Anchors of Hope
It’s a little overwhelming to be here with you today in this historic setting. As I was listening to the music, I had memories flood back to me of sitting in this hall with my mother, listening to prophets speak and teach. I never thought, ever, that I would be standing at this pulpit to share a message. I feel the responsibility of that today, although I would invite you to adjust your expectations accordingly, if you wouldn’t mind. I’m grateful to be here with you and with President and Sister Kusch, my dear friends. You are led by a man of God who dedicates his life to doing what his Heavenly Father wants him to do.
I am here to tell you that I’m not much of a sailor or a fisherman. But I do want to share one experience fishing in a boat on a reservoir near here that I had with my brother a number of years ago. Not to share any great conquests of the fish that we caught—I actually don’t think we caught any—but there is a principle in the story that I want to draw from today. I want to share some experiences of my own personal experiences, as well as a few people around me that I have observed, that I think teach an important principle.
My brother Neil and I took his boat one fall day to Jordanelle Reservoir to fish. We went out on the lake and were really more kind of putting worms and marshmallows in the water than we were actually fishing, I think. But we found a spot that seemed really calm. It was a cold day; it was overcast, as I recall, so it was really dark and gray, and quite cold. We turned off the motor and were casting our lines into the water.
We engaged in conversation and were talking. I appreciated the opportunity to be with my older brother. We talked for a while, and I looked up and suddenly realized that we had drifted. We had drifted from the safety of the deep waters and close to the rocks at the edge. In fact, we were so close that if we didn’t hurry and start the motor and pull away from the edge, we would be in great peril.
Going into the water that day was not an option. It was too cold. We wouldn’t have lasted very long. We hurried and started the motor and, just in the nick of time, we were able to pull away from the danger, the peril of the rocks.
As I’ve thought about that experience over the years, I realized that our lack of attentiveness, even while engaging in good things, caused us to not pay attention to what was going on around us, and we drifted. Had we put the anchor in the water, we would have been safely secured to our spot, and could have focused longer on chasing the elusive fish. But we didn’t, and because we didn’t anchor ourselves, we put ourselves at risk.
That’s the principle I would like to draw from today, is anchoring ourselves—specifically anchors of hope. Life is sometimes difficult and challenging, and even risky. We need to set our anchors of hope. In Ether 12:4 we read: “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.”
I’ll share three anchors today. Certainly there are more and there are others, but I would like to just focus on these three today.
Anchor one: Strive to discover and fulfill your purpose.
In this anchor, I want to focus on the word strive. It’s not a word that we talk about a lot, it seems, but it shows up in important places and carries an important concept. You will recognize this word from your temple recommend interviews— “Do you strive to keep the covenants that you have made?” Well, what does it mean to strive?
To strive is a principle of action. You have to be proactive, try hard, exert yourself vigorously. I had mentioned that I was not a sailor, and that is true, but I do want to share one more experience of being on the water, of sailing, where I learned about striving.
A number of years ago, I was serving in a Young Men’s presidency in our ward. It was time to plan the high adventure for that summer, and we put together a plan to go up by Great Falls, Montana, take canoes and a whole host of young men and several leaders, and we were going to float the upper banks of the Missouri River. The day came and we traveled to Great Falls, and we put our canoes in the water.
The first day of three days and 48 miles, was beautiful. The sun was shining; the big Montana sky was blue. The water was calm and actually quite slow. All of us enjoyed the relaxation of floating down the river on that first day.
After approximately 15 miles, we came to our camp. We got out of the river and set up camp, had dinner, and then eventually retired for the evening. During the night, the wind began to blow. It began to blow very, very hard. It wasn’t one of these wimpy Salt Lake winds that you might occasionally have seen. It was a good old Montana wind. By the time we got up in the morning, it felt like gale-force winds blowing up the canyon of the river, up against the current. You could see the concern on the faces of the boys and the leaders as to what we were going to do. It seemed like an impossible task to get on that river and float the nearly 15 miles we had to float down that river.
Some suggested that maybe we should climb out, send a vanguard, and hike out to go get the cars the 15 miles back where we had started the previous day, and see if we could navigate them close enough to carry all our canoes and gear off the river and head home. That seemed like a huge task.
As we were standing around talking, I noticed our good bishop—who was with us—slip away from the group, and I watched him go sit on one of the canoes by the river, and he sat there for a moment thinking. Then he reached up and removed his hat and bowed his head. I assumed he was praying to know how he should guide his little flock, who were at some risk. After a few minutes he put his hat back on and came back to the group and announced, “I feel that we should get in the canoes and head down the river.” We trusted his leadership. We trusted his inspiration and his priesthood keys, and we got in the canoes. It was one of the hardest days I have ever experienced. For nine or ten hours, we took our paddles and put them in the water, pulled against the water, took the paddle out, and put it in again and again and again and again. It was a very difficult journey.
True to our concern, if we didn’t paddle, the wind was blowing so hard we would start to go upstream. The only way to get to our destination was to put our paddles in the water, pull hard, and then do it again and again.
I wonder if sometimes we feel like this in life. We see a challenge ahead of us that seems too much to take on. How can we ever get to our destination? But if we will rely on our Heavenly Father, and act, and be proactive, it creates a momentum. It invites the Spirit into our life. And one paddle stroke at a time, we can navigate the challenges that we experience. If we keep at it, consistent and steady, eventually—and sometimes even before we know it—we reach our destination. The going may be hard. It may be slower than we want, but what we learn through those experiences is invaluable. And our Heavenly Father, through his Spirit, teaches us the things that we need to know as we paddle through the windstorms of life.
That’s anchor number one: Strive to discover and fulfill your purpose. Strive. Act. Struggle. And the Lord will show you the way.
Anchor Two: Be humble and teachable.
Several years ago, when our oldest son was about ten years old and our youngest son was about four, our entire family—my wife and our four children and my parents—were in our Suburban driving from Rexburg to Salt Lake City. As we were driving along, our oldest son, Zach, decided he was going to test out his newly-acquired reading skills. He was going to start reading the road signs as we traveled down I-15. Our youngest son, Eric, was sitting in the back seat of the Suburban, playing with a truck, looking down—seemingly not paying attention to anything that was going on around him.
As we drove down the highway, here was Zach’s big moment to test out his new skills. We came up to the first road sign. It was one of those neon-yellow signs in the shape of a diamond that gives a caution or a warning to the drivers passing by. As we passed, he eloquently read the sign that said, “Watch for deer.” Without missing a beat, and without looking up, our youngest son, Eric, said, “Don’t tell me what to do.” Apparently, Eric was paying some attention.
I wonder if sometimes, when our Heavenly Father puts warning signs or counsel and guidance, if our initial reaction is, “Don’t tell me what to do. Because what you are asking me to do is hard. I may not see how to navigate it. I don’t know how to do it. Or maybe I don’t want to do it.” But He is wise. He knows all. And He requires that we listen to Him, for Him to provide blessings.
In Doctrine and Covenants 64:34 we read: “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and the willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.”
Also in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 136, we read: “Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God, that his eyes may be opened that he may see, and his ears opened that he may hear; For my Spirit is sent forth into the world to enlighten the humble and contrite, and to the condemnation of the ungodly (verses 31-32).”
We are taught in these two scriptures that our Heavenly Father requires a humble heart and a contrite spirit. The only gift we can give our Heavenly Father is our will, our demonstration that we are willing to be obedient, and to hear what He has to say and what He has to teach. To receive His blessings and qualify for His Spirit—which is the greatest gift our Heavenly Father provides to us in this life—we must create an environment in our lives where we are teachable and humble, and that invites the Holy Spirit to guide, to direct, to teach, to instruct, to enlighten, to comfort, and sometimes to correct. This is the greatest gift that our Heavenly Father can give us, and we access this gift by being humble and teachable.
That is anchor number two: be humble and teachable.
Anchor Three: Trust in and rely on the Lord.
In Alma 36:3 we read: “Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.”
I learned this lesson—to trust and rely on the Lord—in a very powerful and poignant way, on the day I was sustained and set apart as bishop in a Rexburg YSA ward. After the stake presidency had set us apart, they took us into the bishop’s office for an entire hour of training and orientation on how to be a bishop. As the conclusion of the hour was approaching, I sensed that we were about finished, and I started to panic and feel overwhelmed about the responsibilities that were about to be mine. I knew that as soon as they were done, they were going to get up and leave, and walk out the door. And on the other side of that door were members of my ward who were going to want guidance and direction and counsel from their bishop. I felt I had none of that to offer, and I didn’t know what to do.
I expressed this concern to the stake presidency, and the second counselor in the stake presidency said, “Bishop, we will pray for you.” And he stood up and left. And there I was. Somehow, I made it through those first couple of interviews, experiencing feelings and emotions I had never felt before in my life. They weren’t emotions of modesty and humility. I actually felt like I could not do what needed to be done. I felt like I did not have the capacity.
I went home, and my good sweet wife was sitting there, and I sat down and I was really concerned. In fact, I told her, “I need to call the stake president and let him know that he will have to find another bishop for this ward, because I cannot do this.” Like I say, I was not being modest or humble; I actually believed I could not do it and that I was not up to the task.
In her wisdom, she said, “All right. But why don’t you just wait a couple of days to give him a call.”
I said, “All right. I’ll wait.” I waited a couple of days, and I went back for my first set of interviews on Tuesday night, and made it through. I went home and she said, “Just wait a couple more days.”
By this time, I was on to what she was doing. But more importantly, I realized that the Lord needed Kyle Martin to feel exactly like I felt, because it was my questioning my own abilities and capacity to be able to serve that led me to turn to my Heavenly Father and to my Savior and ask for their guidance and help.
As I did that, I realized that Kyle Martin didn’t have to have the capacity to be the bishop of the Rexburg YSA Third Ward. Kyle Martin needed to trust in the Lord, and the Lord would take care of what needed to be done. Once I came to that understanding, I began to experience tremendous confidence—not in myself, but in the Lord, that He loves His children, that He prepares the way, that He is organizing all that needs to be organized to address our problems, to help us, to support us, to guide us, to comfort us, to help us feel hope in Him and His plan, in the Savior Jesus Christ.
That was a powerful lesson to me—that He gives us gifts, and then when we turn to Him and rely on Him, He will fulfill the promises that He has made. That is anchor number three: Trust in and rely on the Lord.
So those are the three anchors. Strive to discover, to identify, and to fulfill your purpose. Be humble and teachable. And trust in and rely on the Lord.
My invitation to you, today, is—if you haven’t already—to set these anchors in your life. Find ways to strive, to act, to be proactive. Study the scriptures and the doctrine, and invite the Spirit into your life, and you will be humble and teachable. You will feel the presence of your Heavenly Father, and He will guide you—on your good days and your bad. And trust in and rely on the Lord, for He has provided every needful thing, and will provide a way.
I want to share an experience in conclusion where I observed my youngest brother, Jeff, how he has had the benefit of blessings that he had in his life, because he had set these anchors in his life.
My youngest brother, Jeff, and his good wife, Stacy, woke up on the morning of January 12, 2015—actually, didn’t go to bed that night before—and my brother Jeff was on the East Coast on business, for work. He had sent a text out to all of our siblings, including me, at 4:46 in the morning, which said, “Please pray for our son Jack,” one of his twin boys. “Please pray for our son Jack. He is in the middle of a serious health issue and he needs your help and support.”
I happened to be awake, so I immediately got up and called Jeff, and discovered that he was sitting in an airplane in New York City, waiting for them to close the doors so he could race home to support his good wife, Stacy, and their four children—specifically Jack. At that time, Jack was in an ambulance travelling with his mother from Utah County to Primary Children’s Medical Center here in Salt Lake City. We didn’t have much time to talk, so I hung up the phone, talked to my wife. We called our parents. We got things ready, and I went and picked up my parents who lived by us in Rexburg, and we got in the car to try to get down in time to pick up Jeff at the airport.
About halfway through our journey, we learned that Jack, his five-year-old son, had had a brain aneurism and passed away, while his dad was in an airplane travelling home from New York City. We were heartbroken. We pulled over to collect ourselves, then hurried and got back in the car, and realized we wouldn’t be there in time at the airport to pick up Jeff.
My sweet sister, who lives in this area, raced over to the airport to pick up Jeff, and when she saw him come out of the secure area, put her arms around him. He had just learned from his wife that their son had passed away. We went straight to the hospital and walked into the room, and saw Jeff and Stacy holding the lifeless body of their son in their arms. The grief was palpable. It felt devastating. How could they handle such a terrible, terrible thing? How could they navigate such a terrible tragedy?
As we began the grieving and mourning process, we took them home from the hospital, back to their home in Utah County. And as we prepared for the funeral that following week, as we tried to comfort and support them, it was more common that they comforted and supported us.
The funeral was beautiful; their expression of gratitude and faith, of understanding of the plan of salvation, provided them a calm and deep sense of hope for the future. They knew, because they understood the doctrines of the gospel, because they had followed the commandments and were keeping sacred covenants, they knew that they would get to be with Jack again. They knew that they would get to raise him and teach him, that they would get to embrace him, and live with him again.
Over the subsequent days and months and years, I have been continually touched and impressed by their faith and their obedience to their covenants, and by their willingness to put their oar in the water, pull hard, and do it again and again. Their grief and their pain are real, but they are comforted by the knowledge they have of the plan of salvation.
It is understanding who we are in relation to our Heavenly Father, it is understanding His great plan of happiness for us, it’s becoming acquainted with our Savior Jesus Christ and applying His Atonement in our lives that brings hope. If any of you or any of us feel that our vision is narrow or limited and we can’t see the things that we need to see, the secret is to drawing close to our Heavenly Father. It is setting our anchors, and the hope and the vision will return.
Jeff recently sent me a note where he talked about this experience and how he felt. He said, “Hope is a natural outcome of doing the things that invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, such as prayer, church and temple attendance, and Sabbath day observance. When we surround ourselves with the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that light penetrates our lives and scatters the darkness. I have never intentionally sought out to find hope, but I have sought the things in my life that give me the strength to move forward in times of trial. The result is an outlook that transcends the gloomy world view and promises the blessings of eternity with the people we love on earth.
“The gospel doesn’t make any promises that trials won’t come our way. In fact, just the opposite is true. But it does promise us that when we walk in tandem with the Lord, He will buoy us up with a sense of hope that will enable us to endure to the end. This idea is contrary to the ways and understanding of the world, which is why—when seeking light and joy in our lives—we must look to the true source of hope, and not the philosophies of men.”
I’m grateful for a younger brother who, in a time of severe pain and mourning, showed me the blessings and benefits of setting anchors of hope in his life. I’m eternally grateful to an older brother, our older Brother, our Savior Jesus Christ, for His willingness to be the anchor of hope. Through His atoning sacrifice, we can not only overcome sin and transgression and mistakes, but by striving to keep the covenants and seeking Him, we can overcome all that is in our past, all that we encounter. We can become eligible to return and live with our Heavenly Father.
I am so grateful for Him and for His atoning sacrifice. It is my testimony that He lives. He knows us. He loves us. He is my personal Savior and Redeemer. I know He lives, and I leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen