Online Learning Quality Assurance and Innovation Director
Peter Williams was born and raised in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s and doctorate in instructional psychology and technology from Brigham Young University. Peter served in the Bucharest Romania Mission. Prior to joining BYU-Idaho in 2007, he worked with the BYU Technology-Assisted Language Learning group and BYU Independent study. Peter currently serves as Online Learning Director of Quality Assurance and Innovation for BYU-Idaho.
Peter met his wife, Karen, while teaching at the MTC. They have seven children—four boys and three girls. The oldest is currently attending BYU, and the youngest is in first grade. Peter has loved every calling he has received in the Church, and he currently serves as the elders quorum president in his ward.
Please respond to the questions below on the devotional discussion board:
- How can you make Christ the center of your life (your studies, your work, your home, your relationships, your thoughts, etc.)?
- When have you been strengthened and helped by focusing on Jesus Christ?
Jesus Calms Seas and Gives Light
We live in a time when all the world is in commotion, exactly as foretold by ancient and modern prophets.  Some of the opposition we face has been here from the beginning.  Other challenges seem to be new. All seem to be escalating to a grand climax—some joke that with the way things are going this year, 2020 could be it. If you start to catalog the political, social, and economic challenges of the world, the heavy burdens of extended family and friends, and the trials of your close neighbors and immediate family, the clouds can seem dark and threatening. Indeed, it seems they could rain down to fill oceans with mountain waves that break upon us, joining with the black clouds and mighty tempest.  But when the storms of life seem difficult, let us remember that the Savior Jesus Christ descended below all things and has overcome the world. Let us remember that He walks on water, can calm the seas, and will soon come again, descending through those clouds with power and great glory. 
Sometimes, in the midst of life’s storms, we cry out for the Lord’s help, hear those words “peace, be still,” and the winds and waves in our life obey “His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.”  At other times, the storms continue. But if we bring our offerings to Him, the Lord can touch our small expressions of faith and make them shine like the Brother of Jared’s stones, to give us light in our vessels while the furious winds continue to drive us toward our promised land.  Today, I’d like to talk about how He can calm storms in us and give us light, hope, and power as we focus on Him.
Write About Christ in Your Journal
I invite you to open your gospel study journal and write these words:
You can live successfully here if you make Christ the center of your life.
I received this promise from the Lord in a priesthood blessing I will never forget. But the more I study and ponder these words, the more I realize He extends this promise to all! I invite you to ponder on these words in your journal.  You're welcome to spend this devotional time accepting this challenge. Add these questions to your journal to help you get started:
How do I make Christ the center of my life?
When have I or loved ones needed this truth?
Abide in the True Vine
This promise is a true gospel principle taught in many scriptural metaphors. I’d like to highlight a couple of them today. First metaphor: you can bring forth much fruit if you abide in the True Vine! The Lord taught His disciples, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” 
Jesus Christ is that vine that brings us life and growth and enables us to bring forth good fruit. If we center our lives in Jesus Christ, we draw our strength and inspiration from Him. We are one with Him. We bring forth the fruit of love, joy, peace, and longsuffering.  Like Alma, the sons of Mosiah, and Abish, we bring souls unto Him. Like Eve and Adam, Sariah and Lehi, we raise up our posterity unto Him.
If in our studies, work, marriage, or family we break ourselves away from the Lord’s power, if we forget to draw strength from Him to work through the heat and challenges that always come, we can’t expect to bring forth His fruit. On the other hand, if our lives are centered in Christ and if we continually draw our strength from Him, we can have great hope that we will one day behold the beautiful fruit, even if we can’t yet see that success. “Faith [in Christ] is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” 
Look to Christ and Live
Second metaphor: you can be healed and live if you look to Christ! The Lord taught the children of Israel by their journey through the wilderness to get to the promised land. During part of their journey, many people were bitten by poisonous snakes. Many died. Moses asked the Lord what to do:
And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a [serpent of brass], and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. 
We learn from Alma’s account “there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished!” 
Our life is a journey through the wilderness. Heavenly Father knew we would encounter poisonous snakes like anger, resentment, and doubt; disobedience, laziness, and selfishness; drugs, addictive electronics, and pornography; and many other temptations. Giving in to such a temptation is like a poisonous bite that makes us miserable and will eventually kill us spiritually if we don’t treat it.
Christ Himself taught, “As Moses lifted up the serpent [of brass] in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” 
If we look to Christ, as President Russell M. Nelson described, “with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be [ours].”  I have been bitten by spiritual snakes and looked to Christ as if gasping for air. I can testify, If we look to Christ with this focus, we can be healed from all the sins and temptations of life. Don’t wait; look to Him and be healed!
Plan How to Make Christ Your Center
So we can live successfully here if we make Christ the center of our lives. We need to abide in the True Vine and look to Him to live. But how do we do that? Try to note a couple ideas that stick out to you. 
Just last week in devotional, Sister Andrea C. Funk shared an inspiring message about hearing what the Lord is telling us and acting on the revelation we receive. Elder Randy D. Funk challenged us to remember and keep sacred covenants to come closer to Christ and receive His blessings. These are powerful principles as we seek to make Christ the center of our lives.
On this week’s devotional discussion board, I asked for your insights. I am inspired by your ideas and experiences.
Fleur Eyamo wrote, “If I want Christ to be the center of my life I must follow [in] His steps as he invited . . . by sharing His gospel, praying, reading the scriptures and applying them.”
Ixchelle Waite wrote, “We take the sacrament each week and covenant to always remember Him. We go home and act as a disciple of Christ throughout the week. We repent . . . and try again.”
Jian Walker wrote, “[We] live the standards of the Church and consecrate [our] studies to Him when starting and ending [our studies].”
Shannon Bush wrote, “I personally love to hum or sing the songs from the Children's Songbook like "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus" and "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.”
Another good friend wrote, “The more genuinely, sincerely, and anonymously, I try to follow in Christ's footsteps, and to minister as He did . . . the more He becomes a part of everything I do, everything I think, and everything I say.”
Give Offerings to the Lord
Let’s try to apply these principles to some of life’s journeys. We all have different trials in life. For some of my dear heroes, these long-haul trials include loneliness, diabetes, cancer, obesity, same-sex attraction, autism, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, infertility, and the list goes on. Some long for a spouse or for children they may not receive in mortality. Some lose them after having them. But whatever challenges you will have to bear, you can live successfully here if you make Christ the center of your life! In honesty, like Nephi, “I do not know the meaning of all things.”  I certainly don’t understand which combination of trials is most difficult or why some challenges come when they do. But, in time, the Lord will wipe away all tears.  Jesus is the center of my hope and buoyancy through long journeys, crossing deep waters. 
One of my long, heavy burdens is depression. I personally have a family history full of depression—but when I’m fighting depression, I make sure my depression is full of family history!
It’s time for an activity. Take out your mobile device.
- Open the FamilySearchFamilyTree app. Or, pause the devotional and install it if you don’t have it yet.
- Go to the menu and select Tasks.
- You see the icons on the right? Click on one of the blue Hint icons.
- Select one of the record hints,
- And click Compare.
- Now, compare the historical record on the left with your ancestor on the right; are the names, dates, and family members listed similar enough to give you confidence it is the same person?
- If it’s the same person, click the Attach button.
- Follow the steps to review and attach the record to any other family members mentioned.
It took me longer to type the words you just saw on the screen than it took to attach that record to my ancestors. Indexing is another great sustaining service. By these small and simple means, great things are brought to pass.  How many names could you index in a month? How many records could you attach to your ancestors each day? Do you want a break from the pain of your trials? Do you need strength to go on? Give an offering of family history to the Lord. Don’t just do it—do it as an offering unto Him.  Do you need temple blessings and want to draw closer to the Lord while regular temple service is unavailable? Wake up early and give an offering of your time in family history for the Lord.  You will be part of the Lord’s great combine harvester, gathering His wheat into the garners of the His house and covenant.  You will be making Him the center of your life, and He will sustain you in your long journeys across the deep.
Rigorously Look to Christ
Let me share one last example. Have you ever had a hard time adapting to a change in your life? Have you ever felt like the world came crashing down and it would be hard to continue breathing? Sometimes change can feel this way to me.
I remember feeling this way when I was single after painful changes in relationships. I have felt this way after graduating and not feeling like I had found my next steps forward. I felt this way after my dad died in a plane crash. I felt this way after my wife had a difficult miscarriage. In such times, it takes courage and faith to believe, You can live successfully here if you make Christ the center of your life.
After a particularly difficult change in my life, I was all ripped up inside. I decided I would go on a walk to try to sort things out and search for peace. I started by walking around the temple—this is always a good place to start. As I walked, I began praying. About a half hour into the walk, I had the idea that I needed to quit thinking and praying about the pain I was wrestling with and instead to think about Jesus Christ. To help me focus on Christ, I recited “The Living Christ,” the family proclamation, the Articles of Faith, Doctrine and Covenants 4, and some of my favorite verses from Alma 7. I recited them over and over as I walked for hours. I recited the words to several hymns and listened to many more. I listened to several chapters in the scriptures. I went through these passages trying to exercise faith to focus on Jesus Christ instead of the pain and confusion in my heart. President Nelson has taught, “It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto [Jesus] in every thought. But when we do, our doubts and fears flee.”  I testify this is true!
Before dropping exhausted into bed that night, I prayed to find renewal, revelation, and a changed heart in the morning. Sometimes it takes many such walks and many such nights before that morning of hope and renewal. But I testify that if we exercise the mental rigor to make Christ the center of our lives, they come. 
Choose to Focus More on Christ
You can live successfully here if you make Christ the center of your life! If you are still wondering how, may I close by offering three suggestions?
First, pray. Pray more thoughtfully and more frequently. Cry unto Heavenly Father in prayer, focusing on the Savior as the blind man did by the highway: “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Pray to overcome temptation, pray about your studies, your stresses, and your current and future family. But in all of your praying, especially take time to think of Jesus Christ and praise our Father in Heaven, who sent Him to save us.
Second, recite. Memorize and recite scriptures about Jesus Christ. Include sacred hymns and prophetic proclamations about the resurrected, living Savior of the world. As you memorize and recite, think about the meaning of the verses and what they teach you about the Lord. Recite them often to help you remember Him. Recite them especially when you're tempted, discouraged, or faced with the storms and mighty winds of your life.
Third, serve Him. Serve the Lord more regularly and as an offering of love. Serve Him more regularly in the temple and in family history work. Plan it into your schedule and offer your spare moments more regularly. Serve Him by ministering daily to others. “Come unto Christ . . . and offer your whole souls as an offering unto Him” —your time, your talents, your thoughts, your indexing, your ministering—all of it.
Testify of Jesus Christ
I close with my testimony of the Savior. This may be the largest congregation I ever speak to in my life—or, given this empty auditorium due to the pandemic, it may actually be the smallest. Whatever the case, I want to testify of Jesus Christ. I want it recorded in heaven and in earth, in that video camera and on this transcript and in as many hearts as will hear my words, that I know Jesus is the Way. He can calm our troubled hearts and touch our offerings of faith to give us light while furious winds continue to blow all around us. He is the way to “happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”  He is the only way! Whatever challenges and storms come in life, we can succeed in this mortal test if we make Christ the center of our lives!
 See Russell M. Nelson, "Opening the Heavens for Help," Ensign, May 2020.
 See 2 Nephi 2:15.
 See Ether 6:6; Matthew 14:27–31.
 See Matthew 24:30.
 “Be Still, My Soul,” Hymns, 124.
 See Ether 6:2–12.
 See Alma 32:28, 22–23.
 John 15:5.
 See Galatians 5:22–23.
 Joseph Smith Translation, Hebrews 11:1.
 Numbers 21:8–9.
 Alma 33:20, 19–22.
 John 3:14–15.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2017.
 We can find many ways to make Christ the center of our lives as we study the scriptures and listen to General Conference talks with this desire in mind. Consider the following ideas:
- Learn of Him by feasting daily on the words of Christ (Matthew 11:28–29; 2 Nephi 32:3).
- Exercise faith in Him, by acting on the promptings of the Spirit (Moroni 7:33; Gospel Topics: Faith in Jesus Christ).
- Repent of sins and mistakes (Alma 34:15–17).
- Think about and keep sacred covenants (3 Nephi 11:33, 37; 1 Nephi 14:14; John 14:15).
- Seek and receive the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 11:35; 2 Nephi 32:5).
- Always remember Him (Jeffry R. Holland, “This Do in Remembrance of Me”, Ensign, Oct. 1995).
- Prepare for and thoughtfully partake of His sacrament (Luke 22:19–21; 1 Corinthians 11:28).
- Pray always—morning, midday, evening, and in our hearts (2 Nephi 32:9; Alma 34:21).
- Express gratitude in all things (Doctrine and Covenants 59:21).
- Seek things that are virtuous and praiseworthy (Articles of Faith 1:13).
- Sing praise to Him ( Hymns, 70; Doctrine and Covenants 25:12).
- Surround ourselves with pictures that remind us of Him (Gospel Media Library, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media/collection/images).
- Recite and memorize scriptures (Russell M. Nelson, “Hear Him,” Ensign, May 2020; Richard G. Scott, “The Power of Scripture,” Ensign, Nov. 2011; Devin G. Durrant, “My Heart Pondereth Them Continually,” Ensign, Nov. 2015).
- Cry unto Him for all our support and counsel with Him (Alma 37:36–37).
- Pray in our families (3 Nephi 18:21).
- Serve Him by ministering to others (Mosiah 5:13; Matthew 25:37–40).
- Share the gospel (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Believe, Love, Do,” Ensign, Nov. 2018).
- Participate in Temple and Family History work (Russell M. Nelson, “Worldwide Youth Devotional: Will you help gather Israel?,” New Era, Aug. 2018).
 1 Nephi 11:17.
 See Revelation 21:4.
 See Ether 6:6, 10.
 See Alma 37:6.
 See 2 Nephi 32:9.
 See Russell M. Nelson, “Open the Heavens through Temple and Family History Work,” Ensign, Nov. 2017.
 See Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” Ensign, Nov. 2012; David A. Bednar, “Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign, May 2009.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2017.
 See Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Sunday Will Come,” Ensign, Nov. 2006.
 Mark 10:47; see also Mark 10:48–52.
 Omni 1:26.
 “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign, Apr. 2000.