Advice from a Trout
Thank you for letting me be with you this morning. About 15 years ago, both President Kusch and I arrived at BYU-Idaho. We had different assignments, but we went for the same reason. The Spirit directed us there. We lived in the same ward and were called to serve in the Young Men organization together. We became friends and quickly realized that we both had a love for fly fishing. Since that time, we have had many different work and service opportunities that have taken us in different but similar paths. Yet we have been able to find time to go fishing together, and I can tell you that even though he isn’t the greatest fly fisherman, he is a remarkable friend and someone the Lord can rely on to do His will. It is always good to be in his company, and I enjoy being with him on the river. In fact, I believe he owes me a fishing trip after today.
Because of my love for fishing, one of my sons gave me a little sign that hangs in my office. It is titled: “Advice from a Trout.” You are probably wondering, what can we learn from a trout? According to the sign in my office, there are seven things.
- Show your true colors
- Be a good catch
- Don’t be lured by shiny objects
- Scale back
- Cherish clean water
- Know when to keep your mouth shut
- Don’t give up without a fight
Let’s look at each one of these a little more carefully.
1. Show your true colors
An experienced fly fisherman can generally tell what kind of trout—rainbow, brown, or cutthroat—they have on their line, simply because of how the trout behaves when hooked. Additionally, when the water is clear and the light is just right, you can see the trout as they rise to the surface or move to another spot in the river. Because of the light, you can see a flash of beautiful color, even under the water, and know what kind of trout it is.
To show our true colors is to reveal who we are and what we really believe, think, or want. It means we act in accordance with our real personality, temperament, or disposition.
Do we know who we are? Do we know what we believe? Do we act accordingly?
The Apostle Paul said, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."
As explained in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World:"
All human beings-male and female-are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.
Knowing who we are makes us spiritually strong, sound, and steadfast. We become confident with faith and determination to make right decisions. We have courage to stand up for what we know to be right. Additionally, we are full of love for our brothers and sisters, and we serve and help others so that they, too, can have the happiness and hope we have in Christ.
I like how Sister Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, taught this. I quote:
"Each of us needs to be better at articulating the reasons for our faith. How do you feel about Jesus Christ? Why do you stay in the Church? Why do you believe the Book of Mormon is scripture? Where do you get your peace? Why does it matter that the prophet has something to say in 2017? How do you know he is a real prophet? Use your voice and your power to articulate what you know and feel-on social media, in quiet conversations with your friends, when you're chatting with your grandchildren. Tell them why you believe, what it feels like, if you ever doubted, how you got through it, and what Jesus Christ means to you."
As the Apostle Peter said, "Be not afraid … ; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you."
Do we show our true colors so that others can have an increased measure of faith, hope, and happiness because they know us; and because they know us, they know Christ?
2. Be a good catch
President Kusch and I love to fish sections of the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho with our mutual friend Pat Bennett. We love Pat. He was our neighbor and our bishop. One of the reasons we enjoy being on the river with Pat is because he was a fishing guide in the area for many years. He knows the river. We especially enjoy listening to his stories along the way. He remembers every good catch. He remembers how the fish was caught, its size, and its type. He remembers the person he was with and how it felt when they caught the fish, and he even remembers the weather.
Thirty-one years ago, I made the best catch of my life. I had just returned home from my mission when I ran into this amazing young lady at the Ogden LDS Institute. We started talking, and we haven't stopped.
May I share an experience with you that taught me just how good of a catch my wife, Kerri, was and is? Many years ago, when we lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we took the opportunity to go to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to get away for a couple of days. Eureka Springs is a quaint little touristy place just over the border from Tulsa. It has many craft shops and a dinner train. It's a fun little place. As we walked through the various shops, I would see something that I thought Kerri would like. Her response was always, "I could make that." This is something I bring up whenever we are out and looking at things. I will hear her say things like, "Wouldn't that be nice" or "Isn't that lovely," and I'll respond by saying, "You could make that."
What I have learned about Kerri is that when she decides she can do something, she does it. I have watched her decide that she should learn how to play the organ so we could have an organist in our ward in Arizona. I have watched her decide that she could make wedding cakes. So she has, and she does. I have watched her decorate our home with many beautiful things, like what we saw in Eureka Springs and other places we have been over the years-but she made them. I have watched her decide that she was going to get up early and run. Not only does she run, she runs fast. Now she runs two or three half marathons a year.
I have seen her concerned for our children and the way she teaches them the simple and beautiful truths they need to understand. She is a master teacher of the gospel.
I have watched her love for the temple grow and blossom. I love her testimony. A few years ago we were in Hawaii and had the opportunity to be with Elder Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife as they toured the mission with my parents who were serving as mission president. At one meeting, Elder Wirthlin had each of us share our testimonies. At the end of the meeting, he approached me and told me to hold on to this good lady because she would take me far. He was right!
I see her more beautiful, more amazing, and more divine each day. It isn't all the things she can do that make her this way. It is who she is and what she is becoming. She was then, and is even more so now, a very good catch!
In the pamphlet "For the Strength of Youth," it states:
"As you enter your adult years, make dating and marriage a high priority. Seek a companion who is worthy to go to the temple to be sealed to you for time and all eternity. Marrying in the temple and creating an eternal family are essential in God's plan of happiness."
To find a good catch, you need to be a good catch. No one is perfect or complete. It is only when we can be sealed together and work together-serving, loving, and striving to become one in all things-that we find out just how amazing of a catch we have in each other.
3. Don't be lured by shiny objects
In fly fishing the lure imitates the bugs and other aquatic life in the river. On a day when there is a hatch occurring and there are many bugs on the water, adding something shiny or bright like a little silver tinsel to the fly seems to help attract the fish.
I quote Elder Ballard from his October 2010 General Conference talk, "O That Cunning Plan of the Evil One."
"The goal of the fly fisherman is to catch trout through skillful deception. The adept fisherman studies trout behavior, weather, the water current, and the types of insects trout eat and when those insects hatch. He will often craft by hand the lures he uses. He knows these artificial insects embedded with tiny hooks need to be a perfect deception because the trout will identify even the slightest flaw and reject the fly.
"The use of artificial lures to fool and catch a fish is an example of the way Lucifer often tempts, deceives, and tries to ensnare us.
"Like the fly fisherman who knows that trout are driven by hunger, Lucifer knows our "hunger," or weaknesses, and tempts us with counterfeit lures which, if taken, can cause us to be yanked from the stream of life into his unmerciful influence. And unlike a fly fisherman who catches and releases the fish unharmed back into the water, Lucifer will not voluntarily let go. His goal is to make his victims as miserable as he is."
Lehi said, "And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind."
President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught that:
"As the forces around us increase in intensity, whatever spiritual strength was once sufficient will not be enough. And whatever growth in spiritual strength we once thought was possible, greater growth will be made available to us. Both the need for spiritual strength and the opportunity to acquire it will increase at rates which we underestimate at our peril."
Don't be lured by something that is not real, that is only shiny or fleeting. Seek everlasting life and the true happiness that come through obedience to God's commandments and honoring sacred covenants.
As Christ taught: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal; But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal."
4. Scale back
It may seem counterintuitive, but many times the smaller the fly, the bigger the fish.
In life there is beauty and clarity that come from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our desire for complex or intricate answers to life's challenges.
Alma taught his son Helaman: "That by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise."
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared the following insights:
"This is a simple but critical lesson to learn…but it's surprising how easy it is to ignore this lesson when it comes to applying these principles in our own daily lives. When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be.
"Let's be honest; it's rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia-even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives."
We need to be able to, "be still and know that [He is] God."
Scale back. Don't forget the simple, powerful things in your life that truly make a difference. Pray, read your scriptures, attend Sacrament meeting, live to your covenants. Keep the most important things in their right place, and never let less important things take their place.
5. Cherish clean water
Trout need just a few basic things to survive: cold, clean water; food to eat; places to hide from predators; and clean gravel to lay their eggs in. All the land around a river that drains into a river is called the river's watershed. Trout are affected by what happens to their whole watershed. Damage to the watershed can cause devastation to clean water and a trout's habitat.
In the pamphlet "For the Strength of Youth," it states the following: "Make a personal commitment to be sexually pure. By your words and actions, encourage others to do the same.
"When you are sexually pure, you prepare yourself to make and keep sacred covenants in the temple. You prepare yourself to build a strong marriage and to bring children into the world as part of an eternal and loving family. You protect yourself from the spiritual and emotional damage that come from sharing sexual intimacy outside of marriage. You also protect yourself from harmful diseases. Remaining sexually pure helps you to be confident and truly happy and improves your ability to make good decisions now and in the future.
"The Lord's standard regarding sexual purity is clear and unchanging. Do not have any sexual relations before marriage, and be completely faithful to your spouse after marriage. Do not allow the media, your peers, or others to persuade you that sexual intimacy before marriage is acceptable. It is not. In God's sight, sexual sins are extremely serious. They defile the sacred power God has given us to create life."
In the last conference talk he gave before he passed away, Elder Robert D. Hales taught:
"Virtue is more than sexual purity. It is cleanliness and holiness in mind and body. Virtue is also power. As we faithfully live the gospel, we will have power to be virtuous in every thought, feeling, and action. Our minds become more receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ. We embody Christ not only in what we say and do but also in who we are.
"…As we live virtuous lives, we come to know our Heavenly Father and His Son in a special way. "If any man will do [the Father's] will, he shall know of the doctrine." This knowledge is personal testimony, born from personal experience. It is knowledge that transforms us so that our "light cleaveth unto [His] light" and our "virtue loveth [His] virtue." By our virtuous living, we make the journey from "I believe" to the glorious destination of "I know.""
Cherishing purity and virtue is the way to keep our "personal watershed" healthy and allow for real growth and happiness in this life and in the life to come.
6. Know when to keep your mouth shut
If a trout doesn't open his mouth, he won't get caught. There are days on the river when it just doesn't matter what you do. The fish just don't seem to be biting. That's why it's called "fishing" and not "catching." Likewise, if you ask a true fisherman who is showing you a picture of a large trout where he caught that fish, he will most likely say, "In the mouth." He isn't going to reveal where on the river he caught it.
In the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Jacob teaches us to: "Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works."
Our attitude should be one of submissiveness to all of God's commandments. We need not indulge in self-sophisticated reasoning to justify our compliance with God's counsel. Our motivation should be based upon a desire to serve.
The late President Joseph F. Smith said: If the President of the Church "… or somebody else gives counsel to some of our brethren, if it does not suit them exactly, they will begin to whine about it, and shed great crocodile tears, perhaps. I have heard of men shedding tears because they had received counsel from their brethren! And what is more, the men that shed tears and mourn over having received a little counsel, are the kind that do not carry it out; or, if they do, they tell why they did it-making somebody else responsible for their acts."
He goes on to say:
"I believe that God wants his children to be happy and has charted the course through prophets for its attainment. I believe that true happiness will only come in this life by following his counsel. As someone has said, "Doing the will of God leaves no time for disputing about his plan."
On that same trip to Hawaii, that I previously mentioned, we had just arrived on the big island when Elder Wirthlin needed to call his brother; but his phone card didn't work. I gave him my card so he could make the call. Upon his return from making the call, he gave me my card back along with a $10 bill. I said, "Elder Wirthlin, I don't need the $10. I just wanted to help." He was insistent that I take the money. I continued to tell him I didn't need it. This discussion was going back and forth when my father grabbed my arm and whispered in my ear, "Son, take it. When an Apostle of the Lord tells you to do something, you do it." I have never forgotten that wise counsel.
We need to learn to keep our mouths shut and follow the counsel of the Lord's appointed, even in the little things.
7. Don't give up without a fight
A fish who continues to struggle and put up a good fight may eventually release itself from the hook in its mouth. President Kusch and I have had more fish on the hook than we have netted. We have always kept track of who has caught the most and the biggest fish, and we would count all the fish that we hooked and then lost. We still tell stories about the ones that got away.
The Apostle Paul taught that, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
He goes on to warns us to, "Take unto [us] the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand … having [our] loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; [Have our] feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; [Take] the shield of faith, wherewith [we will] be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. [T]ake the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: [Pray] always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and [watch] … with all perseverance."
Satan wants to set his hooks into us. He will tempt us, entice us, discourage us; and, quite frankly, he just wants to destroy us. Always remember to go forth fully protected in the Lord's armour. As we go forward in faith, we do not go into this battle alone. In 2 Kings, chapter 6, verses 15-17, we learn from the experience of the young servant of the prophet, Elisha, who when he awoke and saw the armies of Syria had surrounded the village where he and the prophet Elisha were located ran to his master and cried, "How shall we do?" And Elisha replied, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." And then Elisha prayed (and I join in that same prayer for you and for me), "Lord, I pray thee, open [our] eyes, that [we] may see. And the Lord opened [our eyes and we] saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about."
We can do this. Don't give up without a fight. We are not alone in this battle. The enabling power of the Savior's Atonement is real, and we can win this fight. Have courage to do what is right. Have faith in Him who is mighty to save, even Jesus Christ.
So, there you have it. "Advice from a Trout."
- Show your true colors
- Be a good catch
- Don't be lured by shiny objects
- Scale back
- Cherish clean water
- Know when to keep your mouth shut
- Don't give up without a fight
It is my hope that we can apply the "Advice from a Trout" and "Follow [him who can] make [us] fishers of men," even Jesus Christ. And with that in mind, I think of Simon Peter of old and say to you: "I go a fishing."
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Brother Charles N. Andersen works for the Church as the managing director for headquarters facilities department.
Prior to this role, he spent 14 years at BYU-Idaho, the last seven years as university resources vice president.
Brother Andersen has worked at Minnesota State University, Mankato as acting vice president for finance and administration and assistant vice president of facilities management, and at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona as facilities management director. He started his career with Amoco Corporation in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Brother Andersen holds a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University.
Brother Andersen has served the Church in many capacities including as a full-time missionary in the Honduras Tegucigalpa Mission, nursery teacher, Sunday school teacher, stake missionary, high councilor, scoutmaster, stake young men’s president, bishopric counselor, bishop and stake president. He currently serves as the 11-year old assistant scoutmaster and gospel doctrine teacher.
Brother Andersen and his wife, Kerri, are the parents of six children, five boys, and one girl. They have four grandchildren.