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A Blessed and Happy State

Audio: "A Blessed and Happy State"
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I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today; I appreciate the prayers, the scripture, and the musical numbers that help invite the Spirit here today. I’m especially thankful for my beautiful wife, whom I met here at Ricks College just over 30 years ago, and who agreed to accompany me on this eternal rollercoaster ride, gratefully with more ups than downs. In fact, with the last name of Wise, my proposal to Becky had a scriptural footnote I like to remind her about; it’s found in Jacob 6:12, “Oh be wise, what can I say more?” [1] It was an easy decision. President David O. McKay, quoting Ben Franklin, said, “During courtship, we should keep our eyes wide open, but after marriage, keep them half-shut.” [2] My wife always seems to see the best in me, so don’t be too surprised if she seems to be squinting at me during the devotional.

As you heard in the introduction, my role here at BYU-Idaho is managing the intellectual property on campus. Usually, I am behind the scenes of the devotionals, ensuring the images, videos, content, and music are copyright-cleared. While thinking about my role in copyright management, I found a seemingly obscure revelation to Joseph Smith relating to copyright. Yes, it’s true, there’s a revelation about copyright. In The Joseph Smith Papers, "Revelation Book 1," page 31, Joseph Smith received a revelation in early 1830 to secure the copyright for the Book of Mormon in Canada.

The revelation promised that recent troubles would not thwart publication and granted permission to sell the copyright in Canada (we’d use the term licensing today). The revelation promised success in selling the copyright if the people did not harden their hearts against the enticements of His spirit and word. It also includes this important reason why securing copyright is relevant to God’s work. [3] It is this commandment to Joseph: “Be diligent in securing the copyright of my work upon all the face of the earth of which is known by you . . . That the faithful and the righteous may retain the temporal blessing as well as the spiritual.” [4]

The temporal blessings involved publication, distribution, and discovery—and of course, the opportunity to earn some revenue to support the publication of the Book of Mormon and the fledgling Church.

The spiritual blessings were in managing and protecting the content provided by the copyright of the Book of Mormon. In fact, in the very print shop where the Book of Mormon was being published, Abner Cole was clandestinely printing unauthorized excerpts from the Book of Mormon to undermine the book’s release. Joseph confronted him about the copyright and he then stopped. We learn from this how protecting the written word that includes the fullness of the gospel provides spiritual blessings for us as its readers.

It is recognizing these temporal and spiritual blessings I want to talk about today. No, not just the ones from copyright, though clearly important and a source of job security for me, but the blessings promised in the Book of Mormon, namely by King Benjamin, who taught his people in Mosiah 2:41 the following:

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. [5]

There’s so much wisdom in this one scripture! But what I hope to share today, is how this “blessed and happy state” is available to us throughout our lives here, no matter our circumstances. All that it requires is our faithfulness. And we can “live after the manner of happiness.” [6]

In my office hangs a picture of my father in front of a newly acquired trailer house we would share with thousands of mice while we built a log home in the mountains of Montana. We, not so affectionately, refer to this 30-foot, 1952 United travel trailer as “Dumb Dora.” (I also am in this photograph, playing in the back of the 1936 Chevy pickup we used as we built the house.) I display this picture as it is a reminder to me of both the spiritual and temporal blessings of the gospel in my life. My family and the little truck have gone through a process of change and refinement. While neither is perfect, they represent a legacy of testimony and love—evidence of temporal and spiritual blessings. You see, my dad and our family were not yet acquainted with the “blessed and happy state” of faithfully living the gospel at the time this photo was taken, but we were about to learn how taking upon us His yoke [7] provides a better way to live.

My dad is here today and is a living example of the enduring promises and growth that come from relying on the lord and trusting in his plan for us. I thank you for choosing to rebuild us in Montana. President Thomas S. Monson wisely taught of this rebuilding of our lives:

Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before. [8]

This has been the case for our family—passing through these trials has helped my parents, siblings, and me to build our testimonies and rebuild our lives a little at a time beyond our own abilities. Luckily, my mom was a great storyteller and always kept a journal of our experiences as she and my dad built their home and family in Montana. She later published her journals as a book and titled it Big Skies and Cowpies. We lost my mom this last summer and the book is now a treasure to us and her posterity of their conversion, resilience, and testimony. The big skies in the title represent Montana and, more importantly, our Heavenly Father’s limitless presence in our lives. When we face trials, we can lift our eyes to the heavens, knowing that our mortal challenges are part of the grandeur of God’s plan for us. The cowpies in the title represent the messiness of life—the unexpected difficulties, disappointments, and setbacks. Just as cowpies dot the landscape and sometimes the path we are on, trials are inevitable. But here’s the beautiful part: even in the mess, God is at work. He can turn our trials into stepping stones for growth and transformation.

Growing up in Dumb Dora while building the house wasn’t easy; some of the challenges we faced seemed unending and tested our faith. A fitting quote for these “cowpies” comes from Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who taught, “How could there be refining fires without enduring some heat? Or greater patience without enduring some instructive waiting? Or more empathy without bearing one another’s burdens—not only that others’ burdens may be lightened, but that we may be enlightened through greater empathy? How can there be later magnification without enduring some present deprivation?” [9]

Our experiences growing as a family in Montana demonstrated this to my parents and siblings in tangible ways that have defined us as we look back and recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives. President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, . . . lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace.” [10]

One such instructive testimony-building experience from my childhood occurred as we went as a family to get firewood up in the mountains behind our house. Firewood was key to survival since it was our only source of heat in the cold winters of western Montana:

Allow me to set the stage a little bit. Our family had an old beat-up 1956 International pickup truck we called “Tessie”—my mom loved to name things. It had seen plenty of action in its time, so it was very temperamental when it came to starting. More often than not, it wouldn’t turn over, so we would have to push this heavy truck to get it to start by getting it rolling, and then my dad would hop in and pop the clutch. Tessie would reluctantly chug to life, and everyone would quickly pile into the cab or into the bed of the old truck. It's not what you’d first think of as a family car, but despite its flaws, it was, at the time, our most reliable option. That cold morning, we were all packed in the front of ‘ole Tessie like sardines as we headed up Mulkey Gulch to get a load of firewood.

A fresh skiff of wet snow made everything muddy as the truck crawled up the canyon. On one steep grade, the truck died and wouldn’t start. Tessie slid in the mud backward and was not following the road very well, seeming to favor the steep drop-off on one side. It finally slid to a stop, and Tessie, just sitting there, decided to do us a favor and miraculously started right up with the key. We got our wits about us and continued up to higher ground. We found a few old dead trees that’d make for some good firewood, and my dad backed the truck into a nearby skid trail pullout and turned off the truck.

My dad started the chainsaw, falls one, two, three trees, and bucked them up as we carried the pieces to the truck. The mud from the fresh snow was thick; it would stick to your shoes and feet and get heavier with every step. We finally got the wood piled high and were ready to get out of the cold and into the truck. We all climbed into the cab and got situated, and once more, as my dad turned the key, Tessie decided not to start . . . R-R-R, no luck. My dad thought he parked it on enough of a slope just in case we’d need to do the customary rolling start, but the ground was so wet that the heavy load made the wheels sink into the mud. Everyone was tired and frustrated with our predicament. My mom knew we were doomed as we looked at the blowing snow that was now making our hands freeze and our noses numb. We all piled out of the truck and tried pushing—no luck! We might as well have been pushing on a 747; it wouldn’t budge.

With the dire prospect of being stuck in the woods in a snowstorm with a young family, the only thing heating up was the discussion between my parents; my mom was angry at my dad for dragging us up there in a truck that wasn’t reliable (as if there was another option), my dad was upset that she was upset and more so that the new battery they had just replaced didn’t seem to be working. The snow was starting to pile up. We kids, aged 7, 9, and 10, weren’t going to be much help as we looked back and forth at each other and our parents. There was only one thing my dad could think of that would be worth a shot. He suggested that we kneel as a family behind the old truck and ask our Heavenly Father for help, as he recognized that we wouldn’t be able to do this ourselves. My mom was a little reluctant at first, but she also understood we needed help, and no one else would even know where we were, much less be able to get to us. So, united as a family, we knelt in the mud, and my brother offered a simple child's prayer; a testimony-building image was created that none of us will forget.

This AI-created image captured fairly accurately the memory of that day (except that my dad only wishes he had as much hair).

After the prayer, we all got behind the truck, and, on the count of three, pushed as hard as we could . . . and . . . no go—same as before. Our faith seemed to waver, but we didn’t give up. My dad said, “Again.” And we pushed with all our might—none of us could believe it; Tessie lurched forward a couple of feet! My mom was shocked and went around feeling our little muscles. We tried again, and Tessie moved enough that it started down the hill and my dad was able to jump in and pop the clutch—never did the roar of the engine sound so good. We all quickly climbed in—but before we moved too far, my dad said, “We better thank God for helping us.” And, with the truck running this time, we prayed a prayer of gratitude and headed home. [11]

This experience in the mountains of my youth is one such example of a ray of light that has combined with others to build my testimony. Elder Alexander Dushku taught us in the general conference earlier this month how these simple rays of light make up our testimonies. He said,

As we recognize, remember, and gather these rays “together in one,” something wonderful and powerful begins to happen. “Light cleaveth unto light”—“truth embraceth truth.” The reality and power of one ray of testimony reinforces and combines with another, and then another, and another. Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a ray and there a ray—one small, treasured spiritual moment at a time—there grows up within us a core of light-filled, spiritual experiences. Perhaps no one ray is strong enough or bright enough to constitute a full testimony, but together they can become a light that the darkness of doubt cannot overcome. [12]

We all have similar experiences that can build us and shape us. They don’t always come with superpowers for the hippie family on a snowy mountain in Montana, but it’s awesome when they do. But sometimes it seems the prayers go unanswered, the trials drag on, health fails, or promises are broken. Where, then, can we turn when faced with these things that seem to go contrary to any “blessed and happy state”?

This quote from President Russell M. Nelson is very valuable as he answers this question:

Moving your mountains may require a miracle. Learn about miracles. Miracles come according to your faith in the Lord. Central to that faith is trusting His will and timetable—how and when He will bless you with the miraculous help you desire. Only your unbelief will keep God from blessing you with miracles to move the mountains in your life . . . The mountains in our lives do not always move how or when we would like. But our faith will always propel us forward. Faith always increases our access to godly power. [13]

Like Tessie, the old truck, we sometimes are slow to start or are mired down in the mud under a heavy load of trials, doubt, or sin. In order to get back onto the right path, we need to have the faith to move in the right direction and, in humility, kneel in the mud and give our load to the Lord, and take His yoke upon us. The Book of Mormon teaches us in Alma 7:11–12 how the Savior knows our situation and, with mercy, lifts us in our times of trouble:

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. [14]

Earlier in the Book of Mormon, Alma and his people were in bondage to the wicked people of Amulon and were nearly crushed by the burdens placed upon them; the people pleaded for relief, but the Lord didn’t take away their burdens; instead, He promised them: [15]

And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. [16]

Even when we are in bondage and bearing heavy burdens of all kinds, if we submit cheerfully with patience to all the will of the Lord, and take His yoke upon us, He will visit us in our afflictions and ease our burdens. We will be able to look back and remember, like the people of Alma, and stand as witnesses for Him as we recognize His presence and strength in our lives.

Brothers and sisters, we are His work and His glory [17]—you, me, the hippie family stuck in the mud on the mountain in Montana. We are the reason he visits us in our afflictions. We read in Hebrews chapter 12 that Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” [18] We are the joy set before Him; [19] He is our firm foundation. The many trials and experiences or “cowpies” we endure help us to build a strong core of testimony that demonstrates the “blessed and happy state” of our lives, even amid the mud and the struggles, as we put our trust and confidence in both the spiritual and temporal blessings promised to those who keep the commandments of God. [20] May we ever stand as His witnesses. He is the author and finisher of our faith. [21] In his name, I testify, even Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Jacob 6:12.

[2] David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1956, p. 9.

[3] Stephen Kent Ehat, “‘Securing’ the Prophet’s Copyright in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies Quarterly 50, no. 2 (2011),

[4] “Revelation Book 1," p. 31, The Joseph Smith Papers,; spelling standardized.

[5] Mosiah 2:41.

[6] 2 Nephi 5:27.

[7] See Matthew 11:29–30.

[8] Thomas S. Monson, “‘I Will Not Fail Thee, nor Forsake Thee,’” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013.

[9] Neal A. Maxwell, “Endure It Well,” Ensign, May 1990.

[10] Ezra Taft Benson, “Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” Ensign, Dec. 1988, 4.

[11] Pennie Wise, Big Skies and Cowpies: Building a Home and Family in Montana (Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing, 2004), 138.

[12] Alexander Dushku, “Pillars and Rays,” Liahona, May 2024.

[13] Russell M. Nelson, “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2021.

[14] Alma 7:11–12.

[15] Cristina B. Franco, “The Healing Power of Jesus Christ,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2020.

[16] Mosiah 24:14–15.

[17] Moses 1:39.

[18] Hebrews 12:2.

[19] Russell M. Nelson, “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2016.

[20] Mosiah 2:41.

[21] Hebrews 12:2.