John Bingham, a professor and associate dean of the BYU Marriott School of Business, delivered Tuesday’s devotional address. He spoke on how to feel the astonishing goodness of God, even when we’re in a “spiritual eclipse," which occurs when something blocks us from feeling in awe of God.
Bingham defined awe as “profound reverence, a personal and unexpected reaction to seeing God at work.” He believes that awe is an important part of strengthening our testimonies because it allows the “Spirit [to] touch our hearts to confirm truth, expand knowledge or reaffirm heavenly love.”
However, Bingham knows first-hand how hard it can be to experience or even remember awe when engulfed in trials. In the late 1990s, at the peak of his business ventures, he received a distinct impression to leave his leadership positions, return to school and become a professor.
“Without much idea of what I was getting myself into,” he admitted, “I left the technology company and the two start-ups I co-founded. Amy and I packed up our things in a U-Haul truck and drove south, away from our families in Utah to College Station, Texas.”
Immediately after starting school, Bingham encountered a multitude of challenges–an office partner he didn't clik with, demanding classes and seemingly no reassurance of the correctness of his choice. Consequently, he fell into a dark place – a spiritual eclipse, which blocked out God’s love and spirit in his life.
When darkness reigns and “awe is absent,” Bingham suggested three actions we can practice to feel a spiritual connection with our Creator.
1. Act so that we can believe While in Texas, it was incredibly difficult for Bingham to feel hope. It was all he could do to continue attending church, submitting his homework assignments and fulfilling other responsibilities.
But one day, on a long bike ride looking for some peace in nature, he and his wife encountered a tree with two branches-worth of fall leaves. For Bingham, who dearly missed the fall temperatures and colors of Utah, this was a sign of divine surprise and encouraged him to keep going.
“What’s ‘within your power’ right now?” he asked. “If you want to believe — in God, the gospel, your future —
act first, and then see what gets revealed.”
2. Recognize, remember, record Drawing from the Book of Mormon prophet Alma the Younger's teachings, Bingham emphasized the importance of remembering previous moments of spiritual experience. With the help of the lighting crew, he dimmed the lights and led the audience through a period of reflection. Bingham asked questions like “How did the Divine touch your heart?” and encouraged attendees to deeply reflect on their past moments with God.
“Recognizing that God has made himself known to us in the past,” he testified, “gives us confidence He will again in the future.”
3. Seek thin places Bingham also counseled us to seek “thin places”— holy places where it’s easier to feel God’s power and love. Whether it’s temple grounds or a mountain top, thin places and activities will vary according to the individual.
“Finding these places,” Bingham explained, “helps us hear the Lord and experience the surprising and personal insights He desires to share with us through the Spirit.”
Eventually, Bingham received his Ph.D. and knew that he belonged in a classroom on BYU campus. He expanded his spiritual capacities and started to feel the joy of the gospel again.
“The next time you use the word ‘awesome,’ will you consider the personal and unexpected ways that God is at work in your life? And when you find yourself in a spiritual eclipse, watch and wait. Keep acting. Keep remembering. Keep seeking thin places. God is with us in the darkness and in the light.”
Next Address Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, member of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will deliver the next devotional address as part of Education Week on Tuesday, August 17, at 11:05 a.m.
The address will be available for in-person attendance in the Marriott Center and via livestream on BYUtv, BYUtv.org (and archived for on-demand streaming), KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYUradio 107.9 FM and SiriusXM 143.