Over the last five years, I have learned many lessons. The ones I’ve listed here certainly aren’t all the lessons I’ve learned, but they are among the most important. Let me share them with you.
1. Nothing encourages others to change more than our constant, unconditional love. When someone feels genuinely loved and supported, and accepts that love, nothing could motivate them more. Sometimes it takes time for them to feel loved, to let the light of love shine through, but once they do, miracles always happen.
2. No one gets an exemption from trials, not you, not me, not the prophets, not even our Savior. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing your best, keeping the commandments or living as close as you can to the Spirit: trials will come. There is no way around this. And it is through trials that the greatest learning takes place, and our capacity to love grows the most. Trials bring humility, and this opens the door to our eternal education. This is one of the grand purposes of life.
3. When you are carrying a burden and you bring it before the Lord during a visit with your bishop or stake president, you feel so much better and you can’t understand why you’ve waited so long to unload your cares! Here are the sweet words I have heard over and over in the bishop’s office: “I feel so much better!” We always feel so much better when we turn to the Lord in humility and faith. When we release ourselves from bondage by confessing before the Lord and His appointed servants, we look up and find the tree of life standing before us—the love of God (1 Nephi 11:25).
4. Forgiveness, both of self and others, is the path to peace. Letting go of grudges and past hurts brings us into harmony with God and others. Interestingly, forgiveness seems to be more of a blessing to the those who forgive than those who are forgiven! We are commanded to forgive all men, even if they are not repentant or have not asked for our forgiveness (D&C 64:8–10). A person who forgives all is truly free, and it is impossible to be completely happy if we hold back our forgiveness—from ourselves or from others.
5. Respect and trust are the foundation of love. The more we respect others, the more they will trust us, and the more they know that we respect and trust them, the greater will be their love for us. Lasting relationships can rest on no other foundation. A family relationship that could not be sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, that is not built up on mutual respect and trust—and the love that flows from these virtues—cannot endure.
Brothers and sisters, these are some of the most valuable lessons I have learned while serving as your bishop. I still have so much to learn, but these lessons have been a great blessing to me. I have learned them from you, by working with you, and they are among the most precious gifts I have received in this life. Thank you all for your examples of love, service, forgiveness and unselfishness. You have enriched my life forever. I will always be grateful to you and love you.