The Story of My Conversion

04 Oct. 2006

Transcript

The Story of My Conversion

 
 It’s been a long time since I was in college—a long, long time.  But I do remember some things.  I remember studying a famous Greek philosopher named Socrates.  I only remember three things about him:  1) he was a famous Greek philosopher, 2) he gave really, really, really long speeches, and 3) his friends killed him.  So I will keep my remarks brief.  I will stay within the time that’s been allowed to do this.
I appreciate the wonderful introduction.  I can just tell you a little bit more about myself.  We have lived in Utah now for about five years.  In fact, I guess it’s just been exactly five years.  We moved here from Chico, California where I was manager of a mall in Chico, which is in Northern California between Sacramento and Rey.  We came here to work on the redevelopment of Crossroads Plaza, but two-and-a-half years after I was here and started down that path, the owners at that time decided to sell the mall and then what you know now is a three-year process that the Church has been working on trying to figure out what they’re going to do.  The announcement this morning is that they’re going to redevelop two city blocks, including Crossroads Plaza.
About a year ago it became obvious in the Church’s plan that they were going to demolish and, instead of renovate, they were going to tear everything down.  And we started moving tenants out of there probably a year, year and a half ago, and getting ready to close the place.  My management office closed last summer, and I was forced to take a job somewhere else, so I ended up in Layton, which was closer  for us, because we do live in Farmington.
I have been in this business; I met my wife in this business.  We got married; we do have four children and three grandchildren now.  One of our boys is in Colorado; another is in San Diego working on his PhD.  And we have a daughter in Bakersfield, and her husband has a good job there.  And then our fourth daughter still lives at home and attends the University of Utah. 
I want to tell a few things that will kind of inspire you.  I want to use some personal experiences, and tell you a little bit about things I’ve learned in my life, and hopefully maybe pass on some things that you can apply to your own lives.
The first thing that I want to address is the importance of being an example.  People all around you are watching you—especially members of the Church.  They know who you are.  Whenever you interact, every day, you are representing the gospel, you’re representing the Church, and you are having an influence on people around you whether you realize it or not.
The best example I can give you of that is my own story of my conversion.  I grew up in Boise, Idaho, went to Boise State University which, as you know, they drilled Utah last week.  Maybe that’s not something we want to say here.  But after I graduated from college I worked a little bit in the real estate business, and then I took a job for a real estate company in Boise to manage their Five Points Mall in Bountiful, Utah.  If you remember that, they had just converted it to an enclosed mall and it was running into hard times.  They needed somebody to come down here and work on it on site.  So I moved down here to work on that project.
I was not a member of the Church.  I had not ever had any experience with members of the Church or never had any exposure to the gospel or anything.  When I moved to Bountiful—of course, Bountiful is probably 80 or 90 percent members of the LDS Church—and I interacted with them on a business basis.  Everybody that I worked with, it seems like, was a member of the Church.  Almost everybody.  I became involved with the community—I was on the Chamber of Commerce board and became active.  There was a tenant in our mall; his name was Layne Beatty.  He had a real estate office at that time, now he’s the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce here in Salt Lake, and before that he was the president of the Utah Senate.
I became friends and business associates with people like that.  There are many others I could mention.  And I guess over the three years I was there, I grew to appreciate the familiarity and the way that we interacted together.  After three years I left and took a job back in Idaho, to manage a mall for a company called Point Lewis and Redevelopment.  So I moved back into eastern Idaho.  And right away I noticed the difference.  There was a difference in the people.  People doing the same jobs in the same spheres and the same companies that I was working with, I just noticed that there was something different about them.  They didn’t have the light; they didn’t have that interaction that I had become familiar with.  And I started asking my wife, Stephanie, “What’s going on?  What’s happening here?”
She had had some involvement with the Church in her life and knew somewhat about it, and she could answer all the questions, a lot of the questions that I had.  And I found that I knew enough about the LDS Church at that time that I knew the men wore garments, or most of them did.  I don’t know if they had the t-shirt type [they have] now, but remember the eternal smile?  You can always see the garment line if somebody is wearing a white shirt.  A guy came into my office, and I instantly had that connection again that I had when I was working with the people in Bountiful, and I just liked him.  You know how you just meet somebody and there’s a spark there?  You just like them.  I asked him where he was from, and he said he was from Salt Lake, he was a traveling salesman.  I said, “Are you a member of the LDS Church?”
And he said, “Yeah.  Are you?”
I said, “No.”
He said, “Why do you ask?”
“Well, I just wondered.”
And there was a guy that owned a pizza restaurant in the mall.  And I dealt with owners and managers of businesses all day long, but again there was just some connection with this guy, not that he was a great manager. His business was actually struggling at that time.  But there was just something about him that kind of sparked some interest there.  And I found out a little more about him, talking to him, he told me about his family and everything.  And you started putting it together.  He had a big family, and they’re doing this and that.  So I said, “Are you a member of the Church?”
“Yes, I am.”  Well, I thought it was interesting.  “Are you?”
“No, I’m not.” 
So I started asking these questions and stuff, and we were kind of discussing this at home.  One day my wife left to go to the market, it was on a Saturday I think, and I was home alone.  And I opened the door and there were two elders standing there, and the tall one says, “Hey, we were just walking down the street and this lady drove off in this car and she stopped and rolled down the window and said ‘There’s a man in that house that wants to talk to you.’”
I started to close the door and said, “No, thanks,” and he kind of leaned forward and he said, “Well, she kind of was really saying that we should talk to you.”
I said, “Well, why don’t you come back when she’s here.  She’ll be back later.”
They said, “How about six o’clock?”
And I said, “Okay.”  So Stephanie got home later that afternoon, and I said, “Let’s go.  Let’s get out of here,” you know, before six o’clock.
And she said, “Now wait a minute.  You’ve been asking all these questions, and we’ve been talking about this, and these young men—they’re the ones that have the answers.  So if you really want to know the answers to the questions you’ve been asking, why don’t you just ask them?”
So I said, “Okay.  You’ve got to be here too.”
So they came over that night and just starting answering questions and teaching the gospel.  Instantly I recognized the same thing that I noticed with the people in Bountiful and the people that I’d picked out, that I’d recognized, I instantly picked up on with them, tenfold.  And of course, you know what I’m talking about, it’s the spirit that they had.  And I had that same draw to them, that same attraction to them to them.
They challenged me, you know, you go through the different lessons and it took a period of weeks.  You have to understand, I was not very—not looking for anything in my life.  I had a new wife, I had a really nice car, I had a great house, a new family.  This was all a new experience for me.  I didn’t tell you this—Stephanie and I had just been married before we moved to Idaho.  I met her when I was working at Five Points Mall.  And so I was not really looking for anything in my life.  I didn’t really want to be a Mormon.  I grew up with “The Mormons do this” you know, and I didn’t want to do that.  It’s not what I wanted to do.
But when they started teaching me, I knew that there was something to what they were saying.  They told me the Joseph Smith story, and I knew right away there were only two explanations for this:  It’s got to be a complete fraud, or it has to be the truth.  There’s nothing in between.  You can’t explain it any other way.  If it’s true then the Book of Mormon is true and the LDS Church is founded on true principles.  Or it’s a complete fraud—the biggest fraud that’s ever been perpetuated on mankind.  And to think about that it just—it just couldn’t ever happen.
And so I came to that realization, and I thought, “Uh oh.”  And Stephanie said, “Uh oh.”  And so we agreed to be baptized.  We had a son who was eight—my stepson, Stephanie’s son.  He and I were baptized at the same time, and then our other children were baptized when they came of age.  And we stayed in the Church.  We have stayed active in the Church ever since then. 
It was not always easy.  We went through some trials; we went through some difficulties.  And I’ll talk a little more about that before I run out of time here.  But that’s the history of my conversion, and the importance of being an example.  And another time—now that the situation’s been reversed, there have been times in my life when I have been an example.  When I was working at Crossroads Plaza, my housekeeping supervisor came into my office and she said, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
I said, “Sure.”
Well, what she didn’t know was that the weekend before that—this was on a Wednesday—the weekend before that was Conference, and on Sunday afternoon I was listening to Conference, and Henry B. Eyring was talking about kind of being a missionary and being an example, and the things that I’m talking to you [about].  And he said that he had a friend that always carried a Book of Mormon in his briefcase.  And he told this story, one day the friend was going on a trip and didn’t want to take the Book of Mormon, but the Spirit told him to take it, and he gave it to someone on his trip.  Well, I used to carry a Book of Mormon in my briefcase when I was in California.  I gave a couple of them away here and there, but it was not a big deal.  And when I moved to Utah, I cleaned out my briefcase, started a new job, and I just never put the little blue book back in. 
Well, when Henry B. Eyring was telling that story, I had this thought go through my head, “I really need to go get a Book of Mormon and put it back in my briefcase, because I used to do that.”  Well, you forget about Conference the hour that it’s over, right?  And I forgot about that feeling, and the next Wednesday morning I was saying a prayer before I start my day, which I should do more than I do, but I do it once in a while.  And I had this inspiration.  “Go get that Book of Mormon, and put it back in your briefcase.”  It just came out of the blue.  I wasn’t thinking about it or anything.  It just came out of the blue.  So I said, “All right.  I’m going to do it now before I forget.”
So I went up to the bookcase and I got the little blue Book of Mormon and stuck it in my briefcase.  And then Patty comes in the office about ten o’clock that morning.  She says, “Can I talk to you?”
I said, “Yes, sure.”
She was not a member of the Church.  She was from Texas, and had a little girl.  And she said their neighbor had just invited them to go to sacrament meeting with them, and she wanted to know what to wear.  She wanted to fit in, and wanted to know what to expect and what to—you know, she’s Catholic, and they have a bunch of rigmarole they go through—and she wanted to know what she was going to do here.  So I just started to talk to her about what to expect and what, typically, she should wear, and about how the sacrament is passed, and “What day are you going?  Are you going on the first Sunday?” (???)  And it wasn’t the first Sunday, so we talked a little about that.
And then I had this—something hit me.  You’ve seen the television commercial with the Vonage thing?  You know, you get hit by one of those blocks in the head, or one of those ball bats.  And so, “Well, wait a second, Patty.  Would you like a Book of Mormon?”
And she said, “Yes, I would.”
So I got it out of my briefcase and gave it to her.  She was baptized into the Church.  She came to our home and did the lessons, and was baptized into the Church.  I had the opportunity to baptize her and her daughter later when she became eight.
Again, it goes back to the example that you’re sending out to everybody that you come in contact with.  I never talked to her about the Church; I never went to her and said, “Hey, would you like to come to Church?”  It was just a series of circumstances and coincidences.  While somebody else was inviting her to Church, the Spirit was telling me I needed to have a Book of Mormon ready to give to her. 
Those kinds of examples can go on and on.  Everybody will have those.  But the thing I’m trying to stress is the importance that you have of being an example in your life to those people around you.  And you don’t know it.  You’ll never know it.  But someday, you’ll have an opportunity to see how that affected somebody else.
The other thing I wanted to talk to you about is kind of having faith and hope and not giving up faith and hope.  A lot of people your age, I know from experience, get discouraged when things don’t go the way you want them to go.  There’s a lot of problems, there’s a lot of frustration.  You’re starting your life; you’re at a very difficult time to try to balance between school, some of you have a job, work, family—some of you are married.  And it’s easy to give up hope when all of that stuff comes. 
And I wanted to share with you a story.  I understand that a couple of weeks ago the speaker here talked about the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.  And so I wanted to share a story about George Washington, and an example that he went through.  And this is pointed toward maintaining hope in adversity, and keeping your faith alive.
Go back to December of 1776.  The fight for independence had broken out, but it was not going well.  George Washington’s army had suffered a bunch of defeats.  He had fewer than 3,000 men remaining from an original 20,000-man force that he had commanded just three months earlier.  The British had come and taken New York, and they were headed for the capitol, which was Philadelphia.  The Congress had already fled Philadelphia in the face of the oncoming British, and Washington was camped across the river in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and was attempting to recruit some men to try to fight to defend the capitol city. 
In mid-December the temperature plunged.  The country froze.  The British halted their march and quartered their troops in New York and New Jersey.  They decided to wait until spring to attack Philadelphia.  Washington’s army was in bad shape.  They hadn’t been paid for months.  The militias had deserted several times.  His army had no shoes, no equipment and very little weapons or gunpowder.  They had no training and very little provisions.  And they were fighting the best-trained, most powerful army in the world.
The commission of the 3,000 people he had left was set to expire on December 31st, and at that point most of them were farmers.  You have to think what was in their mind:  “I’m not a fighter; I’m a farmer.  I’m going to go home.  It’s cold, it’s wet, I don’t have good shoes, we’re losing every battle.  This is a hopeless situation.  I would rather live as a subject to the king than die as a cold, wet rebel.” 
Well, that’s the scene that confronted Washington.  He wrote his wife and said, “Martha, the game is pretty near up.”  If they had lost, Washington would have been executed and hanged, and that would have been the end of it.  So if anyone had a reason to call it quits, he had several reasons.  But he did not give up.  He did several things. 
First, he went and asked Robert Morris in Philadelphia to borrow $50,000 to pay his troops.  Now, can you imagine how that conversation might have gone?  No collateral, no secure foundation for the loan, just “$50,000, I need to pay my troops who are probably going to desert in three weeks anyway.  And I’ll probably be hanged, and when they find out you gave me the money, you’re probably going to be hanged, too.”
Well, he got the money, and then he had Thomas Payne write this famous letter to his troops.  The famous letter was called “The American Crisis.”  In part it reads:  “These are the times that try men’s souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.  But he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.  Tyranny is not easily conquered, yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
The soldiers took these words to heart, and they stayed on and agreed to fight one last battle with the Hessians.  On December 25th, Christmas Day, they huddled under their capes until nightfall, and went down to the river in a swirling snowstorm.  People wrote that here and there, the snow on the edge of the riverbank was tinged with blood, as they had to wade out into the water and push these boats out into the Delaware River.  This is that painting you see where Washington is standing up, crossing the Delaware.  Snow and sleet slashed into their eyes.  They finally got across.  After 14 terrible hours, they got across at 4:00 a.m.  He gathered his people together and they marched ten miles to Trenton, New Jersey.  Two people sat down by the side of the road to rest and froze to death on the way. 
When they got there, [Washington] split his troops into two divisions.  One of them came back and said, “The gunpowder’s wet.  It’s worthless.  We have no gunpowder.”
Washington said, “Use the bayonet.  We are going to charge Trenton, and we’re going to take it.”
At precisely 8:00 a.m., Washington ordered his troops to storm the city.  There was a bad snowstorm, and they charge in in the midst of the wind and the snow, and they rallied the Hessians.  There was a brief battle, and the Hessians surrendered.  George Washington and his troops had won a substantial and decisive turning point in the Revolutionary War.  And now they had the faith and hope that they needed to go on.  This was a turning point that they could go and change the course of the war.
Nothing had changed.  They still were without food, no shoes, no weapons, in this case not even any gunpowder, but in their darkest hour with no faith and no hope, they managed to overcome and succeed.
I use that as a way of illustration, but it’s a very interesting story.  Elder Henry B. Eyring said, “It is absolute certainty that each of us will go through the trials of our faith.”  We probably won’t go through the trials of pushing boats out in the water in our bare feet, and having to do those kinds of things, but we will go through trials of physical handicaps, financial problems, personal disasters of some kind.  For many of us, real trauma may not be any disaster at all.  It may be something that would divert us from what God would have us do.  There are trials and adversities confronting each of us in these days.  There are many things to worry about, such as natural disasters, wars, now the West Nile virus, the e coli outbreak.  Every time you turn around there’s something going on.  The list is endless.  And some people have given up hope.  They’re just hanging on and marching through the days.
Sometimes we don’t see immediate answers to a lot of the problems that we’re given in life—the problems that confront our families, the problems that confront us individually.  But regardless of how gloomy and how dark our days come, we must never give up hope.  And I hope you take some of that with you from the George Washington story, on the importance of not giving up hope.  Hope is the anchor—what gives the anchor to the souls of men, I think is what the scripture says (See Hebrews 6:19).  It gives us the foundation that we need to keep going forward.
What do we hope for?  In your case, you probably hope to make it out of school, hope to get married and have a family, hope to get on—maybe go on to a different school to get that four-year degree.  And there are a lot of things you hope for.  But the end hope of course is for eternal life.  We all hope for eternal life.  Don’t give up that hope.  Keep that faith alive in the times that you have where you are most disheartened and downtrodden.  You need to remember many before you have been there, and keep that alive.
There is a reason why we are here where we are.  If you think about the history of the Church, and you think about the trials that the people had to go through in the early history of the Church, and the trials that are facing us today, who has the bigger trial?  The people that had to go through the physical hardships or the people that have to go through the mental hardships and keeping the faith in the light of all the immorality and the other things that are going on in the world. 
Brigham Young said, “Give us prosperity and see if we would bear it, and be willing to serve God.  See if we would be as willing to sacrifice our millions as we were to sacrifice what we had when we were in comparative poverty.”  And I think that’s the challenge that we have today. 
One of the adventures that I’ve had in my life was climbing the Grand Teton in Wyoming.  And I remember that we went up and did a two-day climbing class at the Exxon (??) Guide Service at Jackson, Wyoming, and got ready to climb the Grand Teton, which is a big mountain.  We hired a guide to take us up there.  When the guide gave us the two-day climbing lessons, he had an opportunity to observe us.  There were five in our group, and he had an opportunity to work with us and show us the different things that we would need.  I can still tie a bowline around my waist in my sleep.  You never forget that.  But, when it came time to put us on the rope to go up the actual bridge up to the top of the mountain, he had to decide who was going to be placed on the rope and in what order. 
The first guy was Dave.  Dave was a very physical guy, very strong, quick and agile.  He was an athlete.  He had been a high school athlete and so on.  The last guy on the rope was Mark.  Mark was mentally tough.  He was always positive, always upbeat, he was fearless.  Mark would have just charged up the mountain with no protection, no rope or anything, if we had let him.  But he had the ability to keep our spirits up.  Mark had been an Olympic cyclist, so he knew what it meant to be mentally tough and to stick to your goals.
The other three of us were in the middle.  One of us was really scared—not me.  He was really scared, and didn’t know if he was going to make it.  The guide put him right behind Dave—the tough guy, the rock, the physical guy.  When you think about how we were roped up to go up this mountain, I think about how the Lord must have picked people to come to the earth to restore the gospel to the earth.  Where are we on the rope?  You think about the very physical people, the tough guys, that had to endure Missouri, build the temple in Nauvoo and Kirtland, give up everything they had, cross the plains, go through all the hardships, build a community out of a wilderness.  You had a lot of physical, tough people. 
Then you look at where we are, farther down the row, and I think that we probably have to be more like Mark—mentally tough, willing to stick to our objectives and be fearless, stick to the hope and the courage and be the one that lifts everybody else up.  Be the one that keeps everybody else going.  We have lost sight.  We didn’t know Joseph Smith, the guy, in the beginning.  We’re not at the top of the rope where we [would have] had first-hand knowledge of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and those people who had a personal witness.  We’re farther down.  Our witness comes from the Spirit; it comes from our own internal drive, and it’s important for us to remember it’s no coincidence where you are on the rope.  You are here for a reason, and you are here facing different obstacles, and in my mind, even worse obstacles than those people who had to face those physical things.
So keep moving forward, keep moving upward.  And maintain your hope.  I got lots of stories here I could share.  I’ll pick one out and we can talk about it.
I want to go back to my conversion a little bit and tell you, you know, when I first joined the Church it was not easy.  I didn’t just walk in at 30-plus years old and say, “Here I am.”  I came in with everybody else in the Elder’s Quorum; many of them had served missions, gone to BYU, sat through many devotionals like this.  I’ve never been in one.  This is my first devotional to be in.  I did teach seminary in California for two years, early morning seminary, and that was an interesting experience, to try to get those kids motivated at 6:30 in the morning before they go to school. 
In fact, I remember, talking about singing.  When I first started to do the seminary thing, they told me we should always have a song before seminary class.  So I said, “Okay, we’ll do that.”  So my very first day of teaching seminary, all the kids come in and we introduced everybody, and “Okay, we’re going to have a song.  Everybody get out the hymn book.”  And they all just looked at me.  So I said, “All right.  Let’s get out this hymn book,” and I picked a hymn.  I can’t sing at all, and I could barely speak.  So we get out the hymn, and I say “All right, here we go,” and I started singing.  I’m the only one.  Everybody in the audience, I mean my class, is just sitting there looking at me, just like you’re looking at me right now.  So I suffered through it; I kept singing the best I could.  I said, “Come on, come on.”  And finally a couple of girls in the front row, you know those two girls, they kind of started mouthing the words and singing a little bit.  And the guys in the back, do you think they started singing?  No.  They sat there just looking.  That was the last song we did in seminary for two years.  I went out that day down to the bookstore—we had an LDS bookstore in town, not Deseret Book, but like that—and I said, “I need some CDs of gospel music.”  And I got the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I got some Primary songs, all these CDs.  Every day that I taught seminary after that we played a hymn on a CD and everybody sat there.  We still got the music, but I wasn’t going to be the only one standing up there singing.
After I joined the Church, I moved with my job.  We moved six times in five years, or five times in six years, or something like that, because I got on with a company that wanted me to transfer to different projects.  And each time it’s a little bit more money; each time it’s a little bit more of a promotion.  Had I just stayed in Utah when I was in Bountiful, I’d probably be where I am today, only I would have a home that was paid for or whatever, my kids would have gone to school in one place.  Everybody has to move maybe once or twice, but I got on this thing where you do this with the company that wants you to move every year-and-a-half or so.
If I had it to over again, I would not do that.  But I did.  The problem with that is that not only the kids get uprooted from school, we get uprooted from our ward.  Just as the bishop starts to know me and they give you a calling to be on a committee or something, and just as they start to get to know you and you get a little bit more involved in the ward, you’re gone.  And then you start over again with a new ward, new school, new teachers, and it’s just very hard.  Our testimony did not really grow.  We stayed with it, we stayed with the Church.  There were times that I thought, “You know, I’d really rather not go to Church,” but then that was the day that one of the kids wanted to go.  On the day they didn’t want to go was the day I wanted to go.  So as a family we managed to stay with it.  And we did.
When I think back on my experience, I think about the first time I ran a marathon.  I was—I’m going to go down and run the St. George Marathon this weekend—but I always remember the first marathon I ran.  I went through a whole summer with training; in fact, it was the same summer that I climbed the Grand Teton.  When I came back, one of the guys that we were with challenged me.  He said, “Let’s go run the marathon.”
I said, “I’ve never run more than a few miles.”  So I started running, and I started training for this.  It got to be late September, and I was really running a lot and getting ready for it.  I went out to run, and I couldn’t go.  My knee just totally was gone.  Every time I tried to take a step, it was like somebody stabbed me with a knife.  So I frantically got an appointment with the doctor, and I got in there that day or the next day.  I said, “Look, I’ve put all this training into this.  I want to show up for the St. George Marathon.  It’s only two weeks away.  What am I going to do?”
He said, “I don’t know.”  He said, “You’ve got tendonitis, which is just overusing it.  You’ve over trained, overworked the knee.”  He said, “Take these anti-inflammatories, and I don’t know what’s going to happen.  Show up at the starting line, you may go two miles, you may go all 26.  I don’t know.  I have no idea.”  Then he said, “Whatever you do, stay off of it.”
So I had no way to gauge.  I showed up there at the starting line, and I got way at the back of the pack.  I figured, if I’m dropping out at two miles, I don’t want anybody watching me.  So I started clear at the back of the pack.  It would take me five minutes to get across the start line.  I started jogging really, really slow.  And pretty soon the milestones—one, two.  When I got up to six and my knee wasn’t hurting, I thought, this is going to be okay.  So I picked up the speed.  And I got up there twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and I was still wondering what was going to happen.  It didn’t hurt.  I carried some of those anti-inflammatories and I took a couple of them on the way just for insurance, but I made it.  And I made it through, and I actually made it in better time than what my goal was. 
So I sometimes think back on that experience and I think that’s how my conversion in the gospel went. I started at the back of the pack.  I didn’t want to join the Church.  I knew the Church was true; I connected with the Spirit.  I knew the Joseph Smith story was true.  I knew the Book of Mormon was true.  But I didn’t want to be a Mormon.  So I started at the back of the pack, kind of reticent.  And one by one, I started passing those milestones.  We went to the temple. 
I could go on all day about what happened after we went to the temple.  I had a sudden urge to do my family history.  I wanted to do my history for my grandfather who I was very close to.  I couldn’t find his information.  I went through everything I could to find out about him—his birth date, marriage date, all the stuff that he knew.  I couldn’t find it anywhere, with all of the help family history people [could give].  My dad showed up one day with a suitcase and said, “Here.  You’ve been asking all these questions about your grandpa.  Here’s some of his old stuff that I have saved since he died.” 
It was this old, battered suitcase.  So I opened it up, and I started going through it.  I found an address book in there that was dated 1953, and it was “To Grandpa from Barry.”  So I gave it to him when I was, like, one year old.  My mom had written that in there.  And in the middle of the address book, there was a single white sheet of paper, notebook paper, that was folded up.  And in my grandmother’s handwriting, she had written on there their full names, when they were born, where they were born, the date they were married, where they got married, and the date and everything of their first son.  Everything that I needed to go and do their temple work was written on that piece of paper.  She died in 1951, before I was even born.  Why she wrote that down on a piece of paper, and why my grandfather put it in that address book, folded up and [it] stayed there, I’m sure it was just a coincidence.  Right?
I’m simple-minded enough to think that it’s not a coincidence, that that is the working of the Spirit.  I did do their temple work.  I have some other experiences about doing some other family history work.  I never wanted to do family history.  I told my kids that family history was something I was going to do when I get old, like playing golf. 
Three years ago, I was doing some family history work and I was playing golf and my son came to visit.  He said, “You’re playing golf and doing family history work?”  He said, “You know what that means.”
I said, “Yeah.  It means I changed my mind.”
Anyway, my conversion story is a lot like the marathon story.  It has those milestones.  We went to the temple.  We did some family history work.  I could go on and on.  The coincidences that are not coincidences.  The reasons that we ended up here in Utah, I could tell you that whole story.  But each of these milestones that I pass strengthens my resolve and my faith that I need to do what the Lord wants me to do.  I am where I am on that rope because of the qualities and the personality and the toughness that I bring to this life.  The people who are ahead of me were ahead of me for a reason.  I’m here for a reason, and I need to step up and understand what that is, to keep the hope, keep the faith and the courage that allows me to go forward and do what I can do to be that example, to be the kind of person that can have an influence on my family, an influence over my friends, and to maintain that faith.  I hope that you will do that as you start to come of age and go out into the world, as you start families.  Remember who you are.  Keep that faith, keep that courage, and maintain that hope.  I leave that message with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

On the Subject of "Becoming"

11 Oct. 2006

Transcript

On the Subject of "Becoming"

 
It’s an honor for my wife and me to be here today.  I am really delighted to have Julie by my side.  We do have quite a few children running around.  Our youngest is still in elementary school.  So we’ve got our hands full, and we have some kids that are in junior high and in high school, and two in college, and one on a mission.  So I think that, at this point, we about cover the gamut.  And it’s really been fun to watch them grow up.  I love having my sweetheart with me, and am grateful for that opportunity today.
I love LDS Business College.  It seems like every time I come here, I can’t help but feel touched by the quality of the kids who are here, as well as the faculty and the leadership.  My wife and I were privileged to be here a few weeks ago, when the new facilities here at LDS Business College were dedicated.  We sat in the first few rows and just kind of really soaked in that event.  I told President Woodhouse and Sister Woodhouse, the food wasn’t nearly as good in this room today as it was a few weeks ago.  They had all kinds of wonderful food there.
But President Woodhouse told the story at the dedication that most of you probably heard, that really touched me.  Think of how significant it is, in a world that now has passed 6 ½ billion people as of the last few months.  We’re over 6 ½ billion on this planet, and there’s over 11 million members of the Church.  And here at LDS Business College, as I understand it, there are about 1300 students.  And the prophet, who has responsibility over that entire purview, would call up President Woodhouse and say, “I’ve been thinking about LDS Business College.  And I’ve got an idea that would ensure the viability and the future of the College for the next 50 years.”
I think that’s significant, don’t you?  That of all of those people, the prophet had been thinking about you.  And I think it says something about you that is material in meaning and important.
Well, Brother Poelman talked about my entrepreneurial adventures, and it reminds me of Don Livingstone at BYU who is the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship there, called me a “serial entrepreneur.”  And I think that’s a little bit like being a serial killer; I’m not sure.  You’ve probably not had one of those speak here at these forum meetings before.  But I have loved my business career, and I’ve loved my church experience as well.  I do have a very unique perspective on business.  I have never ascribed to the “blood and guts, beat the next guy at all costs” kind of philosophy.  What I have loved about business more than anything else has been the opportunity of creating and growing organizations that build people.  And that is a very exciting thing for me, to see people that we could hire—and it’s now been thousands of them through the years—where we’ve been able to bring them in.  And whenever I hire somebody, I would say, “My goal is to have you be a better person when you leave here someday, than you are today.”
I think so many times in the workplace, that people are minimized.  I think one of the things that inspired me in this direction early on was a job I had as a banker, and Larry Richards could relate to this.  I had a job as a banker and the head of the bank was asked to have kind of a fireside, if they would, and to get together with all the people and kind of build them up and let them know what the leadership of the bank was saying.  And so the leader of this bank called everybody into this room, and was talking to them about how well the business was doing, and how grand its future would be.  And this was a very old business here in Salt Lake.  Somebody raised their hand and said, “Could you tell us, please, how you feel about people who have worked for this institution for many years?”
And his answer just blew me away.  He said, “Well, I think that old employees are a lot like old equipment, and they need to be replaced over time.”  That was his answer.  And he got his just rewards.  The business is now out of business, and he got his fondest wish; none of them worked there anymore, because the business doesn’t exist. 
But I would tell you that it’s a really wonderful thing, in the hard, competitive world that’s out there, to create an environment that builds people.  And just as a secret between us, I would tell you that it’s also the smartest business thing I’ve ever discovered.  Because if you can create a business situation where everybody is there—not just with their bodies, not just with their wallets, but also with their hearts—it’s really an unstoppable dynamic that makes businesses prosper and grow.  And so, I’ve tried to create an environment where people—and I claim no unique authorship—I think those ideas really came from being a member of the Church, where I saw what motivated people, and I saw the joy people took in doing things well and in doing their very best work.  And for me, what a privilege to take the workplace, where people spend so many hours, and so often it degrades people, it degenerates them, it demoralizes them.  Every one of us knows somebody who hates their job.  Don’t we?  We all do.  And they feel trapped. 
I have a friend who is a very wealthy stockbroker, and he and I were mission companions together.  He came to me a few years ago and said, “Andy, I really need your help.  I want to find another job.” 
And I said, “But you’re making so much money!”
And he said, “I know.  I’m trapped.”  He said, “My lifestyle has risen to my income; I could never duplicate my income anywhere else.  I cannot leave, and I hate what I do.”  He said, “Nobody appreciates me.  They don’t respect me.” 
Anyway, I would just tell you:  In whatever thing you choose to do—whether it’s to be an interior designer based on Miles’ training and help from others, Larry Richards, whoever else at this College that will be training and teaching you—I hope you will understand that you have a lot more say and control of your life than you think you do.  And I believe that there is joy in becoming something great.  So I’d like to say a few words today on this subject of “Becoming.”
Becoming is something we all are about, if you think about it.  And whether we are becoming closer to God—more like God, a better person—or whether we’re going the other direction is really the result of the choices we’re making in our lives today.  One of the things I love about LDS Business College is that so many of you are first-generation college students.  I don’t know what the percentage is exactly; I understand that President Woodhouse asks often at graduation, “How many of you are the first in your family to have graduated from a secondary educational institution?”  And I hear it’s 20, 25, 30 %--some fairly good, meaningful percentage.  Well, I would just say, what a wonderful and meaningful thing that is for you, in that you are fighting and striving to become someone better.  And I think, really, that’s the joy of our lives.  The whole point of our existence here on this earth is to become somebody new.  In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says this:  “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; and behold, all things become new.”
So it’s all about becoming, isn’t it?  Becoming somebody different, becoming somebody new.  I think as you get older, you will see, and many of you are probably already familiar with people who feel like their lives are not their own.  And it happens that way.  They become victims of their circumstances.  Somebody is ill.  Somebody loses their job.  There’s some other external force that’s happening to them.  A bad marriage.  A difficult child.  Any one of those things.  And I guess I would just like to say today that, to the degree that we really understand the power our Father in Heaven has given us, I think we will understand that we can become who we were meant to be, in spite of these external forces that weigh on us.  I really believe that.
We’ve been involved a little bit here at LDS Business College, with some of the single moms’ scholarships.  And I had a chance to see them at our meeting, where there were a number of single moms that came and talked a little bit about their experience at LDS Business College.  And I remember thinking how challenging their life must be.  We learned about Stella Oaks, Elder Oaks’ mother, and the challenges she faced.  She had a nervous breakdown at one point, trying to raise her children after her husband had died.  But somehow, she found the strength, and I believe an endowment of power was given to her—just like I believe it can be to all of those other single moms who are here at this school—to do what she needed to do, and to become who she was meant to become.
So I’d like to just share four points if I can, on this subject of Becoming, with you in the few minutes we have together.  And the first one is this:  you need to understand the purpose of the exercise.  In other words, why are we here?  Why are we experiencing what we are?  And what’s happening to us?
The second one is the importance of eternal law, and we’ll talk a little bit more about that.  The third one is the idea to find your strengths and to become your best self.  And the fourth one is service.  Okay.  So we’ll talk about those in the spirit of Becoming.
Well, let me say this.  One of our sons, as he’s been growing up, has encountered some challenges, at school, with peers—the normal things that I think all of us have dealt with, peer pressure, sometimes we’ve all felt a little bit on the outside of that circle, health challenges, and a number of other things.  And at one point I was speaking with a friend about him and about my concerns with him, and this friend is very wise man, and he said, “You know, Andy?  There are two ways that you can look at it.  One is to say, ‘He’s got some struggles and challenges in his life.’  But” he said, “I have found it very meaningful in my life to ask the question, ‘What can I learn from this experience?’”
And I would just say there is no power that I know of like the power of learning in the context of a spiritual education.  What I mean by that is, all learning, we’re told, that is meaningful comes through the power of the Holy Ghost.  You are in an institution now, where the idea of education and the power of the Spirit are intrinsically married together.  Do you realize how unique that is—in any learning institution in the world, to have those two powers combined?  You are entitled to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are a lucidity of thought, the ability to understand, to learn, to have things resonate at a deeper level with you.  That does not come with secular learning alone.  Therefore, I would say that the kids who are a part of this institution and the other church institutions should be able to learn in a deeper and more profound and more lasting kind of way. 
So I think you can ask the question, “What can I learn from the experiences that are happening to me—the good ones and the bad ones?”  Sometimes I think we all have experiences happen in our lives that take our breath away. 
I had a day like that yesterday.  I won’t give you all the details, because our time is limited.  And it may take two or three days, I don’t know.  But it seemed like so many things were kind of coming at me from different directions, I finally had to sit down and take a deep breath and count my blessings and say, “What can I learn from this?”  Because it really took me a minute to gain my strength.  And when I did that, I remembered what I’d learned, and one of the benefits of being my age—I’m not that old, I’m 47—but being old enough that my wife and I with our seven kids, we’ve learned this lesson, and that is we’re never without hope.  And sometimes things that seem so oppressive and challenging to us, they just kind of work themselves out. 
I’m so impressed with what King Benjamin says about the “nothingness” of man. ( See Mosiah 4:11)  Our power is so very limited, and to me that could be a cause for despair, and yet it’s a cause for great hope, because I realize that where our ability to solve problems and to deal with challenges is so completely weak and anemic, Heavenly Father’s is absolutely complete.  So by asking the question and understanding the purpose of the exercise, it makes it a lot easier for me.
What is the purpose of this exercise, anyway?  Why are we here?  We all know the answer to this.  It has to do with the plan of salvation.  We are not here to become doctors or lawyers, or as Elder Maxwell says, if we’re a mortician, it’s a pretty sure thing that our job is not going to mean a lot in the next life, right?  And I would say that that’s true with so many of our careers.  The things that we experience and invest and, as the scriptures say, the things that we “waste and wear out our lives” (D&C 123:13) on, so many of them are transitory.  They’re passing.
But we are here.  The purpose of the exercise is to learn to become like God.  And so everything that happens to you can be viewed in that context.  Having children.  One of the most incredible things about having a family is that it’s a natural teacher that naturally helps us to become like God.  We learn to become unselfish, we learn to bear another’s burdens, we learn to teach, we learn to deal with tough problems that aren’t totally in our control.  Aren’t those things all great training for this ultimate purpose of why we are here?
So let me suggest, in your Becoming, that you remember why all of this is happening to you.  And when you deal with big challenges and have big concerns in your lives, understand you’re not alone.  You’re in a much bigger school experience than the one you see and notice and feel on a daily basis.  And that’s the school of teaching you to become like God, because that’s the ultimate point of all of this.
I’m going to tell you something that might sound a little funny.  When I think about what my ultimate goals in life are, I have had kind of a strange idea that at the end of the day I want my countenance to radiate light, in every aspect of what I do and say, and who I am.  And often, when I look at people, that’s the way I judge them.  Is that a dark countenance, or is that a light countenance?  But my kids will laugh.  I’ll say, “How were his eyes?  How did they look to you?” 
My kids are pretty good.  They’ll say, “His eyes were clear,” or “They have light in them.”  Or they’ll say, “He had the darkest, cloudiest eyes, Dad, that I’ve ever seen.”  And I would just say that, for me, has been a real motivator.  And what I’ve tried to do, I’ve tried to make sure that my decisions have fed light into who I am.  Because at the end of the day, I want to look like a lot of those temple workers you’ve met, who’ve been in the temple, and you just look at them and say, “Don’t they just glow?”  They just have such a nice countenance about them. 
I would say this:  Any aspiration you have, in this larger picture of why we’re here, and the purpose of this larger exercise that doesn’t really lead us toward this larger goal is a secondary consideration. We need to remember that. 
I’m old enough that I lived through the dot-com boom.  That’s when the internet first rolled out—1998, 1999, 2000.  And at the time I owned a technology company that was internet-based, and so we were working hard kind of in that environment.  And somebody developed the term “dog years.”  And it’s that during that internet, dot-com era, what happened is, people were working so hard that one year was the equivalent of a dog year, which is seven, right?  And I saw that happen.  What happened was companies said, “We’ve got to hurry, because there’s this new technology.  We’ve got to capture it.  If we don’t hurry, we’re going to miss the window.”  So what they did is literally, they came out and doubled salaries, a lot of these technology companies did.  But the exchange—it was a devil’s agreement, because the exchange was, “We own you.  You no longer have a life.  Your family doesn’t matter, and any external interest doesn’t matter.  We’re going to pay you an unbelievable amount of money, more than you ever thought possible, but your life is no longer your own.” 
And I saw people through that two- or three- or four-year era have nervous breakdowns because they had no balance in their lives.  I saw two people that I know of who made a conscious decision to leave their families to pursue this dot-com, dog-year kind of era.  And [they] poured themselves into these businesses, and eventually I started to see the light go out of their faces.  I saw them go dark.  And I saw them putting in the hours, but I saw their productivity drop way off.  And pretty soon the light, the real heart, the spirit of those people was weakened and damaged and gone, and too many of them, at the end of the day, woke up and said, “Where’s my family?  Where are those people that I loved and that I cared about and who cared for me?”  And too often, they found that they had moved on, and were now in a different place.  Because they made a choice.  They forgot the purpose of the exercise, and they made the choice to choose a lesser thing at the expense of a greater and an eternal thing.  And I would say to you, in your Becoming, don’t make that mistake in what you do. 
I’ll make one final comment on this idea of understanding the purpose of the exercise.  Brother Poelman mentioned some of our work in the Philippines.  We have a school there.  It’s a great place.  There’s a great spirit there, a lot like what I think I find here.  In the Philippines, there are no jobs, or there are very few jobs.  In my last trip there a few months ago, I spoke with a man, a senior missionary who works at the Employment Center in Manila.  And he was there only about two months and he said, “Andy, I’ve discovered the most scary thing in this culture.”
I said, “What is that?”
He said, “There is such an abundance of labor that if you are 33 years old and you’re Filipino, and you don’t have your career established, you will not find a job the rest of your life.  It’s over at 33.”
They have a funny law that’s meant to protect workers in the Philippines that says if somebody works for you more than six months, longer than a six-month period of time, then it’s very difficult to fire them forever after.  And someone thought, “What a great, magnanimous gesture.”  It’s almost job security or job employment.  But the way the economics work, can you think of where that might have lead?  What do you think is happening now?
Well, what happens now, this ERC (Employment Resource Center) gentleman said, “Well, what’s happening is companies all over are giving five-month-and-twenty-day contracts to employees, and then they fire them, and they’re gone.  So,” he said, “the Employment Resource Center here in Manila is very challenged, because we can show that we’re placing people, but the vast majority of them are on sub-six-month contracts.”
And so the Academy for Creating Enterprise was formed, and we have four-volume curriculum, some of which we’ve all delved in and helped write.  It’s the only MGL like it that has four volumes of dedicated curriculum to what we call micro-entrepreneurship.  It’s basically starting business on a shoestring.  And basically, the title of these is “Where There Are No Jobs.”  It’s a very common problem in many Third World countries around the world.  Twenty-five returned missionaries, hand-picked, come in.  One of them, a few weeks ago when I was over there, we asked this girl—sharp looking, they all look like they’re fifteen, I don’t know why—but anyway, we said, “So what are you doing?” 
And she said, “I herd sheep for my father.”
And we said, “That’s great!  Good for you!  What do you want to do when you get a job, or start at your own business?”  Anyway, in asking her these questions, it turns out that this girl has a PhD in chemical engineering, and has no job and no hope for a job.  And so she’s in the Academy, and trying to learn.  We now have 1,000 Filipino returned missionaries who have gone through that experience and have created thousands of jobs as a result of that, all in an entrepreneurship kind of a way.  We’re pioneering a new idea that for us is very exciting, called micro-franchising, which is basically a McDonald’s kind of an idea for less than about $2,000.00.  And we’re coming up with businesses that hopefully we can replicate throughout the Philippines, so they can get synergies of branding, of distribution, economies of scale, all the benefits that a big company would have, and they just plug in as a franchisee and assist them.  And so, anyway, that’s what’s happening.
The hardest thing we have to do in the Philippines is the same thing that I think you have to deal with here, and that is this:  The Filipinos, for generations, have been poor.  And so your father lived from day to day by catching fish, and his father did the same, and his father before him.  And now we bring 25 of these Filipino returned missionaries into a classroom and say, “Guess what?  It doesn’t have to be that way any more.  You can be self-reliant.  You can create a living for your family that will allow you to do what you really want to do, which is serve in the Church, be with your family, and have some feeling that there is a future for you beyond the next fishing expedition.” 
And we initially thought, “We can teach all of this in four weeks.  Let’s take our MTC-like residential experience and cut it from eight weeks to four weeks, and then we can run twice as many returned missionaries through the system.”  And as we thought and pondered and prayed about that, we realized the most difficult thing we have to do with the Filipino returned missionaries is help them to understand that their life really can be different than it has been for generations.  And I would suggest, in understanding the purpose of the exercise, as you’re becoming something new, you have the same problem. 
You have to see yourself as being different than maybe every generation of your family that’s gone before you.  You have to understand that you have the potential to really make a contribution and become somebody that you haven’t ever seen in your family, maybe, or around you.  And I’d like to challenge you to be like these Filipino returned missionaries.  Have the faith to see yourself as a new creature, and to see what you can become.  And if you do that in the context of this grand exercise of becoming like God, I think you will really understand that there is something very special and wonderful about this hard classroom we call earth life.
Well, the second point—the importance of eternal law.  We teach at the Academy something we call “rules of thumb.”  It’s not particularly unique, but these rules of thumb are things like “Start small; think big,” and “Be nice later.”  In the Philippines, if anyone has anything, it automatically belongs to the entire family.  And so what happens is, if you’re a business person and you have what’s called the “Sari-sari Store” and you have a bunch of coconuts or mangoes, the family is entitled, traditionally, culturally, to come and just take advantage of that.  And so we’ve had to teach them to “be nice later.”  If you realize, you know, you can hold onto those things; they belong to the business, they don’t belong to you, then you can be very nice to your family later on.  But if not, you’ll just go back to catching fish like you have been.
Well, the 130th section of the Doctrine and Covenants has such an important principle.  Verses 20 and 21, anybody who has been through the seminary program knows this scripture, right?  Do you know what it is?  “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God,”—any blessing—“it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
Let me give you an example if I can.  You’ve seen people who choose to observe the Sabbath day and those who haven’t.  Okay.  Well, I would say those who choose not to obey the Sabbath day may say, “Boy, I wonder if they noticed that I didn’t go to church today,” or “I wonder if they saw me driving down the road with my boat.”  You know?  They may say that.  But what I would say is there’s a much more important principle at play here, and that is, it really doesn’t matter what anybody else notices or thinks, there is a set of unique promises to obeying the Sabbath that you either receive the blessings from or you don’t.  So if you’re driving down the road with your boat, it doesn’t matter if anybody saw.  What matters is, did you get more light in your countenance, or did you become a little bit darker today?
So if you understand that principle, it becomes very motivational.  You don’t have to think about anybody else, you have to think about what’s right.  And when you think about obeying the commandments, and you think about doing what’s right, you say, “I’m either feeding the light in me, or I’m diminishing it by this choice that I’m making.”  We limit ourselves by our thoughts and our expectations.  And some people aren’t willing to be great.  They aren’t willing to receive that light simply because they don’t see themselves as being capable of being that kind of a person.
So let’s move on to the third one, which is find your strengths and be your best self.  I learned a long time ago that I will never be tall, dark and handsome.  It just is not possible for me.  I don’t think the best plastic surgeon in the world could really do much at this point.  And I have the problem that someone told me once—I’m vertically challenged or vertically disadvantaged.  They came up to do a sound check before I spoke today, and he said, “Let’s have you stand up.”  And I said, “Don’t worry, just go down.”  Because that’s the way it always works for me. 
I remember when I was in elementary they used to take pictures of all of the kids and they’d wind down the camera.  I was always the last kid in the row because the camera kept going down and down and down.  And what I would say is that I just discovered that I would never have the ability to be a smooth talker or to sway somebody just by charisma, along the way.  But I also learned that I have some strengths. 
In the 46th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, it talks about gifts, right?  Spiritual gifts.  One of the things we learn in the 46th section is this:  not every man has every gift, but every man has some gift. (See verse 11)  And I would say most of us have multiple gifts.  So I don’t know about you, but I’ve wasted way too much of my life thinking, “Gosh, I just don’t quite measure up.”  I have thought that, for whatever reason, I wasn’t as good playing sports, or I couldn’t speak as well as someone else, or I wasn’t as smart as the guys in Math.  I had a miserable time in Math. 
I remember just dwelling on all of the problems that I had and constantly seeing kind of the empty part of the glass.  And I think I have learned, and if I can share this thought with you, I would say this:  Do not compare yourself with anybody else.  You weren’t meant to be like everybody else.  You were meant to be you.  And the sooner you can find out who you are, and be the best you you can be, the sooner you’re going to be an impacter on your family and friends, and you will be at harmony and peace in your own life.
Marjorie Hinckley in her book Small and Simple Things said this:  “Fifty was my favorite age.  It takes about that long to learn to quit competing, to be yourself and settle down to living.  It is the age I would like to be through all eternity.”  I’m not quite fifty, but I am learning that lesson. 
It really doesn’t matter if you are as tall, dark and handsome or as smart in math or as good at soccer or whatever.  You’re good at something, I guarantee you, because you are a son or a daughter of God and He gave you a gift.  And yours is the challenge to recognize what you already have, and what He gave you.  And in your Becoming, my challenge to you is to seek out what that gift is, or what those multiple gifts are.  You have them.  They are yours.  Nobody else has them quite in the package or in the combination that you do.  And in your Becoming, you must find those gifts, and if you focus on those, I think you’ll find out that your weaknesses kind of dwindle away, and they won’t mean quite so much anymore.
One principle that I’ll teach very quickly in the interest of time is what I’m going to call the “As If” principle.  In the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting a few years ago, someone—a counselor to a bishop in a developing area of the Church—asked the question, “How can I get people in ward counsel to listen to me, and to feel like what I say matters and that I really am their leader, after all?”
That’s an interesting question, isn’t it?  And Elder Eyring’s answer was just profound.  He said, “How do you get people to feel like you’re an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ?  I don’t know any way except to be sure yourself that you know you are.  Then you just act in a way that conveys to them that you come as a servant of the Lord, and the Holy Ghost does it for you.  I don’t think you make it happen.” 
And can I relate that to you?  I would just say if you understand the purpose of this exercise, and you want to be your very best self along the way, and you’ve discovered your gifts, now what you need to do is just act as if you’re the person you want to become.  And I believe over time it is a true principle that we become that person.  And so in a way we’re all fakes, maybe.  You know?  We’re just trying to become somebody else.  But I suppose that’s a righteous kind of a striving and I think the Lord is not offended.  It’s not hypocritical if we act as if we are that righteous person we want and desire and yearn to become. 
Well, the final thing that I would say today is service.  I was talking to Larry before the meeting began today, and I would say this.  In 1996, I was able to sell a business that I had worked on since 1989.  And my poor wife lived through that with me, and I could see my poor children starving on the side of the street, you know.  I asked my son—we were talking one day about what we should have in the food storage, and he said, “Dad, I think we need a good piece of cardboard.”
And I said, “How come?”
And he said, “If things get really tough, we’re going to need a sign that says, ‘Will work for food.’”  And so he thought that was part of our two-year storage.  But I would just say, at the time of that early business, I was ready to buy the cardboard.  I thought I could write a book one time that would say, “To the Brink and Back.”  But I wasn’t sure about the “And Back” portion for a while. 
We sold this business in 1996.  It had been as the result of so much prayer.  I thought Heavenly Father had just blessed us so much, and we had overcome some huge challenges, and it was a big win for us.  And I just remember feeling profoundly grateful that it had worked out the way it had worked out.  And when I told the kids we had sold the business, their first question was, “Is there going to be any Christmas this year, Dad?”  Because they didn’t understand what that all meant, and they thought I had just lost my job. 
I remember on my mission, thinking that if I serve a faithful mission, it will be a tithe on my life—so two years out of the roughly 21, at that time.  And I remember thinking, “I want to tithe the rest of my life as well.”  When we sold that business in 1996, I really made the decision at that time, I did not want to take the sacred blessing my Father in Heaven had given me of free agency—I no longer had the excuse of saying, “I’ve got to go to work, because I’ve got bills to pay” right?  I couldn’t say that anymore.  I knew that I was going to be held to a higher standard, and I made a commitment at that point I would dedicate a very meaningful portion of my life to something that had nothing to do with making money, but just doing good and lifting other people up.  And I would just say it’s been a great blessing for me.  It’s brought far more meaning to my life than the next business venture, although I’ve enjoyed those as well and they’ve been a great blessing. 
I do want you to know that I know that our Father in Heaven lives.  I know that He loves you.  I know that.  And I know He loves me as well.  We have more power, I think, to control our lives and our futures than we can hardly imagine.  But it’s power that comes by following these eternal principles that no variation will bring us the blessings we need and that we seek.  And my prayer is that all of us will have that blessing in our lives, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Charity - the Pure Love of Christ

18 Oct. 2006

Transcript

Charity - the Pure Love of Christ

 
Even God does not propose to judge man until the end of his days.  Why should you and I?  Ben Franklin said, “I will speak ill of no man, and speak all the good I know of everybody.”  In his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes this:  “In dealing with people, let us remember that we are not dealing with creatures of logic.  We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.  Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain, and most fools do.  But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Carnegie suggests that instead of criticizing other people for what they do, we would be better served to try to figure out why they do what they do.  It’s possible that if we were in their same place, we might not be so different.  Abraham Lincoln said, “I will judge no man until I have walked in his footsteps.”
I believe that all any of us want is to be happy.  Sometimes, because of circumstances, people get discouraged, get lonely, and they begin to grasp at momentary opportunities for happiness, no matter how temporary that might be.  And they don’t understand at that time that happiness and joy are very, very different things.  Satan knows that we are most vulnerable when we are discouraged, and that’s when he will strike us hardest. 
If we can remember this, it will help us be more understanding of people who are not living the way we are living.  It should give us a sense of responsibility.  And instead of stepping on those people who are down, it should give us the desire to help lift them up, and to make them believe in themselves and in their ability to live the gospel.
There are people who have turned away from even suicide because they found just one person for whom they mattered.  I know a woman who has fallen so far away from the Church that she believes there is no way for her to ever come back.  She believes that her sins are so great that forgiveness is simply not possible.  If she ever decides that it is possible for her, I hope and I pray that those of us around her would be there to help her learn how to believe in herself and her ability to be part of the flock of Christ once again.
Alma tells us in the Book of Mormon that “wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10)  And it never was, and it never will be.  And we know this.  But this poor lady that I talked about, she is an example of what happens when we get too far away from the Spirit.  I remember a bishop telling us once that when we feel the pain, the tremendous pain of guilt, we need to rejoice—because if we still feel guilt, there’s some part of the Spirit that’s still there.  It’s when the guilt is gone that we know that the Spirit has left us.  And I think that’s very powerful.
Adam fell, but remember that he fell forward.  And wasn’t Corianton a better person after his repentance?  And remember the story of Alma, who had so much repenting to do.  Many times the lesson one learns during repentance can make him or her stronger than before the person fell.  What did Jesus do when the woman accused of adultery was brought to him?  He merely said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  (See John 8:7)  And the people walked away one by one, and when they were all gone, Jesus forgave the woman.  And he told her to sin no more.
A bishop once told his congregation, “I cannot tell you why people sin, but I can tell you how to help them desire repentance.  Love them back into the fold.  Just love them back into the fold.” 
By gossiping, condemning, and scorning the sinner, we only drive that person farther away.  I believe that you and I will have to account for those people whom we do drive away.  We don’t know who is looking at us, who is watching us.  We don’t know who is patterning their lives after us.  But I think we will be accountable for the example we set.
One of the phrases we most commonly use in our prayers is “forgive us of our sins.”  But the Lord will not forgive us unless we forgive others.  He has told us, “And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.”  (Moroni 7:18)
I think that, as Latter-day Saints, we often misplace our values.  We become so busy with the little details of the gospel that we lose perspective.  We forget that although obeying the Word of Wisdom, attending sacrament meeting, going to the temple and so on—these things are essential to our salvation—but alone, they will not get us back into the kingdom of our Father.  We must be good Christians before we can ever be good Latter-day Saints.  Just as one would not attempt to build a house without first preparing the foundation, neither can we be the best Latter-day Saints we can be if we are not first good Christians, unless our behavior is Christlike.
I heard a talk in a singles ward many years ago that has always stayed with me.  It was a recent convert to the Church, and he told us that he had fourteen contacts with LDS people before he found one who made him desire to learn more about the gospel.  He always felt that “if they’re not living their gospel, why would I want to be part of it?  It must not matter.”  Finally, there was a contact with a person who lived the gospel and shared it and presented him to the missionaries.  And what a blessing in his life. 
Of all the commandments, the one most emphasized is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment. 
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Another thing to remember is that we must be sincere in our love of our fellowmen.  It is not enough to appear to be sincere.  Many of the greatest wrongs have been committed by people who appeared to be sincere.  Two 15th century philosophers are said to have had this conversation:  What is a good man?  Simply, one whose life is useful to the world.  And a bad man is simply one whose life is harmful to the world.  There are, however, those men who are harmful and yet enjoy a good reputation, who manage to profit by a show of usefulness and right and righteousness.  These are the worst men of all.”
Brothers and sisters, Christlike behavior involved much fore than forgiving and accepting those who are not living the gospel.  It involves the way we treat people in general.  Human beings have a tendency to select friends who are similar to themselves, and to avoid those who are different.  Think about that.  Some people are particularly unkind to those who are less fortunate, or who don’t have desirable physical appearance or personality traits.  Making fun of or belittling the unfortunate or the misfit can be equated in my mind to kicking someone while he is down.  It is totally un-Christlike and indicates a personal character that lacks compassion and respect for all of God’s children. 
This last week, as I have been thinking about my talk, I found myself assessing my own personal character and thinking about how Christlike I am.  I gave myself good marks in some areas, and not so good marks in others.  It occurred to me that I am very kind to the underdog and the less fortunate, probably because while I was in elementary and junior high school, I considered myself to be one of them.  So I am very nice to them.
I decided that I do okay in the area of managing my temper, and not lashing out at people when they upset me.  Maybe this is because I was raised in a household where that type of behavior was simply not acceptable.  While I don’t lose my temper or yell or demean others, I have often been guilty of expressing my anger or frustration behind the person’s back.  And you know it always gets back to the other person.  Is it any less hurtful to hear something negative second- or third-hand than it is to have said it to their face?  Said it to your face?  I’ve been working on this for a long time, and I’m much better.  But I’m not there yet. 
While I was doing this self-assessment, I had kind of an epiphany.  Do you like that word, Glen?  Glen is a word master.  I had a new realization that just popped into my consciousness without any warning.  I can be an unfriendly person.  That is not Christlike.
Now, in the Dean of Students office, and in the classroom, and with my coworkers, I am very much an extrovert.  I’m comfortable with the situation, I’m eager to be with these people—you people.  And I’m at ease with many of the people in my neighborhood and many of the people at Church.  The problem comes when I am around people I don’t know.  Because by nature I am an introvert, extroverting myself is very exhausting for me when I’m with people I don’t know.  At a ward banquet, I always say to Glen, “Let’s sit by people we know.”  And he always says, “No.  Let’s sit by people we don’t know, so that we can become acquainted with them.”  And then I think, “Oh, it’s going to be a long night.”  Because making that small talk is so difficult for me, it just exhausts me. 
Well, let’s look at me at the bus stop, or on a bus or an airplane.  I cannot get my nose into the book fast enough, because that’s the message “I’m busy; don’t bother me.”  How busy can you be on an airplane? But it’s just more relaxing if I don’t have to be with strangers and make conversation.
The realization that I’m not always friendly has startled me.  It has humbled me.  It is not Christlike.  I need to make some serious changes in my behavior.  Elder Russell Nelson said, “While we are free to choose, we are forever tied to the consequences of our choice.” 
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared with what lies within us.”  What is within you?  Is it Christlike?  What is within me?  Is it Christlike?
Learning to be Christlike comes with maturity.  Jeffrey Holland had a comment to make about the youth of Zion who are still maturing.  He said, “Many students have not yet made the connection between what they say, what they believe, and what they live.”  It’s incorporating our belief into our actions.
Now in my critical thinking class, I assign my students, for their midterm to read the prophet’s book Standing for Something and then to go back to Chapter Two of our textbook which talks about ideal values versus real values.  And then their job for the midterm is to write a paper in which they assess where they are on those virtues that the prophet discusses.  Because in Chapter Two of the text, it says:  “You can have an ideal value, but if it isn’t part of you so that you do it without thinking almost, it’s not a real value yet.”  So I asked the students to put themselves somewhere on a continuum of one to ten how real is that value.  We may say that we value chastity.  But if we are not chaste, it is not a real value yet.  And the same with loving our fellowmen.  We can say that we do, and that we know that we should, but if we are not doing it, it’s not a real value yet.
When Christ was giving the Sermon on the Mount, he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…. 
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”  (Matthew 5:3-9)
It seems that God has no room in his kingdom for the proud, the vain, or the hypocrite.  In Luke he tells this parable:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 
“I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all I possess. 
“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 
“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”  (Luke 18:10-14)
As great a man as was Socrates, he had this to say about himself:  “Only one thing I know, and that is I know nothing.”  The more we learn, the more we realize how much more there is to learn.  It’s like coming to realize that leaving college is not the end of our education; it is only the beginning.  We are lifelong learners.  We will realize that in college we have only received just a peek into all of these areas of knowledge, and everything else is up to us to learn.
Socrates knew that.  Whenever we think we know it all, we are wrong.  I told my granddaughter, “I’m so proud of you, taking ballet lessons and learning to do ballet.”  She’s four.  She says, “I alweady know how to do ballet.”  Are we ever like that?  “I already know how to do that.”  No, if we’re humble, if we’re Christlike, we always know that we need to be taught, and have our spirits in that teachable mode where we know we don’t know everything.
Now the importance of charity can’t be overemphasized.  The Book of Mormon and the Bible both spend considerable time talking about charity.  “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
“And charity suffereth long, and is kind; and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth.  Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it [will] be well with him.”  (Moroni 7:45-47)
You have heard this poem many times, but it reminds us that every soul has value and that we must never give up on anything because everyone can be brought back.  Everyone can be made to belong.  Everyone can know the joy of being in a Christlike environment, and to become Christlike themselves. 
 
‘Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his time
To spend much time on the old violin
But he held it up with a smile.
 
What am I bidden, good people, he cried
Who’ll start the bidding for me?
A dollar, a dollar, now two, only two?
Two dollars and who’ll make it three?
Three dollars once, three dollars twice,
And going for three…but no.
From the room, far back, a grey-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow.
And wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As sweet as an angel sings.
 
The music ceased, and the auctioneer
In a voice that was quiet and low, said
What am I bid for the old violin?
And he held it up with the bow.
A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
Two thousand and who’ll make it three?
Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
And going and gone, said he.
 
The people cheered, but some of them cried
We do not quite understand.
What changed its worth?
Swift came the reply:
‘Twas the touch of the master’s hand.
 
And many a man with life out of tune
And battered and scarred with sin
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin.
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game, and he travels on.
He’s going once, he’s going twice,
He’s going, and almost gone.
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Can never quite understand
The worth of a soul, or the change that’s wrought
By the touch of the Master’s hand.
 
            (The Touch of the Master’s Hand, by Myra Brooks Welch)
 
Sometimes, the Master is the Savior.  Or it might be you.  Or it might be me.  Is this opportunity something we will pass by?  This opportunity to lift a soul in need; to befriend a person in need of acceptance.  To climb your success ladder—professionally and personally—ethically, being fair and square, and not stepping on anybody on your way up.  People will watch.  People will see.  People will measure their behavior against your example.  We just don’t know for whom we are role models.  What if that example leads them the wrong way?  What if the direction we’re modeling is away from righteousness rather than toward it?
When I was in high school, there was a boxer, an LDS boxer named Gene Fulmer.  And he won a championship, for the middleweight.  He came to a fireside at our stake, and he closed his talk with this prayer, and I went up to him and asked for a copy.  So I’ve had this many, many years, and I like it.  It’s called “The Athlete’s Prayer,” but I think it applies to all of us in whatever we’re doing in life, and I would like to share it with you.
 
Dear God,
Help me to be a sport in this game of life.  I don’t ask for an easy place in the lineup; play me anywhere you need me.  I only ask for the stuff to give you one hundred percent of what I’ve got.  If all the hard drives come my way, I thank you for the compliment.  Help me to remember that you won’t ever let anything happen to me that you and I together can’t handle.  And help me to take the bad breaks as part of the game.
Help me to remember that the game is full of knots, and knocks and trouble, and make me thankful for them.  Help me to get so that the harder they come, the better I like it.  And dear Lord, help me always to play on the square.  No matter what the other fellow did, help me to come clean.  Help me to study the books so I’ll know the rules, and study and think about the Greatest Player that ever lived.  If He found that the best part of the game was in helping the person who was out of luck, help me to find out, too.  Help me to be a regular fellow with the other fellows.
Finally, dear Lord, if fate seems to uppercut me with both hands, and I’m laid on the shelf with sickness or old age or something else, help me to take that as part of the game too.  Help me not to whimper or squeal that the game was a frame-up or that I had a raw deal.  Amen.
 
It is my prayer, brothers and sisters, that you and I will each look at ourselves and look deeply into our behaviors, and determine to what extent our behaviors and our attitudes are Christ-like.  And where they are not, let’s go to work.  And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The Essential Virtues of Gratitude and Charity

08 Nov. 2006

Transcript

The Essential Virtues of Gratitude and Charity

 
Let me begin by saying that I really consider it a high honor and a privilege to be asked to speak in this setting. I have a high regard for the great leaders you have at this college.  After reading and studying about the history and the background of the LDS Business College, I have concluded that it is a wonderful, inspired institution with a central role in higher education in the Church.
 
In thinking about what to say to you today, I decided to discuss the upcoming holidays and the essential virtues of gratitude and charity associated with them. This may seem strange coming from a lawyer.  Indeed, thinking deeply about gratitude and charity is something of a new experience for me. But I would like to pass on a few thoughts for you to ponder as you enter the holiday season.
 
I was sitting in my office just the other day talking with Chief Larry Stott, the chief of police at BYU, about some legal issues.  From my office, there is a sweeping panoramic view across north Utah County and Mount Timpanogos. Both Chief Stott and I remarked about the wonderful quality of light on the mountains this time of year.  The light is low and there are dramatic highlights along with more subtle variations and nuances. It is a special quality of light, an almost spiritual visual quality that only lasts for a few weeks, but it is very evident during the month of November.
 
Also, in November, we rapidly lose daylight and as we go home from work, usually after 5:30 p.m., we find it's already dark.  In the daytime, we look up at the mountains and notice there's a light snow. We listen to weather reports and we know more snow is on the way, and it puts us in a different, more sober frame of mind. What I think we realize, at first subconsciously and then more consciously, is that the harvest is ended, the summer is over, and now we are looking forward to the holidays.  And, we have the two great high holidays coming up. First, of course, is Thanksgiving, which is in just a few short weeks, and then, we have the Christmas season. We look forward with anticipation partly because we connect these holidays with spiritual values. We also connect them with friends, families, and good times.
 
Today I would like to discuss two spiritual virtues or values that are connected with these two holidays.
 
When I think of Thanksgiving, what immediately comes to my mind is a Norman Rockwell picture. You've all got it in your mind, right? The family sitting around the dinner table, the patriarch at the head of the table, the great turkey in the middle, and the family characters who are all there; and they are so American and so memorable.  As I think of my own Thanksgivings, they were an "over the river and through the woods" kind of experience. You go to Grandmother's house; you then eat yourself silly. You meet with your crazy relatives, and then you watch lots of football. But sometimes lost in this holiday, of course, is what we're really supposed to be learning, which is the essential, important, and what I would call foundational value of learning gratitude.  I want to talk about that a little bit.
 
When we think of Christmas, we realize that Christmas isn't just a holiday. It's more of a season. It begins sometime right after Halloween, but it really picks up speed after Thanksgiving. And we, of course, remember the birth of the Savior, and we remember His great atoning sacrifice. But it's a season which also calls for brotherly love and for charity.  It is so special and magical. We have wonderful parties; there is the anticipation of Christmas Day, the magic of Christmas morning, the opening of gifts, and special family traditions. In our family, one of the things that we do on Christmas Eve—it's kind of quirky and 70s-ish—is have a fondue party.  When we're through with that, we read the Christmas story from Luke.  However, when I think of Christmas and spiritual virtues, I'd like to focus today on the virtue of charity. So, as a reminder, Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and Christmas is focused on charity. Charity, I suggest, is the greatest virtue, while gratitude is a foundational virtue that leads to charity. Charity, however, is the ultimate virtue that we should strive to attain.
 
Let me take you back to the very first Thanksgiving. You know the story, but I want to remind you of some of the details. The Pilgrims were a group of what were called "Puritan Separatists" from back in the early 17th century in England. They had rediscovered the scriptures. They wanted to separate themselves from the state-sponsored Church of England so they could worship as they pleased. They were a covenant-making people. They believed, like we do, in making covenants with their Heavenly Father, and they wanted freedom of religion, to worship as they wanted. So they took a big, audacious step and they left England, their homeland and moved to Holland. In Holland, they had a measure of freedom of religion. But it bothered them that their children were growing up as a new generation not speaking English. They were losing their connection with the English way of life. So they concluded that they would embark upon a religious adventure and move to America.
 
Think about what a harrowing experience that would have been----jumping on a small ship and sailing across the North Atlantic in the late fall and early winter and establishing a colony in America. In reading their diaries and their histories, it is really clear that the hand of the Lord guided them to America.
 
The Pilgrims had a charter from the King to settle in Virginia. However, they were blown off course and ultimately landed in what is now Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, in November of 1620. One of the first things the Pilgrims did before they got out on land was to enact “The Mayflower Compact,” which was a social compact of how they were going to govern themselves based on fairly democratic features for that time. The Mayflower Compact was a precursor to the American Constitution. Interestingly, when the Pilgrims moved onto land, they didn't find any Indians because a mysterious plague had recently come through and wiped out all of the hostile Indians that lived in the Plymouth area. So, they found a fertile land, devoid of Indians; nevertheless, they had a very difficult time. In the first winter in Massachusetts Bay, 46 of the original 102 settlers, nearly one-half of those early settlers died.  Yet when the spring came—you know the story— a miracle happened. They were befriended by Indians. You know the names of Samoset, Squanto and Chief Massasoit. They taught the Pilgrims how to farm and how to fish. They nursed them through that first summer in Massachusetts; and by the fall of 1621, after the harvest was in, these surviving Pilgrims, joined by 91 Indians, had the very first Thanksgiving to give thanks to our Heavenly Father for the very fact that they were able to come to America and that they had survived.  Moreover, they had these great friends, these American Indians.
 
For the next fifty years, there was a basically friendly relationship between the Pilgrims and the Indians. Many thousands of Puritans left England and came to America and a very substantial number of Indians were converted to Christianity.  And, the tradition of Thanksgiving became firmly established.
 
As we move forward in history, in 1789 George Washington called a national day of thanksgiving to celebrate the winning of the War of Independence and the establishment of the Constitution. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln, another one of our truly great presidents, established Thanksgiving as a national day of thanksgiving. This was at the very height of the Civil War, the most tragic war in American history, when more American lives proportionate to the population were lost than in any other war.
 
 As a result, Thanksgiving is now a marvelous tradition when we set aside a special, designated day to be grateful to our Father in Heaven. But I want to suggest today that gratitude isn't just a good idea and a national tradition. Gratitude is a gospel doctrine; it's a commandment that comes directly from our Father in Heaven. In the Doctrine and Covenants 59:21, there is this verse: "And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments." Now think about that. It's a commandment that we be grateful.
 
God doesn't command us to be grateful because he needs our thanks.   He doesn’t sit in the heaven wondering, "Gee, where are those folks and why aren't they sending their thanks to me for all the wonderful things I've done for them?" Rather, he commands us to be grateful because he understands that gratitude is a foundational virtue upon which our own happiness and our own spiritual progress depends. To teach the principle of gratitude, the Savior spun a parable recorded in the New Testament. I refer to it as the parable of the Thankful Samaritan. I will contrast that later with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
 
This Thankful Samaritan parable is found in Luke 17:11-19. Let me read that to you out of the scriptures:
"And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
"And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
"And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
"And when he saw them, he said to them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
"And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice, glorified God,
"And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
"And Jesus answering said Were there not ten cleansed?" Then he asks this question: "But where are the nine?
"There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
"And he said unto hem, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole."
 
The really pregnant question here is, with ten lepers healed, why did only one come back to express gratitude to the Savior? We know that leprosy was a dreadful, awful, wasting disease like being part of the living dead. We know these nine people who were cured were obedient to some degree because they went to the priest as Jesus directed them. So, why is it that they neglected to go back and say thanks after getting cured of this horrific disease?
 
I challenge all of us to liken the scriptures unto ourselves. I think the Savior wants us to ask ourselves, "Why aren't people more grateful? What is it that causes us not to express gratitude?" As I have reflected upon this event and human nature, I think that what may have happened with these lepers is they were so excited about their own great, good fortune and so self-centered about escaping this dreadful disease that it just didn't occur to them in their happiness that they should go back and thank the person who made it possible.
 
Unfortunately, I think a lot of us are like that. We receive blessings both large and small all the time.  However, because we are centered on ourselves, we don't go beyond ourselves and express gratitude to those people who made our blessings possible.
 
I want to tell you a story that I think illustrates how we need to think about the principle of gratitude.  At all times—at times of our greatest triumphs and even at times when we have the most adversity in our lives---the Lord expects us to be grateful.
 
I'm a huge college football fan. I especially enjoy watching BYU play football. I've been watching the BYU Cougars for years. One of the things that was really miraculous—this is along the lines of parting the Red Sea—was back in 1984 when BYU won a national championship in football. You are probably too young to remember that. But it was a miracle. You wonder, how could this happen?  BYU was an awful football team for years then along comes this almost prophet-like figure in Lavell Edwards.  He came out of nowhere and won all these conference championships and then, finally, won a national championship right here in Provo, Utah. We were all amazed by this and pretty excited.
 
I remember reading an interview of one of the players on that team that taught me a real lesson about gratitude. He said after they had beaten Michigan in the Holiday Bowl, it was clear they were going to be the national champions; and, as you might expect, there had been great excitement in the locker room. After the media had finished the post-game interviews and the players had gotten dressed and left, this player returned to the locker room for something he had forgotten.  There he saw Coach Edwards kneeling down in the locker room by himself praying to the Lord and thanking him for the opportunity his football team had had to play in this great game and to win the national championship. I thought to myself, if I had won a national championship, would I have remembered to thank the Lord or would I have been partying with my friends and thinking about all the great things we had accomplished?
 
We need to be thinking about gratitude all the time.  Coach Edwards is a good example of someone who keeps gratitude foremost in his mind.
 
One of the things I have enjoyed recently has been touring through your new building.  What a great facility this is—the useful technology you have and how centrally located you are. It offers you great opportunities to grow.  But when you think about it, how did you get here to this marvelous facility? It didn't just happen overnight. There are over a hundred years of history, of people who have sacrificed, and leaders that have had a vision to get you to this place in time. When we come to this great facility and we have this opportunity to go to a Church school, do we have a sense of gratitude or do we just take it for granted?  Is our attitude: "Well, here it is; I paid my tuition; this is what I deserve."  There are chances for us every day to express our gratitude verbally and by our conduct.
 
Getting back to the parable of the lepers, we wonder not only why the nine didn't express their gratitude, but also why the Thankful Samaritan did express his gratitude.  What made him different?  What compelled him to return and express thanks? Again, we don't know for certain. We're left to speculate.   However, we know he was a Samaritan. We know that the Samaritans were a lower class, despised people in the Holy Land. He probably came from a lesser socioeconomic background.  In my experience, people who are more humble tend to be more grateful. There seems to be an inverse relationship between how prosperous we are (between the titles and the awards that we get) and our level of humbleness and gratitude.
 
One of the biggest concerns that Brigham Young had after the pioneers arrived here in the valley was that the people would become prosperous; that they would forget their God; and that they would cease to be grateful. It is a challenge for us to live in this momentous time, when we have so many opportunities and blessings, and still be humble and grateful.
 
How should we express our gratitude? The key is found in the scriptures---keep the commandments. We show the Lord that we're grateful by what we do as well as what we say. We have opportunities all around us to express gratitude.
 
One way to do that, I think, is to express gratitude to all of our self-sacrificing Church leaders. You will have an opportunity to go to tithing settlement soon. I would hope that you would take that opportunity to express thanks to your bishop for all of the hard work and time and effort he put in on your behalf.
President Monson of the First Presidency talks famously, does he not, about having an attitude of gratitude. Some of the people he believes we need to be cognizant of are our mothers who nurture us, our fathers who protect us, our teachers who guide us and teach us, our friends who support us, and our own countries, our native lands. I'm an American and am very proud of this country. I watched the news last night and noticed we had a peaceful transfer of power in Congress from one party to the other.  We have a great democratic tradition.  I’m grateful to live under an inspired Constitution.
 
Perhaps our greatest blessing is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That is something that we should be cognizant of every day of our lives.
 
Now that's the end of my little spiel on gratitude and Thanksgiving. I want to now shift gears, if you will, and I want to have you think a little bit about Christmas and charity and how these concepts tie together. Just as Thanksgiving precedes Christmas on the calendar, gratitude precedes charity in the holiday season. I believe that if we develop the important foundational virtue of gratitude, it helps us develop a more important virtue which is charity, "the pure love of Christ."
 
To illustrate this, I want to talk a little more about our friends the Pilgrims. Back in the 1970s, there was a broadcaster named Paul Harvey. He used to have a program that he called "The Rest of the Story." He would tell some story that we were all familiar with; then he'd say, “there's a second part of the story that's not as well known.” He would then relate it. I want to tell you the "rest of the story" about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving and how it relates to developing charity in our lives.
 
When you study American history, we tend to jump, in the popular mind, from the First Thanksgiving where the Pilgrims and the Indians were sitting around and singing "Kumbaya" and being friends, to the American Revolution---over 100 years later---as though nothing important happened in between these events. What did happen in this intervening century? Well, a number of extremely important things happened. For fifty years, the Pilgrims and the Indians lived together in relative peace. But there was a terrible, almost genocidal, war between them in 1675. It was called King Philip's War. This war is recounted in a fascinating book that I read this summer that I'll give a plug for. It's called The Mayflower: The Story of the Pilgrims after the First Thanksgiving authored by Nathaniel Philbrick. This is the story that Philbrick tells in his book. After the first generation of Pilgrims and Indians had died off, the second generation of Pilgrims became quite worldly. They started to collect lands and riches and they were expanding out over all of New England. They also began to lose touch with their spiritual side. In fact, they lost so much spirituality in relation to the church that they had established—remember, I talked to you about them being a covenant-making people—that for the rising generation, the Church did not raise the standards or “raise the bar” like we did with our missionaries. Instead they said, "We'll lower the bar." As a result, they developed something called the Halfway Covenant for the rising generation. They only had to be half as righteous and half as committed as their parents to enter into the covenant. So you can see that the Pilgrims were slipping a little bit here.
 
On the other hand, the Indians had been introduced to European goods, and they liked them a lot. They enjoyed all these goods and commodities that they could order from England. But paying for the goods was a problem. The Indians began paying for these commodities by selling off their land to the Pilgrims and by killing a lot of the wildlife that they had historically depended upon. They were not being good stewards. The more foreign goods they bought and the more they sold off their heritage, the more desperate their situation became. The Indians began to realize that this was not sustainable, that they were rapidly reaching the point where they could not live off the land any longer.
 
Increased tension resulted from the Pilgrim’s lack of spirituality and the Indians selling off their heritage. A Book of Mormon-type of war finally broke out. The historians tell us that next to the Civil War, King Philip’s War took more American lives and accounted for more bloodshed per capita than any other war fought by Americans.
 
 Of course, the war ended with the Indians being almost totally annihilated in New England. They almost ceased to exist as a people. Among the English, there were also devastating, terrible losses, but they were able to replenish these losses because of the vast number of new immigrants who were constantly arriving from England.
 
What happened from the First Thanksgiving to a genocidal war fifty years later? The answer is found in the Book of Mormon which tell us about another group of people who fought a genocidal war. You will recall at the very end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni, the last prophet, is surveying the scene. His people, the Nephites, have been completely annihilated. Only the Lamanites are left and they have lost their way in a spiritual sense. They have dwindled in unbelief and war constantly among themselves.
 
As Moroni surveys this scene of devastation, he thinks about the implications it has for our time, for those of us who are going to read the Book of Mormon.   His reflections are found in Moroni 7:46-47: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail
"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."
 
Like the Nephites and the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon and the Pilgrims and the Indians of colonial New England, today we have similar tribal wars going on such as in Iraq with the fighting between the Shiites and the Sunnis. And, what is the root cause of this hatred, destruction, and unhappiness? It is a lack of charity, the neighborly love that people should have for one another.
 
Now that, then, tells us that we need to think about how we develop charity in our lives. And again, the Savior gives us an excellent parable about how to do this. And this is in the parable of not the Thankful Samaritan this time but of the Good Samaritan.
 
Let me read to you briefly the story of the Good Samaritan out of Luke 10: 30-37: "And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
"And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
"And likewise a Levite [who]... was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed...on the other side.
"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
"And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
"And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
"Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
"And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."
 
Here we have a story of a man who was beaten, robbed, and left half-dead. First, the priest, a church leader, passes by and ignores him. Then, the Levite, a temple worker, passes by and ignores him. And, finally, it's the Samaritan—the low-class, despised-of-the-Jews person—who binds up his wounds, takes him to get medical assistance, and provides him with money. This is the very essence of charity. So, just as the Lord commands us to develop gratitude by keeping the commandments, I think what he's trying to teach us in the parable of the Good Samaritan is that we develop charity by what we do.
 
We develop charity by our action, by our work, and by our own personal sacrifice. It's not just a verbal thing; it's a doing thing. As we reflect on this, we can see it in the Savior's own life. He spent his whole life going about doing good continually, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and preaching the good word of God. Moreover, the Savior's ultimate act of charity, of course, was the Atonement when he voluntarily took upon Himself all of mankind's sins, all the transgressions, and indeed, all the shortcomings and disappointments that we experience in our lives.
 
There's another lesson to be drawn from this parable. We have a special injunction to pay attention to those among us who are poor and sick and afflicted and to do it in a non-judgmental way. King Benjamin reminded us in the Book of Mormon that we are all beggars before God (see Mosiah 4:19) and that we have a special responsibility before God to take care of the poor and afflicted.
 
I want to illustrate the concept of charity by telling a personal story here, if I can get it out without being too emotional. It's about my own father. This is a story of when I was growing up in Idaho Falls, Idaho. I don't know if you've ever been up there in the wintertime around Christmas, but it is a brutally cold and windy place. One Christmas my mother was suffering from rheumatic fever, which is a debilitating disease that can lay you down for weeks at a time. A doctor had told her that she was to rest in bed for two or three weeks while she tried to work her way through this illness. The problem was that she had three kids under the age of six running around the house and it was just a few weeks before Christmas. We were a lower, middle class-income family. My dad, basically, was a foreman working on a sheep ranch. We didn't have a lot of money, but he decided he would give my mother a break. He would take us kids to the Arctic Circle, which was the only fast-food place in town in Idaho Falls in the 1950s. I can remember very vividly that we drove up to the parking lot and noticed that there was a vagrant, a homeless person, going through the trash of the Arctic Circle looking for food. The other thing that made this very unusual—of course, we'd never seen anything like a person hunting for food amid the trash— was that this was a man of color. He was black. I'm sure that growing up in Idaho I had never seen a black person in my life up until that point. I was quite curious, but I also remember feeling a sense of shame and a kind of embarrassment that a person would be in that position. We just sat there—me and my sister and my brother—and watched the scene unfold in front of us. My dad, without saying a word—and it's still very touching to me— got out of the car, went over and tapped the guy on the shoulder, and had a brief conversation with him. I could also see he was handing over our meal money to this guy. Dad got back in the car, and without saying a word to us, drove home. We went without dinner that night.
 
As kids we never talked about this. But years later in college, I was in a creative writing class with my sister who was about 17 months younger than I. We were given an assignment to read and write about a short story that illustrated charity. We both, independently, wrote about this story of our Dad and the homeless man. It was a very significant example of charity that had stayed with us all those years.
 
What I'd like to challenge you to do is to look for ways, as you come up to this holiday season, to practice this kind of charity in your lives.
I'd like to conclude with one final story. At the holidays we talk about gratitude at Thanksgiving and we talk about charity at Christmastime. Obviously, these are virtues that we want to develop all through the year not just during the holiday season. As you sit down for your Thanksgiving dinner in a few weeks, remember the way the Lord has asked us to show gratitude to Him is by keeping His commandments. I would like you to reflect upon a story that may help you remember the importance of keeping the commandments as a measure of gratitude.
 
Some years ago I was an advisor with the Young Men in the priest's quorum. There was a story in one of our manuals that was taken from a climbing magazine, of all things; but it made a real impact on me. There was a man who was climbing with some of his friends, and they were climbing the big mountains. These are the 20,000-foot mountains that are in the Himalayas. They were at a point in a climb where they were all hooked up with their ropes and any mistake by any of them could result, because of the high altitude, in death. This was a very high-risk type of activity. In any event, I can't remember all the details of the story except that the person who was telling the story had slipped and fell into a crevasse. The day was fading, the light was going, the terrible cold was coming, and it would have been a very easy thing for his friend to just leave him for lost. But, at great danger and risk to his own personal safety, his friend went down into the crevasse and somehow hauled him out of the crevasse and got him down the mountain. As the saved man was relating this experience in this climbing magazine, he made this rather profound statement. He said, "You know, when Christmas comes along, I always think, 'What do I get for my friend who saved my life?'” He continued, "do I get him another piece of climbing rope? What can I possibly give him that would signify how grateful I am that he risked his life to save mine?" And then he made this remark: "I still exchange gifts with him. But you know, there isn't a day that goes by when I don't think of him. And that's the gift I give him, is that I think of him and what he did for me." As you  think about this story, I want you to  reflect upon the sacramental promise that we make every week—that we think about the Savior and the Atonement, that when we do "always remember him and keep his commandments," we can have his Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77).
 
The Savior literally gave His life for every person here—every one of us—so that we could be resurrected; so that we could repent and return to our Father in Heaven; so that despite all of the travail and disappointments, the challenges that take their toll on us, we could be made whole and happy. He did that for all of us. And, what He asks us to do by way of gratitude is to always remember Him. And we do that by keeping His commandments.
 
Now, to conclude the subject of charity, I'd like to give you a challenge this coming Christmas season to listen intently to the Holy Ghost that is with all of you. As you listen to the Holy Ghost, I can promise you that you will get impressions about how you can help other people. It may not be a real dramatic thing. It may be something as simple as listening to another individual, giving them a pat on the back, giving them an encouraging word, helping them with their homework—just some manner of reaching out to those around you under the prompting of the Holy Ghost. I can promise you that if you will not ignore these impressions when they come, and they will come, you will in turn get more impressions, more revelation from the Holy Ghost on how you can reach out through acts of charity and help those people around you. I can promise you also that as you act on these impressions and as you do more acts of charity, you will become a charitable person. You will become more Christlike. You will have achieved what is the greatest virtue of all, to have within you at all times the pure love of Jesus Christ, which is charity.
 
And that's my prayer for all of us as we work to improve ourselves here upon the earth, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 

Satan's Strategies to Ensnare You

15 Nov. 2006

Transcript

Satan's Strategies to Ensnare You

 
I am really grateful to be able to be here today, and hope the Lord will help me say something that might be useful in some way. 
 
My educational background is in business, and one of the things that I ended up studying a lot was strategy. Strategy is really important as you think about managing a business or an organization. Strategists ask questions like: What’s the mission? What are our competitive resources? How do we leverage those resources to succeed and be the best in a certain market or industry?
 
This world is about competition in a lot of ways. But there’s a greater competition going on on a daily basis, and the stakes are much higher. The intensity of the battle is much greater than any market or industry on the earth. It is the battle for our souls. I’d like to talk a little bit today about the strategies that the adversary uses to battle for our souls.
 
Thinking about business, if you had access to the full playbook and strategic initiatives of your competitor, would that be helpful? Certainly. It would really help in being able to make decisions and understand how a competitor might react to certain moves, and certain things you might do in the market. The scriptures show us what Lucifer’s primary strategies are in waging battle for our souls. I’d really like to rely on a lot of the visions and prophecies that Nephi had in this discussion. He speaks a lot about our day. He saw all of us, and what’s going on, and the things of the world, and what was going on with people in the Church. He has a lot of interesting things to say.
 
Nephi says this in 1 Nephi 14: “There are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations…
“And it came to pass that I [meaning Nephi] beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the [church of the devil] (verses 10 & 12).
 
There’s this interesting analysis that Nephi makes. He’s able to say, “Hey, there are two churches, two groups, two organizations, if you will. One [group] is those who truly follow the Lamb of God and are associated and belong with him. The other, by default, is the church of the devil.”
 
Now, a lot of times in this Church we think, “Well, I’m a baptized member of the LDS Church, and so I am a member of the church of the Lamb of God.” Well, we’re taught some interesting things in the parable of the ten virgins. This is a parable about our Church, the church of God. How many were prepared when the bridegroom came, of those ten virgins? Five. I don’t know if the percentages play out exactly, but the principle that’s taught is that just being a member of this Church does not guarantee us membership in this most important of organizations, the church of the Lamb of God. 
 
I would also say I think there are individuals on this earth who are not baptized members of this Church, but are living to the best of their ability, following the Spirit. Based on the knowledge they have, they are doing everything they can to follow the Savior. Their hearts are committed to the Savior. Those unbaptized members, if you will, will be members of the church of the Lamb of God. So I think it really becomes incumbent upon us to ask ourselves, “Am I living the way I need to in order to be a member of the church of the Lamb of God?”
 
So the distinguishing characteristic is personal righteousness. It’s not just being baptized. Of course, I’m not trying to downplay ordinances for exaltation, because those are critical and important. But what I’m talking about today is our hearts. I think what identifies us with the church of the Lamb of God versus the church of the devil is where our hearts are. Satan works very vigorously to keep us from active participation in this church, the church of the Lamb of God. If I could read from Doctrine & Covenants section 76, it says: “We saw…and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,
“And was called Perdition,” meaning lost, “for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.
“…For we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take [away] the kingdom of our God and his Christ—
“Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.
“And we saw a vision of the sufferings of those with whom he made war and overcame” (verses 25-30).
 
So, there is this great war going on now. It’s more important than any marketing battle in the cola industry or automobile industry or anything like that. This is a battle, even a war, for the souls of the children of our Father in Heaven. How does Satan make war with us? What are some of the techniques or strategies he employs to make war with each one of us individually? Strategies of the Adversary
 
I’d like to talk about three strategies. I know there are many, but I want to address three strategies that Lucifer uses against us today, to distract us from becoming members of the church of the Lamb of God—three things to try to keep our hearts far from our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ.
 
First Strategy: Distracting Us with Less Important Things
The first one is distracting us with less important things. The second is destroying our agency. And the third is stirring our hearts to anger. I’d like to address each one of those. 
 
Certainly Satan strives to distract us from what is most important in this life. If I can leverage some of the things that Nephi said, again. Seeing our day, he describes it as this:  the adversary will “pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (2 Nephi 28:21).
 
There are many examples in the scriptures of good people that were distracted by things that weren’t as important. Amulek is one of those. Now, you remember, he and Alma had the chance to speak to the people of Ammonihah. Alma got up and spoke, and then it became Amulek’s turn. He got up and began to introduce himself before he shared his message. He says this: “I am…a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry” (Alma 10:4). So this is a guy that’s pretty successful in the world.
 
“Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power.” And then he catches himself when he says that. He says, “I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
 
“Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear” (Alma 10:5-6). Somehow he got so distracted through all the different things going on that he was not able, or did not give heed and credence to the promptings that he received from the Holy Spirit, from Father in Heaven, to call him to do things that were more important.
 
Here’s another example. In 1831, Joseph Smith and ten other elders were out on missions. They had left Kirtland, and they were out preaching the gospel in different parts of the area. Joseph Smith received a revelation to have everyone come back to Kirtland, and Heavenly Father particularly wanted Joseph Smith to come quickly. Well, they all met and got in a big canoe, got on the Missouri River, and as swiftly as they could they went back to Kirtland. 
 
There was a point during the middle of this journey back when they were camped on McIlwaine’s Bend on August 12th of 1831. This is documented in D&C 61. The Savior gives a revelation to Joseph Smith, and He makes a comment—a bit of a critique, but done very gently—when he says: “Verily I say unto you, that it is not needful for this whole company of mine elders to be moving swiftly upon the waters, whilst the inhabitants on either side are perishing in unbelief” (verse 3). So here are these missionaries, getting back as fast as they can to Kirtland, and kind of forgot about why they were really out, and that was to teach the gospel. Now Joseph needed to get back quickly, but did all of the rest of the elders? Apparently not, from what the Lord says. And he doesn’t criticize them, but just instructs them and tutors them.
 
I wonder if sometimes in our life we get distracted because we are “moving so swiftly upon the waters.” So many things going on, about our profession, our education, social situation. There are a hundred things that can cause us to be distracted from that which is most important. In my life there are professions, habits, hobbies—too many activities. I’ve even heard someone say, “I’m too busy because I’m now retired.” So you can be too busy in all kinds of different ways.
 
President James E. Faust gives us some wonderful counsel regarding that which is most important. He says, “we need to set priorities to guide us in allocating our time. Some forget that their first priority should be to maintain their own spiritual and physical strength.” So that’s the first one. “The second is their family, then the Church, then their professions.” Then he says, “All need time.” 
 
If I were to say, “Okay, the most important thing is my spiritual development, so I’m going to quit everything, and I’m going to hike to the top of Mount Olympus every day and I’m going to read my scriptures from sunrise to sunset. And then I’m going to come down, rest, and do the same thing the next day,” I might learn more about the scriptures, but am I really developing and growing spiritually? No. I’m letting my family down; I’m letting down any responsibilities I have in the Church. I certainly won’t have a job for very long, if I’m doing that. So, the important thing is that all of those things need time.
 
In a recent leadership training with Elder David A. Bednar someone asked the question, “How can I find balance in my life?” He responded very directly, “There is no such thing as balance in your life.  What you need to do is identify those things that are most out of whack and give attention to those things at that time.” We all only have 24 hours in a day, and there are many more things that we would like to do than we can do. So it’s important to allocate our time to those things that are most important. 
 
Sometimes this gets difficult. We have a neighbor whose family of four children all ended up having some real skills in soccer. They got more and more involved recreationally, then competitively, and then they joined more elite teams. Practices were Monday through Friday; and on weekends they had games in far-off locations. And at one point they sat down with their whole family and said, “What is going on? We’re losing one another.” 
 
Now, they still loved soccer and enjoyed playing it. Soccer isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. What they decided was, “Monday will always be the night for our family. We’ll never compromise on that. And if a team will still let us play, great. If they won’t, then we’ll find another team.” They made the decision as a family to get less involved in soccer and to make sure they still had time together. In three years they hadn’t even had a family vacation together, so they planned a family vacation. I was very impressed, because with so much pressure to succeed in worldly things, this family decided to excel at something more important. Well, let me ask a few questions. I’m asking these questions of myself, but you can listen to these questions and ask yourself whether or not Lucifer is making progress against you.
 
·         Do I make time for spiritual nourishment through sincere prayer and meditation? 
·         Do I make time to study the word of God?
·         Do I make time to be with my spouse, children, or other loved ones?
·         Do I make time to worship in the temple frequently? 
 
Even now, as busy as it seems as students, I think the best thing you can do is to go to the temple once a week, worthily, and serve there. There’s nothing more important. One of the best things that ever happened to me in my life was that when I got home from my mission my stake president invited me to serve as a veil worker in the temple. Every Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. I got to go to the Salt Lake Temple and do that. It ended up being one of the best ways to keep me close to the Savior. You spend some time in a place where the world isn’t swirling around and the Spirit of the Lord can touch your mind and touch your heart and give you guidance and direction. You are making incredibly important decisions right now. The decisions you are making now and in the next few years, for most of you, are things that will impact your eternal exaltation. So you want to be in the right frame of mind to be able to make those decisions well.
 
Here are two more questions:
·         Do I make time to have family home evening each week?
·         Do I make time to visit my home teaching and visiting teaching families?
 
Well, the challenge I’d give all of us, me included, is to pick one activity in our lives that is not as important as some other things, and let’s do what we can to eradicate that from our lives and fill it with something more critical and eternal in nature.
 
So, one thing Satan tries to do and does well is distract us with less important things. 
 
Second Strategy: Destroy our Agency
The second thing he tries to do is destroy our agency. This is a particularly pernicious and effective tool. He has always sought to destroy the agency of man. In Moses is recorded that great council in heaven. Heavenly Father speaks: 
 
“Satan…came before me saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor. 
“Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down” (Moses 4:1, 3).
 
He has always sought to destroy our agency. Heavenly Father stopped that and did not allow it. Free agency is the one gift He will never take from us. In fact, even though Lucifer has rebelled in such ways, He has still never taken it away from him. So if He’s not going to take it away from him, He certainly isn’t going to take it away from us. However, we can give it away if we choose.
 
Nephi, again looking in our day, said that there are many that the Adversary “leadeth by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever” (2 Nephi 26:22).
 
Now, Elder Nelson does a great job explaining how this works. He says: “While we are free to choose, once we have made those choices we are tied to the consequences of those choices. For example, we are free to take drugs or not, but once we choose to use a habit-forming drug, we are bound to the consequences of that choice. Addiction surrenders later freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will.”
 
Now this is a tactic the Adversary uses, and there are many others that he uses. He is very subtle in the way that he approaches it. Let me ask some questions again. 
·         Do I have excessive debt? Do I have any consumer debt? Have I ever missed paying tithing because of a debt obligation?
·         Do I participate in any form of betting, whether in person or online? Do I participate in recreational trips to Nevada? Do I wager on sporting events?
·         Do I have addictive behaviors relating to any substance? Do I have addictions to substances not even mentioned in the Word of Wisdom?
·         Do I watch too much television?  Do I really need to watch that certain television series, say, Wednesday at 8:00 p.m., or whatever it is?
·         Do I view pornography at all?
·         Do I chat online with others in a way that is suggestive or inappropriate?
 
These are just a few techniques that he uses and you can make a list of questions much longer than this. Alma describes well how these techniques impact each one of us individually if we take the bait that Lucifer gives us. 
 
He says: “And behold I say unto you all that this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity” (Alma 12:6).
 
If we fought so valiantly for our ability to choose our agency in the pre-mortal existence, why would we give it away here? Moreover, do you find it hypocritical that the Adversary tries to exercise his free agency by taking away ours? I don’t know that his plan would even have worked, but it sure isn’t fair.
 
Well, there are many I have seen in my own life, close friends, who have come into issues with pornography or gambling, and I’ve seen some of the challenges and problems that it can cause in their lives. It can ruin families, it can ruin your job, it can ruin your spiritual existence, it can ruin your opportunity to be a member of the church of the Lamb of God.
 
The challenge would be to identify any addictions we may have, small or large, and do what we can to eradicate them from our lives. We cannot eradicate them by ourselves. We have to have the Savior to do it. But President Gordon B. Hinckley gives us a wonderful formula. He says, “Plead with the Lord out of the depths of your soul that He will remove from you the addiction which enslaves you.” So that’s one—to rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
 
Second, “and may you have the courage to seek the loving guidance of a spiritual or priesthood leader.” And third, “if necessary, the counseling of a caring professional.” 
 
I love this wonderful statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer: “Save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of absolute and complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the Atonement of Christ.”
 
So this will always be one of Lucifer’s greatest strategies: to destroy us by destroying our agency.
 
Third Strategy: Stir Our Hearts to Anger
The third technique Lucifer uses is to stir our hearts to anger. Nephi, seeing our day, describes this: “For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish; “For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good” (2 Nephi 28:19-20).
 
Now we know that the father of contention is the adversary, and we also know that the Lord frequently is called the Prince of Peace. Peace, tranquility, harmony, unity—that is of the Savior. Contention, negativity, criticism—all those things are of the adversary. 
 
Recently we were hiring for a position where I work. Two individuals ended up in the last round of interviews. They both had excellent resumes, their experience was perfect for what we needed, and so we had a chance for them to meet a number of people in our organization. It was so fascinating that despite the almost equal backgrounds and experiences, one of them was extraordinarily positive. When we asked him questions he was just very positive. You could tell that he would be a contributor to a positive and productive work environment. The other candidate was very negative. This person had an axe to grind about everything that was brought up. You can see how one would be such a valuable asset and one could have such a terrible, negative impact. I would rather have someone working at our company that may not be quite as bright, but works very well with people—has teamwork, integrity, all those things—because we’ll get a whole lot more done as an organization.
 
Satan is very skillful and subtle playing us off of one another. If someone were to come up and slap you across the face, I think most here would say, “Okay, that was over the line. I shouldn’t slap this person back, and I’ll just kind of walk away.” But he’s so subtle and tricky in the way he does this, that he’s able to drive wedges before we even know it.
 
Here are some questions that we might ask ourselves:
·         How do I react when someone says something offensive to me? Am I easily offended?
·         Do I feel bad when someone else succeeds or achieves something great?
·         Do I accept counsel easily from church leaders, even if it’s not delivered in an understanding way?
·         Do I withhold a compliment intentionally from someone who deserves it?
·         Do I ever feel an inward joy when another experiences disappointment or failure?
·         How do I react if I’ve been unfairly judged?
·         Do I criticize others quickly?
·         Am I withholding forgiveness from someone so that I might have the upper edge in our relationship?
 
I issue a challenge for each one of us. If there is anyone in your life with whom you do not have a good relationship or with whom you have any enmity, do what you can to break that enmity down. Prayerfully identify who that person is. Humbly go to them. Ask for forgiveness. Or, if you haven’t even done something and you’re just angry at them, pray so that you have good feelings about that person. The Spirit of the Lord cannot dwell within us if we have anger, animosity or contention within us. Those two things cannot mix.
 
Elder Nelson says, “We should be personal peacemakers. We should live peaceably as couples, families and neighbors.” One of the adversary’s greatest tools today causes us to contend one with another, by pride, by being offended, or by the thousand different ways it can happen. He works so hard and so skillfully at this because the tiniest wedge will drive away the Spirit.
 
I am so grateful that we have the Lord, and the scriptures that help us identify many of the strategies that the adversary uses to keep us from reaching our full potential, from being as righteous as possible, and ultimately from being members of the church of the Lamb of God.
 
There is a statement made in D&C 100 to Joseph Smith. This was a time when the early church was trying to develop Zion. There were great hopes of building a Zion society. But it started to unravel, primarily because of personal unrighteousness on the part of some saints. Joseph Smith was concerned about this, but the Lord said to him, “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church” (verse 15).
 
And then he says this: “For I will raise up unto myself a pure people, that will serve me in righteousness” (verse 16). There is no question about whether there will be a righteous people. There will be a church of the Lamb of God. That will happen. The only question becomes whether we will be members of it or not. As we can identify these strategies the adversary uses—to distract us with less-important things, to destroy our agency, and to stir our hearts to anger—if we can rely upon the Atonement and combat those strategies so that we can enjoy the blessings of the gospel in our lives, so that we can be members of that church of the Lamb of God, we’ll be blessed greatly. We’ll not only personally be blessed, but we’ll be more enabled to help others along their way. The reason that you’re here at this school, the reason you’ve come to this earth, the reason you’re a member of the Church, is so you can serve and bless the lives of others. That becomes our ultimate mission. I think that as our lives are analyzed after we go back, there will be much discussion about what we have contributed, not what we’ve achieved, in this life.
 
There’s a great hope that if we collectively—not only personally, but also collectively—can gain this type of righteousness; we can literally bind Satan’s power. Nephi, seeing our day and people, says: “And because of the righteousness of his people [meaning the Lord’s people], Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth” (1 Nephi 22:26).
 
May we not only as a people allow Him to reign, but may He reign personally in our lives. Of these things I testify and bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

A Tool in His Hands

15 Nov. 2006

Transcript

A Tool in His Hands

 

It wasn’t too long ago that I was thinking about my career and finishing school. Frankly I kind of miss school now, except for finals. I remember the stress associated with them. It is nice to always be in an environment where you are learning and growing and able to study and pursue things that you are interested in.  
 
When I was preparing this talk I wondered what I would share with you today that would be of use. I don’t know if I have anything huge to say or anything greatly revelatory but I have been thoughtful and prayerful about the words that I wanted to share with you and hope that they will be of some use. It has been good for me to go through this process of trying to determine what kind of message I should deliver. 
 
I want to start by asking you a question and I would love a little audience participation, I’m interested to know what your responses are. The question is, “Does God care about your chosen career path?” Anyone have any thoughts about that?
 
Student comment: “God cares about our personal happiness, therefore He cares about our career.
 
Student comment: “God has given us certain gifts and talents and we can use these gifts and talents to help benefit the Lord’s Kingdom.”
 
Brother Pingree: So, we might have talents that will help one another, to render service throughout our careers.”
 
Student comment: “Some of the skills and talents of the leaders of the church currently were gained through professional experiences before.”
 
Brother Pingree: Any other thoughts or any counter arguments.”
 
Student comment: “God cares that our careers are honorable and also challenging.”
 
Brother Pingree: “Why challenging?”
 
Same student: “We are told that education is important and we should get as much education as we can. God wants us to find a career that will challenge us to be the best we can be.”
 
Brother Pingree, “Excellent. That is a great comment, any others?”
 
Student comment: “I don’t think He cares as much about a specific career that we need. Heavenly Father wants us to do what’s right. He wants us to follow his commandments. There are a number of careers that we could do that will be fine with Him, I’m sure.”
 
Brother Pingree: Okay, so He doesn’t care so much about the particular career, as long as we’re working hard and are honest in the careers that we chose. These are good thoughts. Anyone else?”
 
Student comment: “I think that God will let us choose whatever we want. This is part of the agency God has given us. It is not necessary to have a specific major to be saved, but at times God will choose certain people according to their majors to fulfill certain callings. For example in the past some people had money, like Martin Harris, so he was able to help with the restoring of the Church.”
 
Brother Pingree: God will help us to develop our characteristics in our major, to help someone else?”
 
Student comment: “I think that it is sort of like school. You have a major you are working towards but if your education is the only part of your life that you’re working on, then you are losing out on a lot. If you are involved in the community, if you are involved in committees and are trying to expand your knowledge, then it doesn’t really matter what your job is as long as you’re making the most out of your life.
 
Student comment: “As a returning student, I had the option of going to a school closer to home. After making it a matter of prayer and discussing it with others, I decided to move from Michigan to specifically attend school here in Salt Lake, because I felt through prayer that the Lord had something that I could accomplish here that I couldn’t accomplish anywhere else.”
 
Brother Pingree: Great! Do you miss the trees?”
 
Same student: “Yeah, but the mountains are great.”
 
Can we just table this conversation just for a second? All the comments have been wonderful—thank you very much. There are lots of view points and thoughts and angles on that question. Let’s put that on the shelf for just one second and what I’d like to do is read a quote from Elder Scott. Elder Scott gave a talk earlier this year at BYU-Idaho. I just happened to run across it. He said something I thought was very profound. If there is one thing that you can take with you today, it would be this quote. He said, “Heavenly Father has a specific plan for your life. When needed, He will reveal part of that plan to you as you seek His guidance with faith and consistent obedience.”
 
Heavenly Father has a specific plan for your life. I want to tell you now and bear testimony that I believe that is true. Though we, as His children, are more numerous than the grains of sand on the seashore, He has a specific detailed plan for each of our lives. He truly does; I know that’s true.
 
Let me read another quote from President Kimball. He said, “In the world before we came here, faithful men and woman were given certain assignments. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. We are accountable for those things which long ago were expected of us. We are here and do not remember much of what happened before we came to this life. But we can understand and know the commitments we made previously, and the expectations the Savior has for us as we live close to the spirit.”
 
There are just three things I want to talk about relating to how we can understand and follow God’s plan for us. The first one is this: we must identify our unique abilities and then develop those so that God has something to work with. Without raising your hands, is there anyone here who has said to themselves, “I’m okay at this and okay at this, but I really don’t have any true abilities.” I have thought that before, that there is nothing I’m really good at. I don’t have any unique attributes or gifts that Heavenly Father has given me. But I know that I was wrong and the reason that I know this is because of Doctrine and Covenants 46:11-12. The Lord tells us, “…for there are many gifts, and to every man (and woman) is given a gift by the spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.” All these gift come from God for the benefit of the children of God. He says, and I will emphasize again: to every man and to every woman is given a gift.

We all have gifts. Maybe it’s one, maybe it’s a few. I don’t know exactly; it depends on our particular situation. But we all have been given a gift. How can we come to understand what our gift is?
 
Student comment: “Try different things, try different majors. I started off as an English major, then I went into business, and now I’ve decided I want to work in film. I’ve dabbled in a little bit of everything, and I’ve tried different sports and different musical instruments until I found what I really enjoy doing.”
 
Brother Pingree: Try to experience different kinds of things and see where your skills and likes resonate. You know it’s interesting to hear you choose English and Business. Those are two skills that will help you a lot in pursuing a career.”
 
Student comment: “Patriarchal blessings.”
 
Brother Pingree: Excellent. If you don’t have a patriarchal blessing, I would do everything you can to get one. I have found a lot of direction and guidance in my patriarchal blessing. What else?
 
Student comment: “Ask other people what they see are good attributes in you. Often we can’t see our own attributes when others can.”
 
Brother Pingree: Excellent. Who would you suggest would be good people to ask versus people you shouldn’t ask?”
 
Same student: “Parents, friends, family, people you spend a lot of time with. Don’t ask somebody that you are competing with in something, somebody that you know is going to put you down. You want somebody who’s going to tell you the positive attributes that you have and not point out all the negative ones.”
 
Student comment: “We can receive personal revelation, to know what our attributes are.”
 
Brother Pingree: Why should we ask God?
 
Same student: “Because He is the one that has the plan for you so He would be the one to ask.”
 
Brother Pingree: I think all of the comments you have made are excellent ones: going to the source, asking our Father in Heaven who we are and what talents we have, engaging in a lot of different kinds of activities, asking people who know us as well and can see us in objective ways, or referring to our patriarchal blessings. Those are some wonderful ways to find out what our skills and abilities are.
 
I was reading another talk recently by a fellow named Clayton Christianson. He is right now a professor at Harvard, he’s a Rhode’s scholar, and has been called as an Area Authority Seventy for the Northeast Area of the Church. He’s a wonderful and incredible person. He was talking about decisions he made in his life that really helped him and he referred to something that his mother taught him when he was really young about developing his talents. He said, “I remember my mother teaching me that the more you learn, Clayton, the more talents you develop and the more ways God can shape you to be useful.”
 
With that thought in mind, he talks about his experiences starting school. He says, “I enrolled my first year in school in many diverse classes and loved every one of them. I think I loved them because the primary motivation for my learning was that there was a cause in which I was enrolled as a student that was far greater than my personal cause, that cause being that if I am actively trying to learn and develop myself, my talents, and my abilities, the Lord is going to use me for ways beyond my own imagination.”
 
I think that is quite a profound and interesting statement. That statement means something to me. It helps me feel good about myself that God would care enough about what I’m doing here at LDS Business College today in this semester because the things I’m learning here can help me help Him later. Gordon B. Hinckley said this, “Get all the schooling you can to qualify yourself in your chosen vocations. In this world competition is terrible, it eats up people, it destroys many, but it must be faced. It is something with which we have to deal. These are the great days of your future work. Do not waste them, take advantage of them, cram your heads full of knowledge, assimilate it, think about it, and let it become a part of you.”
 
 Let me commend you for what you are doing right now and the activities you are engaged in, learning and growing and increasing your capabilities and talents. My mother was a good example to me and I’d like to share experiences about her.
 
I’m the oldest of five and my youngest brother, Brian, was born with autism. His autism provided some challenges for our family and my mother, being the person that she was, decided to go back to school to get a masters degree in special education. She did this so she would know how to help and support my younger brother in what he needed. To make a long story short, she got involved in a number of things that ultimately allowed her to be an instrument in God’s hands, I believe, in working with the legislature to help get funding for schools for children in Utah who have autism. I think about her and her life and how willing she was to go to school and learn some extra things. She is an example to me. There were also a number of things in her early life that she never thought about. But they ended up becoming very important at this time in her life when the Lord was able to use her. One was that she grew up in a family that was very politically active and so she learned a lot about the political process. She also developed relationships with individuals in the political process. That was something she never thought much about, but it came in useful at this time when she needed to help those that are disabled with autism here in Utah. This is the first step: work to develop our own talents and abilities.
 
The second step is to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Marion G. Romney said, “Now I can tell you that you can make every decision in your life correctly if you learn to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When you learn to walk by the Spirit, you need never make a mistake.”
 
Let me share with you an experience. I am mediocre at best; there is so much I still need to learn in life, and I’ve made tons of mistakes in everything. But there are a few experiences relating to the spirit in my career that I’d like to share with you and try to draw some learning from. One experience is this. When I was finishing business school I had some thoughts, some very strong thoughts about what I wanted to do in my career. I was very interested in international business and development work. I ended up working with some professors at my graduate school who were focused in this area and they got me involved in some projects.
 
Ultimately I ended up being offered a job. It was the perfect job I’d always wanted. I was kind of blind as I was thinking about this job. I wasn’t thinking so much about my family or what the Lord wanted me to do. I was very focused on what I wanted to do and thought was right. There came a point where this offer was extended to me, I was thrilled with it and as I walked out of the office where that offer was extended and began to walk down the hall, the Spirit kind of grabbed me by the shirt and awakened me and said, “You can’t take the job.” I started asking myself how come when this is something I really wanted, it’s something I’ve worked for, something I desire. But that’s what the Spirit told me. I went and discussed it with my wife. It was easy and clear for her. It takes a little bit longer for me to recognize those promptings but we decided not to do it and I ended up taking a different job. I don’t know what would have happened; maybe everything would have been fine. But I do know that the Spirit gave me some direction for which I am very grateful.
 
There was another situation when I was working with a finance firm in Portland, Oregon. The managing partners of our firm decided to split up and go off and start their own businesses. It left me in a funny situation. It was hard for me to choose one or the other without having some issues with the other one. Our home office was in Philadelphia and I had a chance to go there, but we didn’t feel quite right to move there. I didn’t know quite what to do.
 
I ended up getting a contact with one of our clients who was looking for someone with my skills. As I thought about this opportunity, I went to bed that night and was trying to be prayerful and thoughtful about what I should do. In the middle of the night I woke up and had the Spirit dictate to me a letter that I ought to write to the head individuals of this firm. It was quite a remarkable thing. I had the words and sentences come right to my mind and I just jotted them down, wrote it and faxed the letter off. Some things that were said in that letter were things that I believed and felt, but I don’t know that I would have put them that way or said them that way. I feel it was a great blessing from the Lord, helping me to find an opportunity that ended up working out well. I learned some skills there that helped me later in my life. It was a place that maybe I wouldn’t have decided to go but the Spirit influenced my life and helped me that way.
 
There are experiences that happen throughout our lives like this. We need to listen to the Spirit, because the Spirit can guide us and help us do things that will prepare us for future responsibilities.
 
I also believe that there are individuals along the way that have influenced my life for good. There have also been individuals that I hope in some way I have been able to influence as well. If I was just going on my own track in my career, I wouldn’t have come in contact with these individuals and have been able to be of some support and help to them. I’ve had some great blessings being involved in the Church. We have been in different wards and branches throughout the world that my career has brought us to, and it has helped us develop and grow and gain an appreciation for people. Most importantly, the Spirit has helped me in my career decision making to find jobs that allow me to spend time with my family. There is nothing more important than raising our family and performing those responsibilities that we have there.
 
I remember when I was getting out of college, I was interviewed for different jobs. One job opportunity, by the world’s standards, was an incredible opportunity. I was excited to get it. However, as I thought about it, the Spirit helped me start visualizing the future. We had some significant loans we had to pay off so money was a concern to us. And we had just had a child. The Spirit helped me feel comfortable knowing that if I took another job I would be able to tuck my daughter into bed each night, and that over time I would be able to pay off our school loans. That brought me some comfort and peace, and I’m grateful that the Spirit was helpful in that way.
 
Of course, for us to feel the Spirit we need to live our life worthily. I don’t think we need to be perfect but I do think we need to be striving to do what we can. We also need to be reading the scriptures and following the words of the prophets.
 
Elder Condie said this, “You will receive distinct impressions and promptings and, as promised, the Holy Ghost will show unto us all the things that we should do.” I know that’s true; I testify that the Holy Ghost will show us everything that we need to do.
 
Let me read again from Elder Scott: “You must come to really know more of God through scriptures, prayer, and the testimonies of His chosen. Then He can guide you in every circumstance.”
 
The third thing we must do to understand and follow God’s plan for us is to rely on God, to know that He can do more with our life and career than we can do with our life and career. Can I read to you a quick example, then ask you what your impressions are of this interchange? I’m going to read to you an excerpt from one of the last interviews Mother Teresa had. It was with the Time magazine correspondent, Edward Desmond. It happened in 1989. Let me read this and then I’d like to get your impression on it.
 
Time magazine: “Why have you been so successful?
 
Mother Teresa: “Jesus made Himself the bread of life to give us life. I don’t think that I could do this work for even one week if I didn’t have four hours of prayer everyday.”
 
Time magazine: “Humble as you are, it must be an extraordinary thing to be a vehicle in God’s grace in the world.”
 
Mother Teresa: “But it’s His work. I think God wants to show His greatness by using nothingness.”
 
Time magazine: “You are nothingness?”
 
Mother Teresa: “I’m very sure of that.”
 
Time magazine: “You feel that you have no special qualities.”
 
Mother Teresa: “I really don’t think so. I don’t claim anything of the work. It’s His work. I’m like a little pencil in His hand, that’s all. He does the thinking, He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used. In human terms, the success of our work should not have happened. That is the sign that it is His work and that He is using others as instruments. All of our sisters could not produce this, yet see what He has done.”
 
Brother Pingree: This Time interviewer is trying to write an article to honor Mother Teresa. He is having a difficult time with it. Talk to me about some of the impressions you get from this interchange.
 
Student comment: “She’s close to God and she prays. It sounds like she is really Christ-like and she is following Christ’s example.”
 
Student comment: “She is humble, another Christ-like attribute, very humble.”
 
Student comment: “I was thinking that she has a clear understanding of what our jobs are to be, which is to be instruments in God’s hands.”
 
Student comment: “Like you said earlier, if you always have the Spirit, you won’t make any mistake. You will always be right.”
 
Student comment: “She has a good heart and she saw that there was a lot of poverty and she felt she could help.”
 
Brother Pingree: Her interview reminds me a whole lot of something that King Benjamin said, “I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering toward you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourself even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith...” (Mosiah 4:11).
 
 Here is a woman who is incredibly talented. She has many gifts, she’s developed them, she’s had experiences in her life that have allowed her to truly be an instrument and a vehicle in God’s hands. None of it could have happened unless she had the humility to allow God to use her.
 
Did anyone see the press conference where the two new apostles were just introduced recently this past week? There is something that Elder Bednar said that I wanted to quote and it relates to this topic very well. He said, “I think I know better than anyone that within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there are literally hundreds, even thousands, more able than I. But I do know from whence the call has come and so I’m honored to respond. I look forward to serve and I’m anxious for the opportunity to be able to learn.”
 
This reminded me of something Alma the Younger said once, “I know that which the Lord had commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God…” (Alma 29:9).
 
When Paul was teaching the Romans and also teaching us he said, “…yield yourselves unto God...” (Rom. 6:13).
 
May I just read one last thing from Ammon. He says, “I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things…” (Alma 26:11-12).
 
Somehow we need to put ourselves in a position—and I think it has more to do with our hearts than anything else to be used by God. Are we praying and saying Heavenly Father, I want this career, I want this job and this position, I know I’ll do a lot of good for you, please help me to get it? Or are we saying, Here’s an opportunity Dear Father. I know I’m not perfect, I know that I make many mistakes. I have many inadequacies. I do know that this is something you want me to have. You can help me to get this job and I also know that you can use me as a vehicle for doing your work in my profession. These are two different kinds of perspectives. One is counseling God and the other is receiving counsel from Him.
 
I want to testify that there is nothing that feels better than being used by God to help better His work, even in the smallest of small ways. We are all weak, we are all inadequate. Anything that we have that is good comes because the Lord, our Father in Heaven, has blessed us with it. As we avail ourselves, as we yieldeth ourselves as Paul says, to the Lord and His will, then He can perform miracles in our lives, miracles to benefit the rest of the earth.
 
Let me just say in conclusion three things that will help us know our specific plan and fulfill that plan. One is to identify and develop our own talents and abilities, two is to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and three is to remember that it’s God who has the power and to rely on Him so that He can use us as tools in His hands.
 
Let’s go back to the question: Does God care about your career? I believe that He does. I don’t believe that God cares about what type of career you have necessarily. I don’t think He thinks that a doctor is any better than a teacher or a fireman and so on. But what He does care about is that we have honorable professions. I think He cares that we find professions that are suitable to our attributes and our abilities and our talents because He knows the things that are going to be happening in our future, in our specific plan. And as we apply ourselves, He can truly bless us in this way.
 
 I know that God lives, I know that He knows each one of us specifically, individually. He knows our worries, our concerns, our talents, our aptitudes, our abilities. He wants to use us. All we need to do is open up our hearts and our minds to Him so that we can be instruments in furthering His work here on this earth. This I say in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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