My dear friends. It is such an honor to be invited to speak to you. This is such a critical stage of your young lives. You are filling your minds and your hearts with the eternal truths…preparing you to launch fully on your life’s mission here in mortality.
The Church is working very hard to not only help individuals and families in time of need, but to help everyone learn to become “Self-Reliant.”
Are you familiar with the Self Reliance initiative that’s being rolled out around the world now? I’m going to show a one-minute video that gives an introduction to the Church’s self-reliance initiative.
Now I know that every single one of you understands the principle of self-reliance became you’re here! And you are here to further yourself and your understanding and your education and your opportunities.
Did you notice the phrase that said: “Self-Reliance is not self-taught-- it is learned.”
The relatively new Self-Reliance program initiated by the Church in just the last few years is now in more than 130 countries, in more than 25 languages. It involves free 12-week courses in improving education, job opportunities and even financial management.
Most importantly, the participants learn principles that strengthen their confidence and their willingness to apply these principles.
The ultimate goal is to gain the capacity to care for one’s self and family…and to be happy and fulfilled.
The process may be the first step toward freedom of soul and continued learning and growing.
However, it is not just about you-- “self-interest” or “self-ish.” It is to learn correct principles and then learn to apply these principles in fulfilling your responsibilities to yourself and your family. You learn that there is power in true principles.
In fact, what you are learning together is true “spiritual self-reliance.”
This title is also a bit of a misnomer, in reality it isn’t standing on your own feet and creating your own happiness – it means doing all we can and then letting the grace of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost lift us beyond our own capacity. It means doing all we can for our own spiritual growth and learning, realizing that we cannot succeed without the sustaining help of spiritual power and gifts from on high. You know the scripture – you’ve quoted it any times:
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children…to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”
Heavenly Father knew that we would need help. He built it into his plan for us.
“The Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world, and the spirit enlighteneth every man that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.”
There are two levels of specific help in our personal journey of life. We decide how much help we can receive. Did you how it works? First, the Light of Christ is given to all of us--but, we have to learn to hear and recognize and hearken to its promptings. As we act to give heed, by making and keeping eternal covenants, we can receive a much greater blessing—in fact, as WW said, the greatest blessing available to man on earth—the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
If you have the Holy Ghost with you—and every one ought to have—I can say unto you that there is no greater gift, there is no greater blessing…. Every man who receives that Spirit has a comforter within—a leader to dictate and guide him. This Spirit reveals, day by day, to every man who has faith, those things which are for his benefit.… It is this inspiration of God to his children in every age of the world that is one of the necessary gifts to sustain man and enable him to walk by faith, and to go forth and obey all the dictations and commandments and revelations which God has given to [him]
Alma taught his son Helaman about this spiritual guidance when he compared it to the Liahona that led Lehi and his family in the wilderness. It was a daily miracle. It directed them and taught them. It was intended to help them every day to solve whatever problem they faced that day. Then, one day, they “forgot to exercise their faith and diligence,” and the daily miracle of the Liahona stopped working. They were on their own. They almost died from starvation. I’ve often wondered about that day—what happened that they just didn’t listen and do? Did they have sore feet? Were they extra tired? Hungry? Perhaps there was anger and arguing. Whatever it was, they couldn’t succeed thereafter on their own.
Did you know that in our day, the Lord taught us a simple pattern to follow each day, in order to escape the power and temptations of the adversary?
It’s in section 52 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
14 And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—
15 Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.
20 And the days have come; according to men’s faith it shall be done unto them.
Pray, be humble (be teachable and listen), be good.
As you learn to follow this pattern, you will realize that your growth and success and even your happiness comes from within. Happiness is not really related to the external circumstances of our lives. Happiness is “affixed” to your choice to obey God’s laws. That’s the very word that Lehi used. You decide to obey, and in so doing you reap the beautiful consequences of being blessed and happy. In fact, happiness is probably the definition of Spiritual Self-Reliance.
Have you ever wondered how you can measure your own faith? Since faith is a principle of action and not just belief, you can actually quantify your own faith by measuring your own choices and actions. Every action brings with it an immediate and a long-term consequence.
President George Albert Smith taught:
There are two influences ever present in the world. One is constructive and elevating and comes from our Heavenly Father; the other is destructive and debasing and comes from Lucifer. We have our agency and make our own choice in life subject to these unseen powers. There is a division line well defined that separates the Lord’s territory from Lucifer’s. If you choose to stay on the Lord’s side of the line, you will be under his influence and will not no desire to do wrong; but if you cross to the devil’s side of the line one inch, you are in the tempter’s power, and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly, because you will have lost the Spirit of the Lord.”
Of course, you can tell the difference. You know what the Spirit feels like—and the emptiness of its absence.
May I use a very specific, powerful example.
The Savior taught: “The light of the body is the eye; therefore, when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light….”
The eye is the opening to the soul. You determine what enters through your eye into your mind and your heart. You can instantly tell when you cross over that line into his territory and you let the darkness into your heart by what you allow in through your eyes. You know what I am talking about. That darkness is pervasive, all around you. Never before in history has it pressed itself upon you so blatantly.
The question for you is—how will you respond to the moment of temptation? Perhaps you can learn a lesson from the Nephites. Do you remember what they did when their city was threatened by a much larger invading force of enemy soldiers? They “did not stop making preparations…to defend” themselves.
First, they dug “heaps of earth round about…”
Second, they placed “works of timbers built up to the height of a man…”
Third, “on those works of timbers [they built a] frame of pickets, … and they were strong and high.”
And finally, they built “towers…that overlooked those works of pickets.” Each tower had a “place of security to be built upon the towers that the stones and the arrows could not hurt them.”
Then, with those impregnable fortifications and preparations, any threat could only enter through the single opening—the front gate which was heavily fortified. Do you see the parallel? Do you see that your eyes are the ‘front gate’ through which evil has to gain entrance to your mind? Build up your defenses to prevent the enemy gaining even a toehold on your soul. Do not even glance at the enemy’s allurements. Never open your door and let him in with his powerful forces.
Now, I want to teach a companion principle. If the enemy does get in, there is only one way to get him out. Shutting the door is a good first step, but you still need to deal with the enemy within. President Russell M. Nelson focused on this principle in his Priesthood session talk in General Conference.
“Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent. Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day.”
Let me teach you another metaphor. For many years I was a trauma surgeon. When I was on call I was literally dressed in scrubs, in the hospital and immediately available when a “Trauma One” was called overhead. I had many experiences with life and death moments. I learned first-hand what Jacob was talking about in his great discourse to his brethren when they began to stray from their covenants. As he closed his powerful address he used a rather simple, yet-powerful metaphor. “And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.”
Jacob was teaching them that every time they ‘let the enemy inside’ it was like literally piercing their heart with a deep wound. It was piercing their spirit with sin. Sometimes it is a small needle prick, and other times it is a full-bladed knife.
I am going to give you a short anatomy lesson to help you understand this metaphor. The heart is a magnificent muscle that beats continuously 70+ times every minute of every hour and every day. You know that. It is truly a miraculous physiologic pump. It never wearies. It never stops except for a quick rest between beats--unless some external force is exerted upon it. Surrounding the heart is a smooth, glistening sac called the Pericardial Sac. It is in place to keep the heart protected from the surrounding organs. There is no resistance or restriction for the heart to beat more than 40 million times every year.
However, if any fluid or blood clots get into the sac outside the heart, it restricts the expansion and filling of the heart and it can’t beat effectively. It compresses the heart and ultimately causes the heart to stop beating and “die.” This is called “cardiac tamponade.”
One day, I was on trauma call at the hospital and I got a call that the ambulance was coming lights and sirens, bringing a stab wound victim whose vital signs were diminishing. I met him in the ambulance bay of the Emergency Department and quickly assessed the situation. He had a single stab wound over his heart. But, he was dead. Or, at least, he had no signs of life. He had no pulse, no blood pressure, and was not breathing on his own. He was completely unresponsive. He was clinically dead.
And yet, I knew that there was still a chance to save him. I rushed him right into the trauma operating room and while the staff were placing large bore intravenous lines and placing a breathing mask to ventilate him, I put on some sterile gloves and splashed some antiseptic fluid on the surface of his chest. I made a long incision between the 4th and 5th ribs on the left side of his chest—right over the stab wound which had penetrated into his left ventricle. I found exactly what I expected and hoped to find—he had a tense pericardial sac filled with blood and clots from the stab wound in his heart. Every time that his heart tried to beat, it pushed more blood into the sac, but there was no place for it to escape and it quickly compressed the heart so that it could not fill and it could not beat. It was stopped. He had a pericardial tamponade. With a pair of sterile scissors, I carefully opened the pericardial sac and evacuated the blood and clots and. His heart immediately started to fill and to beat. Of course, I put my finger in the hole in his heart. While the staff continued to resuscitate him and we prepared to take him up to the operating room, in a couple of minutes he opened his eyes, looked at me and said: “take good care of me Doc.” Yes, he was alive and awake.
We draped a sterile sheet over his chest and with my finger still in his beating heart, we moved the gurney through the halls and elevator of the hospital from the Emergency room to the operating room where we could formally repair the wound in his heart and close his chest. Of course, this time we gave him an anesthetic and used a formal scrub and a sterile environment. He recovered and left the hospital a week later.
Do you see the application of the metaphor? “Many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.” Do you understand its personal application to you? Each time you sin, you pierce your own heart. Even if it is a small wound, blood metaphorically leaks out and begins to fill that spiritual pericardial sac. With time or with increasing frequency of wounds, the hearts may in fact, be compressed to a non-functional hard ball of muscle. “Many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.”
I happened to be in a position to make a difference for this man. But, there is not a surgeon following you around with his scalpel ready to open your pericardial sac to save your life. You are thankful for that! Gratefully, however, there is a great healer, a dear friend, a consummate care-giver who is always there. Our Savior Jesus Christ heals all wounds. He cures all wounded hearts—if, the deeply repentant sinner invites him to.
Don’t wait until your heart “dies.” Turn to him today. Do you remember that formula that He gave us that we mentioned earlier? Pray, repent, be humble, and be good. That’s all it takes. Make and keep your covenants. Your heart and spirit will heal. You will be happy ‘always’ and have the Spirit to be your companion and guide and friend.
You want to be happy. You want to do good. You want to have hope and light and love fill your heart. I remember another trauma patient. She was a 16-year old girl, joy-riding with her friends on the hood of a moving car. Stupid? Of course. But, so are we when we knowing open that front door to the adversary. She received a severe concussion as she fell onto the road on her head. She was only barely responsive. She kept repeating over and over, “I want my daddy. I want my daddy.” I thought then and I think now that deep within each of us is that same desire. I do want my daddy—the Father of my spirit, my gracious, kind, loving Heavenly Father. I want to live with him forever. I want to fulfill His marvelous personal plan for me here in mortality. And so do you.
Spiritual self-reliance does not mean you have to do it alone—but, it does mean that you must be in charge and initiate this process. While you have to make your own choices through your own agency—you can’t possibly ultimately succeed on your own. Heavenly Father knew that when he devised his plan. He will bless us daily through the Holy Ghost, as we qualify ourselves daily.
As you learn to build upon true principles of God’s laws in your own life, you have a great desire to enter into a shared relationship with an eternal companion. Let’s call this a “partnership reliance”--
- You two together, trusting in God’s laws and in each other;
- Counseling together over your weighty decisions; feeling together the power of the unified inspiration that comes to both of you through the Spirit.
This relationship is God-like. It is learning exaltation.
Spiritual Self and Partnership Reliance is not complicated, but it takes understanding and effort to achieve.
In the third to the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, Moroni recounts the final teachings of his father Mormon. He teaches us a simple, yet exquisite formula for daily happiness. It is almost like a daily cycle which can be repeated over and over again.
“The first fruits of repentance is baptism [now, most of us have already done that step by making covenants with Him—and we renew that covenant each time we partake of the sacrament]…and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments brings remission of sins; [the rich blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to heal our hearts, to overcome the enemy within, and to fill us with light…a blessing which we could never obtain for ourselves]
“…and the remission of sins bringeth meekness and lowliness of heart [we realize that we are totally dependent on His help and guidance and blessing. We can’t do it alone. This, to me, is the true definition of humility—we yield our obedience and complete dependence to Him, with our hearts overflowing with gratitude…] and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.”
The Father’s Plan for our happiness and success in this life is not hard. Pray, repent, be humble, be good. Don’t look outside of yourself for mortal influences to direct your daily lives. Don’t let your happiness be dependent upon the “likes” of others, or the circumstances that seem to buffet you. You are a precious son or daughter of a Father who loves you eternally and completely. He and His Beloved Son have prepared your personal path with all of the helps and safeguards along the way—and they apply them liberally according to your agency and choices. Return to them daily. Look up. Pray, repent, be humble, and be good.
This process is called ‘spiritual-self-reliance.’ It is real for you. You can succeed. You can be happy. You can fulfill that personal, wonderful, exalting plan that you and Heavenly Father agreed upon in your premortal decision to come to earth. Enjoy the journey – by following His simple, divine formula. Pray, repent, be humble, be good.
This is His plan for your happiness.
I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Kent F. Richards was sustained as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 4, 2009. He served as a counselor in the Chile Area Presidency from 2011 to 2012 and also served as a counselor in the Europe Area Presidency. He served as an Assistant Executive Director in the Temple Department from 2013 to 2014, and on August 1, 2014, he became the Executive Director of the Temple Department. As Executive Director, he worked closely with the First Presidency in the oversight and administration of the Church’s temples throughout the world. He became an Emeritus General Authority on October 1, 2016. He currently serves as the Director of Church Hosting for the First Presidency.
Elder Richards graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of Utah in 1969. In 1972 he received his medical degree, also from the University of Utah. He worked as a surgeon for IHC Bryner Clinic from 1977 to 2009 and served as senior vice president for four years at Intermountain Health Care. Elder Richards has also served as a clinical professor of surgery at the University of Utah, chairman of the department of surgery at LDS Hospital, and member of the board and executive committee on the IHC board of trustees.
Elder Richards has served in a number of Church callings, including full-time missionary in the Southeast Mexican Mission, elders quorum president, bishop, Scoutmaster, high councilor, stake president, and president of the Texas San Antonio Mission (1998–2001).
Kent Farnsworth Richards was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 25, 1946. He married Marsha Gurr in August 1968. They are the parents of eight children.