President Oaks speaks on dealing with anxiety, stress, at BYU-Hawaii devotional

Feeling impressed to speak on anxiety and living in stressful times, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, told BYU-Hawaii students the most reliable prevention of anxiety in eternal terms is the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Speaking during a devotional on June 11, President Oaks was joined by his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, and Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy and commissioner of Church Education, and his wife, Sister Susan Clark.

Studies have shown a nationwide increase over in the number of college students seeking mental health services, with anxiety as a great concern. The same increases have been seen in the Church Education System, President Oaks said, with a growth of 70 percent in the last eight years. The most frequent concerns have been anxiety, depression and relationship problems.

While there is no consensus as to what has caused the nationwide increase in the need for counseling, one suggested cause is an increased use of technology. Technology — specifically social media — allows viewers to compare their overall lives to the highs of their peers.

“Such [person-to-person] comparisons are contrary to the scripture teaching that we are not required to run faster than we have strength,” President Oaks said. “Our loving Savior will judge us individually, not according to the performance of our peers.”

President Dallin H. Oaks speaks during a BYU-Hawaii devotional on June 11, 2019.
President Dallin H. Oaks speaks during a BYU-Hawaii devotional on June 11, 2019. Credit: Trisha Ann Panzo, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Hawaii

No matter the uncertainties about the causes of anxiety, the gospel gives hope and assurance, as well as perspective to understand the purpose of life and the role of opposition.

“There is great power in the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” President Oaks said. “Our unshakable faith in that doctrine guides our steps. It enlightens our minds and empowers our actions.”

These are stressful times, he said, recognizing that young people are facing financial difficulties, broken families and “the challenge of living in a godless and increasingly amoral generation.”

One of the major causes of cultural deterioration is the loss of belief in absolutes, President Oaks said.

“Removed from their foundation of an absolute right and wrong, ethics and legalities have been unable to hold back the tide of immoral conduct that now threatens to engulf us.”

Because of this, it is even more important today that young people look forward to marriage and not fear it, he said. Understandably, some who were raised in broken homes will be afraid of marriage, “but they can be overcome by our faith in God and His plan, and the Atonement of His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. …

“In these days — as in many stressful times in the past — young people should go forward with optimism and prepare for a long and productive life. Marry. Have children. Get an education. Have faith.”

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s plan, commandments, ordinances and covenants “lead us to the greatest happiness and joy in this life and in the life to come,” President Oaks said.

Sister Kristen Oaks, right, a great-granddaughter of President Joseph F. Smith, is joined by Tanaya Ale, a great-great-great-granddaughter of Ma Mahuhii, a Hawaiian woman who nursed President Smith back to health when he fell seriously ill in Hawaii as a 15-year-old starting what would be a four-year mission there. Orphaned following the 1844 martyrdom death of his father, Hyrum Smith, and the passing of his mother, Mary Fielding Smith, two years before his mission, the young Joseph F. Smith considered Mahuhii his “second mother” for her loving care. Bishop Charles W. Nibley recounted witnessing a tender reunion years later in accompanying President Smith on a visit to the islands: “I noticed a poor, old, blind woman tottering under the weight of about 90 years being led \[into the meeting house where the Saints were gathering to greet President Joseph F. Smith\]. She had a few choice bananas in her hand. It was her all–her offering. She was calling ‘Iosepa, Iosepa!’ Instantly, when he saw her, he ran to her and clasped her in his arms, hugged her, and kissed her over and over again, patting her on the head saying, ‘Momma, Momma, my dear old Momma!’ And with tears streaming down his cheeks he turned to me and said, ‘Charley, she nursed me when I was a boy, sick and without anyone to care for me. She took me in and was a mother to me!’ ” \[From “The Life of Joseph F. Smith,” Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 185-86\]
Sister Kristen Oaks, right, a great-granddaughter of President Joseph F. Smith, is joined by Tanaya Ale, a great-great-great-granddaughter of Ma Mahuhii, a Hawaiian woman who nursed President Smith back to health when he fell seriously ill in Hawaii as a 15-year-old starting what would be a four-year mission there. Orphaned following the 1844 martyrdom death of his father, Hyrum Smith, and the passing of his mother, Mary Fielding Smith, two years before his mission, the young Joseph F. Smith considered Mahuhii his “second mother” for her loving care. Bishop Charles W. Nibley recounted witnessing a tender reunion years later in accompanying President Smith on a visit to the islands: “I noticed a poor, old, blind woman tottering under the weight of about 90 years being led \[into the meeting house where the Saints were gathering to greet President Joseph F. Smith\]. She had a few choice bananas in her hand. It was her all–her offering. She was calling ‘Iosepa, Iosepa!’ Instantly, when he saw her, he ran to her and clasped her in his arms, hugged her, and kissed her over and over again, patting her on the head saying, ‘Momma, Momma, my dear old Momma!’ And with tears streaming down his cheeks he turned to me and said, ‘Charley, she nursed me when I was a boy, sick and without anyone to care for me. She took me in and was a mother to me!’ ” \[From “The Life of Joseph F. Smith,” Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 185-86\] Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Sister Oaks shared lessons she had learned. “Know personal peace and happiness are possible. Our earthly circumstances do not determine our peace or lack of it — true peace lies in our trust in our Heavenly Father and our love of our fellow man.”

She continued, “President Oaks and I were sent last year to visit Panama City in Florida — following a devastating hurricane. The area was in total chaos and everything appeared to be demolished. It was there that I learned beauty can grow from ashes and peace from destruction. Everyone had totally turned their hearts to Heavenly Father. Volunteers had come from adjoining stats, using their own funds, bringing their own food, water, supplies and tents to help. It was a place of complete sacrifice.

“As we left Panama City and returned home, a wave of emptiness swept over me. I had left chaos and returned to comfort. Both President Oaks and I realized the impact of total dependence on Heavenly Father and now we had returned to stuff. We had basked in His peace and we missed it.”

Sister Oaks added, “Draw close to Heavenly Father, depend on Him, trust Him and learn of Him in order to find peace.”

In his message, Elder Clark said now is a time for everyone to strengthen faith in Jesus Christ and deepen conversion to Him.

“We need to be lifelong gospel learners. The learning we need is learning of the whole soul: the mind, the heart and the immortal spirit. This is deep learning that increases our power to know and understand, to take effective righteous action, and become more and more like our Father in Heaven.”

Everyone is on Earth to become more knowledgeable, effective, useful, faithful and like Heavenly Father, Elder Clark said. “In fact, if we do not exercise our God-given power to learn and grow, we will lose power until we know and can do less and less.”

Students at BYU-Hawaii are immersed in the principles of the school’s learning framework, he said. Learning comes first through revelation and inspiration, then through systematic inquiry, and finally by acting with faith in Christ to teach one another.

President Dallin H. Oaks, center, arrives at the George Q. Cannon Activities Center with his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, and BYU-Hawaii President John S. Tanner, before a devotional on June 11, 2019.
President Dallin H. Oaks, center, arrives at the George Q. Cannon Activities Center with his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, and BYU-Hawaii President John S. Tanner, before a devotional on June 11, 2019. Credit: Trisha Ann Panzo, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Hawaii

“These principles work powerfully in any situation — at home, at work, in your community, at Church. If you keep your covenants and if your hearts and your minds are open to learning, diligent application of these principles will help you learn deeply with your whole soul, no matter what you’re trying to learn.”

Sister Clark shared an experience about learning how to love when she served as a Nursery leader. It was her favorite calling, but it didn’t begin that way. When called, she figured that she was well qualified because she majored in child development in college. “And so I determined to make it the best Nursery in the Church.”

The first three Sundays, she came home in tears. The children were rowdy and did not want to do what she had planned, and some of their parents had to take them away. She felt entirely out of her league.

Then, at the suggestion of her husband, she prayed about what to do. The answer she received: “Forget your lesson plans and love those children.”

The next Sunday, she greeted each child and told them something in order to make a tie with them individually.

The difference was amazing, she said.

From that experience, she learned that “in serving the Lord, when we accept callings, we need to serve on the frontier of that calling. We might approach a calling based on the knowledge that we already have … but the Lord wants us to serve on the frontier because that’s where He works with us to accomplish the things that He has in mind for us to accomplish.”