IT Project Manager
Joseph West was born in Utah, grew up in Boise, Idaho, and then moved back to Utah to finish high school at Brigham Young High School in Provo. During high school he started dating Lani DeHart, who became his wife three months after he returned from the Brazil South Mission. They have been married 48 years, have nine children, and 46 grandchildren.
Brother West earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and an MBA from BYU. He has served in the church as a primary teacher, Sunday school teacher, high counselor, bishop, and mission president in the Portugal Porto Mission.
Brother West has been working at BYU-Idaho for nine years as a project manager and business analyst in the IT department.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
As you look back over your life, how have you seen the Lord’s hand in your life even though it was not obvious to you at the time?
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at the BYU-Idaho devotional today.
We are living in uncertain times. It is easy to feel anxious and apprehensive. Many of you are concerned about your future and the future of the world. At times in my past, I feared for my future and the future of the world.
I graduated from college in the 1970s. Then, like now, our daily lives changed dramatically. One major change was decreasing the speed limit on all highways from 70 miles per hour to 55 miles per hour. The next time you get on a highway, think about what it would be like to drive 55 rather than 80.
The 1970s was a protracted recession. My fellow graduates were getting so many rejection letters that they began to wallpaper the study rooms in the Jesse Knight Building. While it was discouraging, it was also cathartic to see that everyone, even the best students, was getting rejection letters. I know the anxiety of not having a job at graduation.
At times like this we all seek help from the Lord. We hope for some personal revelation. We seek to know what we should do. In such situations, I have earnestly sought guidance from the Lord. At these times I have hoped for my own Liahona. I hoped that I could receive an unmistakable indication from the Lord where I should move, where I should work, or whether I should I buy a house.
The scriptures have many examples of people forced into new, uncertain situations—individuals looking for divine guidance.
- Think of Adam and Eve. They had no idea what they were getting in to. They could not even ask their parents for help or advice or a loan.
- Think about Joseph in Egypt,
- David going against Goliath.
- Reflect on how Moses may have felt when he was asked to free Israel and was given only a walking stick.
- Remember Nephi going to retrieve the brass plates.
However, during most of my life, I often did not receive clear direction from the Lord. I was frustrated. I doubted myself and my righteousness. I doubted the Lord. Why wasn’t the Lord helping me! I wanted a pillar of fire leading my way, like the way the Lord led the children of Israel. 
However, looking back over my life, I have seen clear, unmistakable evidence of the Lord’s influence and guidance in my life. For me, personal revelation is clear in the rearview mirror, but not through the windshield. Most of my life I have felt like Nephi returning to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, when he said, “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” 
That is an uncomfortable feeling, not knowing what I should do.
I am reminded of a story told by Elder Holland. He describes a young man, his wife, and two small children driving across Southern Utah headed towards the east in an old car. Two times the car overheats and stops at the same place in the road. Two times the young man walks several miles back to the same farmer for help. Finally, the young man replaces his decrepit car with a more functional car so that he can continue.
Elder Holland continues his story:
Just two weeks ago, I drove by that exact spot. For just an instant, I thought perhaps I saw on that side road an old car with a devoted young wife and two little children. Just ahead of them, I imagined that I saw a young fellow walking towards Kanarraville, the weight of a young fathers fear evident in his pace.
In that imaginary instant, I couldn’t help calling out to him, “Don’t you quit! You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead.” Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come till heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come. 
Elder Holland could see the miracles in the rear-view mirror of his life.
Earlier this year, my wife and I drove past the apartment where we lived 40 years ago. That was the darkest period of my life, the “Slough of Despond”  in my life. Like Elder Holland, I found myself saying to my younger self, “Don’t you quit!! You keep trying. You are going to make it. There are great things to come.” I did keep trying, and over the next two years, my prospects turned around and have been on an upward climb ever since.
While my path has been upward, it has not been without it’s valleys. Nine years ago, I was going through another valley. I was 61 years old and needed to find new employment. It is hard to find work at that age, but especially hard when my talents do not fit neatly on a LinkedIn profile. One of my colleagues described one of my talents as “You ask good questions.” I have never seen a job description that was looking for someone who asked good questions.
After applying for many jobs over three years, I was discouraged. Why wasn’t the Lord helping me? Then, through a unique series of events that I can only describe as miraculous, I found myself employed at BYU-Idaho. It was miraculous because the job did not exist when I applied.
In the rear-view mirrors of my life, I can see the miracles.
Therefore, I am telling you now, in what might be your pit of despair, don’t you quit. You keep going. There are good times to come. Even if the way forward is not clear or as certain, even if the Lord seems slow to answer, keep going. You may not realize it, but the Lord is by your side and guiding your way. I am a witness that when you look in the rear-view mirrors of your life, you will see his guiding hand.
In a devotional talk in April of this year, Elder Dale G. Renlund used the metaphor of base isolators to illustrate the same principle. Base isolators are what are being constructed under the Salt Lake Temple so that it can withstand a large seismic shift. Faith that the Lord is interested in and helping you is like a base isolator:
A key base isolator for anxiety is to develop faith in Heavenly Father and His plan and trust in His and Jesus Christ’s love. This base isolator helps us maintain an eternal perspective and rely on the reality of Their goodness and Their love. 
Sometimes when you are looking back, the memory of those spiritual events fade. When experiencing current fears, we tend to forget past miracles. To help me remember, I created markers that remind me of past blessings from the Lord during my difficult times. To a visitor to our home, they would appear to be ordinary objects. But like Harry Potter’s nemesis, Voldemort’s horcruxes, these ordinary objects are sign posts in my spiritual history. A hiking jacket, a piano, a sun dial, several wall art pieces, a wall clock. I encourage you to erect your spiritual milestones to help you remember previous blessings.
Many of you are young and may not think the Lord has been at your side. You need to learn to be more observant.
On this week’s discussion board, Amy Nelson mentioned reading past journal entries. She writes, “It's amazing how obvious the hand of the Lord will sometimes be in my experiences as I read what I wrote in my journal.”
Looking back is only part of my message. After all, it is hard to move forward, if you are always looking backwards. So how do you move forward when the road ahead is obscured?
The most important thing to remember about moving forward is to move. The rudder of a ship that is dead in the water is useless. If you want guidance from the Lord, you must be moving. When we are anxious and the future uncertain, it is easy to become paralyzed. When you are tired and discouraged, you might be tempted to take time off to rest and find yourself. Rather than gaining life’s direction, that path usually results in barnacles.
You may ask, “How can I push forward when I am not sure where I am going?” I remind you of the words of Nephi, who went forth not knowing beforehand what he would do, while his brothers waited for the revelation of exactly what to do. Let me give you another example from my life.
I met my wife, Lani, when I was 16. I am now going to tell two stories about how we got to know each other. The first story has nothing to do with the topic of my talk. However, it makes the next story more poignant.
As a teenager, I felt socially awkward. I did not have many friends, and I never thought a girl would ever want to marry me. When I moved to a new high school, I did not know anyone. I met a few people participating in the school play. Lani was one of them. She was friendly and easy to talk to. I started to notice her in a few other classes. I was grateful to have a friend, boy or girl. A few weeks later we happened to be sitting near each other during lunch. In an awkward attempt to make conversation, I asked her if she had been invited to the Christmas dance. She responded “No.” In all my innocence, I replied, “Neither am I” and then left for my next class. Some of you may see the humor in that event. A few of you, mostly young men, may not see the humor. To you, I suggest you talk to your mother or sisters, and do it quickly.
That will give you some idea of what a wonderfully romantic catch I was. Lani and I dated for the next four years. It was a rocky relationship. (I cannot image why?) When I finally left on my mission, we were both glad for a break from each other. I suggested that Lani should date while I was gone. She did. Here is the point I want to emphasize: She did not pine away the next two years, waiting to see what direction her life would take. She propelled her “ship” forward, full speed ahead. She attended school year-round. When her sisters wanted to take an extended summer trip, she remained in school even though her mother suggested it would be “a once-in-a-lifetime” experience to see the Eastern United States and was willing to pay her expenses. Lani completed her course work and had a paid teaching internship by the time I returned from my mission. Three months later, we were married.
Lani and I have reflected on our life together and how we were able to achieve what we have. One of the key factors to our success was that she had a good-paying job with health insurance at the time we married. That impacted when we could have children and how we made it through the next four years of my college career. That happened because she kept moving forward even though the end result was unclear.
As you move forward in uncertain times, I do have some caveats. You do need to avoid dead ends, or worse yet, black holes.
Let me give you an example of a black hole. Last year a student graduating from Morehouse College in social work had taken out loans for over $200,000. That is one red flag. He took six years to complete his degree.  That is another red flag. The average salary for a social worker is under $50,000 a year. It is hard enough to live on $50,000 a year, let alone make large loan payments. That is an example of a black hole.
Now let me describe for you a similar situation with different outcome. Ten years ago, my youngest daughter graduated in three years from BYU-Idaho with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. First green flag: three years. Her husband also earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. But they both graduated with zero student loans. Second green flag. Like all couples just out of school, they have struggled. She is a stay-at-home mother of five children. They live very frugally. After graduation, her husband earned some additional certificates and degrees that have opened additional avenues of earning. They are making steady upward progress, partly because they do not have a crushing debt load. They avoided a black hole because they made good choices. They have options open to them.
A dead end is a path that does not lead anywhere. When you choose a path, you should always be looking at what the next step would be.
Let me give you an example of avoiding a dead-end. My oldest daughter chose to study accounting in college—not because she liked accounting, but because it offered many options, especially, for someone who wanted to be a stay-at-home mother. She worked full-time, then switched to working part-time from home when she had her first child, and finally returning to working full-time years later. Now she has a great many options open to her.
While each of our other seven children made different choices, they made choices that gave them options and opportunities.
Let me pause for a moment. Some of you may already be in a black hole or realize that you are in a dead end. What should you do?
First, you need to realize that most people have found themselves in such situations. Remember earlier when I referred to my Slough of Despond 40 years ago. That was a black hole for me.
Second, follow the example of other people in similar situations. Last week, Sister Clayton referred to Saul on the road to Damascus.  Saul was a very intelligent, learned, talented person who suddenly realized, in spite of how smart he was, that he was in a very, very black hole. As Sister Clayton noted, Saul asked two important questions: “Who are thou, Lord?” and “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” 
Paul, the intelligent, learned, and talented man, had to humble himself. He could not get out of this black hole himself. He needed help. When Ananias showed up, Paul was ready to listen.
If you are in an academic black hole or dead end, you need someone to help you. They are much closer than you think. I did not realize until a few years ago that there are several special departments on campus that are dedicated to helping students. The mission of the Career Center and Academic Advising Center is to help students avoid black holes and to help get them out. Do not wait until you are 66 years old to take advantage of these resources. Oh, how I wished I had known this 40 years ago. I implore you to take advantage of these resources dedicated to help you plan your career.
On this week’s discussion board, Abigail Napier made the following insightful comment:
I have always been a planner and do not like moving forward without a clear path to success. There have been many times where my plans do not work and I am left unsure of how to continue. During each of these times I know that I have felt upset and confused as to why plans don't work out. That being said, each time as I trust in the Lord and turn to Him, the alternative has been far greater than what I had planned. I am so grateful for to the Lord for taking away my plans and giving me a far greater life because of it.
Does the Lord Hear and Answer Every Child’s Prayer?
I want to conclude by talking about my feelings about a song. When I first heard the song “Does the Lord Hear and Answer Every Child’s Prayer?” I was going through another difficult time in my life. It was a time in my life when this question was not trivial. Could I honestly tell a child that the Lord does hear and answer every prayer? I was struggling to get answers myself.
I thought of the poem “Tracks in the Sand.”  When I look back at the set of tracks in the sand from my past and I see two sets of tracks, one set are mine and the other set of tracks are the Lord’s beside me. I have come to realize that when there was only one set of prints in the sand, that was when the Lord carried me.
Now I can say with assurance, that the Lord does hear and answer every child’s prayer. I know that He hears and answers your prayers. The answer may take a while to come. It may take some time for you to recognize it, but the answer will come.
I turned 70 this year. I am retiring from BYU-Idaho this month. Those who are younger than me—that includes most of you—probably think there is little for me to be anxious or concerned about. Three years ago, a singular event changed the direction of my life. It happened in an hour. Since that time, there have been a cascading series of decisions and events that have moved me out of my comfort zone. The stories I have told you today are from my past. However, I am currently experiencing concerns about my future. The inspiration from the Lord has been so subtle, almost imperceptible. I have the “base isolator” that Elder Renlund talked about. I have absolute faith and trust in God’s love. I am moving forward with confidence. I know the Lord answers every prayer.
That insight comes from hindsight. I invite you to look back over your life. Look carefully to see when and where the Lord guided you, indeed carried you. Don’t let yourself become dead in the water because you are afraid. I invite you to boldly move forward in faith. I did, and I have been richly blessed.
 See Exodus 13:21–22.
 1 Nephi 4:6.
 Jeffrey R. Holland, “Good Things to Come.”
 John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress.
 Dale G. Renlund, “Spiritual Earthquakes and Base Isolators,” BYUI devotional, Apr. 28, 2020.
 See “Pledge to Pay Morehouse College Student’s Debt Prompts Elation, Envy, and a Host of questions,” The New York Times, May 22, 2019.
 See Lisa Clayton, BYUI devotional, June 2, 2020.
 Acts 9:1–20.
 Title and authorship disputed.