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University president’s wife, Susan Tanner, shares life lessons of love and healing

Susan Tanner gives a devotional at BYU–Hawaii

The love of God surpasses all, shared Sister Susan W. Tanner on May 5 in her “last lecture,” a devotional address patterned after an assignment she and President John Tanner gave their students last semester.

“There is a supreme force and might in love that heals all ills–physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” said Tanner after recounting the panic and pain she felt recently while waiting for COVID-19 test results to come back. Tanner explained a priesthood blessing from her husband gave her comfort not only that she would be healed physically, but also filled her with love from her Heavenly Father.

During Winter Semester, the Tanners explained they taught a special Book of Mormon class about “last lectures” given by prophets of the Book of Mormon and assigned their students to write their own.

Tanner said these lectures included the “most important, urgent and compelling” messages the prophets wanted to share, usually to their sons who would follow in their stead. Tanner said she took the assignment upon herself, knowing she would be speaking in the beginning of Spring Semester.

Tanner said her message centered on charity, or the pure love of Christ, for its “unparalleled power to transform our lives.

“Have you noticed that love is always taught with superlative adjectives in the scriptures? This suggests to me that it is supreme or unsurpassed in its power, influence, energy, might, scope, sway, force and strength. It causes change, transformation, sustenance, healing, joy, and even salvation.”

Have you noticed that love is always taught with superlative adjectives in the scriptures? This suggests to me that it is supreme or unsurpassed in its power, influence, energy, might, scope, sway, force and strength. It causes change, transformation, sustenance, healing, joy, and even salvation.
Susan W. Tanner


Marsela Tokalolo, a sophomore from Vanuatu majoring in business management, said the lesson she learned from Sister Tanner’s address came from an insight President John S. Tanner shared with his wife about the prepositional phrase “the love of God.”

Tanner shared how her husband helped her understand how the “of” can also refer to: love “from” God, love “for” God, or love “like” God loves.

Tokalolo added, “When we experience God’s love, we will increase our obedience and love for him. Therefore, we will have the pure love of God in our hearts and we will desire that in our brothers and sisters’ lives.

“As we do so, we will be instruments in God’s hands to bless His children and express His love to them. Once again I’m reminded that the love of God for His children is priceless.”

In addition to her own personal experience of a priesthood blessing that reminded her of God’s love while she was ill in early March, Tanner also shared the story of Anthony Ray Hinton, an American man who was incarcerated and wrongly convicted of murder.

She explained how the wrongful imprisonment embittered his soul, but one night, upon hearing a nearby inmate pleading with God after finding out his mother had passed away, Hinton’s heart was softened.

“‘I was on death row not by my own choice,’” Tanner quoted Hinton, “‘but I had made the choice to spend the last three years thinking about killing. Despair was a choice. Hatred was a choice. Anger was a choice. I still had choices, and that knowledge rocked me … I could choose to give up or to hang on. Hope was a choice. Faith was a choice. And more than anything else, love was a choice. Compassion was a choice.’”

Jason Scott Earl, associate professor of Entrepreneurship at BYU–Hawaii, said he loved this story of a man being softened by the thought of a mother’s love.

“It made me think that in many ways we are all prisoners of our own making. It is up to us to rely on our Heavenly Father’s love and trust in His son. Only then can our hearts turn outward and we can find joy, peace and forgiveness through loving others.”

It is up to us to rely on our Heavenly Father’s love and trust in His son. Only then can our hearts turn outward and we can find joy, peace and forgiveness through loving others.
Jason Scott Earl


Tanner also shared the story of her grandson with special needs, who, despite diagnoses that said he would never be able to speak, sang “God of Miracles,” a song by Shawna Edwards, on Easter Sunday during her family’s video call.

“Nevertheless, he belted out these words,” Tanner said of her grandson, emotion filling her voice as she spoke. “Jesus is a God of miracles; nothing is at all impossible to Him. But I know this: Of all His miracles, the most incredible must be the miracle that rescues me, the miracle that rescues you and me!

“I witness to you that the power of charity or the love of God rescues each of us no matter what our special needs are.”

Earl said as he has served under the Tanners’ influence the past five years, he has recognized their own charitable ways. “President and Sister Tanner embody many noble ideals and values such as leadership, sacrifice and intelligence, but the one attribute that they convey more than anything else is love.

“Their tangible love for the students, faculty and staff on campus makes us love them all the more.”

In his introduction to her talk, President John S. Tanner spoke of her “cheerful and loving nature” and her many callings, including her role as a mother of five and grandmother of 22. He invited students to think about why the topic Sister Tanner chose is important to both her and to the Lord.

“I want you to know that she lives the principle that she will teach. I know this. I’ve lived with her for almost 46 years and she is as good as she seems … for she radiates the pure love of Christ.”