Bishop Stevenson Tells BYU–Hawaii Grads to “Conquer Fear with Faith”
Contributed By Valerie Johnson, Church News staff writer
- Three types of fears that have eternal significance are fear of starting a family, fear of failure, and fear of ridicule for the beliefs of the Church.
- To conquer these fears, we can make daily choices that give us spiritual power and think of others more than ourselves.
At BYU–Hawaii’s commencement exercise April 18, Bishop Gary E. Stevenson spoke of common fears young adults face and how important it is to conquer them.
Bishop Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of the Church, recognized the wide diversity of cultures and traditions represented among members of the graduating class. “Whatever your circumstances may be,” he said, “congratulations on a major life milestone.
Remembering his feelings at his own graduation, Bishop Stevenson noted that continual learning and education are part of God’s plan. He quoted D&C 130:18: “Whatever principle of intelligence [you] attain unto in this life, it will rise with [you] in the resurrection.”
The fire of faith
He told of an experience he had many years ago while on a hike with his sons and some friends, when he separated from the group to explore on his own. He recalled how he managed to travel quite a distance over the span of only a few hours. He realized he needed to get back to camp before it became too dark. Unfortunately, he still had not made it back by the time the sun set and darkness fell.
Bishop Stevenson said he vaguely knew where he was and that a fire would soon be started at base camp. Instead of letting his fear take over, he found a better vantage point and searched for the camp. “It was with great relief that I spotted a golden flicker far off in the distance [that] provided the perspective necessary to reorient myself and plot my return course almost immediately,” he recalled.
“Fear is a normal part of life,” Bishop Stevenson continued. He said that while he could rattle off a long, varied list of fears human beings have, he would focus on three types of fears that have more eternal significance. These are fear of starting a family, fear of failure, and fear of ridicule for the beliefs of the Church.
Fear of marriage and family
Bishop Stevenson said that he had sat in a number of meetings, councils, and committees where they discussed the prevalent fear young people have of marrying and starting families. Their reasons for putting off marriage range from wanting to finish school to wanting to be more financially stable, he said.
“First of all, I believe that Satan understands that the family is central to the Lord’s plan of happiness,” Bishop Stevenson said. “His strategy is to cast shadows of skepticism in your life.”
“Focusing on the joyous light family life brings will cast out fear,” he said.
Fear of failure
Another fear that young adults face is the fear of failing. Bishop Stevenson said, “This fear can be so paralyzing that it prevents us from taking the bold actions necessary to succeed.”
In developing the defibrillator, Dr. Bernard Lown dreaded failure or self-discredit, Bishop Stevenson said. Dr. Lown called his invention “a wild guess,” but the good that it could do in the healthcare industry was so important that Dr. Lown took that risk, Bishop Stevenson said. Ultimately, the defibrillator has changed the way cardiology is practiced. He quoted Dr. Lown, who said, “[If] you don’t take that chance, you won’t fulfill your destiny.”
“Now, I have a bit of bad news to share,” Bishop Stevenson said. “If you take this advice and move forward with bold faith, you are most likely going to have a few failures in your life.” However, he told the students that with the knowledge that they are a son or daughter of God, they will know that no failure is final.
Fear of ridicule
Today’s society is full of those who mock religious beliefs, Bishop Stevenson said. “We worry that if we express our peculiar beliefs—and sometimes they are peculiar—that this will somehow become an embarrassment, or ultimately a disadvantage in our professional or social relationships.” However, like the campfire that led him back to camp, each person can be a light on a hill that Christ has commanded His people to be.
There is no more important day for young people to express their values and beliefs, Bishop Stevenson said. “You can express your faith with words, but especially by the way you live your life.”
Conquering your fears
In a personal conversation with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency, Bishop Stevenson was told, “Don’t take counsel from your fears.” In addition to this, he offered two other ways to conquer fear.
“First, armor up,” he said. He advised the students to make the daily choices that arm them with spiritual power.
“Second, think more about the welfare of others than you think about yourself.” When he presided over the Japan Nagoya Mission, Bishop Stevenson’s wife, Lesa, would help fearful or doubtful missionaries by applying her “cookie therapy.” She would give the missionary the ingredients to make cookies and the instructions to bake a batch every morning. Then they would deliver the cookies to someone who needed them.
Very often, the act of thinking about someone else cured the missionary of his or her fears, he said. “The warm, golden glow that accompanies service and selflessness has the power to melt away doubts and fears,” Bishop Stevenson said.
BYU–Hawaii President Steven C. Wheelwright conducted the graduation ceremony and also addressed the students. Other speakers included Mark Woodruff, assistant to the commissioner of Church Education, and graduating student Peter Wasden.
President Wheelwright spoke on an attribute given to the Book of Mormon prophet Mormon when he was 10 years old, that of being “quick to observe.” He encouraged all students to develop this attribute in two ways. First, they need to slow down and see things on a temporal and spiritual level. Second, observe often means “to obey” or “to keep.” “When we are quick to observe, like Mormon,” President Wheelwright said, “we focus our vision on what’s important, and then apply what we learn that is true and good.” Thus, students see and observe what is good and then act on that knowledge.
Brother Woodruff spoke on receiving spiritual guidance through personal revelation. Through fervent prayer, consistent scripture study, and applying the things that they have learned, he told the students, they can understand eternal truths. Obeying the commandments also plays a large part in receiving revelation. “Obedience to commandments, as taught by authorized servants of God, is essential in knowing God’s will and in receiving His direction and guidance,” Brother Woodruff said.