Wow. Thank you, Sidney; that was beautiful. You have some amazing talent in this school. We’ll look for her in the Tabernacle Choir someday.
It’s good to be with you. I appreciate your testimony, Jennifer, and your prayer, Coco, and that musical number, and Rikki and Tanner, and now I’m sorry you have to deal with this, but it is good to be with you. I’m so grateful that my wife could be hear with me today. Like President Kusch mentioned, we got married December 31, 1988, so we have just celebrated our 30th anniversary, and we graduated together almost 30 years ago to the day, today, from BYU. That’s what we looked like. Isn’t that nice? I wish I looked like that still, but in the resurrection maybe.
After we graduated, I started teaching seminary, and I’ve been here for the last two years. We love this place. I love this place because of the students here—because of you. You are dedicated, you’re hard-working, you’re humble. You are just such a joy to teach. I think I learn more than you do, probably; you teach me so much.
I really love when we go to the graduation services in the Tabernacle, and hopefully you will all do that someday. President Kusch always asks the graduates to stand up who are the first ones in their family to graduate from college. It’s so inspiring to see all these people stand up as the first… I mean, it’s not an easy thing to graduate from college, especially if no one from your family has ever done it. I just have a lot of admiration for you. I know how hard it is to graduate from college. I’ve done it twice, and it’s not easy. Especially when you are a freshman, you think, is this ever going to end?
This is a picture of me when I was a freshman. I know that doesn’t look like me, but I just want you to know that I feel your pain, and I have been there. I’ve actually gone through the process. It’s hard. I still have this reoccurring nightmare, it kind of goes like this: I’m in this class, it’s usually a math class. I haven’t been going for some reason, for weeks, and I’m way behind. I’ve missed the midterm, and I’m lost in the class. I have no idea, and it’s too late to catch up, and I’m not going to graduate. I’m not going to get an A; I’m not even going to pass the class, and then I’m going to have to retake it, and then I won’t graduate on time. It’s just this big nightmare. And then I wake up and I’m like, wait a second, I graduated about 30 years ago. So, I’m so glad that I’m not where you are anymore. It’s terrifying, sometimes, to be in college. I don’t know why; it’s just so hard.
I remember thinking, when I first started especially, I think I’ll just quit and do manual labor or something, because this is just so hard. I’m glad I didn’t quit. I’m glad I didn’t give up. I’m glad I didn’t just give in and say, this is just too hard. I just tried to trust in the Lord, and He helped me a lot.
I think our earth life is kind of like this. It’s like school. Some people call it “the school of hard knocks.” Have you ever heard that? And sometimes in life we have these midterms that hit us and we’re kind of unprepared for them. They’re tests, you know, testing our faith. Did you ever have one of these? Hopefully, you pass them. Hopefully you pass them all, but we probably fail them sometimes. And even if you think you might fail one, hopefully you are not tempted to just throw your hands up and quit and give in.
I really think that Lucifer even tempted the Savior to give up, a lot. But the Savior had this great key that He always followed. It was just to pray, to turn to Heavenly Father for help—and of course, Heavenly Father always strengthened Him to overcome anything He ever faced. And so, that’s why I think, on the last day of Jesus’s life, He could say this:
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
Isn’t that a great little formula to follow? Hey, you’re going to have trouble; it’s common. You’re going to have midterms and tests. Just don’t let your heart be troubled. Just believe in God. You believe in God, so believe in me too. And when we do that, I think those major tests in life, we’re going to pass them. We’re going to be fine.
There are answers to the midterms in life. You know where they are, right? They’re in the Word of God. And His promises have always been faithful. I’ve always been able to rely on His promises, and I’ve always counted on them. They have always helped me not give in and quit and give up.
President Nelson said it like this: “Heavenly Father never intended that we would deal with the maze of personal problems on our own.” Jesus Christ gave His life for us “so that we could have access to godly power—power sufficient to deal with the burdens, obstacles and temptations of our day.”
So, prophets like President Nelson, the scriptures, my patriarchal blessing—these are where my answers are, and they have been sources of great spiritual strength to me. In fact, my patriarchal blessing told me, when I got it, that “you have a special gift of faith.” Which I guess I knew, but it was nice to have the Lord tell me that. I’ve always tried to trust in Him and rely on Him, but I’ve got to tell you, I’ve had my faith tested in this life. I hope I’ve passed these midterms, but they are not easy.
You might laugh, but the first one was when I got my mission call to Korea. You know how it is? You are all excited; everybody is there. I opened it up at the kitchen table and I read “South Korea.” I know I look happy in these pictures, but I was terrified. I smiled. My dad said, “Ha, ha, serves you right. You know you’re going to go eat that food—kimchi. And you picky eater, you. You’re going to come back and you’re going to like onions and peppers and mushrooms” and all these things I hated. And I just went down into my bedroom and put my face in the pillow and cried. Because I can’t eat that stuff. I can now, but in those days, I was really picky.
I feel like I lacked a little faith at the time. My patriarchal blessing said, “You will go to preach the gospel to those in spiritual darkness.” And “you will have success.” And then, you know, I go to the MTC and I’m trying to learn this language, and you know how they say hello in Korean? “Annionghaseyo.” You’re like, what? Onions on your sneakers? What is that? I got there and the first person who came up to me and said hello in Korean, I said, “Is she speaking English to me? What is this?” I was nine weeks in the MTC and I was terrified. I thought I was never going to learn this language.
But my patriarchal blessing said I would, and of course, the first time I taught the gospel, the first lesson I ever gave, I gave part of it, the Joseph Smith story. My companion said, “I think I can trust you to do that.” During that very first time, the Spirit burned so strong in that room. I felt it; my companion felt it; the investigator felt it. He committed to be baptized right there on the spot. He said, “I know this church is true, and I want to join it. How do I do it?”
After that, I realized, well, okay. This isn’t really my thing; this is the Lord’s work. He can do His work. I’m just an instrument. It’s all going to be okay. And of course, it all was okay, even though it was hard—the hardest thing I had done to that point in my life.
This scripture became my favorite scripture, my go-to scripture—Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
That’s what I followed, and it worked. The Lord did amazing miracles. I was just a part of it. I couldn’t take any credit for it, really, I was just doing what I was supposed to do. He was doing most of it.
After my mission, my patriarchal blessing said I would have the wisdom to make the two biggest, most important decisions of my life: what I would do for my career, and who I would marry. So, I decided to follow that, in that order, right or wrong. I just was like, I’ve got to figure out my career. I’d always wanted to be a pilot. Ever since I was a little kid, I had loved airplanes and flying, so I enrolled in the Air Force Officer Reserve Training Corps—ROTC—down at BYU, and they sent me to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to learn how to fly small Cessnas. I spent a month there.
While I was there, I was having some thoughts like, is this the right thing? I don’t really feel right about this. I always wanted to fly, my whole life. This was my goal—you know, Top Gun. Have you ever seen that? It had just come out. It was like, be that guy. But I knew that, if you want revelation in your life, to know what the Lord wants you to do, you have to read revelation.
I took my patriarchal blessing with me; I had my scriptures with me, and every day in the barracks at Lackland Air Force Base, I read the Book of Mormon. Every week I read my patriarchal blessing. I was just trying to figure out if this was really what the Lord wants me to do. I know it’s my choice, but I’m not feeling right about this.
Then I read this scripture in Alma 37: “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.” That just became my new go-to scripture. I memorized it, and I memorized all the verses around it, and every day for about an hour I’m reading in the barracks, and these guys are like, “Wow, who is this guy from Utah?” Because they’re all tough guys, and I’m reading my scriptures.
As I was reading this thought kept coming to me: “You should see if there is some professional seminary teacher training thing at BYU when you go back there.” I thought, what? That is the weirdest thing. Who would do that? Why would you want to be a seminary teacher? I was in seminary, and I remember thinking, why would you do that? Looking at my teacher and thinking, “Oh man, that poor guy.”
It just kept coming to me, over and over, “you should look into that.” All right, whatever, as I’m flying every day. And then I read this scripture: “My son, you are called of God to preach the word unto this people. …Declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance.”
Have you ever had a scripture just jump out at you from the page, like it is jumping at you? I thought, this scripture was written for me. Like President Kusch mentioned, I had been on a mission, I loved teaching. I taught at the MTC, and I loved it. I really loved it. So I called my dad and said, “Dad, could you call down to BYU and see if there is some seminary teacher training thing?”
He said, “What? You know you want to be a pilot. That’s all you’ve ever wanted.”
“Dad, just look into it.”
Then, when I got back, I went to ROTC and said, “I’m quitting.” That was hard for me. I was just going on faith. That’s all I was going on. Because I had no guarantee that I was going to be hired to teach seminary or anything. But I just said, “Well, I feel this is right,” and then I did it.
And then, of course, the next year I met my wife. When we were dating, she told me once—or maybe it was after we were married; I can’t remember—she said, “You know, had you been in the Air Force when I met you, I never would have gone out on a date with you.” Apparently, she wanted to marry someone like her dad, who was a seminary teacher. And so I’m like, All right, I’m glad that worked out. And here we are.
Isn’t it great how it works out? It just works out. You’re like, How does this work out all the time? I don’t know; I’m blessed.
When we got married, we were really poor. Did I mention that? We were both seniors in college. We had maybe a hundred dollars between us. We were both working, we were both going to school full time. Actually, I wasn’t working; I was doing my seminary student teacher thing. It’s not paid. She was working part-time and doing her student teaching in elementary education. It was hectic and crazy. We saw way less of each other after we were married than we did before. And I don’t know if I mentioned this, but we were really poor. Did I mention that?
Here is my seminary class—my first seminary class. Thirty ninth-graders, seventh period. That’s why I got hired, because I was able to teach them something. There was a bunch of chatty girls in there, a bunch of cheerleaders and stuff. But I loved it, and they loved it, so they hired me.
Here is our first apartment. Look at that place. That building is like a hundred years old. I don’t know how that building is even still standing. That’s my Volkswagen parked out in front. That’s where we lived. We’re eating mac and cheese, you know, tuna salad, if you know what that is, ramen, Jello for dessert because it’s 25 cents. You know? We have no money. And I am just stressed about it. To make some money on the side—this is January, when we first got married, I had taken a class at BYU called “Basketball Officiating 101.” Can you imagine this? I had never done this before, and they’re like, “Go try it.” So, I signed up to referee basketball. Can you see me in there? Man, it was hard. I don’t know what I am doing, and everyone is yelling at me. It’s ten dollars a game. Is it worth it? No, but I’m poor. We have nothing.
One day I come home from refereeing a game, and Sharise is really upset. I said, “What’s the matter, honey?”
She said, “Well, I’m sorry. I wrecked your car.”
I said, “What?” Yeah. It was snowing that day and it was icy. The road was slick, and she slid into another car head on. My beautiful—I mean, our beautiful car—was smashed. I had no money to pay for any repairs, you know. Oh. She says I handled it really well. It was like, “Honey, are you okay?” and inside I’m like, “Oh, my car.” But I was really worried about how we were going to pay for this, and the insurance is going to go up, and oh, wow.
So that is the first thing that happened when we were married. It was still drivable, but what are we going to do? My parents can’t help us. Her parents—her dad is a seminary teacher and they have eight kids in their family. They have nothing. So I’m like, Okay, well, I’ll just pray.
One day we were sitting there at the kitchen table. She is doing homework and I said to her—here’s a confession of an Institute teacher, sort of a faithless thing—I said, “Honey, you know, I’ve got the budget”—do you guys know what a budget is? You have to plan how much you are spending and where it is coming from, and I don’t have enough, and I’m going— “well, Honey, you know some people pay their tithing at the end of the year.” This is February. Embarrassing, isn’t it? It’s like something Satan would say or something.
Sharise just looked at me. This is literally the look that she made. Who did I marry, you know? She said, “You know, in my life, every time I have gotten paid from a job, I’ve always paid the Lord first.”
I said, “Yeah, me too, but this is really tough right now. We’re in this financial situation, maybe you don’t understand.”
She did, but she doesn’t worry about things like that. She just always trusts the Lord and this is why I married her. You can see why I married her. She’s just like, “Pay your tithing. Don’t say something like that.”
So what did I do? I just pulled out the checkbook, even though we have no money in the checking account, and I wrote out a check and I put it in the tithing envelope, and I thought, I could just post that on the fridge for a week, and maybe by then we will have some money, or maybe—in those days you could float a check, and maybe it wouldn’t get cashed for a week or something. And I was like, no, that’s faithless. Come on, Case, have some faith.
So I said, “Okay, I’m just going to walk this over to the other apartment building next to us.” There was a member of our bishopric living there. So I took it over, and he wasn’t home, so I dropped it in his mail slot. I’m like, well, okay, I paid my tithing. And then I walked back home, and on the way in, I grabbed the mail out of our mailbox. It was all these bills and stuff, insurance—you know, your rates are going up. And I was like, great, this is typical, right? I’m rifling through all of these bills, and—I don’t know if you guys know what letters are, but they are like pieces of paper, you put them in an envelope, there’s a stamp on there, you send it. It might take a week. This is back in the day.
Anyway, I’m going through the mail, and there is this letter from my aunt and uncle. They are on a mission. They were on a mission when we got married, so they couldn’t come. I open up this letter, and my uncle said, “Sorry we couldn’t come. We really love you and wish we could have been there. Here’s a little token of our esteem for you, and congratulations.” It was a check for one hundred dollars.
That might not seem like a lot today, but in those days, that was half of our rent. I’m like, woah. That is such a coincidence. Like, I just paid my tithing five minutes ago, and now I’m holding a check from my uncle for a hundred dollars that he mailed a week ago. Wow, that’s weird. So weird how that worked, huh?
Then I’m looking through the mail some more, and I see this other letter. It’s from the BYU Seminary Teacher Training program, and I know I’m not getting paid from them, right? It’s just volunteer. I open this up, and they are like, “Hey, you know, you’ve been driving to Lehi Junior Seminary every day for a semester, so here’s your mileage reimbursement check,” that I didn’t know I was getting. Somebody could have told me this. One hundred and forty dollars. I’m ready to do a happy dance—we’re in the money!
And then it hit me. Oh, no, I see what’s going on here. I know what the Lord is doing. But just to make sure that I got it, the phone rang. It was the guy that assigned the basketball games of all the referees. He called me up and he said, “Hey, Case. I know you’re this starving, struggling college student that just got married, and you’re probably poor.” This guy was salty, you know? But on the phone, he was really nice to me. He said, “I’ve got all these guys telling me they can’t work these games. Do you want to try to work one of these games?”
I was like, “Yeah.” He gave me ten games to work for the next month. It was another hundred dollars. I was like, Wow. Yeah. Ten minutes I’m on the phone, writing down dates and places.
I got on my knees and I told the Lord, “I will never doubt you again. I know your promises are real.” Sorry I’m just talking here. I know that His promises are real.
I’ve had several students this past semester tell me some pretty rough things that they’re going through. It’s just—the hardest trials I’ve ever heard of. And I sit across the desk from them and I say, “I hope I helped you understand that this is your test. This is why we’re here. Hopefully you know what to do.” This is gut-wrenching, isn’t it? It is.
Joseph Smith—is that my phone? Okay—Joseph Smith once said, and John Taylor heard him say this— “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is …as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham… God will … take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the .., Kingdom of God.”
So that is why we’re here. And we’re not promised ease. That makes sense, right? You’re going to have tests; you have to—hard ones—to see if you will… you have a choice to make when these things happen. You can either blame God and say, “I don’t believe in God,” or something like that, or you can say, “Heavenly Father, help me. This is a rough situation.”
In my own life, I’ve just discovered that this is a key. The first thing you have to do when one of these things hits you is get on your knees and pray. And the Lord’s promises are real. This one in Ether: “My grace is sufficient for all [those who] humble themselves before me.” If you get on your knees, His grace is sufficient. He will take care of it. Just “have faith in me, then I will make weak things become strong unto them.”
Before I share one last example, I want to just say something—I’m going to read this, because I want to say it the way I wrote it. We’ve all felt hopeless in our lives sometimes. I have to. But for some people, just exercising faith in God isn’t going to be enough, because they have real, clinical, emotional and mental health issues that have to be dealt with. They need professional counseling, they need therapy, they need medication possibly. And if they don’t get this, they are so tired of trying to hang on that they just give up. And they kind of commit the ultimate act of quitting, the final act of giving up.
I wish I would have known more about this a few years ago. I wish I would have known more about clinical anxiety and depression and those disorders. There are warning signs that I didn’t know and understand. We’re talking more about it now, thankfully.
I think Elder Holland broke the ground on this a few years ago, when he gave this talk, “Like a Broken Vessel,” where he got pretty personal and he just talked about having these struggles himself and knowing a lot of people with them. He said, “Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.”
This is where I try to explain to you how this really affected me personally. I’m skipping for time—go to the Church’s website. There are some really amazing things on this, on suicide prevention, mental health issues. I’m giving you a homework assignment, okay? I’m a teacher. I want everyone to watch this video sometime, if you’ve never seen it. It’s called “Choose to Stay.” It’s really beautiful. I’d show it if we had time.
Anyway, our firstborn son, Caleb, was born in 1990—July 4th, actually. It’s pretty awesome to have your firstborn son, but we soon realized that he was a very challenging child. He was very intelligent, but very oppositional. It made it very difficult to raise him, and I’ll just make a long story short by telling you that when he was 16, he just came up to me and said, “Dad, you know what? I don’t believe anything you believe.”
He stopped coming to church. I said, “Why are you not coming?”
He said, “I just don’t believe any of this anymore. I know it’s going to break your heart, Dad, but sorry.”
And he was right. It really tugged on my heartstrings, and my prayers got really, really sincere. When he was 19, he moved out. He made some poor choices. He bought a hand gun. I went shooting with him once, it was actually October of 2012. It was the last time I saw my son on this earth.
December of that year—it was December 9th—it was a Sunday afternoon. Two police cars pulled up. You don’t like to see that on a Sunday afternoon, especially, and these detectives came into our house. I sent the kids downstairs. They said, “We have some bad news for you. Your son took his own life.”
I don’t have the words to tell you how devastated we were, so I won’t try. After they left, we gathered our kids together and I said, “Okay, we’re going to pray.” Because when sore trials come upon you, hopefully you think to pray. When you get your heartstrings yanked on, hopefully the first thing you do is get on your knees.
After the prayer, we didn’t know what to say or think or do. Amazingly, our bishop showed up and he gave us amazing comfort and counsel and words of encouragement, and gave us priesthood blessings. Our family rallied around us, our neighbors, our ward rallied around us. It was amazing to see. It seemed like Zion.
But all that time I was going down; I was getting worse and worse. I was in hell, for lack of a better word. I wasn’t sleeping, and after another sleepless night—like, a Wednesday morning—I got up at 4:00 in the morning. I had to write the obituary. It took me a few hours. And then the guy came to do the funeral preparations, so that was a couple of hours. After that, I was done. I was just finished. I was ready to give up.
So, I went into the bedroom, and I shut the door and locked it. I got on the bed and I just sobbed. I just cried. We were trying to pray together, but we would usually end up just in puddles of tears on the floor. And I had no more tears. I had nothing left. So, in the agony of my soul, I cried the most heartfelt prayer I have ever cried. I just said, “Heavenly Father, where are you? How could you let this happen? You could have stopped this.”
And then, you know, Satan is working really hard on me, right? I’m thinking, “I’ve made all of these mistakes. Heavenly Father, please forgive me.” I made a lot of mistakes with my oldest son, believe me. And I was just hopeless. I didn’t see any way out of this. This cannot end well, right?
And then, the most amazing thing happened, in the middle of this prayer. As I’m just pouring my heart out to God, He spoke to me. He said, “My son, peace be unto thy soul.” And amazingly, I felt this warmth and love and peace and comfort just fill me, just fill me up.
And of course, our dear prophet has said this recently: “Many of us who cried out in the depths of our hearts, help me know how to handle my heart wrenching situation. When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when … gasping for air, …when the Savior… can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life, … when you spiritually stretch beyond anything you have ever done before, then His power will flow into you.”
That is exactly what happened to me. Sorry, I didn’t click the slide. And I know this is true. I have a firm testimony of this, a personal witness. I witness to you that I have been supported in every trial. The Lord has helped me every time. He has delivered me; He has saved me. When I have turned to Him, when I have needed Him most, He has been there every single time.
My new favorite scripture is in Mosiah 24: “I will … ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them… and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”
My dear brothers and sisters, I testify to you that this is true. I know it’s true with all my heart. I pray that when sore trials come upon us, and we’re tempted to quit, that we won’t quit. That we’ll turn to the Lord, that that will be the first thing that we do. It’s my hope and prayer that we will never give up, any of us. With the Lord’s help, I know we can pass every test of our faith—with flying colors, and ace our midterms, and graduate from this life.
I pray that we will trust in Him, look to Him in every thought. Don’t doubt. Don’t fear. And know that all things will work together for our good. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 John 14:1.
 “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” April 2017 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/04/drawing-the-power-of-jesus-christ-into-our-lives?lang=eng.
 Alma 37:37.
 Alma 42:31.
 John Taylor, Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, Aug. 21, 1883, p. 1.
 Ether 12:27.
 Ether 12:27.
 October 2013 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/like-a-broken-vessel?lang=eng.
 See Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Did You Think to Pray?” Hymn no.
 “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” April 2017 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/04/drawing-the-power-of-jesus-christ-into-our-lives?lang=eng.
 Mosiah 24:14.