Larry Howell was meticulously planning and packing a few days before a trip to London to be a keynote speaker at a prestigious scientific event when he realized his passport had expired.
Humiliated and discouraged that he could not make it to the event, Howell realized all the little necessities of planning his trip did not matter because he’d forgotten the most important thing.
“The fact that I had counted out and packed just the right number of pairs of socks for the trip didn’t matter because I had forgotten something essential,” Howell said. “It is easy in life to become busy with all kinds of things, even things that are important, but we have to be careful not to neglect those things that are essential … and the most essential thing in our lives is the first principle of the gospel, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Even though he is a professor of mechanical engineering, Howell did not always know what he wanted to do with his life. He paralleled the laws of faith and mechanical engineering to show how his faith in God directed him to where he needed to go.
“Even though you don’t have a perfect knowledge of the solution to the problems you are working on, there are things that provide substance of the things hoped for,” Howell said. “If you follow certain laws, everything will work out as expected.”
Howell listed five essential steps necessary to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
First is to have a firm belief that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God and Savior and Redeemer of the world. Howell said this is probably the first step we consider faith.
Second is to recognize that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father only by relying on His son’s grace and mercy.
“As mortals, we simply do not have the power to save ourselves,” Howell said. “It is only through Christ’s Atonement that we can be saved.”
Third is to trust in God and what he says. Howell said that growing up in a small town in Utah called Portage, he didn’t even know what an engineer was; he thought they drove trains. But while serving a mission in Finland, he was led to the engineering field because of his faith and trust in God.
“Faith in Jesus Christ is more than just believing in him, it is trusting in him that he loves us, that he knows us and knows what’s best for us, and that his commandments are for our benefit,” he said.
Fourth is to know that He has the power to keep His promises. Howell said sometimes it is hard for us to believe that our sins can be forgiven.
“People feel that forgiveness applies to other people but not to themselves,” he said. “But through faith, including knowing that Christ has the power to keep his promises, we can know that this power applies to us.”
Fifth is to apply Christ’s Atonement and teachings to have faith that leads to action. Howell told a story about how on his path to becoming an engineer, he spent an entire summer doing nothing but learning college algebra and trigonometry so that he could be prepared for a calculus class the coming fall semester.
“Some of you after hearing of a summer like that are thinking that it is not as surprising that I became an engineer as it is that I got married,” he said with a laugh. “I’m happy to report that, not only did I eventually get married, but I did wonderfully well. So that should give some of you hope.”
Howell said the times that appeared most challenging in his life were the times he grew the most. To build faith in Jesus Christ, Howell said we need to pray, study the scriptures and words from the prophets, live the commandments and gain our own testimony of Christ’s teachings, repent and utilize the Atonement and reflect and learn from our experiences.
“Like my passport was essential for my trip to London, so is faith in Jesus Christ essential to our eternal salvation … nothing else matters,” he said.