Strive to Be an Instrument in the Lord's Hands
Melanie, Bethany, thank you [referring to a musical duet]. I’ve known Melanie for quite a while, so to me, she’s “Mel.”
I wish Sister Williams was here, because I was going to invite her to share a few thoughts. She’s glad she’s on the airplane and not here, because of that.
Little piece of trivia: how many of you noticed the stained-glass windows as you walked into this building? Have you ever looked at those before as you’ve come? If you haven’t, look at them on the way out. I don’t know exactly the time period, but about 20, 25, 27 years ago, all the windows were taken down and they were reset to go for the next 100 years of existence, I guess. The reason why I know that is my friend; Mark Walton in Campbell, California, was the one that reset all these stained-glass windows. And so every time I see them, it brings back the memories of Mark and the incredible things he has done all over the world with stained glass.
Marisol, thank you, for your thoughts [referring to the student speaker]. I’ve had some wonderful experiences with Marisol in class, and she’s a special woman, a great mother.
Ryan, thank you for playing the organ with the hymn, “Spirit of God.” It was fun to sing that, and I envision being in Kirtland, Ohio, in the Kirtland temple when this hymn was sung. I thought, what a great event that would have been, to be there.
I have a funny story to tell. How many of you have one of these? [Holds up a cell phone.] Just hold it up if you have one? Let’s see how many have got them here. Okay. While I was living in New York, serving in the stake presidency, we had a stake president, Brother Norm Snarr, who is one of my dear friends. It really irritated him when cell phones went off in sacrament meetings when we would be visiting. One Sabbath Day we were sitting on the stand and a phone went off, and I saw him just cringe and grit his teeth, and it rang, and it rang, and it rang. I finally leaned over to him and I said, “President?” He said, “Yeah.” I says, “It’s your phone.” He never forgot again.
The last thing, when you raised your notebooks to signal that you were anxious and ready to be taught by the Holy Ghost, a lot of pressure came on my shoulders. I have written and re-written this devotional address many times, and last night I threw it all out the window. And so here we go.
I remember being 20-something, I’m sure you don’t think that’s possible when you look at me, but I was 20-something. I mean, it was only 35-plus years ago. But I remember the feelings, I remember the desires of my heart, I remember my anxieties, and I thought about all the times Heavenly Father had blessed me in my life, and continues to this day to bless me. I want you to consider that, as you think about things that you hear, or more importantly, things that you feel today. And I pray that the Holy Ghost will influence each of us, that we each can be taught.
The main theme of today that came to me last night, finally, as I finally threw everything out the window, was being an instrument in the Lord’s hands. You find that terminology many times in the Book of Mormon, of being an “instrument.” The desire of people to be an instrument in God’s hands so that His work could be impressed upon the hearts and minds of people that they associated with. As I looked in faces that I knew and those that I don’t know, I had emotions hit me today, thinking, “I have been blessed beyond measure to be here at LDS Business College.” And I will never be the same, because of the experience of being here.
So, I’m going to share with you a series of what I call “one-sentence sermons.” That’s what came flooding into my mind, I couldn’t write fast enough last night at my desk, later in the evening.
The first thought that came to my mind was: Being a witness of Jesus Christ. The story is told, and I may not have the characters correct, but it took place in Jerusalem. And I think the individual was President Jeffrey R. Holland, who was the BYU president at the time. And he assured the people of that dear community, the Jewish people, that our students would not be missionaries and would not promote the Church. And if I’m not mistaken, it was the Mayor Teddy Kollek who said, “Yes, but what are you going to do about the light that shines in their eyes?” (Story told by James E. Faust, “The Light in Their Eyes,” general conference, October 2005.) The light shines in each of your eyes, wherever you go, throughout the world. We represent 40-60 countries in this college, and whether it’s here in the United States or it’s somewhere in the world, the light shines in you, and God will use you as an instrument. Now, the key ingredient is whether we’re a Nephi, or a Laman and Lemuel. Light had a hard time coming out of the eyes of Laman and Lemuel. But not Nephi. May you and I be like that.
Second sermon: Have courage to stand for truth and righteousness. I remember many years ago a young man coming home from a mission who had been a deacon’s quorum president when I was a young newlywed. And he was the president, I was the deacon’s quorum adviser. In fact, that was the…no, I was the Scoutmaster. That was the second time of being Scoutmaster. Try Wilson went on a mission, came home, and he taught about truth, and he used section 93 as his text. So I’m just giving you the section, you have a homework assignment to go and read section 93 [of the Doctrine & Covenants] to learn about truth. But I wish to share with you two examples. The first is found in the Old Testament. And it’s Joshua, and in chapter 1; now try to imagine. You’ve been following, as a child, Moses around for 40 years. And all the adults are no longer. And Moses and Caleb were the ones who were the adults who were allowed to go on with the children of Israel. Joshua, I think is a little intimidated. Wouldn’t you be intimidated? You’re the one that has to follow Moses. And so the Lord comes to him and tells him four times a statement. This is the statement I want you to remember, and in chapter 1 you can find it, in verses, I think its 6-18. This is the phrase: “Be strong, and of good courage,” (Joshua 1:6). This is the message that President Monson gave to us recently [referring to the general conference address of President Monson titled “Be Strong and of a Good Courage,” given in the April 2014 session]. Be courageous, to stand for truth, be an example of the covenants you have made, and will make. Sister Parkin said that when we make covenants, we should keep them shiny and bright. Our covenants protect us, so remember that.
Next sermon: Well, I have another example of this one, and I’ll be brief with this one. Sunday evening I got on the phone and called a friend of mine, Cindy Mindorris, who lives in Encinitas, California. In November, her husband passed away. He was one of my best friends in high school. He was not a member of the Church, but he and I met, we met working at Sav-On Drug Store in California. And he couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have to work Sundays and he had to work Sundays. And you got paid time-and-a-half if you worked Sundays. When I was interviewed for the job, I was told that I would have to work Sundays. And I said, “I’m sorry, I guess I won’t have the job, then. Because I won’t work on Sundays.” I was 17.
He said, “Why not?”
And I said, “Because I go to church.”
“What church do you belong to?”
I said, “I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m a priest. I need to be to church on Sunday, for a lot of reasons.”
He says, “Well, isn’t your sacrament meeting and priesthood meeting your most important meetings?”
I looked at him and said, “How would you know that?”
He said, “I’m not an active member of the Church, but I remember.” He said, “So what happens if we put you on the schedule?”
I smiled and said, “I won’t be here.” That was a little—ornery is not the right word, but I think you get what I mean.
Two weeks later my name’s on the schedule. I look at it, smile, leave Saturday night and I don’t come back until Monday. I come back Monday and the manager walks in and says, “You’re fired,”—not the person who interviewed me but the other one.
I said, “Fine.”
So, I’m on my way out the door, and the general manager of the store comes running down and says, “Where you going?”
I said, “He just fired me.”
He says, “He doesn’t have the authority to fire you.” He says, “Where were you yesterday?”
And I said, “You know where I was.”
But the reason why I’m telling you this story is not about me. Push all that aside, it’s about that young man, Randy Mindorris. He watched this, he started observing things, he started asking me if he could go and do things with me. The short of the long story is that I went to serve a mission in the Netherlands and Belgium in 1974. I’d come home from BYU; I went to my friends at Sav-On and announced my mission call. And he came and says, “Well I have news for you too.”
I said, “What’s that?”
He said, “I’m going to BYU.” He had to pick me up off the floor.
I said, “You know what’s going to happen?” I said—he was half Nicaraguan and half Mexican, a very handsome young man. I said, “You’re going to go to BYU, you’re going to meet this beautiful blonde girl who’s going to be the Relief Society president, and she’s going to take you to the baptismal font.”
He smiled and says, “Ain’t gonna happen.”
I get a letter November 1975. “Dear Tracy; on a certain day you sent a letter and told me I should read Alma 32. On the same day I received a letter from a certain young lady that has become dear to me. She said I should read Alma 32. I’ve read the Book of Mormon twice and I’m now in it for the third time. I want to know.”
He learned, he knows, and he joined the church. He married and sealed in the temple, raised three beautiful children, who in turn have served missions. In November, he passed away of cancer. And I was invited to speak at his funeral by his family. He was an amazing individual. He served a stake mission three times; the first time 17 individuals were baptized who went and served missions, and sent children on missions. Be strong and of good courage.
That leads to the next one, this will be more brief: The power of small and simple things. You’re familiar with the scripture in Alma 36, and I probably should have my glasses on for this. “Behold, I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise,” (Alma 37:36). Do simple little things consistently. When I was practicing financial things just down the street, a couple blocks down on the corner, I came across a quote. I was working on Exchange Place. And the quote goes like this: “Consistency beats brilliance.” (quote by Harrison Barnes, http://www.hb.org/consistency-and-commitment-beats-brilliance-and-talent/) I was so glad to find that because I am not brilliant. I learned that if I worked hard enough I could make up for the lack of what was missing up here. In high school my dad told me that if I got B’s in high school, that I could get a good student discount for insurance. So I got B’s. It wasn’t until I met my sweet wife that she says, “You’re better than a ‘B.’ ” So she helped me and taught me how to study, because I didn’t know how to study. And my grades improved, because somebody had confidence in me and taught me how to improve.
The next mini lesson: The power of 15. What that means is that the power of 15-minute blocks of time, you can accomplish a lot of great things. Now, when I was in college I told you I didn’t know how to study very well, and I was probably ADD and everything else that goes with that. If I lasted 10 minutes in was a miracle, reading a book, and then I was out on the basketball court shooting baskets. I was during one of those times that I got my shoulder separated playing against two players from BYU’s team. That was not a smart idea on my part. But I would study for 15 minutes or so, and then I would run down and shoot hoops for five minutes. Then I would come back in…that was how I got through college my freshman year. I found things to help me concentrate. If you and I can concentrate for 15 minutes on nothing else but that one thing, we can get a lot of things done. When you study your scriptures, you notice I didn’t say read, when you and I study scriptures with that kind of dedication, 15 minutes can produce some wonderful things in our lives. Use that formula for anything you do in your life.
This next one, I wish my wife was here. This is my wife, that I’m going to talk about now. Develop a kind and a willing heart. This sweet lady is trying to get ready to go on a trip, and we had a big dinner at our house last night. The night before, we have all our family over for dinner and she’s made cookies and wants to take them down the street to somebody, and I’m hanging on to her coat strings, trying to make it where she’s going. She’s been the best example in my life, save the Savior, of having a kind and a willing heart. It doesn’t take special talent, it doesn’t take a lot of things to be kind. Willing. Elder Maxwell said the one true thing that we can give, because the Lord and Heavenly Father have given us everything in our life, the one thing that we can give back is our will (paraphrased from “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” from October 1995 General Conference). That’s what the Savior did in His life, He did His Father’s will. May we do the will of the Father in the things that we are asked to do.
As you wander the halls, as you walk down the streets, as you’re in your workplaces, as you’re in school classes, I give you a challenge, and me a challenge: Look for people who need you. And then, help them. We learn an important lesson from First Nephi, that has meant a lot to me. It’s in chapter 1, verse 2, and Nephi is talking about himself, or he’s being described, he says, “I Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature and having great desires to know the mysteries of God, I did cry unto the Lord”; not “pray”—“cried.” “And behold, he did visit me and did soften my heart,” (1 Nephi 2:16). A soft heart will allow you and me to do the things that we’ve talked about today. If we truly want to be an instrument in God’s hands, we need a soft heart, a willing heart, a kind spirit.
Next sermon: Be a student of the scriptures daily. I’m going to tell you something about President Richards. You ask him if this isn’t true, he might put you off a little bit, but it’s true. Ask him what he’s doing at 5:00 in the morning. He’s being a student in the scriptures. That’s his time when he studies. He’s being a great example to me of that. And I have changed the time situation of when I study my scriptures to be closely associated with his time. In first Nephi, chapter 15, let me tell you why you and I should be a student of the scriptures daily. And I’m going to need these. I’m not twenty-something anymore. “I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction,” (1 Nephi 15:24). If you and I don’t want to be led away, if we don’t want Satan to have influence on us, than we should immerse ourselves in the scriptures daily, because there’s the promise.
But let’s give a second witness for you and me. In 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson said this: “There’s a power in the book,” he’s talking about the Book of Mormon, “which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book,” (“The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” October 1986 General Conference). We are never done in our studies of the scriptures, because where we are in our lives and what’s happening, the scriptures will answer things for us. That’s why you and I should be students of the scriptures.
Next sermon, two words: Daily prayer. Not saying prayers, but pouring our souls out to our Father in Heaven. Just like Nephi did when he cried unto the Lord. Just a short scripture reference to look at: Alma 34, verses 17-27 talks about all the places and times and situations where we can be prayerful. I charge you, and me, to be prayerful. Even Jesus retired and prayed for evenings, and different times, because He needed to communicate and commune with His father, and so do we. We need Father. Marisol in her thoughts said, “We are sons and daughters of God.” Don’t forget that. It doesn’t matter what the world says, it doesn’t matter what it puts on printed pages, it doesn’t matter what it puts out on media, that truth will never change. We are sons and daughters of God; it doesn’t matter what they say. We have to have courage. If we’re going to be an instrument, we may as well, and you and I better just plan on getting our hits, because they’re going to come. Especially when you and I are trying our hardest to be the best that we can be. Tends to come in floods when we’re trying to do that. I think I have just a few more minutes.
Here’s the next one: You can make a difference through the gift and power of pursuing, gaining, and using knowledge. This pursuit of knowledge never changes. You’re here gaining knowledge and some of you are gaining certifications and degrees. That’s not the end of yours and my knowledge. To be honest with you, I have learned so many things since graduating from college that I never gained in college. But I found that I need to be a student, and so my wife laughs at me, I read books in the weirdest places and times. And I take two minutes here, five minutes there, but as a result, I try to read 50-70 books per year, of all kinds of subjects. Just for those that, remember the power of 15? That’s part of it, that’s where I do it. But I charge you and me to do the same thing.
Now, at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, let’s see if I can get it here, the following words were said: verses I think seven and eight, “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently,” there’s an interesting word, “seek ye diligently, and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books,” at this time “best books”’ means scriptures. But there are other best books that, when you look in other places in the Doctrine & Covenants, it talks about gaining knowledge in all kinds of subjects. That’s what you and I should continue to do. “Seek learning even by study and also by faith. Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God,” (Doctrine & Covenants 109: 7-8). This body, whatever it looks like, houses a spirit that is beyond measure, and this is a house, too. Paul calls it a temple, so we fill this temple with all the good things we possibly can, so we can be the instrument God needs at a time and a place, and you and I may not know when that will be, where it will happen. But if we continue to do these things we will be ready, if we seek it.
The next one: The blessing and power of temple worship. We are so blessed to have a temple here. We have dozen temples in this state, some being prepared and getting close to being finished. Make it part of your daily experience of looking to the temple, and at least as often as possible blessing the lives of yourself and those you perform ordinance work for.
Now real quick, the last couple: Live a life of virtue. You know what that means. It’s not just sexual purity, though that’s critical. It’s many things. In section 121, I love this promise, “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish they thoughts unceasingly.” Why? “Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God,” that’s why. “And the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon they soul as the dews from heaven” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:45). There are reasons the Lord asks us to do things. It’s not because He’s trying to control us; it’s because He’s trying to bless us but also because He’s trying to bless other people through us.
Be steadfast and immovable. That’s the next one. Let me just give you a reference, you can look this up on your own. Alma 53: 18, 20 and 21, sons of Helaman, the 2,000 stripling warriors.
Now, to close. Three thoughts: President Thomas S. Monson has a success formula that has been my success formula for the last 25 years (from “Formula for Success,” First Presidency message in the March 1996 Ensign). It’s very simple, you can memorize it. I’ve shared this with many people in class already. Four steps, eight words: ready?
Step one: Think big. Don’t think small. Small people, little people, think little. And I don’t mean size little. Think big.
Number two: Prepare well.
Number three: Work hard.
And finally, number four: Live right.
Elder Neal Maxwell said this, “The Lord loves each of us too much to merely let us go on being what we now are, for he knows what we have the possibility to become,” (“In Him All Things Hold Together,” BYU Devotional address, March 31, 1991). That’s why you and I have to do all these little things I’ve shared with you today. And hopefully the Holy Ghost has let you know which ones were important for you to hear today. I know which ones they were for me.
And a closing thought: “There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul,” Ella Wheeler Wilcox. My friends, I charge you to become what God intends you to become. And be the instrument that He can use. You have so many years ahead of you in your life that you can bless people. He will ask you, and He will invite you and me to do so. I witness that Heavenly Father lives. His son is Jesus Christ, our Savior. We have the gift of the Holy Ghost to lead us. We have temples to learn more about our relationship with our Father in Heaven and to serve. You have the opportunity to learn and gain knowledge wherever you wish. May you seek it always and be diligent. And may you ask Heavenly Father to help you be the instrument that He wants you to be, I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.