Today it's a beautiful day outside, but for some, there is a cloud of darkness blocking the sun. I don’t need to tell you that we live in troubled times.  Economic woes, immorality, violence, and evil stalk our families.  Many quietly carry heavy burdens.

Too many today are losing hope.  We are surrounded by discouragement and despair.  Yet, we are told over and over in the scriptures that we should “be of good cheer” we are commanded to have hope.

Hope is peace, happiness, harmony, joy, and peace of mind.  It is a belief that things will get better, that good will prevail.  It is a principle of action.  And, it is a quiet confidence that the gospel “plan of happiness” will end in…happiness.

“Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness.  Hope is a gift of the Spirit… Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us.  It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future.  It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered.  It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.”  (President Uchtdorf, The Ultimate Power of Hope, Ensign Nov 2008)

The ultimate source of hope Jesus Christ.  He is our hope.

Moroni taught, “And again my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope… And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in hijm according to the promise.” (Moroni 7:40)

What does hope feel like?

People of King Benjamin were taught and believe in the atonement of Christ: “[they] all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the anoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins… And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience.” (Mosiah 4:2-3)

I had an experience on my mission which illustrates this.  In one particular city, I had a wonderful companion, fun, outgoing, a strong testimony, and enthusiastic about the work.  One week, however, I noticed my companion becoming very quiet and a little depressed, which was not like him. 

One day, when it was time to start working, he said he needed to go in our room to pray privately for a minute.  After about a half hour, he came out with tears in his eyes and said he had to repent of something and needed to see the Mission President right away.  We called the mission home and got permission to travel 100 km by train to the mission home.  As we sat on the train, my companion sat quietly, depressed, fearful, worried, a dark cloud hanging over him. I thought, this is Satan taking control of my friend.

When we got to the mission home, our mission president was waiting and warmly welcomed us.  He took my companion in to his office and closed the door. 

About a half hour later, a different person walked out of the office.  It was my companion, only now, he was bright, energetic, happy, and enthusiastic.  What made the change?  What was the difference between tha man who walked in to that office and the one who came out?  The difference was hope.  Hope through the power of the atonement. 

My son, Clyde turns 11 at the end of March and 2 weeks ago, he and I were invited to join our scout troop for an overnight winter activity.  We packed our gear and sleeping bags and headed up Millcreek Canyon.  Part way up the canyon, the road is closed to cars, but well used by hikers and cross country skiers.  The snow was packed down on the road by hikers and cross country skiers about 2 feet deep.  We put our equipment in sleds, and hiked three miles, pulling our sleds behind us, to a rustic cabin where we were to spend the night.  I was amazed at how much snow there was.  The river was running pretty high and surrounded by ice.  What a beautiful hike it was.

As soon as the sun went down, it became very cold.  Fortunately, there was a wood burning stove in the small cabin where we stayed where we could build a fire and keep warm.  Outside the temperatures reached single digits.  We were warned to keep our bring our sleds inside or they would crack when we tried to sit in them in the morning.

The next morning, we packed our equipment back onto the sleds, hopped on top and slid back down the snow-packed road.  Since it was so cold, the snow was hard and we slid very fast!  I stayed pretty close to my son.  My biggest concern was that he might lose control of his sled and hit a tree or a skier, or slide off into the icy river which bordered the road. 

All went well for most of the way down.  But, at one particularly fast spot, I came around a bend to see my son fly off the edge of the road toward the river.  I stopped my sled and ran over to him. 

There was my 10-year-old son, hanging from a tree root with one hand, and holding on to his sled with the other.  At the bottom of the steep slope was the river, larger and deeper than normal because of a beaver dam.  Dark water was swirling under a thin layer of ice.  I saw all of this in a fraction of an instant and instinctively knew that if my son let go, he would break the ice and perhaps be trapped in the icy river.

I yelled, “HANG ON, Clyde.  I’m coming to help you.”  I quickly climbed down and grabbed his hand.  The instant I did so, he let go of the root and grabbed my hand, putting his complete trust in me, which made me a little nervous. I started pulling him up.  I could tell he was scared.  He said, “Dad, should I let go of the sled?” 

I said, “NO, just HOLD ON! I will pull you up.” 

With my help, he was able to scramble up the side.  We got his sled up and rested at the top.  Back on the right road, we slid the rest of the way down safely. 

I thought to myself, isn’t this just like our lives.  Going down the road of life we too are surrounded by dangers and pitfalls.  Sometimes we court danger by getting too close to the edge.  Other times, like my son, even when we are trying our best to stay in the middle of the road, we can get into difficulty. When this happens, like my son, we grab on to anything that we can and we call out for help.  

Today, I want to speak to you about the infinite power of hopel

God hears our cries and replies, in effect, “HOLD ON, I’m coming to help.”  His hand is always outstretched to help us. 

“Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.” (Alma 5:33) 

When I reached out my hand to help my son, he immediately let go of the root and grabbed my hand.  Likewise, we need to let go of whatever we are holding on to, and put our trust in God who, through the miracle of the atonement, is able to save us. 

The Lord said, through the prophet Alma:

“And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Alma 36:3)

I have learned that God doesn’t always immediately pull us out of difficulty.  Sometimes He just gives us the strength to hang on.  How many of you can relate to what I am taking about. 

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “the Lord wants a people tried in all things . . . He tells us, I will try the faith and the patience of my people.  Since faith in the timing of the Lord may be tried, let us learn to say not only, ‘Thy will be done,” but patiently also, “Thy timing be done.”  (Plow in Hope Liahona July 2001)

Sometimes we just need to put our trust in the Lord and Hold On.
 
There may be times when, emotionally, we are hanging on the edge of a cliff like my son: times when we get discouraged or tired and begin to lose hope.  We call out to Him: “should I give up, should I let go of the sled?”  The undeniable answer from our loving father is, “NO, just HOLD ON! I will pull you up.”

President Uchtdorf gave these comforting words in our last general conference: “To all who suffer—to all who feel discouraged, worried, or lonely—I say with love and deep concern for you, never give in.  Never surrender.  Never allow despair to overcome your spirit.  Embrace and rely upon the Hope of Israel, for the love of the Son of God pierces all darkness, softens all sorrow, and gladdens every heart.”

Hope is not just a feeling, sometimes it has to be a decision.  President Uchtdorf said: “There may be times when we must make a courageous decision to hope even when everything around us contradicts this hope.  Like Father Abraham, we will “against hope [believe] in hope.”

There may even be people out there who feel as though you have already fallen into the water.  You may feel that because of mistakes you have made, or addictions that have power over you, that you are trapped under the ice, unable to breath or even call for help. 

I promise you that the power of the atonement is unlimited.  Have hope, don’t give up.  Through Christ, you can get back on the right road.