BYU professor asks, 'How can we keep our spiritual lifeblood flowing?'

As a young boy living on a cattle ranch in northwestern Wyoming, Steven Shumway went on a horseback ride with his father.

Each year after the baby calves were born, the cattle was rounded up and taken to a pasture area in the mountains behind Shumway's grandfather's home.

One year, the freezing temperatures and snow had come early, and the young boy and his father were going to bring the cattle back to a lower pasture area. The father and son duo weren't able to locate the herd until late that afternoon, and by then the sun was going down. The temperature dropped dramatically and a big windstorm came in, making an already slow process even worse.

"I just put my horse behind my father's horse and followed him, trusting that he knew the way home," Shumway told BYU students at their weekly devotional in the De Jong Concert Hall on June 26.

Suddenly, his father stopped his horse and told him, "Steven, you need to get off your horse right now — we need to start walking!"

The idea seemed strange and extremely counterintuitive to the boy, but as he got off the horse he realized that his feet had become partially frozen and they needed to walk in order to get the blood circulating again.

Shumway, now a professor of technology and engineering at BYU, used the story to illustrate the importance of maintaining the influence of the Holy Ghost as the "lifeblood of spiritual strength."

Getting off his horse and walking in the snow was the last thing Shumway wanted to do, but it was what he needed most.

"Throughout my life, this has been a re-occuring theme," he said. "There have been times when I have not felt like praying, but prayer was exactly what I needed. There have been times when I have not felt like attending specific church meetings, only to discover that the counsel given in those meetings was exactly what I needed to hear."

Shumway asked students to ponder the question, "How can we keep our spiritual lifeblood flowing so that we will have the strength and the ability to continue our journey to return again to be with the Savior and our Heavenly Father?"

In addition to scripture study, prayer and regular church attendance, service is one of the best ways to become spiritually strengthened, Shumway said. The focus on ministering is an example of how beneficial service is for everyone, he said.

"While the obvious outcome of service is to help and comfort those with whom we associate, perhaps just as important is the idea that we need the benefits of actively serving those around us and that perhaps ministering will provide us with the spiritual strength that will be needed in the increasingly difficult times we know are coming," he said.

Shumway referenced Elder Neil L. Andersen's April 10 BYU devotional speech where Elder Andersen defined ministering.

In the speech, Elder Andersen said individuals should focus on providing services to those around them, looking to Christ's ministry — where He served his friends and family — as an example.

Elder Andersen also taught that engaging in service should include some spiritual component that helps those served come closer to Christ.

There may be "natural" times in our lives when it's more desirable to "coast a little" when it comes to service and responsibilities, Shumway said.

Some of those times may include when one has just concluded a major Church calling or full-time missionary service. Another time may also be while attending university or college and feeling the pressures of working and studying, Shumway said.

"While those feelings may be 'natural,' in terms of world philosophy, we learn in the scriptures that the ways of the natural man are not the Lord's ways," Shumway told students.

As far as Shumway can tell, there's "no retirement in the Lord's system," and he encouraged students to fill their lives with active service throughout school and beyond graduation.

Just like his feet began to freeze while on the horse, Shumway said there may be times where life feels "spiritually frozen." Things may seem hopeless or lost, but it's possible to regain the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

"Slowly the Spirit refuses to dwell with us, and in a sense we become spiritually frozen," Shumway said.

Destructive influences such as drugs, alcohol, pornography, smoking, immorality and even lax church attendance or excessive gaming are tools Satan uses to deceive us, Shumway warned.

"If we persist in our poor choices, they can lead to addictions and a perceived loss of agency until, it would seem, it is impossible for us to overcome these destructive influences or to remove them from our lives," Shumway said.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to repent and regain the companionship of the Holy Ghost, Shumway reminded. He turned to the scriptures and relayed the story of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon.

"Just when it seemed impossible for him to repent, his thoughts were led by the Spirit back to what his father had taught him about the Savior and the Atonement, and he was delivered from his despair," Shumway shared.

Being "spiritually frozen" is not the end, he continued.

"If we listen to the spirit, repent and allow [Christ] to become part of our lives through the power of the Atonement — if we get off the horse and walk awhile — the circulation of the Spirit will once again begin to flow," he said.

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