Elder Nattress teaches BYU-Hawaii students how to withstand life’s spiritual tsunamis

A little more than 12 years ago, Elder Lelea from Tonga and Elder Miller from the United States were just finishing their morning scripture study in their small Samoan fale, or dwelling, when they heard shouts of “peau!” — the Samoan word for wave.

When they ran outside they found villagers running from a huge brown wave swiftly approaching the village. The two began to run as fast as they could for higher ground. As they approached some trees, some villagers called to them to start climbing a tree before the water swept them away. 

Suddenly they came across three small children who had become separated from their mother. Elder Miller scrambled up a tree while Elder Lelea tossed the children up to him. One by one, they placed each child on a branch before Elder Lelea also found a branch which protected him from the surging water.

In recounting the above experience during a BYU–Hawaii devotional on Tuesday, Oct. 5, Elder K. Brett Nattress assured listeners that the missionaries, the children and the entire village were saved that day. However, many others were not so fortunate.

Nearly 200 people died on the island of the Upolu in the 2009 tsunami, which “continues to stand as a real-life reminder to our Samoan Saints of how precious the gift of life is, and how vulnerable we are during this earthly existence,” said Elder Nattress, a General Authority Seventy and member of the Pacific Area presidency..

During a BYU–Hawaii devotional on Oct. 5, 2021, Elder K. Brett Nattress, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Pacific Area presidency, shares photos of the damaged caused by the 2009 tsunami in Samoa.
During a BYU–Hawaii devotional on Oct. 5, 2021, Elder K. Brett Nattress, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Pacific Area presidency, shares photos of the damaged caused by the 2009 tsunami in Samoa. Credit: Screenshot

Although individuals may not have to face a natural disaster the likes of Elder Lelea and Elder Miller, many may be faced with spiritual tsunamis, or difficult circumstances where being faithful to the Lord and His prophet will be the only way to find peace and safety. “During these times of great alarm and during times of trial, we must build our foundation, a sure foundation in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Nattress declared.

Prophetic direction and promises

Today’s complex world is full of distractions and deceptions that make it easy to look downward and inward. “At these times, more than ever, we need to look up. We need to see the horizon for warnings and protection, and also to see the great blessings that God has prepared for us.”

Prophets see the horizon and stand as watchmen on the tower to offer protection and warning against spiritual tsunamis, Elder Nattress taught.

Helaman 5:12 describes the key to making destructive storms powerless in one’s life, he said. “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

President Russell M. Nelson has provided prophetic promises and directions during today’s tumultuous times, Elder Nattress said, and shared the Prophet’s promise regarding using the divinely appointed name of the Church: “I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen.”

Elder Nattress then shared the experience of President Sitiveni Fe’Aomoehala Fehoko of the Papua New Guinea Lae Mission, who felt impressed to build a bush chapel in the rural village of Warakalab. His assistants told him, “President, you can’t do that. We recently visited that village and they chased us off with a bush knife.”

Undaunted, President Fehoko went to the village and visited with their leader. After the leader finished expressing his disdain for those of the Latter-day Saint faith, President Fehoko said, “I am a representative of the Savior Jesus Christ and His Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify that He lives.”

This simple yet powerful statement of testimony changed the heart of the village leader and the Church was able to build a chapel there, Elder Nattress said. 

“President Fehoko was perfectly obedient to the Prophet. He was blessed with a miracle and protection was provided. … Not only did the local members build their chapel, but many more received the lessons from the missionaries and were baptized and confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

One of those who was baptized was Dominic, the village leader. “I am grateful for a living Prophet who shows us the way to peace and happiness,” Elder Nattress said.

While the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have given many “magnificent sermons,” their greatest sermons are found in their exemplary lives, Elder Nattress said. “I have learned that the key to happiness, peace and safety in this troubled world, is to heed the words of God’s chosen servants, His prophets and apostles.”

A few of their recent prophetic invitations include:

  1. Read the scriptures.
  2. Pray every day.
  3. Be kind to one another.
  4. Make it a priority to partake of the sacrament each week.
Elder K. Brett Nattress, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Pacific Area presidency, and his wife, Sister Shawna A. Nattress, greet BYU–Hawaii students prior to Elder Nattress speaking during campus devotional in Laie, Hawaii, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.
Elder K. Brett Nattress, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Pacific Area presidency, and his wife, Sister Shawna A. Nattress, greet BYU–Hawaii students prior to Elder Nattress speaking during campus devotional in Laie, Hawaii, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Credit: Mark Gatus, BYU–Hawaii

Is there hope?

Some might have strayed from the covenant path and wonder if there is hope. “The answer is a resounding yes,” Elder Nattress declared.

Many years ago when Elder Nattress was serving as a bishop, one of their “incredible” young men, Danny, got involved with drugs after he graduated from high school. Despite then-Bishop Nattress’ attempts to reach out to Danny, he was not interested.

When Danny’s younger brother was invited to share his testimony prior to leaving on a mission, Danny slipped in the back door and sat in the further-most corner of the chapel. During the meeting, he was touched by the Spirit and was reminded that he had a loving Heavenly Father and that he had a Savior. “He finally had hope,” Elder Nattress pointed out and Danny expressed a desire to change. 

Not long after, as Elder Nattress was mowing his lawn, Danny pulled up and the two sat together to talk on the front porch. Danny wanted to come back but turning away from his addictions was extremely difficult and he wondered if he could truly be forgiven. 

Elder Nattress shared the account of Alma the Younger who described being “racked with eternal torment” and remembering his sins with “the pains of hell.” However, after Alma remembered the words of his father concerning Jesus Christ, “yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain” (see Alma 36).

Elder Nattress told Danny that he needed to trust in the Lord and to forgive himself and they established a first goal of becoming temple worthy. 

Elder K. Brett Nattress, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Pacific Area presidency, speaks to BYU–Hawaii students during campus devotional in Laie, Hawaii, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.
Elder K. Brett Nattress, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Pacific Area presidency, speaks to BYU–Hawaii students during campus devotional in Laie, Hawaii, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Credit: Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

Danny’s “mighty change of heart was nothing short of a miracle,” Elder Nattress said. During this time, Elder Nattress was called to be a stake president, and he invited Danny to apply for a full-time mission. Although neither of them were sure if Danny’s application would be accepted based on his past, “at least you will know that your heart was right and that you expressed a sincere desire to serve the Lord,” Elder Nattress told Danny.

The two wrote letters to the missionary department and, in a “modern-day miracle,” Danny’s application was approved and he was called to serve in Mexico. A few months after arriving in the mission field, Danny’s mission president called Elder Nattress and said, “What is it with this young man? He is the most incredible missionary I have ever seen!” Danny has since been married and sealed in the temple, graduated with a master’s degree in accounting and become a faithful husband and father.

“Danny wasn’t lost and neither are we to the Lord,” Elder Nattress testified. “He stands at the door to lift us, to strengthen us and to sustain us. His way leads to peace, happiness and eternal life.”