Life is full of opportunities for spiritual growth, no matter if it is in times of peace or war, economic boom or depression, enlightenment or confusion, or in the midst of a pandemic. Being able to recognize those opportunities means being better able to take advantage of them.
“In pursuing this course, we always have access to heaven’s help through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” said Elder Michael John U. Teh, General Authority Seventy, during a BYU–Hawaii devotional held in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii, on Feb. 15. He was joined by his wife, Sister Grace Teh.
Heaven’s help comes because of Jesus Christ. “It comes in a myriad of ways, but mostly through the abiding influence of the Holy Ghost whose mission it is to teach, testify, comfort, guide and warn,” said Elder Teh.
“When we receive heaven’s help, it does not mean that we will be spared from difficulty or suffering. Neither will it take away the need for us to exert effort, work hard and use our faculties. But we can be assured that we will be sustained, buoyed up, comforted, find peace and receive strength.”
Elder Teh focused on three things each person needs to do in order to receive heaven’s help.
Trust in the Lord
For Elder Teh, trusting in the Lord means putting his life in His hands. “I imagine myself as clay in the hands of a master potter. Not just any clay — it has to be malleable and moist, not hard and dry,” he said. “If we trust God, we allow Him to direct our lives and mold us into becoming the kind of men and women that we can and ought to become.”
Jesus Christ set the perfect example for each person, saying, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).
Faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ begins with trusting Them, Elder Teh said. “If we do, then the faith in Jesus Christ we will develop is the kind that becomes a principle of action and power in our lives.”
God has a perfect plan for each of His children. “He knows us intimately and definitely better than we know ourselves,” Elder Teh said. “He sees us not only for who we are now but who we are capable of becoming.”
Obey God’s commandments
In 1 Samuel 15 is an account of King Saul disobeying the Lord. He had been commanded by the prophet Samuel to destroy the Amalekites and spare nothing, including the animals. However, Saul spared the king’s life and the best of his sheep and oxen.
When Samuel confronted Saul about his disobedience, he blamed his people for saving the sheep and oxen, then justified himself saying he was going to sacrifice them to the Lord.
Samuel then rebuked him, saying, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).
In contrast, Adam and Eve obeyed God’s commandment to offer sacrifice even though they didn’t understand the reason why. When asked why he did so, Adam said, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me” (Moses 5:6).
Elder Teh said: “Our first parents understood what it means to obey. As we strive to become more obedient, it will be well for us to pay more attention to the phrase, ‘save the Lord commanded me.’ Then, resolve to obey with joy and not with constraint.”
Follow the Prophet
The Lord knows that there will always be some of His children who find it difficult to follow His prophet, Elder Teh said. When Joseph Smith was called as a prophet to open this dispensation, He gave the admonition and promise found in Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-6: “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
“For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
“For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.”
Still, there were many who did not accept Joseph Smith or those called as prophets after him. Even today, the voices of the world are intent on discrediting the Lord’s servants, Elder Teh said.
“The adversary knows that if the voice of the prophet is left unheeded, he will have power over the people. He will have much success in persuading people to either run in place on the covenant path or actually get off of it.”
Elder Teh bore his witness that there is a living prophet on the earth today, President Russell M. Nelson. “He has been prepared and preserved by the hand of the Lord for such a time as this,” he said.
He invited listeners to listen to the counsel that President Nelson has given during the last four years “and find a pattern for what he is trying to teach us.” He hoped “that it will stir our hearts and awaken a stronger desire to heed his words.”
In closing, Elder Teh bore his witness that “because of Jesus Christ, heaven’s help is always within our reach.”
Knowing God leads to eternal life
Having lived outside of the Philippines for many years, there are many things that Sister Teh misses about her home. While driving from Honolulu to Laie with her husband on this assignment to BYU–Hawaii, seeing the Acacia trees, mango trees, palm trees, coconut trees, bamboo, banana plants, bromeliads, taro, birds of paradise and all sorts of other vegetation reminded her of the Philippines. “I just started to feel that I missed home. Even the chickens and the roosters crossing the street reminded me of home,” she said.
“But in reality, my real home, our real home, is with our heavenly parents. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ, His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the closest to being home for me, and for all of us at this time.”
She quoted John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
“How does knowing God equal to eternal life?” she asked. “I realized that one of the ways I can get to know God is through the scriptures, that I really need to develop a love for it.”
She did this by trying different techniques for reading the scriptures, because just reading them from cover to cover often puts her to sleep.
Sister Teh decided to start by overcoming a weakness of hers, in particular, anger. “And so, I read all the scriptures pertaining to anger and how God feels about anger.” She came to understand how God feels about and looks at anger. Knowing “that he’s not happy about it made me quickly decide to overcome that weakness,” and made it easier for her to be patient with herself and others.
“My invitation this morning is for us to discover for ourselves how knowing Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ would lead us to gaining eternal life.”