Brother Bruce E. Hobbs
BYU-Idaho Director of Public Relations
I Am a Child of God
August 9, 2005
Brothers and Sisters I appreciate the opportunity to share my feelings and testimony with you. Because your time is precious I feel the responsibility to share something meaningful—something the Lord would have you know. I pray for and invite the Spirit and ask that you also pray for the Spirit to be with us. If we receive the gift of the Spirit during this devotional, we will all be taught in spite of my shortcomings.
Who am I? Each of us must carefully consider this question if we are to find true happiness and successfully navigate our way through this life and into the next one. When we understand who we really are and come to know our Heavenly Father, we will discover how much He loves us. Our Father loves all His children. However because of prior preparation, blessings, and special gifts, He requires more from some of those children. Because we are here, enjoying the blessings of the gospel, the holy priesthood, and an education at BYU-Idaho, we can be sure our Father requires more from us. Once we understand who we are we will not be so quick to question our Father’s commandments or the directions we receive from our priesthood leaders. I think the time will come when we will all wish we had tried harder to do the things we knew to be right. Thus it is essential that we come to grips with who we are as soon as possible.
Who am I?
I am a child of God, and he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.
I am a child of God. Rich blessings are in store,
If I but learn to do his will I’ll live with him once more.
I am a child of God. I’m grateful for the gifts and blessings He has given me. I believe these gifts include not only spiritual gifts and material blessings, but also family, friends, leaders, associates, opportunities, and daily experiences. Heavenly Father has always been aware of my needs and desires; He has been very kind to me. Yet like many of you, in my weaknesses, I often struggle to do what is right. It reminds me of a favorite statement from Elder J. Golden Kimball, “I am trying to be wise; I am trying to be prudent, and I confess I am having a terrible time. I am a man of weakness; I am a man full of faults; but God knows I have given Him the best effort there was in me.”
It is important that we give the Lord the best effort that is in us. Throughout my life there have been too many times I wish I had given more. I hope that I can live, that each of us can live, without regrets.
As I share some thoughts with you, I do so humbly. I hesitate to use personal experiences, because it may seem that this is about me and it is not. My hope is that some of these experiences will confirm that God is mindful of all his children. God does not love us for the things we accumulate or the worldly accolades we receive; He loves us for who we are and what we do.
Several years ago my daughter Jenny lost a very special ring in the grass of our backyard. We searched diligently, but it seemed hopeless. We had been playing a ball game and didn’t know exactly where she lost it. It was important to her, so we prayed for help to find this ring. We continued to search and just before giving up, I kneeled down and ran my fingers through the grass. I could not believe it; the ring slipped over one of my fingers. It seemed impossible, but there it was. How can we deny a Father who rules the universe, yet still cares about the small, important things of our lives? It’s true that not every prayer is answered immediately and sometimes the answers aren’t what we hope for, but isn’t it nice to know that the object of our faith and trust is a God who loves us and who knows our needs and concerns.
I know that sometime in your lives your Heavenly Father in some large or small private way has made His love and concern known to you. Through these experiences we all know in a very personal way that He lives, loves us deeply, blesses us regularly, and wants us to succeed. He wants us to grow to be like Him and to return with our families to His presence—to our heavenly home. Our Father blesses each of us according to His wisdom and according to our needs. He is fully involved with us and our success and happiness. “For behold this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). The allegory of the tame and wild olive trees in Jacob 5 teaches powerfully of the love and effort the Lord showers on his vineyard. He nourishes, digs, prunes, dungs, and works tirelessly to protect and preserve the trees and the fruit of His vineyard. What a great example of His love, effort, and sacrifice to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. Doesn’t this help with the question “Who am I?”
Elder Dennis E. Simmons taught:
Mortality is not an accident of nature. It is a brief segment of the great plan of our loving Father in Heaven to make it possible for us, His sons and daughters, to achieve the same blessings He enjoys, if we are willing. In our premortal life, we were instructed by Him as to the purpose of mortality: ‘We will make an earth whereon these may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.’ So there we have it—it's a test. The world is a testing place for mortal men and women. When we understand that it's all a test, administered by our Heavenly Father, who wants us to trust in Him and to allow Him to help us, we can then see everything more clearly (Elder Dennis E. Simmons, May 2004, Ensign).
This life is temporary; it is a time to see if we will use our blessings and talents as He directs—as He uses them. To help us our Father has given us many special gifts. One such gift is a physical body. Our bodies give us great powers and provide great opportunities if we use them in appropriate ways, but these bodies also bring into play our carnal natures. If we do not use our bodies in appropriately, their powers can destroy us and can be very harmful to others. In Mosiah we read:
The natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father (Mosiah 3:19).
Along with our bodies, our Father has given us the gift of agency, the power to act for ourselves and not be acted upon. We are able and free to become like our Father or to become like our brother Lucifer. To become like our Father we must overcome our natural being. Often our natural man uses the gift of agency as a justification for doing what we want. Have you ever used the phrase, “Well I have my agency”? Elder David A. Bednar often taught that agency is the gift to act and that agency is more about acting than about choosing. With agency we “are free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for [ourselves] and not be acted upon . . .” (2 Nephi 2:26) Yet with agency we are accountable; we are responsible to act in the way the Lord would have us act and to use our time and blessings appropriately. “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness, for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28).
We learn a great lesson by comparing Nephi with Laman and Lemuel. Nephi humbly submitted his will to the Lord and kept every commandment he received. It seems that Laman and Lemuel murmured about every commandment of the Lord. Why did they murmur? Because “they did not believe that I [Nephi] was instructed of the Lord” (1 Nephi 17:18). When and why do we struggle with agency and murmur? When do we fall away? When do we complain or feel offended at a word or a commandment or a policy?
We murmur when we, like Laman and Lemuel, give in to pride. Pride is selfishness and part of the natural man; it is a great roadblock to our progress. Pride causes contention; we look sideways at others, judging and comparing rather that looking upwards to God. We live for ourselves and not for God. We think my will be done and not thy will. We murmur when we doubt the Lord’s existence or involvement in our lives; when we don’t believe our leaders are instructed of the Lord; when we mock sacred things; and when we follow our own agenda. Sometimes we just doubt. Laman and Lemuel said: “We knew that ye could not construct a ship. We knew ye were lacking in judgment. Wherefore thou can not accomplish so great a work”(1 Nephi 17:19). President Monson has taught that Satan tries to fill us with doubt and fear. “You can’t do it; you’re too young, too old, too inexperienced, etc. You can’t do it.” I was impressed when Elder Bednar’s son Michael said: “Faith has driven fear out of my father’s life” (March 2005, Ensign p 16).
How can we put off this natural man? By yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and turning to Christ. The promptings of the Holy Ghost and the great enabling power of the Atonement help us control our physical natures and passions. God’s grace can give us the power to submit our wills to God’s will and to be obedient. The Holy Spirit will lead us to become saints if, as the Savior commanded, we become like a child: meek, humble, and willing to submit to our Father. Then our Father, who knows us best, and who knows what is best for us, can mold us into what He knows we can and must become. Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “We must think as God would think, say what He would say, act as He would act, do what He would do, and love as He would love.”
In short, brothers and sisters, we must exercise our agency appropriately and become like Him. To ensure our success our Father has filled our lives with many special events and tender associations.
Elder Neal Maxwell taught the following in his last General Conference address, “There are clusters of memories embedded in each of your lives. And these can help us to ‘remember how merciful the Lord hath been’ (Moroni 10:3). He certainly has been to me” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, May 2004, Ensign).
Elder Bednar taught a similar concept last General Conference as he explained the many “tender mercies” that come from the Lord to each one of us. He quoted from Nephi, “But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20).
Elder Bednar went on:
I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord's timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.
Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord's tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ (Elder David A. Bednar, May 2005 Ensign).
Elder Bednar also taught that those who qualify for the Lord’s tender mercies are those who are chosen by the Lord, and they are chosen because of their obedience, their aspirations and their hearts. Does it not seem reasonable that a small girl loved by her Heavenly Father might be chosen and receive the tender mercy of finding a very special ring as a consequence of her humble, faithful prayer.
In addition to these tender mercies, and in His wisdom, God has blessed us with weaknesses. “And if men come unto my I will show unto them their weaknesses. I give unto men weakness . . .” (Ether 12:27). Why would he do that? That we may be humble and turn to Him for help. “For if they humble themselves before me and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
Brothers and Sisters it is very important that we are humble and wise enough to turn to the Lord and acknowledge His hand in the “tender mercies” of our lives. It is also necessary that we acknowledge His hand in our successes and accomplishments that we may receive and develop the gifts of humility and meekness which gifts are essential for us to ultimately receive the greatest of all gifts—eternal life. As we learned from Satan’s experience in the pre-existence, this work is not about us and our glory. For it is not by our power that these things are done. The glory and honor must be given to the Father.
In Jacob 4:6-7 we read:
Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.
Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.
John Ruskin wrote:
I believe the test of every great man is humility. I do not believe that humility means doubting one’s own personal power, but really, truly great men have a curious feeling that greatness is not in them, but through them, and they see the divine in every other man and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.
Brothers and Sisters I am a weak and simple man and have not always accomplished all I should have done. If the Lord continues to help me and to love me in my weaknesses, then he will help you. We are all among the weak and the simple, but He loves us. During my mission, President, then Elder, Hinckley made a visit to Korea. When he spoke to the missionaries, he looked at us, paused for a moment and said, “You aren’t much, but you are all he has.”
God knows our weaknesses and needs. He knows what is best for us and He provides us with experiences and associations from which we can learn great truths. About 18 months into my mission I was called to be a district leader. This particular district had four Korean sisters. I was not the most talented Korean speaker in our mission and the sisters posed a challenge. Not only did I struggle to communicate with and interview the sisters, but they also brought a number of investigators in for baptismal interviews. The other senior elder in this district was a great missionary who had received a powerful gift of tongues. Elder David Middleton not only spoke and understood Korean; he wowed the Koreans with his skills and pronunciation. In most settings Koreans immediately turned to Elder Middleton because of his language skills. For a weak and simple, older district leader this was a humbling turn of events. One Sunday afternoon, as I struggled with this situation, I received an impression that continues to have application for me. In our lives, the Lord blesses (gifts) us with people who possess greater abilities in some areas than we have, that we might be humble. I believe He does this so we will look to and trust others to help us with our assignments and responsibilities. We can’t do it all ourselves. This great work is not about us; it is the Lord’s work and His glory. We are merely assisting Him. In order to bless others and to follow and become like our Savior we must acknowledge this and get out of the way.
As a young father and first time homeowner, I discovered there were many little chores to be done, and I wasn’t very good at some of them. One fall I had to get on the roof and winterize the swamp cooler. I was feeling sorry for myself when my little daughter excitedly asked if she could get on the roof with me. Kids love to get on the roof. Dads hate having kids on the roof because they run around, get too near the edge, create distractions, and well, just because. When you’re the Dad you get to be on the roof and kids don’t. Jenny ignored my objections and pressed me to let her on the roof. She promised that she would sit still. Well with my special “Daddy” authority I told her she could get on the roof, but it wouldn’t be pleasant. She was to sit in one spot, out of the way, and remain very, very still. She was so excited that she agreed. Once on the roof I did my Dad job and Jenny sat in the kid’s spot. She was pretty good, but whenever she even thought of leaving her assigned spot I commanded her to “Sit Down.” Eventually she grew bored with this arrangement and wanted down. I exercised my fatherly prerogative and said, “You wanted to be up here and here you will stay until I’m finished.” I’m sure her “on the roof experience” was not as pleasant as she had hoped. Finally I finished the work and started to cover the cooler with a tarp. By this time the wind had begun to blow and I couldn’t hold down all the corners and tie the loose ends. I struggled for a time and finally a little voice said, “Dad I can help.” Well among other imperfections I can be ornery and stubborn. She is just a little girl; she can’t help. I don’t have time to mess around. However, I grew increasing frustrated and eventually gave up; I finally allowed this cute little girl to help and we soon finished the task.
How embarrassed I felt. Once again the Lord in a tender mercy taught me how much we can achieve when we acknowledge our weaknesses and allow others to help and teach us. In my career I have also grown each time I admit that I don’t know everything and when I allow others to help in the work by sharing their talents. It is important that we understand it is not about us and that we give others the opportunity to contribute, to grow, and to succeed. God humbles and teaches us.
In the Words of Mormon: “And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (Words of Mormon 1:7).
And in His wisdom, He gives us friends to help us and strengthen us. I have always loved the following verse from the Joseph Smith—History:
While preparing to start—being very poor, and the persecution so heavy upon us that there was no probability that we would ever be otherwise—in the midst of our afflictions we found a friend in a gentleman by the name of Martin Harris, who came to us and gave me fifty dollars to assist us on our journey (Joseph Smith—History 1:61, emphasis added).
Well the swamp cooler scene has played out many times in my life and slowly I’m learning the lesson. My infinitely patient wife, my children, and fellow employees have added so much to my life. When I allow others to help and teach me I am far more successful and much happier. And so again to Mosiah 3:19: If we in faith humble ourselves, acknowledge our weaknesses and submit to the Lord’s wisdom, He can work wonders with us. He can make so much more of us than we can make of ourselves. It is also a tremendous blessing to invite others into our lives. For when we open our hearts to others we discover the importance and the power of love—another of our Father’s great gifts.
The power of love is demonstrated in Christ’s pure love and charity. This pure love for all is at the heart of God’s power. It gave the Father the strength to give His only begotten Son and it allowed that Son to endure and to accomplish the Atonement.
Elder John H. Groberg taught:
When filled with God’s love, we can do and see and understand things that we could not otherwise do or see or understand. Filled with His love, we can endure pain, quell fear, forgive freely, avoid contention, renew strength, and bless and help others in ways surprising even to us.
Jesus Christ was filled with unfathomable love as He endured incomprehensible pain, cruelty, and injustice for us. Through His love for us, He rose above other insurmountable barriers. He invites us to follow Him and partake of His unlimited love so we too may rise above the pain and cruelty and injustice of this world and help and forgive and bless (November 2004 Ensign p. 11).
In Moroni 7:47-48 we are taught:
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.
How can we receive this great gift of charity and be purified as our Savior is pure? It is bestowed upon us when we follow a chain of gospel principles that leads us forward precept upon precept. If we are to be purified, as Christ is pure, we must exercise our agency and act for ourselves in righteousness. To act in this way we need faith which is the first principle of the gospel and another gift from God. As we develop faith, we also receive the gift of hope. “And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise” (Moroni 7:41).
Faith and hope provide security and direction. President Hinckley lives by these principles:
It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us . . . If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers (President Gordon B. Hinckley).
This is the Lord’s work and we can do all things in the strength of the Lord. But this requires commitment and great effort on our part. We must accept our Father’s gifts. We must exercise our agency and put off the natural man. We must trust the Lord and meekly submit to His will. This requires sacrifice. Elder Bruce Hafen taught:
But growth means growing pains. It also means learning from our mistakes in a continual process made possible by the Savior’s grace, which He extends both during and ‘after all we can do.’
But grace is not cheap. It is very expensive, even very dear. How much does this grace cost? Is it enough simply to believe in Christ? The man who found the pearl of great price gave ‘all that he had’ for it. If we desire ‘all that [the] Father hath,’ God asks all that we have. To qualify for such exquisite treasure, in whatever way is ours, we must give the way Christ gave—every drop He had: ‘How exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.’ All of His heart, all of our hearts.
If we must give all that we have, then our giving only almost everything is not enough. If we almost keep the commandments, we almost receive the blessings.
We can have eternal life if we want it, but only if there is nothing else we want more.
So we must willingly give everything, because God Himself can’t make us grow against our will and without our full participation. Yet even when we utterly spend ourselves, we lack the power to create the perfection only God can complete. Our all by itself is still only almost enough—until it is finished by the all of Him who is the ‘finisher of our faith.’ At that point, our imperfect but consecrated almost is enough (Elder Bruce Hafen November 2004 Ensign pp. 97-99).
Our Heavenly Father wants to give us all that he has. He knows what that will take. He knows we are weak that we must learn and grow. He knows that for us to receive this great gift we must put off the natural man and surrender our wills to Him.
In a recent devotional Elder Goaslind also taught us on this subject:
President Joseph F. Smith saw in vision ‘the hosts of the dead . . . who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God’ (Doctrine and Covenants 138:11-13). How can our sacrifices be in the similitude of the Savior’s great infinite and eternal sacrifice? Very simply, we can submit our wills to the Father’s. Rather than persisting in our ‘carnal wills and desires’ (Mosiah 16:11), our wills, like the ‘will of the Son,’ should be ‘swallowed up in the will of the Father’ (Mosiah 15:7). This is how Christ lived, and this is how Joseph Smith lived. Such submission to God led ultimately to death. Joseph’s martyrdom was indeed in similitude of the Lord’s great sacrifice, for he went where he was sent and did what he did knowing full well where it would lead.
In his final General Conference address Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “Brethren you submit your wills to God, you are giving Him the only thing you can actually give Him that is really yours to give. Don’t wait too long to find the altar or to begin to place the gift of your wills upon it!” (Ensign, May 2004, p 46).
We are children of our Heavenly Father. Can we see His love for us in the events, lessons, people and “tender mercies” of our lives? Can we turn to Him in meekness and faith? We have to let go of everything; even what seems good to us, if we are to gain the greatest of all gifts.
At this risk of revealing how shallow I can be, I give you an example from my life. I learn many things from my wife and children. They keep me humble. My son Sam loves games. He loved golf and became quite good at an early age. He had some success in junior golf tournaments and in fact qualified for the Junior World Championships in Torres Pines California. One day Sam thoughtfully asked, “Dad how can you play golf for 30 years and never be any good.” It is a fair question that I’m still trying to answer.
Well along with Sam I realize that I may never be any good. But as I have struggled to improve I have begun to understand that I need to think differently. I may have to give up a satisfying part of my game if I want to get better. Like many others, I love to hit the ball far. I enjoy beautiful, long shots. But I’m beginning to see that if I want to improve my scores I have to give up some of those beautiful, long shots in favor of control and consistency; I must exercise judgment. Control and consistency is not as awesome as power, but it makes for lower scores and that is good.
Perhaps a better example: This past spring my wife, Julie, and I had the opportunity to visit Nauvoo and the temple. For those of you who have not yet had that opportunity let me say it is beautiful. As I sat in the Celestial Room I thought of the Prophet Joseph and the Saints. They came to Nauvoo to build Zion. They came to build their homes and a temple to their God. How hard it must have been to leave all they had worked for. But as I thought on these things I began to realize that it was important for them to leave and move to the Rocky Mountains. They went west, and though it was not what they wanted to do and though it seems they had failed, in the Salt Lake Valley they established themselves; they built homes, churches, and temples. They built up the Church and kingdom of God. They gave up their homes and temple in Nauvoo, but in Salt Lake, protected from the world, the kingdom thrived. Its resources grew. Faith, membership, financial and spiritual resources all grew to point where the Church could return to Nauvoo and rebuild the city and the temple. Today the temple and the Church’s presence exist in strength. And one day, I believe there will be temples in Independence, at Adam-ondi-Ahman and there will be a dedicated House of the Lord in Kirkland. Though they were forced to let go of so much in Nauvoo, the Lord opened the door for his kingdom to return and it will never be removed. We too must let go of what we think is best and trust the Lord. He will see that the work is done.
I am grateful for my many blessings. I’m grateful for my parents who have sacrificed their interests for me and who have taught me many important lessons. I’m grateful for my wife, for her patience and sacrifices. She encourages me and makes me a better person. I try hard but often end up doing the measurable things while she is constantly doing the kind charitable things. I am grateful for the Brethren and I love them and their teachings. I believe that I gained that love for the Brethren from my Grandfather who loved them. He often told me: “There ain’t one of those guys that don’t know what he is talking about.” I bear witness that is true. I know that President Hinckley is God’s anointed prophet. I know our Heavenly Father lives and loves us. I know that His greatest desire is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. I know that we are all weak and we struggle to be what we should be. But our Father is patient with us if we will sincerely try. We can’t continue to ignore the little things or resist in obeying the commandments or in following the counsel of the Brethren. The little things define our character. Our Father is trying to guide us back to His presence.
Be thou humble in thy weakness, and the Lord thy God shall lead thee,
Shall lead thee by the hand and give thee answer to thy prayers.
Be thou humble in thy pleading, and the Lord thy God shall bless thee,
Shall bless thee with a sweet and calm assurance that he cares.
Be thou humble in thy calling, and the Lord thy God shall teach thee,
To serve his children gladly with a pure and gentle love
Be thou humble in thy longing, and the Lord thy God shall take thee,
Shall take thee home at last to ever dwell with him above (LDS Church Hymns “Be Thou Humble” p 130).
Of this I bear witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
The Path of the Peacemaker
Audio of President Kim B. Clark's BYU-Idaho devotional address Winter 2009