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We Are Creators and Builders

Audio: "We Are Creators and Builders"
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Thank you for that music. Brothers and sisters, it is great to be here. I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us and inspire us as I share my message.

I want to say how grateful I am for BYU-Idaho. When I was 18 years old (way back in the 1900s) I drove my brother’s car across the state to start as a freshman at then Ricks College. As I pulled into my housing complex for the first time, a wave of homesickness and panic came over me. I almost turned around and drove home. I’m so glad that I stayed. I can’t count the number of blessings I’ve received from this institution. It is wonderful to be part of this university.

I have found great joy in creating. My passion lately has been woodworking. If you go to my house, you can see in probably every room something I’ve built from wood that is useful for my family. I’ve built nightstands, headboards, a sideboard to hold family games, a very large American flag, desks for my children, picture frames, mallets, spatulas, and more cutting boards than we’ll ever need. I even had this saying laser engraved on a piece of maple so I could put it somewhere my kids would see every day.

It says: “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” [1]

Over the years with this hobby, I’ve learned a few things about creating with wood. I used old barnwood to build a sideboard; I learned that barnwood is very forgiving, and if I scratched or dented it, you can’t really tell if the wood was distressed before I got it, or after I started using it.

Contrast the barnwood with the hardwood scraps I used to make a desktop. I couldn’t just use a sander to get the desk flat. It took a planer to get it looking right, and I had to be extra careful while handling it so I didn’t leave a gouge that would ruin the flat top of the desk.

I’m so grateful for those who have helped me with materials, tools, time, and teaching in my hobby. There are communities on social media sites and online tutorial videos that have been very helpful in teaching me how to work with wood.

I’m also very grateful for my wife, who is so patient about the constant flow of sawdust that gets tracked into the house.

Our loving Heavenly Father gave us this planet to perform our creative work upon. He didn’t build us our houses or give us cars or tablets. He gave us raw materials to work with and time to do that work. And as we create and build and work to solve the important problems of our day, we are made better. [2]

In the year 2000, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson shared with us the following in the first general conference in the newly built Conference Center:

The process of construction is truly inspiring to me. From conception to completion, any major building project reflects upon the work of the Master Creator. In fact, the Creation—of planet Earth and of life upon it—undergirds all other creative capability. Any manmade creation is possible only because of our divine Creator. The people who design and build are given life and capacity by that Creator. And all materials used in the construction of an edifice are ultimately derived from the rich resources of the earth. [3]

Today I would like to share with you four points on creating and building.

#1 God Designed Us To Be Creators

We find in the scriptures and have been taught by our leaders that there are things to act and things to be acted upon. [4] This is the gift of moral agency given to us from our Heavenly Father. [5]

Please listen as I tell a story about a young woman who decided to act to create the life she wanted.

A few years ago, my wife made friends with a woman who had finished her bachelor’s degree and had not gone on any dates in college. Before college, she was passed over each time there was a school dance or other social event. During college, she did well in her studies but, based on her previous experiences, decided to not put much effort into her social life. In fact, during the summers she would find a job in a remote location so she wouldn’t have to worry about the social events she was missing.

After graduating college, she decided to make a change. She had a home and started inviting people over from her young single adult ward for various activities. After one activity that she felt hadn’t gone very well, she confided in my wife about her lack of prospects for marriage.

She confided that she didn’t feel confident about her appearance and was concerned she would never get married.

Christine told her that she was familiar with those feelings, but she tried to be a fun person and made sure to be at activities with other young adults.

Her friend took this pep talk to heart and started to do things differently. She started to find ways to be in more social gatherings. While this was a little outside her comfort zone, her hope was that it would lead to much more happiness.

Eventually, she met a young man who was interested in her. They’re married now and living a very fulfilling life together.

While I cannot promise you the exact results my wife’s friend achieved through her choices, I can tell you the likelihood of getting those results will increase greatly when you choose to act and work to create the life you desire.

A related thought to being a creator is something President Nelson has repeatedly taught, [6] and President Meredith echoed in the first devotional of this semester. [7] That is beginning with the end in mind. The choices we make will lead us somewhere. We should always be looking at where that place is. Something like coming to college with an idea of what career you would like after you leave. Choosing a major and degree become much easier when we know what we ultimately want to do.

President Nelson shared an experience he had with a grandson who wanted to become a heart surgeon. The grandson asked how long it would take to complete his schooling. President Nelson told him it would take 14 years. His grandson said that was too long. President Nelson asked him how old he would be in 14 years if he did not pursue his dream. The young man got the message; 14 years later he graduated from the Mayo Clinic and became a heart surgeon. [8]

Beginning with the end in mind helped President Nelson’s grandson achieve his dream.

#2 Our Creating Is Iterative

The definition of iterate is to improve with repetition. We can see this in the following story.

One day a teacher of first and second graders took all the chairs out of the classroom. As the students arrived, they exclaimed, “What happened to our chairs?” The teacher was giving them a choice: “You can stand the rest of the school year or come to the shop, and we can make chairs.”

The students go to the school’s shop, and they build chairs using all the naïve assumptions they have about things like glue and screws. Some of the chairs won’t even make it back to the classroom before they fall apart. And none of those chairs will last more than a couple of days. Every time one of the chairs breaks, they pick it up and put it on a table and everyone scrutinizes it. Eventually, no one has a chair to sit on. The teacher says, “Let’s take another stab at this chair thing.” So they build the next generation of chairs. But this time the kids have learned a little bit about crossbars and supports. They’re also being much more precise. They’ve discovered that if the legs of a chair are different lengths, the chair tears itself apart. These second-generation pieces are much better chairs, but they’re not very comfortable.

The students go back to build a third chair. But by this time, they’ve learned more about different kinds of chairs. They’ve been to a furniture shop and seen chairs assembled. They’ve learned how to use dowels in building their chairs. They’ve also learned about using hardwoods instead of pine. While building their third-generation chair, they understand that you can’t just throw it together in one day. They’re doing overnight gluing and clamping operations. They have to think through the order of assembly so they can put the pieces together.

Now, these students have a piece of furniture that they understand every single part of and why it is the way it is.

This teacher took seven-year-olds through an iterative process that produced complete, thought-out, fine-tuned creations that were unique to each student. She gave them room to find a design that suited them. She gave them room to make mistakes. But she also gave them space to correct their mistakes in each succeeding iteration of the chair. At the end of the school year, the students took their chairs home. They’ll likely have them for the rest of their lives. But more importantly, they’ll have the skills they learned in making those chairs. [9]

Brothers and sisters, we are here on earth living an iterative learning experience. I think this is great news. Especially because I had to take statistics twice.

While speaking about being born again, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said “For most of us, the changes are more gradual [than King Benjamin’s people and Alma] and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality.” [10]

While I don’t believe the Lord is giving us license to sin, I do believe that just like the teacher in the previous story, He has given us the space to learn from our mistakes. [11]

In conjunction with the good news of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the grace He offers us, I believe this is some of the most hopeful and wonderful doctrine we have.

One tool we have to use in this iterative process is partaking of the sacrament on a weekly basis. During the sacrament, we renew the covenant we made at baptism. At the same time, the Lord renews the promised remission of sins. [12]

I like to think that each time I take the sacrament I get to reset and create the next iteration of myself. Now, if I were to look back at who I was when I took the sacrament for the 500th time versus the 501st time, I probably wouldn’t see much of a difference. But what if I compared who I was at the 501st time to the 51st time? I’m sure I would see a big difference in who I’ve become.

Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “By iteratively claiming the cleansing effect of baptism through the sacrament, our own personal conversion becomes lifelong.” [13]

And, as “we come unto Christ and [are] perfected in Him,” [14] we will become “new creatures.” [15]

#3 We Are To Build Our Testimonies

Each of us must learn the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ for ourselves. No one else can do it for us.

We all have access to the words of the Lord’s prophets found in the scriptures and in modern day sources. We are entitled to the guidance of the Holy Ghost as we search and study. There is no shortcut to the revelation necessary to have a thriving testimony. We must pay the price required. [16]

We build our testimonies primarily through time spent in personal worship of our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

President Nelson said in the October 2022 general conference, “I plead with you now—to take charge of your own testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Work for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don’t pollute it with false philosophies of unbelieving men and women. As you make the continual strengthening of your testimony of Jesus Christ your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life.”

I would like to echo President Nelson’s words here. And I want to be careful to let you know what I’m not saying is that all influencers, podcasters, bloggers, and others are bad or are giving out false information. What I am saying is that all the information and ideas you will come across through these sources is not of equal value.

As you take charge of your testimony, please be sure to give first place for the words of God’s authorized messengers.

This coming weekend we will have the opportunity to listen to prophets and apostles speak about the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to prepare for and listen to their words.

And as you take charge in building your testimony, remember what Helaman told his sons Nephi and Lehi. He said:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. [17]

#4 We Are To Build Others

President Nelson said:

The Savior’s message is clear: His true disciples build, lift, encourage, persuade, and inspire—no matter how difficult the situation . . . The best is yet to come for those who spend their lives building up others. Today I invite you to examine your discipleship within the context of the way you treat others. I bless you to make any adjustments that may be needed so that your behavior is ennobling, respectful, and representative of a true follower of Jesus Christ. [18]

Where have I seen people building others?

I’ve seen it in our local Toastmasters club where every speech evaluation is a positive experience meant to take even the most inexperienced speaker and lift them up.

I’ve seen it on the soccer field where players encourage others.

I’ve seen it in my office where those who manage student employees patiently teach them how to do their jobs and share with them what life after graduation is like.

And I’ve certainly seen it in my home. My wife is constantly teaching my children and building them up.

In all our creating, we need to emulate the true Creator, our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is "the finisher of our faith.” [19] He is the great and “chief cornerstone.” [20] He is our tower.

We just enjoyed a wonderful Easter Sunday. And every Easter that passes seems to mean more and more to me. I’m grateful for my Savior and for everything He has done for me and my loved ones.

This Easter season and always I encourage you to remember the words of Mother Theresa: “Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of Christ risen.”

I love the scripture John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

I also love the next verse, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” [21]

Jesus did not come to condemn us. I believe He is giving us every opportunity He can to help us on our way. And when our creating and building efforts aren’t enough, His grace is sufficient to see us through. I need His mercy and grace as I’m iteratively following the Doctrine of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, my invitation to you today is to remember and act on the words of President Nelson when he said,

We are to be creators in our own right—builders of an individual faith in God, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and faith in His Church. We are to build families and be sealed in holy temples. We are to build the Church and kingdom of God upon the earth. We are to prepare for our own divine destiny—glory, immortality, and eternal lives. These supernal blessings can all be ours, through our faithfulness. [22]

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Zig Ziglar, “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you,” Goodreads,

[2] Thomas S Monson, “In Quest of the Abundant Life,” Ensign, March 2018.

[3] Russell M Nelson, “The Creation,” Ensign, May 2000.

[4] See 2 Nephi 2:13–14.

[5] See David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006.

[6] See R. Scott Lloyd, “President Russell M. Nelson gives first address to members as the 17th President of the Church, selects counselors,” Church News, Jan. 16, 2018; Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial!,” Liahona, November 2023; and Russell M. Nelson, “Begin with the End in Mind,” BYU Speeches, Sept. 30, 1984.

[7] Alvin F. Meredith III, “Begin with the End in Mind,” BYU-Idaho Speeches, Jan. 9, 2024,

[8] Russell M Nelson, Heart of the Matter: What 100 Years of Living Have Taught Me (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 2023).

[9] Adam Savage, Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It (New York City, NY: Atria Books, 2019).

[10] D. Todd Christofferson, “Born Again,” Ensign, May 2008.

[11] See Neal A Maxwell “Jesus, the Perfect Mentor,” Ensign, February 2001, emphasis added: “The eloquence of Jesus’ example of long-suffering and patience with each of us is surely something we must emulate—more than we usually do—in our relationships with each other! Jesus reassured us in this connection that ‘mine arm is lengthened out all the day long’ (2 Nephi 28:32). What marvelous and merciful imagery! The current Brethren have a saying, ‘How many tellings does it take?’ It is a saying that is used in a kindly way, sometimes wistfully. Most of us shouldn’t be surprised if some of life’s hardest lessons require repetition. We recognize that we have taken the course before, and here we go again! It is a function of the long-suffering and the mercy of the Lord—until we get it right.

[12] See “Sacrament,” Gospel Topics,

[13] Dale G. Renlund, “Lifelong Conversion,” BYU Speeches, Sept. 14, 2021,

[14] Moroni 10:32.

[15] Mosiah 27:26; and 2 Corinthians 5:17.

[16] Bruce R. McConkie, “Finding Answers to Gospel Questions,” open letter, about 1980, Historical Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Teaching Seminary: Preservice Teachings (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004),

[17] Helaman 5:12.

[18] Russell M Nelson “Peacemakers Needed,” Liahona, May 2023.

[19] Hebrews 12:2.

[20] Ephesians 2:20.

[21] John 3:17.

[22] Russell M Nelson, “The Creation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2000.