Online Learning Managing Director
Robert Stewart grew up in Seattle, Washington, but he and his family now call Rexburg, Idaho, home. He attended Ricks College, where he met his wife Carissa at a Ricks College dance. They have since been married 22 years and have been blessed with 7 children.
After attending Ricks College, Rob and Carissa both graduated from BYU. Rob then went on to earn an MBA and PhD. For the last 15 years, Rob has also taught online and campus classes for BYU-Idaho’s Home and Family department. He is currently one of BYU-Idaho’s managing directors within the online learning organization.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
In Alma 34:32 we are taught that “…this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.”
What strategies do you use to ensure that you remain focused on this most important purpose of our mortal probation?
Years ago when I was in elementary school, my favorite part of the day was the combination of lunch (eating always makes me happy), lunch recess (the longest of the three recesses and thus my favorite), and then returning to the classroom for story time. I don’t know if this happened everywhere or if it still happens today, but in my Seattle school back in the 1980s, each teacher would read to their class. I loved those exciting stories, and those memories still fill me with warm feelings.
Years later, I still love a good story. I especially like stories with a happy ending: stories where good triumphs over evil and happiness replaces angst and sorrow. Fictional as they might be, I like stories where the main characters are able to live happily ever after.
I was delighted to hear Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf talk about Bilbo Baggins in a recent conference talk.  More recently, in a devotional for BYU-Pathway Worldwide,  among other fictional characters, Elder Uchtdorf also referenced Anne of Green Gables, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Harry Potter, and Hermione Granger. It was fun to hear a beloved apostle reference these stories.
While I admittedly don’t know anything about the story of Anne of Green Gables, I enjoy each of these other referenced stories, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter.
Our family especially loves the Harry Potter books. However, we can't yet talk openly about these books because my sweet wife hasn't yet finished the series. (As a busy mother of seven, that is quite understandable.) While she's getting close, we are all careful to not spoil the ending for her.
However, as I begin today’s devotional, I have no reservation about spoiling the ending of the most important story of all time. This is a true story of good versus evil, of redemption and perseverance. This is your story and this is my story.
Consider these words from Elder Uchtdorf:
Isn’t it remarkable to know that our eternal Heavenly Father knows you, hears you, and watches over you, and loves you with an infinite love? In fact, His love for you is so great that He has granted you this earthly life as a precious gift of “once upon a time,” complete with your own true story of adventure, trial, and opportunities for greatness, nobility, courage, and love. And, most glorious of all, He offers you a gift beyond price and comprehension. Heavenly Father offers to you the greatest gift of all—eternal life—and the opportunity and infinite blessing of your own “happily ever after.” 
Here’s the spoiler that I referenced a moment ago. In this most wonderous of all adventures (the true story of our mortal probation), our side wins! We already know the Savior’s side will win in the end and that Satan and his hosts will be vanquished.
President Dallin H. Oaks mentioned, “To borrow a metaphor from the familiar world of athletic competitions, we do not know when this game will end, and we do not know the final score, but we do know that when the game finally ends, our team wins.” 
While we know that the Lord’s side will prevail, the most relevant question for me and for you is, Will we choose to be on the victorious side? Will we choose to play for the Lord’s winning team?
As Lehi reminded us in the Book of Mormon, “[we] are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil.”  So, let’s choose the Lord’s side! Let’s choose liberty and eternal life.
If any of you haven’t yet decided to fully embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, I plead with you to make that decision today. There is so much peace, clarity, strength, and happiness to be received once any of us make the decision to be “all-in.” Most importantly, we greatly increase the odds of receiving our happily ever after, if we choose to fully embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let me suggest two daily strategies that can help us get on and remain on the path that leads to eternal life, the path that leads to our happily ever after.
First, we need to consistently study God’s words through His scriptures and modern prophets. Second, we need to strive to be obedient to all of God’s commandments.
Let’s start with daily scripture study. I appreciated the comments on this week’s discussion board regarding scripture study and other referenced strategies that were suggested to help us during our mortal adventure. I love the recent counsel from Elder Peter M. Johnson in his October 2019 general conference address as he encouraged us to “read and study the Book of Mormon every day, every day, every day.” 
Similarly, in President Thomas S. Monson’s last conference address prior to his passing he left this heartfelt plea: “I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.” 
Adding to the blessings promised by President Monson, President Russel M. Nelson shared the following: “My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions— every day.” 
What amazing blessings from studying the Book of Mormon: we can hear the voice of the Spirit, resist temptation, overcome doubt and fear, receive heaven’s help in our lives, and make better daily decisions.
As wonderful as the Book of Mormon is, we know we are blessed as we also read from the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price as well as the words of our modern prophets, apostles, and other Church leaders.
During this grand adventure of life, there is another powerful benefit that comes as we read the scriptures. This promise is found in 2 Nephi 32:3:
Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. 
Did you catch that promise? The words of Christ will tell us all things that we should do. The phrase “all things” is quite inclusive. This is similar to the reminder we received in last week’s devotional from Sister Tamie Bagley. Referring to a quote from President Boyd K. Packer, she reminded us that inspiration often comes from reading the scriptures.
I sometimes wonder if we fully appreciate the enormity of this promise, the promise that we can receive divine guidance in “all things what we should do.” Having the Savior’s guidance during our mortal journey is a blessing of inestimable worth.
But we must qualify for this blessing. Referring back to 2 Nephi 32:3, remember that we must “feast upon the words of Christ.”
Last night was salmon night in the Stewart household. While I love salmon, most of our children do not. In fact, upon learning what was for dinner, our 12-year-old son even conspired with his friend to be invited over to his friend’s house for dinner. By contrast, taco night in the Stewart household is a very different experience, as this same slender 12-year-old somehow recently managed to consume eight tacos during one dinner. It is clear which night was a feast at our dinner table.
Which of these dinner experiences more closely resembles our scripture study habits? Are we nibling (or even fasting) when it comes to scripture study? Or are we truly feasting upon the words of Christ?
Regardless what our habits have been previously, we can begin a more serious and consistent study of the scriptures today. As we do so, our Savior has promised to guide our paths. Having His guidance through the challenges of this earthly adventure greatly increase the odds of us attaining our happily ever after.
A second critical daily habit for each of us hoping for the happiest version of eternity is obedience.
First, we know that we must be obedient if we desire eternal life. In Doctrine and Covenants 88:22 we read, “He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.” 
Today, I want to discuss how keeping the commandments can not only help us arrive at our desired destination, but also greatly help us during our earthly adventure.
In 2013 President Nelson, speaking to missionaries in the MTC, noted that “obedience brings success; exact obedience brings miracles.”  While this is wonderful counsel for our missionaries, can this apply to the rest of us as well? Consider two stories from the Book of Mormon.
The first story involves Zeniff. Remember Zeniff was the one who was overzealous to return to the land of Nephi (the Nephites’ original settlement). Upon learning that the Lamanites were preparing to attack his people, Zeniff prepared the Nephites for battle. Then in Mosiah 9:17 we read:
Yea, in the strength of the Lord did we go forth to battle against the Lamanites; for I and my people did cry mightily to the Lord that he would deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, for we were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of our fathers. 
Let’s consider this scripture for a moment. That word “awakened” suggests that Zeniff and his people may not have previously been as diligent in remembering God and keeping His commandments as they should have been. But, to their credit, even if they were compelled to remember God due to the upcoming battle with their enemies, they did remember Him.
Now, look at what happened in verse 18:
And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might; yea, we did go forth against the Lamanites and in one day and a night we did slay three thousand and forty-three; we did slay them even until we had driven them out of our land. 
Hold on to the number 3,043 for a moment. (Again, 3,043 was the number of Lamanites who were slain).
We continue in verse 19:
And I, myself, with mine own hands, did help to bury their dead. And behold, to our great sorrow and lamentation, two hundred and seventy-nine of our brethren were slain. 
Clearly it was difficult for Zeniff and his people to lose 279 of their brethren. However, recall how many Lamanites died in that same battle (3,043). As Zeniff’s people went to battle in the strength of the Lord, the Lamanites lost almost 10 times more people than did the Nephites.
This story certainly seems to support President Nelson’s reminder that obedience brings success. As Zeniff and his people repented and remembered the Lord, they were indeed successful in battle.
But what about the second part of President Nelson’s quote, “exact obedience brings miracles”?
To illustrate this principle, let’s consider another account from the Book of Mormon that takes place approximately 125 years later. This more famous account is that of the sons of Helaman. While many of us have heard stories and even sung songs about these righteous young men since our youth, let’s review a few important details.
These 2,000 (later 2,060) stripling warriors were young and inexperienced. Yet they were faithful and obedient. In Alma 53:20 we learn that “they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.” 
A few chapters later in Alma 57:21 we are given some additional insight regarding the obedience of these young warriors: “Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness.” 
You know the rest of this story. Every single one of these young men was injured (many severely) and yet not one of them died.
Later, in verse 26 Helaman shared the following observation:
And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared while there was a thousand of our brethren who were slain. And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God. 
As we compare and contrast these two stories, Zeniff’s army was undoubtedly blessed as they repented and trusted in the Lord. However, the preservation of Helaman’s stripling warriors is one of the more wondrous miracles contained within the entire Book of Mormon.
Remember, as we strive to obey with exactness, miracles can occur in the mission field, on the battlefield, and in our individual lives.
As a quick word of caution, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland noted:
Except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthy journey we are pursuing, so while in mortality let’s strive for steady improvement without obsessing over what behavioral scientists call “toxic perfectionism.” 
I want to stress two specific portions of this counsel. First, the word “strive” is one of my favorite words in the English language. Striving suggests that we will fall short notwithstanding our best efforts. But this word also suggests that we truly give our best effort.
Returning to Elder Holland’s quote, I also appreciate the reminder to avoid perfectionism. Striving for exact obedience helps us gradually and incrementally become more and more like our Savior. Perfectionism, by contrast, is Satan’s counterfeit.
In 2017, after referencing President Nelson’s quote “obedience brings success; exact obedience bring miracles,” M. Joseph Brough, shared the following related comments during his BYU-Idaho devotional address: “Our family and mission version is ‘Obedience bring blessings, but exact obedience brings miracles.’” He then continued, “I am sure that I do not completely understand what exact obedience means, but here is what I have come to understand. It is not perfect obedience; that is impossible. Hence, repentance must be a key part of exact obedience.” 
So, even as we strive for exact obedience, as we strive to obey all of God’s commandments all of the time, we know we will fall short. We are all grateful for repentance and second chances. Elder Lynn G. Robbins recently taught us that “Repentance is God’s ever-accessible gift that allows and enables us to go from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm. Repentance isn’t His backup plan in the event we might fail. Repentance is His plan, knowing that we will.” 
So, as we strive to live a life of obedience, let’s all remember that ongoing, sincere repentance is itself an act of obedience as we continue to try harder and harder to become more like our Savior.
As I conclude my thoughts regarding obedience, let me share one of my favorite scriptures, Mosiah 2:41:
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it. 
Those who are obedient are blessed temporally and spiritually during this life and then are forever blessed with eternal life (the greatest gift from God). That is indeed a happy ending!
And for all of us who may not be experiencing every desired blessing during our earthly sojourn, remember these comforting words from Elder Holland: “Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.” 
So, let’s all embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ! As we do, I invite each of you to consider changes you can make in your life today in order to improve the consistency or quality of your scripture study. Likewise, I invite you to prayerfully consider one or two things you can do (or stop doing) in order to increase your obedience to God’s commandments.
As we intentionally feast daily upon the words of Christ and strive for increased obedience, we are choosing a path that leads to eternal life (the happiest of all endings).
In the words of Elder Uchtdorf, “the day will come when you turn the final pages of your own glorious story; there you will read and experience the fulfillment of those blessed and wonderful words: ‘And they lived happily ever after.’” 
Of this I bear testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 See Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Your Great Adventure,” Ensign, Nov. 2019.
 See Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Call for Heroes!,” BYU-Pathway Worldwide Devotional, July 14, 2020.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Your Happily Ever After,” Ensign, May 2010.
 Dallin H. Oaks, “Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign, May 2004.
 2 Nephi 2:27.
 Peter M. Johnson, “Power to Overcome the Adversary,” Ensign, Nov. 2019.
 Thomas S. Monson, “The Power of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 2017.
 Russell M. Nelson, “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?,” Ensign, Nov. 2017.
 2 Nephi 32:3.
 Doctrine and Covenants 88:22.
 Russell M. Nelson in R. Scott Lloyd, “Elder Nelson Delivers Spiritual Thanksgiving Feast to MTCs,” Church News, Dec. 4, 2013; churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/elder-nelson-delivers-spiritual-thanksgiving-feast-to-mtcs?lang=eng.
 Mosiah 9:17.
 Mosiah 9:18.
 Mosiah 9:19.
 Alma 53:20.
 Alma 57:21; emphasis added.
 Alma 57:26.
 Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually,” Ensign, Nov. 2017.
 M. Joseph Brough, “Heading the Voice of the Lord,” BYU-Idaho devotional, Oct. 17, 2017.
 Lynn G. Robbins “Until Seventy Times Seven,” Ensign, May 2018.
 Mosiah 2:41.
 Jeffrey R. Holland, “An High Priest of Good Things to Come,” Ensign, Nov. 1999.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Your Happily Ever After,” Ensign, May 2010.