glad. I know I was blessed musically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically because I did try to keep the Sabbath Day holy. And I think it applies to any of our work. If your work now is school work, if your work now is—whatever your work is, if you can try to not do that work on the Sabbath, you will be so blessed.
And now that I have children, I don’t make them practice on Sunday, and it is the best day. When Sunday comes around, they are so excited. If you want to make your future children or your current children love the Sabbath, just make the other days miserable. And they will just love it! I’m so grateful for the gift of trying to keep the Sabbath Day holy, to be able to rest from our labors. It’s truly one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. And I’m so grateful for the increased emphasis on Sabbath Day observance that we’ve been receiving from our Church leaders.
Understanding Our Identity as Children of God
I’m so grateful we have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ with all of its restored truth. How grateful I am that Heavenly Father has provided His children with so much knowledge about our divine heritage to guide us as we try to navigate our very complicated modern lives. We read in the proclamation on the family that “all human beings . . . are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
How glorious to know that we truly are children of God with innate divine gifts that, when cultivated, can eternally bless our lives and the lives of all those with whom we come into contact. Are we at times living below our privileges when it comes to the blessings that are ours and the potential that we have as children of God? If we anchor ourselves to the world, we severely limit our potential. But if we yoke ourselves to Christ, He will magnify us and we will attain unimaginable heights. And it is those heights that will bring us the most joy.
I personally know how incredibly attractive and enticing the things of the world can be. A few years ago I was nominated for a Grammy award. It was really exciting to be the focus of so much publicity, shop for a gown, go to LA, walk the red carpet, and attend the GRAMMYs. I really loved the attention and notoriety. But that whole experience sent me off on a worldly road trip of painful personal insecurity and deep dissatisfaction with my very, very beautiful life.
I did not win the GRAMMY award, but the experience of being so close to Hollywood unfortunately ignited in me a real thirst for worldly glory. As I set my sights on a life of fame and fortune, I started to feel less and less joy and contentment. Naively, I set to fix the problem with a number of worldly cure-alls. In the beginning of the process, I tried to convince my husband that we needed to move to a bigger and nicer house, which he called a “great and spacious building.” Then I started to buy way too many gowns with sleeves, got a tanning membership because, of course, skin cancer makes one truly happy, consumed large amounts of chocolate, which led to various unsuccessful diets, and then joined and flunked out of CrossFit.
Of course, none of these solutions gave me the fulfillment I was searching for. Great and spacious buildings are just too expensive. Just because you own lots of gowns doesn’t mean you’ll be invited to lots of red carpet events. Chocolate cannot really make one happy, at least long term. And CrossFit is just way too painful. Anyway, none of these worldly fixes and pursuits gave me the inner peace and satisfaction I was striving for. And I just seemed to be becoming more and more insecure about myself physically and spiritually, and less satisfied with my life and blessings.
Gratefully, I was blessed that through it all; I remained anchored to the gospel. Our family continued to strive to live the teachings, and my testimony remained steadfast. I just did not feel the rich fullness of joy and contentment that I was used to feeling through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I desperately wanted that feeling back. And my husband got sick of me trying to spend my way to personal fulfillment.
I began my spiritual course correction by starting a program of personal scripture study. I also made sure my personal prayers were more heartfelt, and I spent more time reading the words of the prophets. As I spiritually fed my soul and made more of an effort to focus on the Savior, the emptiness has left me, joy has returned, and my feelings of self-worth have improved dramatically. As we become personally closer to Jesus Christ, we are filled with His light and His joy, and the feeling is glorious.
Brothers and sisters, I know that it is possible to attend all your church meetings, fulfill your church callings, do your home and visiting teaching, and participate in family prayer, family home evening, and family scripture study all the while keeping the commandments, and still walk away malnourished spiritually. It is imperative that we as children of God truly cultivate our personal relationship with Heavenly Father and feed our spirits with light and truth.
We need to make sure to try as much as possible to focus our thoughts away from the things of the world if we are to experience the fullness of joy Heavenly Father wants to bless His children with. Alma warned us when he said that “wickedness never was happiness.” But I would say that worldliness never was happiness.
I still sometimes struggle with feelings of insecurity, but when I feed my spirit and focus on the Savior, these feelings immediately go away. And I truly feel the love of the Lord.
President Monson has declared:
Your Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there.
Striving to Live a Consecrated Life
As we cultivate our spirituality, understand our divine heritage, and keep the commandments, we become more able to consecrate ourselves completely to the Lord and His purposes. We know that often the way we serve the Lord is through serving others. Christ taught His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Cultivating our own spirituality is vital to our well-being, but we must also look outside ourselves and impart service to others in order to live a consecrated life. I’ve not always had the best attitude about service—giving it or receiving it. I probably take too much pride in doing everything by myself and doing it without outside help, although I’m pretty good at delegating my children and my husband to work in my behalf.
Our family recently moved to Utah. The months before the move were very busy, as our family had tons of performances around the country while we were busy selling and packing up our house. The morning that the moving truck arrived at our home, I was not ready, and I kind of shut down. I knew what needed to be done, but I just felt completely powerless to accomplish it. So I did what I never do; I sat down and cried. That’s not true—I do that a lot. So I did that, and then I received the inspiration that I should call two members of the Relief Society. And they immediately dropped everything and came over to help me. And just knowing that they were on their way helped me to start getting everything taken care of.
When they arrived, I couldn’t believe how quickly I stopped feeling overwhelmed and began to feel like I would actually survive the experience. When I called them, I knew that they would be great packers. But I didn’t know that their presence there would actually enable me to become a good packer.
As I admitted before, I’ve always been a bit grumpy about compassionate service, self-righteously wondering why it is necessary to arrange meals for the sick and the afflicted when Domino’s Pizza exists right around the corner. But this experience of packing and moving completely changed my attitude about service. I now understand that much of the service has nothing to do with the food itself, or the actual helping act. It is the love being shared that makes all the difference. In my own experience, the packing was helpful. But it was the love, concern, and friendship that really mattered. It was the love of these sisters that enabled me to move forward and start functioning effectively again. It was the love that was the service I needed most, and Domino’s does not deliver that.
I love the song, “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” for it reminds us that when we serve others we are truly serving our Savior Jesus Christ.
[Musical Number: “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” Hymns, no. 29.]
I know that the Lord loves us all completely and wants what is best for us. He asks us to give ourselves over to Him so He can be the architect of our souls to create much more of us in our lives than we can ever build on our own. And this is the way to true peace and happiness in this life and the life to come. I know that true joy is found through abiding by the teachings of the gospel. It is through keeping the commandments, nourishing our spirits, and putting God first. Trying to find happiness by setting one’s heart on the things of the world can be a frustrating, unfulfilling road full of disappointment. However, yoking ourselves to the Lord brings peace, fulfillment, and joy.
Matthew 6:19–20 states: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Worldliness never was happiness. A consecrated life is definitely a happier life.
Developing Faith in Christ
In order to anchor ourselves to Christ, we must understand that true faith is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When I was 22, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I was absolutely devastated. My mother was my best friend. I was born 13 years after the rest of her five children, so I had been raised almost as an only child, and we were extremely close. As I saw her suffering with cancer, I wanted to know what to pray for. And so I reached out to my father, and I said, “Dad, how can we have faith that someone will get well or something will happen when we know that everything is dependent upon the Lord’s will?”
He responded as follows: “I believe that the only true faith is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything we have faith in is based on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Father, that they will do what is best for us—another way of saying according to their will in our behalf. Therefore, we cannot really say that we have faith that the Lord will do what we ask Him to do in any and all circumstances. There will be times when that is not even right for us. If we place our trust in Him, that is what we should do. And He has taught us that we should pray for those we love and to pray for those who are sick. We do that, and exercise our faith in the Lord, and that is what we are supposed to do.”
My father’s explanation enabled me to put faith and trust in the Lord as I dealt with my mother’s illness and eventual death nearly one year later. I prayed for her recovery, but I knew it was the Lord’s will that she return to Him, and I trusted in Him completely. Because I put my faith in Christ instead of in her recovery, through the loss of my mother, my faith and testimony were strengthened and not shattered. I know that I will see her again, and I am so grateful for Christ’s willingness to die for each of us so we can be resurrected and live again with our loved ones. This is “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.”
[Musical Number: “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” Hymns, no. 136.]
My mother devoted her life to me and the development of my musical gifts, and her faithful prayers during her illness continue to bless my life even after her death. When my mother found out that she had cancer, she immediately began to pray that I would find someone to marry before she died so she could die knowing that I would be taken care of. The day that my family held a fast for her recovery was the day I met my husband Matt in the singles ward in Manhattan.
My mother died the following summer, but she lived to see me married in the temple to a wonderful man who has taken care of me. It was the Lord’s will that my mother pass on, but He still answered her earnest prayer the very day that we fasted for her. The Lord does hear our prayers. He does care about each of us, and when we put our faith and trust in Him, miracles happen.
I’m grateful to be a child of God and to know my relationship with Heavenly Father. I’m so grateful for the gospel that helps us keep everything in perspective. I’m grateful for the continued emphasis our Church leaders have placed on the family. I’m grateful for the proclamation on the family that so beautifully outlines the different and vital roles that men and women have. I’m grateful that Heavenly Father has entrusted women to be the nurturers of His precious children, and He has enabled worthy men to bless the world through His priesthood.
I’m grateful that as we cultivate our own faith and spirituality, we can help our children with theirs. Our family would love to leave you with one final song that reminds us of the importance of trying to make our homes places of peace, security, and love, places where the gospel of Jesus Christ is lived and taught, and faith in the Lord is cultivated. This is “Love Is Spoken Here.”
[Musical number: “Love Is Spoken Here,” Children’s Songbook, 190.]
I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true Church on this earth. I am grateful for the temple and the ordinances therein that enable us to return and live with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again. I’m grateful that this church is led by a true prophet of God. I’m grateful for the teachings of the gospel that help us develop our spirituality as we consecrate ourselves so that we can grow closer to our Savior Jesus Christ and align ourselves completely with Him. I know that this will bring us peace, safety, and joy in this life and in the life to come. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 See 3 Nephi 11:10–11.
 “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” 1995.
 1 Nephi 8:23–28.
 Alma 41:40.
 Thomas S. Monson, “We Never Walk Alone,” Oct. 2013 General Conference.
 Matthew 25:40.
 “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” 1995.