Brothers and sisters, I am grateful for the privilege of being with you here this morning and for the opportunity to speak to you. Brigham Young University has played a significant role in the education and personal development of our family. My wife, June, four of our six children, and four—soon to be five—of their spouses are graduates of this wonderful university. I am grateful to have some of them here with us this morning.
I express my love and gratitude to each of you for your faithfulness and for your commitment to keep the Lord’s commandments. Thank you for wanting to do good.
As Church leaders, we have great hopes for each of you. These are the best of times to live if you know how to live abundantly.
A “Rush of Revelation”
Now, while some of you have been finishing high school, serving missions, getting your education here in Provo, or simply just surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recently referred to as a “rush of revelation”1 that has accompanied President Russell M. Nelson’s administration. I invite you to reread and reflect on President Nelson’s published messages from April 2018 through October 2022, this recent October general conference. I promise you will discover a powerful pattern of principles that will bring you closer to the Lord.
I am reminded of a statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:
The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one who is living in our day and age. This is the prophet who has today’s instructions from God to us. God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Every generation has the need of the ancient scripture, plus the current scripture from the living prophet. Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece. That is why it is essential that you have access to and carefully read his words.2
This morning I will draw liberally from what President Nelson has been teaching us. I hope you have eyes to see and ears to hear.3
I would like to have a candid conversation with you—if you are willing. I am mindful that my audience here includes a significant percentage of returned missionaries and many others who we hope will choose to serve. For that reason, I hope you will allow me to be very candid and direct.
Several months ago, I reconnected with a classmate from business school. It had been nearly forty years since we had spoken. My friend had gone on to extraordinary success in the world of finance. After we had briefly caught up on our personal lives, he then stunned me with this comment:
Kevin, I am envious of your life. I have never really understood the whole religion thing that drives you and why you left your career to serve in the Mormon Church. But I wish I had what you have. I managed to marry the only Jewish woman in the world who did not want children. Our marriage eventually ended. I remarried and have two lovely daughters, but I am not sure whether I will ever have grandchildren. I am envious of the family you have.
My friend had clearly “crushed it” when it comes to affluence and influence, but he lacked what he now desired most. You and I have been taught principles of an abundant life; my friend had not. “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”4
I hope you will see marriage and family as central to your own abundance.
An abundant life is a spiritual life. Spiritual because we are dual beings—literal spirit sons and daughters of God in physical bodies. Spiritual because our life on earth is a temporary condition, a small moment in an eternal continuum. Without an eternal perspective, a truly abundant life is unattainable.
We live in an extremely competitive and self-centered world that is hostile to spirituality and in which “secular fervor” is increasingly becoming the defining paradigm of our age. We live in a world of distraction, deception, contention, and division. Too many in the world place passionate alignment with political and social causes ahead of determined and devoted discipleship to the cause of Christ. Meanwhile, others are consumed by the never-ending pursuit of affluence and influence.
If one only looks through the lens of secularism, moral relativism, and self-interest, one will not find abundance—only isolation and scarcity. Our glass will always seem half empty until we realize that the natural man and woman will remain estranged from God “unless he [or she] yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man [or woman] and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.”5
Consider the following statements from President Nelson regarding you. First:
You were sent to earth at this precise time, the most crucial time in the history of the world, to help gather Israel. There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that. . . .
. . . This is the mission for which you were sent to earth.6
It seems to me this goes well beyond serving a full-time mission.
The second statement speaks to your future:
You are among the best the Lord has ever sent to this world. You have the capacity to be smarter and wiser and have more impact on the world than any previous generation!7
President Nelson did not say you are smarter and wiser; he said you have the capacity to be. This is a remarkable statement about your potential. What will it take to realize that capacity?
The third statement provides some powerful insight into the answer:
In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.8
Considering these prophetic statements, it is a bit disheartening to watch some returning missionaries immediately jump into rush-hour traffic toward the nearest large and spacious building, discarding at breakneck speed along the way recently learned daily spiritual habits and guzzling the Kool-Aid of social media and pop culture instead of the living water of the gospel of Jesus Christ. After working so hard to become disciples who used to be someone else, they focus on becoming someone else who used to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is not a pastime or a spectator sport. The Lord expects us to be “all in” all the time. Your missionary experience must be more than a check mark on an adolescent bucket list. We hope it will be transformational.
You are destined to be the hope of Israel—the five wise virgins who “have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived,”9 and not the foolish five whose “lamps are gone out.”10
My young friends, we are counting on you to stand up and stand out—not to give in and give out. We need you to be leaders, a light unto the world—not spiritual casualties. We are living in a time of sifting. The Lord needs more of us to place exclamation marks instead of question marks behind prophetic counsel. He needs more engaged participants in his work and fewer passive observers. He needs more determined disciples and fewer drowning in disbelief and apathy. This is precisely some of what Nephi saw, looking at our day, when he said:
For behold, at that day shall he [speaking of Satan] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
And others [members] will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion. . . .
Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! . . .
Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!11
Remember, carnal security is seeking for and trusting in worldly things instead of in Christ.
This is a “hinge point” in your own personal spiritual history. You have some weighty decisions ahead of you, and the societal headwinds facing you do not favor spirituality. What major to choose? What career to pursue? Where to work? Where to live? What to do about a myriad of questions. All of these are important, but they are not crucial. Yes, the answers to these questions will significantly impact your life, but they are secondary, not primary. Your willingness to place the Savior and your sacred covenants at the center of your life is crucial. Who you marry and their commitment to their sacred covenants will largely determine whether you keep your own. Questions about your willingness to always follow the living prophets and your willingness to remain faithful and active in the Lord’s Church are primary. These decisions will determine your destiny!
Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds . . . , lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace.12
I reiterate President Nelson’s prophetic plea:
I plead with you to take charge of your testimony [of Jesus Christ]. Work for it. Own it. Care for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. . . .
. . . [Then] watch for miracles to happen in your life.13
President Nelson further warned:
Here is the grand truth: while the world insists that power, possessions, popularity, and pleasures of the flesh bring happiness, they do not! They cannot! What they do produce is nothing but a hollow substitute for “the blessed and happy state of those [who] keep the commandments of God.”14
Living an Abundant Life
I believe that each of us desires to live a more abundant life. Each of us wants to find happiness, love, and fulfillment. Certainly that is what our loving Heavenly Father wants for each of us. The question is, how do we get there from here? Well, every successful journey begins with a vision! A good place to start is with Heavenly Father’s vision for us. If His very purpose is immortality and eternal life for all of His children,15 then our possibilities are overwhelmingly unlimited! As C. S. Lewis noted: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”16
Can we simply begin by accepting His vision of us? Each of us is a beloved child of Almighty God. We have a divine origin and a divine destiny! That is our starting place.
President Monson encouraged us by saying:
Don’t limit yourself and don’t let others convince you that you are limited in what you can do. Believe in yourself and then live so as to reach your possibilities.
You can achieve what you believe you can. Trust and believe and have faith.17
When I was a young boy growing up, my mother placed a three-by-five card on the refrigerator door that read: “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”18 If I had a three-by-five card for your refrigerator door, it would read: “I am a child of God. I am a child of the covenant. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.”19
Someone once noted, “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
Each of us can transform our life—and we must if we desire the constant influence of the Holy Ghost and want to realize our own divine potential. Therefore, the constant plea to repent daily is really a loving invitation to enjoy more abundance in our lives.
This morning I hope you will allow your mind to conceive and believe that Heavenly Father sent His Son to give us hope and help in finding a more abundant life. For it was He who declared, “I am come that they [meaning you and me] might have life, and that they [meaning you and me] might have it more abundantly.”20 The phrase “might have it more abundantly” is crucial. No matter how imperfect or incomplete our present circumstances, we have the promise of more abundance in our lives now and in the future—but only if we choose to focus on Jesus Christ.
President Nelson has reminded us:
The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.
When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation . . . and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy.21
May I suggest several principles to help you realize your capacity to be wiser and smarter and to have greater “impact on the world than any previous generation”? Each of these principles is crucial to your spiritual survival and an abundant life.
An Abundant Life Requires You to Place the Savior at the Center of Your Life
First, place the Savior and your sacred covenants at the center of your life. Heavenly Father loves us perfectly, but that love comes with great expectations! He expects us to place the Savior at the very center of our lives. If our spiritual foundation is built on Jesus Christ, we will not fall—and we need not fear. Christ must be our central focus. He is the critical path to greater abundance.
President Spencer W. Kimball observed:
It is impossible to speak of the abundant life without speaking of life as a continuum. This life, this narrow sphere we call mortality, does not, within the short space of time we are allowed here, give to all of us perfect justice, perfect health, or perfect opportunities. . . . Perfection of all other conditions and blessings [will come eventually] to those who have lived to merit them.22
Abundant living is a journey, not a destination. An abundant life is not a life without challenges, setbacks, and even failures. I can assure you that you will have your fair share of adversity. However, adversity can enrich and enable our understanding and perspective. Through adversity, we develop humility, empathy, compassion, and gratitude—all essential to an abundant life. If we are willing, adversity can draw us closer to the Savior and give us wisdom and needed understanding.
Abundance, like all blessings, is predicated on obedience to laws and principles. We get what we consistently focus on. We get what we choose. In the end, we are all masters of our own fate and soul and have complete control over our own destiny. There are influences that would seek to deter us from keeping God’s commandments, but none of these can force us to do that which is not right. Each of us holds the control and direction of our life in our hands. “If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will make in the end no difference what you have chosen instead.”23 So the question is, What is your focus?
Although our own individual journeys may be uniquely different, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the universal pattern for finding greater abundance. The great quest of life is not to discover our own truth; it is to embrace divine truth. The key is to align our lives with the Savior, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”24 He is our perfect pattern.
Again quoting President Nelson:
As we strive to live the higher laws of Jesus Christ, our hearts and our very natures begin to change. The Savior lifts us above the pull of this fallen world by blessing us with greater charity, humility, generosity, kindness, self-discipline, peace, and rest.25
Focusing on the Savior and on our covenants brings lasting joy, brothers and sisters! Focusing on affluence and influence does not!
Now ask yourself this question: “What do I need to stop doing and what do I need to start doing to be more perfectly aligned with the Savior?” Acting on the answers to this question will help you begin to live more abundantly. Start there. If you get stuck, pray a little more earnestly, revisiting the same question. Heavenly Father wants to send “light unto [our] understanding.”26 He wants us to learn to hear Him. “The Holy Ghost . . . will show unto you all things what ye should do”27 to experience greater abundance in your life. Aligning our lives with the Savior is crucial to surviving spiritually.
An Abundant Life Requires a Willingness to Make and Keep Sacred Covenants
Second, we must be willing to make and keep sacred covenants. Through covenants, we align ourselves with and bind ourselves to Jesus Christ. Every commandment, covenant, and ordinance points to the Lord Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement. Again, referring to President Nelson’s teachings:
The reward for keeping covenants with God is heavenly power—power that strengthens us to withstand our trials, temptations, and heartaches better. This power eases our way. Those who live the higher laws of Jesus Christ have access to His higher power. Thus, covenant keepers are entitled to a special kind of rest that comes to them through their covenantal relationship with God.28
President Nelson also said:
As we keep our covenants, [the Lord] endows us with His healing, strengthening power. And oh, how we will need His power in the days ahead. . . .
. . . Whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants!29
My young friends, I plead with you to take your temple covenants seriously! Keeping our sacred covenants with God is crucial, not optional. We are deeply dismayed by the casual and even cavalier way some treat their temple covenants, including the casual and inconsistent wearing of the temple garment. There is among some a growing sense of spiritual apathy and casual covenant keeping that is becoming increasingly common among those who should know and do better.
Covenant keeping has nothing to do with personal preference and convenience and everything to do with commitment. I am confident that if these sacred covenants were better understood, they would be honored and “cherish[ed] . . . above all other commitments.”30 It is through making and keeping sacred temple covenants that we qualify for immortality, eternal life, and a fullness of joy! Are your baptismal and temple covenants central to your life or merely ancillary?
An Abundant Life Is Spiritual and Requires the Companionship of the Holy Ghost
Third, an abundant life is spiritual and requires the companionship of the Holy Ghost. It necessarily includes an endless search for knowledge, light, and truth. Learning is a lifelong quest. Remember, the Savior said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Divine truth is an essential part of that quest. Divine truth comes from the Lord Jesus Christ and is found in the holy scriptures and in the words of living prophets. We have been counseled to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”31 Remember, the Holy Ghost is the ultimate teacher. Without the influence of the Holy Ghost, we are effectively shut off from divine truth.
The Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and principles for abundant living and spiritual survival. It is our most powerful resource for growing and restoring faith in Christ and experiencing the influence of the Holy Ghost:
The Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead, bears witness of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He is the source of personal testimony and revelation. He can guide us in our decisions, [prevent us from being deceived,] and protect us from physical and spiritual danger. He is known as the Comforter, and He can calm our fears and fill us with hope. Through His power, we are sanctified as we repent, receive saving ordinances, and keep our covenants.32
The companionship of the Holy Ghost is priceless. The cost is devoted discipleship. Through our covenants, we are promised that we “may always have his Spirit to be with [us].”33 Please note the words “may . . . have.” If we really understood the divine role of the Holy Ghost, we would do whatever it took to have His Spirit with us. The Nephites who witnessed the resurrected Savior understood. While waiting for His return the second day,
they knelt . . . and prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus.
And they [prayed] for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.34
I invite you to follow this same pattern. How would your life change if you constantly prayed each day to have the influence of the Holy Ghost and then lived worthy of it? How would it improve your ability to learn and master what you are presently studying?
Enjoying the gifts of the Spirit is the very essence of abundance: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.”35 The key to enjoying these spiritual gifts and the influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives is our willingness to place the Savior and our sacred covenants at the center of our lives.
Aligning our lives with the Savior qualifies us for the guiding, comforting, directing, protecting, and healing power of the Holy Ghost. No wonder President Nelson counsels us “to do whatever it takes to increase [our] spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation.”36
Someday we will realize and acknowledge that the Light of Christ and the influence of the Holy Ghost were present all around us, but we cannot see what we are not looking for, especially without spiritual eyes to see. A testimony comes from the influence of the Holy Ghost, but if we separate ourselves from the influence of the Holy Ghost, the feeling of testimony also leaves. The power of the Holy Ghost comes from being consistently aligned with the Savior, always remembering Him, keeping His commandments, and being true to our covenants.
“With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can transform our divine nature into our eternal destiny.”37 The constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is crucial to avoiding deception and to living an abundant life. Many leave the Savior and their sacred covenants long before they leave the Lord’s Church. Often the first tragic step in this heartbreaking journey is losing the influence and companionship of the Holy Ghost. “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”38
An Abundant Life Requires an Attitude of Gratitude and a Life of Service to Others
Finally, an abundant life requires an attitude of gratitude and a life of service to others. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that those who reach out “to lift and serve [others] . . . will come to know a happiness . . . never known before.”39
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.”40
In 1946 the First Presidency said, “There is no greater blessing, no greater joy and happiness than comes [to us] . . . [from] reliev[ing] the distress of others.”41 And of course, King Benjamin declared, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”42 Brothers and sisters, you have come here to learn; we hope you will go forth to serve.
A hallmark of Latter-day Saints throughout the world is a willingness to serve others. Service is the very essence of Christlike discipleship and abundant living. It is also the antidote to personal disappointment and discouragement. We hope your service will “have more impact on the world than [that of] any previous generation.” Wherever you go, there are communities that need your influence and service. Your missionary service has prepared you for the vital role you will play in the Lord’s Church. Your willingness to serve in the Lord’s Church will be crucial to your spiritual survival and evidence of your commitment to covenants. But your greatest service will take place in your homes among your families, where lasting abundance is found.
I promise you that rich personal relationships will mean more to you than any other achievement, accomplishment, affluence, or influence you obtain.
Several years ago, I was selected to be honored as the Father of the Year in Utah. Each of our children was asked to say something special about their relationship with their father in a short video presentation.
However, one of my young sons approached me privately and confessed: “Dad, you know I love you, but I don’t think I really have anything I can say. Honestly, you spend so much time working and also serving in the Church, and the time that you do have seems to be spent more on my brothers than on me. I just don’t feel comfortable speaking on the video.”
To say the least, I was crushed by his comment. More than that, I was heartbroken that he felt less valued and loved by me, his father. My relationship with him meant more to me than any silly award. But somehow, in pursuit of my own dreams and aspirations, I was failing to focus on his needs. I vowed in that moment to change and to work harder to make him—and all of my children—a priority in my life.
My young friends, my wife and family are the abundance in my life. They mean more to me than any earthly possession. We certainly are not perfect, and we have had our share of adversity and heartache, but if we have done anything right in our lives, it has been to place the Savior and our sacred covenants at the center of our lives and to raise our family in the gospel of Jesus Christ. That has made all the difference!
Prominently displayed in our home is a beautiful work of needlepoint made by Sister Pearson years ago with a scripture that has been and continues to be the defining maxim in our lives: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . : but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”43
I plead with you to do likewise!
In the recent October general conference, President Nelson stated:
In coming days, we will see the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power that the world has ever seen. Between now and the time He returns “with power and great glory,” He will bestow countless privileges, blessings, and miracles upon the faithful.44
May each of us choose to be among those faithful.
There has never been a better time to live on earth. These are the fullness of times, the absolute best of times. You have unlimited opportunity to become whatever you want to be. But please remember and never forget that “the Lord [can and] will make much more out of your life than you can by yourself.”45 Therefore, “let God prevail in your life”!46 If you will seek “first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness,”47 an abundant life will surely follow.
From the experience of my own personal life, I testify that this is true. The Lord has made more out of my life than I could have ever done on my own—for which I am grateful beyond expression.
You were born at this precise time to play a vital role in the greatest work on the earth. “You have the capacity to be smarter and wiser and have more impact on the world than any previous generation!” To survive spiritually, however, you will need the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Place the Savior and your sacred covenants at the center of your life, take charge of your testimony, be intentional about your discipleship, and always remain faithful.
Where you go from here is up to you.
I pray that your life will be blessed with abundance and joy! In the sacred name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
© by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
1. Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be with and Strengthen Them,” Ensign, May 2018; see Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life (1860), 268.
3. See Doctrine and Covenants 136:32.
5. Mosiah 3:19.
7. Nelson, “Hope of Israel”; emphasis in original.
10. Matthew 25:8.
14. Russell M. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” Liahona, November 2022; brackets in original; quoting Mosiah 2:41.
15. See Moses 1:39.
16. C. S. Lewis, last paragraph of “The Weight of Glory,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: Macmillan, 1949), 15; emphasis in original.
18. From Napoleon Hill lectures, 1937–1970; Napoleon Hill, in Dennis Kimbro and Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1991), 37.
19. See Nelson, “Choices for Eternity.”
20. John 10:10.
23. William Law, as cited by C. S. Lewis, in “A Slip of the Tongue,” The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, revised and expanded (1980), paragraph 11. Elder Neal A. Maxwell often referred to the William Law quotation. See Maxwell, “Response to a Call,” Ensign, May 1974; see also Maxwell, “Answer Me,” Ensign, November 1988.
24. John 14:6.
25. Nelson, “Overcome the World”; emphasis in original.
26. 2 Nephi 31:3.
27. 2 Nephi 32:5.
28. Nelson, “Overcome the World”; emphasis in original.
29. Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” Liahona, November 2021; emphasis in original. See Doctrine and Covenants 109:15, 22.
32. “January: The Godhead,” in Come, Follow Me: Learning Resources for Youth: Young Women, 2017 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2016), 16.
34. 3 Nephi 19:8–9.
35. Galatians 5:22.
36. Russell M. Nelson, “Hear Him,” Ensign, May 2020; emphasis in original.
38. Moroni 10:5.
39. Gordon B. Hinckley, TGBH, 597.
41. First Presidency (George Albert Smith, J. Reuben Clark Jr., and David O. McKay), “Statement on Welfare,” Improvement Era, May 1946, 304.
42. Mosiah 2:17.
43. Joshua 24:15.
44. Nelson, “Overcome the World”; emphasis in original; quoting Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:36: “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.”
45. “Go Forward with Faith,” in For the Strength of Youth (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2011), 43.
47. Matthew 6:33.
Kevin W. Pearson, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivered this devotional address on October 18, 2022.