You can accomplish difficult things

Image courtesy Island Photography, Inc.
Dr. Mary Williams addressing nursing students at April 2017 convocation.

Unlike perhaps any other College at Brigham Young University, the College of Nursing was established at the request of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Think about this, prophets of God asked BYU to take up the torch held high by the early Relief Society Nursing Program and then LDS Hospital School of Nursing.

I have been at the College of Nursing for a long time now, and I know Heaven’s eye is ever focused on this College. I have watched miracles occur here. I have watched as exceptionally, well-qualified faculty, who understand our mission, have been drawn almost in a spiritual sense to this College in fulfillment of a promise given to former dean June Leifson by President Henry D. Eyring, at a time of faculty shortage.

He promised that if she were prayerful, faculty who were meant to be here would come and they have. Why? Because faculty are needed who are role models for students, who are the best in their field and bring the spirit into all they do. The Savior cares deeply about his children and knows you can be instruments in blessing their lives.

Each of us has been invited and commanded to follow the Master Healer to be his hands. No other profession on this earth more closely allows you to walk in the Master’s footsteps. To use your hands as he did.

You more than any profession are in similar situations and with similar people to that of the Savior—those who yearn for comfort, healing, and peace; the gifts he so freely gave; your pathway is one of discipleship.

You have been educated at a College where we teach, we learn and practice the Healer’s art. Not just any Healer but the Master Healer. Such an education requires that minds, and hearts, and hands be educated. Your minds have been expanded to think critically, and problem solve using the best evidence. Your hands have been trained to perform skills with precision, and your hearts have been tutored by the Master Healer to provide compassionate care.

In a devotional given by Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, former General Relief Society President, she talked about personal ministries, calling them sacred. She posed the question, “We often speak about the Savior’s Ministry, but have you ever wondered if you have a personal ministry?”

I testify you do. As you consider your personal ministry, make your profession part of it, your practice will take on new meaning, and you will practice differently.

Florence Nightingale viewed her practice as a sacred call when she said, “God has spoken to me and called me to His service.” You must be in tune with the Master Healer. Your ministry will be made sacred and holy as you invite the spirit each day into your practice.

Nurses are invited into life’s most intimate experiences that encompass birth and death and pain and suffering. These can be the most difficult and challenging times. Nurses are there, minute by minute making such a difference to the patient and their families.

It was not until a few years ago that I truly understood the influence of a nurse. I was diagnosed with cancer which necessitated surgery and the grueling experience of chemotherapy. I had taught about cancer and provided comfort to those who were experiencing cancer treatment. I thought I understood. But now I was experiencing overwhelming feelings of fear, uncertainty, discomfort, and the unknown. I was no longer the nurse but the frightened patient. In the quest for something to calm my troubled heart, I came to know the reassurance that only the Master Healer can bring.

I experienced every tender mercy at his hand, but it was often by those who quietly and vigilantly ministered to me. In the initial days, it was the nurse who was there during my restless nights to reassure me, to listen to me, to provide hope. As I experienced chemo, another nurse calmed me with her quiet presence. I came to know the power of a nurse to bring healing and comfort.

I want to remind you that you will make a difference because you can do difficult things. You have done them the last four years. You will be leaders in the healthcare system, community leaders, mothers, fathers, wives and husbands and builders of the Kingdom. Let faith and courage permeate your lives rather than fear and doubt.

I had an experience several years ago that taught me that you could do the impossible if only you believe—believe in yourself and believe in the source of all strength and power, the Savior of the world. My nephew was graduating from Southern Utah University. As part of the festivities, the family decided that they were going to go to a nearby canyon to repel. I am terrified of heights, and so planned to spend time in the beauties of nature, playing with the grandchildren, and observing others getting an endorphin rush by going over the edge of the cliff.

Suddenly the situation completely changed. I think it must have been a moment of hypoxia. With the persistent efforts of my family, they convinced me that I needed to participate in this experience. The more they encouraged me to do this the more frightened I became—and believe me my sympathetic nervous system was in full force.

Then a remarkable thing happened. My good friend who was with us said, “I will do this with you.” My nephew who was experienced in repelling also said, “And I will go between you and be your guide.”

I was soon harnessed but kept thinking this is the stupidest thing I had ever done. Gloves on hands, my friend equally harnessed, we stood with our backs to the edge of the cliff ready to go off into oblivion.

We said encouraging words to each other as we walked back over the cliff holding with all our might to the rope. My nephew encouraged us as we went down the mountain side, and reminded us to look heavenward. My life passed before me as I felt the tremendous pull on my arms, my legs, wondering if I had the strength to do this. Finally, I remember hitting the ground.

Talk about an endorphin rush. I screamed ‘We did it!’ and a freeing feeling of doing something I feared engulfed me. Indeed my life had been changed forever.

I learned many things that day. I learned you can do something you have never done before if you only have the courage to try. I learned others can help you have the courage to try. I learned it is important to keep your eyes focused heaven upward for that is the source of strength and comfort. I learned that faith, not fear and doubt are the sources of great power. I learned as the rope served as my security, the iron rod likewise—if held tightly and consistently will bring you to safety and the greatest of all gifts, the love of God.

My dear graduates, you are so needed. As this world darkens with evil and despair, you will be the balm in Gilead; you will bring healing in your wings, you will carry the light of Christ and the spirit of the Y throughout the world. You will lead with faith and integrity. You will invite the spirit into all you do. You will continue to gain knowledge and wisdom.

Follow the admonition of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, former president of Brigham Young University who said to a group of students in 1985, “Let the lamp of your education drive back the borders of darkness.” I see your lamps leaving this University… brightly lit and held high. And remember you are a graduate of Brigham Young University College of Nursing.

Dr. Mary Williams spoke at the April 2017 college convocation.

Watch a video spotlight on Mary Williams

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