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At first we used just our natural eyes to look for this comet. Finally, we located what appeared to be a fuzzy blur in the dark night sky. Then my son suggested that we use our binoculars. Looking through the binoculars, we could see the comet with a little more definition against the darkness of space, but still not clear. And then he said to us, “Hey, let’s use a military night-light scope that I have.”
When I placed that scope to my eye, I was startled by the sudden viewing of thousands, even millions of bright stars that appeared where before there was only the darkness of space. The comet then came into my range of sight, and it was blazing with a bright core of light. However, the one thing that caused all the members of our family to express feelings of awe was not the comet. It was the fact that by using the night-light scope, we could see millions of stars we had never observed before. The beauty of space was absolutely thrilling.
A few nights later, my wife and I were invited to the dedication of the new Royden G. Derrick Planetarium at Brigham Young University. That night, after listening to Elder [Richard G.] Scott about the immensity of our Father in Heaven’s creations, we were able to see photographs taken by the Hubble Telescope of all of the immensity of our Father’s heavenly creations. Seeing all of those marvelous things, I began to feel like Moses, after God had shown him the vastness of his creations.
In the book of Moses we read: “And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?
“And behold, thou art my son; wherefore look and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.
“Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.
“And now behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee.
“And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.
“And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.
“And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (Moses 1:2-4, 7-10, emphasis added)
As I contemplated the immensity of space that evening, and my feelings almost of nothingness, I was immediately reminded of the fact that when the Lord appeared unto Moses, he called Moses by his name—the Lord personally knew Moses. Moses was not just one of God’s creations; the Lord called him “My son.”
Joseph Smith had a similar experience in the Sacred Grove. There he prayed to God seeking to know which of all the churches he should join. In answer to his prayer, Joseph beheld God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. He related the experience by saying: “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17, emphasis added)
Think of that occasion. The great Creator of the Universe personally appeared to Joseph Smith and, again, called him by name. Once again, we have a witness that our Heavenly Father personally knows each and every one of his children, both sons and daughters.
I have heard people say, “Well, these types of experiences only happen to men who are prophets, not to ordinary people.” However, President Harold B. Lee said, “My brethren and sisters, my friends, humbly I bear witness to you that there is a God in heaven and that he knows that we are his. He knows who and where we are, and he stands ready to help us at any time.” (President Hugh B. Brown, Conference Report, October 1969, Third day—morning meeting, p. 107)
President Spencer W. Kimball said about our relationship with our Father in heaven: “The Primary song says, “I am a child of God.” Born with a noble birthright. God is you father. He loves you. He and your mother in heaven value you beyond…measure. They gave your eternal intelligence spirit form, just as your earthly mother and father have given you a mortal body.
“You are unique,” he said, “One of a kind, made of the eternal intelligence which gives you claim upon eternal life.
“Let there be no question in your mind about your value as an individual. The whole intent of the gospel plan is to provide an opportunity for each of you to reach your fullest potential, which is eternal progression and the possibility of godhood.
“May you realize,” he said, that it is in your control. You can decide what you may be “and what you are going to do. Remember that your choices may control to some extent others whose lives will be a part of your life.
“Remember also that if you succeed, it isn’t because of luck. Success comes from faith and work and prayer and…constant righteous effort. It is a question of agency—of what you choose to do with gifts of God—everything upon the earth, wherein there is life” can be used by you. “This reverence for agency and life makes us greatly concerned about the world in which we live….It is a world beset with evil, with frustrations, with ugliness. It makes us realize that we must make a strong stand for the right or we may not stand at all.”
In conclusion, he said, “The Lord has never promised us that we will be free of problems and challenges. He has, however, promised that with faith we will have the strength to meet any eventuality in this life.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, November 1978, p. 101)
As I prepared to spend this time with you this morning, I prayed that I might know what truths I might share with you to both instruct and to edify. In the early morning hours, the answer came very clear that I was to remind you of your special heritage as a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, born and reared in celestial glories, instructed and taught in royal courts, even as princes and princesses born of royal birth.
As President Kimball said in the quote I just read, you are literally known to your Father in Heaven and your Mother in Heaven. They value you beyond your even your comprehension and mortal understanding. In addition, our Father in Heaven provided that there would be a Savior to perform a great Atonement in our behalf, which would break the bands of death for all of us, which would provide forgiveness of sins based on the principle of repentance, and finally—a power that we sometimes overlook, even the enabling power known in the scriptures as grace, to help us face and overcome the challenges we would encounter in this mortal life.
On October 23, 2001, then-president of BYU-Idaho David Bednar, now Elder Bednar of the Twelve, gave a marvelous devotional talk at BYU on the enabling power of the Savior’s Atonement. I would like to share two quotes with you from Elder Bednar’s talk. He defined first the enabling power which we know as grace by saying:
“I…want to describe in greater detail the enabling power of the Atonement. Brothers and sisters, please notice the use of the word “grace” in 2 Nephi 2:8 to which we just referred. In the Bible Dictionary in our scriptures, we learn that the word “grace” frequently is used in the scriptures to connote “enabling power.” On page 697 in the Bible Dictionary under the word “Grace” we read:
“ ‘A word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
“ ‘It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life.’
“Now,” Elder Bednar said, “please note these next sentences:
“ ‘It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.’” (emphasis added)
To help us more fully understand and appreciate this divine assistance, Elder Bednar concluded by saying: “There is no physical pain, no anguish of [spirit], no suffering of [the soul], no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior [has not already experienced]. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, ‘No one understands. No one knows.’ No human being, perhaps, [does know]. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore [your] burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of [grace] in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, [He can] touch, and succor—[He] literally runs to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying only upon our own power.” (“In the Strength of the Lord,” David A. Bednar, president of BYU-Idaho, devotional address given at Brigham Young University on 23 October 2001)
This great Atonement was made possible by the infinite sacrifice performed by the Lord Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, who also loves and cares for us beyond our understanding. He is ready to “run to us,” to help us when in need. I am always humbled and filled with great gratitude when I read His words that are found in the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants: “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
“Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
As I read and you heard those words, did your heart not thrill to hear how much the Savior loves you? Think of it. He is pleading your case before the Father by expressing His deep and abiding love for you.
Sometimes in your life, you may contemplate the question, “Who am I, really?” I’ve wondered what difference it might make in your life and in my life, if we were able to understand who we really are and what our potential really is in this life. President Harold B. Lee, I think, gave the answer to who you really are, and then challenged all of us to keep that remembrance in our hearts and our minds daily. In October general conference 1973, he said this:
“Well then, ‘Who am I?’ Those lacking in that important understanding, and, consequently, in some degree those failing to hold themselves in high esteem, which they would have if they did understand, are lacking in self-respect.
“…I recall the prayer of the old English weaver, ‘O God, help me hold a high opinion of myself.’” Brothers and sisters, “that should be the prayer of every soul;’ not an abnormally developed self-esteem that becomes haughtiness, conceit, or arrogance, but a righteous, self-respect that might be defined as ‘[a] belief in one’s own worth, worth to God and worth to man.
“…What a difference it would make if we really sensed our divine relationship to God, our Heavenly father, our relationship to Jesus Christ, our Savior and our elder brother, and our relationship to each other.”
President Lee continued: “Now,” he said, “as I come to the closing of this address, I trust that I might have given to you and others who have not yet listened to such counsel, something to stimulate…sober thinking as to who you are and from whence you came; and, in so doing, that I may have stirred up within your soul the determination to begin …to show an increased self-respect and reverence for [yourself]. I would charge you to say again and again to yourselves, as the Primary organization has taught the children to sing, ‘I am a (son or daughter) of God’ and by doing so begin today to live closer to those ideals which will make your life happier and more fruitful because of an awakened realization of who you [really] are.” (Conference Report, p. 10)
Those of you here at LDS Business College are, by your attendance following the counsel of the Lord’s latter-day prophet, even President Gordon B. Hinckley. You might remember, he declared: “We live in a very challenging world. It isn’t likely to become less challenging, but [I believe] more challenging. We encourage our young people to educate their minds and their hands and qualify themselves to take places of responsibility in (the) society in which they will become a part. And in the process of [doing so], remain faithful and true [to] the Church which they love and in which they are members.” (LDS Church News, 1995, 03/18/95)
Some of you may be the first member of your family to ever attend college. Others of you have been out of school for a number of years, and have decided to obtain additional education in order to possibly get a better job. Please remember that President Hinckley’s prophetic counsel was to “obtain an education.” That education may not result in your becoming a medical doctor or a scientist. For some it means to obtain the kind of education that will help you in finding a job, the means to provide for yourself and your family and to provide service to others. Several years ago, then-Elder Eyring talked about the purpose of an education.
He said, “Let’s start with the purpose of our learning. The Lord and His Church have always encouraged education to increase our ability to serve Him and our Heavenly Father’s children. For each of us, whatever out talents, He has [a] service for us to give. And to do it well always involves learning, not once…for a limited time, but continually.
“In the scripture[s]…the Master is clear about the process. Through [faith,] prayer, fasting, and hard work, with a motive to serve Him; we can expect [that] His grace [will] attend us. I can assure you from my own experience, that does not mean we will always be on the high end of the grading curve. It means that we will learn more rapidly and grow in skill beyond what we could [have done] …with our [own] unaided natural abilities…
“….Your life is carefully watched over, as was mine. The Lord knows both what He will need you to do and what you will need to know. He is kind and He is all-knowing. So you can with confidence expect that He has prepared opportunities for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give. You will not recognize those opportunities perfectly, [even] as I did not. But when you put the spiritual things first in your life, you will be blessed to feel directed toward certain learning, and you will be motivated to work harder. You will recognize later that your power to serve was increased, and you will be grateful.
“Your service may not be in what the world would recognize as a lofty calling. When the real value of service becomes clear in the judgment of God, some people who worked in quiet anonymity will be the real heroes. Many of them, perhaps most of them, will be the underpaid and [the] underrecognized people who nurtured others. I never visit an elementary school and watch the teachers without thinking about that future day when the rewards will be eternal. I never visit a hospital and watch those who nurse and those who clean without thinking of that. I never visit a workplace where someone serves me and others [very] well, earning wages barely enough to provide the necessities for a family, without thinking of the future. …I never see a mother juggling three little children who are crying while she is smiling, as she shepherds them gently, without seeing in my mind’s eye that day of honor in the presence of the only judge whose praise will finally matter.”
President Eyring said: “Our”—your—“education must never stop. If it ends at the door of the classroom on graduation day, we will fail. And since what we will need to know is hard to discern, we need the help of heaven to know which of the myriad things we could study we would most wisely learn. It also means that we cannot waste time entertaining ourselves when we have the chance to read [and] to listen to whatever will help us learn what is true and useful. Insatiable curiosity will be our hallmark.” (“Education for Real Life,” Ensign, Oct. 2002, p. 14)
Now, in conclusion I’d like to emphasize a couple of things that I have shared with you today. First, I want you to remember who you really are. Remember President Lee’s admonishment again: “I would charge you to say again and again to yourselves, as the Primary organization has taught the children to sing, “I am a (son or daughter) of God” and by doing so begin today to live closer to those ideals [that] will make your life happier and more fruitful because of an awakened realization of who you really are.”
I would ask that you would each remember President Kimball’s sweet revelation: “The Primary song says, ‘I am a child of God.’ Born with a noble birthright. God is your Father. He loves you. He and your Mother in heaven value you beyond…measure. They gave your eternal intelligence spirit form, just as your earthly mother and father have given you a mortal body.
“You are unique. One of a kind, made of the eternal intelligence which gives you claim upon eternal life.
“Let there be no question in your mind about your value as an individual. The whole intent of the gospel plan is to provide an opportunity for each of you to reach your fullest potential, which is eternal progression and [possible] godhood.”
As I look into your faces on this wonderful day, I see hope. I see the future. I see sons and daughters with great potential. I sense that there may still be some of you here struggling to learn and sometimes wondering what your future really holds. In those times of discouragement with your education, I invite you to remember President Eyring’s encouraging counsel: “Your life is carefully watched over, as was mine. The Lord knows both what He will need you to do and what you will need to know. He is kind…He is all-knowing. So you can with confidence expect that He has prepared …for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give. You will not recognize those opportunities perfectly, [even] as I did not. But when you put the spiritual things first in your life, you will be blessed to feel directed toward certain learning, and you will be motivated to work harder. You will recognize later that your power to serve was increased, and you will be grateful.”
In all humility, I stand as a witness before you that we are truly eternal sons and daughters of a loving Father in Heaven who personally knows each and every one of us. Across the vastness of the universe, my wife and I observed by looking at those photographs of the Hubble Telescope, that it is marvelous and comforting to know that He lives and He is very interested and He is very involved in all of our lives.
I also witness that the empowering aspect of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. His grace will help you in your schooling here at LDS Business College and in your life’s decisions if you will only abide in His covenant and sincerely ask for His help. I know that my witness I true, for I am a recipient of His marvelous grace in my own life. And I leave this witness and testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.