Carl Hernandez, associate teaching professor in the J. Reuben Clark Law School, spoke to BYU students about being devoted to discipleship at the University Devotional on March 17.
Hernandez began by describing his family’s conversion story, who labored as migrant farm workers in the California Central Valley vineyards and orchards.
“My life changed forever when two young missionaries first visited our Central Valley home during the winter prior to my 14th birthday,” he said. “It is one of the greatest miracles I’ve ever witnessed when my father allowed the missionaries into our home. Because of the work of these two missionaries, my father and mother and my younger brother David and I decided to become members of the Church.”
The audience laughed when Hernandez described how protective his father was of his family. “My mother recently reminded me of the time he called the police because he had spied someone drive by and put a bomb in our mailbox,” he said. “The police quickly responded to investigate only to discover a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Obviously, we were not used to the kindnesses expressed by members of the Church.”
He also provoked a laugh from the audience by recounting a story about his first Church youth dance. “I don’t remember what I expected to experience, but when I walked into that church building and saw all of those beautiful Mormon girls, I knew the Church was true,” he joked.
Hernandez gave an analogy of his family’s work in the vineyards and related it to the gospel. He explained the process of removing the dead wood and exposing the vine to the sun, which would in turn allow the vine to produce plentiful fruit for the harvest.
He compared people to the vine. The dead wood represents dispositions, attributes and cares of the world that prevent us from becoming disciples of Christ. He said the Lord is the one who would prune us to allow us to produce plentiful fruit.
“The light which gives light to the vine is the Spirit of the Lord,” Hernandez said. “By allowing this pruning process, we can more fully expose our lives to that life-giving light so we can produce plentiful fruit for the harvest.”
Hernandez explained that people can measure their devotion to the Savior through determining whether they express their adoration of him through their emulation of him. “Do we merely appreciate the Savior?” he asked. “Do we have a modest admiration of him, or does our personal worship lead to daily decisions to more fully emulate him?”
Hernandez said people can decide to more fully emulate the Savior by faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity.
“The first step on the pathway to devoted discipleship is to exercise faith in the Savior’s power to lift us to higher ground,” Hernandez said.
He recounted the story in the “New Testament” of the young, rich ruler who enthusiastically asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to obtain eternal life. Jesus detailed the requirements of the law of Moses to the young ruler, who replied that he had kept these commandments all his life.
The young ruler’s true devotion to Christ was tested when he asked Jesus, “What lack I yet?” When Christ told the young ruler to sell all of his things and follow him, the young ruler went away sorrowfully because he could not give increased devotion to Christ to follow a higher law.
“Can we imagine ourselves in a personal interview with the Savior in which he asks us to rise to the next level of devotion?” Hernandez asked. “Would we walk away sorrowful? Do we have faith in his ability to lift us to higher ground?”
Hernandez said what enters people’s eyes through technology and what they choose to view can affect them both physically and spiritually. What people choose to watch is a measure of their virtue. He explained that advances in technology and communication can be a blessing in hastening the work, or it can lead to perilous times. Hernandez warned of the dangers of “aimless surfing on the Internet.”
Hernandez said it is exciting to use technology to study scriptures as well as secular endeavors. He said this is done on the BYU campus and encouraged students to continue the practice.
“Consider the blessing you can be to the world if your communications and your search for knowledge are focused and with this purpose in mind,” Hernandez said. “The power of our learning environment is increased collectively as we individually allow ‘virtue (to) garnish (our) thoughts unceasingly.'”
Hernandez explained that striving for knowledge is necessary to seek out and expand spiritual gifts.
“If you are struggling to understand the direction you might take with your education or your career, I urge you to carefully study and understand the gifts of the Spirit,” he said. “I believe your educational and career choices can be enhanced by discovering and using your unique spiritual gifts.”
Hernandez gave another invitation to BYU students.
“I invite you to gain a knowledge of your unique natural gifts and talents and to diligently seek and acquire others. The integration of your spiritual gifts into the work you do in this life can both empower you and add joy in your service to others,” he said.
Hernandez said temperance is the ability to exercise self control over an impulse to think, act or speak out in a way that is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The audience was amused with an example of the importance of temperance given by Hernandez.
“You are late to class, and you are driving around what appears to be a full Y-lot looking for a parking stall,” Hernandez said. “Suddenly, one appears, and you patiently wait as the driver exits the stall, only to have someone else swerve in from the opposite direction to take the spot. How you react in this hypothetical situation can say a lot about whether you are a temperate person.”
He explained that actions and thoughts can be tempered by keeping an eternal focus.
Hernandez said that as a boy, he would go through the grueling process of harvesting olives. He said just as this process requires patience, the challenges of life also require patience.
“Like this process, the bitter challenges and chastenings of life, both large and small, require that we exercise patience, endure well and trust in the Lord’s ability to cleanse and purify us,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez recounted a story of his brother, who had served a prison sentence. The brother, David, was visited regularly in prison by his stake president, President Morrill. President Morrill, through his kindness, helped David turn his life around, get an education and become strong in the gospel.
President Morrill’s example of godliness has changed not only the life of David but the lives of all those who surround him.
“I believe that President Morrill has attained the attribute of godliness, which involves the capacity to see the divine potential in others and an unfailing dedication to helping them to achieve that potential,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez told a story that related to brotherly kindness, using a man named Brother Huntsman as his example.
He said that Brother Huntsman decided to visit President Howard W. Hunter and found him to be sick. President Hunter said he was feeling terrible pain in his body and asked Brother Huntsman to give him a blessing. Brother Huntsman then asked President Hunter what he thought was causing his illness. President Hunter told him that he had an unkind thought about another man, and it made him physically sick all day.
The audience laughed when Hernandez gave his opinion on this story.
“When I first heard that story, I thought, ‘There is no hope for me,'” he said. “However, whenever I am tempted to treat another unkindly, I try to remember President Hunter’s example of brotherly kindness.”
Hernandez told a story of when he and his brother had to return a bike back to a child who had lost it. Their grandfather encouraged them to do the right thing and return the bike.
“That day my grandfather taught me a higher law — the second great commandment — how to love your neighbor,” Hernandez said. “My grandfather demonstrated and exercised the gift of charity for another human being.”
Hernandez closed his talk with a story of farm workers who devoted their only day of vacation, Christmas day, to working in the vineyards and compared that to serving the Lord.
“They gave up their Christmas because of their love for the Savior, and I am inspired by their devotion to him,” he said.
Hernandez ended with his testimony of the importance of devoting one’s life to becoming a disciple of Christ.