McKay Christensen encourages students to lay hold to the word

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McKay Christensen delivers the devotional address on Tuesday, May 9. (Danielle Jardine)

Managing Director of BYU Alumni and External Relations McKay Christensen encouraged students to lay hold to the word and center their attention wholeheartedly during the devotional on May 9.

Christensen shared a story of his close encounter with death when he was run over by a harvester at the age of 14.

Christensen said he believed he was going to die until he received a priesthood blessing. In the blessing, he was promised that not only would he live, but that he would walk again.

“I started to lay hold on what he was saying,” Christensen said. “I started to believe.”

He compared this experience to students who may feel like they can’t endure the pain of trials anymore. He assured the students, though, that words have power and can lift and save all who hold upon them.

Christensen said the word can come in many forms such as the scriptures, priesthood blessings, testimonies of others, church lessons and class discussions at BYU. However, he said the most important word is Jesus Christ.

To “lay hold” to the word is to take the words to heart and allow them to change you, according to Christensen.

Christensen then shared a story of how his professor advised him of two things. One, study the scriptures before studying anything else. Two, don’t go home until all homework is done.

For the next two years, he earned straight A’s and avoided distraction. Those were the only two years that he got straight A’s. 

Christensen said there are examples of people in the scriptures who “laid hold on the word.” He described Enos and the words of his father sinking deep into his heart and Joseph Smith receiving power from the passage of scripture.

Like Enos and Joseph, people connect deeply with the word and that leads to personal change and spiritual growth, according to Christensen.

“Of all the blessings we receive, do you not think that the majority come by way of the word?” Christensen said. “God can change circumstances. He can soften hearts. He can even heal sickness. But in my life, most of the blessings that I have received have come by way of the word.”

Christensen said he imagines Heavenly Father waits for everyone to lay hold to the word.

“Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t,” Christensen said. “Perhaps this is why Moroni beckons us to ‘come unto Christ and lay hold upon every good gift…’ Perhaps this is why Alma says the word of God is ‘liberal unto all.’”

Heavenly Father is not holding out on giving blessings, according to Christensen. He said fear, doubt and sin are what keep people from laying hold to the word and added that people are distracted.

“I believe that one of the most significant obstacles to our laying hold upon the word is our inability to fully immerse ourselves in the word,” Christensen said.

Christensen called this ability to fully focus, “centering.”

He said during the lectures he taught, wholehearted students were enriched and got much more out of his class than those who were half-hearted and indifferent, even though they all attended the same lectures.

Students who complete tasks with all their “might, mind and strength” and without distractions would get more out of their day, lay hold on more truth and learn more if they did, according to Christensen.

“When we are distracted, we lose power. We lose willpower when we’re distracted. When we focus wholeheartedly, we move in the right direction — and I believe in a more inspired direction because it is in the depth of things that you are inspired,” Christensen said.

Christensen shared a story of how his mother found the courage to tell her father that she loved him after being challenged to do so by a Sunday School teacher. Christensen said at the time, his mother’s father did not share those words with her and was an inactive member of the church but shared the words back with her and was an active member by the time Christensen knew him.

Christensen said his mother laid hold upon the words of her Sunday School teacher and that opened the door for other significant blessings.

“Laying hold upon the word is quick and powerful,” Christensen said. “When you lay hold upon the word, it can guide you it can give you a new view of things. It can quicken your understanding. It is able to change you. It is able to protect you.”

Christensen closed by challenging students to look for ways to lay hold upon the word. Whether by the word, Jesus Christ or by the words of others, if people will listen with their whole hearts, they will be blessed, according to Christensen.

“You will rise to become exactly what God wants you to be and by so doing you will come to know yourself, your purpose and your Savior,” Christensen said.

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