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I Saw Your Potential

Audio of "I Saw Your Potential"
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Dear President and Sister Meredith, dear brothers and sisters. Sister Caussé and I consider it a great privilege to be with you this morning. As I look into the thousands of faces I see from this pulpit, for me you make up one of the most beautiful gatherings in this Church. I cannot help but smile as I think about what you represent: our bright and magnificent youth! I see in each of you enormous potential to be a light, example, and blessing for your generation and the generations that will follow. This troubled world in which we live is in such great need of you! Thank you for boldly bearing the banner of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“I saw your potential”

I am grateful for the opportunity to be here with Valérie, my eternal companion. I would like to share with you a little bit of our love story!

We met 39 years ago in a young single adult ward in Paris, France. At the time, I was fully immersed in my studies. I don’t quite know how to best describe myself . . . Let’s just say that I was not the most social person in the world. I was kind of a nerd who spent most of my time in books. I was also serving as the ward clerk, which consumed a large portion of my free time as I sat in a meetinghouse office behind closed doors.

I believe our bishop’s daughter had a gift. It seemed she could see through the meetinghouse walls to find me in the clerk’s office. Often, the door would open and this pretty girl, flashing a big smile, would sneak her head in the door to say hello and try to catch my attention (which wasn’t hard to do).

To make a long story short, we started dating and were married in the temple two years later. Sometime after our marriage, I asked Valérie how she could have possibly fallen in love with such an unattractive man. She did not deny my self-description, and simply answered, “I saw your potential!”

As I think about this story, I think of a beautiful painting entitled La Clairvoyance. The painter, René Magritte, is represented in the process of painting an egg, which lies to his left on a tablecloth of red velvet. But his paintbrush, animated with a wonderful vision of the future, translates this image into a beautiful blue bird with its wings spread wide.

In 1984, when Valérie and I met in that young single adult ward in Paris, despite my inadequacies she quickly recognized what we could become: a successful family in this life and an eternal family in the world to come. She saw into our future and acted in faith. Thank you, mon amour, for believing in us and in our family’s eternal potential!

My young friends, the world would be different if we could see others, including ourselves, as we can become rather than merely as we are today. Everything would be changed for the better if we could look upon ourselves and our fellow men and women with a clear vision of both our earthly and eternal potential.

Our divine lineage and destiny

To understand our potential, we need to understand who we truly are. I love the account described in the first chapter of the Book of Moses, depicting a personal face-to-face conversation that God[1] had with Moses. I believe the words spoken by God on that occasion also apply to each one of us.

God addressed Moses with words filled with love: “Moses, my son; . . . thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten.”[2]

First, God referred to Moses as His “son.” This designation unambiguously confirmed Moses’s lineage, like that of every other living man or woman upon this earth. Each of us is a son or daughter of God, created by Him in His own image and likeness. Each of us has an inherent, divine nature.

Then, God said to Moses that he was “in the similitude of [His] Only Begotten.” This second statement confirms each human being’s potential. Because we are God’s children, we have the innate capacity to become exalted, just like our Savior, Jesus Christ.

These truths are also clearly stated in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”: “Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.”[3]

As Latter-day Saints, we see this divine lineage in the purest and most complete sense possible. In Gospel Topics we read, “Just as a child can develop the attributes of his or her parents over time, the divine nature that humans inherit can be developed to become like their Heavenly Father’s.”

Continuing, it says, “The teaching that men and women have the potential to be exalted to a state of godliness clearly expands beyond what is understood by most contemporary Christian churches and expresses for Latter-day Saints a yearning rooted in the Bible to live as God lives, to love as He loves, and to prepare for all that our loving Father in Heaven wishes for His children.”[4]

The doctrine which affirms the divine nature and destiny of every human being lies at the heart of our Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness and of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

That is the reason why the adversary unleashes every possible argument to counter it. In Moses 1, we read that after God had left his presence, Moses received a visit from Satan. It says, “Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.”[5]

Fortunately, because he knew his lineage and divine destiny, Moses rejected Satan. The entire work of the prince of darkness consists of tempting us to lose sight of our divine nature and eternal potential, thus reducing us to a temporal and carnal existence, void of meaning.

His degrading purposes are perfectly illustrated in the words of this old song, which relates the life of a man named Solomon Grundy:

Solomon Grundy,

Born on a Monday,

Baptized on Tuesday,

Married on Wednesday,

Took ill on Thursday,

Grew worse on Friday,

Died on Saturday,

Buried on Sunday.

This is the end,

Of Solomon Grundy.[6]

We know this life is worth much more than that! In truth, our existence holds an eternal potential that exceeds, in glory and splendor, anything we could ever imagine with our mortal intelligence.

Aim for the “highest destination” in the celestial kingdom

During last general conference, both President Russell M. Nelson and President Dallin H. Oaks invited us to strive to reach “the highest destination” in the celestial kingdom, which is also expressed as “exaltation.”

In his remarkable talk, entitled “Think Celestial!” our beloved prophet encouraged us to “begin with the end in mind.” He added, “This means making the celestial kingdom your eternal goal.”[7] He also taught that we should aim for exaltation because it is the only state that will allow us to live in the presence of God as eternal families with the ones we love.

President Dallin H. Oaks also reminded us that exaltation can only be obtained on condition of being married in the temple: “God’s plan, founded on eternal truth, requires that exaltation can be attained only through faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman in the holy temple.”[8]

Eternal marriage has always fascinated me. For a man and a woman who may have known each other for only several weeks or months to commit themselves to each other for all eternity is just amazing!

I have, from time to time, had the privilege of performing sealings for young couples in the house of the Lord. It is always a very moving experience.

How I love to see these couples kneel at the altar to receive the sealing ordinance! They often seem quite young, maybe a little immature and, at the very least, inexperienced. However, as the wonderful words of the sealing ordinance are spoken, I suddenly see them in a different light. A glorious vision unfolds, filled with marvelous promises. It says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “They shall pass by the angels, and the gods, . . . to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever . . . Then shall they be gods, because they have all power.”[9]

You may be thinking that this radiant future is very difficult to comprehend. We know that this transformation can only take place through ongoing progression and experience, which will continue after this life. However, it starts right there in the temple’s sealing room with a couple, still imperfect in their accomplishments but pure and firm in their intentions.

My brothers and sisters, a successful eternal marriage requires tremendous faith. Faith in your own potential, faith in your spouse’s potential, faith in the institution of marriage and in the eternal marriage covenant, and most of all, faith in our Heavenly Father and in the atoning power of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This multifaceted faith will change the way you live in your marriage. It will give you the courage to move forward and persevere, the strength to overcome trials and disagreements that will surely come, and the kind, repenting, and forgiving spirit necessary to overcome your respective shortcomings.

This faith is also needed for those who have not yet had the opportunity to find their eternal companion, because we know that the blessings of eternal marriage will ultimately be offered to all those who persevere in living a righteous life.

The indispensable power of Christ’s Atonement

In addition to receiving sacred ordinances, the key to realizing our eternal potential resides in our capacity to draw unto ourselves the power of Christ’s Atonement. If we rely only on our own talents and personal efforts, our capacity to progress will remain limited and we won’t be able to achieve our eternal goals. However, when we rely upon the Lord and His Atonement, our potential for progression knows no limits.

I know that the power of the Savior’s Atonement is real—its redemptive power as well as its enabling grace. I have often experienced it in my life. It changes the way we see ourselves, brings comfort, increases our self-confidence, and gives us the strength to change our life and progress towards our eternal destiny.

Allow me to relate a personal experience. About 20 years ago, I was assigned to be the ministering brother to a man who had just moved into our ward. I soon learned that he was in a seemingly hopeless situation. He had just been rebaptized after his membership had been removed. He was going through a painful divorce. He was also facing financial hardship and a challenging work situation.

My companion and I decided to help him envision his bright future and see his true potential as a son of God. We encouraged him to begin with the end in mind and picture himself at the altar of the temple surrounded by his beautiful eternal family, all dressed in white. We testified to him that this would happen if he remained faithful.

We visited him for seven straight years, at least once every month. We often cried together. We rejoiced in each baby step he was taking. Despite the many ups and downs along the way, we got to love this man as a dear friend.

After seven years, he called me one day and told me he had received his first temple recommend in 20 years. I accompanied him to the Frankfurt Germany Temple, where we did work for his deceased family. It was a marvelous day!

From that time on, greater blessings began to flow into his life. A wonderful sister was baptized in our ward. She appeared to be the perfect match. They got married and had two beautiful children. They were later sealed together in the temple.

Some time ago, Valérie and I attended a session in the Paris France Temple. As we entered the temple, I saw my friend standing at the desk in the lobby. It was he who asked me to show my temple recommend.

We looked at each other. It was a quiet moment, filled with peaceful joy and infinite gratitude. It was like I heard him say, “Thank you for not giving up on me and believing in my eternal potential.”

Brothers and sisters, relying on the Savior and His Atonement is only fulfilled through faith and repentance. It requires our best efforts to do our part, then trust that the Lord will guide us along the path and add whatever is needed “after all we can do.”[10]

This personal experience also shows how, when we envision the divine potential of those we encounter, it transforms the way we see them and minister to them.

Fulfilling our potential in this temporal world—finding the Mozarts

Imagine what would happen if every man and woman could see others as God sees them—if we could see others with the same kindness, the same love, the same trust that God has for them. What would happen if everyone were recognized by their peers for what they truly are, as well as what they can become: children of God endowed with divine potential? How many wars, acts of violence, and disputations would be avoided in this world if human beings could perceive in their fellow men and women the light of their divine destiny!

The author Antoine de Saint Exupéry was a French pilot and news reporter who died in 1944 when his plane crashed in the Mediterranean. He wrote a book titled Wind, Sand, and Stars, in which he recorded his impressions drawn from his travels across the world.

He told the story of being on a train and finding himself sitting amid a group of refugees from Poland. He was deeply moved by a young boy looking hopeless and destitute. He suddenly had a vision of this child’s bright potential and thought to himself, “This is the child Mozart, here is a life full of sweet promises.” Yet, in that very moment, realizing that there was very little hope that this little Mozart would ever receive the opportunity to develop his extraordinary talent, he sadly concluded with these words, “This Mozart is condemned.”[11]

This story expresses the disappointment there is in seeing too many people’s potential thwarted by a lack of recognition, encouragement, or opportunities.

I would like to share a personal experience from my teenage years. I began learning the piano when I was seven years old. Having demonstrated some musical talent (and let’s clarify here that I was far from being a little Mozart), my mother enrolled me at the music conservatory in our hometown in France. The teaching program was very rigorous and required many hours of class and personal work. My piano teacher, whom I will refer to as Madame M., was very strict and demanding, and she manifested very little empathy for her students.

One day, she gave me Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu to work on. I was only 14 and that piece appeared to me to be totally out of my reach. Seeing that I was struggling to play it, Madame M. covered my sheet music with rebukes and threats, such as, “This is not clean!” “How about working when being asked to do so?” and “Making noise is not like making music; listen to yourself.”

To tell the truth, the method was effective to the extent that I was able to put the piece together. I’d like to play for you that piece which gave me so much trouble.

Even though I learned this piece and have enjoyed playing it throughout my life, as a teenager I was so discouraged by the process of learning it that I wanted to stop my piano studies. Recognizing this, my mother found me a new teacher. Madame T. was completely different, the kind of person who loves her students and gives them confidence in their potential. She had high expectations in terms of musical technique, but with her, we played with our hearts.

One day, she gave me a new piece to work on. That one seemed just as impossible as the one I had received from Madame M. Seeing my hesitation, Madame T. confided in me that this was the very piece that had won her husband’s heart. She had never given it to any of her students before me because of how precious it was to her. However, she knew that I had the potential to play it beautifully. Her confidence boosted my motivation. That piece became my reference piece as a young man and, later on, it enabled me to win Valérie’s heart! I’m going to play an excerpt.

I invite you to seek inspiration to find the Mozarts among us. In a way, each of us is a Mozart in the making. We all have talents, gifts, and abilities that ask for nothing more than the opportunity to blossom and thrive. Believing in others, helping them discover their potential, and loving them wholeheartedly, this is what should inspire us in our interactions with our fellow sojourners on this earth.

I am grateful for institutions like BYU-Idaho that help individuals discover and reach their true potential—both earthly and eternal. This school changes lives. It is looking for the Mozarts sleeping within each of us, helping us recognize and develop our God-given gifts in this earthly sphere. It also provides great opportunities to learn of the Lord, to seek the blessings of His Atonement in our lives, and to “think celestial.” If throughout our lives we whole-heartedly apply and build upon the spiritual knowledge we gain here, we will ultimately fulfill our fullest potential, which is to receive exaltation and eternal life.


My brothers and sisters, I testify that each one of you is literally a son or daughter of God, endowed with the capacity to become like Him and to live with Him in eternal families. I testify that if you choose to achieve this potential with faith and determination and live in accordance with your sacred covenants, you will find the strength and capacity to move forward, step by step, towards your eternal destiny.

I testify that, because of His Atonement, Jesus Christ provides strength that can hoist us beyond our human abilities and enable us to walk towards perfection. This Church, which is Christ’s restored Church upon the earth, possesses the needed knowledge and priesthood authority to help us access that power.

I pray that you may experience joy and peace as you more fully understand your and others’ earthly and heavenly potential. Jesus Christ lives. He is the only way by which we may achieve our highest destiny, which is to return to our Heavenly Father and become as He is. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] See Moses 1. It was Jehovah who appeared to Moses. He represented and spoke the words of the Father on that occasion.

[2] Moses 1:6.

[3] “The Family: The Proclamation to the World,” Gospel Library.

[4] Gospel Topics, “Becoming Like God,” Gospel Library.

[5] Moses 1:12.

[6]James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, “Solomon Grundy,” 1842.

[7] See Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial!,” Liahona, Oct. 2023.

[8] Dallin H. Oaks, “Kingdoms of Glory,” Liahona, Oct 2023.

[9] Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20.

[10] 2 Nephi 25:23.

[11] Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Terre des Hommes, 1939 , 214; see also Wind, Sand and Stars, 1939, in Airman’s Odyssey, 1984, 206.