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In Our Extremities

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It was almost three years ago when I first entered this beautiful building and felt the remarkable spirit here. I had come to BYU-Idaho for a job interview, and had just found out I had been offered the position. I was filled with gratitude and awe. I couldn't believe that the Lord had granted me such an amazing opportunity. What a wonderful blessing it is to work on this extraordinary campus and associate with each one of you! I have thought a lot about the experiences that brought me here as well as the work that lies before me.

Brothers and sisters, I wish with all my heart to help you understand how much the Lord loves each of you. I pray that His intended message will sink deep into your souls and will enable you to become better acquainted with Him.

Many of you are familiar with stories of the Mormon handcart pioneers. These dedicated Church members lacked the funds to purchase teams and wagons to cross the plains to join the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley, and so they traveled from Iowa City to Salt Lake on foot pulling or pushing their belongings in handcarts. The Willie and Martin Handcart Companies left late in the season and were caught by early snowstorms in Wyoming.

In describing his experience, Francis Webster, a survivor of the Martin Handcart Company said, "We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities. I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there. Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay."[1]

What does it mean to reach our extremity? In the case of the Martin Handcart pioneers, it was a moment marked by imminent destruction or death. For you and me, it might be a time when we have reached our breaking point or a time of great and critical need.[2] Consider the experiences of Abraham when he was about to sacrifice Isaac, Job when he had lost everything, Joseph Smith's experience in Liberty Jail and Jesus Christ's suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary. Our extremities seem to vary depending upon our experience, the lessons we need to learn and the faith we need to gain. A critical need for me occurred when I went back to school to earn my degree. Though I had many educational opportunities earlier in my life, I began my university studies in earnest when I was thirty-one years old. Up until that time, I didn't feel the need or recognize the importance of a formal education. After all, I just wanted to be a wife and a mother.

I had three young children at the time, and a husband whose health was failing rapidly. Cancer and its effects had taken their toll on him for almost ten years. It became obvious to us all that he would not live much longer and the responsibility to support our family would soon fall upon my shoulders.

Initially, I took evening classes at Dixie College, but my degree soon required daytime attendance at Southern Utah University, about an hour away. That first morning, I prepared my husband's breakfast and medications, hoped my oldest child would get ready for school on time, and took my two youngest children to daycare before driving to Cedar City. My wonderful Relief Society President volunteered to check on my husband at noon and bring in lunch each day during the summer quarter.

When I came home, I fixed dinner, attended to my family and then went to bed--too tired to focus on homework. Each weekday during that term, I followed a similar schedule, waking well before dawn to complete the homework that was due that day in order to care for my family when I got home. Though it seemed impossible, I completed thirty credit hours that summer, and even made the Dean's List. A week after the quarter ended, my husband died.

I certainly didn't suffer in the way that Francis Webster described, though I did become better acquainted with God though my extremity. I often felt that I could only complete one more assignment or fix one more meal, or get up early one more day, and then I would need to quit, but then somehow I had the capacity to do more. I was able to get by with less sleep, finish assignments in less time and still take care of my family.

It was nothing short of miraculous and I had a remarkable learning experience! I know that the Holy Ghost supported and assisted me in my studies. He helped me think clearly, improved my memory, gave me insight and understanding and comforted me when I became overwhelmed. My studies gave me hope and allowed me to focus on the future.

Over the next few years, I went on to complete my associate's and bachelor's degrees. After my second marriage ended in divorce, I completed my master's degree. This experience was even more challenging for me, and for my family. I was working full-time with a full course load, three teenagers and a demanding calling. There were times when my sorrow almost overcame me and I worried that I might become bitter and distance myself from the Lord. I knew my confidence had been shaken and I was concerned that my faith might not sustain me.

"Here then is a great truth." said President James E. Faust in a 1979 General Conference address. "In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner's fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd."[3]
I remember walking in the crisp North Dakota air before dawn one morning, lamenting my trials, and asking Heavenly Father why He had given me so much to bear. I felt overwhelmed and in deep despair. I couldn't understand why--when I was trying so hard to be good--life was so difficult and seemed so hopeless. I had reached my extremity.

At that point, there came into my mind these words, "Lynne, if I gave you anything easier, you would just do it yourself, and you wouldn't come to rely on Me."

My experience that day was an epiphany for me! I began to understand how very much my Heavenly Father loved me and how important He felt it was for me to come unto Him, get to know Him and learn to rely on Him.

Amaleki wrote, "And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him."[4] That day I came to understand more fully that I was worth redeeming, and that if I allowed it to, God's love and the Savior's Atonement would heal me.

Said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in a 2009 Ensign article, "...every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through it. These difficult lessons teach us that man's extremity is God's opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples--or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace."[5] I made a decision that day to tie myself to God and become better acquainted with Him. Today I would like to share five things I've learned that will help us bind ourselves to God in our extremities. 

  1. Come Unto Christ
  2. Obey with Exactness
  3. Serve God First
  4. Trust God
  5. Abide Forever

Come Unto Christ

First, come unto Christ. He has invited us all to come unto Him. Through Isaiah the Lord said, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."[6] When Jesus Christ was on the earth he taught us to come unto Him, take His yoke upon us and learn of Him, and that when we did so, we would find rest unto our souls.[7] After my divorce, I cried every day; often more than once. Initially, I cried through entire Sacrament Meetings and temple sessions. Then little by little over time my grief began to subside. Though I wanted the pain to end quickly and completely, that is not what happened. Eventually, I was able to go through an entire week without tears. I found rest to my soul in much the same way that Alma and his people were blessed. "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."[8] I have learned that seeking the Savior often and consistently and asking for strength beyond our own helps us carry the burdens we've been given. Francis Webster described it as angels pushing his handcart. I testify that the Lord has strengthened me and promise that He will strengthen you. He will make our burdens light and we will come to know, without a doubt, that there are angels assisting us along the way.

Obey with Exactness

Second, obey with exactness. Obedience to God's laws is essential. We have been told that it is through obedience that we obtain blessings from God.  "When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."[9] The Lord has promised us great and marvelous blessings and confirms that His promises are sure. He said, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise."[10] When I begin to feel a gap in my relationship with the Lord, when I am feeling just beyond His embrace, I know I need to become more obedient. I have found that my faith and confidence grow when I obey with more exactness. This has held true for me with every law and every commandment. The following scripture from the seventy-sixth section of the Doctrine and Covenants has become especially dear to me.

"Great is his wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out. His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand. From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail. For thus saith the Lord--I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory. And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations. And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught. For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will--yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, no yet entered into the heart of man."[11] I have come to know for myself that the more obedient we are, the wiser we become. This wisdom comes from God. It allows us to be wiser parents, better employees and more valiant servants. I cannot explain how this is done. I only know that it is true. There are times when the things I do and say amaze me, for they do not come from my own understanding.

Nephi said it this way, "And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them;"[12] "If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done."[13] The Lord has been merciful and gracious to me. I have felt His strength and wisdom flow through me in my studies and in my work. I know from whence it comes. I promise that as you seek to serve God in righteousness and truth, He will bless you beyond measure. Your wisdom and understanding will become greater. You will receive power from on high to complete your work and improve your relationships with God and with others. Your burdens will become light and you will become an instrument in His hands for good.

Serve God First

Third, serve God first. The Lord will make more of us than we can ever make of ourselves. When we do the Lord's work first, it is like paying tithing on our time. He magnifies our efforts so that we accomplish more than we could without serving.

As I  regularly attend the temple to renew my covenants with the Lord and seek to minister to His children, I have always had the time I needed to finish my homework, attend my children's activities, fulfill my church assignments, maintain my home and support my family. While I do not have excess time, I have what I need. It's amazing to me; it's truly miraculous! President Henry B. Eyring said that "Through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our natures can be changed. Then our power to carry burdens can be increased more than enough to compensate for the increased service we will be asked to give."[14] My ability to carry additional burdens has not only increased because of the service I render, but because of the service others have rendered unto me. I have been especially grateful for our valiant home and visiting teachers and neighbors. They have ministered to our family and helped us do things we could not do for ourselves.

When our family lived in Bismarck, North Dakota, our stake president became our home teacher. He traveled out of state frequently, but made it a point to visit our family with a lesson as often as possible and a phone call when he could not be there. One day, he called to let me know that he had asked to be released as our home teacher and had requested that another man be assigned to our family. I was devastated! He was faithful and consistent and we felt his love for us.

 While I was initially skeptical our new home teacher became a wonderful blessing in our lives. He seemed to know everything about automobiles and fixing things. Three of my children still drive the cars he helped us purchase and maintain. He would often invite my children to work alongside him as he repaired their vehicles so that they could learn how to be more self-reliant. He plowed our driveway, repaired leaks, installed dryer venting and visited us with his wife and a lesson each month. I can never repay him for his loyalty and his service.

President Thomas S. Monson said, "My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness--be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord's hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us."[15] Even in our extremities, we can minister to others. The Lord needs us and has asked us to serve valiantly. I invite you to become more courageous and dependable in your home and visiting teaching assignments. I doubt it will be easy--nothing worthwhile ever is. The adversary will try to discourage you. It will take time, courage, consistency and love beyond your own, but the Holy Ghost will be your guide and will bless you with inspiration and guidance. I promise that you will find nothing in this life as rewarding as serving others, it will transform you!

Trust God

Fourth, trust God. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."[16] When things seem improbable or impossible, learn to trust God, yield your heart to Him and more fully embrace His plan. King Benjamin said, "Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power...believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."[17] Elder Neal A Maxwell said, "When you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God's will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!"[18] He also said, "It is only by yielding to God that we can begin to realize His will for us. And if we truly trust God, why not yield to His loving omniscience? After all, He knows us and our possibilities much better than do we. If faithful, we end up acknowledging that we are in the Lord's hands and should surrender to the Lord on His terms--not ours. It is total surrender, no negotiating; it is yielding with no preconditions."[19] As we yield our hearts unto God, we become purified and sanctified.[20] While enduring the harsh conditions of Liberty Jail through the winter of 1838-39, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote, "Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."[21] When we submit to the Lord and "cheerfully do all things that lie in [our] power," remarkable things happen! Our hearts change and we are blessed well beyond our own capacity. I have experienced this in my schoolwork, in my career and in my home. I promise that as you cheerfully yield your will to God, He will show you possibilities you never imagined. You can start by asking Him what He would have you do and then act on those promptings.

Abide Forever

Fifth, abide forever. The definition of abide is to wait for, to endure, to withstand, to bear patiently, to tolerate or to accept without objection.[22] Malachi exclaimed, "Who may abide the day of his coming; and who shall stand when he appeareth?"[23] When we are in our extremities, we need to learn to abide. The ability to abide will become essential as we prepare to meet God.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, "Christ is everything to us and we are to "abide" in Him permanently, unyieldingly, steadfastly, forever. For the fruit of the gospel to blossom and bless our lives, we must be firmly attached to Him, the Savior of us all, and to this His Church, which bears His holy name. He is the vine that is our true source of strength and the only source of eternal life. In Him we not only will endure but also will prevail and triumph in this holy cause that will never fail us. That is the call of the gospel message to everyone in the world. Come, but come to remain. Come with conviction and endurance. Come permanently, for your sake and the sake of all the generations who must follow you, and we will help each other be strong to the very end."[24] I testify that our ability to abide in the Lord is a spiritual gift from God that allows us to wait upon Him forever. It comes as we consistently align ourselves with the Savior and His Gospel. It comes when we realize that His promises are sure. While we need to yield our wills to God, we cannot yield our allegiance to Him. I promise that as you abide in Him through your extremities, you will endure them well. Jesus said, "...without me ye can do nothing."[25] I know this to be true. I have found that I can do nothing without the Savior, but with Him I have been able to accomplish impossible things even in my extremities.

Brothers and sisters, when you feel you have reached your own extremity, when you feel you can no longer pull your handcart any further, the Lord will give you courage and strength beyond your own ability as you come unto Him, obey His commandments with more exactness, serve Him first, trust Him by yielding your heart to Him and abide in Him forever. As you do these things, the cart will begin to push you. The angels will assist you and you will become better acquainted with God as a result. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen


[1] David O. McKay, "Pioneer Women," Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, 8


[3] James E. Faust, "The Refiner's Fire'" Ensign, May 1979

[4] Omni 1:26

[5] Jeffrey R. Holland, "Lessons from Liberty Jail," Ensign, Sept. 2009, 26-33

[6] Isaiah 41:10

[7] Matthew 11:28-30

[8]  Mosiah 24:14-15

[9] Doctrine & Covenants 130:21

[10] Doctrine & Covenants 82:10

[11] Doctrine & Covenants 76:2-10

[12] 1 Nephi 17:3 

[13] 1 Nephi 17:50

[14] Henry B. Eyring, "O Ye That Embark," Ensign, Nov. 2008

[15] Thomas S. Monson, "What Have I done for Someone Today?" Ensign, Nov. 2009

[16] Proverbs 3:5-6

[17] Mosiah 4:9

[18] Neal A. Maxwell, "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father," Ensign, Nov. 1995

[19] Neal A. Maxwell, "Willing to Submit," Ensign, May 1985

[20] Helaman 3:35

[21] Doctrine & Covenants 123:17


[23] Malachi 3:2;3 Nephi 24:2; D&C 128:24

[24] Jeffrey R. Holland, "Abide in Me," Ensign, May 2004

[25] John 15:5