I recently read a story from the life of Elder David B. Haight. I’d like to relate it to you, and as I do, I ask you to recall challenging circumstances in your own life when you have wanted to throw in the towel. Elder Haight related: “I grew up in a small country town in Idaho. Football came to our school later than most. It was 1923...The great day arrived when our high school principal was able to buy twelve inexpensive football outfits...Our chemistry teacher was recruited to be our coach because he had once witnessed a real game.
“He taught us a few simple plays and how to tackle, and then we were ready to play—or so we thought. We set off for our first game with Twin Falls, the previous year’s Idaho state champions.
“We dressed and went out on the field to warm up. Their school band started to play (they had more students in the band than we had in our entire high school)—and then through the gates came their team...all thirty-nine of them—fully equipped...The twelve of us...watched in amazement.
“The game was most interesting! To say it was a learning experience is rather mild. After just two plays, we had no desire to have the ball—so we kicked it, and they scored. Whenever they got the ball, they would run a baffling play and score. Our goal was to get rid of the ball—it was less punishing.
“In the final minutes of the game they became a little reckless and a wild pass fell into the arms of Clifford Lee, who was playing halfback with me. He was startled, not knowing for sure what to do—that is, until he saw them thundering after him. Then he knew what to do and boy, was he fast! But he wasn’t running for points, he was running for his life! Clifford made a touchdown; six points went up on the scoreboard. The final score—106 to 6! We really didn’t deserve the six points, but with our bloody shirts and socks, and cuts and bruises—we took them anyway” (David B. Haight - General Conference April 1991).
What was it that kept Elder Haight on the field? What motivates you to press forward against unrelenting and overpowering adversity? Perhaps it’s those occasional glimpses of brilliance, even when it feels unearned.
In the recent theatrical production, Hamilton, Alexander, after years of careful concealment, finds himself helpless to repress the impending consequences of sin. Faced with overwhelming adversity and considering confession, he recalls weathering the tropical storms of his youth with the words, “In the eye of the hurricane, there is quiet—[and] for just a moment, a yellow sky.”
Of such moments, when we look to that sky, Helaman taught, “that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo” (Helaman 5:12). There is quiet, a yellow sky, an unobstructed view of eternity, the beckoning hope and assurance of a better world, one you want with all your heart to live in. The quiet, the comforting peace, invites you to trust, redouble your efforts, and resolutely pursue your yearnings.
Early in my marriage, at a time when I was distressed with personal inadequacies and sin that I could not seem to shake, I knelt to visit my Father with my concerns. I told him how I felt “encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me” (2 Nephi 4:18). I expressed my doubts that I could ever overcome. Theologically, I knew that I should be able to, but practically, I was a mess. Nevertheless, I sought forgiveness and strength to try again.
That’s when I felt the quiet and saw the sky. Suddenly, in what I can only describe as a vision, I was standing on a vast expanse of stairs. Everything was white. Standing next to me, and with a smile beaming with childlike excitement, was my wife, Elisabeth. We were near the top of the stairs, and we knew what was just over the rise. It was our Father’s reception, and we had arrived. Without saying anything, I took her hand in mine, we proceeded running up the stairs, and the vision closed. In the eye of the hurricane, there was quiet, and for a moment, a yellow sky.
I knew then that Elisabeth and I would make it if we wanted, “for the power is in [us], wherein we are agents unto [ourselves]” (D&C 58:28). The task before me did not suddenly become any easier, but with elevated vision, my faith and resolution increased. As President Eyring described, I felt “a pull upward...far beyond what you would call a desire for self-improvement. When I felt it, I knew I was being urged to live so far above myself that I could never do it on my own” (Henry B. Eyring - Come unto Christ).
Now, your experiences will differ from mine, but you have felt that feeling before—or if not yet, you will. With that feeling, my Father was urging me to accept his invitation: “O, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him...and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God” (Moroni 10:32).
While I was distressed by and focused on my personal failings and could not understand why progress was so elusive, my Father wanted to teach me a priceless lesson: I am not expected to succeed on my own. Whether as a result of my own poor choices or some other influence, my life will include challenges that should compel me to recognize my own inadequacy. If and when I turn to my Savior with all my heart, his grace will lift me above my natural capabilities. In time, when I realize success and yet recognize the disparity between my own capabilities and the realized success, I will in nowise be able to deny the power of God.
Persisting in faith through the years that followed, I gradually improved and have now sustained some measure of success. I have learned the lesson that I was invited to learn. Because I know that I could not have overcome on my own, I now “believe and [am] sure that [Jesus is the] Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69).
Despite that knowledge, as with all of us, seasonal storms still find occasion to visit my home. Our home is presently under siege by the worst we have ever encountered. Perhaps someday it will be a story to tell, but presently let it suffice to say that it is “sore—how sore you know not...how hard to bear you know not”—yea, how hard to bear I know not, for I am safely in the eye of the hurricane, where there is quiet, and a yellow sky (D&C 19:15). My Savior is suffering the exquisiteness of the surrounding storm, enabling repentance, forgiveness, and peace. More than ever, I need the atonement to work in my life, and I know that it is.
Whatever storm rages about you, I pray that you may glimpse the yellow sky. In the name of Jesus Christ, your savior and mine, Amen.