Currently, I teach database and cybersecurity courses at Creighton University. At the beginning of my database course each semester, I present an overview of everything we will cover throughout the semester. I do this so my students can envision their own potential. Essentially, the students are required to model a database, implement a database, and build a web application that connects to the database. Now if that just went over your head, don’t worry the same happens for many of my students (at least in the beginning).
When I pass students in the halls, I ask how they are feeling about the class. Frequently, many of them express that they are overwhelmed with what is expected and whether they can really accomplish it. Just last week, I noticed a student who felt so exasperated that it was visibly noticeable. At this moment, I talked with this student, listened to her fears, and proceeded to tell her to take a deep breath and focus on what can be accomplished right now while keeping the end goal in mind. This seemed to calm her nerves.
How often do we go through life a lot like this student and others? God presented his plan to us, told us what we need to do to achieve the end goal of eternal life, and willingly guides us throughout the course of life despite our many shortcomings. For us to learn, he intentionally doesn’t provide every single detail along the path. This often causes many of us to feel overwhelmed by everything that is expected, and we wonder if celestial glory is even possible. We often expect perfection of ourselves and wish we had the "perfect" lives that everyone else portrays on their social media highlight reels. I believe that Heavenly Father doesn’t want us to think this way. Just like my students trust that I will guide them throughout the material of the course, I trust that Heavenly Father will guide us through our lives if we seek his guidance in faith.
Elder Richard J. Maynes (Oct 2017 GC) of the quorum of the seventy asked his daughter what it means to trust someone. She stated, "Having trust in someone is similar to having faith in someone. Without that trust and faith, there’s fear and doubt. For me, one of the greatest blessings that come from being able to fully trust my husband is peace—peace of mind knowing that he actually does what he says he will do. Trust brings peace, love, and an environment where that love can grow." This brings me to my topic, "How do we build trust in the Lord?"
If you have been wondering this, I invite you to listen intently for any promptings of the spirit as we discuss this topic. To build trust in our Heavenly Father and our Savior we should (1) do the small daily things, (2) show love especially amidst trials, and (3) express gratitude.
Doing the Small Daily Things
How often are we burdened by road construction here in Omaha? It seems like every month a new road is being torn up. To be honest, it frustrates me at times. For example, with Harrison closed, traveling to work and other places is less convenient. However, when it is completed, how many of you get that rush when you drive over a fresh new road? Maybe I am just weird, but I love the feeling of driving on a new road. The problem is that the road doesn’t stay perfect forever. Like many manmade creations, roads begin to wither and crumble with time. Without proper care, little divots in the road change to pot holes and continue to expand until they are very damaging or even dangerous. My in-laws could tell you all about their experiences of driving the roads of Madagascar. Similarly, if we don’t take proper care of our faith, minor doubts creep in then grow and eventually overtake our faith if disregarded. The opposite is true as well, with proper care our faith pushes out any doubts.
Take for example my brother: Shortly after his mission, I asked if he was reading his scriptures. He said no but that he was alright because he didn’t have doubts. However, month after month without the spiritual power that comes from scripture reading, his testimony largely faded away. Sure, the residual faith carry-over from his mission lasted for some time but without the proper care, his road of faith began crumbling.
Trust in the Lord is not the result of a single action. We may have faith promoting experiences like that of Laman and Lemuel seeing an angel. Or that of my mom who experienced and wrote about strong impressions she had that she would see and raise the children she lost at birth. Or being participants in modern-day miracles through priesthood blessings such as the one that stopped the exorbitant blood loss that threatened C-section for Amy with Annalise.
However, no single faith-building experience is enough. Laman and Lemuel chose not to follow the counsel of their father despite the visitation of an angel. My mom now actively fights against the church. In my own experience, even with these powerful moments of faith, doubts enter my mind frequently (more or less on a weekly basis).
We cannot rely on past experiences alone to help us fight each day’s battles. Past memories, feelings, and promptings begin to fade emphasizing the need to build our trust in the Lord each day. The simple daily principles of the gospel that we follow will help us fight against the constant bombardment of the adversary. Does it make sense to suit up for one battle in a long war and expect to be protected for the remainder of the war? No! Faith and trust is very fragile and must be exercised daily, if not more often.
We learn this truth in Alma 37:6 where it says, "…behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…" Just as the holes formed in roads can be improved with small and simple patches, as soon as we follow the small and simple principles of the gospel, doubts begin to crumble and the spirit helps patch any spiritual holes and rebuild our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
Show Love Especially Amidst Trial
Disheartened as a young man after losing a football game, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (a former member of the quorum of the twelve apostles) received the following counsel from his mom, "Come what may, and love it!"
Joseph B. Wirthlin stated that "…in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result…" He continues, "I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life."
I add that not only can we love each moment, but we can show love in each moment by serving others amidst our trials. After living in Nebraska through four winters now and walking some of the paths the pioneers walked, I constantly find myself wondering how they were willing to suffer so much to cross the plains. Yet, countless stories talk about the pioneers serving each other (even if it meant losing their own life) as they crossed. Additionally, I can’t imagine the suffering that Joseph Smith experienced in the various jails of his lifetime. Yet, letters expressing his deepest love were often the focus of his time in jail. It is hard to picture what it was like for Ammon and his brethren to suffer so much hardship while trying to serve those that supposedly despised them. Yet, Ammon and his brethren were able to convert many Lamanites because the love they showed, particularly towards their enemies. The most difficult to comprehend, however, is what the Savior experienced for us in Gethsemane and on the cross. Yet, he healed the ear of the soldier and suffered for our sins in Gethsemane and forgave the Romans and others while on the cross.
What do these all have in common? I believe that these people first had a trust in the Lord and second focused on showing love to others despite their extreme circumstances. We would be wise to learn from their examples, to take a moment and stop focusing solely on our own problems but seek out how we can serve others. I promise you that our lives will be much happier if we do this as I have seen this in my own life. I served a companion that I didn’t get along with on my mission only to hear many years later that I was his favorite companion. By doing so our faith and trust in the Lord will grow because we will experience a taste of the love our Heavenly Father and Savior have for us as we share that love with others.
In Doctrine and Covenants 78:19, we read "And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more." Therefore, by expressing gratitude, we reflect on the things our Savior has done for us. We feel his love in forgiveness and we recognize the personal revelation he has bestowed upon us. As we "live in thanksgiving daily" (Alma 34:38), we begin to recognize the many ways the Lord has blessed our lives and our trust may grow "even an hundred fold." When we need to exercise faith and trust in the Lord again whether tomorrow, the next hour, or the next minute, it will be easier if we have taken the time to reflect on and express gratitude for the bounteous ways our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have already blessed our lives.
I really like Joseph B. Wirthlin’s statement that sums up much of what I have said today, "The simple secret is this: put your trust in the Lord, do your best, then leave the rest to Him." Like the student I mentioned at the beginning of my talk, it wasn’t until she took a step back and focused on what she could do right now that the situation seemed less daunting. Rather than looking at what others are or aren’t doing, let’s focus on building our trust in the Lord one thing at a time. If we are struggling with reading scriptures, praying, paying tithing, chastity, word of wisdom, anger, etc., take a step back, pick one thing to improve on, and focus our energy and faith there first. I promise that as we take this approach, obeying each new commandment will start to become second nature and we will begin to feel that we can concentrate our efforts on the next important commandment.
To build trust in the Lord, we need to do the small daily things, show love amidst trials, and express gratitude. As we do these things, we will realize that our Heavenly Father and Savior indeed do what they say they will do. I bear you my witness that when I have followed this pattern in my own life, my life and the lives of those around me (especially my family) have been much happier.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.