In their first devotional address as the president and first lady of BYU-Pathway Worldwide, President Brian Ashton and Sister Melinda Ashton naturally took the opportunity to introduce themselves and their family to students enrolled throughout the world in the Church’s online education program.
Sister Ashton was born in Portland, Oregon. She received a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, attended medical school at Northwestern University and served a mission to Spain. President Ashton was born in Provo, Utah, earned his bachelor’s degree from BYU and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University and served a mission in Peru. The two have seven children, ranging in age from 9 to 22.
However, in their debut message, broadcast Tuesday, Sept, 21, the couple also took the opportunity to express their greatest hope for the upcoming semester: that students would exercise more faith in the Savior Jesus Christ.
“Of all the things we could hope for you, why did we choose that you would exercise more faith?” President Ashton asked. “You see, Jesus Christ is the source of truth, miracles and blessings. It is by exercising faith in Jesus Christ that you can obtain all good things. This includes help to learn more effectively. Help to get a better job. Help having enough to eat. Help to find secure housing. Help to get along with your family.”
President Ashton then shared President Russell M. Nelson’s promise from the most recent general conference: “Your growing faith in [Jesus Christ] will move mountains — not the mountains of rock that beautify the earth but the mountains of misery in your lives. … Only your unbelief will keep God from blessing you with miracles to move the mountains in your life” (“Christ Is Risen: Faith in Him Will Move Mountains,” April 2021 general conference).
Sister Ashton recalled how in her first year of medical school she felt overwhelmed with the study load. Despite doing nothing but eating, sleeping, attending classes and studying, her test scores were average.
As she started her second year, her husband shared with her the experience of President Henry B. Eyring, who promised one of his sons if he would do the best he could with his studies while also devoting time to his family and Church calling, he could have faith that Jesus Christ would help him to accomplish the works that God had for him to do.
“I decided I needed to exercise more faith and make some changes in my life,” Sister Ashton recalled.
She began to ask Heavenly Father how much time she needed to spend studying to do well enough to accomplish the works He had for her. After that, once she completed her predetermined study time, she would close her books and enjoy all the other aspects of her life. Not only was she happier, but her test scores remained the same, even though she was studying less.
“The Savior did not have to bless me that way. My scores could have gone down,” Sister Ashton said. Even though her life path led her to be a full-time mother rather than practice medicine, Sister Ashton said she believes God was trying to teach her a lesson: “I think He wanted me to know that I could do things on my own if that is what I chose, but if I asked Him for help, He would help me. He would do part of the work.”
Some may struggle to manage their time while others experience different challenges, concerns or hopes, President Ashton said. “Finding solutions to those issues should always begin with exercising faith in Jesus Christ.”
Because Jesus Christ fulfilled His mission given by Heavenly Father to sacrifice Himself on behalf of all, He has been given power in heaven and earth, President Ashton explained. Therefore, miracles that individuals seek are dependent upon first exercising faith in Him. “In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni taught: ‘And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed on the Son of God’” (Ether 12:18).
According to Ether 12:6, faith consists of “things which are hoped for and not seen.” In the case of Sister Ashton, she believed that Jesus Christ could help her do well if she tried to have more balance in her life, but she didn’t know for certain so she experimented, trusting in her knowledge of the goodness of God.
“This is what it means to exercise faith — move forward believing that, if you act, God will help you,” President Ashton said. As individuals do this, they are enabled to access God’s power, mercy and grace, or divine help or strength.
Sister Ashton added that the Savior won’t always do things as expected or in the preferred timeframe. “But if we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, He will not forsake us and He will exercise His power in our behalf,” she said.
Repeating their invitation to seek to increase faith in Jesus Christ, President Ashton urged students to “prayerfully determine one or two things that you need God to help you with in your life. Ask for His help. Then move forward in faith expecting to see God’s hand in your life in His time and in His way.”
He then invited listeners to help someone else develop faith in Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father and the Savior want individuals to succeed and to be happy, Sister Ashton said. “As we exercise faith in Jesus Christ and trust in their love, power and wisdom, we allow their influence to bless us more fully in our lives. I know they will help you this semester if you will ask in faith.”
President Ashton concluded with a promise, “I testify that as you choose to exercise faith in Jesus Christ, you will see miracles this semester.”