In preparing for my talk today I did a lot of reading and searching through the scriptures to find the words that would best convey the spirit of the topic; The Infinite Power of Hope. Now, that sounds pretty intense. Infinite means that it goes on forever and ever without end. Power conotates authority, influence and command. Put those two together and it means that HOPE is an influential and infinite thing.
Hope is one of those words that I always hear, but have never had to define. But it's more than just a word, it's an attribute, it's a blessing and a gift. First I asked myself "What does hope mean to me?" Well, it means that I have things in life that I want or need and have faith that these things will come to pass. Ok, so hope and faith work together... then what?
Luckily President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in the first presidency outlines for us just how powerful hope is in his talk from the October General Conference in 2008. In reading over his words I was intimidated by how awesome it was. There is no way that I could talk to you about hope in a way that would be more perfect than his, so I considered just reading his talk straight to you, since I pretty much highlighted the whole thing anyway for my notes :)
President Uchtdorf began with a story about his family in 1944 Germany. While fleeing Czechoslovakia to escape the dangers of WWII in Europe their train came to a stop where his mother quickly got off to purchase some food. When she returned the train and the children were gone! President Uchtdorf says "She was weighed down with worry; desperate prayers filled her heart. She frantically searched the large and dark train station, urgently crisscrossing the numerous tracks while hoping against hope that the train had not already departed."
Now, I don't have any children yet, but I can only imagine how terrifying it is to lose them even at a grocery store and not know where they went. President Uchtdorf continues:
"Perhaps I will never know all that went through my mother's heart and mind on that black night as she searched through a grim railroad station for her lost children. That she was terrified I have no doubt. I am certain it crossed her mind that if she did not find this train, she might never see her children again. I know with certainty: her faith overcame her fear, and her hope overcame her despair. She was not a woman who would sit and bemoan tragedy. She moved. She put her faith and hope into action."
President Uchtdorf's mother was able to find her children when she discovered that the train had just been moved to a remote area of the station. He says that if he could go back in time he would like to ask her how she managed to go on in the face of her fears. He would ask her "about faith and hope and how she overcame despair." It is no easy task. Today I hope as President Uchtdorf to reach all "who might feel discouraged, worried or lonely." Today we focus on the infinite power of hope.
First, what is the importance of hope? Why have hope at all? President Uchtdorf describes hope as one of the legs on a 3 legged stool, with the other two legs being faith and charity. "These three stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter at the time... Faith, hope and charity complement each other, and as one increases, the others grow as well. Hope comes of faith, for without faith, there is no hope. In like manner faith comes of hope, for faith is "the substance of things hoped for. Hope is critical to both faith and charity."
"When disobedience, disappointment, and procrastination erode faith, hope is there to uphold our faith. When frustration and impatience challenge charity, hope braces our resolve and urges us to care for our fellowmen even without expectation of reward. The brighter our hope, the greater our faith. The stronger our hope, the purer our charity."
The scriptures tell us just how important hope is:
The book of Romans in the bible quotes the Apostle Paul saying: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (ROMANS 15:4)
PROVERBS 13:12 tells us that hope is the desire of our heart and when it is delayed it can make "the heart sick."
"Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness... Hope is a gift of the spirit. It is a hope that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the power of his Resurrection, we shall be raised unto life eternal and this because of our faith in the Savior."
President Uchtdorf also explains that "hope is both a principle of promise as well as a commandment." I thought that this was very interesting. I had never thought of hope as being a commandment. He says that just "as with all commandments, we have a responsibility to make it an active part of our lives and overcome the temptation to lose hope. Hope in our Heavenly Father's merciful plan of happiness leads to peace, mercy, rejoicing, and gladness. The hope of salvation is like a protective helmet; it is the foundation of our faith and an anchor to our souls."
1 So far we know that hope is a tool to be used along with faith and charity.
2 It is an important desire of our hearts.
3 Hope is found in the scriptures and the scriptures have been written for us to give us hope.
4 Hope has power to fill our lives with happiness, it is a gift of the spirit.
5 We have hope in the gospel that through the Atonement of Christ we shall be raised unto eternal life through faith in the Savior, and we know that Hope is a commandment from Heavenly Father.
6 Hope is also a protective helmet and a foundation for faith as well as an anchor to our souls.
Hope does a lot of things! As I was reading I realized that this seemingly little word truly does have a lot of power.
So then why is there despair? A lot of times people blame God for circumstances and trials. Why would a God that loves us give us hard situations, sadness and unhappiness?
In the Book of Mormon, 2 NEPHI 2:11 we read that there must be "an opposition in all things. If not so... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness, nor misery, neither good nor bad." Unless we have opposites we cannot understand true happiness. If we didn't have trials and bad days, we wouldn't appreciate the good ones.
It is the same "with faith, hope and charity. [Their opposites of] Doubt, despair and failure to care for our fellowmen lead us into temptation which can cause us to forfeit choice and precious blessings... Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward."
Wow. When I read that I thought of times in my life when I have felt so worthless and depressed that I never thought I would get back to feeling normal. When we experience a disappointment in life, the death of a friend, the loss of great blessings or our feelings are extremely hurt by another, it is common to have overwhelming feelings of sadness, doubt in ourselves and failure.
While I am in no ways a counselor, I do like the way that President Uchtdorf describes hope as an opposite to these moments in life. He says that "on the other hand [hope] is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. It encourages and inspires us to place our trust in the loving care of an eternal Heavenly Father, who has prepared a way for those who seek for eternal truth in a world of relativism, confusion and of fear."
Living life here on Earth is not easy. It is not easy to have trials day after day and feel like you never get a break and then be told to just have hope in God and feel better. So what is hope and how can we use it?
"Hope is not knowledge." Just because we know that the Savior died for us doesn't mean that we will automatically feel peace. "Rather [hope] is the abiding TRUST that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us." (emphasis added) We trust in the Lord and the promise to us that "if we live according to God's laws and the words of His prophets now, we..." can be confident that we "will receive desired blessings in the future." Hope is "believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered." We have faith and expectations that when we act on the tools given us that we will receive the promised blessings back.
Hope "is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance." When we have these attributes we are showing that we have hope. We often hear of people who are members of the Church who have others tell them that they always seem so happy, they have a "glow" about them. Their life seems so great and put together, why is that? It is because we have hope. We have knowledge of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior and we use that knowledge to live our lives on a daily basis with hope for something better, always keeping an eternal perspective on what is going to come down the line. Although it is also important to live in the moment, we understand that this life is just a short time and cannot be measured compared to the infinite scope of eternity.
In the DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS, Section 84:82-83 we see that Heavenly Father is aware of us and knows our needs. He tells us to "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin; and the kingdoms of the world, in all their glory, are not arrayed like one of these. For your Father, who is in heaven, knoweth that you have need of all these things."
With a Heavenly Father who is so aware of us personally and our needs, we can be confident that with hope in his eternal plan, we can cultivate joy and happiness in our lives.
This being said, there are 2 different ways to hope. There are things we hope FOR and things we hope IN. "Things we hope for are often future events... Is it possible to imagine a more glorious future than the one prepared for us by our Heavenly Father?...The Savior is the Author of our Salvation." I know that with the Savior setting the path for me to walk on to return to my Heavenly Father someday, the promises are sure and that gives me a great deal of hope. Because of the Savior's "Atonement, we can be cleansed of sin and stand pure and holy before the judgment bar" (2 Nephi 2:6-10)
The second way to hope is when we have hope IN something. "The things we hope in sustain us during our daily walk. They uphold us through trials, temptations and sorrow. Everyone has experienced discouragement and difficulty. Indeed, there are times when the darkness may seem unbearable. It is in these times that the divine principles of the restored gospel we hope in can uphold us and carry us until, once again, we walk in the light."
There is a children's primary song called "Teach me to Walk in the Light". It involves a parent and child singing together. The child begins:
"Teach me to walk in the light of his love,
Teach me to pray to my father above,
Teach me to know of the things that are right,
Teach me, teach me, to walk in the light."
The parent responds:
"Come little child and together we'll learn,
of his commandments that we may return
home to his presence to live in his sight,
Always, always to walk in the light."
Together the parent and child sing:
"Father in Heaven, we thank thee this day,
for loving guidance to show us the way,
grateful we praise thee with songs of delight,
Gladly, gladly we'll walk in the light."
When we walk in the light together we see the goodness of God in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, we hope in Jesus Christ, and in the knowledge that prayers are heard and answered. "Because God has been faithful and kept His promises in the past, we can hope with confidence that God will keep His promises to us in the present and in the future. In times of distress, we can hold tightly to the hope that things will "work together for [our] good" (D&C 90:24) as we follow the counsel of God's prophets. This type of hope in God, His goodness, and His power refreshes us with courage during difficult challenges and gives strength to those who feel threatened by enclosing walls of fear, doubt and despair."
Although this is a lot of great information, it can seem a little overwhelming. So where do we start? President Uchtdorf answers by saying: "We learn to cultivate hope in the same way we learn how to walk, one step at a time. As we study the scriptures, speak with our Heavenly Father daily [in prayer], commit to keep the commandments of God, like the Word of Wisdom, and to pay a full tithing, we attain hope. We grow in our ability to "abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost," as we more perfectly live the gospel." (Romans 15:13)
Knowing what hope is, how to develop it and where it comes from are key tools for us to use as we journey through this life. The most important step however is to "move forward and put faith and hope into action..." President Uchtdorf said that "not just worrying or wishful thinking, sustained our family and me and gave confidence that present circumstances would give way to future blessings."
I know that hope sustains us through despair and teaches us that there is reason to rejoice even when all seems dark around us. President Uchtdorf ends by saying "to all who suffer - to all who feel discouraged, worried or lonely - I say with love and deep concern for you, never give in. Never surrender. Never allow despair to overcome your spirit. Embrace and rely upon the Hope of Israel, for the love of the Son of God pierces all darkness, softens all sorrow, and gladdens every heart."
I echo these same feelings and pray that we all can continue daily to cultivate our hope in the Savior and overcome despair in our lives to once again return to live with our Father in Heaven. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.