Sister Cheryl A. Esplin
Former Member of Primary General Presidency
Sister Cheryl A. Esplin was born and raised in Lovell, Wyoming. She graduated from Brigham Young University in elementary education. She and her husband, Max Esplin, are the parents of five children and have 25 grandchildren.
Sister Esplin served with her husband when he was mission president of the North Carolina Raleigh Mission. Prior to her call as a counselor in the Primary general presidency she served on the Primary general board. She is now serving as the assistant matron of the Provo Utah Temple.
I want to thank everyone for the warm welcome to this beautiful campus. It is an honor to be here.
On the university website, I read that the mission of Brigham Young University-Idaho is to develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their homes, the Church, and their communities.
What a blessing and opportunity for you to attend a university that is as concerned about your spiritual development as it is about your intellectual development. The world needs leaders who are founded upon the unchanging principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Much is expected of you as future leaders, and I look forward with hopeful anticipation to your leadership.
Last Christmas, a friend presented us with clay replicas of the type of oil lamps that were used for light in the days of the Savior. As my husband and I prepared to gather our grandchildren and teach them the parable of the ten virgins using these lamps, I remembered what Elder David A. Bednar taught in the previous general conference. He spoke of this parable and recalled with us that the five foolish and unprepared virgins went to obtain oil for their lamps after hearing the cry to go and meet the bridegroom.
"And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
"Afterward came also the [five foolish] virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
"But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not" (Matthew 25:10-12).
Elder Bednar emphasized that the Joseph Smith Translation clarified this phrase "I know you not" to "Ye know me not."
"The [phrase] 'Ye know me not,'" said Elder Bednar, "should be a cause of deep spiritual introspection for each of us." He then posed the question, "Do we only know about the Savior, or are we increasingly coming to know Him?" ("If Ye Had Known Me," Ensign, Nov. 2016). That question is the basis of my message today.
The Savior prayed, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Elder M. Russell Ballard, commenting on this scripture, said: "In other words, life eternal is predicated upon our own individual, personal knowledge of our Father in Heaven and His Holy Son. Simply knowing about them is not enough. We must have personal, spiritual experiences to anchor us. These come through seeking them in the same intense, single-minded way that a hungry person seeks food" ("Feasting at the Lords Table," Ensign, May 1996, 80).
When my husband was presiding over the North Carolina Raleigh Mission, we received word that one of our young sister missionaries, Sister Melissa Peterson, had been killed in a car accident. Sister Peterson radiated light and love and was an exemplary missionary in every way.
As my husband was making calls to get accurate information and trying to ensure that everything was handled properly, I sat in his office working through the shock and anguish I was feeling. A headline in an issue of the Church News, which was open next to me on the sofa, caught my eye. The large, bold letters read, "Mortal life: A time to find, serve, and know Jesus Christ" (Church News, Jan. 15, 2000).
As I pondered that statement, my soul was comforted with the thought that Sister Peterson had been doing just that--her missionary service those past 16 months had focused her efforts on finding, serving, and knowing Jesus Christ. All was well with her. She had completed her mission on earth.
Coming to know the Lord is the process of a lifetime. Fortunately, the scriptures are filled with principles to teach us how we are to come to know Him.
Jesus taught that to know Him, we must learn of Him. He said, "Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit" (D&C 19:23).
In a worldwide devotional last January, President Russell M. Nelson invited young adults of the Church to get to know Jesus Christ by consecrating a portion of time each week to study and learn of Christ--to study everything Jesus said and did in the Old Testament, to study His laws as recorded in the New Testament, to study His doctrine in the Book of Mormon, and to study His words recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. Also included in President Nelson's invitation was encouragement to study "all He continues to teach through His living prophets and apostles" and to "study 'The Living Christ' document."
President Nelson said: "This may seem like a large assignment. But I encourage you to accept it. If you proceed to learn all you can about Jesus Christ, I promise you that your love for Him, and for God's laws, will grow beyond what you currently imagine. I promise you also that your ability to turn away from sin will increase. Your desire to keep the commandments will soar. You will find yourself better able to walk away from the entertainment and entanglements of those who mock the followers of Jesus Christ" ("Prophets, Leadership, and Divine Law" [Church Educational System devotional for young adults, Jan. 8, 2017], broadcasts.lds.org).
President Nelson knew he could give this assignment because he had accepted it himself and accomplished it in six weeks. He had read and underlined every verse cited about Jesus Christ as listed under 57 subtitles in the Topical Guide. (See Russell M. Nelson, "Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives," Ensign, May 2017.)
I have invited Chaz Egnew, who accepted President Nelson's invitation to study and learn of Christ, to share with us how it has made a difference in his life.
ESPLIN: Chaz, will you come join me at the podium.
Tell us where you're from and how long you've been here at this university.
EGNEW: I'm from town called Spring Hill, Tennessee. It's about 45 minutes south of Nashville. And this is my fourth semester up here at BYU-Idaho, and I'm studying communications.
ESPLIN: When President Nelson issued this invitation, were you a little overwhelmed with wondering how you'd find the time, or did you just dive right in and do it?
EGNEW: Yeah, I was kind of overwhelmed; I didn't know where to start at first. I thought about doing Sunday nights, but they didn't work out so well. And then around general conference time, I was talking with my grandma, and she said something about the Topical Guide. And the thought came to me to take 10 minutes out of my personal study time and just follow the Topical Guide and study about Jesus Christ.
ESPLIN: Share with us how consecrating this time every week to study the words and the life and the teachings of Christ has affected your life. What difference has it made?
EGNEW: I think it's really helped me know that I have time for the Lord in my week, that I have time to hear from Him and to know the things that He embodies. And it's helped me to really put my faith in Him, because there are so many examples in the Topical Guide--and through the scriptures--of Him and how His power is infinite and how His love is infinite. It's made me love Him even more.
ESPLIN: And maybe you've answered the next question I was just thinking of, or maybe you'll think of something else. President Nelson promised that your love for Him would grow, and you've expressed that that really has happened. And he also promised that your ability to become more like Him would increase.
EGNEW: For me, it's helped me feel lighter and happier. It's made me be able to see the light in other people and to feel a little bit of His love for them.
ESPLIN: Thank you, Chaz, for sharing your experience with us.
When President Nelson finished this exercise and his wife asked how it had impacted him, he told her, "'I am a different man!' I felt a renewed devotion to [Christ]" ("Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives," Ensign, May 2017).
I too, like Chaz, accepted President Nelson's invitation. I wondered how I would find the time but took courage when President Nelson said, "Each of us who takes this challenge will finish in our own time frames" ("I Studied More Than 2,200 Scriptures about the Savior in Six Weeks: Here Is a Little of What I Learned," LDS.org, published Feb. 28, 2017, https://www.lds.org/blog/i-studied-more-than-2200-scriptures-about-the-savior-in-six-weeks-here-is-a-little-of-what-i-learned?lang=eng).
Much of my desire to accept this invitation came from the feelings I had when President Nelson said:
"In a coming day, you will present yourself before the Savior. You will be overwhelmed to the point of tears to be in His holy presence. You will struggle to find words to thank Him for paying for your sins, for forgiving you of any unkindness toward others, for healing you from the injuries and injustices of this life.
"You will thank Him for strengthening you to do the impossible, for turning your weaknesses into strengths, and for making it possible for you to live with Him and your family forever. His identity, His Atonement, and His attributes will become personal and real to you" ("Prophets, Leadership, and Divine Law" [Church Educational System devotional for young adults, Jan. 8, 2017], broadcasts.lds.org).
Maybe some of you have taken this challenge. Perhaps others of you don't know how you could possibly find the time. Would you take a minute and share with your neighbor how you have grown from learning more about the Savior or what you could do to commit to spend some time each week to do that.
I hope you have been prompted to make this a priority in your life.
As we strive to know the Savior through diligent study and prayer, we invite the Holy Ghost to testify to us of Him. His communication to our spirit carries far more certainty than we can receive through our natural senses. The only way we can receive a sure testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is by the power of the Holy Ghost (see True to The Faith: A Gospel Reference , 82).
This truth was illustrated when Jesus asked His "disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
"And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
"He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
"And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
"And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:13-17).
In a day with increasing commotion, distractions, and hurried frenzy, it takes intentional effort to put ourselves in a place where we can hear the still, small voice of the Spirit testifying of Christ and the truthfulness of His words. "Be still," He said, "and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10).
John the Beloved taught another principle that is essential if we are to know the Lord. He said, "Hereby we do know that we know [God], if we keep his commandments" (1 John 2:3).
Before we came to this earth, we understood that obedience was a way to come to know God. We were taught that earth life was to be a period of testing, to prove us to see if we would do all things whatsoever the Lord shall command us (see Abraham 3:25).
Elder D. Todd Christofferson explained: "Some see only sacrifice and limitations in obedience to the commandments ..., but those who live the experience--who give themselves freely and unreservedly to the covenant life--find greater liberty and fulfillment. When we truly understand, we seek more commandments, not fewer. Each new law or commandment we learn and live is like one more rung or step on a ladder that enables us to climb higher and higher" ("The Power of Covenants," Ensign, May 2009).
Our son-in-law Jeff recalls that through some of his teenage years, there were times he saw the commandments of God as restrictive, and he was like the kite that would cut its string at every opportunity. At that point in his life, obedience was a challenge. He would obey at times largely out of duty to his family or when motivated by fear of punishment. He says he didn't feel a love for the Savior--that he did not really know Him. Fortunately, through the influence of those around him, including his parents and a Young Men adviser, he was obedient enough that the Spirit could touch him with some understanding and desire to do good. Line upon line, he slowly progressed and became converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jeff remembers: "Looking back 30 years later, I can see that I have been caught up in a virtuous cycle of obeying and receiving light and knowledge, which causes me to want to obey more. I see in my own life the truth that President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught: 'We come to see obedience not as a punishment but as a liberating path to our divine destiny. And gradually, the corruption, dust, and limitations of this earth begin to fall away. Eventually, the priceless, eternal spirit of the heavenly being within us is revealed, and a radiance of goodness becomes our nature'" ("He Will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home," Ensign, May 2016).
With that in mind, is it any wonder the Lord said, "Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength" (D&C 11:20)?
One of the surest ways we come to know the Savior is through serving Him. King Benjamin asked, "How knoweth the man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?" (Mosiah 5:13).
If we wish to know the Lord, we must be willing to bear one another's burdens. "As we reach out to others in their times of need, we find that we draw not only closer to them, but also closer to Him who gave the ultimate in bearing the burdens of mankind" ("Expanding our Focus," Church News, Jan. 23, 1993).
Think back over the past few weeks of your life. What service have you performed? Share with your neighbor how lifting another's burdens has drawn you closer both to those you helped and to the Savior, perhaps in ways you didn't realize until right now.
I wonder if any of you mentioned the temple as service you performed.
With our temple callings, my husband and I spend many hours in the Lord's house. The purpose of the temple and its sacred ordinances is to help us draw near to God and become more like Him.
President Gordon B. Hinckley explained: "Just as our Redeemer gave His life as a vicarious sacrifice for all men, and in so doing became our Savior, even so we, in a small measure, when we engage in proxy work in the temple, become as saviors to those on the other side who have no means of advancing unless something is done in their behalf by those on earth" ("Closing Remarks," Ensign, Nov. 2004, 105).
Elder Carlos E. Asay recalled as a young adult attending the Manti Temple and coming to the realization that there is no better place than the Lord's house to become better acquainted with our Heavenly Father and His Son, the Savior of mankind. He later taught: "No one can really know another unless he has seen him in his home and visited him in familiar surroundings.... So it is with friends and neighbors in their homes, and so it is with God in his place of abode--the temple" ("The Temple: The Place for You," New Era, Mar. 1997).
More than ever before, we see young people like you coming to serve and worship in the temple.
Prophets and apostles have promised great power and blessings to those who find their own ancestors and take their names to the temple. Elder Dale G. Renlund recently said, "You will find not only protection from the temptation and ills of the world, but you will also find personal power--power to change, power to repent, power to learn, power to be sanctified, and power to turn the hearts of your family members to each other and heal that which needs healing" ("Family History and Temple Blessings," Ensign, Feb. 2017, 31).
Recently, I asked one of our young adult ordinance workers, who is also a full-time student and works part-time, if he found it difficult to make time to serve weekly in the temple. He said, "Being an ordinance worker gets me to the temple every week, and I need the clarity and understanding I receive in the temple for my schoolwork and all the important decisions I am making in my life."
You are blessed to live near a beautiful temple here in Rexburg. Now is the time to make temple service and temple worship a pattern in your life. If you aren't endowed, you can perform baptisms and confirmations for those on the other side of the veil. If you are endowed, you can perform washings and anointings, endowments, and sealings.
As you participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and are faithful to your covenants, you are promised that you may go forth from the temple armed with God's power, with His name upon you, His glory round about you, and His angels having charge over you (see D&C 109:22).
I close with the words of President Thomas S. Monson:
"Let us ... follow in the footsteps of the Master. As you and I walk the pathway Jesus walked, let us listen for the sound of sandaled feet. Let us reach out for the Carpenter's hand. Then we shall come to know Him. He may come to us as one unknown, without a name, as by the lakeside He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words, 'Follow thou me' (John 21:22), and sets us to the task which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands, and to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings that they shall pass through in His fellowship; and they shall learn by their own experience who He is.
"We will discover He is more than the Babe in Bethlehem, more than the carpenter's son, more than the greatest teacher ever to live. We will come to know Him as the Son of God, our Savior and our Redeemer" ("The Call of Duty," Ensign, April 1986).
It is my experience and my testimony that as we consecrate a portion of our study each week to learn all we can of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as we obey His commandments with exactness, as we serve Him diligently, and as we attend the temple, we will come to know Him better than we have ever known Him; we will come to trust in Him more than we have ever trusted in Him and will love Him more than we have ever loved Him. We will have the assurance that when He comes again, we will be ready to meet Him, and we shall know Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.