PROVO, Utah – What do the Savior, Joseph Smith, B.H. Roberts and Helen Keller all have in common?
The answer, according to John Bytheway: All four endured grueling trials before ending life on a victorious note.
Using his energetic and humorous style, Bytheway discussed the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and the inspiring true stories of people who turned trials into triumphs with an audience of more than 300 youths for an hour at the Smith Fieldhouse last week. The class was part of BYU's campus education week.
The title of his presentation was "Rough Start, Great Finish: How our Present Trials and Problems Can Prepare Us for the Future."
"Sometimes you have to go through the wilderness before you get to the Promised Land," the popular LDS author said.
There was a time in Bytheway's young weightlifting days when his peers referred to him as the "Man of Still." When he realized it wasn't the 'Man of Steel,' Bytheway asked why.
"We call you the 'Man of Still' because your muscles are still the same size as when you came in (the weight room)," Bytheway said with a smile. "You have heard the motto, 'No pain, no gain.' My motto is 'No pain, good.'"
The BYU religion instructor then contrasted his experience with those men like Brigham Henry (B.H.) Roberts, Helen Keller and the Lord, who all experienced challenges and extreme difficulties they later conquered.
Roberts' childhood was described as a nightmare. Left in the care of alcoholics when his mother left England for Utah, the uneducated Roberts eventually learned to read, write and became a valedictorian and missionary for the church. Eventually he authored 30 major volumes of church history and doctrine.
Keller became blind and deaf at 19 months. With the help of a devoted teacher, she earned a college degree, wrote her autobiography at age 21 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
With the youths taking notes, Bytheway quoted Keller: "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
Bytheway said there is power in being told something can't be done.
"Some day I am going to write a book called the 'Oh Yeah Factor.' I love when people say you can't do something. It fires you up," Bytheway said.
Challenges can be transformed into gifts and adversity is the key to developing a personality and becoming an interesting person, Bytheway said.
"If your life gets off to a rough start, just know this is helping you develop depth of personality and depth of character," Bytheway said. "Hang in there, the Lord isn't finished with you yet, and he finishes what he starts."
The greatest example of "rough start, strong finish" is the Lord Jesus Christ, Bytheway said. He invited the youths to ponder what might have happened if Jesus Christ had not completed the Atonement. He concluded his remarks with this quote by President Howard W. Hunter: "Please remember this one thing: If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right."
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