It is a thrill for me to be here with you
today. It brings back a flood of memories. When I was a newly returned missionary from
Portugal, my very first date was to a BYU devotional! I have a long-lasting love for these wonderful
gatherings. The Spirit has a great capacity to teach us
the things that we are willing to receive in these sacred settings. I pray that we will pause for just a minute
and be in tune to what the Spirit would have us learn today. From the moment I received the invitation
to speak with you, I began to pray for you—the student body and the faculty. As I prayed, the Spirit touched my heart,
giving me a sense of God’s tremendous love for you and making me aware of some of your
concerns. I was given just a small glimpse of the deep
loneliness some of you are dealing with. I felt great anticipation for those of you
beginning a new adventure. And I became mindful of the anxiety of those
carrying burdens or in transitions—preoccupied about the past, the present, and the future. These reoccurring insights witnessed to me
more fully that the Lord knows you intimately: both collectively and—more important—individually. Oh, how He loves you! He cares about you in a way that human language
cannot adequately express. As part of this mortal experience, we each
long to feel loved. We yearn for connection—both to Heavenly
Father and to each other. We have gone to great lengths over centuries
and decades to connect. Countless tools have been invented—all with
the hope of easing our loneliness and feeling support and love for one another. Two hundred years ago, a young man read a
promise in the scriptures: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of
God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Where do we turn for answers? What is our source of comfort and solace? Who is our steadfast guide and stay as we
face the challenges of life? As it was for the Prophet Joseph Smith, our
answer is to “ask of God.” God lives. He is our Father. He is accessible to us. He will be our guide, our solace, and our
stay if we go to Him in prayer—one of the greatest of all the privileges given to the
sons and daughters of God. As we consistently go to Heavenly Father in
prayer, we develop a relationship with Him that helps us see ourselves and Him in a clearer
light. He will guide us! He wants to help us achieve the divine and
eternal potential He knows is ours. Our Savior Jesus Christ taught us the pattern
for prayer—a pattern with tremendous power: we call upon Heavenly Father, offer thanks
to Him, ask for blessings, and then close in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. When we approach this communication with real
intent, I believe we will see how prayer can bring “the will of the Father and the will
of the child . . . into correspondence with each other.” Recently, as I uttered the familiar words
to address Heavenly Father in prayer, I was overcome with a sense of awe. I paused, and I thought, “Who am I to address
God?” But almost instantly an innate knowledge was
rekindled: He is my Father and I am His daughter. I know He longs to hear from me as much as
I yearn to commune with Him. This experience was overwhelming and revitalizing
all at once. Once we humbly call upon God, we get to thank
Him for our blessings. There is a power that comes as we are generous
with our gratitude. Let me explain by sharing a childhood memory. As a little four-year-old, I was asked to
pray over the Sunday meal. I began, and I kept one eye open so I would
not forget to pray for all the food by name and for each family member. I prayed for the mashed potatoes, the meat,
and the corn; then I prayed for Mom, Dad, Linda, and Glenn. I was just about to end the prayer when my
mother whispered in my ear, “And bless Rodney.” With the full wrath of a four-year-old, I
said, “No, and you know why!” Well, I do not remember what my older brother
Rodney had done to be excluded from my prayer that day. You can imagine. But I know I was in a dither over something. Maybe some of you can relate to having a hard
time expressing gratitude when you are hurt or upset. If we hope to gain the full power of this
portion of prayer, we may need to open our hearts more fully. What could have happened if I had thanked
God for Rodney that day? What if we offered thanks for those situations
that bring us frustration, sorrow, or even anguish? Could we open our heart and offer thanks for
a trial while still experiencing it? If you talk to someone who has come through
the fiery furnace or the lion’s den, they will tell you of the blessings they have received,
of the increased strength they have received, and even of the miracles that have been discovered
amidst their trials. As we sincerely thank God in and through our
trials, we invite Him to help us see our trials and ourselves in a different way. Thanking Him rather than asking for something
to be taken away helps us accept His unceasing effort to mold us into who we are meant to
become. It allows us to see a flow of blessings deeper
and broader than we could ever comprehend. Having expressed our gratitude, we have the
privilege to ask for blessings; perhaps a very different list of requests will come
from our refocused position of gratitude. “The object of our prayers should [be] . . . to
secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is eager to bestow, according to
His will and timing.” God knows us, and He knows our potential and
our limitations. He wants to bless us in all things temporal
and spiritual. Recently I ran into a BYU student and asked
her how her classes were going. She admitted that her statistics class was
giving her some trouble. We talked for a minute, and as I hugged her
in farewell, I whispered, “You know, God is really good at stats.” And then she responded, “I hadn’t even
thought to ask.” The word google is now used as a noun, as
a verb, and even as an adjective. But I invite you to take your questions to
the divine Source that starts with a capital G. Prayer may not offer you more than 34 million
results on a single topic, but through prayer you may be blessed with a clearer mind and
quickened understanding. God wants to bless “us according to his
plan for us, consistent with our need to grow”—no matter the topic. There may be some of you who are thinking,
“I have prayed and I continue to pray, but the Lord doesn’t answer.” I, too, have questions and concerns that I
repeatedly bring to God. There is a reason prayer is referred to as
“a form of work.” At some point we all have to “wait upon
the Lord.” The answer may be there but not as we expected. It may be a matter of timing, and we just
need to continue to ponder and wrestle. We need to trust that the Lord will “guide
the future as he has the past.” We close our prayer in the name of the Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ—He who is “the author and the finisher of [our] faith”! I love that we begin by acknowledging our
relationship to our Heavenly Father and we close by recognizing Jesus Christ and His
role in our lives. This puts our gratitude and our asking in
the context of the divine plan of happiness and our commitment to live by that plan. The Savior declared, “If ye abide in me,
and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” When we sincerely offer our will and our willingness
to follow Him in prayer, the power of the Savior’s Atonement and our covenants will
help us act on the inspiration we receive. Now, can we pause for just a minute, and can you just take a second to ponder what have you received this last week
as you have asked of God? Mark that down, and reflect on those things often. We know that prayer is evidence that the Lord
understands the storms of life and the need for His children to have a safe place to retreat. While prayer is spiritual work, it is also
an opportunity to find solace as we turn to God. Solace is defined as comfort in times of sadness
or distress. “The Lord is merciful unto all who will,
in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.” Our Father in Heaven wants us, as His children,
to counsel with Him about what is important to us. If it matters to us, it matters to Him, because
we matter to Him. Let me illustrate this with a story from my
­daughter-in-law Hana. She said: While I was serving as a missionary in the
United States, I was transferred to a new area in which wonderful members would feed
us four to five times a week. For the first dinner I went to, the sweet
sister surprised us with pizza! Excited for such a treat, I eagerly ate my
dinner and thanked the sister. The next night you can imagine my surprise
when a completely new family treated us, again, to pizza! I ate the pizza and thanked the family for
their thoughtfulness. However, after this pattern had been repeated
every night for two weeks, I was sick of pizza and started dreading dinner with members. Finally, when it started to weigh me down,
I dropped to my knees and told Heavenly Father that I was so grateful for the members’
service, but I could not eat any more pizza. I needed a break, and a meal of fresh vegetables
would be wonderful. That evening, after a long day of work, we
arrived at a member’s home for dinner. The mother was visibly nervous as we sat down
to eat. She explained that she was trying to cook
healthier for her family, but if we did not like her dinner, she could order us a pizza. She then served us a scrumptious dinner of
fresh vegetables! In prayer I thanked Heavenly Father for the
break from pizza and courageously asked if it was possible to have curry with rice for
dinner. My heart started to giggle when we showed
up for our next dinner appointment and we were served curry with rice! This pattern continued for an entire week. Each morning I would pray specifically for
what I wanted to eat, and that night the members would unknowingly serve us the exact meal
I had asked for! Finally, after a week, I told Heavenly Father
that He had won—I could not think of any dinner that He couldn’t deliver, and I was
ready to return to pizza or to whatever the members served. After that prayer my heart felt light and
unburdened, and I was grateful for such a mindful and loving Father in Heaven.” Just as Hana discovered, every joy seems doubled
and every sorrow supported when we bring it to God in prayer. Every prayer is a brick in the foundation
of our relationship with Heavenly Father. The true gift of prayer is knowing we are
not alone when the world literally brings us to our knees. Many of us have already experienced firsthand
what the prophet Helaman warned his sons about when he said: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that
it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build
your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds . . . , yea, when
all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you
to drag you down . . . , because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation
. . . whereon if men build they cannot fall.” Life sent me a hurricane of sorrow in December
2016. We took our family on a trip of a lifetime—a
week at Disney. Our oldest grandchild, Derek, was two and
a half and so excited to discover the magic. From the very first day, everything amazed
him. He held my hand, and together we rode as many
rides as we could, falling into bed each night exhausted and happy. In the middle of the fourth night, little
Derek stopped breathing, and his parents rushed him to the hospital. I stayed with the family at the hotel and
immediately went to my knees in prayer. With a measure of confidence, I asked Heavenly
Father to bless little Derek that he would feel good enough to join us that day for our
planned activities. As I was praying, the Spirit gently but unmistakably
impressed on my mind: “Little Derek has returned home to heaven.” Wait, what?! The answer was so far from my thoughts, and
yet I knew it was true. Despite my reeling shock, there was an instant
“peace of God, which passeth all understanding” in my heart and in my mind. I knew then that little Derek had passed away. Derek was in a children’s hospital for three
days on life support. I longed for my little Derek, but as I prayed,
I continued to feel comfort and consolation from a loving Heavenly Father. The week after Derek’s passing, I was scheduled
to do some ministering visits at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. I felt overwhelmed and didn’t think I could
walk back into those medical sights, sounds, and smells again. I pleaded to the Lord for guidance. My heart was tender, and I did not know if
I would be of any help to others in their suffering. Could I just stay home? Tears flowed in abundance—which is unusual
for me—and the feeling in my heart and mind was “Go. Just go!” So, with makeup streaming down my face, I
went. As I checked in, a sweet peace came over me. The Lord knew my willingness, even though
I was hurting, and He had orchestrated an extra dose of love for me. I was guided to visit Oliver, a young Primary
child fighting cancer. He was filled with love and courage. He had written on his big whiteboard: “Trust
in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” To this day that scripture is a reminder that
my Heavenly Father knows me and loves me. I still have a hole in my heart for little
Derek—and I will until I am able to see him again—but, until then, I gain solace
in the Lord and keep moving forward, building on a sure foundation of our Savior Jesus Christ. Whatever your mighty “shafts in the whirlwind”
may be, come to Him. He knows the end from the beginning, and He
knows you. He delights to bless you, and He will carry
you. You can trust Him. You will find rest in Him. With promised guidance and proven solace,
you would think we would ask of God continually. He will be our stay, our steadfast and constant
source of strength and revelation if we will choose to walk with Him, yet we sometimes
cease to pray. We allow what was once a close relationship
and consistent communication to become distant and less connected. The Book of Mormon teaches us about the need
for continual prayer through the example of Jared and his brother. At the Tower of Babel, the brother of Jared
cried unto the Lord to save the language of their people, and the Lord responded. Then the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord
again, asking that the Lord would not confound the language of his friends. In both instances “the Lord had compassion
. . . , that they were not confounded.” With these prayers answered, the brother of
Jared returned again to the Lord, praying concerning the land in which they were living
and asking where the Lord would have them go. The Lord promised to bless them and meet them
in the valley of Nimrod, “because this long time ye have cried unto me.” Jared and his brother went into the valley
of Nimrod, and, as promised, the Lord came to them and talked to the brother of Jared. Line upon line, step by step, Jared and his
brother were “directed continually by the hand of the Lord.” They made it through the wilderness to the
seashore, where they pitched their tents and stayed for four years. Certainly the power of prayer had been understood
and practiced throughout their journey, but the brother of Jared did not continue praying
to the Lord. As a result, the account says, “For the
space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because
he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.” Wow! After a season of being guided through prayer,
did the brother of Jared simply forget to pray? Did he feel like he had things under control
and did not need God? Did he slowly fall out of the habit of praying? President Russell M. Nelson counseled friends
in a similar state of neglect: “Understand that in the absence of experiences
with God, one can doubt the existence of God. So, put yourself in a position to begin having
experiences with Him. Humble yourself. Pray to have eyes to see God’s hand in your
life and in the world around you. Ask Him to tell you if He is really there—if
He knows you. Ask Him how He feels about you. And then listen.” The example of the brother of Jared brings
us hope because he repented and was again guided by the Lord. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said: “It is difficult to imagine what a three-hour
rebuke from the Lord might be like, but the brother of Jared endured it. With immediate repentance and prayer, this
prophet again sought guidance for the journey. . . . God accepted his repentance and lovingly
gave further direction for their crucial mission.” After this, the brother of Jared’s faithfulness
was such that he saw God face to face. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ
love us. Even if we have spent four years on the seashore
and have never called home, They are there: ready and waiting to bless us. How would our relationship with our Father
change if the passion and sincerity of our prayers did not wane after the crisis has
passed? Can you imagine the truths we will discover
and the wonders we will achieve as we choose to “pray always” with the same fervor
we plead with when we are in need? My dear friends, the Savior has invited us
to “abide in me.” Notice the promise. It is not “with me” but “in me.” I testify that as we abide in Him, His Spirit—which
is “the Spirit of truth,” the Comforter—will “abide with [us].” There is no need to muddle through life alone;
we can have heaven’s help. Through prayer we will come to understand
who we are and how much we are loved. We will know what steps to take to move forward
in our own life and how to bless those around us. Our trust, confidence, and humility will increase. I testify of the knowledge and miracles that
come from continual communion with our Heavenly Father. Ask of God. Continue to make prayer a constant in your
life—intentional, purposeful, heartfelt prayer. Allow it to be your guide, solace, and stay. I bear you my testimony that Christ lives
and that prayer is a blessing. Ask of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.