During the October 2014 general conference, Elder David F. Evans, General Authority Seventy, had the opportunity to pray at the beginning of the Sunday afternoon session. Before thousands of individuals both in the Conference Center and watching and listening worldwide, Elder Evans said that they were “so grateful for this opportunity to have our strength faithened.”
And just that fast, as he discovered when one of his former missionaries sent him a Facebook message later that day, he became a meme.
Soon after that, Elder Evans had a meeting at Church headquarters, which included Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Bednar told him that he should write a talk about what he prayed for. “The grammar is not correct,” the Apostle told him, “but the thought is right. Often it is our strength that needs to be ‘faithened’ in order for us to become what God has always intended.”
The devotional address Elder Evans gave at BYU-Hawaii on Tuesday, Sept. 25, is that very talk.
While looking to the audience of students gathered in the George Q. Cannon Activities Center, he said they possessed many strengths — intelligence, diligence, personal discipline in study, faith and others. “With each of these strengths comes the temptations to misuse the very gifts, or strengths, that God has provided,” Elder Evans said.
He focused on three ways to “faithen” their strengths.
Academic excellence and the achievement of financial and other goals can be accompanied by one of two responses, Elder Evans said. “(Either) an ever-increasing sense of gratitude for the blessings of God in our lives, or, in many cases, a sense of pride that ‘I have accomplished this,’ coupled with gradual separation from God and the Spirit.”
Far too often, an individual who has accomplished great things becomes convinced they are fully self-sufficient and did so without the blessings, assistance or guidance of God.
“If we are not careful to acknowledge God, have humility and provide service, the strengths of diligence, focus, education and accomplishment will come with the unintended consequence and cost of reduced empathy for and caring about others, excessive focus on personal development, and even selfishness," Elder Evans cautioned. "This life is about so much more than that.”
To resist the temptation to become selfish, Elder Evans said that one must follow the two great commandments: love God and to love one’s neighbor. This can be accomplished through ministering. The most important acts of ministry is to help others build and preserve faith.
“You can help a friend stay centered in the gospel and maintain or deepen their faith in the Savior and His restored gospel. You can be the friend who helps someone work through their personal questions about the Church or the gospel, all the while staying active, keeping their covenants, reading daily from the Book of Mormon and continuing to pray.”
2. Serve a mission
Elder Evans explained that this current generation is more focused on service to community and helping those in need than any other generation of which he is aware. As students, this is a time for them to learn to love God and their fellowman, and to keep God’s commandments.
“One of the Lord’s commandments is for able, worthy young men to qualify for the Melchezidek Priesthood, receive their endowment and then go out and serve God as one of the Lord’s missionaries,” Elder Evans said. Young women, while they do not have the same priesthood responsibility as the young men do to serve missions, have also been encouraged to contribute as missionaries.
“In order to accept the call to serve, you will need to add faith to your remarkable academic strengths and goals. You will need the faith to know that it is not just community service that you choose that is valued by the Lord,” Elder Evans said. “Rather, at this time of your life, you will need to be sufficiently humble to accept His call to serve somewhere in the world in the manner He chooses.”
To accept the call to serve, they will have to be willing to sacrifice some opportunities, he said. But, he added, “What I can promise you is that if you are faithful now and after your mission, God will reward your obedience, faith, preparation and work with a mission that will influence everything you do in life for good.”
3. Return home
Many students at BYU-Hawaii are from countries around the world. Attending a Church-owned school has offered them educational opportunities likely not available in their home countries.
“The Lord has given you these remarkable blessings so that you can learn and then return and build up His Church in that place where He gave you birth, culture, language and nationality,” Elder Evans explained.
There is a concern that some students have shared that if they return home, there will be no opportunities for them. Elder Evans met with several graduates of BYU-Hawaii who had completed their education and since returned home. In a series of four video clips he presented to the audience, Tserennyam Kukhbaatar from Mongolia, Jackie Chan from Hong Kong, Samnang Sea from Cambodia and Sesi Liningsih Suryono from Indonesia explained the difficulties of returning to their home countries to build their lives and families, and the reasons they did so.
“I have thought a lot about what I might say after listening to these wonderful graduates from BYU-Hawaii who have returned home,” Elder Evans said. “The only common motivation for reach of them was the impression of the Spirit that God wanted them to return home and help build His Church there.”
For each of these people, their strengths had to be “faithened” to make the commitment to return to their home countries. The same can be said for the current students of BYU-Hawaii, Elder Evans said.
“My testimony is that God, our Heavenly Father, who loves you, desires that you add faith to the gifts and strengths that He has given you and that you return home and there be gathered with others as you contribute to the building up of His Church and the spreading of the gospel in your country.”
With faith added to strengths, and as one chooses to follow God in all things, “I promise that He will lead you where you cannot see now, but He can,” Elder Evans testified. “As you look back on your life, you will be grateful to have been led by Him to do those things He has always known that you were meant to do. This will take faith — more faith — and more humility, but it will be wonderful.”