Change Others by Changing Self

17 Jan. 2007

Transcript

Change Others by Changing Self


Well, Brothers and Sisters, it’s really nice to be here with you. I don’t know whether I should speak Portuguese or not, because when I first entered, someone came in and como estou falando Portugues com a gente entao eu continuarei falando? But we’ll speak English for the rest of us here today, because I notice there are other people who don’t speak Portuguese. So we’ll move on with that.

It’s really a delight to be here with you. It’s a delight to be with young people in general. How I wish I were a young person again, but I still have youth in my bones, and so that still makes it good.

I’d like to talk about something I’ve been contemplating. I read an article in the April, 2006 Ensign written by a lady named Nancy May. (By the way, I’m going to talk about various subjects here, so if you can sort of follow the bouncing ball you’ll be okay. You may take notes if you wish). Her name is Nancy May, and she made this comment: “I had faith that our family could be blessed if I worked on improving myself instead of those around me.” (Nancy May, “Our Journey to the Temple,” Ensign, April 2006). That is a very profound concept. The more I work on improving myself, I, by accident, influence another person. That is the principle. It’s a very important principle. We get tripped up on the idea that we can control someone. We can control the circumstances. If I just comb my hair this way, he’ll like me. If I just smile this way, I can get a date with her. And somehow we think we’re in control of certain circumstances.

An example of that is an engineer who is involved in constructing a bridge or a building, or a doctor who controls the surgical procedure and has a good outcome. The engineer, or the doctor, or you, or I may conclude, “I was in control of the outcome.”
 
How many of us have ever had unexpected events happen in our lives on the worst possible day? How many of us have gotten a cold on the day of our biggest final exam and we can’t even see the paper? How many of us have had a flat tire when we’re going to an interview? We’re all dressed up in our suit or our dress and everything—flat tire, out in the snow and in the mud. No? Well, you haven’t lived if you haven’t had those experiences. In one of his first messages, Elder [David A.] Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve made a very profound statement. He said, “Perhaps one of life’s ultimate lessons is that control is an illusion.” That is really profound!

We think we can control things. We can control procedure; we can control our agenda. We control our plans. We can actually control somewhat, Ladies, Sisters, our hair. Sometimes it frizzes up and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s an illusion, and that’s what Elder Bednar is saying. That is a pretty strong concept. Therefore, we really are not in control. We are especially not in control of another person or another person’s reaction to us.

Many of you, very likely, are not yet married. There is the illusion that, “If I just did X, Y and Z, he’d like me,” etc. It is the same for the young men. It’s an illusion. Now, let me talk about the hard side of that, if that isn’t hard enough. The hard side of it is many people, because of the serendipitous nature of life, are tempted to conclude, “Well, no one’s in control because all these weird things happen to me. So no one’s in control.” But the scriptures and the prophets are very clear that God is not only in control, but He is in total control. As Elder Maxwell said, a very profound statement, “God’s personal shaping influence is felt in the details of our lives.” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, June 1996, 12). Very profound.

Abraham, in the book of Abraham, said God knows “the end from the beginning,” (2:8) then in [Doctrine & Covenants] section 101: 16: “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted…for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.”

There was, I think it was in the early 1800s, a man by the name of Oliver Wendell Holmes who made an interesting statement. I’ve always liked this: “The great act of faith is when man decides that he is not God.” What does he mean? A man decides that he is not God, meaning God is in control; God is involved in our lives, even in the details. We may think we’re in control, but He is in control. When we make that decision and realize that we can only control ourselves and our thoughts, not another or circumstances, a powerful force enters our lives. That force is called faith in God, trust in His timing, and confidence in His plan for us.

Some time ago I read a Chinese proverb. I notice some Chinese students and they could probably say it in Chinese for me—a Chinese proverb that helps us with this concept. Very interesting. “Never try to teach a tiger to sing.It wastes your time and annoys the tiger.” Sometimes a young woman may waste her time trying to get that guy to like her, and it may in the end turn out to be a waste of time and annoy the fellow. And we could say that in reverse for the young men, right? Young men are equally in that boat trying to teach the tiger to sing your song, and that’s not how it happens.

Well, let’s talk about trust in His timing for just a minute. I asked Matt Tittle, “Are any of the students taking Calculus?” He answered, “Well, yes, there are some students taking Calculus.” And I said, “Oh, boy, I’m at home then,” because in Calculus you find out about time—what kind of a variable is time? Almost always on the x-axis. It’s called an independent variable. And an independent variable means I can’t control it. I can’t control time.

Elder Maxwell said about time that, “Life is so designed that we constantly feel time and its ‘prickly’ presence.” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Content with the Things Allotted unto Us,” Ensign, May 2000, 72). It is just those untoward circumstances, those unusual circumstances in our lives that are of the prickly presence of time. It is probably those instances that are the greatest teaching moments of our lives, because we can possibly adopt a repentant attitude, and we can probably do it because we really are in control of ourselves. We are in control of our thoughts and our words and our deeds. And more importantly, we are in control of our reaction to what someone else does to us. We control that. We can get bitter, angry, upset, or we can find another solution. But we’ll talk about that in just a second.

President Faust said this, and I thought it was so profound: “It is not so much what happens to us, but how we deal with what happens to us,” (James E. Faust, “Where Do I Make My Stand?” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 18). It is so important to realize that it isn’t what happens to us—it is our reaction. Did we overreact, under react, etc. to what is transpiring in our lives?

Confidence in His plan? I guess the question can always be asked, “Why the serendipitous nature of life?”And we are reminded of a thought—I think James Allen said this: “Circumstances do not make the man, but reveal the man [or woman] to himself, to others, and to God.” One set of circumstances that are ugly, bad, or sad can make one person bitter, discontented and angry. That same set of circumstances to another person can make them grateful, happy, and appreciative. Isn’t that interesting? It depends on our attitude of how we want to view the external forces that happen in our lives.

I think a very important thing happens in your age group and maybe even a little younger. We start to notice what I call “fairness.” It is how we react when those who do not live God’s commandments seemingly get ahead. They get the new car; they get the good job; they get a lot of money; they get a nice house; and they got the girl. I’m working hard, living the commandments, serving, scraping the snow off the sidewalks, and no one even noticed me doing that. There’s a very important scripture in 3rd Nephi 24. It is particularly important because of who wanted this chapter in 3rd Nephi. You will notice that this is one of the few chapters in the Book of Mormon that the Lord himself commands the Nephites to record. So it must be a pretty important chapter.
 
In verse 1: “And it came to pass that he [the Savior] commanded them [the Nephites] that they should write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi, which he should tell…them.” The Savior then repeats the words that were given to the prophet Malachi, for the Nephites. So chapter 24 should be pretty important.

Back to the question of fairness. Starting in verse 13: “Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say: What have we spoken against thee?” Well, we grumbled.We said, “They got it and I didn’t. They got all the good things and I got nothing.”

Malachi says it this way in the scripture: “Ye have said: It is vain to serve God…what doth it profit that we have kept his ordinances and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts?” We did all our home teaching, we did all the things that we are supposed to do.
“And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another [in these meetings and other meetings that you have] and the Lord hearkened and heard; and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.”
And then the Lord says: “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (verses 13-17).

Not for a second does the Lord miss a person. He sees all that we do. He knows fairness and unfairness. He had more unfairness given to him than anyone on the earth.He was the Son of God, and they reviled him and spit on him, and he suffered all of those things.

Well, we still need to set goals. We still need to make plans. We still need to serve. We need to do those things, but we need to recognize that we simply control the procedure. We control the agenda of the things that are going to happen in life, but we don’t control the outcome.

This particular statement by Nancy May is particularly important because when we decide to improve our lives and ourselves, we, by accident, influence another person. By accident. Not by planning; by accident.

I have just one quick little example. When I was a bishop I had a real good-looking, about 25-year-old girl come into my office. She said, “Bishop, I don’t know why I can’t get any dates .I don’t know what’s happening.”

Well, I looked at her and I thought, “I don’t know what’s happening either.” She was real pretty, and she hadn’t had a date in four years!

She said, “What am I doing wrong, or what’s happening?” We talked about this very principle: “You can control only yourself. Why don’t you read the scriptures, every day?”I gave her some scriptures to read. “Why don’t you fast once a month, then fast for special help?” and a number of things like this. She started to focus on how she could improve herself and her relationship with the Lord. We’re happy to report that three or four months later, she found a real nice fellow, and six months later they were married.

Improving ourselves is the key. Look inward so that we can unravel some of these things. Let me give you some steps of how to do this really quickly, some ideas that you may want to consider. In Moroni 7:19: “Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren [and sisters], that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil.” Now think about that for a second. Search diligently that ye may know good from evil? No, that is not what the scripture says. It says “search diligently in the light of Christ” because you can search diligently listening to talk-show hosts on TV, and you may not know the difference between good and evil. It says “Search diligently in the light of Christ, that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing…ye certainly will be a child of Christ.”

So we have to search diligently and then lay hold upon the thing that is good. Let me give you some “search diligently” ideas. You know, thinking about that, let me tell you a quick aside. A man or woman doesn’t choose evil because it’s evil. They do it because they mistake evil for good, because they didn’t listen to the light of Christ to help them determine between good and evil. We don’t say, “Well, I’m going to choose evil today.” We only mistake it for something that is good in our lives. That is why we need the light of Christ in our lives.

We all know very 19 in the 130th section of the Doctrine and Covenants pretty well. Here are some suggestions as to how to improve ourselves. Search diligently in the light of Christ. And then in the 130th section: “And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life—how?—through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”

So diligent searching and obedience is another tip. You can all quote Mosiah 3:19 verbatim, right? We will just read it so we don’t miss a word here: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever…unless—and notice the word here—unless he yields [it isn’t “unless my girlfriend yields, my boyfriend yields,” it is unless I yield] to the enticings of the…Spirit.” That is how we get away from being a natural man in our lives.
 
In 1 Nephi 11 I think is one of the great scriptures of the process, what I call the process for improvement in life. I’m going to take it apart a little bit and maybe add a few words here. I think there are four steps that are mentioned here in 1 Nephi 11:1: “It came to pass after I had desired to know the things…my father had seen….” So the first step is desire. Remember Elders and Sisters when you were missionaries? The desire is the same kind of desire you had when you read Moroni 10:4-5 to non-members. “If you search with a sincere heart and with real intent.” We really mean it. I really want to know.I really want to know something. I really have the desire. Really.

“And believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me.” What does that mean? What is that? That is exactly what Oliver Wendell Holmes said. He is God. He knows more than I do. He knows the end from the beginning, and I am in His hands. I will trust Him. That is the real believing.

Then, “I sat pondering in mine heart.” That is the third step. Pondering in my heart. How do we ponder in our hearts? Elder Richard G. Scott talks about this a lot.We quietly—and “quietly” may infer turning the radio down, and the TV off—and quietly sit there and wait for the Lord to talk with us.It is pretty hard for that still, small voice to enter our ears and hearts when the radio is pretty loud. I’m not against radios; there is a certain time for them. But pondering is to think deeply. It is to have it really deeply in our heart.

The final step: “I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had … set my foot.” He is saying the fourth step of improvement is that we have to go to a place that is a new place. We have never been there before. We have to leave our comfort zone. We have to be open so that we can be teachable. And that, Brothers and Sisters, is scary because we open ourselves up.“Heavenly Father, will you teach me?” We might hear things about ourselves that may be uncomfortable because we just had to go to that high mountain top. We had to go to a different place to learn about ourselves and that is scary.

I’d like to finish talking about three other issues. One was control and all of those things we talked about—improving ourselves, etc. The next thing is scary, and that’s called “fear.” So many of us have fear, and sometimes fear is good. Not very many of us like pain. I was a surgeon and when a person came in and said, “I’ve got pain right here,” I’d poke around and do some tests and so forth and say, “Yep, you need to go to the operating room; we’re going to…”“Oh, no, hold on.We’re not going there.”

It is so interesting—it is when we feel pain enough that we go to the doctor. I remember when I had my appendicitis attack. I was 50 years old.I remember having it diagnosed and, oh boy, it hurt. I went to see my friend, and yes, “I had it, I had appendicitis.” Would you operate on me?”
 
He poked around, and “Yep, you do. We are going in.”

“Great. Give me my morphine, I’m going to sleep and you take it out.” See what I am saying? No one likes pain. Pain, the pain of rejection, the pain that this person doesn’t react to me like I’d like him to react to me, the uncomfortable things in life, the hurts in life that we have—none of us like those. The scary things, “I’m going to open myself up, and oh, someone may see me for who I really am.” That’s scary because I’m not much.” At any rate, that’s what we think. But that is not true because we are all something.

The great French philosopher Molier (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin),said, “Doubts are more cruel than the worst of truth.” Doubts are more cruel than the worst of truth. You can tell the worst thing about me, and I could just sort of shrug my shoulders and say, “Yep, that’s me all right.” But when we doubt and when we have fear, why is it so cruel? It is cruel because it paralyzes us. We are paralyzed. We don’t do anything. “Oh, I’d better hide.” We hide. We avoid. We make excuses, etc.

What is the antidote to fear? “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30). We have all heard that. When the final exam comes, and if you are prepared, you say, “Hey, bring it on. I am ready. I may not get an A, I may not get a 99, but I am ready. Bring it on.” Right? Or, “Are you kidding? That is going to be the hardest test. I don’t have any idea what is happening here in the class.”Right, and you are in trouble. Now you have fear because you didn’t prepare.

There is another way around fear and we all have read it in the 8th chapter of Moroni, verse 16: “For perfect love casteth out all fear.” And you say, “Oh, that’s easy. I love everybody.” That is not perfect love. Moroni tells us exactly how to get perfect love.

So, we read verses 25 and 26, “The first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins;
“And the remission of sins bringeth meekness” (meekness, by the way, is teachableness) “…and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love.” You see, it is the Comforter. It is when we have the Comforter, when we have the Holy Ghost, when we have repented of our sins. The Comforter comes over us and gives us confidence, and we then don’t have that fear in our lives. Let’s suppose that we haven’t gained that yet. We are not prepared for our final exam and we don’t have perfect love yet. What do we almost universally do, every one of us, with pain? “Whoa, not me.” Avoid it. We all want to avoid those hard things in life, right? But you remember what Elder Bruce R. McConkie said? He said it this way, “The pursuit of easy things makes men weak.”

Okay, we decide these hard things are really hard, so we are going to avoid them. Then the second thing we do, usually, is make excuses, or we start blaming, or we start complaining. Have you ever thought why we get the story of Laman and Lemuel on page four of the Book of Mormon? We find out that Laman and Lemuel did murmur in many things against their father.

“And Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them” (1 Nephi 2:12). See? Murmuring is a form of excuse making. “Oh, well, it is impossible. I can’t do it.”

The classic statement of Laman and Lemuel is in chapter 3, verse 31: “And after the angel had departed” (they even had an angel come to them) “Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying”—what a classic statement now— “How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands?” What? An angel just talked to me!An angel talked to me!They still want to make excuses, to blame. “How could that happen? How can the Lord do that?” But you know, Brothers and Sisters, they were actually right. Laban was a tough guy.

That reminds me of two quotes. One was by Benjamin Franklin who said, “Those who are good at making excuses are generally not good at anything else.” And we see this in Laman and Lemuel from page four on in the Book of Mormon. But I’ll tell you a more sobering one was by President Kimball. President Kimball said, “Any excuse, even though valid, always weakens the character.” That is what happened to Laman and Lemuel.

They were right, Brothers and Sisters. Laban was a big, tough guy. He had soldiers around him.He could have wiped them out. They were scared. How could they do it? How could they get around Laban instead of trusting in the Lord? Do you see? The excuses didn’t help. That is what President Kimball said, “Any excuse, even though valid, always weakens the character of the person.”

So we have talked about fear and excuse making. The third thing I would like to talk about briefly is “selfishness.” You know, the purpose of a mission for missionaries, women and men, is President Hinckley’s quote on the purpose of a mission, “is to turn a selfish boy into a selfless man.”

What is that all about? It is a very simple concept. Selfishness is an easy concept. It is “me, me, me, me, me.” “My ears are too big.” “My nose is too big and the boys won’t like me.” “My hair is too curly.”  “My lips are too small.” It’s “me, me, me.” As opposed—and don’t get confused—as opposed to what we talked about earlier. When we talk about looking inside ourselves, it is to be honest with ourselves. “Yes, I have a big nose, and I’ll be just fine because I have my relationship with the Holy Ghost and God to give me comfort, peace, and direction in my life.”

It is also different than focusing on those things that we need to do to improve our lives because when we do that, the Lord takes us to our own mountaintop and says, “You know what?Your ears are not that bad. Your heart is a lot bigger than others.” He has a way to sort of calm us.

I would like to talk for the next few minutes about the next issue, which is truth and its relationship to decision making. I have jumped around in topics, but I think this may be helpful. You know, there are those in the outside world and even among the Church who believe there are only relative truths. I love the comment by Elder Russell M. Nelson. He said, “Of course, the truth isn’t relative. It is only man’s understanding of truth that is relative.” Don’t be fooled by your friends who are whatever—scientific, etc. It is the understanding of truth that is relative, and that understanding may have to be augmented over the course of time.

Since you are in the educational environment right now, I would like to suggest something that President Kimball said that would be helpful. “It is important to know that the treasures of both secular and spiritual knowledge are hidden ones”—I thought that was so interesting—“hidden from those who do not properly search and strive to find them.”

Calculus actually is fun—if you, yourself grind it out. My son came to me one time and he said, “Dad, just give me the answer, will you?” Some of my children wouldn’t come to me because I would say, “Ahh, that is great. Let’s go back to basics, and we will figure this out.” Whoa. “No, no, Dad. You don’t understand. I only want the answer to the problem and get on with life.” Has that ever happened to you?Y ou see, hidden treasures have to be, as President Kimball said, “hidden from those who do not properly search and strive to find them.” Then he said, “Spiritual knowledge is not available merely for the asking. Even prayers are not enough. It takes persistence and dedication of one’s life.”

When these treasures are discovered by ourselves, we then correctly recognize and value the Lord’s inspiration in our own lives. “I’m just out in a little apartment somewhere here on Third Avenue and I worked through a calculus problem, and the answer came. To me, alone in that dingy apartment.” It gives us the knowledge that God is there to help us if we properly do the things the way He’d like them done. We’re diligent, we’re obedient, and so forth. We have to be obedient to the rules of calculus or we don’t get the answer. You can’t guess. Some of you probably know this. You can’t guess answers to calculus problems. And if you can, I’d better talk to your professors here, because that is not the way to do it.

Well, it’s because, Brothers and Sisters, you learn to value God’s inspiration in your personal life at home when you are all alone. You are in the dark and all of a sudden, you are just illuminated by God to give you that answer and help you through that problem.That is why you have a testimony. That is when our testimony is strengthened that he is there, that he answers our prayers.And that is maybe why Elder Nelson said this: “There are few rewards as exciting as the discovery of truth.” Few rewards touch us so deeply as when we have discovered truth on our own.It wasn’t our dad; it wasn’t our mom; and it wasn’t the professor.It was you in the room that did it.

The next issue is the acceptance of truth. You know the scripture talks about how the truth will make us free? (see John 8:32). It is when we accept truth that it makes us free. Free from what? Free from ambivalence, free from ambiguity, free from tentativeness, free from excuse making, free from ignorance. That is what the truth does, when we really go after it and search for it. We aren’t totally baffled in which decision we should make. It is clear. I want to do the good things in life. We have worked it through on our own and the Lord talked to us and said, “You are okay. Go forth. Do this.” We get that kind of blessing. Because we get it without what Laman and Lemuel did, without debate, without side-stepping and without hesitancy, we grab the truth and say, “That is it! I have it! I’m going to do this!” And our life turns into something very beautiful.

It is my testimony there is a power and a beauty inherent in truth itself that gives us complete commitment in our lives. It gives us clarity to our decisions and it gives us certainty that our path in life is according to God’s will for us. Remember Joseph Smith in Lectures on Faith.

So Brothers and Sisters, please pay the price because I want to testify to you it is worth it. It is worth it when your eyes are hurting, studying so hard. You will start to get things happening. I know that happens.I know it is true.

The other thing I would like to say is because God is fair and because He is no respecter of persons, it is up to us in life to make things happen. He will be fair. It will rain on the wicked and on the righteous. He is no respecter, whether you came from China, Brazil, or Lincoln, Nebraska.

What is the blessing we get? It is in the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 40. What a blessing we get if we follow some of the steps He has outlined for us: “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy,” etc. Or in other words, in simple words, if we do the best we can to be the best we can, and try the hardest we can, God will match us up, usually with someone else who is also trying to get intelligence like you are. He will also match us up with someone else who is trying to get truth like you are. Truth will embrace truth. Virtue will love virtue. See? We don’t really have to talk about morality in this meeting. We all know morality. It is in our bones. It is in us. But virtue loveth virtue. So when you try hard and you do the best you can, the Lord—because He is in control—willhelp find someone who also loves virtue the way you do in life.

Brothers and sisters, this gospel is proof Joseph was that great prophet. The Savior paid for our sins and there are holy men on the face of the earth today. They are the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. They are holy men and they are the prophets of God on the earth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Prayer and Goal Setting Bring Success

24 Jan. 2007

Transcript

Prayer and Goal Setting Bring Success

 
It’s a real pleasure to be here. The fact is, on a morning like this, it’s a great day to be here for two reasons: number one, because it is a great morning, and number two, because I’m truly speaking to brothers and sisters at this time. You are truly my brothers and sisters. And I have some great news for you. You today are in the right place at the right time. 
 
Now then, let me explain a little bit about that. There are many of you here who have traveled a long ways in order to attend LDS Business College, and you’re wondering if you should be here right now. Perhaps you should be home, where many of you have some concerns with family or friends who are having some health problems. And you’re wondering if you should be with them. Some of you are wondering if you should even be here at the College, that there may be some place else you should be. Or you’re concerned about your educational goals.
 
Well, you are right now in the right place at the right time. All of these other plans and difficulties and trials that you’re looking at are secondary. You’re in the time of life that is probably the most important time of your life. And you’re getting an education at a wonderful institution with wonderful teachers and wonderful staff who care a lot about you. So stay right here and get that education. You are in the right place at the right time.
 
Now then, let’s talk a little bit about the scriptures for just a moment. We’ll take a look in Matthew 7:7-8. There’s a statement there that says: “Ask, and it shall be given you.” Then it goes on to say, “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
 
“For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him who knocketh it shall be opened” unto him.
 
Have we got some sort of translation error in the New Testament, when Matthew says “Knock”? Or when he says, “Ask and ye shall receive”? If we go over to the Doctrine and Covenants, over in section 4, verse 7, we have it a little simpler. It simply says: “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.”
 
Have we got another mistranslation in the Doctrine and Covenants? How many times have we gone to the Lord and asked, and we did not receive the answer we wanted? Does the Lord answer prayers? The Lord answers all prayers, but he has three answers. One is “yes,” two is “no,” and three is “later.”
 
What is the answer we want when we go to the Lord in prayer? “Yes and Now.” I mean, we want yes and now. I don’t think that when the Lord had in mind that we were to go to Him and ask and we shall receive, that He had in mind that every time we ask it was going to be “yes and now.” And I think maybe what the Lord really had in mind was goal setting. 
 
Now what’s the difference between goal setting and prayers? They’re both wanting something. And we’re wanting it now. Let’s take a look at it and see. Prayer has a formal beginning and a formal ending, but usually we want that answer of “yes and now” whereas in setting a goal, we’re willing to delay the answer for a period of time. So let’s talk about what it takes to make a goal and see if the Lord keeps his promise that if we ask we shall receive, using it in terms of goals.
 
One of the things we need to do if we’re going to set a goal, the number one—and boy, if you’ve got your note paper here, this is really important, because it is fundamentally true, and that is—you have to write the goal down. If you don’t write the goal down, you are merely making a wish. And I don’t know if the Lord grants wishes. But if you’ll write that goal down, that’s the first step that you need to do in attaining what you want. 
 
The second part of any goal is you need to set an exact date by when you want it accomplished.   And then the third step of goal setting is you need a plan. Three steps of setting a goal.
 
Now then, let’s give an example of how it works. Now, I’ve heard that the boys at LDS Business College are pretty smooth. Now let’s say, boys, that you have a young lady in your accounting class who you would like to take to the show. Now, being the smooth LDS Business College boys that you are, I’m sure that you’ll immediately go up to this young lady and say, “Would you like to go to the show with me Friday night?”
 
But there might be some who are not quite sure of themselves, and they have a little fear in their hearts to go up and ask this good-looking girl in their accounting class to go out on a date, so you have two choices. You can either say a prayer, and this is how your prayer goes: “Lord, you know that I’m kind of shy and bashful, and I really have a hard time asking this young lady for a date. Would you please have her call me tomorrow night and have her ask me to go to the show, so that I can say yes? And Lord, I tell you, I’ll really be happy and I’ll really be pleased if you did this for me.” What are your chances?
 
Let’s use a goal-setting technique. You still see this good-looking girl in your class, and so you say, well, okay, let’s write down the first step which is to take this good-looking girl to the show. I’ve always wanted to see “Batman Returns.” So we’ll put, “Take this good-looking girl to see ‘Batman Returns’.” That’s the second step, so you look down at your agenda and you say, well, I’ve got Friday night open, I’ll put, “Friday at the 7 o’clock show.”
 
Well, we’ve got the first two steps down; now the third step is a plan. Oh, no! This is going to be the hardest part of all. We’ve got to make a plan. So you say, I’ve got to know her name; I’ve got to get introduced. So as the class leaves that next day, you’re kind of watching to see who she goes and talks to. And you find somebody that she’s going to go talk to, and after the class is over you say, “Tomorrow at class, will you please introduce me?” “Oh, yeah, yeah, no problem. We’ll get you introduced.”
 
So you wrote that down, to get an introduction and the next day you did get the introduction. Then you say, well, I’ve got to have a phone number. So then you start going to Student Services and other people and you start digging up anything you can find until you finally find a phone number. Ahh, you’re ready. You know, on a difficult assignment like this, there’s no way you could just fact-to-face ask her; you’ve got to do it over a telephone. It’s so much easier over a phone. So now the night comes, you’ve got her name; you’ve got her phone number. You’ve been introduced and so now you pick up the phone. 
 
Well, what are you going to say? You’d better have it written down. And so you write it down right there—her name is Julie. “Hi, Julie. This is Sterling Larsen.  We were introduced today in accounting class. And I’m wondering if you would like to go to the show with me Friday night at 7 o’clock to see ‘Batman Returns’.” Hey, it’s all written down. All you had to do was read the script. It’s there. 
 
Now then, she’s got a choice of two answers—yes or no. You’d better have something down for each answer. So if she says yes, you say, “Great! Please give me your address and I’ll pick you up at 6:30 and we’ll be to the show by 7 o’clock.” Now if she says no, then you say, “Well, I’m sorry that you’re busy that night, but would it be all right if I give you a call and ask you again to go to the show with me?” Chances are that she’ll say yes, even if she said no originally.
 
Now, which way is going to work best—the prayer method or the goal method? Probably the goal method is going to work best, I’d guess. But there are also two other requirements for attaining the succession or completion of your goals. One of them is in Proverbs 29:18. It says without vision, the people perish. What does it mean for vision? Why is vision so important? What is vision? Vision is to see. Let’s utilize this in our goal program of being able to see, and we’ll call that visualization. You need to be able to visualize the completion of that goal. And so what you do is, you’ve got this date lined up with Julie and you’re visualizing in your mind the fact that you’re going to the show; you’re visualizing in your mind picking her up; you’re visualizing in your mind the good time that you’re going to have. It’s all in your mind. You’re visualizing. You’re seeing it in your head. Now how important is visualizing it? Well, it’s very important. The fact is, I’m going to suggest when we move on a little bit farther that when you seek a goal and you really want that goal, that you take as much as five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening on doing nothing but visualizing the completion of your goal in all of the aspects surrounding the accomplishment of that goal. So the next step in setting goals and attaining goals is the visualization concept.
 
Now the fifth and final step is also from Proverbs 23:7: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” What does it mean to think? Well, thinking is generally that self-talk that goes on in your head. You’ve got this self talk. You’re telling yourself this, or you’re telling yourself that, and it goes on and on. And sometimes you can’t stop it, and sometimes you don’t know what you’re thinking. But it’s basically self-talk. How can we apply self-talk to attaining goals? The word is “aphorisms.” Aphorisms are short, pointed thoughts that you give to yourself that are positive, and they’ll help you. For instance, let me give you some aphorisms. “I like myself. I’m a good person. People like me. I like to go to school. I love the day! I love people I know I can get a good grade from my accounting class. I know that I can accomplish this goal.”
 
During the day, you give yourself aphorisms—little self-talk to yourself through the day. Now, you say, what happens when these other thoughts pop into my mind? Well, you can’t help it. I’m probably the first to admit that sometimes you get thoughts in your mind that you do not want there. But you have control over how long they stay there, so as soon as you recognize that you have a thought that is not a positive aphorism, you immediately get it out of there. You’ve heard some methods of getting it out of there. One is maybe singing a Church hymn. You know, “Come, come ye saints,” or something like this. And maybe it’s a better concentration on your goal. But you can immediately move back by giving yourself positive aphorisms.
 
Is this important? Yes it is. In fact, you are today—each one of you; each one of us—are exactly the way that we want to be. Now you’re saying, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute, that can’t be true. I don’t have this and I don’t have that, and he has this and…” But because of a series of visualizations and aphorisms that you have developed in your life over the last twenty years, you are today exactly the kind of person that you want to be. You are exactly the kind of person that you’ve been visualizing and giving yourself self-talk about for the last twenty years. You do the things that you want to do; you are the way that you want to be.
 
Well, some of you say, “I’d like to change. Can I change?” The answer is yes. Yes, you can change. You can be anything you want to be. The Lord says, “Ask, and ye shall receive.” But you need to know what it is you want to be. You have to write down that goal of what you want to be and then you’ve got to use your visualization and your aphorism self-talk to make yourself believe you’re this new person. And over a period of time, I promise you that you can become that new person.
 
Let me give you an example of a goal when I first became acquainted with the technique of goal-setting many years ago, and share with you my experience of how it went. Thirty years ago, I was living in a neighborhood and had just left the field of education and started into the field of real estate. One of the classic examples of being a real estate salesman is that a real estate salesman is synonymous for the most part with being unemployed. If somebody tells you he’s a real estate salesman, he’s substantially saying, “I don’t have a job.” It’s hard work, and for a while you don’t make much money. You really don’t. But I had a real interest in having a nice home in a nice area where I could take my wife and family to live. 
 
So, I followed the goal-setting techniques. The first thing I did was go through a series of magazines and pictures and finally I decided on exactly what my new house was going to look like. I cut that picture out, and I thirty years ago taped it to my closet door in my bedroom. I knew the house I wanted. Then I started on my visualizations. I took the five minutes in the morning and the five minutes at night, and visualized the house I wanted. I used the positive aphorisms—“I can find this house. I know one exists. I know the Lord would want to put us in this house.” And then I started driving around nice neighborhoods looking for my home.
 
I found it. One day I drove down a dead-end street and there was my house. And it was empty and it had a “For Sale” sign on it. Wow! I couldn’t believe the good luck I had. I went back and got my wife and we came out and we went through it together. The door was open; we didn’t have to get a real estate agent. And we walked through the house. It was perfect!  It was just exactly like the picture on my closet door, and it was for sale and we wanted it. The only problem is, I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have any credit. 
 
So I’d started in real estate and I was working for a broker. So I said to the broker, “Let me make up an offer and you take it to him and see what he says.” The broker said, “Fine.” 
 
So I wrote up an offer and I went to my broker, and this is what it said: “Number one—I want you (the seller) to carry it on contract.” In other words, I will be making you the payments instead of borrowing the money and making the payment to a bank. So number one, it was a contract sale. “Number two: I don’t have any money, so there will be no down payment. Number three: I can’t afford the payments anyway so what I will do is make half payments—one-half payments—and someday, when I have enough money, I’ll pay you back the other half of the payments. And then, number four: I don’t have any money for taxes and insurance, so along with the half payments, you have to pay taxes and insurance.” And that was the offer I submitted.
 
Needless to say, the seller threw my broker physically out of the door. That was the end of that. But did I stop visualizing? No. Had I stopped doing my aphorisms? No. Did I still have my picture on the wall? Yes. Was that still my house? Yes.
 
Two months went by. The house was vacant, and still for sale. I went to my broker again and I said, “Please present this offer a second time.” He did, and was thrown out. Two more months go by; the house is still vacant. And all at once my broker got a phone call. It was the seller. He wanted to meet with my broker and see if we could work out something. My broker met with him.  He essentially accepted the contract as it was, and a week later I moved into that empty home.
 
Five years went by before I could finally pay that seller off with a loan. I was able to get a loan five years later and pay off that seller. But I’m living in my dream home. I told my wife that we will never move, and that when I die she just needs to put me in a green garbage bag and set me out on the porch. That’s all the funeral I want. I’m happy where I am, and I’ve been there thirty years. So this is an example of how it worked in my life, and that’s why I’m so excited about goal setting.
 
Now then, let me talk about some of the results that you can get from this. Many years ago, there was a man by the name of Earl Nightingale. He has long passed away, but when I was young he was quite popular in those days. And Earl Nightingale had a wonderful story, and I’ve never forgotten it from thirty years ago. He told of a wonderful ship. The ship was down to the docks. It was a wonderful ship—well-prepared, well built, had all the latest steering mechanisms, had all of the guidance systems. And then for a period of several days, they were bringing down valuable cargo to put into that ship. The cargo would be put into the hold, and the boat was ready to go. And then finally, when the cargo was loaded, the boat was ready to sail, the crew was manned and ready to go, they pushed off from the dock. 
 
But the captain was not on board. They got out on the ocean and the boat would go this way, and the boat would go that way, and travel around, and nobody quite knew where they were going, and everybody had a guess. And pretty soon, that boat ended up shipwrecked on a deserted beach.
 
Now then, Earl Nightingale makes this comparison: He says, now, let’s say that boat is you—your body. And that that valuable cargo is that brain that’s inside your head. And now let’s say that what happens is that when that boat gets ready to leave the dock, the captain—who knows where he’s going—gets on board. What are the chances now of that boat reaching its destination? I mean, it’s the same boat; it’s the same cargo; it’s the same crew. The only difference is the captain knew where the boat was going. The chances of its getting there are excellent. All he needed was to know where you’re supposed to go.  And that’s the same way with goal setting. If we know where we’re supposed to go, we can get there. 
 
If we don’t know where we go, it’s a little like Earl Nightingale said in a second example. I’ve always liked this one. He says let’s visualize that what you want to do is go to Chicago. Now, back in those days—and I’m really old—back in those days, we didn’t fly very much on airplanes; we took trains. So what Earl Nightingale said is, let’s assume that we’re going to leave Salt Lake City and our goal is Chicago. So we get on the train for Chicago. And let’s say the train is going along and pretty soon it gets to Ogden. Well, when it gets to Ogden, Ogden looks like a nice place and so you get off the train. Well, when you’re off the train, you’ve got some things to do and you’re doing this and that and you can take the later train. You know you’re headed for Chicago, but you’ve got some things to do. And you might be there for a couple, three years. And then you think, wait a minute. I was supposed to go to Chicago. That was my goal. So you find the next train and you get on one to Chicago this time, and it goes along and pretty soon it gets to, maybe, Omaha. And Omaha looks like a good town, and so you get off at Omaha and you see this going on and that going on, and this looks fun and that looks fun, and this disaster happens and you just can’t get yourself out of Omaha. And finally several years go by and you get back on the train.
 
Well, you go a little bit farther and one more time you get sidetracked, and this time it’s permanent and you never make it to Chicago. What has gone wrong? Now, if the Lord says that you ask and you’re going to receive, He makes a pretty specific demand that you be pretty serious. If you’re going to Chicago on that train from Salt Lake City, you better get on the train and you get to Chicago. This idea that we can kind of stray or move off the strait and narrow—or do other things that aren’t related to our goal, or if we don’t practice our visualizations, or if we don’t use positive aphorisms every day in our daily dealings so that our minds are always positive and always concentrated on our goals—the Lord is going to say, well, you’re not really that serious about it. If he’s not really that serious about it, why should I help him? Because now, I’m going to reveal to you one of the greatest secrets—and it’s truly a secret, because not very many people know about it—one of the greatest secrets that you’ll ever hear in your life. And that is, the Lord can perform miracles for you. It was a miracle for me, when I had done everything I could do to obtain that new home. There was nothing more I could do, but the Lord knew I was serious about getting it. He then intervened with a miracle. When it was absolutely impossible, He intervened with a miracle. And the same thing will happen to you, if you are dedicated to that goal. If you want it so badly that you will do your visualizations night and day, that you will do your aphorisms every day, then when you come up against that stone wall and you can’t go any farther, the Lord will then intervene with a miracle. But boy, He makes sure that you do all that you can first. If you’re not dead serious on where you want to go, the Lord is going to say, “Well, if he’s not that serious about it, then he can kind of work it out on his own. But if he is dead serious, I will help.” 
 
Now then, in closing, let me give you my testimony that the Lord truly loves us—that the scripture in Matthew where it says, “Ask, and ye shall receive,” is a true scripture. The Lord wants you to be happy. The Lord wants you to have the things that you want. But you’ve got to know what you want, and you’ve got to be serious about it. The Lord will give you the happiness that you truly want and deserve if you’ll do those things that He asks you to. And what we’ve outlined today in setting some goals and looking closely at the scripture in Matthew 7:7-8 and in the Doctrine and Covenants 4:7, He has outlined what it takes for you to become the kind of person that you want to be and to have the kind of job you’d like to have. And remember, you are in the right place at the right time. By applying the goals that you want to have in your life, to be the kind of person that you want to be, you now have the blueprint for success. I leave you my testimony this works.  I’ve used it in my life for thirty years, and if it works for me, it works for you. The Lord loves you. I appreciate being here and sharing this with you, and I leave you my testimony in Jesus’ name, amen.

Reach out to Temple Square

31 Jan. 2007

Transcript

Reach out to Temple Square

 

My brothers and sisters, I have known President Woodhouse longer than I’ve known my wife. I love him—not as much as I love my wife, but I love him. And you know he is lovable. I’ve seen for years the influential hand that he has had in guiding the direction of this college. 

I read the newspaper with glee as things were relocated from South Temple to here, and it struck me as I came in today—for years I came as an elected official into the quarters next door, which was KSL Radio and TV, and visited there on a regular basis for news of the local government and issues that frankly were not as edifying as what goes on here. And as Brother Craig Nelson and I met down in the parking lot this morning, as I stepped out of the car, I commented to Betty Lou, “The mood has changed on this block of the city. This is not the same block. This is not the same building or edifice.” I can sense that because I’ve been here a lot. I praise you, President, and your colleagues—and I see some of your faculty whom I have known for years and some of your staff—dear, dear, devoted people. So if I weep occasionally this morning, I feel like I’m home, and I feel like I’m among friends.

The choicest place that any person in the Church can be is to teach worthy, wonderful people and those aspiring—sometimes letting the past go, or trying to put their arms around the future. It is a wonderful, beautiful gift to be able to instruct and meet and deal with you, and to hear your views of life, and how the gospel comes to you, and as you look to the future. Someone said, a great historian, that the history of the past—and I look at this as an historian—the history of the past is a race between chaos and education. You take chaos out of your life and get more predictability in your life as you come here to enhance your skills and improve yourself and make certain that your earnings will be greater than they would have had you just been coasting along, letting life impact you and reacting to it. So I praise you for being good students. I know most of you, if you’re the kind of students that have to go to school nowadays—you’re working, many of you, eight hours or six hours a day. 

I taught very recently at one of the other institutions in this valley, and I saw Taco Bell and McDonald managers come in, closing up at 2:00, meeting a 7:00 or and 8:00 o’clock class. And I went down on one knee, just thankful that they were able to do that, and to further their lives. And I suspect that’s the way it is for most of you. Some of you are raising families and have a sympathetic spouse or parent that will let you lean on his or her pocketbook. Hopefully that occurs occasionally. I praise you for that. And I come to you today, very raw as a mission president on Temple Square. I think because the President and I know each other, he thought that I’d probably been around there a long time. I’m very raw as a mission president. I’m not seasoned. But occasionally raw vegetables are better than cooked and seasoned folk, so if I appear a little raw today, give me some slack, will you? Give me some slack.

I want to share briefly with you a perspective on Temple Square, and start with February 14, 1853, and then talk about what’s going on in the Square today with a mission at Temple Square—who comes there, the remarkable magnetism of Temple Square, and an invitation to you to feel the Spirit in your life, and then a statement of my belief and testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. 

In 1853, Valentine’s Day, February—that’s when ground was broken, February 1853 at Temple Square for the Salt Lake Temple. I looked at an account of a man who went to be there at the groundbreaking, and he started from a long way away to be there at an early hour. He describes in his journal—his name is not known to us—but he describes in a journal, “I walked to the meeting this morning”—Temple Square groundbreaking—“the ground was broken for the Temple. I went through frozen mud and slush with my feet tied up in rags. I had on a pair of pants—pants made out of my wife’s skirt, a thin Scotch plaid. Also, a thin calico shirt, and a straw hat, which were all the clothes that I had.” February 1853—"all the clothes that I had." It’s a chilly day there, it was then. “It was to go this way or stay home.” As he looked around, he said, “I was not alone in poverty. There were many who were fixed as badly as I was.” And then comes a line: “And the prophet came.” 

And the prophet came, and this is what the prophet said in his early announcement to them who were gathering—this is the Prophet Brigham Young. Brigham Young stood, and it stated, “He briefly recounted the trials”—this is the same journal—“briefly recounted the trials and persecutions they had endured in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, before the Lord led them to this consecrated spot. He told recent converts not to be jealous, not to be discouraged because they had not had all the privileges that many older members of the Church had had—the privilege of being robbed, of being driven, mobbed and plundered.” Don’t feel bad that you haven’t had all the privileges of those that came on before you. Isn’t that an interesting perspective? Did Brigham not know the power of adversity and how it filters and chips away the hard parts in our lives? He said it is sad that we have not had, all of us, the chance to experience Illinois, Missouri and Ohio. An interesting insight to adversity and hardship, is it not?

And then Brigham went on to say, “I promise you that you will yet endure lives, feel the same things if you remain faithful, that they felt.” Hard times, plundering, robbery in your life, abused if you will, by others, mistaken, misled. “We shall now again attempt, however, to build another temple. We’ve tried it many times. We may build yet another. We may now know we shall try it again.”

These were temple builders. I suspect one of the reasons Temple Square is such a remarkable and holy place is the dedication and the sacrifice of those that came in a pair of trousers made out of their wife’s skirt, or a thin calico shirt. And yet they were there. They were there to see that done, consecrated and hallowed.

The temple, as you know and can imagine—and I presume you’re all on your way there, if you’re not yet there, the temple is where every person in the Church can go. People come to Temple Square and they say, “Well, I want to get in the temple.” 

It reminds me of a young man who came to Temple Square. He was from Italian descent, and he had heard about Temple Square. He got a tour, and my Italian accent is not very good, but he said to one of the guides, one of the sisters there, “I want to know…I want to meet the highest person in your Church. I want to meet the highest person in your Church.” Sounds presumptuous, does it not, someone coming to Temple Square and wanting to meet the highest person in the Church? And she didn’t quite know how to negotiate that. She continued to show him another sight in the Visitor’s Center, and he raised his hand again after she had finished, “Any questions?” 

“I want to meet the highest person in your Church.” 

And she didn’t know how to negotiate that. And it happened again. Finally she said, “Sir, who is the highest person in our Church?” 

And he said, “You know, angelo. Angelo. Angelo Moroni!” And he is the highest in the Church. At least his statue is. 

You would be amazed at what happens at Temple Square, and who comes. We’ve had Elijah visit there recently too. He wasn’t the genuine Elijah. But you see, all kinds come to Temple Square because something remarkable goes on there. 

It is a witness, that Square, of the Church’s conviction of immortality. What goes on in the temple is a witness of our testimony that life goes on. It is a witness of immortality. And as you envision the temple, you can see literally progressing, at least in this temple, from room to room, an elevation of man’s life on this earth, and man’s life after life, from degree to degree. Almost palpable, almost witnessable, if you know what’s from the outside, moving stairwise and floorwise, in the temple. The symbolism is powerful, and that alone is enough for us to wonder at the remarkable construction and sacrifice that went into it. But I remind you brothers and sisters, it is not a place for perfect people. For perfect people are few in the temple, but worthy people go there. You don’t have to be perfect to go to the temple. You just have to be worthy. Any one of us can be worthy to go to the temple. In fact, I’ve often thought that perfect people in the Church, if we presume there are some, where do you suppose they hold their priesthood meeting? Or their Relief Society meeting? In my ward, anyway, and I know most of my neighbors in my ward, I think the perfect people would hold their meeting because they are so few, in the janitor’s closet. It’s small enough to hold them, and large enough to get them all. This is a Church of worthy aspirants. But perfection is an object—a desired goal and ambition that is part of our trek to eternity. So if you feel you’re not perfect and can’t go to the temple, just seek to be worthy and to qualify. Only worthy folk go to the temple. No unworthy and no perfect people go to the temple, you can be sure.

I’m thinking at the same time, in those days, when Parley P. Pratt spoke the same warning that Brigham Young did about that day. Parley P. Pratt stood and, in a few remarks—and he was a dear, loyal supporter to the Prophet Brigham Young—he said, “The temple is a holy sanctuary where the living hear from the dead.” You will appreciate as you frequent the temple in your life, the living get impressions and hear voices sweetly, silent voices of those gone beyond. I promise that that is your destiny as you seek to become temple worshippers. The ceremony in the temple—and it’s not as some say, an unusual, strange thing—the ceremony at the temple is sacred, not secretive. It’s sacred, so we don’t talk about some of the things that occur there. But the general feeling and experience we can share with the world. And we ought to. You know that temples are opened and rededicated, and the world is there. But it is sacred. It is not a secret place for us.

And yet, off the temple perimeter itself is that wonderful garden called Temple Square. And I’d like to turn your attention to Temple Square because you may not hear much about Temple Square on the street—some insights, if you will, about what goes on. Leroy Snow was the son of the Prophet Lorenzo Snow. One day he saw a trolley car parked out in front of the Beehive House. And he heard the guide taking the tour around telling some people, “That’s where the Mormon prophet lives. We don’t go in there because different things happen there. The Mormons are different.” 

And young Leroy, standing outside the wall encircling the Beehive house, by the Eagle Gate, heard the man say that, and he walked up as the people got off. Some of them had Kodak cameras, because Kodak was a new thing—some of them had Kodak cameras in the 1880s and 90s—and were clicking pictures. And he said to the trolley driver, “I’m glad I was here today so that I could tell these people the truth, instead of the tales about what goes on in there.” He said, “My name is Leroy Snow, and my father lives there and my mother lives there. And I live there. Come on in! Come on in!” 

He took them into the Beehive House and into the Lion House. His mother greeted them and said, “Welcome to our home.” And she apparently had just made some muffins or something, and passed them out. After 20 minutes or so with part of the Snow family, she said, “My husband’s coming home for lunch. Wait a minute,” and she introduced them to the Prophet. That shameful tour guide who owned the trolley, the next time he came to Temple Square he never spoke that way again about what goes on and the Mormons are strange folk. 

That really becomes a kind of watershed of what started to happen on Temple Square. The Square, people saw, ought to be put out to the world in an organized, welcoming fashion. Those walls were initially built, strange to say, not to protect the Saints from the Indians as we often thought, or not to make work as we often think is the case. We hear the rumor Brigham had people build walls because they needed to be employed. They had jobs abundant. There were no laid-off people; there were no workless people. They had jobs. Now, Brigham paid people to build a fence around the Beehive House. There were people there. But also, there were people looking for jobs just in town. But the Temple Square walls were built because they had such remarkable tools there, those tools grew legs. They were walking off the site. People said, “I need that to build my fence out in…I’ll just borrow this for the weekend.” And so the temple progress was slowed down, the work on the temple because of borrowed tools. I suppose some of them borrowed them and took them to Malad, Idaho, and they’re still up there. But nevertheless, that was one of the reasons they built the wall around the temple.

Secondly, everybody in town was curious about what was going on at Temple Square, and so they would want to look in and see a friend, striking stone—and of course there were volunteer laborers there as well as skilled craftsmen—and they would say, “Come on, Jack, work harder.” “Come on, Bert.” You know? They would holler, “Get with it, boy, get with it,” from the sidelines. And there were also some who were backseat drivers. They knew how the temple could be built better. And those are the kind that we didn’t need, especially when we were running behind schedule. And it took 40 years. If we’d had all the backseat drivers accommodated, it could have been an 80-year temple build, right? But those were the two reasons why the wall was built.

Well, what would the Prophet say—our current Prophet—say about Temple Square? It’s different. As you come there as a missionary, and I think we have—President, if I’m correct—four former missionaries from the Salt Lake Temple Square mission as students here in the College. If any of you are here, would you raise your hand? I understand there are four. Sisters, will you please stand? They’re beautiful, but they make me cry. Thank you.

Those who come to Temple Square—and President Hinckley has a strong feeling about Temple Square, and a positive view of what goes on there—the Prophet would that people, when they come to Temple Square, don’t necessarily get converted to the Church. His primary desire is that Temple Square, once they’ve been there and once they’ve been taught briefly some doctrine of the family or of salvation or the apostasy, that they will have a changed image of the Church. That’s all. It is not what we would call a proselyting mission. It is to reach out and welcome the world. In fact, our sisters are reluctant, but they must—and they know this—they are kind of controlled, guided muscles or missiles, if you will, spiritual muscles or missiles. 

They would love to go on and give them a Book of Mormon. They would love to go on and teach them the plan of salvation, and have them taught in a room. There are no teaching rooms for the gospel instruction at Temple Square. We don’t have any formally that are so addressed. Because if you told it all when they came on the Square as a visitor, and if you knew it all, would you be inclined to accept a referral and a set of missionaries coming to visit you in your home to deliver a Book of Mormon or a DVD? No, if I’ve heard it all, I could say easily, “I heard it all at Temple Square. It was wonderful. I was touched. I was impressed. But I pretty well know what the Mormons believe.” 

So we give them, sweetly, a half loaf. A half loaf. Because the gospel change occurs on one’s knees—on your knees. And I would simply say as a footnote to that, if we put on Temple Square a monument where every spiritual experience or miracle happened, Temple Square would be cluttered with statues. It is simply the place where manifold, legion, hundreds weekly, spiritual experiences occur. So, we tell only part of the message and hope that a referral occurs, that they will then greet the missionaries in their own homes where they can get full lessons in the quiet of their homes and feel the influence of the promised truths of the Restoration. So it is a welcoming, not a proselyting, mission.

Well, 201 sisters are there; thirty-four senior couples. It’s a big mission. That’s two times 34. And the senior couples are asked not to take the lead, because they trust the approach that the Brethren over the years have felt worked best at Temple Square—the non-threatening sweetness of the sisters as called missionaries. You see, if I as an elder went there, I would be rather rigorous and the Doctrine and Covenants says we must “push” the people of the world to hear the…push! Push! That’s Doctrine and Covenants talk. But are we pushing? No. They’ve studied the approaches and teachings of missionaries past and present. In the 80s there was a survey done that said most of those who join the Church recall our missionaries as more passive than pushy. You can be pushy if you are a member bringing a referral. That’s where the push has to happen, right? So push yourself. Push yourself to Temple Square with a friend or someone who’s trying to find their way back.

But the sisters are very soft and less threatening. And they come from 34 languages—many more countries, but 34 languages spoken there. They go to the field for four months of their Temple Square experience, from Florida to Anchorage. They go out into the mission field. They get out there, and they sometimes don’t want to come back. Why? Because normally, they’re giving out a white referral card at Temple Square. But there, they’re seeing someone in white on the lip of a baptismal font. And it’s so much more rewarding and inviting to see someone dressed in white going to a baptismal font than accepting a referral card. You see, they don’t see most of their harvest. And they’ll go out there, and I’ve not spoken with one yet who went into the field who didn’t see someone come into the Church or did not have the results of her work that she has in fact served those four months away from Temple Square.

But then they come back, and after four months away, it takes them a day or two to get back in the spirit of Temple Square, and then they wouldn’t go anywhere again. You see? Is that not the power of the mission field? Wherever we serve, whether it’s Temple Square or in a field beyond that, the power of missionary work grips you and squeezes you, and somehow you’re not the same person you were when you came. 

Just one final thought. You’d be interested to know that you see the sisters often dressed in beautiful long coats. We’ve asked them that they show color on the Square because occasionally people will come and say, “Oh we love the tour. We love the nuns at Temple Square.” So if you’re companion sister dresses in black this morning, you quickly get into something colorful, so we’re not perceived as nuns at Temple Square. Sister Stewart is collecting scarves, if any of you have unworn or worn scarves in good shape, just so you add color, it helps. You see, we are a colorful church.

And by the way, if you are a missionary that didn’t have fun on your mission, you missed a great element of your mission. It is a fun, wonderful place to be. But as with fun, you turn it backwards and it says, “Nuf.” That means there is a limit in spiritual situations, there is enough of too much fun in the mission field, or too much fun in life. It’s time to get serious. But it is a fun, joyous place to be. And your hearts lift as others lift with you.

One final point: Temple Square is the smallest geographical mission on the earth, of the Church. The smallest. Thirty-two square acres. And sisters or elders, those who have been there, you can never really get out of your area. What I mean is, you can’t get lost if you will. You’re there. We plant seeds. The exhibits, the history, all of that is taught, but it’s all tied back into a principle of the gospel. Yes, some history. The wonder in the buildings, and the wonder in the sites. But it’s tied always to the principle, whether it be family-related, or salvation or repentance-related, all of that.

May I just tell you quickly who comes to Temple Square? Sister Li, for instance. Sister Li, a missionary serving here. Her mother was from China, and went to visit her cousins in San Francisco. While she was there, just for two weeks, Sister Li’s mother met the missionaries and was so touched by the missionary conversations she had that she said, “Will you teach me?” and within two weeks, did join the Church. During the time she was there—met them the first day.

She went back home and told her daughter of this glorious experience she’d had in California, and her daughter said, “Mother, can I?”

“No. We live in mainland China, and proselyting and teaching the gospel is not sanctioned at this time.”

And as a result, her mother prayerfully, and knowing the feelings in her daughter’s heart, said, “Why don’t you go down to Kowloon, and why don’t you go down to Hong Kong? I’m sure you’ll find missionaries there.” 

So she scraped together whatever few pennies she had so her daughter could take a bus to Hong Kong, and there she was taught the gospel and accepted it immediately, because she had seen this change come over her mother. The Book of Mormon says we get a new tongue and we get a new face, we get a new heart. The Book of Mormon talks about interchangeable body parts! And all of that happened to her, and a new life, and a new promise, and a new hope and a new future. So, Sister Li went back and filed her papers with the Chinese government for a visa to leave with a passport to go to the United States as a missionary. She was allowed to come as the first proselyting missionary on Temple Square. She is there today.

A footnote and aside: A few months before, an under-ambassador to the United States from China visited Temple Square and he was taught by two sisters there. He spoke English. He was impressed at what he heard, and there was a connection between what he felt and what he heard, and clearly the opening—in a very small way—to Temple Square for a wonderful Chinese mainland sister. And I would, with you, hope and even be so daring as to predict there will yet be more. There will yet be more. Because their time is near for the delayed release of the gospel. We could not absorb China. We do not have the priesthood or the organization capacity to absorb China. It is so massively large. And we’ve got a lot of work to do. They could absorb in just half their mission, the 60,000 missionaries across the Church. We are not ready, fully complete, to serve that country and those wonderful people as well.

There was a Portuguese sister who came out of the MTC and she was frustrated—knew no English other than what she had been taught. And three weeks here, said, “My mission is a failure.” And she turned to her companion, and her companion said, “Well, if it’s a failure, let’s go down to the call center,” down in the basement of the south Visitor’s Center. They went down there, and she got on the phone and that afternoon—started about 4:00 in the afternoon our time; I don’t know what it was in Portugal—when she left the call center that night, 59 people through Portuguese speaking in Portugal and Brazil, said “Yes, I want to receive a gift from those two young men or women who will come and I would like to be taught.” Now, that’s a valid referral. I will receive the gift, I will receive those missionaries and be taught. That is a referral, not just an invitation. Fifty-nine. This sister realized, "Even though my language is limited, there is something I can do." The call center reaches out beyond the perimeter of the United States and North America.

A young Baptist boy came on a Baptist bus twenty years ago to Temple Square with the intent purpose of working the Mormons over in the good summer stint between his college years. “Let’s go lay it on the Mormons!” His bus pulled up and they covered the Square—and I have wonderful Baptist friends; I can’t imagine them doing this. I cannot imagine that—but they went onto the Square. And their tour was to go to other places; not just Mormon sites, but perhaps go after some other religious sites in the American west. They had come from the Atlantic coast. Well, he came onto the site and strutted, if you will, perhaps that would be the right word—strutted and was rather abusive verbally to the missionaries on Temple Square. And then he left, and someone said, “Would you like to receive anything from us? Would you like to have continued contact?”

“No. Well, on second thought, I would like a Book of Mormon. Will you send me a Book of Mormon?”

The missionaries delivered the Book of Mormon some weeks later, and they tried to teach him. He said, “I’m not interested, but you can try.” And they went in and had a few lessons, and he then spurned them.

A few months later, a second group of missionaries out of an area book—referrals, you know, that are not yet found, not still warm if you will, but we cannot forget them. And it’s our relationship to former missionaries who labored hard and are hopeful that somewhere in the future there will be a spiritual connection with those they taught. Well, this area book name was there, and the missionaries went by and something clicked. Something clicked, and this man joined the Church.

December 28th, he appeared on Temple Square, and he walked in and said to Brother and Sister Pollard who were in the north Visitors’ Center, he said, “I just want to tell you my story.” He said, “Twenty years ago, I came to abuse the Mormons. I come back twenty years later; I am one. I am one.” And then he looked Elder and Sister Pollard in the face and he said, “Don’t ever give up on me or my friends or those who come. Don’t ever give up. A holy principle was taught to that Baptist boy—don’t ever give up.

Members come, non-members come. Four to five million people come to Temple Square. That’s a lot of people. About half of them are members of the Church. Is that also bad? No. They don’t wear the concrete down that badly as they walk across the floors. They don’t wear out the seats. Any rear will do that, you know. The Saints belong there too, because many of them come not yet connected or, having been connected, are now disconnected from the Church. And that’s a place to start again. It’s a neutral ground with kind people to receive you. 

If I don’t have a relationship with my bishop or with a home teacher, and I want to come back active in the Church, how do I start? I don’t know how. Most of our people who have left or are momentarily not involved in the Church, they just slip away. They don’t fall out of bed at one time; they just sort of slip out of bed or slip out piecemeal. Very few deliberately leave the gospel of Jesus Christ as we see it through the Restoration. But they’ll come back, because there on Temple Square you see people who have moral authority. A bishop’s not there to see them, or they’re reluctant to go to a bishop because their life is checkered and they don’t feel comfortable and don’t know quite how to start or engage that. But on Temple Square you meet someone who is kind and interested and can encourage. And it is amazing to see the thousands who come to Temple Square and reconnect to the Church. So it’s just not for the world. It’s just not to announce the Restoration or to invite people to consider more. It connects people again with the best part of their lives. 

It is a specially dedicated place. There is a feeling at Temple Square. This is hard to believe, but let me demonstrate briefly. Temple Square, if you are familiar with it, you sort of kind of get used to it. But the people who would not usually be Temple Square visitors, they will go on the Square and they will feel, they will feel, a kind of magnetism there. In fact, people at the south gate or the north gate could tell this to you at least daily, this kind of an experience. People will come to the Square and they will be wondering if this is a safe place to be. They’ll step onto the Square. They’ll step back, they’ll step on and back, and they are visibly sensing something they do not know how to describe. 

Now, brothers and sisters, I say that advisedly. They can’t explain what they’re feeling. They can’t explain what the Square means. You and I have a sense. It is not a wonder to us. Those are dedicated buildings. The Spirit of the law goes out, as Isaiah spoke about in chapter 24. The world has broken the covenants, the everlasting covenants. The world says light is dark, and dark is light. And good is bad, and bad is good. You know that, you hear that. It’s all over; it’s all over the world. But when they come on Temple Square, those dedicated buildings, the dedicated missionaries, the tangible feeling of the Spirit is there.

I fortify that and come near to the conclusion now of my remarks. Some years ago I was invited by the United Nations because of the local government experience I’d had, and Brother Steve, President Steve talked about my time with the National Association of Counties. I was invited to head a world conference in the International Year of the Family to have mayors and corporate leaders come to Salt Lake City—700 mayors and corporate leaders came from 78 nations. I went to the Brethren and I said, “Can we host them in some way? Can you do a little reception? Can we have the Tabernacle Choir sing?” And Elder Faust and Elder Wirthlin said, “Brother Stewart, yes.” 

By the time this International Year of the Family conference was held in Salt Lake—which went on to spawn, by the way, hundreds of smaller conferences in countries across the world as kind of the mother conference—President Faust and Elder Wirthlin said, “Brother Stewart, when they come, we will have a statement for the world on families.” A few months later, the Proclamation on the Family was given to the world. 

A few months after that, the mayor from Tyche, Poland called me and she said, “Mr. Stewart, I have two friends. One of them heads the Polish national alcohol and drug and mental health program.” He was the cabinet member for Human Services. “They want to come to America, and we’ve heard some of the best places, and from what I saw some of the best places for excellent programs in America are right there in Salt Lake City. Can you arrange for them to see things?” 

They came, and Sister Stewart and I met the plane. We had arranged for them to visit the wonderful sites in this valley where they could learn about outpatient, inpatient, alcohol and drug administration things. They spent ten days here. And we managed to squeak in Temple Square. They had dinner with us, and we were taking them to the airport, and we were right here between West Temple and Main Street. And at the light we started to talk, and I said, “Of all the things you’ve seen—these wonders of medicine and of mental health and of alcohol and drug treatment solutions—of all the things you’ve seen here in the last ten days, what did you like most?”

And almost sheepishly, but so sweetly, the head, that cabinet member from that beautiful Polish nation, looked over his shoulder to his colleague in the back “Of all the things that impressed you most in your visit, what was it?” And he went like that, [subtly pointed] as we passed Temple Square. He felt something. He felt something, and he’ll never forget. 

There is a feeling there, brothers and sisters. I pray that you will take a friend. I pray that you’ll take a friend who’s not warm to the Church, and let that sweet spirit prevail. To a parent, a referral sent from Temple Square is a softer way to sell the gospel to your loved ones who yet need to come back.

I close with the Christus statue. You know that center piece, that beautiful piece of statuary on Temple Square. There the Norwegian, Bertel Thorvaldsen, in the 18-teens as a young sculptor, was famous because he had managed to sculpt the lives of several of the Twelve Apostles. He was invited to sculpt the Christus—Christ himself. He had great reservations to sculpt Christ. Remember now, this massive *statue we see in Temple Square. Thorvaldsen was reluctant to sculpt the Christ. There really was only one way to do this and that was to have models. So he took five models and proceeded, and after nine years he completed the Christus statue. He completed the Christ the same year the Book of Mormon came into publication. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence. But the attitude and spirit of that statue reflects the life of Christ. The influence of Christ was caught in stone. We know that it does not take us nine years to come to Christ.

  President Harold B. Lee taught that there are two places the adversary cannot go: into the temple of God to destroy the work done there, and he cannot go into your mind unless you invite him. He cannot destroy the holy records done in the past for those beyond the veil. And we cannot afford to let the adversary into our minds. The adversary would take the best from us, and make us naked to ourselves, whereas the Lord clothed Adam and Eve in the garden and said, ‘You’re good enough for me; let’s move on.’”

   I give you three keys: 1-Be offended at the bad stuff; 2-Never be found where the Holy Ghost cannot find you; and 3-Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. Historians marvel at how much a man could do in a lifetime. Of Joseph, Brigham Young said that Joseph made heaven and earth shake hands. He gave us a more perfect society.

   This is a church with answers, and we must reach out to Temple Square as a place to start our own lives again, or another’s life that needs it.

   I leave these thoughts with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

   

*Technology malfunction at this point. The remaining text is drawn from reporter notes.

The Destructive Power of Pornography

07 Feb. 2007

Transcript

The Destructive Power of Pornography

 

I’d like to say it’s a real pleasure being here. It was mentioned that we had nine kids in our home, and most of them are gone now. As I was thinking about it, most of you are going to have that experience of marrying and having families. We had the great fortune and opportunity to have twin boys—identical twins. That was a great experience, growing up with them. In fact, when one of them was about six years old, he came to me and he said, “Dad, I want to ask you a question.” 

I try to be a dad that’s there for my kids, so I said, “Well, gee, what is it, Rick? What would you like to know?”

He said, “Dad, what’s the difference between an elephant and a mailbox?” 

And I was really taken aback by this, and I thought and thought about it, and I said, “Well frankly, Rick, I don’t know.”

And he said, “Dad, I’ll never give you a letter to mail.” It was fun growing up with kids like that, that are at times interesting and challenging. 

The issue of pornography is a tender one. It’s one that sometimes I hesitate to really talk about, but it’s a problem that some people—good people, wonderful people in our society—have come up against and have to deal with. What I’d like to do is share with you now some of the things that I’ve learned in 25 years of working with people who have dependencies in this area. 

Just a few weeks ago, I got a letter, and I’m going to read it to you. The name is Michael, who wrote the letter, but that’s not his real name. He said, “My name is Michael. I’m a student at Brigham Young University, and I’m planning on getting married this summer. I’m a recovering sex addict, and I’m looking for additional resources to help me with some of the problems I still face. 

“I’ve had a long history with pornography. I first started when I was in fifth grade, with another boy on the street. It wasn’t long before I found myself searching out material on my own. My next exposure was in high school, and shortly thereafter I became involved with pornography on the internet. I accessed everything that could possibly be accessed, and in that time period I developed some very abnormal desires, and struggled with other things as well.

“I’m trying my hardest to be whole again. I relapsed recently. It was the first time in six months that I gave in to the ‘wave.’ [That’s the wave of temptation.] I feel that now I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, attention-deficit and many other effects of sexual addiction. I struggle with my relationship with my Father in Heaven. I think now I need to learn how to deal with these problems.

“I love my fiancée to death. She knows of my struggles and is very supportive of me. I just don’t want to create hardships for her. She knows of my relapse, and it crushed her, which was very unpleasant for both of us. I am genuinely looking for answers and help to completely overcome the problems that I struggle with. Do you know of anyone I could talk to, or things that might be of help for me? I would be appreciative of that help.”

And needless to say, I did contact him and I gave him a number of suggestions. I might say that, at the very end of my presentation today, we will give you a fact sheet that summarizes all of what I’m saying, and also information on things you can do that will bless your life, help you heal, if you or someone you know of or whoever stands in need of this kind of information.

I’ve been working in this area about 25 years, and have seen approximately 400 male clients. What I’ve found is that four things happen to them when they get involved with this. The first thing is addiction. They get addicted to it and they can’t get out. 

It reminds me of when I was in the fifth grade in Los Angeles, where I was raised. One day a bus came up in front of the school and we all got on it, and we went out to West Los Angeles to the La Brea tar pits. Now, these tar pits were about a thousand feet deep, and in historic times, dinosaurs and other giant monsters would go there to water. What they didn’t realize was that the water was about one or two inches deep, and the tar went down about a thousand feet. So what they would do, with their big ponderous feet, is they would step out into it to get a drink, in that sticky tar. It would capture them, and then, trying to pull that foot out, they would put another one in there. And what happened was that they were swallowed up by this, and many, many animals were trapped there. It wasn’t until many hundreds, thousands of years later that scientists uncovered these bones and put them together and were able to estimate what they looked like as living creatures. They got caught in this and they couldn’t get out. And this is a little bit like what happens to the people I work with who get addicted to pornography.

I remember one day a wonderful guy came in—married, three children. And he said, “I’ve got a problem with pornography, and my wife says she can’t stay with me unless I get a hold of it, unless I get out of it.”

I said, “Well, would your wife be willing to engage in treatment along with yourself, so that she can see what you’re doing and be reassured that progress is being made, and that sort of thing?”

They both agreed, and so I taught them a lot of things about disengaging and getting out of the tar pit, and getting rid of the addiction. I said one day, “I want something that’s really going to be powerful.” So I said, “Zach, would you write me out a check for a thousand dollars?”

He said, “I don’t understand.”

I said, “What I want to do is take that check, put it in a special bank account, and if you can go 90 days and not get into any pornography at all, be 100% sober for 90 days, you get your money back. But if you relapse, even once, the money goes to charity. It won’t go to myself.” I didn’t want to profit, in a sense, by his illness that way. “But it will go to charity.”

Then he had a big grin on his face. He said, “Dr. Cline, you’re a genius! How did you know I was really tight with money?” He said, “I am so tight with money that, let me tell you, that’s the perfect incentive for me.” And so he wrote me out a check for a thousand dollars, and the next day I put it in a special bank account. Then we proceeded to meet every week or two, and guess what? He stopped looking at the stuff. He got out of it.

On the 87th day, he was in Phoenix, Arizona, which is a wide-open town as far as pornography goes, and he was in a rental car. He was driving down a boulevard and he saw this big establishment, an adult book store. He pushed on the brakes, pulled over to the curb and went in and for 90 minutes he went crazy. He did everything wrong, everything bad, everything he shouldn’t do. 

When I saw him the next Tuesday night, he came in and he had a sad look on his face. He said, “Dr. Cline, I lost my thousand dollars. I relapsed.”

I said, “You went 87 days, and only had three more days to go and you went back into it?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “You know what? If you can go 87 days, I know you can go 90. What I’m going to do is I’m going to erase that from my memory. I didn’t hear a thing you said. We’re going to start over again.”

His wife had a big grin on her face, and she said, “At least we’re not going to lose that thousand dollars.”

So anyway, once again we started. And eight days later, he relapsed again, and the money went to charity. And then in a later meeting as we talked about it, I said, “Gee, it didn’t work—it wasn’t an incentive at all?”

He said, “Dr. Cline, I could have given you a check for $10,000 and you know what? I would have still lost it. You don’t know the power of the addiction.” Once you’re addicted to that kind of stuff, to get hooked by it, you lose control. And so he went back to it. 

So you know what? I never did that again. I never had people give me a check, or money as an incentive, because it just doesn’t work. There are other things that do work, but that doesn’t. So addiction is the first of the four things that we’re talking about that happens, and it is powerful.

The second thing is desensitization. After a while, the material you look at, instead of searing conscience and being distressing to look at or think about, you get desensitized to it. Pretty soon, it’s “old hat”. It doesn’t bother you. You’re not turned off by it. In fact, you enjoy, you lust after it. Desensitization is something that always happens in time, as you continue to immerse yourself in it.

The third thing that happens is “escalation”. This happens with every one of my 400 people that I work with. That is, you escalate to rougher material to get your turn on, to get your kicks, to get your arousal. You always go something more deviant, more abhorrent, more inappropriate. It’s always escalation.

And then the fourth thing that happens, and always happens to everybody, is you begin to act out. That is, you begin to act out the fantasies that are in your head or in your brain. And this creates a real problem.

It reminded me of a colleague I met at a professional meeting a few months ago who works out on the west coast and told me of a minister he was treating who was a sexual addict. He said this minister had maxed out all of his credit cards to access pornography, plus he stole $7,000 from the congregation of the church that he was ministering to. But the members of the congregation had great compassion and concern for him when they saw how ill and sick he was, that he’d lost control, and urged him to get treatment.

You always lose free agency, and you lose the power to decide and to make choices in this area. They got him into treatment to help him with this addiction problem. But that gives you a sense of what happens with acting out. And of course, there are all other kinds of ways you can do it, which I’m not going to mention now.

I’d just like to mention a little bit about some of the research. A man by the name of Stanley Rachman in London did some research on this. Using pornography as a learning tool, what he did was actually condition people into deviancy using it. In other words, he proved for the first time that pornography as a conditioning device, in a sense it can hook you. That is, you learn to be turned on by it and come to be dependent upon it and seek it out in a compulsive, addictive way.

 And then there’s a man by the name of James McGaugh at the University of California, Irvine, and what he found was that when you’re aroused by any kind of very strong emotion, a very powerful chemical, epinephrine, is released in the system, the brain. And this epinephrine goes to areas of the brain having to do with memory. What it does is it locks those things in the mind. If it’s pornography, it locks in the image. And so what happens after a while is when a guy gets into this, he creates an X-rated library in his brain, in the frontal lobes having to do with memory. And so, with that epinephrine working, after a while he doesn’t even have to go to the internet. He has these very powerful memories that are stored there. This is what makes it so rough and so difficult to get out of, because you have those things that come back to be inflicted upon your consciousness. 

I remember the deputy mayor of Los Angeles—I won’t mention his name—it was in the newspapers, but no need to do that. He was a porn addict, and he went to a West Los Angeles porno theater, and when he was in there he got turned on by the film that was being shown and—this is a deputy mayor of the city of Los Angeles—he attempted to molest another patron that was there. It happened that the person he attempted to molest was a vice squad officer, so they slapped the handcuffs on him, booked him in the county jail, and he was brought to trial and he left in disgrace. It was a very, very sad thing. So even though he was very prominent in the community, the power of the addiction, in a sense, overruled his judgment and behavior.

Males especially, any age, are vulnerable to becoming addicted to it. For the most part, women tend to hate it because of its hostility to and degradation of their gender. Women’s vulnerability is to chat rooms, where they sometimes hook up with very unsavory predators—total strangers who grossly misrepresent themselves. Women, we find, a lot of times have trouble with the chat rooms, getting involved with and then later talking on the phone with, and then later meeting at a hotel with these kinds of people. And some have had some very bad experiences when this occurs.

I find that ages 9 to 14 are the most common time for boys, for their first exposure, with the parents never having a clue. After that, it gradually increases in frequency and exposure, with accompanying masturbation leading to a mild and later major addiction. And the internet, now, is where most of the damage eventually occurs. This addiction may remain undiscovered by parents until a few years into their marriage, when the wife accidentally finds it on their family computer.

There’s usually a buddy or a boyfriend who exposes the porn to your son, and neither is aware of its harmful consequences. They’re just curious. These are good kids, like most of the kids that I see. These are not evil people, or anything like that at all. They’re good people, but they do have a natural curiosity about these matters. Both are initially innocent victims. This means that parents need to teach them about the dangers of exposure to this material, and it means they need to put filters on the internet and block out inappropriate TV channels, and monitor what their male children especially are up to and into. What this means is that parents should be talking to their children about these kinds of things, and protecting them.

Thus I find is that pornography is toxic. Its compulsive use makes you ill. Like a cancer, it wounds you more and more as time goes by. It’s extremely tenacious. It always hurts and disturbs the marriage and family relationship. In time, the addict gets out of touch with reality, thinking becomes disturbed and distorted. They may lose their job. There’s risk, as they get older, of acquiring sexual illnesses. Shame and depression become increasingly common. Lying about it and denying involvement is near universal.

I had one man I worked with who was a major executive in a large corporation. The corporation had a policy that if anybody that worked for them was using company computers to access this, they would be fired. So here he was, one of the major leaders of the corporation, and they had to let him go. They had to fire him. And he knew that the company had a policy of checking the computers of employees. He was aware of this, and yet he still went back and used his computer to access this material. Even being aware of this—and he is a very smart man—he still did it. And eventually, it had tragic consequences. 

With porn addiction, you never mature out of it. Some people say, “Well, after a while you just get tired of it, and it no longer is a problem.” That’s not true. You never mature out of it. It only gets worse with age. You cannot, I find, overcome it by yourself. Self-control, self-discipline and promises don’t work. You need outside help to break the power of addiction, using a trained counselor and a support group. You can recover, but it will take time and requires a lot of work and effort.

What I’d like to do now is talk a little bit about treatment. I think we’ve all heard many talks by the prophet and by many people, religious leaders and others, about the risks and harm involved. But what do you do about it? On this paper, this fact sheet that we’re going to hand out to you before I conclude, there will be a lot of information on that about things that people can do that will help them.

Now, in my experience, sex and porn addictions require therapists with special training if their patients are to have a good chance of recovery. These illnesses are very difficult to treat. Relapse is the norm. And there are no training programs in medical schools, graduate schools in psychology and social work, to deal with this kind of an addictive problem. They teach all kinds of other things, but none that I know of teach this. And while this will undoubtedly change in the next few years, anyone now seeking professional help will need to check very carefully the background experience of any therapist they might choose to have treat them. If you’re looking for a sex addiction or porn addiction therapist, in many of the mental health healing disciplines who have training in this area a good track record in treating this problem and personal values that are congruent with the patient’s values are really important. In fact, I hate to say this, but my experience—some therapists are addicts themselves—and that is, the healers, some of them, have serious problems in this area.

I remember a few years ago, I went to a seminar in Florida—this was for psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers—on treatment programs for helping people with this kind of disorder. Patrick Carnes, probably the most famous researcher in the field, was giving a seminar and, at the end of the first day he said, “You know, whenever I give this to professionals, I find there are a lot of them that are faced with the same problem. They’re addicted to this.” So he said, “Tonight at six o’clock in room such and such, those of you that would like, we will have a 12-step healing program.” I was sort of shocked. I hadn’t realized that this was a problem, even with some of my colleagues.

In addition to having a competent, qualified addiction therapist, the patient will also need to attend, 90% of the time, for two years or longer, weekly meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous or other 12-step support or therapy groups. These groups, mostly free, meet in nearly every fair or larger size city in America. Their addresses and location can be found in the business pages of the phone book, or by contacting a sister organization, Alcoholics Anonymous. They’ll always be able to direct you there. 

The LDS Church has their LDS Family Services. They’ve organized a program throughout the world for these kinds of programs for people who are LDS. And they’re wonderful programs, they’re good programs and they work. They’re powerful. The core of it is a spiritual and religious factor which, at least in my experience, I have found to be very helpful. Through the power of the Atonement, healings can occur and people get their miracles and can be assisted and supported by attendance at these kinds of meetings. So while you go to these meetings, if you want to find a good therapist, you can ask the guys there. That is, “Who are you seeing that is really helpful, that is really making a difference in your problem?” And get a kind of consumer’s report. The people that really know are the people who are attending these meetings. They can give you some clues and some ideas as to who might be really helpful to talk to, and might be competent and helpful. 

In my experience of 25 years in treating about 400 of these cases, I find that, if they’re married, nearly universally their wives are traumatized by the husband’s lies and deceptions and out-of-bounds behavior. The wives need treatment too, because they’ve been traumatized. If the wife decides to stay in the marriage for a while longer, I engage her in joint treatment with her husband. I have found that if I successfully heal the husband of these addictions, but have an angry, hostile, wounded wife who can never trust or forgive her husband even though she remains in the marriage, it greatly increases the risk of relapse in the husband as he attempts unsuccessfully to placate and deal with major marital turmoil. So I find that you need to heal the wife too. You need to help her. And she needs to see and have strong evidence of change and healing in her husband for that relationship to prosper and heal. 

Staying in this support program for several years greatly increases the chances of successful outcome. And again, it’s free. It doesn’t cost anything. Self-control or just good self-discipline usually just doesn’t work by itself. You need that outside assistance.

It’s kind of like being sucked under with quicksand. You need to have somebody there who reaches out to you and gives you support and helps you with the recovery process, the road to recovery. Those are some of the things that you need to do.

Also, you need to make sure your environment is safe. That is, I always check their computers and access to them and internet access. You have to have filters that are effective. Most filters are not very good, but there are some that are very effective, and I mentioned some in this fact sheet that you’ll get in a little bit. So the temptation isn’t there available nearby. You need to be sure that your environment is safe, that you’re living in an area where it’s not easily available to access. Sometimes addicts will get up in the middle of the night and go to the family computer. And if it doesn’t have a good filter on it, sometimes they will relapse doing bad things.

Our time is almost up. I thought that maybe what I would do is for a few minutes is answer a few questions

Q: How long should a wife put up with it? Should she stay around or should she just say I’m out of here?

A: No, the wife can do a lot of things that can be helpful. This doesn’t mean that she tolerates continual relapse. She also has to know that the husband can heal, even though this is a very tough, difficult problem to treat. But he has to get help.

I would say that most of the people that I see, if they’ll stay with the therapeutic program, reach the point where they’re not relapsing. But what happens sometimes is that a person will see me, where I do charge, for a few times, and they’re not relapsing. They have three months of sobriety and they say, “Well, why should I waste money on seeing a therapist?” And so what they do is they stop that. They really get out of the program, and guess what happens? A few weeks later, a few months later, they relapse again. So they’ve got to stick with the program, say, at least two years.

Q: What do you do to protect your own family from this?

A: I have nine kids and 31 grandchildren, and some of them are at the age where they’re vulnerable, and so I ask myself the same question: What can I do to protect these, especially the grandchildren? So what I did was I prepared a little talk called “The Crocodiles in the Swamp.” I got a huge picture of a crocodile, the most vicious, awful-looking picture that you could see—very revolting to look at, this monster with his mouth open—and I say, “You know, this can weigh up to a ton and a half. In fact, our Corolla weighs only a ton. This is even more than what our car weighs. They can move up to 20 miles an hour, and outrun you. Their mode of attack is always ambush. They hit you from behind when you least expect it. This is exactly like this addiction. It comes to almost everybody unexpectedly.” They never dream that it’s going to happen to them. And so I give them the talk about the crocodile, and I get their attention with that. And then I associate it with not only the addiction to pornography, but also major drugs, and other things that could be destructive to them.

What you have to do is you have to teach them. Then you need to have frequent interviews with the kids where you talk about it, and you say, “What about in your school? Does this come up? Do you know any kids that have problems in this area?” And so the kids are taught. Then you even may have role playing. “What if a buddy gives you this? What do you do?” 

And the kid will say, “I don’t know. I guess ‘No.’”

And I say, “Well, I’m going to be that buddy.” And so I’ll role play with them. And so I teach them how to say No to these kinds of temptations. But the parents have to take an active role. In my experience, most parents are clueless. They don’t even know that their kids are addicted, or they’re into it. So the parents can do an awful lot of things that will be helpful in protecting children.

Q: What are the signs that someone is addicted?

A: The only signs that I find is that the mother will find it on the computer at home. All of a sudden, you have pornographic imagery that’s showing up and she’s wondering, “Where in the world is that coming from?” But as far as behavioral signs, there’s really nothing there that will clue you in. But they’ll leave tracks on the computer.

Q: Is anything being done to address this problem?

A: That will take a little while to explain, but when I first got into this and I started speaking up publicly about it and the dangers and risks, and what I was seeing happen, and the divorces and all the bad stuff, a lot of my colleagues, who have very different values than I do, denied it. They said, “There is no such thing.” I testified before a Presidential Commission on the evidence of harm. For a long time there was a big controversy over whether pornography caused any harm. Now you don’t hear much, because pretty much it’s accepted that there can be a lot of harm.

But the main thing I want to share with you is there’s hope. You can get out of it. It’s not easy. The people I work with are some of the best people I’ve ever known—wonderful people, high in morals, and good. But they can still get caught up in it. Usually it’s accidentally. 

Let me tell you it’s been a privilege to be here today and I just wish you Godspeed and if your friends or anybody needs help here, these [fact sheets] will help. Thank you very much.

 


Teaching and Learning: Inseparable Companions

14 Feb. 2007

Transcript

Teaching and Learning: Inseparable Companions

 

Elder Jensen:
Before I begin—because it is Valentine’s Day—Happy Valentine’s Day. Reach out in love to someone. It is not often that I am able to have my sweetheart and companion with me, and since she’s always ready, we’ll hear a brief testimony from her and then I’ll proceed with what I have to share.

Sister Jensen:
I thought I was going to be able just to listen today, but it’s always a pleasure to stand before a group of Latter-day Saint youth and their leaders and bear my testimony, because of all the talents I have—which are few—the one I value the most is my testimony. I never tire of sharing it and bearing it. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth today in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know that the Prophet Joseph Smith was God’s prophet for the restoration of this gospel. I know that Gordon B. Hinckley is God’s prophet on the earth today, and that he directs this, the Lord’s church, through inspiration and revelation.

I know that my husband’s calling was an inspired calling, and that he is an inspired man. And I know you will enjoy hearing from him today. It’s such a joy to be active and involved in this wonderful, living, growing Church of the Savior. The Lord loves us. He loves each one of us individually. Each one of you He knows personally. I hope you know that. I suspect that you do. I’ve noticed throughout my life that the youth of the Church today are much further ahead in life than I was when I was your age. And it just thrills me to be in your presence and recognize your potential. I hope you’re happy in your heart and know of Heavenly Father’s love, and that you have someone to love.

There’s a saying that you’ve probably all heard—and I believe it—that in order to be happy you must have someone to love, something to look forward to, and an important work to do. You’re preparing for that important work, I suspect, being students here. I hope you know that it’s more important to have someone to love than it is to have someone to love you, because that’s what I’ve found in my life. I find that when I love others, I don’t want for someone to love me. It just fills me to be able to love others, and I hope that’s what you’re finding.

I love my Savior. He is my exemplar. I appreciate more and more every day of my life the sacrifice He made for every one of us, for the suffering he suffered for me and you that we might return to Him and our Father in Heaven. I’m so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost that has taught me all these truths.
I also, on this Valentine’s Day, want to tell you that I love my husband. He is a wonderful, inspired man, and it’s a privilege to stand at his side. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Jensen:
I love my wife and wish her, especially, a Happy Valentine’s Day. And any man, any husband—as we used to say in Mapleton, Utah where I was born and raised—any man with a lick of sense is quick to acknowledge that we become what we become primarily because of the sweetheart by our side. Isn’t that right, President? It really is a truism.

You’ve got the screens?And I’m going to begin. I can see a screen here, but I don’t know if you can see anything on the screen. One of the things we learn in the Church is to be patient.

Last Saturday, a very significant meeting was held. By show of hands in this room, how many of you saw and participated in the Worldwide Satellite Broadcast on Teaching and Learning? Not too many. Your assignment is to find some stake that recorded it, because we’re not going to send out a DVD right away. We will post it on the internet in the coming weeks in audio, video, and then we will print the transcript of what we did for most of it in the June Ensign. The focus was on teaching and learning. Those two words are companions. They’re inseparable. It reminds me of that one phrase from Matthew 23 where the Savior was chastising the people, the leaders particularly, the Jewish leaders: “These things ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others undone” (v. 23). We have spent a lot of time, sacred funds, and emphasis on teaching. We have not been as good on learning. And my message to you today is what you see on the screen. “Wherefore, now let every man [and woman] learn” (D&C 107:99).

I want to say some things today to help you become a more diligent learner, particularly by following the example of the Savior, who was the perfect diligent learner. To begin with Him—as I said, our satellite broadcast was on teaching and learning, with those two desired outcomes: to improve teaching, but especially to begin to improve learning, and to put more of the burden and make it a more shared—and here we are in an educational institution. Your teachers hope that you can acquire skills in becoming better learners, and that’s what I’m going to talk about.

Elder Nelson gave a talk many years ago that had a very lasting impact on me. He pointed out that the Savior came to the earth primarily to do two things:

1) To work out the infinite and eternal Atonement, and

2) to set an example in all things, but especially how the Savior set an example of His love as a servant, how He served one another, and then He as a teacher and a learner. I should have inserted that in the visual, but I didn’t.

Everything you are working on in Gospel Doctrine this year in the New Testament can be categorized under those—the way Elder Nelson has put this illustration together. I love the Savior. I am one of His witnesses, and I declare that He lives. He’s real. And He truly is an example as a teacher and a learner. Now in order to talk about us as teachers and as learners, I want to lay a foundation about who we really are as dual beings. And as dual beings, and in order to be true gospel learners, we have to do it through and by the power of the Holy Ghost. So who are we?This you know. Spirits are eternal. At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it.

In that premortal state—we learn this from the Doctrine and Covenants 138:56—“Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men. ”When my wife and I do a mission tour, I like to stop with the missionaries and—if this were more informal I would do it with you, but I know the clock marches on—and it’s contrary to my nature to just talk. But I know the setting and time today.

You think about it. Let’s suppose that you are seated now in the premortal life and I’m your teacher. But in heaven, it was your Heavenly Father, and I suppose, others. And you came to this class and you brought a manual, a manual of instruction to prepare you to come to earth. You’d open it up, and there would be a table of contents. What would be some of the lessons, or the titles to the lessons, that your spirit learned?What would they be? If we had some time, we’d make a list on the board, but obviously, the plan, agency, obedience, families, how to operate and run a body. Simple things like that. We there learned our first lessons.

And we really were prepared to come forth, so much so that President Joseph F. Smith made this comment: “All those salient truths which come home so forcibly to the head and heart seem but the awakening of the memories of the spirit. Can we know anything here that we did not know before we came? If Christ knew beforehand, so did we. And we often catch a spark from the awakened memories of the immortal soul which lights up our whole being as with the glory of our former home.”

How many of you are converts to the Church—were not born and raised? How many of you, by show of hands, when the missionaries first taught you, you began to nod your head this way and smile, and you began to say things like, “Elder, Sister, I have always believed that.” Anyone? “You know, that really makes sense, Elder.”

Those are the awakenings.

There’s another one. President Hugh B. Brown: “Sometimes there in solitude I hear truth spoken with clarity and freshness. Uncolored and untranslated, it speaks from within myself in a language original but inarticulate”—that’s an interesting concept, inarticulate. In Corinthians, there’s a lot about that—“heard only with the soul, and I realize I brought it with me. Was never taught it, nor can I efficiently teach it to another. And why is that so? Because the Holy Ghost is our teacher.”

He really is the teacher. I’ll illustrate that in just a moment.

And this one, as we get into the idea of teacher and learner, in the Book of Mormon: “And the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner” (Alma 1:26).

Let me illustrate it. Here is a divine pattern from the Doctrine and Covenants, based on Section 50 of the Doctrine and Covenants. But I’d like to introduce it with a statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith: “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of the affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits”—now listen to this—“precisely as though our bodies had no spirit at all. Those revelations which will save our spirits will save our bodies.” Although Joseph Smith did not say it, the corollary is true. When the adversary sends a revelation to you, he sends it directly to your body precisely as though you had no spirit. And those revelations from the adversary that will enslave the body will lead the spirit and the body down to hell.

But it is. God speaks to the spirit, and then…

In Section 50 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 21 and 22, “Why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?

“Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.”

Now, notice in my little illustration that the man off to the side is a little bit above. And notice he is not placed directly between God and the man. And any teacher who tries to place himself in that role is violating agency and the divine pattern. So you, the teacher, are off to the side and a little bit above. President Lee used to say so often, “We stand on higher ground, not only by example, but more by our assignments and callings.”

For example, near the end of my message today, I’m going to invite the student council, and they have a little assignment. And I will sit down as they teach. We move about and change places, learners and teachers, but never getting in the way or interfering with what God and his Holy Spirit do.

Now, a quote from Elder Scott. I referred to this in the satellite broadcast when Elder Holland invited me to participate. In Section 50, it talks about understanding and being edified. Down at the bottom, it shows “preach and receive.” That’s more horizontal. Edification and rejoicing are gifts of the Spirit. Now here’s what Elder Scott said: “The verb understand refers to that which is heard. It is the same message to all. Edified concerns that which is communicated by the Holy Ghost. The message can be different and tailored by the Spirit to the needs of each individual. Assure that there is abundant participation”—he’s talking to seminary and institute teachers—“that there is abundant participation, because that use of agency by a student authorizes the Holy Ghost to instruct. It also helps the student [the learner] retain your message.” As you, the learner, verbalize truths, they are confirmed in their souls and strengthen their personal testimonies.

Another illustration of this, in 2 Nephi 33:1. As I go through this, pay particular attention to a little preposition, “unto.” “Now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it”—notice the preposition—“carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. ”Notice it doesn’t say “into.” There are other verses where it does say “into,” but only if the following happens.

How many of you have seen this painting before? There isn’t anybody that hasn’t, I suppose. What is the peculiar characteristic about this painting that observers pointed out to the artist? What’s the problem? There’s no doorknob. To which he responded with: “That’s by design. I intentionally left off the doorknob, because it’s found on the other side.” The Savior stands at the door and knocks. The Holy Ghost stands at the door and knocks. And it is only opened from the inside, by your use of agency. And then the Holy Ghost will come into, as you invite him.

President David O. McKay has captured, in my judgment, one of the finest educational philosophical statements that I have ever found: “There are three things which must guide all teachers. First, get into the subject. Second, get that subject into you. Third, try to lead your pupils [your students, your learners] to get the subject into them, not pouring it into them, but doing these three things—by leading them to see what you see, to know what you know, and to feel what you feel.”

That is now foundational for what I’m going to invite the student council, if they’ll come in the sequence that…however you want to come forward, one at a time, because I want you to lay a foundation for me now with this doctrine, this understanding of who we really are as dual beings. And I want to move on to the conclusion of what I really want to share with you about being a learner.

Here’s what they are to speak to: (visual) I am becoming a diligent learner when I…

Responses by student council members:

  • I am becoming a diligent learner when I submit to the will of the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and the will of the church leaders and my priesthood leaders.
  • I am becoming a diligent learner when I serve those around me and learn from them.
  • I am becoming a diligent learner when I wait for answers to come as I diligently search for them.
  • I become a diligent learner when I read my scriptures, ponder and pray.
  • I am becoming a diligent learner when I am patient with Heavenly Father in the questions that I have for Him in my prayers.
  • I am becoming a diligent learner when I plan and am consistent with my studies, and make sure that I study and research on a consistent basis. That way I can acquire more knowledge.

Thank you. You are good learners. I leave that for you, in your own journal and so forth, how you would respond to that. To return to the satellite broadcast which was last Saturday, there were three segments to it, those of you who did not see it. The first thirteen minutes consisted of an interview—Elder Perry interviewing President Packer. Embedded in those comments by President Packer are some of the most important principles this beautiful student council just taught, and that you, the choir sang to, to help lay a foundation to learn today, which I thank you sincerely.

If you’ll look at those words of President Packer, I’m going to summarize some of them, not all. But these are I think what I heard President Packer tell us if President Packer were to finish that sentence. He said: “I am becoming a diligent learner when I want to learn, when I am teachable.” Which one of you said being submissive and teachable? You’re in synch. It’s nice to be in synch with a member of the Twelve. And that you don’t resent it.

If there’s any one thing that President Woodhouse and I have learned, being around general authorities and members of the First Presidency and the Twelve, is that whenever they give correction, which they do, if you resent it in the slightest, what will happen, President? They stop giving it. They stop giving it. And that is painful. Of all the painful things we as general authorities worry about, is to never resent or resist counsel and instruction from our file leader. Now that’s also true in marriage. As you counsel and teach one another. And that’s sometimes hard for us, particularly the male. I’m speaking for myself.

Number two is when—who said prayer? When you pray, pray in specifics, formally and informally, for yourself and for the teacher, and for me at this very moment. I may not say it quite right. I’m very weak and feeble in words and expression. But I know that the Holy Ghost is not, and if we will come, being teachable, and pray right now, “Oh, Father. Elder Jensen does not know the load and burden that I currently carry. Help him to say it, or teach it to me directly.” When you start doing that as a learner, you start getting answers.

Study, search, ponder and apply the scriptures. Which one of you said that? Thank you. There is power. President Packer is a great student of the scriptures.

Number four is so significant. Learn to ask questions, and listen to both what is said and what is not said. They’re both important. And, as you have come here today, I see some of you making notes. Hopefully, in your notes, you are always sensitive to what is not said by the speaker, where the Holy Ghost will tailor the message to your particular need.

The next one—stay at it. President Packer was very emphatic in his interview. Stay at it. Don’t give up. And what did you say? Be persistent. Stay at it.

Here’s the remaining ones: Capture it, write, expand, organize. And if you really want to ensure that you’ve got it, find somebody to teach it. Until you can articulate it, you haven’t got it, generally speaking. Learn how to organize. All of you are taking notes in classes, you have to capture things. But learn how to organize it. As we watch missionaries in the field, if there’s any one thing we want to help the elders and sisters with, because they don’t do it very well, they have not come with a lot of discipline on how to organize learning. And I think we can do a lot to do that.

Now, be a good listener, said President Packer. And be a good observer. Especially—you remember his illustration, those of you who saw it—that he liked to walk Elder LeGrand Richards back to his office after the temple meeting because, he said, I’m selfish. I want to learn from my elders. They’ve been through some of these things. Be a good observer and listener, especially to the older people.

The next one, President Packer said to be a good, diligent learner: Arise early and retire early. I’ve just recently read a book called Power Sleep. As a general rule, and I’m looking over the audience, and some of you have the disease right now, we are a sleep-deprived society. And it’s evidenced—teachers, am I right?—by students not staying awake in class. Overall, we are a sleep-deprived society, and it impacts our ability to learn. Thus, arise early and retire early, and as President Packer pointed out, leave yourself open to revelation.

The next one—be punctual to your meetings, particularly sacrament meeting, that most spiritual meeting in the Church. And be reverent in it, and leave yourself open. Come and listen to the prelude. Don’t seek out somebody to talk to. Come as a diligent learner, and prepare yourself to get revelation.

And then finally, accept the responsibility for learning, irrespective of the quality of the message. I don’t know if you ever remember hearing or reading President Kimball saying he never heard a boring talk because he accepted the responsibility to be the learner, regardless of what the speaker said or did. Now that is very powerful.

Well, there are 144 scripture references about learning or its cognate.

  • The Savior:“Yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).
  • “Learn wisdom…learn in thy youth to keep the commandments” (Alma 37:35).
  • “Learn to be more wise than we” (Mormon 9:31).
  • “Learn of me…[and be] meek and lowly of heart” (Matthew 11:29).
  • “Seek learning, even by study, and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).
  • “Study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people” (D&C 90:15).
  • “[Seek] diligently to learn wisdom and to find truth” (D&C 97:1).

I read an article many years ago, or heard the talk in person and I have a copy of it. It’s been one of my favorite talks, by Elder Marion D. Hanks. And in that, he talks about a Louis Agassiz, a distinguished naturalist. And he tells this story of an obscure spinster woman who insisted that she never had a chance to learn. He asked her, “What do you do?”

She said, “I’m single, and my sister and I run a boarding house.”
“What do you do?”
“I skin potatoes and chop onions.”
“Madame, where do you sit during those interesting but homely duties?”
“On the bottom step of the kitchen stairs”
“Where do your feet rest?”
“On glazed brick.”
“What is glazed brick?”
“I don’t know, sir.”

He said, “How long have you been sitting there?”
“Fifteen years.”
“Madame, here is my personal card. Would you kindly write me a letter concerning the nature of glazed brick.”

She took him seriously. She went home, explored the dictionary, discovered that brick was a piece of baked clay, and so on and on and on. She went to a library, an encyclopedia. She didn’t know what vitrified kaolin hydrous aluminum silicate is, so she visited museums and then she went to a brickyard. And then she sat down and wrote 36 pages on the subject of glazed brick and tile to Dr. Agassiz.

“Dear Madame, this is the best article I’ve ever seen on the subject. If you’ll kindly change three words that I’ve marked with asterisks, I’ll have it published and pay you for it.”

Two hundred and fifty dollars came. But penciled at the bottom of the letter was this query: “What was under those bricks?”

And she had learned the value of time, and answered with a single word: “Ants.”

He wrote back and said, “Tell me about the ants.”

And so she began to study ants, wrote a treatise on it that was published by Dr. Agassiz, and which now she could travel the world to see the places where the ants lived.

Now there’s something very fundamental about that, to invite diligent learning and not be content—not be content with mediocrity.

In conclusion, this final scripture, which was my title, but I’ve extracted some words. It talks about “Wherefore let every man learn his duty.” I’ve taken that out and just captured the idea of learning. “Wherefore now, let every man [and woman] learn.” And learn “in all diligence.” And he or she that learns not “shall not be counted worthy to stand” (D&C 107:99).

We can become better learners, and by being better learners we will be better teachers. I want to follow the example of the Savior, a master teacher. But what made Him a master teacher? He was first a learner, and did everything that President Packer described in that interview. Of Him I bear witness, that He is real, that He lives and this is His Church and His holy work, and we are truly led by prophets, seers and revelators who hold all the keys of the kingdom. May the Lord bless us to become better learners is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Civic Engagement: Making a Difference in our communities, Countries and World

28 Feb. 2007

Transcript

Civic Engagement: Making a Difference in Our Communities, Countries and World

 

I am honored by the invitation to speak to you today. I have titled my remarks: Civic Engagement: Making a Difference in our Communities, Countries and World. The First Presidency has said, “We urge members of the Church to be full participants in political, governmental, and community affairs. Members of the Church are under special obligations to seek out and then uphold those leaders who are wise, good and honest.”(See D & C 98:10). The letter from the First Presidency continues, “We strongly urge men and women to be willing to serve on school boards, city and county councils, state legislatures, and other high offices of either election or appointment, including involvement in the political party of their choice.”[i] As a result of what I will share with you today I hope you will sense a greater need to make a difference in your communities, nations and the world and also develop a personal strategy for how you might do that.

For most people most of the time politics, voting and more generally civic engagement are of secondary importance. Earning a living, raising a family and dealing with life is more than enough to keep most of us busy. How then can we effectively participate?  The ultimate responsibility for the future of a democracy is in us the citizens and the choices we make in free and open elections, as well as in our active participation in our communities.

Voting is the form of participation engaged in by more people than any other activity. Elections can and do result in gradual and perceptible change. Persons at both extremes will often be dissatisfied with the direction of American politics, but ours is a system of moderation and accommodation. As such, change will be less dramatic, and rarely will any one point of view get everything it wants. But in a world where so few ever have a meaningful voice in choosing leaders, the U.S. experience is, by any measure, remarkably successful.

But voting is important for more reasons than selecting officials and deciding ballot propositions. It is an affirmation of our citizenship and an expression of our commitment to the democratic process. Children raised in families where parents vote and take an interest in public affairs are likely to vote and be politically active as adults. For these reasons alone it is important to treat elections seriously and work to make them meaningful.

One of the remarkable parts of the American heritage is our commitment to free political speech and our willingness to accept political defeat. The maintenance of these values is even more important than the outcome of any single election. As the quadrennial sweepstakes for the presidency unfold this year and next we should not forget that the last two elections were very close. The 2000 election was decided by one state, Florida, where a mere 527 votes separated George W. Bush and Al Gore in a contested outcome ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2004 the presidential election came down to a two percent difference in the vote in Ohio. We should also remember than our personal involvement in our communities directly impacts our lives. Salt Lake City, where your college is located, will have a mayoral and city council election this year in which your involvement can make a difference.

But civic engagement can and should be more than voting in elections. We have been urged to be [D&C 58:27] “anxiously engaged in [all] good cause[s], [doing] many things of [our] own free will, [bringing] to pass much righteousness.”

Knowledge: The Foundation of Influence

Knowledge is the foundation of civic engagement and influence. Whatever your national origin, you are studying in a college in a free country governed by a divinely inspired constitution. Central to your foundation of political knowledge should be an understanding and an appreciation of the U.S. Constitution. In the bicentennial year of the writing of the Constitution the First Presidency counseled members to study the Constitution.[ii] There are many important elements of constitutional democracy in the United States but for our topic today the critical point is this document through such means as checks and balances, separation of powers, popular sovereignty, and a written bill of rights establishes a framework for what Lincoln called “government by the people.”

As members of the church we are enjoined to learn “of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms…”[iii]

For most people, politics are complicated and difficult to understand. Take for instance the Electoral College, the institution designed by the founding fathers to elect the president. Fewer than one-third of Americans can correctly identify the primary task of the Electoral College, and fewer still know how it works, who serves as electors or how the state-by-state, winner-take-all rule works. Many will be surprised if a president is again elected who comes in second in total popular votes but has a majority in the Electoral College (as happened in 1876, 1888 and 2000).

Less than half of the American public can recall the name of their member of Congress, and only 60 percent can name even one of their U.S. senators. With so few knowing their congressman or senator, it is not surprising therefore that very few voters know how their representatives voted on even one issue in the past Congress.

Although the public’s knowledge of institutional and candidate issues is poor, their knowledge of important public policy issues is worse. A recent study of college seniors found that even after four years of war in Iraq, fewer than half (45.2%) could identify the Baath party as the main source of Saddam Hussein’s political support. Over 12 percent believed Hussein found his most reliable supporters in the Communist Party and nearly 6 percent chose Israel as Hussein’s most reliable supporter.[iv] This same study measured knowledge about U.S. History and the Constitution among college seniors. Less than half correctly recognized that the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all mean are created equal,” come from the Declaration of Independence and more than half of college seniors did not know that the Bill of Rights prohibits the establishment of an official religion for the United States.[v]

Fortunately, not all Americans are uninformed. The general public can be divided into three groups: the attentive public, part-time citizens and nonvoters. Approximately 20 to 25 percent of the public know and understand how the government works, vote in most all elections, read a daily newspaper and will “talk politics” with their families, friends and associates, and consciously or unconsciously influence others’ actions and opinions. The attentive public tends to be better educated and more committed to democratic values.

In most respects nonvoters are polar opposites of the attentive public. They are rarely interested in politics or public affairs, and only very rarely will they vote. Different estimates exist on the size of this group, ranging from a low of 30 percent to a high of nearly half of those over age 18. A subset of this group could be called chronic political know-nothings. These individuals not only avoid political activity but have very little interest in government and very limited knowledge about it.

As many as half of the American public are part-time citizens. These individuals selectively participate in elections, voting in presidential elections but typically staying home for all others. Politics and government in general are of little interest, they pay minimal attention to the news and they rarely discuss candidates or elections.

The U.S. experience has shown that large numbers of citizens can be passive about politics and lack knowledge about their government as long as there is an attentive public. This latter group has been called “opinion leaders”—people who are interested and informed enough to persuade others. Where so many choose not to become involved, those who are involved have a disproportionate influence. You should be a part of the attentive public.

What can you do to become informed about your community, state, nation and world?  We live in the information age where with the internet we can access news media more readily than any earlier generation. Reduce your time on the computer playing Halo and increase your time reading a good newspaper with national and international coverage. Reading such a paper on a regular basis will have the additional benefit of increasing your vocabulary, knowledge of geography, and other worthwhile skills. It is important to also become knowledgeable about your community. You can do this by reading a good local newspaper.

One strategy for effective civic engagement is to build on this broad foundation gathered from wise use of the local and national media and specialize in an issue that matters to you. Some of you in this room are interested in the issue of immigration, others in literacy, and still others in soccer stadiums. Build upon your interest and read even more about the topic that interests you and then become involved in that issue. Write a letter to your elected officials expressing your point of view. Attend public meetings on the subject. Join an organization that has views consistent with your own to seek to influence policy. As you become involved you will learn that knowledge plus participation equals power. Individuals make the most difference when they are knowledgeable and have found the right places to express their opinions. Organizing into a group generally amplifies your voice.

Participation: Why Vote?  

Why vote?  Your participation in elections and in community affairs can make a difference. There are instances where a shift of a few thousand votes could have spelled the difference. I have already referred to the close elections in 2000 and 2004 for the presidency. The presidential elections of 1960 and 1976 were also elections in which shifting a few votes in a couple of states could have led to a different outcome. There are also local elections where a single vote could have reversed the outcome. For example in a 1994 contest for a seat in the Wyoming House of Representatives the vote, even after a recount. was tied. The winner was determined by a drawing in which the names of both candidates were written on ping-pong balls and placed in a cowboy hat with the winner of the election determined by a neutral party drawing one ball from that hat.

In addition, political cynics often argue that it makes little difference who wins because the two parties are basically the same. It is true that in general elections candidates attempt to appeal to the largest possible pool of votes, prompting, for example, George W. Bush to describe himself as a “compassionate conservative,” and a “uniter and not a divider.” For the same reasons the Democrats emphasize their patriotic values and commitment to family in their campaigns. Our system encourages candidates and parties to be centrist and mainstream. While some see this as a failing of our system, I see it as a strength.

Successful candidates must move to the center because that is where the voters are. Most Americans are neither liberal nor conservative, they are middle of the road or they have not thought much about ideology. In addition, few Americans consider themselves to be extreme conservatives or extreme liberals. Because so few persons are ideologically committed and so many persons are moderate or non- ideological in their thinking, it is no surprise that our politics discourage extreme or ideological candidates. That does not mean, however that all candidates or parties are the same.

The evidence is clear that elections make a difference. The aim of elections is governing. If George Bush had not become president in 2000 and been reelected in 2004 the political agenda would have been different.

Elections for president are also important because of the appointive power of the president. All told, the next president can expect to appoint hundreds of persons to positions in federal departments, agencies, as ambassadors, and to his personal staff. Most of these appointees will only serve while the President serves, but one select group of appointees, judges, have life terms and can profoundly influence politics and government. On the average a president can expect to appoint one Supreme Court justice about every three years. In 2005 in the course of three months President Bush appointed two Supreme Court Justices. Over the course of his first term he appointed 211 federal judges. President Bush’s nominees for these positions are very different from those that a President Gore would have nominated. For those who thought there was little difference between George Bush and John Kerry in 2004, this alone demonstrates the fallacy of such views. In the same sense, whoever wins the 2008 presidential election could stand to appoint two or more Supreme Court justices in their first tem in office. .

Political Parties: Essential to Democracy 

Political parties organize the “game of politics.” They form, equip and train the teams that make constitutional democracy work. Without parties, voters would face the daunting task of choosing form among scores of candidates. 

Regardless of how well- or ill- informed voters are, most adamantly maintain that they “vote for the candidate, not the party.” Individuals may explain their vote in terms of the candidates or the issues, but it is more than coincidence that the man or woman we voted for is from our party. Neither is the partisan choice made anew in each contest but instead reflects a standing decision or preference. Political scientists have identified three important elements of voting choice: partisanship, issues and candidate appeal. Of the three, partisanship is the most enduring.

Partisanship is typically acquired in childhood from parents and then reinforced by peers. About once every 40 years a major event or issue leads to a realignment of the parties, and large numbers of citizens adopt new party preferences or new voters entering the electorate tend to adopt one party over the other.

Political parties are malleable organizations. They are what we make them and they can and do change gradually over time. They are organized around the units of competition and so in effect we have more than one hundred parties in the United States since most political competition in the United Stats is organized at the state level. In this sense the Oregon Republican party is very different than the Utah Republican Party and the same is true for the Democrats. One arena where you can have a substantial influence is by becoming active in a political party.

Knowledge + Participation = Power. 

I have previously referred to the formula that Knowledge + Participation = Power. Why should we want power?  We seek power or influence because we know that government can be a force for good but also for evil. The checks and balances of our Constitution are only words on a piece of parchment if good people do not take these provisions seriously and actively defend them through civic engagement.

Elder Robert S. Wood of the Seventy explains why we should be active politically as follows:

We need to be vigorously engaged in the world. If our schools are inadequate or destructive of moral values, we must work with fellow members of the community to bring about change. If your neighborhoods are unsafe or unhealthy, we must join with the civic minded to devise solutions. If our cities and towns are polluted, not only with noxious gases but soul-destroying addictions and smut, we must labor to find legitimate ways to eliminate such filth while respecting freedom of conscience. [vi]

Civic engagement need not be full time nor national or statewide in scope. Rather it begins with informing ourselves about civic matters which in this age of the internet has never been easier. We then need to select issues, concerns, political parties or candidates to become involved with. The scale can be small like a neighborhood concern, or it can be global like the Aids epidemic. You decide but be sure to include participation along with seeking knowledge. 

Elder Wood continues:

But what can one man or women or a handful of latter-day Saints accomplish?  Much. The dynamics of history are driven, on the one hand, by the few who are engaged, and on the other hand by the many who are apathetic. If we are not among the few engaged, we are, despite our concerns and voices of alarm, among the apathetic. [vii]

When we become involved in public affairs we must recognize and appreciate that we will not all agree. We must learn to disagree without becoming disagreeable. It is also important to remember that our side will not always prevail. One of the most noteworthy elements of a stable democracy is the peaceful transfer of power from a losing party to a different winning party. I will close with the words of President Hugh B. Brown delivered at a BYU commencement in 1968. This was a time of great political unrest. He said:

Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion, and a depth of spirit which will enable you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy a variation in political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent. [viii]

Thank you very much.

 

[i] Ensign, April 1998, p. 77.
[ii] First Presidency letter of 15 January 1987.  See also Dallin H., Oaks, “The Divinely Inspired Constitution” Ensign February 1992. 
[iii] D & C 88:78-79
[iv] “The Coming Crisis in Citizenship,” A report funded by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s National Civic Literacy Board.”  p. 6.
[v] “The Coming Crisis in Citizenship,”  Areport funded by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s National Civic Literacy Board, p. 5
[vi] Robert S. Wood, “On the Responsible Self” Ensign March 2002.
[vii] Robert S. Wood, “On the Responsible Self” Ensign March 2002.
[viii] Hugh B. Brown, BYU Commencement Exercises 1968.

The Critical Need to Build Community

07 Mar. 2007

Transcript

The Critical Need to Build Community

When I first came to this country from England, I thought that America was a very odd community indeed. It was different. How many of you are from other countries? Didn’t you find it a little odd when you came, as compared to your own country? And then it begins to grow on you. I remember when I first arrived and somebody yelling out, “Welcome to God’s own country!” 

And I thought, “What an odd thing to say. I thought I’d just left God’s own country in England.”

But as I traveled around I noticed vast differences from state to state. We actually first arrived in New York, and I had great difficulty understanding people. And they had difficulty understanding me, too. One day a friend and I were talking and we decided maybe all of America wasn’t quite like New York. So we decided to get on a bus and we went down to New Orleans. And that was different.

The next morning I got up and my friend, Dorothy, was still sleeping in her bed, so I crept out and went to the restaurant next door for breakfast. And I looked at a menu and thought, “I can do all right here on my own.” And so when the waitress came over, I asked her, I said, “I think I’ll have some bacon and eggs.”

And she said, “How do you want your eggs?”

I said, “Fried.”

And then she said, “How do you want your eggs?”

And I thought, “I thought I just said fried.” So I said it very slowly, “Fried.”

And then she said, “Well, how do you want them?”

And I thought, let’s try something else, so I said, “Cooked.”

And then she explained to me about sunny-side up and over easy, and I’d never heard those expressions before. And I thought, here’s another odd community down here. And then she asked me if I wanted some grits. And I thought, “I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about, but you’re not catching me twice.” And I said, “Yes, I’ll have three of those, please.”

So she explained to me about the grits. But when I left and paid the bill, I got to the door and the cashier said, “Now you all come back again.” So I turned around and went back again. And that’s how I learned the meaning of that expression. It took a while to realize the uniqueness of this community that we call America.

A phrase used quite frequently is the following: “The community is split on that issue.” Well, I found in New York that it was split on many issues. And of course I’m finding out that this whole country is split on issues. We’re not the close-knit community that we used to be. And we ask ourselves, “All right. What is a community?” 

As I look around, this College is a community. But we seem to divide and also split communities according to religion, according to culture, according to customs. We talk about the LDS community, we talk about the Catholic community, we talk about the Somalian community and the Sudanese community because of the refugees that are here.

Last week, I finished up a six-week stint up at the Legislature. Now that’s a community that’s different. Have any of you been up to the Legislature? Good, a few. It is different, isn’t it? And I spent six weeks up there, anywhere from 8 to 14 hours a day. I was doing two things—one, helping to get the governor’s project through. But the other was advocating with a lot of other advocates.

The goal of the majority of people on the Hill each day is to make Utah a better community in which to live—to increase the quality of life, the quality of health and the quality of education, amongst other areas. And did we all succeed? Well, yes, to a certain extent. Because of the surplus, the budget looked good, and we got a great deal of money for many areas, including public education.

When you get so much as we did up at the Legislature, it’s supposed to bring the community together. But the school voucher bill that passed split the community. As you talk to public education teachers, they’re very upset about it. And you’re left wondering, how could we have avoided that? We’re supposed to build community, not split it up.

There are other issues, too, which were quite divisive. And how do we avoid that divisiveness? How do we build up community and not tear it down? One of the things I did a great deal of up at the Legislature, and do every day of my life, is to listen, listen and listen. And it’s to listen with eye contact, because we tear down communities when we disagree with people but [don’t] bother to understand where they are coming from. What is the rationale for their belief? What is the rationale for their opinion? Trying to understand by looking a person in the eye, and shutting off one’s own defensive thoughts and thinking, “Where are you coming from? Why are you saying something different from me?”—that’s how we build a community, because we’re listening to each other.

There are people up at the Legislature who get angry with legislators when they don’t do what the person expects. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life is to never, ever let issues interfere with relationships. If people have different opinions, it doesn’t mean to say one is wrong and one is right. They’re different opinions. If a senator or representative says to me, “Pamela, I’m sorry. I just cannot vote for that bill. I just cannot vote for appropriating the money for your particular project here,” I’m not going to be angry with him or her. I want to understand why they have a different opinion. Have I failed in my education of it? Have I failed to inform them of the great need? 

Never, ever let issues interfere with relationships. And the next time you go around, people remember that. Legislators remember that. “Ah, here’s Pamela, and she was very nice to me when I told her No last year. Perhaps we can say Yes this year.”

Did the advocates make a difference on the Hill? Did we make a difference in terms of money needed for the communities of people living in poverty, for the refugees, for the homeless people on the streets and in the shelters? You bet we made a difference, because we were there. We have a motto, by the way, up there: You leave, you lose. There were various amounts of moneys that were put in the budgets and were line items, and 24 hours later, they were gone. So we kept track of them, and we chased that money down. And in fact, at 11:35 p.m. on the last night of the session, 25 minutes before it ended, we were able to get another $100,000 into a project that helps the low-income. So can one, two or three, or a group of people make a difference? You bet we can. We had fact sheets. We educated. We were persistent, hopefully without being annoying.

Do you remember, almost a year and a half ago now, when the Katrina evacuees arrived? The governor asked me to help coordinate that effort, and we did a lot of planning, and we went out to the National Guard airport. One of the things we made very sure was to involve our African-American friends so that when our guests arrived from New Orleans, we didn’t want them looking out of the plane and seeing a sea of white faces. We wanted white and black. So we had a number of people from Calvary Baptist Church and other churches there. We were a real mixture, and hoped that we could represent Utah well.

When people arrived, they were very, very tired. Some of them were very angry at coming to Salt Lake City. Some of them didn’t know where they were going until the plane was in the air. One plane, when they were told before they took off where they were going, thirteen people got off the plane, and said they’d rather stay in New Orleans than come to Salt Lake City. Our job was to make people feel welcome. We greeted them at the bottom of the steps, welcomed them to Salt Lake City. But we also gave them hugs and escorted them over to where they could get some food and pick up some little gift packs and a blanket. As they got off the plane, they were cold; we put blankets around them. And we listened. And we listened. And we heard of the terrors that they had gone through, of wading through the water.

At one point, a planeload arrived, and as the people—a preponderance of males—came down the steps, I thought, “Aha! I recognize you. You are some of our homeless guests.” And sure enough, many of them were. Many of them had come in off the streets and right onto the plane, to come here to Salt Lake. We took them out to Camp Williams, and we tried to build this community, offering love, offering care, offering food, offering sustenance. 

We also tried to build this community that was not quite New Orleans, but was partly Utah as well. But we listened to them about their culture. We listened to the homeless people who said, “This is a second chance for me. Maybe we can get a job here. Can you help us?”

We did get some criticism, by the way, from the NAACP. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People actually called FEMA and said, “Don’t you dare send any more black people to that white Utah.” We were seen as absolutely pure white with not a black person among us, according to the NAACP. At this point I was involved in education and getting that ready for the children, and I got several calls from news media—the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the NPR radio in Boston. And it was interesting trying to educate them. They said, “What are doing with all those black people, black children, in your white Mormon Utah?”

And I said, “Well, first of all, we’re not all exactly white.”

He said, “Are you white?”

I said, “Well, yes, I am.” And then I said, “Are you aware that in three of our large school districts, the ethnic minorities have now become the majority?”

He said, “No, I wasn’t aware of that.”

I said, “Are you aware that in the Salt Lake School District, where there are 37 schools, we now have 87 different languages being spoken?”

He said, “No, I didn’t know this.” This was a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. 

And I gave him the percentages of African American and Hispanic and what have you, and I said, “And furthermore, I’m an elder in the Presbyterian Church.”

At which he said, “Okay, Pamela, you’ve made your point.” I was trying to let him know that we have a community that is diverse here, that we have been working on building up that community. 

We had over 600 evacuees that came. Nearly 300 of them stayed here. At our last reunion, about four or five months ago, very few of them turned up. Why? Because they have built a life for themselves in their new communities.

I talked to one couple with two children who had ended up down in Sandy, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews. And I said, “You’re in a very white neighborhood. How are your neighbors?”

And they said, “We don’t think that they’ve noticed that we’re black and different.” The neighborhood had come together to greet this one family, made them feel very special. And the Andrews decided to stay here. And what has happened with many of those 300, families and individuals, is they became part of what we call the Utah community. 

Now there are a few of them left who still need help, but we’ve stopped the special help now. They are treated like Utah residents and go through the usual channels to get help. There are some, second- and third-generation welfare recipients, and some who were homeless, and we’re having problems trying to get them to become self-sufficient. But we never give up on anybody, and we have continued to do that with these Utah residents who were former Katrina evacuees.

We have many, many refugees amongst us. They come in through the federal government. We have them from Sudan; we have them from Somalia; we have them from Vietnam; we have them from Russia. But many of them are on the west side. They’re in Rose Park, they’re in Glendale, they’re in West Valley City, they’re in South Jordan, they’re in Taylorsville. Many people living on the east side in this city never see people of a different color other than white. And yet it’s such incredible education and really thrilling to listen to people from other countries, as I know some of you are, who have so much to share in terms of where you have come from and what your cultures are like. And that’s what we’ve been learning. We feel very strongly, many of us, for the refugees who are here because of torture, because of killings and because they wanted to come out of the refugee camps, who are willing to share with us and help us to be better, much as they’re learning about the American culture.

What about our own community? Are we building it, or are we tearing it down? What about homelessness right now in our Salt Lake City? What about families and individuals living in poverty? What about hunger? There’s a lot of different ways of being hungry. 

I was amused but saddened by the fact that the federal Agricultural Department has taken what you might call the Scarlett O’Hara approach to Americans without enough to eat. It will never call them hungry anymore. I’m quoting now from the Washington Post. “Rumbling stomachs? Malnourishment? That’s not hunger, the Department said. It’s ‘very low food security.’ Whatever the intention, this linguistic airbrushing diminishes the shame of the problem, its persistence and its scope, that 11 million Americans reported disrupted eating patterns.

“It really is a national embarrassment. Imagine the department going after the description on the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your energy deficient, your financially challenged, and your space-impaired masses, etc.’” The federal government was trying to use a euphemism for people living in poverty, so they can’t talk about being hungry.’” But those of us who work with people who are hungry, we call it. “Are you hungry?” We get them food to relieve the malnourishment.

But what about the other hungers that we find right here in our city, in our county, in our state? Many people have these on a daily basis too. People hunger for a decent shelter, people hunger for good health, people hunger for clothing, people hunger for blankets. People hunger for companionship. People hunger for opportunity. And people hunger for love and compassion.

I have many, many homeless friends. I probably know about 70% of homeless people, and they give me probably more than what I give them. They’ve taught me so much. And they’re like you. They’re like me. They’re like all of us. They have their dreams, they have their hopes, they have their goals. 

Last December there was a National Homeless Memorial Day. Across the country in the cities there were candlelight vigils held for those homeless people who died. In Salt Lake we had 42 people who were homeless who had died. We came together—service providers, advocates and homeless people—to mourn, to grieve, to recite their names and to remember them all with stories and with love. We will do that every December 21st. 

What can and should we be doing? There are the usual things—we can give food to the food bank. We can give clothing to the various organizations—Volunteers of America, Road Home. We can make sure that they’re warm enough. 

But what else can we do? President Bush two years ago came out with an initiative to end chronic homelessness within ten years. And by chronic homelessness, he means those people who have been out on the streets for years, who are consuming emergency services—ambulances, police, fire departments, hospitals, and many, many beds in the shelter. And what we’re doing, rather than taking people off the streets and putting them into treatment programs, we’re now taking people off the streets and we’re putting them into their own apartments. 

We’ve done this for just a year and three months now, and we have 17 people—17 men—who have made it, who are still in their apartments. Some are obviously doing better than others. One of my friends, Bobby Fritz, who I’ve known for 15 years on the street, he’s been in his own apartment for a year and two months. And I go by to take him special treats or food, and also just to sit and chat. He proudly tells me he’s opened a savings account at one of the banks, and he showed me the 47 dollars and 13 cents he has in the bank. He proudly showed me how clean his apartment is, and reminded me that I’ve known him for 14 or 15 years.

Fred Lampropolous, who is the President and CEO of Merritt Medical, is quite the humanitarian. He was talking to me one day and asked how he could help. I told him about this project that is called Housing First, or the Pathways Program. So he decided to give me his Jazz suite at the Jazz game. Now, that’s not just a little box. It’s a big box that not only seats 26 people, but also has an area to sit and eat, and has the food. 

We decided that I could take some of my homeless friends, or formerly homeless friends. So they all showered. Unfortunately, three of them got very nervous about going and drank a few beers, so we couldn’t take them. But the others piled into the vans with the providers and the case managers who have worked so closely with them to keep them in their apartments, and we got to the EnergySolutions Arena, and they had a wonderful time. They ate constantly. In fact, the person who kept on bringing the food said, “I’ve never seen any box eat as much as this box.”

I said, “Is it all right?”

She said, “Oh, absolutely.” And I explained who they were, and that a year and a half ago they’d been out on the streets. She was so impressed. 

But they whooped it up and hollered. It was a very close game with the Denver Nuggets. And the Utah Jazz won, and it was very exciting. But what was exciting for me was the response of my homeless friends. Some of them said, “You know, this really makes us feel an important part of the community.” And others said, “I feel like a normal human being.”

One of the case managers said, “You know, normal human beings don’t get to sit in these boxes normally. We’re up there.”

But we all had a good laugh about it, and then the next day the men sat down to write thank you notes to the guy who had given us that. What a wonderful thing to do. Later this month, there will be 100 studio apartments for more people to bring them off the streets and do case management. You see, there are things that can be done to change people’s lives. You’re all part of a team that needs to change people’s lives. 

There’s another way to build a community. On Christmas Day, my friend and I went out to all of our homeless friends, out in the camps. We took out hot turkey meals with all the trimmings and gifts that had been donated by people and lovingly wrapped, and took Christmas to their community out in these camps. And then we went by to the places where people live in one-room apartments who are mentally ill, and took them gifts and food too. And then we went by the Pathways Program, and went to each of these different apartments. And we were greeted with great joy and with great pleasure and with great gratitude. But we were also grateful that we were in a position to serve people. 

And then in the evening, for the last nine or ten years, I’ve put on a dinner at the Salvation Army. I had 45 volunteers, most of whom have come every year and I’ve watched their children grow. We have people sit down, and the volunteers do a wonderful job of treating every homeless person they come to with dignity, and treating them with the real spirit of Christmas. I think that day as we were all serving, the love of Jesus Christ was flowing through us and out to many of our homeless friends. 

Some of you may have heard this, but here’s another instance of a community coming together, and it’s the Special Olympics community. I don’t know if any of you have had the opportunity to work with those Special Olympians who are mentally and physically retarded. It’s the most wonderful lessons we could ever learn. But this one got me, and you may have already seen this.

It was a few years ago, at the Seattle Special Olympics. There were nine contestants, all of whom were physically or mentally challenged and disabled. And they assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash. At the gun, they all started out, not exactly with a dash, but with a relish to win and to run the race. All—all except one boy, who stumbled on the asphalt. He tumbled over a couple of times, and he began to cry. And the other eight heard him, and they all turned around and came back. One of them, a little girl with Down syndrome, bent down and kissed him and said, “I will make it better.” All nine of them linked arms and walked the 100 yards and crossed the finish line together. 

That was a community coming together. A community of Special Olympians. And then the crowd helped to build that up by standing and applauding. The cheering went on for about five or six minutes. And why? And why are people still telling this story? Because deep down within us, we all know that what really, really matters in this life is helping others win, even if it means us slowing down and changing our course. 

I had an appointment with Bishop [David H.] Burton a few months ago, and I was running late because I had stopped to help somebody who obviously needed help. So I got to his office late, and I said to him, “I’m so sorry I’m late, but when the Lord puts opportunities in front of me to help out, to reach out and help people, I’d be stupid not to take opportunities like that.” And he agreed, so I was forgiven and he gave me the full time. 

What was I there for? To ask for something. We could not do much of what we do for the homeless and low-income people without the LDS Church. We couldn’t do nearly half of what we do, because of their generosity through Humanitarian Services. There’s so much that needs to be done and I know that many of you are involved. 

You know, sometimes we run up against barriers as we’re trying to build communities to come together. And one of our mantras is, “Those of you who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those of us who not only say it can be done, but are doing it.” And I think we—all of us here today—know, many times, what works. Every one of us here today has the ability to help other people cope, survive, and also triumph. 

Sometimes we think, “Well, here’s an opportunity.” And I don’t know about you; I have a friend who says that sometimes an opportunity comes up to reach out and help someone, and she said, “I don’t do it until I get the holy nudge.” Well, I’ve gone one step further. Sometimes I’m not thinking right and I’ve missed the holy nudge, and then bingo—I get the holy shove. And let me tell you, when you get the holy shove, you get in there and you help out regardless of how you’re feeling, tired or what.

Sometimes we don’t quite know what to do, and I have a quote for that. “Some people see a closed door and turn away. Others see a closed door and they try the knob, and if it doesn’t turn or open, they turn away. Still others see a closed door, try the knob and if it doesn’t open, they find a key. And if the key doesn’t fit, they turn away. And finally, some people see a closed door, try the knob and if it doesn’t open, they find a key. And if the key doesn’t fit, they make a key that does fit, and thus they become the key-makers.”

I would suspect that many of you sitting here today are key makers. I feel very strongly that by becoming key makers we become very creative. We become very innovative. And we do make things work.

I really thank you for all you’ve done and all that you’re doing. But I’m also going to thank you for all that you will do to get involved with the schools, with the children at risk, of trying to get them out of poverty. Education is the way out of poverty.

I was at a school last Friday—550 children. Eighty-five percent of the kids are living in poverty, seventy-nine percent ethnicity, and yet they’re the most wonderful kids and the most wonderful parents who are trying to help. I just think we can be more ambitious.

There was an English politician, and he was campaigning for re-election. He stood up in front of this vast crowd and he said, “I am proud to be an Englishman. I was born an Englishman and I will die an Englishman.” 

And a Scotsman got up and said, “Ach, man. Have you no ambition?”

And I think we can be more ambitious. We can initiate projects. We can join in projects. We need to look at the various communities, the communities of the homeless people. How do we help build it up? How do we help people living in poverty? How do we help the refugee population? How do we help people who are struggling? So often, people make a list of the problems and possible solutions. People say, “Oh, we need to do a needs analysis. We need to do a gap analysis.” What if we were to do the opposite, and discover the assets in the various communities that we are trying to build up? What if we were to look at the homeless and say, “What assets and capacities do you have?”

There was one homeless man who was so eager to learn, and he just couldn’t seem to get a job. We got him one with a construction firm. All I had to do was buy him some steel-toed boots and off he went. And now he’s a full-time worker, a much-valued worker. He has a family of his own. But what I saw in that man—his assets—he was willing, he was strong, he was healthy. He needed an opportunity. 

We need to look at the individual talents and productive skills that abound in many low-income people. We need to move away from stereotyping people. I’ve heard several legislators say, “Poor people? Hmm. It’s their own fault that they’re poor.”

And then, when we were talking about all-day kindergarten, “Uh-uh,” says one senator, “Children should be at home during the kindergarten years, and their parents should teach them.”

“Well, excuse me, Senator. Sometimes the moms and dads are out working, earning minimum wage, and they’re gone until seven or eight [o’clock].”

“Well, that’s their fault. They need to get a better education.”

And so it goes on. We need to avoid that. We need to be positive about the people that we’re trying to help. We need to make sure that we influence other people, that we don’t stereotype. We need to make sure that we get into the schools. 

Did you know that mentoring a low-income child for one hour per week per child builds up their academic scores, increases their social skills, and also their self-confidence? Did you know that when you smile at somebody, you may have made a difference in their whole day? Did you know that when you make an effort to walk across the room and talk to somebody who’s standing alone, you may be helping somebody out of a crisis? You may be able to share with them your love of Christ and the love that Christ has for them, too?

There are so many little ways to help, and I would like you to join in this interactive prayer with me to finish, please. It’s by St. Teresa of Avilla, who said, “God has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out upon the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the feet with which He is to bless His people.”

So if you’ll join me, please touch your foreheads. “May our thoughts be kind and wise, and may we approach all with compassion. May we let go of harsh judgments.” Touching the ears. “May we become aware of the suffering around us, and may we hear their cries of distress.” Touching the mouth. “May we have the courage and wisdom to speak up for those who are wronged, to be a voice for those who suffer from injustice of any form.” Touching the hands. “May we be ready to give when someone needs our gifts, and may we be open to receive from others when we are in need ourselves.” And touching the heart. “May we be willing to meet our own suffering and do so with deep compassion for ourselves.” And touching the feet. “May our faith give us strength to walk with one another as brothers and sisters, knowing we are each one a necessary part of this beautiful world.”

Thank you for your time, and remember we are the hands of Christ, and we are here to do His work. There are small ways and big ways that every one of us here today can make a difference in this wonderful world with which we have been blessed. Thank you.


Are You on the Path to Eternal Life?

14 Mar. 2007

Transcript

Are You on the Path to Eternal Life?

What a treat it is for me to be here today. It’s a thrill for me to see young people like you and to hear this beautiful choir, and to know that you’re in one of the great institutions of the Church. And I know that you are here for an important purpose, that is, to prepare yourself for the rest of your life. So today I want to talk a about the rest of your life.

I’d like to remind you of why you’re here in the first place. Every person here who has taken upon him or her that covenant of baptism was foreordained to greatness in that world which existed before. I’ve often thought how marvelous it would be to be able to open the book that exists in heaven and see what I’ve already signed up for. Wouldn’t you like to know that? I think you would be surprised.

There is already a plan prepared for you to enter into a kingdom which is beyond your greatest imagination. The kingdom is prepared, and your name is on the door. All you have to do is endure on the path of faith to get there. There’s a pathway, and that pathway is taught by God. And His purpose is to teach us how to get to that kingdom which He has already prepared for us. The pathway is simple, but it becomes more complicated when we lose sight of the purpose or end point of the pathway.

Today I thought I’d begin at the very beginning, with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve, of course, were placed in the Garden of Eden and there was a plan for them. God gave them a commandment, and you all know that commandment, which was “Don’t partake of the fruit of that tree of knowledge of good and evil.” (See Genesis 2:16)They broke that commandment. And when they broke it, they knew that they were not doing what God had commanded, so they hid themselves in the garden. You all know what happened next. God came to the garden and said, “Adam, where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9). Or, if you want to read the portion that’s in the book of Moses, He says, “Adam, where goest thou?” (Moses 4:15).

I have a question for you. Do you really believe that God who knows all things, didn’t know where Adam was? I think He knew. So what is the meaning of the question?” Adam, where art thou?” Do you think God is asking for a geographical description of where he could be found, or the bush behind which he was hiding? I don’t think so.

I like to think about that question in another way. “Adam, where are you with respect to Me? Where are you are with respect to your desire and willingness to keep my commandments?” Or, if you want to use that version found in the book of Moses, “Adam, where are you headed as related to righteousness?”
I think that question could be asked of each of us: “Where are you going?” “Which way are your headed?”

Another interesting event occurred not long after the Garden of Eden story when Adam and Eve had children. I’m going to mention Cain and Abel for a moment. We know about Abel. He was given to raising flocks. And Cain was given to growing things from the ground—he tills the ground and he harvests. Adam was taught the pathway to eternal life and he taught the same to his children. What was one of the lessons taught? There is an ordinance to remind them that they were to be redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ. That ordinance was called The Law of Sacrifice. It was commanded that Adam take the firstlings of his flocks and sacrifice them to the Lord.

Now, put yourself in Adam’s position. He was placed into the lone and dreary world, and he didn’t have much of anything. So everything that he had would have been very, very precious to him. Now, those of you who know something about animal husbandry know that when you raise flocks of sheep, for example, you keep the very best of your flock for breeding. And the breed stock will then generate superior quality flocks. But God had given Adam a commandment. The commandment was to take the very best—the first and very best of his flock—and to sacrifice it unto the Lord (see Moses 5:5). The commandment was to take the firstborn, unblemished lamb and kill it. It may not be very good for animal husbandry, but it was very good for what the Lord intended, which was to symbolize to Adam and all of his posterity the great atoning sacrifice that was to be made by the Lord Jesus Christ. Adam taught this law to his children. He taught it to Abel and he taught it to Cain. And we know that Abel and Cain had authority to perform this sacrifice, because the scriptures tell us that both Cain and Abel were authorized, even commanded, to make sacrifices. The law of sacrifice was an ordinance which, for them, was an essential part of the journey to eternal life.

So, what was the problem? Just as we know that there are essential elements to the journey which leads to eternal life, Satan also knows it. And he is determined to see that every one of us, you and me and everyone who ever has or who ever will live upon this earth, doesn’t finish that journey to eternal life. We read about one of the things that he did to divert Cain from his journey to eternal life.

He came to Cain, and he gave him a suggestion. He said to Cain, “Offer a sacrifice to the Lord.” Did you get that part? He didn’t say, “Offer a sacrifice to me [Satan].” He said, “Offer a sacrifice to the Lord.” And he whispers to Cain that which will divert him from his journey. “Do you really want to go to your brother and buy a sheep from him? What is there about your brother that makes him better than you? What is there about what he produces that is better than what you produce? Aren’t you as important as Abel? Aren’t the things which you grow just as important in the eyes of the Lord as the flocks that Abel raises?” (see Moses 5).

Satan invites Cain to offer sacrifices to the Lord, but to do it in the wrong way. And as Cain listens to Satan he decides to offer a sacrifice to the Lord but to do it his own way. He took his produce, his crops and offered them as a sacrifice. And it was not accepted by the Lord. And Satan knew it, and he was pleased.
Why was Satan pleased? Because he knows that the surest way to divert Cain from the journey to eternal life is to persuade Cain to do it his own way rather than the Lord’s way—to pay attention to his own selfish desires; not what really matters to the Lord. He didn’t pay attention to why the Lord commanded a blood sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice could not symbolize the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son. It did not bring to memory the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. But Cain wanted to do it his own way, and the cost was great. And Satan was pleased.

Of course, Satan works on others, even the faithful. You all remember what happened when Jared and his family were present at the time of the confusing of the tongues at the Tower of Babel. Jared was very nervous that his family was going to have their language confused so that they couldn’t speak to each other. So he went to his brother, who had a special relationship with the Lord—we know he was a great prophet—and he said, “Go to the Lord and plead with the Lord that he not confuse our tongues.”

And the brother of Jared went to the Lord and he pled with the Lord, and the Lord said, “I will not confuse the language of Jared or his family.” And the brother of Jared reported it. Now Jared, thinking he was successful with the Lord, decided he’d go for a little more. He asked his brother to ask God to not confuse the tongues of his extended family and his friends, so that they could communicate with each other (see Ether 1:34-37).

The brother of Jared went to ask the Lord. And the Lord had compassion on the family and friends of Jared, but as a condition of the requested blessing, Jared and his family and friends were to begin a journey that would take them away from that pool of wickedness into the wilderness to a land, choice above all other lands, chosen by God where they could accomplish those things which would lead to eternal life. It was a journey not only away from evil influences of the world, but a journey to eternal life where they could learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, partake of the ordinances of salvation, and endure in faith to the end. That’s the journey the Lord commanded for Jared and his family.

So, Jared and all of his family and the brother of Jared and all of their friends gathered up their belongings and went into the wilderness. We don’t know how long it was, but it was likely quite long. And what do we know about that journey? We know that they likely did not have adequate food, and they suffered much fatigue and privation. There were undoubtedly many challenges in this journey which they took into the wilderness. And one thing we know about it is they didn’t have a map.

What would you think about it if somebody came to you and said, “We’re going to go for a journey, the endpoint of which we don’t know and the duration of which we don’t know? We know we’re never coming back, and we don’t have a map.”

They went. And after many days, they found themselves on the shore of a great sea. And finding themselves on the shore of a great sea, they pitched their tents on the shore, and presumable they found there fresh water, land that could be cultivated, fruits and vegetables that were available and game for food. It must have been a wonderful place for them, where they found great peace and repose from a difficult journey. And they stayed there, and they stayed there, and they stayed there, and they stayed there.

Now the brother of Jared was a great prophet and a man who did many wonderful things, which you can read about in the book of Ether. He was camped on that beach with the family and friends of Jared. And the Lord spoke to him from a cloud. The Lord spoke to him for the space of three hours. When I first read that, I thought, “It would be great to have the Lord speak to you for three hours” -- except for the part that follows:“And he chastened him. ”Well now, that would be a long three hours!And why did he chasten him? He chastened him because, the scripture says, that he failed “to call upon the name of the Lord” (Ether 2:14).

Now I would ask you this question. Do you believe that the brother of Jared, one of the great prophets of all time, didn’t pray? It doesn’t say this in the book of Ether, by the way, but it’s my own personal view that he prayed. And I could imagine the praying going like this: “I’m grateful that we’ve got this wonderful place to stay. I’m grateful that all my friends and family are around me. I’m grateful that my kids are growing up healthy. I’m grateful that we’ve got food here and fresh water. I’m grateful for this wonderful beach we’re camped on. I’m grateful for all of these things. It’s much better than walking through the wilderness without a map.”

But the Lord was not pleased. What was the problem? The problem was the journey the Brother of Jared was focusing on was the journey in the wilderness. But the journey he had promised God he would focus on was the journey to eternal life. And that purpose he forgot, for four long years.

What do you suppose the Lord said to him? We don’t know. But I could imagine Him saying something like this:“Son of Adam, where art thou? Where goest thou? You’re camped on this beach, but where are you supposed to be?

That same challenge existed in more modern days. When the Church was in its youth, because of persecution, it was moved to Kirtland, Ohio. And God had given Joseph Smith a commandment that he was to build a House of the Lord at Kirtland. When Joseph Smith went to Kirtland, Ohio, the gathering of the Saints had already begun, and there were people gathering in Kirtland from all over the world. People were coming from Europe, people coming from all over the United States. And when they came, they came mostly with the possessions which they had, which were few. They had no farms, they had no houses, and they had no employment. They had little sustenance. What were they going to do to live? How were they going to survive there? Joseph and others in the leadership of the Church became preoccupied with finding farms that they could till, and land upon which they could build houses, and ways to obtain clothing to put on their back, and to prepare them for the winter, which can be very egregious there.

And as they were thus working diligently to preserve the needs of the people, the Lord came to the Prophet Joseph Smith, as recorded in the 95th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Here’s what it says, verse three: “For ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin that ye have not considered the great commandment in all things that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house.” And if I skip a little bit—“Yea, verily, I say unto you, I gave unto you a commandment that you should build a house… in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high” (Verses 3 v 8).

Was Joseph Smith doing good things? He was. Was the Lord happy about it? He wasn’t. Why? Joseph Smith was so focused on the journey on the earth, he began to lose sight of the journey to eternal life. God knew what Joseph didn’t know; namely that it would not be many days before Kirtland would be lost to the Church and the Saints would be gone. And what would protect them? Not the farms that they were acquiring, not the houses they were building, not the planting that they had accomplished. These would be gone. And what would save them? What mattered most? Nothing mattered more than those ordinances to be given in the House of the Lord which are essential to the journey for eternal life.

Now all that is old history. Why does that matter to you? Well, it does matter, because the journey that you are on is the journey to eternal life, and Satan knows it. And history shows he is very capable when it comes to diverting people from that journey.

Think about the journey in which you are now engaged. You are all here engaged in an institution of higher learning, of considerable repute and reputation, I must say. And why are you here? You’re here to gain education, to prepare yourselves. And is that good? It is. But does this marvelous education distract you from your journey to eternal life? And if it does, in what do you do about it?

I know that some of you are returned missionaries, because there’s a young man right here that I met some months ago when I toured the Winnipeg Canada Mission—so I know that there are some returned missionaries here. There are some of you that probably have not yet served. If our journey requires that we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, one of the most critical things we can do is to learn about the gospel in the service of the Lord as a full-time missionary. If your education seems too important to serve a full-time mission, ask yourself, would God say to me, “Son of Adam, where art thou? Where goest thou?’” If you’re committed to something that diverts you from that journey to eternal life, you are camped on the beach.

Of course, for returned missionaries, the journey is not over and for some of you sisters who have other plans, a mission is not required. The scriptures are a guide to that all important journey and must become a part of the lives of all of us. What do we do with them? Do they sit home on the counter, to be read between 12:01 and 12:02 midnight every night? When you have an exam the next day, it’s important to study for those exams and it’s important to succeed. But somewhere in your schedule, you’ve got to make time for that journey that leads to eternal life. Satan will tell you there is always something more important than that journey.

I’d like to remind you of an event which you all know so well. Remember the sons of Mosiah who committed themselves to be full-time missionaries, and who turned away the kingdom of their father so that they could go preach to the Lamanites? I want to talk about one of them—Ammon. And there’s one of my favorite parts of the story in Alma 17. Ammon goes into the land of the Lamanites, and he comes to the kingdom ruled over by King Lamoni. He’s outside the city and people see him, and they suspect him of being a Nephite enemy so the guards leap upon him, they bind him hand and foot. They bring him before the king. And the king has power to put him to death. Ammon begins to speak. Now, we know some of the things that he spoke, but we cannot reproduce the way he spoke. We can tell he spoke by the power of the Spirit. The reason you know that is because King Lamoni became pleased at what he said. So The king was so impressed that he wanted Ammon to take his daughter to be his wife (see Alma 17:20-24).

What do you think about that? Do you think that if Ammon was the son-in-law of the king that he would live in a prison or a shack at the edge of town? He is going to live in the palace. Do you think that Ammon is going to wear rags, like many of those missionaries sometimes did? He’s not. He’s going to have the finest clothes in the entire kingdom. Do you think that he is going to eat poor quality food? No. He’ll have the best there is to offer. How do you think he will get around in the city? Do you think he will walk? He’ll be in the very best chariot that can be made available. For Ammon, this offer was not just an offer of the king’s favor, it was an offer of a lifetime. What could he have said? I think he could have rationalized many things here. “You know, if you’re in the household of the king, you can do a lot of missionary work, couldn’t you? You could!If you were in the household of the king people wouldn’t turn you away when you knocked on the door.”

There was only one problem. He was a full time missionary. King Lamoni, who I believe at the moment he extended this offer really had high regard for Ammon, was making an offer which, had Ammon accepted it, would have destroyed the missionary work he was called to do. You see, Lamoni was acting as a tool of Satan, but he didn’t know it. He didn’t even intend it. He intended to do a good thing, but it was a temptation to Ammon to put the things of the world ahead of those of eternal life. Ammon knew it. So he simply said, “Nay, but I will be thy servant.”

If God had appeared in that meeting with Ammon and the king, and he had said, “Ammon, son of Adam, where art thou? Where goest thou?” we know what Ammon would say: “I am a missionary. I can’t accept the offer of the king. I will instead be his servant.” Ammon was not camped on the beach. He was committed to the journey to eternal life (see Alma 17:25).

Let us consider the essential ordinances of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every single one of you here, every person in this room, needs to partake of every essential ordinance which God has decreed upon this earth to lead us to eternal life. And what are those ordinances? Well, we know about faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. And yes, they are important. We know about Melchizedek priesthood for the brethren, and we know about enjoying Melchizedek priesthood blessings for the brethren and the sisters, because that comes to us through the endowment and the sealing power. The endowment and the sealing are essential ordinances. Where are you with respect to those ordinances?

Where are you with respect to thinking about your journey to eternal life? If Satan can divert you from the essential ordinances, he can divert you from that journey to eternal life. One way he can deprive you of the ordinances is through sin. Anytime that Satan can lead you into a transgression, he can deprive you of the blessings of essential ordinances. All ordinances are effective only to the degree that they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, which blessings are shed only upon those who are just and true (Doctrine and Covenants 76:53).

What does Satan do? He tells you “Lie a little, take advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor, there’s no harm in this. God will beat us with a few stripes, and then we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (2Ne 28:8). Satan tells you it doesn’t make any difference if an image comes up on the Internet or on the television screen which is inappropriate. He whispers that lingering on that image is not a big problem”—until pornography becomes so much a part of your life that you’re not either entitled to or inclined to partake of the essential ordinances of eternal life. Breaking the law of chastity? Oh, yes, it can be repented of, but it will keep you out of the ordinances until repentance is done, and the repentance is long and painful and many have not the courage or stamina to repent of it. Integrity and honesty will help you on your journey but drugs can exclude you from partaking of the ordinances.

Sometimes we don’t partake of essential ordinances, not because of sin, but because we don’t prioritize them above other good things of the world. I’d like to share with you one example.

One of the ordinances that each and every one of us need is that of being sealed in the new and everlasting covenant. Point of fact is, you need to be married in the Temple. Now, I’ll talk to the young men in this group first. You know, young men, you will never get to the celestial kingdom unless you have a wife. You will not go there alone. Do you understand that?

You know, young women, the rule for you is slightly different. Yes, you have to be married. But for you the promise is, God will provide every worthy woman the opportunity for a celestial marriage. Everybody gets a chance. You young men have a greater responsibility. Of course all will have opportunity to marry but in our culture, you young men typically have many opportunities to marry in this life where some young women may not. There are some social issues in our Church that sometimes divert us from this journey to eternal life. I’d like to share with you a couple of examples.

There was a study done of LDS singles. What do you think was one of the greatest concerns of young women? Listen up, young men; you’re going to want to know this. One of the greatest concerns was that they didn’t know if they could find anyone who would make a permanent commitment to them. I’m talking about a permanent commitment; I’m not talking about two months or two years or ten years, I’m talking about time and eternity. They didn’t believe that many men were willing to make a permanent commitment to a wife. They were worried about that. For that reason, a number of young women have chosen to find themselves an education and a career to protect themselves against the event that they find themselves without a companion down the road. I’m seeing nodding heads here.

Is that a serious problem? It can be. Should young women have education and careers? They should, unless education and career become of greater importance than the journey to eternal life. Now young men, society has changed the way in which some young men feel about things. You know why that is? Listen young ladies!Young men get nervous because often the young women they date seem smarter, better educated and sometimes better employed than they are.

That means that some young men are not going to be willing to do anything serious with respect to marriage until they’ve got their education completed, a job—a good job, drive a nice car—hopefully red sports car, have a down payment on a house, and then and only then do they want to get serious. And between then and now, instead of doing anything serious about dating where they’re really doing investigation for companionship; they do this thing called “hanging out,” which means you don’t have to make any commitments at all. They can show up when they want, wave at everybody, leave, and then tell their bishop they are doing their best.

This is a danger, and the reason it’s a danger is because it reflects where you are on the path to eternal life. If God stood before you and said, “Son or daughter of Adam, where are you? Where are you going?” What would you say? If all you are worried about is concerns over temporal things, if you are not willing to take the step in the dark, if you are not willing to go beyond what you have courage to do in accomplishing that great sealing ordinance, you are camped on the beach and God will not be happy.

Even when all the ordinances are done, there’s still adversity. Do you worry about what the future will be like in the world you live in? Terrorism, dissolution of families, and unpredictable economy are common subjects of news reports. You might say, “What’s going to happen to me?” Well, you don’t have to worry about it as long as what you do is driven by a dedication to the journey toward eternal life. The journey to eternal life does not end when you get out of school. It doesn’t end when you get married. It doesn’t end when you get children, or even grandchildren. It doesn’t even end when you get old.

You can sometimes observe in people their commitment to the journey to eternal life. I want to share with you one brief experience. Some time ago, I was privileged to go with a mission president to the Central African Republic. There we have a branch of the Church in the city of Bangui. The mission president had never been there before, and neither had I. But the branch had not been visited for some time, and we were concerned about it so we flew there. We were met by the first counselor in the branch who was a young man, a university student studying in medical school.

We asked him about the branch president. He told us the branch president had not been there for a number of months because of a rebellion in the country. The tribe to which the branch president belonged was accused of being responsible for the rebellion and it was not safe for the branch president to stay there. He got on an airplane with his family and he flew back to France.

I asked this young man to describe the challenges he was dealing with in his branch. He said the big challenge was the lack of priesthood leadership to help administer the Church. Later in the day, we held a church meeting with about 35 or 40 people in this little house that had been rented for the Church to meet in, and as I sat on the stand, I looked to the congregation and saw a man and his wife and four small children. I asked about that man. He looked to me like he could be a priesthood leader.

The counselor told me that he had once served as the clerk in the branch presidency. But he made a mistake. Some people came looking for some economic help, and they were hungry, so he took tithing money and he gave it to them so they could buy food. The mission president who supervised this branch wasn’t happy with that decision. He taught this man that one can never use tithing money for that purpose; use fast offering money, but not tithing money. And to teach him the importance of carefully administering the sacred funds of the Church, he put him on probation for three months. That is, for three months he couldn’t take the sacrament, or hold a Church job. At the end of three months it was expected that he would have learned his lesson and the probation lifted.

I asked if he had been faithful during his probation.

He said, “Oh, yes. He attends Church every week with his wife and his children. —and he sits right there where you see him now.”

I said, “How long has it been since he was placed on probation?”

He said, “That was eight years ago.”

“Eight years ago? He’s been coming every week for eight years and he can’t take the sacrament, he can’t hold a Church job because of a probation that was to last three months? How did that happen?”

He said that they had had a war, and the mission president couldn’t come back. And then they changed mission presidents, and the next mission president just never came. And in fact, he said we were the first priesthood leaders that had come there in eight years.

Well, we fixed it. But I would like to ask you to ponder this question: Would you be willing to be faithful under those circumstances for eight years? I like to think that if God asked, “Brother, where are you,”his response would be apparent to allbecause he was so obviously willing to patiently do whatever God wanted him to do. That is evidence of pursuing the journey of eternal life. This man was willing to come to Church faithfully for eight years in the face of a forgotten three-month suspension.

My brothers and sisters, the path to eternal life is before you, but there are many risks of detour. Only you know whether you are on a detour or not. I pray that when you kneel at your bed at night and ask God how you’re doing with Him, you might change your position and in your mind’s eye, ask yourself this question: “Son of Adam, or daughter of Adam, where art thou on that path toward eternal life? Where art thou going in this life?”If that perspective is brought home, you will know what I know, and that is that the Lord Jesus Christ lives and He directs this Church. Every thing that happens in this life to us can be for our benefit if we will simply choose that path which leads us to eternal life. And the path lies before each and every one of you to reach that destination which is already prepared for you. Your name is on the door. All you have to do is want it bad enough to stay on that path and stay off the beach.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


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