In the university’s opening devotional for the fall semester, BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring acknowledged the frustration felt by many students after exhibiting long suffering and patience during five semesters of pandemic-related disruption.
After outlining many of the safety protocols being instigated by the school for the upcoming semester — including the requirement of masks in campus buildings and encouraging students to be vaccinated — President Eyring offered praise for the faith, patience and optimism displayed by the campus community.
“Many of you have endured more than one semester of disappointment and hardship,” President Eyring said during his address on Tuesday, Sept. 14. “Despite the best efforts of yourself, your roommates, university teachers, leaders of the Church, and your family, this has been a character-building and often frustrating time. Thank you for your steadfastness.”
Waiting longer than one would choose is typical of life’s hopes, President Eyring said. “It is human nature to want straight, short paths to the realization of our dreams. However, our mortal existence is a divinely prepared opportunity to learn patience as we strive to improve.”
President Eyring pointed out that the term “wait” appears in the scriptures more than 160 times.
The scriptures, he continued, showcase many faithful, patient waiters, such as Elizabeth, who was in her old age when she bore John the Baptist, and Moroni, who was given the responsibility to safeguard the scriptural record.
President Eyring shared that on BYU-Idaho’s devotional discussion board, many students shared experiences of being patient through hardships and then realizing great blessings. One, Joseph Kemper, shared how it took 12 years after his mission to get married. “It wasn’t because I wasn’t dating or wanted to push off getting married; it’s just how things happened. I was dating as regularly as I could, hoping to get married,” Kemper wrote.
As the years passed he began to wonder if there was something wrong with him. “Thanks to a prompting of the Spirit, I had a wonderful realization. I was and am a temple-worthy and temple-attending member of the Church who is entitled to all the blessings God is ready to give. Then came the wonderful realization that God just had a different timeline in mind for me.”
In each case, there was divine purpose in the waiting, President Eyring said. For example, in the case of Mary and Elizabeth, “a miracle of both conception and patience was necessary to bring John and Jesus together as cousins of similar age and joint preachers of the gospel, two powerful prophetic witnesses for the Lord’s chosen people. The price of that, though, was the anguished hoping and waiting of Elizabeth and Zacharias.”
Patience and long suffering belief don’t come naturally to most, President Eyring said. The Apostle Thomas was valiant in the cause of the gospel, to the point of risking his life (see John 11). Yet, notwithstanding his zeal and bravery, Thomas later struggled to believe that the Savior had been resurrected following His death on the cross.
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In his own life, President Eyring said, he has sometimes struggled with skepticism. “We should take care to guard against pessimism. Our minds and hearts must bridle our fears and human instincts.”
Having a bias, or tendency, for patience and optimism is not just a way to feel happier. Despite the challenges of life, “the truth is that this world is getting better in many ways.”
The challenge to look on the brighter, truer side of things can be difficult, partly because the news tends to “emphasize negative events and unhappy people,” he said.
“Conversely, good news — such as kindness to family members, friends, and even strangers — is appreciated privately but rarely promoted publicly. The net effect is a tendency to see the world as generally competitive, selfish and filled with strife and ill will.”
The divine reality is that Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ have created a world which is pre-designed to provide an ideal learning environment for all of the children of God who accepted the Savior’s plan of happiness, President Eyring said. “You and I are blessed to be in a rich environment for developing individual capabilities and collaborating with other learners. There is no better time to be on Earth, with greater things to come.”
When faced with important decisions or “crises of confidence,” President Eyring encouraged his listeners to patiently wait for the Spirit’s direction.
“On my best days, I patiently wait for the Spirit’s promptings to act, seeking peace of mind and heart. In Luke 21:19 Jesus counsels, ‘in your patience possess ye your souls.’ Attempting to possess my soul gives me time to wait and see what heaven has in store,” President Eyring said.
Spiritual and intellectual insights builds with time and experience, he said, but throughout the process “the Holy Ghost can sooth and strengthen. As we stand in holy places, He can warm our hearts and clarify our minds.”
In conclusion, he testified, “As we stand patiently in holy places, we can indeed possess our souls.”
The first lady of BYU-Idaho, Sister Kelly Eyring, related an incident this past summer where as she and her family were hiking, her thoughts began to dwell on a bear incident that had occurred the year prior. Suddenly, a chipmunk scurried across the trail and Sister Eyring screamed.
“I had let my mind go to a place of concern and fear and so the very movement of the chipmunk created an out-of-proportion response. I wasn’t expecting the bushes to rustle and a little furry critter to cross my path,” she recalled.
While this fall semester is different than many were expecting, Sister Eyring said, “I know that worrying about what might happen, or even about what is happening, is not productive nor does it make me happy. It just makes me jumpy and afraid of every little thing that crosses my path.”
The best “bear spray” for thoughts is found in the injunction to “love God and love your neighbor.”
“We can show our love of God by trying to be more like Him,” Sister Eyring said. “We can love each other better this semester. We can give our roommates, spouses, and children more love and patience. We can keep our thoughts very busy with these two actionable ideas.”