Finding Your Spiritual Tailwind

April 3, 2018

Kyoung DaBell

Art Gallery Curator

Kyoung DaBell is the curator of the Spori Art Gallery at BYU-Idaho. She received an Associate of Arts from Ricks College, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from BYU-Idaho, and a Masters in Arts Administration from Colorado State University.

She was born in Korea and joined the Church at age 17, then served a full-time mission in the Seoul Korea Mission before moving to the United States for school.

She is married to Ryan DaBell, who is a Chemistry faculty member at BYU-Idaho. They have four children, including two sets of twins. She currently serves as the Cub Scout Advancement Chairman in her ward. 

Spiritual Preparation

Pre-devotional Discussion:

On the discussion board, describe an experience where you were touched by “a tender mercy” of the Lord.  How did you come to recognize that this experience was from God?

Brothers and sisters, I am truly humbled by this overwhelming assignment to address you today. I hope to share my simple testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how it has impacted my life. I hope that the prayers in your hearts will invite the Spirit to be here today and that my remarks may be worthy of your time.

Before I get into my talk, let’s take a look at this picture. This is a nighttime satellite image of the Korean peninsula. You’ll notice that while South Korea’s modern landscape is brightly lit, the North is dark and empty. By the way, if you’re wondering, I am from the South. Brothers and sisters, the difference is stunning! I think of this photo as a reflection of how starkly different my life was with and without the gospel. Compared to the South, even with our limited knowledge of the North, we can see that so many struggle with extreme poverty that any electric light is a luxury. Further, people in the North are completely isolated from the rest of the world. The total darkness in this photo reminds me of how my life was without the knowledge of the gospel; I lacked hope and was living in my own spiritual darkness.

I want to share some of the experiences that brought the gospel into my life. Many of these experiences came in the form of tender mercies from a loving Father in Heaven, some of which I recognized only later as coming from Him. My talented 14-year-old daughter, Grace, has provided some illustrations to help tell these stories.

I was born and raised in a small town in Korea. My father died when I was 10, leaving my 33-year-old mother a widow with five young children. Do you realize how people without the gospel knowledge feel about death? We thought this was the ultimate end of our father. As far as we knew, we’d never see him again—he had simply vanished into pure emptiness.

After Father’s death, the only work Mother could find with her fourth-grade education was as a day laborer doing any odd jobs available from sunup to sundown and beyond. There was no welfare program of any sort at the time, nor was there anyone capable or willing to help us in that small farming town. Without going into much detail, we struggled with hunger, sadness, and affliction for most of our growing years. Even so, my mother was my moral compass and is still the kindest, wisest soul you’ll ever meet. She would always tell us to wipe the sink after we washed our hands so the next person could have a clean sink. Sometimes, on a rare occasion, she would get paid for her labor with a chicken. As you can imagine, one little chicken could hardly be enough for a family of six, so she would watch her five children eat. While devouring the chicken, one of us would offer her some meat, but she would refuse and assure us that she loved the bones the most. So she waited until we had finished to get to her favorite part. My remarkable mother and her immeasurable sacrifice and kindness were my strength and anchor in my youth.

Looking back at those days, it is awesome to realize that even though we didn’t really know God, I know now that He knew and cared for us all along. Mother’s wise guidance helped me to prepare for a much larger change in my life.

When I was 17, one Saturday afternoon in August, I roamed the town with two of my friends. We were passing a large banner with a very long, strange church name located above a furniture store on a busy market street. A small, makeshift church was located there, and I asked my friends to go up with me. When we walked up those stairs, the missionaries were waiting for us.

One of the missionaries asked me if I believed in God. I told him I thought I did, but I didn’t know anything about Him. Then he said that there is a God in heaven who loves me, and He wants me to be happy and has prepared a plan of happiness for me. I am pretty sure I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but at that moment, I felt that heaven was opening up and a ray of sunshine was shining down over my head. I felt something that I had never felt before, and all I knew was that I had to be on that plan! That makeshift church became my refuge every day, and I was baptized exactly two weeks later. And a month later, my younger sister and my dear mother were both baptized. Life didn’t get magically easier, and my family’s hardships didn’t disappear, but I received strength to go on. For the first time, I knew I was destined to be happy by beating the odds.

With the missionaries as my guide, I began to develop daily gospel habits of prayer and scripture study. I began to learn and keep the commandments and was introduced to living prophets. From this, I learned to recognize the Holy Ghost and the personal revelation that God meant for me to have, and I also learned how to make course corrections in my life to keep me in line with our Heavenly Father’s plan.

During that winter, I had been wanting to test out Moroni’s promise that the missionaries had shared with me. So one night, I waited until everyone fell asleep in our one-room home. Then, by candlelight, I read Moroni 10:4–5: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.” [1]

As soon as I read those verses, and before I could utter my prayer, my heart was on fire, and that fire transferred through my entire body, and a distinct, unmistakable thought came to my mind, saying that this book was from God and everything that the Church is teaching is true and good. This miraculous experience was a gift from God to me, and it became the fertile ground where my faith could take root.

When I reached the eligible age, I decided to serve a mission and was called to the Korea Seoul Mission. It was the best decision I’d ever made for my life. I now had the opportunity to help others find the same spiritual support I had discovered.

Some months into my mission, my companion and I met an American woman living in Seoul. We needed help teaching her in English, so we taught her with the help of a senior missionary couple, Elder Bill and Sister Renae White. This was hardly a coincidental meeting, as the Whites became my eternal friends. As I reached the end of my mission, they encouraged me to go to Ricks College and get an education. I had never thought of college before, let alone leaving Korea. After all, I was the first in my family to graduate from high school. But soon I was accepted to Ricks College. That missionary couple were my angels, parents, mentors, and sponsors until they recently passed away.

When I arrived in the United States, another life-altering experience came to me when Steven and Marjorie Bennion, president and First Lady of Ricks College at the time, invited me to stay with their lovely family. This was, without a doubt, a divine intervention and a tender mercy from the Lord. They took me in as a daughter, and I experienced life in a happy, loving family setting; I was able to see how to live the gospel in a family and as an individual under the direction of a loving father, who strived to lead his family righteously, and a saintly mother, who nurtured the family with her faith, wisdom, and grace. This experience became my guiding light throughout my adult life, and I am so grateful that they are here today.

These experiences of mine are the kind that only later do we realize are the result of the Lord’s influence in our lives. Nephi calls these “the tender mercies of the Lord.” [2] On this week’s discussion board, I asked you to share experiences where you were touched by a tender mercy of the Lord and to describe how you recognized that this experience was from God. Here is what Wesley had to say about his experience:

WESLEY: In 2012, I was skiing with a group of friends, and I went off a jump, and I came down 15 feet onto my neck. That completely changed my life. I broke my neck, rendering me a quadriplegic for the rest of my life. My father was there, and so I actually called out to him and told him I needed help, and he came and was able to give me a blessing right there on the mountain. And it comforted me. It comforted me for the rest of that day and even the rest of the time in this injury. I was told that I would be able to shrug my shoulders and only turn my head for the rest of my life, but I had a great surgeon, and he was able to fix my neck and then a few days later realize that I would be able to actually gain more back. And I was actually able to start moving my arms and get into a manual wheelchair. Another blessing I saw in this was that I was able to graduate a year early. About a year before, I had decided to graduate a year early and do all the work to do that. And from then on, I was able to focus more on my injury.

Each of us is headed down a ski slope called life. And at times, we’ll fall--either spiritually or physically--and we’ll have to turn to our Heavenly Father to get back up and turn to those people around us, and they’ll help us get back up. And just like I got back up on skis within a year, we can get back up and continue on with our life.

I’ve learned so much from this injury. I’ve learned how to see people better. I’ve learned how to come closer to our Heavenly Father and that He’s always there for us. No matter what happens in our life, He is there for us.

DABELL: Thank you, Wesley, for sharing your story. You’re an inspiration! I echo his testimony: Heavenly Father is deeply involved in our lives. Did you notice that even though Wesley’s challenges were not taken away, the Lord gave him specific blessings? Wesley’s father was there at the accident to give him a priesthood blessing. A skilled surgeon was able to help save some of his motion. And having graduated early from high school, Wesley was able to focus on his own healing, both physically and spiritually. All of these were tender mercies given by the Lord, if we are willing to see them—and Wesley is. The Lord has promised to go before us, be on our “right hand and on [our] left,” and that His “Spirit shall be in [our] hearts, and [His] angels round about [us], to bear [us] up.” [3]

Just as Wesley’s accident changed his life, my experiences—good and bad—have changed my life and led me here to this campus. This is a special place in so many ways. For one thing, I first started dating my eternal companion, Ryan, here. He is the most faithful and loyal man I know, and his unwavering faith and devotion to the Savior is anchoring our little family. He proposed shortly before my graduation.

After finishing at Ricks College, I went back home to Korea, and our courtship continued over the Pacific Ocean. I returned to the States to visit Ryan for Christmas that winter. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t ruin this nice guy’s life if we were to marry. This is really true.

Anyway, about halfway to America, the dreadful 11-hour flight from Seoul to LA filled with cheers from the passengers when the pilot announced that a tailwind had been pushing us so much that we would be landing 90 minutes ahead of schedule. It was a great Christmas surprise for all on board.

I later learned that on transoceanic flights, the tailwind occurs due to the jet stream. When a pilot can take advantage of the tailwind, he is able to save significant amounts of time and fuel.

Just as we passengers received this welcome gift, we will be provided with a “spiritual tailwind” from our Heavenly Father. Each of us is born with the opportunity to unlock our own, individual divine potential during this life. Surely that journey is not meant to be easy; our goal, after all, is to become more like our Heavenly Father, and so this road is supposed to be challenging, pushing our limits. But we aren’t left alone, and when we could really use an extra push in our lives—like a tailwind—wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that help? The tailwind represents our Father’s desire to bless us in all things we do, lightening our burdens, keeping us on the path, and helping us get to our destination safely, whether that destination is a short-term goal or our ultimate aim of returning to our heavenly home. It is God’s work and glory to help us. He has repeatedly told us just how much He longs to help us. As the Psalms say, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” [4]

However, like the pilot’s accessing the jet stream, there are actions that we must take in order to receive the help that God has made available to us. This begins with establishing and maintaining good gospel habits. Cultivating daily habits such as daily prayer, studying the scriptures and the counsel of living prophets, or small steps like living the Honor Code may seem insignificant, but when you follow and live by them, you will be blessed accordingly. As Alma taught, “I say unto you, that by small and simple things, are great things brought to pass.” [5] Just like an airplane, we can reduce our chances of facing unneeded turbulence in life by placing ourselves in a position to avoid the temptations that we face.

In addition, well-grounded gospel habits help us access a gift—the wondrous gift of the Holy Ghost. Though we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost at baptism, our ability to access that gift is dependent upon our faith and willingness to live in a manner that keeps us in tune with the Spirit. The Lord has told us to “put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy.” [6]

When we are willing to put our trust in God, the Holy Ghost will bring to our spirits personal revelation that we can use to help us navigate the storms of life. The world we live in today is bombarded by noise, distractions, and confusing messages. Tuning in to the Spirit brings clarity and steadiness to our lives. When we need to make changes—that is, when we need to repent—the Holy Ghost will help us recognize what to do and how to do it. Repentance leads to an increased sensitivity to the Spirit, strengthening us in our desires to follow Christ.

Establishing and maintaining gospel habits and relying on the guidance of the Spirit to make course corrections are important steps we can take to help us access the Lord’s tailwind that supports us on our life’s journey. Oftentimes, His help comes as He sends His servants to do His errands. These may include caring friends, loving family members, or even strangers. For me, the missionaries, the Whites, the Bennions, dedicated teachers, and many others along the way were my mortal angels. These saints were in tune with the counsel of President Spencer W. Kimball, who taught that “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” [7]

As we listen to and act on spiritual promptings to serve others, we can also be a vehicle for the Lord to do His work. I received a powerful reminder of this a few years ago. It was the Fourth of July, and my family chose a random spot on Main Street to watch the parade in Rexburg. As the parade ended and we prepared to leave, a beautiful Asian lady turned around and saw me. She had been sitting in front of me for over two hours. The moment our eyes met, she exclaimed with utter amazement, “Sister Mo, I’ve been looking for you for over 20 years. You taught me the gospel!”

She said her name was Sister Lee, and she lived in an area where I had served as a missionary so long ago. I tried so hard to remember her, but I got absolutely nothing. After our short visit on the street corner, I accepted a dinner invitation at her son’s home that weekend. At our second reunion, her son reminded me that I made him a binder full of pictures to study the gospel when he was nine. Suddenly I remembered who they were, and I couldn’t believe the transformation that this family had gone through since joining the Church. After Sister Lee’s baptism, her two sons grew up in the Church; both served missions and married in the temple. What a sweet reunion that was, and like Alma and the sons of Mosiah, we “did rejoice exceedingly to see [each other]; and what added more to [our] joy, [we] were still [brothers and sisters] in the Lord.” [8] My experience is not unique—we witnessed another heartfelt reunion between Brother Forest Gahn and his missionary three weeks ago at this pulpit. It turned out that Sister Lee had visited Rexburg before, but this would be her last visit, because her son was graduating that month. This astounding reunion is a small token of our caring Heavenly Father’s love for His children. Sister Lee had been longing to meet me, but I needed it as much as she did.   

These tender mercies are a source of joy in my life and a reminder of the gifts that God gives me on a daily basis. But that does not mean that we are spared from trials. Trials are a part of our mortal journey. They are to teach us patience and faith and to help us humble ourselves before God. But Christ can help us in our trials because He truly knows how we struggle.

As a child, I watched my mother feed a homeless beggar at a time when we didn’t even have enough rice for ourselves. When I asked her why, she said she knew how the man felt, because she had also known hunger. Just as my mother understood the hunger of a homeless man from her experience, the Savior understands our trials because of His experience. Alma the Younger taught that Christ would suffer “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; ... and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” [9]

Christ has helped me through many trials in my life, even those times when heaven seemed so far away and I felt I was suffering alone. Ryan and I suffered through several miscarriages and two failed adoptions at the beginning of our marriage. Given what I’d gone through growing up, I protested to Heavenly Father that I deserved an exemption from any more trials. But that isn’t how it works, is it? We grieved and suffered over infertility, and the sadness and agony consumed us for over five long years. Any hope for children of our own seemed impossible during those times, but we lived our lives the best we knew how. And when my faith lacked, I had to rely on church leaders, family, and strong friends during those years. Then, what do you think came next? Surprise! Heavenly Father blessed us with four wonderful children—two sets of twins, back to back!

After all, all things are done in His timeline, not ours. I know sometimes the way forward seems grim when you’re in the thick of it, but if you are out there feeling alone, overwhelmed, or confused, or whatever challenge you are facing, don’t ever give up. Keep doing what you know is right and turn to our Savior for help. I know that the day will finally come when we will look back to find that the hardships we experience today are temporary. Last week, Brother Clarke shared some of the key ways to come unto Christ so that promised blessings could be ours. When we live our lives in the gospel way, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are ready and waiting to push us along as the guiding tailwind in our lives because our welfare is Their top priority.

Before we conclude this devotional, I want to invite you to take just a second to do something with me. For this exercise, you can take out your phone or your laptop. Then, take a short moment to write a text or email to yourself. In that message, challenge yourself to choose a specific, meaningful action you can take this week to access the divine tailwind that the Lord is eager to provide. Let’s take a few seconds to do this, right now.

This coming Sabbath, I hope that you will take the opportunity to follow up with yourself and discover just how much the Lord is involved in our lives each and every day. If you will come unto Him in faith, I can assure you that He will be your spiritual tailwind along your journey, and you will never want to do anything without Him, in good times or bad.

I know God lives. He is our Father in Heaven, and He loves His children. His Son, Jesus Christ, is our physical and spiritual Savior. Just two days ago, we celebrated His victory over the bondage of sin and death. It is Christ who gives us strength to overcome our trials and successfully navigate our mortal journey. He is the spiritual tailwind in our lives. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Moroni 10:4–5.

[2] 1 Nephi 1:20.

[3] Doctrine and Covenants 84:88.

[4] Psalms 46:1.

[5] Alma 37:6.

[6] Doctrine and Covenants 11:12–13.

[7] Spencer W. Kimball, “Small Acts of Service,” Ensign, Dec. 1974;

[8] Alma 17:2.

[9] Alma 7:11–12.

Finding Your Spiritual Tailwind

Audio of Kyoung DaBell's BYU-Idaho devotional address, Winter 2018

BYU-Idaho Radio Interview

Audio of Kyoung DaBell's BYU-Idaho Radio interview about her Winter 2018 devotional address.