Winter 2017

Our Ultimate Potential; Our Divine Potential

08 Mar. 2017


Our Ultimate Potential; Our Divine Potential 

[Video plays of children and adults singing “I Am a Child of God.”][1]

Isn’t technology wonderful?

Who am I? These three simple words can be the most empowering, intriguing, and inspiring words we will ever know. Although, at times in our lives they can be the most discouraging, heartbreaking, and hopeless words to truly not understand. Brothers and sisters, what a privilege and blessing it is that we are invited to leave our classwork behind and come to devotional in this beautiful and sacred Assembly Hall each week to be edified by the Spirit. As we share our remaining time together on this beautiful summer morning, I invite you to really ponder to yourselves who you are.

As we saw in the video, regardless of your age, background, hometown, profession, or phase in your life, we have all asked at one time or another and received the same answer to this question: Who am I?

As I was preparing for what I might share with you today about our divine potential, I was continually drawn to the thoughts of Elder Robert C. Oaks of the Seventy and Sister Elaine S. Dalton, a past Young Women general president. I pray that the Spirit will continue to guide my thoughts so that I may be able to build upon their wisdom and counsel, and to share everything that the Spirit desires you to learn and what is in my heart today.

Elder Robert C. Oaks began,

You know you are a child of God, a son or a daughter of a loving Father who has structured a glorious plan for the salvation and happiness of each of His children.

[We] understand that we were in the presence of our Father in Heaven in premortal councils, where His plan was presented to all of His children.[2]

And each and every one of us sitting here today gladly accepted His plan.

Everything we know about Christ suggests that He understood exactly who He was and exactly what He was expected to do in His life.[3]

We have been taught that we are sons and daughters of great faith. We brought our faith with us when we came to this earth. Alma teaches us that in premortal realms, we exhibited exceeding faith and good works.[4] We fought with our faith and testimony to defend the plan that was presented by God. We knew the plan was good, and we knew that the Savior would do what He said He would do because we personally knew Him, we trusted Him. We loved Him. We stood beside Him and were very eager for our opportunity to come to earth. We knew what was going to be required of us and that it was going to be difficult. And yet, we were confident, not only that we could accomplish our mission, but that we could make a difference. We have been reminded by many throughout the years that we are choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fullness of time to take part in the laying of foundations of this great latter-day work,[5] including the building of temples and the performance of ordinances therein. We are here to do exactly what we have been reserved and prepared to do.

One of the great blessings of understanding our true eternal identity as a child of God is knowing that we have the DNA of the divine in each of us. We are each His son or daughter, with the promised potential to become like Him.

Today, in this crazy world, we receive many warnings about identity theft. And if you are like me, you have come up with some pretty creative passwords to avoid people hacking into your account only to forget what that creative password was the very next day. Needless to say, with all of these warnings and protective firewalls put in place to protect us, some of us have become victims and experienced the problems resulting from this fraud. Identity theft can be costly and cause a great deal of frustration. But we know with some lengthy phone calls, some completed paperwork to proper credit card agencies, banks, and other government institutions, our physical identity can be restored.

But the theft of our eternal identity is so much more damaging, and the long term effects can be tragic. Satan has found the cruelest form of identity theft and is delighted—he is absolutely delighted—when we forget our divine potential.

When I was in Young Women many, many, many years ago, I remember a story that was told by Ardeth Kapp, and it has stuck with me. Its message is as enticing and delicious today as it was back then. It is entitled “The Tragedy at Rayad.”

Once upon a time there was a little kingdom called Rayad. The tiny people who inhabited that kingdom were known as the Rayadites. They lived happily, sharing and caring about each other. Life was good to them. There were only a few things that they needed to watch out for; for instance, eating chocolate cake or wearing the color red. If any Rayadite ever ate chocolate cake or wore red, his spirit would become weakened, and he would care less and less about himself and the rules of the kingdom.

Also living in this kingdom was Zynock, an evil person who wanted to destroy the kingdom and all of the people in it. He hated for them to be happy and loving, for that made it harder for him to influence them. [Zynock knew exactly] what weakened their spirits and made them easier to capture. But Zynock also knew he could not just offer a Rayadite chocolate cake and have them devour it. . . . Nor could he make the most wonderful garment in bright red and expect them to wear it immediately, for he knew no Rayadite was that foolish. The Rayadites wanted to be good and strong. They had promised each other that they would help, love, and strengthen one another in times of need. So how could Zynock weaken his people? How could he get them to succumb to him so that he could destroy them and thus the whole kingdom?

“Let’s see,” he said. “I can’t get them to eat chocolate cake right off, but maybe I can get them to develop a taste for chocolate.”

 That’s when chocolate chip cookies were introduced to the kingdom of Rayad. At first the cookies were ignored and scoffed at. Then some wonderful commercials and billboards showed handsome, wonderful-looking Rayadites eating chocolate chip cookies, and nothing happened to them except they became more popular and sophisticated—at least that’s what the message conveyed on the screens and billboards.

It wasn’t long before a few Rayadites could be seen eating a chocolate chip cookie every now and then, and they seemed to be doing fine. They were still loving and caring, and hadn’t changed [all that much]—so it seemed. So more and more Rayadites began eating the cookies. What they didn’t realize was that the portion of chocolate chips in each cookie had been doubled. They were getting a double dose of chocolate, disguised in the cookie. [In the kingdom] you would hear phrases like these: “That cookie is really good except for a couple of places where it tastes pretty chocolatey. But don’t miss the cookie just for those two places. It’s too good a cookie, and you can overlook the taste.” [Or,] “I heard that one of our friends has eaten a chocolate chip cookie, and she says there is nothing to be afraid of. It won’t ruin your life if you eat it.”

That was true. Lives didn’t seem to be ruined by chocolate chip cookies. Things were pretty much the same as usual. However, some of the teachers and leaders and parents in Rayad suggested avoiding eating the cookies because the taste for chocolate was being developed.

“Avoid the cookies!” came the cries of surprise. “What for? What is wrong with them? They’re not chocolate cake. How stuffy [and uptight] can you get?”

Some who [were obedient to the counsel and] refused to eat the cookies were laughed [and even scoffed at]. Zynock himself began chuckling. He had no idea his plan would work so well. And Zynock was patient. He didn’t care how long it took to destroy Rayad, just so it was destroyed.

Chocolate chip cookies seemed to be moving pretty well. Zynock didn’t worry about the . . . counsel from the leaders, because his commercials and billboards were so [much more] exciting and enticing.

[Soon it began] to introduce a new product of destruction. [Now you might think it was chocolate cake, but not quite yet, for] Zynock began introducing spice cake, white cake, yellow cake, carrot cake, any kind of cake but chocolate—but all with [rich, delicious, decadent] chocolate frosting. More and more commercials and billboards soon could be found around the kingdom, and even a few songs about how wonderful chocolate cake tasted could be heard playing on the radio. Zynock knew he needed them to be subconsciously thinking how delicious a bite of chocolate cake would be. Now in the kingdom of Rayad, you could hear:

“Have you tried that yellow cake with chocolate frosting?”

“Well, no. Is it good?”

“Oh, yes! Granted, it is chocolatey, but it’s not chocolate cake. And it . . . doesn’t have much more chocolate than those cookies we’ve been eating!”

“But [eating] cake doesn’t seem right. I mean, cookies are one thing, but [now] cake?”

“Ah, come on! The [most] important thing is the chocolate, and this is no more than you’ve already been eating. Everybody’s eating it. You can’t pass it up and be the only one left out.”

In the meantime, [more] songs were [constantly playing] the praises of chocolate cake. [Now granted,] the words weren’t that good, but the beat and the rhythm were so cool that many Rayadites listened just for the music. After all, what can music [really] do?”

Zynock began thinking . . . “One thing that strengthens those Rayadites is when they [get] together talking to each other [and trying to encourage one another to be better]. What can I do about that?” Then he reasoned, “[Aha! I’ve got it. I will] use their gatherings and parties for my purposes. . . .

[From that moment on the] parties in Rayad began changing. Instead of the Rayadites talking to each other and playing games . . .  a new trend began. Everyone who was anyone [was hosting] the new kinds of parties.

“Have you been to a party over at our . . . friend’s place yet?”

“[Well] no, I haven’t.”

“You should go. [They are so much fun!]”

“Oh? What do you do?”

“Well, it isn’t like any other party you’ve been to. It’s pretty cool. All you do is go and sit down and watch [some] stuff on the screen.”

“Stuff on a screen? Like what?”

“Oh, exciting, scary stuff that’s pretty good. There are a few scenes showing people eating chocolate cake, but [the rest of the movie is so entertaining, you don’t want to miss the movie because of some of those chocolate cake scenes].”

“People eating chocolate cake? But . . .”

“Oh, it’s not [that] bad, and besides, there’s nothing [out there] anymore without a little bit of [chocolate in it]. It’s just fun to get together with . . . friends.”

So Zynock stood back and watched his plot unfold. “Let’s see . . . They’re eating chocolate and they’re eating cake. They’re listening to songs and watching movies about chocolate cake. They’re becoming weaker and weaker, although they’re not even aware of it yet because they haven’t actually eaten it—yet! They are falling [right] into my trap! They think their leaders and parents are [so out of touch. I love when] friends tell them what I want them to hear. Friends are my greatest asset!”

[Across the street, two friends could be heard talking:]

“Hey! . . . Have you seen the latest movie?”

“No,” comes the response. “I thought it was C-rated, for chocolate.”

“No, it isn’t. It’s R-rated for Red. There’s [not even any] chocolate in it.”

And so Zynock continues his plotting—this time [designing] a gorgeous garment . . . not in [the color] red. . . . It’s a luscious pink color.[6]

As you can see, Zynock—or Satan—is quite brilliant in the ways in which he works. First, he prompts “doubts in our minds about our divine potential. He even cultivates doctrine in the world implying that we are much less than we really are. He undermines our faith . . . and . . . confidence” to convince us that we are “so bad that even the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is not sufficient to reach down . . . and draw us up unto our Savior.” [7] Satan has mastered the art of identity theft. Nothing delights him more when he can make us forget who we really are—beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Parents, each with divine nature and destiny.

Is it any wonder that “Satan has increased the intensity of his attacks on [our] identity and virtue. If [we] can be dismayed, discouraged, distracted, delayed, or disqualified from being worthy to receive the guidance of the Holy Ghost or to enter [into those beautiful doors of the temple behind us], he wins.”[8]

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we cannot be shy or timid about who we are. Sister Dalton reminded each and every one of us that we are elect. She said, “You are [sons and] daughters of God. You cannot be a generation . . .  who [is] content to fit in. You must have the courage to stand out, to ‘arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.’”[9]

Alma asked a powerful question for each of us to consider. “Have ye received his image in your countenances?”[10] If you were able to hold up a mirror and look into eternity, would it be easier for you to remember who you are? Would you see yourself as our Heavenly Parents see you in your reflection? Are you living your life today in a way that allows you to return to Him someday, just as the chorus of “I Am a Child of God”[11] promises?

We must remember that each of us has inherited the royal birthright. Each of us was born to be a king or a queen. Isn’t it beautiful to know that our testimonies draw us closer to the Savior? By understanding His infinite Atonement, it makes it possible for us to repent, to change, to be pure, and to receive His image in our countenance. Our Savior Jesus Christ is the perfect example of one who understood His divine heritage.

The scriptures tell us that in His youth, He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”[12] The more His understanding grew, the better prepared He was to fulfill His roles as the Savior of the world.

It is such an inspiring sight to look out and see all of you here at LDS Business College increasing your wisdom and pursuing your earthly education. I know there are some nights, both as students and faculty, we are so exhausted we cannot read one more chapter, write one more ponder, or figure out one more tweak in BrightSpace. But we must not settle for less than what the Lord wants and needs us to be.

The time is now. The work is hastening faster than ever before, and we must learn and grow as much as possible when the opportunities arise.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has said . . . “You are . . . the finest [and strongest] generation of young people ever in the history of this Church. . . . You have been prepared and reserved to be on the earth at this time when the challenges and opportunities are the greatest. . . . The Lord is counting on you to be a leader for righteousness and to stand as a witness. . . .  Indeed, it can be said . . . that [we] “are the ‘bright, shining hope’ of the future.[13]

Sister Dalton reminded us: “That light is the Savior’s light. It is the light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. By the way you live the gospel, you reflect His light. Your example will have a powerful effect for good on the earth.” Again, she said, “‘Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations’ is a call to each of [us]. It is a call to move to higher ground. It is a call to leadership—to lead out in decency, purity, modesty, and holiness. It is a call to share this light with others.”[14]

Brothers and sisters, as we sit here today, do you realize the magnitude in which you were meant to shine? You were born to manifest the glory of God that is within you. It is not just in some of us, but it is in each and every one of us.

In one of my favorite books, entitled The Peter Potential, the following questions are posed:

Do you think anyone told Peter that he was destined for remarkable things? That he was extraordinary? That there was a spark of greatness in him?

The Lord did. The Lord told Peter who he was. He showed him the possibilities of who he could become. Without the Lord, Peter was just a simple fisherman; with the Lord, his potential was immeasurable.[15]

The same is true for you. There is a spark of greatness that is just waiting to be ignited. Your possibilities span the universe. You have within you the potential to become someone remarkable. Have you dedicated yourself to discover the life you were meant and the potential that our Heavenly Parents have instilled within you?

One of my favorite invitations from this book is: “If the Lord can do great things with a single loaf, imagine what He can do with a single life.”

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “You are choice spirits, many of you having been held . . . in reserve for almost 6,000 years to come forth in this day, at this time, when the temptations, responsibilities, and opportunities are the very greatest.”[16] He encouraged us to live up to our divine potential. He continued: “Remember who you [really] are and the divine heritage that is yours—you are literally the royal [sons and] daughters of our Father in Heaven.”[17] And prophetically he has declared: “You have been born at this time for a sacred and glorious purpose. It is not by chance that you have been reserved to come to earth in this last dispensation of the fulness of times. Your birth at this particular time was foreordained in the eternities. You are to be royal [sons and] daughters of the Lord in the last days. You are . . . ‘of a noble birthright.’”[18]

In closing, I would like to share with you one of my favorite examples of knowing our divine potential from this beloved Disney film, The Lion King.[19] We are all familiar with the story about the young lion cub, Simba, who because of the death of his father, Mufasa, decides to run away and not take his rightful place as the king of Pride Rock. Many years later, Simba is approached by the wise Rafiki, in which he promises to take Simba to the edge of the river to see his father.

Simba quietly looks over the edge and sees his reflection in the pool of water. At first, he’s a bit startled, perhaps by his own mature appearance. But then he realizes what he is looking at. With a disappointed sigh, Simba says, “That’s not my father. That’s just my reflection.”

“No. Look harder,” Rafiki replies as he motions over the pool. Ripples form, distorting Simba’s reflection, which then turn into Mufasa’s face. “You see, he lives in you.”

Simba is amazed. The winds pick up and in the air a huge image of Mufasa is forming from the clouds. Mufasa calls out, “Simba. You have forgotten me.”

Simba replies, “No, Father. How could I?”

Mufasa tells his son, “You have forgotten who you are, and in so, have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.”

Simba, confused, asks his father, “How can I go back? I’m not who I used to be.”

Mufasa tells him, “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king.”

As the image of Mufasa starts to fade, he says to Simba one last time, “Remember who you are.”

Brothers and sisters, it is my testimony that we will always remember who we are, that we will never forget that we are sons and daughters of the one true King. I testify that I know the Savior lives. I testify that because of His Atonement, when we struggle, we are given the strength and the courage to stand up and return on our journey back to our Heavenly Father. I know the words in the Book of Mormon to be true, that they can provide us with guidance and direction when we are need in this crazy, crazy world.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are led by a loving prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, who receives modern-day revelation because the young boy, Joseph, knelt in a grove of trees and asked, “Why?” I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for the blessing of eternal families, which sealed me to my sweetheart—not only for this life, but for eternity—and the sacred privilege of being a mom to my two beautiful daughters, Sophia and Chloe, who teach me every day what being a child of God truly means. And I leave these things with you in the name of the Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] “I Am a Child of God,” Mormon Channel,

[2] Robert C. Oaks, “’Understand Who You Are,’” BYU Speeches, Mar. 21, 2006.

[3] Oaks, “Understanding.”

[4] See Alma 13:3.

[5] For example, see D&C 138:53; Ezra Taft Benson, “A Message to the Rising Generation,” Oct. 1977 General Conference.

[6] Ardeth Greene Kapp, “The Tragedy at Rayad,” I Walk by Faith, Deseret Book Co: (1987).

[7] Oaks, “Understanding.”

[8] Elaine S. Dalton, “Remember Who You Are!” Apr. 2010 General Conference.

[9] Dalton, “Remember.”

[10] Alma 5:14.

[11] “I Am a Child of God,” Children’s Songbook, p. 2.

[12] Luke 2:52.

[13] Elaine S. Dalton, “It Shows in Your Face,” Apr. 2006 General Conference.

[14] Dalton, “It Shows.”

[15] Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler, The Peter Potential: Discover the Life You Were Meant to Live, Deseret Book Company: US, (2014).

[16] Benson, “A Message.”

[17] Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Young Women of the Church,” Oct. 1986 General Conference.

[18] Benson, “To the Young Women.”

[19] The Lion King, Walk Disney Pictures, (1995).

Keep True to the Faith

08 Mar. 2017


Keep True to the Faith

Brothers and sisters, it’s a treat for me to be here with you today. I appreciate the choir. I was thinking as they were singing, it reminded me of a great-great-grandfather who built this building in which we are meeting—Henry Grow. He also designed the roof of the Tabernacle. So I feel at home—welcome to our family’s home, right? This is our house. It’s good to be here.

As I listened to that organ, it made me think of a privilege I have. I play the organ for our sacred meetings that we have in the temple with the First Presidency and the Twelve and the other general authorities on the first Thursday of every month. And that’s a sacred privilege. I appreciate the music very much.

President Richards, thank you for inviting me, or encouraging the First Presidency and the Twelve to send somebody—they assigned me, so thank you. Brother Cush, Sister Cush—I met them in Mexico. As you heard, I was the area president in the Mexico North Area as a general authority. I met them there, so it’s fun to see them here today. I appreciate the others here on the stand who are supporting us here today.

I thought about my dad and this building. My dad—I asked him, “How did you become an accountant? Why did you go into accounting?” He said he went to the university after being in the military in World War II. He had thought about being an architect like Henry Grow, my great-great-grandfather. So he signed up for that, but he found out that the equipment that you had to have to be an architect was about $200, and way back then that was a lot of money, back in the ’40s. And to be an accountant, all you needed to have was a pencil. And so that’s why he chose to go into accounting instead of architecture.

Now, I followed my dad’s lead, not by choice. I always thought I would be—I was a statistics major, and then went into economics, and eventually ended up in accounting in a roundabout way—and had the privilege of serving as an accountant for many, many years, and also here at Church headquarters as the chairman of the Church Audit Committee, for many years working directly with the First Presidency.

So it’s fun to be here with you today. I was thinking as the president was talking—talking about Tweets made me think of something. You know, we have in General Conference—you also heard I serve on the Communications Services Committee, as well as the Family History Committee. And we are kind of like the air traffic controllers for all of the media—all the media that goes out from Church headquarters. And President Richards talked about Tweets, and it reminded me of an experience. I was sitting on the stand in General Conference three-and-a-half years ago, nearly four now, when President Monson made the announcement regarding the reduction in age of missionaries.

First, he stated that the young men, instead of having to wait until age 19, could now go at 18. So we sat in those red chairs and looked out over that 22,000-member congregation, and so I watched all of the conversation taking place as he made that announcement. And then he made the announcement that the young women, instead of having to wait to age 21, could go at 19. And there was a big murmur through the congregation.

You may not realize it, but we monitor Tweets during General Conference. And during that announcement, just that first couple of minutes after that announcement, we had over 4,000 Tweets. I got a real kick out of one from a young man, probably a returned missionary, in reference to these young ladies going out earlier. He Tweeted out—it was for the brethren—and this is what he said. He said, “It’s time to get married, brethren; they’re all about to disappear.”

And they did! I served in the Area Presidency down in Lima, Peru, and we supervised—our closing prayer is from a person from Colombia—we supervised Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia. We had thirty missions there and 6,000 missionaries, and over 2,000 sisters. So as I served there, I had the privilege of serving with many, many sister missionaries, as well as elders.

How many of you are returned missionaries? Raise your hand. [Audience members raise their hands.] And if you are not a returned missionary, how many of you are planning on going on a mission? [Audience members raise their hands.] Good. Good for you. One of the greatest experiences in my life as a young man was to serve a mission in Mexico. You know, it is interesting—I think the Lord has a sense of humor. I thought I’d counsel the Lord; I’m from German ancestry—the name Grow may not sound very Germanic, but it was Groh and Grau, and then Anglicized here in the US.

I thought, well, being from German ancestry, and I thought Germany was a beautiful place and it would be fun to serve a mission there, so I decided to take German. So, I took German in high school. So, I put in my mission papers, and the Lord assigned me to Mexico. And it’s interesting how the Lord does things. That’s been a remarkable privilege for me. Latin America has been a major part of my life since living there more than twelve years as a general authority and as a mission president.

Now the name Grow, and the name that I have—C. Scott Grow—I’ll tell you why I use that initial instead of the full name. The first time my name was sustained in General Conference, they sustained me as Cecil Scott Grow. Cecil is my father’s name. He never intended for me to go by that name; I was always Scott. So after the conference session, I was out in the congregation in the Tabernacle, and a woman came up to me. I was 47; she was obviously in her 70s. She, thinking that I was my father, having heard the name Cecil sustained, she came up to me and said, “Cecil, it’s been so long since I have seen you in high school.” And I thought, “It’s longer than you think.” I decided from that moment forward that I would be me and let my dad be him, and so I would be Scott, and then they like us to use an initial, so I use the initial C. So here I am C. Scott Grow.

Now, many folks think that’s a funny name. In fact, my wife says that I’m the only person she knows whose name is a sentence. And she said years ago she had a mailman come to the house and brought a letter and it said “C. Scott Grow,” and he came up, rang the doorbell, talked to her, and said, “I just have to tell you, your husband has a very funny name.” And she kind of said to herself, “You didn’t have to tell me that.”

You know, my parents should have known better because my father’s name is Cecil Wood Grow. Now, Wood is W-O-O-D, but it’s a sentence—Cecil would grow, and he is 6’ 3”. And I’m shorter than he is. My mother’s name is Elsie May Grow, but she is only 5’ 2”. She didn’t make it.

Well, enough about names. I appreciate the opening hymn that we sang, “True to the Faith.”[1] I remember as a kid—I don’t know about you, but as a young kid I always wanted to be faithful in the Church. I hope you’ve always felt that way. I remember just about five or six years old singing the hymn, “Joseph’s First Prayer.”

Oh, how lovely was the morning…

and then He comes to that point:

“Joseph, this is My Beloved;

Hear Him!” Oh, how sweet the word![2]


When I heard that song sung, even as a little kid, a testimony came into my heart that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. And then as I got older, the song “True to the Faith” got my attention.

True to the faith that our parents have cherished,

True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,

To God’s command,

Soul, heart, and hand,

Faithful and true we will ever stand.[3]


And that is what I wanted to be, faithful and true forever.

Now, there is a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 52:14 that says that “Satan is abroad in the land” and goes about “deceiving the nations.” And therefore, the Lord says, “I will give you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived.”

So, today I want to talk about some patterns of faith that will help you remain true to the faith. I want to begin—before I get into those patterns, I want to talk about what is conversion. The missionary emphasis now in the Missionary Department is to teach repentance, baptize converts. What is a convert? What’s somebody that is really converted?

I was looking at that the other day and looking at 3 Nephi. It says: “And it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people,” sent forth by Satan. Remember, Satan is abroad—always has been. It’s been a long time, thousands of years. Satan is abroad deceiving the nations. He is an accuser of the Brethren from the beginning. “Sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe.”[4]

Now before I continue reading that verse, I think it is Doctrine and Covenants 29:7, you returned missionaries know it. “You are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” So, here we talk about Satan trying to get hearts hardened, and the people need to hear the voice of the Lord. In verse 17 of that same section, the Lord says: “For behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.” And how do we hear Him? It’s when we respond to Him.

So this verse, 3 Nephi 1:22, goes on—the lyings that are sent forth by Satan “to harden the hearts” so they wouldn’t believe. But it says that the people who are “converted unto the Lord” believed and did not fall away.

Now there’s another reference, and I want you to think about that phrase “converted unto the Lord.” Not just converted unto the Church, or unto the programs, or anything else, but converted unto the Lord. As we look in Alma 23:6, it also talks about those who were the converts of Ammon, sometimes called the people of Ammon or the Anti-Nephi-Lehites. This verse talks about their conversion. It says,

And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.

Let me just take a little aside there and go the next chapter. Those converted Lamanites were in such a precarious situation with other Lamanites that were coming in overpowering the Nephite nation, and the Nephites were protecting these thousands of converted Lamanites who had, as you recall, made a solemn oath with God and buried their swords, made a covenant that they would never take up their swords again. And converted Lamanites, feeling that they needed to help the Nephites, were on the point of taking up those swords again. And then their king counseled them, and reminded them of the covenant that they had made. And listen to his words. He said:

I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us . . . and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.

“And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all we could do . . . to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain.[5]

Now, there is a scripture in 2 Nephi 25:23, and you’ve heard it quoted frequently: “that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” Sometimes our non-member friends accuse us of thinking that we can earn our way into heaven, that we do all that we can, and then Jesus will make up the difference. In fact, I’ve heard LDS people teach that. I don’t believe it for a minute.

Here’s what I do believe: that Jesus Christ bore the sins of all mankind, all the pains and sorrows, everything. And the scriptures say that “he descended below all things”[6] so that he could put all things beneath his feet. He did it all, 100%. So if He did it all, what can we do? What does that mean? It is by His “grace that we are saved, after all we can do”[7]—and all we can really do is repent and then be obedient to His commandments. Then we are saved by His grace. By saved I mean the whole sense of it: receiving the ordinances, keeping the covenants—including the temple—and being exalted.

Now, with that little background of being converted unto the Lord, let’s go back to these patterns of faith that will help us remain true to the faith. Remember in Primary or in Young Men or Young Women, you always gave a pat answer even if you weren’t paying attention; you could give this answer, right? Whatever the teacher asked, the answer could be either “Read,” “Pray,” or “Attend church.” That was safe.

So I want to talk about those three but in a very much more profound way than just the reading. First, number one, I want to talk about the first pattern of faith that will help you remain true to the faith— which would be that of scripture study. We are admonished to “feast upon the word of Christ”[8] in 2 Nephi. And then that verse tells us that the scriptures, the words of Christ, “will tell [us] all things what [we] should do.” And then a couple of verses later it goes on to say that the Holy Ghost will show us all things that we should do.[9]

So, as we study the scriptures, we receive the Spirit, and the Spirit helps us to interpret what we have read and sustain us when we need to be sustained. So I’m not just talking about reading chronologically. I’d also encourage you to study the doctrine by topic. In my index here in the back of my triple combination, I’ve gone through many, many topics and studied every single reference and then underlined those that really had profound significance for me. So on any given topic, if I hear it discussed in a meeting or whatever, scriptures begin to come to my mind. So the Lord preaches His own sermon to me and I recognize His voice because I have become familiar with His voice as I studied the scriptures.

Now, the scripture that I have found that is the most effective and critical is the Book of Mormon. I’ve had many meetings over the 21 years I have been serving in this capacity—many meetings with new converts. I find that the new converts who are still active in those meetings—those are the active ones—they come, and I ask them about the Prophet Joseph and what they think about the First Vision, or I ask them about the Book of Mormon. And I hear testimony after testimony that it is the Book of Mormon and their witness of that that has kept them true to the faith.

In Doctrine and Covenants 17:6 the Lord Himself talks about Joseph and the translation. He says, talking about the part that Joseph has translated—and then the Savior Himself says, “As your Lord and your God liveth it is true.” God Himself bears witness that the Book of Mormon is true.

Now, as a family, when we were young marrieds, we tried to get in the habit of reading the Book of Mormon everyday as a family. We tried for a few years and failed—you know how you try and fail, try and fail. Eventually, when our oldest was about seven, we got to the point where it stuck, and we had a habit. And with that habit then, every morning—we found that the best time to read was in the early morning because there were no conflicts. We didn’t have early morning seminary, so the kids had to get up really early. At 5:45 we would get up as a family and read. I remember that our youngest, when she was just two, would get up with us because she wanted to “read” with the family. She wanted to be part of the family. So there was a bonding and binding taking place with the family, but more importantly than that, the children were being bound to the Lord as they would read the Book of Mormon every morning. We found that was the best thing to do. The scriptures are great, but the Book of Mormon is the converting tool.

Now, our kids have been easily entreated. We didn’t have to preach to them much—in fact, not much at all. We would counsel with them, but I think the reason they were so easily entreated is that every morning they would hear the word of God and become familiar with His voice, so that during the day if there were temptations that would come, as the Holy Spirit would speak to them, they recognized the voice because they became familiar with that very voice in the morning as they heard the voice of the Lord as revealed to prophets and apostles in the scriptures.

There is a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 11:21 given to Hyrum in 1829. It says, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and . . . if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.” I think of that as a mathematical formula: spirit plus work equals the power of God. And the word He was referring to—the Savior was in this reference—was the Book of Mormon. That’s why it says seek not to declare it until ye first obtain it. The Book of Mormon was in the process of translation. Then you go and teach it and testify. The Book of Mormon is the great tool of the restoration. It is the scripture of the restoration, which leads to the conversion of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in these days.

Let me share with you something from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who gave his last conference talk in 1985.[10] He died 11 days later. Those of us that are old enough tend to remember that. Any of you remember that talk? Can you remember any words that he said, anybody?

President J. Lawrence Richards: It was something akin to, in a future day, I will bathe the Savior with my tears, but I know now as much as I would know then that He lives.

Elder Grow: Perfect. You see? Everybody that heard that talk can say that. He said, “In a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son.”[11] Eleven days later he had that opportunity to be before the Savior. It’s a final witness. Those who heard the talk tend to remember that part, but most don’t remember how he began his talk.

I’ll paraphrase: He said, “I’m going to quote a bunch of scriptures.” That’s kind of how he began. If you read the talk, it’s scripture after scripture after scripture, and then His witness at the end. Now, he said, “You think that these were revelations that were given to other prophets and apostles.” He said, “Truly, they were given to other prophets and apostles in the first place, but I have studied them to such an extent”—and here’s the point—“I have studied them to such an extent that they are now mine.”[12] So when he bore his witness, he was revealing his very soul of those eternal truths that had become a part of who Elder McConkie was.

I would encourage you in your personal study to study the doctrine to such an extent—don’t just read chronologically. I do that every morning, read the Book of Mormon chronologically. But when I study, I study by topic. And then as you do study, those doctrines will become part of you. They will become who you really are.

Second point. That’s the first one—read the scriptures and study the doctrine. Second point: prayer. When we talk of prayer, I want to talk about the Prophet Joseph and that first prayer again. Remember he said that the scripture in James came with great power. It seemed to enter with a force into every feeling of his being, and that’s what prompted him to go and pray vocally for the first time.[13] And then that great epiphany, that great revelation that came. And I’ve often wondered, why did that scripture—we’ve read other scriptures in the Bible—why did that scripture have such an impact on him?

It was the epistle of James, which is a letter from James, and I looked at how James began that letter. Then I looked at all the other epistles in the New Testament—all the other epistles that are either sent to a congregation, like the Corinthians, or they are sent to an individual, like Timothy. Except for this epistle, this letter, the letter of James—James begins by saying, “James, a servant of . . . the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes [of Israel] . . . scattered abroad”[14] throughout the globe. Where do you send that letter? I’m convinced that the Lord foreordained that letter to be sent to the heart and soul of the boy Joseph Smith so that it would be the catalyst to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days.

Now, your prayers and mine may not be that earth-shattering as Joseph’s was, but for our own salvation, they are every bit as important. We are asked to pray with “all the energy of [our] heart,” that we can be filled with the love of Christ, which is part of “all who are true followers”[15] of the Savior. We are counseled to “watch and pray continually” that we will not be “tempted above that which [we] can bear.”[16]

In Omni, we are invited to offer our “whole souls as an offering,” and to “continue in fasting and praying. . . . And as the Lord liveth”—as you endure to the end—“ye will be saved.”[17] Prayer is a great protection for you. And direction, as well as protection. When you combine scripture study and prayer, revelation flows. The Prophet Joseph said there is no salvation without personal revelation.[18]

Third: attend church. Attending church is not just going to a building. It’s not about social obligation. It’s about an opportunity to demonstrate our faith and our humility to God. I particularly want to tell you about the sacrament as we go to church.

In that sacramental prayer that we have, it begins—each prayer begins by saying “sanctify this bread”[19] or “sanctify this [water].”[20] It’s not just about sanctified bread or water; it’s about the sanctification of your soul. It continues “sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it.”[21] Well, what does it mean to be sanctified?

The Savior said that we are to offer “a broken heart and a contrite spirit”[22] as a sacrifice to Him. As we come to partake of the sacrament, we should come with that broken heart and contrite spirit. Isaiah said that the Lord, the Savior, would be sent to “bind up the broken-hearted,”[23] and the Lord cannot heal a heart unless it has been broken, so He can bind it up and make it whole. We become whole through Him.

As we come with a repentant spirit—for that’s all we can do is to repent and be obedient—then the Lord can literally cleanse our soul and He can even heal us. So we’re not just clean for a moment in time and then may possibly fall back into sin, but we become healed so we have no more disposition to sin or to do evil,[24] even to the point where we cannot look upon sin save it be with abhorrence.[25] Sanctified souls.

Another part the sacrament prayer talks about is that we take His name upon us. I find it interesting that in the very prayer it says those who are willing to take His name upon them.[26] There is no force; that agency is respected even in the very prayer, that we are willing to take His name upon us. What does that mean?

Well, in a figure of speech, it is symbolic of all that the Savior is and all He represents, His very life, His mission, His sinless sacrifice, His perfect sinless life. And so as we take His name upon us, we desire to become like Him. We strive to become like Him and as He is. It also means in that process that we are willing to serve as He did, in whatever calling in the Church the Lord would have us have.

We’re also—in the prayer we commit that we will “always remember Him.”[27] Have you ever wondered why there are two sacramental prayers and not just one? It says that the Lord suffered “both body and spirit.”[28] The bread is an emblem of His body and reminds us of His resurrection. And the water, which used to be the wine—the water is a reminder of His blood, His atoning blood that was shed for us that allows us to be cleansed on conditions of repentance.

And then we commit that we will always remember Him. If we really understand who He is and what He did for us, how can we ever forget Him? So once a week we have an opportunity to come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and in humility kneel down with Him our own souls—as we sit on a bench—kneel down before the Lord and commit to Him that we will follow Him, and we will do His will, and that we will always remember Him. And thus we can become like Him as we take His image upon our countenances[29] and as we continue as we should.

Now in summary, we’ve talked about three different things, very simple: read, pray, and attend church. But they’re much more profound than that. “Feast upon the word of Christ.”[30] The importance of prayer. And each of those three things, do them as an individual and as a family: family scripture study, family prayer, individual study, individual prayer. And then third, as we attend church and partake of the emblems of His body and His blood we renew our commitment to Him.

I bear my witness that this is the Lord’s Church and kingdom. Every day, I have the privilege of literally eating lunch with those whom you sustain and I sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. It’s always interesting to see who I get to eat with each day. It’s just the luck of the draw; we have an hour and a half time slot that we can go, and as we go it’s not unusual for me to sit at a table of four with three members of the Twelve and just visit with them. These are wonderful men. But more importantly, they are ordained and anointed servants of the Lord, prophets, seers, and revelators.

Now, there are aspersions against the Prophet Joseph Smith and even against our current leaders. But as I think of the Prophet, I think of the appearance of Moroni in September 21, 1823 when Moroni came to Joseph—remember when he prayed to know his standing before the Lord—and Moroni prophesied that Joseph’s name would be known for good and for evil throughout the world.[31] This was a 17-year-old kid, two years of education, poor, and of no consequence to anybody in the world—and yet it was prophesied that his name should be known for good and evil throughout the world.

I’ve been all over the world, from Russia to Mongolia to China to Japan and the islands of the Pacific and to South America and Africa and Europe and Eastern Europe and everywhere. And you hear the name of Joseph Smith being maligned or respected. What a wonderful fulfillment of prophecy.

I testify that Joseph is a prophet, that he is the prophet of the Restoration. I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, was translated by the gift and power of God, and that a man can get closer to God by reading it and abiding by its precepts, than by any other book, as Joseph Smith said.[32] I love the Book of Mormon. I love the Book of Mormon. It is the great tool of conversion not just to join the Church, but to be converted day after day after day.

I testify that Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer, that in that garden called Gethsemane He knelt in anguish of soul and poured out His soul, His whole soul, as an offering unto God in your behalf and mine.

Years ago my wife and I went to that garden called the Garden Tomb, another one in Jerusalem, where the body of Christ was laid. Some of our prophets have been there and said that they had that confirmation that that’s where it is. It’s a cave, and you see a large slab of rock—the length of a man, the width of a man—and to think that He who, under the direction of His Father, created the very earth upon which I was standing as I looked at that slab of rock, that the Savior would condescend to give His very life and to suffer both body and spirit for you and me was an overwhelming feeling.

As my wife and I stepped out of that little tomb and looked into the empty tomb, I seemed to hear the words of two angels across the millennia: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen” from the dead, as He said.[33]

I bear my solemn witness that He has risen from the dead. If we were to see Him here with us today, we would see Him as a resurrected man, a glorified resurrected being, retaining in His hands and in His side and in His feet the emblems of His love.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.[34]

God loves you. He does not condemn you. And the Savior’s arms are continually extended to you and to me, that we will come unto Him and be perfected in His doctrine, in His life, by His example, and through His eternal love.

There’s another hymn I love: “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.” And the concluding verse:

Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:

“I know that my Redeemer lives!”[35]


 And I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



[1] “True to the Faith,” Hymns, no. 254.

[2] “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer,” Hymns, no. 26.

[3] “True to the Faith,” Hymns, no. 254.

[4] 3 Nephi 1:22.

[5] Alma 24:10–11.

[6] D&C 88:6.

[7] 2 Nephi 25:23.

[8] 2 Nephi 32:3.

[9] 2 Nephi 32:5.

[10] Bruce R. McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” April 1985 General Conference.

[11] McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane.”

[12] See McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane.”

[13] Joseph Smith History—1:11–14

[14] James 1:1.

[15] Moroni 7:48.

[16] Alma 13:28.

[17] Omni 1:26.

[18] See “Chapter 16: Revelation and the Living Prophet,” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (2011), p. 192–205.

[19] Moroni 4:3.

[20] Moroni 5:2.

[21] Moroni 4:3.

[22] 3 Nephi 9:20.

[23] D&C 138:42.

[24] See Mosiah 5:2.

[25] See Alma 13:3.

[26] Moroni 4:3.

[27] Moroni 4:3.

[28] D&C 19:18.

[29] See Alma 5:14,19.

[30] 2 Nephi 32:3.

[31] See Joseph Smith—History 1:28–33.

[32] See Book of Mormon introduction.

[33] Luke 24:5–6.

[34] John 3:16–17.

[35] “I Know that My Redeemer Lives,” Hymns, no. 136.

Light of Christ

08 Mar. 2017


Light of Christ

I’d like to express gratitude to Dezmond for his remarks. I’d like to expand on your remarks just a little bit, and I hope that I can do them justice as well. I’d also like to thank the mixed quartet. Music—sacred music—thins the veil and allows us to commune with the Spirit more effectively.

It is a humbling experience to be here and to have this assignment to speak to you, especially since we’ve had so many marvelous speakers in the last little while—Sister Warnas a couple of weeks ago and Elder Grow last week. Candidly, I tried to convince the president that it would be a very wise idea to have someone else speak today. You can see how well that one worked. Truthfully, it is an honor and an opportunity that I am grateful for.

As I looked into your faces as you were filing in, in particular, I saw the collective light of your countenance. As a body, you illuminate the Assembly Hall. Light is the very subject that I would like to address today.

During most of April 1980 and the first few weeks of May, one of the great landmarks of the Pacific Northwest—a mountain near the community where my family lived at the time—was showing some troublesome activity. Mount St. Helens appeared to be waking up from a long sleep.

On the afternoon of Friday, May 16th, my business partner and I were driving home from a meeting in Seattle. As we neared Longview, Washington, our attention and our conversation turned to the snow-covered mountain and the large bulge that had been slowly growing out of the north side. From the freeway, we could see the steam rising above the peak.

He made the suggestion that the following morning, May 17th, that we climb to the top and see what was inside the small crater that had formed from the melting snow at its crest. If I remember the conversation accurately, I think I told him he was crazy, although I think I was probably more descriptive. I had, of course, to mow my lawn and take care of other responsibilities that my wife had for me, but if he wanted to climb the mountain and have the mountain blow up in his face, well, that was fine with me.

Two days later, on Sunday, May 18th, we had just completed our bishopric meeting when one of the deacons pounded on my door. He was so excited that he babbled incoherently. I couldn’t understand anything he was saying, and yet he kept pointing to the window in my office.

I drew back the curtains and looked at a terrifying sight. Mount St. Helens had erupted. A black, boiling mushroom cloud rose thousands of feet into the air. Lightning bolts flashed through the clouds of electrically-charged ash. Although the mountain was 40 miles away from us, it looked like it was about to destroy us.

Soon the light from the sun was blotted out. Grey flakes of ash began to fall like snow, bringing darkness in midday. For many, the experience was horrifying. As bad as it was for us, it was far worse in eastern Washington. The prevailing winds blew to the east, where some of the communities were rapidly being buried by a fine volcanic pumice.

In one community, a strange phenomenon occurred. The falling ash had blotted out the light of the sun so completely that people had to turn on their headlights to drive. And still, they could only see a few feet in front of them as they desperately tried to reach their home. Many drivers reported birds striking their headlights. Others reported birds flying into the windows of their homes, which were illuminated by the interior lighting. The birds were frightened and confused by the sudden darkness and the falling ash, and so they sought out the light.

By our nature, we are attracted to the light. We are even fascinated by it. Have you ever sat around a campfire and stared into the light? Physical light provides safety. It extends our capacities. It is vital to our health and comfort and well-being. Light from the sun warms the earth, provides plant growth and necessary vitamins for many forms of animal life, and influences the weather. Without the light from the sun, all forms of life on earth would cease. Sunlight is the light that generates and sustains physical life.

Physicists have long been intrigued by physical characteristics of light. Photons of light may behave like strings of particles; light projected into fiber optics can curve and bend, which is a great example of that characteristic. Yet, light also behaves as a wave. A beam of white light shone through a prism refracts into a color spectrum like a rainbow.

When I was in high school, I was invited to attend a guest lecture at the University of Utah conducted by Dr. Arthur Schawlow from Stanford University. He introduced to us a new concept of light that had recently been discovered by himself and his brother-in-law Dr. Charles Townes: light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation—LASER for short.

Dr. Schawlow described the story of their discovery and how he had wrestled with a very technical challenge in the project. One day as he sat on a park bench on Stanford’s campus pondering the problem, the answer came to him in completed sentences. He explained that as he received the impressions, he was able to complete one thought, write it down, and when he was ready another one came to him no faster than he could write it.

Dr. Schawlow was not of our faith, but he knew the answer came through him, not from him. I didn’t know that day that Dr. Schawlow’s invention, by his own admission given to him by the Father of lights, would one day save my eyesight. Precisely controlled lasers can perform delicate surgical procedures inside of a patient’s eye, sealing blood vessels, reattaching retinas, correcting vision, and performing a host of many other medical procedures.

Lased light can perform precise industrial cutting tasks, transmit incredible volumes of data instantly, and read back and store vast amounts of information—and also provide entertainment. We’re all familiar with DVDs and Blu-ray.

But science can only provide us with a very limited understanding of what light is and what power of capacity it has. Only by turning to the source of light—the Lord, Himself—can we really understand, and in only a very small way, what light really is.

Note how prominent a role light plays in scripture. The city on the hill,[1] the wise virgins’ lamps,[2] the Star that announced the Savior’s birth,[3] the finger of the Lord illuminating the brother of Jared’s sixteen stones.[4] Consider the record of the Creation:

And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.[5]

Light is at the very core of our doctrine. The Apostle Paul pointed to the Second Coming and said, “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day.”[6]

You, my brothers and sisters, were foreordained to be the children of light. It is good, even wise, for us to study light—its characteristics, its properties. Science can offer some luminary benefits, but it is far, far more important to understand the spiritual and the physical nature of light together, even the doctrine of light.

Abinadi said, “[Jesus Christ] is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened.”[7] To the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”[8] The Savior, as reported by John the Beloved, said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”[9]

Note the phrase, “shall have the light of life.” The word have in this context means to possess, own, or hold. Every soul born into mortality has within them a portion of that light, the Light of Christ. Mormon declared, “[It] is given to every man, that he may know good from evil.”[10]

Elder Bruce R. McConkie clarified this doctrine when he wrote: “‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.’ (1 John 1:5) That is, he is the embodiment, author, and source of light, or in other words, the Father of Lights.”[11]

The Light of Christ given to every soul is only one of the manifestations of the divine characteristics of light. You are here at this wonderful institution of learning to add to your own light and glory.

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.[12]

Doctrinally, the words intelligence, glory, truth, light, and spirit are interlinked and are often used interchangeably. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.”[13]

The Lord invites us to come unto Him, repent of our sins, keep His commandments by covenant, and with Him partake of His glory. So, part of our journey in life should be to take very seriously our formal and lifelong educational pursuits because it will add to our eternal glory. If we do it in righteousness, day by day, as we acquire truth of every kind—doctrinal and so-called secular—we grow more and more in faith and obedience to the covenants and we will receive more and more of the glory of God in our own being. The glory shines in one’s countenance even now in mortality, as I mentioned in the beginning.

You’ve probably experienced something like this. My wife and I had an interesting experience last fall. We enjoyed a few days in Mexico, touring some of the ancient ruins. One of the amazing sites we visited was an ancient Mayan city and temple complex called Tulum, situated on the northeast coast. We reached the entry to the ruins, and Valerie and I were accidentally separated from our tour group. So, we walked through the tunnel under the city’s outer walls into the ground, hoping to find our tour guide. He was nowhere around.

As we stood there wondering what to do, we heard someone call to us: “Hello, there. Are you LDS?”

I turned and looked at him, and he was standing there with a BYU baseball cap on his head, and a tour guide license around his neck. One of us—I think it was my wife—answered him and said something to this effect: “We are. How did you know?”

His response was interesting. “It was the brightness in your faces.” I think I had my back toward him; he was probably looking at my wife.

The acquisition of light, the brightness of one’s countenance, discernible through spiritual eyes by those attuned to see spiritual things is the very essence of the Father’s hope for us, His children of light. “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”[14] That light is both spiritual and physical.

The physicists can direct light through the strands of glass—as in a fiber optic cable, increase light’s intensity through lasing, generate light by causing electrons to flow through special light-emitting diodes, and manipulate light in many amazing ways. But light has properties unknown to the scientist. Through faith in the Lord, obedience to His laws and ordinances, and through the quest for truth from the Spirit of truth—the Holy Ghost—one can receive His glory and grow from grace to grace until the perfect day.[15]

The Prophet Joseph Smith described Moroni’s visit, and that whole description exemplifies a portion of this doctrine of light. He said,

I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.

He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. . . .

Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person.[16]

Moroni had walked the earth throughout his mortal life just as we do today. He had grown in intelligence, truth, and in righteousness. He had kept the commandments and the covenants of the Lord, and then stepped through the veil and continued along the path to perfection until he became a glorified being, becoming a veritable vessel of light, as he appeared to Joseph. It is our Father’s intention that every one of us will attain such brightness of countenance, exceedingly brilliant, a whiteness beyond any earthly thing—the glory of the celestial.

Sadly, there is an enemy of light. One of his names is the prince of darkness. He knows that light and truth are his greatest threat, and so he seeks to draw us away from the light and truth because he knows it will destroy us. Like a black hole, he does not even reflect light except to project a phony glitter to confuse and mislead. He seeks to take away the light which we already possess.

But the children of light—that’s you and me, I hope—can detect the false façade. Remember the experience of Moses. After he had basked in the glory of the Lord and beheld His face, Satan tried to pull a fast one on him.

And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?

For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?

Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.[17]

You too can detect the lack of light in Satan’s trickery. There is no true light in his temptations. It is only surface glitter. There is no radiance and beauty. Children of light recognize the falsehood of pornography, all forms of immorality. They sense the darkness in cheating on a test or on their homework. They see no glory in criticism of the leaders of the Church or its doctrine. They find no light or glory in immodesty, or in bizarre or rebellious clothing, hairstyles, or behavior. They turn away from such,[18] and they walk toward the true light.

You know the difference. It is given unto you to know. Moroni, quoting his father Mormon, said,

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.[19]

The ability to discern between light and darkness, truth and error, evil and good, grows as we exercise this ability in righteousness and seek greater and greater truth and light. However, the opposite is true. It is likely that every one of us knows someone who once partook of the fruit of the tree of life and then stepped away, walking step by step into the darkness. Perhaps they dabbled a little bit in pornography or questioned the law of tithing. Then they might have been drawn into a blog criticizing the leaders of the Church or the doctrine. They may think they are now enlightened. Note the false light.

Gradually, they begin to criticize or mock other members, “You were duped.” Slowly, carefully, the enemy of light has led them far from that light, leaving them to wander through strange paths and lose the light and intelligence they once had.

Like the falling ash from the erupting volcano that turned midday into darkness, the world is growing darker every day. But we can make and keep covenants with the Lord, and as we do so we draw more light to our beings, and the contrast of the light and truth against the darkness of evil becomes greater and greater. The children of light—you—can light the way in the darkness. And just like Dr. Schawlow’s invention healed my eyes, the Father of lights—through his children of light—can bring hope and brightness in a darkening world.

Let me make a few suggestions. First, follow the counsel in one of the great Primary hymns:

Teach me to walk in the light of his love;

Teach me to pray to my Father above;

Teach me to know of the things that are right;

Teach me . . . to walk in the light.[20]


Pray to the Father in the name of the Son. Study the doctrine in the scriptures and the words of the prophets. Give the Lord equal or even greater time than the world. Memorize hymn 304 if you haven’t already. Perhaps let it be a personal anthem. Learn to see the light of truth, knowledge, and purity.

Second, make and keep all the covenants of salvation and exaltation. Go to the temple and return often. Make temple service an important part of your life. There is so much light to be received in the temple ordinances and covenants. “[For] in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.”[21]

Third, reject the darkness of the world. Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, you can tell the difference between the true light and the glitter of Satan’s enticing snares. Gird yourself with, as Paul described, “the armour of light.”[22]

Fourth, seek knowledge all your life. Be a lifelong learner. Study things “both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgements which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.”[23] The Lord pretty well covered everything in that.

Remember, “He that receiveth light,” or in other words, intelligence and truth, “and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”[24]

Light is a divine gift from our Father in Heaven, the Father of lights. Light is sacred and marvelous. Is there any wonder why the Lord chose the rainbow—the beautiful color spectrum caused when white light refracts through droplets of rain—as the sign of his covenant with Noah? “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant . . . which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.”[25]

He is our Father, the Father of lights. We are His children, the children of light. It is my prayer that we will grow and walk in His light—wisely rejecting the darkness—and that your light will grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day. I know that the Savior lives and He is close to us. He and His Father are glorious beings filled with light. I testify of them, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] See Matthew 5:14; 3 Nephi 12:14.

[2] See Matthew 25:1–13; D&C 33:17.

[3] See Matthew 2:2, 9–10; Helaman 14:53; Nephi 1:21.

[4] See Ether 3:4, 6.

[5] Genesis 1:2–4.

[6] 1 Thessalonians 5:4–5.

[7] Mosiah 16:9.

[8] Doctrine and Covenants 93:2.

[9] John 8:12.

[10] Moroni 7:16.

[11] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, (1966), Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, p. 278, quoted in “Section 67 I Give You a Testimony of the Truth of These Commandments,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, (2002).

[12] D&C 130:18–19.

[13] D&C 93:36.

[14] D&C 50:24.

[15] See D&C 93:13.

[16] Joseph Smith—History 1:30–32.

[17] Moses 1:13–15.

[18] See 2 Timothy 3:5.

[19] Moroni 7:15.

[20] “Teach Me to Walk in the Light, Hymns, no. 304 and Children’s Songbook, p. 177.

[21] D&C 84:20.

[22] Romans 13:12.

[23] D&C 88: 78–19.

[24] Doctrine and Covenants 50:24.

[25] Genesis 9:13, 15.

Being Kind to Others

11 Mar. 2017


Being Kind to Others

Brothers and sisters, it’s a pleasure to be with you today. I’m so thankful for the invocation, that wonderful prayer. Whenever we call upon God the Eternal Father in the name of Christ, the most important event has taken place. And I appreciate that wonderful testimony from one of our fellow students.

I’ve been prayerful about preparing these remarks, and so this is my fifth draft. I thought I had it written, and then the impression came, “Don’t do that; do this.” And so here it is. The first part has to do with the instruction from Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the second has to do with the direct teachings of Jesus Christ.

Let me share with you this one experience with you before I begin. President Richards was kind enough to point out a clock here on the podium that we are to follow. At the Logan Tabernacle, the clock is at the very back, so when you spoke you could see what time it was. Back in those stake conference days, we used to hold a prayer meeting with the visiting authority before stake conference. Brother Boyd K. Packer was the visitor that day. He had asked President Sorenson to ask Bishop James to speak—for five minutes.

So we had the prayer meeting, and he smiled—he had interviewed me to be a seminary and institute teacher back in 1964, and had trained me as a stake president in a number of items. In any case, as we came into the prayer meeting, he said, “Hello, Brother James.”

I said, “Hello, Elder Packer.”

He said, “Now your assignment is to give a five-minute talk.”

I said, “I know how to give a five-minute talk.”

He said, “Now, I don’t mean a six-minute talk.”

“I know how to give a five-minute talk, Elder Packer.”

“I don’t mean a four-minute talk.”

I said, “I know how to give a five-minute talk, Elder Packer.”

He smiled and said, “We’ll see.”

I had been asked to speak on the blessings of tithing, and I had discovered thirty blessings that come from the payment of tithing. And so when I stood up to speak my five minutes, I began: “Number one, number two, number three, number four . . . ” These are one-liners, you know. And when I finished my talk, I had ten seconds before the five minutes was up, so I said, “In the name of Jesus Christ . . . ” and then I watched the second hand, “ . . . amen.” And then I sat down. And Brother Packer had a huge grin on his face. He reached over and patted me on the arm, and he said, “Now that’s what I call a five-minute talk.”

I think there is something to be learned from that. When you are asked to speak in sacrament meeting, get to the point, and don’t take more time than you’ve been asked. Follow the apostles and the prophets with as much exactness as you can.

During his address at the BYU Provo Education Week devotional on August 19, 2014, Elder David A. Bednar urged Church members to flood the earth with the gospel message of truth: “What has been accomplished thus far in this dispensation communicating gospel messages through social media channels is a good beginning—but only a small trickle.” Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood. Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.”[1]

So far as my records show, I created my Instagram account on the next day, August 20th. So as to focus on the restored gospel message and not on the author, I named my Instagram account “OldPoet.” On the same day or shortly thereafter, I selected a photograph for myself. I am dressed in full military uniform, cap and all, posed saluting the United States of America. That was 1944. At that time, which was near the end of World War II, I had five uncles serving in three branches of the United States military—the Army, the Army Air Corps (now called the Air Force), and the Navy.

I immediately visited Temple Square’s North Visitors’ Center and collected copies of all the internet site addresses that the Church was using to invite people all over the world to learn about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As the new Church pass-along cards appeared, I collected them and used the addresses on them to spread messages to others using Instagram.

In the first year, I pulled up other people’s Instagram sites and selected from one of their photographs that I judged to be in keeping with the 13th Article of Faith—“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

In that year and four months, I believe I invited more persons who were not Latter-day Saint Christians to email the Church, to pass-along card addresses, or to call on the Church missionary number on pass-along card sites, than I did during my full-time mission in the New Zealand South Mission and five later stake missions. It was exciting and spiritually rewarding.

I made every effort to follow exactly Elder Bednar’s instructions to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy. Between mid-2015 and 2016, however, I discovered that the great adversary called Lucifer and Satan—even the devil—began corrupting the Instagram site with many evils. I had to become more discerning in what persons I selected to share the gospel.

Then the Instagram site itself began directing how direct I could be in sharing the restored gospel. I would put in the Book of Mormon number, and it would come up and say, “You’ve repeated this too much. Stop it.”

Nevertheless, success has continued, and many continue to search OldPoet and read the gospel messages that have been composed under each of my photographs. Sometimes a wicked or even an apostate will respond to my Instagram messages, and I’ve found it best to block them.

Remember the Apostle Paul cautioned the Corinthians: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?”[2]

What photographs did I select? I chose to photograph many sites on Temple Square and other Church sites. I did not include photographs of family, friends, personal activities, or myself. Remember, Elder Bednar asked that we share the gospel. He did not ask us to share our own vanities or light-minded musings. I suppose that photographs of you and a friend sticking your tongues out might interest someone. I do not believe such photographs help convert anyone to the gospel. I chose to follow the apostle’s strict instruction to flood the earth with the gospel messages defined in the 13th Article of Faith.

This brings me to my central message, which I will now address. One response to my Instagram photographs and messages was this question from somebody: “Who are you? How old are you?”

My answer was a poetic couplet wrapped in a riddle. I answered: “I am as old as the stars and as young as the instant.”

Do you understand this riddle wrapped inside a poetic couplet? When understood, it will open to you a profound truth about yourself—past, present, and future. So is it with each of you, with every one of us. We are all as old as the stars—probably older—and as young as the instant.

The mighty prophet of God, Joseph Smith, wrote that God found Himself in the midst of intelligences and instituted laws whereby each of us could go up and be where He is.[3]

King David’s Levite overseer of music, Asaph, composed and sang this song to Jehovah: “Ye are gods, [even] . . . children of the most High.”[4] Now it’s a little g, but that’s still not too shabby.

The very Savior and Redeemer of us all—the firstborn in the spirit and the Only Begotten in the flesh, even Christ Jesus, the anointed Savior of all—confirmed Asaph’s inspiration in the gospel of John when Jesus quoted Asaph, saying, “I said, Ye are gods?”[5]

The prophet and Apostle Paul wrote that God is the Father of our spirits.[6] Fifteen living prophets, seers, and revelators wrote 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. Gender is an essential characteristic [to our eternal nature and destiny] of [our] individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose.”[7]

Apostle, prophet, and seer Boyd K. Packer taught: “Never forget that you are sons and daughters of God.”[8]

Then why do some walk about in darkness at noonday? Why do some doubt their eternal worth? Why do some give way to the whispering lies of the wicked adversary? Remember, remember, o, you daughters and sons of our Eternal Father and Eternal Mother in Heaven, those holy words written by Relief Society general president of the Church Eliza R. Snow. She said, “[Reason] tells me I’ve a mother there. Remember Eliza R. Snow’s inspired lyrics in the fourth stanza of her hymn, “O My Father”:

When I leave this frail existence,

When I lay this mortal by,

Father, Mother, may I meet you

In your royal courts on high?

Then, at length, when I’ve completed

All you sent me forth to do,

With your mutual approbation

Let me come and dwell with you.[9]


So how may we know that we are blessed? The doctrine of Jesus Christ to each of us is found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 and is found in 3 Nephi 12 in the Book of Mormon. Instructing His twelve disciples in the western hemisphere, when Jesus Christ appeared as a glorified and perfect celestial person, He said: “Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words.” Do you understand that? More blessed are they who believe in your words—you apostles who believe—“because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am.”[10] So when you hear that witness in general conference, believe. More blessed are those who believe. What a great gift. “Yea, blessed are they who believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.”[11]

Belief is a might principle, is it not?

I share an experience I had with you in Ezra Taft Benson’s office. A few years after the production of the Martin Harris Pageant, he invited us to come to his office in the Church Office Building. The name of the play was Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew. And as I met President Benson, he invited us to sit down. He took me by the hand and said, “Brother James, I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I believe in the restoration of the gospel. I believe that if we will follow the principles in the Constitution, we will be blessed as a nation. I believe the Book of Mormon. Now, come and sit down.”

And so we sat down, he and myself and Brother Huff and Brother Denzel Clark, the producer, and we talked for about a half hour. And as we got up to leave what had riveted into my heart was “I believe.” Isn’t it interesting that the 13 Articles of Faith begin with “We believe”? If you tell somebody you know, they may argue with you about how you know. But if you say “I believe,” what can be said?

And so as we left that day shaking hands with President Benson, I said to him as I shook his hand, “President Benson, maybe we need to change the name of the pageant from Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew to Martin Harris: The Man Who Believed.” And his blue eyes lit up, and he smiled a big smile. He understood that I got the message. And then he said, “No, you leave it just as it is. It’s accepted of the Lord.”

And so the instructions now of how we know we are blessed continues: “Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[12] Have you ever felt poor in spirit? Am I the only one in this room that ever felt poor in spirit? Have you ever had those moments? “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”[13] All they that mourn. That’s what happens to my history students at the Business College. They are comforted with A’s because they are doing such a good job.

“And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”[14] Meek means to be teachable. Do you know the earth comes with instructions? It’s important to be teachable; then you shall inherit the earth, a celestial earth.

“And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.”[15] Have you ever noticed that when you are down and out and you feel the Holy Ghost, how it dispels the darkness? Often in our prayers, I think we ought to pray for that gift on a regular basis.

“And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”[16] And so one of my students gets a 60 on one of their papers, I am merciful. I give them another try. Because when I face God, He’ll be ready to send me to another kingdom, and I’ll say, “Whoa, wait a minute. I was merciful to my students; you have to be merciful to me.” And He’ll check His books and say, “Oh, that’s right. Enter into your rest, my good and faithful servant.” Is not the Atonement the essence of mercy?

And then “Blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”[17] Boy, we need peacemakers on this earth, don’t we?

“And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake; For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”[18]

In conclusion, then, what may we choose to do? How may we live? I share with you the counsel of a Latter-day Saint president, prophet, seer, and revelator Howard W. Hunter. He set me apart to serve as a stake president, and before he left he said, “You know, Brother James, I will give you this counsel: be nice to people. You have 5,000 people in your stake and 23 units. If you’re not nice, you’ll have to do all the home teaching yourself.” And then he cautioned me. He said, “They’re going to call you ‘President.’ That’s pretty heavy.” It was.

We sat down to dinner one afternoon and my wife, Alice, broke into laughter. I couldn’t figure out what she was laughing about. I thought maybe one of the children had done something precious. I said, “Tell me. You can share with me; I’m your stake president.” I’d only been president a few days.

And she grinned, and she said, “It just amazes me who the Lord calls to be His servants.”

So remember that, sisters. Don’t be discouraged if the returned missionary you married is not perfect. You may be the means whereby that will occur.

These are President Hunter’s words: “[What shall we then do?] Mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude”—which was done today in that excellent sharing of testimony—“Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love, and then speak it again.”[19]

I testify that these principles and teachings, as they have come from Jesus Christ through His many servants, are true. Of this I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.




[1] Elder David A. Bednar, “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood,” Prophets and Apostles,

[2] 2 Corinthians 6:14.

[3] “Chapter 17: The Great Plan of Salvation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.

[4] Psalms 82:6.

[5] John 10:34.

[6] See Hebrews 12:9.

[7] The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

[8] Boyd K. Packer, “The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected,” Oct. 2003 General Conference.

[9] “O My Father,” Hymns, no. 292.

[10] 3 Nephi 12:1–2.

[11] 3 Nephi 12:2.

[12] 3 Nephi 12:3.

[13] 3 Nephi 12:4.

[14] 3 Nephi 12:5.

[15] 3 Nephi 12:6.

[16] 3 Nephi 12:7.

[17] 3 Nephi 12:8–9.

[18] 3 Nephi 12:10–12.

[19] Howard W. Hunter, “The Gifts of Christmas,” Ensign, Dec. 2002.

You Can Do Hard Things | Perfectly Imperfect

11 Mar. 2017


You Can Do Hard Things

Brother Jared Wright

Good morning. It’s good to be with you today. I’m going to have Sister Wolfgramm press the red detonation button now. I want to say how grateful I am to be here with you today. This is actually a fulfillment of a clause in my patriarchal blessing—to be able to stand in holy places and bear testimony. That being said, I’m going to have to ask your forgiveness. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and I may not have any control over that. I’m so grateful to have my wife and three of my children here today. They keep me grounded in my secret identity, and this is my secret identity, right here. If we can keep a secret, then I can never take myself too seriously. We have a great time together.

As was mentioned earlier, I served a mission in Connecticut, on the East Coast. That’s where Connecticut is. It was a wonderful mission. My testimony of this gospel and the teaching of it set me up for the best things in my life—the Best with a capital “B.” For example, I remember one evening my companion and I received tickets to take an investigator to see the BYU ballroom team performing in our area. I had never seen anything like that before in my life, but I got an impression, and this is what is was: “When you get home and go to school at BYU, take a ballroom dance class.” And I thought, well, that’s peculiar, because I’m from Texas, which is down in the middle there. And I wasn’t planning on going to BYU. I didn’t even know I could get in. And I didn’t dance. Not like that.

Now, Sister Wright served a mission in California, on the West Coast. So you’re probably thinking, “Oh, they must have met on their missions.” Just kidding. We met at a BYU dance class after our missions. And we’ve been dancing together ever since. That’s 3,000 miles. So, the lesson out of this is, follow those impressions. If the Lord can lead me to my amazing wife, 3,000 miles away on opposite sides of the country, He can do amazing things for you, too. There we are dancing.

Now, brothers, you might think that she’s from Venus, and you’re thinking, “Run away!” And my sisters, you might be positive that he’s from Mars, and you’re thinking, “Eww.” So now we know the girls are awake and the boys are still asleep. And depending on elliptical orbits, that’s 208 million miles apart. But see, you are in command of this celestial starship USS Charity. And the impulse engines are powered by the pure love of Christ. And say it with me: “Charity never faileth.”[1]

Charity loves at the warp speed of need, from Mars to Venus and back again, so you can see each other the way Christ does. So seek after that, and with God all things are possible. And I wish I was done there. I wish we could just close right there, right? But my remarks today are a reminder that you may be young, but you have it in you to undergo very challenging circumstances. I say that with emotion because I know of some of those circumstances that you are going through right now, and they are not easy. Or you may be young at heart, but you can still endure extremely difficult times.

The War in Heaven—let’s go to this now, because war is full of a lot of heat—the war in heaven continues down here from before we arrived. Satan’s enmity now goes beyond simply using weapons from armies and navies to reign with terror here. He uses smaller, fiery tactics. But we have no need to fear. We have our own munitions—munitions is a military term for a bomb or a weapon—to ward off this onslaught.

The whole armor of God—and I’m getting ahead of myself—but the whole armor of God is intended for defense and attacks. However, we also have healing agents in the way of oils, balms, inoculations, that can aid in repairing wounds incurred in the line of battle. Let’s talk about a few of Satan’s fiery darts, and the gospel inoculations we have as part of our armor to heal from the darts. These inoculations may be different things like oils and balms—I refer to them symbolically.

To those of you who may have been told at significant parts of your life, “Don’t even try; you can’t do that,” and you’ve thought in your heart—that whatever something, the thought had never even occurred to you that you couldn’t do until someone who clearly not listening to the right influential spirit when the thought, the lie, entered their head and said what they said, and you believed the lie and never tried.

Today, let the Spirit be a light to reveal to you why you’re better than that. So that first dart is “Doubt.” Remember when the Savior said, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all thing shall work together for your good.”[2] If you ask, the Savior and the Holy Spirit can take all of your negative afflictions and turn them into positive perspectives. So sometimes light is the best therapy.

To those who, in times past, have not ever been lacking in self-confidence to try anything, anytime, even if you failed the first 100 times—and you have all the scars to prove it. Even if it took you the next 1,000 times to get to that level you knew inside you were supposed to get to. You had something to prove, especially when the only fan in the 100,000-seat stadium of your mind was you. Perhaps you have gotten tired along the way. Perhaps you’ve lost your motivation and your drive.

Today, let the Spirit inoculate a spark for new life. Remember when the Savior said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer”—or in other words, take heart—“I have overcome the world.”[3]

And to those who are new to the afflictions arena and are perhaps a bit intimidated by the prospects, the rigor, or the demands—you are wondering, “What have I gotten myself into? I’m not so sure I signed up for this. No, I definitely don’t remember signing up for this.” Today, let the Spirit anoint your anxieties into a merciful bliss. Remember when the Savior said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”[4] So that’s an oil.

We’ve talked about an oil, an inoculation, and a therapy, to fend off these darts. Remember when the Savior—it’s going to be okay. To paraphrase John Shedd, when he gave us an analogy. He likened each of us to a ship. He said that we may be safe in the harbor, but we’re not made for the harbor. Not now, not at this particular probationary time. We’re here to be tested and proved.[5]

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us in April conference, “It is inevitable that after heavenly moments in our lives, we, of necessity, return to earth . . . where sometimes less-than-ideal circumstances again face us.”[6] The author of Hebrews warned us of this when he wrote, “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.”[7] That post-illumination affliction can come in many ways and can come to all of us.

We have another munition at our disposal in this war, and it’s a bomb. This bomb was written for us in this day. It is intended for us to be able to withstand the fiery darts of the adversary. This is my nine-year-old nephew, Jonathon. While we talk about hard things, I want to take a moment and let you know that he’s very dear to me. You can’t see it, but he—along with his older brother, David—has a genetic disorder called Fragile X. It’s a form of autism.

Right now, this is his therapy. He’s creating universes out of water molecules, here. As the hymn goes, there are “sorrow that the eye can’t see.”[8] When I look at Jonathon, he has a tornado going on inside his body. He knows that something is not right, and he can’t control it. It’s very difficult for him to control it.

After a very long amount of years, we had an opportunity to see him a couple of days ago. He wanted to swim, so he was swimming. Then he wanted to eat, so we said, “Jonathon, let’s go get something to eat.” But he didn’t want to leave the pool. And then this moment occurred when he had a meltdown, and as he couldn’t control himself, his mother held him very close. And she’s been trained in what to do—she and Jonathon’s father have been trained in what to do to help him during these moments. It took him a while to calm down, about five minutes. In that time, he would hit and he would scratch and he would bite. And it was terribly painful. He would pull her hair. And he knew—all the while this was going on, he would be apologizing, “I’m sorry, Mom. It’s all my fault. I’m sorry.”

And then the superhero came out as he calmed down. His fist would raise to hit, and he would hold it. And he would get the urge to bite, and he would clench his teeth. And he would want to scratch, and he would hold his fists. And he mastered, in that moment, the hard thing of being in a body that does not cooperate.

I want to share with you a poem I wrote for my kids. I wrote it reflecting on different experiences that we’ve had in our life, and I hope you benefit.

Hard Things

by Jared Wright


You’re young but can do hard things.

And you’re learning that with sacrifice the blessings bring these lessons,

And here in this place we make the connections.

These Ceh! . . . Ceh! . . .  connections make sparks to your candle,

They bloom to the solar flare arcs of example,

With futures so bright you cast shadows at night,

Creating contagious hope as burning reminder,

Your Celestial Father is making a god out of you,

And to be beacons of light to shine for the nations—

You must be refined through the white heat of hard things,

For the levels of effort and the guts that it takes are the same.

Let me explain.


It’s on a whim and a dare that you break the ice layer on a glacial lake

And jump in to take a run-of-the-mill polar swim.

Forgetting, for the moment, both life and limb.

And decide mid-stroke, newly aware and newly awoke,

That you’re not turning back.

’C’mon, the water isn’t th-th-that cccoooold.

That fire in your belly’s stoked,

And you’re going to the . . . other side!

Teeth chatter S.O.S. messages to your brain.

Shivering vibrations unleashed and uncontained,

And your body concedes that

Suspended animation proceeds a good way to die.

It’s do or do not, there is no try!

And before it goes numb—it stings,

But you’re young and can do hard things.


It’s bike racing straight up a wall.

Who cares that it’s too steep you fall,

And your body’s dragged over a cheese grater.

You say, “I’m ok, I can clean the wounds later.”

Yet the first thought you see,

Through the raspberry elbow and strawberry knee,

Is, “Get up! Get up before these guys on my tail hit me!”

All you know is to spin and to spin,

Infinite revolutions round again,

’Til your legs burn so bad you could fry eggs on them!

And after ascent, you crave the descent.

A sine wave to ride the line like a luge,

For you’ve come so far and it’s huge compared to where you were at.

Pushing through every cramp and strain,

’Cuz you’re young and can do hard things.


Its gazing up at the mammoth peak.

Every step’s on your way to meet your maker.

That picture you take’s not a fake and you’re not a faker.

For climbing 12,000-plus feet,

Nothing can beat that view from the top of the world!

And the words are too few to tell.

All that’s inside explodes as you yell from the top of the world!

It’s from this vantage you realize,

Why, for thousands of years, all the Mount Sinai’s,

Were the closest the prophets could get to their God.

That piece of sod, on top of the world, is holy ground.

So you stop, breathe it in (do it with me—[inhale]), and don’t make a sound.

It’s the purview of kings,

When you’re young and can do hard things.


It’s all the small moments and soft whispers,

Assembled in the heart’s deeper components, discussed in lively vigor,

Molded morals with no malice (for none’s intended),

Shaped heart to holy chalice, ‘til it’s bended to Heaven’s will.

On this lifelong hill many are called but the chosen are few,

You may not be perfect but your perfectly you!

And with practice you master the tactics of this human apparatus to transform rebels of flaws to angels of God and beyond.


It’s the 200-mile relay race,

You joined a team just in case, you know, they needed your help and all.

Then your unmitigated gall quickly unloads when runner one meets road,

4am and you’re on deck, you lace up your shoes and jump out of the truck,

Say a prayer to the heavens you don’t get struck,

By this tempest storm,

Boaring over the ridge, full cause for alarm. And here it comes.

Rain pour.

So much your clothes want to clutch to your skin,

Like a cat diggin’ it’s claws in to stay onto you.

Your super suit made of super glue.

And you run ’til the pounds and the plagues can’t keep up,

You run cuz it fills the cup of your vessel brimming,

You run and you wrestle your demons to diamonds dripping off your forehead,

You run ’til your legs aren’t just lead but cast in concrete,

And every mile lays replete with confessions you beat them!!!

Splashing rhythms into flint pavement,

As if the thunder just whipped you to sprint.

And every time the lightning strikes,

It licks your feet with sticks of dynamite . . . blown!

You’re all alone, in those split second flashes,

You see the whole scene.

It’s beautiful, it’s the most serene thing you’ve ever seen.

Then it crashes to black and you’re left with a vision,

To run on in the darkness just you and decision.


For the levels of effort and guts that it takes,

In all these times, and all these hours make,

These are the same.

For you took on His name and that matters.

Don’t let anyone flatter you different.

His blood has been poured, His body was spent.

And on Sabbath day special when emblems are passed,

Yield sighs of relief that on this day you’ll rest,

And give thanks for the blessing His sacrifice brings,

For you’re young and are made to do great things.


And that is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Perfectly Imperfect

Miles Hunsaker

Wow, I think we’re finished. I can just sit down; we can absorb this moment and just ponder it. Thank you. It’s a treat to be able to speak with Brother Wright. He’s a great man, and he’s got an amazing family. I’m grateful to be here with my son Ethan. I love you. My son and daughterWilson and Abby, are not here today, and I know that Ethan will focus today and not do Pokémon Go during this devotional. I have full faith in him.

I’d like to thank Brother Brooksby as well for this opportunity to speak to you today. It’s humbling to be asked to speak because there is so much that I want to make sure that I portray or transfer to the people I am speaking to, and especially in this setting. So I hope that my message is appropriate for you.

I originally had three different ideas of what to speak about, and that’s typically what kind of happens. Two of those ideas occurred when I was hiking, and—if I can just pause for just a minute—I would encourage any of you to go for a hike or a run or a walk, whatever it is that works for you. It’s interesting when we can take ideas and get away from the hubbub of life with a prayer in our hearts—that we can take that idea and get revelation for our personal lives.

Just this morning I was having a hard time sleeping, and I woke up about 4:30 this morning, and this talk was kind of going through my head. As I was editing in my head and then getting on the computer to edit, I decided to go for a run because I can get clarity. So on my run, I was able to sort through some pieces of this talk as well as some things that are happening in my life right now. So, if nothing else from today—go take a hike, or go for a run, or whatever works for you. After developing these ideas, there was one that I settled in on because it’s kind of resonating with me in a deep place.

I think it’s safe to say that every one of us in this room have probably played with Play-Doh or clay of some sort in either elementary school or junior high. I was drawn to the arts as a young boy. I loved working with my hands, especially with clay. There is just something about that—it’s very organic and kind of grounding. So even in college I gravitated to ceramics even though I was studying interior design. I took these upper division ceramics classes because I just wanted to get past the basics and really dive into the techniques and the art of pottery. I loved going into the studio and smelling the clay, seeing my peers working so hard and intently on their projects that they were working with passion on, and kind of visualizing that dream—working on something that you have created in your mind or maybe sketched down on paper, and then starting to develop that with your hands.

During one of my pottery classes, I decided to create a series of vessels. I would sketch them on paper and kind of think about how this technique would work, created those, and then I started working with my hands. It took several days, and maybe even weeks, but the process finally completed. I was happy with them. Of course, the whole time working on them, I envisioned what they would look like. And if you’ve ever done clay or pottery, there is quite a process to it. There is the creation; there’s the firing and the glazing. So, you have this vision of what it will look like, but you just aren’t sure what it’s going to turn out to be until you see the finished product.

So, I completed these. They were ready to fire in the first firing, which is at 1,800 degrees. You fire it, it becomes hardened, and then you go to the glazing process. Glazing is a little tricky because you have to consider the reaction of the glaze to the clay body as well as the temperature and the adjustments of the temperature in the kiln.

The second firing happens, and that is at 2,000 degrees. And after that firing happens, it takes a couple of days for that 2,000 degrees to cool off with all of the kiln and all the pottery that is in that kiln. So, finally the day of reckoning—we opened the kiln, I saw my pieces, and I was thrilled. There’s something about creating something in your mind and then seeing the result of that, because it used to be just mere clay and now there was something that I was able to create. They met my expectations—they actually exceeded my expectations.

So, with these pieces, I displayed them in my college apartment; I was pretty proud of them. And it was time a few months later to move after graduation, so I boxed them up carefully, knowing that they had to be cared for. They are quite fragile. And as I relocated to my new apartment, as I was unpacking the boxes, I noticed one of them had broken. And that’s a tough thing because you had this vision of what that piece was going to be and what that history is going to look like in your life of that piece.

So, as I saw this piece broken and shattered, I thought, “Gosh, can I glue it together? Would that work?” And no, that won’t work. It just doesn’t look right. It didn’t feel right. So, I was discouraged but knew that I just had to let that go and I had to discard those broken pieces. Have you ever felt broken? Have you ever felt like what you have worked so hard for a purpose of life and trying to reach that place just doesn’t sometimes happen? That you are broken and unrepairable?

I have felt broken at times in my life. I want to share something that is very personal to me, and it’s something that I don’t do in a public setting, especially from a pulpit like this. But I have experienced divorce in my life—an event that broke me and my children in what seemed to be a million pieces. My world was upside down. I felt like my purpose in belonging had been for naught. After all, families are forever. And that looked different to me.

I wasn’t quite sure how to move forward. And it was especially hard because I was following the plan—the plan that we teach about in Church. I wasn’t sure how things would work out. And I was taught that when things get tough you just pray harder, you go to the temple, you fast longer, you do those things that are going to change that. And when those things don’t work, we have to adjust our thinking.

I was also not trained during my life how to adjust to loss or unmet expectations because those things happened to other people. In the midst of this broken state, I felt there was no amount of glue or tape that could put me back together. And then the warm embrace of the Holy Ghost allowed me to pick myself up and pick up the pieces and look at those pieces to figure out where I go from here, or at that point. That sense of healing and wholeness came through our Heavenly Father and our Savior. Even though my vessel had been broken, I found hope in my journey and a sense of belonging from an eternal perspective. But I wasn’t sure, again, what that perspective looked like for me.

So, while you and I may have deep hurt that we may never want to revisit, it is having the courage to revisit it and discover that while our identity may have been broken, we are much more than our identity. We are sacred vessels for the contents of our lives. A vessel that stands proud and whole is a thriving testament to the beauty, grace, and resilience of the human spirit—cracks and all.

Let’s just stop for a moment and think of analogies that maybe have come to your mind. A couple that have come to my mind as I have prepared this talk is, first, Heavenly Father is a master potter. He has a vision for every one of us in this room, on this earth, and that’s ever been here or will be here. He knows our destiny, our uniqueness, and He knows we can carry this throughout our lives on this journey.

The second analogy: when we are broken and cracks appear, it allows light to enter into those cracks and it sheds light on the darkness and stillness that exists in an otherwise flawless vessel.

Now, we’re going to fast forward to March of this year, where a good friend taught me about an ancient Japanese technique for repairing pottery called kintsugi, or golden joinery—a powerful metaphor for life, where nothing is truly broken.

The history behind the kintsugi method goes back about 500 years. The story goes that there was a beautiful bowl that this military leader had and loved. And one day when there was a gathering, one of the servants dropped the bowl and it broke into five pieces. The other people in the room were very fearful for this young man that broke the bowl because this leader had a pretty bad temper. So another guest jumped in and kind of improvised and created this kind of poetic joke and lightened the mood for everyone in that room as well as the leader. The bowl was then later repaired using gold to fill the cracks, which added a new sense of vitality and resilience. The bowl had become more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl began the moment it was dropped.

From that day onward, the tradition in Japan is that you would mend the bowl that was broken instead of discarding it, and it would be cherished for generations. They also believe that something that suffers damage and has a history has become more beautiful and valuable, and actually is worth a higher price. So those pieces that are broken cost more than a flawless piece.

From time to time, we all break. Relationships break; aspirations break; we fall into addictions, depression. Friendships break; mistakes are made. We experience failures. Health and wealth suffer cracks at times. And sometimes, we feel incapable of healing or recovering on our own. These are the very times that make us beautiful. All that is needed is faith that whatever is happening has a cause and a reason behind it. Sometimes that’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Often, when we are in the midst of perceived negative events, it is impossible to see the good in the situation. We can indulge in self-pity, and we can wonder, “Why? How come? Why me?” Or we can look at the negative event and use it to make life more beautiful.

So, here is a question I want you to ask yourself. Look back at your life and ask yourself if every crack has actually made you more beautiful. Cracks don’t seem beautiful, but they are. That is part of us. We all come with baggage. I love this image because, you know, when you go through airports or places and you see people hauling all these bags. I think of life, and I think, “Gosh, I need to let go of some baggage. I just need a carry-on.”

The question we have to ask ourselves is, how long can we carry that weight? The sooner we can start accepting our breaks and cracks, the sooner we will be able to transform into something even more worthwhile—a being that is no longer perfect, but perfectly imperfect.

Recently, a good friend shared that he has struggled with perfectionism most of his life. I completely relate to that. He says he is a recovering perfectionist. I’ve adopted that title in my life. And as I’ve come to understand that, I’ve also come to understand that it is through the grace and Atonement of the Savior that helps fill those cracks in my life. That gold that can go in those cracks can take and make me perfectly imperfect.

In a recent BYU Women’s Conference, Sister Amy Curtis said “that the Savior is the master mender and the joiner of souls”—

His infinite Atonement has the power to help us become strong in broken places. . . . We should feel no shame in submitting to His care. He has the power to transform us into something magnificent as we allow Him to heal our wounds. With His Atonement, He can mend and heal the cracks.[9]

I think of examples in our history, men and women who have gone through many trials. I think of Adam and Eve. I think of Job. I think of Abraham and Sarah. I think of Joseph Smith. I think of the man by the pool of Bethesda. It’s one of my favorite paintings by Carl Bloch. It’s easy to think we are broken. It was easy for the Prophet Joseph Smith when he was in Carthage to think he was broken.

Over two thousand years ago, Christ was bruised and broken and torn for you and me. Shortly after His body was cast aside, even though He was resurrected, the signs of His brokenness and His scars for you and me remain. It is because of Him that we experience new vitality and resilience in this life.

Each Sunday, we are offered the opportunity to partake of bread that is broken in remembrance of Christ’s body, His sacrifice on our behalf. Elder James Hamula of the Seventy shared the following in a General Conference talk:

With torn and broken bread, we signify that we remember the physical body of Jesus Christ—a body that was buffeted with pains, afflictions, and temptations of every kind, a body that bore a burden of anguish sufficient to bleed at every pore, a body whose flesh was torn and whose heart was broken in crucifixion.[10]

I have friends that have been broken. I think all of you probably do, or maybe it is yourself. I would ask you to raise hands, but I probably won’t. If there is anyone who is not broken in here, I want to talk to you afterward—or haven’t experienced something like that in your life.

And sometimes we feel like we’re kicked to the curb. And yet we can get back up again. We stand tall; we look to Christ for His love and example. We can be healed through that goal, if you will, that grace and Atonement of the Savior.

I have a profound appreciation for anyone, all of us, who have gone through breaks in our lives. We have more worth than an unbroken vessel. That is how I see my vessel, or if you haven’t guessed yet, my life. I have a vision for what my vessel might look like as it is broken and filled with gold. I must continue to turn it over to the Master Craftsman, who will make of it something greater than what I can do with my own limited talent.

The Master may break me again and again. He may let my cracks open up to let light in. May we each shake off that feeling of being broken. There is beauty in that. And we trust the master potter, our Heavenly Father, with our hearts and lives to create from our brokenness a one-of-a-kind vessel that is priceless. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] 1 Corinthians 13:8.

[2] D&C 90:24.

[3] John 16:33.

[4] John 14:27.

[5] John A. Shedd, From Salt from My Attic (1928).

[6] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You,” Apr. 2016 General Conference.

[7] Hebrews 10:32.

[8] “Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” Hymns, no. 220.

[9] Sonja Carlson, “Depression: More Than a Bad Hair Day,” Church News, May 30, 2014.

[10] James J. Hamula, “The Sacrament and the Atonement,” Oct. 2014 General Conference.

Blessings Come Through Trials

11 Mar. 2017


Blessings Come through Trials

Most of you probably don’t know or remember, but we used to have devotional back at the College in the multi-purpose room, and quickly grew out of that room. So for I don’t know how many years now we have been meeting here in the Assembly Hall, and I always sat—I still do—I sit right back there, kind of behind a pillar by myself, and President Richards every week will get up and he’ll invite us to write down the promptings of the Spirit. And every time he says that, the Spirit whispers to me, “When it’s your turn to speak—and you will have an opportunity to speak in devotional—here is what you need to talk about.” So I hope I do it justice today.

It is an incredible honor to be able to speak here in this facility. As the Assembly Hall was being built, the Saints were calling it the new Tabernacle, but President John Taylor put an end to that and officially called it, in 1879, the Salt Lake Assembly Hall. And now, 137 years later, here we are. I am a great-great-great-grandson of President John Taylor, and that is an amazing honor for me to stand here in the same building where he delivered many mighty and powerful sermons. He had a great ability to overcome adversity. You’ll probably remember that he was with Hyrum and Joseph in Carthage Jail, and he was shot five times. Obviously he survived that attack and was able to be here in the Salt Lake Valley with the Saints.

Whenever he spoke, he spoke with amazing power and clarity. There was no question where he stood on a topic. But he also spoke with the Spirit. One of his teachings that I can relate to personally is “We have learned many things through suffering. We call it suffering. I call it a school of experience. I never did bother my head much about these things. I do not today. What are these things for? Why is it that good men should be tried? …I have never looked at these things in any other light than trials for the purpose of purifying the Saints of God that they may be, as the scriptures say, as gold that has been seven times purified by fire.

“I rejoice in afflictions, for they are necessary to humble and prove us, that we may comprehend ourselves, become acquainted with our weaknesses and infirmities; and I rejoice when I triumph over them, because God answers my prayers; therefore I feel to rejoice all the day long.”[1]

Alma tells us in the Book of Mormon, Alma 36:3, “Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.”

I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life that I know that the Lord helps us with trials, and gives us blessings if we will seek for them. I want to tell you about a few of the experiences that I’ve had teach me this.

When I was 14 years old, my brother Ryan and I were out playing in the yard and a friend of ours pulled up in the driveway. And Ryan and I hopped onto the back bumper and held onto the ski rack. We backed out of the driveway and started driving through the neighborhood. He was going really slowly and we were having a great time. We pulled into a driveway just a few houses down and backed up, then for what felt like five minutes, just sat there. I heard the Holy Ghost not just whisper to me, but verbally say, “Get off.” I turned to my brother Ryan and he, years later, told me that he also heard the voice of the Holy Ghost say, “Get off.” But I looked him in the eye and said, “Shall we get off?” We stared at each other for a minute—well, it felt like a minute—and I just said, “No, let’s just stay on.” It was a bad idea.

Our friend started driving again, this time a little more crazy, and after just a little bit I fell off of the car. I broke both of my ankles; on my right leg I just cracked one of the bones, on my left leg, both of the bones in my ankle were broken, and my foot was off to the side a little bit. I ended up having a cast up to my waist on my left leg, up to my knee on my right leg, and I couldn’t walk for a month. I had to go everywhere in a wheelchair, and I had to have my parents help me with everything. I really could do nothing for myself.

I even had to have the meanest teacher in my middle school come to my house and bring me homework, teach me how to do it, and then take the completed homework back. She actually ended up being really nice. She just had the reputation at school. But that was hard for me, to think she was coming to my house.

After a month, I finally was able to start walking on crutches, but the first time I tried I almost fell on my face because I just had forgotten how to walk. It was just not a fun experience, and I regret not listening to the Holy Ghost.

About eight years later, when I was 26, I was looking in the mirror, fixing my hair—that was back when I had hair that I had to fix. I saw what I thought was a little lump in my neck, but I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe I was turning my head wrong, and I looked and I looked and just wasn’t sure. So I talked with my wife, and she said I should probably go see a doctor. So I went to see my doctor, who sent me to another doctor, who sent me to another doctor. Within about two weeks I was starting radiation treatments for Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Disease, which is a form of cancer. I had a full-time job at the time, but for about the next four months, I would go to work in the morning, do a little bit of work—I don’t even remember what I did; I was kind of out of it—I’d leave early in the afternoon to go to the hospital, I’d get the radiation treatments, and then I’d go home and just sit on the couch. I’d either just rest or sleep, but I was really tired, and I was really uncomfortable. I wasn’t a fun person to be around at that time. I give my wife a lot of credit for helping me get through that.

One of the side effects of the radiation is that I got shingles really bad on my back. There were times where I would feel a pain coming on that, even to this day, is the worst pain I’ve ever felt. It felt like someone was stabbing me in the back. I still kind of have this whenever I get cold, so if you see me rubbing up against a doorframe like a bear on a tree, it’s just trying to scratch that itch. But it’s never going away.

Before the treatments started we had two children, and we were told that we probably would not have any more kids. About another eight years from that, I was out at work sweeping up garbage in the parking lot, and I just felt really, really tired and really out of breath, which was just unusual. It just kind of came on out of nowhere. I went in to the store and called the doctor, and they said, “You probably ought to get to the hospital.”

So I hopped in my car and drove to the hospital, where on my floor I became known as “the guy that drove himself to the hospital.” I guess I wasn’t supposed to do that, but I just went. After a number of tests and procedures, they determined that I had had a very mild heart attack. I never felt it; I just felt the symptoms, I guess. But I also had almost complete blockage of my heart, and the only option to fix that was open-heart surgery. They said this was a result of the radiation treatment from eight years previous.

Having my chest cut open I was probably the most scared that I have been in my life. I did not want to do that, but I knew I needed to do that if I wanted to live. I ended up having six bypasses, some of them synthetic and some of them from a vein that they cut from my leg. I’m here to tell you that the recovery from open-heart surgery is hard, takes a long time, and is not fun.

Let’s fast-forward about ten years from that. About a year and a half ago, I was playing on a softball league with some of my friends. I hit the ball really well; I hit it way over the fielder’s head. I thought, I’m going to run as fast as I can; I’m going to make it to third base. And I got there. But as I got there, I thought, I am so out of breath. I bent over, put my hands on my knees. The next thing I knew all my teammates were standing around me, trying to get me to wake up. I had passed out. They actually laughed, because I was chewing gum at the time and I guess when I fell in the dirt some dirt got in my mouth and when I got back up I started chewing the gum again, and they could hear me crunching the dirt. They still laugh about that. They thought that was pretty funny.

But within a few months I couldn’t walk fast, I couldn’t bend over, I couldn’t carry anything. I couldn’t exert any energy at all without feeling like I would pass out. I went and saw a number of doctors and surgeons and they determined that I—all my life I had a heart murmur, and I’d always been told, “Someday you’re going to have to deal with this.” Well, someday became now, and I needed to have a valve replacement.

So last year on July 23rd I went into the hospital for that valve replacement. On the way walking into the hospital I had to stop and catch my breath a couple of times. It was really difficult. Thankfully, the students down at the BC Café covered for me while I was having my surgery and for a few weeks after, and I’m very grateful for their help with that.

What’s coming in the future for me? I have no idea, but I have a guess that probably eight to ten years from now probably something else. It’s just my track record. But that brings up a question: Is life easy? Is it worth it? Should I blame my Father in Heaven for the trials that I’ve had to go through?

In April 2016 General Conference, Elder Renlund said, “Because they were distant from the Savior, Laman and Lemuel murmured, became contentious, and were faithless. They felt that life was unfair and that they were entitled to God’s grace. In contrast, because he had drawn close to God, Nephi must have recognized that life would be the most unfair for Jesus Christ. Though absolutely innocent, the Savior would suffer the most.”[2]

I never have and I never will blame my Father in Heaven for my trials. In fact, I know I have been blessed way beyond what I deserve. I want to tell you about the blessings that came from each of these trials, and they are quite amazing to me.

Even though I broke my ankles, I’m still able to run, walk, play golf, do whatever I need to, with no side effects whatever. I can share my story of not listening to the Holy Ghost with others. Again, when the Holy Ghost verbally tells you to do something, do it! There’s a reason. It also makes it very easy, when I’m asked to give a last-minute lesson at church, built in lesson. Sit down for five minutes, tell the story, everybody understands.

Even though I had cancer, I was lucky enough to only have radiation treatments. I know chemotherapy is a lot harder and a lot more intense, and I count that as a blessing. They always told me, “If you’re going to get a cancer, get Hodgkin’s Disease, because it’s the most curable.” So I guess I chose the right one.

During the treatments I lost a lot of hair on the back of my head, so I had to get a goofy haircut to make it look somewhat okay. It really didn’t, but it was the best they could do. Other than this little patch behind my left ear, it all grew back. While I was going through the treatments, I only worked half a day, Monday through Friday. But my employers paid me as though I was working full time, and a couple of days they even let my wife go into work in my place, even though she had no idea what to do. That was a very great blessing.

Like I said, they told us we probably wouldn’t have any more children after the radiation treatments, but we had two more sons after that, and my son is in the MTC right now.

Even though I had a heart attack and open-heart surgery, I’ve lived to see my children grow up to be great servants of their Father in Heaven, to serve missions and to be fabulous human beings.

This might seem dumb, but it was amazing to me. Right after the surgery I went to a mission reunion. In Hawaii we had a lot of senior missionaries, and we’d go around the room at the reunion and they would say what they had been up to. Everyone of them would say, “Oh, I had one bypass,” or “I had two bypasses.” I beat them all; I got six!

Again, while I was out, I was out 100% recovering from heart surgery. My employers paid me 100%, and I count that as a great temporal blessing. And even though I had a heart-valve replacement, they allowed me to do that via catheter. I did not have to have a second open-heart surgery. They took a cow’s valve, ran it up through a vein in my leg, put it in place, blew it up with a balloon, and it started working just like it had always been there. Technology is amazing.

I was home from the hospital 21 hours after the surgery, and I walked out on my own. I can’t believe how amazing that is. Best of all, I can walk, bend over, lift, do whatever I need to, without feeling like I am going to pass out. And I know the students who work with me at the BC Café are very grateful for that.

Overall, I learned that my wife and my kids and family are there for me no matter what. It’s not easy managing a bunch of little kids when I am in the hospital and she’s trying to be there with me. But we were able to make it fairly easily.

Lou Gehrig was a Hall of Fame baseball player who contracted the disease ALS. It forced him to retire from baseball well before he was ready to, and he actually died just about two years after his retirement. But at his retirement speech he said, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”[3] And I too feel that way. I am so lucky. I am so blessed.

I know each of you as students have so many things you are concerned about, whether it is social life, a girlfriend or a boyfriend or a spouse, family and extended family, Church callings, one or two jobs—so many things you spend your time worrying about. You might have health issues. You might have spiritual issues. I testify that it’s easy to feel like there is no hope, but there is no way to get around the trials that you have. I want to remind you that even the Savior asked for some relief.

In Luke 22:42, He said, “If thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

I testify to you that there are blessings to be had in every single trial that you have. If you will just ask your Heavenly Father and if you will seek for them, they will come upon you like an angel from on high, and you will be able to find joy in your trials. I know life can be hard, but I testify that your Father in Heaven knows of your trials and will help you through them, and will help you find the great blessings that are in store for you. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



[1] Teachings of President of the Church: John Taylor (2011), Chapter 22: “Being Perfected Through Trials,” pp. 200-208. .

[2] “That I Might Draw All Men Unto Me,” April 2016 General Conference, .

[3] Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Address, .

Happiness Through Christ | Our True Downbeat

11 Mar. 2017


Happiness Through Christ

Brother Dan Masterson

Thank you, Austin, Ben, the choir. The first time I heard that song I couldn’t help but cry. It’s always remained a special song to me after that. Everybody that stands up here usually goes through some sort of prologue. And I feel compelled to do the same, but I don’t want to take up too much time, so I decided to give the Reader’s Digest condensed version of it: historic, wonderful, marvelous, thank you—I think.

I was sitting here a couple of weeks ago listening to the devotional and hoping for some inspiration, and I had already pretty much put my talk completely together. And for whatever reason, I realized as I left the devotional I couldn’t talk about what I was going to talk about. The thought came to me that I needed to talk about happiness, and in order to do that I needed to go and do some research about happiness. So we’re going to go on a little journey about what I found out about happiness and some consolidation of what I already knew.

But first, before we do that, I need to have a disclaimer. Some of you know Grumpy Cat, right? Well, the Mastersons have a Grumpy Cat gene. When I have my photo taken, my wife often says to me, “Smile!” And I tell her I’m already smiling. And so if you look at me and I don’t look like I’m happy, it’s just because of this Grumpy Cat gene. To show you that that’s actually—this is the latest Masterson, and if you look closely at him, he has the Grumpy Cat gene. We call him our little grumpy baby. But my wife would not let me sleep tonight in my bed if I didn’t show you this picture of him also. He’s also very happy. That’s him enjoying a car ride with the window open.

One of the scriptures I came across as I started my preparation to talk about happiness was this one: “Now, was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness.”[1] This happened when Alma and Ammon and his brothers reunited. I don’t know if you remember the story completely, but Ammon seems to have this problem of when he’s overwhelmed, he hits the ground. And you get that in this case, too. And you think that Alma might write something like that about Ammon that he was just a little bit odd. But this scripture is what Alma wrote after that happened.

The thing that jumped out at me was “humble seeker of happiness.” That had never made an impression on me before, and I realized that we need to be humble seekers of happiness. I looked further in the scriptures and came upon some of these about happiness. They call the plan of salvation “the great plan of happiness.”[2]

We talk about that our eternal lives will be a “state of happiness which hath no end.”[3] Now, when I see the word “state,” as a computer scientist I get all excited because we study state machines and things like that. A state—you’re all familiar with, because you drive something that has a state machine in it. That’s when you go from first gear. With an automatic transmission, when it’s in first gear and it realizes it needs to go into second gear, it moves to a new state—second gear.

I cannot imagine being in a state of continual happiness, but that is what is promised to us. One of the interesting things about happiness is . . . We all know this scripture, Alma 41:10—by the way, Alma is full of scriptures on happiness, especially in chapters 41 and 42 when he is talking to his sons. But “wickedness never was happiness.” This is interesting because the scriptures give us a negative definition of happiness. There’s actually a theology out there that defines God by what He is not, and it’s an interesting concept. There’s a lot of things messed up with that theology, but I find it an interesting concept to define something by what it’s not. We’re told by the prophets that “wickedness never was happiness.”

There are other things that are not happiness. Contention, and its brothers gossip, backbiting, murmuring. I know for a fact, having been involved in contentious circumstances, that there is no happiness there no matter what side of the contention you are on.

Hate—it seems like today that the world is filled with hate, and there is no happiness there. I can vouch for you that anger brings no happiness. Sometimes we feel justified in feeling angry at other people, but there is no happiness there. In fact, anger can become such a canker in your soul that you can lose yourself in it.

Jealousy, addiction—let me talk about addiction for a minute. There are a lot of things that you can become addicted to. You can become addicted to pornography, drugs, sports—anything that takes over our lives and we can’t seem to break away from it. I know that a lot of you play computer games, and you probably heard in my résumé that I was involved in computer game development.

Let me warn you just a little bit about computer games. I love to play them. I love to play board games. But the games today, you have to be very, very careful about. One, some of them are overly violent. Two, they’ve been designed to addict you to them. One of the things that happens is that they give you small goals to achieve. Every time you achieve one of those small goals, you get a dopamine hit in your head, and you want another one. You want to take another turn, and pretty soon you’ve wasted an entire evening when you should have been studying. Or you haven’t spent the time with your family. Play games, have fun, but make sure that you’re not getting drawn into them or they’re taking over your lives. There is no happiness there.

Guilt—I think a lot of people leave the Church because of this one. They feel guilty, and they think, “I’ll leave the Church, and I’ll be happier.” They don’t find it; I can guarantee you that. I have several friends who have left the Church. Some of them are now in conditions that they are more unhappy than they ever were. There’s a way to get rid of that guilt, and we all know what it is. And it leads to great happiness.

Fear—there is no reason that we as members of the Church should ever be fearful. That should not rob us of our happiness.

Let’s look at Mosiah 2:41 for just a second. “And moreover, I desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state”—there’s that word again, state, so I’m all excited again—“of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.” So the commandments are steps to happiness. That is what we need to do to take hold of that promise that God has given us—that we can be with Him forever and forever be happy.

I’d like to talk just a little bit about something that I discovered, actually a couple of years ago, and this comes from the secular world. There is a type of psychology out there where they don’t just study abnormal; they also study that which is positive to try to figure out what makes people happy, what makes people successful. There is a book out there that I would recommend you all read called The Happiness Advantage.[4] It’s been put together by Shawn Achor, and he talks about—it’s really directed toward businesses, and how businesses can become more effective by becoming happier. As I read the book, though, I realized that he was just teaching what we already knew and what our prophets and apostles have already told us.

I really like his definition for happiness, though: “Happiness is the joy we feel when striving after our potential.” Isn’t that what God has asked us to do? To strive after our potential? And not only our potential here on earth, but our potential hereafter?

One of the things that they have found out in their studies about happiness and how people can feel in a positive mood and things like that—they found out that money and success do not lead to happiness. They find that as they interview people and talk to them, the amount of money really makes not a whole lot of difference in how happy they are. Where they are in their careers, and things like that, doesn’t make much difference in how happy they are.

But they have found things that lead directly to people’s happiness. This is where we’ll find that we already have teachings in the gospel that have taught us these things. Meditation, conscious acts of kindness, spending money—I know you’re all excited about that one—gratitude, positive journaling, exercise. I’m not going to talk about exercise because as you can see, I haven’t been very successful at that—although I am 40 pounds lighter than I was several years ago.

Let’s talk about meditation for a second. This from 2 Nephi: “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them.”[5] Meditating about the scriptures—how often have we been instructed to do that?

Here’s a quote from David O. McKay:

We pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship, there are two elements: One is spiritual communion arising from our own meditation; the other, instruction from others, particularly those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is the meditation. Meditation is the language of the soul.[6]

One of the things that we probably aren’t good at—and I know I’m not good at it—is spending time listening to my Father in Heaven. Too many times my prayers are one-way. But we know that this will bring us happiness, if we sit there and listen to our Father in Heaven and truly commune with Him.

Conscious acts of kindness—Elder M. Russell Ballard has said this:

Great things are wrought through simple and small things. Like the small flecks of gold that accumulate over time into a large treasure, our small and simple acts of kindness and service will accumulate into a life filled with love for Heavenly Father, devotion to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a sense of peace and joy each time we reach out to one another.[7]

This is something that I know President Richards has encouraged us to do. Others have encouraged us to do it. And let’s look for ways that we can be kind to others. Often, we think about the scripture in Mosiah about “[if] ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”[8] And it’s become trite to some degree. But it really is something that we need to do. It doesn’t need to be a big thing. First of all, the Church is filled with lots of opportunities to give service. But just saying hi to somebody might be a service if we look for somebody that feels down.

Let me give you one example of this. I was walking through the mall down in Las Vegas—I was there at a convention. And I saw this guy. He was a security guard officer, and he had a really fancy uniform on. I thought, “I’m going to go over and tell him how good he looks in that uniform.” He looked a little down, and so I told him, “You know, you look really sharp in that uniform.”

He said, “Thank you,” and I moved on. But as with anything in the gospel, when you do good, it comes back to you. Silly—we were walking around the mall trying to find some place, and we couldn’t find it for some reason, and he noticed us walking around. So he escorted us to where we needed to go, and we talked a little bit. He was out of his original job as a stock broker—this was just as the market crashed in 2008. But we received as much from him as he received from us. So, look for those little acts. Find those things that you can do for your roommates, your mom or your dad, your fellow students.

Gratitude is an important thing to keep us happy. This is what President Thomas S. Monson has said:

We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.[9]

One of the things they’ve found in studies is they’ve asked people to do gratitude journals. Some CEOs they’ve taught to tell their kids each day three things that they’re grateful for. And it’s a great experience.

One of the things that I had learned from someplace else was to write a letter of gratitude to somebody that’s no longer in your life. I’ve done this a couple of times, and it’s an amazing experience to reach out to somebody that’s not going to be in your life—for me it was an instructor from college 20 years ago, an employee that had worked for me and sometimes I hadn’t been too kind to her. I reached out and told her how grateful I was for her, and it turned out to be a very, very positive experience. Look for those opportunities and practice them as often as you can, especially in your prayers every day.

Positive journaling—this is something that President Henry B. Eyring has said again and again. I’m just going to paraphrase what he wrote here, but he found early in his young married life that if he would sit and think about his day while he was writing in his journal, he could come up with positive things that he could relate back to the hand of God being in his life.[10]

They studied a group of nuns that all lived in the same convent, and they were able to look at their journals after they passed away. They found that those who had been writing positive journal entries actually lived longer than those that didn’t do so, and that they were happier.

One of the things we might ask ourselves is, can we be happy in trials? Well, we know that the pioneers as they came across the plains sang and danced and had opportunities to have joy and be happy. They didn’t let it overwhelm them. Sometimes our trials are so great they do crush us, but with a little effort we can start to bring happiness back into our lives.

Now, I know that we can overcome trials and still be happy because I have a living witness of it in my home. My wife, over the last twenty years, has had over 30 operations. She has two replaced hips, she suffered breast cancer and all that entails, she’s had both of her shoulders operated on, she has a plate in her neck, she has a plate in her foot—I can’t even remember everything else she’s done. But the members of my ward come up to her and say, “How can you be so happy?” And she’s happy in our home, most of the time—except for when she’s upset at me. But her response is, “What else can I do?”

We need to choose happiness. We have so much that has been given to us; even with all our trials we need to be happy. I testify to you that Christ lives, that Joseph Smith is a prophet. I also testify to you of something I learned 25 years ago. I was sitting in a lecture on C.S. Lewis at BYU Campus Education Week. And one of the things the instructor said—and it had nothing to do with C.S. Lewis, but he said, “When our lives are over, we shall look back and call it all good.” This I testify of in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Our True Downbeat

Sister Danae Handy

I love Dan. We have been on a committee together for the last couple of months, and I have really come to appreciate him, especially in light of the fact that there are people like Dan, and they’re here—and then there’s the rest of the universe. Like here are goat herders, and here are mob bosses, and then there’s me. People who do computer science absolutely astonish me. You might as well stand up and say, “By the way, I turned straw into gold today.” I am just in awe. So he builds computers, and then I teach you how to play with them.

I love this building. I’m so excited to be here—I love this building. It is my favorite building on Temple Square. I know my favorite is supposed to be the temple, and I like that one too, but I love this building. And a lot of why I love this building is I spent a lot of time here when I was your age. I have a degree in music from the University of Utah—Go Utes! No sass—and my choir performed here a lot.

I want to tell you a story about a time, about one particular concert. I’m telling you this story because of where we are in the semester. As a writer, we talk a lot about middles. Beginnings are fun. Beginnings are great—you are brainstorming, you’re creating new characters, you’re creating dialogue—and endings are great because it’s great to have wrapped up that story and tied it all together. You submit it, and there’s a lot of joy in endings.

Middles are hard. Middles are really hard, and we’re kind of wrapping up the middles, right? And do you feel like you’ve had a case of the “middles” for the last three, four, five, ten weeks? Yeah. And I see it on your faces, and “Oh, on top of it, it’s 175,000 degrees outside.” I feel you. I feel your pain. We all are suffering from a case of the middles.

The ends are coming, and then they are sad because then you leave my class and then I’m sad. But you know, we’re all kind of slogging through the middle. I see it on the faces of my students. I had a conversation with a student just recently who is definitely suffering from a case of the middles.

I want to tell you a story about a concert that we sang in the hopes that maybe I can help you get through the rest of the middles, get to a really good ending. I sang with the University of Utah A Cappella Choir. We were performing a piece of music that takes about 40 minutes to perform, like the “Messiah,” or something like that. It was one we had prepared for a long time. We had been rehearsing for several months. In our room up at the U, we knew the acoustics and how they worked, and we learned how our director was going to cue us. And we learned the music really well, and we felt like we were as prepared as we could possibly be when we came to this building to perform.

But this was kind of a high stakes concert for three reasons: one, we were only ever going to perform this music once. We would never perform it again. We had one shot at it and that was it. And I can tell you, after thirty years, I have never yet again sung that particular work.

The second is that we were recording. And when you do a recording, that’s hard enough when you have a chance to do do-overs and one more take, and so forth. It’s really hard when item 3 comes up, and that is, you’re doing it for a live audience.

And that’s what we were doing. We were performing for a live audience and recording at the same time a piece of music that we had prepared that was difficult but beautiful, and I was really excited to be there.

We were singing with the Utah Chamber Orchestra, which is a smaller version of the Utah Symphony, and they pulled these seats out and there was a big platform right here, and that was where the orchestra was sitting. Rather than sitting up here in the choir seats, we were standing on risers right here. And you know what I mean by risers—those steps that choirs stand on with a shell behind them—in the hopes that all of our sound could project to the back of the room like it’s supposed to.

So, we got here and realized that this was a different place than the place that we had practiced and prepared, and there were different people involved, and there was a completely different energy. There were microphones everywhere and cords everywhere. Choir singers like to have their conductor right up in their faces. As a choral conductor, if I could stand in the middle of the tenors and just kind of conduct in a circle, that’s how I would do it. Orchestra, band—you guys are different. You’ve got your music stands, and you don’t care where your director is as long as they keep a beat. But choir people really like our conductors up close and personal.

Ours was standing down here, and we had that chamber orchestra between us, and then all of this stuff, and then risers. So we were a long way away from our conductor when we had been accustomed to being maybe eight feet away most of the times in our rehearsals.

So, one of the things that affect you in a space like this—I love singing in this space because it is just the right size for an audience. Too much bigger and you have to get a lot of mics going; too much smaller and you don’t get to kind of fill the room with sound. So this is a really great space. The problem with this space has to do with the Doppler effect, and that’s the echo.

When you sing—I’m going to go with singing because that’s what I do—when you sing in a space that is this size, you’re going to get an echo. But it’s not like an echo in a big cathedral, like the Cathedral of the Madeleine or the big cathedrals back east, where you recognize the echo for what it is. It’s a short echo, but it still echoes. And because of the Doppler effect, by the time the sound that you have just sung reaches that first row on the balcony, it has dropped in pitch just a little. And then when it comes back to you, it has dropped even more. But on top of that, if you are waiting to hear what you just sang before you move on to the next note, you’re going to come in late. And it’s just a fraction of a beat late, but you’re going to come late because you are waiting for that echo. And so between the drop in pitch and the delay, you wind up out of tune and your progress is slowed. In fact, twice as a conductor, I’ve had to stop a choir in the middle of a concert and retune them because they had fallen victim to the Doppler effect and had fallen so far out of tune and were going so slow that the only thing I could do was to stop them, get them back in the same place, and then start them again—fortunately, just twice in the years that I’ve been a conductor.

So that’s all kind of crazy, and we’re so far away from our conductor, and we’re a little wigged out. But it’s time to start the concert. Now, the place is filled—this room, this beautiful, lovely room is filled. And I’m standing on the top row of the risers, so I’m about as high up as this balcony railing. And we’re doing really great! We are just all singing the right notes, and we’re singing in the right time, and things are going really, really well.

Part of why things are going well—we had a couple of things. One is, we’ve worked to resolve the Doppler effect by taking two speakers that are attached to the microphones in the orchestra, and instead of turning them towards the audience, they’re turned towards the choir. And they’re sitting right up here next to us on the risers. So we’re hearing the music as it is truly being played. It’s in tune, and it’s in time. And if we just stay tuned to those speakers, then the echo doesn’t have nearly as much effect on us.

The other thing is, you never take your eye off the stick. And that is where my darling friend, Ed Thompson, who is Sister Carey’s brother—he was our conductor, and he was our department chairman, and he was my mentor and remains one of my dearest, dearest friends. But he always said that you never take your eye off the stick. Your hair can be on fire, and you keep singing and you keep watching that stick. You never take your eye off it. You never take your eye off the director.

The good news there is that if you do, the downbeat is the true beat. It’s not what you hear coming to you from the back of the room. So, if you watch conference and it looks like Brother Wilberg is conducting ahead of the choir, it’s because you are falling victim to the Doppler effect. The choir is with him, but you’re hearing them in a delay. Now you know. That’s a much science as I’ve ever learned.

So we’re doing fine; we’re singing, we’re doing great. We’re about ten minutes into this gig. It’s really humming along nicely. And I’m holding my folder—you hold your folder like this, so you can see your conductor. I’m on the top row, and I’ve got my folder up, and something in my peripheral vision, up on top, flutters past. The first time I ignore it—I stay in the music; I’m doing my job as a choir singer, right? But it flies past again. And then I see a really strange thing. These seats are all filled, and we get a kind of a wave action going in the balcony, through the whole thing.

This is not a Jazz game or a hockey game; we’re at a classical concert. Why are they doing the wave? Finally, I look up, and there is a bat circling in the ceiling. Now they don’t normally drop on your head unless it’s a warm summer day in the middle of the afternoon, so I wouldn’t worry about that at all. He’s circling up here, and he’s buzzing the balcony—flying over the heads of the people in the balcony—and whenever he comes over they go, “Woah, I don’t want that bat on my head,” so we get this wave going in the balcony.

On top of that, at this point everyone in the room can see the bat. I make the first big mistake. I took my eye off the stick. I stopped watching the conductor because I’m watching the bat. I watch the bat fly, fly, fly, and it lands right there. It lands on the steps. There’s an elderly gentleman up there, and he has a cane. He’s decided that what we need is to stop the bat from flying around so that it’s not a distraction in the concert. So, his cane has a big rubber tip at the end, and he very gently sets the cane on the wing of the bat.

In case you’re wondering, bats hate that. And they don’t just write an angry letter to the editor to express their displeasure. The way that bats let you know they hate something is they scream this hideous, awful, shrieky, horrible, shrilly thing. And now that screech is echoing across the hall, and it’s sitting on top of the sound that we’re all making. Oh wait, no. We’re not all making it, because I have stopped singing. I’m not singing any more. I’m not doing the thing that I came prepared to do, that I had been working for weeks preparing to do. I am not doing that anymore because I have become epically distracted by that crazy bat.

So I’m watching it. I am literally standing around, “Okay, what are you going to do next? What’s coming up next?” And eventually—30 seconds, a year, I don’t know how long it takes—the guy finally thinks, “You know, I’m thinking that pinning this bat to the step was a bad idea. I’m going to go ahead and take the cane off his wing. And the bat—now here’s a new thing about bats; write this down. We’ll put this in the elevator; it’s very inspiring—bats can’t fly from a standing start like birds do. Birds can just be standing there, and then they flap their wings and fly. Bats can’t do that; they have to jump off of something. So now you know; if it comes up on Cash Cab, you’re good.

So, the bat had to work its way to the front of the step before it could take off and fly again, and the whole time it is mouthing off at the guy that pinned it down, “Don’t you ever do that to me again, you big weird guy,” or whatever. Screech, screech, screech. And I’m thinking the whole time, that is the craziest thing because that is going to ruin our recording. Like it matters—I’m not even singing. What am I doing to contribute to the recording, right?

Anyway, it finally takes off, and I’m relieved that the bat is now in flight. Hooray for the bat. And everyone is back to tuning in, including me. Like the prodigal son, I come to myself. Oh! I’m not singing! So, fortunately I am surrounded by people who did keep singing, and I get a feel for where we are, and I find my place in the music, and that’s when I look up at Dr. Thompson. I finally check in. And he’s looking back, right at me. And he has this look on his face that I only saw a handful of times, but I’ll tell you—Cathy can attest to it—it is the all-business face. And it basically said, “Yeah, Danae. You’ve been gone a while. Welcome back.”

But good news. I could hear the speakers; I had found my place in the music, put my eye back on my leader. And for the rest of the concert, I sang really well. And we sang really well. It was a great concert, and it was a great experience.

Here’s something very interesting. When we got the recording back, there was no sound of the bat. Never underestimate the power of a magical sound engineer. That whole sound of the bat was completely scrubbed. So the thing that I thought was so important, so relevant, didn’t matter at all. And I had allowed myself to become comprehensively distracted to the point that I missed something I had prepared for and I would never get that opportunity back again. That is the sad truth of it. Sometimes we get distracted, and we miss things that we never get back.

But you repent, you check back in, and you can still finish strong. So the message to learn from this, of course, is—you are swift of mind; you know—first of all, you have to ignore the echo. You have to ignore it even if it sounds so close to what is really true. In a space this size, that pitch comes back to you almost, almost perfectly in tune. But it’s not, and over time it is less and less in tune because you keep sending out less and less in tune messages. So the message that keeps coming to you is worse and worse. So, you cannot listen to the echo. You have to listen to the true source of the music. That’s what you tune in to. That’s what you listen for.

And then, you never take your eye off the stick. You keep your eye on the leader. You watch for the true downbeat so that the echo—again—doesn’t distract you. We keep our eye on the prophet. We tune our ears to the Spirit. We open our hearts to the Savior. And then if for some reason we get distracted, then the Savior can bring us back to a good place, to a safe place, to where if we had ever “felt to sing the song of redeeming love”[11] we can feel so again.

This is my testimony, and I leave it with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Alma 27:18.

[2] Alma 42:8.

[3] Mormon 7:7.

[4] Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Crown Business: (2010).

[5] 2 Nephi 4:15.

[6] “Chapter 4: Elements of Worship,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, (2001), p. 29–37.

[7] M. Russell Ballard, “Finding Joy through Loving Service,” Apr. 2011 General Conference.

[8] Mosiah 2:17.

[9] Thomas S. Monson “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Apr. 1992 General Conference.

[10] For example, see Henry B. Eyring “O Remember, Remember,” Oct. 2007 General Conference.

[11] Alma 5:26.

I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go

11 Mar. 2017


I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go                                                                  

I am so grateful to be here with you all today. I’m also grateful that it’s summer semester and that it’s the end of the semester and we’re not filled to capacity. This is not the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to speak at this sacred pulpit, but it will be my last. And just to clear up any misconceptions, it’s not because I’m graduating. Contrary to popular belief, I’m actually not a student here at LDS Business College, nor am I the student body president. But I am so grateful for my time at the LDS Business College.

I just want to start by asking you guys a question: who can tell me what the three E’s of the LDSBC’s mission statement are?

[Audience member responds.]

All right! He gets the grand prize. Enlighten minds, elevate hope, and ennoble souls. We’ll get you a gift card to somewhere after the devotional. I just want to touch on these three things because I have a strong testimony that the LDS Business College meets these three aims.

I want to tell you a story that has profoundly impacted my life. There was a young man who felt prompted to attend LDSBC right after his mission, and summoning all the faith he possessed, he hopped on a train and he came out here to Utah with nothing more than a suitcase, a guitar, and a couple hundred dollars he had left over from doing summer sales. He found a little place off 200 West called the Downtown Duplex—has anyone in here lived in the Downtown Duplex? All right, I don’t need to add anyone’s name to the prayer roll. That’s okay.

After he had paid his deposit and his first month’s rent, he had $120 left to his name. He had not paid tuition, he hadn’t even bought his books, and he had no mode of transportation—which made dating difficult, but we’ll talk about that in a minute. Something else he didn’t have a lot of was hope. In fact, he had even bought a train ticket to return home because he didn’t see any path to success for him at LDS Business College. He thought that his adventure was over before it even began.

But something interesting happened. The day before he was going to return home on the train, he felt prompted to attend something called New Student Orientation. And so against all logic, he got ready and attended NSO. While there, he received a confirmation that he was exactly where the Lord needed him to be. He was guided to seek out and talk to the people who showed him scholarships he wasn’t aware of, and he even got a part-time student employee job to subsidize his steady diet of Top Ramen and rice. And it wasn’t long before things began to work out for this student, and his hope was elevated.

The reason that story has impacted my life so much is that it’s actually my story. That is a picture of me at New Student Orientation that I found somewhere in an unknown shared hard drive. And you might not be able to see it, but behind those eyes there is a lot of fear. I just want to bear you my witness that as I came onto LDS Business College campus, I felt and witnessed firsthand that it is a temple of learning, and that it is a safe haven for those who are downtrodden, and that it is a place where our hope can be elevated to new heights. I also learned something about hope and what it means. It means, “Hang on. Pain ends.”

After that first semester, I went on to do many things. I got very involved. I started a club at the campus. I got to ride a cake, which was pretty cool. I got to be involved with mentors and ambassadors, and to serve in leadership positions. And I even got to do some acrobatics, which I am no longer capable of doing, unfortunately. Doesn’t she look really scared, the girl over in the corner? She’s ready to call 9-1-1.

I also had many great experiences and opportunities that I am so grateful for. I got to rub shoulders with some of the “noble and great ones”[2] and be mentored by many people who helped me along the path. I eventually graduated in under two years—this is not a four-year school—and I learned firsthand the power of minds being enlightened.

I also felt the power of this quote from Elder Dale G. Renlund: “God cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming than about who we once were.”[3] But that was just the beginning.

After I graduated and I went on to work for the Church, I didn’t imagine that just a year and a half later I would have the opportunity to come back to LDS Business College and work full time doing something that I love—and that is working with amazing people. This is when my soul was ennobled; it was through each one of you. Over these last three years, as an employee for the College, I’ve learned what it means to lead. I’ve learned what it means to communicate with heaven. I’ve learned what it means to love. I’ve learned how to mentor and how to be mentored.

But most of all, I’ve become something much greater through heaven’s help and through the kind mentoring and love of each one of you. There have been many choice people and souls who have taken the time to improve my life and to help me along my path. But the one who has helped me the most and ennobled my soul far greater than anyone is my sweet and faithful wife, whose bright countenance and light I first witnessed in this very room almost four years ago. I would be nothing without her, and I’m so grateful for her.

If I were to share one piece of counsel aside from the importance of marrying up, it would be this: hold to the iron rod with a white-knuckle grip and never let go. The word of God will see you through dark and turbulent times. The word of God will empower you with the Spirit, and the word of God will save your soul.

I am so grateful for the LDS Business College and for everything I have learned and become through it, and to the wonderful people here. As I look out and I see so many people who have impacted me so deeply, I feel so inadequate of expressing my gratitude for each one of you, for the impact you’ve had in my life.

I just want to end with the words from our opening hymn:

I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,

Over mountain or plain or sea;

I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord;

I’ll be what you want me to be.[4]

This is my prayer, and I leave that with you, with all of the gratitude I possess, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Adrian Juchau:

Thank you, Nancy. Thank you to those who put together that lovely video, and thank you, Brother Hooper. Thank you for your service here, for your examples. We hope that you all have learned something from their stories that can be helpful to you. Following my piece of this program, we will be privileged to hear from President Richards, which we look forward to very much.

Those who invited me—I would never of my own accord choose to do a musical number for you, not ever—but we ask you to do certain things, so I probably had better do the things the College asks of me so I can be a good example to you, right? Those who asked me to do that thought it would be appropriate if I took a moment to introduce the musical number I am going to play.

Here’s a scripture: “The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.”[5] What does that really mean? If my wife were here today, she’d tell you right now that this arrangement that I’m going to play for you of “Lord, I Would Follow Thee,”[6] is not one of my best. Think about this “song of the righteous” piece. You’ve heard musical numbers before where you think, “They may be righteous, but they haven’t got a prayer.” That might describe me today. I’m not sure. I appreciate your prayers.

What does that really mean, though? I don’t know all that it means, but I’ll share with you just one quick little thought of what it means to me. I don’t want you to listen so much to the music today as I want you to pay attention to this message. The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me. We learn in the Bible Dictionary that “prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.” My favor to you is when I have to walk over there and get behind that piano and my hands are shaking, that you not listen so much to the music but that you take that moment to find out what Heavenly Father’s will is for you and align yours with it.

You might turn—and I would invite you to do so now—in your smart devices to hymn number 220, if you’d like to look at the words while I’m playing, and consider that message. You read in the front of the hymn book that some of the greatest sermons are taught to us through song. There are no words today, but there are the words for you, and you can study those words while I play and you try to find out Heaven’s will for you.

This is a hymn of discipleship. This is a college of discipleship. We hold you accountable through grades for skills like accounting and interior design and those kinds of things. But heaven, who provides sacred tithing funds for you to be here, in a coming day will hold you accountable for what you have done to deepen your discipleship.

Discipleship has something to do with learning. It has something to do with following and doing and becoming. As you contemplate the message of this hymn, I hope you will ask questions like “What would heaven have me learn? What would heaven have me do to bless others? How can I strengthen my relationship with heaven?”

There are clues in this song.[7] Look at just the first verse, really quickly:

Savior, may I learn to love thee,

Has your love for the Savior grown during your time here at the College? Have you come to understand how His Atonement is meaningful to you as you are struggling with math, or your roommate, or your teacher? AS you understand His Atonement and apply it better in your lives, your love for Him will grow.

Walk the path that thou hast shown,

Are you pointing in the right direction? Are you on the right path? Are you moving along at a good pace? As we sang that opening hymn today, I thought to myself, “Yea, I’ll go where you want me to go, but it might take me a long time to get there.” I don’t know if you felt the same way. But the thing is whether we get there, right? And we made it—that’s good.

The next line:

Pause to help and lift another,

You might say, “But it’s finals. I’m so busy. I don’t have time.” Can you find strength beyond your own to serve another? To do the things that He would have you do? Anyway, I would just invite you to contemplate the message of this hymn while I play it. And if that’s not good enough, maybe just sit back and listen to the music, and I am hopeful with all of my heart that you might be able to feel something of the Spirit, and if the words don’t teach you something, maybe the Spirit will.

I’ll tell you just one little thought about what I feel like when I play this for you. I hope that I haven’t buried the melody of this hymn too much. I’ve introduced a counter-melody, and this counter-melody makes me contemplate the heavens. I love the stars. I love to ponder, looking at the stars. And you’ll hear that in here.

And if I ponder—this is a real story; this is how this arrangement came—as I pondered, looking into the heavens, I felt as though I transcended this mortal creation and beheld with immortal eyes the creation of worlds without end. And I knew in my heart of hearts that all that could be mine if I would simply learn the lesson of following Him. All that He has, all that He has created, and all that can be yours if you too will learn this simple lesson by following Him throughout mortality.

So I invite you to carry a prayer in your heart that this song will become a prayer of the righteous unto Him as you try to understand His will for you and pray for strength to better accomplish it. God bless you and me, each of us, worlds without end, to better strengthen our resolve to follow Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[Piano arrangement of “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.”]

President J. Lawrence Richards:

Thank you, Adrian. I think I’ll talk about Nancy and Neal and Adrian for a minute; that may be the best use of our time. And we’ll do it within the context of maybe what Neal said earlier, and it caught my attention. Neal . . . The last verse of the chorus of our opening hymn—and this phrase is actually in the last line of the third verse, and then it’s repeated in the chorus every time. It is simply, “I’ll be what you want me to be.”[8] So within that context, let’s talk about Nancy for a minute.

Let me just ask you very quickly because we don’t have very much time, but I need you to respond. Somebody tell me what you heard or felt from what Nancy had to say. Somebody be brave; what did you hear or feel from what Nancy had to say?


I will stand where the Lord wants me to be. Nancy wants to be a tree. Did you hear it? And she said that she wanted to stand in sacred places, that she didn’t want to leave the Sacred Grove. Now, let’s hold that for a second. Let me make a little jump here.

What I like to do at the end of every semester is go back through every one of the devotionals, and the notes and impressions that I have taken, and I like to create a theme for me that I think heaven was trying to tell me—not in each individual devotional, but what was the whole? And for me, this semester, it had to do with Dan Masterson and where he left us in his talk about being humble seekers of happiness. And then I went to Joseph Smith, who said that the object and design of our whole existence is to be happy and then gave us the process of being happy.[9]

And then when Nancy was speaking, I thought about Brother Garner, who talked about sacred places. The Sacred Grove was not a sacred place until Joseph went in there and what happened, happened. And after that, Nancy—like all of us—wanted to be the trees who are able to withstand all the vicissitudes of life and stand in holy places. I had the great pleasure of being one of Nancy’s teachers. She and I were in an interior design class together, and I got to watch her. I got to see her talent. And I got to hear her expression, and it is just a delight, Nancy, to hear what you had to say today.

So in this whole process of being happy—it means we have an obligation to put ourselves in sacred places—to be trees.

Now, we also learned this semester from Sister Singley that if you don’t want to be a tree, when in doubt, be a tomato plant. Now, I don’t know about you, but oh boy, did I find wonderful principles that were said by Gail and not said by Gail about being a tomato plant. And I hope you wrote down some of the things the Spirit told you about being a tomato plant and the soil and the care and the watering and the cage. Why? That you may bring forth the greatest fruit in the season thereof. And tomato plants can’t do it on their own. So that’s why you’re at the College. And you heard from Nancy what the College has done for her, this community. You heard from Neil what the College has done for him to get the fruit on his tomato plants. And so it is with you and with me, and we only want to bear fruit.

So what are the fruits? Adrian Juchau, this very unusual character with wonderful gifts, has paid the price in his life to turn that gift to a talent, which is fruit for which we have been blessed. Are you with me? And so, Neil—I’ll tell you honestly about Neil. I knew Neil when he was a student and kind of romping around campus doing crazy things—a good boy, but Neil is Neil. And one day, Adrian Juchau comes into my office and he says, “Do you remember this Neil Hooper?”

I said, “Yes. Didn’t he start a club or something?” Yes, he did.

And Adrian said, “I want to hire Neil Hooper full time.” And I remember the conversation, Neil and Adrian; I can tell you now. I said to Adrian versions of “What have you been drinking? This is a student, and we’re hiring him for a very important position at this institution? And putting into Neil Hooper’s trust many of the non-classroom curricula of this institution?”

And Adrian was wise enough to look back at me without flinching, as Adrian does, and said, “Yes. I want to hire him.”

So, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned from Neil Hooper. And I heard it during this semester from Sister Warnas, who was quoting Mufasa and Simba. And you know what that quote is: “You are more than you have become.”[10] So, Neil showed you some slides about a young man who comes here—empty pockets, perhaps not much hope because the adversary put that into his heart—and he buys a ticket ready to go home. And the adversary and his little imps, if you are to read The Screwtape Letters,[11] are just happy as can be. They want Neil on that train going home, to give up. But he sticks it through, and you get New Student Orientation. So, Neil for me is kind of like a poster child for LDS Business College.

So, what do I learn from Neil? What I learn from Neil is that Father in Heaven will take righteous individuals—no matter how afraid they are, no matter what little hope they have, no matter how they did or did not do in high school—and He, the Lord, will make of you what He will if you will but let Him, by holding onto the Iron Rod “with a white-knuckled grip,” Neil said.

So, let’s connect the dots. Here is Nancy, who is gifted and turns it into a talent; she finds her way here because of the recommendation of someone else. I’m sure it wasn’t all just peaches and cream for Nancy while she was here. If it was, then Nancy didn’t work hard enough, didn’t push herself hard enough. But Nancy wants to be a tree, to stand the vicissitudes of life, and to stand in holy places that there may be, as Brother Garner taught us, sacred experiences in sacred places.

And Neil, with his hopes and his fears—and no matter what his past was in high school or before, he comes. And somebody here at the institution sees potential. Somebody here—for me, Adrian Juchau’s nickname from now on is Mufasa. And brothers and sisters, so it is for every faculty member and every staff member who has had the privilege and the honor of rubbing shoulders with you. And every once in a while, the Lord gives us a vision of you. And you are more than you have become, and Father in Heaven will help you get there.

May you have in your life the kind of willingness to pay the price, to take a gift and to make it a talent—as we heard at the piano today—that becomes part of the tomatoes that bless and lift and inspire other people. So my parting invitation to you, because we are out of time, is for you to spend a little time—I promise you this: it will not detract from your ability to be effective with your final projects or your finals. I make you this promise—that if you will go pick up your little black book and go through it and see what the Lord has for you in the totality of all the devotionals that you have attended, I promise you there is a message there for you about your life in the totality. And in that totality, you will find steps—as I have found for me—steps that people have said (and they weren’t all the same speakers who said them, but the steps are there) for what I need to do to accomplish now about what the Lord wants me to do. And it is a blessing and a gift to you and to me because we’ve been here together nearly every week.

I pray that you will take advantage of that opportunity to have the Lord speak to you in that kind of highly personal way. And then get on your knees and thank Him for it. And then get off your knees and move your feet, because I don’t think the Lord takes very kindly the idea of giving you personal inspiration and revelation and guidance, and then to watch us be flippant with it.

When the Hoopers have their little girl and she becomes about nine or eight, Mom will say something in wise counsel, and Mom won’t be very happy when that little girl doesn’t take it because Mom knows it will bless her life. Well, your Father in Heaven, brothers and sisters, is no different than Sister Hooper or your parents in that regard.

Now, I pray the Lord’s blessings to be upon you. I pray that you will be a light. It’s interesting to me to stand at the door—now you can tell the visitors who are your age when they come because they don’t dress like you, but they also don’t look in their faces like you. Because you have a light, and you’ve paid the price for that light in your face. It was that light that made the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem concerned when the lease was signed for the Jerusalem Center for BYU, because the lease said that we would not proselyte. But one of the good leaders came up to one of the Brethren who was there—and I can’t remember whether it was Elder Oaks who was the president of BYU or if it was Elder Holland, but the story was told by Elder Faust—that after the lease was signed that we would not proselyte, one of those good Jewish leaders came up and said, “Oh, we know that you are not going to proselyte, but what are you going to do about the light that is in their eyes?”[12]

My testimony is strengthened because of the look in your eyes, and I am grateful for the blessing of being associated with you and pray Father in Heaven’s blessings to be upon you in their richness. And I leave you that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

[2] Abraham 3:22.

[3] Dale G. Renlund. “Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying,” Apr. 2015 General Conference.

[4] “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns, no. 270.

[5] D&C 25:12.

[6] “Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” Hymns, no. 220.

[7] “Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” Hymns, no. 220.

[8] “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns, no. 270.

[9] See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), p. 255–56.

[10] See The Lion King, Walt Disney Pictures, (1995).

[11] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, (1942).

[12] James E. Faust, “The Light in Their Eyes,” Oct. 2005 General Conference.

The Caravan

11 Mar. 2017


The Caravan

Melissa, thank you very much for sharing your talent. Let’s get out our phones—while you’re looking up the lyrics to “How Firm a Foundation,”[1] because I am an ex-banker, I am hacking into Sister Carey’s bank account. Her introduction went five minutes, and I figure at $100.00 a minute, I’m going to withdraw $500.00 from her account and transfer it to the needy scholarship fund. All in favor, manifest it by the uplifted hand.

We did this last week, and the Nickels—Brother and Sister Nickel—let’s open up the doors to the outside, and—all the way. And Andrew, can you hear me? Remember how last week we did “How Firm a Foundation” a capella? It’s number 85, but if you just Google “How Firm a Foundation”—how many of you were here last week? Was it awesome? It was awesome. I think we do it again for those who weren’t here. Verses, 1, 3, and 7. Andrew is going to play a little introduction, and I’m going to invite you to stand and sing your guts out.

This is a sacred building; apostles and prophets have spoken here, and the Saints have met here. The early Saints have met here. And I invite you to sing your guts out. And if you do with your heart, two things will happen. Number one, we might attract some people from Temple Square, which would be cool. But number two, you sing that song with heart, and angels will attend us today. Angels will attend us. You sing from your heart, and we will raise the roof, or bring it down, or whatever you do to roofs. Everybody stand up. And it’s going to be awesome.


Oh. my goodness. You are wonderful. You really are. That’s right—and no organ required. How many of you have pioneer heritage, that literally came? [Audience members raise their hands.] They heard you today. How many come from pioneer heritage from other parts of the world? [Audience members raise their hands.] They heard you today.

Oh, my goodness—the College—130 years ago we started. This is our 130th year. Hard to believe. It’s been ten years since the College moved from South Temple down here, and it was an interesting kind of event. We moved the library—we moved the library in handcarts. Is that awesome or what? And you can see, we even had police escort. We came down the street with the library in handcarts, and it was great. And it was authentic because one of the handcarts broke down and the wheel came off. And it was a summer day, and by the time we hit about 2nd West, we were feeling somewhat like the Willie and Martin handcart companies.

Before we left the building, on our very last day of Commencement, all the faculty and staff held hands, got around the old campus, and we hugged the building goodbye. And we started off down the street on a new journey. It was a new adventure, and I will tell you, brothers and sisters, none of us had any idea of what Heaven would do for us over the next ten years. We’re just glad that Heaven did it and attracted you and brought you here to the campus. We’re grateful to have you here.

And so, we’re in this building—a historic building built by the pioneers who came seeking a better opportunity in life, who came seeking to build something. They came here to promote the cause of Zion, just like you. And so, for a moment, I want to talk a little bit today about how they got here.

I don’t think—and I’ll defer to any historian in the Church or hobbyist historian in the Church—I don’t think we have a record of anyone coming to this valley in a wagon or a handcart who came by themselves. They came in caravans. Why? Because in caravans there was safety from the elements and the things along the trail, and there was support for each other. And so, I want to talk to you a little bit about what we might consider for a moment about this college and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being a caravan.

What do we know about this caravan and where it is going? Let me give you a little scripture—this is another metaphor, an analogy that comes close to the principle of a caravan that is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which you are a part. Doctrine and Covenants 65:2. Here it goes: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, [and it shall fill] the whole earth.”

Now, Joseph Smith:

No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. . . . The truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God [are fulfilled and] . . . accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.[2]

Now, President Gordon B. Hinckley:

This Church is true. It will weather every storm that beats against it. It will outlast every critic who rises to mock it. It was established by God our Eternal Father for the blessing of His sons and daughters of all generations. It carries the name of Him who stands at its head, even the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. It is governed and moved by the power of the priesthood. It sends forth to the world another witness of the divinity of the Lord. Be faithful, my friends. Be true. Be loyal to the great things of God which have been revealed in this dispensation.[3]

Brothers and sisters, can there be any question about both the direction of this caravan that you are on and its destination? For a moment, let’s consider different types of groups that are associated with the caravan, and let’s look at what the Lord’s invitation is. And the question to you, quite frankly, is how close are you physically and spiritually to caravans of today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

So first, here’s a group. It’s all of you who have been steadfast from the beginning of your lives, and you have pushed and you have pulled over dusty trails and high mountains and low valleys. You are the ones who have stood watch at night and given service during the day. To you, here are the comforting words of the Savior as you travel with this caravan: “Be not be weary in well-doing.”[4] And from today’s current wagon master, President Monson: “When we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help.”[5] And again, the Lord shapes the back for the burden that He places upon it.[6]

And so, you who are of this group, you—keep watching at night, and you keep serving during the day. You keep pushing and pulling up hills and across rivers. You are on the right path. You are moving in the right direction. And the blessings of the destination will be yours if you stay in the wagons and keep pace.

Now, there is another group. These are those—maybe some of you who have wandered emotionally or physically away from the caravan a bit. And now you are kind of forced to walk by the light of your own campfire, by the light of the sparks that you have kindled. I would say to you as a friend, there is no safety grazing at the edge of the caravan. That is where the wolves and the barking dogs do their very best work. It is neither fashionable nor intellectually safe nor spiritually sound to hold onto the iron rod with fingertips and see how far you can swing your legs out over the slippery slope.

Only rarely do we see members of this group leave the caravan at a right angle. Most of the time it is slow. And so, I give you the counsel of President Uchtdorf: “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”[7]

Let me tell you the story of a neighbor of mine who had a young boy—a very tiny boy, just big enough to be in his own bed without the sidebars on the bed. And late one night the boy came in to my friend’s room crying. And my friend said, “Joey, what’s wrong?” And Joey said, “Well, I fell out of bed, Dad.” And Joey’s father said, “How did that happen?” And Joey said, “I guess I wasn’t in far enough.”

Brothers and sisters, there is safety in the center of the caravan. Come to it and find the peace and the confidence for which your spirit longs. So, to you who may be in this group, we invite you to stop wandering. We need you, and you need us. There is a place for you. There is a duty for you to perform in this caravan. We invite you to come back to the center.

Now, there is a third group. This is a group of you who are weary in the travel and believe that being part of this caravan can just be too doggone hard. To you, remember that the Lord has promised that He “will be on your right hand and on your left,”[8] that He will “go before your face,”[9]  and that He will be in your rearward.[10] So this invitation to you: trust in the promise. As the pioneer song states: “Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. [Your] God will never [you] forsake.”[11]

The fourth group—this is a group of you who have recently joined the caravan. You may be still somewhat new to the Church and the processes and our history. We invite you to watch the seasoned travelers, especially the trail master and those who have been appointed to be captains over hundreds and captains over fifty. Take their counsel. Do what they do. Stick to the rules of the caravan. They are the result of many who have traveled this path before.

As I heard one apostle say on a different occasion regarding the missionary “white bible”—he said it was not made by a bunch of old men sitting up late at night saying, “How can we get them? How can we make life tough for them?” The rules are there, brothers and sisters, because they have journeyed our path before and they truly do know the way.

Now, there is a fifth group. These are those of you who feel somewhat lonely, and you walk alongside the caravan but you’re not quite in the wagons. You may do it because you feel like you don’t fit the mold of the other travelers. You see yourself and your differences as something that perhaps others will not or do not value. And you long for a sense of belonging, but at times you just feel like you don’t fit in.

Here’s the invitation: come closer. Look inside the wagons. They are full of all kinds of people possessing a range of ideas; a range of strengths; a numerous variety of weaknesses, talents, gifts—and yet they are bound together by a knowledge of where the caravan is going and a desire to be at its destination. The strength of the caravan is in the diversity of the character and the talents of those who are in it.

Now, there is a last group. This is a group that periodically follows the caravan within eyesight, but, oh, they keep their distance. They think they know what happens in the caravan, but because of their lack of vision to see things as they really are, they mock those of you who are in the caravan and they reject both the direction the caravan is heading and the destination which we have chosen.

Their voices are loud, and they sometimes can drown out the call of the trail master and the captains. Unfortunately, they do, every once in a while, pull people away from the caravan, and they are spiritually lost. But as the old Arab proverb states: “Though dogs bark, the caravan moves on.”

The barking is often criticism because there is dust on your wagons, or the wheels seem wobbly from the long journey, or one of the wagons follows the wagon in front of them seemingly blindly—or that those of you who are walking the trail and hold your heads up high do so with shoelaces untied. Or they are critical because of where the caravan may have been at some other time.

These who bark were seen long ago by Lehi and Nephi in a large building that was spacious, full of people.[12] They really are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, but they too are desperately seeking meaning in an ever-darkening and conflicting world.

So, our invitation to them is to come, to join us in some “tree of life experiences” and to be intellectually honest enough to not knock it before you have truly and sincerely tried it.

Our caution to you who are in the caravan is that sometimes you take your eyes off the trail to see what they are barking about. I would remind you that it is silly to Google the “great and spacious building”[13] to find out what you believe. Remember Lehi, in Lehi’s dream: as long as the family was partaking of the tree of life, they gave no heed. Those that fell away, they are described as having partaken, or partook of the fruit.[14] That is something worth contemplating in your life.

So, to be sure about this last group—they are very different from those of you who may have honest questions. This caravan in this dispensation was started by one who had an honest question. And so, we welcome questions; we welcome considered thought. We welcome that you take those questions to the Lord with a promise that He has said that He will not upbraid you.[15] Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first, as Elder Holland said, “Fan the flame of your faith.”[16]

So, what can we say about caravans? It is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and somewhere in one of those groups, you find yourself. Sometimes, we jump from group to group, depending upon the day or our experiences. My counsel to you is this: if you are trailing the caravan, catch up. If you are uncertain about the caravan, get certain. If you are weary, don’t wander or totter, for the Lord is there and He will push your wagon and help pull your cart. And if we let Him, we can be yoked to Him and He to us.[17] And if you are walking at the edge of the caravan, come back to the middle. Get in the wagons; take the seat that God has prepared for you.

And if you are hungry and you are thirsty, in this caravan is the Bread of Life and wells of living water. So, listen to the voice of Him who really owns this caravan:

For I, the Lord, have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven; ye cannot see it now, yet a little while and ye shall see it, and know that I am, and that I will come reign with my people.[18]

For I go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.[19]

Well, we have a few more minutes. I want to talk to you about a flower. Let me get to it. How many of you know what kind of a flower that is? [Audience members raise their hands.] It is a hibiscus. How many of you come from a country or a part of the U.S. where these grow magnificently? [Audience members raise their hands.] Be proud.

I want to tell you a story about a hibiscus. Julie and I—Sister Richards and I—we love to travel, and before we had children, we traveled more. Only you who have children are laughing. I understand. And my wife used to own a clothing store, and we would take her paycheck, and we would put it away. And a couple of times a year, we would go to Hawaii. There was a favorite little hotel that we had, and on the beach at that favorite hotel was a favorite little tree. And we would go for a week, and we would sit under that tree, and we would basically do nothing. Nothing. Except first thing in the morning before it got hot, we would get up and we would take a walk on the road that leads to this hotel. And on the way to a hotel, because it’s Hawaii, people have hibiscus hedges. In Utah, we have fences. There they have hibiscus hedges that block off the properties, full of these wonderfully gorgeous flowers. And every morning when we would walk, we would stop and comment. When there were no cars on the road, I would pick one, and I would put it in her hair. Ahh, yes. And then she would hold my hand while we walked. Ahh.

One year when we came home, we went to a gardening store. And there in this little pot in Salt Lake City, Utah, was a hibiscus plant. And it just had my wife’s name on it. So I bought it, and we took it home. And during the summer, we put it out on our back porch that had an east exposure, and oh, my goodness. We would go out there in the early morning, and we would have breakfast on our back porch, and we would look at that hibiscus plant. And it would remind us of our beach and our tree in Hawaii, and we would smile. And then in the winter time, we would bring it inside. And in the summer, it would just bloom, just like this. And in the winter time, we would bring it inside. We would open the windows so it got plenty of light, and every once in a while, a little yellow flower would come out. It would be February, and I would come in from shoveling the front walks, and I would sit, almost kind of Buddha-style, in front of the one little flower on our hibiscus. We loved it.

About two years later, things were going so well I went to another gardening store, and oh, my goodness, there was a five-foot tall hibiscus tree. I figured if that little plant got me some points at home, a five-foot tree . . . So we bought it. It was in a plastic pot, and I spent all my money buying the tree so we couldn’t put it in a good pot. We just left it in its plastic pot. And we loved that tree, and it bloomed red, just like this one. And every once in a while, I would pick a flower off and put it in a little cup, put it on Julie’s dressing table with a little note under it that said, “I love you.” Honestly, I’m making that part up. But in the moment, it sounded so good, and it’s something I should have done, but I was busy.

So, this beautiful five-foot tree was out on our back deck. In summertime, we like to go to Bear Lake, so we went to Bear Lake for a weekend. We came home and went out on the back deck. I had watered that hibiscus well so it would do well in the summer over the weekend. I came back, and the hibiscus plant was tipped over. And that black plastic pot that held the roots had baked in the sun for three days.

That little tree tried to do its very best to survive it. All its flowers closed up tight to retain the moisture—so did the leaves, actually, to retain the moisture. But it was exposed to elements that it could not withstand for too long of a period. I uprighted it; I tried to nurse it back, fertilized it. And then I put it in a better pot. But we lost the tree. And we lost the tree because the roots got exposed.

Brothers and sisters, there are some wonderful scriptures. Let’s go back to them. I invite you to write these down, and you go and look at them. The first one is Jeremiah 17:7–8. All of these scriptures have to do with rivers of pure water and with trees. I’ve highlighted here in gold some of the important parts. You can see on this one that Jeremiah saw that there were trees planted by water, and look where they spread their roots: by the river, and therefore, they neither ceased to bear fruit.

And if we go to Doctrine and Covenants 97:7–9, and we look at the first two verses—you can scan those. Look at the last verse; that is where the highlight is: “For I, the Lord”—and He’s talking about those of you who are faithful, who come to Him with broken hearts, and are honest and contrite spirits. Those of you who are willing to observe the covenants by sacrifice—the sacrifice of things you might have done but that you choose not to because of the caravan you are in. Look what He says: “For I, the Lord, will cause them to bring forth as a very fruitful tree which is planted in a goodly land, by a pure stream, that yieldeth much precious fruit.”[20]

And now, the last one comes from Ezekiel 47. We start in the very first verse, but we get up to verse number 12. And this is Ezekiel, who had a great vision about a river that came out from under the temple on the south side by the altar, the right-hand side of the altar—for those of you who can picture that in sacred places, and who sits on the right side of altars. And the water flows forth—Ezekiel says that every place the water goes, it heals. It even says that it rolls out from the east under the temple. And if you roll out east from under the temple in Jerusalem, you go over the mountain down to the Dead Sea. Ezekiel saw that river flow into the Dead Sea and heal it.

I invite you brothers and sisters to think that the gospel of Jesus Christ, as Elder McConkie says, is that river of water. It is the gospel. It is the covenants. It is the priesthood power. And think of yourself as the true. Like my little five-foot hibiscus tree, how are your roots doing? Are they growing near the river of pure water?

I pray, brothers and sisters, that this semester you will choose to send your roots near rivers of pure water, that when the south wind blows, you will not tip over because you are firmly planted. You are in the center of the caravan. May the Lord bless you this semester to do so, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] “How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, no. 85.

[2] History of the Church, 4:540.

[3] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Keep the Faith,” Ensign, Sep. 1985.

[4] D&C 64:33.

[5] Thomas S. Monson “To Learn, to Do, to Be,” Oct. 2008 General Conference.

[6] See Monson, “To Learn, to Do, to Be.”

[7] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Come, Join with Us,” Oct. 2013 General Conference.

[8] D&C 84:88.

[9] D&C 84:88.

[10] D&C 49:27.

[11] “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” Hymns, no. 30.

[12] See 1 Nephi 8:26–28.

[13] 1 Nephi 8:26.

[14] See 1 Nephi 8.

[15] See James 1:5; D&C 42:68.

[16] Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘Lord, I Believe,’” Apr. 2013 General Conference.

[17] See Matthew 11:29–30.

[18] D&C 84:119.

[19] D&C 84:88.

[20] D&C 97:9.

The Vital Guide in Our Journey

11 Mar. 2017


The Vital Guide in Our Journey

There is sunshine in our soul today[1] after that beautiful musical number. Thank you, Brother Decker and the choir, for that wonderful, wonderful music. President Richards, thank you for that kind introduction. The story of Sister Kusch and I coming here is a very tender and sacred one for us, but when people ask us why we came and why we are here, our short answer is, “The Holy Ghost.” And we felt like this is where the Lord would have us be and serve at this time in our lives.

I am very grateful this morning to share this pulpit with one of our missionaries. We had the—maybe someday I will be able to talk about my mission and not get all choked up—but we had the great experience in Mexico of serving with nearly 600 faithful and stalwart young people from 17 different countries around the world. When Elder Rafael Sarsosa arrived in the mission from Monterrey, Mexico, to my recollection, he spoke no English, or very little English. Or if he spoke any, he hid it very well from me and from Sister Kusch. And to hear him bear his testimony in a language that is not his own with power and with authority is a great blessing to us this morning and a tender mercy.

I am grateful to be with you this morning, brothers and sisters, as we gather in this historic place. It gives me a feeling of great reverence to think about the fact that prophets and other Church leaders have stood at this pulpit to address the Saints for well over a century. I commend you for being here today and hope that you will make regular devotional attendance a part of your weekly worship.

I wonder if we fully appreciate the blessing that is ours to gather here together every Tuesday in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, to be taught the gospel, to sing the hymns of Zion, and to be edified by the Spirit. How many members of the Church all over the world would long to be here just once? And yet, we have the opportunity each week to come here and worship.

A year before the Church was formally organized, the Savior taught Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them—even so am I in the midst of you.”[2] And so my prayer today is that we will feel the Savior’s influence as we learn and worship together.

A number of years ago while on a business trip to Arizona, I was invited to have dinner with some friends that we had known during the time that we lived in California. It had been a few years since we had seen each other, and none of their five children remembered who I was. Their youngest daughter, Melissa, who as I recall at the time was around five or six years old, decided that she wanted to make little name cards to put at everyone’s place so we would know where to sit when dinner was ready. As we walked into the dining room, we saw the name cards neatly arranged at each place. “Mom,” “Dad,” “Eric,” “Tera,” “Kelly,” “Brandon,” “Melissa,” and at my place, the card just said, “Other.” Melissa could not remember my name, and “Other” was the only appropriate name that she could think of.

Now, we have laughed about this experience for many years now. Whenever I get an email or a Facebook message from them, it is usually addressed to “Dear Brother Other.” I might add also that forgetting someone’s name is not a new experience for me. I forgot my wife’s name on our first date—but that is a story for another time. I’m just grateful for the eternal principle of repentance.

I know that to our Heavenly Father, we are not “Other.” He knows us. He created us. And He knows us by our name. We know this because of Joseph Smith’s experience in the Sacred Grove when the Father called Joseph by name as He introduced His Son.[3] A similar experience is recorded in the first chapter of Moses when Moses heard these words: “I have a work for thee, Moses, my son.”[4] And Jeremiah received the assurance that before his birth, God knew him.[5]

Because God knows us and because He loves us, and because He desires that we will someday return to His presence, He has given us every resource and every gift necessary to be able to accomplish this. None of these resources or these gifts are greater than the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is a gift directly from Heavenly Father.

President Wilford Woodruff taught that “the gift of the Holy Ghost is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon man.”[6] It is this vital and remarkable gift that I would like to speak about today.

Several years ago, while pondering about my grandchildren and what would be the most important thing to help them successfully navigate life’s challenges, the impression came: make sure they know how to recognize and follow the promptings and influence of the Holy Ghost.

And so, brothers and sisters, my testimony to you today is that learning to recognize and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, seeking the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, and living worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, are among the most important things that any of us can learn and desire to do in mortality.

You will recall in 3 Nephi 19, following the Savior’s initial visit, that the Nephite disciples prayed unto the Father “for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.”[7] It is no trivial thing that when each of us was confirmed a member of the Church, that hands were laid upon our heads and, by the power and authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, the words “Receive the Holy Ghost” were pronounced. In that ordinance, we were given the gift of the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead.

The most sacred and essential ordinances of the Church are done in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Regarding the ordinance of confirming the Holy Ghost, Elder David A. Bednar taught,

The simplicity of this ordinance may cause us to overlook its significance. These four words—“Receive the Holy Ghost”—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed “receive the Holy Ghost” and its attendant spiritual gifts.[8]

As I have studied the scriptures and pondered the mission and multiple roles of the Holy Ghost, I have come to more deeply understand that He guides us to, and is, the teacher and testifier of all truth, the testifier of the living reality of God and Jesus Christ—their doctrines and restored Church in these latter days. He is the first Comforter promised to His Apostles in John 14.

The Holy Ghost motivates us to keep the commandments, and His presence in our lives can show us all things that we should do.[9] Yielding to the enticings of the Spirit unlocks the enabling power of the Atonement for each of us, and as we do so, we are cleansed from sin and sanctified.[10] Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is a qualifying prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom of God. By the power of the Holy Ghost, both ancient and modern prophets have and do prophecy and receive revelation. By this same power, we can seek for and are blessed with spiritual gifts, and we can receive personal revelation meant just for us.

The Holy Ghost is instrumental in inspired learning and teaching, and strengthens us in fulfilling our responsibilities in the Church. Is it any wonder, then, that the Lord would state that “they that are wise . . . have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide”[11]?

In conversations with our missionaries, they would often wonder and worry if ideas or impressions they received were their own or if they were inspired by the Holy Ghost. At times, they also expressed doubt in themselves and their ability to do what the Lord had called them to do.

Inspired scripture does not leave us on our own to figure this out. Mormon taught that the way to judge is plain, and that we can know with a perfect knowledge good from evil.[12] He said,

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.[13]

Brothers and sisters, there are only two voices that compete for our attention—the voice of good or the voice of evil. Mormon’s teaching is very clear: for us, anything that persuades and invites us to come unto Christ—to follow Him, to serve Him, and do righteous things—is inspired of Christ through the Holy Ghost. Conversely, anything that would lead us away from Christ is inspired of the devil. It is just that simple. Seeking, recognizing, and following the promptings and influence of the Holy Ghost is vital in always following Christ. It is vital for you, and it is vital for me.

Just a minute ago, I referred to the Savior’s statement about the wise taking the Holy Ghost for their guide. This is recorded in section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants. I would like to read the entire verse, which comes after a reference to the parable of the ten virgins.

For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.[14]

I learned about guides and not being deceived while on a trip to Brazil that included time spent in the Amazon jungle. We stayed in a floating hotel on the Rio Negro, and one day we decided to take a canoe trip and go on a hike to experience firsthand a real jungle.

Our guide was Moreno—an Italian by birth, who was in his mid-30s, who had dreamed all of his life of living in Brazil and living in the Amazon jungle. He was skilled and extremely knowledgeable. He had studied the customs and the history of the natives, and now he was living his dream.

We traveled by canoe for about an hour, then we beached the canoe, and off we went hiking into the jungle, far away from the river. We stayed close to Moreno. We listened to every word. He taught us about the plants, the insects, the trees, and how the people lived. He was a master teacher, and soon we came to trust him implicitly and completely. We knew that if we did not stay close to him that we would get lost, and that could be a very serious problem.

At one point, we stopped and he said, “If someone got lost in this jungle, they could die within a matter of hours because of the heat and humidity and lack of water. But for those who know the jungle, water is not a problem. There is water all around us if you just know where to look.”

We looked around, and we saw nothing that resembled water. Frankly, we were a little unbelieving. Moreno sensed our skepticism, and then he said, “Water is right here.” He took his machete, he grabbed a piece of vine that was right in front of us, chopped it off, tipped it vertically, and water came flowing out. He began to drink. As we looked around, we realized that we were surrounded by vines that were full of water. One by one, we each took our turn drinking from a vine of real water—water that would keep us alive if we listened to the guide and trusted him.

Now, there were other vines in that jungle, too—vines that could cause one to become very sick or die if you even touched them. Because we trusted Moreno and listened to him, we could not be deceived had there been someone else encouraging us to partake of something that looked enticing but was more poisonous and deadly than we could possibly imagine.

As I’ve thought about the various gospel applications from this experience, it was a powerful reminder that just as important as following and trusting Moreno was in the Amazon jungle, taking the Holy Ghost as my guide was vital in navigating life’s jungles so that I would not be deceived.

Now, there may be times when we are prompted to do something and we don’t know exactly why. Or we may not even recognize that in the moment we are being guided by the Holy Ghost. An experience that I had in Mexico taught me just that.

Not far from the mission home was the campus of a private university that offered programs in international business. We drove by this campus often, sometimes several times a day. Well into our time in Mexico, I began to have the distinct impression that I should go to this campus and tell anyone who would listen why I was in Mexico—that I was there as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but to tell them that before coming to Mexico, I was a university professor of international business and that I would be happy to volunteer, perhaps speaking to a class or helping out in some small way.

Weeks passed, and the demands of the mission did not permit me to make the visit. However, the impression would not and did not leave. And so one afternoon, I found myself with a few free hours, and I told Sister Kusch that I was going to the school. For those not familiar with Mexico, you should know that posted at the entrance of just about every school and every business is an armed guard with a pistol, or a rifle, or a shotgun, or some assortment of all of these. We never found out if the guards would actually use them, but they were always very imposing. For those from Mexico or other Latin American countries, you know exactly what I am talking about.

So I went to the school, and I walked up to the main entrance. There I was met by an armed guard with a very big gun. I told him why I had come. “I am a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am in Mexico to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, before coming to Mexico I was a professor of international business. I am here today to volunteer my services if anyone is interested.”

He looked at me with a strange look on his face, like, “This is weird.” However, in spite of carrying a gun, he was friendly, and he said he would see what he could do. He came back in a few minutes, and he said, “I found someone to talk to you.” “Awesome,” I thought.

He led me to the back of campus, we walked upstairs to the administration office, he pointed to a pleasant young woman, and he said, “She can help you.” I repeated my story, and I got the very same look—“This is weird.” She was very kind and proceeded to explain to me how they hired professors. She gave me a stack of documents to complete—an application, how to submit a résumé, proof of residency, passport information, and several other things. And all the while I am thinking, “I am not going to fill any of these documents out. I did not come to Mexico to be a part-time college teacher.”

So I left my business card with her, I thanked her for her time, I took the stack of documents, and I returned to the mission home. I told my wife about the experience, threw the documents in the trash and said, “Well, I did what I was prompted to do, but this was not at all what I had expected.” I suppose what I had expected they would say was “Oh, Señor Kusch, we are so grateful you are here. Why did you wait so long to come and tell us that you were living in Mexico?” Or something to that effect.

But I got back to mission business and put the matter out of my mind. Several months passed, and one day I received a call from a wonderful young woman, a returned missionary from one of the nearby wards. She told me she had a reference for a great family and asked if I would pass it along to one of the missionaries in the assigned area. I told her I was happy to do that, and I made sure they got it the very same day. Two weeks later she called again.

“Presidente,” she said, “I am not at all happy with your missionaries. Remember that family whose name I gave you?”

I said, “Yes.”

She said, “Well, we had a family home evening the other night. Your missionaries were not prepared. They had nothing to teach, and I had to take over the lesson.” She assured me that the family still had interest in hearing the gospel, but she let me know that our missionaries needed to be much, much better. Needless to say, those two elders got a phone call from their mission president with some very direct instructions and an invitation to improve.

Before long, in the weekly letters from this companionship, they were raving about this family they were teaching. “President, you can not believe how amazing this family is! They’re coming to church. They’ve committed to a baptismal date. They’re reading the Book of Mormon. When we go to teach them, they’re prepared and teaching us everything they have been reading and studying. This is amazing!”

I thought, “I need to meet these people.” And so I asked the missionaries to schedule an appointment so that I could accompany them on the next lesson. We arrived at the house, and we were warmly greeted by Talina, Jose Luís, and Sulam—the returned missionary—and the precious little daughter of Talina and Jose Luís. We exchanged pleasantries, had an opening prayer, and the missionaries began their lesson.

I sat there looking at Talina, staring at her, thinking, “I know you from somewhere. I have met you before.” We were both thinking that at the very same time, and at just about the same moment, we knew. Talina was the woman I had met at the university. And then I knew why the Holy Ghost had prompted me to visit that school.

Three weeks later, Talina and Jose Luís were baptized. Not long after that, Jose Luís’s widowed mother joined the Church, and on a recent trip to Mexico, I learned that because of their influence three more complete families have been baptized. Talina and Jose Luís and their precious daughter have recently been sealed in the Mexico City Mexico Temple. She now serves as the Young Women president in her ward, and Jose Luís is serving as a counselor in the elders quorum presidency.

Now, when I had the impression to go to that university, I did not understand why, but I acted on the impression. And even when I went and nothing immediately resulted, I took comfort in knowing that I had followed a prompting. But soon I came to know, and I could see the Lord’s hand in blessing my life and many other lives in remarkable ways.

Seeking to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is a choice we make as we wisely exercise our moral agency. Latter-day scripture teaches us how we can best accomplish this. It is by worthily partaking of the sacrament each week, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, with real intent—and in so doing, always remembering the Savior.[15]

When the sacrament was instituted by the Savior among the Nephites, He said, “If ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.”[16] In the sacrament prayers, we renew our covenant to willingly take upon us the name of Christ, to be willing commandment-keepers, and to always remember Him—with the promised blessing of always having His Spirit to be with us.

And so I would remind us of two key words: always and remember. If we always remember Christ, and all that entails, we will have a greater disposition to be obedient. Willing obedience to the Savior’s commandments without rebellion is an expression of our love for Him and a key indicator of our desire to receive associated blessings and enjoy a greater measure of the Holy Ghost in our lives, even to always have His Spirit to be with us.

So, there are two questions I would ask you to consider: First, how would my Sabbath worship improve if each day of the week I did something to be more prepared for taking the sacrament? And second, how would my behavior change if each day of the week I was doing something to be more prepared to worthily partake of the sacrament?

Remember the Savior’s promise in 3 Nephi and in the sacrament prayers that if we always remember Him, we will always have His Spirit to be with us.[17] If you feel distant from Heavenly Father or feel that you are lacking in receiving spiritual guidance, you can fix it. And there is no better way than to make the sacrament the focus of your weekly worship than by preparing every single day.

It would seem that Satan knows just how to attack each generation, and all generations for that matter, with things to keep us from doing and being what Heavenly Father hopes we will do and be. After all, Satan desires to sift us as wheat.[18] The standard for us as Latter-day Saints is clear as taught by Elder David A. Bednar:

If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things are definitely not for us.[19]

There is no better way to shun unworthy actions than to make daily preparations to worthily partake of the sacrament each Sabbath day an integral part of our daily lives. It is how we more fully keep ourselves unspotted from the world.[20] If we always remember the Savior, then the power and influence of the Holy Ghost will warn us if we are approaching spiritual danger, or if we are indulging in thoughts, actions, and activities that would offend Him and cause us to lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

The strength that comes from worthily partaking of the sacrament will give us the courage to follow the Savior’s example of not yielding to temptation. He suffered temptations of every kind but gave no heed unto them.

I’d like to share one final experience and important principles that I promise you will benefit you this semester and throughout your lives. My colleagues have heard me refer to this on several occasions, and I call it the Parable of the Barbecue Sauce.

In September of 2007, while a member of the business management faculty at BYU—Idaho, we were preparing to introduce the learning model to our students. It’s similar to our learning pattern, and it is based on the principles of “Prepare, Teach One Another, and Ponder and Prove.”[21] In preparation for the beginning of fall semester, a two-day department meeting was held. In that meeting, we discussed the learning model and its introduction and application in great depth.

As the first day was coming to a conclusion, the department chair said, “If we’re going to require our students to use the learning model, it’s only fitting that we learn to use it too. So tomorrow we’re going to practice. Here’s the assignment. I’d like you to go home tonight and research recipes for barbecue sauce. Bring three or four tomorrow to share with everyone, and we’ll talk about what we learned and how we learned.”

We were just a few days away from the beginning of the fall semester, and at the time I was scheduled to teach four classes. I still had a lot of work to do to get them ready. I was serving as a stake president, and I was also right in the middle of PhD studies. My personal plate was very full, and I did not want to think about having to do one more thing. So when our department chair said, “Tonight and tomorrow we are going to learn about barbecue sauce,” I said to myself, “Not me.”

I went home that night more than a little perturbed, and I told my wife that I wasn’t going to participate in such a silly assignment. And I didn’t. I will also admit that I was secretly hoping and praying that there were others in my department who felt the same way.

I arrived the next morning at the meeting completely and totally unprepared. But there was a noticeable excitement amongst everyone—that is, everyone but me. It soon became apparent that of the nearly 20 of us in the department, I was the only one who was there unprepared. We were assigned to small groups where recipes for barbecue sauce were enthusiastically shared. My colleagues were kind and shared their recipes with me, and gratefully, no one put me up for public scorn for being such a slacker. And I learned something about barbecue sauce that day, but not nearly as much as everyone else.

They contributed to my learning, but I had nothing to contribute to theirs. My bucket was empty. I was chastened by the Spirit, and I knew that I needed to repent. So here is the lesson that I learned: I learned that, as a learner, when I pay the price of personal, prior preparation, I am entitled to a greater measure of the Holy Ghost to teach me. I learned that if I do not prepare, I may learn something but I will not learn as deeply what I could have learned with a personal investment and preparing in advance.

At that moment, I made a personal commitment that I would never again participate in a learning experience and be unprepared. As I have consistently applied this principle, I have been schooled by the Spirit in remarkable ways. This principle applies not only to school, but it applies to our Sabbath worship. Prior preparation for sacrament meeting will deepen your experience. If you will read and study the Sunday School, priesthood, and Relief Society lessons in advance, you will learn more because the Holy Ghost will reward your efforts.

Now, the real irony of this parable is that one of my favorite things to do now is to make barbecue sauce.

At the beginning of my remarks, brothers and sisters, I told you that learning to recognize and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, seeking the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and living worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost were some of the most important things we can learn and desire to do in mortality. Cultivating the capacity to be sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings will not come all at once, but I can testify that as we seek to do this with real intent, our ability and our capacity will increase.

Elder Richard G. Scott taught,

Have patience as you are perfecting your ability to be led by the Spirit. By careful practice, through the application of correct principles, and by being sensitive to the feelings that come, you will gain spiritual guidance. I bear witness that the Lord, through the Holy Ghost, can speak to your mind and heart. Sometimes the impressions are just general feelings. Sometimes the direction comes so clearly and so unmistakably that it can be written down, like spiritual dictation.[22]

What a blessing it is to know that a Heavenly Father who knows us has blessed us with such a gift as the Holy Ghost. He can guide us, warn us, teach us, comfort us, and testify of truth. Now, I have testified of some of my experiences today regarding the Holy Ghost—how I have been led, how I have been taught, and how I have been corrected. I would invite you today, in a quiet moment, to think about your own experiences with the Holy Ghost. As you do so, I promise that He will help you see how you have been led and guided in your life. Undoubtedly, brothers and sisters, we can all make improvements to enjoy a greater measure of the Holy Ghost in our lives as we seek His companionship, His constant companionship, every single day.

I testify that God does indeed live, as does His Holy Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I know the Father and the Son have bodies of flesh and bones as tangible as ours. I also testify that the Holy Ghost is real, a personage of spirit who can dwell in us as we live worthy of His presence. I am grateful for this revealed truth. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who has bestowed upon each and every one of us this remarkable gift. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] See “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today,” Hymns, no. 227.

[2] D&C 6:32.

[3] See Joseph Smith—History 1:17.

[4] Moses 1:6.

[5] See Jeremiah 1:5.

[6] “Chapter 5: The Holy Ghost and Personal Revelation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, (2011).

[7] 3 Nephi 19:9.

[8] David A. Bednar, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” Oct. 2010 General Conference.

[9] See 2 Nephi 32:5.

[10] See Mosiah 3:19.

[11] D&C 45:57.

[12] See Moroni 7:15.

[13] Moroni 7:16.

[14] D&C45:57.

[15] See D&C 59:8–9.

[16] 3 Nephi 18:7.

[17] See 3 Nephi 18:7, 11.

[18] See Luke 22:31; 3 Nephi 18:18.

[19] David A. Bednar, “That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Apr. 2006 General Conference.

[20] See D&C 59:9.

[21] “BYU-Idaho Learning Model,”

[22] Richard G. Scott, “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Oct. 2009 General Conference.