BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring and his wife Sister Kelly C. Eyring addressed students at BYU-Idaho in a pre-recorded devotional Tuesday.

Sister Eyring began with a devotional message centered around optimism. At the beginning of her remarks, Sister Eyring expresses her gratitude for the beauty of Idaho and her excitement for the start of a new semester.

She then shared an anecdote about a frightening experience she had while hiking the Bald Mountain Trail. Before the hike, her sister-in-law told her of a bear encounter on the same trail a year prior. This influenced her thoughts as she walked along.

“Just as I had let my mind wander to what bad things could happen, a darling little chipmunk scurried across the trail,” Sister Eyring said. “As you can imagine, I let out a scream, not because the chipmunk was so frightening, it was actually adorable. I had let my mind go to a place of concern and fear and so the very movement of the chipmunk created a very out-of-proportion response.”

Based on the lesson she learned from this experience, she encouraged students to keep their thoughts from turning small problems into big ones. The “bear spray” solution she offered was to be more patient and loving in all capacities.

“We can show our love of God by trying to be more like Him,” Sister Eyring said. “We can love each other better this semester. We can give our roommates and spouses and children more love and patience. We can keep our thoughts very busy with these two actionable ideas.”

In an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio, Sister Eyring expounded on the idea. She said going to the temple and prayer can help you direct your thoughts in positive ways, so you don’t see bears that are actually chipmunks.

“You have to practice saying, ‘Oh, I’m thinking about a bear, but the things in front of me are not nearly that frightening.’ And then you can change your thoughts with the help of the Holy Ghost to redirect and get back to focusing on what’s really beautiful and wonderful and good around you,” she said.

After her remarks, President Eyring began his talk by acknowledging how BYU-Idaho welcomes “a nearly all-time record” of students this fall semester. He attributed this to the fulfillment of a prophecy made by Joseph Smith who foresaw how “the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).

He continued by explaining how the university’s decision to continue requiring masks on campus is a way to protect one another as we gather for learning and worship. President Eyring then encouraged all students to participate in a university-wide fast on Sunday, September 19. The purpose of the fast will be to promote a good spirit unity and will prepare individuals to receive personal revelation regarding the new semester.

He extended a warm recognition of the trials students have already endured as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and sickness but continued with an attitude of optimism for the future.

“Many of you have endured more than one semester of disappointment and hardship. Despite the best efforts of yourself, your roommates, university teachers, Church leaders, and your family, this has been a character-building and often frustrating time. Thank you for your steadfastness…Notwithstanding the challenges and hardships of this life, the truth is that this world is getting better in many ways.”

President Eyring provided examples outlining the weaknesses and strengths seen in mortality. He specifically noted words from researchers Johan Galtung and Mari Holmboe Ruge referencing the following statement:

“There is a basic asymmetry in life between the positive, which is difficult and takes time, and the negative, which is much easier and takes less time—compare the amount of time needed to bring up and socialize an adult person and the amount of time needed to kill him in an accident, the amount of time needed to build a house and to destroy it in a fire, to make an airplane and crash it, and so on.”

He reasoned that the fragile nature of this relationship creates an environment to learn and to develop individual capabilities. In conclusion, he invited students to strive to stand in holy places and press forward with patience.

“The Savior’s ministry, conducted through prophets, parents, other Church leaders, and especially the Holy Ghost, is spreading and accelerating. As Christian writer C.S. Lewis has said, ‘Aslan is afoot.’ As we stand patiently in holy places, we can indeed possess our souls.”