The idea came to Elder Gerald N. Lund more than a year ago when he was teaching a Sunday School class in his Utah County Latter-day Saint ward.
“I began to notice more and more people were struggling because of the hard times we were in, economically, with depression and temptations,” said Elder Lund, an emeritus member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I was surprised to hear about people who had been active in the church their whole lives, who were suddenly wondering why God wasn’t there, why he wasn’t answering them. And in one or two cases, they actually left the church.”
As a result, the retired Church Educational System instructor decided to explore the often overlooked virtue of hope. He titled his lesson, “Maintaining Hope in Times of Despair.” The presentation was a home run and he was astounded by the response. Many remarked it was just what they needed to hear.
“So I decided to write about it,” said Elder Lund, a prolific author of many bestselling books.
“Look Up, My Soul: The Divine Promise of Hope” was published by Deseret Book and placed on retail bookshelves in March. It took three drafts to get it just right, but Elder Lund is happy with the final product.
“It was one of the most difficult to write, but it is one of the most fulfilling at the same time,” he said. “That’s generally how it works.”
The book has four sections. The first section, “The Importance of Hope,” is a doctrinal background of hope. The second and third sections are titled, “The Need for Alignment” and “The Value of Perspective.” These two sections are intended to help readers better comprehend how to increase hope in their lives. When a person life is in alignment with God’s will, then promises are more likely to be fulfilled, Elder Lund said, and with the value of perspective a person can better see God’s hand in tragedy and realize the resulting personal growth.
The final section, “Fulfillment,” focuses on how to redeem hope’s promised blessings.
Elder Lund included many stories from LDS Church history, his personal life and the lives of acquaintances to illustrate insights and principles. He pointed out two stories that really helped him define hope.
The first is a perfect metaphor for how hope can help people in today's challenging world. Two Christian missionaries in Africa were assigned to transport saw mill and well-drilling equipment a distance of about 250 miles. As the husband and wife began trucking the supplies, they realized a big problem. They had to cross many weakly constructed bridges over small swampy streams and large, crocodile-infested rivers. They shed as much weight as much as possible from the truck, but it wasn’t enough. Finally, a decision was made.
“The husband said, ‘I cannot lighten the load any more, therefore I have to strengthen the bridges.’ He carried poles on the truck and strengthened the bridge, then took it apart after they crossed,” Elder Lund said. “I love that metaphor — in these times we are in, politically, economically, socially, with terrorism, all the other things, I don’t think the Lord can say, ‘I’ll just lighten the load for you.’ But he does say, ‘I can help you strengthen the bridges,’ and hope is the major way he does that.”
Elder Lund included another story from a mother named Tammy Sandstrom. Her two daughters were involved in a car accident and one was killed.
“Lindsay’s death has been hard — the hardest thing I have known in my life. But for me, hope has become more than a want, a belief or an emotion. It has become an action, choice,” Sandstrom writes. “I have watched people choose hope, and I’ve watched people succumb to despair … I choose hope.”
“Tragedies are not something that are inherently unconquerable, but we can make choices on how we respond to them,” Elder Lund said. “That was a really important concept for me.”
Obtaining a greater understanding of hope and its role in the gospel as one of the three great Christian virtues — faith, hope and charity — was one significant benefit Elder Lund took away from this project. He hopes his readers come away with a similar message.
“The more I studied and talked to people, the more I understood why those three are together. Faith is the power that helps us to live the gospel. Hope gives the motivation to keep going no matter what life throws at us. And love, that’s the result,” Elder Lund said. “Trust in the promises God that has made, that no matter what is coming, if we are faithful, he will reward us. That is the whole concept of this book.”
"Look Up, My Soul" is available where Mormon products are sold.