With God, Nothing is Impossible
Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii
June 10, 2008
Dean of Admissions and Records
Brothers and sisters, aloha!
I am grateful for the invitation to share this time with you this morning. I also appreciate the love and support of my family and the kind introduction by Sister Meha. Since we met inside the Hale 2 Lounge many years ago she has been at my side. I am deeply thankful for the loving and righteous influence she is in my life and the wonderful example she is to our children. She is my best friend and eternal companion.
I want to give a special thanks to Lupe and Jolene for sharing their talents this morning. A young boy prayed and found out when he was on his knees his Heavenly Father cared. Since I first heard that song 25 years ago, I've always been inspired and enjoyed the message.
In May 1913, my grandfather, Stewart Meha, arrived in Honolulu, en route to the Salt Lake City Temple, with a party of five other saints from New Zealand to receive their endowments. They participated with other returned missionaries who had served in New Zealand over a period of months and as a group, with those wonderful missionaries, performed 7000 endowments. In 1932, Stewart Meha returned to Laie with my grandmother to be sealed in the house of the Lord. In 1957 he returned to Laie to translate the endowment into the Moari language for use in the New Zealand Temple when it was dedicated in 1958. So, when I arrived here 30 years ago, it felt like a real homecoming.
In the gospel according to St. Luke, we learn of Zacharias and his wife, Elisabeth. The account is brief and from the record we learn that they were faithful and devout in observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. According to his priestly duties, Zacharias lit the altar of incense in the temple. Given their advancing years and the fact that they were without children, you can imagine his surprise when an angel appeared before Zacharias and declared that Elisabeth was to bear a son named John. Gabriel announced that John was to perform an important work in the sight of God. In the spirit and power of Elias he would turn the hearts of the children to the fathers and "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).
The scripture records that six months later, Gabriel visited Mary and declared that she too would bear a son, named "Jesus... the Son of the Highest...and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:33). Mary remonstrated, asking how it was possible for such a miracle to occur. Gabriel assured her that the Holy Ghost would come upon her such that the son she would bear would be called the "Son of God." Mary learned that her cousin Elisabeth would also bring forth a son. To assure Mary that his message was issued from a divine source, Gabriel declared, "For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37). In a manner meek and humble, believing the words of the angel, Mary responded: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38).
As I ponder the meaning and importance of Gabriel's affirmation to Mary, I ask myself if I have the same trust and confidence to accept God's will in my life. In my awakening to the realization that He knows me and loves me, I am learning that with Him all things are possible. It is to this conviction that I desire to speak this morning.
In the early years of our marriage, Sister Meha and I were not blessed with children. We desired to start a family soon after our sealing in the Laie Hawaii Temple. We lived in Temple View Apartments, where most of our neighbors were expecting children. Naturally, as students we were both busy with classes, working at the Polynesian Cultural Center and fulfilling church callings. When would we ever find time to have children? We waited and waited. A year before graduation an offer came from Bro. Barney Wihongi, principal of the Church College of New Zealand to join the faculty in January 1983.
Leaving TVA we felt that the expectation to have children would be lifted because we were living in a different community far removed from Laie. But Temple View is a smaller version of Laie. There is a temple and a Church school and most of the people living there knew me as I had graduated from CCNZ, and they soon got to know Sis. Meha. We continued to serve and in fact, those years were some of the most rewarding for us as a newly married couple.
We served in a student ward at CCNZ. When Sister Meha was the Mia Maid Advisor, I was the Teachers Quorum Advisor. Later, she served as the Laurel Advisor and I served as Priest's Quorum Advisor. In a student ward with about one hundred and fifty students it was not unusual to have a quorum of twenty five teachers and a quorum of twenty five priests. I can still see the faces of those bright, energetic, young men, many of whom served honorable proselyting missions and have become good husbands and fathers.
We did not have two-deep leadership in the Young Mens' program in those days, so I was the scout leader on weeknights and the quorum advisor on Sundays. In addition to my teaching assignment, I was expected to support student clubs and organizations and give additional time to support school activities on weekends. It soon became a challenge to find the kind of time together that we longed for while living in TVA and clearly did not have at CCNZ. At least once a month, the priests would come to our small home for a fireside—all twenty five of them. On occasion, the Laurels would join them for an activity usually involving lots of food. I'm sure those activities were well attended because of the chance for students to mingle and have fun.
In some of her spare time, Sister Meha taught in the Religion Department, a first experience for her as she had not enjoyed the experience of early morning seminary classes as a youth. Her introduction to gospel study was in the religion classes taken on this campus as an undergraduate. Our lives were very busy yet we longed for a child. We would have to wait five years before our eldest child was born while we lived in Temple View. During that period of waiting we were being prepared for Jayson's arrival and the blessings that soon followed. Our hearts were mellowed and accepting of Heavenly Father's plan for our family. We prayed fervently to be blessed with each of our children. Our prayers were answered, but we needed to learn that He has a purpose and timetable for us and that He will bless us as we are patient and wait upon Him.
Abraham learned that the earth was created as a proving ground to "see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them" (Abraham 3:25). Thus, our sojourn in mortality is to provide each of us with the opportunity we call life. How we use this opportunity will in large measure, determine the level of happiness and joy we experience on earth and in the eternities.
From our experiences in life, we understand that there is a relationship between the tests and trials and the peace that comes from knowing God's omniscient, omnipotent hand is in our lives. Allow me to share five principles that I believe can help us gain that assurance and knowledge that Heavenly Father is there for us and that with Him all things are possible.
1. Believe in God, that He loves you and has a perfect plan of happiness.
King Benjamin taught, "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, both in heaven and in earth" (Mosiah 4:9). Moses learned that God's work and glory is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). The restoration of all things attests to this divine truth. Prophets have affirmed that the work of the kingdom of God is to help us gain eternal life and exaltation through the covenants and ordinances of the temple.
The world would have us believe that we should live for today, taking no thought for tomorrow. Seeing our day, Nephi taught that false churches would arise and there will be many who will say; "Eat, drink, and be merry, nevertheless, fear God—he will justify committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God" (2 Nephi 28:8). Nephi understood that in our day there will be many who will teach in this manner who "shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark" (2 Nephi 28:9).
Our hope and comfort rests in the knowledge that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Every missionary who has ever desired to know for him or herself if the Father did in fact offer His Son on our behalf has sought this knowledge. Every parent who has sought assurance that a wayward child will someday return home is comforted in the knowledge that God will provide a way.
To believe in God is to trust and have faith in Him. Nephi's counsel as recorded in 2 Nephi Chapter 4, verse 34 is one of my favorite seminary scriptures: "Oh Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm." The psalmist wrote: "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" (Proverbs 3:5)
Ten years ago, a young man from the village of 'Utulau, Tongatapu shared this experience in his admission essay: "One of the experiences that helped define me as a person happened when my family served a mission in the Ha'apai group in 1983. My mom and sister left us to go to Tongatapu and my Dad left us on the following day to go to another island for a church purpose. We stayed at home and what we ate everyday was a paper bag of sugar and a small tin of milo. After three days they were finished and I was crying because of hunger. My two elder brothers, one was nine and one was seven years old at the time, tried to comfort me by swinging me on a "heke" inside the house, but it was unsuccessful. They were crying as I was crying. My brothers prayed and asked Heavenly Father to help us. My eldest brother asked my other brother to go and check whether there was some sugar stuck to the paper bag so that I may lick it. The three of us will never forget that moment when my brother showed us that both were full of sugar and milo. Before we used it, we knelt down and thanked Heavenly Father for what He had done for us. This experience always reminds us that when we do God's will He will guide us, and second, I must trust Him and rely on Him in everything I do. My father was worried to leave us alone at home but he knows that he must go and do God's will. Because he did God's will, God took care of us and showed us a miracle which we will not forget. I must trust Him and rely on Him in everything I do. I know for sure that everything He gave us He always prepares a way for us to do."
2. Live your life to fulfill all that He requires of you.
All of us have been born in a variety of different places, illustrating the beautiful, colorful tapestry of God's handiwork. Some of us are descendants of pioneers who crossed the plains or otherwise found their way to the Salt Lake valley. Yet others here are converts of missionaries in distant lands, brought here by the hand of God to Laie. On this campus and in the community, we have many opportunities to enrich and serve one another. Someday each of you students, as graduates, will make your way in the world as ambassadors for peace.
How can we discover what is expected of us? The scriptures provide the basic elements of the gospel plan that we must commit to follow throughout our lives. We know that an infrequent, casual study of the scriptures will simply yield for us an infrequent and casual understanding of the word of God. However, through a serious, intentional study of the standard works we will develop over time an unquenchable thirst for deep spiritual knowledge.
In recent years, there have been many nights when I have woken from sleep in the early hours of the morning, made my way to the family room, picked up the standard works and started reading scriptures in search of comfort and spiritual direction. I cannot recall every passage I have read, but I will always cherish the feelings of gratitude and peace that confirm to my soul that Heavenly Father loves me.
We will also find direction and strength as we turn to Heavenly Father in sincere prayer. The adage, "the family that prays together, stays together" rings true in our home. There will come into our homes a quiet strength as we gather at the end of the day and offer a prayer of thanks for the blessings we have enjoyed. I can attest to the personal strength that comes from daily, personal prayer. Some prayers, offered when we are tired or in a rush to be somewhere, seem to always bounce back. Yet I know that after holding personal priesthood interviews with several Bishops, or when I have found myself kneeling in my office early in the morning, are some of the sweetest moments I know. I have received many impressions and insights that have allowed me to understand how to help a stake member, how to encourage a family member and how to organize my time to make the most of a busy and crowded schedule.
Above all, I have learned that searching, pondering and asking for guidance are only effective in achieving personal growth if I arise from prayer and go forward with faith. I thank my family, my associates in the BYU Hawaii 2nd stake and my friends here on campus, all of you, for your patience as I make these important discoveries with your help.
3. Take Him at His word.
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Savior declared: "I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say ye have no promise" (D&C 82:10). Ancient Israel was challenged by Malachi to test the Lord and prove if He wouldn't open the windows of heaven and pour out abundant blessings, such that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:10)
At a young age, I learned from my parents that blessings come to those who are faithful and obedient. We were not a well-to-do family and although my parents owned our home, there were relatively few extras during our formative years. Christmas season was a time to spend together as a family. It is always warm during the Christmas holidays in New Zealand so the idea of a "white Christmas" was quite foreign to us.
For many years, Church leaders had counseled the saints to store food, clothing and other necessities for a future day of need. The long hot days of summer often found us picking fruits and vegetables to earn extra cash and purchase additional bags of apples, peaches and pears for our welfare cupboard. I recall with some pride the shelves stocked with jars of preserved food. During the long dark weeks of winter I was always thankful that our family has achieved our goal of being prepared for times to come.
A second important lesson I learned was the importance of worshipping on the Sabbath. On most Sundays, we would walk a total of six miles to the chapel and six miles home from the chapel, or if we were lucky, we each got to ride a bicycle. Our modest car was never large enough to carry the entire family to church, so it seemed like we would arrive at the chapel in two shifts. If you were lucky, you were in the first shift. On fast Sundays, it was not uncommon for our family to attend two wards. Our mother's nefarious plan was to distract us from worrying about eating after our ward meetings, believing that we really did enjoy sitting through two Sunday school lessons, two priesthood meetings and two sacrament meetings. It's not as bad as it might appear as we actually became accustomed to spending from 9am to 8pm at the chapel on fast Sundays. This training from my mother has prepared me well for my assignment in the 2nd Stake, where I often find myself in the Stake Center from 6am to 5pm on any given Sunday.
As a parent I recognize that one of the most important ways to make the Sabbath meaningful is to accept the invitation in Doctrine and Covenants Section 59 verses 9 through 14: "to go to the house of prayer and offer up they sacraments upon my holy day. For verily this is a day to rest from your labors and to pay thy devotions to the most High: ... and on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or in other words, that thy joy may be full."
I have learned to take Him at His word and my faith has been strengthened.
4. Endure the daily challenges of life.
Nephi taught that "Adam fell that man might be; and men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). By our very nature, most of us are extremely happy when something good comes into our life. Consider the excitement of entering the Missionary Training Center, being sealed in the temple to a choice companion or waiting the birth of a first child. These examples illustrate the some of the special experiences that await us in the course of our lives.
That same chapter in the Book of Mormon teaches that opposition is inevitable in our lives. "If not so... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness, nor misery, nor good, nor bad" (2 Nephi 2:11). Our journey in mortality is filled with experiences that test and try the souls of men. Thomas Paine described the challenges of our day this way: "the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly."
President Thomas S. Monson taught in October 2006 General Conference, "If we do not have a deep foundation of faith and a solid testimony of truth, we may have difficulty withstanding the harsh storms and icy winds of adversity which inevitably come to each of us" (Ensign, November 2006, 62).
Our faith in Christ suggests whether we see obstacles as stepping stones or as stumbling blocks. President David O. McKay taught that "what you sincerely think in your heart of Christ will determine what you are, will largely determine what your acts will be" (April 1951).
What lessons can be learned from the experiences of Nephi and Laman and Lemuel? Nephi believed in Lehi and like his father, he was a visionary man who was shown many visions. In contrast, his elder brothers, Laman and Lemuel, murmured and doubted their father calling him a visionary man. Curiously, they took the same journey into the wilderness, traveled over the same trails, ate the same food, lived in the same conditions, slept in the same places, yet their experiences could not have been more different. Laman and Lemuel suffered great afflictions, while Nephi was blessed of the Lord. Certainly one of the lessons we learn from these three brothers, as is evident from Nephi is that the Lord may not always lighten our load. But if we trust Him he will increase our capacity to carry our burdens. The attitudes of these brothers toward Christ became their singular perspective.
Sometimes we might find ourselves struggling to feel the spirit during a difficult period of our lives. Perhaps we are not paying our tithes and offerings, attending church regularly or fulfilling our ward calling. We may be violating the word of wisdom. Upon searching our souls we will discover that our faith in Christ is in need of strengthening. After all, we know that active faith in Christ motivates us to good works.
Elder Russell M. Nelson taught: "You have momentary disappointment and pain. Life is not meant to be easy. Trials must be borne and grief endured along the way. As we remember Luke 1:37, we know He is our father and we are His children. As we are worthy we can seek personal revelation to help us meet our righteous desires" (Ensign, 1988). Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught: "When we face obstacles that appear to be impossible to overcome, even in fulfillment of righteous responsibilities, we should remember when we are involved in the works of the Lord, the obstacles before us are never as great as the power behind us. We should reach out and climb"(Tambuli, April 1986).
Ancient Book of Mormon prophets have clearly explained the relationship between trials and adversity and the development of our faith. Moroni, for example, taught that we "receive no witness until after the trial of [our] faith" (Ether 12:6). Weaknesses, he said, are given to each of us to help us become humble, ...and as we are sufficiently humble before God and exercise our faith, weak things will become strong." In the eyes of the world it is impossible to be both humble and strong. Humility and meekness suggest weakness, whereas strength presupposes power and control. The Savior is the ultimate example of the divine attributes of humility and submissiveness. As He submitted himself to His Father's will, he took upon himself the divine role that only He could fulfill as our Mediator and Redeemer.
5. Look to God and live.
Nephi invites all who have been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost to "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men" (2 Nephi 31:20). The promised reward is eternal life. In a recent session of general conference, Elder DeHoyos counseled: "Happiness comes as a result of our obedience and our courage in always doing the will of God, even in the most difficult circumstances... Yes, we find happiness in the midst of the trial of our faith. The Lord manifests himself to us through his tender mercies, which we find along the road of happiness. We see with increased clarity His hand in our lives. Happiness is a condition of the soul. This joyous state comes as a result of righteous living" (Ensign, 2005, 31).
I would invite each of us to look to God and live. I know that He knows us personally and possesses infinite love and concern for us no matter our choices and what we do in this life. In Laie, where my family has found safe refuge from the storms of life, we continue to have our daily struggles but we will never give up. We are strengthened by friends and family and influenced by the examples of students and staff on campus. We are blessed by your influence and encouraged by your faith.
A final experience illustrates the importance of trusting in God and placing our lives in His hands. In early 1944, my father John Taylor Meha was home on final leave with seven other Latter-day Saint servicemen from the armed forces. A district conference, or hui pariha, was held at Karongata in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Mission President Matthew Cowley presided and invited the eight young men to join the speakers on the podium. To each one he pronounced a priesthood blessing for the preservation of their lives while on active service, conditional upon their obedience to living the standards of the Church.
The conference ended and father returned to his quarters in Nausori, Fiji. Within ten days, his aircrew of four members, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Wilbur Lange was posted to No.4 General Reconnaissance squadron, engaging in dawn and dusk anti-submarine patrols around Fiji. One Sunday evening, the NCO's were reading mail from their families just delivered that day, when an announcement was made by 2nd Pilot Cox that all airmen should attend a special meeting outside the officer's mess in ten minutes.
All available seats were taken so the men from Lange's aircrew stood at the back of the assembled. Squadron leader McSkimming explained that a fatal accident had occurred at Ohakea air station in New Zealand. No. 1 Bomber Squadron would soon leave New Zealand for action against Japanese forces in the Pacific. The Squadron leader called for a new aircrew to replace the lost aircrew and aircraft but not one officer volunteered. With no response, he promptly assigned Warrant Officer Iverson to leave the next day for Guadalcanal and wait for No. 1 Bomber Squadron to arrive. As there were no enemy aircraft operating in and around Fiji, the squadron my father flew with only needed an air gunner. "Do I have a volunteer?" asked McSkimming.
Father called out at the top of his voice, "I'll go!" He was elbowed by men on both sides and accused of being demented, "You're mad! The Japanese have Zero's there."
The next day, my father flew with Iverson's crew to wait for No.1 Bomber Squadron. Operating from Nissan Island against the five airfields protecting Rabaul, his new aircrew learned that No. 4 General Reconnaissance squadron left Fiji eight days after their departure for Guadalcanal. The squadron had returned to Auckland to replace the Lockheed Hudson aircraft with Lockheed Ventura aircraft. After passing the critical half way point, Flight Lieutenant Knoblock, upon seeing that they were approaching a tropical storm gave the order to the squadron, "Break formation and climb."
Two of the aircraft in No. 4 General Reconnaissance squadron failed to reach Whenuapai, Auckland: the aircraft and crew of Flying Officer Max Faulkner and Flight-Lieutenant Wilbur Lange. My father was an original member of Lange's aircrew, but by volunteering as a gunner on the plane flown by Warrant Officer Iverson his life was spared.
When I asked why he volunteered for a different assignment, my father simply stated that the Spirit had prompted him to throw up his hand. That his life was spared and he returned home after serving overseas for almost six years is evidence to me that with God nothing is impossible. He had honored his commitment to be obedient and God had kept his promise.
In his inaugural speech as president of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, made the following statement: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who Am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not save the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Mandela is right. We are children of God. We have a divine spark within us. By letting our light shine we encourage others to find hope and to express their confidence in our loving Heavenly Father. I am grateful for this knowledge. I testify that as we believe in God, fulfill all that he requires of us, take Him at His word, endure the daily challenges of life and look to God and live, we can know for ourselves that with God nothing is impossible. Of this I bear my witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.