Your Mountain to Climb
Gisselle is from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. She moved to the US when she was 8 years old and grew up in Salt Lake. She has been with Ensign College as an Outreach and Admissions Counselor since 2020. Gisselle completed her bachelor's degree with honors at the University of Utah in Social Work and Communications. Previously, she worked with the US Department of Health and Human Services in Washington D.C. as a Strategic Planning Analyst and was involved in legislative hearings addressing access to healthcare, Education, Human Rights, and Social Welfare.
Gisselle runs a small marketing company and helps organizations advertise and promote their products. She traveled for a year volunteering and doing community service in South East Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America helping underserved communities and exploring the world!
Sister Castro served a mission in Mexico Guadalajara and has served in a variety of callings in ward Young Women's Presidencies, as a Sunday School teacher, and Gospel Principles teacher. She and her husband currently serve as ward missionaries. They got married in the Salt Lake City temple and have been married for 6 years.
Your Mountain to Climb
I am so grateful to be here with you all. My heart is full with so much joy to stand here in front of you. Thank you for your faith. Thank you for this beautiful music. Always pay attention to how you feel and listen to the Spirit when you hear the wonderful music being played. It can definitely teach you a lot.
Ensign College has a very special place in my heart. I have a unique role here at the college and get the privilege to meet with students before they attend. I have seen your name on your Ensign College application, I have met some of you through an event, or a presentation you attended. I have also met many of you virtually from all over the world. I have read your essays and learned about your wonderful stories and life experiences that have truly inspired me. I know for some of you it’s been a challenge to be here. I have also been in a similar position myself. Having to learn a new language, culture, and be in a new environment is not easy. We are all truly blessed to be here and to be in such an uplifting learning environment. As an admissions counselor I know there are so many people wishing they would be sitting where you are sitting, learning the things you are learning, and being presented with the opportunities you are being presented with. Thank you for your courage and strength. Continue telling your friends, family, and loved ones about Ensign College.
Two years ago my husband and I decided to go on an adventure and explore the Chilean Patagonia. One of our dreams was to hike Torres del Paine. Torres del Paine is located next to Puerto Natales in Southern Chile. It can take you up to 24 hours to get there from Salt Lake City. It’s literally the end of the world. We would see pictures of the Patagonia, and Torres del Paine, and were amazed at how beautiful this place was. We said, we have to go there at least once in our lives. We are going to hike up there. We budgeted our money, got our things ready and went for it. The day arrived and we landed in Puerto Natales, Chile, to start this journey to hike up Torres del Paine.
We got a good night's rest the night before for our hike that started at 5:00 am in the morning. We had our gear on and we were ready to go up the mountain. The sun begins to come out and it gradually starts getting really hot. I also noticed something very strange. I have been walking for 2 hours and I haven’t gone uphill yet. I asked myself, are we doing the right hike? I took out my map just to double check and we were on the right path. The uphill part just came in a little later, another 2 hours later... As we began climbing uphill the weather starts changing, it gets cloudy and really windy. Now, these aren’t regular winds, these are Patagonian winds. The Patagonia is known for its beauty and landscapes, but what they forget to mention, in most cases, is the extreme climate. These winds are intense and they can literally blow you over if you don’t have the correct posture and equipment. It was my first time experiencing these strong winds and we didn’t know what to do so we watched what everyone else was doing, sat down and sheltered in place. It’s funny when you dream of something, but do very little minimal research on it. You just go for it and hope for the best!
As we were sheltering in place the winds began to slow down so we resumed our journey up this mountain. Nothing was stopping us now. The sun came back out and we are now happily making our way to the top. We were excited and enjoying the scenery. All of the sudden, the wind starts to slowly come back, but this time it’s a really cold breeze. It gets cloudy again. We keep going and then I feel a drop of rain on my shoulder. What do you know?! It starts pouring rain! It is now raining 30-40 mins non-stop. Although these weather conditions are making it difficult for us to reach the top, there is no turning back now, we are too far in. Keep in my mind it’s windy, it’s raining, and this is the moment where the uphill part is happening. Although all of this is going on, we keep moving on this journey. A little later, the sun begins to come out again. Now we are 4 hours into the trail.
There were people that were starting to come down from this mountain as others were arriving. The people going up kept asking those coming down if they got the crazy weather. They said nope, it was perfect. I said in my mind, well that’s not fair. Why did they get the good weather? I do admit I didn’t have the best attitude and was a little upset. Oftentimes we ask ourselves, why is life unfair? Yes, life is unfair in many ways. A lot of other people received better weather than us, maybe someone else got better grades than you, we could have been born in another country and had more peace, we could have had better parents, could have not dealt or be dealing with a particular illness. Many things in life are unfair and sometimes we don’t understand why.
We kept going on this trail and just a few minutes later it gets cloudy again, but this time it started snowing. We had one and a half hours left to arrive at our destination and we had to get there through a blizzard. I am thinking why?! It makes you wonder why do things happen just right before we are almost there? But more often than not, we don’t get a straightforward answer to this seemingly simple question, and not getting all the answers can definitely test our faith, strength, and confidence. Do we have the faith and strength to keep going when unexpected or bad things happen? When we are so close? We might sometimes even wonder where God is or why God has helped others more than us. We may ask ourselves why do others have it easier and get better weather?
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke these words at a general conference: “Jesus Christ both understands unfairness and has the power to provide a remedy. Nothing compares to the unfairness He endured.” In times of unfairness we need to remember our Savior, His atonement, His sacrifice.
This saying is so powerful. One thing I do to help me with this is to write in a journal, or a diary. Sometimes we may think we don’t have enough time for this and are just too busy to pick up this habit, but you can make time for it and write the different circumstances you face, validate them, and analyze them. I also write one thing I’m grateful for that day, and it has been a life changer. I encourage all of you to try it. It’s so important for us to remember the atonement of Jesus Christ through these moments because He’s the only person who perfectly knows how you feel.
I also kept seeing people pass me by and I wanted to go even faster. I knew I couldn’t keep up no matter how hard I tried, especially because of all of the drastic weather changes I had never experienced before. When you are going through unpredicted changes, it can slow you down. It can take you much more than expected to get to your destination. You have your own unique mountain to climb. Some people run up their mountain, some people walk, some people stop every minute to take a break. Everyone is going at their own pace. I had to keep telling myself it’s okay to slow down and to just enjoy the journey, that’s what it is all about. Heavenly Father will see your effort and will help you climb your mountain. How often in life are we comparing ourselves to others? Sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it and we look at all the negatives instead of the positives. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, said, “We spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others—usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. This drives us to create expectations for ourselves that are impossible to meet. As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less than what someone else does. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s wonderful that you have strengths. And it is part of your mortal experience that you do have weaknesses. God wants to help us to eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths, but He knows that this is a long-term goal”.
Part of building this strength is to develop confidence in yourself. Gaining confidence can give us the ability to not compare ourselves to others and to stop developing negative thoughts in our heads about not being where you want to be all the time. So how can we be more confident in our journey? In this mountain we are climbing? I want to share with you today some things that we can do.
1. Accept where you are in life
You won’t be able to change something you don’t acknowledge. So, instead of resisting or fighting where you are, come to peace with it. Say yes to every part of your life, and from that place, make decisions that will move you in the right direction. With help from the Savior ask what your next step in life will be. Trust the Lord, follow his commandments and be confident that you will be in the right place at the right time.
In the Book of Mormon, we learn about Lehi’s journey with his family in the wilderness.
“The Lord instructed them to leave Jerusalem and one morning Lehi found the Liahona outside his tent. It pointed the way to the wilderness. Lehi’s family gathered food and seeds and packed their tents. They traveled through the wilderness for many days, following the directions of the Liahona. It only worked when Lehi’s family was faithful, diligent, and obedient. Traveling was not easy. Often Lehi’s family was tired, hungry, and thirsty. Although they went through these hardships, Lehi's family continued their difficult journey. God helped them and strengthened them”. 1 Nephi 16:9-35
Today, there are also many families who experience what Lehi and his family did. A lot of people immigrate to new countries and start from scratch. They leave their countries because they want to obtain a better life for themselves, their families, and future generations. The first 8 years of my life I lived in Honduras. My family decided to move to the US because there was a lot of crime, the economy wasn’t doing well, and the government was very corrupt. It was hard to find jobs and make a fair amount of money. My family had to accept where they were before they could take the next step. There was a lot of prayer involved and difficult decisions to be made, but with the help of the Lord they knew that was the correct decision in that stage of their life. One of the many challenges is learning a new language when you move to a new country. Some of you moved from other countries and needed to learn English, and that can be very challenging. We are so proud of you for taking the step to come here and obtain your education. It is truly a blessing.
Take one step at a time and accept where you are. With the help of the Spirit, look for things that will help you become better, and continue trying your best.
2. Decide not to let fear guide your choices.
Fear is usually the cause of so many other emotions that are disempowering. It is not good to be in a constant state of fear. Fear can be paralyzing. Sometimes you don’t even start with fear, but develop fear later on just as I did when the weather began to change and caused me to lose motivation to continue. Some fears are physical, emotional, and even spiritual. It can stop us from creating what we want, doing what we love, and making the necessary changes in our lives to be better. If we are afraid of what might happen, we limit ourselves, we create barriers. We begin to be guided by fear instead of faith which leads us into a pattern of negative emotions and decisions. We can actively choose to release fears that we don’t want to hold on to. The release is the start of the journey towards healing and recovering.
Faith is the first principle of the gospel yet we don’t constantly put it in practice. We are not perfect, we make mistakes, but making faith part of our daily life is crucial to our return back home with our Heavenly parents. Faith motivates a person to take action. Faith without action won’t work. God promises us his help, but we must act. Remember that Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe. God has brought you through before and he will bring you through again.
There is a beautiful verse in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that says; (For we walk by faith, not by sight) Life is not created so that we can predict everything that we will experience in the future. It’s not a straight line and sometimes things are simply just out of our control. But when you have faith in God and Jesus Christ you don’t need to worry about the future, because you know it’s all in His hands. You just need to take action by going and doing your best. With the help of the Lord and the Spirit, identify your fears, find the root of them, and release them, let them go. This will help you get to your final destination and help you create more confidence. Make a decision each day to choose faith over fear.
3.Pray for Confidence
There is a saying that goes: “Self-confidence is truly a super power. Once you start to believe in yourself magic begins to happen in your life”. I too believe wonderful things can happen when you develop confidence. We also need to be realistic and accept that work can be challenging, school can be difficult, even relationships can be hard. Maybe we applied for a professional position we didn’t get, or applied for a college/university we weren’t accepted to. Maybe it didn’t work out with someone we really liked. All of this can hurt our confidence. That’s why we must always pray for it. In 1 Nephi 17:3 the Lord has said; “And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the things which he has commanded them”. You will be going through your challenges but if you are being faithful and continue cultivating your testimony, the Lord will guide you.
Another important point to remember is when we do pray for confidence a lot of times the Lord gives us trials because they will help us grow. When I was hiking on this trail in the Patagonia, we walked among thousand-year-old trees. Thousand-year-old trees that have grown in some of the most extreme weather conditions in the world. The winds in the Patagonia blow anywhere between 50-70 miles an hour. Can you imagine that?! When I was walking among these trees, I also noticed how tall they were. You could see their scars of movement and you could see how the wind had moved them while they were growing at a young age. The tops of the trees were slanted because of the pressure of the strong winds. I asked myself how is this possible? How can they have lived for so long, if this is one of the harshest environments for trees to grow in? You get heat, rain, strong winds and snow all in one day! They are able to continue to get stronger because of the roots and foundations they have developed throughout time. That’s why these trees are able to live and keep growing.
You see them now, and they are strongly rooted into the ground and have a firm foundation. In this mortal life, we will be able to overcome trials, overcome difficulties and overcome challenges that will allow us to develop confidence and develop strong roots that are necessary as we go through our stages in life.
Now, you’re probably wondering, well, did you ever make it to the top? We did make it! I was worried we weren’t going to be able to see the astonishing rock formations when we got to the top but we did. Even though it was still cloudy we got to see the beautiful scenery and that’s what mattered. That important piece of confidence that was ingrained in our minds before we started the hike is what caused us to finish. When I reached my final destination, I was amazed by the beauty of the scenery. I sat down to embrace the view for a couple of minutes and I said “Did I really just do that”?! I asked myself was this all worth it and I then said a prayer in my heart. I felt the spirit so strong that it brought gratitude I wasn’t feeling earlier. My prayer was just about being grateful. Have you ever prayed and just thanked God for everything, not asking for anything? Pay attention to how you feel. I felt grateful for the difficult journey. I was grateful for my legs, my eyesight, just being there in general. I said this has made me so much stronger now and the next mountain I hike, it will now be easier. A grateful state of mind is a shift, a conscious transition in being in lack, to being in abundance. Practicing what we do have instead of what we don’t can save your wellbeing, bring sanity, and most importantly bring you closer to our Father in Heaven. I was happy and still couldn’t believe we actually made it!
When we officially completed our hike, we were grateful and felt accomplished, but were weak and very tired. I have ever been so tired in my life! We stopped by a small diner where a lady was cooking acazuela. This is a traditional Chilean soup with a lot of vegetables and meat. It was simple and delicious!
When I finished eating, I felt so good! I was ready to hike the mountain again. You can compare this to your spiritual nutrition. The gospel is simple, if we do the small and simple things we will be ready to take out any challenge and surpass it. When there are difficult moments in your life, this is where you need Heavenly Father the most, this is where you need your scriptures the most, this is where you need to visit the temple the most.
Never forget the gratitude portion in each stage of your journey, no matter where you are. Gratitude increases self-esteem which increases your confidence. To be in gratitude is also a form of prayer- to God, ourselves, surroundings, to earth and the universe, for all the blessings and abundance we have been given. Being grateful is not always to express it in words; but to feel it and express the energy and emotion connected to your gratitude.
I want to share my testimony with you that I know God and Jesus Christ live. They believe in us so we should also believe in ourselves. If we follow these steps we will discover things we never knew we were capable of. You are a capable and a trusted disciple of Jesus Christ. The gospel has brought so many blessings in my life and I am forever grateful for Jesus Christ and His atonement. Thank you for making my experience so wonderful here at Ensign College. You are special, strong, and a loved child of God. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.