Hope and History

Nearly a month ago, I arrived at work in the basement of the Harold B. Lee Library, which had been transformed into what seemed the epicenter of speculation. Was BYU going to shut down campus due to the Coronavirus? Would we finish winter semester classes online, and work remotely? Hours later they announced those very changes, simultaneously making history, causing students to rejoice, and scaring many of us out of our minds.Before I knew it, I had packed up my apartment, said goodbye to Utah, and embarked on the 3-day drive back to Georgia with my dad and sister.

Classes would resume on Wednesday, work on Thursday. Church meetings had been cancelled. General Conference would be broadcast in an empty auditorium. My scholarship to study Hindi abroad this summer was deferred to 2021. Not only were life’s plans changed, my very way of life was about to change – and I am not alone in that statement. To “shelter in place” is something nearly none of us have done before. As portrayed in BYU Photo’s beautiful visual timeline, these are historical times. I recently heard U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams call this “our Pearl Harbor moment.”

These current world conditions propose questions similar to my “What would I want on my Wikipedia page?” inquiry, and it is this:

How will we react to this? What will we do? What will we say? How will we help? Will we help at all? And one frightening question, for some, will be:

What really matters most?

Panic is our natural response in moments such as these, but as I read this morning during my study of Come Follow Me:

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

I believe Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s conference talk was perfectly timed this past Sunday. Referencing the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he said:

What was once only hoped for has now become history. Thus our look back at 200 years of God’s goodness to the world. But what of our look ahead? We still have hopes that have not yet been fulfilled. Even as we speak, we are waging an “all hands on deck” war with COVID-19, a solemn reminder that a virus 1,000 times smaller than a grain of sand can bring entire populations and global economies to their knees … When we have conquered this—and we will—may we be equally committed to freeing the world from the virus of hunger, freeing neighborhoods and nations from the virus of poverty. May we hope for schools where students are taught—not terrified they will be shot—and for the gift of personal dignity for every child of God, unmarred by any form of racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice. Undergirding all of this is our relentless hope for greater devotion to the two greatest of all commandments: to love God by keeping His counsel and to love our neighbors by showing kindness and compassion, patience and forgiveness. These two divine directives are still—and forever will be—the only real hope we have for giving our children a better world than the one they now know.”

Jeffrey R. Holland, A Perfect Brightness of Hope

To capture the entirety of his conviction of the power of hope would require reading his entire address – which I hope all of you will do. I want to have the same “relentless hope” in these times of uncertainty as I do when the future is less – though still – indeterminate. Today is Good Friday, the day we commemorate Christ’s carrying His cross to Calvary and His subsequent death. That day, He faced the greatest, most harrowing unknown, so that none of us will ever be required to do the same. He gave us hope – a gift He will not allow us to throw away at the first sign of hardship. Certainly he will not allow this temporary pandemic to derail His infinite work that was planned from the beginning.

To me, that is what matters most.

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