Elder Wakolo teaches 3 doctrinal truths that help give strength, peace during life’s trials
Despite individual or family circumstances, each person is “dear to the heart of the Good Shepherd,” Elder Wakolo teaches at BYU–Hawaii devotional
Ruth and Lee Hall first met at an institute choir group activity in 1998. Eight months later, in December that same year, they were married.
But after less than a year, Ruth Hall became ill with symptoms that dozens of doctor visits and tests could not resolve. In 2001, she was finally diagnosed with an incurable condition called gastroparesis, or a paralyzed stomach.
The Halls’ lives changed dramatically. Due to the lack of nutrition caused by her condition, Ruth Hall became bedridden, has a weakened immune system and is unable to bear children. And Lee Hall has become her caretaker while also fulfilling Church callings, such as bishop and later stake president.
Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, General Authority Seventy, met and stayed with the couple while on assignment to their stake in Utah in 2018. Sharing their story during a BYU–Hawaii devotional on Tuesday, Sept. 20, he explained how the Halls “have personally witnessed the Lord’s tender mercies. ...
“Lee and Ruth feel in no other way could they have received some of their blessings had it not been for this illness, recognizing the tender mercies along the way, never feeling alone, trusting and knowing that God has a plan,” he said. “They constantly rely on the Lord because they cannot do this alone.”
The Halls had come to know and understand that the Lord will strengthen them and that they are “always dear to the heart of the Good Shepherd.”
In his devotional address, Elder Wakolo noted that those in attendance are possibly suffering from many other similar and difficult trials.
“Today I might be speaking to someone who has lost a child, or experienced a miscarriage, or may never have a child of their own in this life, one who may have an estranged relationship, or lost a loved one, someone who has received a ‘Dear John’ letter, or who is struggling with his or her calling, mental or physical health issues, or who struggles with how to use time wisely, study effectively or is beginning to ask the Lord, ‘Why me?’ ... Life throws curveballs all the time. But we shouldn’t be distracted by focusing too much on them.”
Elder Wakolo then shared three doctrinal truths and principles that will help anyone in such a circumstance.
1. ‘Remember who you are’
“We are ... children of God; He is the Father of our spirits; we are His offspring,” Elder Wakolo said. “As a child of God, you are always dear to the heart of the Good Shepherd. I know that it is true.”
He then quoted President Russell M. Nelson’s May 15 address to young adults titled “Choices for Eternity”: “[No] identifier should displace, replace or take priority over these three enduring designations: ‘child of God,’ ‘child of the covenant,’ and ‘disciple of Jesus Christ.’”
Remembering these identifiers will help each person keep the commandments out of love for God rather than fear of the consequences of failing to do so, Elder Wakolo said.
2. ‘Remember your name and the family whom you represent’
Noting the financial struggles that many students’ families face, Elder Wakolo invited them to work hard and “leave this BYU–Hawaii campus with success and set a standard for your siblings, cousins and future generations that they will always remember.”
He asked the audience to ponder what their individual responses would be if their family asked what they had done with their family names.
3. ‘Always have an eternal perspective’
Elder Wakolo taught that mortal experiences should be considered as education towards exaltation, quoting Alma 34:32: “For behold, this life is the time to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for me to perform their labors.”
He recounted the life of the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni, whose father was killed and “remained alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of his people who were gone.” Moroni had no friends or kinsfolk left alive.
“Even with the weight of discouragements, lack of resources, anxiety and sorrows, Moroni understood his purpose and what he needed to accomplish,” Elder Wakolo said. “He and his father Mormon saw well beyond their generations.” Thanks to Mormon’s and Moroni’s efforts, the Book of Mormon exists to bless God’s children in the latter days.
Even if one’s trials are of little consequence in comparison, “The important lesson is for us to see experiences as learning opportunities towards exaltation,” Elder Wakolo said.
Seeking, following revelation
After introducing her husband at the beginning of the devotional, Sister Anita Wakolo shared a family story.
As a General Authority Seventy, Elder Wakolo was assigned to serve in the Philippines. In December 2020, Elder and Sister Wakolo, as well as their daughter, had travel
ed to Hawaii to spend Christmas and New Year’s Day on holiday there.
A few days before they were to check out of their hotel, they learned that the Philippines government issued a notice banning travelers from 19 countries from entering the country due to heightened risk of COVID-19. “We were happy that the U.S. was not included in the list,” Sister Wakolo said.
But Elder Wakolo soon had a strong feeling that the U.S. would soon be added to that list. “He shared his feelings with me, and of course we knelt in prayer,” Sister Wakolo said. “We prayed, and it was made very clear to us to leave immediately and return to the beautiful Philippines.”
This wasn’t a convenient decision for the Wakolos as they still had nine days left before their schedule required them to return to the Philippines. Their daughter suggested that she and her mother stay in Hawaii for the remaining days while Elder Wakolo went on the the Philippines. They felt at peace with this idea, and then took it to the Lord in prayer again.
After the prayer, their daughter said, “Dad and Mom, I want to support you two, and if it is the answer for us to go, let’s do it.”
They soon changed their flights and left Hawaii on Dec. 30, arrived in Manilla on the 31st, and read an announcement that night that the list of countries banned from entering the Philippines now included the United States as of Jan. 1, 2021, at 1 a.m.
Sister Wakolo shared a few of the lessons she and her family learned from this experience:
“1. When you receive promptings and revelation, act on it even if it is not convenient.
“2. When there are promptings inspired by the Holy Ghost for you to act, just do it.
“3. When the Lord intervenes, it is not a disruption, but it is a reassurance that we are dear to His heart.”