2023 Devotionals
A Future Filled with Hope

A Future Filled with Hope

Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Our dear young friends everywhere! How privileged Sister Holland and I are to be with you tonight. Even though we are reaching most of you around the world through the wonder of modern technology, we are delighted to have a personal audience here at this university and its institute of religion, where Pat and I started our college education, dated, and got married.

Now, I’m waiting to see if a chill went through the room when I said the word marriage. Don’t panic. We are not going to talk about marriage tonight. Some of you are already married, and we don’t want the rest of you to run screaming from the room. But I do mention our own young adult roots and romantic beginnings with the thought in mind that if it struck us on a night like this, who knows? It might strike others.

Certainly, plenty of you sisters have told us that there are some men who need to be struck, if not with Cupid’s arrow, then perhaps with a small pickleball paddle. If there is any young woman out there tonight seated with a young man who fits this description, Elder and Sister Holland give you permission to elbow him in the ribs right now—gently enough to convey love, sharply enough to make the point. We will be happy if such a nudge works for you in the way it worked for us, except in our case it was my elbow and Sister Holland’s ribs.

This coming June it will be 60 years ago that Pat and I were married in the St. George Temple, just half a mile from this university campus. Six decades together gives us a welcome chance to say goodbye to a period that has been difficult for many and tragic for some. We are gradually coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this plague of almost biblical proportions is still a very real issue in many parts of the world, as there is still an average of over 1,700 reported deaths from this illness daily.1 This scourge has taken a toll, not only on physical health but also on the social, political, and economic life of almost everyone on the planet, one way or another.

A different kind of scourge is the one still unfolding in eastern Europe, where millions of people, including members of the Church, have been devastated, displaced, or have given their very lives in a conflict they did not ask for and did not deserve. Just weeks ago, while on an assignment in Europe, Sister Holland and I met with some of those Ukrainian refugees. We laughed and cried and prayed with those who had left everything behind and fled with only the clothing on their backs. We felt the same emotion and sorrow for our faithful members inside Russia who are also innocently affected by this conflict. In addition to these tragedies, in many places throughout the world, we see mass shootings—including a tragedy just last week here in southern Utah—immoral content in entertainment, and political activity in which fundamental principles such as integrity, kindness, and honesty seem to have been somehow forgotten.

And, of course, there are many other cultural and social issues that trouble us. But we haven’t come tonight to depress you with the world’s problems. In fact, we have come for just the opposite reason! We recognize the understandable malaise that hangs over your generation. And we apologize that our generation has not resolved some of these problems that you now face. But we call you and every other young Latter-day Saint to be in the forefront of the moral force that can resolve these problems, that can turn back the tide of fear and pessimism and anxiety surrounding us. How important it is for you to pray not only for the Lord to prevail in your lives,2 as President Russell M. Nelson has asked, but also to pray that the values of your life will prevail with others who aren’t quite so sure yet. If as individual disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ we were all more loving and peaceful and kind, if we would all try to keep the commandments of God as best we can, then we have every reason to feel confident about the world’s condition and our own. Walking into the future this way, filled with peace and godly promise, we could have an absolutely stunning impact on the world. Abraham Lincoln said once that he tried to pluck a weed and plant a flower in its place every chance he got. If we all did that, our moral and spiritual deserts would be veritable gardens in no time.3

Those of you out there in Germany tonight—where so much Christian hospitality is being shown to those Ukrainian refugees that we just met—will recognize the saying attributed to Johann Goethe that “if every man swept in front of his own doorstep, the whole world would soon be clean.”

So, recognizing the challenges and wanting to offer a way to address them, Sister Holland and I come tonight as the Apostle Peter said we should: “ready always to give … a reason [for] the hope that is in [us].”4 We are going to talk about hope, with the declaration that we must never lose it or its sister virtues: faith and charity. We realize there are lots of ways to define these closely linked principles, and you will hear us offer a few of our definitions tonight. You will also hear us declare with Moroni that hope is essential if we are to “receive [the] inheritance [God] hast prepared [for us].”5 We want you to claim that inheritance as sons and daughters of a king. To do that, we must realize that hope is not just the message and manner of the naturally optimistic; it is the privilege of everyone who believes.6 As a believer who is absolutely filled with hope (and faith and charity), Sister Holland feels so strongly the importance of this worldwide congregation tonight and what your role is to be in the days that lie ahead. She knows you are the group to whom we pass the baton and feels it is essential that you step up and embrace your destiny. Sister Holland.

Sister Patricia T. Holland: I do feel strongly about you. You are the strongest generation of young adults that the world has ever known. I love you for that. Elder Holland and I are so grateful that you keep your covenants and that you strive to do what’s right. And because there are so many of you, you will have that power Elder Holland spoke about. I see your light in this room. It’s so bright. It makes me think about when the Savior appeared to the Nephites. He said: “Hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up.”7 Like you, we were young once, but now we have grown old. As I look back at my life, and if I could live any part of it over again, I would do one thing differently—very differently: simplify! It seems to me that everything is better when it is simplified—our food, our clothing, our furnishings, and our schedules. What I regret most in my youth is that I didn’t see the simple beauty of the gospel; I made even the gospel too complex. I felt it was too overwhelming, too difficult, and sometimes even too mysterious. It seemed to me that even as a young adult I had to climb a mountain of righteousness, go through a fiery furnace of purification, and unravel every doctrinal controversy known to mankind if I were ever to be acceptable before God.

Needless to say, my thinking then was more than a little girl from southern Utah felt she could tackle. It was as someone once said: “The reason people do not join with you Christians is because you wear your religion like a headache, like a crown of thorns.” There is only one person who has had to bear that crown of thorns, and He did it so that we might live joyfully, abundantly, and peacefully—not despairingly. The gospel was never meant to be a mountain that little girl could not climb. He wanted her—and everyone else in the world—to always be filled with hope. He wants us to know that the gospel is beautifully simple and simply beautiful.

But please don’t misunderstand. In speaking of hope, I do not mean that Christ should give us a magical wand or a modern lightsaber. Our hope has to be more than Pinocchio’s “when you wish upon a star”8 if it is to be the hope the Savior taught. My young brothers and sisters, it is a gift, His gift to us and to the entire human family. And we should recognize it as a light shining in a very dark world. As one writer said, “None are completely wretched [except] those who are living without hope.”9

The sweet simplicity involved in discovering this gift of hope is that you don’t have to search for it; you don’t have to run around chasing after it; you don’t and you can’t manufacture it. Like so much in the realm of grace, you won’t acquire it by leaning on your own strength or on that of another person. There are no secret formulas or any magical mantras involved. It won’t come from deep breathing exercises (valuable as they are) or by reading another book on how to find happiness.

In fact, the part we play is important but actually very small; God has the larger portion of the task. Our part is to come unto Him in lowliness and simplicity, then we should worry not and fear not.10 Why so simple? Because behind everything Christ taught—in every scripture, story, and parable—is the promise that with God, “all things are possible,”11 the promise that God’s power can wipe away every tear.12 We are to let go of personal desperation and seek rest in the Lord.13 So we come before Him with meekness and lowliness of heart14 to receive the blessings that come with His unceasing love. Our trust is to be like that of a little child, or a little lamb, which we actually are in His grand flock.

Our hearts will always be restless until they rest in God.

This call to be meek and lowly of heart—one of the few descriptions the Lord gave of Himself—that He was meek and lowly of heart—is a call to all of us as His disciples. If we can live this way, He says, we will find rest to our souls and we will discover that His yoke is easy, that His burden is light.15 I see this call to be meek and lowly again and again as I read the scriptures. (It’s probably because I need it again and again.)

I am sure that nothing of great spiritual consequence has ever been done by anyone who wasn’t hopeful and humble. This kind of mindset is our hope for you tonight—to have you learn this while you are still young. We want you to know with all of our hearts that God is your Father, that He has “carried [you] from the womb,”16 that He has plans for you, plans for a “future with hope.”17

Let me share with you two scriptures I love in the Old Testament that use some of that very language. Isaiah says:

“Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all … the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: …

“… Even to your old age … and even [when you turn gray] will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; … I will carry, and will deliver you.”18

And Jeremiah writes:

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

“Then when you call upon me and … pray to me, I will hear you.”19

I testify to you, my young brothers and sisters, that this is a truth born of personal experience that our Heavenly Father will do His part in fulfilling these promises. It is up to us to simply believe, to believe simply, to be more childlike in our meekness and especially in our gratitude as we receive His gifts. Do you want a really wonderful year this year? Do you want a future filled with hope? Do you believe there are blessings in store for you? Have you seen enough of God’s goodness to hope on and to reach up? The irony will be that this is done by kneeling down, by bowing, even perhaps by falling down at the feet of God. Such sweet simplicity! Kneeling, bowing, falling at the “throne of grace.”20

Elder Holland indicated that you will find this precious gift of hope linked with two other gifts of God—that of faith and that of charity. Please do not do as I did when I was younger, and make these virtues so huge and so complex that we despair trying to understand them. Cherish their simplicity.

I offer you this one simple little sequence. Faith is the conviction that there is a God, hope is trusting He will help us, and charity is His love and ability working through us to bless others.

I have learned regarding charity that none of us have the energy, time, resources, or strength to do all that our hearts would like us to do. We can’t do it all; our hearts do exceed our capacity. How wonderful it is that God’s power moving through us can enlarge our modest impact, can multiply our limited efforts and do for others that which we could never do alone.

This simple approach to these three large doctrinal issues has blessed my life. I wish I could have seen them in this less intimidating way so much sooner. I firmly believe that God intended such gospel truths to be plain enough for even a child to understand. May I repeat it? Faith is the conviction that there is a God. Hope is trusting that He will help us. And charity is His love working through us.

While I speak of gifts from God, may I add one more gift that adds to our hope in this new year. Illuminating faith, hope, and charity is the unspeakably beautiful—and unspeakably simple—gift of the Light of Christ. This light, so closely linked to hope, is a gift given to every man, woman, and child who ever has been or ever will be born into mortality. It is embedded in our natures. It is part of our very souls.

One of my favorite scriptural passages includes this line: “And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world.21

That light is one of the fundamental reasons for hope in our lives. It is so encouraging, so exciting, and just so hopeful that there is something within us that not only tells us there is a right way to get through life’s complexity, but it also tells us that we will find that right way if we are “meek and lowly [of] heart.”22 As President Nelson said to the entire Church just a week ago, “The world needs the light of Jesus Christ. And the world [desperately] needs your [beautiful] light.”23

My wonderful young friends, my most earnest prayer tonight—my hope—is that all of you young adults all over the world will receive this call as your personal ministry, that you will take the hope of which the Savior spoke and carry it like a torch to those who feel the world is a very dark and a very difficult place. Is there any way I can encourage you to see that the bearing of this light is to be your latter-day ministry? Please, please understand that this is the most important thing I feel I have to say to you tonight. My greatest fear has been that I will not say it well enough for you to really believe me. You must bear this light in such a way that all the darkness in the world will never extinguish it.

This simple but powerful approach to what are otherwise large and complex issues will change the trajectory of a falling, darkened world. Please have faith in God, hope that He will help you, and receive the charity that enables Him to work through you to accomplish what only you can do.

As you accept this challenge and begin this new year, after you have looked inward, I plead with you to look upward. The eyes that look down on yours will be those of your loving Father in Heaven who can, and will, bestow upon you all those things you hope for in righteousness. You can’t get these blessings by chasing them. Please stop running to the point of exhaustion. Be quiet; be still. Simplify. Be meek and lowly of heart, and pray. I testify to you that miracles will come when we slow down, when we calm down, and when we kneel down. All that the Father has can one day be yours.24 What a truly hopeful way to face your future. I love you very much, I admire you, and I will always pray for you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Holland: Thank you, Sister Holland, not only for teaching the gospel but for living it and for being filled with the hope of Christ that is in you. In our most difficult days—and in six decades of marriage, you can have some—Sister Holland has lived as she has taught. She has always been a believer. She has always trusted the eternal light within her soul. She has always lived with the certainty that God would hear our prayers and show us the way even if the night did seem dark. In a world that sometimes seemed overwhelming to a young couple, the truths and the promises of the gospel were often all we had to hold onto, but that was enough because here we are tonight, having received more blessings in our nearly 60 years of marriage than we ever could have dreamed possible. So as this beautiful woman says and has done, please hope on, pray always, and be believing.

I add to Sister Holland’s counsel the scriptural encouragement to face the future as cheerfully as possible. Someone wrote once that of all the encouragement Christ extends to us in the scriptures, of all the hope He repeatedly offers to us, that which we repeatedly fail to accept is the encouragement to “be of good cheer.”25 May we please take Christ at His word? Could we just try it? May we embrace that happy, hope-filled invitation tonight as we seize yet another chance to start a new year and make of our life exactly what we want it to be.

As with all of His invitations to us, Christ lived them before He taught them. In spite of the burdens that He bore, He was optimistic, positive, and He helped others to be the same, including, I might add, prophets of God. From the depths of Liberty Jail—and the depths of despair he experienced there—the Prophet Joseph Smith’s ultimate counsel to the Saints who were outside praying for his release was to “cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”26 And no one is more positive, more optimistic, more filled with hope than Russell Marion Nelson, our living prophet who echoed Joseph’s counsel when he said to us recently: “No spiritual blessing will be withheld from the righteous. … The Lord would have us look … to the future ‘with joyful anticipation’ [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 513].”27 Prophets are of good cheer because they are true disciples of Jesus Christ, and that is the ultimate source of all optimism. Prophets are of good cheer because they know the plan; they know who wins in the end.

As Sister Holland has said so beautifully, the ability to see the world positively is yet another gift from God. “Men”—and I might add women and children—“are, that they might have joy,”28 the scriptures are wont to tell us. That is why it is a “plan of happiness.”29 As a result of that plan and Christ’s Atonement at the heart of it, we can be hopeful no matter how dark some days might be.

The grandeur of the Savior’s example in this matter deserves our reverence as we face a new year, a year that might hold some challenges for some of us. Think about it. How could Jesus speak of cheerfulness in the midst of all the anguish that He faced moving toward the Crucifixion? Even in the fateful atmosphere that must have prevailed at the Last Supper, Christ is still reminding His disciples of the reason, and their duty, to “be of good cheer.”30 I have wondered, with the pain that lay ahead of Him, how He could speak so positively and expect His brethren to view all of this buoyantly. Surely, this manifestation of His faith, of His hope and charity, comes because He knows the end of the story. He knows righteousness prevails when final accounts are completed. He knows that light always conquers darkness forever and forever and forever. He knows His Father in Heaven never gives a commandment without also providing the way to fulfill it.31 A victory makes everyone cheerful, and Christ was the victor in His great contest with death and hell. Now, that’s heavy theology tonight, but that is what they were to be happy about. Christ triumphant is the source of our hope in this new year and every year—forever.

Given life’s distractions and Lucifer’s temptations, staying hopeful and cheerful tomorrow or next month or next year may be difficult. Nevertheless, that was precisely Sister Holland’s point in asking for simplification and a tenacious focus on basics of a Latter-day Saint life. Sometimes we stay focused on them voluntarily, and sometimes life does it for us, but in either case, if we have built our testimonies on the fundamentals of the gospel, we can get as much from our challenging experiences as a respected friend of mine is currently getting from his. He, his wife, and his daughter—and I believe they’re listening tonight—are all experiencing a variety of health challenges right now—very serious challenges, I should add. There is every reason for them to throw their hands in the air and wonder what good their hope or their faith or their charity has done them. But because of determined discipleship in times of both joy or sorrow, they are prevailing.

In a recent email (which I share with you by his permission), my friend wrote:

“Over the last few months my world has become very small: [the size of] hospital [beds] and sick rooms. My [wife’s recovery after her kidney transplant] has proven to be difficult, and she has spent the last month … in and out of the hospital. As a result, I have ‘unplugged’ from much of the world [around me].” Think of the word simplicity.

He continues: “I have never liked the idea that the Lord gives us trials, but I do believe He can use them for His purposes. One thing that has been brought home to me over the last few weeks is how … important and real the heart of the gospel is [as opposed to so much that can be so superfluous]. The experience of love for others; the experience of being loved and served by others; the quiet presence of God’s voice as you sit exhausted [by] a sick child’s [bed] or [in a desperately ill] wife’s hospital room late at night [and hear the divine phrase], ‘Peace be to thy soul, my son.’

“I have read the Book of Mormon and the Gospels and [have] felt God’s love. Beyond the scaffolding of the Church [and beyond abstract] theology, [the things] that can help us crawl towards the light … are the reality of faith, … testimony, [hope, and love].”

He concludes, “I have been unable to attend sacrament meetings for weeks, but I have seen so many good people who have been true to their … covenants serving my family. … I am so blessed by so much, and I love the Lord, [I love] the gospel, [I love] the Restoration, and the Church.”32

That eloquent testimonial of hope and perseverance expressed in the midst of a most difficult time is moving to me. And we need to know that at some point, our hopes and our convictions will undoubtedly be tested and refined in a similar crucible of personal suffering as well. My beautiful young friends, untested faith isn’t much faith at all. We say we are built upon the rock of Christ. Well, we had better be, because life has its storms and squalls, and a sandy foundation simply will not hold when the wind blows, and the rain descends, and the floods come.33

One last comment as we move toward the conclusion of this worldwide broadcast in a wonderful new year, including a new institute year. Some of you out there may be worried about things more serious than which course to take in school or what professional career you should pursue. Some of you may be wrestling with the burden of guilt—and nothing so damages and deflates our hope and brings greater alienation from God than transgression brings. Sister Holland and I have consciously not chosen to make this a talk about sin or transgression, but we would be irresponsible of us not to touch on what the Lord has said it is our obligation to teach.

There will always be a universal need for the hope-filled principle and practice of repentance. When we have transgressed, we know exactly why our flame of hope flickers and why sometimes it seems to have gone out. In such a condition, we have to change, or our hope for a cheerful future is doomed. That candle is permanently out. That is why all of us have need to repent. All of us! Every day, President Nelson has said.34

So I ask you tonight to deal with the burden of transgression immediately, starting this hour, sin being the greatest enemy of hope and happiness that I know of in all the world. Go before the Lord with your confession, and go before the bishop if your sin requires it. But change whatever is wrong, large or small. Repentance is the way we get a fresh start; it is the way we get an elevated future. Life is difficult enough without carrying a pack of mistakes on your back—all day, every day, all night, every night. Unload that. Change anxiety for peace. Change sorrow for happiness. Christ gave His very life in order that you could be free to do that.

Then you can do as Nephi asks us all to do. In what is essentially his valedictory message shortly before his death, this son who saw so much of conflict and contention says what Sister Holland and I have wanted and tried to say tonight:

Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.”35

“A perfect brightness of hope,” born of love of God and all men—that is what we want for you in the new year. Accompanying that bright hope will be the undeniable whisper that God loves you, that Christ is your Advocate, that the gospel is true. Its brightness will remind you that in the gospel there is always—every day, every hour—a new chance, a new life, a new year. What a miracle! What a gift! And because of Christ’s gift, the best things in life are ours if we steadfastly keep believing and keep trying and keep hoping.

You remember those global conditions I talked about as we began? Well, face them and face your personal challenges knowing that with faith, things work out in the end. Refuse to accept the world for what it appears to be. Shine the brightness of your hope on it, and make it what it ought to be. Be that light Sister Holland has asked for you to be, a light never to be extinguished, the light of the Savior of the world.

I leave an apostolic blessing on each one of you tonight for this new year regarding things I know with certainty and things you will always need. I do so out of my love for you, the Lord’s love for you, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve’s love for you. Everybody’s love! And your attendance here tonight. I bless you that the simple but exquisite power inherent in the principles of salvation, such as faith and hope and charity, will always be evident and efficacious in your life. I bless you to know, as I most assuredly do, that the gospel of Jesus Christ is personally precious, everlastingly hopeful, and eternally true. I testify with apostolic authority that is so and, as such, is the only unfailing answer to life’s many challenges, yours and mine, and the only way to be exalted in the grandeur of eternity.

I bless any among you who might be speaking these days of a “faith crisis.” Real faith, life-changing faith, Abrahamic faith, is always in crisis. That is how you find out if it is faith at all. I promise you that more faith will mean less crisis until finally God says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”36

I bless every one of you to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is exactly that: the Church of Jesus Christ. And only through the ordinances and opportunities it provides can one fully come “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”37 I bless each one of you, individually and by name, with every gift you need for this quest, and I bless you, plead with you, to patiently persevere as your Father in Heaven, in His wisdom, finds the best way to frequently give you what you ask but to unfailingly give you what you need. Of God’s divine love, of the Savior’s eternal advocacy in our behalf, and of the Holy Ghost’s constant comfort, of the power of the holy priesthood, and of the prophetic tradition currently personified in President Russell M. Nelson, of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and of the “perfect brightness of hope” this gospel gives, I bear solemn and sacred and personal witness on my life. I do so in the name of Him who is the source of all my hope, even the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.