A little more than 50 years ago, Elder Neil L. Andersen returned to his family’s small dairy farm in Idaho after completing his mission to France.
“Milking the cows morning and night, I realized how much I needed to get an education,” Elder Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recalled during a Brigham Young University devotional on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
Young Elder Andersen borrowed money, found a job and started classes at BYU. About a year later, he met Kathy Williams. “We had hopes and dreams, and we made plans for our future together.”
A year after that, the two were married in the Salt Lake Temple, now almost 48 years ago.
In speaking to a packed arena in the Marriott Center on the Provo, Utah, campus on Tuesday, Elder Andersen asked students:
“What are your hopes and plans for your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in the next 50 years? Looking back 50 years later, will your faith in the Savior be the most powerful force that moved you forward? How will you withstand the temptations and pressures that seek to diminish your faith in Jesus Christ? If the Savior has not returned, how will you keep the flame of your faith burning brightly for the next five decades?”
Speaking from his own experience, the Apostle shared six ways individuals can strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ throughout their lives.
Elder Andersen assured students, “If you are determined to be a disciple of Jesus Christ all the days of your life, you will be, and you will have remarkable blessings that will be yours.”
Seated on the stage with Elder Andersen during the devotional were his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, and several BYU students who contributed personal examples and testimonies of principles discussed throughout his address.
1. Remember that within each individual is a yearning to have a deep relationship or eternal connection with Heavenly Father
Two weeks ago, Damar Hamlin fell to the ground, seemingly lifeless, during an NFL football game. As an ambulance rushed him to the hospital, something unexpected happened. “These seemingly invincible football players so strong and confident only a few moments before, began kneeling on the playing field,” Elder Andersen related.
The entire Buffalo Bills team knelt on the field and prayed for their teammate.
“While many people do not always speak openly of their faith in God, they very naturally believe in God, and in times of crisis, their prayers and hopes ascend to God,” Elder Andersen said. “We are so very grateful for the miracle of Damar Hamlin’s recovery.”
Prayer is vital to faith in Jesus Christ. “If you feel your faith diminishing, pray more sincerely and more frequently,” he said.
2. ‘Live your life with hope in Christ’
Elder Andersen referenced the talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Patricia Holland a week ago during the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults about hope. Elder Holland taught, “Accompanying that bright hope will be the undeniable whisper that God loves you, that Christ is your Advocate, that the gospel is true. Its brightness will remind you that in the gospel there is always, every day, a new chance, a new life, a new year. Because of Christ’s gift, the best things in life are ours.”
To keep a brightness of hope, individuals must be right before the Lord, Elder Andersen continued. “We’re not perfect, and we all need to follow President [Russell M.] Nelson’s counsel about daily efforts to change, to repent.”
President Nelson taught, “Hope emanates from the Lord ... . Only with an eternal perspective of God’s great plan of happiness can we ever find a more excellent hope. … Have you heard the old statement that ‘hope springs eternal’? It can only be true if that hope springs from Him who is eternal.”
3. ‘Keep your spirit open to seeing the hand of the Lord in your daily life’
Regarding this principle, BYU student Grettel Garcia spoke of acknowledging and looking for blessings. “Your testimony grows as you try to look for God and for our Savior in your everyday life, in the little things.”
Jada Brown shared her love for a painting titled “Hand in Hand” which depicts a little girl walking hand in hand with the Savior. “It always helps me visualize that there is that loving, just, merciful, all-knowing, perfect God and Savior and the Holy Spirit that love us and walking right along side us.”
Elder Andersen shared the experience of President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, who determined as a young father to record a few lines every day how the Lord was blessing his life. As he kept at it, President Eyring said, he began to see evidence of what God had done for him or his family that he had not recognized in the busy moments of the day.
“Consider following President Eyring’s example,” Elder Andersen told students. “Some of your experiences will be small and simple, but others will stay in your righteous mind forever.”
4. ‘Embrace the gifts and protections of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’
Someone might ask, “Can’t I be a disciple of Jesus Christ and not be a participating member of the Church?”
Once members of the Church have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, they are changed forever, Elder Andersen said. “We become the ‘children of the covenant,’ and our souls need the truths of the restored gospel, the priesthood and ordinances that follow, the power of the Book of Mormon, and the safety that comes from prophets and apostles.”
Faith grows and develops as individuals regularly and conscientiously work to build their discipleship with others, Elder Andersen taught.
BYU student Micah Johnson told of an analogy he learned that likened going to church and sharing testimony and truth with others to the coals within a fire.
“Going to church, continuing to take the sacrament, to find ways to serve others, to be around others, to bear your testimony, those are all ways you can be firmly planted within the flame of the gospel so that you are burning bright,” Johnson said.
Elder Andersen shared a quote by President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, who taught, “Members who forgo Church attendance and rely only on individual spirituality separate themselves from these gospel essentials: the power and blessings of the priesthood, the fulness of restored doctrine, and the motivations and opportunities to apply that doctrine.”
The power and blessings of the priesthood, including those found in the temple, are essential. “The endowment gives us more clarity to the difficulties and the temptations before us. In the temple we quietly ponder why we are here upon the earth and the power and glory of our Savior in making our return to our Heavenly Father possible,” Elder Andersen said.
Even though taking the time can be a sacrifice, temple attendance can provide peace, shared BYU student Jessie Ebert. “The temple is something that I have tried to prioritize as my No. 1 because I know that when I do that, everything else works out.”
5. ‘Consider diminishing the distractions and magnifying the good’
The world is full of information and influences — entertainment, social media, the internet, philosophies from every direction.
“As we seek to grow our faith, we will need to do our very best to diminish those things that weaken our judgment and our faith, and to conscientiously magnify those things that build our character and strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ,” Elder Andersen advised.
Claire Hadlock said it is important to go to the right sources when an individual has questions. “I’ve seen so many people who go to wrong sources. They go to social media, or they go to people who don’t believe in the Church and that can totally destroy their faith. But I feel like people who go to the prophets, they go to other people of faith, and that can end up strengthening their faith when they feel like they’re slipping.”
For Macee Pickup, social media can also be a tool for good as she tries to fill her feed with uplifting quotes and insights or share messages with people, she said. “That’s a way of ministering and that’s a way of using technology and social media for good. That’s the way Heavenly Father desires us to use it — to crowd out all of the noise and focus on the good.”
6. Realize that there will be tests in life
Many trials come not because of anything an individual did or didn’t do. “[Trials] just come,” Elder Andersen said. “Life is that way. The Savior said that His Father ‘maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust’” (Matthew 9:45).
Hadlock related how her parents divorced when she was younger, which tested her faith. However, that experience also helped her better understand the Savior’s Atonement. “Through this experience I realized that Christ overcame everything and He overcame all of our pain and all of our suffering and He gave me so much peace through this experience.”
There is no need to be fearful about the tests of life, Elder Andersen said. “As your faith in Jesus Christ is firm, the tests of mortality will shape your eternal destiny.”
Faith in Jesus Christ will bring assurance in choices, happiness in good times and in challenges, and peace in knowing one’s eternal destiny. “Remember, there is a power that can cause those things to happen that need to happen, and that power comes from your faith in Jesus Christ.”
As an Apostle of the Lord, Elder Andersen blessed students to feel the Savior’s hands reaching out as they reach out to Him. “I bless you as you keep Him central in your life, all will be well.”