A Future Greater than You Can Imagine

25 Apr. 2016

Transcript

A Future Greater Than You Can Imagine

Thank you. That was powerful. And it was powerful to be a part of it. I’m grateful to be here today, speaking to you today under the direction of President J. Lawrence Richards, and grateful to be here with President and Sister Richards, who share this podium.

Since our daughter Elizabeth taught here at one time, at LDS Business College, the LDS Business College is legendary in our home. She once taught Interior Design and our family has felt an allegiance to your school ever since. I’m also grateful that next week you get to hear from Sister Sharon Eubank. I want you to know I was her third grade teacher. Now she was incredible in third grade, but wait till you see her now. You’ll want to be here next Tuesday morning.

I have looked forward to this opportunity and I want to share with you today truly what is in my heart. However, as I speak, my words are secondary to what you will feel. The Holy Ghost, we know, is the real teacher. And we have all come here today to receive revelation.

I also want you to know that every work day for the past six years, I have driven by the LDS Business College in the early mornings and in the late afternoons, and I have observed you coming to and from your classes, and I’ve gained a sense of the students that attend this college and I’m impressed. But I also want you to know that with an effort to maintain your current enrollment and not lose even one student, I have loyally observed the new flashing pedestrian signal on the crosswalk on 3rd West. If you want to know the truth, I admire your courage for crossing that street. And I have turned carefully onto and from North Temple each day.

Brothers and sisters, you have a remarkable administration and faculty. I know some of them personally, and I have great respect for each one, and for his and her example. You are being led and taught by the finest in the field of education. I visited your website, and I was impressed with your curriculum here at the College, and with the student testimonials. On the website I read the phrase: “Find Your Direction,” and a question: “What do I want to be when I grow up?” That phrase and that question, combined with President Thomas S. Monson’s promise, your “future is as bright as your faith”[i] capture the feelings I feel today. Yes, your future is as bright as your faith, and the Lord needs your faith, because He has a work for you to do.

The story of a Primary teacher in Moscow, Russia, trying to get the attention of the children in her Primary class taught me that lesson. The children were all talking, and not one was ready to listen. Sound familiar? One child in the group seemed to be the ring leader. He poked others and yelled loudly. The teacher thought, If I could somehow get his attention, maybe the others would listen.

She was inspired to go over to this little boy, bend down so she could look right into his eyes, cup her hands around his little cheeks and in a soft voice say to him, “Jesus Christ died for everyone. And if you were the only one on this earth, He would have done it just for you.”

The room fell silent. What she said is true. Her message is for each one of us. The Savior died for you and He died for me and because He knows and loves each one of us personally. Our desire to follow Him while here on the earth will help us find our personal direction.

Our Heavenly Father has known each one of us for a very long time, even in the premortal existence. Brigham Young said, “There is not a soul of you but what has lived in His house and dwelt with Him year after year; and yet you are [now] seeking to become acquainted with Him, when the fact is, you have merely forgotten what you did know.”[ii]

You have come here to earth seeking to know your Father through earthly experiences, and you are having those earthly experiences every day. President Russell M. Nelson taught us this: “You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His great work on earth. You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others.”[iii]

 And if that is not enough to build your confidence, listen to what the prophet Joel prophesied: “And it shall come to pass … that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, [and] your young men [and I would also add, your young women] shall see visions.”[iv]

Now you may be sitting here today in this Assembly Hall in Salt Lake City and think, “Chosen by Him, leader in His great work, bravery, courage, thirst for truth, prophesy, visions?” Yes, that it you. The Lord needs you to be a leader in His great work, and you cannot do it without Him. You were chosen for this day because of the great potential that lies within you. You know our Father and His Son Jesus Christ from the premortal existence, and you made covenants with them there, to do the Lord’s work here on this earth, specifically to help to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of all of his children.[v]

And Job tells us that when the foundations of the earth were laid, when we understood the plan, then we “shouted for joy.” No wonder President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said recently: “God sent you here to prepare for a future greater than anything you can imagine.”[vi]

For a moment let’s think of the painting of René Magritte[vii], a famous Belgian artist, while I repeat President Uchtdorf’s quote: “God sent you here to prepare for a future greater than anything you can imagine.” The painter in this painting sees more in the egg than meets the eye. He sees a great future and great potential. He sees a beautiful bird.

God also sees in us a great potential—much, much more than we can ever imagine. Someone once said, “Point your life in the right direction and prepare to be astonished.” We would be astonished if we knew what was behind us, what was really inside of us, and what is ahead of us. So what will your future look like? What is your vision?

Let’s talk about defining direction. Your priorities, and what you consider to really matter most will define your life. With that in mind, what can we learn from the three following individuals?

The first is Abby Morgan. It was six years ago that I was sitting next to Abby in a Young Women’s class. She was barely 12 years old. Now Abby just happens to be Brother Tyler Morgan’s daughter. Brother Morgan is the Dean of Instructional Support here at LDS Business College, and Abby is now 18 years old, about ready to graduate from high school. Way back when Abby was 12, her Young Women advisor asked her class to write the ten priorities in life.

Now what would you write if you were asked that question? I was sitting next to Abby and I have to admit, my thoughts began with 1) Clean the pencil drawer in the kitchen. No, no, no. Abby went way beyond that, and when our lists were complete, the Young Women leader asked us to share what we wrote, and this was Abby’s list, at twelve years old:

Go to college at the University of Utah,”—woops, that’s changed, right? Now she’s planning to go to college here at LDS Business College—

Become an interior designer.

Go on a mission to India.

Get married in the temple to a returned missionary.

Have five kids and a home.

Send my kids on a mission and to college.

Become a cooking, giving grandma.

Spoil the grandkids.

Learn more about the gospel and enjoy life.

Return and live with Father in Heaven.

 

Abby was young, with her whole life ahead of her, when she wrote that list. Now what does someone say on the other end of life, when she looks back at her priorities? Let me share with you the thoughts of someone who knew she was about to leave this earth. The second individual is Joanie Bailey, who passed away from cancer on January 27th of this year, just 33 days ago, at age 57. She was a beautiful, vibrant woman, a devoted wife, faithful mother of four handsome boys, and a grandmother to three precious grandchildren.

Joanie deeply loved life. Today if you approach Skyline High School just south of Salt Lake, you would see the reminders of pink ribbons tied to signposts and trees in tribute to her. She influenced thousands of students with her Community of Caring program at Skyline High School. Her life was about serving others in her family, church, and community.

Just days before she passed away, Joanie reflected on her life. She experienced what President Monson has said when he said, “Moments of clarity come to all of us at one time or another… We see clearly what it is that really matters in our lives.”[viii]

Joanie wrote this: “I’ve come to realize a few qualities and activities that have enriched my life and that matter most to me, and I would like to share them with you.” Here are the ten things she wrote:

Spend time with family. Nothing is more important.

Testimony of the gospel. Don’t let the philosophies of men influence you. Embrace the spiritual

Prayer is sacred.

Scripture study. Make time to read and study these sacred works.

Never forget you are a daughter of God. Reach up. He will always take your hand.

Temple attendance and temple work for our ancestors. This has blessed my life immensely.

Be honest with each other. I have trifled with silly things at times, and have been grateful for a friend’s advice.

Continue serving, individually and collectively. Service blesses both the giver and the receiver. I love to serve.

Keep getting outside in nature and enjoying the beauty of creation.

Continue to be respectful and non-judging. Be kind.

Now the third individual is Clayton M. Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, who wrote the book entitled How Will You Measure Your Life. He wrote: “I have used what I have learned from my family and from scriptures and prayer to understand the kind of person I want to become.” Note that he used what he learned from his family, scriptures, and prayer.

At the end of his book he writes, after much soul searching, what he wants to become, and he shares these three things:

A man who is dedicated to helping improve the lives of other people.

A kind, honest, forgiving and selfless husband, father, and friend.

A man who doesn’t just believe in God, but who believes God.

I can testify that Brother Christensen not only talks about but also really lives these principles. One seldom has a conversation with him that he doesn’t genuinely inquire, “What can I do for you?”

Now what can we learn from Abby, Joanie, and Brother Christensen? The priorities they all have in common are belief in God, family, covenants, kindness, service, and living—really living the gospel of Jesus Christ to its fullest.

We as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not have a corner on setting priorities. Listen to what Erma Bombeck, an American humorist, wrote when she contemplated what she wished she had done differently in her life: “If I had my life to live over… I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded… I would have taken time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth… I would have cried and laughed less while watching television… and more while watching life... There would have been more I love yous…more I’m sorrys… but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute…look at it and really see it… live it and never give [it] back.”[ix]

So what matters most in your life? How does that priority influence the vision you have for your future? What is your vision for yourself, five, ten, twenty years from now? Whether or not you make a list, the days, the weeks, and the years will still go by while you become the person your daily priorities define.

A recent article in the Deseret News entitled “How Writing Down Life’s Goals Helps Students Boost Their Semester Grades”[x] tells about an approach of not just setting goals but also elaborating and reflecting on them. Students were asked to do three things. One was to write freely about their future self’s life, extracting goals from this narrative. Then, rank the goals. Then, consider implications for themselves and lay out strategies to overcome obstacles. Research shows that telling a detailed story about the kind of life you expect and the hurdles you expect to cross and setting goals to do so can have concrete payoffs along the way. The results of this study showed that students who participated were more motivated and felt better about themselves. Their grades did improve and they were less anxious.

Similarly, you may try this experiment: Sit down and write yourself a letter dated one year from now, congratulating yourself on all the specific things you have achieved during the past year. Then seal the envelope, and open it a year from now. Visualizing a positive future, including how to deal with life’s challenges, gives one confidence to move forward.

What if you were to add an eternal perspective to this concept? Add the truth that you have within you divine potential and the Lord has placed you here on earth to accomplish His purposes. Then, writing freely about yourself takes on an even greater light.

President Monson gave us wise prophetic counsel when he taught: “This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you to not let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that elusive and nonexistent future when you will have all the time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.”[xi]

My hope for you today is that you will find joy in your journey and define for yourself, if you have not already, those things that do matter most in your life. We cannot be casual about creating a personal vision for our future, regardless of our age. Even my mother, at almost 97 years old, insists on buying green bananas. She anticipates them ripening in the future, and looks forward to being there to eat them.

Like green fruit becoming sweeter, to her each day is a gift to learn from life’s experiences, and she never quits planning for what is ahead. She has taught me to dream dreams and to have visions for the futures. She has also taught me to never give up, and to look defeat in the eye. I think that’s what President Monson meant when he said, “If you do something that doesn’t turn out quite as you… planned, you can almost always put it right, get over it, learn from it.”[xii]

Let’s encapsulate all that I’ve talked about into three principles, and you can act on them today. I promise that these three principles will help you point your life in the right direction, with a guarantee that you will experience joy in that journey. These three principles are:

Be loyal to your covenants with the Lord.

Follow His prophet.

Forget yourself and find someone to serve.

Be loyal to your covenants with the Lord. The covenants that we make at baptism and in the temple are solemn promises to God about how we will conduct our life. I testify that being loyal to these promises no matter what brings joy and aligns our direction with Him. When we are baptized we take upon ourselves the sacred name of Jesus Christ. We see ourselves as His, and we put Him and His work first in our lives. We seek what He wants rather than what we want and what the world teaches us to want.

We also covenant at baptism to always remember Him and to keep His commandments. When we live by the covenants that we make at baptism and in the temple—and each Sunday as we partake of the sacrament—we focus on and remember the Savior and His church. We become closer to Him, and we realize that the promise—that great promise—is true: we may always have His Spirit to be with us.

Now this is important: we cannot separate our loyalty to Christ from our loyalty to His church. Our covenants make that possible. In Doctrine and Covenants 10:69 it explains: “And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”

There will be opportunities in this life to give our effort to many causes. Those causes may demand much of our time and attention. There may be some causes that will even pull us away from our core beliefs, the very foundation upon which our covenants rest. When that happens, we must ask ourselves, “Where is my priority? Where is my loyalty to the covenants that I have made?”

In the premortal life we faced a similar choice. We chose to reject Satan’s enticings and to follow the Lord’s plan. Here in mortality, we must choose again. When tempting us to follow alternate voices, the adversary would have us give those voices a higher priority than the covenants we have made. He does not want us to see a gradual shifting of loyalties as unfaithfulness. Certainly he would have us reason, “We’re not rejecting Christ, even if we reject His Church and its standards and values.” But brothers and sisters, I testify that we cannot separate our loyalty to Christ from our loyalty to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And living our covenants confirms our allegiance to Him.

Follow His prophet. Forty-six years ago—think about that—I don’t know if there is anyone in this room who was even born forty-six years ago—in 1970, President Harold B. Lee said, “We have some tight places to go before the Lord is through with this church and the world in this dispensation, which is the last dispensation, which shall usher in the coming of the Lord. The gospel was restored to prepare people ready to receive Him. The power of Satan will increase... There will be inroads within the Church... We will see those who profess membership but secretly are plotting and trying to lead people not to follow the leadership that the Lord has set up to preside in this Church.”

Now I want to stop here and ask, does this sound like today? It was 45 years ago. President Lee continued: “Now the only safety we have as members of this Church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet.”

President Lee went on to say, “There are some things that will take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disburse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:6)”[xiii]

The Lord said, “Though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”[xiv]

An illustration of this truth was shared by President Lee. A “traveler was leaving by boat from Stockholm, Sweden, traveling out into the Baltic Sea. To do so, the boat had to pass through a thousand or more islands. Standing on the forward deck, the traveler found himself becoming impatient with what seemed to him to be a careless course. Why not a course near to this island or another and more interesting than the one the pilot had chosen? Almost in exasperation he was saying to himself, ‘What’s wrong with the old pilot? Has he lost his sense of direction?’ Suddenly, he was aware of the markers along the chartered course which appeared as mere broom handles sticking up in the water. Someone had carefully explored these channels and had charted the safest course for the ship to take.”

President Lee continued: “So it is in life’s course on the way to immortality and eternal life: ‘God’s engineers,’ by following a blueprint made in heaven, have charted the course for safest and happiest passage and have forewarned us of the danger areas.”[xv] When we follow the prophet, our course will lead us safely back home.

Forget yourself and find someone to serve. We all know someone who lived the following description of C.S. Lewis when he calls them “new men.” He writes: “Every now and then one meets them. Their voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off… They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less…. They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from.”[xvi] “To become ‘new men’ means losing what we now call ‘ourselves.’ Out of ourselves, into Christ, we must go. His will is to become ours and we are to think His thoughts.”[xvii]

Mormon describes this same individual. These are just some of the words he used: “suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked.”[xviii]

These attributes describe many people I know. One in particular makes me smile just to say his name. Let me tell you what he has done with his life. He lives to serve. He looks for ways to creatively lift and bless others. It’s amazing to witness. His dear wife, who is just like him, is chronically ill, but when you ask him how he is doing, his response is, “I am fantastic. How are you?” And he means it.

Every Sunday he bakes cookies and takes them around to people in his neighborhood. The woman at the Rec Center where he plays tennis was a recent recipient of a dozen of his homemade cookies, and that was in addition to recently spending time with her son who right now doesn’t know what he wants in life.

Two weeks ago my husband and I received a valentine in the mail. It was a card with our picture on it. It read: “Dear Rosemary and Jack, Happy Valentine’s to our dear wonderful friends. You are so very loved. Wynn and Linda.” To know Wynn and Linda Egan is to feel Heavenly Father’s love, the love we read about in Moroni 7:48, “which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.”

To forget yourself and to find someone to serve is a recipe for joy in this journey.

Brothers and sisters, in my heart I know it is essential that we live the covenants we have made with the Lord. It is essential that we willingly follow President Thomas S. Monson and the apostles and prophets that stand at his side. And it is essential that we forget ourselves and look for ways to serve and bless others.

But what if, in all of this, we do not do it perfectly? That’s the beauty of it. This is Father’s plan—not that we would come and be perfect people on this earth, but that we would become perfect someday, only through Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. It is when we simply have the desire and turn to Him each day and submit our will to His that our life points in a right direction.

President Henry B. Eyring has asked us to please find out what it is that the Lord would have you do, believe that He has prepared a way for you to do it, and share what He has given you with others. As you do that, He promises, you will feel His love, and you will become more like Him.[xix]

I believe that if Jesus Christ were to sit down with us and ask us for an accounting of our life on this earth, I’m not sure He would ask our GPA or our college major. I’m not sure He would even ask what Church callings we have had, or that he would care about our athletic ability or how we dressed. I believe the Savior would want to know our hearts, how we care about each other, and how we’ve lightened each other’s load, how we have forgiven, accepted, and included—and how we did it while no one was looking.

I believe the Savior would want to know how you and I have grown closer to Him and our Heavenly Father, and in the process I believe we would be astonished at the love we would feel in their presence.

Perhaps in our quest to point our lives in the right direction, each of us will come to know the real secret to achieving that most important goal. We will learn that it is on the shoulders of others that we will rise to meet our Heavenly Father’s desire for us. The more we love, serve, and bless the individual people in our daily path, the more we become like the Savior, whose only goal is to do the Father’s will, and “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”[xx]

Our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ live, and they are ready to listen and give us direction if we will allow them. This is the Church of Jesus Christ, and we are being led by the Lord’s prophet, Thomas S. Monson. We are entitled to personal revelation for a confirmation of all of these truths, and we have a duty to live with full purpose of heart the principles defined in this Church, and then be prepared to be astonished as to where it will take us.

With all my heart I testify He lives. He loves us. His Spirit is here today. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 

[i] “Be of Good Cheer,” April 2009 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/04/be-of-good-cheer?lang=eng .

[ii] “To Know God is Eternal Life,” a discourse delivered in the Tabernacle Feb. 8, 1857, reported by G.D. Watt, http://scriptures.byu.edu/jod/jodhtml.php?vol=04&disc=42 .

[iii] “Decisions for Eternity, October 2013 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/decisions-for-eternity?lang=eng .

[iv] Joel 2:28.

[v] Moses 1:39.

[vi] “Living the Gospel Joyful,” October 2014 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/living-the-gospel-joyful?lang=eng .

[vii] “La Clairvoyance,” found at http://www.renemagritte.org/la-clairvoyance.jsp .

[viii] “The Race of Life,” April 2012 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-race-of-life?lang=eng .

[ix] “If I Had My Life to Live Over,” 2 December 1979 column, reprinted in Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream, Kansas City, MO, 2003, ISBN 0-7407-2127-5.

[xi] “Finding Joy in the Journey,” October 2008 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/finding-joy-in-the-journey?lang=eng .

[xii] “Joy in the Journey,” in Awake, Arise, and Come unto Christ: Talks from the 2008 BYU Women’s Conference (2009), 3.

[xiii] “Uphold the Hands of the President of the Church, Conference Report, October 1970, pp. 152-153, http://scriptures.byu.edu/gettalk.php?ID=1822 .

[xiv] Doctrine and Covenants 1:38.

[xv] The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 545, from “Heeding the True Messenger of Jesus Christ,” Chapter 9, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (2000), 78-87.

[xvi] Mere Christianity, Book 4, chapter 11, https://cslewis.wikispaces.com/Mere+Christianity_The+New+Men .

[xvii] “New Men in Christ,” C.S. Lewis: Readings for Meditation and Reflection, (1992), https://books.google.com/books?id=BESxv_T1kqsC&pg=PT170&dq=c+s+lewis+to+become+new+men .

[xviii] Moroni 7:45.

[xix] See “Trust in God, Then Go and Do,” October 2010 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/trust-in-god-then-go-and-do?lang=eng .

[xx] Moses 1:39.


To Guard and Nurture Your Testimony

25 Apr. 2016

Transcript

To Guard and Nurture Your Testimony

Thank you so much for that beautiful music, and for your preparation. I am grateful for President Richards and for this kind administration. Even as I have been here just these few short minutes for you, there is a wonderful spirit of kindness and faithfulness. As I watched each of you walk in in preparation for not just this devotional, but for every one that you attend. And that song (“I Am Called by Thy Name”) was perfect to me because as I meet you, I know that you are called by His name.

In prayerfully preparing for this talk, I’ve tried to keep a picture of you in my mind—where you’ve come from, your current stage of life at LDS Business College, and perhaps some of your hopes and dreams for the future. While each of you are distinct individuals, there are at least a few important things that you all have in common.

The first is that each of you has made the decision to attend a very special institution, one that prepares its students to enter the workforce and make a contribution to the world. And more importantly, it offers that education in a supportive environment that emphasizes discipleship to the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of you has self-selected to be a part of this uniquely practical, spiritual experience, and it’s not by chance.

Late in my senior year in high school, I remember beginning to make preliminary arrangements to attend the university to which I had been accepted. In the midst of those preparations, I wasn’t feeling settled about my choice of school. After reading my patriarchal blessing and counseling with my parents, I made the unexpected decision to apply to another school, one that I had not before considered attending.

I was accepted there, enrolled, and it turned out to be a wonderful fit for me. I’m sure many of you could tell a similar story of the inspired circumstances that brought you to LDS Business College. Your choice to attend this great institution says a great deal about you, your priorities, and your seriousness of purpose.

In addition to a common choice of school, my guess is that many of you also share a set of similar feelings about your future, and if I guess right, it’s probably a mixture of hope, excitement, uncertainty, and maybe even a little bit of fear. Questions like these might occasionally run through your mind: Have I picked the right career path? Do I have what it takes to be a success? Will I be able to support myself and my family, or the family I hope to have someday? How do I maintain a path of discipleship throughout my life? I’ve always felt that at least a little worry in life is justified, given the complex, competitive, and dynamic world in which we live.

A consulting firm I previously worked for studied the pace at which well-known, large companies failed or were acquired. This isn’t the only thing we did, but that was one study. This failure rate has picked up considerably over the years, even from the time your parents were your age. This increased rate of turbulence presents unique challenges and opportunities for you. By some estimates, the average worker is currently staying in a job less than five years. For the younger generation, including Millennials—that’s many of you, born between 1977 and 1997—there is an expectation of even more rapid job turnover. That is a lot of potential change and career change during a lifetime.

Most importantly, you will also need to stay strong in a world that is turbulent spiritually and increasingly drifting from its moorings. How can you be truly successful in a world that presents turbulence and challenge, especially when you might feel somewhat like an underdog in the first place? May I suggest a very straightforward answer? Over time, the Lord will guide, protect, and bless those who show an attitude of unwearyingness, obedience, and devotion in carrying out the things that He has asked.

The only real genius the Lord needs from you to accomplish His purposes is the genius to give Him your whole heart, as demonstrated by your very best efforts. The Lord can accomplish great things through us, the weak and simple of the world, when we follow His counsel to “be not weary in well-doing.”[i] Whatever our modest abilities, the Lord will work miracles in our lives if we seek Him out with unwearyingness, keep His commandments, and look for opportunities at every turn to be taught and grow.

As mortals, we cannot see the end from the beginning in our lives, but the Lord can and does. The Lord often reminds us of the blessings awaiting those who are not weary in serving Him, even in the face of great obstacles.

In the fall of 1841, Joseph Smith had recently returned to Kirtland, Ohio, from Missouri, where the Saints were seeking to establish Zion. They faced many challenges. In the midst of these struggles, the Lord through His prophet said this to a group of elders preparing to journey to Missouri: “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.”[ii]

The Lord knew well the challenges facing the Church and its leaders, and of more challenges they couldn’t see that were yet to come. But He could also see the great blessings that would come to individuals in the Church for obedience to His commandments. He asked for their hearts and willing minds, as evidenced by not being “weary in well-doing.”

Sometimes, brothers and sisters, all we can see is very slow progress on a foundation we can barely perceive, while the Lord can see the “great work” that is being built on that foundation of faithfulness. In your life, that foundation may include applying yourself to studies for sustained periods of time, or remaining faithful in the midst of physical, financial, emotional, or other challenges.

A story in the life of Nephi, son of Helaman, illustrates this principle. Although he faithfully served his people as chief judge, he was the sad witness to pride and dissension among the Nephites. Among other things, they were guilty of murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, and deserting away to the land of the Lamanites. Nephi left the judgment seat to preach repentance to the people with his brother Lehi.[iii] During his ministry, Nephi experienced both great success and serious trials. He saw his people repent and then slip again into great wickedness. He pleaded with them to return to the path of righteousness.

In the midst of this struggle and at a time Nephi might have logically questioned whether all of his efforts were paying off, the Lord said this:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but has sought my will, and to keep my commandments. And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever.[iv]

Nephi’s unwearyingness in the face of challenge prepared him to be blessed by the Lord. A missionary companion of mine in Chile taught me the value of not being weary. I had been out in the field four months when I was asked to train a new Chilean missionary. I went to the mission home to pick him up. After hearing me speak Spanish for a few minutes, he told me, “Elder Eyring, you can teach me how to be a good missionary, but I’m going to teach you how to speak Spanish.”

We were assigned to open a brand new area, a number of subdivisions in newly constructed brick homes that had never before seen missionaries. A recently-called branch president presided over a small handful of members who had moved into the area. The first several weeks, as you can imagine, were spent knocking doors and street contacting almost full time.

At the beginning of the day, we would take a large legal pad and draw horizontal and vertical lines until the page was full of dozens of small squares. We would make a goal each day to fill up this sheet with the names and addresses of new contacts. At the end of one particularly long day of street contacting, we had managed to fill the entire sheet with contacts. It was dark and approaching the time we were supposed to return to our apartment.

I told my companion it was time to head back and began walking. To my annoyance, this new missionary lagged behind me. What was he doing? It turned out he was making one more contact. In my mind, we already had been working extremely hard that day. I knew we had. And we had a sheet full of follow-up visits. Somewhat exasperated at the disobedience of my new trainee, I walked back and joined the conversation. This contact was a student returning home from university studies in Santiago. He said he didn’t have much time to talk but gave his name and address and said we could stop by.

The visit didn’t last for more than a minute or so. A few days later, we knocked on the door of that late-night contact. When the door opened, I was surprised to see a whole room full of people. I assumed the family that lived there was entertaining guests and apologized for interrupting. “No,” they said, “this is just our family.” We were very excited.

This family of twelve invited us in, and we attempted to show them a filmstrip of the First Vision. This was a movie filmstrip from many years ago. The bulb in the projector somehow burned out, and we proceeded through the presentation with only a cassette tape audio track and the periodic beeps that accompanied it. Despite our technical challenges, a strong spirit was felt and we were invited back.

Over the next week, we learned more about the background of this large family. They had recently moved from a tough area of Santiago known for a relatively high crime rate. Only a year before, their father had been killed there under tragic circumstances, leaving their 54-year-old mother and older siblings to care for the rest of the young children. Wanting to make a new start in a new location, they had moved to this neighborhood.

They accepted readily our message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and of the eternal nature of families. Several weeks later, all but three of them were baptized, and in the coming years, two older brothers and the youngest sister were also baptized. My companion was transferred soon after we held that initial discussion and was not there to see this wonderful family enter the waters of baptism, but I think often about the fruits of the actions of this young elder and his determination to “be not weary.”

A couple of weeks ago, I received a very unexpected email. It was from the youngest boy of that family, Hector. He was twelve years old when he was baptized, and I hadn’t seen him in over 25 years. He told me he was living in the United States, and he arranged to stop by my office. When I came down to the lobby to greet him, I saw that he was accompanied by his beautiful wife and three children. We went to eat lunch and caught up on the activities of the intervening quarter-century.

He had served a mission himself many years ago, baptizing others who have since served missions. He spoke of the families he had baptized who were subsequently sealed in the temple. After his mission, he met a wonderful young woman in an Institute class and they married in the temple. I wiped away tears of joy as I met with them and pondered the miracles of the Lord’s work. I thought of my old missionary companion. It was his unwearyingness to make that last contact on a dusty road after a long day that began to open the windows of heaven to blessings upon two missionaries and a special family.

So what are some of the ways that you can obey the commandment to “be not weary” as you complete your time here at LDS Business College, head to the workforce, and focus on your obligations to God and family? Let me suggest a few—and I’ll suggest three here:

Number one: be not weary in your course work at LDS Business College. Focus as seriously as you possibly can on your studies and training. I remember being in a devotional forum like this one my freshman year at Ricks College. A member of the school administration was speaking to us, and in exhorting us to give our very best made this point: from here on out our academic transcripts would, in some respects, be pinned to us, following us around the rest of our lives. As someone who hadn’t always given 100% in high school, this gave me motivation to set my sights higher. We should seek to do our very best academically, but beyond a grade on a piece of paper, education prepares us for a future of service our Heavenly Father expects of us.

President Hinckley expressed it beautifully in remarks to the youth in 2007:

You have the potential to become anything to which you set your mind. You have a mind and a body and a spirit. With these three working together, you can walk the high road that leads to achievement and happiness. But this will require effort and sacrifice and faith.

You must get all of the education that you possibly can. Life has become so complex and competitive. You cannot assume that you have entitlements due you. You will be expected to put forth great effort and to use your best talents to make your way to the most wonderful future of which you are capable. Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.[v]

President Hinckley continues:

You have a mandate from the Lord to educate your minds and your hearts and your hands. The Lord has said, “Teach ye diligently . . . of 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 judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—that ye may be prepared in all things” (D&C 88:78–80).

The Lord wants you to train your minds and hands to become an influence for good as you go forward with your lives. And as you do so and as you perform honorably and with excellence, you will bring honor to the Church, for you will be regarded as a man or woman of integrity and ability and conscientious workmanship. In addition, your education will strengthen your service in the Church. A study was made some years ago that indicated the higher the education, the greater the faith and participation in religious activity.

The Lord wants you to educate your minds and hands, whatever your chosen field. Whether it be repairing refrigerators, or the work of a skilled surgeon, you must train yourselves. Seek for the best schooling available. Become a workman of integrity in the world that lies ahead of you.[vi]

Don’t cheat yourselves by not taking advantage of the opportunity in front of you right now to get the training you will need to bless others. Be not weary in your preparations to make a contribution to the world, your family, and the Church.

There were times in my educational journey where I questioned where it was all headed and whether it was worth it. It is only in hindsight and after many years that I can see the full usefulness and purpose of those years of training.

Number two: be not weary in the workplace. As you prepare to enter the workplace, prepare to give more value than you take. As an employer, I know how rare it is to find someone who is truly unweary, willing to consistently give more than is required, delivering much more value than what he or she takes out or is paid in salary. Fight the selfish urge some young graduates have to feel entitled to special treatment in the workplace or to feel their employer owes them something.

Try to find work that you enjoy, that you are good at, and that can sustain you economically. But once you have committed to something, throw yourself enthusiastically and without reservation into your chosen labors. I have happy memories as a boy, visiting the office of my Grandpa Eyring and seeing the papers and the articles piled on his desk. I was a little younger and shorter at that time, so the piles probably looked a bit bigger. As a chemistry professor at the University of Utah, he taught summers, although that was not a requirement. He loved the subject of chemistry, his students, and the university that employed him. He joked that if someday there was only demand for one chemist in the world, he wanted to be that person. He used to talk with a smile about working until “your ears ring.”

Your work ethic, drive, and willingness to do whatever it takes to do a job well will distinguish you in almost any work environment. An unwearying worker is rare, unique, and valued.

Number three: be not weary in nurturing your testimony and prioritize the things of God first in your life. Despite your weaknesses, why is the Lord able to bless you so much if you commit to not being weary? One reason is because you are teachable and therefore open to be guided by the Spirit. The commandment to be not weary is especially important for your spiritual growth.

One of the tools of the adversary in weakening your testimony of the gospel is to get you to stop experimenting upon the word—that is, consistently nourishing that testimony and living in such a way that it is always growing.

Over the years, I’ve tried to take the periodic opportunity to sit down with each of my children, review goals, and talk about any concerns they might have. One night a number of years ago when we were living in Boston, I was speaking with our young daughter and asked her if she had any concerns she wanted to discuss. She hesitantly offered that she did. With the emotion of a serious 12-year-old, she said, “Dad, when I bear my testimony, I don’t want to just say the words; I want to feel the words. I want to know that they are true.”

This heartfelt plea from a young daughter deeply touched my heart. I opened my scriptures to Alma 32 and asked her to read verse 28. And “now, we will compare the word unto a seed.” We explored together the concept that a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ is obtained and kept by treating the word of God much like a wise gardener treats a seed. She first needed to plant that seed in fertile soil through her faith, carefully water and watch over it, and avoid doing anything in the meantime that would inhibit its growth.

The key was to not be weary in her effort to experiment upon the word and to take good care of that seed. I promised her that with enough work and patience, in time that seed would grow within her and she would powerfully feel the truthfulness of her testimony. It would be just as Alma promised:

But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold, it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.[vii]

We have watched the testimony of that young girl grow over the intervening years. Both she and that seed have matured together because of her unwearyingness in experimenting upon the word. The same promises are available to each of you. Again Alma describes the process:

And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.

But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.[viii]

And listen to these very, very important verses:

Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.

But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up into everlasting life.

And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.

Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.[ix]

My young friends, you are living in a day and age when you must guard your testimony as you would a great treasure. As the years go by, you may watch the faith of those around you be tested. And you may even see some close to you struggle and lose their faith. But you needn’t be concerned if you are unweary in your pursuit of truth. The promise is sure: if you nurture the seed with unwearyingness, it will always continue to grow and produce sweet fruit.

When I was a young boy preparing for baptism, my father sat me down for a brief father’s interview. I can still see in my mind the outline of the room my brother and I shared in Rexburg, Idaho. My father kindly asked me if I believed in Jesus Christ. I began crying and told him I didn’t really know. It was an honest answer from an 8-year-old boy. My dad invited me to kneel with him and pray. I remember a warm feeling enveloping me and the first seeds of testimony coming into my heart. Those early seeds of testimony have grown over the years as I have tried to nurture them and avoid doing things that would create barren ground in my heart.

Nurturing your testimony will require prioritizing the things of God in your life on a consistent basis. There may be a temptation as time goes by, somewhere distant from this devotional in the future, when you might be tempted to neglect the little things that are key to your spiritual well-being. Unwearyingness in key daily habits including prayer, scripture study, and service are absolutely critical. Weekly worship and service in the Church, regular temple attendance, and payment of tithes are all critical, small and simple things that if done with a willing heart will form a foundation of righteousness in your life.

It is a great privilege to speak to you, those with so much life in front of you and so much potential. As I’ve said, I have felt a very special spirit as I have sat here and as I have thought about you before I came to this meeting. I watched as many videos as I possibly could on the LDS Business College website to try to get to know you. Take advantage of the time you have at LDS Business College to prepare for the years ahead. Remember the words from Alma 34 that now is the time “to prepare to meet God.”[x]

I would like to bear my testimony that I know that this Church is true. I know that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Restoration and that Thomas S. Monson is God’s prophet on the earth today. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that through the Atonement, we are able to overcome sin and return to live with our Heavenly Father. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 

[i] D&C 64:33.

[ii] Doctrine and Covenants 64:33–34.

[iii] See Helaman 5:1–14.

[iv] Helaman 10:4–5.

[v] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Seek Learning,” Words of the Prophet, Article for Youth, https://www.lds.org/youth/article/words-of-the-prophet-seek-learning?lang=eng .

[vi] Hinckley, “Seek Learning.”

[vii] Alma 32:30.

[viii] Alma 32:37–38.

[ix] Alma 32:39–43.

[x] Alma 34:32.


End of Semester Devotional

25 Jun. 2016

Transcript

Thank you, brothers and sisters, for the music, and from Alan and Brailee—that was wonderful. Did you notice Stephanie’s mom and dad up here, the Jencks? How do you know that they are parents? Because they had their phones out and were filming their daughter. And they’re sitting as close to their daughter as they can sit and not be too conspicuous. But I hope you’re listening. Parents, as close to their daughter as they can be without being conspicuous, smiling at talents that have been developed, gifts that have been given, making a record. All of you who have ears to hear, do you get it? Do you hear me? No, you don’t, do you—yet. Do you get what I’m saying? How many don’t get it? I’ll go slower.

There are Heavenly Parents as close to you as they can be without being conspicuous, smiling at the talents that you have developed and making a record. I testify that that is the case for Stephanie and for you and for me. Heavenly Parents.

I love the music of the Church. I love listening to music of the Church in church and trying to find the silver thread. I’ll tell you what I heard today during the musical number. I heard that if I “go where you want me to go, dear Lord,”[7] and I stay on the path, Father in Heaven will bump me up against “poor, wayfaring”[8] men and women of grief, and in order for me and for you to serve them, “I need [Him] every hour.”[9] Are you with me? Okay.

Now, I’m going to do something a little weird, so just bear with me because it’s your last semester devotional, so I’m entitled to be a little weird. So here’s what we’re going to do. I have a $100 bill. Brother Kusch, our new chief academic officer, is that a $100 bill? Yeah, you’ve always got to watch people in academics; they’re slippery. How many of you are interested in this $100 bill? Thank you. [Paper crumpling sound.] How many of you are interested in this $100 bill? [More sounds.] How many are interested? . . . I’ve got Temple Square dirt. How many are interested in the $100 bill?

Brothers and sisters, there is nothing you could do to yourself that destroys your worth. We all may be asked in this life—as Alan has been asked, who, as Joseph said, “I am wont to swim in deep water.”[10] Alan wishes the water had been a little deeper. But Joseph meant that it was the troubles that he would go through. And every one of us, as we do our best to walk on the chosen path, we’re going to pick up some dirt on us. But near to us are Heavenly Parents as close as they can be without being conspicuous to buoy us up, to strengthen us, to pull us out of deep water, and maybe out of the mud that may be on us, to clean us off. And we’re as good as new.

Just as you saw the value of a $100 bill sitting in dirty Temple Square water, you know what its inherent worth is. The adversary wakes up every morning and tries to make you think that that $100 bill in your soul is damaged beyond repair and can’t be cleaned. It is a lie, and he has lied from the beginning about you, and he will lie until the end. And then the day will come when, as John the Revelator wrote in the 21st chapter of the book of Revelation, all tears will be wiped away from our eyes.[11] No more tears. Or as Isaiah wrote in the 61st chapter of the book of Isaiah, “Beauty for ashes; the oil of joy for mourning.”[12] That’s the promise.

And so, as we heard from Conference—or at least I heard from Conference, and standing here I can’t remember who said it—but they were talking about the Atonement, and the point they were trying to make is that life is unfair, and it’s designed to be unfair because if it were totally fair the Atonement wouldn’t work. Life is to be unfair, and so we are about good things in life—as Alan was about good things in his life, and he decided he ought to take a swim and a bath, and he has a horrible accident. And he prays for relief, and he found out what healing was all about. Right? Right.

Brothers and sisters, the same is available to all of us. So, how many of you are going to graduate in a week? [Audience members raise their hands.] You’re going to leave us. Adrian said that the day will come when we will meet again, and we wish you all the best. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you all today because on graduation day I just get to read off a teleprompter and they don’t let me ad lib because they know I’ll cause trouble. But we wish you well. You represent the 80th verse of the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. You have come here and learned, and learned in the Lord’s way, as the 78th and 79th verses teach us. And now you are ready to be, as the 80th verse says, sent forth again to fulfill the mission for which you have been commissioned. Your life’s mission.

Those of you who are returning, you are still developing the skill set so that Father in Heaven can send you forth again. Why? To meet the “poor, wayfaring Man of Grief” [13] on the chosen road of life and to lift others up. With what? With priesthood, with charity, with your faces and the light that we all see in your faces. You will lift other people with your testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You will know how to be defenders of the faith and disturbers of the adversary. And you will know better than to Google the “great and spacious building”[14] to find out what you should think.

Now, I’ll just end with this: Sister Richards, my beloved wife—brethren, if you could be so lucky. I should get an honorary sales degree at LDS Business College. It took two years, but I got Sister Richards to say yes. Two very difficult years. And she signed a very short contract. It has five-year renewable clauses in it, you who have taken business law, and the fifth year is coming up. So I have to be extra nice. Brothers and sisters, I hope that you find a spouse in your life that makes you better, that requires you to be better, requires you to step up to what your capabilities are, requires you to honor womanhood or honor priesthood, that you may go forward as husband and wife, joined together, using your unique spiritual DNA in your lives to build the kingdom of God.

And so in closing, I just convey to you an incredible sense of love that you cannot understand. Those of you who have been a bishop know what it is like to love this way, to love 2,179 of you as individuals. Every time I stand in front of you to either speak or conduct, I do not see a congregation. I see ones—beloved sons and daughters of God, with more potential than you can imagine.

When I was growing up, in my teenage years, there was a song by some group—those with grey hair can remember it. It said, “My future’s so bright, I’ve gotta wear shades.”[15] Yours, my beloved friends—your future is so bright, you ought to wear shades.

And so I, with no authority—I have no priesthood authority over you—I just have love that exceeds my priesthood authority over you, but I pray Father in Heaven’s blessings to be upon you, to give you peace, to give you comfort, to give you hope and confidence in the good things in your life to come, that when you end up in deep water with a little dirt on you, you remember that you are more than a $100 bill and that there are Parents in close proximity yet trying not to be too conspicuous, smiling, praying for you, and if necessary, gathering legions of angels to come to your defense, if you will do your part. May the Lord bless you, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] See Judges 7.

[2] See Galatians 5:9.

[3] Ephesians 6:11

[4] “God Be with You Till We Meet Again,” Hymns, no. 152.

[5] Alma 17:2.

[6] See Alma 26:11.

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

[8] “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” Hymns, no. 29.

[9] “I Need Thee Every Hour,” Hymns, no. 98.

[10] See D&C 127:2.

[11] See Revelation 21:4.

[12] Isaiah 61:3.

[13] “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” Hymns, no. 29.

[14] 1 Nephi 8:26, 31.

[15] Timbuk 3, “The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades).”



We All Have Stories About Jesus

15 Jun. 2016

Transcript

We All Have Stories About Jesus

There are few things that could really get me to sit down and cry like a baby more than beautiful music. That was heavenly. Thank you.

I came in and sat down this morning, and I had a memory in this building, and I really had not remembered it until I came here. I recall sometime back in the dark ages when I was a little girl, I recall helping my father lay out—I think they were programs or little sheets of music for stake conference in this building. I remember, especially right about where you are sitting, I remember this area, and I had forgotten that I had—I’ve been in this building many times, but I had forgotten that until I sat from this vantage point, I guess, and it came back to me. So that’s how old this building is, at least that old.

I am so happy to be here this morning with you. I feel so much love for you and, actually, from you. I have been blessed by your prayers already, and I’m grateful to know that because the things I would like to share with you today are things of my heart. And so, I appreciate your prayers.

I love the stories of Jesus. They are the most beautiful stories in the whole world because they are true stories of God’s Son. These stories belong to each of us. When I think of His stories, I can’t help but think about my own stories of Jesus. They are like golden threads in the tapestry of my life. My stories are very, very simple, but they too are true stories of God’s love.

You also have your stories of Jesus. This morning, I would like to share some of my stories of Jesus.

Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

When I was seven years old, I moved with my family to Belgium. One Sunday not long after I had been baptized, I went with my parents to Brussels, where my mother was to rehearse for an upcoming performance in a community choir. The place that we went to was called the Palais des Beaux-Arts, which means “palace of beautiful arts.”

As we were traveling, I started to become sick. It got kind of bad, and they wanted to pull me over and maybe get me some soda, and I said, “No, it’s Sunday and I don’t want to ruin my baptism.” So we didn’t stop, but as soon as we got to the Palais des Beaux-Arts, my parents rushed into the performance hall and I found a place where I could pray. When I knelt in prayer, I asked Father in Heaven to please make me feel better. That was basically the gist of my prayer. But I did make Him a promise. I said, “I promise if you make my stomachache feel better, I promise I will try to be a good girl all the rest of my life.”

That was the substance of my prayer. Well, when I stood up, to my great joy and astonishment, I was all better, 100%! I had my own miracle. That had never happened to me before. I was so excited, I immediately ran into the performance hall, and my mother was rehearsing on the stage. I signaled to her, “Mom, Mom! Jesus healed me!” I was overjoyed.

But that was not to be the end of the story. Fast forward 35 years. Having successfully completed the audition process for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir only a few months before, I found myself once again in Brussels in the Palais des Beaux-Arts. The Choir was to perform that evening, and that afternoon we were having a sound check in the performance hall. It was at this sound check that the Lord gave me a most wonderful gift. As I entered that hall, I was able to recall with clarity that event of 35 years before. In fact, the upholstery in that hall was still the same purple. Everything seemed the same, and I remembered it all. I experienced a holy moment with the Savior as the words of my prayer returned to me.

And then I was told that the reason I was a member of the Tabernacle Choir was because I had tried to do my best all of my life to be a good girl.

Mark 1:17–18: “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.”

I’ve often marveled at the faith of those early disciples who followed Jesus without question. I’ve wondered if I had been there, would I have been one of the ones to follow Him? Perhaps the answer to that question is, how do we follow now? Are we strictly obedient now? I believe that accepting and magnifying the callings we are given from the Lord, as well as harkening to the impressions we receive from the Spirit are ways that we demonstrate our love for Jesus.

My junior and senior years of high school were not easy for me. I struggled with who I was and with my testimony of the Savior. It was during this part of my life that an extraordinary thing occurred.

When I was 17, my mother had given me the book Added Upon by Nephi Anderson. The book is a fictional account of our post-mortal, premortal, and mortal estates. And on December 4th, I began to read this book. The more I read, the more I became filled with a spirit of peace. The book filled me with a desire to know more about our Savior. As I read, I began to feel, to know that the principles in the book were true. On the third night, on December 6th, I came upon this little verse near the end of the book:

Know this that always shall his loving arm

Extended be to you; the Father-heart

And Mother-heart eternally do yearn

And feel for you in sorrow or in pain.

Where’er you are, you’re still within my reach.

If you’ll but turn to me, I’ll hear your cries

And answer you in my good time and place.[1]

 

I read this passage over and over, and I was filled with a burning desire to know for myself if my Father in Heaven really felt this about me. My desire to know grew stronger and stronger until I felt compelled to kneel in prayer. As I began to pray, the Spirit of the Lord filled my being. My room became very warm and bright, and the Holy Ghost bore testimony to me that everything I had learned about the Church and about the Savior was true, and that the Savior Jesus Christ was the Redeemer of the world. There came into me a love that filled my entire being. For the first time in my life, I knew who I was. And I knew who He was.

I anxiously searched the Book of Mormon to find an explanation as to what was happening to me at that very moment. In Alma 5:14 I read the following: “And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?”

As I read, I felt the scriptures come alive. I felt the scriptures become living to me, and the love I felt in my heart was different than any love I had ever felt before. I talked with my Father in Heaven for a long time that evening, and I felt the constant presence of the Holy Ghost affirming that what had transpired was from the Lord.

Though it has been over 40 years since that sacred event, I can never deny what the Holy Ghost gave to me. This experience has been pivotal in helping me gain an understanding of who I am and of who Jesus Christ is and of how our Father in Heaven feels about each one of us.

The testimony that was given to me as a 17-year-old, as well as the increased light and knowledge that I have acquired since then, has been a powerful guide throughout my life. I have learned for myself that we are never outside of His reach. I am convinced that the Lord desires each one of His children to feel of this perfect love so that each of His children can accomplish the missions that we were sent here to do.

John 7:14: “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.”

In June of 2002, the Tabernacle Choir was invited to sing at the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple. I had never been to Nauvoo before, so this was my first time. I was not prepared for the pentacostal outpouring of the Spirit. Just as Oliver Cowdery had expressed while acting as a scribe to Joseph Smith, these too were “days never to be forgotten.”[2] Thousands thronged to the temple and the temple grounds that week, just as they had 167 years earlier when the Saints were preparing to leave their beautiful city and their beautiful temple.

During each of the dedicatory sessions, I felt—I felt as if a marvelously large crystal dome had replaced the roof of the temple, with hosts of angels witnessing the events from above their earthly participants. This was indeed their celebration and their temple. All of Nauvoo felt aglow with the marvelous light and life of this newly dedicated temple.

When not participating in a session, I seized the opportunity to walk through the city. It was in that beautiful city that the Spirit reconfirmed to my soul that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he did translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. The Spirit was as a river of light and truth, continually flowing and living. If there is one word to describe what the Spirit was like, it is alive. In Nauvoo, everything was alive—the grass, the trees, the ground, the air, the atmosphere. All was alive.

I look forward to that beautiful day when the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory and when Jesus will come and reign once again upon the earth.

Mark 4:37, 39: “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

There is something deeply personal about the hymn, “Master, the Tempest Is Raging.”[3] In fact, it doesn’t get a lot more personal that this: what do we do and to whom do we turn when life’s tempests rage?

While living in California several years ago, spending time at the beach with the children was always a favorite activity. We would watch as the waves would come rolling in from a great distance and then come crashing against some barrier or a reef. And the sights and the sounds and the smells were always thrilling. But while observing this very same scene late one night, I had an entirely different experience. Whereas the scene during the light of day had been thrilling, in the darkness of the night it was terrifying. The sights and the sounds and the smells were still the same, but suddenly everything had transformed. All I could feel was a great fear of the angry deep and of the billows as they tossed high in the blackness of the night.

But while driving away from the scene, and as reason and light began to return, the Lord taught me about the devastating power found in the darkness of sin and about the anguish of adversity. The skies will appear to cover us with blackness. Each one here will experience these raging tempests in their lives. We will find ourselves perishing and wonder if He is even aware or if He cares about us anymore. Then just as we are convinced that we can go no further and are doomed to destruction, if we plead to Him to “hasten and take control,” [4] we can feel a peace that passeth understanding[5]—that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that man or demons can do that will ever be able to “swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean and earth and skies.”[6]

Through the Spirit I have come to know this for myself. He is the Master. He is our song in the night.

Matthew 26:39: “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Everything, especially our trials, seem to point us toward the Savior and to give us a greater understanding of His Atonement and of the Garden of Gethsemane. While it’s difficult to see things clearly while you’re in the middle of the maelstrom, if we seek understanding, peace, and guidance, the Holy Spirit teaches gently and clearly another beautiful facet of the Lord’s Atonement.

Shortly after becoming a member of the Tabernacle Choir, I was invited to audition for a small solo in an upcoming Christmas concert. The part was at the high end of my comfort level, and so I worked really, really hard and practiced so that I would be prepared for this audition. On the morning of the audition, I decided to fast so I could be calm and do my very best. The audition was held in the chapel of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and seated in the audience was Jerold Ottley, Craig Jessop, and Michael Moody, who at that time was head of the Church Music Department.

There were several others who were invited to audition as well, and they were all in attendance. As I settled in my seat and tried to relax, I tried to be calm but, as luck would have it, I was the first one that was called up. As soon as the pianist began to play the introduction, I knew I was in trouble because she was playing much, much slower than I had rehearsed, and that slower tempo would make it much more difficult to hold out the long high notes. This slower tempo made me scared. Even before I opened my mouth a deathly fear settled in my heart and gripped my vocal chords so that by the time I started to sing, a ghastly sound came out in the place of the voice I had known all my life.

Jerold Ottley stopped me, and he invited me to begin again, which I did, but to no avail. In silent horror and astonishment, I sat down. I had completely failed. Returning to my seat, I was filled with deep humiliation and embarrassment, particularly in the presence of these good men and my peers. While waiting for the others to complete their audition, I battled intense feelings of betrayal. I had not expected nor even desired this solo, but I had at least hoped to represent myself well.

Throughout the remainder of the evening, I battled these deep feelings of shame and humiliation. As I drove home, I prayed fervently to understand why the Lord had allowed this to happen. I wanted to have a faithful and trusting heart, but I felt abandoned, alone, humiliated, and utterly forsaken. I pled with Him to teach me what He wanted me to learn. I focused all of my grief and pain on that one question: what do You want me to learn from this?

When I got home, I went to bed, but I slept fitfully. At some point in the night, however, I must have fallen asleep because, at about 2:00 am, I awoke bathed in light and warmth and with a clear understanding that the Lord had an answer to my prayer. Into my mind came these words: He too felt abandoned and alone. He too felt humiliated and utterly forsaken. Jesus knew exactly how I felt, and how each of us feels, for He has “descended below them all.”[7]

In those early morning hours, I pondered on this sacred gift in behalf of the entire human race. And for me, I marveled that all things point to this last sacrifice. Our pain, our sorrows, our humiliations, our embarrassments, our injustices, our betrayals, our sins are all meant to point us to Him, to create holiness from horror.

Many years have passed since that night of horror turned holy. The price of my miniscule suffering was well worth the gift of understanding Him better. From trials come opportunities to create holiness because we can be touched us with a particle of Gethsemane.

John 21:17: “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? . . . And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

So, exactly what does He expect of me, of each of us? In the October 2012 general conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said the following:

My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty. . . .

So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before.[8]

My dear young friends, each of us here has our stories of Jesus. They are personalized gifts to us from a loving Father in Heaven. I am grateful for my stories, and I am thankful for and love your stories. I pray that each of us will continue to write our stories and share them, for they are true and they are the most beautiful stories in the world. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] Nephi Anderson, Added Upon, Deseret News Press (1912), p. 227.

[2] Joseph Smith—History 1:71

[3] “Master, the Tempest Is Raging,” Hymns, no. 105.

[4] “Master, the Tempest Is Raging,” Hymns, no. 105.

[5] See Philippians 4:7.

[6] “Master, the Tempest Is Raging,” Hymns, no. 105.

[7] D&C 122:8. See also D&C 88:6.

[8] Jeffrey R. Holland, “The First Great Commandment,” Oct. 2012 General Conference.

 


Hearken unto the Word of God

16 Jun. 2016

Transcript

Hearken unto the Word of God

Good morning, my dear brothers and sisters and friends. What a glorious morning! Thank you for coming to this beautiful, holy, and sacred building to be a part of this devotional today. For those who are visiting here on Temple Square and have joined us, we also welcome you and hope you enjoy the Spirit that has been invited here this morning. I’m grateful for the warm welcome and the generous introduction from your beloved President Richards. What a great friend, what a great example he has been to Elizabeth and myself and our family for many, many years. I am grateful for his sweet companion as well. I’m grateful for your administration and your faculty, and for each of you making a special decision to come and to feel of the spirit that is associated with the LDS Business College, to be educated and to learn those things that are important in your lives and that will make all the difference as you go forward in the future. I’m honored to be here and to be a part of this special devotional here this morning.

Some three months after the Israelites fled out of Egypt with the help of the Lord, Moses ascended up Mount Sinai, where he received revelation. There a marvelous thing transpired. The Lord allowed the people not only to see His fire and His smoke but also to actually hear His voice. Now, wouldn’t we all agree that this would have been a life-changing experience? Can we imagine being an eye-witness to what occurred? Surely, the instruction given would have been something that none of us could ever forget.

And yet, when Moses returned the second time to be tutored for forty days on the mount with the fire and the smoke still in sight, the people choose this time to gather up precious gold earrings and to melt them down and to fashion them into a golden calf to worship. This they did directly rejecting the Lord’s own words to them and His commandment that they had just received from Him: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”[1]

How could this have happened? How could what they had seen and heard just days before not been able to be internalized into their minds and hearts? We read of this account and shrug our shoulders, saying, “How could this have happened? How could these people have been so foolish and short-sighted?” But is it any wonder that the Lord would have His people wander in the wilderness for the next forty years to change their eyes and ears and minds and hearts?

How like the children of Israel are we? Receiving instruction and commandments from the Lord, we bristle at correction. We give our own counsel in response. We question the instruction, deciding we have a much more enlightened view. Jesus said, “Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and do ye not remember?”[2]

My wife, Elizabeth, remembers when she was growing up, her father would often wink at her as she was about to leave their home and he would say, “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” As a young girl, this used to bother her because she didn’t know of any other family that parted in this way. She was aware that other families had mottos that they repeated as they would come and go such as “Remember who you are and what you stand for,” or “Do your best.” However, later in life, she found out what a wooden nickel was and what her father’s gentle warning was all about.

You see, during the great depression, some people took simple wood and carved it into the shape of a coin and painted it silver. They tried and often succeeded in passing off worthless wood scraps as something of real value.

My father-in-law’s counsel, “Don’t take any wooden nickels,” is worth internalizing. My wife, Elizabeth, and I now know more of what he was trying to tell us. Be on the lookout for that which is false. Be vigilant and on guard against anyone who would deceive you. Do not accept or hold the counterfeit. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Instead, seek that which is true. Accept and hold onto that which is of real and lasting worth.

As we study the Master’s life, His teachings and example, we see that He has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. Jesus Christ has called us to glory and virtue and has given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these . . . we might be partakers of the divine nature.

It was the Apostle Paul who recorded the words of the living Christ in a letter to the Hebrews, where the Lord again spoke to the House of Israel and the House of Judah saying,

When I took them by the hand and to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant . . . I regarded them not

This is my covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days. . . I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.[3]

Words mean something. The law means something. What is in our minds, what is written in our heart, and how we choose to act mean everything.

I would like to tell you about a man who worked all his life with words and valued them greatly. His name was Noah Webster, and you may have already heard about him. Noah Webster was a brilliant mind and a brilliant educator who knew 27 languages. As a journalist and a lawyer, he knew the importance of words and their shared understanding in order to make communication most effective. It was Noah Webster that worked to compile his 1828 dictionary entitled An American Dictionary of the English Language. There, in this two-volume dictionary, were 12,000 words and 40,000 definitions. However, within this huge undertaking, there was only one word that Noah Webster ever claimed to have coined himself. That word was demoralize, and he defined it as “demoralize: to corrupt or undermine the morals of; to destroy or lessen the effect of moral principles on; to render corrupt in morals.”[4]

Noah Webster knew the importance of understanding the meaning of words. In Jacob 4 we read: “For the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be.”[5]

Noah Webster defined the word truth in 1828 as “conformity to fact or reality; honesty; virtue; exactness; conformity to rule.”[6] To do truth is to practice what God commands. Today, however, if we pull up the definition of truth from, say, the Urban Dictionary on our phone or computer, the definition pops up as follows: “Truth: something which would probably upset a great many people if it were made known and made public. [Example:] Truthfully speaking, most people have no idea of what the truth actually is.”[7]

Some 33 years ago, during the harsh winter of 1983, the snowpack levels were at a record high and the temperatures were at a record low. Just months before, we had moved into our home in the foothills of the Salt Lake Valley. The deer and elk herds were starving to death from exhaustion and lack of food. A call went out from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for anyone that could assist to feed the weakened animals, with one requirement: once you started feeding them, you must continue throughout the winter.

It was not uncommon to drive our neighborhood streets and see hay bales that had been placed on corners for the starving animals. Yet, these food stations often lured the animals out of the hills where they became easy prey for healthy dogs to chase them down.

Now, I spent a lot of time in my youth on my grandparents’ farm, so I spoke with my wife, and we agreed on a plan to build two large troughs wherein we could place feed material high up on the mountainside. At this time, we had a herd of over 70 deer literally camped behind our home. There were dozens of does, fawns, and bucks.

And then something wonderful happened. A neighbor, hearing of what we had undertaken, offered to bring one of his commercial feed trucks with a front-end boom discharge. He filled the entire back of our garage with feed pellets. Every morning and night, my wife and I shoveled and then dragged over 200 pounds of pellets up the hillside to the troughs for the waiting, weakened deer. That was one of the longest winters of my memory, driving down the hill and seeing the Wildlife personnel picking up the frozen dead animals. But of our little herd, we didn’t lose one—not the buck with five points on one side of his rack and six points on the other side, or another buck missing half his front left leg; not the does, some of which were so weak that at first they laid next to the troughs and never even moved as we poured in the feed pellets. Gradually, they all grew stronger, and as the harsh weather subsided, they returned to the mountains.

Now, for the rest of the story. About one and a half years ago, I learned that in the Salt Lake Valley in 1983, only two deer herds survived, ours being one of them. The Division of Wildlife had conducted dozens of autopsies on the dead animals from other herds, and this is what they found: the majority of animals had died with their stomachs full. Hay had filled them but not sustained them. These animals were satiated, yet they had not been nourished. They had left the safety of the mountains only to perish below.

Now, as the storms rage around us and Satan amasses his forces, you and I must see things as they really were, and are, and will be, in order that the things we partake of and the places where we stand will not lead us to perish. We need to guard ourselves against filling our lives with emptiness or that which is of no worth. We must watch that we are not deceived. Instead, we must choose to live a life filled with the Spirit, feasting on the word of God, focusing on eternal truth, and worshipping in the mountain of the Lord.

Our beloved President Boyd K. Packer testified:

I seldom use the word absolute. It seldom fits. I use it now–twice. Because of the Fall, the Atonement was absolutely essential for resurrection to proceed and overcome mortal death.

The Atonement was absolutely essential for men to cleanse themselves from sin and overcome the second death, which is the spiritual death, which is separation from our Father in Heaven. For the scriptures tell us, seven times they tell us, that no unclean thing may enter the presence of God.[8]

 How many times has the Savior said, Come, “follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do?”[9] Do you remember these words?

“Feast upon that which perisheth not.”[10]

“Press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ.”[11]

If men keep God’s commandments, he nourishes them. God strengthens them.[12]

“Blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.”[13]

“And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”[14]

Amos, an Old Testament prophet, spoke to the people of his day, pleading with them to remember God and keep His commandments. Instead, they loved riches and oppressed the poor, and nothing seemed to humble them. Finally, these are the words he prophesied, recorded in Amos 8: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”[15]

In 1910 a young Italian preacher in New York City named Don Vincenzo di Francesca found a book on top of a barrel of ashes. Curious, he says,[16]

I picked up the book, and knocked it against the side of the barrel to shake the ashes from its pages. As I stood there with the book in my hand, the fury of the wind turned the pages, and one by one the names of Nephi, Mosiah, Alma, Moroni, and Isaiah appeared before my eyes.

Since the cold wind was bitter, I hurriedly wrapped the soiled book in a newspaper and continued my journey. Back in my room, I carefully turned the torn pages. What could be the name of the church that taught such doctrine in words so easily understood? The cover of the book and the title page were missing. I read the declaration of witnesses in the opening pages and was strongly impressed by the strength of their testimonies. But there was no other clue to the book’s identity.

I purchased some rubbing alcohol and cotton from the drug store beneath my lodging, and began cleaning the soiled pages. Then for several hours I read what was written in the book. When I had read chapter 10 of the book of Moroni, I locked the door of my room and with the book held in my hands, I knelt down and asked God, the Eternal Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to tell me if the book was of God.

As I prayed, I felt my body becoming cold, then my heart began to pound, and a feeling of warmth and gladness came over me and filled me with such joy that I cannot find words to express. I knew that the words of the book came from God. I continued my services in the parish, but my preaching was tinged with the new words I had found in the book.

The members of my congregation were so interested in my words that they became dissatisfied with the sermons of my colleagues, and they asked them why they did not print the sweet arguments of Don Vincenzo. This was the beginning of troubles for me. My colleagues became angry with me.

Don Vincenzo was called before a Committee of Censure for disciplinary action. They instructed him to burn the book, saying it was of the devil. Don Vincenzo replied that the book was the word of God. He declared, “If I were to burn the book, I would displease God. I would rather go out of the congregation of the church, rather than offend Him.”

The council dropped the matter until 1914, when he was again instructed to burn the book.

In reply, I stated I could not deny the words of the book, nor would I burn it, since in doing so I would offend God. I said I looked forward with joy to the time when the church to which the book belonged would be made known to me and I would become part of it.

The council responded by stripping him of his position of pastor of the church. Three weeks later, he was excommunicated. In 1914, he was drafted into the Italian army, and he was involved in action during World War I in Europe.

Remembering the lessons of the book I had read, I related to some of the men in my company the story of the people of Ammon, how they refused to shed the blood of their brothers and buried their arms, rather than be guilty of so great crimes. The chaplain reported me to the colonel, and as a punishment, I had a ten-day sentence of bread and water with the order that I was to speak no more of the book and its stories.

Don Vincenzo was readmitted into his church back in New York after the war. They sent him to New Zealand and Australia on a mission. As he taught the people there, he continued to share the truths from the book without a cover. His companion reported him, and “I was cut off from the church forever. Soon after, I returned to Italy.”

In 1930, he accidentally saw an entry in a French dictionary. It was for the word Mormon, and he read the entry carefully. It stated that a Mormon church had been established in 1830, and that this church operated a university at Provo, Utah. That was all. But it was the first clue of where the book without a cover might have come from.

Don Vincenzo wrote a letter to the president of the university, which later brought correspondence from President Heber J. Grant and Elder John A. Widstoe, who was president of the European Mission. They sent Don Vincenzo a Book of Mormon in Italian, and a pamphlet telling the story of Joseph Smith and the Restoration.

At long last I had learned the rest of the story begun so long ago when, guided by the hand of God, I found the torn book lying on top of a barrel of ashes on a street in New York City.

Don Vincenzo sought baptism, but missionaries were unable to reach him because of the war that now was raging in Sicily and would later be in Europe. For the next 13 years he had no contact with the Church, but he remained faithful and continued to share his understandings from the scriptures with others. Finally, in 1951, 41 years after picking up the book without a cover, he was baptized. It was the first baptism in Sicily, as far as we know.

Five years later, he was able to receive his endowment in the Swiss Temple. “At last to be in the presence of my Heavenly Father,” he testified, “I felt I had now proved faithful in my Second Estate. After having searched for and found the true church, by means of an unknown book that I found so many years ago, lying on an open barrel of ashes in the city of New York.”

You and I have access to the words of the Lord and the truth therein. In Doctrine and Covenants 123, you and I have been instructed, “It is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart—For there are many yet on the earth . . . who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.”[17]

You and I do not have to rely on the changing re-definitions of the world. In Doctrine and Covenants 5 we read: “Whosoever believeth on my words, them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit; and they shall be born of me, even of water and of the Spirit.”[18]

You and I can read the words in Helaman 5: “And they did remember his words; and therefore they went forth, keeping the commandments of God, to teach the word of God among all the people.”[19]

It was five years after Noah Webster published his 1828 dictionary that the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith His definition of truth as recorded in the 93rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come. . . . The Spirit of truth is of God. . . And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light. . . .  The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.[20]

Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration, in wanting to know the truth, went to the source. Having faith, he prayed to God. You and I can do this also, with a promise that our prayer will be heard and answered.

I testify that we can hear the word of the Lord from our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, who has taught: “As the Savior instructed His early Apostles, so He instructs you and me, ‘Follow thou me.’” President Monson continued:

The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments. . . . “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.”[21]

You and I can obtain this light and truth following the promise from an ancient prophet, one who had selflessly served, had been hunted, and had seen his people destroyed. Moroni’s words to you and me are as follows:

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost, you may know the truth of all things.[22]

I humbly add my testimony and witness that God is our eternal, loving Heavenly Father. He sent His Only Begotten Son, our Savior and Redeemer, to this earth to descend below all things and to rise above all things through His atoning sacrifice, to give us the greatest of all gifts—salvation, exaltation, and eternal life—through His merits, His mercy, and His grace.

God has placed prophets on the earth to instruct us in all dispensations of time. I testify that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Restoration, who restored The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and brought forth the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which contains the words of the Lord.

I testify that we have a living prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson, who holds all the keys to lead, guide, and direct Jesus Christ’s Church here on the earth today. Each of us has the privilege to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them to receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

As we prepare for this upcoming general conference, we have the opportunity to hear the words of the Lord from prophets, seers, and revelators. Let us have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts and minds that align with the will and the words of the Lord.[23] I say these things humbly and gratefully in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] Exodus 20:3.

[2] Mark 8:17–18.

[3] Hebrews 8:9–10.

[4] http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/truth.

[5] Jacob 4:13.

[6] http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/truth.

[7] http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=truth.

[8] Boyd K. Packer, “Atonement, Agency, Accountability,” Apr. 1988 General Conference.

[9] 2 Nephi 31:12.

[10] 2 Nephi 9:51.

[11] 2 Nephi 31:20.

[12] See Jacob 5:75.

[13] 3 Nephi 12:6.

[14] Isaiah 54:13.

[15] Amos 8:11.

[16] Paraphrase of the story. See Vincenzo di Francesca, “I Will Not Burn the Book!” Ensign, Jan. 1988.

[17] Doctrine and Covenants 123:11–12.

[18] Doctrine and Covenants 5:16.

[19] Helaman 5:14.

[20] Doctrine and Covenants 93:36.

[21] Thomas S. Monson, “Obedience Brings Blessings,” Apr. 2013 General Conference.

[22] Moroni 10:4–5.

[23] See Kim B. Clark, “Eyes to See and Ears to Hear,” Oct. 2015 General Conference.

 


We are the Salt of the Earth

16 Jun. 2016

Transcript

We Are the Salt of the Earth

My companion Brianne leaned over to me, and she said, “There is a special spirit in the room.” And there is. Thank you for bringing it. I appreciate specifically the music—these beautiful texts out of Isaiah have really set the tone for me today, and I really am excited to be with you.

You probably listened to Sister Wixom last week, and I know that she said that I was coming. I don’t know if she told you that she was my third grade teacher. She only taught for one year, and I was in her class. She was exactly the way she is now—she was so loving to kids that were throwing up and throwing food, and we were third graders, and she was wonderful to us. And in a lot of ways, she reminds me of the way I feel about the Savior Jesus Christ, because, you know, in all of the childish things we do, He still loves us. And He sort of reminds me of Sister Wixom.

Today I wanted to talk to you a little bit about salt. I don’t know what you know about salt. If you are studying science, then you will know that salt is a simple mineral and it’s made of sodium and chloride. And all life, depends on having salt. You have to have salt to have life, which I think is interesting. One of the most important reasons that salt is kind of the underpinning of a lot of civilization is because they could use it to do a certain thing. Do you know what that thing is? It preserves, in this case, food. When you salt meat or fish salt preserves it. Think about why that is important. Suddenly, now you don’t have to go out and fish or hunt every single day. You could do something else during that day. You could actually travel and bring your food with you, which wasn’t possible before. So it changed civilizations in this way, the ability to preserve food with salt.

Because salt was so important, enormous salt deposits were mined, and all over the world these centers became very, very important. And cultures mine salt in different ways. Anybody in this room ever been to a salt mine? [Audience members raise their hands] Okay, so some of you have. They are so big that you feel so small inside of them. When salt is mined in Africa, it’s put into slabs. And then what do they do with those slabs? They take it on these roads—they call them salt roads—and they take them other places. These were very, very important in the ancient days.

Did you know that slaves—thousands and thousands of slaves—were employed to mine salt because it was such heavy, awful work? You’ve heard some of the clichés—it’s as if he was working in the salt mines. And in some areas of the world, they lashed those big slabs of salt onto camels, and they went thousands of miles across the desert.

Salt is still important today. In ancient times, they paid Roman soldiers in salt, because it was the same value as gold and you could exchange it for gold. That’s where we get the English word salary. It comes from that, which I think is interesting.

Now, how many people have salt in their house? [Audience members raise their hands.] Every single one of us is going to raise their hand. And how much does it cost? Cheap. Salt is everywhere. Every single one of us has easy access to salt, but that is the result of millennia of developing this system so we could all have and use salt.

There is a big deposit of salt in the United States, actually in Utah. Anybody know where it is? The Salt Flats is one of them, but there is an underground reservoir down in the middle of Utah near a place called Redmond, Utah. You’ll see it in the grocery store—they call it “real salt.” When Lake Bonneville, which is the big ancestor of the Great Salt Lake, was shrinking and draining, it left these giant salt deposits. And then down in Central Utah, they got covered over with volcanic activity, so the salt deposits were sealed. And with the sealing of that pristine salt, no chemicals could get into it and it couldn’t be contaminated—and now, deep underground they are mining that salt, which I also think is interesting.

Sometimes, in order to make money, salt companies will boil the salt. They’ll heat it up because they’re trying to extract all the trace minerals out of it. So they keep the pure sodium chloride, but all the trace minerals get separated, and then they sell that purified salt, and they make money. But the problem with heating salt is that it sometimes makes the salt really bitter. It’s hard to describe that salt could be sweet or bitter, but you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? There’s kind of a mildness to a salt, or a harshness to it. And a lot of our modern salt has been heated, so it does kind of have that bitter taste.

Another thing that salt companies do to make money unscrupulously is they’ll cut the salt with some other substance, or they’ll put something in it— like sand. So it looks like salt and you can shake it out, but it doesn’t—it’s not salty enough, because it’s got all of this contaminant inside of it.

You know the very famous story from the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus told His disciples in 3 Nephi, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.”[1]

There are some other characteristics about salt that I thought I would bring up with you, and one of them is that salt comes in all kinds of colors and all kinds of grinds. There is pink salt. It’s mined out of Bulgaria—totally pure, but it’s the trace minerals that make it pink in that way. And people often dismiss this kind of salt because it isn’t what they expect, and they think that there must be something wrong with it. But it isn’t. It’s perfectly pure salt. And this is true about all of us, too. If we are the salt of the earth, as Jesus said—we come in all kinds of colors; we come in all kinds of grinds. And the Lord loves every single one of us if we are pure—if we haven’t been contaminated and we’re not cut with fake substitutes. And He doesn’t mind at all the kinds of variety that we have. He has given us those gifts, and He wants us to use those gifts as long as we can continue to stay salty.

There’s another kind of characteristic of salt, and it is that you are not salt just because you are in a salt shaker. You might be in a salt shaker, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are salt. And you’ll see this in the scriptures. Just because you are a Nephite doesn’t mean that you are following the commandments. Just because you are a son of Abraham doesn’t mean that you are the children of God.

Jesus said in Luke, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and [don’t] say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”[2]

It doesn’t matter if you go to Church on Sunday or you attend LDS Business College, or if you are a returned missionary. It doesn’t matter what you look like. What matters is what you taste like, and that’s how you know if you’re really salt.

Lehi told his children right before he was dying this very same thing. He said, “Inasmuch”—this is the key secret—“Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.”[3]

We talked a little bit earlier about how salt is a preserver, and I mentioned how important it was to civilization that salt could preserve things. There are people that act as preservers, and I’m going to tell you about one in my life, and I want you to think about somebody in your life.

When I was just graduating from university, I had taken an English degree, and truthfully, I was a little bit paralyzed. I just didn’t know what to do next. I knew I would have my degree and I had to figure out what to do now with my life. And I got depressed. I got kind of frozen, and what ended up happening was I couldn’t pray. I wanted to pray, but I felt sealed. I just didn’t feel like I could put my feelings into words. And so day after day, I just wouldn’t pray.

Finally, after weeks of this and feeling terrible, I confessed to my roommate that I was having this terrible trouble. And she is a salty person; she is a preserver. And she said, “Well, how about if you and I pray together every night?”

And for almost a year, she and I knelt down every night, and I wouldn’t offer the prayer. She would. I made her do it, and she would offer the prayer for me. I can’t tell you the difference it made for me in a time in my life that I was frozen—to hear her pray for me and ask for the Lord to bless me in words from somebody that I knew was my friend and I could trust. That changed my life. It helped me get through that difficult period of my life. If I hadn’t had that, I may have stopped praying and even fallen away from the Church because I was so stuck.

You have had that chance to act that way for other people, and people have acted that way for you. It’s why, in the very basic part of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord asked us to be salt and to preserve one another.

Have you ever noticed that salt brings out the flavor of everything else? Have you ever put salt on a melon or piece of fruit? Why do you do that? Somebody is saying, “No, I would never do that.” It brings out the juice. It brings out the flavor. And that’s true of us. Salty people make everything else around them good. It brings out the flavor of everybody else.

I’m going to show you a little video. It’s a video that was actually made for a different purpose, and you will see some of that in there, but I want you to notice how in this video everybody has good things and bad things, yet when they are all together helping each other, they sort of bring out the flavors of everybody. So this is a story about an Elder Olson in California, and how he is serving a Church-Service Mission. And notice about him, and notice about the people he serves, and his parents and some of those other things. And when it’s over I’m going to ask you a couple of questions.

[Video][4]

Elder Olson: Hi. I’m Joseph Wendell Olson. I’m on my mission, and I live here in Murrieta. This is just what I like to call my castle, and I hope I get another one so I can make this bigger and bigger and bigger until it’s just right. I’m a Young Church-Service-Missionary. “What,” you ask, “is that?” Hmm. Simple—just an ordinary Church Service-Missionary, only a lot years younger than normal ones.

Sister Fox: We didn’t know what to expect, and so we kind of have grown up together, Joseph and we older missionaries.

Mother: Joseph was diagnosed autistic at age three.

Father: One of the first things that struck me was that my son was never going to make a touchdown.

Mother: Joseph never really got picked for any teams because he was never on a team. He never went to birthday parties. That’s hard, as a mom, you know. We were really struggling with how he was going to go on a mission, but I knew that he would go on a mission.

Father: There was a lot of prayer; there was a lot of fasting.

Mother: Right around the time he was 19, he started to pray, and he prayed for a year.

Bishop: We unanimously felt that a Young Church-Service Mission was the best course for Joseph. I cleared it with the stake president; he sent me a form right on the internet. I gave it to his parents. They were so excited, they had it back to me in about five minutes, filled out.

Elder Fox: The bishop’s storehouse has filled a great need in this valley.

Elder Olson: I’m mostly doing the heavy lifting there, and stocking the shelves, and stocking the cooler, the freezer.

Mother: You should see him. He has a special coat that he puts on, you know, with mittens and a hat, and he goes into the freezer.

Father: Oh, the freezer box.

Elder Olson: The patrons are getting hot chocolate and fruit drink and pancakes, syrup, peanut butter, butter—oh, and of course the milk.

Elder Fox: He is sometimes off the wall, just does fun things, and makes us all laugh.

Elder Olson: Drinks all around!

Sister Larsen: When Elder Olson first started his mission, he was very reserved and very shy. And he didn’t want anybody to touch him; he didn’t even want to stand close to anybody. And then one day, his mom came to pick him up. And all of a sudden, he gave Sister Fox and me a hug. His mother was watching him. I saw tears in her eyes, and she said, “He’s never given me a hug.”

Sister Fox: We get grandma hugs when he leaves. He has made this a happy place where we all want to be. He’s like a son to us.

Bishop: Joseph is helping change lives. He is proud of that badge that he wears. He has turned into a man of God.

Sister Larsen: It’s been a joy for us to see him blossom.

Elder Larsen: Just send us more Elder Olsons.

Elder Olson: It’s an opportunity for us working at the storehouse to serve the patrons coming there because it’s our Heavenly Father’s love incarnate. What else can I say?

Father: The hand of the Lord, in retrospect, has been very evident in providing an opportunity for Joseph to serve as a Young Church-Service Missionary.

Mother: Being a Young Church-Service Missionary, for him, has been the best thing. It’s right now the best of the best for Joseph. Yes.

Elder Olson: I’m definitely glad that I went on this mission because now I’m able to serve my Heavenly Father. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

 

I’ve seen that video so many times, and I feel like I know Elder Olson. Let me ask you a question: in what ways is he “salty”? Do you have your beautiful books and the spirit of Elder Scott?[5] Will you write those down? In what way is Elder Olson salty?

And as you are thinking about that, he said something in the video—you can feel how he has changed on his mission. How he had never wanted to physically touch or hug his Mom and Dad, and you can see how uncomfortable he still is. When he gives those sister missionaries a hug, he puts his arm around them and he sort of leans in. But he’s growing; he’s learning. He’s changing.

He uses a word that he has probably read in a book because we don’t use it in speech very much. He says, “It’s our Heavenly Father’s love incarnate.” What does that mean, incarnate? [Response from audience member] Embodied—it’s our Heavenly Father’s love embodied in the flesh, and that’s what Joseph, and those missionaries, and his parents, and all the people who come to the storehouse are. They are doing that for each other; they’re being “salty” for each other.

And then he says at the end, “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.” I came on this mission so I could serve my Heavenly Father; it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

I love the example of Elder Olson, and I also appreciate Michael, who came and spoke earlier today about his own experience on his mission,[6] because you are seeing it from another side. His story is from the perspective of a companion who was with somebody who was struggling, who was different and was coming into the Church.  This companionship went to the area office to Skype with somebody to help that struggling person, that companion, find skills so that he could be a successful missionary and serve his Heavenly Father the way he’d only wanted to. It’s hard on a companion, and as he walked through the halls, he was praying to Heavenly Father, and he said, “I feel so alone. Nobody gets what I am going through.” And that beautiful story that he told about looking up on the wall and seeing a Mormon ad that said, “You are never alone.” [7] The Savior is with you. And I am calling you to be the salt of the earth. I am calling you to be salty in this companionship.

Now, every single one of us has those opportunities. We either have to be salty for somebody else or somebody is being salt to us, to preserve us. But that is the joy of working in the Lord’s kingdom. And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was calling us, in the simple way of a substance—a mineral that is with us in every day of our lives, in everybody’s life.

Let me ask you, what gets in the way of being salty? There are two things that I—there are probably lots of things, but I’m going to talk about two things. One of them is that people just bug us so much. They’re just annoying.

There’s another part of the Sermon on the Mount that talks about your eyes being single. And I’ve been thinking about this because I went to the ophthalmologist, and I said, “Look, I wear these glasses, and here I am talking at the pulpit, and I take them on and off all the time. It’s so distracting.”

He said, “Well, this is what we can do. We’re going to fit this eye for distance, and then we’re going to correct this eye for nearsightedness.” And he said, “Some people’s brains can’t adjust to this, but I’m going to give you a contact lens. You’re going to put a contact lens in.” And the minute I put that contact lens in, I couldn’t see anything, because my eyes were fit differently and it was so distracting.

And I said, “This doesn’t work for me. I can’t see anything.”

He said, “Over time, your eyes feed into one big circle, and so your brain is always taking this image and this image and then making a big circle out of it. Well, you’ve changed that. But if you’ll give yourself and your brain six weeks, it will adjust, and it will start to filter things out.”

Well, it’s not filtered at all right now because in the circle, half of the particles are perfectly sharp and half of the particles are perfectly blurry. But they’re all mixed up together, so it’s like looking through a screen door. And it’s awfully distracting. But he said, “If you will give your brain six weeks, your brain will start to filter out, and when you look out of this eye, it will filter out that side, and when you look out of this eye, it will filter out that side.”

And so I am in the middle of this process, and I think it’s helpful because as mortals, when we look at somebody—when you look at me up at this podium, your brain is listening to what I’m talking about. But your brain is also saying, “Look at her hair. I wonder why she wore that. It’s so hot in here.” And you go through all of these things that we just notice. We notice all of those things; we can’t help it. It’s the way we are.

But Jesus is saying, in the Sermon on the Mount, if your eye be single, then your whole body will be filled with light.[8] And you’ve got to train your brain in the same way that I am training my brain—those things are there, but you’re not going to pay attention to them. They don’t really matter, and so you will receive the input, but you’re going to lay it aside, and you’re going to focus on some of the things that really matter. If you can train your brain not to care about that stuff, then you can start to see how hard people are trying, and the intents of their hearts and all they ever wanted to do was to serve their Heavenly Father, and what their potential is—maybe not necessarily the way they are acting right now.

Jesus is encouraging us in the Sermon on the Mount, and he repeated the Sermon on the Mount to the Nephites and also in the Doctrine and Covenants—can you learn to have your eye be single to His glory because that is one way to get saltier and to avoid the problems about people that bother us.

This is from Matthew 6: “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”[9]

So try to be a little bit better about filtering out the stuff that doesn’t matter. That’s one thing that we can do to kind of get over the things that take away our saltiness.

The other thing that I wanted to talk about is that we get disappointed. We get disillusioned. Things are not the way we thought they were going to be. University isn’t what we thought. Our parents are not as smart and all-knowing as we thought they were going to be. Our lives are not as rich or as happy or as clean—or I don’t know, whatever—but we get disappointed and disillusioned. And the whole gospel is to figure out what we do when we’re disappointed and disillusioned.

Brianne and I were walking across Temple Square to come today, and I was saying, “Why do you live the gospel? Why do you stay active in the Church?”
 

And she said, “Because it makes me happy.” And that’s true. All of us have felt that. But the scriptures are full of the story of what if the gospel was in your live but you weren’t that happy? What if all kinds of things were going on in your lives and you didn’t feel happy, and it wasn’t good? Would you still stay in the gospel?

We know that the fruits of the gospel are peace, but sometimes, living in this mortal experience, we’re not in the middle of peace. We know it will happen later, but our experiences are so difficult. But we have the chance to prove to the Lord that we have felt His Spirit, we’ve felt our testimony, and even if we are in disillusioned or disappointing circumstances, we will stay faithful.

There is a good example—and you know the story—it’s the story of Joseph of Egypt.[10] Now, you know he was his father’s favorite. He was one of the younger sons of twelve brothers—probably some sisters—and he was his father’s favorite, maybe because he was obedient. I don’t know. But his older brothers bugged him about it all the time. They could not filter out any of that stuff. And they made fun of him, and they tormented him, and in the end, they put him in a pit and then they sold him off to some slave traders who hauled him off to Egypt. And he got sold. And suddenly, this favored son, who had a good life in the house of his father, became a slave in a foreign country with another language.

He was sold to a man named Potiphar, who was one of Pharaoh’s stewards, and Joseph has to do slave work. Joseph had a decision—he was disappointed; this was not the life he thought he was going to have. But he made a decision that he would try to be the very best he could be in that circumstance. And so he started to serve Potiphar. And he tried to be the best he could be. He didn’t serve stingingly or unwillingly; he gave everything so that Potiphar’s house could prosper. And Joseph was just doing great, and things were going well. Potiphar trusted and likes him, and then what happens?

Potiphar’s wife said, “Hey.” And so there was a seduction that went on, and Joseph, because he was a man of integrity, he fled. He rejected her. And then she said, “Oh, okay.” And so she made a false accusation against Joseph, and he gets thrown into prison. Once again, he had built up his life with all of this effort, and then he was in prison. And instead of being disappointed and disillusioned, he started being a good prisoner. He started helping other prisoners. He started helping the jailor. And they noticed that Joseph had a spiritual gift of interpreting people’s dreams.

Well, the Pharaoh had a dream, so the chief butler, who was had been a prisoner with Joseph and now worked for the Pharaoh, said to Pharaoh, “I know a man who can interpret your dreams.” And so Joseph interpreted the dream of Pharaoh that there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. And Pharaoh took Joseph out of the prison, and he put Joseph in charge of gathering all of the storehouse to get prepared for those seven lean years. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge, second only to himself.

And in the second year of that famine, who happened to come along? There was Joseph in the palace, and he was dealing out corn and wheat to the people who came in the middle of the famine, and who came? His brothers—the fathead brothers who sold him, who he had every right to feel so much anger against. But Joseph, the kind of person that he was—he’d been disillusioned and raised up and brought back down so many times—what did he do to those brothers? He forgave them. He forgave them. They didn’t recognize him. They would have never expected that their little Hebrew brother was now this great man in the court of Pharaoh.

And when Joseph forgave them, he became a preserver to his family, and he brought his brothers and all of their children, their wives, and his father, and he brought them into the land and he preserved them in the middle of this famine.

Joseph was salty. He was salty; he had an eye single to the glory of God, and he trusted in the Lord in the same way the Lord talks about the lilies of the field. There is this beautiful scripture, also from the Sermon on the Mount—Jesus said don’t worry about the logistics of this life. He said,

Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you?

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.[11] . . .

 

There are times in our lives when we get disillusioned or disappointed or we don’t understand certain things. And it bugs us, and it paralyzes us, and it stops us. And the counsel from Jesus in the New Testament—and it’s so simple—He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God . . . and all these things shall be added unto you.”[12]

Earlier this week, I was talking to a friend of mine. She is an attorney and a judge, and she said that in the 1970s when the Equal Rights Amendment was coming out, she—her profession and everything—she was very supportive of this. But the Church took a stand against the Equal Rights Amendment; not that they were opposed to equal rights for women, but there were other aspects of that law that they were afraid would reduce the freedom, and so they took a stand for that. She said, “It made me so mad. I couldn’t stand that I belonged to a religion that had taken this stand that was so important to me.” She said, “I almost left the Church, but I came to the point where I believed more than I was angry. So I just went with that.”

Now, thirty-five, forty years later, she said, “I have largely worked through that disappointment.” And she said, “The Lord working with me, over and over again over those years, being patient. He has added unto me so that is not even an issue with me anymore. I have resolved that.”

But we are so in danger if in the moment we are not patient. If we get upset and we lose the great blessings that come to us from our membership in the gospel and from being people under the prophets, because of our anger or our disappointment or our disillusionment. And I would beg you to take the same counsel that she took and that I take for myself: prophets and seers, they look way down the road. They are seeing things that we do not see, and their counsel oftentimes makes us feel like, “Are they sure?” But I give you this scripture from the New Testament where Jesus says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.”[13]

If you want to get saltier, take the example of Joseph and serve the best you can wherever you are. Sister Linda K. Burton has that beautiful conference talk where she kind of—it’s a meme; you see it everywhere—it says, “First observe, and then serve.”[14]

I am the oldest of seven kids, and my mother is a good delegator. And every night, she would call me up, and she’d say, “Sharon, I want you to come help me with dinner.” And so I would kind of come up unwillingly.

 I would stand in the kitchen, and I would say, “What do you want me to do?”

 And she would say, “You know how dinner works. You’ve done this routine before. You look around and see what needs to be done, and then you do that.”

That has been such an important skill in my life because rather than waiting for somebody to tell me what to do, I can use the saltiness that is in me, I can use the spiritual gifts that are in me. You look around and you see what needs to be done, and you do that. You follow the Jean Eubanks school of service. You know how this works: see what needs to be done, and then do it. And whether you are in a pit or in a slave trader’s hall or in a prison or in Pharaoh’s court, you make the best of where you can be. You stand where you are, and you lift where you are. The Lord will bring opportunities to you that you never imagined.

So, the first thing about getting saltier is to serve. And the second thing is to keep your covenants. If you follow the Church’s plan from the very time you’re a little baby, your father will raise you up and present you to God and give you a name and a blessing, and promise to the Lord in that blessing that he will take care of you and guide you until you can make covenants of your own. It’s really a beautiful promise between that father and God about this child that the father and the mother have created.

When you are old enough, you are baptized and you make your first promise to the Lord. You promise to keep His commandments and choose the right, and the Lord promises to send His power, His spirit, His knowledge to protect you and to guide you. And as you grow, and as you are at the stage where you are, you go to the temple and you promise to the Lord. And He teaches you how to pierce the veil of unbelief and how you can walk through to the other side so that you will not only have faith, but you will have knowledge.

And then when you are sealed, you and your spouse take that veil and you actually hold it over yourselves as creators, and you bring new life on the inside of the veil, and the whole process starts over again. That miraculous, beautiful process that is going on and on with the power of the Holy Ghost and the power of the temple covenants—you want everything that exists to be underneath that covering and that protection. Your covenants are the best protection and covering that there can be, and if you keep them, it will pierce the veil and, like the brother of Jared, you will go through on the other side.[15] The temple is a metaphor for how that will happen for every single one of us.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says,

Verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—

. . . Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul.

And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.

When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men.[16]

I want to testify that there are a lot of things that I don’t know, but these are the things that I am sure about and that I do know. The first one is God adores all of His children. He is good, and He loves us all—whatever color, whatever grind. He loves us all. And I testify that questions are the beginning of revelation and that patience is the younger sister of faith. And if we ask and if we have patience, the Lord will reveal to us in a way that we can understand over time the answers to our questions. And making promises with Him and then keeping those promises, even when our life is not working out the way we thought it would through the good things and the bad things, that is the most important thing we can do with our lives on the earth. And I testify, as has been testified here already, that Jesus Christ will send His help when we can’t take it anymore. When we cry out to Him, when it is dark, when we are frozen, when we are paralyzed and we don’t know what to do, Jesus Himself will come to us and we will not be alone. And He will bring His power.

Our Father in Heaven loves salty children. May we have the salt within us and preserve ourselves and the people around us, and bring out the flavor and the very best of all of us, and in that way He will find us being like Him when He comes again. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] 3 Nephi 12:13.

[2] Luke 3:8.

[3] 2 Nephi 4:4.

[4] See the video “Able to Serve,” at https://www.lds.org/callings/missionary/church-service-missionary/videos?lang=eng#what-ive-always-wanted-to-do .

[5] For example, see Richard G. Scott, “How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life,” Apr. 2012 General Conference.

[6] See LDS Business College Student Story Series, Michael Jewett, Mar. 8, 2016.

[7] “Mormonad: You Are Never Alone,” New Era, Dec. 2011.

[8] See Luke 11:34.

[9] Matthew 6:22, 24.

[10] See Genesis 37, 39–46.

[11] Matthew 6:25–30, 33.

[12] Matthew 6:33.

[13] Matthew 6:33.

[14] Linda K. Burton, “First Observe, Then Serve,” Oct. 2012 General Conference.

[15] See Ether 3.

[16] Doctrine and Covenants 101:32, 37-39.

 


Seeing with Eyes of Faith

16 Jun. 2016

Transcript

Seeing with Eyes of Faith

Thank you for such a warm welcome. Even though I cannot identify one individual who still works here or is associated with this college that was here when I was employed 24 years ago, I’m still treated like family. Thank you. And what a nice touch to have Brother James here to greet me. I just have to tell you, at a time as I had just returned from my full-time mission and was being considered for a full-time job teaching seminary—I would be the only woman teaching seminary in the Church at the time. There were plenty of others to be naysayers. I remember Brother James took me under his wing, and he saw potential in a young woman being able to teach from the scriptures and maybe make a difference in somebody’s life. I have never forgotten that and will always have a very tender spot in my heart for Brother Rhett James.

I’ve thought long and hard, and prayed about what I could present to you. It’s a tremendous amount of trust that I am given to be given this amount of time in your schedules to talk about sacred things. And I thought about an incident that occurred to me as I worked at LDS Business College.

I lived close enough—this would be the old campus, of course—but I lived close enough that I could walk to work most of the time, and those walks proved to be life-saving for me, as they oftentimes turned into prayers and pondering. I remember a particular time when it seemed like that job of dean of students had no bounds as far as what could be required, and I had no idea of what I would be faced with that day at work. When my new calling on that general board—which I never knew there was such a thing as a Young Women general board—I was the youngest on that board. I didn’t know what . . . I was stretched beyond my capabilities, or at least what I thought I could ever do. And social life, it was a mess.

And I remember walking to work, coming to work at the College, and seeing in the distance a tree in blossom. Growing up in Tremonton with fruit trees all around, I knew from a distance an apricot tree popping like popcorn. My dad had grown many such trees, and it was one of my favorite first signs of spring. It lifted my heart and carried me through.

It was some time afterwards I found myself walking that same path to the College, and I looked up and saw that apricot tree again. But now the blossoms were gone; green leaves everywhere. And as I figured out, knowing apricot trees, there ought to be little green apricots covering that tree by now. As I got closer, I searched to see if I was correct, and sure enough, the tree was laden with little hard, green apricots that would one day be ripe.

As I walked away from the tree closer to the College, I remember having tears in my eyes. I thought, “This is a little strange. Maybe I am under more stress than I thought I was. I am crying over seeing an apricot tree bearing apricots at the very time it should be.”

And then this thought came to me—that that apricot tree, in a sense, was a symbol for my Father in Heaven that God is the only constant in life, and where everything else around me could be swirling out of control, I could still feel there was One who would always be there, who would be that constant for me. I have never forgotten that lesson I learned walking to LDS Business College.

I’ve thought of it as I have seen the example of Jesus Christ as He began His ministry. In Mark 1:35, we read, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” I don’t believe Jesus ever forgot that God was the constant in His life, and that He ever let one day go by—no matter how full or how crazy and out of control it would seem to appear to be, with so many trying to get a piece of Him—He would never let a day go by, I believe, that He didn’t find time to petition His Father and be with Him.

Last fall at BYU, just before the semester began, our new Church Commissioner of Education, Elder Kim Clark, spoke to all the deans and department chairs. He made a statement in his remarks that I thought about this year, and I want to pass on to you. He said, “No matter what amount of faith you have established thus far in your life, it will not be enough for what lies ahead.”

At first I thought he was saying that so we would pass that along to our students. But then I realized he was telling that to us as well. I don’t know if you remember, but he spoke in general conference just about six weeks later, and he said something very similar to that. I’m going to read this from his general conference talk in October. Again, this is Elder Kim Clark, our CES Commissioner of Education:

Whatever level of spirituality or faith or obedience we now have, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead. We need greater spiritual light and power. We need eyes to see more clearly the Savior working in our lives and ears to hear His voice more deeply in our hearts.[1]

I’ve chosen to entitle my remarks to you today, “Seeing with the Eyes of Faith.” That’s a phrase that we read in the Book of Mormon that more than one author in the Book of Mormon seemed to resonate with (see Alma  5:15; 32:40; Ether 12:19). Seeing with eyes of faith. As we talk about faith, let me just propose—this is the working definition I’d like to propose, and it’s the one from Hebrews 11:1, that faith is the substance of things hoped for, even when evidence is not seen. The Joseph Smith Translation, as you are probably aware, has it read: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for,” when evidence is not seen.

I think there would be evidence that both of those definitions work. Last October, Elder Neal L. Andersen spoke in his general conference address about faith being substance, not just some ethereal essence that floats through the air, but truly substantive.[2]  But I’d like to look at the definition and consider and focus on the definition that faith is the assurance of things hoped for even when no evidence seems to indicate that it could be real—that we can be so sure of what God has promised that we put into action today those promises as though they had actually been fulfilled. That is faith.

And the rest of chapter 11 of the epistle to the Hebrews gives example after example of individuals in scripture and Biblical history who manifest that kind of faith, sometimes dying before they ever saw the promises fulfilled. Say, for example, Abel—as Paul notes—who offered sacrifice of the firstling of his flock in similitude of the One who would come and give His life.[3] Definitely, Abel died before that actually occurred in the life of the Savior Jesus Christ.

I love verse 13: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them.” They embraced and accepted them even though the evidence wasn’t there.

Now, I just want to point out one of them that I think is one of the most fascinating. It’s the one about Noah: “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet”—say for example, a flood—“moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”[4]

I think about Nephi, who that wonderful choir just sang about, holding to that iron rod. But Nephi, who made a boat when his brothers were naysaying all around him. They had come to the waters by Bountiful, and if they were going to continue on with their trek, the only way to travel was going to be by boat. Nephi made a boat—I just think it’s quite phenomenal, and an evidence of faith on the part of Laman and Lemuel that they actually got in the boat and decided to travel with him.[5]

But if it’s faith for Nephi to build a boat there by the waters of Bountiful, what do you say about Noah, who built an ark when there was no water around? This is hardly a great adventure that you do in the shadow of your backyard or in a garage that neighbors won’t see. He knew. He was so sure about what God had promised, he built that ark when there was no water around.

In Hebrew, there is a verb tense that is sometimes called the “prophetic perfect.” It allows you to say things in the present tense that haven’t happened yet. It’s a cool one—to me it is faith—to speak in the present tense of things that have only been promised but that you know are true. The assurance of things hoped for even though evidence is unseen.

Let me give you just a few examples, and I’d like to go back to the Book of Mormon. How about 1 Nephi 5. Let me put this in context: Lehi and Sariah and their children have left Jerusalem—why? Lehi has received visions. He knows Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, not because it has but because he has received that promise of the Lord and he believes it. But more importantly, because God has commanded him through revelation to take his family and depart out of Jerusalem, that He would take them to a better land.

Well, that was all fine and good for the family it seems like until chapter 5 when Lehi again gets a commandment from the Lord. This time, remember, to send his sons back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates. And all is good until mother Sariah figures out pretty quickly that this is taking longer than it should, and like a true mother, she thinks the very worst and accuses Lehi of sending them to their death.

You can hear it—“Oh, no, they’re gone. This is over.” And Lehi has to keep reminding her over and over again that the Lord is with them. In fact, we see here in chapter 5, he says to her, “I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried in Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.”[6]

Now verse 5—get this tense. What does Lehi say in chapter 5, verse 5? “But behold, I have obtained a land of promise.” They’re maybe two weeks out of Jerusalem. They’ve got another eight years ahead of them before they’re going to hit the promised land. And yet what does Lehi say? “I have obtained a land of promise.” In his mind, it is a done deal. And he is living today as if that promise had already occurred. And with that faith, he bolsters Sariah so that she eventually can get her own witness of that. That’s another story for another time, watching Sariah get that.

But to see that in Lehi—now just go the next generation. Nephi’s nephew Enos. Enos, remember, prays all through—he’s praying through the night, pleading with the Lord for forgiveness of his sins. And why is he forgiven? Because of the faith he has in that Being that will not be born for yet another how many hundreds of years.[7] But he acted today, knowing that Christ’s Atonement is real and will be efficacious in his life. And it worked for him just as powerfully then as it does for us.

Enos’s son—now I’m in Jarom 1:11. The next generation—here’s Jarom in verse 11: “Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence.” How did they do it? “Teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them.”

You follow what the Lord has promised as though it has already been given, and the promised blessings are available to us now.

Okay, let me go to the New Testament, and let’s go to the Savior again. John 16—this is the Last Supper with the eleven. Judas Iscariot has departed. There is probably not a more spiritual environment on the earth—I mean, this is sacred ground as He has washed their feet and taught them of holy, holy truths. But He concluded in verses 12 and 13 that there are still many more things that He wants to teach them, but they cannot bear them now. But “when . . . the Spirit of truth, is come,” He will teach them all things, that there is more that they will be able to understand, once—as I understand that scripture—they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, beyond what they had experienced with the influence of the Holy Ghost.

And so He tells them down in verse 20: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” And then in verse 33—this is Last Supper. Remember where He goes from here? He leaves the upper room—He will go to Gethsemane and suffer pains beyond anything that any of us can imagine. And the next morning, He will be tried, scourged, placed on the cross, and suffer for all of us.

But the night before, there in that upper room, verse 33, Jesus says: “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;”—notice the tense—“I have overcome the world.” There was no question in His mind that the sacrifice would be successful. He acted then as though it had already occurred, and there was a peace that came to those disciples—and that comes to us—that they will come to better understand as a result.

Now, let me just discuss some ways, perhaps, that this might be applicable in our lives today. I do not pretend or desire to make any list of specific things of how you can apply the “prophetic perfect” or have eyes of faith. That would be very inappropriate and impossible on my part. I do not know what’s happening in your lives. But God does, and the Spirit does. But think about these principles and see if there are ways that the Spirit whispers to you that you can live more fully with an eye of faith today.

One would be, will you reread your patriarchal blessing? Read it with eyes of faith, looking at the promises God has specifically given to you—promises that perhaps some of which have already been fulfilled. But if my guess is correct, the majority of them are in the future. What if you were to live today as if those promises had already been fulfilled? Would that make a difference in your choices, your use of time, what you are willing and able to do today and tomorrow?

A second one: we have been hearing a lot in the Church, have we not, about keeping the Sabbath day holy? I find it interesting that we’re not given a little checklist of things we do. And I say hallelujah. I think it’s the very same principle. That’s something that we need to understand from the whisperings of the Spirit. But there are some remarkable general promises that are given if we will seriously think about how we—me and you personally—can keep the Sabbath day holy, to honor it more fully, to change in the way we typically think and behave on the Sabbath day.

I guess there has been a series of leadership training on the Sabbath day observance that ward and take leaders have been given. Recently in our ward, some of our ward leaders shared some of the highlights of that. I just want to read one brief one from President Russell Nelson that I found fascinating.

He said: “As we learn better now to hallow the Sabbath day, faith will increase across the world.”[8] As we increase in our ability to better honor the Sabbath day, faith will increase across the world. What immediately I thought of as I heard that is that means I personally need to do something to change. I can’t depend on others to do that. I need to be doing that. But it isn’t just enough for me. I need to pray for my neighbors, my family, my friends that collectively we can do that better and that we could then recognize a change will happen across the earth.

The closest thing I can think of that this makes me think of is when I was teaching seminary there at Hillcrest High School here in the Salt Lake Valley, and I remember the Commissioner of Education then was Brother Henry B. Eyring. The LDS edition of the scriptures were not that old—just a couple of years off the press—mid ‘80s.

And I remember he talked to all of us as seminary and institute teachers, and he gave us a challenge. He said,

We need to get every one of our students into the scriptures, and reading the scriptures, studying the scriptures every day. Miracles will happen. There will be a new generation that will rise up, but this one for the first time truly being scripturally literate, that the [student] will teach more and understand more and live more by what is in the scriptures than we have ever done before.

But then he added:

It’s not going to be enough for our students to do this. If this is going to work, if this miracle is going to happen, every one of us that has anything to do with the seminary and institute program—every one of us in Church Education—need to be doing the very same thing. All of you teachers, but also the secretaries in all the seminaries, the custodians in all the seminaries, everyone. If we will all do it, we will see a change happening in the next generation.[9]

Well, I’m telling you, it wasn’t that long afterwards I found myself at BYU teaching that generation as they came through those seminary programs, and now your age and college level. I’ve watched it happen and just be added upon every single year as scriptural literacy has improved. There is something different that has happened, and in the course of all of this, what happens? An announcement comes that missionaries can go at an earlier age, that somehow they can be prepared right out of high school.

What are the possibilities that can happen if we really take by faith the challenge we’ve been given to keep the Sabbath day holy?

Now, let me just offer you one more little way that perhaps this might help this become more personal for you. This is a scripture I actually learned that same time that I met Brother James. The director of the Institute was Brother Jack Kidd, and he talked to me right as I received my first assignment to teach seminary full-time. And he taught me about a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that had beforehand not been on my radar.

This is the section that says, I have told you “in your mind and in your heart.”[10] . . . “Did I not speak peace [unto you]?”[11] But Brother Kidd told me the way he, as an individual—not as a Church leader or as a professional religion teacher, but in his individual life—the way he knew what God had in store for him, was section 6, verse 14: “As often as thou hast inquired,” the scripture reads, “thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.”

Look at where you are right now. How did you get to this place? Look in your past. Look at evidences that you can see of God being there, placing people in your path, opening doors in your path. He has brought you to where you are right now, and His promise is that He’s not abandoning us now.

My brothers and sisters, family, sojourners on the same path: I pray that we might have greater eyes to see and ears to hear, that we see with eyes of faith, or—I love this from Elder Packer, back in 1993, to Church Education System faculty—to “see with the eyes [you] possessed before [you] had a mortal body; . . . to hear with ears [you] possessed before [you] were born; . . . to push back the curtains of mortality and see into the eternities.”[12]

God sees that path for each one of us. May we trust in Him. May we not just talk about what He has promised; may we live today in such a way that our very lives bear witness that Jesus is the Christ, that God is indeed our Father, who has promised us all if we would not want anything more but to obey Him, keep His commandments, be true to the covenants we have made. I bear testimony to you as my prayer and witness that we are not alone and miracles will open up before you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] Kim B. Clark, “Eyes to See and Ears to Hear,” Oct. 2015 General Conference.

[2] See Neil L. Andersen, “Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice,” Oct. 2015 General Conference.

[3] See Hebrews 11:4.

[4] Hebrews 11:7.

[5] See 1 Nephi 17–18.

[6] 1 Nephi 5:4.

[7] See Enos 1:1–8.

[8] “The Sabbath Day,” Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast, Aug. 4, 2015.

[9] See Henry B. Eyring, “We Need a Miracle,” unpublished address to CES area directors, Apr. 6, 1981.

[10] D&C 8:2.

[11] D&C 6:23.

[12] Boyd K. Packer, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Teaching Seminary Preservice Readings Religion 370, 471, and 475 (2004), 68–74.


The Parable of the Pencil

21 Jul. 2016

Transcript

The Parable of the Pencil

Thank you, Ben and Kyri [musical number]. Well, I hope you’ve learned something so far today from the music and from Ashley. I’m sad today. I’ll tell you why I’m sad—I’m sick, and this is the first time since we’ve been in this building that I haven’t been able to stand at the door and shake your hand. And so I feel a little void today, because you lift me up.

So I wonder if we can just—let’s do a group handshake, okay? I’ll put my right hand out; will you put your right hand out, please? And just…okay, thanks very much. I feel better. Thank you.

Now, like Brother Nelson, I love to hear you sing. And there’s a chorus in a song that talks about the future, “Now, Let Us Rejoice.” And the day that “Jesus will say to all Israel, Come home.” And then I heard Ashley talk about her picture in her house before she walks out the door. And it is the Atonement associate with that picture that helps you and I get to that point of “Now, let us rejoice in the day of salvation…[when] Jesus will say to all Israel, Come home.” (Hymns, number 3)

But we’ve got to get through life, every day. And so Ben and Kyri reminded us that there is a plea from the Savior to “Abide With Me.” To abide with me, and that “I need thy presence ev’ry passing hour.” (Hymns, number 166)  And so in a real way, brothers and sisters, we don’t have to wait for the benefit of Hymn number 3, “Now, Let Us Rejoice.” Because through the Atonement, we can feel the presence of the Savior in every, every passing hour.

Now one final thought that Craig said about the burden of this institution—and he meant well. There is no burden here, because this is the Savior’s institution, and you are His. The only burden that we as staff and faculty have is the burden of staying out of Heaven’s way and doing our very best that we may be His hands in the moment that He needs us for you. So whatever burden we may feel as faculty and staff and administration, it is very much like what is said in the Book of Mormon, that the burden is “made light.”[1]

President Monson has told us that, for he who is called, they are prepared—their backs are prepared for it. I butchered his quote, but I hope you understand.[2]

Today, for a few minutes, I thought I would share with you five principles. It’s summer, and so we are a little more relaxed in the summer. I’ve got five principles for you that I’ve been pondering, and I want to do it by quoting the Brethren and some of my favorite poets, and then I want to give you a parable. It’s called “The Parable of the Pencil.” So I invite you to listen, because there is a message much deeper than the way I’m going to deliver it. Okay? Now, I have a runny nose, and you made my cry, so it’s running even more. And I’m on such meds, quite frankly, you are all moving in a little constant wave that you are going through out there. I’m glad I don’t live far away—I don’t have to drive far to get home, or I could be a danger.

Here’s principle number one: The nature of your education invites you to become your very best self. Here’s President Lorenzo Snow, president of the Church: “The whole idea of Mormonism is improvement,” he said. “Mentally, physically, morally, and spiritually. No half-way education suffices for the Latter-day Saint.”[3]

Now, Elder Dallin H. Oaks: “In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.”[4] And I would append to that, “your very best self.”

Listen to President Monson: “In the search for our best selves, several questions will guide our thinking.”  Here is the first one: “Am I what I want to be? Am I closer to the Savior today than I was yesterday? Will I be closer yet tomorrow? Do I have the courage to change for the better?”[5]

Principle number two—are you ready?  Your potential is unlimited. I shared this quote from President [Russell M.] Nelson with the brand-new students last week, so I’m going to share it with everybody again. And those of you who heard it the first time, this time I invite you to feel it. To feel it. Here’s President Russell M. Nelson: “The Lord has more in mind for you than you have in mind for yourself! You have been reserved and preserved for this time and place. You can do hard things. At the same time, as you love Him and keep His commandments, great rewards—even unimaginable achievements—may be yours. ....

“You faithful students…can accomplish the impossible. You can help shape the destiny of the entire human family! You will be scattered like seeds in the wind to build up the Church in all parts of the world. As you know and apply the teachings of the Lord in your lives and in your work, you can change the world. You will become a precious part of His perennial pattern: the Lord uses the unlikely to accomplish the impossible!”[6]

Now, you should take confidence in that, brothers and sisters, and quit listening to voices that tell you that you can’t. We’ll talk about that in a minute.

Now, President Linda K. Burton, president of the Relief Society: “You have been sent to earth in this dispensation of time because of who you are and what you have been prepared to do.”[7]

Now, Dallin H. Oaks: “When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously.”[8]

Here’s a little poem from one of my favorite poets, Edgar Albert Guest.  You’ve probably all heard it, but it goes to this issue of your potential being unlimited and you thinking that you can or that you can’t accomplish something. Here we go:

 

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

      But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

      Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

      On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

      That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

 

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

      At least no one ever has done it;”

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat

      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

      Without any doubting or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

      That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

 

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

      There are thousands to prophesy failure,

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

      The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

      Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

(“It Couldn’t Be Done,” Edgar Albert Guest, Poetry Foundation.org, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/44314 )

Now, President Monson again: “First: learn what [you] should learn! Second: do what [you] should do! Third: Be what [you] should be!”[9] Now what is this “be” thing that you should be? Here’s my poet again, Brother Guest. It’s called “My Creed,” and it gives me a little insight about what I should be; maybe it will have some relevance for you, too:

My Creed

To live as gently as I can;
To be, no matter where, a man;
To take what comes of good or ill
And cling to faith and honor still;
To do my best, and let that stand
The record of my brain and hand;
And then, should failure come to me,
Still work and hope for victory.

To have no secret place wherein
I stoop unseen to shame or sin;
To be the same when I'm alone
As when my every deed is known;
To live undaunted, unafraid
Of any step that I have made;
To be without pretense or sham
Exactly what men think I am.

To leave some simple mark behind
To keep my having lived in mind;
If enmity to aught I show,
To be an honest, generous foe,
To play my little part, nor whine
That greater honors are not mine.
This, I believe, is all I need
For my philosophy and creed.[10]

Now, principle number three: What you desire the most, you will get. So aim high. Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “What we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity.”[11]

Now here’s—I’m sure that C.S. Lewis, on the other side of the veil, is a bishop somewhere. I’m just convinced of it. So here’s C.S. Lewis. This is a fun one. You have to listen closely; it’s short. But I’ll pause at the end so you can ponder this one. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” [12]

Do you get it? What we desire most, we get.

Here’s a little poem from Alfred Grant Walton, and I share this with you because sometimes in our pursuit of our education here we become so focused upon jobs that we inadvertently convert jobs and wealth and money to things that matter most. That is not true. That connection should not be drawn. We know from the scriptures clearly that if we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all things will be added unto [us].” So here is Brother Walton:

Wealth is not the things we own–

A stately house upon a hill,

Paintings, rugs and tapestries, 

Or servants taught to do one’s will.

In luxury, a man may dwell,

As lonely as in a prison cell.

 

Wealth is not a plenteous purse,

The bonds that one has stored away,

A boastful balance in a bank,

Or jewelled baubles that fools display.

The things that really gratify

Are things that money cannot buy.

 

Wealth is health, and a cheerful heart,

An ear that hears the robin’s song,

A mind content, some treasured friends,

And fragrant memories lingering on.

Living is an inward art–

All lasting wealth is in the heart![13]

Principle number four: Don’t let yourself become discouraged and give up. Listen to President Uchtdorf: “My dear brothers and sisters, there will be days and nights when you feel overwhelmed, when your hearts are heavy and your heads hang down. Then, please remember, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, is the Head of this Church. It is His gospel. He wants you to succeed. He gave His life for just this purpose. He is the Son of the living God.”[14] And He will help you.

Here’s a little poem by Walter D. Wintle:

If you think you are beaten, you are;

If you think you dare not, you won’t;

If you like to win, but don’t think you can,

It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

 

If you think you’ll lose,

you’re lost;

For out in the world you’ll find

Success begins with a fellow’s will

It’s all in a state of mind.

 

For many a game is lost

Ere even a play is run,

And many a coward fails

Ere even his work is begun.

 

Think big and your deeds will grow,

Think small and you’ll fall behind;

Think that you can and you will;

It’s all in a state of mind.

 

If you think you are out classed, you are;

You’ve got to think high to rise;

You’ve got to be sure of yourself before

You can ever win a prize.

 

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man,

But sooner or later, the [one] who wins

Is the [one] who thinks he can.[15]

 

Now, brothers and sisters, you couple that principle with the second one I gave you about your potential. And as I said to the entering students, I will say to all of you again, if you are in doubt and haven’t been to the temple to do initiatory work lately, I invite you to go and do initiatory work. And when that good brother or sister who has done 47,000 initiatories already that day, you tell them to slow down, because you want to hear the words and the promises. And when you do, and you do it with an open heart, not doubting yourself, trust me—in that sacred place the heavens will open, you will understand your potential more, and you will—in spite of the days of discouragement, when heads hang down and knees are feeble—you will not give up, because you are His.

And as the old statement back in the day—you weren’t even born yet—there was a little cartoon with a young little boy who is represented many different ways; sometimes he was scraggly and dirty and unkempt, and he just looks right in the picture and he says, “God don’t make no junk.”

Do not let yourself become discouraged or give up. And if you feel that way sometimes and you can’t get past it, you come see me. I’ve got a great big box of Kleenex, and we will talk and we will lift each other up.

Okay, remember the Apostle Paul to the Philippians, Philippians 4:13? “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Paul to the Philippians.

So how do we do that? Well, we go back to Ashley, and you know it. You know the verse well. It’s in the third chapter of Mosiah, verse 19: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit”—insert principle number one, your education invites you to be your very best self. Now, back to the scripture: “and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the [Father] seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”  

Principle number five: You have entered into the kingdom of God on the earth by your baptism, and you have chosen to walk the strait and narrow path.  Stay on it.

Now, one of my other favorite poems, from Samuel Walter Foss, about this choice between a “strait and narrow” and a “calf” path:

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;

But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do. …

The trail was taken up next day,
By a lone dog that passed that way.

And then a wise bell-wether sheep,
Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep;

And drew the flock behind him too,
As good bell-wethers always do.

And from that day, o'er hill and glade.
Through those old woods a path was made.

And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about;

And uttered words of righteous wrath,
Because 'twas such a crooked path. …

This forest path became a lane,
that bent, and turned, and turned again.

This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load,

Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.

And thus a century and a half,
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;

And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowded thoroughfare; …

Each day a hundred thousand rout,
Followed the zigzag calf about;

And o'er his crooked journey went,
The traffic of a continent.

A Hundred thousand men were led,
By one calf near three centuries dead.

They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;

For thus such reverence is lent,
To well established precedent. …

For men are prone to go it blind,
Along the calf-paths of the mind;

And work away from sun to sun,
To do what other men have done.

They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,

And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move.

But how the wise old wood gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf! …[16]

Brothers and sisters, you have been called to a strait and narrow path, leading to the Tree of Life. You have friends and family members and a world—the great and spacious building—that you may be tempted to Google every once in a while to see what they are thinking. You have been invited and have entered the kingdom of God through baptism. You are on a strait and narrow path. Stay on it.

Okay, how are we doing? Are you okay? I want to leave you with a parable. We’ve got some slides with this parable, and it is called “The Parable of the Pencil,” and here’s how it goes. I’m going to read it to you.

 

The Parable of the Pencil

One day the pencil maker was talking to his pencils before putting them into the box.

He said to each one of them, "There are five things you need to know before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget them, and you will become the best pencil you can be."

"Number one: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in Someone's hand."

"Number two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you'll need it to become a better pencil."

"Number three: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make."

"Number four: The most important part of you will always be what's inside."

"Number five: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write."

The pencils understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in their hearts.

***

Now replacing the pencil with you, let’s see how these five points apply. Always remember them and never forget them, and you will become the best person you can be.

Number one: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in the hand of God, and allow other human beings to access you for the many gifts you possess.

Number two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, by going through various problems in life, but you'll need it to become a stronger and better person.

Number three: Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and your hard work, you will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.

Number four: The most important part of you will always be what's inside this tabernacle of clay.

And number five: On every surface you walk; through every encounter you have with family, and friends, and the rest of humanity, you must leave your mark. No matter what the situation, you must continue to do your duties and to write your story.

You are like a pencil. God created you for a purpose.  The blessing of membership in the Church is that you have a good idea of what that purpose is.  Every day, every moment, and through every decision, you have the opportunity to live that purpose as it unfolds to you.  And in so doing you are writing the story of your life. 

You are in charge of what that story will be even if outside influences throw you a curve and you break your “lead” on something.  “For all these things,” the Savior said, “shall give thee experience and be for thy good.”

Now, brothers and sisters, I leave you my testimony. This is a wonderful period in your life. The Lord has so much in store for you, you cannot imagine it. And He is willing to bless you with those things to the degree that you are willing to say, “Thy will be done,” even when it may not make sense.

I’ve read you promises of apostles and prophets that you can do that which is unimaginable, and accomplish hard things. The Lord is on your side. He’s on your team. Let Him be your coach, that the day may come when together you and I, together, will stand in front of the Savior when He says to all Israel, “Come home.”

And in the meantime, if you do not have a picture of the Savior by your door, have one in your mind, that every day when you walk out of your apartment, you think about Him and His Atonement, and the prayer in the great song that was sung by Ben and Kyri, that “I need thy presence ev’ry waking hour.” He will be there in His way, with His quiet voice, to instruct and to lift and to enlighten, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] See Mosiah 24:15)

[2] See “Duty Calls,” President Thomas S. Monson, May 1996 Ensign, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1996/05/duty-calls.p1?lang=eng. President Monson said: “Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”

[3] Teachings of President of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, chapter 1: Learning by Faith, (2011).

[4] “The Challenge to Become,” October 2000 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2000/10/the-challenge-to-become?lang=eng&_r=1 .

[5] “Becoming Our Best Selves,” October 1999 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/10/becoming-our-best-selves?lang=eng . Italics in the original.

[6] BYU—Idaho Devotional, January 26, 2015, http://www2.byui.edu/Presentations/Transcripts/Devotionals/2015_01_26_Nelson.htm .

[7] “Wanted: Hands and Hearts to Hasten the Work,” April 2014 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/wanted-hands-and-hearts-to-hasten-the-work?lang=eng .

[8] “Desire,” April 2011 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/desire?lang=eng&_r=1 .

[9] “To Learn, To Do, To Be,” April 1992 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1992/04/to-learn-to-do-to-be?lang=eng .

[10] https://allpoetry.com/poem/8471339-My-Creed-by-Edgar-Albert-Guest .

[11] “According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” October 1996 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/10/according-to-the-desire-of-our-hearts?lang=eng .

[12] The Great Divorce, 2002, HarperCollins.

[13] “Wealth,” https://www.happypublishing.com/blog/wealth-poem/ .

[14] “Have We Not Reason to Rejoice?” October 2007 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/have-we-not-reason-to-rejoice?lang=eng&_r=1 .

[15] “Thinking,” The Little Things and Such: Motivational Poems You Know and Love Now with Reflection Questions by Roger Edwardo, quoted on Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking_(poem) .

[16] “The Calf-Path,” PoemHunter.com, http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-calf-path/ .


Stand in Holy Places

21 Jul. 2016

Transcript

Stand in Holy Places

That musical number was absolutely beautiful, and we could probably just all go home, and we would be edified. Aubrey, thank you; that was wonderful. And I loved the comments of both the prayer from Anna and Kaitlyn’s testimony, which basically says why we are really here—to be taught by the Spirit. And certainly the Spirit was brought to us as a result of the musical number.

Today as you saw me sitting up here next to my wife, Lisa, you’re probably wondering how in the world was he so lucky. That would be a real question to ask yourself. I ask myself that often, and I am so grateful that she could be with us today and I’m grateful for her support always in my life—not just in this, but in every aspect.

I want you to just for a minute think about the most beautiful place you have ever been. Maybe it’s the beach—the warmth of the sand in your feet, the sun as it’s setting over, the cool breeze as it’s coming, and the smell of the waves, the ocean as it’s coming in. Maybe it’s the mountains and the smell of the pine trees and the birds in the trees and those kinds of things.

Why did you choose the place that you did choose as the most beautiful place you have ever been? Maybe it has something to do with an experience that you’ve had there. Maybe it’s a sacred experience that you’ve had there. Today, we want to talk about this idea of sacred experiences in locations. It’s interesting that the Book of Mormon has such an experience recorded.

You remember in Mosiah 18:5 that Alma is preaching to the people, and this is how the location is described:

Now there was in Mormon a fountain of pure water, and Alma resorted thither, there being near the water a thicket of small trees, where he did hide himself in the daytime from the searchers of the king.

Now, that’s not a great description—all it is, is water and a small thicket of trees, right? But then notice the next few verses that begin to happen, in verse 7:

And it came to pass after many days there were a goodly number gathered together at the place of Mormon, to hear the words of Alma. Yea, all were gathered together that believed on his word, to hear him. And he did teach them, and did preach unto them repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord.

And you remember what happens almost immediately after that? In fact, six verses later, in verse 13 they go into the water. Alma and Helam go into the water, and Alma raises his hand and he baptizes Helam in the name of Jesus Christ, and Alma says this to Helam: that the Spirit would “be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world.”

These powerful things begin to happen in that beautiful sacred place. Now, listen in verse 30 of the same chapter to the description of that place:

Now it came to pass that all this was done . . . by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever.

So why the difference and the change from when it first said they’re near a water with a thicket of trees to this beautiful declaration? It’s the things that happened there. It’s the things that happened there.

I remember as a young missionary—in Pennsylvania is where I was called to serve. And we were living in—my companion and I were living in a cabin out in the middle of the woods, basically, because a guy died, and he donated the land to the Church. It was fabulous! A little cold, though—it was the middle of winter, and if you stood just right you could see outside, onto the ground, through the wall. So it was kind of cold in the wintertime. The only heating we had was a little stove that we had to stoke with wood, and during the night it got really cold. But it was a great place. It was an adventuresome place for 19-, 20-year-old missionaries. But something happened there that was different, that changed the way I viewed that place.

There was a stream that ran down behind the cabin, and we dammed it up because we had a sister who was getting ready to be baptized, and there was no font in the area. So we baptized her in the stream. It was in April when we baptized her. Her name was Ann Hess. I remember stepping into that water—it was in April, right?—spring run-off from the snow, it was freezing. I stepped in, and it was taking away my breath. I got down to the water about waist deep, and I said, “That’s deep enough. I don’t want to go any deeper.”

Then I helped her down into the water, and she was doing the same thing. She’s shorter, and [the water went up higher on her], and she was trying to catch her breath because it was so cold. And I baptized her, and we came back out, and she was purple. She was blue and purple, and she was freezing. We drug her out of the water, and off she went, and we wrapped a blanket around her. But it changed the way I saw that area. I felt differently about it because of the sacred things that happened there.

Remember what happened to Moses in the Sinai, in chapter 3 of Exodus? It says, “Now Moses kept the flocks of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.”[1] We usually call it Mount Sinai, right? “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.”[2]

“And [the Lord] said, Draw not nigh hither: put off the shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is sacred ground.”[3]

So, what makes ground holy? We have Alma baptizing in Mormon. We have Moses in the Sinai desert. In Doctrine and Covenants 87: 8, we are commanded to stand on holy ground: “Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.”

President Packer said that inspiration comes easier when you can set foot on the related site that it happened to.[4] Fascinating.

Abraham Lincoln—I know many of you are not from the United States. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. He was also the president during a terrible civil war that occurred here in the United States. He went to a battlefield after the battle had occurred there, this terrible battle in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and he gave what is now a very famous address. Part of that address reads:

We are met on a great battlefield of . . . war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government . . . by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.[5]

It is that kind of idea that we want to talk about—this idea of coming to understand, coming to know. When a monument was placed at Gettysburg years later, one of the generals who fought in the battle of Gettysburg came to that field to dedicate the monument, and this is what he said:

In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not . . . heart-drawn to see where and by whom these great things were suffered . . . , shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.[6]

We’re meeting in an Assembly Hall. Is this sacred ground? Is this dedicated ground? Absolutely. Interesting—the first building that was on Temple Square was a bowery. All it was, was poles, and they laid branches on the top to keep the heat off of people. That was the first thing that was built here. Later, they came along, and they built an adobe building—a mud-baked brick building. Brigham Young came along in 1877 and said, “No, this can’t work. We’re going to build a building that will hold 3,000 people.” And they started construction on this building right here. And as they did, you’ll know that many prophets have been in this building. It is holy ground. It is sacred ground.

January 7, 1887, President Joseph F. Smith said at the dedication of this building, “May the Spirit of the Gospel . . . dwell in the midst of the people that shall come from Sabbath to Sabbath, and from time to time, to attend the meetings and worship in this house.”[7] It is holy ground.

It’s interesting—in 1980 they did renovations to the building, and they got rid of a bunch of stuff that had been added since then to try to take it back to its original luster and beauty. They did add, however, a basement to the building. They re-stained all of the wood and cleaned it up, and they re-marbled all of the pillars. You know that the pillars aren’t really marble, right? It’s wood, and it’s painted to look like marble. They put in a concert grand piano. They put two harpsichords in the building and a new sound system. And the sound system—and I don’t know if these speakers were part of that, or a later addition—but they put the speakers underneath the seats and put it on a sound delay so that those in the back would get the sound at the same time the person at the podium was speaking. Ingenious! Eight hundred speakers is how many they placed.

There are 24 spires on the top of this building, and many stars of David, to remind us that the gathering of Israel is still going on. As a matter of fact, most of you came in through this door over here, right? Did you see the star of David up above as you came in? It’s a beautiful symbolic representation, the star of David. This has a connotation of God to man, and the other part is man to God. When you put the two together, God and man working together to accomplish a goal—what a marvelous idea as we enter into covenants with Him in sacred and holy places. So this building is certainly one of them.

Why such efforts? Why do we want to come to understand sacred and holy places? [There is a] sacred and holy place in Haifa, Israel called the Crusader Cemetery. Two Mormon missionaries died while serving in the land of Israel in Haifa. Haifa is in the northern part of Israel; it’s right on the coast, and is one of the only natural seaports on the coast of Israel. These two missionaries died serving a community of German people there, and there they are buried—John Clark from Farmington, Utah and Adolph Haig from Payson, Utah. Both of them died early in life, and you’ll notice that the pillars are kind of cut off at the top, they’re broken off? To depict that they died early in life. It is a holy place—sacred ground.

Another one of those sacred grounds in Israel is in the northern part, up above the Sea of Galilee, in a place called Caesarea Philippi. This is where one of the headwaters for the Jordan River comes bubbling up out of the ground. It’s a wonderful place to go, and also a powerful teaching place where the Savior, with his apostles, was doing some teaching. And he said, “Whom do men say that I . . . am?” Do you remember the reply? Some say this, some say that. But then Peter’s great declaration: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[8] This is holy ground.

Another location is this church in Bethlehem. The doorway has been blocked in. That happened during the Crusader time period, and there’s a little tiny door that you have to almost kind of duck through to get into it. That’s because they were afraid of being attacked, and you can’t get a horse through a tiny door. So they made a tiny door.

When you walk through that door, you see massive pillars on both sides of the nave as it goes down to the middle of the church. These particular pillars are believed to be pillars that were once on Herod’s Temple Mount, taken from there and placed here. Wonderful things. It takes you right to this little doorway; you walk down some stairs to this doorway, and past the doorway is this odd room. It’s traditionally believed to be the site of the birth of our Savior. It is holy ground. It is sacred ground.

Another of these powerful places is the Temple Mount itself, where many times we find powerful spiritual experiences taking place. There is no longer a temple there; it’s the Dome of the Rock. The second most sacred site of all Islam is this place because Mohammed was taken into heaven from this place, and he also led prayer for Moses and many of the ancient prophets, Abraham and such. That Dome of the Rock sits on the place where many believe the sacred and ancient temples sat—Solomon’s, Zerubbabel’s, and Herod’s temple. It too is sacred and holy ground because of the things that happened there.

There are trees, not far from the Temple Mount, that could have been alive during the time of the Savior. They are easily 2,000 years old. They are trees in what is left of the Garden of Gethsemane. You know what happened there—our Savior suffered for our sins that we might be redeemed, that we might enabled to come back in the presence of our Father.

Around, not too far from that area, on the north side of the old city of Jerusalem is this rock wall, which looks like a face—Calvary, Golgotha, “the place of a skull”[9]—where the crucifixion took place. It is, as our hymn says, “There is a green hill far away, without a city wall.”[10] Yes. Just outside the city wall. And around the corner from that place is the tomb where Christ was laid, according to two modern prophets. It is a sacred place. It is a holy place.

It’s interesting because it’s just not in Israel that we find these holy places. This is an image of a sugar maple grove in New York State. It is here that a young man, Joseph Smith, and his friend Oliver Cowdery went to pray about baptism. And in this grove of trees is where John the Baptist came and restored the keys for baptism, and then they went to the Susquehanna River and people were baptized for the first time in this dispensation.

It is also in that area, in Fayette, New York, where the Church was organized in this home, or this is a replica of that home on the same foundation. And Peter Whitmer Sr. invited Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to come and translate, finish the translation here, and later the Church was organized. This is inside of that home, and President Spencer W. Kimball dedicated that home and then broadcasted a session of conference from this place. It is holy ground.

We also find on top of the Hill Cumorah a statue, which reminds us of the powerful things that happened on Cumorah and at Palmyra. This is the hillside of that powerful place where Joseph found the plates. It too is a holy place, a powerful place where the Spirit resides.

Here we find Joseph Smith Sr.’s home, where all of the Smiths lived at the time that Joseph started receiving revelation. He was told by Moroni in a room, where all of his brothers would be sleeping. In the front room was where all of the boys would sleep, then in the back room is where the girls would be sleeping. So whenever you see pictures of Joseph in bed alone when Moroni appears—probably not.

But nonetheless, right behind that small log home is this grove of trees. It too is sacred. We even call it the Sacred Grove because it is holy ground.

Newell K. Whitney had his home, or a store, in Kirtland, Ohio, and in the back room of this store is a small room, upstairs, where many powerful revelations appeared. Many.

The Kirtland Temple, where the Savior and the Father appeared. It is holy ground. It still feels.

The John Johnson home—we find here is where many revelations occurred. As a matter of fact, in the upper room is where Doctrine and Covenants 76 was received. And Joseph and Sydney were together as this powerful experience was going on, and Joseph would say, “What do I see?” and he would describe it, and Sydney would say, “Yes, this is what I see,” and he would describe the same thing. Sydney would say, “This is what I see,” and then Joseph would say, “Yes, this is what I would see.” A sacred place, no question.

I want to tell you about one other sacred place. This one is in Missouri, and in Missouri the Saints were fleeing from Kirtland at the time because of mob actions and those kinds of things. And as they were fleeing, they would take as much as they could and they would leave much behind. Warren and Amanda Smith left Kirtland, and about the 25th of October they were surrounded by a mob of men who took all their guns and their ammunition. And the mob knew they did because they searched all their wagons. The Smiths had nothing left.

On the 29th, the Smith rolled into a small encampment that was founded by a man named Jacob Haun. And Jacob Haun came there from Wisconsin and set up a small mill, built a blacksmith shop, and he began to mill their grain—their corn and the other grain that they brought. This is Amanda Smith. Jacob Haun would put the paddlewheel in the creek, in Shoal Creek. And it would turn, and the stones would rotate, and they would drop the grain in between, and it would make flour out of their grain.

Well, this is an important site for the Saints because it was the only place at the time that they were able to mill their grain; no one else would do it for the Saints. Jacob Haun was the only one. Well, the Smiths stopped there on their way to Far West, which is about 16 miles from Haun’s Mill. While they were there, the brethren began to gather together inside the blacksmith shop. Now, the blacksmith shop wasn’t finished; it was only beginning to be built. It had log walls and a roof, but the chinking—all of the mud and stuff that was packed in between the logs—wasn’t in place. So there were wide gaps in there. There was tension among the Mormons and the Missourians at the time, and even to the point where there had been death on both sides because of conflict that had occurred.

Some of the reasons for this uncomfortable situation? The economic situation—the Saints would only trade among themselves. Well, the people who were living there at the time tried to get them to buy goods and things, and the Saints wouldn’t partially because they didn’t have any money. But the Saints would trade for goods among themselves. The Mormons controlled the vote. Pretty soon, so many Mormons were coming into the county that those Missourians would no longer control the vote.

Another reason is the Mormons were friendly toward the Indians and did not like slavery. Missouri was a slave state, and they did not like the Indians. Mormons proclaimed that their religion was correct and it was of God and superior to all others, and that God had given them this land. And that made the long-time residents of Missouri a little nervous, obviously.

There had been physical conflict, as we mentioned—signed documents from ex-Mormons stating that even some of the Mormons were rising up in rebellion and wanting to take over the government of Missouri. And finally an extermination order came from the governor of the state, Lilburn Boggs, who said, basically among other things, that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public peace. Their outrages are beyond description.”[11]

Obviously, there were problems. The problems continued to escalate. It got worse and worse and worse. And on the 29th of October, 1838, Amanda Smith—she and her husband had set up their tent by the blacksmith shop—was sitting in the doorway of her tent and saw the mob coming down a hill. It was the same mob that had taken away their arms. She knew; she recognized some of them. And immediately when she saw them, they started firing their rifles into the blacksmith shop because that’s where all the brethren had gathered for prayer. And she tried to get to the blacksmith shop, but there were so many bullets flying through the air that she dared not go near it.

She grabbed her two daughters and ran across Shoal Creek on a plank that they had put there so that they could mill their grain. Another sister was running with her, and as they ran, the mobbers turned and started shooting at them. Amanda said she was not hit but had numerous holes in her clothing from the bullets that came by. The sister that was with her, however, was hit. She screamed out, and Amanda turned to her and said, “Stay here.” There was a fallen log; she urged her to hide behind the log, safe from the bullets. She took her two daughters and ran on until the firing stopped.

When she felt like it was safe to return, she turned around and came back. She found that the sister had passed out; she had been shot through the hand. She helped her get together, tape her hand up, get her hand put together, and they came in. The first person they found was an old man that had been cut to pieces, literally cut to pieces by a corn cutter, by the mob members. His name was Brother McBride. And even worse than this, as she came to the blacksmith shop, her oldest son, whose name was Willard, was carrying her son Alma, one of her younger sons, from the blacksmith shop, and she said, “He’s dead.”

He said, “No, Mother, he’s not dead, but he is wounded seriously. But Father and Sardius have both been killed.” She didn’t have room to cry at the moment; she needed to take care of her son. She immediately turned to the Lord. She didn’t know how to take care of him, had no clue. Because what had happened is when the mob members surrounded the blacksmith shop, they stuck their guns through those holes right up against the people inside and pulled the trigger. Her son Alma had his hip shot off. He was just a little boy, and they put the gun right next to his hip and pulled the trigger. She was afraid he was going to die and pled to the Lord for help.

It’s interesting because Willard, her other son, tried to get into the blacksmith shop as the shooting began, and each time he would run to the blacksmith shop, his arms would fly out, and they would bang against the door, and he couldn’t get in. Three times he tried, and each time—finally he hid in a pile of wood that was nearby, and he escaped certain death because everybody who was inside was either dead or dying.

She cried within her heart, “Oh, my Heavenly Father, what shall I do? Thou seest my poor wounded boy and knowest my inexperience. Oh, Heavenly Father, direct me in what I should do!”[12] She said impressions and thoughts came to her. They had been burning the bark from a shaggy-barked hickory tree, and the impression was that she should take the ash, get a wet cloth, dip it in the ash, and stick it in the wound of her son—which she did, over and over and over. Each time she would stick it in and pull it out, a mash of bones and skin and other things came out with it, until she said it became “white as chicken’s flesh.”

And then she was inspired to take part of a tree—it’s called a slippery-elm tree—and take part of the root from that tree and make a poultice. A poultice is just a pack of material that is wetted and is able to be used for healing. And then she stuck that poultice inside of his hip. She took a quarter of a yard of material to pack inside of young Alma’s hip.

Afterwards, she found vent for her tears, and just unloaded. The mobbers didn’t come back that night, although the survivors thought the mob would. So all of the men that were alive and hiding somewhere stayed hidden. Those that were wounded were moaning, and the women would go to them and try to give them as much comfort as possible. The next morning came the grizzly chore of burying all the dead. It was October; the ground was frozen. But there was a well not too far away that was empty, and they would take the bodies of the dead and throw them into this well. Until it came to her son Sardius, and those that were helping couldn’t do it, and so they laid him on the ground. And she later had to come and put his body in there, and then they covered it over with a little bit of dirt.

As the days went, on the mobbers did come back. They took all of their food, all of their clothing, their wagons, their animals. They took their grain. They even harvested the grain that had been planted in the fields, and they milled it at the mill that was there for their own families. The women didn’t know what to do so they prayed, and the mobbers told them, “No. You can’t pray. We forbid you to pray.”

Finally, she said, “I stole down to a corn-field, and crawled into a ‘stout of corn.’ It was as the temple of the Lord to me at that moment. I prayed aloud and most fervently. When I emerged from the corn a voice spoke to me. It was a voice as plain as I ever heard one. It was no silent, strong impression of the spirit, but a voice, repeating a verse of the Saint’s hymn:

‘That soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose,

 I cannot, I will not desert to his foes;

 That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

 I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!’”[13]

 

We sang that opening hymn today. Alma lay for five months on his stomach, and a gristly mass grew in place of his hip. He began to walk—without bone. Doctors didn’t know how, but the Lord does. Why did he have to be healed? Why did he have to be saved? He went on three missions later in life to the Sandwich Islands—Hawaii. On one of those missions, they were coming ashore and the boat capsized. There was an important person on the boat—Lorenzo Snow—who they lost. For 30 minutes they couldn’t find him; he was under the water. When they finally found him, they drug him up onto the boat, and Alma was one of those who resuscitated a future prophet of God. He also served as mission president in England years later. That corn stalk was holy ground for Amanda Smith.

I want to know where your holy ground is. Is it your sacrament meetings? Maybe it’s your apartment. Have you had your apartment dedicated? Sisters, have you invited your home teachers to come to your apartment and dedicate it? What a powerful thing to do; we make it holy ground. And then be careful what you bring into your holy ground, the things you watch, the things you say, the things that you do. Make sure that that holy ground remains holy and can remain holy.

We have just a couple of minutes. What I’d like you to do is—each of you has your journal because I saw you raise them up—I want you to take a moment and consider what you can do this semester to stand in holy places. I’m going to give you two minutes to write down your thoughts, feelings, and impressions.

I know two minutes is not a lot of time. I would hope you would continue to write if you feel impressed to do so. Now, will you act on what you have written down? That’s a question I want a response to. Will you act on what you have written down? Excellent. Because that’s revelation. This building is holy ground. Revelation comes. The Holy Ghost works; He teaches us what we need to do to become better.

I testify that Jesus is the Christ and this is His Church. I testify that as we do our best to stand on holy ground, that He will inspire and give us direction. Holy ground can be where you are. Make your life holy ground. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 

[1] Exodus 3:1.

[2] Exodus 3:2.

[3] Exodus 3:5.

[4] Boyd K. Packer, “The Snow-White Birds,” BYU Speeches, Aug. 29, 1995.

[5] Abraham Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address,” https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/gettysburg-address/ext/trans-nicolay-inscribed.html.

[6] Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, quoted in Report of the President, Bowdoin College: (1905), 6.

[7] Joseph F. Smith, quoted in JoAnne Jolley, “Century-Old Assembly Hall Is Renovated,” Ensign, Feb. 1983.

[8] Matthew 16:13–16.

[9] Matthew 27:33; John 19:17

[10] “There Is a Green Hill Far Away,” Hymns, no. 194.

[11] Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 199–201.

[12] Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record, Deseret Historical Association: Salt Lake City, Utah.

[13] Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record, Deseret Historical Association: Salt Lake City, Utah.


Surrender Your Will to the Lord and Trust in His Love for You

21 Jul. 2016

Transcript

Surrender Your Will to the Lord and Trust in His Love for You

Hello, brothers and sisters. I am really thrilled to be here with you this morning. It’s always a joy to be able to perform with my children and be able to teach them to serve through the talents they have been given. We love to start by performing “Amazing Grace.”

[Musical Number: “Amazing Grace,” Olney Hymns (1779), no. 41.]

I know that Jesus Christ is the life and light of the world.[1] We will find spiritual safety, joy, and contentment as we follow Him and His teachings. This morning I will speak about four vital aspects involved in fully anchoring ourselves to Christ: cultivating our spirituality, understanding our identity as children of God, striving to live a consecrated life, and developing faith in Christ. As we strive to incorporate these values into our lives, I testify that we will find true peace and happiness in this life and the life to come.

Cultivating Spirituality

Music has always been a big part of my life, and much of my testimony has been shaped and developed through my experiences with music. I am so grateful to my parents who made sure to foster an environment where I could have these spiritual experiences.

I began playing the violin when I was four years old and started performing soon after. These experiences taught me many gospel principles and helped me to develop my testimony. Before every performance, I would kneel down with my parents and fervently pray that I would be blessed to play my best and feel good about my performance. It gave me such strength to know I could rely on the Lord to get me through each scary concert.

Time and time again I would pray, and then a few minutes later I would see my prayers answered as I performed. I came to trust in the Lord and have a knowledge He cares for me and listens to my pleas for help.

My first experiences of the powers of scriptures also came through childhood performances. In those agonizing pre-performance hours and minutes, my mother would quote scriptures such as Doctrine and Covenants 38:30: “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” and 2 Nephi 32:9:

But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.

My favorite scripture to hear during these stressful moments was Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

These scriptures were imprinted on my soul as a youth, and they still give me the courage and strength to perform as an adult. They also are good ones just in daily life, the scary lives that we lead. I’m grateful that from my childhood, my parents taught me to constantly look for the Lord’s blessings in my life, and my husband, Matt, and I have tried to teach our children to do the same. We try to acknowledge Him every time something good happens in our lives, every time we avoid something bad happening, and every time we have a particularly good idea.

Proverbs 3:6 states: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” I know as we give credit to the Lord for His blessings, He continues to bless us, and we love blessings. I’m not willing to give up any blessings; I hoard them.

A few summers ago, I had an experience that reminded me just how reliant we are on the Lord. I was invited to perform at the Stadium of Fire, which as many of you know is a huge fireworks celebration on Independence Day concert in Cougar Stadium. For reasons beyond my control, I received my music just four days before the show, and I had to learn and memorize my very difficult part in that short amount of time. I spent the days before the show practicing and praying that I would do my best in front of the audience of more than 50,000 people.

The Lord did bless me to play my best, and as I walked off the stage, I thought that all of my needs had been met for the evening. I kind of thanked Heavenly Father for blessing me and kind of said, “We’ll see you tomorrow,” like, “I’m good. Thank you for blessings. I’m going to go have a great night with my family, watch the fireworks, and You can bless all the other people that need blessings. I’m good.”

And as the fireworks concert and celebration was going on, I noticed some fireworks were shooting into the audience, and that was quite alarming and exciting and scary. But then I saw one shooting right at me, and I was holding my then-three-year-old son, Matthew, on my lap, and he was asleep. I was blessed to turn my torso before the firework hit me. I don’t think it’s possible to move before a firework. They’re faster than we are. But angels turned me, and the firework hit me in the back instead of right where Matthew’s face was on my lap. My gown was burned, my arm was burned a little bit, my hair started on fire. But someone put it out really quickly, and other than a whole in my new gown, which was upsetting, I was okay and more importantly, Matthew was just fine. I came away from the experience so grateful for the Lord’s tender mercies and more aware that the Lord continues to bless us and watch out for us even when we think we’re through our toughest challenges.

My first experiences with priesthood blessings came through my involvement with music as well. As I sought to arm myself with strength to perform, my father would give me a priesthood blessing. And I would cling to the promises from that blessing as I walked onto the stage for various important concerts and auditions. Through each of these experiences, I was learning to rely on the Lord, trust in Him, and have faith that He would bless me. And He did time and time again, until one performance that I had in high school.

I had received a blessing telling me I would play my best. I went to the competition, and I just was—it was not good. It was awful. I had to stop a couple of times, look at the music. It was a total fail. And my mom was there, and she was driving me home, and I was crying, telling her my blessing had not come to pass. I had not been blessed. And I wasn’t very happy about it.

A couple of hours later, after dinner, we received a phone call telling me that I had made the finals of this competition, and my mom said, “Jenny, you march into the living room, get down on your knees, and repent.” So I did. And that night I was able to practice away those earlier mistakes, and the next day I went to the competition, played my very, very best, won the competition, and won a chance to solo with Utah Symphony. But more importantly, I’d learned to trust in the Lord.

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” That’s a good one. We need to remember constantly in our lives to trust in the Lord because I constantly think that things should go a different way than sometimes they go, and I have been learning over and over to just trust in the Lord. You’ll never go wrong when you trust in the Lord.

While obtaining my bachelor’s degree at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, I learned another very valuable lesson that has blessed my life and increased my faith. I always tried not to practice on Sundays in high school, but when I got to the Curtis Institute of Music—which is considered to be one of the very best music schools in the world—I saw all my peers practicing ten hours on Sunday, and I was very convinced that I would really fall behind if I didn’t practice on Sunday. It was such a huge day of practicing for all of my colleagues, and these were the best kids in the world. And I spoke to my father about it, Elder Oaks, and expressed my concerns, and he promised me that if I would totally dedicate myself six days a week and practice with 100% effort, and then take the Sabbath day off, that would equal more than seven days of kind of 75% practicing.

So I put him to the test, and Monday through Saturday I was one of the first ones at the school. I was always the last one to leave at 11:00 every night. The security guard would kick me out of the practice room. And I did that Monday through Saturday. It was fun—a fun life. But then on Sunday, I didn’t practice at all, and Monday morning I got to school super ready to practice again and rejuvenated and renewed and refreshed and spiritually filled. It truly blessed my life. And I saw my peers, who practiced such long hours on Sunday, dragging on Monday. They did okay—they’re famous around the world. But I know that, for me, I was so, so glad. I know I was blessed musically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically because I did try to keep the Sabbath Day holy. And I think it applies to any of our work. If your work now is school work, if your work now is—whatever your work is, if you can try to not do that work on the Sabbath, you will be so blessed.

And now that I have children, I don’t make them practice on Sunday, and it is the best day. When Sunday comes around, they are so excited. If you want to make your future children or your current children love the Sabbath, just make the other days miserable. And they will just love it! I’m so grateful for the gift of trying to keep the Sabbath Day holy, to be able to rest from our labors. It’s truly one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. And I’m so grateful for the increased emphasis on Sabbath Day observance that we’ve been receiving from our Church leaders.

Understanding Our Identity as Children of God

I’m so grateful we have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ with all of its restored truth. How grateful I am that Heavenly Father has provided His children with so much knowledge about our divine heritage to guide us as we try to navigate our very complicated modern lives. We read in the proclamation on the family that “all human beings . . . 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 of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”[2]

How glorious to know that we truly are children of God with innate divine gifts that, when cultivated, can eternally bless our lives and the lives of all those with whom we come into contact. Are we at times living below our privileges when it comes to the blessings that are ours and the potential that we have as children of God? If we anchor ourselves to the world, we severely limit our potential. But if we yoke ourselves to Christ, He will magnify us and we will attain unimaginable heights. And it is those heights that will bring us the most joy.

I personally know how incredibly attractive and enticing the things of the world can be. A few years ago I was nominated for a Grammy award. It was really exciting to be the focus of so much publicity, shop for a gown, go to LA, walk the red carpet, and attend the GRAMMYs. I really loved the attention and notoriety. But that whole experience sent me off on a worldly road trip of painful personal insecurity and deep dissatisfaction with my very, very beautiful life.

I did not win the GRAMMY award, but the experience of being so close to Hollywood unfortunately ignited in me a real thirst for worldly glory. As I set my sights on a life of fame and fortune, I started to feel less and less joy and contentment. Naively, I set to fix the problem with a number of worldly cure-alls. In the beginning of the process, I tried to convince my husband that we needed to move to a bigger and nicer house, which he called a “great and spacious building.”[3] Then I started to buy way too many gowns with sleeves, got a tanning membership because, of course, skin cancer makes one truly happy, consumed large amounts of chocolate, which led to various unsuccessful diets, and then joined and flunked out of CrossFit.

Of course, none of these solutions gave me the fulfillment I was searching for. Great and spacious buildings are just too expensive. Just because you own lots of gowns doesn’t mean you’ll be invited to lots of red carpet events. Chocolate cannot really make one happy, at least long term. And CrossFit is just way too painful. Anyway, none of these worldly fixes and pursuits gave me the inner peace and satisfaction I was striving for. And I just seemed to be becoming more and more insecure about myself physically and spiritually, and less satisfied with my life and blessings.

Gratefully, I was blessed that through it all; I remained anchored to the gospel. Our family continued to strive to live the teachings, and my testimony remained steadfast. I just did not feel the rich fullness of joy and contentment that I was used to feeling through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I desperately wanted that feeling back. And my husband got sick of me trying to spend my way to personal fulfillment.

I began my spiritual course correction by starting a program of personal scripture study. I also made sure my personal prayers were more heartfelt, and I spent more time reading the words of the prophets. As I spiritually fed my soul and made more of an effort to focus on the Savior, the emptiness has left me, joy has returned, and my feelings of self-worth have improved dramatically. As we become personally closer to Jesus Christ, we are filled with His light and His joy, and the feeling is glorious.

Brothers and sisters, I know that it is possible to attend all your church meetings, fulfill your church callings, do your home and visiting teaching, and participate in family prayer, family home evening, and family scripture study all the while keeping the commandments, and still walk away malnourished spiritually. It is imperative that we as children of God truly cultivate our personal relationship with Heavenly Father and feed our spirits with light and truth.

We need to make sure to try as much as possible to focus our thoughts away from the things of the world if we are to experience the fullness of joy Heavenly Father wants to bless His children with. Alma warned us when he said that “wickedness never was happiness.”[4]  But I would say that worldliness never was happiness.

I still sometimes struggle with feelings of insecurity, but when I feed my spirit and focus on the Savior, these feelings immediately go away. And I truly feel the love of the Lord.

President Monson has declared:

Your Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there.[5]

Striving to Live a Consecrated Life

As we cultivate our spirituality, understand our divine heritage, and keep the commandments, we become more able to consecrate ourselves completely to the Lord and His purposes. We know that often the way we serve the Lord is through serving others. Christ taught His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”[6]

Cultivating our own spirituality is vital to our well-being, but we must also look outside ourselves and impart service to others in order to live a consecrated life. I’ve not always had the best attitude about service—giving it or receiving it. I probably take too much pride in doing everything by myself and doing it without outside help, although I’m pretty good at delegating my children and my husband to work in my behalf.

Our family recently moved to Utah. The months before the move were very busy, as our family had tons of performances around the country while we were busy selling and packing up our house. The morning that the moving truck arrived at our home, I was not ready, and I kind of shut down. I knew what needed to be done, but I just felt completely powerless to accomplish it. So I did what I never do; I sat down and cried. That’s not true—I do that a lot. So I did that, and then I received the inspiration that I should call two members of the Relief Society. And they immediately dropped everything and came over to help me. And just knowing that they were on their way helped me to start getting everything taken care of.

When they arrived, I couldn’t believe how quickly I stopped feeling overwhelmed and began to feel like I would actually survive the experience. When I called them, I knew that they would be great packers. But I didn’t know that their presence there would actually enable me to become a good packer.

As I admitted before, I’ve always been a bit grumpy about compassionate service, self-righteously wondering why it is necessary to arrange meals for the sick and the afflicted when Domino’s Pizza exists right around the corner. But this experience of packing and moving completely changed my attitude about service. I now understand that much of the service has nothing to do with the food itself, or the actual helping act. It is the love being shared that makes all the difference. In my own experience, the packing was helpful. But it was the love, concern, and friendship that really mattered. It was the love of these sisters that enabled me to move forward and start functioning effectively again. It was the love that was the service I needed most, and Domino’s does not deliver that.

I love the song, “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” for it reminds us that when we serve others we are truly serving our Savior Jesus Christ.

[Musical Number: “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” Hymns, no. 29.]

I know that the Lord loves us all completely and wants what is best for us. He asks us to give ourselves over to Him so He can be the architect of our souls to create much more of us in our lives than we can ever build on our own. And this is the way to true peace and happiness in this life and the life to come. I know that true joy is found through abiding by the teachings of the gospel. It is through keeping the commandments, nourishing our spirits, and putting God first. Trying to find happiness by setting one’s heart on the things of the world can be a frustrating, unfulfilling road full of disappointment. However, yoking ourselves to the Lord brings peace, fulfillment, and joy.

Matthew 6:19–20 states: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Worldliness never was happiness. A consecrated life is definitely a happier life.

Developing Faith in Christ

In order to anchor ourselves to Christ, we must understand that true faith is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When I was 22, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I was absolutely devastated. My mother was my best friend. I was born 13 years after the rest of her five children, so I had been raised almost as an only child, and we were extremely close. As I saw her suffering with cancer, I wanted to know what to pray for. And so I reached out to my father, and I said, “Dad, how can we have faith that someone will get well or something will happen when we know that everything is dependent upon the Lord’s will?”

He responded as follows: “I believe that the only true faith is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything we have faith in is based on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Father, that they will do what is best for us—another way of saying according to their will in our behalf. Therefore, we cannot really say that we have faith that the Lord will do what we ask Him to do in any and all circumstances. There will be times when that is not even right for us. If we place our trust in Him, that is what we should do. And He has taught us that we should pray for those we love and to pray for those who are sick. We do that, and exercise our faith in the Lord, and that is what we are supposed to do.”

My father’s explanation enabled me to put faith and trust in the Lord as I dealt with my mother’s illness and eventual death nearly one year later. I prayed for her recovery, but I knew it was the Lord’s will that she return to Him, and I trusted in Him completely. Because I put my faith in Christ instead of in her recovery, through the loss of my mother, my faith and testimony were strengthened and not shattered. I know that I will see her again, and I am so grateful for Christ’s willingness to die for each of us so we can be resurrected and live again with our loved ones. This is “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.”

[Musical Number: “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” Hymns, no. 136.]

My mother devoted her life to me and the development of my musical gifts, and her faithful prayers during her illness continue to bless my life even after her death. When my mother found out that she had cancer, she immediately began to pray that I would find someone to marry before she died so she could die knowing that I would be taken care of. The day that my family held a fast for her recovery was the day I met my husband Matt in the singles ward in Manhattan.

My mother died the following summer, but she lived to see me married in the temple to a wonderful man who has taken care of me. It was the Lord’s will that my mother pass on, but He still answered her earnest prayer the very day that we fasted for her. The Lord does hear our prayers. He does care about each of us, and when we put our faith and trust in Him, miracles happen.

I’m grateful to be a child of God and to know my relationship with Heavenly Father. I’m so grateful for the gospel that helps us keep everything in perspective. I’m grateful for the continued emphasis our Church leaders have placed on the family. I’m grateful for the proclamation on the family[7] that so beautifully outlines the different and vital roles that men and women have. I’m grateful that Heavenly Father has entrusted women to be the nurturers of His precious children, and He has enabled worthy men to bless the world through His priesthood.

I’m grateful that as we cultivate our own faith and spirituality, we can help our children with theirs. Our family would love to leave you with one final song that reminds us of the importance of trying to make our homes places of peace, security, and love, places where the gospel of Jesus Christ is lived and taught, and faith in the Lord is cultivated. This is “Love Is Spoken Here.”

[Musical number: “Love Is Spoken Here,” Children’s Songbook, 190.]

I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true Church on this earth. I am grateful for the temple and the ordinances therein that enable us to return and live with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again. I’m grateful that this church is led by a true prophet of God. I’m grateful for the teachings of the gospel that help us develop our spirituality as we consecrate ourselves so that we can grow closer to our Savior Jesus Christ and align ourselves completely with Him. I know that this will bring us peace, safety, and joy in this life and in the life to come. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] See 3 Nephi 11:10–11.

[2] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” 1995.

[3] 1 Nephi 8:23–28.

[4] Alma 41:40.

[5] Thomas S. Monson, “We Never Walk Alone,” Oct. 2013 General Conference.

[6] Matthew 25:40.

[7] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” 1995.


Subscribe to Summer 2016