Rapt

29 Jul. 2009

Transcript

Rapt

I am delighted, and very humbled to be speaking to you today. I am happiest in the classroom, not behind a podium, and I definitely prefer questions and comments to lecture. So here goes! It is my sincerest prayer and overwhelming hope that any of the remarks I have prepared will be of worth to you, and your time here will be well spent. You inspire me. This school is a beautiful blessing in my life.

When asked to talk about any of the cultural beliefs of the college, I decided to read the scriptures that were in the small print, under the values of "Do Right" and "Be Accountable."

Do Right

Jacob 6:3: And how blessed are they who have labored diligently in his vineyard….

Be Accountable

Doctrine and Covenants 107:99: Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.

I found a word in both scriptures that caught my attention “diligence.”

When talking to a dear friend about this assignment, she told me about a book, recently on the market, titled "Rapt -Attention and the Focused Life,” by Winifred Gallagher. This attracted my attention and, after reading it, I decided that synonyms for diligence are “attention” and “focus.” When we are being diligent we are focused.

This book is hot off the press and I will use this as a source for parts of my presentation. There are lots of neuro-scientific comments and tests and studies cited in this book that are of interest in our "prove it" world. 

So today, I want to talk about our rapt attention to Do Right and Be Accountable

I have three sub-headings for this focus topic. After discussing what rapt is, I will talk about the way uplifting music can help our focus, then we'll learn about focus with regard to the way we communicate with each other, and finally how to use our focus on spiritual matters to create the greatest quality and purpose.

Rapt is an old-fashioned term that means “to be completely absorbed, engrossed, fascinated, perhaps even ‘carried away’.”

Everyone knows what “attention” means. William James gave one of the earliest scientific definitions of attention in 1890. "It is the taking possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seems several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration of consciousness are of its’ essence. It implies a withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others."

Much of the quality of our life depends not on fame or fortune, beauty or brains - or on what happens to happen to you - but on what you choose to pay attentions to, on how diligent you are.

Psychologist William James said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to.”

As the expression "paying attention" suggests, when you focus, you're spending limited cognitive currency that should be wisely invested, because the stakes are high. At any one moment your world contains too much information, whether objects, subjects or both, for your brain to "represent," or depict clearly for you. Your attentional system selects a certain chunk of what's there, which gets valuable cerebral real estate and therefore the chance to affect your behavior. Moreover, this thin slice of life becomes part of your reality, and the rest is consigned to the shadows or oblivion (p.9).

Attention's selective nature confers tremendous benefits, chief of which is enabling you to comprehend what would otherwise be chaos. You couldn't take in the totality of your own experience, even for a moment, much less the whole world. Whether it's noise on the street, ideas at the office, or feelings in a relationship, you're potentially bombarded with stimuli vying for your attention. New electronic information and communications technology continually add to the overload. By helping you to focus on some things and filter out others, attention distills the universe into your universe (p.9).

My fields of study, Communications and Music Appreciation, are both very progressive, with technology driving the way in which we "do" communicating and the way we listen to and appreciate music. I have little antennaes that pop out of my head whenever something comes along regarding these worlds, and I'm constantly gathering articles and thinking "what is our world is coming to?" I've seen many changes in very recent years. There is a great deal of time devoted by everyone to these technologies and I'm impressed with the way the Church is handling these topics as well, as there are consistently articles in the Ensign and Church News about them. Are we focusing on our machines so much that we are losing our humanness? Where is our attention?

Some decisions about what to focus on, such as which profession to pursue or person to marry, automatically receive serious attention. Other choices may be less obvious but are just as important to the tenor of your daily experience: deciding to concentrate on your hopes rather than your fears; attending to the present instead of the past; appreciating that just because something upsetting happens, you don't have to fixate on it. Still other targets may seem inconsequential: focusing on a book or guitar instead of a rerun, a real conversation instead of a text, an apple instead of a doughnut. Yet the difference between "passing the time" and "time well spent" depends on making smart decision about what to attend to in matters large and small, then taking action (p12).

Paying rapt attention, whether to a trout stream or a novel, a do-it-yourself project or a prayer, increases your capacity for concentration, expands your inner boundaries, and lifts your spirits. More important, it simply makes you feel that life is worth living (p. 10).

The focused life requires not just a robust capacity for paying attention but also the discerning choice of targets that will invite the best possible experience. Have you ever been rapt - completely absorbed? I'm going to give you a personal example, and I want you to think of one.

Last year, my youngest son and his soon-to-be-bride choose to be married in the San Diego temple. I remember feeling almost "carried away" walking into the brilliantly sun-drenched sealing room, nearly glittering with radiance. Seeing this beautiful couple with love filling their eyes, and hearing the sacred words of promises they made, the same I have made, was enrapturing. This experience involved precious people, little distraction around me, a quiet mind, and a positive setting. It had great meaning. We remember what has meaning.

A couple of years ago, I became acquainted with a book called "This Is Your Brain on Music." Daniel Levitin is a musician and a neuroscientist, and uses increasingly sophisticated tools, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that allow scientists to see parts of the brain activate and appear to light up and turn different colors when people think, feel, and act.

 Music has other special properties that we will talk about in a moment, but in my music class for the unit on the Power of Music, I found his studies very interesting, and talked to this, kind of pretending to be like some kind of psuedo-neuro-brain-scientist-person. In fact, I've become quite enamored with brain science, as I see the technology of imaging being used in many disciplines. Ms. Gallagher talked to lots of researchers about their studies with the brain and focusing, and multi-tasking. Joe Cannon has been writing a series of articles in the Deseret News about “Neuroplasticity” and exercising your brain, creating change and capacity and memory. I went to a Mediation and Conflict Resolution Symposium and the keynote speaker showed brain pictures and talked about “Mind over Matter.”

I actually thought I would give my whole talk today about the brain. My kind husband helpfully informed me that this is not my field of expertise and I'd better stick with talking about something I know about. The bottom line for all my fascination with these brain studies is simply this: The mind can pay conscious attention to only one train of thought at a time.

I also know that the human person speaks about 100-120 words per minute, and we can think 1,000 words per minute, so while I am talking your minds have covered tons of thinking, noticing everything around you, everything about me, and data about yourself, like your grumbling stomach. So to tell you that you can choose the one thought to be focusing on right now, my words, and letting all those other thoughts fall away, sounds very disciplined and you're just not that sure that my words are interesting and important enough to give all your attention to. Taking notes helps you stay focused; that's why we have our pens. But sometimes, even as you write, you get distracted from the ongoing talk.

Let's have a little experiment to show how focus works. If I ask, “What does your chair's pressure feel like on your back?” you'll instantly access that information. You turn up the volume knob on your back nerves and you permit it to come up to the level of your awareness. The pressure was always there, but now you are focusing on it.

This next exercise is going to require you enjoy on Lifesaver [candy] that is being passed out. Please don't just open it and pop it into your mouth, I have some instructions. By the way - litter is my pet peeve, so please don't leave your wrapper lying around. There is a garbage can by the door as you exit. I have asked our own music prodigy, Adrian Juchau, to perform a musical number on this lovely grand piano. This piece will last about three to four minutes, and I want you to focus the entire number on your Lifesaver. Let's all unwrap our Lifesavers now to get the crinkly sound out of the way....don't put it in your mouth yet...and get ready to enjoy the lovely music and wintergreen flavor. When Brother Juchau begins to play, you can put the Lifesaver in your mouth. Close your eyes to eliminate distractions, and whenever your thoughts start to wander around, you must pull your focus to your Lifesaver. Don't chew—suck—focusing entirely on the flavor and texture. I want you to become rapt with your Lifesaver. At the conclusion of this musical number, I think it appropriate to applaud, and I wish to thank Brother Juchau in advance for his willingness to share his talent.

Anyone who has an intact brain can pay attention, but brains differ, and so do their focusing capacities. As with personality or intelligence, attentional capacity is the creation of both nature and nurture, which account for our individual differences. Studies have been done with Tibetan Buddhist monks who have each spend at least ten thousand hours in meditation, and with those who had completed an eight-week meditation course and there is significantly increased activity in the left prefrontal regions of the brain linked to optimism and goal-orientation. This discovery reveals that a focusing regimen can have a profound impact not only on a person's ability to concentrate but also on his or her basic emotional disposition .

Fine classical music has another magical influence on our brains. Classical music from the baroque and classical eras causes the heart beat and pulse rate to relax to the beat of the music. As the body becomes relaxed and alert, the mind is able to concentrate more easily. This kind of music decreases blood pressure and enhances the ability to learn. Music affects the amplitude and frequency of brain waves, and breathing rate. I want you to ask yourself : What kind of music are you focusing on?

There was a concert in the 70's where teens brought raw eggs and put them on the front of the stage. The eggs would be hard boiled and ready to eat from the sounds before the end of the concert. Proteins in a liquid medium were coagulated when subjected to piercing, high-pitched sounds. What kind of music are you focusing on? What are your ear buds pulsating to your brain? 

Excessive repetition causes people to release control of their thoughts. A stopped-anapestic beat, which is used by most modern rock bands and rap groups, causes a "switching" of the brain. When this occurs, the actual symmetry between both of the cerebral hemispheres is destroyed, causing alarm in the body known to have stressful, negative effects, the opposite of the body's natural rhythm.

Elder Boyd K. Packer counsels us to take an inventory of our music and think about the selections as being positive in your spiritual development or a hindrance. He advises you have a hymn as an emergency channel, to encourage focusing your mind on all that is good. Michael Ballam suggests we each have a musical first aid kit to draw on for good times and bad, and to help us heal.

Take my word for it! I've have lived twice as long as some of you. Some of this music has survived seven, eight, even nine generations of critics. Fine music will bring you closer to our Father in Heaven, and speaks to your souls. Neal A. Maxwell said, "When we rejoice in beautiful scenery, great art, and great music, it is but the flexing of instincts acquired in another place and another time."

Does your current scenery, art, music, relationships, language and appearance reflect the same vision you had before you came to this earth, and will you fit in in the celestial spaces in the eternities if you were transported there right now?

Do Right and Be Accountable in your focus of uplifting and worthy music.

The word "Attention," is rooted in Latin, meaning "reach toward." It is the most basic ingredient in any relationship, from a casual friendship to a lifelong marriage. Giving and receiving the undivided sort is the least that one person can do for another and sometimes the most. Because it's impossible to communicate, much less bond, with someone who can't or won't focus on you, this capacity is crucial to exchanges (p.81).

No one could have imagined, even twenty-five years ago, how much machines have increased our ability to crunch information. Because of increased life expectancies and modern timesaving devices, most of us have far more discretionary time than our predecessors. We have thousands of times more available information than Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln. Yet which of us would think ourselves a thousand times more educated or more serviceable to our fellowmen than they.

Elder Dallin H. Oakes in his talk, "Focus and Priorities" from the Liahona, July 2001, says: "Faced with an excess of information in the marvelous resources we have been given, we must begin with focus or we are likely to become like those in the well-known prophecy about the people in the last days – ‘ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (2 Tim. 3:7). We also need quiet time and prayerful pondering as we seek to develop information into knowledge and mature knowledge into wisdom."

President Spencer W. Kimball saw the coming technology deluge in 1974, when he observed, "Discoveries latent with such potent power, either for the blessing or the destruction of human beings as to make men's responsibility in controlling them the most gigantic ever placed in human hands...This age is fraught with limitless perils, as well as untold possibilities."

My bishop, Dal Freeman, attended a Bishop's Conference held March 29, 2009 where Elder Ballard made this statement: "Satan is always quick to exploit the negative power of new inventions, to spoil and degrade and to neutralize any effect for good. Make sure that the choices you make in the use of new media, are choices that expand your mind, increase your opportunities and feed your soul.”

It's the fashion to blame the Internet and computers, cell phones and cable TV for a diffused, fragmented state of mind, but our seductive machines are not at fault. The real problem is that we don't appreciate our own ability to use attention to select and create truly satisfying experiences. Instead of exercising this potential, we too often take the lazy way out, settle for less, and squander our mental money and precious time on whatever captures our awareness willy-nilly, no matter how disappointing the consequences.

Beginning in 2006, I started noticing and collecting articles about social isolation, face-to-face communication’s decline, and technology's impact in relationships. I don't really go after them, they come to me. A particular intriguing lecture caught my attention from a BYU Devotional, with Robert Putnam, a Harvard professor and author of "Bowling Alone." In a short article in an academic journal, published in 1995, he described how league bowling had drastically declined and proposed that this apparently minor phenomenon symbolized a much broader and vitally significant social change. Putnam powerfully validates and deepens his original thesis: that over the past thirty years we have become ever more alienated from one another and from our social and political institutions and that this disengagement poses a critical threat to our personal health, local communities, and national well-being. For example, we spend about 35% less time visiting with friends than we did thirty years ago, and American families have dinner together only half as often as they did a generation ago.

From the Deseret News, Tuesday, June 16, 2009, we read an article titled "Family Time Drops as Internet Popularity Soars, Survey Says." Included in the article is this information: In the first half of the decade, people reported spending an average of 26 hours per month with their families. By 2008 however, that shared time had dropped by more than 30 percent, to about 18 hours. Let's see, when was that "Proclamation of the Family" written? 1995, just before this declining period.

In the August 2009 Ensign are two articles on this subject. One is titled "Turning Off and Tuning In,” and the other article about on-line role-playing games is titled, "Just A Game?" These issues are getting press, trying to get our attention.

We are being altered by technology. What have we lost through what we've gained? Charles Knutson, who is the author of the latest article in the Ensign, participated in a “Thinking Aloud” broadcast from KBYU radio called "Way Too Wired and Overly Connected" in April 2009. He spoke of the way older folks resist new stuff, kind of like the cavemen probably felt when their youngsters, introduced fire in the cave: sure enough, someone got burned and suffered from smoke inhalation. There was probably the first law suit, when someone got run over by that new-fangled "wheel."

I know I'm one of those resistant to some changes, but I'm also a teacher of Interpersonal Communications, and I care about Interpersonal skills. When asked about whether or not young people are losing critical skills, Brother Knutson says "yes". We are not connected to our physical space, seeing a tree, or clouds, but focused on devices. We are sleep-walking through our physical space and disconnected to real life by parking in front of Facebook for 8 hours, checking on "friends" we have never meet.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently spoke at a Church Educational System Fireside about the influence of technology and media, titled "Things as They Really Are." Here are three quotes from this magnificent speech, which I believe will be presented before the entire Church in some future address.

"Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, ear buds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience. "

Elder Bednar ask you two questions for consideration in your personal pondering and prayerful studying:

   1. Does the use of various technologies and media invite or impede the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life?

   2. Does the time you spend using various technologies and media enlarge or restrict your capacity to live, to love, and to serve in meaningful ways?   

"Brothers and sisters, please understand. I am not suggesting all technology is inherently bad, it is not. Nor am I saying we should not use its many capabilities in appropriate ways to learn, to communicate, to lift and brighten lives, and to build and strengthen the Church; of course we should. But I am raising a warning voice that we should not squander and damage authentic relationships by obsessing over contrived ones."

 If there is only one thing you write down, only one thing you think about from my entire talk, please read, listen to, or watch and consider this outstanding talk by Elder Bednar. It made me cry as I heard this inspired man declare concerns I have, and as a word-master, he states things A”s They Really Are!”

What are you focusing on? Your text messages or the person sitting next to you. Remember, your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is a myth. We can "switch task" but studies are showing that it can take the brain several minutes to do the equivalent of rebooting after an interruption, so switching back and forth is really being less productive.

My final point under “What are we focusing on” is our spiritual lives.

S. Michael Wilcox, a long-time instructor at the Salt Lake University Institute of Religion says: "Electronics are good, and they're tools, but we're starving ourselves and our society for time to ponder and meditate."

President Hinckley said at a regional conference in 1996; "I dare say that most of those in this room today have not taken an hour in the last year to just sit down quietly, each man to himself, as a son of God, reflecting upon his place in this world, upon his destiny, upon his capacity to do good, upon his mission to make some changes for good."

Elder Marvin J. Ashton said: "One definition of the word focus is ‘directed attention or emphasis.’ Perhaps as much as anything in this day and age of mass media, instantaneous worldwide communications and modern conveniences that seem to help us pack more into each day than would have been considered possible just a few decades ago, we need to focus and direct our attention to the things that really matter. And simply, what really matters is a personal testimony of Jesus Christ, and understanding of who we are and what we're doing here and an absolute determination to return home."

Jesus Christ himself, has told us: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Luke 12:34).

What are you focusing on? What are you attending to? Are you acting with diligence in your labors?

Again from the book "Rapt", after five years of reporting on attention, some home truths are confirmed. "The idle mind is the devil's workshop" conveys the fact that when you lose focus, your mind tends to fix on what could be wrong with your life instead of what's right, putting you in a bad frame of mind. As "look for the silver lining" suggests, focusing on the productive aspects of difficult situations does, indeed, lead to a more satisfying experience.

The secular and scientific world is figuring out some things that the gospel has always taught.

When I give my undivided attention to my grandchild, when I focus on the eyes and feelings of my husband, when I become absorbed in beautiful uplifting sounds of live, classical music, when I close my eyes, arms folded and knees bent, emphasizing diligence in my prayer, I am having rapt experiences that enhance, enrich, and grow relationships and life's beauties. I wish for you these experiences as you focus on what you are focusing on, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Judge Righteously

15 Sep. 2009

Transcript

Judge Righteously

Bishop Keith B. McMullin, Presiding Bishopric

My dear brothers and sisters, students, faculty and others who are assembled here, it is a wonderful privilege to come and meet with you. As I look, President Richards, over the group that is assembled, I am sure that we can all say that we look forward to the time when we have an appropriate assembly hall or auditorium to accommodate these wonderful students.

Brothers and sisters, I appreciate President Richards’ introduction, and more specifically the fact that you have pens to write down what you may be impressed to write down. The topic that I shall treat today is not one of my choosing. It’s one that I was given. And I was not given it as an assignment; rather, I was given it the way you will be given things during the course of our time together. Please take note of whatever impressions or whisperings of the Holy Spirit that come to you.

As I look over this student body, I ask myself, “Why was I given this subject?” But I know that I was, and I pray to God that His Holy Spirit will help us all share in that which He would have us receive.

Some eleven years ago, I spoke to a graduating class of this great institution and shared some thoughts which I would like to share with you today. In the process of obtaining your education at LDS Business College, I hope you have not overlooked the unique character of the school itself. There would be a gaping hole if your graduation represented only classrooms, lectures, tests, studies, grades and diplomas. Hopefully, each of you has a treasured appreciation for this institution, and the imprimatur it places upon you.

  Officially established on November 15, 1886, LDS Business College has spanned 123 years from the western frontier to contemporary frontiers. Twelve men at the helm as principals or presidents have shaped a course of study that began with grades 7 and 8, moved to a high school curricula, and culminated in the fully accredited, two-year college that we enjoy today. But the curriculum of the LDS Business College has not focused on training and “book learning” alone. From the beginning, the aim has been to school the entire person, the spirit as well as the mind. I quote now from an article in the Deseret News reporting that Dr. Karl G. Maeser told the 84 newly-enrolled students in the class of 1886 that—

“In order to insure success in their studies, the pupils would require, every day, two kinds of preparation. The first was familiarity with the lessons assigned for the day. This kind of preparation was required and was observable in the schools of the world; but the other was not. It consisted in possession of the Holy Spirit, obtained by prayer. Unless a pupil should have both of these preparations, his or her labors for the day will be a failure in this school.”

 

  This approach to learning was underscored in the commencement exercises of 1900 when then-president Joshua Paul presented the school’s first motto: The Lord Is My Light.

  President David O. McKay, the ninth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was instrumental in establishing this school on the firm footing it enjoys today. In 1961, LDS Business College was in financial distress. For years it had failed to meet expenses. Thought was being given to closing the school. But President McKay determined that this College should continue. As a renowned educator, he observed: “I look upon all recipients of true education as individuals and groups radiating an influence that makes less dense and ineffective the darkness of ignorance, of suspicion, of hatred, of bigotry, avarice and greed that continue to envelop in darkness the lives of men.”

  As Prophet, President McKay also taught an educational concept pertinent to my message for you today. Said he: “‘Words do not convey meanings; they call them forth.’ I speak out of the context of my experience, and you listen out of the context of yours, and that is why communication is difficult.”

  I learned the truthfulness of this statement as a young father of eight children. There were times in the rearing of our children when my wife or I would need to decide or judge if a son or daughter could attend an event, wear a certain style of clothing, “hang out” with a group of friends, or stay out beyond a certain time at night. As parents, we tried to do what was best for our children. Our children, on the other hand, did not always see it that way.

  Exasperated by a decision, it was not uncommon to hear a son or daughter exclaim, “But why? You’re just being judgmental!” From our child’s point of view, we were being unduly restrictive and unfair. As an aside, our children are now grown and have families of their own. I must confess feeling a certain sense of justice when I observe similar exchanges between these grown children and their offspring, our grandchildren.

  These experiences, however, caused me to wonder: What does it mean to judge righteously, kindly, appropriately, in a world that is relentlessly judgmental? I desire to explore this question and its answer with you today. At the outset, however, it will be helpful to keep a few definitions in mind. Hopefully, these will establish a common context for us in which “we . . . reason together.”

  

  When I use the word judge, I mean to form a belief or a view or an opinion; to come to a conclusion or to decide about something.  

  When I speak of judgment, I am referring to a decision or opinion that is objective, wise, in harmony with the Spirit of Truth, and embodies good sense, discretion and prudence.

  When I use the word judgmental, I mean the transforming of an opinion, belief or view into a decisive, irrevocable, moral declaration about a person, place or thing.

 

  Okay, the context is set—now we’ll proceed. Making sound judgments in a world like ours is not for the faint hearted. But you can do it. You were prepared for it before the foundations of this world. Your preparation has gone on for a very long time—much longer than you appreciate. Your experiences at LDS Business College are furthering this preparation. Just remember, as my father would say, “This world is in a bad way.” It needs your help.

 

Secularism

  A secular milieu is engulfing peoples and nations. This is a time of intense focus on worldly things, [on] things that are not regarded as religious [or] sacred. All things are viewed in the context of the natural world. 

  Nurtured by such an environment, men and women become “proud, obsessed with self, overly competitive, reactionary, fiercely independent, driven by desires, appetites, [and] worldly acclaim. . . . In general, the natural man [of today acts as] an unredeemed creature, a being who walks . . . in the light of his own fire . . . acclimated to the nature of things about him, taking his cues and [his] bearings from a fallen world.”

  In the meridian of time, the disciples asked Jesus about “the sign of [His second] coming, and of the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked.” Jesus answered: “Take heed that no man deceive you; for many shall come in my name, saying—I am Christ—and shall deceive many . . . ; And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many.”

 

False Christs

  In our secular world, false Christs often take the form of things being worshipped. While it is true that “untold millions have worshiped before the thrones of false Christs, . . . still others have made money, power, worldly learning, political preferment, or the gratification of sensual lusts their God.”

  President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “Carnal man has tended to transfer his trust in God to material things. Therefore, in all ages when men have fallen under the power of Satan and lost the faith, they have put in its place a hope in the ‘arm of flesh’ and in ‘gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know’—that is, in idols. . . . Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t …happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry.” 

  Hence, modern scripture says that many in the world “seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol.” 

  

False Prophets

  We also have an abundance of false prophets vying for our support. They include chief spokespersons for various ideas or causes. Some even predict or foretell what is going to happen. Their divergent opinions clamor for dominance; their issues are hotly contested among peoples and pundits. You need only turn on the television, or listen to the radio, or pick up a newspaper, and you see what is happening. It is against this backdrop that you are expected, even charged with the duty to render sound judgments.

  The Lord speaks in scripture of two different types of judging. One we are commanded not to do—the other we are expected to do. Knowing and abiding by these differences help free us from bigotry, hypocrisy, indifference and indecision. 

 

Judging That We Should Not Do

  Judging that is final, fixed or immutable and focused on a person or persons is what we are commanded not to do. God reserves this right unto Himself. We read: “. . . man shall not . . .judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay.” The most familiar words given in this regard are: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall also be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

  Whenever a person judges another finally and immutably, he presumes to be as God with all the divine characteristics, perspectives, powers and truths that this implies. Such a person is wrongfully judgmental.  

  Furthermore, the world’s way is to judge competitively, that is winners over losers, wealthy over poor, the strong over the weak, and the beautiful over the ordinary. Such judgmental behavior among God’s people is also forbidden. Even our Lord, during His earthly ministry, avoided judging people in final, immutable ways. “I judge him not” said He, “for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” In your preparations here and hereafter, learn how not to judge or condemn or immutably characterize other people.

  There was a woman taken in adultery who was brought before Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees bade the Christ to render a final judgment. But He would not condemn her. Such an act by Him, the Eternal Judge of us all, would have everlastingly removed from her the opportunity to repent, to be forgiven, and to receive the hope of once more being pure and “white as snow.” Such was not the purpose of His earthly ministry.

  Confronted by their own guilt, her accusers faded away. Jesus asked, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.” Thereafter, to the Pharisees He added: “Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. Yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.”

  The Prophet Joseph Smith observed: “While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes ‘His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’ He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, ‘according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil.’ . . . He will judge them, ‘not according to what they have not, but according to what they have,’ those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will be judged by that law. . . And when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.” Therefore, let us not be a judgmental people.

 

Judging That We Should Do

  We turn now to the kind of judging we are expected to do, the type that you are charged to do. Of this, Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught: “The scriptures require mortals to make . . .intermediate judgments. These . . . are essential to the exercise of personal moral agency. . . . During His mortal ministry the Savior made and acted upon many intermediate judgments, such as when He told the Samaritan woman of her sinful life, when He rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, and when He commented on the comparative merit of the offerings of the rich men and of the widow’s mite. . . . We must [also judge] every day in the exercise of our moral agency, but we must be careful that our judgments of people are intermediate and not final. . . .”

  The commission to judge on this wise is given of the Lord. Said He: “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment.” 

  In our world, we must judge all of the time. We do so as we choose friends, select careers, work in our jobs, keep the commandments, cultivate our characters and find our eternal companions. Such judgments, and the actions that follow, determine in large measure what we become. But for judgments affecting people to be righteous, they must be intermediate, allowing for mid-course corrections, changes of behavior and enlargements of character. They are neither fixed nor immutable. They do not belittle nor condemn. Each righteous judgment adds to the nobility of its maker and to the hope of those affected by it.

  An important key in fulfilling this charge is found in Alma’s words: “See that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things . . . ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again. For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored.”

 

Principles For Judging Righteously  

  You may know you are judging in the correct manner when the following principles are evident. First, righteous judgment is intermediate. It is focused on a situation rather than a person, is circumscribed by forgiveness and love. Remember the woman “taken in the very act” of adultery. Christ refused to condemn her. He focused on ridding her of sin, not ridding the kingdom of her. He taught, “Be ye . . . merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” 

  Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun who worked among the poor in India, spoke this truth: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” People can and do change. This is one of the grand, sacred purposes available to mankind through the holy Atonement of Jesus the Christ.

  Furthermore, one cannot love God “with . . . heart, . . . soul, and . . .mind” and condemn His spirit offspring. It is impossible. And we are not His disciples unless we “have love one to another.”

  President Monson reminds us of “famed prison warden Clinton T. Duffy, who became the warden at California’s San Quentin Prison in 1940. When he was appointed, he began one of the most dramatic housecleaning jobs in penal history. He fired the brutish captain of guards and six of his lieutenants. He closed up a dungeon of airless, lightless, unfurnished, iron-door [clad] stone cells into which convicts were thrown as punishment for even the most trivial offenses. At the time he became warden, men were being fed from buckets. He installed a cafeteria and hired a dietitian. To the horror of his staff, he strolled, unarmed, into the prison yard and chatted with convicts. To their infinite surprise, he strolled out again. He established a broad program of vocational training. He was the first warden to let prisoners listen to radios in their cells. He encouraged athletics, inaugurated a prison newspaper to which he contributed a regular column and established the first prison chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous. In cleaning up San Quentin, he became one of the best-known, most admired prison administrators in U.S. penal history. But the most eloquent acclaim came from inside the walls, from the prisoners themselves, who truly respected him.

  “A critic who knew of Warden Duffy’s efforts to rehabilitate the men said to him, ‘Don’t you know that leopards can’t change their spots?’ Responded Warden Duffy, ‘You should know that I don’t work with leopards. I work with men, and men change every day.’”

 

  Second, righteous judgment is guided by the Spirit of the Lord, builds faith in Christ, and is not prompted by anger, revenge, jealousy or self-interest. Against the backdrop of our day, we read: “I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; . . . that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world. . . .

  The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ has taken place, and because it has, you can judge righteously. You needn’t be confused by the “strife of words and. . . contest [of] opinions,” for “the Spirit of Christ is given unto every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. . . . But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; . . . . And now . . . seeing ye know the light by which ye may judge . . . see that ye do not judge wrongfully.”

 

  Third, righteous judgment only occurs in the context of one’s appointed stewardship. Daily, we are presented with opportunities to judge. These range from the types of clothes a person should wear to the destiny of a nation according to particular politics or points of view. Many of these lie beyond our stewardship. To judge righteously, always know where your judging prerogatives begin and end and honor them.

  Elder Dallin H. Oaks speaks of a time when he “attended an adult Sunday School class in a small town in Utah. The subject was the sacrament, and the class was being taught by the bishop. During class discussion a member asked, ‘What if you see an unworthy person partaking of the sacrament? What do you do?’ The [wise] bishop answered, ‘You do nothing. I may need to do something.’ That wise answer illustrates [the] point about stewardship in judging.”

  In a recent address to the young women of the Church, President Monson reminded us of this principle. I quote from that address: “A friend told me of an experience she had many years ago when she was a teenager. In her ward was a young woman named Sandra who suffered an injury at birth, resulting in her being somewhat mentally handicapped. Sandra longed to be included with the other girls, but she looked handicapped. She acted handicapped. Her clothing was always ill fitting. She sometimes made inappropriate comments. Although Sandra attended their Mutual activities, it was always the responsibility of the teacher to keep her company and to try to make her feel welcome and valued, since the girls did not.

  “Then something happened: a new girl of the same age moved into the ward. Nancy was a cute, redheaded, self-confident, popular girl who fit in easily. All the girls wanted to be her friend, but Nancy didn’t limit her friendships. In fact, she went out of her way to befriend Sandra and to make certain she always felt included in everything. Nancy seemed to genuinely like Sandra.

  “Of course the other girls took note and began wondering why they hadn’t ever befriended Sandra. It now seemed not only acceptable but desirable. Eventually they began to realize what Nancy, by her example, was teaching them: that Sandra was a valuable daughter of our Heavenly Father, that she had a contribution to make, and that she deserved to be treated with love and kindness and positive attention.

  “By the time Nancy and her family moved from the neighborhood a year or so later, Sandra was a permanent part of the group of young women. My friend said that from then on she and the other girls made certain no one was ever left out, regardless of what might make her different. A valuable, eternal lesson had been learned.” In this account, President Monson makes clear that there are boundaries to judging. Said he in summary: “My precious young sisters, I plead with you to have the courage to refrain from judging and criticizing those around you.”

 

  Fourth, righteous judgment is founded upon fact, not conjecture, and is based on righteous standards rather than first impressions or mistaken ideas. It has been said, “It is a mighty thin pancake that does not have two sides.” 

  My mother was one of the finest women I have ever known. In 1922, as a seventeen-year-old young lady, she enrolled in the LDS High School, the predecessor of LDS Business College. She was a farm girl from a small town in southwestern Utah, the eldest of seven children. Her mother, my grandmother, suffered from ill health. In my early years, grandfather died and grandmother came to stay with us. Diabetes had robbed her of her short-term memory, but her long-term recall was as clear as could be. Not being able to remember what she had just said, grandmother would repeat, over-and-over again with great clarity, events of the past.

  Because of this condition, she could become irritated about things of the moment, things being done for her. She would occasionally lash out verbally in criticism of my mother, her loving care giver. I could have become irritated or incensed. Others could have easily misjudged the character of my angel mother or my wonderful grandmother. Even though mother understood what was happening, those outbursts often stung and drew tears. 

  Through this, I learned a valuable lesson about not making snap judgments and I am grateful to my father for teaching me. He adored mother, his eternal companion, and was kind and attentive to grandmother. But when grandmother would launch into one of her diatribes about mother, I watched as father heartily agreed. Hearing this, grandmother would come instantly to the defense of her daughter, re-directing her displeasure at my father for being so ungrateful and unappreciative. “Why,” she would exclaim, “Margaret is one of the most wonderful, considerate daughters in the entire world!” Learn to suspend judging until all the facts are known.

  To this point, the essayist William George Jordan reminds us: “There is but one quality necessary for the perfect understanding of character, one quality that, if man [has] it, he may dare to judge—that is omniscience. . . . This is the age of snap judgments. . . . [We need] the courage to say, ‘I don’t know. I am waiting further evidence. I must hear both sides of the question.’ It is this suspended judgment that is the supreme form of charity.”

 

  In conclusion, my dear brothers and sisters, judge righteously by bearing in mind these four things:

  • Righteous judgment is intermediate, is focused on a situation rather than a person, is circumscribed by forgiveness and love;
  • Righteous judgment is guided by the Spirit of the Lord, builds faith in Christ, and is not prompted by anger, revenge, jealousy or self-interest;
  • Righteous judgment only occurs in the context of one’s appointed stewardship; and
  • Righteous judgment is founded upon fact, not conjecture, and is based on righteous standards rather than first impressions or mistaken ideas.

 

  As part of LDS Business College, study hard, learn well, and hearken to this counsel from our beloved Prophet: “There have been continuing signs that circumstances in the world aren’t necessarily as we would wish [them to be]. . . . It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future—or even fearful of what might come—if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on that which is wrong in the world and in our lives. . . . I’d like us to turn our thoughts and our attitudes away from the troubles around us and to focus instead on our blessings as members of the Church. . . .

  “We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. However, we are told, ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.’

  “How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we may face? Again from the scriptures: ‘Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.’

  “My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.” 

  Make this world a better place as you become better yourselves. Study hard, learn all you can during your time here, and judge righteous judgments. Move forward with confidence in the future, in the great contributions you will make. Make this your personal motto: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

  Heavenly Father and His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, are in charge of the affairs of this world. As a Latter-day Saint, you are in charge of your own destiny. There is no power on earth or in hell that can divert you from your divinely-decreed course if you decide you are going to pursue it. All you have to do is judge righteously and pursue it, and it will be real.

  I bear you my witness that God lives in his heaven. I know that He is our Father, and that we are His offspring. He loves us, has been attentive to us for so very, very long. In those grand councils before the earth was even fashioned, you and I were assembled. We heard His words, we felt His love, and we rejoiced in the prospects of becoming like Him, of embracing that wonderful plan of exaltation that He outlined for us.

  We reverenced His Holy Son, of whom I bear witness. He stood as the first of the Father’s spirit children. Jesus Christ became the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. He walked the dusty roads of Palestine. He taught the gospel of salvation and exaltation to His disciples. As malefactors strove to take away His life, He voluntarily gave it up and His body was laid in a tomb

  It was He who rose in the glorious Resurrection. He appeared to the Eleven, and bade them to touch the wounds in His hands and in His feet, that they might know that it was not a spirit who stood before them, but it was the resurrected Christ. He appeared in the western hemisphere, spoke to those who dwelt here, and taught them of the things that he had declared in the areas surrounding Jerusalem.

  In that sacred grove in 1820, it was He who appeared to the Prophet Joseph. It was He who said that men “draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” It was He who told Joseph that he would become a prophet to bring about the restoration of God’s kingdom here upon the earth. This same Christ who stood in that sacred grove and spoke to the Prophet Joseph was the Christ who knelt in Jerusalem and pled with Heavenly Father, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.,” When He entrusted Joseph Smith with the responsibility for the Restoration of the gospel, it was in literal fulfillment of that pleading that He had sent heavenward when He was among men as the mortal Messiah.

  You and I have the duty to fulfill that supplication as He has outlined. This is not simply a church to which you belong. This institution is not simply an appendage to some wonderful and eleemosynary organization. This is the kingdom of God, established on the earth, and you are its citizens. We, as citizens of the kingdom of the living Christ, are expected to extend the kingdom of God until it reaches all corners of the earth.

  Your preparation, here at this wonderful institution, is laying the foundation by which you can help in this grand undertaking—for you will grow older, believe it or not, and you will fall in love, and you will be married, and you will cradle little ones in your own arms, and you will tell them what they should or should not do. They will say to you, “But why? You’re just being judgmental,” and you will come to know what I came to know, that you need to reach out and shape the hearts and souls of those entrusted to your care. You should nurture them up in the admonition of God, that they might have witnesses of the truth so that when they arrive at that particular age, you might send them forth to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue and people, that all might know that the kingdom of God is here and that the opportunity is before us to prepare this earth and all of its inhabitants for the Second Coming of Him who is our Lord, our great eternal Lawgiver, our Judge.

  I bear you my witness of these eternal verities, and pray to God that He will watch over and protect you in this most sacred of endeavors in which you are engaged, in the holy name of Jesus the Christ, amen.

 

 
Lynn M. Hilton, The History of LDS Business College and Its Parent Institutions 1886-1993, p. 40.
Lynn M. Hilton, The History of LDS Business College and Its Parent Institutions 1886-1993, p. 39.
David O. McKay, Pathways to Happiness, p. 66.
David O. McKay, quoted by Lowell L. Bennion, in Conference Report, Apr. 1968, 94; or Improvement Era, June 1968, 90.
Isa. 1:18; D&C 50:10
D&C 95:6-11, JST John 11:1-19
Webster’s New Unabridged Dictionary, Barnes and Noble Edition (2003), “secular,” 1731.
Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed, Dennis L. Largey (2003), 582; see also 2 Ne 7:10-11 and Alma 41:11
Joseph Smith—Matthew 4
Ibid. 5-6, 9
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 269
“The False Gods We Worship”, President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign,June 1976
D&C 1:16
See D&C 1:17-24
Mormon 8:20; see also D&C 39:18 and 82:23
3 Nephi 14:1-2
Lev. 19:15; D&C 38:25-27
John 12:47
John 8:1-11
Isa. 1:16-19
John 8:10-11
John 8:15-16
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding smith [1976], 218
John 4:17-19
Matt. 15:1-9; 23:1-33
Mark 12:41-44
Dallin H. Oaks, “’Judge Not’ and Judging,” Ensign, August 1999, 7
JST Matt. 7:1-2
Alma 41:14-15
Dallin H. Oaks, “‘Judge Not’ and Judging,” Ensign, August 1999, 7
Luke 6:36-37; see also D&C 64:10
Matt. 22:37-39
John 13:34-35
“Mister San Quentin,” Time Magazine, January 7, 1952
Dallin H. Oaks, “’Judge Not’ and Judging”, Ensign, August 1999, 7
D&C 1:17, 19, 20
JS-H 1:6
Moro. 7:14-19
Dallin H. Oaks, “’Judge Not’ and Judging”, Ensign, August 1999, 7
President Thomas S. Monson, “May You Have Courage,” Liahona, May 2009, 123-27
“The Supreme Charity of the World,” The Kingship of Self-Control [n.d.] 27-30
2 Ne. 2:25
D&C 68:6
President Thomas S. Monson, CR, Apr. 2009
Proverbs 3:3-5
Joseph Smith—History 1:19
Matthew 6:10

The Constitution: A Glorious Standard

22 Sep. 2009

Transcript

The Constitution: A Glorious Standard 

I feel the Spirit of the Lord here. I’m honored to be invited to come to LDS Business College. I feel at home here because, over the many years that I’ve worked as a lawyer, I’ve represented many students from LDS Business College from around the world. I’m not here trying to recruit business, but it’s been a wonderful opportunity to do so. I’m very grateful to be with my good friend, your president, President Larry Richards. As he mentions, we go way back, and we went to East High School together. I’m going to tell you a story about this on your president. I had the gall to run against him for student body president. And he had the gall to beat me. But at East High, they had kind of a consolation prize for the loser. You could be what they called Business Vice President. So I had the opportunity to serve with your president, Larry Richards, and I was amazed at his administrative skills and his people skills way back in 1970, when we were seniors at East High School. So it doesn’t surprise me that he is your president and he is a very dear friend.

He comes from a great family. The Richards family is amazing. From the early days with the Prophet Joseph down to the present day, it is one of the great, faithful families in the Church, and President Larry Richards is walking in the footsteps of his great ancestors. I’m grateful to be here with my law partner, Charles Dahlquist. We’re both goofing off, or skipping practicing law right now. He’s a great man, and as has been mentioned, he was the Young Men’s president of the Church for the past several years.

I’m grateful to have my wife and my daughter here. It was mentioned that we went on a mission to the California San Jose Mission. My wife and daughter were with me and that made it a very pleasurable experience. As I sat here, and three of the missionaries that were under us came up and shook my hand, it just made me remember what a blessing that was to serve in the California San Jose Mission for three years.

I’ve got a talk that I’m going to give on the Constitution and on law, but before I do, I have to tell one great missionary story. I’ve only been home a year, so I’m still transitioning, as many of you know. We had been out for some time, and it was transfer day, and we had 11 missionaries come that day. We would go out to the airport and pick them up, and we’d go into the mission office and have a little orientation, then we’d go into the mission home and have a dinner, and then we’d come back and I’d interview each missionary. Then we’d put him with a trainer and then we’d get him out to work. One of these missionaries was from Rexburg, Idaho, and his name was Elder Brown. Elder Brown was so enthusiastic. He was so full of the Spirit, and as I interviewed him, he started bearing witness to me. I thought, “This is a great elder. I’m really excited to have this young man.”

And then he said this: “President, I know that I was called to serve in the California San Jose Mission”—which made me happy, because sometimes I had to try to convince some of these missionaries who had siblings go to Germany, where President Dahlquist served, or Japan or some exciting place, I had to kind of buoy them up and tell them that the California San Jose Mission really was the true mission in the Church, because they weren’t believing it yet. But it was so exciting to have a missionary who was so full of the Spirit and believed it. And then he said this: “President, my mother prayed me here.”

When he said that, my heart was touched, and I said, “What do you mean by that, Elder Brown?”

He told me this story. He said that he had an uncle, his mother’s brother, who had left the Church and had estranged himself from the family and had not had contact with the family for many years. But his mother, Elder Brown’s mother, loved her brother and constantly prayed for him, and prayed that he would come back to the family and come back to the true church. As Elder Brown turned 18, her prayers changed a little, and she started praying that her son might be an instrument in bringing her brother, his uncle, back into the Church and into the family. So when he opened his call letter and it said the California San Jose Mission, both he and his mother felt confirmed that his uncle lived in our mission. The last word they had from him was that he was in California somewhere. Now, there are 17 missions in California. When I heard that story, my heart was so touched, and I said, “I believe that we’re going to see a miracle here, and I pray that you will find your uncle.”

Sure enough, five days later, that quickly—five days later, I was in the mission home. We put him out in the Aptos Ward. I don’t know if any of you elders served in the Aptos Ward—it’s in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and Aptos is between Santa Cruz and Monterey. We had a very tough mission—kind of down there by Carmel by the Sea and Pebble Beach. Anyway, five days later I get a telephone call, and the telephone call is from Elder Brown, who is so excited. He says, “There has been a miracle. I have found my uncle.”

I said, “Tell me about it.”

He said, “We met with the bishop. We got a list of all the names in the ward. I recognized the name, and I said to the bishop, ‘Bishop Lewis, do you know this man?” He said, ‘No. I’ve been bishop for seven years, and that’s the one person I do not know, because he was excommunicated and he told the prior bishop he didn’t want to have any contact with anyone. So I’ve respected that. That’s the only home in this ward I have not been in.’”

Elder Brown said, “Do we have permission to go there?” And he said, “Absolutely.”

So Elder Brown and his companion went and knocked on the door, and this man opened the door. In Elder Brown’s words, he looked like one of the singers in ZZ Tops. He had grey hair down to here and a long grey beard, and the apartment reeked of tobacco and drugs and alcohol. This man opened the door and Elder Brown looked at him, and he said, “We are missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m Elder Brown, and this is my companion, Elder Smith from Canada.” And he said, “We are here to teach you. My mother prayed me here.”

This man looked at Elder Brown and said, “What is the name of your mother?”

And he said the name. The man got tears in his eyes and said, “That is my sister.”

Elder Brown said, “That’s right, and I’m your nephew, and my mother prayed me here.”

His heart was softened. He took the lessons. He’s back with the family—there’s no more estrangement, and he’s on the long road to repentance. It’s an amazing story, and I tell it because it’s indicative of what is going on all over the world.

I pray that the Spirit will be here today as I speak to you. There’s a great scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that says: “Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth” (D&C 50:13-14). And, “If it be by some other way it is not of God” (D&C 50:20).

And there’s another great scripture that says “And the spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if you receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). It’s my prayer that in the next 22 minutes, that I will teach by the Spirit, and that you will listen by the Spirit, that we may all be edified.

Now, as President Richards mentioned, this is a recognition event of Constitution Day, and I’ve been asked to make some comments on the U.S. Constitution, which was a good thing. It’s a good assignment for me to do this, because I couldn’t just come and tell missionary stories, which is an easy thing to do. I had to go back and do some research. And my testimony has been increased about the United States Constitution, and I think yours will be after we read a few statements from the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Last Thursday, September 17th, we celebrated the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, which was signed on September 17, 1787. This inspired document, our federal constitution, is the supreme law of the land. It is a written document which embodies the fundamental principles that govern our nation, and I want to very briefly talk about six basic characteristics of the U.S. Constitution. My uncle, the late Bruce R. McConkie, addresses these characteristics in his book, “Mormon Doctrine.”

First, it was established by the people. It was not established by the States. It was not established by some autocratic group of individuals who seized power. It was not established by any other source or power. Indeed, the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution says, “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do hereby ordain and establish this constitution of the United States.”

Our founding fathers who signed this magnificent document, capitalized some of these words, to give emphasis to them, and these are the words that they capitalized: Order, Union, Justice, Tranquility, Welfare, Blessings of Liberty, and Posterity.

So the basic purpose of our constitutional government is that all power rests with the people.

The second point: it is an actual written document. It is not an accumulation of traditions. It is not an accumulation of customs or legal interpretation. It is a written document of 4,400 words. This gives it stability. It is the oldest and shortest written constitution of any major government in the world.

Third: It establishes our framework of government. Specifically, it establishes the three branches of government—the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. And it creates a “checks and balances” system, so that none of these branches can be too powerful over the others. So we, the people, are protected from abuses. They check and balance each other so that there’s these three branches of government.

Four: It lists the specific powers and authorities given to the government. The government doesn’t have any rights. It has duties only. Again, it is to serve the people. The Constitution contains the written instructions from the people to their elected and chosen public servants. It is the means by which the people of the United States transmit their powers to their government.

Five, and this one I think is so important: It specifically preserves our natural or inalienable rights. These natural, or inalienable, rights are also mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. They are listed in the Declaration as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The first ten amendments to our Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. Their purpose is to protect our inalienable and natural rights. They guarantee our civil rights. Therefore, the Constitution of the United States protects our freedom of religion, our freedom of assembly, and our freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The reason we can meet here today and have this discussion in this wonderful land of ours is because of the U.S. Constitution. It gives us the right to bear arms. It protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. It gives us the right to trial by a jury of our peers, and it protects us from self-incrimination. It is a wonderful document.

In the 101st section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord approves of the Constitution, and it approves of any government that will protect our natural or inalienable rights. (See verse 77). And in the 98th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, there are some wonderful words where the Lord says that He approves of the U.S. Constitution, and that we should constantly seek wise and good men and women to defend and uphold the constitution of the United States. (See verses 4-10)

Finally, in the sixth point, it specifies means or ways to change the document itself. In other words, it is a living document. We have had, since 1787, many amendments added to the U.S. Constitution, and so it can change with the times. It is a marvelous, marvelous document.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that the Constitution of the United States is much more than just a great document that creates a government. It’s much more than a wonderful instrument that protects our rights, so that as Americans, we are a free people. We know that it is actually part of the restoration of the gospel. The gospel could not have been restored had it not been for the Constitution of the United States. It’s part of the restoration.

There are so many scriptures that we could read. In 2 Nephi 10:11-14, it talks about America being a land of liberty, a land where there would be no kings to rule, and that in the last days, the gospel would come forth from such a land. In Ether, we read about being free from bondage and captivity, if we serve Jesus Christ. (See Ether 2:12) In 3 Nephi there’s a wonderful scripture from the Lord Himself. In 3rd Nephi 21:4 it says that we will be a free people, and that the Book of Mormon will go forth throughout the world. This was all brought about, partially because of the Constitution of the United States.

Then in the 101st section of the Doctrine and Covenants, there are some verses that say God raised up wise men to write the Constitution of the United States. (v. 80) Think about that. Think about our Founding Fathers. They were preserved to come at the time that they did come, which was just a few years before the Restoration of the gospel, to prepare the way, to write the U.S. Constitution. They were great men and women who lived at that time. And then there were great men and women a few years later, who were preserved to come in the early days of the Church, like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards, and all of these great, wonderful leaders. It’s all part of the plan and the restoration of the gospel.

In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith prayed that the principals of the Constitution of the United States would last forever and ever. And then I just want to read what the Prophet Joseph Smith says about the Constitution of the United States, because it’s so beautiful: “The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard. It is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner. It is to all those who are privileged with the sweets of liberty, like the cooling shades and refreshing waters of a great rock in a thirsty and weary land. It is like a great tree, under whose branches men from every clime can be shielded from the burning rays of the sun.”

Now, listen to this. This is the Prophet Joseph Smith. I love this, and that’s why I’m glad I was assigned to do this, because I had forgotten he said this. He said, “We say that God is true, that the Constitution of the United States is true, that the Bible is true, that the Book of Mormon is true, that the ministering angels sent forth from God are true, and that we know that we have an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, whose builder and maker is God.” The Prophet Joseph is including the U.S. Constitution with the Bible and the Book of Mormon and all of its testimony, that it’s all true.

So on this day, as we commemorate what happened last Thursday, the 222nd anniversary, I hope we are appreciative and grateful for the United States Constitution.

Now the second part of my assignment, which was also quite difficult—I couldn’t just get up and talk, I had to do some research on this—I was asked to tie in the laws in the Lord’s church, specifically from the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 34 and 35. So, I’m going to do it. I’m going to try to do it.

Verse 34: “And again, verily I say unto you, That which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.” Let’s talk about that. I believe that every law that God gives us is of such a nature that, if we obey it, we are, in these words, preserved, perfected and sanctified.

Now, let me give an illustration. This is a simple one. We have, in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Word of Wisdom. It is also known as the Law of Health. We know that if we obey that law, we will be blessed with stronger bodies. If we abstain from smoking tobacco and, nowadays, other things, and if we abstain from alcohol, and if we abstain from hot drinks—which have been interpreted as coffee and tea—we know that we’ll be healthier. If we eat right, if we eat proper foods, as is explained in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we’ll just be stronger, healthier people.

But the promises even go beyond that. If you turn to the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read the promises, this is what it says: “And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones”—so there’s the health—“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” Now that’s interesting to me. The Lord says, “If you live my law of health, not only am I going to bless you physically to be healthier and purer and stronger, I’m going to bless you so that you’ll be smarter, so that you’ll have knowledge, so that you’ll have wisdom.” I think it all ties in, but it’s amazing to me. The blessing goes way beyond just being healthy.

And then He says, “And shall run and not be weary and shall walk and not faint.” So again, that’s health. And then listen to this: “And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them” (verses 18-21). So there’s an additional promise. That’s an example how, if we obey a law of God, as we just read in the 34th verse of section 88, if we obey a law of God, we are going to be preserved, protected, and sanctified. Because the whole purpose of God giving us laws is so that we’ll become like Him, and He is perfect. So we will become perfect if we obey the laws that He gives us.

Let’s take another example. Let’s take the law of tithing. Tithing is another law that if we pay one-tenth of all of our increase, or all of our interest, back to the Lord, we will be blessed. We will be blessed to learn how to be more unselfish, we will learn how to be more honest—there are wonderful blessings associated with living this law. But it goes way beyond that. If we turn to Malachi in the Old Testament, talking about if we pay our tithes, the Lord gives us this promise: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

If we pay a tithing, not only will we be blessed temporally—and there are other scriptures here that tell us He will bless us temporally—but He will open up the windows of heaven and pour out so many blessings upon us that we won’t even be able to contain them all. This is what verse 34 in section 88 is talking about. When we take any law—and I’ve only just taken two here—I just took the Word of Wisdom and tithing—but we can do this with any law that God has given us—if we obey it, we will be blessed. We will, in the words of verse 34, be preserved, perfected and sanctified.

On the other hand, we read verse 35: “That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.”

Wow. If we use our agency to disobey God’s law, then we have no blessing. Then we’re going in the opposite direction. Then we are dammed. And when I use that word, I mean it in the sense that you think about a dam of water, how the river is stopped. It can’t pursue forward. It can’t progress forward. It is stopped; it’s dammed. And that’s what happens when we don’t obey a law of God. We are stopped in our progression. We can’t be perfected. We can’t be sanctified. We can’t be preserved, because we stopped. When we choose to disobey a law of God, we just kill ourselves. I don’t know how else to say it. I just have to be blunt. It is so important that we obey these laws. These two examples that I’ve given of tithing and the Word of Wisdom are so important. I’ve had many church positions in my life where I’ve been able to interview people for temple recommends, and usually the reason a person is not worthy to go to the temple is because they don’t live either the law of the Word of Wisdom or the law of tithing. And they have stopped themselves—they dam themselves, in a sense—of being able to go to the temple and have these great, added blessings given to us through the sacred ordinances that occur in the temples.

Well, we could go on, but obedience is the first law of heaven. We know that great scripture in the 130th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is worth talking about. “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (verse 20). So that is what we’re here to do, is to obey God’s laws so that we can be perfected, so that we can become like God.

Obedience and disobedience was from the very beginning. We can read in Abraham, the great verses where Abraham saw the “noble and great” spirits, (see Abraham 3:22) and there were those who rebelled against God in the first estate, the pre-existence. So therefore, they were denied the opportunity and blessing of coming here in the second estate and obtaining a body and having life and going forward in the plan of salvation. They were denied that because they were disobedient there. We—everyone here—we were obedient in the pre-existence, and so we were able to progress, because we obeyed God’s law in the pre-existence. And so we’re here, and we have bodies, and we’re going forward. And then it says, in Abraham 3, that “those who keep their second estate”—in other words, us, if we keep the commandments, if we keep God’s laws—then we will progress and we will have glory and honor added upon us forever. (verse 26) That is the promise.

We have the great example of the first man, Adam, who was offering sacrifices. And the angel came and said, “Why are you doing this?’ And Adam didn’t know. That’s just amazing to me. Adam was the mighty Michael in the pre-existence. He was a great, great man. And he didn’t know, but he was so good. He just made the determination, “I’m going to obey the law of God, no matter what. If I don’t understand it, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m just going to obey it.” And then he got the great revelation that “this thing is in similitude of the sacrifice of the only begotten of the Father.” And then he got it, and then the Holy Ghost came upon him, and then he had the spirit, and then he started to prophesy, because he had the Spirit. And why? Because he was obedient to the law, the law of God (see Moses 5:5-8).

The law of the Lord is perfect, and if we live it, we will be perfect. I conclude by saying Jesus Christ taught, “Behold, I am the law” (3 Nephi 15:9). Now, isn’t that amazing? I think what Jesus was saying is that He lived so perfectly all of the laws that His Father had given Him that He then, at that point, personified and embodied the law.

I bear you my witness, you young brothers and sisters here at LDS Business College. God our Father lives and He loves us, and He gives us laws because He loves us. If we use our agency and are obedient to His laws, we will be like Him. We will have eternal life, which “is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7). And it’s all up to us, whether we’re going to be obedient or not, to His laws. I bear you my witness that Jesus Christ is the law, because of what we have said, that He did the will of the Father, and He did all things that the Father asked Him to do. He is our Savior. He is our Redeemer. His atoning sacrifice is real. Repentance is real. I saw that so much in the mission field, where people repented and came into the Church, and they were clean and pure. So if we make a mistake, if we violate one of God’s laws, He is so good. He says, “Okay, you messed up. Now you can repent.” And if we truly repent, then we’re clean and pure again, and we’re back on track living God’s laws. I bear you my witness that Joseph Smith is the mighty prophet of the Restoration. He saw the Father. He saw the Son. And he restored the true church, and we are blessed to live in a day when we have a living prophet on the earth today—President Thomas S. Monson. He is a prophet of God.

I promise you that if you prepare yourselves for general conference, that when he speaks, you will hear the word of the Lord through him. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth. Of this I bear witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Financial Stewardship

29 Sep. 2009

Transcript

Financial Stewardship

Brothers and sisters, it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to be with you today. I have looked forward to this great opportunity, and I feel deeply honored that I would have this moment to speak to you about things that are important, and some things that are deep within my heart. I appreciate Brother Wall’s introduction, and most of it’s true. You’ll find out that some of it is not. No, I’m just teasing you.

I come today fasting, not so much for me or for you, but for many of the people in the Roy North Stake. Lat night, I was at the McKay Dee Hospital, participating in a priesthood blessing for a man who had been my executive secretary when I was a bishop. This good brother has major heart problems, and they were going to perform open heart surgery on him this morning. So we were in a hospital room with family and friends and priesthood leaders and laid our hands on this good brother. You could feel the power of the Lord there, and you could feel of the love that was present in his room.

And on my way down here, my wife called and said, “Alan, I just received word from the hospital that the open heart surgery went extremely well. Instead of taking many, many hours they were able to do it very quickly and fix this brother.” And it looks like he is out of the woods now. And she said to me, “It’s the power of God, isn’t it, that blesses our lives.” And I said, “It is.”

If you have your scriptures with you, I would like to have you turn to Mosiah 2. If you don’t, write this down. It is the beginning of what I want to share with you around financial stewardship here today. I’ll give you a little background to this particular scripture. This is King Benjamin. He is speaking to all the good family members and all the good citizens of this great community that he oversees as king, and he recognizes that his time is about coming to an end and he’s about to announce that his son Mosiah will become the new king. But he wants to make it very clear to these good members of the Church something that is very important. And it is the basis of everything I do.

This verse represents the foundation of my life, in terms of my relationship with my Heavenly Father and the Savior. So let me read it to you. This is King Benjamin speaking, and he says, “I say unto you that if ye should serve him”—speaking of Heavenly Father and the Savior—“who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day,”—I want you to make special notice of that phrase, that God preserves us from day to day—“by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to our own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another...” Now, what I have recognized throughout my life is that is exactly the case, that the Savior is part of our life every moment of our day. He is there with us continually to keep us going, to give us breath, even, to that point.

And here’s the conclusion of that particular scripture: “I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (verse 21), For me, that is the key, then, to how we should behave. We keep God’s commandments, but we are here to be servants, to represent him. And so, for me as a stake president, I realize that I have a responsibility to oversee several thousand people that make up our stake, and the non-members who live there as well. The desire of my heart is always there, to be able to take care of these good people.

My presentation today, as you’ll see on my slide deck, has to do with financial stewardship, so I look at my financial responsibility is to help people, and that is what I want to talk with you about today. So let me go to the next slide. There is also a scripture found in the Book of Mormon that then is kind of an extension of the one I just read to you in Mosiah. Let me read this out loud to you. We are business people, and there is counsel, then, being given to us here in Jacob: “But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

“And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2:18-19). So, my brothers and sisters, today I give you a business talk with this as the theme, that we who will engage in business in one form or another, no matter what we are about, no matter how much money we make in business, that those riches that come to us, those financial blessings that come to us, have a unique purpose.

First of all, I think we need to take care of ourselves, we need to take care of our families. And then there will arise surplus, if we have been good managers of our money. And what then, should we do with that money? We should use it as we’re counseled here, to take care of those in need.

So this morning, for a few moments, I want to give you a little background about who I am, and how I try to follow that principle in the scriptures. So a little bit of a background about myself. I was born in Ogden, and as Brother Wall indicated to you, I served a mission to Guatemala, a place I loved. I loved the people of Guatemala, and there I learned to enjoy the Spanish language, but also to appreciate the good people that are there in Latin America, and to recognize the good people all over the earth. I graduated from Weber State in psychology, and I tell you that because I was not a business major. That, however, has served me very well in all that I do, because psychology is about the study of people and how they behave. So it has helped me a great deal.

I went to BYU after the Peace Corps, and received an MBA, so I did start to focus in on business. But at that point in time, I chose not to have a career in one particular discipline, so I didn’t go to work for Proctor and Gamble, or I didn’t go to work for Mobile Exxon, I chose to do things where I could have some leadership and I could have many personal experiences that would help me to do a better job as a leader, no matter where I might be.

So over the course of my life, I’ve had numerous jobs, and they’ve all been very gratifying to me. One of the most interesting was, I was the president of Ballet West here in Salt Lake City for a number of years, and led a dance company. It was a most unusual experience for me, but it gave me, again, leadership opportunity and always serve. I didn’t wear my tutu today.

I did recognize early on that I am an entrepreneur. And entrepreneurs, we’re a strange group of people. We’re driven to come up with ideas and commercialize them. And I would report to you in a happy way that I have had four failures in my entrepreneurial endeavors. And all four of those experiences have been costly, but they have been most valuable to me. I have learned a lot about what makes business succeed and what makes it fail. And I would just say it in one term, so you all understand it. Businesses that fail do not understand their customers. They don’t know how to sell to those customers. I’ll come another time on campus, and I’ll give you a lecture on entrepreneurism, but I want you to know that, for those of you in business, you must always take care of your customer. And in a related way, that’s what the Lord expects of us as well, is to take care of His children. So the principles you learn in business should always reflect back on the people that you serve.

I did have one great success, out of those miserable failures, and it’s a company that we’ve noted here today, called MarketStar—something that I started in my basement. I have to tell you that my blessed wife is the reason I am standing here today. She allowed me, after all these failures and ups and downs, to second mortgage our house to start a business called MarketStar.

Now, had the business failed, the six children, cat and dog, and my wife and I, would have been living in a park, in a tent, eating government cheese. The risk was huge for us, at that particular time. But she was twilling to let me engage in this business opportunity, and she had faith that I would do it. And I worked very hard to make sure I didn’t disappoint her, because I didn’t want to live in the park either. MarketStar has been a great success, but I would tell you it has come because I have asked Heavenly Father to help me with the business. We read in the scriptures that we should pray over our flocks, pray over our pastures and our gardens and our orchards. Again, the Book of Mormon gives us great counsel. So, brothers and sisters, I would tell you here today, it is okay to pray about going to school and help with your academics. It’s okay to ask your Heavenly Father to help you in such a worldly thing as a business, because it goes back to why we’re in business and what we’re going to do with the wealth that’s accumulated. So I’m grateful Heavenly Father answered my prayers and let this business succeed, and as you note, today it has become a very large business. Last year we did on behalf of our customers, thirty of the largest technology companies on earth, around seven billion dollars. We are the outsource sales and marketing team for these large technology companies around the world. So I have learned how to conduct and operate a business successfully, and there came a time back in 1999, ten years ago this fall, that I sold MarketStar to a large, publicly traded company called the Omnicom Group, and I experienced a financial harvest beyond my wildest imagination. The money that came to us was, without going into great detail, more money than I could imagine anyone would make. But I now hearken back to what the purpose of making that money was, and I hope I’ve described that well for you. It was, for me, it was to give away.

You know, to be honest with you, Sister Hall, who made a great sacrifice, got a little pot of money, and I thought that was important for this good sister to have some money, because at the end of the day, she was the one that sacrificed everything so that I could succeed. So today, she has enough to survive. She has enough to take care of all of her wishes. She doesn’t every have to worry about me again, bringing home a paycheck or failing at some business enterprise. She has, to herself, enough money to make it through the end of her life. Now, sisters, did I do a good job taking care of Jeanne Hall? I did, didn’t I. So is she the first person on the Lord’s list to take care of? She was. I think Heavenly Father would not have been happy with me had I not thought about her first.

Then, we decided, you know what? We’re going to give the rest of the money away. We won’t need it. And I’ll teach you a principle here later about that. So the first thing we did was we formed a foundation, called the Hall Foundation. And our theme is that there be no poor among us. I think that if you’ll reflect back on your scriptures, you’ll know that that’s a statement from one of our scriptures. It comes out of the Pearl of Great Price, that there be no poor among us, that we be of one heart. So that was our theme that we chose—we were going to do everything in our power with the monies that are now available to us, to bless the lives of people everywhere. And it gives, actually, more joy to me to give money away than it does to make it, because I see the great benefit that comes from it. You’ll see here, this is a list of donations, or donors, that we gave money to this year. You’ll see that LDS Business College is right next to BYU. But you’ll also notice on there, there are non-LDS groups that receive money—St. Benedict’s, Catholic Community Services food bank, St. Anne’s homeless shelter. What I have found is that it doesn’t matter what our religion is, there are good brothers and sisters out there of other faiths who also have needs, and so where we can, we try to help those.

Let me just speak briefly to this one on here, the Catholic Community Services Food Bank. We were fortunate to create and develop a warehouse, if you will, out of an old school. I served as the fundraising chairman of the campaign to raise several million dollars, and Jeanne and I also gave some money. Today, in Ogden, because there are some folks there that need special help, this year they will serve over 106,000 people meals. Well, that’s fantastic. I look at that money—the Lord would be happy that money went to feed the hungry, right? The LDS Church, through our fast offering program, will take care of the members of the Church that are hungry. But there’s another way we can help those who are less fortunate as well.

The Hall Foundation has turned out to be something that is a great blessing to us and to the people that receive these donations.

Another thing that I thought was appropriate was, let’s take some of the money to put it in the foundation, but what I really believe can happen is, if I help other entrepreneurs succeed, and they can grow their businesses and at some point in time they can have a successful financial harvest, then those entrepreneurs should do likewise. They should become charitable. We can be charitable all of our lives. It doesn’t really matter when. We don’t have to wait until we have substantial money; we can do it at any time. So I would tell you this—when Jeanne and I were Peace Corps volunteers, we were paid 11 cents an hour. How many of you make more than 11 cents an hour in here? Eleven cents an hour is not a lot of money. We paid our tithing on our 11 cents an hour, but we also found that we could take some of those pennies that we had left over and help the people of Ita Juipi, Brazil [COULDN’T FIND THIS PLACE ONLINE] So, you don’t have to wait until you’ve accumulated wealth; we’re wealthy already. We have it within our means to begin to help people already.

So I say to the entrepreneurs that we help—and we help many—that if we’re going to be a support to you financially, and we’re going to give you investment dollars, our expectation is that when you succeed, that you will repeat the process, and you will use the money as the Book of Mormon describes, to bless those in need.

So what do we do, in terms of the economic development mission that we have in helping entrepreneurs? We have a number of things that we’re about. These are our goals, if you will. Our objective is to invest in 100 Utah technology companies. To date, we’re at about 60, so we have about 40 more companies that we are trying to support. We’re in the process of educating literally hundreds of entrepreneurs in how to be successful, and what the principles are to achieve that. We are in the process of creating around 4,000 new jobs, so that people such as yourselves will have a company where you can go to work, and you can continue to grow in your abilities to contribute to your customers, your business, and the needy.

We are in the process of investing well over 15 million dollars into Utah’s entrepreneurial companies, so that we can see that they will rise. Now, we do this as individuals. We do this—we’re not connected to the government, or any other institution. This is a private initiative, where we think individuals should step up and grow our economy, and not wait for governments to do it.

We’ve been in the process over the last number of years, of organizing other Angel Investors. And those Angels, then, support the companies that we put money into. We have a program that we call Seed Utah, where we go into every community in the state of Utah, from St. George on the south to Logan on the north, and every town in between, where we talk to community leaders. We talk to the mayors, the city councils, to encourage them to support the local entrepreneurs in their community.

You’ll see in the paper from time to time that we sponsor an event called “Concept to Company.” We’ve just recently concluded one in Vernal, Utah; a new one will happen up in Ogden. The assignment in Ogden is, we look for any entrepreneur who comes up with a new, creative, innovative, outdoor recreational product. We invite you to apply, to participate, and if you win the contest, we give you $35,000 to then launch your business to make it into something successful. We don’t require anything more than just that you go out and work hard. We don’t ask to have any ownership in your business; it’s a grant to you to run your business.

We do these things in Salt Lake and throughout the state, where we invite bright individuals with good ideas to step forward and to help them.

And lastly, we have established incubators. We have one in Ogden, Logan, one in Kaysville, and this coming year, in 2010, we hope to have two here in the Salt Lake area. So if any of you are entrepreneurial or want to start a business, we’ll have a way for you to do that.

This next one is a continuation of how I can make more money. And you might think, “My goodness, don’t you have enough?” But there’s an interesting principle here that I share with you. As long as I live, if the Lord will continue to bless me, and I have the wherewithal to make money to bless the lives of the needy—remember the scripture, “If ye seek riches...”? So what I have found out is, that with the formation of another company, this is a venture capital corporation, we call it Mercato Partners. Mercato is Italian for market. So we have gone about raising 52 million dollars, we operate on a national basis, we invest in great technology companies, we focus on accelerating the sales of those particular companies. A small team of five of us, headquartered here in Salt Lake City. But the objective is this: if we do this well, we will continue to make money.

Now, I’m going to take the money that comes to me, and I’m going to turn around and you can imagine what I’m going to do with it—I’m going to turn around, and I’m going to give it to the Hall Foundation so that we can bless the lives of more people, and we’re going to take other portions of that money that we receive, and put it back into helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses so the entire state of Utah and the economy will come up where, hopefully, other entrepreneurs will continue to be charitable.

I think I know Heavenly father will bless me in this enterprise, because He knows the intent of my heart. He knows I still have to be smart, I still have to practice good business principles, but it’s my belief that He will indeed bless my endeavors so that I can do exactly what I intend to do—bless the lives of people.

A couple of these are companies that we have invested in. How many of you have Skull Candy headsets? Raise your hand. Thank you very much. We’re making money on you guys. MediConnect is a great little company here that does digital retrieval of medical records. Symphonics has a way to monitor the internet. Fusion IO [??] has a new technology for computers, and Control Four makes remotes for your home.

These five companies are, every one of them, successful. None of them are going to be a loss to us; they’re all going to make big money for us. Because we continue to grow our business around this model of being charitable first, we believe it will continue to succeed. So this next slide, I think, will continue to make sense to you as I summarize for just a moment what we’re all about. And I think it is this: if we’re going to manage the Lord’s money, and have a stewardship—and that’s the way I want you to think of it—these are gifts that He gives us, financial gifts if you will. We need to think abundantly, and not have greed in our hearts.

Sadly, in America today, there are two many companies who did not read that first sentence of mine. Their whole intent is upon them making more money and building their own, if you will, financial kingdom, and it’s not about taking care of customers or the needy.

What happens to companies and individuals who become greedy? Eventually they’re caught up with. Some of them go to prison, some of them lose their businesses. Most of them lose their families and their children in the process of the kinds of behavior that they demonstrate. So, my plea to you today is to always remember to think abundantly. It’s not yours that you earn; it comes from God. And you are there as a steward to manage that. The Lord, if you take that approach, will indeed guide your efforts, and you will want to do your best to manage those monies for a reasonable return.

As I summarize this particular presentation to you today, it’s that once we have that surplus that comes to us, is that we are responsible to assist the needy, and then continue on to help businesses grow, and to create jobs. I want you to think of this as the way the Lord has talents, as He mentions in the New Testament. He gives us a few talents, and he sees how we do with those talents. You and your wife have great opportunities to receive some talents now, and as you manage those and do well with them now and into the future, God will bless you with more talents and more talents, as you continue to follow what He would have you do in life, to bless the lives of His children.

I want you to know that I know that God lives, that we are His children, that He has created this magnificent earth for us. We come here for a very short period of time, and while we’re here, all He asks of us is that we will keep His commandments. And part of the commandments are that we love one another and reach out to those in need. And I leave this with you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Questions for Brother Hall:

Question: Would you be kind enough to tell us some of the things you learned from your best failures?

Answer: Don’t do them again—that’s the first one. We’ll talk business here for a second. Remember, I mentioned about knowing your customer well. For some reason, we Americans do the following well, which is backwards: We come up with a new idea or a new product, and it’s pretty shiny. It looks pretty nice. And then we go look for customers. That fails 95% of the time. Those that do that model—make the product first and then go and try to find customers—very rarely succeed. Some do, but it’s a rare occasion. So what would I tell you today is the right way to do it?

Go talk to your customers first, so you have an idea. But now, go talk to your customers, then go back to your lab, go back to your garage, go back to your office. Work on what the customers told you to build. Then take that product or service back to your customers again and say, “Are we close? And by the way, what about the competition? What kind of price should we ask for it?” And etcetera. “Where should this be sold?”

Then you go back to your lab again, and you again reinvent what those good customers have told you so that you come back with a good solid product. If you do that, I can tell you that your odds of success are greatly increased. Now, why did it take me four times to learn that lesson? Well, I’m a very simple man, and it takes me a while to get it. Most of you might be faster at it. But it eventually dawned on me—talk to customers first, and build your product from there. That’s probably the number one lesson. Good question.

Question: How much should we be willing to risk to start a new idea?

Answer: You know, that will vary from individual to individual. But the first thing that comes to mind is regarding my family. So how far and how much time and energy would I spend on my family? So I always tell entrepreneurs, if your enterprise should fail, could you survive for one year on whatever means you have? If you cannot survive that one year, then perhaps you shouldn’t do it, because you’ll want to make sure that you don’t harm the things that are most precious and important to you.

Now, what I counsel people to do to get around that is stay with your day job and do your little entrepreneurial things at night and on Saturday. And once you get your business up to a certain point in time where it starts to be successful, then you could venture off with a little more anticipation that the risk has been mitigated and you might be more successful at it. Most people that just jump into it—that would probably be the wrong way to do it. That’s a great question.

Question: [Can’t hear the whole question—something about what did you do when you started MarketStar, what made the difference]

Answer: Okay, first of all, since I knew I was an entrepreneur, and I was wanting to do this, my wife and I paid off the house, so we no longer had any debts. Big point. After the debts are taken care of, we figured we needed so much money to survive, and that was $5,000 a year. And that’s what I brought home. I have six kids. They don’t know they’re poor. All right? So let’s say that fundamental is in place—no debts, obligations are small, car is paid off. At that point in time, everything is very small in terms of our costs.

The second thing is, I had just been a president of a technology company that had failed, and I was trying to do some things to help that company, and I recognized what we were trying to do, which was basically MarketStar, that that would work, and it would work to help all startup companies to grow their businesses. So I knew the market for the first time. I knew there were companies that would buy the product or the service that I had to offer. We were immediately successful. Immediately we had customers, and we were immediately profitable. That was the big difference. And we likewise had no obligations that would encumber us. Great question

Thank you, brothers and sisters. It’s been a pleasure to be here with you today.

 


A Holier People

06 Oct. 2009

Transcript

A Holier People

It is a delight for John and me to be with you today. We have been looking forward to this and we are not disappointed. We feel a great spirit here among you. I am so grateful for the prayer that was offered, for the message that was given by your student council representative, and for that beautiful music. And all of those things, I think, are contributing to the message that I hope we can feel and learn and discuss today. I was grateful that the Spirit was invited, and all of these things have added to that spirit.

We have just come off of a wonderful general conference season, and I hope that you came away from it like I did, desiring to be a better person, a holier person. One of the highlights for us was having all 23 of our family members in our home watching it together. The little ones range from age ten down to six months and, except for the six-month-old, all of the children watched and listened. But the best part was when we sang the rest hymn Sunday morning, “How Firm a Foundation.” Our little children—especially I envision little John who is six—standing up and singing, just belting it out at the top of their lungs. It doesn’t get much more heavenly than that. It makes me want to be better, to be holier. I hope that we can have the Spirit today, as we talk about this subject of holiness.

I want to tell you three really quick little stories. Holiness has been on my mind. A few weeks ago, John and I had the opportunity, like most of you, to attend the Oquirrh Mountain Temple dedication. And every single talk and every song were absolutely beautiful. The prayers were lovely. The dedicatory prayer was just superb. And all of that is not to say, necessarily, that it was the words, but it was the Spirit. And as John and I walked out of that building, we looked at each other and said, “We want to be holier people, because of what we have just participated in.”

For the past year, I’ve had the opportunity of being an ordinance worker in the Provo Temple. Every single week as we went to the temple, we would be told that in order to be temple workers, we needed to be holy. Personally, we needed to be holy. And that was a great responsibility. They taught us that we needed to be holy because the people that were coming to the temple were coming for specific reasons, and we didn’t want to get in the way of Heavenly Father blessing them for those reasons. But even more importantly than that, we were working in the Lord’s house, and we did not want to impede His Spirit. We wanted to make sure that it was a sacred and holy place where He could dwell, since it was His house.

The third little incident comes from something I’ve been doing the past four months. I’ve been studying every single day about the history of the Relief Society, and the blessing it is in the lives of the early women of the Church, up to today. One of the most amazing findings that I have studied is that the early Relief Society was established and organized by Joseph Smith for the purpose of helping the women become holier, to prepare them for the temple ordinances that they were about to enjoy in Nauvoo when the temple was completed. I want to talk just a little more about that later. But again, preparation to become holy.

So, as I’ve thought about three things that have happened in my life, I have thought a lot about holiness, and John and I have talked about it a lot. It’s been a wonderful thing for us to study and to learn more about. What is holiness really, and how do we become holy? What blessings and promises does our Father and Heaven have for His holy people?

Holiness is a rich word for me. What does that word evoke for you in your mind and heart? What is a good definition of the word holiness?

In the Old Testament, a holy place was a place that was set apart from the world. It was sacred, and something that was set apart. Think about where those places were. We talk about sanctuaries and temples—oftentimes, those holy, set apart places were on mountaintops. My father has always found his holy places on mountaintops. Where do you find your holy places?

Now that my dad is too old to hike anymore, his holy, sacred, set apart place is the temple. He’s in the temple every day, working as a sealer or just doing the patron work. But he finds that one of the sacred places in his life, just as John and I did when we went to the Oquirrh Mountain Temple dedication. It was a place set apart.

The opposite of a holy place is something that is common or profane. My husband, who is an expert on words, taught me that the word profane actually means, if you separate the two parts, pro and fane, means outside the temple. So something that is the opposite of sacred—common or profane—means outside the sanctuary or the temple.

Now also in the Old Testament, a holy person was someone who held a sacred calling or a sacred office. Think what a blessing it is to us in our lives to have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, where we have apostles and prophets on the earth today. I think it’s very important for us to honor them for that sacred office. In some ways, it might be easier at times for us to give honor to a prophet—an ancient prophet, such as Moses or Abraham, or even an early prophet like Joseph Smith. Sometimes when we grow up next door to a neighbor or someone and then they become a bishop, we have a hard time because we know them as a person who has human characteristics; sometimes it’s hard for us to honor them with their sacred call. But it’s important for us to do that. That is a holy person because of the call that they have. A holy people, we know from the scriptures, is a society or community that has a special relationship with Jehovah. We can think of those kinds of communities that we’ve read about in the scriptures—Zion societies such as the city of Enoch, where the people were of one heart and one mind, where they were so pure that the Lord was able to take the entire city up unto Himself.

One of my favorite societies to read about and study is the people in 4th Nephi. I could read that and read that and read that, and still learn from it. Sometimes I think, “How is it that a society could have no contention for 110 years.” We can’t even do that for a day in our house. They were one of those holy societies, where they had a special relationship with the Savior.

It says, when we read about it, that not only did they have no contention, but they had no envy, no strife, no lasciviousness, no murders, (see verse 16) but I think one of my favorite phrases is that “the love of God…did dwell in [their] hearts” (verse 15). The love of God. Again, my English professor husband says that that little word of could mean several different things. It could be translated or interpreted in several different ways. What do you think it means to have the love of God dwell in your hearts? Of could mean that they had love for God. Certainly that would help them be a Zion society. They could feel love from God. They could know that He loved them, and that changes the way we behave, doesn’t it? And they could love like God. So they are learning to give that same kind of love that God gives, to those around them. The love of God did dwell in their hearts.

Now the word holiness also refers to moral character. And you can think of synonyms for the word holiness—things like righteousness or sacred or sanctified. I also like to think of holiness as being separate from the world like these places that we’ve set apart from the world. Emma was told, in the Doctrine and Covenants, in the revelation that was given to her, that she should “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10). To me that describes holiness. And the nice thing about that revelation given in section 25 is that it was given to Emma, and it says, “unto all” (verse 16). So that is an admonition and a revelation given to all of us, to lay aside the things of this world and seek for the things of a better.

Another way that I can understand what holiness is, is to know that the word holy and the word whole stem from the same root word. I think that when I feel holy in my life, I am approaching what it feels like to feel whole or complete or perfected, as in Moroni 10, where he says, “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness” (verse 32) That is holiness to me—completeness or wholeness, perfection.

So how is it that we can become holy in our life? We’ve already mentioned a couple of things. We lay aside the things of this world. We deny ourselves of all ungodliness. I believe that Heavenly Father has purposefully given us—and again we’re blessed in this day of the Restoration to have them—but has given us priesthood ordinances and covenants that help us to become holy. We promise to Him that we will do certain things, that we will obey the commandments, and there are specific promises and commandments that we say we will obey. And then He promises us that He will bless us. I especially love the way that Elder Christofferson described His promises to us in last April’s general conference. He said that the Lord has promised us, or that He has covenanted with us, that He will sustain us, save us, and sanctify us. Think of those promises. To be sustained is to be carried, to be helped. To be saved is to be perfected. To be sanctified is to be made holy. Those are promises and covenants that the Lord has made with us.

Now temples are dotting the earth, and these are wonderful places for us to be able to participate in the sacred priesthood ordinances and covenants. Temples and temple ordinances require holiness of us, and they perpetuate holiness in us. Can I say that again? They require holiness of us—in other words, we need to be pure in order to enter a temple—and they perpetuate holiness in us. They help us become more pure and holy after having been there and participated there.

Let’s talk about those two ideas for a minute. The temples require holiness of us. Joseph Smith, in 1842 in Nauvoo, was, along with his people, building a temple. This was uppermost in his mind. When the sisters, who were also trying to participate by sewing for the brethren who were working on the temple, and feeding them—wanted to gather together in a charitable society so they could work together to help build the temple, help the brethren who were building the temple, they went to Joseph Smith and said, “We would like to be organized in a charitable society or a benevolent society.” These were really fashionable in that time period. And Joseph said to them, “I have something better in mind for you.” And so he called them to the upper story of the red brick store and organized the sisters under the authority of the priesthood, after the pattern of the priesthood, and with the blessings of the priesthood. And not only, now, were they organized to do benevolent acts and acts of charity, but they were organized to become holy. Joseph Smith came to many of the meetings and talked to the sisters and taught them about becoming a Zion community, so that they would be prepared for the temple when the temple was ready for them.

He taught them things that may seem kind of commonplace and kind of simple, but in reality, if we think about our own lives, they’re maybe not that simple. First of all, he taught the sisters that they were to be charitable, and that this was to be basic to their natures. He said, “This is according to your natures. It is natural for females to have feelings of charity. You are now placed in a situation where you can act according to those sympathies which God has planted in your bosoms. If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.”

As an extension of this charity, he said, “Sisters, you should treat your husbands with mildness.” I thought, this is counsel that is timeless. He said, “Let the society teach you how to act toward your husbands, and treat them with mildness and affection. When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed, if he can meet a smile, not an argument, if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings. When the mind is going to despair, it needs solace.”

He taught the sisters that they should bridle their tongues. Is that timeless counsel? He said, “Put a double watch over the tongue. The tongue is an unruly member. Hold your tongues about things of no moment. A little tale will set the world on fire.”

He taught the sisters that they should not aspire to callings in the Church. He taught them that they should not envy. He taught them that they should be pure and meek and loving. These are elements of holiness. These were things the sisters needed to do to prepare to be holy. They seem rather ordinary, don’t they? And yet, when we assess ourselves, are we as good at all of those things as we need to be, to be holy in our lives?

Participation in the temple ordinances requires a lot of us. And we get about as much out of the priesthood ordinances as we put into them. My husband likes to say, “We can go through the temple, but has the temple gone through us?”

I think of Belle Spafford, who was the 9th general president of the Relief Society. She served for almost 30 years, and she had been a counselor for a couple of years prior to that. As a counselor, she had the opportunity to attend the National Council for Women, for women of all faiths, back in Washington, D.C. As a participant, she had been ridiculed and criticized, sometimes, for being a Mormon woman, with Mormon beliefs. So when she was called to be the president of the Relief Society, she and her counselors decided it was probably time to withdraw from the National Council of Women. They made a proposal, and she took it to President George Albert Smith. She said to President Smith, “We have decided that it’s probably time for us to withdraw from this National Council of Women, for these reasons that I’ve listed here. It takes us away from the important work that we’re doing for the women of the Church right here in Utah, it’s expensive for us to go, we’ve been ridiculed and criticized as we have gone there. We think that it’s time. And we’re not really getting very much out of it.”

President George Albert Smith looked at Sister Spafford and he said, "You surprise me, Sister Spafford. Do you only do things for what you can get out of it? What are you giving to it?” I think that’s a question that we can ask ourselves in very many aspects of our lives. What are we giving to it? Are we getting everything out of the temple that we would like to? Are we giving our full selves to it, so that we can have that temple experience go through us? What are we getting out of our classes? What are we giving to those classes? It’s a very important question.

And then President George Albert Smith admonished her to stay in the National Council of Women. He said, “Go. Give everything to it. Make your influence felt.” Isn’t that wonderful advice, as we think about the different aspects of our lives, but especially as we think about participation in the temple ordinances.

Now temples also perpetuate holiness in us. Remember? They require much of us, and they perpetuate much in us. President Hinckley used to like to say, “You are better people for having gone to the temple.” You go in, and you come out a better person—again, depending on how much we give to it.

I have a friend who likes to walk on the grounds of the Provo Temple. She has a husband who is less active in the Church, but he is the one that noticed that every single couple that they see come out of the Provo Temple comes out holding hands. We don’t know what their disposition was when they went into the temple, but we know how they feel when they come out of the temple. They feel better.

President Hinckley said, “I make you a promise that, if you will go to the house of the Lord, you will be blessed. Life will be better for you. Avail yourselves of the great opportunity to go to the Lord’s house, and thereby partake of all of the marvelous blessings that are yours to be received there.”

In section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we have recorded the temple dedication of the Kirtland temple. There are some marvelous promises there that we can have as we go to the temple. In verse 22, it says, “And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them.” Listen to those promises again: we can have the power of God, we will have His name upon us, we will have His glory round about us, and angels will have charge over us. Four important promised blessings from participating in the temple.

Nephi saw in vision our day. I love this. He said he saw “the church of the Lamb of God” upon the face of the earth, and the “dominions” of the church are small (see verse 12). And really, when you think about that, 13 million people across the face of the earth really aren’t very many. But he said they were “the covenant people of the Lord…and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory” (verse 14). That sounds to me like people who are holy, who have made and kept sacred covenants, a holy people. I like to think about the blessing of the glory that will be around us. To me, that signifies light, and I think of the light that comes from the temples. We have 130 temples now, across the earth. People are drawn to them. Often they sit on a hill. Often they’re lit up at night. People everywhere are drawn to these temples.

Think about us as temples of light as we participate in the temples. We have that glory upon us, that light shining from our countenances. Think of 13 million people around the earth being temples of light, attracting the people of the world to our holiness, to our glory. It is a wonderful visual image, something that we should strive to have, to have that light, to have that glory, to have that holiness.

John’s elderly aunt, in the last days of her life, was housebound. But she still kept her temple recommend. She couldn’t get out very easily. She really desired to go to the temple again, but couldn’t do it on her own. One day as her daughter was making a routine visit to Aunt Agnes, she opened her door and she just stopped. She said, “Mother, did you have a cleaning lady come in this morning? Everything seems so sparkly.”

And Aunt Agnes smiled and said, “No. No cleaning lady.”

She said, “Did the apartment people come and paint it a different shade? Something is bright and light in here.”

And Aunt Agnes smiled and said, “My visiting teachers were able to take me to the temple this morning. I must have just brought the glory of the temple home with me.” It was so tangible. It was a physical light and presence that her daughter, Janeen, noticed the minute she walked into the room.

One of my favorite scriptures in all scripture is Moses 1. Moses has a sacred, holy experience as he talks to God face to face. And what happens to Moses after that experience? Of course, Satan comes. Satan does not want him to dwell on that holy, sacred experience. That always happens to us, doesn’t it, after we’ve had a most wonderful experience? Satan tries to get to us, as he did with Moses. But Moses said something that is very important. He said, remembering the experience that he had, “[The] Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me” (verse 15). Even though the Lord was not still in his presence, the Spirit of the Lord had not withdrawn from him. Isn’t that how it can be for us when we participate in temples and in ordinances and in covenants? That Spirit can stay with us.

And then Moses said, “I can judge between thee [Satan] and God” (verse 15). Because he still had that Spirit, he could make righteous judgments. And then he says, “I will not cease to call upon God” (verse 18). In that regard, we can keep in communication with our Father in Heaven and continue to keep that Holy Spirit with us.

I have a dear friend whose oldest daughter got married. This happened several years ago. It was a wonderful temple marriage. The couple was prepared and ready. Everything about the day was beautiful. After they had the ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple, they rushed back to Provo to prepare for a reception. Everything was ready until about a half hour before, and the caterer hadn’t shown up. The caterer was in charge of the cake and the refreshments and the tablecloths and table decorations. Those of us who were friends started trying to help by calling the caterer. No answer. Some of us drove by the caterer’s place. It was all locked up. So then we ran to a grocery store and bought a wedding cake, pulled together some of our tablecloths and got some flowers to put on the tables. By this time, the wedding reception had started. We said to our friend Christina, “Would you like us to run and get 7-Up at the store?”

She said, “No, it’s okay. The party has begun, and we are celebrating the temple ceremony that happened this morning. And you know what? We found out a wonderful thing at that reception. You can have a Mormon wedding reception without food and still celebrate. The other thing that happened, even though she wanted to concentrate—she kept saying, “We’ll concentrate on this beautiful couple and the sealing ordinance.” The talk of the evening kind of, especially among the men, became this no-show caterer. The men kept saying, “We think the father of the bride was in cahoots with the caterer. Just don’t show up and then I don’t have to pay for all these refreshments.”

At any rate, at the end of the evening, it had been a wonderful evening and we were cleaning up. Most of the people had gone home, and the caterer rushed in, absolutely grief-stricken. My friend Christina rushed up to her and threw her arms around her and said, “I am so thankful that you are all right. How wonderful to see you.”

The caterer said, “I am just sick. I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I have never done anything like this before. I wrote this down on the wrong day. I’ve ruined your party.”

Christina said, “No. We’re just so grateful that you’re all right.” And [she] was absolutely forgiving. There was no feigning forgiveness; it was from the bottom of her heart. It was real.

Let me just read to you a letter, part of a letter that the caterer wrote to Christina the next day: “I find myself with extra time today since I don’t have a wedding to serve tonight as I had planned. First and foremost, please accept my deepest regrets for Thursday evening. In our ten-year history, I’ve never created such a disaster as I did for your family. Words cannot express the hours of agony I have grilled myself with as I have pondered the evening and what you must have felt. I want to make some sort of restitution for these damages, and I hope you will help me create that situation. I am so sorry.

“I also wanted to tell you of the profound experience this has been for me from an eternal perspective. In my life, I have never been treated with such Christlike love and compassion as you did that night. Your first impulse was to embrace me, to comfort me, when I should have been consoling you. You were not waiting with wrath and anger at my mistake, but rather with love and understanding, as I have always hoped Heavenly Father would be waiting for me. You knew without asking the intents of my heart. Over the years I have dealt with petty complaints like, “I don’t like the color of this punch,” etc. You had every justification to be angry, and yet you chose a higher road.

“Since that night, my mind has continually returned to a central theme: Go and do thou likewise. I have been gentler and kinder with my children, my husband and my staff. When their work has fallen short of my expectations, I have looked on the intent of their hearts rather than on their shortcomings. I am sorry this lesson came to me at your expense, but it is one that will be with me forever. Thank you for your loving example of the higher road.”

Now I watched all of this happen, and I was amazed. I’ve been the mother of a bride before too, and I said to my friend Christina, “How did you do it, and how did you do it so purely?”

She said, “I felt the extension of those temple covenants with me, that we had participated in that morning.” The spirit had not altogether withdrawn from her, and she was able to be righteous and holy.

Now, we could ask ourselves lots of questions to inventory ourselves about how we’re doing. Can we love people who have wronged us? Are we envious of people who have things that we wish we had? Do we participate in our personal religious behaviors to strengthen our testimonies each day?

When we look at Alma 13, we could ask ourselves the question that comes from his list: Are we humble and meek and submissive and full of love and all long-suffering? Do we have faith in the Lord? Do we have hope in His Atonement? Does the love of God—again, the love of God—dwell in our hearts? (see verses 28-29).

We need to ask ourselves these things. It is the quest of a lifetime to become holy, to become sanctified. My prayer for each of us is the prayer that we sang at the beginning of this meeting:

 

More holiness give me, More strength to o’ercome,

More freedom from earth- stains, More longing for home,

More fit for the kingdom, More used would I be,

More blessed and holy—More, Savior, like thee.

(Hymns, No. 131)

 

I want to bear my testimony to you today that I know that our Father in Heaven is holy. He has made it possible for us to become holy by blessing us with temples and ordinances and covenants. I know that our Savior is holy, and He has made it possible for us to become holy by atoning for our sins and making it so that we can repent and become better. I know that the Holy Ghost is holy, that He will guide us and comfort us and testify to us and help us in our quest for holiness. I know that we have the restored gospel on the earth today to help us to become holy through priesthood ordinances and covenants. It is my prayer that each of us will be holier people, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


The Lord’s Autograph

20 Oct. 2009

Transcript

The Lord’s Autograph

I have great respect for this institution and what it does—the special needs that it meets and the contribution it makes to the Church’s efforts to educate our members and others.

What I’d like to do today is talk briefly about our concept of God. It’s so natural to us who have grown up in the Church, but it’s not natural to others in the world, even other Christians. As you know, many people have different concepts of a mysterious God that we can’t even fathom, called the Trinity. Others of great and devout belief believe that God is loving and merciful but is so holy and so far removed from them that they have to approach Him through an intermediary, through one of the saints or through Mary. And they do so with great reverence. Others totally reject Him. Others believe He is going to hang us over a fire like a spider on a spider web and watch us slowly roast if we have not done everything that he has asked us to do. Frankly, I have a little trouble with that one.

But we believe in a God who is our Heavenly Father, and we mean that literally—that we are literally His children. And out of that, by extension, we believe that He loves us infinitely and knows us intimately. And both of those are really significant.

When I was a young boy, probably twelve or thirteen, I had an interesting experience, and that became one of those defining moments for me as time went on, as I thought back on that. I was a paper boy, and I had a paper route that ran about 2 ½ to 3 miles from my home. I always did it on a bike, even in the worst weather. Back in those days, you didn’t get a computerized billing from the Deseret News or the Tribune. You went around door to door and “collected,” we called it. Each month you had to collect the funds. And then you sent in what the newspapers had billed the paper boys and the rest was yours—about twenty-five dollars a month back then.

One day I was out collecting and I stopped at a door and told the woman I was there to collect, and asked her if I could do so. And she said, “I don’t have any money to pay you.” Then all of a sudden she brightened up and said, “But I do have a check that I just received in payment for something else. It’s for 27 dollars. If you had enough money in your little bag to change, I’ll sign it over to you.”

So I looked in my bag and I had just about enough to take out what she owed me and give her the rest in change. So when I left, my bag was pretty empty, except for a check. So I went on, finished my route, and as I got to the last house, I again knocked and again the person said, “Do you have any change?”

I said, “Not much.” I reached in my bag, and that check was gone. I can still remember, these many years later, just how absolutely sick—physically sick—I was, because not only was that my whole month’s salary, but now I was going to have to come up with $25.00 to pay the Deseret News. So I started at that point, walking my bicycle very slowly, retracing my steps back to that house. I picked up every piece of paper, every scrap; I turned over every rock I think. I looked and looked and looked. I spent over an hour and retraced that path three different times. It took me—I was a slow learner then—it took me that long, when suddenly I’m walking along, thinking “What am I going to do?” The thought came, “Well, you can’t find that check, but somebody knows where it is.”

I stopped right there—I can just picture myself—I stopped right on the side of the road, bowed my head and said, “Heavenly Father, I need that money! Help me find my check.” Now, if I had opened my eyes and made another whole circuit and eventually found it, I would have been absolutely thrilled. And I would have known that God heard and answered my prayer. But something really unusual happened. I said “Amen,” I opened my eyes, and I’m standing here like this and right here, just about here where these flowers are, there was my check stuck in the bush.

Now, later I’ve had people tell me, “Well, you just never saw it. It was there all along.” Well, you can tell me whatever you want, but I know what happened that day. And as I thought about that, I finally came up with a conclusion. I would have been thrilled if He had just helped me find the check. But He did more than that. He not only answered my prayer, He answered in a way that was absolutely, unmistakably from Him. That was the day I knew that my Heavenly Father knew me and that He loved me. And that’s a very key part of testimony. And I know that some of you may still be wondering about that.

I love the Primary song, because it’s so true of many of us. At some point in life, every one of us has to come to this on our own. Do you know which song I mean? “Heavenly Father, are you really there? Do you hear and answer every child’s prayer?” (“A Child’s Prayer,” Children’s Songbook, p. 12)

That is the key testimony, particularly in these days of growing trial and tribulation and economic turmoil. I’ll bet you there are a lot of you who are getting ready to leave this place and are wondering, “What in the world am I going to do for a living?”

I don’t know if you saw in the paper yesterday that there’s an In-and-Out Burger in Provo, opening up. Did you see that? Five hundred people appeared at the Marriott to apply for ten or twelve positions. I’m sorry, that’s the world you’re going into. So what I’d like to do is talk more about that principle, and use the book and the story that President Richards just made reference to.

How many of you are native Utahns? I’ll count—if you’ve lived here twenty years or more you can count yourself as a native. How many of you are native Utahns? How many of you have ever heard before the concept of the Hole in the Rock pioneers. A few. I’ll bet you that fifty percent of you, if you’re normal, think it has to do with Butch Cassidy and his gang, the “Hole in the Rock gang” they were called. No. Not those pioneers. And others of you think it’s that crazy little shop just south of Moab where they have a cave in the rock.

With that, let me introduce you to some pioneer people and the concept of what I finally—seeking for a way to describe those kinds of blessings that I just told you about—I finally called them “The Lord’s Autograph.”

I don’t know if I can read off this screen or not with this, but we’ll try it. Let’s start the power point, and I’ll get my six-shooter here. By the Lord’s autograph—I finally decided to write this out, and I wrote it this way: Sometimes the Lord not only answers a prayer or a need, but does so in a highly dramatic or very specific manner. In doing so, not only does He grant us one of his “tender mercies,” as the scriptures call them—that is, answers our prayers—but He does so in a way that is clearly from His hand, almost as if He had personally signed it for us. Thus the concept of “the Lord’s autograph.” Not only does He bless us, but He does it in a way that powerfully says, “I am here. You are my child. I love you and I have not forgotten you.”

So with that, let’s talk about this group, that in searching for a title for the novel, I finally came up with the word undaunted, which Webster says is “characterized by courage and tenacity, not dismayed or discouraged by challenge, unwilling to abandon one’s purpose,”—now, think of yourselves trying to get a job, you seniors—“undiminished in valor and determination.”

President Hinckley has a wonderful statement that I think applies here. He said, “It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future.” That’s an interesting statement. “It is good to look upon the virtues of those who’ve gone before to gain strength for whatever lies ahead.” And then he says this: “Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all.”

That’s why I love Church history, because in reading these people’s lives and watching their example, we feel inspired and compelled when we get discouraged or down, or think life is hard.

This is an unusual group. Unlike other Mormon pioneers, they were not fleeing persecution or driven out by mobs; they were not seeking freedom of religion. They already had it. They were not trying to join with others of their own faith—they were already there. And they were not escaping crushing poverty or oppression. They lived in prosperous Mormon communities and comfortable homes, and they owned successful farms and businesses. So this is really unique from all the other standard pioneer groups that we think about.

They went when they were called by the prophet. They went because they believed that call was from the Lord. They also believed it was necessary for the safety and security of the overall community. They were called from southern Utah communities to go over into what we now call the Four Corners area, or the San Juan—now San Juan County, Utah—because there was a lot of lawlessness, a lot of cattle rustlers coming in, a lot of restlessness with the Indians and these lawless whites, and Brigham Young said, “What we need is stability in that area or the whole area is going to break out into war.” So they went because they saw this was critical to not just their own selves—in short, they went because they believed it was the right thing to do. It’s just that simple.

Let me give you an example of two of these undaunted people, James and Mary Davis. He was a prosperous merchant in Cedar City. Mary was in very frail health, very poor health, and was two months pregnant at the time of the call. Now, back then they got up in stake conference and they read out the names, occasionally you’d hear a woman or a man go, “Oh, no!” as they heard their names called out. Well, you can imagine how she felt when their names were read out by the stake president. She had given birth to eight children at this point, and had seen four of them die shortly after birth.

Though they were both greatly dismayed, they agreed that they were under covenant and should accept the call. But troubled by her health, they asked their bishop for a blessing for her. Their bishop laid his hands on her head, and this is what he said—this is in James Davis’s own words: “Bishop C.J. Arthur blessed my wife and told her if she would go and do her part, her health would be restored and that she would never be called on to part with another child. He also told her that the Lord would protect us, and our lives would be spared.”

Now the interesting thing is, when they made the call, as part of the call, it was indicated that if this was not a convenient time for you—this is not like a regular mission call—if this is not good for you, then you don’t have to go. Well, if anybody had a good reason to say, “You know, this isn’t a good time for us,” it was them. But they went. They went with the exploring party. And because Mary by now was about 7 ½ months pregnant, they left her in a little Arizona town called Moncopi while they went on to find the settlement. Then they sent four men back for the Davis family, and the cattle they had left behind.

As they were working their way back, one night a group of five Navajo warriors came in. The leader was the one who had shot and killed George Albert Smith’s son. They were missionaries; he came up to him pretending friendship and said, “That’s a wonderful pistol. Can I see it?” And George Albert Smith[‘s son] turned around and he took the pistol and shot him three times in the back. So this is the man, okay? And they know this is the kind of man he is; he hates whites. And he starts to threaten them. He picks up his knife, walks right up into Mary’s face and says, “This is what I’m going to do to you and your children,” and kicks dirt in their food.

So they’re afraid. He promises that he’s going to go back and get 25 more warriors and come back and massacre them in the morning. Can you imagine her feelings that night? She woke up in the morning, and as they were getting ready to leave, they saw a single solitary Navajo coming. He was an old man, and he said, “I’m here to help you. Get in your wagons. I’m going to lead you away. Pohecan and his 25 braves are coming, and they’re coming to kill you.”

So they followed him, and he led them to safety. Now here’s a remarkable coincidence: this family, and the other four men are facing a likely massacre when this old Navajo shows up who just happened to have been befriended and fed by the Davis family years before in Cedar City.

When they are finally to safety, he looks at Jim Davis and says, “Don’t you recognize me? I used to come to your store all the time, and you and your wife fed me and were good to me. And I learned that you were in this little small group, and I learned that Pohecan was coming. So I’ve been following you for the last four days. Then when I saw you were in danger, I came to save your life.”

Now, let me just ask you a simple question. How lucky is that? What a nice coincidence. The first example of the Lord’s autograph. Again, He could have just warned them, “Don’t go over there, there’s Pohecan.” No. He does it in a way the Lord says, “Mary, this one is from me, because of your faith.” It’s a wonderful concept.

Second of August, two weeks after they arrived at the San Juan, Mary gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She went on to have two additional daughters. She never lost another of her children, and enjoyed good health the rest of her life.

I’m just going to quickly introduce you to the trail—what is called the Hole in the Rock trail. This is just south of Escalante. This is their jumping-off point as they went out into the desert. Here from the helicopter you can see the original trail. You can’t see that from the roadway that drives down there. There’s the original trail. Forty miles south of that is a little place called Forty Mile Spring. That’s an interesting coincidence, isn’t it? Forty Mile Spring, and forty miles south. I don’t know how that happened. But it’s a wonderful source—you can see the cattlemen have put a tank in there now—it’s a wonderful source of grass and water. So this became the main camp while all the ones who are going gradually catch up.

They had a lot of fun there, because about a mile and half away is what they called Dance Hall Rock. Here they would come after the evening’s meal was done; here they would have meetings and play games and—to give you an idea, that’s a really remarkable structure. You can see that man standing at the top, there’s also one at the bottom. The remarkable thing is, looking down from the top, you’re looking at the dance floor. It is almost perfectly level. So guess what they did? That’s where they had their square dances.

When all the company got together, they sent men out across the river to scout out a way. Platt Lyman, who later became the captain of the company, in this big meeting—this is another view of Forty Mile Spring—he came back from that exploration and said, “It is certainly the worst country that I ever saw. Most of us are satisfied that there is no use of this company undertaking to get through to the San Juan this way.”

Now that’s a dilemma, because they have come all the way from their communities. They have come over Escalante Mountain, which is 9,000 feet high, which now has six feet of snow on it. So there’s no going back, and if they can’t go forward, they are in one big mess. So a meeting was held, and Bishop Jens Nielsen—some of you will recognize that name—remember in the Willey and Martin handcart story, there was a couple from Denmark? He was six foot two and she was four foot eleven; he weighed 230, she weighed about 98 pounds. His feet became so badly frostbitten that he just finally collapsed and said, “You’re going to have to go on without me.” And she wouldn’t. She put him in the cart and pulled him to safety. Well, this is the same Jens Nielsen. He is now sixty years old. He still walks with a terrible limp, because his feet were so badly deformed.

He gets up, when all of this talk is done, and he made two significant statements. Number one, he said, “This company must go on, whether we can or not.” Now, you think about that when it’s hard for you to find work—I’m going to go on, even if I can’t. These are the lessons that we get. And then in that wonderful Danish accent of his—he was trying to say, “What we need is more stick-to-it-ive-ness”—what he said was, “If the Saints have plenty of stickity-to-ity, we cannot fail.”

How many of you are descendants of some of the pioneers? That little phrase is still used by parents to their children: “What you need is more stickity-to-ity, kid.”

I wish I could show this pointer on all of the screens, but to give you an idea of what they’re facing, this is the Hole in the Rock, from across the river. The Colorado River Gorge is about 2,000 feet deep here, but there is the hole—see that crevice coming down? That’s where they went. They moved forward. Here’s the top of the crevice. Here’s a white sandstone bluff that dropped 50 or 60 feet in a sheer cliff, so they had to blast that out. You can actually see that. This is the approach the wagons took, and then they reached right here where the gap begins.

Let me give you a feeling for that, what it looks like. Just quickly, if you notice that, I’m about 25 or 30 feet from the camera man, and I’m 12 or 13 feet lower than him. Do you know what I’m saying? The grade there is 50 percent—it’s dropping 50 feet every 100 feet. We warn truckers about an 8 percent grade.

I love this: “On the morning of January 26th, the first wagons came to the top of the hole. The horses balked and refused to take the chute. They had a clear view of the river about 2,000 feet below. They tried another team with the same rearing and surging backwards, and still a third team. All were too frightened and nervous to risk. Joe Barton came to Brother Nielsen and said, ‘Brother Nielsen, I think I have a pair of horses that will go down.’

“‘Vell, Brother Barton, if you have, bring them along.’ Brother Barton brought his big wheel horses, and they moved off unconcerned but very slow and sure, feeling their way with their large, careful feet.” Why would they go? They were totally blind. There had been an epidemic of pinkeye; they were totally blind. What a lucky coincidence. Can you imagine them saying, “You know, what we need is a blind team here. Let’s send back to Cedar City and see if anybody’s got some blind horses.”

This is looking up the hole, those of you who can see the screen. There’s a figure standing there. This is the drop; down below there’s a cliff. What did they do? Well, they just hung a road on the side. They cut a little trail for the wagon wheels. You can barely see it. There’s the hole. And then they just built in with posts, laid brush on it. Can you imagine what it must have felt like as you drove your wagon over that? A road, hanging on the side of the cliff. You want to know why they were called undaunted? That’s why.

I was privileged to go with Carol Makita—some of you saw the documentary—we went down there three times. You may not recognize her, but this is Carol Makita, sitting there on a rock. That’s the drop, right down there. And to give you a feeling, that’s looking from the bottom. See the perspective? There’s actually three people in that photograph—one there, one there and one there just to the right of that.

Well, here’s two more, Stanford and Arabella Smith. She was 25 years old, had three little kids. Her husband went down to help the first ones, and everybody promised they’d help bring her down. Well, everybody got so busy, they forgot. He was so mad, he took his hat off and stomped it on the ground, when he found out they’d left his family. So he goes up—there’s no one, now, to help them—they’ve got one big old extra horse they’re going to hook on the back, but guess who has to hold onto him? Arabella, or Belle, as they called her. So what does she do with her children? She’s got a seven-year-old, a three-year-old, and a baby. So she sets the three-year-old on the ground, and says, “Okay, Roy, here’s the baby. Don’t move.” And then she goes and helps. She says, “Ask God to be with you,” and down they go. And I’ll just skip through that really fast.

Alone, with no one to help them, she has to leave the children. I’m going to tell you the story, rather than…Do you want to know why they call her undaunted? She says, “I’ll hold on to the reins; you go.”

He said, “Belle, you’re so small, you probably couldn’t even hold a butterfly back.”

That made her mad. So down they go, over the lip. The jerk of the wagon pulls the horse off of his feet and he drops back to his haunches. She’s trying to hang on. The horse then tips over on his side, which is good, because he’s now dead weight. But his flipping over throws her off balance, and she goes down headfirst, being dragged through the sand. Finally, the wagon hits a rock and it bounces, and that yanks on the reins, which flips her up to her feet again, slams her against the side of the cliff, cuts her leg from hip to ankle, and then slides to a stop in deeper earth.

Stanford jumps out of the wagon and he comes running around. He says, “Belle, are you all right? How did you do?”

She says, “Oh, I just crow-hopped my way down.”

And then he came forward, and he saw the blood on her skirt, and he said, “You’re not all right.”

And she just hauled back and kicked him in the shins. She said, “Does that feel like I’m all right?”

Well, that’s the kind of people we’re thinking about here. They were undaunted. And what is the lesson for us? It doesn’t matter—life will throw something at you. You remember that last April, President Packer spoke to the young priesthood. Do you remember what he said? He said, “You’re the generation that will no longer have it easy. You will see things happen that will be a test to you.” And he said, “If you’re strong you can go forward.” Actually, he said this will be good for you. And that’s what’s coming. And the lesson we learn—how did she make it? Because she has faith.

Mary Davis, so frail in health—why does she say Yes, I’m under covenant. Because they already knew that God knew them and loved them. And so when the bishop says, “Mary, you’ll not lose any more children, your health will improve, and you’ll be protected on the way down,” she knew that was true. And so she went. That’s the message of these wonderful, marvelous pioneers. And for you, if you don’t know that for yourself with rock solid surety—that God knows you and loves you and will assign those same kinds of blessings for you when we come seeking—then now is the time to get it. Because you don’t want to wait until you’re on the lip of the cliff and say, “Now should I do this or not?” Because your heart will falter.

That’s my testimony of the God that we worship, and I leave it with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


5 Steps to Overcome Life's Obstacles

28 Oct. 2009

Transcript

5 Steps to Overcome Life's Obstacles

 

If I may, I’d like to start by embarrassing your acting dean, Brother Matt Tittle. We used to live in the same ward and both had callings with the youth. One year we had our youth conference in Star Valley Wyoming. Anyone here from Star Valley? It’s beautiful there.

In the mountains of Star Valley is a gorgeous place called Cottonwood Lake. The parking lot is at one end of the lake and it’s at least two or three football lengths to the other end. While we were there, someone dared Matt to hit a golf ball into the lake. He had brought along some clubs and balls. Right as he was teeing up a young man started paddling a canoe toward the other end of the lake. Not wanting to accidently hit the boy, we waited until we thought the boy was out of Matt’s range. “No, he’s too close,” Matt said. So we waited until the boy was half way across the lake. “You can’t hit it that far,” we chided him. “No way, he’s still too close,” Matt insisted. So we waited even longer. Finally, when the boy was nearly to the opposite end of the lake we said, “You’ll never get it that far.” “Alright,” Matt said. He teed up, took a couple of practice swings, and then nailed that golf ball. Sure and straight, it flew and flew and flew. Finally, it splashed down just a few feet away from the startled young man in the canoe. We laugh about it now, but what if it would have hit the boy? Then it wouldn’t have been very funny – unless he turned out ok, then we’d be laughing about it even more today.

Isn’t it neat how over time we can look back at scary or painful experiences, realize everything turned out okay, and have a good laugh about them? This is also true with the extreme manic breakdowns I suffered. Yes, I really thought an airport toilet was a baptismal font and played in the water. Yes, I really did bite my mission zone leader on the leg until it bled. I’m still in touch with that zone leader; he is now a mental health therapist. We laugh and joke about how even now, almost 20 years later, the scar my teeth dug out in his leg is still there. At the time there was nothing funny. It was very serious. Now, it’s almost comical to remember how bizarre things got. But let me back up and tell you the story from the beginning.

Here’s the setting. I had just turned 20 years old. I was on a mission in Taiwan. Extremely hard work and dedication had given me the respect of my fellow missionaries and the mission president. He had sent me way down to the southern tip of Taiwan. Besides my companion, the closest missionaries were an hour’s train ride away. There were only five active Church members who cared about the Church and the young missionaries there. With the Branch President bordering on inactive, it was my job to run the branch.

My companion was new on his mission, and was still struggling with the language and the missionary discussions. My responsibilities were huge and my ailing mental health started to give in to the overwhelming pressure.

One morning the intense pressure combined with unidentified bipolar disorder caused me to literally lose my mind. You know, a lot people joke around, saying, “This homework is driving me crazy!” Or, “My boyfriend is driving me crazy!” When you came here today you didn’t realize you were going to hear from someone who really has gone crazy, did you. Everyone wants to know what it’s like to go crazy, but no one dares to ask. Today you get to find out and let me tell you, it isn’t fun.

When I got out of bed at 5:00 A.M. that morning, I didn’t know if I had slept or not. All night long my mind had been turning over and over the theme, “What is truth?” I pulled out my journal and for many hours, scribbled words and ideas down trying to make sense with a mind that was quickly losing touch with reality. My conversations became consumed and confused around the “truth” theme. Finally, when my companion told me, “I’m sick of this truth thing,” I verbally let him have it. After an intense argument, he stormed into the church, and I took off to a nearby arcade. This was the point when I completely lost control of my thoughts, words and actions.

When he came back from calling for help my companion found me talking to the arcade owner telling him I was God. In the next several hours, the insanity got worse and worse. Other missionaries arrived to help out until the mission president could drive down and get me. During those long hours was the time I bit one of the other missionaries on the leg as hard as I could. At times I punched, kicked and clawed at them. Other times I laughed, cried, screamed out prayers, tried to cast a missionary I thought was the devil away, and then hugged and kissed another missionary I thought was Jesus.

Around midnight the mission president finally arrived. Seeing the severity of my condition they drove me to a psychiatric hospital. The kicking, thrashing, and shouting insanity became so serious it took all four of them to hold me down while the doctor administered tranquilizing injections. It took three separate injections to finally put me out. They used so much medication I didn’t consciously wake up for a whole week. When I finally did wake up, I found myself back in the States in a hospital in Provo. This is just a brief summary of the breakdown. I have written detailed accounts in my books, “Bipolar Disorder in Truth,” and “Into My Manic Mind.”

You would think an experience like that would force me to admit there was something wrong inside my head and that I would look my illness squarely in the eyes, identify what it was, and find out how to deal with it. But I didn’t. Instead, I hated my psychiatrist for telling me that what happened was illness, not spiritual. When I saw that he had to give authorization to let me out of the hospital, I started playing mind games with the doctor. I pretended that the medication he prescribed worked perfectly. I told him his therapy and counseling fixed everything. I don’t know if I fooled him, or if I was just a fool, but a month later he signed the paper with the warning, “I’ll let you go, but I’m afraid you’ll end up right back here.”

Instead of allowing me to go back to Taiwan, the church gave me a new calling to serve in Montana. As I struggled with the culture shock of getting used to a completely opposite environment than I had grown accustomed to in Taiwan, the cold, dark days and nights of winter in Montana were nothing compared to the deep, dooming depression I felt inside. But I tried to keep my chin up and continue, as the missionaries in Taiwan sang: 前進, 永遠, 前進and as I now sang: onward, ever onward.

Just a week or so later, word came that the Elders in Helena were having a hard time teaching some Chinese investigators because of the language barrier. I received a quick transfer and began teaching them in their native language. Over the next two months my confidence and spirits picked up. The mission president gained confidence in me and sent word that I was to train a greenie, fresh out of the MTC. “I’m doing so good, I won’t need my pitiful pills anymore,” I thought to myself. Bad idea.

You can imagine what happened. As the medication left my body, the themes and obsessions with truth that caused the breakdown in Taiwan returned. Then, on a car drive to Bozeman for a combined zone conference I suffered another extreme manic breakdown. Totally convinced that my companion was God, I stopped the car, looked deep into his eyes, and asked, “God?”

“No, I’m not God! I’m your companion, Elder Robertson,” he said back. But I wouldn’t believe him. Since I was driving, my companion had to figure out how to get me out of the driver’s seat and give him the keys. I refused. Finally, he got out of the car and ran over to a pay phone to try and call for help. When he came back I knelt before him on the concrete sidewalk.

“Hogan, get up!” he cried desperately. Nothing. Finally, he said, “Elder Hogan, who am I?”

“Thou art God,” I replied with all the humility a mad man could muster.

“Then I command you to get up, give me the keys, and get into the car,” Elder Robertson replied using his deepest deity voice.

Playing God worked and he got me to the church. The good thing was that the mission president was at the church where the zone conference was being held. The bad thing was he had no idea how to help. Instead of rushing me to the hospital, he kept me at the church for the duration of the zone conference which was around three hours. Only one word can describe what happened in those three hours, “crazy.” Finally the conference ended and the mission president called my parents. They decided to put me on the next flight home. The mission president gathered up a huge Tongan elder, a state champion wrestling elder, and about three more of the biggest and strongest missionaries at the conference, told them to take their name tags off, and away we went to the airport. At the flight gate waiting area, after I started chanting and singing swear words at the top of my voice, word that a “madman” was getting on the flight reached the pilot. When he came to investigate and saw the condition I was in, the pilot refused to let me on his plane.

Finally, after all that, the mission president did the right thing and took me to a hospital. The doctor asked the missionaries to leave the room so the orderlies could strip me down and put on one of those hospital gowns that don’t exactly close in the back. Coming out the doors, being led by the orderlies I looked back and forth babbling to them in Chinese. The nurses replied, “Oh yes, that’s nice. Yes, everything is going to be just fine.” My companion later told me that right then I suddenly stopped, looked one of the orderlies right in the eye and with my rear end hanging out behind, asked, “Do you feel a draft?” He said they all laughed, but with heavy hearts, and the mission president’s wife said, “That poor, poor boy.”

Soon after, my actions got so violent they had to resort to sedative injections and a padded, locked holding room to regain control. The doctor told my mission president that “People in this condition usually take years to recover. In fact, Andy may never be the same again.” However, when I woke up from the sedative sleep, the mania had passed and I was in my deeply-depressed-but-sane mind again. When I woke up, my parents were there to bring me home.

You would think that after these two breakdowns I would be begging for help both from medical professionals and those who had been through this before. But no; I still refused to accept help from others, and I didn’t think I needed the pills the doctor prescribed. In my mind, the world needed to accept what seemed totally clear to me. How can a person make sense with a mind that is senseless? It’s a riddle I couldn’t comprehend.

After taking it easy at home for a few weeks I returned to Montana to try again, but after just a few days, came very close to yet another breakdown. Suffering the deep depression that followed the overdose of antipsychotic pills used to stop the extreme manic attack was more than I could take and I decided to call it quits and head home six months short of the two years I had originally planned for.

From that point forward, the bipolar cycle stormed through my emotions on a daily basis. Deep depression weighed me down the moment I woke up, and then morphed into mania in the evening hours. It was so hard to get out of bed in the morning that I just started sleeping in for as long as I could. Soon, sleep became an addiction. Mini manic breakdowns happened so often, I told a friend, “Going crazy isn’t that big of a deal. I just take a bunch of pills, sleep until evening, and then I’m ready to do it all over again.”

My emotions and illness were as out of control as a Rocky Mountain avalanche, but I still wouldn’t admit I was ill and needed help. Because I shut them out, my parents and other loved ones could only watch from a distance and wonder how low my life would have to fall before I would admit I needed help.

Rock bottom came when my high school sweetheart, the one I had kept in close contact with while in Taiwan and Montana, rejected my desperate proposal of marriage. I never asked her why, but I think the answer was pretty obvious. She was afraid of me with my uncontrolled, unacknowledged illness. That bitter cold day when she said “I can’t,” I didn’t think my life could tumble any lower. That was the time I finally stopped denying my illness and started accepting the help of those around me. Progress was slow, but change for the better started happening.

About ten years later, having found reasonable stability in my life, I decided to write my story. Three years later, I completed the manuscript and submitted it to several publishing companies. Millennial Press out of Provo called me back saying they were interested in my story, but they wanted more details of how I had learned to recover from the disorder, and less details of what happened. So I went back to the drawing board and wrote a new book titled “Bipolar Disorder, 5 Steps toward a More Peaceful Life.”

Writing this new book was a great experience because it made me really think back to the process of how I recovered from a cycle between debilitating daytime depression and nighttime mania, to being happily married, raising two healthy children, holding a steady, full-time job, and living a fairly normal life.

Since my books were published I have shared the five steps with many others. My goal was to offer hope for those suffering with mental illness. The feedback I received was that the five steps could apply to much more than just overcoming mental illness. The five steps could also apply other challenges and obstacles in life. So, for the rest of my time today, I would like to share with you the five steps I took to find a more peaceful and balanced life. I believe they can help you overcome obstacles in your life – even if mental illness isn’t the obstacle you face. The five steps are: Identify, Authorize, Understand, Control and Heighten.

 

Step 1: Identify the Real Obstacles in Your Life

Some illnesses, disorders or other obstacles in life are easy to identify. Others, however, require more investigation. Early on, the only thing I could see was what I have termed “surface symptoms.” Surface symptoms were the obvious problems that everyone noticed, but no one saw through. Let me give some examples to explain. As you listen, think of the obstacles in life you are facing. Maybe the problem you see on the surface is only an indicator of something deeper that you are missing.

My first and most obvious early surface symptom was an addiction. I used it from the minute I woke up until the second I fell asleep. What was the substance? Music. An experience with my grandpa sums it up well. One summer my grandpa wanted to teach my brother and I how to build a house. I remember blasting my boom box each day as we worked on that house. I just couldn’t function without my music. Twenty years later when Grandpa and I were

reminiscing about the project, he sighed and said, “You were so addicted to your music, you couldn’t learn a thing.” What my grandpa saw was the surface symptom – the addiction to music. What he didn’t see was the reason for the addiction. It was my self-prescribed medication for depression.

Taking the time to notice what you do and ponder why you do it is key in identifying the real obstacles in your life. If you only see and act on the surface symptoms, you could end up wasting years of your life trying to fix something that isn’t the real problem.

Let me give you an example of a funny experience to illustrate what I mean: One time my friend’s little brother went to his mom complaining of a headache. She gave him pain pills and told him to go take a nap. His head still hurt. Finally, after trying everything she could think of, she took him to the doctor. After a short exam the doctor said, “I think I found the reason for your boy’s headache.” The doctor then pulled out a pair of tweezers, stuck them far up into the boy’s nostril…and pulled out a small sponge ball. It’s a true story! What if the mom had continued to focus only on the surface symptom of the headache, giving the boy pain pills and just telling him to take it easy for a while and it would go away? Yes, looking past surface symptoms and identifying the true obstacle we face is very important. When we see others with obvious obstacles it would do us well to remember what we see is probably a surface symptom of something deeper. Maybe to the girl who is overweight, eating is how she handles the death of her mother. Maybe tattoos and earrings are surface symptoms of someone suffering from abusive parents. Surface symptoms are everywhere. It’s so important to see past them before we start recommending cures.

When I learned to look past my own surface symptoms and identify the root symptom to be mania or depression, I was finally able to correctly identify my bipolar disorder and start working on fixing the real issue. But it wasn’t as easy as pulling a sponge out of my nose. Knowing I had a mental illness and accepting it were two different things. In other words, I had to authorize my illness into my life. This authorization was the second step I needed to take to find recovery.

 

Step 2: Authorize Yourself as One with Obstacles in Your Life

I like to compare authorizing weakness into my life with my golf game. I told you about how far and straight Brother Tittle can hit a ball? I don’t have his game. I have a horrible slice when I hit long drives. I think I was in a duck pond looking for my ball when I finally identified my slice. At that point I had a choice to make: would I authorize myself as a person with a disabling obstacle and allow an adjustment to my golf game, or would I continue on wading in the weeds. I’m happy to report I made the authorization. Now, when I tee off, I turn my body 45 degrees to the left. My stance shows that I’m going to shoot it way off from where I want it to go. And yet more often than not, the ball slices hard and lands in the middle of the fairway. Every once in a while it goes straight, and then I’m in trouble. But at least my game has improved.

If life is golf, how is your game? Do you have a slice, or in other words a weakness or obstacle dragging your life downward? It may not be mental illness. It could be sin, an addiction to pornography, or other moral problems. It could be a boiling hot temper that is ruining your social life. Whatever obstacle you face, I hope you are able to recognize the root symptom, identify the true problem, and then authorize yourself as someone who needs help before your life tumbles as low as mine did.

Remember, until you make this authorization and allow help into your life, as much as they love you, others can only watch from the outside. I think this is the reason the Lord told Ether, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then I will teach them how to hit the ball onto the fairway, and maybe even all the way to the green”…Well, maybe those are my words, His words are, “then I will make weak things become strong unto them.” We have to go to the Lord and let him show us our weakness. We can’t do that unless we first authorize ourselves as people who need help.

Now a word of caution. When I started to authorize myself as someone with a chronic disorder, subtle, almost subconscious excuses starting popping up in my mind. “If I know that feelings of happiness are controlled by chemicals in my brain, and depression is going to be with me no matter how I live, why should I bother trying to seek happiness by living a righteous life?” Excuses like this could have been devastating. I hope that in your life you allow others to help you find the balance between accepting the obstacles in your life and giving in to them. Good friends, parents, bishops, professional counselors, even your leaders here at the business college care for you and can help you – if you’ll listen to them.

As I carefully authorized myself as one with mental illness, my eyes were opened to many things. In other words, authorizing myself as one with weakness opened the door to understanding, not just about my disorder, but also about me. Gaining this understanding was the next step.

 

Step 3: Understand Your Life’s Obstacles and Yourself

When I first started writing my story, I didn’t really know why. I often asked myself, “What do I want to accomplish with this writing?” Then I had an experience that opened my eyes to the big motivator. I received a calling that required weekly early morning meetings. I told my church leader that my medication affected my sleeping schedule, and it was still pretty messed up. “I don’t think I can make it to the early morning meetings each week,” I said, trying to be honest. “But I’m willing to try.” The leader looked me right in the eye and said, “Do you know that when you said you didn’t think you can make it to the meetings that you had a dark countenance?”

The comment was very painful because it felt like he was saying, “You are only revealing the evil inside you to make up such a lame excuse.” I wasn’t trying to make excuses, I was just trying to be honest and let them know up front the reality of my situation. I knew the man was a good person who meant well, he just lacked an understanding of mental illness. What he saw in my face was depression, not the devil. Thinking about what he said over the next few months, the thought finally came to me: “Send him a book! Then he will understand.” Looking back, I can see this was the biggest reason and motivation for writing my books. I wanted people to understand what I was going through. When we’re trying to recover from stepping on life’s landmines, isn’t all we really want is to just be understood?

It’s really nice when others care enough to understand the obstacles we face in life. Still, it’s childish to think that everyone will want to make the effort needed to understand all of our problems. A more realistic approach is to make the effort ourselves. For me, this wasn’t an easy thing to do. My early attitude was, “Just give me my pills and make it go away.”

The other night I watched the show “The Last Samurai.” (Please forgive me for using this show as an example in my talk. I didn’t know it was rated R until after my talk when my wife told me. I received the DVD as a gift from a friend in Taiwan who bought it there. The cover is in Chinese and doesn’t show the rating…and I never thought to look it up before I watched it. I encourage the students and everyone else who heard me speak to follow the counsel of our church leaders and not watch rated R movies.) It was about a troubled American army captain who was hired to train the Japanese imperial army. During a fight, the samurai captured the American and took him to their village far in the mountains. The reason they kept him alive was because the leader of the samurai wanted to understand his enemy. Over time, understanding each other changed the ignorant enemies into bosom friends.

Are you willing to understand your enemy? Maybe this is why the greatest Teacher of all tells us to love our enemies. When I finally came to understand my bipolar disorder, it was quite revealing. Suddenly I could see its influence in my thoughts, habits and emotions. As I came to understand how it influenced me, I found the ability to stop letting the disorder boss me around. Understanding my illness and myself opened the door to taking control of my life. This control was the fourth step I needed to take in my recovery.

 

Step 4: Control the Obstacles in Your Life

Taking control meant paying attention to my body and emotions and noticing what influenced and amplified my feelings of depression and mania. The other important thing was getting the right type and the right dosage of medication. I remember one incident that was pretty revealing of how important the right medication at the right time was.

I was on a date watching a “Disney on Ice” show. Watching the show sparked thoughts and panicked feelings from the same themes that caused my breakdowns in Taiwan and Montana. Suddenly, the muscles on the left side of my neck flexed tight, pulling my head to one side! I used my hand to pull my head straight, but the muscle wouldn’t relax. The funny thing was my date never noticed. She just talked on and on about who knows what. I was like, “Yeah, uh huh, Oh, look what’s over there…” Now I carry my pills with me wherever I go so that I’m always prepared for an emergency.

Taking care of my body and getting the right medicine at the right time were a great help in taking control of my illness. They were like a sturdy boat on an ocean of wild emotion. But in order to control where I was going, I still needed a rudder. The rudder I found was faith in God. As a child and youth, my parents hounded religion into my head. But it wasn’t until I really struggled that I finally came to understand and embrace the reality of the power of prayer. From large things, like finding an effective medication combination, to small things, like catching trout when no one else could, though it wasn’t always instantly, my humble and sincere prayers have always been answered.

When I set my rudder of faith toward the God of happiness, l found that dreams long since forgotten were beginning to come true and a higher life than I ever imagined was happening. Living this heightened life was the last step.  

 

Step 5: Heighten Your Life

The obstacles we face in life can make it feel like dreams and hopes for a good life are snatched away. I’m here to tell you the dreams are not gone, it’s just your vision of them has been blocked. For me, there were years when I was satisfied to simply get through the day without curling up on the couch and crying away the miserable minutes and hours. Thinking about dreams was completely out of the picture. Now, after taking the steps of Identify, Authorize, Understand, and Control, the fog of depression in my life doesn’t feel so cold or so gray. Through the lightened clouds I can see that my dreams are still there in front of me, and have been the whole time. Though I still battle depression and mania daily, my life is rising higher and higher. Dreams I thought were impossible keep happening.

Like today, I have the wonderful privilege of speaking with you. You are so inspiring. Whatever obstacles in life you’re facing, no matter how hard it might seem right now, you can overcome. I know it; I know it. The illnesses, weaknesses and obstacles you face are tough. Your spirit is tougher. Don’t give up. When you think it’s bad, you can remember this talk and say, “Well, at least I didn’t bite anyone on the leg today.” And if you do bite someone, remember that Christ has the power to heal all wounds. He overcame every obstacle and challenge this world could throw at Him. He understands perfectly what you face, and He has the power and love to get you through them all. He is the Light and Hope of the world. This I say in His name, even Jesus Christ. Amen.


Overcoming Addiction to Pornography

03 Nov. 2009

Transcript

Overcoming Addiction to Pornography

It’s nice to be here with you all this morning. I always wonder, when I’m asked to speak in church venues like this on this topic. It seems like it’s kind of difficult to have the Spirit and talk about something like this, but I think the beautiful music helped, and I liked Zach’s thought—particularly two things. One, I liked the skirt and tights analogy, because I think it was just this Sunday when I passed my daughter Hannah and said, “Hannah, isn’t that skirt a little short?”

She said, “It’s okay, Dad. I’m wearing tights.”

I thought, “Well, okay.” So I’m glad for the clarification. It didn’t make the dress longer.

But I think the other piece of what he said is critically important, and that is being prepared. And while Zach may have shown up to church not quite shaven and his tie was a little loose, the important thing is that his hands and his heart were clean and pure. And I think that’s what we all need to strive for, because we never know when that moment may come where we have an opportunity to put our priesthood to work or serve someone in some capacity, and we need to always be ready and willing to serve the Lord.

The title that I’ve chosen today is “Reach for the Light: Hope, Help and Recovery from Pornography Use or Addiction.” And I say “use or addiction” because there are varying degrees of pornography use. Obviously, we as LDS Church members believe that any pornography use is detrimental and wrong, whether it’s an addiction or not. Some people have a severe addiction; some people may only dabble in it. But either way, spiritually the consequences are just as serious.

And please, as I’m speaking, if you have a question and want to ask it, that’s fine. This is just a small enough venue to be able to take questions.

I think Craig did a good job of explaining why it’s ubiquitous. Pornography is ubiquitous. If you don’t know what that word means, that’s okay. I didn’t either a few years ago. It means that pornography is everywhere. We can’t escape it, no matter where we go, what we do, what we watch, we are going to in some ways come in contact with pornography of some sort. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that. But does that make sense? Is there a day that goes by where something that is pornographic in nature doesn’t come across your path—whether it’s a TV program, music, something by accident? It may not be what we’d consider hard-core pornography, but it could be some other source.

So, what is pornography? Well, it’s a hard thing to define, so I’ll give you a couple of definitions. Anything that induces an inappropriate sexual interest for that person. Now that’s very general and not real specific, but it’s fitting, because what is pornography for one person may not be pornography for another person. And I’ll get a little more into that. Another definition is material of no artistic or literary value designed to stimulate and arouse sexually; it can be written materials, photographs, films, television programs, electronic images, animation, sexually-oriented chat rooms, telephone sex, etc. And as technology increases, the ways that pornography is presented increase as well. And so it’s hard to have a working, operational definition that doesn’t keep changing.

Let me just read you one thing that Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said. This was in 1964, which was back when the Supreme Court and the pornographers were battling to try to determine what was legal and what was covered under free speech and what wasn’t. Of course, pornographers were trying to say “anything we want to say and do is protected under the Constitution under free speech.” And he made this statement, which I think is true. In trying to explain hard-core pornography or what is obscene by saying, “I shall not today attempt to further define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced, but I know it when I see it.” And I think any of you who have seen pornography know what it is, because it makes you feel something, and it’s usually not something good. There may be a curiosity, something that draws you to it, but there’s also a feeling that’s telling you this isn’t good. And what would that feeling be? The Holy Ghost, the Light of Christ—you know when you see it, this is bad. This isn’t going to be good. And I think that’s what he was using, and I like that definition because somebody can be looking at the J.C. Penney catalog and be looking at the lingerie section, and to them, that may be pornography if it induces inappropriate thoughts and feelings. And so it’s one of those things that it’s really hard to say, this is okay and this isn’t. It’s really up to the individual.

Let’s talk a little bit about the scope of the problem. I don’t want to bore you with a lot of statistics, but I want to give you some. If we look at the money, it’s a 56 billion dollar a year industry, and that was a few years back. There are other estimates that I have seen that are as high as a hundred billion dollars a year, which is enormous amounts of money. In the United States alone, it’s about a 13 billion dollar a year industry. So there’s big money in it, and that’s one reason you’re seeing new websites, new magazines, new movies, things like that constantly come out to be made. People are going to try to make that money.

One of the issues we’ve kind of battled with a little bit is the involvement of mainstream corporate America, and corporations really throughout the world. It’s another issue that cuts across all social and economic and racial divides. There’s no area in the world that is free or safe from pornography, and it affects everyone, men and women alike. There are certainly more men that are involved in pornography, but unfortunately we are seeing an increase in women’s involvement in pornography, even to the point where there is pornography now being marketed, and their touch-term is “pornography for women by women,” meaning that it’s made by women, designed, written by women, and it kind of caters to a different mindset than male-oriented pornography. Males are very visually oriented, and so most male pornography is visual. Female pornography has a story line; it may have a romantic flavor to it. But it’s still pornographic.

One executive for a large company called Centex said it this way, “Dollars is dollars.” He went on to say, “We’re not perverts. It’s not like we’re selling drugs. But dollars is dollars, and wherever we can make money, we’re going to make money.” Just to give you an idea, these are some of the major corporations that help fuel the pornography industry—AT&T, MCI, Time-Warner, DirectTV, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Radisson, VISA, MasterCard, American Express. And the list really goes on and on and on. It’s amazing how many corporations in America about ten years ago saw that this is a place where we can make a lot of money. In fact, it’s the one industry that you always make money at. And that’s a sad commentary on both sides. It’s sad that people are exploiting it because they can make money, and that people are drawn to it and becoming addicted, and it’s ruining their lives.

It brings in more revenue than the NFL, NBA, and Major League baseball combined. And you know how much sports figures make, and the amount of money advertising that those industries generate. Pornography far outsells them. So it’s a big problem. And you probably already knew that, but I think it’s important to keep that in mind, because it’s easy to sort of put your head in the sand and say, “Well, it doesn’t affect me. I don’t look at it. I’m not going to worry about it.” But we all have to worry about it. You know someone that’s affected by it when you—are all of you single? Are some of you married? I don’t know the demographics. Some married people? Okay. Your children will be exposed to pornography. Right now the average age of exposure is 11 years old—at 11 years old, children are now stumbling on or being exposed to pornography in some way. So it’s not a problem that we can ignore.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, in section 89, we’ve got some great information on the Word of Wisdom. But one of the things that it says there I think applies to pornography and what I just shared about the money for it: “In the hearts of conspiring men in the last days” (v. 4). And I think that it’s not just tobacco, alcohol, and drugs of some type, but pornography I think also is being used by conspiring men in the last days. And women, unfortunately. I don’t want to be sexist—it crosses both. In fact, I think Playboy magazine corporation is now run by a woman, Hugh’s daughter.

A few years back, when I was asked to come to headquarters, I was the agency director in Los Angeles, and I had done some work with pornography addiction and sexual addictions, and I got a phone call from my boss at headquarters who asked me to come to Salt Lake and be the pornography specialist. And I said, “No thanks. Thanks, but no thanks.” And he called back and said, “Well, we really want you to do that.” And I struggled with it a bit and agreed to do it and came up and just—you know, rest easy, I never had to look at pornography to become the specialist. My role was to see what best practices were out there for treatment and training so that we could bring our staff up to speed. But I went to a training once by the late Dr. Al Cooper, who has now been dead for about four years, and he termed something he called “the triple-A engine.” And it’s really one of the things that has made pornography just explode in the last 15 years or so. Obviously, the advent of the Internet is responsible for the huge increase in pornography. But the three things in the “triple-A engine” were accessibility—now at the click of a mouse you can find anything you want and usually everything you don’t want; affordability—it’s relatively cheap or free; and the notion that it’s anonymous, that you can do it in the privacy of your own bedroom, house, apartment, phone, wherever—that there’s this anonymity that goes along with it, which is somewhat true. But as you know, in the age of electronics, there’s really nothing you do on the Internet that can’t be discovered, can’t be found. But those three things really exploded the pornography industry.

And then what you had, with the Internet, you had other companies jumping onboard, and a lot of the technology that we benefit from today in terms of audio, video and even electronic use of credit cards, began with the pornography industry, so people could buy it easier. You know, back when I was a kid, if you wanted to find pornography you had to go into a store someplace and actually purchase a magazine. And that was embarrassing and shameful, and if you were a kid, you weren’t allowed to do it. But when the Internet came, that changed it. So people who maybe never looked at pornography before had that opportunity, and sometimes all it took was curiosity to get them to take that first step. And as we know from other addictions, sometimes once you take that first step it’s really hard to turn around and go backward.

So to the question, “Is pornography addictive?” by show of hands, let me just ask you. How many of you think pornography is an addiction? It’s okay if you don’t; I’m fine with that. Okay, it looks like a lot of you do. And I do as well, for two reasons. One is because the prophet has said so. President Gordon B. Hinckley, in May of 1998, said this: “Stay away from pornography as you would avoid a serious disease. It is destructive. It can become habitual, and those who indulge in it get so they cannot leave it alone. It is addictive.” [“Living Worthy of the Girl You Will Someday Marry,” Ensign, May 1998, 49] So if a prophet says it, it’s good enough for me. I work with a lot of colleagues who aren’t LDS and they’re experts in this area, and there’s still a lot of debate about whether it’s addictive like other things that we have already identified. But the prophet says it is, and that’s good enough for me.

From my own experience in working with people and seeing the lengths that people are willing to go to to use pornography also have convinced me that it is addictive. I’ve seen people lose everything, and I mean their job, the love of their children, their marriage, the love of their spouse, their Church membership. Everything that really matters to us they have lost, and for what? Really nothing. So when somebody is willing to give up everything that matters most for nothing, that’s an addiction.

However, recently we’re fortunate, because there’s been a lot more interest in it from the academic world and the scientific community. Some of you may know Dr. Donald Hilton. He is a neurosurgeon in Houston. He’s LDS; he’s spoken here a couple of times in Utah, and he’s done a lot of work on pornography and trying to determine whether it is addictive or not. So he’s conducting studies using FMRI imaging to look at the mind and the brain and the effects on the brain when people have used pornography. What he is finding is that it mimics exactly the same affects when somebody uses drugs. They’ve looked at cocaine, methamphetamines, the opiates—and then they’ve looked at pornography, and the same centers of the brain that are triggered, and the same areas of the brain that actually shrink with addiction, shrink with pornography addiction.

So we know from that that there is a biochemical connection. Anybody that’s ever seen pornography knows it, because things change in their body—heart rate increases, pupils dilate, breathing changes. I mean, it really changes you physiologically. Some people will say, “Well there’s no good research,” and there’s some truth to that. The research is coming in, but there are not a lot of articles in tier one journals on this issue. But it will be where we are going in the future. And I wouldn’t be surprised if, like with other addictions, we are able to biochemically start to treat it like we can for some of the opiate addictions.

Any questions at this point? Are you still awake? The question was, how can you tell if someone is addicted to it? That’s a really good question, and it’s somewhat difficult to determine. But one of the things that I use, and it’s very simple, is, have you tried to stop and been unable to. And if the answer is yes, then you’re addicted. Now usually, the answer is, “Yes, about a hundred times.” And they can’t stop. They’ve tried this and this and this, and they can’t stop. If that’s the case, then it is an addiction. And usually they need some help, and we’ll talk a bit more about that. We’re not going to go into treatment a lot today, just for the sake of time, but feel free if any of you have questions and we don’t get to them today, I’ll be around for a few minutes afterward. Ask me then, but let me give you my email address: it’s gardnermd@ldschurch.org. And you’re welcome to email me. Just say, I was at the devotional and I had a question. And I’ll be happy to try to answer it. It may take me a day or two, but I will get to it.

So, in Dr. Hilton’s work, what he has identified is some of the drugs that it releases in your body. There’s adrenaline, dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin and vasopressin are sort of hormone-type drugs that are used to create attachments. Mothers produce oxytocin in breast milk and it’s one of the things that help children bond to their mother. The scary thing about pornography is it’s producing similar hormones and creating a bond between the addict and the pornography. And anytime you start talking about bonds, you start talking about addictions and making it much more difficult to break, to make those changes. He’s written a good book—I don’t know if I can mention books here, is that okay? He just wrote a great book, probably the best one on pornography addiction, and it’s called He Restoreth My Soul by Donald Hilton. It has a subtitle, but I don’t know what that is. I think it’s available at Deseret Book, and if you Google it, you can always find anything that you want. So I would recommend that if you want to learn a little more about it that you look at that book, because he looks at it both from the scientific side, but also heavy emphasis on the spiritual side. And we’ll get to that in just a moment.

But let me just say that the costs of pornography—not monetary costs but the effects and the damages, the personal price that people pay because of pornography, are huge. The effects on women, I think, are very detrimental; whether women look at pornography or not, what it does to men and the way men think is very damaging to women—they’re objectified, they’re sometimes victimized. Again, the industry says there’s no correlation or connection between pornography and violence, yet there’s a lot of very good anecdotal evidence, and there is beginning to be some good empirical evidence that says pornography does lead to violence.

One of the assignments I have at Church headquarters is to answer the Church’s abuse hotline. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a 24-hour help line for ecclesiastical leaders to call whenever they learn of any type of child abuse, whether it’s physical abuse or sexual abuse. The bishop’s supposed to call us and then we help them decide what needs to be done—is there a report that needs to be made, can you get this person into treatment. And every single time, when there’s sexual abuse, pornography is involved. Now we can’t say pornography caused the abuse, because we don’t know cause and effect. But there’s definitely a correlation between pornography and abuse. And we see it most dramatically with young men—young boys from the age of 12 to 16 who are addicted to pornography, become curious, and then end up unfortunately victimizing a younger sister or a niece or someone like that. So the costs to women are huge, and the long-term effects are big.

The effects on relationships—my personal view is that it’s impossible to have a good, intimate relationship if pornography is involved in either person’s life. And when I say intimate, I’m not talking about sex per se; that’s part of it, but I’m talking about emotional, mental, spiritual intimacy—having that connection with a partner that is what marriage is intended to be. If pornography is involved, you are not going to have that. Even in relationships where the wife says, “Oh, I don’t care. It’s okay if he looks at pornography,” it’s damaging to that relationship.

The effects on the person who’s using pornography—their self-esteem goes down, it creates a lot of shame and guilt. Spiritually, obviously, the Spirit is driven away and really can’t come back and dwell with that person as long as they’re using pornography. And I think one of the more difficult things is being of service to others. If somebody is addicted to pornography, they’re not going to be ready to serve the Lord when that call comes, whether it’s to give a priesthood blessing or accept a calling. They’re not going to be spiritually ready to make the kind of contribution that they can.

The effects on society, I think we see. It’s touted as “it’s okay; it does no harm.” We know better than that. Not just because you’re so smart because you go to LDS Business College but because you’re children or adults of the covenant. You know the truth. You know what right and wrong is, and you know that it’s something that can destroy our society. Crime increases.

QUESTION: If someone goes to their bishop for help, is there a cost for treatment or is it through the Church?

ANSWER: There are both. If somebody makes a living providing treatment specifically to this problem, or just does it as part of this practice, then there’s usually a fee associated with it just like any therapy fee. Bishops often refer people in and there’s a fee, so if the member isn’t able to pay, then the bishop is able to pay through fast offering funds. That’s an approved use of fast offering funds. However, there are 12-step support groups for addictions and for pornography that are free of charge, and there are some clinics that offer free services. So if somebody really wants treatment and money is an issue, or something they have used as an excuse not to get help, it really can be obtained without money.

QUESTION: Can you explain what the 12-step groups are?

ANSWER: Sure. Are most of you familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous? What the Church did a few years back was they took those twelve steps and just altered them slightly. They didn’t change them, other than the original twelve steps, one of them, says we “rely on a higher power.” It used to, years ago, say “God,” but at some time it was changed to “a higher power” so it could be anybody’s anything. So what we do is we refer to that as Jesus Christ, because we know that Christ is our higher power, and Heavenly Father. So we just kind of make it cleaner and clearer. So the 12-step program is basically the equivalent of somebody going to AA or any of the other anonymous groups and working the steps. And if you aren’t familiar with the steps, whether you have an addiction or not, I would encourage you to read the steps because they’re wonderful. And if we all were to work those steps and to live them, we would be better Latter-day Saints. And you can get the addiction recovery manual, which is the 12-step manual—you can download it for free on the Church’s website. So LDS Family Services has a website, and you can go there and download it for free. So I would encourage you to take a look at that, just for your own curiosity, and someone may come along that you can refer them to.

So the positives. Let’s talk a little bit about change, because the first thing I want to say is that change is possible. Everybody needs hope. People who are struggling with addiction, I think particularly a sexual addiction, lose hope. Why do they lose hope? Because they have tried repeatedly to stop, on their own, usually, and failed. Sometimes they’ve gone to their bishop and asked for help, and they have failed. And they don’t have to fail. You can overcome this, but it does take a few things. It takes a lot of hard work, and it takes help. It’s not something you can do alone. And I believe that. The longer I’ve worked with people, the more I believe that you can’t do it alone. In fact, the first step in the 12 steps is admitting that, basically, you are powerless to overcome this problem on your own.

So, what that means is that you have the Lord. You always have to rely on the Lord. You have to rely on the Lord’s anointed—His bishops or branch presidents, or stake presidents, mission president—whoever is your ecclesiastical leader should be involved in that recovery process. And then obviously, repentance is a key. And one of the things that we’ve—I don’t know if we’ve discovered it, but we’ve recognized it—is there is really two parts that have to be done when somebody is dealing with any addiction. There’s the repentance piece, which is between the individual and the Savior. It’s when you access the Atonement and use that to heal from anything. And isn’t it true that the Atonement can overcome any problem that you have? Do you believe that? I hope so, because it can.

But in addition to just repentance—I’ve seen people come in, they’ve got the broken heart and the contrite spirit. They want to change. This problem is making their life miserable. They’re sincere, and they repent, and I think they’re forgiven. But they slip back up. Does that mean they didn’t repent? Well, I can’t say. But what I can say is repentance alone, in most cases, isn’t enough. Somebody has to repent, and then they have to work some kind of recovery program, whether that’s a 12-step program or what their bishop advises them to do. There has to be follow-up.

What Dr. Hilton has discovered with addictions in general is that it takes about 18 months for the brain to get back to normal after a substance addiction. That’s a long time, 18 months. And what he is surmising and trying to prove is that it takes as long for a sexual addiction. So people who repent and maybe go to counseling a few times and then, they’re feeling good, they’re not struggling. They stop. And they haven’t changed behaviors, they haven’t changed thoughts, they haven’t changed some of the things that might have led them into addictions. And every time they do that, their hope diminishes a little bit more, they get a little more discouraged, and eventually they give up and they just quit trying. So we can’t do that. We’ve got to get the message out there that people can change no matter how low they have gotten in this.

I personally have worked with people that have come full circle and continue to do great. And I believe the key is the Atonement. Without the Atonement, I think it’s very difficult. There are non-members, obviously, who overcome it, but they use a higher power. And I think that same higher power is Jesus Christ; they just don’t really know it. So the cure is possible.

Let me just touch briefly on the Combating Pornography website. When I first came to headquarters, that was the first thing I said, “The Church has no information to deal with this problem.” I searched the Internet. There were articles, you know, conference addresses and things like that, there are Ensign articles, but that was it. There was nothing that brought it all together and really provided help. So for five years I worked tirelessly to try to get approval to try to do a website. If you’ve worked for the Church in some fashion, it’s a bureaucracy and there’s a bit of red tape and it takes a while. But finally we got the attention of the people that matter, who are the Brethren, and once they got ahold of that idea, it started happening. So about a year ago, we started designing a website and building it, and with luck we’ll get it launched either at the end of the year or the beginning of next year. It’s done, but we’ve got IT and correlation to get through, and again, just approval from the First Presidency or maybe just the Bishopric. Once that’s done, it will provide hope and help for members.

What we’ve done and what I’ve done is, there are five audiences that we’re focusing on in the website. Those are individuals, which is a better way than saying addicts. We want the site to be uplifting and hopeful. We don’t want, “You’re an addict. You’re the struggler.” They know they’re the struggler. So they’re the individuals; that’s the addict. Second is the spouses, which is huge—spouses hurt over this problem, I think, more than the individuals do, if you’re married. Parents hurt more, sometimes, than their children do. So there’s individuals, spouses, parents, youth—we’re trying to tailor some things for youth, because again, 11 years old and they’re getting introduced—and then leaders, meaning church leaders primarily, but the site is generic enough that if it’s a rabbi, or if it’s a Catholic priest, or anybody, they are welcome to use this site.

Then within those five audiences, we’ve got four main areas of focus, and that’s prevention, recognition, overcoming the problem, and then support to remain porn-free and stay out of it in the future. As I said, it’s a new site. It’s not perfect. I’ve already got my mind wrapped around phase two, which will be a lot more interactive. This site is basically information only. There’s not a lot of interaction. There are some video clips and some audio clips and things like that, but it’s not a really interactive site, which I think we need. And so phase two, hopefully we can incorporate some of those things.

The site doesn’t look like most Church sites. There’s no blue in it, or very little blue. It’s green, and we did green because it represents hope, spring, a new life, a turning over and changing. So it’s kind of just got a clean, fresh feel to it. And the goal was to draw people to it and then within the site they can learn things that lead them to help—a bishop, hopefully, therapy if necessary. And there’s a lot of ways that people can get help.

But the key, really, is the Atonement. And I can’t stress that enough. I just think, in my experience it’s interesting that people come in and they’ve struggled with this problem, say, for ten years and they’ve been to five bishops. And they say, “You know, the bishop has never been helpful. All he says is, ‘Study your scriptures, say your prayers, come to church.’ And I’ve done that, and it didn’t work.”

And I say, “Okay, well, let’s look at some other things.” And so, we spend time and we look at some other things. But in the meantime, I say, “You know, your bishop’s telling you to do these things, and I want you to do them. And I promise you that if you do them, you’ll be blessed. It won’t hurt you. You’ll be blessed if you do them.” And so a year later, the person’s clean from pornography, no problems for a year, and they’re doing great. And I’ll say, “What do you think were the critical things that got you out of it and keep you out of it?”

Guess what they all say? Saying your prayers, studying your scriptures, and fulfilling your Church responsibilities. And so the problem is not that those things that the bishop says to do were the wrong things; it may be more a function of timing and other issues that have to be resolved while they’re doing these other things. And in the past, all they did was those things. And so, we’re trying—and it’s difficult to train bishops. Not that they don’t want training, but we don’t have the authority from the Brethren to tell bishops how and what to do.

It’s been interesting—we’re doing a pilot study down at BYU. There are 25 stakes there, and we got permission to work under Elder Hafen and Elder Snow and Frasier Bullock to create some information for bishops—assessment, developing a repentance plan, support, and kind of getting bishops a little bit better trained—because in any student ward you have a large problem. Hopefully it will go well, and we’ll be able to share that with other priesthood leaders.

QUESTION: How do we help our children, whether they’re not here yet, or those who have children, to stay away from pornography and avoid its evil influence?

ANSWER: There are a couple of things. One, probably the most important thing, is education—talking to your kids about pornography. Talking to your kids about sex is very important. A lot of parents don’t do enough sex education. So kids need to know and understand, not just “don’t do it; it’s wrong” but why. So a comprehensive approach to teaching them about the dangers, the risks of pornography, what it can do to people, as well as certainly taking precautions—just the general, basic things. No child should have a computer with Internet access in their bedroom. Any house computer should be in an open area.

I have a list of some other things, so if you want to email me, I’d be happy to send that out. Let me just say in closing, these are the things that I think we have to do. One, instill hope. We have to keep people hopeful that change is possible. Use the Lord’s anointed servants, and certainly use the Lord. People have to develop a relationship with the Lord to help them overcome this problem. Parents can play a vital role, if you’re a child or living under their direction. Spouses can play a vital role—not to be the policeman or fix it, but they can play the role of support. The role of professionals, sometimes, is important. And then those daily things that the person themselves have to do—their work, their scriptures, their basic everyday efforts to stay away from pornography. Because you can’t avoid it.

And that’s another problem that I really didn’t have time to get into. People have to be okay to say, “Okay, I saw something that triggered a thought, but that’s all it did. I don’t have to act on it; I don’t have to dwell on it. I can go back to mowing the lawn” or whatever you were doing. But people tend to focus too much and say, “Oh, I can’t think about that! I can’t think about that!” And by doing that, they end up thinking about the very thing they’re trying not to think about.

So thank you, and I hope this was meaningful, and maybe we’ll talk again.


The Institution of Marriage: A Matter of Dedication and Constraint

11 Nov. 2009

Transcript

The Institution of Marriage: A Matter of Dedication and Constraint

 

It is indeed an honor to speak to you. I have enjoyed a wonderful marriage of 33 years, and we’ve had a lot of great experiences together. But beyond that, I have been doing this marriage and family therapy for most all of that time, and so after teaching my marriage class and family and stress class and family relations class at Weber State, I go over in the later afternoon and evening and meet with couples. And I’ve been doing that for a lot of years. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, and one of my purposes today is to help you get a vision of this bigger picture and of this institution of marriage, of which you join when you become married.

I want to begin by saying it seems like 33 years is a long time, which is longer than I was single. And we’ve had a lot of great experiences, but I want to share with you—one of my privileges is serving on the Utah Commission on Marriage. And so, for the last seven or eight years, I’ve served on that commission, and was just released as the chair of that commission. And one of the things that we do is to recognize couples who have extraordinary marriages as well as long-term marriages. And I want to introduce to you a very important theme couple for me and for my message to you today. And they are Ken and Lola Olsen. Aren’t they the cutest couple that you’ve ever seen? And I had the opportunity to take this photograph. They have been married for 70 years. That means, Pam, we only have 37 more years to go.

I want to tell you a little bit about Ken and Lola Olsen. They live in Davis County, and I’ll bet that there are people—would you raise your hand if you personally know Ken and Lola from Davis County? Do we have anyone? That surprises me, because they have touched so many lives in their lifetime together. They have 7 children, 20 grandchildren, and 35 great-grandchildren. And I would like to suggest that there are 35 great-grandchildren that are very fortunate to go over to Grandma Lola’s house and Grandpa Ken’s house. Because you can see in this picture—the reason that I love this picture so much is, one, to honor the 70 years. But it’s not just 70 years. You can see the adoration that they have for each other. They love each other, they laugh together, they have struggled together, they had these children together and grandchildren together and great-grandchildren together. And I personally have, in my office, their photo sitting on my office, just above the view of my computer. So I get to look up and glance at them, and I have made them my poster child, my vision of what is possible with Pam and me.

Come on up here for a minute. I’m a pretty lucky guy, to be married to Pam, and one of these days, we’re going to be on a poster. All right? We are going to enjoy the blessings of having spent all of these years together. And I can tell you already, with our five children and eight grandchildren—in fact, we had two of them sleep over last night—that this is a wonderful journey. And I am so grateful for those lives, those little people’s lives in our world, and I bring Ken and Lola to you today—I know, you’re thinking, “How did he get someone like that?”—I’m trying to bring to you the vision of this. So often when we get married—we just had our last daughter marry in May—it is this thought of planning a wedding, and that somehow the wedding is the marriage. And it’s a wonderful start to the marriage, and it’s even more wonderful when it’s made under covenant with your Father in Heaven. And He will bless you for time and all eternity.

But sometimes I think that we forget, in the excitement of the wedding, that this really is a long-term process, to be married, and that we really are joining—I mean, in the excitement of that wedding day, and I can remember sitting down in the temple, signing the witness form for our daughter to get married, and then coming in and signing—I don’t even think they know what they were signing. But they were signing up, at that time, to the institution of marriage. And I want to talk about that today.

To begin with, I want to go back to another story. This summer, we went up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and we ran the Snake River. We had a big raft and a friend that took us down, and we got onto the raft and we’re floating out in this beautiful, beautiful mountain setting, and we’re floating down the river, and it was getting a little bit boring, and so we had these giant squirt guns that you would fill up and you would shoot at the other rafts. So we created a little excitement and a little havoc, a little pushing away and splashing on, and it was all beautiful fun. But as we got down the river, we started to hit rapids, and all of a sudden you find yourself hanging on a little stronger. We’re all laughing, especially us guys, being brave—“That wasn’t that bad”—and then we came upon a bend and turned into the Big Kahuna. How many of you have survived the Big Kahuna? Let me tell you about the Big Kahuna. You’re in this large—seemingly large—boat, raft, we’re hanging on, and the guide tells us to hang on particularly tight. Well, what happens is that you’re cruising along and it starts to get rough, and then it goes straight down, and then it goes straight up.

Now, I did not realize that the people in front of me would be landing on me, and I’m holding on me with all of my heart, and they’re landing on me and this silly, little joyful squeals become screams of terror. We come up over the top—I was sure we’d go backwards. We didn’t, and then we came down, and we headed right down again, and then right back up again. And it was so scary, because you realized, whoa, I am such a little person compared to the power of that river. We made it through, it smoothed out for a little while, and we count heads, and everyone had survived.

And it was a humbling experience, because in life, we’re going to face some Great Kahunas. We’re going to deal with some things in our life that are challenging and are difficult. Your marriage is wonderful and beautiful and celebratory as it is at that wedding, there is going to come a time when you will be challenged. And you will be challenged with the Great Kahunas of life.

You know, Ken and Lola look so cute and look so happy, and they are. But I would like to share with you that they have endured the death of a son. They have raised a special-needs son. They had their house burn down. They’ve survived two types of cancer, had two strokes, and continue to deal with other physical ailments that they have to deal with. I don’t think you would call them lucky, on one hand, and yet, as you read their bio information, they share that their key to success is unity in all things. They work together on the same purpose and goals in every aspect of life, such as finances, childrearing, business, religion, etc. They always discuss everything and come to a unified decision before doing anything. Even after 70 years of marriage, they are always together, and looking forward to several more happy years.

I want to share with you today, keeping them in mind because for me, they sit in my office as an inspiration, as a vision of where Pam and I can go. One of the most important things that can happen when you kneel at that altar or are blessed to be married to one another, is that you make a commitment. And I want to talk to you today about that commitment.

I would like to suggest a book by Scott Stanley. And this book is called The Power of Commitment. And if you thought you understood commitment, you ought to read this book, to really understand the depth—I’m going to try to help you with some concepts today. But this would be a good read, to understand the true power of commitment in our lives, and in our marriage in particular.

There are two types, Stanley explains, of commitment. The first type he calls dedication. The dedication commitment—this is the one where you’re so excited to be together and you love each other, and you’re devoted to each other, and it gives you this motivation to see to the future and to love and to fill each other’s needs and to be the wife I want to be and the husband I want to be, and I am dedicated and I am devoted to this person for the rest of my life and for time and for all eternity. And that dedication commitment is a wonderful part. I think when you look at Ken and Lola, they love each other. They like each other! They enjoy each other. They’re there for each other, and they feel of the love and nurturing of each other. And that’s what makes the Great Kahunas doable. And that’s what makes that time together so enjoyable. And so there is that dedication commitment. And I commit to you.

But I would also suggest that sometimes dedication commitment, when the Big Kahunas come one after another, and the excitement of the wedding and the joy of that courtship time and the familiarity becomes a part—there is another layer of commitment that you are making on that day of your marriage. And we would call that a constraint commitment. The constraint commitment, basically, is a sense of obligation—I am committed and I am obligated. My sweet wife has given 33 years of her life to me, and I am obligated to take care of her as well. It refers to the costs if the current course is abandoned. During the Big Kahuna rapids in life, it is often the constraint commitments that work to help us work it out. “I’m out of here” probably isn’t in the best welfare of all of the people involved. And as you get children invested and other people invested in your relationship, it cannot be “until boredom do we part.” It cannot be until I find someone I would rather be with. And there’s an interesting social pressure.

We talk about those who might attack the institution of marriage, but it’s happening in a very subtle way. Many of you grew up, as I did, in the last few years, watching the show Friends. Isn’t that neat? One of my favorite characters is Jennifer. I don’t know—what’s her name in the show? Rachel? She’s a cutie, and she is just full of energy. And these sitcoms show a bunch of single people together, just enjoying life and having a lot of laughs. But the research shows that over the course of that program, Jennifer had 32 sexual partners. And in a subtle way, that’s what some would call a good life. He who dies with the most partners… He usually dies of AIDS, but you know, in television we don’t get pregnant when we don’t want to, and we don’t get AIDS, and we just have a good time and people kind of come into our lives and enrich it. But I would suggest that that’s a dangerous, very subtle marriage.

I tell you what—Ken and Lola have what they have today, not because they were transients in each other’s lives, but they were devoted and committed and constrained in that marriage. And yet it’s interesting—I don’t think Ken and Lola would ever use the word “constrained,” because when you are dedicated to your marriage, you don’t feel constrained. In fact, you celebrate those constraints.

But I want to talk a little bit about those constraints. I believe in marriage, and I don’t want to be divorced, and I don’t want to see the effects on my children, and financially it’s a horrible decision for anyone to go through. They don’t want to go through the pain themselves; they certainly don’t want to go through the legal system and that legal process. And probably most powerfully, I don’t want to see the pain of our children. It’s very difficult for a mother or father to do things that would be contrary to those children’s best interests. And so those constraint commitments—we are dedicated, but we’re also committed on a second level. You put those two commitments together and it’s like an epoxy glue, where you mix the one with the other and it becomes a super glue. It becomes a super bonding relationship. And it is very important. I think our society is getting away from committing to things. We tend to lease vehicles, and we trade them in after a few miles. And that seems to be our norm. And sometimes that thought pattern diminishes that commitment that we need to have for one another.

So this commitment is really important. And I want to talk to you about the institution of marriage, and what it does for us. To begin with, I’d like to share a little story of these two fish, swimming in the ocean together. They’re swimming along, enjoying life, and the one fish says to the other fish, “How’s the water?”

The other fish says, “What water?” You see, if you’ve always lived in water, you don’t even know it’s there. I would like to suggest that the institution of marriage is probably something that you haven’t really spent a lot of time pondering. We think of love, we think of partnership, but there is an institution of marriage that is very, very important and produces some very wonderful things in our lives if we will respect it and preserve it. And it’s a very important factor.

One of my intense hobbies—I am an avid wildlife photographer. And I love to go out and photograph wildlife, anything from little birds to bull moose, I’m game for. And I love to take pictures of them. The closer to nature that you get, and you really do get close to nature when you sit there for a long, long time, waiting for that bird to land on that branch or that big buck—I got a huge picture of a big buck this weekend that was just incredible. But as I get close to nature, I begin to realize that that wildlife depends on the environment. And even though I perhaps wouldn’t call myself an avid environmentalist, it is obvious that if we don’t protect the environment, these good things do not survive. If anyone can just poach whatever they want, shoot whatever they want, disregard the importance of the water—you know, we all live downstream—and we like to suggest and say, “You know, that’s just their own business.”

But I would like to suggest to you that marriage might be between a man and a woman, but it also has a big effect of the rest of us. There is a study that shows, by Dave Schramm from Utah State, in a conservative estimate, there is a direct and indirect cost to the state and federal government each year for the divorces that occur, a cost of 300 million dollars for the state of Utah, in just the cost of these marriages breaking down. There is a cost of about $18,000 for each of the couples to go through this process. And I want to go back to that overall environment. We are affected by the health and by the lack of health of the marriage and the marriage institution in our state and in our nation. In the Marriage Commission, our purpose is to help people form and sustain healthy and enduring marriages.

If we go back to Ken and Lola, those 7 children and 20 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren are the result of a marriage working and sustaining. And interestingly enough, there are some statistics that suggest that if your grandparents were divorced, it affects the quality of the marriage—on average, statistically—of the grandchildren’s quality of marriage. And that’s even if these grandchildren were not alive before those grandparents got divorced. There is a multi-generational effect of marriage in the institution of marriage.

I’d like to share some things about the institution of marriage and how it benefits us. Most of this comes from a report—actually, it was a hearing before the Congress, of Barbara Defoe Whitehead. She is the co-director of the National Marriage Project. And she points out that “marriage is a universal human institution. It performs a number of key functions in virtually every known society. Marriage helps organize kinship. It establishes family identity. It regulates sexual behavior. It attaches fathers to their offspring. It supports childrearing. It channels the flow of economic resources and the mutual care given between generations. And it situates individuals within families, kinship groups and communities.”

Perhaps even more important for me, as a marriage counselor, it creates the context for intimacy, and builds a sense of belonging among its members. It is this commitment to one another that allows us to have a secure setting for us to experience this intimacy one with another, and to be able to predict the future.

I’m going to take you back for just a minute, give you a little history here. Sometimes we don’t appreciate that the government is involved in our marriage. What are they doing involved in our marriage? But we are highly invested in it. I want to take you back to a little history of caveman. You know, the caveman, he was an interesting character. Him like sex. And so he thinks he go find a woman—kind of like Brian Mitchell and Elizabeth Smart, you know? You just find one, take her, and have sex.

Well, the problem with that is that, number one, it wasn’t mutual consent—in the Brian Mitchell case, and the age difference, obviously—but it also puts women to a major vulnerability, because in the jungle when you’re eight months pregnant, it is hard to run from the saber tooth tigers, okay? There is a vulnerability here. How am I going to survive and do the things that I need to do now that I’m pregnant? How am I going to survive when that child is born, because now I have to carry an additional load running from the saber tooth tiger? And I think eventually the tribe started to say, the parents started to say, “No, if you like my daughter, there are some rules here that need to apply.” And the tribe would say, “Yes, there are some rules that need to apply.” Eventually, churches got into the picture and said, “You know what? There are some rules that need to apply.” And as a father of four daughters, I’ll tell you what—there are some rules that need to apply.

These rules become codified and they become a part of law, and there are certain things that you’re not going to be allowed to do, and there are certain things you need to do if you’re going to decide to be together. And so this institution of marriage regulates the sexual access to other people, and it protects that couple. It ensured that not only does the caveman just disappear, but it also ensures that the cavewoman doesn’t take my son and just disappear—that there is a constraint commitment that we have made to each other, and that we will be there for each other through the two strokes, through the cancer, through the difficult child that we needed to raise that had special needs, and even through the tragic death of our son, that we will be there for you. This isn’t just caveman whoopee. This is about becoming devoted and committed to each other.

So what happens when people are devoted and committed to each other? Well, marriage is good for children. Statistically, children who come from marriages have advantages emotionally and educationally. It brings together under one roof a mother and a father who share a mutual interest in that child’s welfare. Economically, children from intact families are far less likely to be poor. Educationally, they are far more likely to stay in school, to get a four-year degree, and to be successful in their occupation.

Children benefit from the model of their parents being married. How many of you—I ask my classes this all the time—how many of you would like to have a marriage like your mother and father have? Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that wonderful that you came from a model of an example? You have your own Ken and Lola in your life that will show you how it is to be done. Isn’t that wonderful?

We also know that marriage is good for the individual adults—the spouses, the husband and wife. It says that “married people are better off than those who are not married in a number of ways. On average, they are happier. They are healthier. They are wealthier. They enjoy longer lives. They report greater sexual satisfaction than single, divorced or cohabiting individuals. They live longer. They have better health.”

They have better health because married men, in particular, are a lot better off. Marriage tends to help men settle down. This is often due to their wives. It is not good that man should be left alone for very long. And that care of the wife, and that devotion to the family, to the commitment, to the children, help men to live less risky lives and to be more devoted and interested.

Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories. Indeed, for men, marriage reaps as many benefits as education. That’s an interesting thought. This is just good stuff for us. Marriage strengthens the bonds between fathers and their children. I think one of the most painful things that I watch is fathers that do not have that daily access to their children, and children who do not have that daily access to their fathers. Women gain financially from marriage, although married women often leave the workforce to care for children or other relatives, on average, they are still economically better off than divorced, cohabitating or never-married women. It’s good for everyone involved.

Married women also enjoy their sex lives more than sexually active single or cohabitating women, a finding the researchers attribute to women’s greater trust and expectations of marital monogamy and permanence. It’s where intimacy on all levels can be safe enough to invest and to give fully, one with another.

Marriage is good for society. It is certainly important for the institution of raising children. It’s interesting that when marriages break up or fail to form, the task of childrearing becomes harder, lonelier and more stressful for parents, especially those who are single parents. Paternity establishments, child support, child custody, children’s living arrangements and even their school, sports, and religious activities, become a matter of government oversight and enforcement. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be, and that’s why the Commission of Marriage exists, because the government would like you to succeed. It is very expensive when it doesn’t work.

But even more than that, I want to share with you something that you’re probably all very familiar with called The Proclamation on the Family. It doesn’t go back to the caveman. It goes to the solemn proclamation that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God…God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between a man and woman, lawfully wedded [to be] husband and wife.”

“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.”

“We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is central to His eternal plan. “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, 1995.

My brothers and sisters, I come to you today with this message, that marriage, if you ponder it, is just a little bit bigger than “just the two of us.” Indeed, you join an institution that is there to protect you, to bless you, and to help your lives to be healthier and stronger. I hope that my message today helps you realize that institution of marriage is very important. It’s what helps us get through the “Big Kahuna.”

But lastly, I would like to suggest that all of those constraint commitments, all of those legal bonds, mean nothing—well, they do mean something—but they’re not the focus of Ken and Lola. Ken and Lola are seventy years into this process because they are dedicated to it, and they’re dedicated to be there for one another. And I believe that they really had the power when they made that commitment to one another and to their Father in Heaven. I bear testimony to you of the importance and the value of marriage in our lives. Don’t underestimate how important it is, because all of you, I hope, today, have a vision of Ken and Lola, of Pam and Randy, of you and your partner, living out a wonderful life where you are enriched, your children’s lives are enriched, your grandchildren’s lives are enriched, and the society in which you live is enriched. I bear testimony to you that marriage is ordained of God, and important to protect and preserve. And I do this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

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