Against the backdrop of a painting of the Savior teaching His disciples, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified to a young adult audience that Jesus Christ is the source of peace and joy in a challenging world.
“Coming unto Him does not tie us down or limit our freedom,” he told Brigham Young University-Idaho students. “Rather, it gives us reason for firm hope and provides a solid anchor to our souls, giving us a lasting inner peace that we need to live in these days and find rest in Him. …
“I testify to you that as we rely upon the rock of salvation, the Savior of our souls, and act in faith on His invitation to come and find rest in Him, we will be strengthened to deal with our struggles, our weaknesses and our temptations, and He will increase our capacity to feel a consistent peace in every circumstance of our lives.”
Elder Soares and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, emphasized finding joy and peace through the Savior — especially amid adversity — in answering questions from a panel of students during a BYU-Idaho devotional on Sunday, May 16.
The devotional was broadcast from the Church Office Building lobby in Salt Lake City, attended by some 50 BYU-Idaho students who live in the Salt Lake area and are either currently taking online classes or are off track. BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring conducted the devotional; his wife, Sister Kelly Eyring, was also present.
Seeing trials through ‘the eyes of faith’
A student named Anna asked, “How can I make my prayers more meaningful when I am seeking answers or guidance in life?”
When struggling with a problem and not getting an answer, Sister Soares said, it is easy to ask, “What could be wrong?”
“It may be that you are not doing anything wrong,” she said. “It may be that you have not done the right thing long enough. And remember, we cannot force spiritual things.”
Sister Soares said she has learned to pray with gratitude and real intent and not become casual in her scripture study. “Our hearts cannot reach a God we do not know,” she said.
Elder and Sister Soares also answered questions about how to know if one’s career or personal aspirations are in line with God’s plan, how to stop worrying what the world thinks, how to help close friends who are slipping away from the Church and how to learn from life’s challenges.
“One of the great lessons I have learned in my life is to see trials through the eyes of faith,” Elder Soares said. “I have learned that healing comes, but in the Lord’s time and in His way. Without seeing our trials with the eyes of faith and trusting the Lord’s wisdom, it is difficult to endure our challenges.”
Elder Soares introduced two of his friends — BYU-Idaho students Yocley Ramon and Mason Powell — to share how they overcame personal challenges with the eyes of faith.
In a video clip, Ramon, an international relations major from Hendersonville, Tennessee, described how she strayed from the Church in her high school years. After attending various churches and seeking for answers, the emptiness she felt turned her to God. She prayed to know if the Church she grew up with and the Book of Mormon were true. Her answer came in feelings of peace, love and joy. She later served as a missionary in the Utah Provo Mission.
“Before, I was empty, I was lonely, and I didn’t have anyone to share that burden with or to carry that burden with me,” she said in the video. “But now I have it. I have Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ there with me all the time. And I don’t want to leave that ever again.”
Elder Soares asked Ramon, who joined the devotional via video call, how studying the Book of Mormon has continued to help her overcome her personal challenges.
“It’s given me so much peace and so much joy to be able to find those answers in the Book of Mormon,” Ramon said. She testified that those who have a desire to read the Book of Mormon and follow the Savior will feel it too.
Powell, a political science major from San Tan Valley, Arizona, found strength in the Savior as he worked through a traumatic brain injury in high school. Not being able to play contact sports, having to drop his Advanced Placement courses and struggling with his memory, “I was pretty upset with God,” he said in a video clip.
As Powell relied on the Lord and became involved in new activities with new friends, he said he began to “feel normal” again. He went on to serve in the Canada Edmonton Mission.
Elder Soares invited Powell, who was in the audience, to elaborate on how his challenges strengthened his determination to draw nearer to Christ.
“I feel that as I’ve gone through these different trials and different situations in my life, as I’ve learned to turn and look to the Savior, I’ve learned He is there and understands me,” Powell said. “I have gained a deeper relationship with Him. And I’ve gained that reliance on Him in all that I do.”
Draw near unto Him
Elder Soares concluded the devotional by promising students that as they turn to Christ and His doctrine in times of doubt, difficulty and confusion, “you will be blessed with the answers and the assurance we all need — answers that are specific and personal to all of us, individually.”
Quoting the Savior’s invitation to “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63), Elder Soares testified of several blessings that come to those who commit their faith and energy to drawing closer to Him — including understanding more fully who He really is; gaining a deep and abiding testimony of His love, life, example, Atonement and restored gospel; and understanding more clearly the answers to prayers.
“I invite all of us to align our lives with the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ so when calamities threaten us, we will feel the support of the Savior’s powerful arm,” Elder Soares declared.
By listening and heeding the still small voice of the Spirit, “we won’t deviate from the path that leads to the knowledge and power of the Savior in our life.”
“I pray that our hearts may be filled with the spirit of love, of patience, of kindness, of charity, of selflessness that come only from the Savior and that enriches our life and makes the world brighter and better,” he said.
Tony Cruz, a BYU-Idaho student in the audience from Mexico City, Mexico, said it has been difficult and lonely to take online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. “But this experience today made me realize, and feel again, that we’re not alone,” he said. “The Lord is always with us. And it makes me remember that I am part of a family.”
Dayana Martinez from Fresno, Texas, added that she felt the love of Christ through His Apostle during the devotional. “Even though sometimes we don’t even know how to ask the questions that we have in our souls, Christ knows the questions we can’t verbally articulate. And He speaks to our hearts,” she said.
Watch Elder and Sister Soares’ BYU-Idaho devotional at byui.edu/devotionals.