Religious Education Faculty Member
Curtis Castillow was raised in Glendale, Arizona where he grew up on a small farm. As a child, he competed in junior rodeo riding steers and bulls. Playing bass guitar in a country band was a big part of his life until he converted to the gospel at age 21.
Following his conversion, he served in the Washington Seattle Mission.
In addition to earning a bachelor's degree in Psychology from BYU-Idaho, he earned a master's degree and PhD in Instructional Technology and Learning Science from Utah State University.
Brother Castillow currently works as a religion professor here at BYU-Idaho.
He and his wife Heather are the parents of five children. He loves reading, learning, fly fishing, and eating rocky road ice cream.
We invite you to study and ponder on the scriptures and other preparation resources below previous to attending devotional. As you come more spiritually prepared the Spirit will have greater power to inspire you, teach you, and to testify to you of the truthfulness of the principles that will be taught.
Over the years, I've enjoyed reading marquee signs outside Christian churches. Sometimes they post messages that are fun or insightful. For example, during a particularly snowy winter, one pastor wrote, "Whoever keeps praying for snow, we're impressed. Now pray for world peace." "Honk if you love Jesus; text while driving if you want to meet Him." Another message said, "I was addicted to the hokey pokey thing, but I turned myself around." Some messages read as if God wrote them: "Keep using my name in vain; I'll make rush hour longer" or "What part of 'thou shalt not' didn't you understand?" One sign said, "Don't make me come down there!"
If you and your roommates had a marquee sign and God wrote to you, what would He say? One thing He's said to me over the years is this: "You know what you want; I know what you need." Elder Richard G. Scott observed that when we ask God in prayer for things we want, it "does not assure that [we] will get what [we] want. It does guarantee that, if worthy, [we] will get what [we] need."
Years ago while taking the sacrament with my wife and kids, I lamented about my younger years. My mother, sisters, and I experienced some severe trials in our home because of an addiction my father had to alcohol. There were other trials that came simply because we didn't have the gospel. Those trials affected us for years. That particular day, during the sacrament, I felt somewhat sorry for myself. I wished and wanted that life had been different. In my heart I cried to God, "Why didn't you give us what was good? Why did it have to be so bad?"
Now, I didn't doubt in God's love for me or His plan of salvation--the macro plan. I did doubt, however, in the micro plan--the small plan He tailored for me. Do you ever feel that way? If you're like me, you know it's true, what Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: "Having faith in the Father's macro plan of salvation includes making allowance for His micro plans as well."
However, sometimes you, or at least I, need a reminder that God "knoweth all things" and possesses a perfect understanding of my life, wants, needs, and desires.
As I partook of the sacrament and thought, "Why didn't you give us what was good? Why did it have to be so hard?" I felt something. If I could put into words what I felt, God said it was this: "My son, you want what's good; I want what's best. What I gave was the best." In other words God was saying, "That was part of your plan to give you 'experience' and 'be for' your 'good.'" One reason we sometimes struggle to trust that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28) is because we can't see the end from the beginning. We can only see here and now. God, however, sees past, present, and future all at once. He told Moses, "All things are present with me, for I know them all."
"We are looked upon by God as though we were in eternity," Joseph Smith said. Thus, what may look bad in the present may become something good in the future. For example, in this image you can see this young man push the other young man.
What you can't see is if he pushes to hurt or help. Look at the expression on their faces and their body language. Does he want to hurt or help? Now let me show you the whole picture. Now what do you think? It's a good thing, right? Rather than pushing him to hurt, he's pushing him to help get him beyond the oncoming car.
One of my students years ago commented on this picture and said, "Brother Castillow, I think it's a bad thing."
"Why?" I asked.
"Look! His hand went right through his body!"
Here's the lesson: to know this was a good thing, you had to see the whole picture, not just part.
If you take a snapshot of the life of Joseph who was sold into Egypt, and merely look at his younger years, it looks bad--especially when you consider he was in bondage for about 13 years. But when we pan across Joseph's whole life, we see that God wasn't punishing Joseph; He was preparing Joseph for something better.
In Genesis 37 we learn that Joseph traveled to Dothan, the place where his brothers imprisoned him in an empty cistern and sold him to the Midianites. When you read Genesis 37, from the time Joseph arrives into Dothan until he's carried to Egypt, God seems to be missing. Timothy Keller observes, "There is no mention of God anywhere here. God never speaks. . . . God seems to be utterly, absolutely, completely absent. . . . Yet He must have been managing down to the [most minute] detail . . . all the awful . . . , all the terrible things, all the things that [seem] to make no sense."
From the outside looking in, Joseph's micro plan seemed like a miserable plan at best. Timothy Keller also observed that when Joseph's brothers threw him into a pit, they stripped him of his coat. The Hebrew word for stripped is pashat. It was a term for "skinning animals." Moses's word choice seems to suggest the act was violent in nature. When Moses said, "They took him, and cast him," (Genesis 37:24) the Hebrew word for cast was shalak. It connotes the idea of throwing something away. If that discarded item is alive, then it infers throwing it to its death.
It is the same word used in Exodus 1:22 when Pharaoh commanded the Egyptians to take "every son that is born" and "cast [them] into the river." Years later, as Joseph's brothers reflect on what they did, they give us some insight into Joseph's torment. "[Did we not see] the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear." Again, during this torment God seems aloof.
Surprisingly, hundreds of years later, in this same spot, Dothan, Elisha cries to the Lord for help because he's surrounded by the Syrian army. And in an instant the mountainside blazes with a host of angels, horses, and chariots from heaven. Remember that story? Then Elisha exclaims, "They that be with us are more than they that be with them." Elisha cries from Dothan, angels deliver him. Joseph cries from Dothan, he's flung into a pit. God's seeming silence, however, is neither evidence of His absence nor of His lack of care. God cared as much for Joseph by hiding His glory and power just as much as He cared for Elisha by displaying it.
Yet I'm sure there were moments when Joseph thought that was a strange way for God to show His care. Perhaps he thought, "God, I just want to go home and be a shepherd." But God wanted Joseph to be more than a shepherd; He wanted him to be a viceroy--a ruler over Egypt. But even more than a shepherd or a viceroy, God wanted him to be a savior. Joseph would later tell his brothers, "God sent me before you to preserve you . . . and to save [you]. . . . It was not you that sent me hither, but God. . . . Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good."
Not only did God turn his brothers' evil into Joseph's good, but He was also "with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man. . . . And Joseph found grace in his sight. . . . And [God] shewed him mercy, and gave him favour." Here's the lesson: even during the crucible of our lives, we can trust that God is aware of us. He is with us, and He will bless us. For "God does nothing by chance," said President Spencer W. Kimball, but always by design as a loving father. . . . "It is said that the very hairs of your head are all numbered; is it not to teach us that nothing, not the smallest things imaginable, happen to us by chance? But if the smallest things we can conceive . . . are declared to be under the divine direction . . . [then certainly] the greatest things of life, such as the manner of our coming into the world, our parents, the time, and other circumstances of our birth and condition, are all according to the eternal purposes, direction, and appointments of divine Providence?"
I know this is true. When I attended college, like you, I was having one of those "bad hair" weeks. It was a Lemony Snicket, Series of Unfortunate Events moment in my life. The events weren't major problems or setbacks like Joseph's, but they seemed major at the time. While attending BYU in Provo, I worked with the BYU Student Association (BYUSA) and applied to be one of the vice presidents, but the selection committee chose someone else. I walked home from campus discouraged but thought, "That's okay; I applied to be an EFY counselor." As I walked in the door to my apartment, I saw on the kitchen table a letter from EFY. I tore it open with eagerness. My heart pounded with excitement. However, the excitement quickly turned to sadness as I read the part that said my request was declined.
Now, this was the same time period that I called a girl named Myra Mains to set up a blind date. I got her phone number from the girl I home taught. The girl I home taught asked me what I perceived as the perfect girl to marry. After I described this "perfect" girl, she replied, "No way; I totally have the girl for you." She then described this friend of hers. The description almost matched perfectly the description I gave. This was truly a match made in heaven. "Wow!" I thought. This was my dream girl. What I didn't know was that I was about to be duped.
She gave me the girl's phone number, and I called the next day. I was surprised, however, when on the other end of the line I heard, "Berg Mortuary."
Confused, I said, "Uh, I'm looking for someone who apparently works there. Is Myra Mains there?" There was silence on the other end of the line. "Excuse me, is Myra Mains there?"
"Sir, is this some kind of a joke?"
"No, this is the number I was given. I was careful to dial it correctly. So Myra Mains isn't there?"
She was silent again, then chuckled, "Sir, you don't get it, do you?" And you know what, I didn't. I know what you're thinking: "He's not the sharpest knife in the drawer." (Believe me, no one is more aware of that then I.)
"Sir," she said, "think about it!" Then she said slowly, "This is a mortuary, sir. 'Is my remains there?' Do you get it now?"
Humbled and embarrassed, I said, "Yeah, I get it."
Well, this is the kind of week I was having when I came home and opened that EFY letter. After I set the letter down, I saw a hand mirror sitting on the table. I could tell by the opened package next to it, it was something my roommate Miglosh ordered through the mail. He would order lots of things. It seemed odd he would order a hand mirror. Intrigued, I picked up the mirror. (Remember, I feel like I'm at the bottom of the food chain.) No sooner than I caught my reflection in the mirror, it started laughing at me. Seriously! It was one of those gag mirrors with a built-in speaker that projected an obnoxious cackle right about the time you picked it up and saw your reflection.
My misfortunes, my defeats pale in comparison to Joseph's. But that is part of the point in sharing them with you. They are the everyday, garden-variety type of week you've no doubt experienced too. Your roommates probably didn't throw you into an empty cistern like Joseph (maybe they threw you in the snow), but you do experience misfortunes and mishaps. I suspect none of you has fallen for the "Myra Mains" gag, but I suspect many of you have fallen in love only to have it end. You've had health issues, family problems, financial difficulties, dropped majors, changed majors, and major problems of every kind. You've been turned down, turned out, and turned away. You didn't get what you wanted. I promise, though, with God you will get what you need. And it may just be that what God knew you needed was something in the end you wanted. I wasn't happy that God gave me what I apparently needed. In the end, though, I discovered that what I needed was actually something I wanted.
When those doors I mentioned closed in my life, other doors opened. One door that opened led me to become a seminary teacher for the Church Education System. It was an occupation that was ideal for my personality and family, and eventually it would bring me here to BYU-Idaho to teach in the religion department--a move I consider the greatest blessing of my career. And what if Myra Mains were a real girl? What if I had married her? She wouldn't have been Heather Sampson, the woman I did marry, the woman I love. And I wouldn't have my children: Curt; Carli; the twins, Brigham and Brynn; and Cutler.
After all that's been said, I think it's essential to remember that the Lord doesn't give or allow things that will hurt you in eternity; He gives you things that will help. We need to be careful that what He gives to help we don't interpret as something that hurts. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. . . . What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
If a son asks for bread or fish--something he needs--would a loving parent give him a stone or serpent? No! A stone is worthless; a serpent is harmful. God doesn't give things that are worthless or harmful. He gives things that are needful and helpful. So ask, seek, and knock. Be careful, though, that when God offers you bread or fish, you don't view it as a stone or serpent. S. Michael Wilcox observed that sometimes it's easy to judge the bread that God gives as "stones" or "serpents." I say, "Lord, I want bread; I want what's good." The Lord would respond, "Do you want me to give you what you want or what you need?" George MacDonald, a man who inspired C. S. Lewis, said, "Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it."
In the Ensign there is a story about a young man named Christopher, who was grateful he didn't turn bread into stone or serpents. When he tore open his mission call, his heart dropped when he read the line "Michigan Lansing Mission." He had waited his whole life for that moment. He took German and Spanish in high school because he had dreamed of a foreign mission--walking the cobbled streets of Europe or hiking remote mountain pueblos in South America. What he got, however, was Michigan. Did you ever have something like that happen to you--you figuratively wanted Argentina, but what you got was Michigan? Christopher could have regarded that call as a stone, a serpent, but instead he saw it as bread. He accepted the call the Lord gave and served an honorable mission.
More than 20 years after his return, his neighbor invited him to take a DNA test. "I had been adopted and had no idea of my biological ancestry," said Christopher. He was curious about his biological parents but was content with his life. He had a family he loved. Then the results came back. It was a "close family" match. It predicted with 99 percent that they found a close family member.
"Before I knew what was happening," said Christopher,
[my wife composed] an email to send to this "close family" match.
Within minutes an email came back. How old was I? Where was I born? . . .
It turned out the "close family" match was my half brother. The person sending the emails was my birth mother. . . . [S]he wanted me to call her.
The next morning I dialed her number. As we talked, she told me the story of my birth.
Before Christopher hung up, he asked about his biological father. His mother thought Christopher's father was from Lansing, Michigan. Within minutes after the phone call, Christopher found his father on the Internet. He lived in an area close to where Christopher served his mission. Digging further, he discovered his dad had a sister in the same area. He emailed his father, and his father replied that his sister was LDS, and she and her husband were coming to Utah and hoped they could visit with Christopher.
As they walked in my door, I felt an instant familiarity. Suddenly another light turned on. The man's hair had gone from black to silver, . . . but suddenly I saw in front of me the ward mission leader from the Grand Rapids Ward. . . . I had worked [with him during] a large part of my mission. For months I had been at his home weekly. I had played with his children--my cousins--and been with my aunt and uncle and hadn't known it.
In light of my discovery, I knew why I had been called to serve a mission in Michigan. . . . My biological family was spread all over Michigan in the places where I was called . . . to serve. . . . I knew now . . . this was truly a call by inspiration specifically for me.
In the same way, that mission call was a part of Christopher's micro plan, and Joseph's slavery was part of his plan, our experiences are part of our plans. Why God tailors some experiences for us may not be clear now. Thus, we may have to be patient because "all things must come to pass in their time"--even understanding. However, with the Savior's help we can learn to not only say, "Thy will be done[, Lord]," but patiently also, "Thy timing be done."
Although I know that, I forget sometimes--especially when I don't get what I want or what I think I need. In those moments, I need to remember what the Garden of Eden taught Eve. God said,
Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.
I suspect there was an infinite number of trees in that garden. Since it was before the Fall, I suspect most of trees and plant life were edible. You could probably have nibbled the bark and gobbled the leaves. With my childlike mind, I imagine a kind of Willy Wonka, chocolate-factory Garden of Eden--complete with edible mushrooms, gummy bear fruit, and rivers of chocolate. I know my imagination is not doctrinally correct, but I suspect there were many trees and shrubs that bore delicacies. That being the case, it's interesting to note what Satan tempted Eve to focus upon: all the things she could have, or the one thing she couldn't. Right? The thing she couldn't have! Satan applies the same tactic to us.
As I partook of the sacrament on that day years ago, rather than look at all the good things in my childhood that I did have, I looked upon the good things I didn't have. I overlooked all the goodness, love, and sacrifice my mom, Barbara, gave me and how she taught me to believe in God.
That belief would sprout into a desire to know God when I was about your age. By focusing on the bad, I overlooked all the good in my dad, Curtis.
He was good with kids, funny, a hard worker, and he loved me. I also overlooked my wonderful sisters, Anna and Beth. They helped me grow up, and loved me even though I was a stinker. To focus on the one figurative "tree," the seeming bad in our lives--whether past or present--blinds us from all that's good, all that God's given, and all He still gives.
In conclusion, in light of all that I've said, permit me to share two more church marquee signs I saw recently. One said, "God help me to be the person my dog thinks I am," and the other sign said, "God is the potter, not Harry." God will help you to be not only what your dog thinks you are but what God knows you will be, because He's the potter. But remember, though, we know what we want, but "your Father knoweth what things ye have need," said Jesus. So if something is shoving you on life's highway, maybe it's shoving you away from harm or toward what's good, better, or best. Remember, God cared for Joseph by hiding His power just as much as He cared for Elisha by displaying it. And even in His seeming absence, He's aware of us, and we can still prosper, like Joseph, and receive grace, mercy, and favor.
So ask, seek, and knock in prayer; but remember, you may not get what you want (like a girl named Myra Mains or a job with EFY), but if you stay faithful, you will get what you need--and perhaps find in the end, like me, what you needed you would later discover was also what you wanted.
I bear my testimony that God lives, and Jesus is the Christ, and They can manage my life so much better than I can. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Richard G. Scott, "Trust in the Lord," Ensign, Nov. 1995.  Neal A. Maxwell, Lord, Increase Our Faith, 38.  2 Nephi 9:20  Doctrine and Covenants 122:7  Moses 1:6  Joseph Smith, Teachings, 356.  Sermon by Timothy Keller found at http:www.westloop-church.orgindex.phpmessagesold-testament15-genesis79-the-hiddnness-of-god-genesis-372-1323-34.  Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 16-50. Vol. 2 of Word (1994).  Genesis 42:21  2 Kings 6:16  Genesis 45:7-8; 50:20  Genesis 39:2, 4, 21  Spencer W. Kimball, "Small Acts of Service," Ensign, Dec. 1974.  Matthew 7:7-11  George MacDonald, The Complete Works of George MacDonald: Novels, Short Stories, Poetry, Theological Writings & Essays (e-artnow, 2015).  Burton, Christopher, Why Michigan, Ensign, Jan. 2015; emphasis added.  Doctrine and Covenants 64:32  Neal A. Maxwell, "Plow in Hope," Ensign, Apr. 2001.  Moses 3:16-17  Matthew 6:8