Brother Newman shares how to navigate 4 critical decisions for students

‘I am a firm believer that once we have prayed and sought the Lord’s help, we need to get up and get moving,’ said Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, to BYU–Hawaii students

Turning the steering wheel of a parked car is a difficult task.

“Once you start the engine and the power steering kicks in, it becomes much easier,” said Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency. “... But think about what happens when you start moving forward: A slight movement of the steering wheel can move the car from one lane to the other with little effort.”

Course corrections, he said, are easier with forward momentum. Even when Latter-day Saints have unanswered questions or are unsure of what to do, they can move forward with faith. 

Brother Newman said: “I have often counseled with people who were seeking revelation for their lives but were not willing to take a step forward without clear, specific direction from the Lord. I do not think revelation works that way. I am a firm believer that once we have prayed and sought the Lord’s help, we need to get up and get moving.”

At a BYU–Hawaii devotional on Tuesday, Sept. 19, Brother Newman shared with students how to better navigate four important decisions in their lives.

Deciding to serve a mission

“The Lord knows — and His prophets know — the outcomes for those who choose to serve missions,” said Brother Newman. “... I am grateful for the awesome missionaries and members I came to know and love. I am thankful for the blessing it was for me to teach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Some of the many blessings of serving the Lord, he said, include more love for the Savior, greater realization of His atoning power, stronger footing in the covenant path and increased ability to receive answers to questions.

To those who already served missions, Brother Newman asked: “Have you retained the holy habits and righteous routines you established on your mission? Are you continuing to seek truth? Are you keeping your covenants? If not, simply repent and start doing those things you know will strengthen your faith.”

Brother Jan E. Newman, wearing a suit and yellow leis, talking with two young men and smiling.
Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, speaks with Brigham Young University–Hawaii students after a devotional on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, in Laie, Hawaii. | Camille Jovenes, BYU–Hawaii

Choosing a field of study

With his father and two of his brothers employed as teachers, Brother Newman figured teaching would also be his career path. Then, after a day of substitute teaching, he felt like he should take another direction.

He ran into a mission friend while walking across the BYU campus and shared his dilemma of not knowing what degree to pursue. The friend, majoring in computer science, recommended he also study it.

Brother Newman was inspired to take his friend’s suggestion, and the decision to follow that inspiration, he said, has been life-changing.

However, “there have also been prayers that I felt were unanswered,” he said. “In those cases, I determined the Lord trusted me to make the decision for myself, so I went forward with faith, always correcting my course as I went.”

Sister Lucia Newman, wife of Brother Jan E. Newman, standing at a BYU–Hawaii podium and smiling.
“I know [the Savior] lives, and because He lives, we have so many blessings in our lives,” says Sister Lucia Newman — wife of Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency — during brief remarks at a BYU–Hawaii devotional on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. | Camille Jovenes, BYU–Hawaii

Finding an eternal companion

While Brother Newman was golfing with Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a recently returned missionary came over to talk to them. The Apostle offered the young single adult advice on finding an eternal companion.

Brother Newman recounted: “He basically told this young man: ‘You will never find a perfect person out there. You are not perfect either. So, my advice is that you find someone who has spiritual and life goals similar to yours and with whom you can create the marriage and family you hope to have. You do not find a person who will give you a happy marriage; you prayerfully find a person with whom you, together, can create a happy marriage.’”

Dating may be easy for some and harder for others, said Brother Newman. “Just remain faithful. Keep moving. Keep looking, and remember Elder Bednar’s counsel. And have faith that all God’s blessings will come, in time, for each of His faithful children.”

Brother Jan E. Newman and his wife, Sister Lucia Newman, stand outside with 10 BYU–Hawaii students and faculty members in Sunday dress.
Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, center right; and his wife, Sister Lucia Newman, stand with BYU–Hawaii students and faculty at a devotional on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. | Camille Jovenes, BYU–Hawaii

Dealing with questions about the Church

Many who deal with a crisis of faith “think the best thing to do is jump out of the safety of the boat — or the Church — and try to resolve these concerns while floating in shark-infested waters,” said Brother Newman. “My counsel to you is if you have a question or concern, work through it while in the safety of the boat.”

He recounted that his wife, Sister Lucia Newman, once counseled a friend, “You aren’t having a faith crisis; you are on a faith journey.” It is up to the seeker of knowledge to have a desire to find truth.

It’s not wrong to have questions, he said. Joseph Smith’s question of which church was true, for example, “put into motion the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it is important to remember this question came from a truth seeker, not from someone looking to find fault in the existing religions.”

Receiving answers to questions “may happen in my mortal lifetime, or it may not,” Brother Newman said. “That is up to Him in His infinite wisdom. To paraphrase Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, my God whom I serve is able to deliver me and answer my question. But if not, my faith will still reside in Him (see Daniel 3:17-18).”

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