Tough Times Don't Last, Tough People Do!

BYUHSA Devotional

Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

November 30, 2010

Nick Narayan
Chase Carlston
Megan Weaver

BYU-Hawaii Student Association

Megan Weaver-Executive Vice President

Brother and Sisters Aloha. A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with a young girl named Addison. I met Addison at time in my life where things weren't going quite as I had planned. I was taking a semester off from school for various reasons and I felt as if my whole world was caving in around me. My life was not what I had pictured.

Addison was born with a brain deformity called polymicrogyria of the perisylvian region, which by definition, is a malformation of the brain.  The doctors warned her parents and family that she could very well be a vegetable for the rest of her life.  Because her mother needed to work for insurance purposes, I helped by taking care of Addison during the day. She was just four months old when I started taking care of her.

When I first met Addison I saw how beautiful she was, but I could immediately see some of the challenges that she faced. She had absolutely no control of her arms. As you picked her up, her arms would fall limply back behind her. It was heart breaking. As Addison grew they started to have physical therapists come and work with us on things we could do to help Addison gain the movement of her arms among other things. I had the opportunity to sit through many of these therapy sessions and would do things throughout the day that the therapist taught us.

Many months after Addison started these sessions I witnessed a miracle. She was laying on her back on the floor with toys hanging above her head. I watched in awe, as she was able to hit one of these toys with her hand. Something she was not supposed to be able to do. It was truly amazing, but her therapists and family did not stop there. She had many more therapist visits over the next couple of years. She had a therapist that worked on motor skills and speech, and many more doctor visits than someone her age should have to deal with. All of these many therapists and doctors were truly angels in her life. I watched as they work and cheered her on. Her family never gave up on her.

Today Addison is able to walk and communicate. She has become the happy, bubbly girl that you now see in this photo. Many challenges still lie in her path but she has been able to overcome so much of what life has dealt her. 

I told you of the many people that served Addison, but I would like to talk today about how serving her helped me in my own life. I saw Addison's determination to do things her own way and to not let her disabilities stop her from what she wanted. Her disabilities chose her, but she did not let them stop her from developing and growing. As I saw her courage and strength, she strengthened me. I enjoyed my hours that I would spend with her reading, playing, and working on new things. She became, at the time in my life, one of my best friends. How someone so small can do so much for one person is beyond me. Her warm smile in the morning and happy laughter always brightened my day. She was able to help me make meaning out of my own life and give me the determination of overcoming the small things in my life that I needed to overcome. In serving Addison I found light in my life.

In Matthew 10:29 it reads, "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."

We are surrounded by people who come from all walks of life. It is when we reach out in kind compassion and service to these fellow human beings that we are able to find more substance to our souls.

President Kimball once said:
 "In serving others, we "find" ourselves in terms of acknowledging divine guidance in our lives. Furthermore, the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more [slide 18] significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others"”indeed, it is easier to "find" ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!"

Helping Addison helped me learn more about myself and it helped me reach beyond what was normal in my world and see life through different eyes. I feel as if I was the one who benefitted from our relationship. 

We have such a profound influence on those around us, one that we may very well never comprehend fully in this life. May I be so bold as to say that it is the people and relationships in our life that matter more than the opportunities or circumstances that may come. The people who are within our influence may be struggling with something that we may not see. It is that much more important for us to have a good influence and reach out to those we come in contact with whether we are close friends or mere acquaintances.

President Monson in a recent conference address admonished us to
"Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved"
As we reach out to others we find strength and purpose in our own lives. As we get to know and work through problems together we learn more about each other and ourselves.

Christ is the greatest example of caring for those around him. No matter where he was or what he was doing in his mortal life he cared about individuals. It did not matter who they were, what status they held, or what they may have done in the past. The scriptures are filled with many examples of the Savior reaching out to individuals.

One of my favorite accounts in the Book of Mormon is when Christ appears to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 11. At this time there was a great multitude gathered by the temple in the land Bountiful when Christ manifested himself to them. He beckoned them to come to feel the prints of the nails in his hands and feet that they may know that he is God of the whole earth and that he was slain for the sins of the world. In verse 15 we read,

"And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had [slide 21] all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come."

In the verse he invites them to come to him one by one. Every member of this great multitude was given individual time with him. He gave no prerequisites to them, he simple invited them to come.

If Christ is our exemplar shouldn't we be doing all we can for the individuals that surround us. In this room today we represent many different parts of the world. Many of us can speak different languages and come from very different cultures, but we have one thing in common. We are all brothers and sisters in the gospel. We need each other! We need to reach out and edify one another. Those around us who are not of our faith need us too!

We can influence each other for good. Like Addison we can strengthen each other and make each other's lives a little better through caring about and serving each other. I am a believer that there are angels in our lives and I believe that Addison was an angel in mine.

 Elder Holland has told us that
 "Angels [are] dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind."

I am so thankful for the angels in my life. They include my family especially my parents and grandparents, my friends, Addison, the people that I work with and so many of you that are sitting in this audience or in reach of my voice today. I could never begin to count or repay all who have been angels in my life. It may have been a simple smile or something that I watched you do that has influenced me. I watch as many of you give up your time to do things that give you no worldly reward. I have seen many of you as you have cleaned the Temple grounds and helped in the community, and as you have done things for each other, that many may not be know even those that have received. I watched as many of you gave money to the Choose to Give Foundation so that others like us will be able to attend this school. 

There are so many ways that I have seen so many of you be angels in the lives around you. Don't stop. Continue to help where there is a need. Find more ways to strengthen, and love those around you. President Kimball has said that

"Our success will be measured by what we can give of our lives and our contribution to others rather than what we can get and receive from others."

We can become tough people as we help and serve those around us and as we become angels in other's lives. As you are an instrument in the hands of God you will have strength to help you beyond what you think you are capable of doing. Reach outward.

I know that our Heavenly Father and Christ know each one of us individually. We have divine mission and we are here to help one another. I know that Angels surround us both in the flesh and in the spirit. We have not been left alone.

Chase Carlston-Executive Vice President

Brothers and Sisters, Aloha! I am so happy to speak to you today about such an awesome topic: Tough times don't last, but tough people do.

What happens when times get tough? What happens when you fail a test, or when your sack lunch gets stolen while you're eating breakfast in the "caf" or when you break your leg or when someone close to you passes away? What happens? I would consider these tough times wouldn't you? When disappointing things happen to me it always reminds me of the question why do bad things happen to good people? I'm sure all of you have considered this question. On my mission in Europe, people that I met in the streets would ask me this same question - but I didn't have an answer and so I searched for the answer very sincerely.

I remember a man I met named Bakari. Bakari was a refugee from Sudan. The neighboring tribe was trying to kill all the men in his tribe. The United Nations took Bakari and many of the men of that tribe to Switzerland to keep him protected until things were sorted out. In the meantime, Bakari's wife and 7 children were in Sudan all by themselves. Laws in Switzerland prevented refugees from working. This meant Bakari could not save money up and send it home to his family. He just had to sit there and wait. His wife could not make enough money to feed herself or their kids and 5 of their kids died of starvation. If anyone was having a tough time, it was Bakari. The most incredible thing about Bakari was that he still believed in God. He lost 5 of his children to starvation. Not one, not two but FIVE! How would you feel if this happened in you? I don't have any children, but I have nieces and nephews who mean so much to me. If I were to lose them I would be crushed, yet Bakari - here is a man that still believed in God and trusted in Him with all of his heart. Of the hundreds of people that I met during my time in Switzerland and France, Bakari was the most inspirational man that I met throughout all of my mission experiences. He knew he would see his children again and he knew that someday, everything would work out. I felt the same way as Bakari. So my quest to answer the question why do bad things happen to good people like Bakari became increasingly important to me and I came across three answers.

The first answer is, we don't know - yet. There are simply some things we just don't have the answer to right now in this life. We will have to wait to ask Heavenly Father when we see him.
The second answer is the Lord is testing us. Throughout the holy scriptures,  we can find many examples of people being tested: in Exodus, Jehovah says "I may prove them, whether they will walk in my Law;" in Psalms we read, "the Lord trieth the righteous;" Job said,  The Lord "hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." And there are many more scriptures that explain that trials are there to test us so God can see how we act. C.S. Lewis, a famous Christian writer, wrote that sinners don't know trials because when a trial comes they give in. The only people that truly know trials are those who do not give in. The greatest example of this is our Savior, Jesus Christ. In fact he learned a lot from his trials. In Hebrews 5 it says that "He learned obedience by the things which he suffered." So within our trials, we can find eternal truths.

The third answer I found to the question, why do bad things happen to good people, is the misuse of agency. Agency is the ability to choose. Our Heavenly Father loves us and yet He doesn't force us to do what he wants but he invites us and lets us choose. I think another word for misuse of agency is sin. When we misuse our agency, we sin. If we choose not to keep the commandments it's a sin. It's a commandment that we should love our neighbor. Bakari's situation is a direct result of someone not keeping this commandment. If his neighboring tribe would have loved their neighbor like the commandment says, then Bakari who was a good person would not have had all these bad things happen. When people sin they cause bad things to happen to themselves and the people around them.

So let's recap on the answers to the question why do bad things happen to good people? The first is, we don't know, the second is, it's a test, and the third is, people misuse their agency which affects themselves and others around them. I know that everyone in this room has had trials. I am sure there are people that are having trials even right now. My advice to you is to keep going. Understand that the Lord is giving you trials for a reason. It's easy to become discouraged, but discouraging experiences give us the opportunity to call on the Lord and to discover that he is always aware of our struggles. In the bitter cold winter of 1839, the prophet Joseph Smith was wrongfully thrown into jail with barely any food or warm clothing, the saints were suffering terrible persecution and his friends who were thrown into the jail with him were all sick. Joseph's anguished cry of desperation, is recorded in the Doctrine & Covenants, section 121,  "O GOD, where art thou?  And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?" Yes, this is Joseph Smith talking; the prophet of the restoration, the man who had seen the Lord and had already endured many horrible things. And the Lord replied,"My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over thy foes." Brothers and sisters, revelations like this do not come to people who are lounging around the pool being attended to by servants. We need to endure our hardships with patience, with grace, and with thanksgiving.

There is something else that I wanted to bring up that has to do with enduring trials. The word respect comes to my mind. I know it doesn't seem like it has anything to do with trials but I think it does. There are three types of respect; respecting God, respecting others, and respecting yourself. In the midst of trials we forget to respect these individuals. When the going gets tough, we tend to think about our own sorrows and worries. We lose sight of our Father in Heaven, we forget others, and, in a way, we forget ourselves.

When people get so involved in their trials they forget to respect the Lord. They forget to think to ask for his help. Some people get bitter and say it's the Lord's fault. This is not true. We have a loving Father who cares so deeply about us. What father would want his children to suffer? Remember what Matthew said in Matthew chapter 7. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" We respect our Heavenly Father when we keep His commandments and pray often to him and ask for His help.
When we focus on our trials, it's easy to forget to respect others. We may even forget that people are human beings. It's incredible the way people treat others in the midst of trials. It's like they lose all sense of reality. I was so lucky to be involved in an Arbinger Seminar a few weeks ago. It was so awesome. I learned so much. This seminar teaches you to respect people as people and not as objects. If you have the opportunity to go, go. It will completely change the way you see people and I promise it will enhance your relationships with others.

A few years ago my parents met a man named Kevin Hall. He was famous for a few books he wrote and for being an inspirational speaker. He told my parents a story about a time when he visited Italy. Just before coming home he stopped in a shop to buy something to bring home to his family. He started speaking with the store keeper and the store keeper asked him to sign his guestbook. Kevin opened the book and began reading the names of past guests. He read names like mother Teresa, Victor Frankl, family members of Mahatma Gandhi, and many other important names. He said to the store keeper I cannot sign this, these are great people and I am not great. The store keeper said with an agitated look on his face, "let me tell you about a special word, the word is genshai." He explained that the meaning of genshai was to never make a person feel small or less of themselves. The store keeper told Kevin that he had treated himself small tonight when he was asked to sign the man's book. Then he said, "Kevin you are one of the great ones - I can feel it. Not only treat others with respect but treat yourself with respect."

We have this great opportunity going to school with so many people from all over the world. There is so much we can learn from one another. We need to take the time to get to know each other and be sensitive to other people's cultures. Without realizing it we might not be patient or understanding of others and think we are better. We might make someone else feel small. We are all equal in the eyes of God. This is why everyone wears white in the temple. It symbolizes purity but it also symbolizes equality.

Brothers and Sisters, when times get tough, know that the Lord loves you and he is with you. Remember Joseph Smith's experience when he asked, "O God, Where art thou." And when you are in the midst of your trials always respect God, others, and yourself. And I promise that if you do these this you will be happy and you will make everyone around you happy. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Nick Narayan-President

Brothers and Sisters of the Gospel, Aloha!

I love the fall.  The original 1919 and the recent Laie temple dedication with President Monson were both in the fall.  Thanksgiving comes in the fall which means, an extra-long weekend, Black Friday, and my favorite, indulging myself with turkey and gravy!  Fall is also the home of football season during which I played in high school.  One particular year we had a coach that taught me one of the most valuable lessons that I had ever learned.  "Tough times don't last, tough people do!"  During these years of playing football and throughout my life, this principle has and will apply. 

Going back to when I was 14 years old I owned a go-kart.  One specific instance my younger brother and I had been endlessly driving to empty the gas tank.  The last round that I was taking on the go-kart, I went as fast as the engine would allow me to go.  I quickly turned the steering wheel to make the vehicle spin in a circle.  Unfortunately my plan did not turn out to the way I had mapped it out.

The go-kart flipped, and the steering wheel wildly turned on my fingers.  To my astonishment, I was still alive.  I looked down at my fingers and found that my left middle finger was straight but touching my left pinkie.  Let me assure you, this was not normal!  I anxiously lifted up my go-kart from its side and drove it home.  I ran inside, shouting that my finger was broken.  My sister was the first to see, and quickly assured my mother that I was not lying, or joking around like I had previously enjoyed doing. 

After waiting a half-day with a lot of medication for the pain, they operated on me.  The next day I learned that the steering wheel moved so fast that it cut the bottom tip of my pointer finger off, leaving no choice but to amputate the remaining piece.  The middle finger had 3 pins inside holding it in the right place.

Although this was devastating for a 14-year-old boy that had great ambitions to play football, I later would learn that this developed good character to me.  The period of recuperating and adjusting to the new style of 9 2/3 fingers, was difficult, and a humbling experience.  I began to realize that it was ok, that this is only a trial.  I still had many blessings such as my family, my 2 legs, and 9 full fingers. My wife also noted that if I were to ever go and get a manicure (which I have never officially done, for the record), I could get a 10% discount!

Later, I also learned that this accident was only the beginning of many injuries to follow: a broken wrist, dislocated thumb, pulled muscles and various other minor injuries from my sports days.  Even with these injuries I managed to play on a great football team that was 24-2, with one State Championship Ring.  I had mapped out my life, but it surely took a detour that I will have to wait for the resurrection to see my full finger.  This was a tough time, but I learned that it was for my good, even if at that time I thought my life was never going to be the same. 

Sometimes we as students run into detours and trials that we do not want.  Although it may be tough, we may not know what blessings we have or will receive until after the trial of faith. Through minor acts of service and respect as Chase and Megan have talked about we can pass trials that are tough!

A few lessons that I would like to focus on today are:

  1. Prepare for trials
  2. Remember who we are
  3. Act and trust in God that victory will come

#1 Prepare for trials
Mosiah 23:21 says, "21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith."

As students there are many trials that we face.  This year alone on our campus, we have had people that have passed away, been in a car accidents, broken bones, felt spiritual loneliness, and alienated themselves from God. We will be able to overcome the trials that come our way ONLY with the support of our Father in Heaven.  We can grow into the person that He wants us to be, only when we exercise our faith by doing small and simple things such as daily scripture study, prayer, weekly church attendance, respecting others, through service and keeping covenants. 

#2 Remember who we are
The word "remember" plays a significant role in our lives.  We remember our culture and heritage, especially on this campus.  We remember the good and bad memories at school.  However, we must "remember" our covenants that we have made and will make with our Father in Heaven.  In return He will honor these covenants with the blessings that he has promised.
D & C 130:21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

One of the most important events that we remember, and the toughest time in the history of earth that anyone has overcome, is the atonement. How hard was it for our Savior to go through the pain and suffering that he went through?  Can we truly understand it?  I would like you to think of the worst physical, and spiritual pain that you have ever experienced.  Now, think of your closest 10 friends and the pains that they have felt.  Then multiply it by the world's current population.  Now to finish that thought, you would have to go back to the time of Adam and Eve and then forward to the end of time.  Can you imagine how painful that would be to take all the pains and sins of the world?  It makes me shiver to think that I have contributed to that pain that our Savior who is perfect, has felt for us.  I know that through the atonement we can return to our Father in Heaven.  It is through him that we can feel clean again, overcome trials, and ultimately return to our Heavenly Father.

The reason that I bring this up is that we all have gone through hard times.  Although there are things that we can attempt to do by ourselves, it will always be easier when we know that somebody has already experienced the same trial, or affliction that we face.  I guarantee you that when our Savior Jesus Christ went through the atonement at the Garden of Gethsemane; he was expecting us to use it! Whenever I find myself in a tough time I always refer back to the Savior and ask for his help.  We should constantly rely on the Savior even when times are going well.
Mosiah 23:22 "Nevertheless"”whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day."

This brings me to my 3rd point.

#3 Act, and trust in God that victory will come
One evening here at BYU-Hawaii, I came home from school and prayed about becoming a presenter in one of the organizations on campus, Students in Free Enterprise also known as SIFE.  Earlier, they handed out a part to memorize, and after that prayer, I did so.  That small and simple decision has played an enormous role in my life to opening the views and opportunities that came to pass.  I was able to participate in service projects for an elementary school and environmental sustainability efforts. [slide 38] We also compiled a presentation to present first regionally, and upon winning, nationally.  We placed top 10 the past 2 years amongst over 100 colleges!

If you had asked me in high school if I would be doing such a thing in college, my answer would have been a definite, "NO!"  However, I am so grateful for the opportunities that this campus offers to students.  They are all around us, we need to make the decision and "act, not be acted upon!" (2 Nephi 2:14).  This situation has led me to run for Student Body President. This also led to an internship, and eventually a job offer.  I am so grateful to be working and learning with students on campus. 

I know that many times we may feel that there isn't an activity on campus that is the right fit.  I once thought that my purpose was to go to class, learn, get my degree and leave on to the next chapter of life.  I know that in my life, because of one simple prayer, and action upon that prayer, I was able to learn more about service, leadership, and the many opportunities that are offered on this campus that will bless anybody with work, church callings, and families.  I encourage you to get involved as well.  I learned that many times we do not know what the Lord has in store for us.  The Lord knows our full potential, and if we let Him, He will lead us in achieving it.
D & C 122:7 states about trials, "7 know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."

I know we are all able to achieve the success and happiness that we would desire.  I know that at times it may be hard to think that we are going to graduate.  Here on campus I see many people studying relentlessly for exams, and other schoolwork.  I too try my best to study as much as I can.  Sometimes I feel that there is not enough time in the world to get all the things that we would like to get done: go to class, study, work out, go to the beach, spend some time with the family, and then there is always hanging out with the friends, extra curricular activities, and church callings.

When we prepare ourselves diligently, we are able to place our trust in God and rely upon our faith for results. If we study for an exam faithfully, then we can truly ask for God's help on the exam.  I remember those days that I would not fully prepare for an exam.  When taking my test, I would start off with a silent prayer, but on those occasions that I had not studied as much as I could have, I felt as if I were praying to win a million bucks!  Or in other words, it would be pure luck to get an "A" on the test.  This reminds me of the scripture, in D & C 38:30, " If ye are prepared ye shall not fear."  When we act diligently, with prayer, we will achieve victory.

These experiences, memories, and tough times that we have throughout our life are preparing us to reach our potential.  I know that sometimes we have a plan and we have to take a detour, but if we prepare for these trials, remember who we are utilizing the atonement, and act, trusting in God that victory will come we will overcome these roadblocks.  If we are optimistic through our trials, I know we will be blessed as well as those around us.

One of my favorite scriptures is: 2 Timothy 4:7,8- I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me [slide 41]only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."

I am thankful for my 9 2/3 fingers, and especially my wife and 2 kids for allowing me to serve with you, and for the privilege we have to attend this school.  I am grateful for the opportunity to grow through trials and for the atonement.  It is my prayer that we act diligently and fight a good fight, remembering that tough times don't last; YOU are the tough people that will!  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Photo by Monique Saenz.