BYU–Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton and his wife, Sister Melinda Ashton, were once mission leaders over the Texas Houston South Mission.
It was there they met Elder Caleb Cooper, an excellent missionary with tremendous faith and desire to share the gospel, Sister Ashton said.
Elder Cooper had a challenge, though: a form of dyslexia that caused his brain to see words incorrectly anytime he looked at them. This made studying scriptures, writing emails and other routine tasks difficult for him, Sister Ashton said.
But Elder Cooper worked hard to improve his reading and writing skills during his mission, President Ashton said. Today, Cooper is a BYU–Pathway student and close to completing his bachelor’s degree.
President and Sister Ashton shared Caleb Cooper’s story during a prerecorded devotional released Wednesday, Sept. 19.
Their message focused on the power of covenants to help individuals accomplish what they otherwise couldn’t achieve on their own.
President Ashton recalled an impression he received during an interview with then-Elder Cooper: “I felt to tell him that the Lord wanted him to attend university. ... Needless to say, this message was troubling to Caleb as he had always struggled in school. I then gave him a priesthood blessing. In this blessing, God promised Caleb that he would get a university degree.”
After Cooper returned home from his mission, President Ashton said he periodically reminded the young man that he needed to enroll in school. After five years, Cooper finally signed up for BYU–Pathway.
Cooper later told President Ashton that his life had become stagnant in the years before he enrolled at BYU–Pathway. But during his first semester, he met his wife, Sadie. They were married during his third semester.
School hasn’t been easy for Cooper, President Ashton said. He’s needed accommodations and extra help, and has often worked harder than his classmates.
“But through prayer and by trusting in God,” he’s earned almost entirely A grades, President Ashton said. Cooper has also received increased job responsibilities, a raise and multiple job offers. He’s even considering pursuing a master’s degree. “His academic success is not something either he or I could have predicted when he was on his mission.”
Sister Ashton said Cooper’s improvements came as a result of his covenants with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
When Cooper was baptized, he promised to always remember the Savior and take Jesus Christ’s name upon himself, Sister Ashton continued. Cooper kept these covenants, in part, by serving a mission. Now he keeps his covenants through serving others and sharing the gospel.
President Ashton added that Cooper’s covenants made him eligible for divine help as he pursued his academic studies.
“Because of his dyslexia, Caleb did not have the skills he needed to progress academically on his own,” President Ashton said. “In fact, Caleb had tried for years to learn how to read and write with essentially no success. Without Jesus Christ’s help, Caleb could have worked extremely hard but not progressed in his reading or writing or his other studies. Yet, with God’s power, Caleb’s hard work yielded fruit and, over time, he became very capable of doing well academically.”
Sister Ashton said each person can have God’s power in their lives through making and keeping covenants. If they don’t know how to make covenants or which covenants to make, they can speak with missionaries, friends or local leaders; if they need help keeping covenants they’ve already made, they can speak with their bishop; and if they’re already keeping their covenants, “continue to keep them and have faith that God will give you the help and power you need at the right time.”
President Ashton closed by testifying of God’s prophets and apostles and of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
“I promise that if you will make and keep sacred covenants with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, you can receive help with the problems in your life that seem impossible,” he said. “This has happened to me throughout my life. I know it can happen to you.”