The Worth of Your Soul is Great in the Sight of God
Good Morning, brothers and sisters. I am extremely humbled that I have the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you all today.
I’m so grateful to work at such an amazing institution and love being able to spend a lot of my time working with those who are interested in applying to Ensign College. Before COVID-19, one of my favorite parts of my job was presenting to prospective students and interacting with them in person. Even though we are currently recruiting virtually, I still enjoy the interaction I get to have with those interested in learning about the College and how it fits into their future educational goals. One of the most common questions I get asked from prospective students is, “What makes Ensign College special, and why should I come here?” My response is always the same. What makes Ensign College so unique is all of you, our students. You all bring so much diversity to campus with your unique backgrounds, your talents and spiritual gifts, and individual educational goals and plans for your future. However, what makes you such an important part of the College is your strong desire to become a capable and trusted disciple of Jesus Christ, and your ability to help others do the same. Our mission statement has become an integrated part of the culture and community here at the College, and that is all thanks to each of you. This mutual goal and desire have allowed all those that both work and attend classes here to feel like family. Each of us is personally working on becoming a capable and trusted disciple of Jesus Christ, and being surrounded by so much goodness encourages that same motivation in all those that enter the doors of the College. Your diversity and shared commitment to become like our Savior makes this College a very special place, and although I haven’t met all of you personally, I know that you all play a crucial role in helping Ensign College become a spiritually uplifting home away from home. You are all important, and I can say with full confidence that I know that our Savior, Jesus Christ, has an overwhelming amount of love for each one of you.
Today, more than ever, the adversary has worked hard to bombard us with messages that allow us to forget just how loved and important we all are. He deceives us into believing that straying from the “strait and narrow path” (2 Nephi 31:18) is the only way we can stand out and be seen as unique. He wants us to forget our true identity, purpose and heavenly potential. Why? In his talk titled, “The Reflection in the Water,” Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf answered this question by sharing, “Think of where you came from. You are sons and daughters of the greatest, most glorious being in the universe. He loves you with an infinite love. He wants the best for you… This knowledge changes everything. It changes your present. It can change your future. And it can change the world.”
D&C 18:10 says, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” How can this knowledge change the world? Once we remember our divine worth, we will remember that we are valuable and irreplaceable in the eyes of our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ.
Over five years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to serve as a full-time missionary in the Taiwan, Taipei mission. Representing the Savior for 18 months taught me more about who He is and the love He has for each one of us. I’ll never forget a story that was shared in one of our zone conferences, which helped me better understand how Christ shows His love, by ministering one by one. In his talk titled, “Shepherds of Israel,” Elder John R. Lasater shared a story of a time he had traveled to Morocco on behalf of the United States. While traveling across the desert, one of the limousines in his party had gotten into an accident. He shared:
“An old shepherd, in the long, flowing robes of the Savior’s day, was standing near the limousine in conversation with the driver. Nearby, I noted a small flock of sheep numbering not more than 15 or 20. An accident had occurred. The king’s vehicle had struck and injured one of the sheep belonging to the old shepherd. The driver of the vehicle was explaining to him the law of the land. Because the king’s vehicle had injured one of the sheep belonging to the old shepherd, he was now entitled to 100 times its value at maturity. However, under the same law, the injured sheep must be slain and the meat divided among the people. My interpreter hastily added, “But the old shepherd will not accept the money. They never do.”
Startled, I asked him why. And he added, “Because of the love he has for each of his sheep.” It was then that I noticed the old shepherd reach down, lift the injured lamb in his arms, and place it in a large pouch on the front of his robe. He kept stroking its head, repeating the same word over and over again. When I asked the meaning of the word, I was informed, “Oh, he is calling it by name. All of his sheep have a name, for he is their shepherd, and the good shepherds know each one of their sheep by name.”
It was as my driver predicted. The money was refused, and the old shepherd with his small flock of sheep, with the injured one tucked safely in the pouch on his robe, disappeared into the beautiful deserts of Morocco.
As we continued our journey toward the ruins, my interpreter shared with me more of the traditions and practices of the shepherds of that land. Each evening at sundown, for example, the shepherds bring their small flocks of sheep to a common enclosure where they are secured against the wolves that roam the deserts of Morocco. A single shepherd then is employed to guard the gate until morning. Then the shepherds come to the enclosure one by one, enter therein, and call forth their sheep—by name. The sheep will not hearken unto the voice of a stranger but will leave the enclosure only in the care of their true shepherd, confident and secure because the shepherd knows their names and they know his voice.”
Each time I hear this story, I am reminded of just how much we mean to the Good Shepherd, and how important it is for us to put in the time to get to know Him.
He knows us by name. That statement alone gives me so much comfort. The worth of our soul is so great to Him that He suffered an unimaginable amount in Gethsemane so he could understand us perfectly. He will always be there for us and has provided us with His gospel to help us become His capable and trusted disciples.
There have been countless times where I’ve felt the Good Shepherd minister to me individually and lift me up when I couldn’t do it alone.
Growing up, I was never talented when it came to sports, and to be honest, I’m still not but love to laugh at myself when I try to hit a volleyball. In fact, when I was around 5-years-old, I was so mad at my soccer coach for not taking me off the field that I decided to score a goal for the other team! It was shortly after that experience that I quit soccer and decided to pursue something else, and I’m very grateful I did. I quickly fell in love with dancing and looked forward to each rehearsal, performance and competition I had. I spent hours of time training and practicing and will never forget the fond memories I have of staying at my studio late into the night with my dance team. As I got older, my ultimate dream goal was to be a part of my high school dance team. Dance is a very competitive sport, and it can be extremely easy to compare yourself to other dancers.
Towards the end of my freshman year, it came time for the high school dance team tryouts and all of my friends and family knew about it. I remember spending hours after the first day of tryouts memorizing the 1-minute combination we had learned in preparation for the next day when we would perform for the judges. When the hour finally came for me to perform, I was confident that I had taken enough time to memorize and perfect every kick, turn and facial expression to “wow” the judges. After my initial performance, I was called back several times. I was placed next to current dance team members and had to perform the combo over and over again. When it was finally time to announce the new members of the team, I was confident my name was going to be called, until it wasn’t. I was crushed. My whole life, becoming a member of this dance team was all I knew and I felt lost, disappointed and embarrassed to tell all my friends and family that I didn’t make it. However, I was determined to try again. That same year, I also tried out for the cheer team and was again disappointed when my name wasn’t called and I didn’t make the team. I felt so alone. Did Heavenly Father remember me? Did He know how disappointed I was in myself? Did He have a plan for me? Of course He did, I just didn’t see it yet.
It was only after I started my sophomore year that I learned about student government, an opportunity to be involved in planning high school events, dances, assemblies and more. I questioned this opportunity because I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence left and had little faith that this would have a happy ending. However, I decided to give it one last chance, and to my surprise, my name was called this time. I couldn’t believe it. For the first time in a while, I felt that my Heavenly Father and Savior were very aware of me and were guiding me to this opportunity. They knew me better than I knew myself and they knew that this experience would change me and provide me with opportunities that would impact me for the rest of my life.
During my sophomore year, I still spent a lot of my time training and preparing myself to try out for the dance team the following year, and to my disappointment, my name was again not called. However, I was more at peace with that decision and had faith that if I put my trust in God, I would be led down the right path. I was lucky enough to have the chance to be involved with student government again my junior year and will never forget the memories made. When it came time to try out for the dance team right before my senior year had started, I initially decided that I wasn’t going to put myself through that again and didn’t want to try out for the third time. However, I knew that I would regret that decision and didn’t want to look back and think, “What if?” So, I gave it my all and tried out, with full confidence that all would work out as it should. When it came time to call out the names of those that made the team, I was truly shocked when I heard my name. I couldn’t believe it. Finally, during my senior year, my dreams had come true. I was part of my dance team and also stayed involved with student government. Although that year was full of being way too busy, which led to lots of sleepless nights, sickness and procrastinated homework, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else.
Being a part of both organizations is still to this day some of my greatest blessings. I will always cherish the life experiences, memories and lessons learned. This experience of failing over and over has helped me build self-confidence, given me life-long friends and has taught me that He knows us way better than we know ourselves. He will always be there to walk beside us and guide us where He knows we will grow the most.
We don’t need to feel alone. His love is always available and He will always answer our prayers but maybe not in the way we expect. Because our Savior understands our every thought, desire and experience, he knows how to best minister to us, one by one.
I feel the Spirit very strongly through music, and the words of one of my favorite songs, “Come Thou Fount” come to mind when I think of the Savior ministering one by one.
“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood”
He is there to help bring us back to the “strait and narrow path” (2 Nephi 31:18). He will be there to rescue us when we feel as though we are a “wandering sheep” and will safely bring us back to the fold. However, it is our responsibility to understand and recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow His example. In John 21:17, Jesus asks and invites us all, “Lovest thou me?... Feed my sheep.”
Just as each of you plays an important role in helping Ensign College become such a special place, you also play an important role in the Church. We all do. And our Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ need each one of us. As capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ, we have the responsibility to strengthen others and help them to understand their divine purpose and personal connection to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple, it’s full of hope and direction and was created for us. We have been called to help Him minister to His sheep. We need to know each of them by name, focus on the one and help rescue them as He has done for us.
Growing up, I was given several CTR rings from various church leaders, always encouraging me to “Choose the Right.” I loved wearing rings and each CTR ring I wore reminded me of the covenant I made when I was baptized, “to take upon [myself] the name of thy Son, and always remember him” (D&C 20:77). After receiving my mission call and learning that I was to teach the gospel in Mandarin Chinese, I decided to order a CTR ring in Chinese to wear for the duration of my mission.
Something I have grown to love about the Mandarin Chinese language is the deep symbolic meaning behind each character. Immediately after receiving that ring in the mail, I desired to know what the Chinese character on my ring meant and how it was pronounced. After doing some research, I found that the character on the ring was pronounced “Yì – 義” and means “righteousness.” When split apart, this character breaks down into two parts, “Yáng - 羊” which means “sheep” and “ Wǒ - 我” which means “I, Me or Myself.” Every time I wore this ring on my mission, it always reminded me to place Christ, the Lamb of God, before myself and look up to Him as my perfect example.
Throughout my mission, I was constantly reminded of this as I spread the message of the gospel to those in Taiwan. I was provided countless opportunities to experience the gift of tongues so I could minister as Christ did, one by one. From my experience, the gift of tongues didn’t give me the ability to start speaking perfect Mandarin. Rather, it provided me the ability to share thoughts from my heart about the blessings that come from the gospel and the impact they had in my life. Somehow, through my broken Mandarin, I was able to communicate with those I taught, and they too were able to share thoughts from their heart. Although I didn’t understand each word they said, I understood what they were trying to say. This was important because it allowed my companion and me the opportunity to connect the gospel to their individual lives.
The Good Shepherd was watching out for them by allowing us to understand one another.
Just like this experience, our Savior is aware of you and your needs and will send angels, both seen and unseen, who can understand the feelings of your heart and help you connect the gospel to your life. In his talk titled, “The Ministry of Angels,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind.”
As we become instruments in His hands and focus on following the example of the Good Shepherd, freely giving our time to help His sheep remember their heavenly role, we too will remember we were created by divine design, and have an infinite purpose. Heavenly Father needs our diversity, He needs our talents & our individual personalities to help build up His kingdom. The Apostle Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 12:27 that, “…ye are the body of Christ,” but what does that mean? As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated in his talk titled, “Songs Sung and Unsung,” “It is by divine design that not all the voices in God’s choir are the same.” He needs us all as we are because we were all created by that same divine design and were each given unique spiritual gifts to help our Savior spread a message of hope to others. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland further goes on to say, “…I plead with each one of us to stay permanently and faithfully in the choir, where we will be able to savor forever that most precious anthem of all—“the song of redeeming love.” Fortunately, the seats for this particular number are limitless…”
I know that our Heavenly Father and Savior love us infinitely. They know us personally, want what’s best for us and will always be there to welcome us with open arms. I know that the gospel is true and was meant for each of us. I testify that as we seek to become more like the Good Shepherd, ministering to others and following His example, we will find everlasting happiness and peace. Always remember that the worth of YOUR soul is great in the sight of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.