Elder Donald L. Hallstrom: Foundations for eternity

Elder Donal L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy spoke at the CES devotional on Nov. 2, 2014.
Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, of the Presidency of the Seventy, spoke at the CES devotional on Nov. 2, 2014. (Mormon Newsroom)

Elder Donald L Hallstrom taught that possessing a firm foundation in Jesus Christ is the ultimate protection from the world’s buffetings during a Church Educational System devotional held in the Ogden Tabernacle on Nov. 2.

“Our connection with God … His eternal plan and with Jesus Christ … needs to be so firmly established that it truly becomes the cornerstone of our foundation,” Elder Hallstrom said. “Our identity then becomes first that of an eternal being, a son or daughter of God.”

Elder Hallstrom compared temple construction to building a personal, spiritual foundation.

“Unlike building a structure, which by any definition is temporary, in building our everlasting and hopefully eternal lives we sometimes pay woefully little attention to the engineering and construction of our foundations,” he said. “Consequently we are left highly exposed and easily buffeted by dangerous forces.”

Elder Hallstrom taught that building and maintaining a spiritual foundation upon Jesus Christ is a significant undertaking and requires lifelong effort.

“Simply stated, it needs to get from our minds to our hearts and to our souls. It needs to be more than what we sometimes think or even what we sometimes feel. It must become who we are.”

Elder Hallstrom encouraged those trying to build and maintain their spiritual foundation to share what they’re doing through social media, using #cesdevo and completing the statement, “I am building my spiritual foundation by …”

“We will be grateful to hear from you and be taught by you about what is happening in your lives,” Elder Hallstrom said. “To those who have never had this foundation or, through neglect, have let it crack or crumble … it is not too late to put on a hard hat and go to work.”

The tools are available

The same tools used to maintain an established foundation can be used to build one.

“You know what they are,” Elder Hallstrom said. “They include consistent quality prayer, daily gospel study through the scriptures, actively participating in the meetings of the Church, especially by partaking of the sacrament with real intent, continual selfless service and diligent covenant keeping.”

The counsel of living prophets, easily available through modern means, is another important tool.

“The choice not to take prophetic counsel changes the very ground upon which we stand,” Elder Hallstrom said. “It becomes more dangerous.”

Vision, commitment and self-discipline

Vision is the ability to see. “In the gospel context, we sometimes call this eternal perspective,” Elder Hallstrom said.

Commitment is the willingness to make a promise. Elder Hallstrom taught that this also refers to covenants made through priesthood ordinances.

“In addition to God we should be willing to make commitments to ourselves, our spouses — or to become a spouse — to friends and those we serve,” he said.

Self-discipline can be defined as “the ability to live consistently with the vision we have and with the commitments we have made,” he said. Developing this trait is “essential to progress because it seamlessly connects learning and doing.”

Trials reveal strength of foundation

Elder Hallstrom shared the stories of Caroline Hemingway, who had a life full of difficulties.

Hemingway developed a serious case of diabetes after losing two children, her husband and sister. She married her late sister’s husband, who later died, leaving her to care for five of her own children, eight of her sister’s and a farm of 280 acres.

Hemingway concurrently served as her ward’s Relief Society president for 18 years. She baked eight loaves of bread a day, washed 40 loads of laundry a week and canned fruits and vegetables by the tons. She cared for 1,000 laying hens to earn extra cash.

“Self-reliance was her standard. Idleness she regarded as sin,” Elder Hallstrom said. “She cared for her own and reached out to others in a spirit of kindness.”

Her third husband suffered a stroke, and she cared for him for five years until he died. She finally passed away at the age of 67.

“The habits of industry and hard work which she instilled in her children rewarded their efforts through the years,” Elder Hallstrom said.

Hemingway’s children funded the Caroline Hemingway Building on the BYU campus in memory of their mother.

A personal subject

“No one can build us our spiritual foundation,” Elder Hallstrom said. “In this matter we are our own contractor.”

Elder Hallstrom shared a personal foundation-building experience that occurred more than 36 years ago in Honolulu when the Laie, Hawaii, temple was rededicated. Elder Hallstrom provided the local security and transportation arrangements for President Spencer W. Kimball.

His role was “simply supportive and behind the scenes,” but it provided proximity to the prophet. “I observed the president of the church close-up,” Elder Hallstrom said. “I saw his tireless effort to minister to the one … I was profoundly impressed.”

Elder Hallstrom had read President Kimball’s biography before but felt the desire to read it again after meeting President Kimball personally. The second time he read it, he felt he was reading about someone whom he loved, who loved him, and for whom he would do anything.

Elder Hallstrom felt ashamed as he realized he did not have that same love and respect for those who matter most — the members of the Godhead and, specifically, Christ.

“This motivated me to study His (Christ’s) biography,” Elder Hallstrom said, “and through prayer and fasting and pondering to know I was now reading about someone whom I deeply loved. I was now reading about someone who I know loved me. I was now reading about someone for whom I would do anything because I knew whatever he asked would be for my own best good.”

Elder Hallstrom said this knowledge has made all the difference in his life and in his family. Though it has not necessarily made life easier, it has given hope.

“There has never been a thought of giving up, quitting or retreating. I wish the same for you,” Elder Hallstrom said.

Having a firm foundation will lessen the weight of life’s heavy burdens, whatever the circumstances.

“Today can be a pivotal, even an historic day in our life. It can be the day we make the decision to take the disciplined efforts to build or to reinforce our foundation … it is worth any price. Indeed, it is the essence of our life’s work.”

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