President and Sister Ashton to BYU–Pathway students: ‘Ask God who you are’

Individuals can learn more about their true divine identity as they keep covenants with God, even in difficult times

Speaking side by side during the first devotional of the new year, BYU–Pathway President Brian K. Ashton and Sister Melinda Ashton, his wife, invited students to “ask God who you are.”

“Study the scriptures and pray daily, attend your church meetings and the House of the Lord, and most importantly keep your covenants, even when it seems like it will be impossible for God to keep His promises to you. We promise you that, as you do, you will come to know God. You are His beloved child whom He loves and wants to bless,” Sister Ashton testified.

Less than a year ago, President Russell M. Nelson spoke to a global congregation of young adults and said, “I believe that if the Lord were speaking to you directly tonight, the first thing He would make sure you understand is your true identity.” 

In speaking to a global audience of BYU–Pathway students during the devotional broadcast on Jan. 10, President Ashton shared the above quote and asked, “So why is it so important to understand one’s true identity?”

He then shared how when he and his wife were serving as leaders of the Texas Houston South Mission, he worried about the conduct of some missionaries and felt prompted by the Lord to take them to the temple. Before completing an endowment session, he asked them to consider “What does the temple teach you about your true identity?”

President and Sister Ashton shared several of their responses, which included lessons about their potential, their capabilities, their purpose and what they can accomplish.

“As you can see, understanding our true identity changes our perspective, our desires and our actions,” President Ashton said. “It helps us focus on the things that will ultimately make us truly happy.”

To which Sister Ashton added, “What we believe we are impacts what we will become.”

BYU–Pathway President Brian K. Ashton speaks during the first devotional of the new year during a broadcast on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. | Screenshot,

In the May 2022 Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, President Nelson also explained that Latter-day Saints’ foremost identifiers are: First, a child of God; second, a child of the covenant; and third, a disciple of Jesus Christ.

“What difference do these identifiers make in our lives?” President Ashton asked. “As a child of God, you have divine potential. Because of your spiritual parentage, you can become like God Himself. In other words, with God’s help you can do anything that is required to become as He is, including overcome every obstacle and learn everything that you need to learn.”

Individuals need divine help to become like God, Sister Ashton explained, which they can access by making covenants with Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. 

“Once we become children of the covenant, we must keep those covenants to ultimately obtain God’s power in our lives. This power is available to us because of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. When we keep the covenants we have made with God, we become disciples of Jesus Christ,” she said.

If understanding one’s true identity is so important, what can individuals do to more fully believe that they are a child of God, and that being a child of the covenant and a disciple of Jesus Christ will lead to having God’s power? President Ashton asked.

In response, Sister Ashton shared the counsel of President Nelson’s wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson, who — in the same worldwide devotional in May — invited listeners to ask themselves “What would a holy young adult do [in this situation]?”

Sister Melinda Ashton speaks during the first devotional of the new year during a broadcast on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. | Screenshot from
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Sister Nelson promised: “This one question can increase your confidence, decrease your anxiety, motivate you, lift your mood and your sights, increase your productivity, increase your focus and clarity of thinking, help you resist temptation, help you detect deception, increase your gratitude, decrease the stress in your life, increase your capacity to love, and help you make better decisions. This one question can bring you joy, comfort, love and peace!”

Sister Ashton testified that she knows those blessings are real because she chose to accept Sister Nelson’s invitation. “In pondering this question, I take time to listen to and be directed by the Holy Ghost so that the things I do have more meaning and I feel more peace and joy. I also am more aware of my true identity. You can have these same blessings in your life.”

The knowledge that he is a child of God, a child of the covenant and a disciple of Christ, President Ashton said, has been strengthened as he has studied the scriptures daily, prayed each morning and night, attended church every week and kept his covenants even in difficult times.

President Ashton said he has experienced at least three major challenges where he could not see how God would keep His promises. However, “In each one of these lengthy trials, God kept His promises. Somehow a way opened up for the seemingly impossible to occur. Because of these experiences, I know that God is my Heavenly Father, that covenants are real, and that as we follow Jesus Christ, we obtain divine help and power in our lives.”

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