Make your hope in Jesus Christ “the burning, bright powerful star in your life,” urged Elder Neil L. Andersen, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Tuesday’s devotional address on campus.
Reflecting on the 50 years since he was a BYU student, Elder Andersen asked students to consider their spiritual hopes and plans for their next 50 years: “Will your faith in the Savior be the most powerful force that moved you forward?”
Alongside invited remarks from several BYU students, Elder Andersen shared insights drawn from his own experience for how to lead a Christ-centered life.
First, he said, we can develop a deep relationship with Heavenly Father through prayer, satisfying the yearning all children of God have for eternal connection. As an example of this common desire, Elder Andersen recounted the extraordinary response to NFL safety Damar Hamlin’s recent cardiac arrest during a football game, when players and sports commentators began praying for Hamlin on the spot.
“While many people do not always speak openly of their faith in God, they very naturally believe in God, and in times of crisis, their prayers and hopes ascend to God,” he said. “Prayer is vital to faith in Jesus Christ. Prayer draws us closer to God. He hears and answers our prayers. If you feel your faith diminishing, pray more sincerely and more frequently.”
As we strive for this relationship through prayer, we should remember that through Jesus Christ, there is always hope for our future. Elder Andersen quoted Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Sister Patricia Holland’s recent remarks about hope through Christ: “‘Its brightness will remind you that in the gospel there is always, every day, a new chance, a new life, a new year. Because of Christ’s gift, the best things in life are ours.’”
Elder Andersen encouraged listeners to keep their spirits open to recognizing that influence of Christ in their daily lives. He described President Henry B. Eyring’s longtime practice of daily recording the evidence of God’s hand in his family’s life, and how that habit helped President Eyring see God’s presence more clearly than he otherwise could during the distractions of each day.
At Elder Andersen’s invitation, many students met with him prior to the devotional address. They shared ways they strive to be aware of God and portions of that discussion were shared on the video screen throughout the devotional. One of the students, Michael Ebert, discussed his sense that the Lord directs his daily life: “When you look for God’s hand in your life, you see that He’s always there and always reaching out. It may just be that someone was put in your life that day or something went your way or He helped put you in a place that you needed to be.”
Elder Andersen observed that through all of life’s experiences, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ — including the priesthood and related ordinances, the powerful teachings of the Book of Mormon, temple attendance and the wisdom of prophets and apostles — can protect our faith, especially as we unite as a Church and build discipleship with others who are committed to the gospel.
“Sometimes we go to church for ourselves, and sometimes we go for the other people who are there,” student Grettel Garcia added, remembering what her father told her when she was reluctant to attend as a teenager. “Even this last Sunday, I was struggling, and I was able to be helped by someone in the Church, and then during the week, one of my friends was struggling, and I was able to enlighten her.”
Elder Andersen cautioned that to build discipleship, we must diminish the many distractions that may come from entertainment, social media or voices advocating various philosophies. Instead, we should magnify what strengthens our faith in Jesus Christ.
Student Macee Pickup gave an example of one way she builds faith in her life, explaining that she fills her social media feed with gospel pages and uplifting quotes to share with others. “That’s a way of ministering,” she said. “That’s the way Heavenly Father desires us to use [technology], to crowd out all of the noise and focus on the good.”
Finally, Elder Andersen advised students to prepare spiritually for the inevitable tests and challenges of life, noting that adversity is often not a result of our actions or inactions, but is necessary for our learning. “There is no need to be fearful about the tests of life,” he said. “As your faith in Jesus Christ is firm, the tests of mortality will shape your eternal destiny.”
Another student contributing to the devotional, Claire Hadlock, recalled how a trial in her family life helped her to grow in faith and learn that the Atonement isn’t only for repenting. “Through this experience I realized that Christ overcame all our pain and all our suffering. If I hadn’t gone through it, I don’t think I would have the amount of faith that I do in my Heavenly Father and my Savior.”
Elder Andersen concluded with words of encouragement: “Your faith in Jesus Christ will bring you assurance in the choices you are making, happiness in good times and in challenges, and peace in knowing your eternal destiny.”
Longer versions of the students' responses can be seen at speeches.byu.edu.