The Song of the Heart: Using the Sacred Hymns

18 Jan. 2006

Transcript

The Song of the Heart: Using the Sacred Hymns

 
I have chosen to talk about something today I feel I am somewhat experienced in. By the introduction you may have realized it has to do with music. I am going to talk to you about something that you may or may not have known before: it has to do with a doctrine of the Church that isn’t talked about very often, a doctrine that may be new to you. Hopefully it will be exciting to you. At the conclusion of my remarks, I will invite you to accept a personal challenge to do something for yourself, for those around you, and for those in your wards and stakes. For many years to come it will bring great happiness and joy in your church service.
 
If I asked you if you believe there is a doctrine of music in the Church, I wonder what your answer would be. I suppose some of you may say, “Never heard of it,” and others may readily admit, “Yes, there is a doctrine of music in the Church.” Let me affirm that yes, there is a doctrine of music in the Church. It was given by revelation from the Lord Himself very early in the history of the Church, within three month after the Church was organized. If you read section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph to his wife, Emma, you will know that the Lord instructed Emma, among other things, to do something with music.
 
We have other scriptures in our standard works that deal with music and with the arts in general. For instance, section 136 of the Doctrine and Covenants talks about dancing in a revelation given to Brigham Young. If you had any doubt in what the Church believes in regards to dancing, the revelation is there. But more recently and more importantly, we have many statements made by the brethren over the years in General Conference and other settings about the importance, the power, and the necessity of music in our lives. So let me start out with a portion of the 13th Article of Faith. The last sentence in that Article of Faith gives us the will of the Lord in regards to music and the other arts in general.
 
It says, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” That is the guide we have, through revelation, on everything that has to do with the arts, which includes music. Now more specifically, when we talk about worshipful music or sacred music in worship settings, we have this statement in section 25 given to Emma Smith. It says in verses 11 and 12, in a commandment to Emma by the Lord,  “…make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church. For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart, ye the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.”
 
Taking off on that particular revealing statement, one of our former first presidency members, J. Reuben Clark, Jr.—who about 50 years ago lived half a block up the street—said in the October 1936 General conference, “We can get nearer to the Lord through music then perhaps through any other thing except prayer.”  Remember the Lord said that the song of the righteous is a prayer unto him. We are doing pretty well with praying, but do we believe and do we exercise our faith in the statement that proper use of music in the Church will also get us close to our Heavenly Father and allow us to be blessed.
Two other statements from past presidents of the Church also regard the importance of music. President Brigham said at one time, “We cannot preach the gospel without music.” A very simple statement, “We cannot preach the gospel without music.”
 
And then President Harold B. Lee made a statement in the 1973 General Conference that the most effective preaching of the Gospel occurs when it is accompanied by beautiful and appropriate music.
 
So there is our challenge: to accept that in our efforts as church members, or in our missionary work, or in whatever format we choose, if we include music, it will be more effective. Why? Because there’s great power in the message being transmitted. It becomes firmly settled in our souls because of the music associated with it. Music will cause the spoken word to settle into our hearts more lastingly than the spoken word alone. If we intend to do much good in the world, to preach the gospel to others by example and by precept, we will do well to include music.
 
Now I want to dwell a little bit more on these specifics of sacred music in the Church. If you would look into your hymn book—you don’t have one here I don’t think—but sometime in the near future take the time to find the sealed portion of the hymn book. What do you think that would be? Some people haven’t found it yet. It’s at the very beginning, before the contents section. It’s a two-page challenge by the First Presidency to you and I to use what is in the hymn book for greater good in our lives. If you would analyze the message of the First Presidency in that preface of the hymn book, you will find that the Lord is expecting us to do three things with music. I would like to share those three things, and give you a quote from the preface and also a quote from the General Authorities that will tie to that particular purpose of music.        
 
Here’s the first purpose. We are supposed to sing the hymns frequently—not just once in a while, but frequently. The statement from the hymn book: “We hope to see an increase of hymn singing in our congregations. We encourage all members, whether musically inclined or not, to join with us in singing hymns….Sing them on the Sabbath, in home evening, during scripture study, at prayer time. Sing as you work, as you play, and as you travel.”
The associated statement is from President Thomas S. Monson. He said, “If you love the Lord, if you love His doctrine, you’ll love the hymns. And when you love them, then you sing them.”
 
Now let me give you a little background to that statement. It is a very beautiful statement from one of our leading brethren in the Church. It came about in a very interesting manner. President Monson made that statement in 1984, or1985. The previous year he had gone to Europe, to East Germany to organize the second stake in that country. The first stake had been organized two years before in Frieberg, which is where the temple stands. Now he was there to organize the second stake in Leipzig, and to do that properly he choose to have all of the brethren that would be called to positions in the stake come together at the same time. They were to just simply wait their turn in the adjoining room from the room where he was interviewing them for stake positions.
There were about 30 brethren involved, and these brethren were so glad to be with each other, having come from the far regions of East Germany, that they did something very interesting while they were waiting in that room before President Monson called them into the interview room one by one.
 
President Monson started the interviews and after the first, second, and third interview he noticed something interesting that he couldn’t explain. He heard the brethren singing in the room next to him. Pretty soon he asked Brother Rinker, who was with him interviewing, “Brother Rinker who are these people that are singing next door? Are they the ones that are going to sing tonight in our stake conference meeting in the choir?”
 
Brother Rinker said, “No, they are the ones you asked to be here to be interview.” “Well, how come they’re singing?”
 
And hear the classic answer from Brother Rinker. He said, “These brethren are so happy to be together...” (which they couldn’t do regularly in that particular country at that time)… “they’re just so happy to be together that they would rather sing together than talk about sports or anything else that we usually do when we are waiting for somebody.”
 
That triggered that great comment from President Monson that I just quoted a minute ago. Let me say it again, “If you love the Lord, if you love His doctrine, you’ll love the hymns. And when you love them, then you sing them.” That’s a beautiful comment.
 
The second purpose is to use the words of the hymns to support teaching gospel principles. The quote from the preface is, “We hope leaders, teachers, and members who are called upon to speak will turn often to the hymn book to find sermons presented powerfully and beautifully in verse.”  I personally call the hymn book that we use my “green scriptures” or “the fifth standard works.” I call it that because it contains doctrine in it that in some cases doesn’t appear in the standard works; we will get to that in just a moment.
 
The statement associated with this particular purpose of using the hymns to support teaching Gospel principles comes from President Boyd K. Packer. He gave a great General Conference address in October 1991. I ask you to reread that address, entitled “Reverence Invites Revelation.”  He said, “The Spirit does not ratify speech nor confirm music which lacks spiritual substance.” Here we’re getting into something that we should separate from any other music that entertains. In our worship services, music has to include a spiritual substance; otherwise it will be no good. It will not edify us, it will not inspire us. As a matter of fact, I know that President Packer is inspired in his talks by whatever he hears in the prelude music. If the prelude music is non-substantial,  if it doesn’t have that spiritual substance to it, he is really at a loss as how to speak after that. He puts great emphasis in proper prelude music to edify him so he can speak about what he has chosen to speak. That holds true for many of us; it holds true for me.
 
Now the third purpose is to feel the power of hymns to motivate us to correct actions and behaviors. We don’t have time to go into detail, but I assure you that many miracles recorded in Church history were directly the influence of good, sacred music in a person’s life. Or something was triggered by good music within a person to change the life he or she was living.
 
The statement from the preface says, “Hymns can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action. They can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace. Hymns can also help us withstand the temptations of the adversary.” The statement that goes with that First Presidency preface statement is one given by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve about 50 years ago, Adam S. Bennion. He was a member in the 1950’s and he made a very interesting statement. I would invite you to memorize it, then share with your bishop and your stake president as they conduct sacrament meetings. He said, “In the Church we need better music and more of it, and better speaking and less of it.” Now why would an apostle make that kind of statement? He recognized there is far greater power in teaching the Gospel through music then just speaking about a doctrine. If you watch carefully what happens in General Conference, you will notice that the brethren use certain portions of hymn texts quite freely in preaching doctrine.
 
I want to go into more detail how we can use the hymns of the Church and the children songs. Hymns and sacred children songs more effectively teach the Gospel to others. About 20 years ago the Church used to have three types of hymn books: phase one, phase two, and phase three books. Now there are just two books—phase  two and phase three. The phase one originally went into new countries that were beginning to bring new converts into the Church. There was a new language, a new country, and the Church had never been there before. Maybe there was only a handful of members that were baptized, but they were meeting together on Sundays. So what did they do as far as music goes? The Church had to get something to them rather quickly so that they could have an opening hymn and a sacramental hymn and a closing hymn. The brethren at that time adopted a philosophy that worked extremely well throughout the world. They gave them 12 standard hymns right at the very beginning. What kind of hymns do you think they chose? You would choose ones that give the maximum benefit of teaching the Gospel to new converts to the Church.
 
I hope you thought of, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymn 19). It would be a key hymn because it teaches the doctrine of a prophet, which no other church teaches. The hymns that we use in a mature setting of the Church and also in the children’s songs were considered to see if there are correlating hymns and songs that teach the same doctrine. Children’s songs are simpler in teaching the plan of salvation. The best hymn to teach that in adult hymns is, “Oh, My Father” (292). The best hymn in the children’s book is “I Am a Child of God” (301). Which one do you suppose went in? There was room for only 12 hymns. “O, My Father” didn’t go in; “I Am a Child of God” did. Why? “Oh, My Father” had four verses instead of three, it was on two pages instead of one, and it’s harder to sing. So that was the philosophy taken.
 
The Church has matured throughout the world to the point where that initial 12-package of hymns used to teach the Gospel has been replaced with a new phase one of 45 hymns. Those 45 hymns consist of 35 adult hymns and 10 children songs. The Gospel is being taught in about 100 countries that have a language that is not yet a major language of the Church. Once a first stake is established, they get a bigger hymn book that has about 200 hymns in it. The largest hymn book has 341 hymns in it. How many of those do we use? I think the next time an English-speaking hymn book comes out, it will be decreased to 200 hymns, eliminating the ones that we don’t use.
 
President Packer said again in that same conference address in October, 1991, that if we will listen, hymns teach the Gospel, for the hymns of the restoration are, in fact, a course in doctrine. What a powerful statement. In essence, that says the hymn book is a standard work, it’s a doctrinal volume that teaches doctrine.
 
Let me go through a little experiment with you. I am going to give you a just a selection of some one-liners or short phrases from the hymn book. As I read them, it should trigger the melody. I am not going to tell you what hymn they’re coming from, but in your mind you will probably recall the melody immediately. That should indicate to you the importance of music as it teaches our minds.
 
“Blessings await you in doing what’s right.” That’s right, it’s “Choose the Right.” “If we do what’s right we have no need to fear.” Yes, it’s “Let Us All Press On.”
“Money cannot buy your reward in Heaven.” What’s that from? “Count your many Blessings.” That phrase is actually hidden in the middle of two phrases.
“Home can be a heaven on earth where we are filled with love.” It’s the one that my wife wrote; I wrote the music, “Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth.”
“Teach with inspiration.” Just three words, but we are not supposed to teach any other way but by inspiration. Now maybe you didn’t catch all the music that goes with it, but it’s an interesting challenge.
 
Now here are two more that were expanded by one word by the General Authorities as they gave talks in General Conference. Here’s the way this one reads in the hymn book. It’s the fourth verse of “Praise to the Man”: “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven…” Several General Authorities, over the years, have added a word after the word “sacrifice” so it reads “Sacrifice still brings forth the blessings of heaven.”
 
President Hinckley has done something interesting with the song, “Love at Home.” The first line of “Love at Home” is “There is beauty all around when there’s love at home.” He added a little word in between those two phrases: “There is beauty all around only when there’s love at home.” Can you see how important the hymn text can become? He said that in the1989 General Conference.
 
There’s one hymn that teaches a doctrine that isn’t even contained in any of our standard works. The third verse of this song says, “In the heavens are parents single, No the thought makes reason stare…” It’s “O, My Father.” That doctrine isn’t even in the standard works, but it’s a doctrine taught in the hymns.
Over the years the brethren have used hymn text phrases, or sentences, or even a whole verse, or sometimes all the verses as they talk about a doctrine in General Conference. As a matter of fact, a survey that I’m involved in and have been for many, many years is a 32-year survey started in1974 through last Conference. The brethren in those 64 General Conferences have quoted 488 times from the hymns.
 
President Hinckley is a key player. He uses a reference to a hymn almost every conference, sometimes more than once in a given conference. One of his favorite hymns to reference is “God Be with You Till We Meet Again.” You usually find that at the end of his address. Another one that he often quotes from is one we don’t sing very often.  We should repent and sing it a little bit more frequently. It’s “God of Our Fathers, Known of Old.” He has quoted that one four times in the last four to five years. It has some messages in there that pertain to our day. President Hinckley certainly sets the pace for quoting hymn text to support the importance of the doctrine.
 
Would it interest you to know the ten most frequently quoted hymns in General Conference? Up through last year the most frequently quoted hymn was “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”  But this year, as of the October conference, another hymn has taken first position. Because of the references to Joseph Smith’s 200th birthday, “Praise to the Man,” is now ahead of “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”  It will probably change back again in the next two to three years.
 
“We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” is a marvelous hymn. President Hinckley used that hymn back in the 1973 General Conference to talk about the role of a prophet. It’s amazing to read that message in the October 1973 General Conference about President Hinckley speaking about the role of a Prophet, quoting freely from “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,” as a junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve. He had no idea or thought he would ever fill the shoes of the prophet of whom he spoke in 1973. But if you compare the way he lives and teaches us today to what he said in 1973, there’s a perfect correlation, there is absolute harmony in what he taught then and what he is living today.
 
It’s a good way for us find out how that is done, how to use the hymns to talk in sacrament meeting or to teach lessons, so the effect of the message will be more forceful in the lives of those who listen.
 
The other eight hymns that are most frequently quoted are “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns 301); “How Firm a Foundation” (Hymns 85); “I Stand All Amazed” (Hymns 193); “The Morning Breaks” (Hymns 1); “True to the Faith” (Hymns 254); “O, My Father” (Hymns 292); “How Great the Wisdom and the Love” (Hymns 195); and “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go (Hymns 270). It is an interesting way of looking at how the brethren, in a subtle way, teach us how to use the hymns more effectively. The brethren have shown us over the years how to do it and we may feel a little hesitant or not quite know how to approach that idea. I would suggest you pick some of those General Conference address that use a hymn quite extensively to teach a gospel doctrine and see if you can imitate them. You can use the same approach that they used to get their message across. I’ll give you three examples of very good conference addresses you can use them as a model:  President Howard W. Hunter in the April 1993 General Conference spoke about “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee.” He uses all verses of that hymn to teach the doctrine. President Monson, in the October 1991 General Conference, used the hymn “Called to Serve,” and uses the words of that song to preach about missionary work. The last one is by Elder Dallin H. Oakes in the October 2002 General Conference, called, “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.”
 
Those are some examples you can use until you know what to do. In the mean time, when an opportunity comes your way to either speak in sacrament meeting or teach a class in Relief Society, or priesthood, or home evening, or wherever, pick from the index of the hymn book a hymn that seems to tie into whatever you are talking about. Go to that hymn and find the respective phrases or sentences, two or three one-liners, and use them. I’ll make you a promise that if you do that, it works beautifully. Include at least one reference to the hymns for any lesson or talk. Use a hymn text to go with your talk and people will remember your talk. And you will please the Lord because you will actually fulfill his command to Emma Smith in the very early days of the Church, July 1830, to use the hymns as a prayer of the righteous. You’re actually asking for blessings, as He says you should do in that very verse, and it will be a blessing upon your head. If you do this, you will actually experience a blessing come into your life because you have done what the Lord revealed to do in our Church activity.
 
One final comment. Next General Conference, in April, have a piece of paper handy as you listen to the various talks, and write down every time the speakers quote from a hymn. Then look for the average. Over the last 32 years, eight hymns on average are quoted by the brethren. You will likely find that President Hinckley is a key player in this. I think he used three to four hymns just last conference. President Monson quotes even more, and it’s effective, very effective. So do that, just write down what you hear next conference and then go back to the talk as it comes out in the Ensign magazine and read it, and see how those hymns are used, and see if you can imitate that in your own talks and lessons.
 
Bless you. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and wish you well in your studies. And I wish you well in your new home.
 

5 Principles to Live and Lead By

25 Jan. 2006

Transcript

5 Principles to Live and Lead By


I am honored to be invited to speak to you students today. I have long respected the quality of education provided to those who attend here. Although limited, I have two very personal exposures to the work done at this campus. My wife’s father attended LDS Business College, in 1938, hoping to improve his employment opportunities. Even though he didn’t obtain a certificate, just having LDS Business College on his resume landed him a good employment opportunity.
Additionally, in my early days of working at the Church I was in need of a secretary. I interviewed several outstanding candidates and selected one who had just graduated from LDS Business College. She was an excellent secretary. She was as good as any I have had since.
So I can say my own life has benefited directly by the effective teaching pattern of LDS Business College. With my experience of two I’m telling everyone that those who attend here are well prepared to enter the working world and make a significant contribution. So you see how just one or two people can represent an entire organization, for good or ill.
This young lady, who became my secretary, is now not known for her wonderful secretarial skills only, but she met a young man, married him, and now is known as mother and soon to be grandmother. You see I hired her in 1972. Our lives change quickly, my young friends, and the decisions we make today and principles we learn are critical for our development and direction. These principles have application in many venues of our lives.
Even though I have very positive feelings about LDS Business College as a whole, I don’t know much about each of you as individuals but I do know something about you collectively. I know that there are about 1200 of you enrolled in school; that 22 percent of you are from outside the US; that 99.5 percent of you are LDS; that most of you are between 17 and 22; that every state in the union is represented in the student body; 1/3 of you are returned missionaries.
More importantly, I also know you are all children of our Heavenly Father who loves you more than you can possibly comprehend; that you were all faithful in the council of heaven and raised your hands in support of the Savior’s plan of redemption.
I know you have all been blessed with specific gifts and talents, with the power to choose right and the potential to be parents to other of God’s children. Basically, I know you were all faithful in your first estate or pre-earth life.
Now the question is, How will you do in this mortal experience? How will you know what is expected of you and how will you know if you are doing what you should? Here on campus there are ways to measure and predict what would be best for your future. There are tests to be taken, and interviews to be conducted. But there are other methods that may be even more effective. In addition to prayer and scripture study there is that personal revelation intended just for you and administered by your stake patriarch. How many of you have received a Patriarchal Blessing? How many of you have read it in the past week, month, year?
I recently reread my own blessing given when I was 18 years old. (That was a long time ago) Let me just share one statement from my blessing that witnesses to me their specific nature.
“Always honor the Priesthood which has been given thee and thou wilt be advanced in the quorums of the Priesthood as thou wilt be prepared for greater responsibility. Thou wilt be called to serve in the various quorums of the Priesthood and thou wilt find much joy and satisfaction in that work.”
What I understood from these words of this blessing is that I would be called to serve in the each of the quorums of the Priesthood. However, in 1971, I was ordained a high priest never having received the office of Seventy. In those days Seventies were usually called as stake missionaries. I concluded that my experience as a fulltime missionary would have to substitute for being a Seventy.
However, one should never assume the Lord didn’t mean what he said, because in February of 2005, President Hinckley invited me to his office and called me to serve as a Seventy. So I want to bear testimony to you that these are revelatory blessings. If you live for the blessing and have faith in the Lord, they will come to pass. It will literally give you principles and promises to live and lead by. Critical to having your blessing being fulfilled is living your life so that the Lord can bless you according to His plan for you.
In ten years, what legacy will you have begun? Will you be on the path foretold by the Lord? Sometimes our path takes us through interesting doors and we wonder if we are doing what was foreseen.
One of the great leaders of the Book of Mormon is Captain Moroni. You may remember he was appointed at a very young age to be the leader of the Nephite armies. Can you imagine the overwhelming feeling that must have come over this young man of 25 when he was commissioned to be the commander over all the armies.
Moroni’s strengths included knowing for what he stood and believing deeply in these righteous convictions. When he learned that one among them violated these principles, he became angry and declared his feelings for holding fast to the principles and resulting gifts that had come to them. In boldness he declared his commitment to the principles by creating the Title of Liberty. This Title of Liberty he held up before his armies to give them a goal to fight and live for; to remind them of their purpose and direction.
During the season of time when my wife and I have been raising our children, there have been times when I have felt somewhat like Moroni, wanting to wave a flag to keep our attention focused on the things that matter most rather than the things that were grabbing and stealing our attention. While I don’t claim to be Captain Moroni, for many reasons, I do feel there are a few very important principles that might be worth our consideration today.
In addition to the spiritual guides given to us by the Lord, I have identified five principles that I refer to as “The Principles to Live and Lead By.” I will share them with you today in hopes that they might have as much impact for good in your life as they have in mine. I have tested the application of these principles over the past 30 years and my learning is that these principles, regardless of our place in life, can be applied, reapplied and grown. Their application will vary as we change and grow.
In a world where acronyms are big, and for ease of memory, I’ve arranged the principles so the first letters of each one forms the word TRACS.
The first principle is: Trustworthiness, or Trust- and Respect-based relationships. Other words for trustworthiness, including “respect,” are humility, honesty, patience, faith, virtue, and moral purity.
This principle of trust and respect is based in always assuming the most honorable of intentions from others towards us or those we love. When a friend or parent offers a correction on the way we act, what if we assumed they were offering it because they loved us or really were trying to be helpful rather than our sometimes natural reaction to defend our action.
For example I was sitting on the stand the other day because of invitation to speak. I was really concentrating on my message on not how I appeared. After the meeting one of my family members asked if I felt well. I said yes. And he responded that perhaps I should let my face show it. He kindly mentioned that I needed to smile a little more and not look so unhappy. Assuming he was just trying to be helpful feels a lot better than thinking he was being critical.
One of the simple acts of trust in the scriptures happened when Nephi convinced Zoram, Laban’s servant, that he was trustworthy, and that Zoram should come with them. Imagine the fear that must have been in Zoram’s mind when he saw Nephi’s brothers outside the gates. Nephi had to convince Zoram to trust Nephi and that all would go well for him. The scriptures say:
33 And I spake unto him, even with an oath, that he need not fear; that he should be a free man like unto us if he would go down in the wilderness with us.
34 And I also spake unto him, saying: Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing; and shall we not be diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord? Therefore, if thou wilt go down into the wilderness to my father thou shalt have place with us.
35 And it came to pass that Zoram did take courage at the words which I spake . . . and he promised that he would go down into the wilderness unto our father. Yea, and he also made an oath unto us that he would tarry with us from that time forth ( 1 Nephi 4:33-35).
The convincing quality of being trustworthy is to speak the truth and to bear witness that what you say is true.
The Savior exercised this divine principle of trust when he called Peter, Andrew, James and John to come follow him. He asked them to trust Him and leave their profession behind, declaring that he would make them fishers of men. Then he proceeded to teach and mold them into men who could stand faithful and be trustworthy after he was crucified. Peter, James, and John were so trusted and faithful that they were called on to restore the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the restoration process.
Similarly, he has asked us to follow him and be trustworthy in our relationships and attitudes. That is to stand for truth and bear witness of His gospel in all places and at all times.
One of the great expressions of trust in this world is the expression of trust God gives in allowing us to take his spirits into our homes and teach them even as the Savior taught the disciples. He trusts us that we will make good choices in selecting our companionships and entering into covenants so that he can send these little ones into our lives to care for and nurture. Maybe not too unlike Zoram we are placed in families and we must trust that we will be taught correctly. And even more importantly we will in due time have these little ones placed into our care with heavenly trust that we will lead them in righteousness.
I have often reflected on an experience with one of our grandchildren. As I was leaving Church one Sunday going to another ward, I noticed a group of children seated on the lawn by the parking area. Suddenly, one of these children broke free from the others and began a long dash across the blacktop towards me. I heard his little voice as he called, “Grandpa, Grandpa.” When he reached me he thrust his hands upward and leaped into my open arms. Upon reaching that secure place he called out, “Home, Grandpa, home.” To me, that is the call of every child, whether grown or growing. It is the ultimate test of trust. Will we be faithful in assuring that we and those who are trusted to our care will be able to come home?
When you left your heavenly home, our Father said in effect to you, You have proven yourself trustworthy, I therefore, give you your agency to choose righteously. Think about the synonyms for this word “trustworthy” and you will begin to glimpse what Heavenly Father wants you to live up to.
The second principle is: Responsible Leadership. This principle is closely aligned with trust-based relationships and is often driven by trust. Other words for responsible leadership are diligence, accountability, delegation, dependability, and consecration.
For me the ultimate example from the scriptures of this principle is the Savior’s experience in Gethsemane. You remember the account in Luke 22:39-44:
39 ¶ And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Though in great agony, the Savior did not shrink from his responsibility. He had agreed to do this and nothing would take Him from His commitment.
With no less of a commitment, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared his willingness to remain true to the vision he had received. It clearly would have been easier for him to simply dismiss his experience and not be subject to the ridicule. But no, he said:
25 . . . I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I wasbhated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation (JS-History 1:23-25).
So not too unlike the Prophet Joseph, have been blessed with light and understanding. Perhaps we have not had the same heavenly visitation, but we have been blessed to know or at a minimum we have to charged to find out. The principle is to follow through on what we know or what we have been charged to find out.
Responsible leadership is acting righteously upon knowledge we have gained or been taught without having to be driven or prodded to act.
These acts are often not large or significant. They are often just doing what we are prompted. For example, when it was announced that a temple would be built in Anchorage, Alaska and the site was identified, a Relief Society president drove to the site and out of love and respect for the temple, she began picking up papers and cans and other debris that had accumulated on the property. No one asked her to do it, she simply acted because she knew it was to be the place of a holy temple to our God.
When we act responsibly without thought of reward or recognition we are being responsible leaders.
The third principle is: Alignment. Other words for alignment might include obedience, compliance, submissiveness, and deference.
The simplest, practical example of alignment is found on the wheels of our car. If a vehicle’s wheels are not aligned or running parallel with each other then the tires wear out prematurely. A simple test can tell whether our car is in alignment. Choosing to let our car remain out of alignment is at first just a simple wearing out of our tires. But if we ignore it completely we run the risk of a blowout at high speeds on the freeway leading to a much more severe consequence.
The Lord has taught us that we should be in alignment with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact he said he would give us a pattern in all things so we would know how we should align our lives. One of the simple patterns he gave us is found in the 90th section of the Doctrine and Covenants where he says simply “Search diligently, pray always and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.”
Because of the Savior’s suffering in the garden of Gethsemane and at Golgotha, most alignment issues can be taken care of each week as we partake of the sacrament. Howeve,r if we choose to ignore the correction process, we subject ourselves to great risks and potentially destructive consequences.
The Savior taught us by His own example the importance of being aligned. He gave all glory to Father, He always said, “Father Thy will be done,” and He was ever true to His word.
I’m sure each of you can think of examples of where being obedient has brought the blessings of heaven eventually. But the exercise of faith in the principle of obedience often is the real test. Remember the scriptures teach us that it is only after the trail of our faith or the demonstration of obedience that we realize the blessing.
I will long remember the conversation I had with one of my ward members shortly after being called to serve as bishop. I was quite young and had an interview with one of the more senior members of the ward who wanted a temple recommend to attend the temple marriage of his grandson. When I asked him if he kept the Word of Wisdom, he responded, “Yes, except for my morning cup of coffee.” I explained that his morning cup of coffee would make it difficult for me to issue to him a temple recommend. He said “Well, all of the other bishops gave me a recommend. Will you keep me out of the temple over a cup of coffee?” I responded, “Will you let a cup of coffee keep you from receiving the blessings of the temple?” He went home with out his temple recommend. A few days later, he called to say he was willing to give up his cup of coffee.
Years later he cornered me as I interviewed him, now as his stake president. He reminded me of our conversation and said it was a turning point in his life.
Here in this simple example are two levels of alignment at work. One, the member is willing to align with the commandment and two, the bishop willing to align with the guidance given by the leaders of the Church.
The fourth principle is: Continuous Learning. Other words for continuous learning are knowledge, yielding, searching, and sacrifice.
The Lord commanded, “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith”. He further warned, “It is impossible for a man (or a woman) to be saved in ignorance”.
As a young missionary, I can actually remember thinking I had learned all there was to know. I just couldn’t fill my mind with anything else. There was no space left. I have subsequently repented of that thought. I know there is plenty of space. My problem now is I just can’t remember where I put the last thing I learned.
The Lord uses the word “remember” 352 times in the scriptures. I think he wants us to remember or re-learn matters that are important for our eternal progression. By that I mean to imply there is information that we don’t need to add to our knowledge base. We need to exercise some discretion on what we study. His counsel to us is to seek knowledge, especially spiritual knowledge. Study the scriptures every day, and also study the words of the living prophets. Through study and prayer, seek help for our specific questions, challenges, and opportunities. Rely upon the Holy Ghost to enlighten our minds, to teach us and to help us understand.
You should establish a pattern for study and learning. Early in my business career, I began asking others what good books they were reading and what they had learned from their reading. Try that. Find out from those that you admire or respect, what they are reading. Ask them to send you their reading list.
The Lord taught Joseph to: …study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people (D&C 90:15).
Nephi taught us: For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. (2 Nephi 4:15-16).
One of the most powerful continuous learning experiences I remember was told to me by Elder David B. Haight. I think he would feel okay about my sharing with you. He was reflecting on the occasion of the revelation to President Spencer W. Kimball on the giving of the priesthood to all worthy male members of the Church over the age of twelve. He spoke of being in the upper room of the temple with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. President Kimball spoke of his experience and expressed his desire that all the Apostles should have the same witness. Elder Haight said after they knelt in prayer there was a marvelous feeling and witness that came to each one in the room. To his surprise, President Kimball asked Elder Bruce R. McConkie and Elder Haight to write down what they had felt, representing the experience. Elder Haight was surprised because he was the junior member of the Twelve. Elder McConkie volunteered to write a first draft for Elder Haight to then read and correct. Elder Haight said when he received the draft, the words reflected that they had heard a voice from heaven. Elder Haight, in his newness in the Quorum, responded back to Elder McConkie that he had not heard a voice, although he had felt a wonderful confirming spirit. Elder McConkie changed the record. Elder Haight then looked me directly in the eyes and said, “I was wrong! I did hear a voice.” And then he read me this scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants, 88:66: Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him—my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound.
Then he repeated, “I did hear a voice.” I have often thought, if the Quorum of the Twelve is still learning then it is important for me to still be searching and learning.
The fifth principle is: Service. Other words for service are charity, kindness, love, endurance, Christ-centered living
The scriptures teach us: And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God (Mosiah 2:17).
I will long remember a simple act of service or charity that happened on a very ordinary day. My wife and our son had been doing some shopping and time had gotten away from us. It was well after lunch and we realized we were quite hungry. After stopping to buy a quick bite of lunch to eat on the way, at a fast food restaurant, we pulled back on the street to continue our journey. As we stopped at the corner light, a man on the side of the road was asking for a handout. Suddenly from the back seat of our car, our young son rolled down his window and handed his yet-to-be opened hamburger out the window to the waiting hand of the stranger. As we pulled away, I think I said something about perhaps our son wasn’t hungry. He responded with, I think the man was hungrier. I gained some new insight that day around the meaning of service and its key component part, Charity.
45 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.
46 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—
47 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. (Moroni 7:45-47).
Charity is a gift from God, and is the essential principle of success in God’s kingdom.
The Savior demonstrated this principle of service when he washed the feet of His disciples.
The scripture (John 13) records:
3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
The Savior’s message is that real happiness is found in giving lasting service to others.
President Hinckley recently expressed his feeling that there is a need for more kindness to be shown among Church members and in families. If we were more patient and kind towards each other there would be less anger and contention. Simple acts of kindness melt away long time hurts and offences.
When the temple was announced to be built in Boston, there was a very negative reaction by some of the neighbors. The hill where the temple was to be built was a neighborhood nature preserve. Nothing official, it was just a place were people would wander in nature. Several neighbors expressed their dismay and even tried to legally block the building of the temple. From claiming a loss of trees, to the steeple casting a shadow on their property, there were angry expressions. The local bishop and stake president continued to be gracious and avoided confrontation or angry exchanges. Eventually the temple was approved and construction permits issued. The building required blasting away some rock on the property, which was not well received. Finally, through several lawsuits including a measure to block placing a tower on the temple, the temple was ready for an open house.
It was determined to invite the neighbors to come first. Somewhat reluctantly they came and were overwhelmed at the genuine kindness shown them and the feeling of love that was expressed by those who were serving as hosts. Within days of the open house, letters expressing apology for acting as they had were received from the neighbors. Today they wander the grounds grateful for the beautiful trees and flowers that adorn the property. They even insisted that there be a tower on the temple. Can you imagine a church without a tower in Boston?
Remember, Trustworthiness, Responsible Leadership, Alignment, Continuous Learning and Service. These simple principles, my young friends are founded in the Gospel and can be a formula for real happiness. They will keep you on the TRACS towards the home my grandson wanted me to get him to.
I bear my testimony to you that the patterns of the scriptures exemplified by the Savior and taught by His prophet leaders are true and will be a source of balance and strength to you.
I frequently think of our little granddaughter who lives in an apartment behind our home. Our home and her home are connected by a glass door. Each morning she comes to the door and with both hands she knocks on the door until my wife or I come and let her in. There is no way that I would ever ignore her knocking. When she comes through the door she reaches for us and we hold her tightly.
For me it is symbolic of our daily prayer to Heavenly Father. He always opens the door but we must knock. He wants you to knock and search Him out. Pray to Him, my young friends and I know He will answer and bless you. That is my testimony.
© Intellectual Properties Inc.

Charity and Missionary Work

22 Feb. 2006

Transcript

Charity and Missionary Work

 
by Sister Betty Dyreng
            Brothers and sisters, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here.  I’d like to ask you a question today as I begin, and I’d like you to think about this for a few minutes.  How have you been blessed by someone who has shown charity to you? 
            Suppose that you came hurriedly in to this meeting today.  You have a lot on your mind—school, projects due, reading and more reading.  At least three tests this week.  And you’ve been asked to present a paper on a Gospel principle in your institute class.  And then, on top of all of that, you have a calling, you have a job, you may be married, you have a family, or you may also have a social life.  At least, you hope to have a social life.
            Well, you think about these things, and you feel a little rushed as you come in today.  And then, as you climb those stairs, you look to the front.  And you see a man sitting at the front of the room.  You are immediately drawn to him.  His countenance is something you have never seen before.  You notice the fellow students around you.  Some are busy talking, and yet there are others who are sitting quietly in their seats, watching this man.  His eyes meet yours and you find yourself moving forward, and before you know it you are standing by his side.
            Your eyes at that moment notice his white robe, but your heart feels this overwhelming sense of love that you have never felt before.  You lean over reverently and quietly whisper, “Thank you, Jesus.”  And then you take your seat.
            Can you imagine having an experience like that, and the love that you would feel?
            Well, today I wanted to talk for a minute about charity, and recognizing that love is many things to many people.
            There are three basic kinds of love, and want to touch on them briefly today. The first kind of love is, “I will love you if...”  This type of love is conditional.  It is selfish, and there are always strings attached.  Some examples of this love would be:
             “I will love you if you’re popular.” 
            “I will love you if you have a car.” 
            “I will love you if you attend church.” 
            “I will love you if you are nice to me, or if you do your chores.” 
            “I will love you if you do what I say.” 
            There’s a second kind of love, and this kind of love is, “I love you because...”  This type of love emphasizes the selfish or the worldly aspects.  It, too, is conditional when people love each other because of some attractive quality rather than because they see someone as their Heavenly Father would see them.  Some examples of this would be:
            “I love you because you have pretty eyes.” 
            “I love you because you’re handsome.” 
            “I love you because you’re on the team.” 
            “I love you because you make me happy.”
             “I love you because you help me with my homework.”
             “I love you because you do what I say.”
            Both of these kinds of love are not true love.  They are conditional, they are selfish, and they are based on our own desires.  These types of love could be called manipulative—they could be called controlling.  And sometimes they’re the kind of love, if you want to call it that, that requires that “I” idea—I need to be prominent, I need to be seen—rather than the kind of love that we want to add praise and glory to our Heavenly Father.
            The first type of love is telestial love—“I will love you if...”  The second type of love is the terrestrial type—“I love you because...”  But there is another type of love, and it uses the phrase “even though.”  This is a type of love where a person is loved not for any deserved reason, but because he is who he is.  This is a type of love that we love a person as if they are of infinite worth.  It’s the kind of love that we all thirst for.  This is the type of love that Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have for all of us.  It is called charity.  Another definition of this love is “the pure love of Christ.” (Moroni 7:47)
            Some examples of this type of love would be:
            “I love you, even though you know your scriptures better.” 
            “I love you even though you’re a better athlete.”
             “I love you even though you may have weaknesses and imperfections.”
            “I love you even though you make mistakes.” 
            “I love you, even though you may not always do the things I want you to do.”
             This truly is Christlike love.  Accepting people as they are, and loving them as sons and daughters of God is a part of this type of love—it is charity.  You know, brothers and sisters, we’re commanded to have charity, which means that we don’t just love others as ourselves, but that we must love each other as Christ loves us, and that means totally.
            In the scriptures, in Moroni 7, it talks about charity.  If you’d like to turn with me there, Moroni 7, beginning with verse 45.  It says: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind.”  In other words, it’s patient.  It “envieth not.”  It’s satisfied.  It “is not puffed up.”  It is humble.  It “seeketh not her own.”  It is unselfish.  It “is not easily provoked.”  It is good-tempered.  It “thinketh no evil.”  It is pure.  It “rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth.”  It is honest.  It “beareth all things.”  It is obedient.  It “believeth all things.”  It has great faith.  It “hopeth all things.”  It carries a positive attitude.  And it “endureth all things.”  It is steadfast.  It perseveres.
            And then in verses 46, 47 and 48, it says: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth.  Wherefore, cleave unto,” or grab onto, or hold securely to, “charity, which is the greatest of all...
            “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.
            “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.”
            Brothers and sisters, I asked a question as I began: How has some one act of charity impacted your life?  I think each of us could answer that today with a statement that we have been affected more than anything else by the charity our Savior has shown to us.  The act of the Atonement, His great love, His sacrifice, His suffering is the greatest of all examples.  Now brothers and sisters, the pure love of Christ is the hardest principle of the Gospel.  It is the one characteristic of godliness that, if acquired, will enable us to become as Heavenly Father is.  And all that He has, we will inherit.  Charity is a gift of the Spirit.  It is not something that we can acquire on our own.  It is a gift from our Heavenly Father.  It is a gift that the Savior has shown us how to develop and how to give back to others.
            I would like to express my gratitude to my Heavenly Father and His Son for His great blessings in my life, even the great gift of the Atonement.  The Atonement works, brothers and sisters.  I would like to thank you for the privilege we have had of rubbing shoulders with you.  We are better because we have had the privilege of being here at the LDS Business College and knowing you.  This gospel is true.  We belong to the only true Church on the face of this earth.  We have a Heavenly Father who loves us, and He has a Son who is our brother, who has given us the greatest gift of charity in our lives.  We have a living prophet who walks the earth, and we have been blessed with the Restoration, with the Book of Mormon.  It is true, brothers and sisters.  The reality of Joseph Smith being an instrument for the Lord truly took place, and has affected all of our lives.  I am grateful for all of the blessings that Heavenly Father has given to us. 
            I once made this statement in one of Brother Dyreng’s classes, that I would follow this man to the end of the earth.  And now, I think that may happen.  I am grateful for all of our blessings, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 
 by Brother Dyreng
            Isn’t she wonderful?
            This is truly a humbling experience.  You guys are really scary when you’re sitting in this room. 
            I’d like to start off with this little story that I found the other day. I think it just verifies what you’ve just seen with my sweetheart. 
            There was a lady, and she says: “I was out walking with my four-year-old daughter.  She picked up something off the ground and started to put it in her mouth.  I took the item away from her and asked her not to do that.  ‘Why?’ my daughter asked. 
            “‘Because it’s been lying outside.  It’s dirty and probably has germs,’ I replied.
            “At this point my daughter looked at me with total admiration and asked, ‘How do you know all this stuff?’ 
            I was thinking quickly.  ‘All Moms know that stuff.  Uh, it’s on the Mommy test.  You have to know it or they don’t let you be a Mommy.’
            “We walked along in silence for two or three minutes, but she was evidently pondering this new information.  ‘Oh, I get it,’ she beamed.  ‘So if you don’t pass the test, you have to be the Daddy.’”
            Back in October of 2002, I had the opportunity to speak in a stake conference. At that time I challenged all the members of our stake to set a date by which they would serve the Lord in the mission field.  And that was for Primary, Mutual, Young Adults and older couples and individuals.  I asked each of them to set a date whereby they could serve.  For the younger ones, it was when they turned nineteen for the boys, twenty-one for the girls.  For the adults, it was when their retirement date came up and they would be ready to serve after retiring.  As Betty and I talked about this, we had decided that in 2009 we were going to retire and then we wanted to go on a mission.  Betty didn’t have the opportunity to serve and has always wanted to serve a proselytizing mission.  And so that was going to be our first mission.
            One of the things that I have found in the last few months is that the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves.  Because 2009 is when Betty and I will be returning from our proselytizing mission.  And what a great opportunity it’s going to be to serve.
            Because missionary work, for some reason or another, has been so much on our minds lately, I’d like to base my remarks around some things I learned from the mission field.  I’d like to start off by sharing a couple of thoughts from the conference reports of conferences in the recent past.  This first one is a talk given by Elder Ballard in the April Conference of 2005.  You’ll recognize that is the date when the famous talk was given where the bar was raised.  Let me read just a few things from that. 
            He says, “When our youth understand the significance of the Restoration of the Gospel and know for themselves that God is our Heavenly Father and He loves all of His children, that Jesus is the Christ, and that together they personally visited Joseph Smith to open this...final dispensation...they will want to help carry this message to the world.  When our youth see the Book of Mormon as tangible evidence that the message of the Restoration is true, they will be filled with the desire to do their part in teaching these truths to our Heavenly Father’s children.
            “We learned from the missionaries at the Missionary Training Center what would have helped them most to prepare for their mission.  Above all else they wished they had:
Learned the doctrine better through focused scripture study.
Learned how to study and...pray sincerely.
Been more disciplined and worked harder.
Understood better what is expected.
Had more teaching opportunities.”
And lastly, had “had more searching interviews by bishops and [interestingly enough] parents.” (Ensign, May 2005, p. 69)
            It was at that conference where they called for the bar to be raised not just for missionaries, but in all of our lives.  At this last conference, Elder Bednar gave a wonderful talk about becoming missionaries.  Let me just share a couple of paragraphs from that.
            He said: “Proclaiming the gospel is not an activity in which we periodically and temporarily engage.  And our labors as missionaries certainly are not confined to the short period of time devoted to full-time missionary service in our youth or in our mature years.  Rather, the obligation to proclaim the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is inherent in the oath and covenant of the priesthood into which we enter.”  Now this is a priesthood meeting, so he’s speaking to the young men and the priesthood of the Church.  “Missionary work essentially is a priesthood responsibility.”  But later on, he talks about the need for sister missionaries also.  “And all of us who hold the priesthood are the Lord’s authorized servants on the earth and are missionaries at all times and in all places–and we always will be.”
            Then he said this: “One of questions I am asked most frequently by young men is this: ‘What can I do to prepare most effectively to serve...a full-time [mission]?’  Such a sincere question deserves a serious response. 
            “My dear young brethren, the single most important thing you can do to prepare for a call to serve is to become a missionary long before you go on a mission.  Please notice...in my answer I emphasized becoming rather than going.” (Ensign, November 2005, p. 44-45, italics in the original)  And then he went into an interesting discussion about how we don’t just go on a mission; we should become a missionary.
            I have a good friend who served as a mission president, and when he came back, he listed twelve complaints that missionaries had.  I’d like to talk just briefly about each one of these.  I recognize that most in this room either will not be going on a mission until you go with your companion that you can choose when you’re later in life, or you’ve just returned from a mission and so you say it’s too late.  But I think there are important principles that we can learn from each of these twelve items that we can apply in our lives.  And so I share this, not as something that we should have done as missionaries, but for lessons that we can learn in our life.
            In 1 Nephi 3:6, it says, “Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured.”  Now that’s, of course, Lehi to Nephi.  But it’s interesting to think about what Laman and Lemuel very quickly began to do, to murmur and complain.  And we often focus on the murmuring of Laman and Lemuel, but we don’t stop to think of the consequences that their actions had on generations—in fact, on the whole Nephite nation—because of the traditions that they passed down to their children, which were then passed on down, and the hatred that developed between the Nephites and the Lamanites.
            And so my purpose in this is that perhaps we can learn some things from what the missionaries said were the biggest complaints.
            Number One: “I can’t get along with my companion.”  Now, for those of you who have been on missions, really, how long were you with most companions?  Three, six, nine weeks?  A couple of months?  Six months, maybe, at the most?  Really, can’t we endure that short a time?  It just seems kind of like a silly complaint, especially when the brethren have said over and over again that the companions we have in the mission field are great training to learn to live with an eternal companion.  Now granted, our eternal companion we get to choose, and there ought not to be some of those personality quirks that you had with companions in the mission field that caused the problem. 
            But let’s just take this perspective for a minute.  This is from President Kimball: “Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all the decisions, and has the most far-reaching effects of any decision that we’ll make in our life, for it has to do not only with immediate happiness, but also with eternal joys.  It affects not only the two people involved, but also their families and particularly their children and their children’s children down through many generations.” So as Betty talked about, we need to learn to develop charity in our relationships with everyone that we’re around.  As we learn to do that, when the time comes for an eternal companion, we can make some adjustments if we need to.
            President Kimball also made an interesting statement, and part of this applies and part of it is for a discussion of another day.  He says: “Soul mates are fiction, and an illusion.”  Now, soul mates—the one and only—are “fiction and an illusion.”  Then he goes on to say this: “While every young man and every young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful,” then this statement, “yet it is certain,” and this is a prophet speaking, “that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.” Now there’s a great lesson to be learned.
            Okay, the next complaint.  “I’m tired all the time.” You know, isn’t it interesting.  Life is hard, and we’ll always have to work hard.  There probably is going to be more to do than we have time.  But I’d like you to consider for just a minute how important it is to learn to work smarter and not harder.  You’re here at college to earn a degree.  That’s going to help you.  But let’s stop and think why missionaries would say, “I’m tired all the time.”  I think there are two wonderful reasons, and we need to learn to be grateful for being tired.  First of all, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of this before, but the Spirit is tiring.  Remember the Prophet Joseph Smith, when the First Vision was over, where did he find himself?  On his back, as he came to, looking up into heaven.  It totally wiped him out.
            When the 76th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants was received, Sidney Rigdon could barely move after spending a day receiving this revelation.  The Prophet Joseph then said to him, “Sidney, I used to feel that way, but I’m used to it now.”  So we can kind of get used to the Spirit a little bit, so it doesn’t make us quite so tired.  The other thing that makes us tired is hard work.  As a missionary or in life, we should be grateful at the end of the day, when we’re tired because it means that we’ve been involved with the Spirit, or that we’ve had a good day’s work.  And those are blessings.
            Number Three: “I feel guilty for past transgressions.”  From the 58th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants: “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”  (Verse 42) The Lord never promised that we wouldn’t remember our sins.  He just promised that if we truly repent, he would forget them.  We need to let bygones be bygones, and if we have truly repented, let the past stay in the past. 
            From For the Strength of Youth, here’s what it comes right down to: “The Savior gave His life for us and suffered for our sins.  This great sacrifice is called the Atonement. Through the Atonement, you can receive forgiveness and be cleansed from your sins when you repent. When you do what is necessary to receive forgiveness, you will know for yourself the power of the Atonement and the love God has for you. You will feel the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which will bring you great strength.”
            There was a speaker who spoke here in this very room, I think it was last year, who kind of touched on this topic.  He said, “There’s not a one of us who hasn’t done something in the past that we regret.  We can’t do anything about that but repent.  But today is a new day, and every one of us can vow today that we will not do anything that we’re ashamed of or that we will feel sorry for.” And we can do the same thing tomorrow and the next day.  And so, from this time forward, I would just say that if there is something in your life that’s not appropriate, let it go.  Repent.  And you don’t have to have those feelings of regret from here on out about that particular thing.
            Okay, number 4: “Missionary work is too hard.”  They don’t know how to work.  President Hinckley said, “Work together.  I do not know how many generations or centuries ago someone first said ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’  Children need to work with their parents, wash the dishes with them, mop the floors, learn to mow lawns, prune the trees.  Parents need to teach their children to learn how to work.” President Hinckley is one of the greatest examples of this that you could possibly imagine.  The story is told that President Hinckley and Elder [Jeffrey R.] Holland and a number of the other brethren went on a three-week trip throughout the South Pacific.  They got back on a Thursday night.  Now imagine, those of you who have been on a plane know what jet lag is.  Here’s President Hinckley, well into his 90s.  It’s late at night on Thursday night.  Elder Holland is purported to have said to him, “President Hinckley, I assume you’re going to take tomorrow off.  We’ll see you in the office on Monday.” 
            President Hinckley said, “Time off?”  He said, “Jeff, I’ll see you at work tomorrow.  You can take time off when you die. There are things to do.” President Hinckley is a great example of work.
            The next one is, “I can’t get up in the morning.”  Now, I want to share with you a little story that I got the other day that kind of covers “I don’t know how to work” and “I can’t get up in the morning.”  I don’t know if this is true or not, but it sure should be.
            It’s a letter from a farm kid:
             “Dear Ma and Pa,
            I am well, hope you are.  Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minsch by a mile.  Tell ‘em to join up quick before all the places are filled.  I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed until nearly six a.m.  But I’m getting used to it, and I kind of like to sleep late now.  Tell Walt and Elmer all you got to do before breakfast is smooth your cot, shine some things, no hogs to slop, no feed to pitch, no mash to mix, no wood to split, no fire to light.  Practically nothing.  Men got to shave, but it’s not so bad.  There’s warm water.  Breakfast is strong on trimmin’s like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food.  But tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee.  Their food plus yours holds you till noon when you get fed again.  It’s no wonder these city boys can’t walk much.
            “We go on route marches, which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us.  If he thinks so, it’s not my place to tell him different.  A route march is about as far as to our mailbox at home.  Then the city guys get sore feet and have to ride back in trucks.  The country’s nice, but awful flat.  The sergeant’s like a school teacher–he nags a lot.  The captain’s like the school board.  Majors and Colonels just ride around and frown.  They don’t bother you none.
            “This next will kill Walt and Elmer just with laughin’.  I keep getting medals for shooting.  I don’t know why.  The bull’s eye is nearly as big as a chipmunk’s head, and don’t move, and it ain’t shootin’ at you like the Pickett boys at home.  All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it.  You don’t even have to load your own cartridges.  They come in boxes. 
            “Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training.  You get to wrestle with them city boys.  I have to be real careful, though.  They break real easy.  It ain’t like fighting with the old bull at home.  I’m about the best they got, except for old Tug Jordan over in the Silver Lake.  I only beat him once.  He joined up the same time as me.  But I’m only 5'6" and 130 pounds.  He’s 6'8" and nearly 300 pounds dry. 
            “Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before the other fellows get into this set-up and come stampedin’ in.
            “Your loving daughter, Carol.”
            Well, those “city boys” thought it was pretty hard work in the military and thought they had to get up awful early.  But she slept in and the work wasn’t hard at all.  It’s because she was used to it.  Like I’ve said before, you just have to get used to getting up in the morning.  There are very, very few mornings when 5:00 or 5:30 comes and my alarm goes off that I’m not already awake.  I think that has come just from the attitude that I have to get up and go to work.  I’ve done that for a lot of years. You can have the same kind of attitude.
            Okay, very quickly we’re going to have to finish here.  Number Six: “Members aren’t helping us with the work.”  I would have to say that’s probably the one of all of these that has merit.  So I ask each of us to ask ourselves, “What am I doing right now to spread the Gospel and to help missionary work move forward?  Do I carry a pass-along card that I can pass on when the time is right?  Do I have a Book of Mormon ready, when the time is right, to give to someone?  Am I willing to open my mouth when the subject of religion comes up?  And above all, is my life a living example of what the gospel of Jesus Christ is?”
            Number Seven: “I can’t learn the discussions or scriptures.”  We have to learn.  Keep your mind active and alert.  One of the great blessings that you have is being in college.  Never lose the love of learning.  You will never be through learning.  Make it a lifelong pursuit.
            Number Eight: “Too many rules.”  We need to learn obedience.  It is a wise person indeed that learns that obedience to rules brings true freedom. 
            I’d like to share with you what I would consider to be three principles for missionary success.  You know, I have seen lists of rules that had as many as twenty rules.  This has three:
“Turn yourself over to the Lord.”  That works for missionaries; it works for us.  Sometimes it’s real easy to turn ourselves over to the Lord because times are really tough.  But the key is to be able to do it when the times are easy.  So turn yourself over to the Lord
            “Keep all mission rules.”  Keep all Honor Code rules here at the College.  Whatever it is—your job, in whatever you do, the laws of the land—learn to be obedient. 
            The last one is “Work your hardest.”  For a missionary, when you first start out a mission, it seems like forever.  When you get through, it seems like it went like that.  But you know what?  You’re going to be looking back at that mission for the rest of your life.  And if you can look back without any regret because you have worked your hardest, or if you can look back at your college experience because you did your best, or if you can look back at your employment because you’ve done your best, there will be no regrets.
            Number Nine: “I don’t receive enough money each month.”  Get used to it.  That’s going to happen for the rest of your life.  Learn to budget.  Learn to live within your means.  It’s been said that if you have five hundred... five hundred, yeah, really...if you have fifty dollars left over at the end of the month more than you’ve earned, you’re a happy man.  If you have fifty dollars less, it is misery.
            Number Ten: “I almost never feel the Spirit.”  Learn what the Spirit is, and what it is not.  I think many of our youth grow up in homes where the gospel of Jesus Christ has been taught, and they grew up with the Spirit, and so they don’t recognize that they’ve always had it.  I think sometimes that we look for the wrong thing.  We look for miraculous experiences.  Recognize that probably the most common manifestation of the Spirit would be three things: Thoughts and impressions that come into our mind, feelings that come into our hearts, and, the peace that comes as we live the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Those are probably the most common manifestations of the Spirit.
            Number Eleven: “I wish the scriptures had been more important to me before the mission.”  I don’t think there’s ever a time in our life where we probably can’t say the same thing.  I wish the scriptures had been more important to me, too.  I challenge each one of us—and we’ve heard quite a bit about this around the Institute this year—to take the time each day to “sit under the oak tree.”  Take the time to read the scriptures, to meditate and feel the impressions that come to you as to the things the Lord would have you to do.
            And the last complaint: “I’m afraid to talk to people about the Gospel.”  From the Doctrine and Covenants12:8: “And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love,” as Betty talked about earlier, “having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.”
            Brothers and sisters, we have been given the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We have a message that will bless the world.  We have a knowledge that families can be together forever.  We have a knowledge that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ and that there is a living prophet today.  This is a message the world needs.  Why would we be afraid to share it?
            I leave my testimony with you that these things are true, and would challenge each one of us to open our mouths to share this wonderful message that we have.  For it is true.  I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Recruiting Lessons from the African Bush

08 Mar. 2006

Transcript

Recruiting Lessons from the African Bush

 
I am delighted to be here and share some thoughts with you about what I believe is a very significant part of why you are in school – finding a job. I know that some of you are planning to continue to higher education.  By all means, follow President Hinckley’s advice and get all the education you can, but you might wish to listen because eventually you, too, may be seeking to become employed.
A few years ago I had the chance to take my family on a safari in Kenya, and not only gained a great appreciation for Africa, but found some wilderness lessons that apply to the career search process.   I would like to share some of those experiences with you and hopefully, help you keep from being eaten by the competition.
Let me begin by giving you a brief set of discussion points regarding the recruiting environment.  As college students, you face a fairly favorable job outlook this year.  Many entry level jobs have been created in the past few years and forecasts from NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, indicate that demand for 2006 graduates should remain quite good. There are clear shortages in certain educational areas - accounting, information systems, medical support, and nursing, to name a few.  Associated with those demands, some of our recruiters have come to campus much earlier than in prior years with recruiting schedules beginning in early fall and winter.
Given that environment, let me encourage you to get going now to find internships and full time jobs while the opportunities are still hot. You will want to go out and build your network and use it to help you with your career search.
Be flexible and creative as you consider different work options.  Don’t be afraid to look beyond the immediate boundaries of your training. Regardless of some disappointments, don’t get discouraged when some of your efforts don’t turn into instant results.  There are some steps and processes that can help make your career search easier.
Let me start by talking about the mighty giraffe.  In the wild, we noticed that the shorter animals watch, and when they see the giraffe looking at something, they pay attention.  Nature has taught them that the giraffe have greater vision and they see predators earlier than the shorter animals.  The other animals watch and when the giraffe look, they get ready to run.  The giraffe are an early warning system.  Now, howYou can you use this looking principle to improve your career vision.?  
In your job search identify and keep in tune with the giraffes of the career world.  Look around so that you can see what you need to be aware of to find a great job opportunity. Start by looking at yourself; know your skills and your personal preferences. Look at and learn about industry and work function activities. Look at different employers and look at the jobs those employers are offering.  Employers want to hire people who know the employer, who know their industry, and most importantly, who know themselves.
If your vision is not sufficient, look deeper and go to the Career Services Center to see if they have some ways to improve your sight. They offer assessment tools that can help you learn what might be appropriate to as career considerations. 
If you are still unsure, especially in the business disciplines, consider using what I call “a walk around.”  In the wild we would actually go out and observe nature during a hike in the savannah. Go out without any agenda except to see what captures your attention.  Go to an office complex or a mall, walk around and see what catches your eye.  Not products, but activities.
Do you see the great way something is displayed, or note the value of inventory, do you see how customers are serviced or how money is being gathered or distributed?.  Now associate those observations to business functions: inventory and distribution to supply chain, good personnel activity with human resources, and money activities with accounting and finance.
Why do you keep your eyes open?  Because you just never know what might actually be very near you.  Part of the looking around process also involves building a help network.  Some people have said that more jobs are filled through networking than any other resource.  Get organized and do invite people to assist you. Who’s in your network?  Faculty, Church associates, relatives, friends, roommates, and classmates.  While these network members would probably give you a job if they had one, it is their contacts that you want to connect to, because they are more likely to have jobs that are not otherwise available to you. This is all part of making your “net” work.
Please, always remember most networking requires give and take, so be prepared to also give when and after you get.  Use your contacts in a very professional manner and ask with sincerity.  You will often find greater success if you simply ask for help instead of saying, “Do you have any jobs?” or, “Could you give me a job?” 
In addition to the jobs posted by your Career Services office, and checking their postings is part of looking around, some other sources to consider in your looking are: off-campus recruiters, industry and trade media (both hard copy and internet), library resources like the Occupational Job Outlook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other books and references available for your career search.  Some retail bookstores carry extensive job finding resources, some targeted specifically toward college students. 
Finally, consider a resource called careerjournal.com, it is an excellent Wall Street Journal website dedicated to business job finding.  It not only has classified ads, but also contains many helps for the job finding process.
One way you can help yourself is by building a career search focus.  This will require you to look at many things that are important to you.  Consider what you want from your ideal job.  Take into account work and life principles that may be important to you and then prepare a one paragraph career search statement. 
There are many criteria you may use, but it helps to narrow them down to a few significant ones that I like to call your drivers.  They include things like compensation (what you want to be paid), lifestyle (how much time your want to be free), work culture or environment (team, solo, collegial, independent, office, rural, campus, lab), business function (finance, marketing, HR, operations, information systems and data management, etc.), industry (healthcare, high tech, manufacturing, consumer good, automotive, etc.), location (where you want to live and work), growth and development (what education and learning experiences do you want in your workplace and employer.) 
Take these drivers prioritize them and write your career search paragraph. It can read something like this: “I want to work in (location), for a family-friendly, progressive company that values excellence and produces high quality goods or services. I am seeking a position in service operations making a salary of at least $_____. I also want to have opportunities for growth and learning through ongoing training and access to experts. I would like to work in the healthcare industry.”
As you begin to look in a more focused way, you will start to see things that you may have missed in the past. My son spotted a young male lion under the bush as we were driving one afternoon.  No one else saw him, but my son was focused and used his clear vision to see. Don’t be afraid to extend your vision and look under the brush.  With a better focus you will notice subtle opportunities that you may have missed with your previous vision. Keep your eyes open to spot some camouflaged jobs. Examine multiple possibilities for applying your skills and talents, and look at non-traditional job considerations.
Sometimes in your job search you need to change your perspective. In the bush we found several ways to see the opportunities around us.  Usually we rode in cars.  A few times we actually walked to see what was around us and we were able to see small things that were less visible or hidden from the perspective of a vehicle.  Like our walking around, you have to understand what you might encounter and be prepared – for instance, having someone with a gun when you are walking through lion or leopard country. We found that when we rode horses we could approach animals that would run away when we in the car or on foot.  Even a camel safari proved to be a very different experience, giving us a new observation perspective. And it never hurts to get all of the heads you can, helping you find that job.
We had an opportunity to visit a special wild animal orphanage established outside of Nairobi to help young animals orphaned by poachers. There were five baby elephants and two rhinos, including a three year old, 1000 pound, black rhino. You may find it worth while to nurse along some potential job opportunities.  To do that, meet with the contacts of your family and friends contacts, give an employer a research paper on a topic of interest to that employer, or visit a business office and look around to see how they work and what you might experience with that organization.,  aAsk how you might provide help, use alumni as mentors, and/or go to to find contacts.
We have seen some of these used very effectively to build relationships and show employers how students can add value, even before actually interviewing or working for them.
Sometimes there is value in being involved with a crowd. To use the crowd to help you, talk to those in your major or classes, see find out from career services where people are being hired, and get as many people as possible involved in finding you a job. Don’t fear asking for help—ask others to keep their eyes open for you. And sometimes you will need to work all alone and make the effort without much support.
You just never know when an opportunity might happen that takes you up close to a potential contact. Don’t let these chances pass you without taking full advantage of them. You can do this by preparing a 30-second elevator speech ready to deliver so you can take advantage ofwhen an up close and personal situation happens.  An example of that 30-second speech:
Who am I?
Hello, my name is (name).
Why am I talking with you?
(Referral’s name) suggested that I speak with you.
What is my objective?
I am interested in advancing my career in systems management. 
What are my strengths?
I have three years of work experience and will complete my Assoc. degree in April.  I have been effective in problem solving, collaboration, leadership, and increasing sales.
How did I achieve these strengths?
I developed these skills in a variety of jobs with ___ company while attending school. I have focused my schooling on data systems activities and finance.
What are my passions?
I enjoy working with a team to improve processes and solve difficult problems.
How do these apply to your company / industry/ location?
I am confident in my abilities to assist an organization in improving its operational processes, reduce costs, and achieve its mission objectives.
What do I want from you?
I am especially interested in company / industry / location and would like to learn more about systems management functions within your company / industry / location.
Put it all together, reduce the number of “I” uses, and rehearse it until it sounds natural and unscripted. Remember to practice this speech with a friend.  It needs to sound very natural and unrehearsed to make it truly sincere.
In your job search you might find a need to change your stripes.  Two species of zebra have very different characteristics even though they walk in the same herd. How do we change our stripes?  Start with your resume.  To make it stand out, target it to the employer.  Make it your interview advertisement.
I am a tie collector and I found a tie that can be worn with almost any color shirt or suit.  While the tie, the zebra, and your present skills never actually change; depending upon the background, different parts of the tie standout and the zebra’s stripes blend in. 
The zebra uses this to confuse the eye of a predator and not allow the predator to distinguish the individual from the herd.  My tie shows different color characteristics that stand out against the a particular background. 
Your resume can be written to highlight different skill and experience perspectives depending upon the background (or requirements) of the job that you are seeking.
Here are some things to consider in the stripe changing world. Is there experience, education, or activity in your back ground that would open a door to non-traditional employment for your training? Is there something you can do that would support your entry into a career that is not your first choice, but would lead to your first choice.  Example: Could you begin work as an accountant for Goldman Sachs to open an opportunity to move into investment banking.)  Finally, will your education give you what I call a power-boost in your current career by promoting you to a new level?
I promise you there will be predators in your job search.  They are sometimes disguised as fear, anxiety, doubt, and nervousness.  They want you to look bad or make you feel inadequate.  Do your homework, come prepared for the search, and you can beat them. 
Please understand that you have individual skills, characteristics, and qualities that some employer, somewhere, is seeking.  You can match those qualities and be the right candidate.
I have to include an exciting experience my family had. It was the fourth of July and we certainly didn’t expect this kind of fireworks.  A cheetah jumped up on our car as we were watching her look for an evening meal. She was just looking for something to eat, kind of like you are just looking for a job.  We were the highest vantage point for her search.  She spent about fifteen minutes up on our car looking for food.  We learned not to panic, but to enjoy the closeness of this experience.  Also, that humans are not a cheetah food source.  So, when you are faced with potential adversity, just keep smiling. 
When the cheetah finally saw a potential meal, just as when you see the right job, all her concentration was focused on getting the result. Be just as intent in your job search.
Over my many years of experience I have found that most job searches look like this: No, No, No, No, No, No, No…Yes!. You will see many “No’s” before the “Yes”.  Be patient and understand that it is important to get the right job, not just any job.  Keep working at it even when you feel discouraged.
Try to not get behind, but if you do, go to work and catch up.  There are campus opportunities available even now, take advantage of them while you are here.
I love the application of the scripture Alma 38:12 to the job hunt: “Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.” We must be bold, but not overbearing in the job hunt.  We must have passion for the job, the employer, and the process, but we must bridle and control that passion.  We must work and not be idle in the process.
I don’t want to imply that your job will take you to the Celestial Kingdom or that it is even equivalent to the Gospel’s spiritual progression model.  There are some jobs that could hinder your Celestial progression, so stay away from them, but I do think that there are some lessons to learn from the gospel plan. Start at the beginning and follow the necessary steps. Set goals that will help you to continually move forward. Look at the direction you are headed and hold on to the iron rod if you feel doubt. 
Take a path that supports the career you are seeking.  If you want banking, then make sure that your present job is supporting you along that path.  Look for an internship that will enhance your employer attractiveness and lead you to a desired full time job. This is true regardless of your area of study. 
You want the result to be great, not just good.  Goodly men inherit another kingdom.
Understand that you do not have to do all of this alone.  Career Services is here to help you in your effort. Call upon your career services centerthem when you need help with employer research, resume writing, and interview preparation.  Use their web site to see what is currently available and to help build your network with contacts and alumni who can give you a fighting edge. Use the seminars to help you be prepared.  If you are prepared you don’t have to be afraid. You have a great resource in Sister Howe, use her to help you. We want you to be this as outstanding to your potential employers as some of the beautiful wildlife we saw in Africa.  I commend you for your efforts and wish you the greatest of results.
May you enjoy your job hunt adventure as much I enjoyed my safari, and may you be blessed with results equal to my African experience. 

He Will Help You Fulfill Your Noble Dreams

22 Mar. 2006

Transcript

He Will Help You Fulfill Your Noble Dreams

It is true that I sang a command performance at the Vatican and at the White House, but shortly after doing so the Pope died and we impeached the President. So you remain here at your own risk here. It is true that many singers of the Metropolitan Opera have come for very, very small fees. We have an ensemble company, which means that everyone is paid the same thing to do the same work, and they come because of the environment that we have tried to create. That is quite unusual to most opera companies.
I appreciated hearing about you having a forthcoming workshop called “Backpacks to Briefcases.” I’m one of those people that went from backpacks to briefcases and now back to backpacks, because I discovered that backpacks are a better way to get things around.
Today I want to talk to you about something very profound to me, something that was emblazoned on your building—it’s called “business.” But it has “LDS” in front of it. That implies something different. It implies a different ethic about your careers of choice. I want to talk to you about some things that I have learned about that in my over-half-a-century of existence.
It started back in junior high school when Utah State University for the first time decided to start a program called Vocational Guidance. Nobody had ever thought about doing that. But this was way back, oh, just around the advent of electricity, and they sent a wonderful young man to talk to us about what we wanted to do in life. And he handed us a list of occupations, and I looked through the list of occupations and nothing held any interest for me whatsoever. He said, “Well, what do you want to be?”
And I said, “I want to be an opera singer.”
And he said, “You can’t.”
And I said, “What do you mean, I can’t?”
He said, “Well, first of all, have you ever met an opera singer?”
I said, “No.”
He said, “Have you ever been to a professional opera performance?”
I said, “No.”
“Well then, you can’t. And besides, it’s not on this list.” And it wasn’t on that list, and I suspect it’s still not on that list.
And I said, “But I’m going to be an opera singer.”
And he said, “And what makes you think that?”
And I said, “Because I’ll do whatever it requires to do that.” And I sort of did. Statistically, I now realize it would have been easier for me—a kid from River Heights, Utah—to become Karl Malone than to become a professional opera singer. Oh, I don’t mean genetically—I’d have to change. I mean to become a professional athlete. Your odds are better to do that because there are programs to enable you to do that. When I was planning to be an opera singer, there were no programs to help you do that, except the school of hard knocks. Subsequently that has changed, and the Utah Festival Opera in Logan is one of those institutions to enable people to do that, to have their dreams come true.
But I knew I could do it because, you see, in the seventh grade I had a teacher who taught me something very profound. Her name was Tilda May Poulson. Some of you may know who she is. She taught at South Cache Junior High School, and formerly, before that, at South Cache High School. She taught everyone’s brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and parents and grandparents and great-great-grandparents, and I think she was teaching English there when Noah got off the ark.
Everyone was afraid of Tilda May Poulson—afraid of her because she was so “stern.” That’s the word they used. Well, in those days you would draw one of three sections of English out of a fishbowl—7-1, 7-2, 7-3. She was 7-2. As I went towards that fishbowl, I thought, “Now, what are my odds? Those are pretty good odds that I won’t pull her out.” I mean, those are odds that would work in Las Vegas. But I drew out 7-2. And I thought, “Oh, dear.” Actually, it ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I remember the first day we arrived in class. Miss Poulson began speaking to us and I thought, “Why isn’t she standing up from behind her desk?” And then I realized she was. “Why was everyone afraid of this little, diminutive lady?” I wondered. She said, “Some of you are under the misunderstanding that I am here to teach you English. You are mistaken. I am not here to teach you anything. I am a resource to help you learn, but the responsibility for that is yours, not mine. And let’s get that straight right now.”
Whoa. What a concept. I wish some of my students at Utah State University would understand that concept, and we’d all do better. In other words, your teachers’ responsibility isn’t to teach you anything. Your responsibility is to learn, and they are a resource to enable you to do that. But sometimes I think we’ve got it backwards. And Tilda May wanted us to understand how it worked.
She said, “I’m not interested whether you come to class or not. I’m interested in whether you are prepared when you come to class. And more than that, I’m interested in your integrity in telling me so. Henceforth, beginning tomorrow when I call the roll, you will not respond by saying ‘here.’ You will respond by either saying ‘prepared’ or ‘unprepared.’”
Now the next day, as you might guess, someone decided to see if they could break this situation, so when she called his name—and I won’t tell you his name because he ended up being a prominent citizen—he responded by saying “prepared.” Now I don’t know how it was that she knew it, but she didn’t write down “prepared.” She simply moved her glasses down a little bit and began to peer at him in the back row, and laser beams came out of her eyes and burned a hole right through his head until he confessed, “unprepared.”
I don’t know how she knew that he knew that she knew that he knew, but no one ever tested the system again. Something about her sternness was enough that we always responded, and she admired us when we said “unprepared.” She actually held this thing called integrity and honesty up here. She thought that was really important. And so do I, in spite of what the world would teach you. It’s very important.
Our first assignment was to learn an epic poem entitled Invictus. Any of you know Invictus? It’s a big poem. Would you recite it for us please? (Laughter) Our responsibility was to memorize it, and when we felt prepared we were to stand before the class and deliver it to the class. I determined I would be the first one up—not because I’m a high achiever. I am not. I am a coward, and I thought, “My chances of scrutiny are less if I’m the first one up. Because if I’m the twenty-sixth one up, I’ll have twenty-five people to compare with. If I’m the first one up, there’s just silence to compare me to.” So I quickly learned it, crammed it into my head. It was poetry and I had a certain knack of learning words that seemed to rhyme. So the next time we came to class and she said, “Is anyone prepared?” I raised my hand.
“Come forward, Mr. Ballam,” she said, “and recite us the poem.”
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
She said, “Stop. What does that mean?”
Well, she never told us we had to know what it meant. She told us to memorize it. There is a difference, and she was about to teach us that difference. And I began to think on my feet. (Mumbling through the lines) “It means, our souls can’t be conquered.”
“All right,” she said. “Go ahead.” And I made it through. How I made it through I will never know, but I got to the end.
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.
She said, “I don’t believe you. Say it again, and make me believe you.”
 
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.
“I don’t believe you.” She made me repeat it 319 times, and I got so loud that they heard me all the way to Tooele. Then she let me sit down, and I was a quivering ball of flesh.
She said, “Let’s talk about this poem. “In it,” she said, “is a great message: That no one has the power to take away your dreams. And anything is possible, provided it’s noble. Do you understand what I mean by that?” she said to the class. “Noble means that it will bless other people more than it will you.” That’s a definition you ought to put on your refrigerator. Nobility is that which will bless others more than it will you. She said, “If your dream is noble, you may achieve anything. Anything!”
Boy. I took her at her word, and I decided I was going to be an opera singer, because I thought it was noble. Not all opera singers are noble; not all professions are noble. Actually, it’s not the profession, and it’s not the opera singer in itself. It’s how you choose to utilize the profession, how you choose to utilize your talents that decides whether it’s noble or ignoble. And I determined nothing was impossible.
When I was a senior in high school, my father took me to see my first Broadway musical, The Man of La Mancha. What a circle we’re going through, because I’m going to sing that this summer at Utah Festival Opera. I hadn’t thought of what a circle that is. That night as I sat there, I was grateful because my dad believed in me. My dad was not a musician, my dad was an athlete—a great athlete. But he sacrificed to take me to see my first Broadway musical.
As I heard the song “The Impossible Dream” being sung, I was convinced that Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion had written it for me, because I believed at that moment that nothing was impossible. Within the text is the recipe about making dreams that seem impossible—or that the world would tell you are impossible—come true. It has something to do with sacrifice; it has a lot to do with nobility. I think, as he says it, sometimes you have to literally walk through hell for a cause that is divine.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star.
This is my quest to follow that star
No matter how hopeless,
No matter how far.
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause
And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable stars!
(Cherry Lane Music Company, copyright 1965)
Did you get the message in there? If your dream is noble and you use enough brute force, and you’re willing to listen to certain promptings, impossible things can be made possible.
I’m very impressed by the message that is left here. This building was built with great sacrifice. I know a good deal about architectural moldings. Mr. [Enos] Wall must have gone to great expense and hardship to put a message to you that you may never have known was here before. You look over there to the [ceiling] molding, or on either side, you’ll see at the bottom there’s some gold leafing molding. It’s what we call a “rope” mold. It’s fancified, so it doesn’t exactly look like a rope, but it stands for holding together—many strands working together, forming some strength. Above it is a “dentil” mold. You can recognize that. It looks like teeth and you have gaps between them. And it stands for continuity. It keeps going on.
The one above it that’s in gold leaf is a sacred one. You’ll find it in a lot of sacred buildings, from ancient Israel to Rome to Greece to Salt Lake City. It’s “egg and dart.” Brigham Young liked it a lot. You see a little egg with a dart between it. The egg stands for life; the dart stands for death. And then there’s another egg, you see. And this molding must always go in continuity, in a circle. It indicates that life is eternal. Though death comes, we are reborn again.
And above that, which is the highest form, is the “canthus” leaf. It’s the symbol of prosperity; it’s the symbol of the law of the harvest. What that really means is the Lord blesses us with bounty and we have an obligation to pay it back to His children. How appropriate, and in this building of all buildings. You will succeed in life if you choose to, if your dream is noble. You have set forth to come to school, and it will enable you to do so, with principles. Hence you will be entitled to success. This is to remind you that every time you see that molding of the canthus leaf, you have an obligation that when you succeed, you must pay back and help others as well. How fitting.
I want to talk about somebody who’s a hero of mine. I happen to have figured out early in my life that women are superior to men. It may have taken some of you gentlemen a little longer than it took me. The Utah Festival Opera has—I think our staff ratio is 85% estrogen, 15% testosterone in our building. And were it not for me, it should be 100% estrogen. Well, actually, I’m a tenor. That does actually raise that quotient a bit.
Some of my favorite characters in holy scriptures are females. There’s not a lot of them, but one that I really adore is Queen Esther. A great lesson can be learned from Queen Esther. Do you realize that she is the only book that was found in its entirety in the Dead Sea Scrolls? There’s a reason for that. Because [in it] God’s name is not actually written out, either as Elohim or Adonai, and therefore the Jews could preserve it intact, without taking out God’s name. Kosher Jews take out God’s name to preserve the book in fear that it might be desecrated in some way. So we know exactly that what we have in the book of Esther is original. It’s the story of a wonderful young thing, she’s pretty, she becomes queen of the center of the world, Israel it will become. And something happens. Her uncle Mordecai comes to her and says, “There’s trouble here. They’re killing all our people.”
“Who’s killing all our people?”
“Your husband.”
“What do you mean, my husband?”
“Well, not exactly your husband. One of his advisors, Haman, has sent forth a decree that anyone who worships Yahveh (Jehovah) shall be put to death instantly, and our people who worship Yahveh are being put to death. I want you to go talk to him,” Mordecai says.
Esther says, “You know that’s against the law.” Times have changed. Queens couldn’t talk to kings in those days unless they were invited to do so. So Esther risks her life to go speak to her husband about something rather important—her people.
So she goes to him, and he says, “What is it you want, Esther?” I think quite surprised.
She responds, “Before I ask you, I would like to serve you dinner.” Ladies, here’s a clue. And she prepares a mighty feast. I suspect it was not Kraft macaroni and cheese.
Because it was such a magnificent feast, when she concluded he said, “I’ll give you anything you want, Esther. Anything. Including my kingdom. What do you want?”
She said, “Stop killing the children of the lineage of the house of Judah.”
“I’m doing what?” This was news to him.
She said, “Haman has set forth into the law a decree whereby those people are being executed for their religious beliefs.”
The king said, “Is that true?” And they inform him that it is, indeed, true. He calls forth Haman; he says, “Because you have done this, you will lose your life, and this law has been eradicated.” And Haman is killed. And the people of Israel are saved. (See Esther 4-7)
Esther—Hadasa in Hebrew—means “she saved her people.” They don’t use the word “hospital” in Israel; they use the word “hadasa,” which means Esther, as a sign of respect to her that her name is saving the people. It says in the book of Esther that Mordecai said, “thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)
Has anybody got a Palm Pilot I can borrow for a second? Okay here’s a Palm Pilot. The Lord must have an amazing Palm Pilot. I mean, think about it. Mine is sitting out in the car; I forgot to bring it in. But on it is my past, my present, and my future. I put it all there. And I can pull it up. I’ve forgotten that dentist appointment. I write in “dentist—find” and it tells me when I’m going to go to the dentist. A man invented this. Imagine what God can do. Esther was in his Palm Pilot, that “for such a time” as that moment, He was going to place her in the palace where she could change the course of history. He knew that; He put her there. And He put all of us here, at this moment. Esther happened to be one of those who was receptive to what He wanted, and what He had in mind. In other words, their Palm Pilots were in synch with each other.
Paul was walking down paths to Damascus, and he suddenly gets zapped. Why? Because God needed him. Why did God need him? Because he was the only one who could carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. The only one. He was not one of the anointed good guys. He was, according to the scriptures, an enemy to God. I hope none of us in this room would be characterized in that way, but he was. But the Lord needed him. Why? He spoke Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin; he was a Roman citizen, which meant he could travel. None of the Twelve could do that, and none of them could communicate if they did. Paul could do that, and God zapped him on the road to Damascus, and said, “I need you. Now. Thou wast appointed at ‘such a time as this.’” A reluctant Paul finally saw the light and did the Lord’s bidding, and became the most important missionary of history. He carried the Gospel forward when all of the Twelve were gone.
President Woodhouse alluded to a conversation that we had that was not unlike that. I was not on my way to Damascus; I was on my way to Caracas, Venezuela to sing Alfredo in La Traviata when all of a sudden I couldn’t sing. And then I couldn’t talk. And then I couldn’t walk. And I was very troubled. I went to New York City to see the best doctor in the business, and he said, “You’re dying, and this is the tip of the iceberg. Go pay the receptionist on your way out.”
I went to Houston, Texas to see a renowned doctor whom I loved, who said exactly the same thing, but he said it with tears in his eyes. He said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what it is, but this is likely your last chapter.” I didn’t like that news. I went to Denver, and finally after I got the third response that was the same, I decided I wanted to come back to Utah where my father, who was in the medical industry, might be able to help me. So I did.
And while I was there, I discovered they were going to tear down an old opera house in my hometown. I had very little strength, but I said to the owner, because he too was diagnosed with a terminal disease, “If this is our last chapter, let’s do it with a bang! Why don’t you give that theater to the city, and I’ll talk to some of my friends, and let’s see if we can restore it back to the original full measure of its creation—an opera house.” And we did.
And then I got better, and so did he. It was through intervention of the medical community, but more than that it was through the prayers and fasting of my stake, who interceded and asked the Lord to heal me, which he did—temporarily, I hope for long term. But when I got well again, and my voice came back stronger than it was before, somehow going and continuing what I was doing didn’t seem as important as trying to make a difference here, where I felt we could literally change the course of history. We could show the world a better way, and I think He has preserved my life to do that. I think perhaps I was appointed “for such a time” as that. And so were you. So were all of us.
Joseph Smith, a young boy born in 1805, at the age of fourteen receives the most important revelation of all time. Why? Why Joseph? Was it because he had so much political power that he could tell the world so quickly? Was it because he was from noble heritage and royal birth, that he could tell the world through his diadem and his staff and his crown? Was it through the great education that he had before? He possessed a special gift. It’s called humility. Probably as much as anybody ever had. And the Lord needed him at that moment in time.
Brigham Young, and his special skills of colonization. Gordon Bitner Hinckley—a man born with a desire to spend a career in the media—television, radio, motion pictures, print. And what is he doing? He’s in the media—television, radio, motion pictures and print. Have you thought about that? Of all the people in the world who could have been president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when the Olympics came and the world looked at Salt Lake City, who better to tell our story than Gordon Bitner Hinckley. Has there ever been anyone in history who could have done that better? A man raised up to that purpose. A man who was appointed “for such a time as this,” with special gifts given him directly from God.
And so everyone in this room has that same characterization. All of us have special gifts given us directly from God. In Esther’s case it was beauty that brought her into the palace. In Moses’ case it was his Hebrew lineage, his being put in the Pharaoh’s house. Paul—it was his language ability, his birth, his ability to travel because he was a Roman. For Joseph it was his humility. With Brigham it was his colonization skills. With Gordon Bitner Hinckley, it is his understanding of communicating ideas. All of those gifts, given by God, directly to them.
And all of those special gifts are given directly to you. How, then, do you utilize it? By staying in touch with Him, every single day, and asking that His will be done. It may not take you in the direction you wish to be. I am not anywhere near where my agenda was taking me. I expected to die at the age of 102, being shot by a jealous tenor, sustaining a high C on a world operatic stage.
But that’s not what I’m doing. I’m doing something else, because the Lord literally—and I hadn’t thought of this until today—the Lord literally grabbed me by the throat, to get my attention. Because I wasn’t listening. I was telling the Lord—and there is a difference. The Lord answered my prayers, which were always about, “I want to sing this in this company, help me do that…” And He did. That works to a certain point—your point. But like Tilda May told us in the seventh grade: If you really want to make a dream that seems impossible, possible, your dream has to be noble. My dream was not entirely noble. It was somewhat self-serving.
I hope I can fulfill the rest of my days in pursuit of that which is noble, because I can tell you it ’s much more fulfilling. When you go to bed at night, you feel better about yourself. We have an obligation to fulfill a mighty stewardship. We promised, when we became members of this Church, that we would seek after that which is noble, that which is virtuous, lovely and of praiseworthiness. Are you doing that? In your career pursuits, are you going through the admonition of Paul to make sure that which you choose to do will make the world a better place?
I’m going to conclude with a song. You know the words, because they should be your words, though they were originally spoken by Paul, and quoted by Joseph Smith. They now should be your words, because you promised these things. As I sing this, don’t listen to the music of Sandy Ruconich and David Zabriskie. Don’t listen to me. Listen to you! And see how you’re doing with your promise.
I leave you my testimony that if we will seek after that which is noble, stay close to the Spirit of the Lord and have noble desires, He will bless us to make the impossible a reality. And I say that in His blessed name, Jesus Christ, amen.
 
“We Seek After These Things”
If there is anything virtuous
If there is anything lovely,
If there is anything which is of good report
We seek after these things.
If there is anything virtuous
If there is anything lovely,
If there is anything which is of good report,
We seek after these things.
We believe all things
We hope all things
We have endured many things
And hope to be able to endure all things.
If there is anything virtuous,
If there is anything lovely,
If there is anything which is of good report
We seek after these things.
If there is anything which is of good report
We seek after these things.
We seek after these things.

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