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Tanner Esplin

Tanner Esplin
Tanner Esplin
Tanner Esplin has worked in higher education for nine years and has been at Ensign College for five years. He was born in Cottonwood Heights, Utah and served a mission to the Brazil Belo Horizonte Mission. Tanner is married to Katie Maughan Esplin, and the couple has three daughters with one baby boy coming in February 2021. He received a bachelor's degree in Business Management from the University of Utah and a Master's of Public Administration degree from the University of Utah. Tanner currently serves in his ward as a Young Men's Advisor. He previously has served in an Elder's Quorum Presidency, a Young Men's Presidency, a Sunday School Teacher and as Executive Secretary.


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Dealing with Change


I am grateful for this opportunity to speak with you today. It is an exciting and historic time to be here at Ensign College. We have seen many changes here in the past few years and most recently with the changing of our school name. It was a great undertaking by many at the College to carry out this historic change. I feel blessed to have witnessed these events.

Change has been a common theme around the world in 2020. But it is not just this year that has seen significant change. Our lives are filled with changes. From small changes like getting a new haircut or for my 6-year-old losing her first tooth to big changes like moving to a new city or starting a new job. Some changes we have planned for and others are unexpected and may be unwelcome. How do we deal with change in our lives?

Might I suggest three words to help us deal with change? Perspective, preparation and perseverance.

Perspective is the lens by which we view our lives. When using the proper perspective, we can see things positively and put them in the correct context. If our perspective is skewed, it can be harmful to our outlook and cause us additional stress or anxiety. One way to gain the proper perspective is by listening to the prophet. President Russell M. Nelson gives us warnings about things to come. He will also shed light on what we need to do to stay ready. General Conference is always a great time to listen to the prophet and re-align our perspective, if needed. In the April general conference, President Nelson recognized the changes going on in the word and stated, “The Lord has told us that if ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (1). Throughout the conference, he encouraged us to “Hear Him,” saying, “We are to seek, in every way we can, to hear Jesus Christ, who speaks to us through the power and ministering of the Holy Ghost” (1). President Nelson knows that the best way for us to view our lives properly is to seek the Savior and follow the promptings we receive.

The prophet has encouraged us to seek guidance through prayer. In the face of change or uncertainty, we must seek the Lord. Pray to Him, expect answers, but patiently wait for those answers. One of the big changes I experienced in my life was moving away to College. It may be similar to experiences you are going through now. For me, it was a significant change. I grew up in Salt Lake and had lived here my entire life. I decided to attend Dixie State College in St. George, Utah. I moved away from my parents and moved in with three roommates I had never met before. My roommates and I did not always see eye to eye. Some of you may be familiar with what I am talking about. I was faced with new situations and new choices that I had not previously experienced. During my first few months of college, I leaned heavily on the Lord through prayer to seek His guidance on how I should live my life. I had been taught all of the correct principles as I was growing up, but now was my chance to set the course for my life. There were Sunday mornings during my freshman year of college where I laid in bed and wondered if it would be worth it for me to get up and go to Church. As soon as I hit my knees to pray, the Spirit would rush over me and I knew where I needed to be. So, I got myself out of bed and went to church. There were times of loneliness during that first year away from home. It was often difficult to make new friends. In those difficult times, I found comfort from the Lord through prayer. He welcomed all of my concerns and anxieties and helped me to understand what I needed to learn and how I could grow to become a better person. I am grateful for the personal connection we can have with our Heavenly Father if we are willing to take the time to seek Him through prayer. I hope that as you deal with change in your life, you will turn to the power of prayer.

The second word to help us deal with change is through preparation. President Nelson has encouraged us to prepare in many areas. Oftentimes, we do not know what to prepare for. Let me share an example with you from the missionary talk my nephew, Canyon Esplin, gave last year. He told the story of the race to the South Pole. In 1911, two teams set out to be the first people to reach the South Pole. One group was led by Robert Falcon Scott and the other group was led by Roald Amundsen. Both groups faced a daunting task: crossing the frigid Antarctic land to reach the South Pole. Both teams had some experience exploring in cold temperatures and both teams took time to prepare, but only one of these teams would lead a successful mission. Amundsen’s group was well-skilled using sled dogs and skis as their mode of transportation. This helped the explorers conserve their energy as they endured these frigid conditions. Scott’s group used sled dogs, tractors, and ponies to move their equipment in the cold. Unfortunately, the cold temperatures caused the tractors to break down and the ponies could not survive it either. Scott’s group could not handle the sled dogs and had to send them back to camp. This forced his team to carry their equipment and supplies themselves, slowing down their journey significantly (2). Scott made one other crucial mistake, he planned to take four people with him to the South Pole, but at the last minute changed his mind and included a fifth person to the group. This stretched their food and supplies even thinner (3).

So, what happened? Amundsen’s team was swift in their journey down to the South Pole and made it there first on December 14, 1911. His team had enough supplies and made their journey back out to their base camp. Scott’s team was not so fortunate. Their journey was much longer. They did eventually reach the South Pole on January 17, 1912, only to discover that Amundsen’s team had beaten them there. They were running low on supplies and were struck with severe storms as they made their journey back to their base camp. All five men in Scott’s party died before they could return back to base camp. This was a tragic outcome to a very difficult journey. (2)

What can we learn from this “Race to the South Pole?” The importance of preparation, but not just any kind, the right kind of preparation. Amundsen was ready for what his team was going to face. Scott had made preparations, but his plans were not good enough to survive unforeseen circumstances. He even changed his plans at the last minute by adding another person, thus nullifying many of the plans he had made. We need to make important preparations in our lives and stick to them. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually for what lies ahead. We do not know what the future holds, but if we are spiritually strong, we will be able to endure whatever comes our way. If we are unsure of what we can do to prepare, we must seek for personal revelation through prayer.

In a scriptural example of perspective and preparation, we can look at the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. They were told to follow the king’s orders or be cast into the fiery furnace. They had been spiritually preparing for a moment like this. They had made the decision in their lives to serve only God and not false idols or images. They probably did not know that believing in this manner would one day lead them to be cast into a fire, but they were prepared to live their beliefs. They knew they would follow the Lord, regardless of the consequences. Their response to King Nebuchadnezzar is inspiring. They said, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (4). They had complete faith in God that He could save them from the fire, but they understood if it was not God’s will, they would willingly perish in the flames to show they would not worship any other gods. Because of their faithfulness, the Lord spared them any injury when they were thrown into the fire. These men not only prepared themselves for this moment but kept the proper perspective in testifying to the King with their actions.

We can plan and prepare for the future, but change can still catch us off guard in unexpected ways. In these moments, we may be required to push through and persevere. As a sports fan, I love watching college basketball. The culminating event for college basketball is March Madness. A tournament with the 68 best college teams in the country. I have watched this tournament with excitement every year since I was a kid. They rank each team in this tournament based on how they performed during the regular season. The best teams are ranked as a No. 1 seed, the last teams in the tournament are a No. 16 seed. Each year the No. 1 seeds play the No. 16 seeds in a David vs. Goliath-type matchup. I love the underdog and continually root for one of these No. 16 seeds to knock off the top seed, but it had never happened. Not in the first 135 tries did a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed. But finally, in 2018, the unthinkable happened. I watched in awe as the unknown University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers knocked off the top-seeded University of Virginia Cavaliers. I was so excited and loved watching this underdog team celebrate on the court. Then they turned the camera to the Virginia players as they stood there in shock, not knowing what to do. Some of them cried as their hopes to win March Madness were dashed in the first round. I felt bad for this team and wondered how they could come back from such a demoralizing defeat the next season. After the game, reporters asked the Virginia coach, Tony Bennett, how he felt about this historic loss and what it would mean to his team to be the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. He was very humble in his responses and did not make excuses about this difficult loss. He chose to look back on all of the successes his team had that season and not dwell on that painful defeat. He knew his team was resilient and could bounce back in the next season.

Many of the players on that team could have left college and gone to play basketball professionally, but they decided to come back and try to redeem themselves. They knew it would not be easy, but they had learned from their difficult loss the previous year. Virginia had another great season in 2019 and again reached March Madness as a No. 1 seed. They were overwhelming favorites to win their first game, but once again found themselves trailing by a large margin. This time, they were able to turn things around and avoid another historic loss. This gave them confidence that they could keep going. The next two games were not easy, but Virginia leaned on the lessons they had learned in previous defeats and won both games. The next game in the round of eight, they had to make a comeback and even needed a buzzer-beating shot to force overtime. They would win that game in overtime to advance to the Final Four of the tournament. In their semifinal game, they escaped with a 1-point victory in the last seconds. In the national championship game, they again pulled out a victory in overtime. It was a remarkable turnaround for this team. After suffering one of the most humiliating losses in college basketball history, they came all the way back the next season to win the first national championship in their school’s history! Their coach was asked after the game how they were able to turn things around from the previous year. He mentioned that the team had used last year’s loss as motivation to practice hard and get better. He also said the following about his team and what they learned, “If you learn to use it right, the adversity, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way” (5). This is a quote that President Kusch also mentioned in his 2019 commencement address. Coach Bennett’s team had faced adversity and he credited that adversity as being the key to their championship season. They persevered as a team to overcome and reach new heights.

In the scriptures, we can look to Job to understand more about patience and perseverance. Job was a very blessed and righteous man. He sought to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Later on, he lost everything, including his property and his family. Yet, he did not blame the Lord for these awful events in his life. Instead, he chose to be grateful for what he had by stating, “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (6). Job had an incredibly humble attitude and was always willing to submit to the will of the Lord. It was not always easy for him and he sometimes questioned why he was suffering so much. In the end, he endured it well and received even greater blessings. If we can also persevere and do our part, Jesus Christ will be with us along our journey. Elder Holland said, “The Savior wept and bled and died for you. He has given everything for your happiness and salvation. He certainly is not going to withhold help from you now!” (7) The Lord wants to help us, but we must be humble enough to petition his help.

One thing I have really enjoyed about having at-home church is the opportunity to sing more primary songs with my wife and three daughters. The primary songs are simple and so powerful. I would like to close with the lyrics from my girls’ current favorite primary song titled, “I Will Be What I Believe.”

Living in this world with change all around

But with the prophets’ words, I’ll stand on solid ground

Even though it’s still hard, with questions that arise

Everyday I will say

I’ll have faith like brother Joseph and the strength of the pioneers

I’ll be brave as a stripling warrior and like Nephi persevere

I will spread God’s love to all I know and serve

I will plead with my Father on my knees, I will be what I believe (8)

My prayer is that we can all heed the words of this song and “be what we believe” and use our faith to deal with any change that may come our way. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. “Opening Message”, by President Russell M. Nelson. General Conference, April 2020. 

2. “The Treacherous Race to the South Pole”, by Evan Andrews. January 17, 2017. https://www.history.com/news/the-treacherous-race-to-the-south-pole  

3. “Why the British Were Doomed to Lose the Race to the South Pole”, by Stephanie Warren. December 14, 2011. https://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a7376/why-the-british-were-doomed-to-lose-the-race-to-the-south-pole-6617203/  

4. Daniel 3:17-18 

5. “It Took Virginia Coach Tony Bennett 1 Sentence to Explain His Team’s Amazing Comeback”, by Justin Barison. April 9, 2019. https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/this-is-quote-virginia-coach-tony-bennett-has-repeated-all-season-it-just-helped-cavaliers-win-their-first-championship.html  

6. Job 1:21 

7. “Sanctify Yourselves”, by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. General Conference, October 2000. 

8. “I Will Be What I Believe”, by Blake Gillette. http://www.blakegillettemusic.com/  

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