From his early childhood, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf has loved adventure stories, noting that when the main character has a problem, “the bigger the problem, the more compelling the story.”
As challenges worsen the hero may start to feel that he or she will never overcome them. But then a trusted person or a source of wisdom appears to help the hero gain enough knowledge and insight to formulate a new plan to overcome his or her difficulties.
Elder Uchtdorf can list several literary examples: Bilbo Baggins had Gandalf to help him slay a dragon; Obi Wan Kenobi helped Luke Skywalker learn how to master the Force and defeat the Death Star; Anne of Green Gables had Marilla and Matthew who loved her and guided her; and Hermione Granger and Harry Potter had caring teachers at Hogwarts to help them learn what they needed to do to overcome He Who Must Not Be Named.
“And now, I come to you,” Elder Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told BYU-Pathway students and faculty in an online devotional broadcast Tuesday, July 14. “Whether you feel like a hero or not, you are one. You are the hero of your own life’s story.”
In addressing students enrolled in the Church’s online university — who are located all over the world — Elder Uchtdorf acknowledged the “interesting” times the world is currently experiencing.
“We live in times where the pages of history are anything but empty. COVID-19 is forcing us to find and use different ways of communication.”
Because most of the learning for BYU-Pathway happens at home over the Internet, “I am pleased to say the Church’s Pathway program is way ahead of its time,” he said.
Still, some may wonder if their dreams will ever become reality. “I understand what you are feeling,” he said.
As a young man, Elder Uchtdorf would stand at the fence of the international airport to watch the takeoffs and landings of airplanes. “How I wanted to be in the cockpit of one of those impressive airplanes and feel the thrill of rising up from the ground, climbing above the clouds, and traveling unto new horizons.”
However, young Dieter was not born into wealth. As a two-time refugee, he would work in his family’s laundry business while other children played with their friends.
If the Church leader and former professional pilot could go back and talk to that young boy at the fence, he would say, “It’s not going to be easy, but you can do it. You will be all right.
“The journey will be filled with challenges, Dieter. But the struggle itself will transform you into the person you want to be. Work hard. Be consistent. Focus on the things you can change, not so much on the things you cannot change. Have faith. Have hope. Trust in God. Know that if you do your part, things will work out.”
He added to his listeners: “This is also my advice to you today.”
Perhaps some of the students listening are standing before a proverbial fence of his or her own, yearning for something he or she wants to become, Elder Uchtdorf said. “At times, you may feel alone – but you are not.
“You are a child of God. He is your Heavenly Father. He loves you and is only a prayer away. You have Jesus Christ. The effects of His atonement or sacrifice are always available to take away the pain and loneliness of mistakes. You have caring bishops and other Church leaders, and your ward family who will guide and help you.”
Students also have BYU-Pathway, he added. The online Church education program can be “an informed guide as you set out on your own grand adventure to slay your own dragon.”
No matter how far away a destination feels, Elder Uchtdorf assured students, “if you continue to place one foot in front of the other and strive each day to follow your plan, things will work out and you will reach your goals.
“You will certainly find surprises and unexpected challenges during your adventure, but those are the things that make a successful story — your life story. And, especially, remember that if you trust in the Lord, learn of Him, have faith in Him, He will direct your path.”
Calling his listeners “fellow travelers on the road of this great adventure of mortality,” Elder Uchtdorf told them, “Do not be discouraged. Do not give up. The future is bright.”
No matter how hard the path may seem today, “God will guide you as you draw near to Him.”
Elder Uchtdorf encouraged his listeners to allow BYU-Pathway to be a guide and to seek the advice and help of advisers, Church leaders and ward family.
“Have faith in God and choose His way. And one day, you will look back and know that you were indeed watched over and loved by your Heavenly Father. God was, and always will be with you.”
Read the full text of his speech here.