Summer 2011

The Substance of Things Hoped For: Where Faith and Works Meet

05 Apr. 2011

Transcript

The Substance of Things Hoped For: Where Faith and Works Meet

I prayed earnestly over what I might say to you today. During my active years of general authority service, it was my privilege to speak to a number of Latter-day Saint congregations of students at various institutions—BYU, University of Utah, Weber College, elsewhere—and I’m very much aware of the fact that, at this stage of your life as students and coming to devotionals like this, you’re very accustomed to receiving advice. Being a student, particularly at a Church school where we have a significant group of LDS students, is much like going on a mission or getting married—there is just no shortage of advice that’s available to you at that time. So I thought I might take something of a bit of a different tack with you this morning. Rather than present yet another sermon or more advice, I thought that I would like to share with you today a perspective gleaned over seven decades now, on the principle of faith.
I wish to present to you this morning something of a smorgasbord of scriptural perspectives, personal experiences, that I hope may provide each of you a takeaway of one kind or another that is valuable to you personally. I’ve entitled these remarks “The Substance of Things Hoped For: Where Faith and Works Meet,” and I begin with a scriptural perspective.
For all of the attention that it gets in Church meetings and classes, it is my experience that the principle of faith is not well understood. In fact, it may be most accurate to say that it is imperfectly understood by members of the Church. For instance, I have sometimes heard faith referred to as “a strong belief.” Well, I think to a limited degree that’s true. But there is a fundamental difference between faith and belief. Belief is an intellectual idea; it’s a rather passive notion. To believe something is to think it is true. And in that sense, it’s a one-dimensional concept. But faith is dynamic. It’s a process more than a condition or a state of mind, as such. And it’s an interactive process at that.
In its essence, faith is the very nature of the relationship that you and I have with the Lord. The power of the dynamism of faith, this dynamic principle, the power of it, the extent of it, is really an expression of the relationship that you or I have with the Lord.
Alma referred to that dynamism as an “experiment upon” the word. (Alma 32:27)  He also said that “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things.” (v. 21) Rather, faith is a process of relying on the knowledge of the Lord and His goodness that we have obtained in the past, while reaching for additional knowledge and assurance. In fact, Alma further says that faith is hoping for things “which are not seen, which are true.” (v. 21)
Hence, faith could also be referred to as a confidence from the Lord, a confidence that He will “reach our reaching,” to borrow a phrase from a beloved Latter-day Saint hymn. (“Where Can I Turn for Peace?” Hymn 129)  “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward,” is a statement attributed to Paul. (Hebrews 10:35)
Moroni used a different phrase to refer to this confidence. He said that faith is “a firm mind in every form of godliness.” (Moroni 7:30)  But my favorite definition is one that comes from Paul and has really lent itself to the title I’ve given to these remarks. Paul said that faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. At first blush, this expression can almost seem like a brain teaser. How can things that are merely hoped for have a substance, a materiality? How can there be evidence or proof of that which isn’t seen?
These are natural enough questions for you and me, who come from a rationally oriented culture. “Seeing is believing” is a simple phrase that captures the essence of our secular world. As college students, you find in your secular coursework that great emphasis is placed on the power of logic, building from a known premise to a reasoned conclusion. The premise is usually something discernible by one of our five senses—taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight—and the premise established. Then deductive reason takes over and leads to a measured conclusion. And so it is that we decide things, and reach conclusions in our secular, rational world.
This may be fine enough in a secular setting, but it has serious limitations when we seek to apply that methodology to the transcendental things of the Spirit. As Paul also said, “The natural man receiveth not the things of… God: for they are foolishness unto him:… because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
It is these secular, or natural man limitations that we run smack into when first we seek to exercise our faith. Hamstrung with the ingrained notion that seeing is believing, we struggle to find confidence in that we cannot see or cannot be experienced by our normal physical powers. It can be difficult for us to accept the notion that in matters of the Spirit, it is not “seeing is believing” but “believing is seeing.” That is the essence of spiritual discernment.
The words of the distraught father to the Master, when he implored Him to cast an evil spirit out of his child, resonate with all of us. In response to the Savior’s admonition to believe, the father replied, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
Help thou mine unbelief. Recognizing this common phenomenon and being a brilliant man possessed with enormous deductive powers himself, Paul beckons us to reach beyond this touchy-feely “seeing is believing” world to a higher plane. And he does that with phrasing that, again, I’ve referenced as the title of my talk—phrasing that’s intended to bridge the divide between our secular, rational way of looking at things and the Lord’s way of dealing with us through matters of the Spirit. And faith, he says, is “the substance of things hoped for” and “the evidence of things not seen.”
It is in the believing, the hoping, that the first real seeing is done.  All well and good, you say, but how do I know what to believe in? How do I know that what I’m hoping for is right? It is at this point that Alma rides to the rescue. For it is Alma that best describes the dynamic process that, when followed, cultivates an increasing closeness with the Lord that is the essence of faith.
Now, every returned missionary here in this audience has taught Alma 32. You remember the circumstance: Alma and Amulek were teaching among the Zoramites. The Zoramites were an apostate people. They were a materialistic people, and their worship had deteriorated to an empty ritual. Initial efforts by these missionaries to have an impact amongst the Zoramites failed. But then they were approached by some that we are told were the poorer class of people, and as Alma was teaching one group, this other group came. They had a question for Alma; they wanted to know where they could worship. Their idea was that, in order to worship God, they needed a place; they needed a sanctuary of their own. And we’re told that when Alma saw them, he beheld them with great joy, because he realized that they were in a state of mind and heart where they could be taught effectively.
And what follows, then, in Alma 32 to 34 is one of the great dissertations ever preached—a tag-team dissertation, by the way, between Alma and Amulek, on what and how to worship, because it is, as we know, how to worship that we learn how to gain and strengthen our faith.
Alma begins by telling the people that they were humble. He says that’s good. He says you’re compelled to be humble by your circumstances. He says that’s good; he says it’s better if you’re not compelled to be humble, but humble is good however it comes, because that’s the seedbed for faith. A person who is humble has an awareness of his appropriate stature with the Lord—also, a person who is willing to recognize within himself the need for change, the need for what we call repentance. And as a person is thus humbled, he is then prepared to embark on this great adventure of developing this interactive process of faith.
Now Alma continues to say that faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things. Rather, he says, faith is experimenting on the word. And you know the dynamic principle that he then explains in Alma 32, where you take a principle, you live in accordance with its principles, and over time as you do so, you realize in your life the promised blessings that are associated with it. And as you do that, that becomes an awareness.
On the first Sunday of the month, and at other times, we stand and bear testimony. What are we bearing testimony of when we stand up? We are basically testifying to those things that we have come to know through the Spirit, things that have not come to us necessarily—in fact, not usually—through these five basic physical senses that we have, but through spiritual senses—things we have experienced in our lives, which may or may not be tangible things. And that is all this process of experimentation. This is a process, the dynamic process of faith, of developing faith.
Now Alma’s choice of wording is very significant, I think. He says to “experiment upon” the word. What does he mean by that phrase, “the word”? Well, I would suggest to you, brothers and sisters, that there are really two levels of meaning. One is, with respect to “the word” with a lower-case w, just has reference to the teachings and principles of the gospel. As we hear these things, as we read about them, as we then try to incorporate them into our lives, we are experimenting upon those teachings and principles. We are experimenting upon the word.
But there is a deeper, more profound meaning in the use of that phrase, “the word.” And I’m speaking of “the Word” with a capital W. Remember that the Apostle John, in the gospel of John, referred to the Lord by that phrase, “the Word.” So in a very real sense, when we experiment upon the word—the teachings—we are also putting to the test, experimenting if you will, the Word—upon the Lord Himself. Because as in this process we come to understand and experience for ourselves the reality of the truth of these principles, we also come to realize the reality and the truth of God, of the Lord Himself. And thus, with each subsequent experiment—just like a man or a woman ascending a mountain one fingerhold and one toehold at a time—we proceed from a footing or fingerhold of that which we know by reaching still further. And that’s the process of really ascending the “mountain of the Lord,” if you will, and coming to develop a faith and a confidence in Him.
I love this phrase in the 123rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants; I commend it to you: “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power.” Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power, “and then…stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” Incidentally, that’s the 17th verse in section 123, if you’re taking notes about this.
And thus we climb, hand over hand, one toehold at a time. And in the process of so doing, we come to experience what Paul meant when he used that phrase, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” But we learn it not through our physical senses so much, those five physical senses, but through a sixth sense—a spiritual sense which is within us as well. And the process of developing our faith and developing a greater confidence in the Lord is simply a process of learning to rely more and more upon that sixth spiritual sense, which exists in harmony with the other five.
I turn now to some personal experiences in this applied laboratory of faith we call mortality. I received one very powerful lesson in this principle of developing faith and learning to rely on the Lord when I was about your age, when I was an undergraduate student at the University of California at Berkeley.
It was the Sunday before I started my sophomore year. I had already had one year at the university. It was the Sunday before I started my sophomore year. I attended our ward—we met in the institute building just off the campus, we held our sacrament and other meetings there. And there I met a wonderful, beautiful Latter-day Saint girl. She was a year younger than I, and I met her in the entryway to the institute building following sacrament meeting. I remember the encounter vividly. I can remember what she was wearing, what her hair looked like. She can’t remember it at all. But the next day, I met her again, in a most unusual coincidence.
I had enrolled in a large survey course in physical anthropology, one of those undergraduate courses in a large university like Cal or BYU or the U, which have several hundred students. And I used to like to sit toward the back of the room in these classes, but this day as I came in a little bit late, the classroom was filled, and I kept moving closer and closer to the front until I found one seat in the second row, and it was next to her. That came to be the best class I ever took—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:00.  That’s when it met. And when I say it was the best class I ever took, it had nothing to do with the subject matter of the course. It had everything to do with the girl I sat next to. And we dated and we had a wonderful time.
But then it became time for me to answer the call to serve as a full-time missionary, that I would serve as a full-time missionary. But as it grew closer to the time that I was going to go, the other young men in our university ward made no secret of the fact that they were absolutely delighted that I was going to be leaving for a couple of years. And in my relatively tender years, I confess that I didn’t have a lot of sense, but I had enough to know that it wouldn’t be appropriate, and it would certainly be counterproductive to ask her to put her social life in the deep freeze for two years while I went away. But nonetheless and therefore, it became rich fodder for very fervent conversations with the Lord over the matter.
Finally the day of departure came. We bade goodbye and I left. Now, in those days—ancient times, you know, Parley Pratt was our mission president—in those days, there was no MTC. Instead, all departing missionaries went to the mission home up on north Main Street here in Salt Lake City, for eight days of orientation before we departed into the field. I’ll never forget the first morning that I was there. The wife of the mission home president arose. Her name was Sister Richards. And she said, “Now you missionaries”—this is an exact quote, by the way. This was a long time ago. This was fifty years ago, so this will give you an idea of what a striking impression this made. She said, “Now you missionaries, let me reason with you. Do you really think that if you go out and serve the Lord with all of your heart for the next two years, that He will let you down in the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life?”
At that moment, my awareness of everyone and everything faded. There was me and there was Sister Richards, and there was the power of her words. I thought to myself, and the power of the Spirit bore profound witness to me of the truthfulness. I thought, “Of course. If I go out and do the best I can as a missionary, the Lord won’t let me down.” I understood even then that she wasn’t promising me that any particular girl was going to be waiting, only that when the time came for that phase of life, the Lord wouldn’t let me down.
I can honestly tell you that I didn’t worry about it again. I went out, I wrote her a letter each week. She wrote a letter. She went about having a rich experience with classes, with social life, held prominent offices on campus. When she graduated from the university as I was nearing the end of my mission, she was selected as the outstanding senior woman in the graduating class at the University of California. And, as has already been announced by President Richards, immediately upon my return we were engaged, and married a few months later. Dear, will you stand up please? Please. She’s saying no. I’m in real trouble after this. Thank you, dear. For going on 48 years now, she has been my bride.
I’d like to tell you that there were never any speed bumps in the road in my own journey to develop faith, but I must confess that on occasion I have forgotten things that I already knew. Some years later, as I was practicing law in Los Angeles, I was kneeling in prayer one morning as was my custom, as it is yours, when I had a very profound, strong feeling that I would be asked by our law firm to move to San Diego with my family to help open a new office for our law firm in San Diego. It was a very powerful feeling. Notwithstanding that feeling, then what happened after that over the period of weeks, I began to see-saw back and forth in my mind as to whether this was a good thing to do or not. And I think it was a miserable experience for me, I know for Pat, but eventually I am pleased to say that at long last, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen that I felt in that prayer reasserted themselves, and we accepted the invitation and went.
It proved to be a great experience. There were many wonderful things that happened for our family because of that. In due course, opportunities for significant service in the Church were extended, and we were living in San Diego when we received the call to serve as a general authority. So I tell you that experience so that, if you’ve ever had an experience like that in your own journey of faith, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. Most of us have those from some time or another. But that doesn’t mean the basic principles aren’t true. And usually when those things happen, it’s because you or I have departed from them.
Now in the King James version of the Bible, the Latter-day Saint version, there’s a footnote to Hebrews 11:1. That’s the verse where Paul says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The footnote says, instead of “substance” it uses the word “assurance.” Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.
I think that’s a really valuable word for you and me, because from my experience, and certainly for most Latter-day Saints, our experience of experimenting upon the word is seldom with a principle of the gospel. I think I would dare say that most here already have a conviction about the law of tithing and the Word of Wisdom and so forth. Most often what we are seeking is assurance. Most often what we want is some certainty about a future that seems so very uncertain. And those are the kinds of things that we take to the Lord. And yet, it is in those things that the wisdom of Alma’s counsel about experimenting upon the word and about Paul’s use of that phrase, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” can be most significant.
Time is short, and I’m going to close with one more personal experience which has driven home to me the importance of this principle of understanding that this matter of “faith is theassurance of things hoped for” that the Lord is there, He is watching over us, He is responsive to our prayers, He hears our prayers, and that He will help us in our hour of need.
President Richards mentioned that I served in Vietnam. I did. I served there twice. On my first tour of duty, I was an infantry platoon leader. It’s difficult to describe the experience of being a combat soldier. We were supposedly in Vietnam on a one-year tour of duty, but it might just as well have been for an eternity, because that’s the way it seemed. You quickly realized you couldn’t think in terms of days or weeks or months, much less a year. You learned to think about today. It was a very existential experience. You learned to be grateful for each morning and each evening. That’s just the way it is; it is the nature of it. And there’s an anxiety that’s always with you as a combat soldier. Every bend in the jungle trail, every stand of bamboo, every mortar barrage—everything that happened, it’s just there all the time. And when you see others die and be terribly wounded, it only reinforces those feelings. It’s just part of that experience.
Our battalion had been out in the jungle for many weeks, and we returned to our base camp for some rest and relaxation. We had taken the first showers we’d had in weeks, and we were sitting around on our bunks, cleaning our weapons. It was a Saturday night, and we were listening to music on the Armed Forces Radio Network, when suddenly there came over our battalion radio an urgent message. It was from another battalion that was still out in the jungle, and it was being overrun by a large enemy force. We were needed to go right then to the rescue.
That feeling of anxiety that I described to you, in my case just seemed to blossom into a dark sense of foreboding. I just had a bad feeling about this. But there was no opportunity to go pray about it, much less to fast about it. All there was time to do was to grab helmet and rifle and move out. But as I did so, I uttered a silent prayer in my heart. And as I uttered the words of that prayer, there came to my mind literally a still, small voice, just as clear as can be. And the voice recited a passage of scripture—you will be familiar with it. It’s out of the book of Proverbs, the 3rd chapter: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (v. 5-6)
With that, there came a feeling of peace that just settled over me. That anxiety dissipated. We were gone for another several weeks. It was a dangerous operation. Finally it was the last day that we were to be out on this operation. I was riding an armored personnel carrier, and we were moving through a lightly forested area of jungle, which was the only kind of terrain you could use those vehicles in. And we rolled over an enormous enemy landmine. It was command detonated by enemy soldiers who were nearby. The force of the explosion was so great that it blew the engine out of the vehicle. It blew the tracks and all the road wheels off the vehicle. Everyone inside was wounded, including me, but no one died. And no sooner did that mine explode than there again came to my mind that same voice, that same passage of scripture: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
My dear brothers and sisters, I testify to you that the Lord is nearby. I realize that that’s a rather dramatic experience. In fact, I tell it for that reason, because it’s an illustration that the Lord is nearby. He is there whether our problems are great or not so great. I commend to you the wonderful counsel we got in that inspired message from Elder Bednar just last Sunday in his conference message, as he talked about revelation and the way it comes. But I use it because…I use it as evidence of the fact that the Lord is nearby; He is mindful of each one of us. I testify to you, my dear brethren and sisters, that if you and I strive to exercise our faith, to realize that it is a process, it’s not a destination, it’s a process. It’s a developing of a closer, more intimate relationship with the Lord, that He will be there, that you will feel Him more closely in your life. And that as you go along, that you will be more sensitive to His promptings, and He will lead you along.
And you will truly find, then, what Paul meant when he said that “faith is the substance—or assurance—or things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” May He bless you. May He be with you, in your academic career and in your careers beyond. Those things that are so much chambered away in the intimate chambers of your heart, may those prayers be answered. May you feel that reassurance, know that He is near you, is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Fifteen Ideas for Summer

07 Jun. 2011

Transcript

Fifteen Ideas for Summer

“I invite you to think about what you might want to accomplish this summer. What you want your outcomes to be. I invite you to make a list of what you want to do before the summer is over. If you can’t think of things you want to include on your list, here are 15 ideas you might consider. Consider it sort of a potential “bucket list” for the next 12 weeks. Most importantly, these ideas can trigger your own personally tailored list of outcomes.”
 
Fifteen Ideas for Summer:
 
  1. Go to the Temple more often.
    It is a refuge from the summer storms. If you can’t go in, go touch it, sit by it, stare at it…feel the spirit of it. Do what you have to do to qualify for admittance.
  2. Take time to be still. Unplug. Take those ear buds out; turn the volume down in your life. Learn to listen to the voice within you and the song of your own soul. There is good doctrine in the hymn “How Great Thou Art” – when the lyrics state, “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee. How great thou art, how great thou art.” When was the last time you listened to the song of your own soul?
  3. Make a new friend. You have been put into a human orbit to touch people only you can touch and lift.
  4. Do something for someone when it is not convenient for you to do it – it will bring you joy; you will be on the Lord’s errand and therefore entitled to His help.
  5. Forget a grudge, bury the hatchet, mend a broken relationship. Life is too short to be angry at anyone. Most of the time the only person it hurts is you. It cankers your soul.
  6. Take a long and slow walk. Ponder the majesty of creation and your position in it. Be grateful – truly grateful for life no matter what the current challenges may be.
  7. Sing a hymn like you mean it. A song of the righteous is a prayer unto God. It can change your attitude and perspective. That is why we sing in church before we pray. When was the last time you took time to really read the lyrics?
  8. Take a gospel topic and study it. I mean really study it. Study it in such a way that you discover new principles and how they apply to your life. Write down what you learn. It demonstrates to the Lord that you can be trusted with personal revelation.
  9. Start writing in your journal again. It has been too long since you were caught up. The act of pondering and writing can bring personal insight and sometimes revelation.
  10. Start the Book of Mormon again. Don’t skip the Isaiah Chapters. The Lord quoted Isaiah more than any other prophet. There must be something to it.
  11. Give up one of your favorite sins. Get a priesthood blessing to help if you need it. There is nothing heavier than the weight of sin. To waste is a sin – all sin is a waste. Don’t waste any more time with the consequence of a former mistake when the Savior’s Atonement is waiting to be applied. Drop your pride, see your bishop.
  12. Don’t yield to a small, seemingly insignificant temptation – You never know who is watching and what the unintended consequence might be.
  13. Just for the summer, because making a longer commitment might be too scary, live after the “manner of happiness.” Read 2 Nephi 5: 6-10 to find the five ways for yourself. It will be more meaningful to work and dig them out for yourself. That way you will treasure them.
  14. Follow an impression and keep your heart open.
  15. Take time to know the dealings of God in your life
 
We focus a lot at the College on outcomes. Course outcomes in your syllabi. Program outcomes. Like Jacob in the Book of Mormon we have great faith in you and anxious regard and concern regarding what should happen in your lives while you are here at the College. That is an outcome. We feel like Mormon when he wrote: “I do not know all things but the Lord knoweth all things, which are to come, wherefore, he worketh in [us] to do according to his will” (Words of Mormon 7).
 
 

The Economy of Heaven, or Celestial Economics

 
By President J. Lawrence Richards
 
Prior to coming to the college almost 10 years ago, I had a career in banking. So when joining the faculty, I was assigned to teach a number of courses including micro and macro economics. Those subjects may sound boring to some, but to me they are important blocks in the foundation of any successful society. In addition, they are a way of understanding the secular world we live in and of forecasting the impact of legislative policy in a free market. It was a way of viewing and constructing a very complex world.
Concepts and principles such as supply and demand, the elasticity of demand, barriers to market entry, and the ultimate reality of all issues of consumption—the ever-worthy law of diminishing marginal utility, would get me excited about getting students excited. My goal was to help my students see things they had not seen before, understand the consequences of decisions they had not considered, and value things they thought did not matter.
I knew I had achieved my goal when a student wrote me a note in frustration and said, “You have ruined by ability to read just the sports page of the paper. I not only read the national news but the business section as well. And I understand it. You have ruined my naiveté…thanks a lot!”
Now, 10 years later I have come to appreciate another view of economics. Another way of constructing my understanding of more a more important concepts—the workings of heaven.
Elder Bednar suggests that when we see what the world is doing or suggesting, look in the opposite direction, as it often gives a clue of what heaven wants done. This is a foundational principle in the economy of heaven. For example: A good portion of the world suggests that the accumulation of possessions, influence and power is the goal of education, work and relationships. Once accumulated, then we seek to do good in the world to give back a portion of what we have gained. The principles governing the economy of heaven suggest that we seek first the kingdom of God and then riches because we will use those riches to do good.[1] The economy of heaven suggests that we give of our accumulation even in our poverty. We call it tithing.
In the economy of heaven, success is not to have or hoard power, influence, or control but to lose yourself in the service of others, lifting and empowering them.[2]
Contrasted to the temporal economies, the economy of heaven has a very different approach to the concept of social welfare. Listen to the words of President Ezra Taft Benson: “The Lord works from the inside out,” he instructs. “The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”[3]
The world’s economy thrives on the accumulation of free capital that can be stored as wealth and used to buy goods and services, invest, and leverage. But the economy of heaven suggests that we store up our treasures in heaven where moth and rust doth not corrupt.[4]
One grounding principle of secular economics is scarcity. That is, we have limited resources of time, talent, and treasure with which to make decisions about life, what we will do. Therefore, there will always be those who seek the accumulation of time, talent, and treasure for their own purposes and comfort at the expense of others. Because of this principle, there is secular wisdom in the saying, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But to the rich man, the Savior invited him to sell all he had, take up the cross and follow him.[5] In contrast to the principle of scarcity, the economy of heaven is built upon the principle of abundance. For all who will may come unto Christ and be joint heirs in all the Father has. Listen to the words of the Savior: “Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.”[6] “But to as many as received me, gave I power to become my sons; and even so will I give unto as many as will receive me, power to become my sons.”[7] “And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.”[8] And now the testimony of Paul to young Timothy: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”[9]
The economy of the world works on the principle of spending to satisfy immediate wants and needs. If no one spends, the economy grinds to a halt. The economy of heaven is based upon the principle of deferral. That is, we do not spend that which is precious in the wrong season of our life to gratify our desires and temporal wants. “To everything there is a season and “a time to every purpose under heaven.”[10] Happy are we if we live and act consistent with the season we are in. We withhold and abstain now for the greater blessings and rewards promised by a loving father in heaven. Those blessings include peace, a quiet conscience and the assurance of the greatest possibilities of eternal life.
This applies to us in very practical ways:
Fulfilling Church Callings
Simply put, it is not in the economy of heaven for the Lord to send an angel when a priesthood holder or a relief society sister will do. It was President Monson who declared: “I always want the Lord to know that if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him.”
Here is a true story told by President Monson in the April 1993 General Conference. It is from the journal of Joseph Millett, an early member of the Church. It illustrates how heaven works and the blessings that come from fulfilling our callings, including just being there when the Lord needs us.
“One of my children came in, said that Brother Newton Hall’s folks were out of bread. Had none that day. I put … our flour in sack to send up to Brother Hall’s. Just then Brother Hall came in. Says I, ‘Brother Hall, how are you [fixed] for flour.’ ‘Brother Millett, we have none.’ ‘Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided [it] and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you were out.’ Brother Hall began to cry. Said he had tried others. Could not get any. Went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett. ‘Well, Brother Hall, you needn’t bring this back if the Lord sent you for it. You don’t owe me for it.’ You can’t tell how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew that there was such a person as Joseph Millett.”
The Lord is as capable of planting a temple anywhere at any time as he is to have flour show up on the doorstep of Newton Hall’s home. It would be wonderfully efficient and tremendously practical. But he does not work that way. Why?
Effectiveness Before Efficiency
It is not in the economy of heaven to sacrifice effectiveness for efficiency. We see in the life of the Savior so many instances that he ministered to people one-by-one when it would have been far more efficient to have blessed others in another way. He touched the rocks presented by the brother of Jared “one by one.”[11] In 3rd Nephi we read that the Savior took the children and blessed them “one by one.”[12] All came “one by one” to feel the prints of the nails in his hands.[13] On that same occasion he healed the sick one at a time. When you go to the temple to do proxy work, wouldn’t it be more efficient to take several names through at a time? Certainly, but that is not the economy of Heaven. The greatest work you will do for others in your life will be by the process of “one by one.”
Personal growth and godly refinement come from the struggle and the sacrifice. It is not very efficient, but it is very effective. Paul reminded the Hebrews that though Christ was the Son of God, “yet learned he obedience by the things he suffered.”[14]
For example, consider the life of John Rowe Moyle, who left his Utah County home every morning at 2:00 a.m. to walk 22 miles to Salt Lake to work on the temple. He had an accident that crushed his leg, and it was amputated. Sitting in bed he carved a wooden leg and built up his endurance until he could walk to Salt Lake and work on the temple. It was his hands that carved the words “Holiness to the Lord” that graces the east side of the temple. Could the Lord have prevented that accident to Brother Moyle? Certainly. Could He have saved the leg? No question. How effective might this experience have been in refining Brother Moyles’ character, faith, and spiritual endurance? Another example.
Consider the task before the Brother of Jared in the construction of the barges. The Lord gave him the design and how to solve the air problem. The Brother of Jared was left with the problem of light. The Lord provided some practical guidance and then asked him “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?”[15] Here we see an example of the grand principle of acting rather than being acted upon. If the Brother of Jared had answered “well give me light” he would have “ask[ed] amiss.”[16]
So he went to work. Imagine how he felt when the best he could do to solve the light problem was to present molten rock.[17] Listen to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s description of that moment and how it is captured in the Book of Ether, Chapter 3. “Things – the brother of Jared hardly knows what to call them. Rocks probably doesn’t sound any more inspiring . Here, standing next to the Lord’s magnificent handiwork … these impeccably designed, and marvelously unique seagoing barges, the brother of Jared offers for his contribution: rocks. As he eyes the sleek ships the Lord has provided, it is a moment of genuine humility.”[18] Wouldn’t it have been far more efficient for the Lord to have given him the answer to the light problem? What was it that Heaven wanted to refine in him? Efficient? No. Effective? Yes.
What was it in the struggle of obtaining the plates that refined Nephi and prepared him for the work the Lord had for him? What is it that you are to learn from the elongated tailored tutorials you may be in? Efficiency is not necessarily in the economy of Heaven. President Packer is fond of reminding us that “things that grow slowly live longer.”[19] So it is with you and your character. The trick is to learn what you need to learn from the experiences you are having. Are there times when efficiency and expediency are in the economy of heaven? Yes. There are times when a Liahona may appear outside our tent doors.[20]
Our Loss of Little Children
Joseph F. Smith, in the “economy of heaven, and in the wisdom of the Father, who doeth all things well, those who are cut down as little children are without any responsibility for their taking off, they, themselves, not having the intelligence and wisdom to take care of themselves and to understand the laws of life; and, in the wisdom and mercy and economy of God our Heavenly Father, all that could have been obtained and enjoyed by them if they had been permitted to live in the flesh will be provided for them hereafter. They will lose nothing by being taken away from us in this way. …”[21] In the economy of Heaven, there is charity, justice, and equity.
Our Need to Work Out Our Own Salvation
In the economy of heaven, we all must work out our own salvation. It cannot be hired out for someone else to do for us. From the parable of the 10 virgins, we learn there are no shortcuts, there are no free-riders.[22] Brigham Young, “[For a person to be] saved in the celestial kingdom of God without being prepared to dwell in a pure and holy place, it is all nonsense and ridiculous; and if there be any who think they can gain the presence of the Father and the Son by fighting for, instead of living, their religion, they will be mistaken, consequently the quicker we make up our minds to live our religion the better it will be for us ... The economy of heaven is to gather in all, and save everybody who can be saved.”[23]
Now here is a little sidelight on this issue of following the counsel of the brethren as we strive to “live after the manner of happiness.”[24] Elder Henry F. Acebedo shares an insight that helped him as a new convert to the Church. When he was in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college, his commanding officer told the trainees, “Obey first before you complain.”[25]This applies to the following the Honor Code including the dress and grooming standards. President Packer’s suggestion is wise counsel when applied to living the gospel and honoring the covenants you made regarding attending the College. He advised: “ ‘Don't knock it till you've tried it’ .... If you haven't tried it yet, you are as yet no witness on the matter.”[26] Exercise your faith and put the Lord’s promises to the test for yourself.
Our Need to Understand and Receive What Has Been Written
We live in a time when the windows of heaven have swung wide open. Perhaps there has never been a time when the volume of inspired instruction and counsel from living prophets, seers and revelators has been so available to the world. Never has there been a greater need for the ability to obtain personal revelation. But understand this about the economy of heaven. Elder L. Lionel Kendrick pointed out that: “In the economy of heaven the Lord never uses a floodlight when a flashlight is sufficient—and so it is in receiving personal revelation.” Brother David McConkie of the Sunday School Presidency stated, “It is contrary to the economy of heaven for the Lord to repeat to each of us individually what he has already revealed to us collectively.”[27] Ours is the duty to (1) know what God has spoken directly and what his word is through the counsel of the leaders of His church, (2) to understand its application to our lives, and (3) then use our agency to act in all diligence and not be acted upon.
Remember that in the economy of heaven, we do not get answers to all our questions. The development of our agency to act and see the consequences of our actions is more important than to get all the answers when we think we need them. We develop confidence as we learn to move in positive directions and receive a confirming witness that our actions are pleasing to and consistent with the mind and will of the Lord.
Our Need to Build Our Capacity
In the economy of Heaven the more we try to do our best to do the work God has called us to do and to live more righteously that we might be a better tool in the hands of God to bless others, the more we have the capacity to do so.
You are needed as laborers in the Lord’s vineyard. Do not discount your capacity to serve and to contribute. In the economy of heaven, experience is not necessarily a requirement for making a contribution. Elder Russell Taylor of the Seventy stated, “Remember that it was through the instrumentality of a young boy in his 15th year that the gospel light was given back to the world. Age confers no inherent advantages in the kingdom; only righteousness does. You, in your youth, have the selfsame blessings therefrom. There is much you can do to build the kingdom … Only Satan would have you underestimate your worth.”[28]
Brother John C. Taggart, former Area Seventy: ““A man should [not] run faster than he has strength.” We are all bound to honor our covenants, but all are not asked to carry the same load. The parable of the talents and the story of the widow’s mite teach that we will not be judged by our output. Our charge is to magnify what we are given by the Lord, however large or small it may be. We each possess different gifts, abilities, and capacities. That we are to use them in the service of others is King Benjamin’s main message, and it is a persistent theme throughout the scriptures. There is nothing, however, in the revelations to suggest that modest results from heartfelt effort are less valued in the economy of heaven than greater or more impressive results. We are to thrust in our sickle with our might, thereby bringing salvation to our souls.”[29] And what does it mean to magnify what we have been given? To simply use those things to strengthen our faith and resolve, and to build up the Kingdom. Elder Ballard provided this summary that has application to building our own capacities, “Brothers and sisters, be wise with your families. Be wise in fulfilling your Church callings. Be wise with your time. Be wise in balancing all of your responsibilities. O be wise, my beloved brothers and sisters. What can I say more?”[30]
Our Need to Labor
There is something noble and character-shaping in the doing the work of the world and the Church. In the world, the longer and harder we work, the more we are expected to be paid, especially if we are paid by the hour. But as our responsibilities grow in the church, the more time we will spend serving, helping, and lifting others. There is no monetary pay for the extra hours and the harder work. Even the welfare program of the Church requires work. Work is character-building, there is something ennobling about earning our way to self-reliance “by the sweat of [our] brow.”[31]
Conclusion
When we understand the economy of heaven and how it often works in contrast to the economy of man, we are better able to fulfill our mission in life and understand the purposes of our experiences. This semester, may we learn what we must know, that we might do what needs to be done, that we might continue our journey to become what we have already promised we would become.
 

[1] Jacob 2:17-19
[2] See Mosiah 18:8-9; D&C 43:16
[3] Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, July 1989, p.4
[4] Matthew 6:19
[5] Mark 10:17-24
[6] 3 Nephi 9:14
[7] D&C 39:4
[8] D&C 84:38
[9] 2 Timothy 4:8
[10] Ecclesiastes 3:1
[11] Ether 3:6
[12] 3 Nephi 17:21
[13] 3 Nephi 11:15
[14] Hebrews 5:8
[15] Ether 2:23
[16] James 4:3; 2 Nephi 4:35
[17] Ether 3:3
[18] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Rending the Veil of Unbelief,” in The Voice of My Servants: Apostolic Messages on Teaching, Learning, and Scripture, ed. Scott C. Esplin and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2010).
[19] “Some Things Every Missionary Should Know,” Seminar for New Mission Presidents—2002 (26 June), 6
[20] 1 Nephi 16:10
[21] Chapter 15: The Salvation of Little Children, “ Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, (1998)
[22] Matthew 25:1-9
[23] Chapter 40: Salvation through Christ, “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997)
[24] 2 Nephi 5:27
[25] Henry F. Acebedo, “Parables of Jesus: The Laborers.” Retrieved May 18, 2011 from http://lds.org/liahona/2003/09/parables-of-jesus-the-laborers?lang=eng&query=%22economy+of+heaven%22
[26] Elder Boyd K. Packer, The other side of the ship. Conference Report, October 1969, afternoon meeting 36.
[27] “Gospel Learning and Teaching,” Liahona andEnsign, Nov. 2010, 13
[28] Russell C. Taylor, “Where Would I Be?” New Era Oct. 1988
[29] John C. Taggart, All Things in Wisdom and Order (2010). Retrieved May 18, 2011, from http://lds.org/ensign/2010/08/all-things-in-wisdom-and-order?lang=eng&query=%22economy+of+heaven%22
[30] M. Russell Ballard, “O Be Wise,” Liahona andEnsign, Nov. 2006, 20
[31] Moses 5:1

Can you start a business? Of course you can

14 Jun. 2011

Transcript

June 14, 2011

It’s a distinct pleasure for me to be here, and to share a couple of thoughts with you. You all have your little black books, right? I want to have you write down five scriptures and a link to one of my favorite songs. And these five scriptures embody what I think are the ground rules and the opportunity for starting and operating a business. Now you’ll probably find out by the time we’ve finished talking here that I’m somewhat obsessed with business and how business works, and how they get started. And I’ll share some stories with you.
So number one of the scriptures on my top five list is 1 Nephi 3:1-7. The second one is 1 Nephi 4:1-7. The third is Mark 9:23, and Moroni 7:33, and Mosiah 2:17. I guess that’s six scriptures. Is it five? Oh, I haven’t given you the coolest one. It’s a link to a Primary song called “Nephi’s Courage” (Children’s Songbook, p. 120). “Nephi’s Courage” is kind of fun. So I want to talk about Nephi’s Courage in a minute here, but you’ll remember the way “Nephi’s Courage” goes, right?
“The Lord commanded Nephi to go and get the plates.”
Good, good; it’s international. So He told him to go and get the plates, right? And then, “from the wicked Laban inside the city gates.” And Laman and Lemuel were “afraid to try.” And “Nephi was courageous, and this was his reply.” Then verse two:
The Lord commanded Nephi to go and build a boat.
Nephi’s older brothers believed it would not float.
Laughing and mocking, they said he should not try.
Nephi was courageous. This was his reply…
The Lord gives us commandments and asks us to obey.
Sometimes I am tempted to choose another way.
When I’m discouraged, and think I cannot try,
I will be courageous, and I will reply:
“I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.
I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.”
Very good! So did you think you would come to a devotional and sing a Primary song? Well, we didn’t sing it. What I want to do is to share with you an experience I had as a bishop on Mercer Island. Mercer Island is a small island just east of Seattle and west of Bellevue, Washington. It’s five miles long, 2 ½ miles wide, 22,000 residents, half Jewish. So as bishop, there had been a program started called the Mercer Island Clergy Association. I inherited being the representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Mercer Island Clergy Association. It became my turn to be the president of the Clergy Association. There were 13 churches on the island. I remember going to some of our meetings and telling the brethren and sisters who were the leaders of the other churches—the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, the Jewish, etc.—and I said, “If what we are all trying to get done isn’t helping our members grow and develop, I don’t think I need to be here. Because I think that’s what it’s about, to help our members grow and develop.”
In another meeting, I said to them, “I have some members of my ward who don’t come to church. And if they want to come to your church and they come, that would be great!” So these guys thought, “What kind of a guy is Bishop Dunford to say such a thing. I thought we were all competitors.”
Well, as president of the association, I said, “I’m going to propose we have our monthly meetings at the various churches. So we did, and et cetera. I got a call one day from Mike, who was the pastor of the Congregational Church. Mike said, “Bishop, we can’t hold our meeting at our church as you asked. I’ve taken another job and I’m going to be moving to Minnesota.”
“Oh Mike, that’s too bad. We’ll miss you.”
So I’m thinking—this happens in an email about 11:30 at night, I’m reading Mike’s reply. I just had this flash—what an idea. And I wrote Mike a letter. I said, “Mike, if in the process, in the transition, you are short a pastor for the day, I’d be happy to do that.” And I just sent the email. Well, now it’s 12:30, 1:00 o’clock. I came to bed. Annette was still awake, and I said, “I’ve got to tell you what I just did.”
“You what?!? You can’t do that.”
“What do you mean? I’m the bishop of the island. I can do that.” So anyway, it was quite interesting—I can do that, you can’t do that, and et cetera. Well, it’s sort of out of the box, but I’m the bishop of the island. Do I need the stake president’s approval? No. Why? All of the people on the island are in my jurisdiction. Do I have to have permission to talk to them? No.
So, two weeks later we get a call. Annette is on the floor when she hears this call, because it’s a call that says, “Bishop Dunford, thank you very much. We’d like to accept your offer. Would you come and let’s see if we can find a time on our schedule that works for your schedule.”
“Okay.” So we went over, and we laid out a plan, and this is going to be fun. Now, how many of you think that, before I was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was a Protestant minister? President, there’s no hands. Oh, it’s a joke. I wasn’t. I’ve always been a member of the Church. And so we knew the date, we knew what we were going to do, and this is the thing, because there’s two groups of people saying, “You can’t do that.” And the other group was saying, “Well, that’s kind of cool. You can do that.” It was kind of interesting. There was nobody in the middle.
So I asked my counselors. I said, “Here’s the date. I’ll be gone two Sundays. I want to go the Sunday before to find out how it works and what the drill is and what they do, and then is the time that I’m the pastor for the day.” So I’m sure the members of my ward thought, “What is he doing? How could he possibly do that?”
I went the Sunday before. It was just great! It was super. And there they introduce people who are there for the first time. They give you a chance to get up and introduce yourself. I said, “I’m Bishop Dunford. I’m the bishop of the Mercer Island Ward just up the street here, and I’m your pastor for next week, and I just came to get acquainted and see how the services go.”
And it came to the time for the sacrament. And the sacrament was a new drill for me, because they had the bread and they had the wine, and I’m thinking, “How is this going to go?” It went great. I mean, they didn’t do it. So after the meeting, the next Sunday was our turn. And I had Annette and some of the grandchildren come and teach the children some songs. And they taught one of these songs, like Nephi. It was just great. It was a great time. And I preached the sermon.
The sermon came from one of my favorite prophets in the Book of Mormon. Have you ever heard of—let’s see, what was his name—he had a missionary thing, and he had something with arms and stuff. Ammon, right? And I talked about Ammon. And I just had my Book of Mormon, you know, our books all leather-bound, and I would hold it up and I’d read in the scriptures about Ammon and the king, and it was a great time. And what in the world does that have to do with business?
I have a goal here, and if I’m successful in my goal in our time together, number one, I’d like you to ask a question: What if I can start a business? What if I can?
And then I’d like to move from “What if I can?” to “I think I can. I think I can.” And my goal isn’t to say this is the kind of business, because businesses do four things, and they’re really complex. They do four things. Number one, they find a customer. The customer is someone for whom the business solves a problem. And before that, you’ve kind of got to be looking around and asking this question like, “What’s missing?” And I have a way that I remember how to look around and see what’s missing.
In one of my former lives—oh, I’ve got to tell you this—in one of my former lives, I got a tattoo. It was a unique tattoo. Further, it was in a unique place. And I can arrange—I know Bob the tattoo guy, and I made arrangements, so if you’ll see me afterwards, I’ll tell you how to be introduced to Bob, and he’ll place the tattoo on you. This is a unique tattoo. And the tattoo he put inside my right eyelid. It was a little hurtful, but the message of the tattoo was so great. It says, “What’s missing?” So every time I blink my eye like this—you get it?—I get this, “What’s missing?”
This is the kind of song the entrepreneur sings. This is the song the entrepreneur makes up. What’s missing? What’s missing? And it has worked, because you start to look at the world and ask what’s missing. What could I offer that could solve a problem. And that’s how it begins. That’s how they all begin. Somebody solves a problem, because it’s not likely that somebody will come forward with money out of their wallet for something they don’t value. So you get a customer.
Then they do four things—all businesses do these same four things, and not surprisingly, all of these concepts are taught right here in the LDS Business College. This is a business college. My goal for my students, and this is how I evaluate myself, is that when they finish our classes they start a business, or they have started a business, that puts $2,000 a month in their wallet. Beginning. Just two grand. And then by the end of 90 days, they are putting $5,000 in their wallet. It’s starting a business, and it’s taking a risk. So this is what they do; this is what business guys do. Four things:
  1. Buy low.
  2. Sell high. Complex? Buy low, sell high.
  3. Collect early.
  4. Pay late. Now I’m not saying pay late that you violate the terms of your agreement with your vendors or suppliers, but you want to manage and honor cash. All right?
 
Sometimes it’s possible to sell high before you buy low. What do you think of that? What if I sold something, and then I bought it? What’s the value of that relative to cash flow—buy low, sell high? And there isn’t a requirement that you’ve got to do them in this order. I’m just telling you those are the things that happen.
So I had the experience to move—you know, I grew up in the family doughnut business, and I made those big fat chocolate doughnuts all night long to go to the University of Utah. And it was a great experience. Do you have any idea of how many doughnuts I have eaten? Less than I made. I made lots of doughnuts—all night long, the doughnut machine popping out doughnuts. It turns out that my father, who was one of the owners of the bakery, had an operation they had to take over in southern California. He asked if I would go do that. We did. That didn’t turn out so well, because the company that we had to work with didn’t have what they said they had, and we had to discontinue.
One of the lessons I’ve learned, to share with you is where you start out isn’t necessarily where it’s going to go. In other words, if you say, “I have to have all of the lights green between here and Los Angeles before I take off on my trip,” it doesn’t work that way. You only need one light—the first light. And so my encouragement is to start. And the scriptures that I gave you will say how this works. The Lord commanded Nephi, and what does 1 Nephi 3:7 say? “I will go and do…because I know the Lord… provides a way.” So southern California got us into a new world.
Another lesson I learned is the importance and significance of knowing people and building relationships with people. And I encourage you to look around the room and look at all the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed students here, and the faculty, and say, “What do I know about them?” Because people open doors, and my experience in my life is that the doors that have opened have opened because I had a friend. I made a friend and an opportunity opened up. I’ll show you how that works.
We’re in southern California, and we’re going to make frozen bakery dough, and we’ve built a bakery and put in a nitrogen freezer—it was the bakery process. We put the dough into a nitrogen freezer. We discovered one day as we’re looking at this bread coming out of the oven that it wasn’t quite right. And we puzzled and puzzled, and figured out finally that the problem was the formulation, and that was our partner’s responsibility. So we’re trying to survive, and we do things, and one thing led to another and I said, “This isn’t going to work, so we’ve got to say goodbye.”
Failures are wonderful. That’s where real learning happens. And if you think for one second that failure is bad—they may be at the time—but I’ll show you why failures are wonderful, and how the doors will open up. So in our ward was a guy named Ron Hendrickson, and he was the ward mission leader. He was a Seventy; I was a Seventy. He knew the company that we had tried to work with was going away, and he said, “Wyn, will you come with me and let me show you about our business?”
He was in the medical business. By that time in my life I was so sick and tired of bakery. I can’t tell you how tired I was of it. I’ll tell you a little aside—when we moved to southern California, we didn’t have a place to stay, so we stayed in the bakery. Now this was a great bakery, and I couldn’t imagine why Annette would be grumpy about it—I mean, come on, she had a 5,000-square-foot kitchen. She had a walk-in refrigerator; she had a walk-in freezer. And we had so much fun living in the bakery. The kids would bathe in the rack washer. The rack washer had these big arms, like a big cross, and they’d whirl around and spray all over. It was the greatest! Standing in the rack washer, you just stand like this and you get all clean and stuff. Rinses off the soap really fast. And they started playing games in the dough troughs. So you can imagine, 10-foot-long dough troughs and the kids would get in and push each other around. It was a ball. We slept on the floor in the office. It was super.
And finally—I could never get her to try making soup, because the soup cookers in this bakery would handle like 100 gallons of soup. She just never got into it.
What door that opened was an introduction to the medical world. As I looked at the bakery world at the time and growing up with my father and his brothers, I said, “People don’t make money here.” I remember talking to my dad and saying, “Dad, I’d like a raise. Is this possible here?”
And my father said this to me: “Wyn, isn’t your carpet thick enough? Aren’t you warm enough in the winter?” Somehow I felt like I had just committed a sin by saying, “Hey, what are the possibilities of making more money here?” And that’s the way it was. So by this time in my life, I said, “No, no, no, no bakery. No possibility. Don’t even ask; it’s not..” I said, “Here’s an opportunity in the medical industry.”
And that opened up a new world for me. So we sold equipment. We sold stuff to doctors and physicians, and it was great. And then one of my customers said, “Would you move to Salt Lake City and open up a surgical supply branch for us?”
The point is that you start something, but it doesn’t necessarily always end up that way. You start something and you say, “Now, things may change along the way.” That’s why I gave you the second scripture: “And I was led…not knowing beforehand” where I should go or what I should do.” I have had that experience happen to me in spades, over and over. You just have a hunch, and you’ve got to do that. Mike, how about I be pastor of the day for you? It was a ball. Did everyone in the congregation file out of church and go straight to the baptismal font? No. Nobody did. But we made some great friends.
So I’ve got to tell you about this company we started. Because I moved to Salt Lake City, and the joy was being in Salt Lake City again. We’d been away for four years. And I started this medical supply company for this other company, and we were doing great. Six months later my boss came to me and said, “Wyn, thank you for the work you’ve done. You’re fired.” You’re fired. Why? Well, just things weren’t working out, so you’re fired. To this day, I don’t know why that happened. And I went home and I saw Annette, and she and our four children had gotten used to eating. I didn’t know how I was going to break it to them, to say, “We’ve got to cut expenses. No more food.”
So what I was hoping for as I walked in the house, I was hoping for some sympathy. “Please feel sorry for me; I don’t know what to do.” Hoping. Nah. She says, “Who cares? I’m glad you’re getting out of there. You’ll figure something out. Another lesson learned along the way.” It’s incredibly important to have a good, supportive partner. Incredible. Because it wasn’t, “Well, you dummy. What did you do? Why did this happen? What are we going to do? We have food to get, we have bills to pay.” None of that. It was only, “You’ll figure out something. This is going to be great.”
I thought, because I grew up in the bakery business and people didn’t show up to work at 4:00 in the morning, I thought that if you got fired you were the biggest loser on earth. That’s what I thought. And so I thought I was unworthy to ask somebody for a job. Really. That was my belief. Because I knew that they would ask, “Well, Wyn, why aren’t you working?”
“Well, because I just got fired.” And I didn’t know how to overcome that objection. And so the only thing that I knew that I could do was to start a business. We were really very creative—really creative about the name of this business: Dunford Medical Supply. I knew where to buy products. I knew how to go to hospitals. I knew how to tell a story. And you’ll be so impressed, you’ll be so impressed with what happened.
I carried money to work and flushed it down the toilet. We have a way of saying that, whether it went in the toilet, wherever it went, it wasn’t a bottom line that you are proud of.
Now I want to help you understand. Do you need a lot of money to start a business? No. I am a boot strapper. That is to say, I believe that it is possible to start a business without a lot of money. If you think you need tons of money to start a business—not true. My experience with a lot of money—funny thing with a lot of money—it makes you stupid. It does. It really does. You get a lot of money, you get stupid. Why? Because you are not accountable for “I have to have the result.” It requires some planning. It requires some understanding. So the blessing is that I didn’t have any money, but I had a home, and I had good credit.
So I borrowed $5,000 to start Dunford Medical Supply. This is in August and I’m excited. I’ve got some stuff to sell. Annette comes to me one day—I’d been fired, this was May—and she comes to me in August when we’d just started Dunford Medical Supply. And it starts to rain out in the parking lot, and she brings lunch to me and says—this is so good—tears are rolling down her cheeks and she says, “Wyn, I’m pregnant.” It was the best! So here we are—we have four children, we have number five on the way. I’ve just started a new business. I don’t have any money, and my wife is in tears.
Do you kind of get how fabulous this was? It was in fact, fabulous. So for 18 months, we carried money to work and we flushed it down the toilet. And then somebody came to me and said, “Wyn, have you ever thought about renting this stuff?” Because I had been in all of these hospitals for a year and a half, and I knew the people in the hospitals and I knew the doctors and the nurses and the department heads and the purchasing people and all this stuff, everything changed. And the idea for this concept of renting medical equipment came to life. So that’s what we did. And it grew and grew and grew. You’d be so impressed with our first office out of Salt Lake City.
Our first office out of Salt Lake City was Denver. I want to talk to you about clever market research here. Have you ever heard of a company called Hughes Air West? It was an airline. They had a flight to go to and from Denver for $19.00. So that was it. That’s our next office. We figured out a way to have the manufacturers loan us the equipment, and that was our cash flow strategy. I can tell you a long time about how we financed this business. But it grew. It was great. And eventually, I got tired of the business. It was running great, we were making money and stuff, but I said, “This isn’t for me anymore.” And by the way, somebody came along and said to me, “We have to have your business.” We had that same experience in the pharmacy business. And we had another business. And so as I reflect upon my life in business, I’m impressed to share with you lessons learned.
Lesson number one: God has a purpose for every one of us. Every one of us, He has a purpose for us. And if you’re Heavenly Father and you say, “How do I want to raise these people? What attributes and strengths do I want them to have? I want them to be confident, and I want them to be involved and energetic.” That’s why I love business. God prepares us for life’s opportunities and challenges. Along the way—I have so many stories to tell you about the challenges and opportunities. I’ve got to tell you this one little one.
In the first grade, if you can imagine this, I wasn’t behaving in my first grade class. The teacher said, “Wyn, you’ve misbehaved. Now you have to go to the closet.” And she locked me in the closet. This was at Uintah Elementary School. It was great! Why was it great? Because in the closet there was a tumbling mat and there was a window. And it was far more fun to be in the closet with the tumbling mat. Then the next day David Sjoberg was in the closet with me. Okay? You can kind of see how this works, when I was a shrimpy little kid. This kind of stuff happens.
So the next one: There’s a relationship between what we believe and what we do, because if I believe something is possible, I’ll try. If I don’t believe it’s possible—the biggest issue I have in our classes is to say this is possible, you can do this. You can start a business. Are you sure? I’m positive.
Anyway, prayers are answered. Knowing the right people—they open doors. And my encouragement is just start. And what happens here in this college is the opportunity and the groundwork to start a business. Start a business. Buy low, sell high. Collect early, pay late. Find a problem; create a solution. And it happens. So it’s important for you to know, for me, that of the great things in life that I love more than anything, is the Savior and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because the Church gives goofy guys like me the opportunity to express and try to learn when it’s a relatively low-risk situation, and making contacts and relationships at church opens tremendous doors. All the opportunities in our business lives have been opened because of relationships we had with friends and people.
I have a testimony. I know Heavenly Father lives. I know He loves us. And I know He is patient with us. In my case particularly, I know He has a sense of humor. I love you. It is the treat of my life to teach and be here at this college, and push ideas around. I’m grateful for the gospel, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Our Legacy of Learning

21 Jun. 2011

Transcript

Our Legacy of Learning

 
What an honor it is to be with you today.  Actually, I am somewhat amazed that there are so many of you here today, after having seen the frightening picture of myself on the posters advertising today’s devotional.   I admit that I would feel much more comfortable seated in the congregation with you.    I consider myself a student, like you, and that is the basis of the topic that I feel inclined to address today.
Perhaps I could introduce my theme with a true story.  Valerie and I had been home from our mission assignment for just a brief time when we were called to fulfill a rather unusual church assignment.  One of the wards in our stake had been through great trauma.  The bishop had been excommunicated, along with some of the prominent sisters.  It is hard to describe the damage such serious sin can cause to individuals, families, and also to a ward in general.  The faith of many ward members had been horribly shaken.  Sacrament meeting attendance and other measures of activity had collapsed.  In a ward of about 600 members, routine Sabbath-day attendance was averaging about 50-60.  People were walking away from their callings and refusing to return to church.  Some of the families in the ward were torn apart.  It was a terrible tragedy.  Geographically, the ward was the largest in the stake, almost 10,000 square miles of mostly pine trees and sagebrush.  People could easily disappear in 10,000 square miles!
As a member of the high council at the time, I had participated in many tearful and drawn-out meetings, seeking the Lord’s guidance, to rescue this devastated ward.  At the conclusion of one of those meetings, the stake president asked me to remain for a few minutes.  Knowing I’d served as a stake president before, he wanted my personal thoughts about what could be done.  Priesthood leadership in this struggling ward was sorely lacking.  The stake presidency had tried for weeks to determine who the new bishopric should be.  I suggested a possible course to take.  “Call a worthy high priest from the ward to serve as bishop, and call me to serve as a counselor (temporarily) to help train him and the local brethren until they were ready to stand on their own. Big mistake on my part!
A couple of weeks later, the stake president visited our ward and took Valerie and me out of Sunday School class for a little chat.  Although the faltering ward was about 30 miles from our home, I was called to serve as the bishop.  The stake president had already had our records transferred there.  I was to be sustained the following Sunday.  The stake president suggested that I nominate counselors from other, healthy wards in the stake, but I just didn’t feel very good about that.  It was going to be hard enough on our new ward to have an outsider as their bishop.  Someone sent to “fix” them, because they couldn’t do it themselves, so to speak.   Counselors were selected from the struggling ward.  The next Sunday, we arrived.  To our amazement, we were welcomed with open arms.  The members of the ward greeted us warmly and with great love.  They were wonderful.  We immediately fell in love with them, too.
 
We had a ward clerk in place but no executive secretary.  I tried for weeks to find the right person.  Finding someone worthy and active was proving to be quite a challenge.   The youth of the ward had also suffered from all the heartbreak and confusion that their parents had been through.  The first mutual night there were about six young women and one young man in attendance.  As president of the Aaronic Priesthood, I looked over my flock, a couple of deacons, 2-3 teachers, and about the same number of priests.  It was pretty discouraged.  It was hard to even track these kids down.  I needed an executive secretary.  But who? 
A crazy thought kept coming to my mind as I pondered and prayed about this problem.  Crazy thoughts seemed to be the status quo for this calling anyway!  But the thought was just too bizarre, even for me!  So I kept pushing it out of my conscious thought.  But it kept coming right back.  One of the members of my new priest’s quorum was sort of active.  He was 18, had dropped out of high school a year prior.  He sat around the house playing video games.  What if I called him to be the executive secretary.  The idea was nuts…. No, it was insane!  But it just wouldn’t go away.   Finally, I gave in to the impressions and recommended his name as executive secretary.  I guess the high council thought the idea was nuts, too.  Take a do-nothing, lazy high school dropout, ordain him an elder, call him to one of the more responsible ward leadership positions in a ward that is struggling?  That’s just crazy!  The discussion over my recommendation occupied the bulk of two separate high council meetings, and was only decided when the stake president got a bit tough and said, “Look brethren, we sent the bishop down there to develop leadership, so let’s let him develop some leadership.”
Well, my sort-of-active, mind-numbed video-game-playing priest was ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood and called to serve as the ward executive secretary. He wasn’t that hot of an executive secretary, but he did come to meetings more regularly.  And he did get the spirit of the gospel, and he did get the spirit of service, and he did get the spirit of missionary work.  That young man, with the help of the Lord, pulled himself out of a life of wasted time and mind-numbing video games, and served a full-time mission for the Lord.  He became a converted, born-again saint and servant of the Lord.  He was a faithful and obedient  missionary.  He studied the gospel every day.  Learning became exciting and precious to him.  He developed a deep yearning for knowledge.  Following his mission, with his freshly minted GED and his new-found quest for learning, he worked his way into college, university, graduate school, and now has completed his PhD in languages.  And he and a wonderful girl from that stake went to the temple and created their own, new family in the gospel.
Now that’s a long way to get to this point of doctrine.  Something changed in the life of my young friend.  The first thing that really happened to him was his conversion.  He became converted to the gospel of Christ.  When we are truly converted, something happens to all of us as it did to him.  President Henry B. Eyring addressed this when he said:
“From the time of Joseph Smith to our own day, you can see evidence that conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ brings a desire to learn.  Joseph Smith, as a very young man, translated the Book of Mormon from plates inscribed with a language no one on earth understood.  He did it by a divine gift of revelation.  But he later hired a tutor to teach him and other leaders of the Church ancient languages.  Joseph Smith had essentially no formal schooling, yet the effect of the gospel on him was to make him want to learn so that he could be more useful to God and to God’s children.”
President Eyring continued:
“When the Latter-day Saints were driven from Missouri by mobs, they built a city called Nauvoo on the banks of the Mississippi River.  In poverty and living in the frontier, they still formed a university, “for the teaching of the arts, sciences and learned professions….”
“the first academic year in Nauvoo was that of 1841-42.  The university probably was among the first municipal universities in the United States… The curriculum included languages (German, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew), mathematics, chemistry and geology, literature, and history…”
“The charter of the University of the City of Navuoo served as the foundation for the University of Deseret (now the University of Utah), established by Brigham Young in Salt Lake City in 1850.  ‘Education,’ he once told this school’s Board of Regents, ‘is the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the world’s work, and the power to appreciate life’  When the Saints in Utah were still struggling to produce enough food, they started schools.  They felt driven to lift their children toward light and to greater usefulness by education.  That drive is more than a cultural tradition.  It is the natural fruit of living the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
You see, that is what happened to my young high school dropout, mind-numbed, video-game-playing executive secretary, returned missionary, PhD friend.  He began to live the gospel, the “natural fruit” of which is a quest for learning.  And it has been this way since our first parents were placed upon the earth.  The saints of all ages have felt its pull.  Abraham described it in these words:
“having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge”
Subsequently, we find Abraham peering into the Urim and Thummim to view the stars and planets far beyond our current optical capability, and in much greater clarity.  His knowledge of the order of our universe exceeds any of the secular knowledge of today.  Move over Stephen Hawking!  Oh, and by the way, you’re wrong about the origin of the universe pal!
The legacy of learning is divinely inherited.  It is a gift of our heredity, from our divine Father in Heaven, and is quickened, or re-awakened, when we become Saints, live the gospel of Christ, and desire to serve Him.  It is a legacy, alive in the Church of Christ in all ages.  It is a legacy that each one of us should establish and nurture carefully in our families and future families. 
Of course, there is a doctrinal basis for this yearning.  One of the most precious revelations of the restoration came from the Lord shortly after the Christmas of 1832.  Joseph called it “the olive leaf…plucked from the Tree of Paradise.”  It is a revelation that contains layer upon layer of revealed truth and presents some of the most exalting joys that can be ours.  Embedded carefully in this revelation are these words:
“I give unto you a commandment that ye shall continue in prayer from this time forth.
And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.”
President Spencer W. Kimball expanded our view of this great revelation. 
“It is clear that the Lord expects his people to have a wide variety of information so that we might have breadth and depth in our lives.
‘Things in heaven’ might be the study of astronomy and related subjects
‘Things in the earth’ echoes the commandment given to Adam and Eve to replenish the earth and subdue it.  The Lord has also said in these last days, ‘The fullness of the earth is yours.’
‘Subduing the earth’ also involves the engineering sciences as well as biology, geology, and other sciences that study the earth’s land, air, and water.   The study of land and water must also consider that which is ‘“under the earth.’
To study ‘things which have been’ is to delve into history, a lifetime challenge.  In addition, current events, or history in the making, should give us concern for careful study
To learn of ‘things which are at home’ could mean a great invitation to all Latter-day Saints to become masters in the science and art of homebuilding and homemaking; husband and wife relationships; parent and child relationships, training, leadership, teaching, and felicity
The ‘wars and perplexities of the nations’ is a great concern to us now that the world is a large community
Gaining ‘a knowledge of countries and kingdoms’ will be found in the study of political and physical geography, languages, and customs.
There should also be no people who are in a better position to obtain truth and apply it in their lives.  For we have the gift of the Holy Ghost, that wondrous gift of our Heavenly Father given to all who take upon themselves worthily the ordinances of salvation.  Jesus taught, ‘The Spirit of truth…will guide you into all truth.’  And the prophet Moroni speaking to our day, advised us that ‘by the power of the Holy Ghost [we] may know the truth of all things.’ “
 
As saints of the Most High, this kind of learning should be our heritage.  Brigham Young said:
“There is [not] another people in existence more eager to see, hear, learn and understand truth.”
President Eyring continued this thought:
“Our education must never stop.  If it ends at the door of the classroom on graduation day, we will fail.  And we will need the help of heaven to know which of the myriad things we could study we would most wisely learn.  We cannot waste time entertaining ourselves when we have the chance to read or to listen to whatever will help us learn what is true and useful. Insatiable curiosity will be our hallmark . . .
It takes neither modern technology nor much money to seize the opportunity to learn in the moments we now waste.  You could just have a book and paper and pencil with you.  That will be enough.  But you need determination to capture the leisure moments you now waste.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks admonished us:
“Our quest for truth should be as broad as our life’s activities and as deep as our circumstances permit.  A learned Latter-day Saint should seek to understand the important religious, physical, social, and political problems of the day.  The more knowledge we have of heavenly laws and earthly things, the great influence we can exert for good on those around us and the safer we will be from scurrilous and evil influences that may confuse and destroy us.”
 
But when we leave our institutions of formal education, we can all-too-easily become caught up in the process of living, with its constant demand for our attention.  Raising families, earning a living, serving in our communities and in our church callings, all can and should require our time.  It is easy to use all of these good things as excuses to put aside our learning. 
Elder Marion D. Hanks tells the story of Louis Agassiz, a naturalist of great renown.  He was approached by an old spinster who complained about her mundane life that did not allow for time to learn.  Dr. Agassiz asked her to consider a few things:
“What do you do?
I skin potatoes and chop onions.
Where do you sit during these interesting but homely duties?
On the bottom step of the kitchen stairs.
Where do your feet rest?
On the glazed brick.
What is glazed brick?
I don’t know, sir.
How long have you been sitting there?
Fifteen years.
Madam, here is my personal card.  Would you kindly write me a letter concerning the nature of glazed brick?
She read all she could find about brick and tile, and prepared a 36-page paper on the subject of glazed brick, then sent it to Dr. Agassiz.
Back came the letter from Dr. Agassiz:  ‘Dear madam, this is the best article I have ever seen on the subject.  If you will kindly change the three words marked with asterisks, I will have it published and pay you for it.’  A short time later there came a letter that brought $250, and penciled on the bottom of this letter was this query:   ‘What was under those bricks?‘   She had learned the value of time and answered with a single word:  ‘Ants.’  He wrote back and said, ‘Tell me about the ants.’…
After wide reading, much microscopic work, and deep study, the spinster sat down and wrote Dr. Agassiz 360 pages on the subject.  He published the book and sent her the money, and she went to visit all the lands of her dreams on the proceeds of her work.”
So, there are really few excuses for failing to learn.  We can all learn, and we have been commanded to learn, and we have been taught that learning from the best materials and experiences will prepare us in this mortal realm, and in our eternal lives.  Brigham Young taught us:
“I shall not cease learning while I live, nor when I arrive in the spirit world, but shall there learn with greater facility; and when I again receive my body (in the Resurrection), I shall learn a thousand times more in a thousand times less time; and then I do not mean to cease learning but shall still continue my researches.”
Can you sense the enthusiasm for learning President Young possessed?  There was a divine drive within his core to learn everything he could about the things and places and history and everything above, upon, and beneath God’s earth.  We too should develop an enthusiasm for learning.  The French chemist Louis Pasteur said:
“The Greeks have given us one of the most beautiful words in our language, the word enthusiasm, which means ‘a God within.’  Happy is he who bears a God within!”
That yearning to learn, that quest for knowledge, that enthusiasm for understanding is divine.  It is Godly.  It is clear evidence of our heritage and our potential.
About 25 percent of the missionaries sent to us were not English-speaking.  One of our very shy and humble new missionaries was from a tiny farm in Mexico.  He spoke no English.  Communicating with him was nearly impossible even with a translator.  He was so shy.  From his mission application, and from conversations with his stake president, we found out that he was the only member of the Church in his family and had come on his mission under great persecution from his parents, his mother in particular.  He could hardly read (in Spanish) and had roughly the equivalent of a grade-school education.  A couple of weeks after he arrived, we had to hospitalize him.  His body was riddled with parasites that were robbing him of precious nutrition.  As soon as he was healthy again, we put him back into the field.  He went to work in our Spanish-speaking program.  Within weeks he began to find investigators.  As the months progressed, he became a great missionary and effective leader.  The mission rules require daily gospel study.  He was an obedient missionary and studied hard.  The missionaries loved him.  The investigators loved him.  The members loved him.  Soon he was called as a zone leader.  A year into his mission he was called to serve as a zone leader in an English-speaking zone.  He met that challenge with enthusiasm and energy.
I remember watching him at a zone conference as he taught his English-speaking zone members in clear and intelligent English some doctrinal points of missionary work.  He wrote on the chalkboard in well-crafted sentences, in English.  He served the last several months of his mission as one of my assistants. 
After his mission, he studied hard and earned his electricians license and his contractors license, started his own company and employs many people. 
Again, living the gospel, serving the Lord, becoming a saint awakened the inborn legacy of learning in this wonderful young elder. 
Some of you , like him, will be the first members of your family, perhaps in your entire ancestral line to earn a college degree.  From a position of formal education, you are the pioneers.  Let this begin your own family legacy of learning.  And let it expand from here forward without end. 
Some of you come from families where that legacy was established and still flourishes.  My parents were educated people.  My father attended this very institution when it was a high school.  He later attended Utah State.  Mother graduated from the U of U and BYU.  Her father, my maternal grandfather, attended this institution when it was a university.  His name was James Nephi Astin.  He had an older brother by the name of John who also graduated from LDS University.  Some of you may have heard of his great grandson, Sean Patrick Astin.  He played characters such as Daniel E. 'Rudy' Ruettiger in “Rudy,” Mikie in “The Goonies,” Marcus the social worker in “Forever Strong,” and Samwise Gamgee, the sidekick of Frodo, in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  Our common ancestor was a man of great integrity and a thirst for knowledge, and he and his wife, my great grandmother, instilled it deeply into the hearts of their posterity.  Never stop learning.
My father and mother led by example.  My father was well-versed in the scriptures, history, mechanical engineering, music, etc.  Mother was a student of the arts, music, drama, early childhood education, etc.  Their leisure time was normally spent reading from a constantly growing home library.  And they “encouraged” us to do the same. 
I am grateful for the legacy of learning handed down through the generations by my progenitors.  Valerie and I have tried to foster this legacy with our family.  All of our children have college degrees; some of them have advanced degrees as well.  But for us, one of the precious rewards of parenthood is watching our children instill this legacy in their children, our grandchildren. 
Recently, our little 4-year-old, Mia, read some books to her grandpa (me!), and she really “read” them.  A 4-year-old phonetically sounding out the words and then giggling at the humorous story line.  Wow.  I don’t think I could have identified any words or even letters when I was 4.  If you would ask my brother, who is here today, he’d probably tell you that I’m still functionally illiterate right now!
But the great purpose of a legacy of learning is threefold; first, to arm us with truth. Truth shines through the darkness of ignorance.  Truth crowds out the evil, confusing lies of the great deceiver.  Truth cleaves to truth.  Truth cannot be denied.
Second, learning prepares us for the service the Lord intends for us to perform in this life.  The more learning we obtain, the more useful we can become.  Learning invites knowledge, and knowledge can lead to wisdom.  How desperately we need wisdom today, wisdom in our government, in our public, daily lives, in the Lord’s service, and in our homes and families. 
Proverbs 4:
Get wisdom, get understanding … forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee:  love her, and she shall keep thee.  Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom:  and with all thy getting get understanding.  Exalt her, and she shall promote thee:  she shall bring thee to honor, when thou dost embrace her.  She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace:  a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. 
Third, learning is for our eternal welfare.  Remember Brigham Young’s enthusiastic comment?
“I shall not cease learning while I live, nor when I arrive in the spirit world, but shall there learn with greater facility.”
President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“Of all the treasures of knowledge, the most truly vital is the knowledge of God, of his existence, his powers, his love, and his promises.  Through this knowledge, we learn that our great objective in life is to build character.  In fact, we learn that the building of faith and character is paramount, for character is higher than intellect, and perfect character will be continually rewarded with increased intellect.
Thus, our real business on earth is to master self.  And as we master ourselves, we will learn to master the earth and its elements.  Most important, we will learn how to help others overcome and perfect themselves in all ways of living.”
President John Taylor prophesied of our legacy of learning with great clarity and power when he said:
“You mark my words, and write them down and see if they do not come to pass.  You will see the day that Zion will be far ahead of the outside world in everything pertaining to learning of every kind as we are today in regard to religious matters.”  (Sermon, 20 Sept 1857)
So brothers and sisters, as children of the Most High God, we have within us the inherited, genetic proclivity to continually learn.  As members of his Church, we bask in a rich legacy of learning, even in our poverty.  As Latter-day Saints, we enjoy unprecedented access to information that, properly used, will sustain a lifetime of learning, and quickened by the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can learn at an ever-increasing pace.  And if we are wise, we will carefully transfer to our children and their children without end this precious legacy of learning given to us.
May we do this, and by doing so, greatly please the Lord.  I testify that the Lord lives, that we are blessed to bask in the light of the restored gospel and enjoy the unbroken order of the prophets from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson, the Lord’s prophet upon the earth this very moment.  May learning be our legacy is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
 
President Henry B. Eyring, “Real-Life Education,” from “Education for Real Life,” Ensign, Oct. 2002
President Henry B. Eyring, “Real-Life Education,” from “Education for Real Life,” Ensign, Oct. 2002
The Book of Abraham 1:2
Doctrine and Covenants 88:76-80
President Spencer W. Kimball, First Presidency Message “Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 1983
Remarks by President Brigham Young, Deseret News, March 14, 1860.  Quoted by Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Kristen M. Oaks, “Learning and Latter-day Saints,” Liahona, April 2009
President Henry B. Eyring, “Real-Life Education,” from “Education for Real Life,” Ensign, Oct. 2002
“Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Kristen M. Oaks, “Learning and Latter-day Saints,” Liahona, April 2009
“Good Teachers Matter,” Ensign, July 1971
Teachings of Presidents of the Church:  Brigham Young [1997], 195.
Rene J. Dubos, Louis Pasteur: Free Lance of Science (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950), page 392
Proverbs 4:5-9
Remarks by President Brigham Young, Deseret News, March, 14, 1860.  Quoted by Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Kristen M. Oaks, “Learning and Latter-day Saints,” Liahona, April 2009
President Spencer W. Kimball, First Presidency Message “Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 1983

Eternally Learning

05 Jul. 2011

Transcript

Eternally Learning

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we are given a commandment to learn, not only the “doctrine of the kingdom”(Doctrine and Covenants 88:77) but also “things both in heaven and in earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad, the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:79). For “the glory of God is intelligence” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36), and “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19). Can you see from these scriptures that learning is an eternal principle? That mandate covers a great breadth of knowledge, both spiritual and secular, and it will take most of us a lifetime to learn only a fraction of what we need to know for eternity. I believe that there are five principles that will help us to fulfill this commandment to learn: develop your talents, learn to love learning, persevere, seek out truth, and apply your knowledge.
Develop your talents. Matthew 25: 14-31 records the Parable of the Talents, in which the Lord likens the kingdom of heaven to a man who divides his goods among his servants for safekeeping while he travels into a far country. You are familiar with this story. He gives one servant five talents, another servant two talents, and a third servant one talent, each according to his abilities. When the man returns and asks for an accounting from his servants, the one who received five returns 10, the one who received two returns four, but the one who received one talent had done nothing. In the parable, a talent is a coin, but, since this is a parable, that coin can have several meanings. Let us think of these coins as another kind of talent: our natural abilities and our capacity to learn. We each have something we are good at, something we are naturally interested in, or some subject that is easy for us to learn. We also have been given a capacity for gaining knowledge; whether we think that capacity is large or small, we must recognize that it is there. This parable teaches us that though the Lord has blessed us with skills according to our abilities, He expects us to increase those abilities while we are here on earth.
This is my Uncle David. (Image appears on screen.) When he was born there were complications with his delivery and whether for that or some other reason David was born with a disability. Although he has always been physically active, his mental development was delayed. David never learned to talk. As a child, he communicated with gestures and mumbles. As he grew, people would come out to his home to test him for placement in school, but they all concluded that he was incapable of learning. The education system was different in those days. So, David was never given an opportunity to go to school until his late teens because those who tested him thought he was dumb. His family knew differently. They knew that when they spoke to him, David understood them. They knew that he had thoughts of his own. He had definite likes and dislikes. David loves animals. He especially likes horses. He likes tractors and he likes Christmas. Most of all, David loves his family. We might think that David is like the servant in the parable who was given only one talent. And we might be tempted to think that David would be justified in keeping his one talent and not returning to his Lord an increase. But we would be wrong. Around the time that David turned 20, he went to live in a group home. That was a difficult decision for my grandparents to make, but it was the right decision. Living in this group home has enabled him to learn some sign language and now he can communicate some basic needs and simple wants. When he goes for visits, he can use signs to tell my grandma when he is hungry, when he wants to go and see the horses, or when he wants to go home. Now he also has friends and he goes horseback riding, canoeing, to the movies, and on lots of tours and activities. David also likes to go to church. Each Sunday, he puts on a white shirt and tie and goes to sacrament meeting. David is a good example to me of someone who has increased his capacity to learn. If David, who was given limited abilities, can increase his talents, how much more is expected of us, when we have been give more?
Have you ever noticed that when you start developing one talent that you generate interest in other topics and want to learn new things? I think my mom is an amazing person. She is a talented seamstress, she makes delicious cookies, and she has a gift for loving 13-year-old girls. When I was a teenager, my mom had a group of friends that decided to take up some new hobbies. I really can’t remember which class came first, but in the course of one year they had formed a quilting club, a basket-weaving club, a weaving club, and a book club. They were all women of talent and ability, good homemakers, and good mothers. It seemed to me that when they started developing one talent their interests just kept growing, and their excitement for learning new things just took them in so many new directions.
Learn to love learning. When I was a Mia Maid, I had to make a doll to represent one of my role models and then share my thoughts about that person at New Beginnings. The doll I created was intended to represent my Grandma Sorenson. I gave her brown curly hair, clothed her in a cotton floral dress, and put a book in her hand. That book symbolized what I saw as her love for learning. My grandma doesn’t have a lot of degrees. In fact, although she finished high school early, she completed only one or two semesters of study at college. But she has an active and able mind. She had a few office jobs before she married my grandpa and raised 11 children. Even then, she used her office skills to help my grandpa with his furnace-cleaning business. For as long as I can remember, she has read and travelled widely, always learning about new people, places, and ideas. I kept that little doll on a shelf in my bedroom for many years where it could remind me of her example. She has inspired me to read, to travel, and to learn.
Learning opportunities aren’t isolated to classroom activities. And our need to learn doesn’t end with the conclusion of our formal education. No academic or vocational program can equip us with everything that we will need to know during our lifetime. Technologies, economies, and situations change. What our educational programs do equip us with is a foundation for continuous learning. At a BYU address in 2008, Elder David A. Bednar said:
“Academic assignments, test scores, and a cumulative GPA do not produce a final and polished product. Rather, students have only started to put in place a foundation of learning upon which they can build forever. Much of the data and knowledge obtained through a specific major or program of study may rapidly become outdated and obsolete. The particular topics investigated and learned are not nearly as important as what has been learned about learning. As we press forward in life—spiritually, interpersonally, and professionally—no book of answers is readily available with guidelines and solutions to the great challenges of life. All we have is our capacity to learn and our love of and for learning” (David A. Bednar, “Learning to Love Learning,” Ensign, February 2010).
I hope you won’t mind if I tell you a little bit about the course of my career. When I graduated with my B.A., I wanted to work in a public library and get some experience before I started working on my MLS. I thought that a public library would be the ideal place for me. I could spend my days helping people find good books to read and reading stories to children. Instead, I got a job as a reference assistant at the Church History Library. My library skills were good, but I didn’t know much about Church History outside of what is related in the Doctrine and Covenants and The Fullness of Times institute manual. I got to learn something new every time a patron asked me a question—and I loved it. I got to learn about Relief Society wheat, CTR rings, Primary bandelos, American history, early irrigation and water rights, missionary training, the making of pioneer furniture, the life of Joseph Smith, the crossing of the Plains, and all of the good things that Latter-day Saints around the world were doing. After a while, I felt pretty comfortable with the questions patrons would ask, but before I knew it I was faced with new learning opportunities. In the 10 years that I worked for the Church History Library, I had five different jobs. With each change I had to learn some new content and lots of new skills. When I was in college, I didn’t know that I would later need to know about strategic planning, gathering system requirements, conducting focus groups for market research, managing budgets, or even determining the approximate age of a man’s suit coat and buying international art. But my formal education did teach me how to approach learning. So, every time I was faced with a new opportunity, I read and read and read, I talked with people who knew more than I did, I took classes if I needed to, and then I applied what I was learning to the work that I was doing.
As we continue to learn and continue to love learning, we will also see opportunities come to us outside of our careers. At a CES Fireside in 2001, President Henry B. Eyring said:
“The Lord and His Church have always encouraged education to increase our ability to serve Him and our Heavenly Father’s children. For each of us, whatever our talents, He has service for us to give. And to do it well always involves learning, not once or for a limited time but continually” (Henry B. Eyring, “Education for Real Life,” Ensign, October 2002).
              He went on to share two learning opportunities in his life of which he felt that he did not take full advantage. He never learned to speak Spanish, although it was his father’s native language. And, though his father often tried to teach him, he never took the time to learn mathematics well. Later, when he was given assignments in the Presiding Bishopric and in the Quorum of Twelve, where those two skills would have been very useful, he regretted wasting those opportunities. He went on to say:
“Your life is carefully watched over, as was mine. The Lord knows both what He will need you to do and what you will need to know. He is kind and He is all-knowing. So you can with confidence expect that He has prepared opportunities for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give. You will not recognize those opportunities perfectly, as I did not. But when you put the spiritual things first in your life, you will be blessed to feel directed toward certain learning, and you will be motivated to work harder. You will recognize later that your power to serve was increased, and you will be grateful” (Henry B. Eyring, “Education for Real Life,” Ensign, October 2002).
              Students, you will always be given opportunities to learn on the job, in your families, and through your Church callings. So, form good habits now and get excited about learning new things. Approach every class with enthusiasm, work hard, and find opportunities to apply what you learn.
Persevere. Even if we love learning, we may occasionally be faced with challenges that we feel are too hard for us to overcome. You may find that a certain class—math, science, business, college writing—doesn’t play to your strengths. Don’t give up. In Ether 12:27, the Lord has promised us “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” President Eyring also said:
“Through prayer, fasting, and hard work, with a motive to serve Him, we can expect His grace to attend us. I can assure you from my own experience, that does not mean we will always be on the high end of the grading curve. It means that we will learn more rapidly and grow in skill beyond what we could do only with our unaided natural abilities” (Henry B. Eyring, “Education for Real Life,” Ensign, October 2002).
No one exemplifies perseverance for me more than President Heber J. Grant (1918-1945). He often told a story about his desire to play baseball. He joined a baseball club when he was nine. He didn’t run well. He didn’t throw well. He didn’t bat well. Consequently, he had to play with the boys two years younger than himself. As you can imagine, he was teased a great deal by the other boys on his team. He vowed to himself that he would play baseball for the team that would win the championship in the Utah Territory. So, he saved up a dollar and bought a baseball. He then spent hour upon hour practicing his throw. Eventually, he was able to move up a year and play with the boys one year younger than himself. He kept practicing and was able to join a better club. He went on to play with the team that won the championship in the Utah Territory (see President Heber J. Grant, “Work, and Keep Your Promises,”Improvement Era, Jan. 1900, 196–97). This improvement didn’t take place in one summer. It took patience and hard work over the course of several years. When he reached his goal, he gave up baseball and spent his time on other pursuits. However, he continued to show his stick-to-itiveness when he wanted to learn other things. As a young man, President Grant had horrible handwriting, but he worked hard at improving himself until he was known for his beautiful penmanship. In fact, he won a first place ribbon at the Utah State Fair, and he taught classes at the University of Deseret. He also decided that he wanted to learn how to sing all of the hymns. He didn’t have a very good singing voice, and I think he must have been tone deaf because he could not carry a melody. So, he enlisted the help of a personal secretary and practiced for days until he could sing one hymn perfectly, and then he would move on to another hymn until he had learned how to sing them all with the right melody (See Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, p. 35). I think this statement summarizes President Grant’s attitude: “I know of no easy formula to success. Persist, persist, PERSIST; work, work, WORK—is what counts in the battle of life” (President Heber J. Grant, Northwestern Commerce, Oct. 1939, 4).
A few months ago my parents were preparing to move into a small apartment, and my mom needed to clean out the office files. So, on her next visit she brought with her a box of papers she had collected from mine and my siblings’ childhoods. As we went through those old papers, I read my report cards from elementary school, and I remembered something—math was not my best subject. I think that every report card from first through third grade had a comment about my math speed tests. I just couldn’t get through those timed tests. In fifth grade, about halfway through the year, all of the students in the grade were divided up into three different math classes. One for advanced students, one for average students, and one for students below grade level. By that time I had improved enough to be in the middle class, but my best friend was put into the advanced math class. I was devastated. I am not sure which bothered me more, being separated from my friend or not being good at something. Either way, I decided that I was going to catch up with those advanced students. Just before the end of the year, I was invited to join that advanced class. My original motivation may not have been for a noble cause, but I continued to work hard to get good grades in math. I loved algebra, I conquered geometry, I think I just endured trigonometry, and I succeeded in calculus. I really never had more than average ability, but I took copious amounts of notes, I read and reread the textbook, I worked hard on every assignment, and I said a lot of prayers. My hard work paid off, and I always got good grades. And really, now, all these years later, I had forgotten that when I started out, I wasn’t really very good at math.
The same persistence, hard work, and faith that help you through your difficult classes will help you overcome and endure other trials you will face in your life. Elder Robert D. Hales has said, “We learn to endure to the end by learning to finish our current responsibilities, and we simply continue doing it all of our lives. We cannot expect to learn endurance in our later years if we have developed the habit of quitting when things get difficult now” (Robert D. Hales, “Behold, We Count Them Happy Which Endure,” Ensign, May 1998). My sister teaches resource at an elementary school, so many of her students start out the year discouraged because their class work is too hard for them. She started telling them that it was okay if their homework was hard because they were capable of doing hard things. She made this sign to go on the wall of her classroom. (Image from classroom appears on screen. Sign reads: “I can do hard things”) Now her students know and even remind each other that they can do hard things. You can too. Learn perseverance now so that you can endure to the end in years to come.
Seek after truth. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1995-2008) has said: “Ours ought to be a ceaseless quest for truth. That truth must include spiritual and religious truth as well as secular. As we go forward with our lives and our search for truth, let us look for the good, the beautiful, the positive” (Elder Gordon B. Hinckley,“The Continuing Pursuit of Truth, Ensign, April 1986). It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to find the good, the beautiful, and the positive truths. Elder Richard G. Scott explains:
Increasingly more people are finding that making wise decisions is becoming more and more difficult because of the ultra-interconnected world in which we live. Constantly forced into our consciousness is an incessant barrage of counsel, advice, and promotions. It is done by a bewildering array of media, Internet, and other means. On a given subject we can receive multiple strongly delivered, carefully crafted messages with solutions. But often two of the solutions can be diametrically opposed. No wonder some are confused and are not sure how to make the right decisions” (Richard G. Scott, “Truth: The Foundation of Correct Decision,” Ensign, November 2007).
             With this barrage of media and information, how will we discern truth, both secular and spiritual? All truth can be discovered by patterns laid out for us in the scriptures.
The promise in Moroni 10 for gaining a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon can be used as a pattern for gaining a testimony of, or learning of, all truth—spiritual and secular. “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things,” [and instead of the writings in the Book of Mormon, consider “these things” to be any principle of truth under your consideration.]
“. . . and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5).
              Or in other words: read, ponder, pray, and receive a witness from the Holy Ghost. Or we might say, “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). Do you know what an amazing opportunity you have to be taught in an institution that encourages you to seek out truth by study and by faith?
A short while ago, I was in a meeting with President Richards and others to discuss some preservation options. At one point, the conversation turned to information literacy and the President asked me what our role was as a CES institution. I didn’t have a very good answer for him, but we had a brief discussion, and then he came up with a brilliant answer to his own question. He said, “We are distinctively placed to help students find and sift truth.” Your education here is going to arm you with the intellectual tools that you need to face all of the information that the world throws at you and pick out the things that are of the most worth, the things that are eternally true. You are only going to be able to do that by coupling study and faith.
Sister Chieko Okazaki, a former member of the General Relief Society Presidency, compared study and faith to two oars steering one boat. Have you ever been in a rowboat? I don’t have any experience with rowboats, but I do have some experience with canoes. For several summers, my family would periodically pack up our canoes and a picnic lunch and head up to a small lake in American Fork Canyon. We would strap on our life jackets, place the canoes on the water, grab the oars, and head out onto the lake. We usually went out in pairs because it was easier, but it took a lot of coordination to steer that canoe in the right direction, let alone a straight line. To go in a straight line, both of the oarsmen need to be using consistent strength and paddling in a rhythm. Now usually during the course of the day, a leisurely paddle around the lake would turn into a race or a water fight. And this is usually when I ran into trouble steering the canoe. (I’ll let you in on a little secret. Paddling a canoe is another one of those things that I am not very good at.) And if my mom was with me in the canoe, then we were really in trouble. We have to be the worst paddling team ever. So, if we were out there paddling around, my sisters, dad, or brother could steer their canoe over to us, splash us with water, and dart away. We would inevitably end up going in a circle before we got underway or, on a really good day, weaving a very circuitous path after them. Needless to say, I can relate to this example from Sister Okazaki:
“What happens if you try to paddle a boat using only one oar? You go around and around in circles. If you paddle hard, you go fast. If you paddle slowly, you turn gently. But you still just go around in circles. It’s the same with trying to make study replace faith or trying to exercise faith without study. We can often find ourselves going around in circles. I think that the Holy Ghost cannot give us some answers until we are actively seeking knowledge” (Chieko N. Okazaki, “Rowing Your Boat,Ensign, November 1994).
So how do we ensure that we actively use both oars? First, priorities are important. Always put the things of the spirit first. If the Gospel, if Christ, is not central in your life, you will be in danger of letting your intellect overpower your spirit. As you read and study secular things, you should be reading and studying the scriptures and the words of modern-day prophets. This is another habit you can form now. If you take a religion class each semester, you will learn to make time for spiritual study. Second, you need to be obedient in order to receive a full measure of the spirit and be ready for inspiration and revelation. Live the gospel to the best of your ability. Keep all of the commandments. Repent when necessary. Third, you must work hard: read, ponder, test, try, whatever effort is necessary to diligently seek for truth.
Elder Merrill J. Bateman tells a story of how the principles for learning spiritual truth also apply to learning secular truth. Elder Bateman identifies the principles for learning spiritual truth as diligence and obedience.
“Because all truth comes through the light of Christ, seekers of secular truth must follow the Lord’s requirements for discovering gospel truths. Diligence or mental exertion is one of the requirements that must be followed by seekers of secular truth. Scientists study the problem, saturate their minds with it, puzzle over it, and dream about it. Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk spent years searching for a vaccine to immunize people from contracting poliomyelitis. A reporter wrote that once Sabin focused on a problem, he was tenacious and would not let go. He had a voracious appetite for work—for mental exertion. What about obedience? What is the level of obedience required for the discovery of secular truth? Again, the answer is that everyone must live according to the light they have. When one is seeking a witness of gospel truth and is being taught those truths, one must plant the seed of faith and live according to the higher truths. When one is seeking secular truth, the revealer is the light of the “spirit of man” (1 Cor. 2:11). Thus the scientist must be striving to live according to the light within him so that new light will cleave to the old” (Merrill J. Bateman, “Secular Learning in a Spiritual Environment,” BYU Studies 35:2, 43-55).
              Can you see from Elder Bateman’s example that obedience for each of us would include living the gospel fully and putting Christ at the center of our lives? And diligence is clearly to work hard, to be “tenacious” in studying out the problem before us. Only then will we receive a witness from the Holy Ghost confirming or revealing truth. When we learn in this way, we receive a stronger witness. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
“The Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth with greater effect and understanding than the truth can be imparted by personal contact even with heavenly beings. Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fiber and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954-56], 47-48).
              Imagine your potential for learning true principles of math, language, history, science, or whatever you may be studying, if you approach your classes as a search for truth for which you will need study and faith.
Apply your knowledge. After we gather knowledge and seek for truth, we must be able to apply what we have learned in order to truly solidify our knowledge. We know from the scriptures that action and knowledge are intrinsically connected. John 7:17 says, “If any man will do his will, he shall know the doctrine.” Just as faith and study are more powerful when applied together, so too is knowledge strengthened by application. I know that many of you have learned second languages. Is there a difference between knowing the words of a new language and speaking that language? Of course there is. Though you may learn vocabulary lists off by heart, the real knowledge comes when you actually put those vocabulary words together in a spoken sentence. I studied Spanish in high school and college. During my final semester of college, my last Spanish class and a class I needed to complete my minor were taught at the same time. I didn’t want to come back for another semester, so I talked with the teacher to see what options I had. I had been a good student up to that point. I was really good at learning vocabulary and conjugating verbs. I even did well with the in-class verbal exercises. So, the professor and I worked out a way for me to take Conversational Spanish as an independent study course. I was able to attend one class a week and the rest of the time I studied on my own. The only problem was that holding a conversation takes two people—I didn’t have a study partner. So, I hoped that memorization and recitation would be enough. This worked well enough for written assignments, but the final exam was purely verbal—a 20-minute conversation with the instructor. As it turned out, my study method was not as effective as I had hoped. Though I made it through the conversation, my sentence structures were awkward and my response times were slow. Because I did not apply my knowledge as I should have, it never truly took root, and in the intervening years I have forgotten most of what I thought I had learned.
In our formal education our opportunity to apply our knowledge is often in the form of a test. Outside of the classroom, look for other opportunities to apply what you are learning. Discuss what you are learning with family and friends. Teach someone else a skill or a subject that you would like to master. You will find that expressing complex ideas in simple terms, reviewing all of the steps in a process, or even answering someone’s questions will help you improve your own understanding. Or look for applications in other aspects of your life. Make connections between two subjects you are studying or between one subject and the gospel. I love the way that President Uchtdorf finds ways to apply what he knows about flying airplanes to all aspects of living the gospel and then shares those applications with us in General Conference. The more opportunities you find to apply what you are learning and make it relevant in your life, the more success you will find in your studies.
In all aspects of our lives “Our knowledge of truth is of little value unless we apply it in making correct decisions” (Richard G. Scott, “Truth: The Foundation of Correct Decisions, Ensign, November 2007). In simple terms, we may know that exercise and a healthy diet will help us to live better and feel stronger, but it will do us no good unless we actually do exercise and eat well. We may know that the Book of Mormon is true, but it will do us no good if we do not study it and live by its teachings. President Spencer W. Kimball [1973-1985] once said,
“Remember that it is not so much what we know that is important, as what we do and what we are. The Master’s plan is a program of doing, of living, not merely knowing. Knowledge itself is not the end. It is how we righteously live and apply that knowledge in our own lives and how we apply it to help others that describes our character” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also by Faith,” Ensign, September 1983).
Continually learning and gaining knowledge is important, but it is important because it prepares us to serve our Heavenly Father in this life and prepares us to continue learning in the eternities. If we do not righteously apply our knowledge in this life, it will be of no benefit to us.
I hope that we will each continue to work toward learning for eternity. Remember to develop your talents and increase your ability to learn. Learn to enjoy the process of learning and approach new opportunities with excitement. Work hard. Remember that you can do hard things. In all of your learning, secular and spiritual, seek out truth with study and with faith. The Holy Ghost is the most powerful teacher and as you do your part he will help you learn all truths. Don’t forget to use what you are learning to build your character and help you make righteous decisions. As you do these things you will be prepared for all that the Lord has in store for you (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:80).

Finding Your True Identity

12 Jul. 2011

Transcript

Finding Your True Identity

            There has been much in the news in the last few years about loss of identity or identity theft.  Bank accounts have been emptied, fraudulent insurance claims have been filed, and government services have been illegally accessed.  Often, the victim doesn’t know there has been a theft until more than four years have passed, making any attempt to reclaim one’s identity an expensive and time-consuming process.  Newer forms of identity theft include assuming someone’s medical identity to receive medical services or access to drugs.  When a medical identity has been taken, the risk to the victim can be life-threatening. A thief’s treatment history can end up on your medical records. This could include the wrong blood type or medicine to which you’re allergic. Your life thus could be on the line if you receive the wrong treatment based on the thief’s treatment.   Last year more than 8.1 million adults were victims of identity theft at a cost of $37 billion.  That is a staggering number, but it’s actually a 28 percent decrease from a high of $54 billion in 2009. 1
            Your personal identity, however, is much broader than a bank account or Social Security number.    It’s also broader than our fingerprints or our DNA.  Your identity is the essence of who you are.  If  I were to ask you today who you are or what is your identity, how would you answer?  Many of you would say, I am a student.  How else do you define yourself?  (Students offer several responses.)
            One identity we all share is that we are all children of God.  We were all created in his image.  Christ himself defined our identity when he appeared to the Nephites in the land of Bountiful.  In 3 Nephi 20:25 he said, “And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham:  And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”
            That’s a powerful statement.  Is that what you see when you see your spiritual identity?  And why not?  I would suggest it is because you have been deceived.  Someone has attempted to steal your identity.  Let me explain with an allegory.
            I have always enjoyed myths and fairy tales.  One of my favorite myths is a Norse myth about Thor and his brother Loki.  First, I need to explain that the story involving this Thor bears no resemblance to the story in a current movie by the same name. 
Thor was the eldest son of Odin, and he was perhaps one of the best-loved gods of all. Thor was red-haired and red-bearded, and he had the tendency of acting first and thinking later, a fact that often landed him into trouble.  One day in his travels away from Asgard, he and his brother Loki ventured into the land of the giants.  The giant who discovered them invited them back to Utgard, the home of the giants.  The giants were not impressed.  "Surely this puny person could not be the famous Thor?" said the chief in surprise, 'Why you are as tiny as a mouse!" The giant said they had heard of Thor, but clearly he was no match for them.  When Thor protested, the giants proposed a contest for Thor to demonstrate how great he really was.  Thor was a bit full of himself, and when the giants challenged,  he accepted with relish.  He knew his strength and power, and he felt sure he would win.
            He and Loki were welcomed into a great hall.  There he was given a great horn filled with mead and challenged to drink from it and empty it.  They were told travelers to their city could easily drain the horn in one draught.  Utgard admitted that some might need two, but he didn’t know anyone who would need three draughts.  Thor did not think that the horn looked very big so he set about to finish it off in one great gulp. However, it was not as easy as it looked. Thor tried and tried with all his considerable might, taking one great gulp after another. Finally, Thor could not take it anymore for want of breath. But when he looked, the level of the mead in the horn had hardly dropped.
            Utgard laughed.  The great Thor! It hardly seems worth your while to attempt any other feat.  But, perhaps you were tired from your journey.  The giant suggested that another type of contest might better suit Thor.  He pointed to an old grey cat lounging in the corner.  There is a game that some of our youngsters play.  There is not much to the game really, all you have to do is lift that grey cat off the ground, I would not normally suggest it to a god of your reputation and . . . might, but you do not seem as strong as others make you out to be."  The cat, of course, was bigger than Thor.  Thor approached the big cat. Wrapping his arms around the cat's stomach he tried to lift it off the ground, but no matter how hard he pulled, the cat only arched his back higher and higher, and finally, being able to lift only one of the cat's paws, Thor's strength gave in.  "No matter Thor," said Utgard in his most condescending tone, "After all it is rather a big cat.”
            Thor’s temper and pride would not allow him to admit defeat.  Baited by Utgard, he agreed to one final contest.  Utgard summoned a toothless, grey-haired hag and suggested that she might be a better match for Thor’s strength than any of Utgard’s warriors.  The two wrestled back and forth.  It looked like Thor would best the woman when she summoned all her strength and forced Thor to one knee.  The contest was over.  The giants had a good laugh, and Thor and Loki left hopeless and in great embarrassment. 
            What they did not realize is that the giants knew of Thor’s identity and great reputation for strength.  When they saw him approach their land, they feared their only way to protect themselves was through deceit.  The great horn was tied to the sea.  It was impossible to drain the horn, but Thor had been the only one to ever significantly lower it.  The cat was no cat but the Midgard serpent that encircles the entire world.  Thor had managed to raise one of its paws, which meant he had taken on the weight of the world.  And the old woman?  She was old age.  Thor did not know that the giants feared and trembled as they saw him almost overpower death itself.  Yet Thor doubted his identity because he had been deceived. 2
            Satan deceives in much the same way – by placing doubt, through derision and outright lies.  See if you can recognize others who have doubted their spiritual identity.
            “The devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me:  Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God.  … And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing  unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true.”  (Alma 30:53 )(Korihor)
            “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized… And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.  But all that heard him were amazed, and said: Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?  (Acts 9:18, 20-21)  (Paul)
“Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?  (Moses 6:29)  (Enoch)
“I’m not smart enough…it’s my fault… I’m worthless… I can’t change…it really doesn’t matter….it’s too hard to repent…”  Do any of those lies sound familiar?
Elder M. Russell Ballard told the story of a young friend who has struggled with some of these lies.  The friend struggled with pornography at various times in his life.  Sometimes he has been victorious over temptation; other times he has not.  Despite his best efforts, his problem has resurfaced from time to time.  He has not been successful in ending the behavior.  “I thought I had a real testimony,” he told Elder Ballard, “but obviously something was lacking.”
Quoting Elder Ballard, “He had a great understanding of the gospel and of Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness and his eternal value and worth.
“ ‘I knew that I was a child of God,’ he said.  ‘But, to be honest, that thought didn’t give me much comfort.  I figured that I was one of Heavenly Father’s bad children and that all I had succeeded in proving during this life is that I wasn’t one of the ‘noble and great ones’ Abraham saw.’
“This young man served in significant Church callings.  People praised him for his effectiveness as a priesthood leader, but he was unmoved by their praise.  He assumed that he had simply fooled them, that if people knew the truth about him and who he really was, they would know he wasn’t what he appeared to be.
“But it was my friend who had been fooled.  Satan had convinced him that he was fighting a losing battle, so when temptations came his way, it was easy to give in.  He was, after all, one of God’s bad children; therefore, it was understandable if he occasionally did bad things.”
“Thankfully, his wife is like most of the good women in the Church whom I have known and is smarter and tougher than Satan.  Together with their bishop and an effective counselor from LDS Social Services, she is working carefully with her husband to help him see and understand the glowing truth that glistens beneath the unsightly camouflage of sin.  … It is the truth of who he is, who he has always been, and who he is capable of becoming.  It is my friend’s ultimate reality, his ultimate truth.  And it is golden.” 3 
Elder Robert C. Oaks said that Christ is the greatest example of one who understood who He was and the full magnitude of His mortal and eternal potential.  He also suggested that Christ’s success during His mortal probation is, in part, a reflection of his understanding of his identity. 4   As a 12-year-old boy who had been left behind in the temple, Jesus reproved His worrying parents with these words, “How is it that ye sought me?  Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”  (Luke 2:49)  Until I read Elder Oaks’ words, I had not seen this scripture as a statement of Christ’s identity, but when I thought about it, I could clearly see that it was. 
Consider this interchange between Pilate and Christ:  “Pilate…said unto him, Art thou a king then?  Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king.  To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.”  (John 18:37)
Elder Oaks states that everything we know about Christ suggests that He understood exactly who He was and exactly what He was expected to do in this life.
We have been taught, and I hope we believe we are foreordained to come to earth at a particular time into particular circumstances and that our particular set of gifts and talents will enable us to fulfill our foreordained purpose.  If we wish to protect our spiritual identity, we, too, must come to know ourselves as the Savior did.  The Apostle Paul, addressing the Romans stated, “”The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:16)
As we cultivate the spirit in our lives, we reinforce that witness of our identity.  One way to cultivate that spirit is through our patriarchal blessing.  President Thomas S. Monson said, “Your patriarchal blessing is yours and yours alone. It may be brief or lengthy, simple or profound. Length and language do not a patriarchal blessing make. It is the Spirit that conveys the true meaning.” 5
President James E. Faust explained that the blessing does not come from the patriarch.  He said: “The blessing is the Lord’s to give. God knows our spirits; He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our capabilities and our potential. Our patriarchal blessings indicate what the Lord expects of us and what our potential can be. Our blessings can encourage us when we are discouraged, strengthen us when we are fearful, comfort us when we sorrow, give us courage when we are filled with anxiety, lift us up when we are weak in spirit.” 6
As we ponder our blessing and events in our lives, we will begin to recognize gifts and talents.  In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord promised that “to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.”  It is up to us to identify what those talents are. Elder Robert Oaks said, “We need to become familiar with our own particular set of gifts and talents.  Why is this getting-to-know yourself process so important?  Because it will enable you to do more with your life.  It will permit you to come closer to realizing your full potential.  It will let you build on and use your strengths, your gifts, and your talents to carry out your purpose in God’s plan.  It will help you overcome your weaknesses and avoid your vulnerabilities…The Lord expects us to take what He has given us and build upon it, expand it, use it, and share it.  He expects us to bless the lives of others through our gifts and, in so doing, bless our own lives.”
Elder Oaks reminds us that in the parable of the talents, the servant who failed to magnify his calling and hid his portion in the ground was relieved of his talent, left with none, and “cast into outer darkness[where]there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 4  (Matthew 25:30)
But, you are attending an institution where resources are abundant to aid in your self-understanding.  Your campus was dedicated by a prophet of God, President Gordon B. Hinckley.  His dedicatory prayer stated that the faculty would enlighten the minds and quicken the understanding of their students.  He said, “We likewise invoke Thy blessings upon all who study here.  May thy Holy Spirit guide their thinking and bestow upon them knowledge and wisdom.” 7Elder Bednar has called the College “a place of worship and testimony building, a defense and refuge against the storm…” 8
Most of you are enrolled in an institute class where the focus is on gospel principles and your spiritual growth.  Other classes begin with prayer and, if the learning model is followed, include an opportunity to ponder what you have learned and prove the principle in your life.  In short, this campus environment is an ideal time for you to come to understand who you are in God’s plan and how to live your lives in a way to bless your own life and to bless the lives of others.  Ponder.  Find your talents and understand how your particular talents were given, “that all may be profited thereby.” (D&C 46:12)
I have quoted several scriptures today.  The gospel is replete with promptings to help us understand our identity as children of God and to remember our spiritual heritage.  Remembering is an important principle.  Each Sunday when we partake of the sacrament and renew our covenants, we refresh in our minds whose we are and that His Spirit will always be with us if we honor those covenants.
When we renew our covenants in the temple, we are again reminded of our identity, our potential, and our role in God’s plan.  If we will follow the direction God has provided, we will not fail.  Helaman taught his sons that Satan would have no power over them, “because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fail.”  (Helaman 5:12)  Can you doubt the words of the prophets? 
Sister Sheri Dew has challenged the youth of the Church to remember who they are.  She recommends that you begin by reading D&C 138 and Abraham 3 about the noble and great ones, and ask the Lord to talk with you through the Spirit about you.  She says, “Will you seek to remember, with the help of the Holy Ghost, who you are and who you have always been?  Will you remember that you stood by our Savior without flinching despite the most difficult of opposition?  Will you remember that you were reserved for now because you would have the courage and the determination to face the world at its worst and to help raise and lead a chosen generation? Will you remember the covenants you have made and the power they carry?  Will you remember that you are noble and great and a potential heir of all our Father has?  Will you remember that you are the daughter [or son]of the King?” 9
At LDS Business College we have six cultural beliefs.  One of these is to value others:  I respect different viewpoints, cultures, and contributions. (D&C 38:23-24)  Now, if we have accepted our spiritual identity as a son or daughter of God, would we not also recognize that our classmates and colleagues are equally loved and valued?  Would that knowledge make a difference in how we treat the person we work with or who sits in front of us or who makes an annoying comment in class?  Does geography have anything to do with spiritual stature?  Would we not encourage, value and support one another? 
We may often find ourselves making quick judgments about people, which can change or redefine our relationships with them. Usually incorrect judgments are made because of limited information or because we do not see beyond that which is immediately in front of us.
Elder Gregory Schwitzer illustrated this with the story of the time Jesus visited the home of Mary and Martha, who lived in Bethany with their brother, Lazarus.10 You are probably familiar with the account in Luke 10:40-42.  During one of Christ’s visits, Martha was busy preparing a meal, and Mary elected to sit at the Master’s feet to receive His instruction.
“But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? …
“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Elder Schwitzer noted that many Sunday lessons have been taught using this story casting Martha in a lesser position in terms of her faith. He says, “Yet there is another story of this great woman, Martha, which gives us a deeper view of her understanding and testimony. It happened when the Savior arrived to raise her brother, Lazarus, from the dead. On this occasion it was Martha whom we find going to Jesus ‘as soon as she heard’ He was coming. As she meets Him, she says that she knows that ‘whatsoever [He would] ask of God, God [would] give [Him].’ ”
           Christ then shared with Martha the great doctrine of the Resurrection, saying:
“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
Martha responded with her powerful testimony: “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”
Elder Switzer says, “How often has Martha been misjudged as being a person who cared more for the deeds of doing than for the Spirit? However, her testimony in the trial of her brother’s death clearly shows the depth of her understanding and faith.”
“Many a sister has often heard the first story and wondered if she were a Mary or a Martha, yet the truth lies in knowing the whole person and in using good judgment. By knowing more about Martha, we find she was actually a person of deep spiritual character who had a bold and daring testimony of the Savior’s mission and His divine power over life. A misjudgment of Martha may have caused us not to know the true nature of this wonderful woman.”
So, if we choose to value others and their contributions, what does that look like?
First, we are not concerned with comparisons.  If we compare ourselves to others, this can result in feelings of inferiority or superiority, both of which destroy unity.
Second, if we take Christ’s name upon us, we are not so concerned that the end result is “ours.”  You will note that there is no byline on the proclamation on the family.  This was not an individual effort, but there is nothing on the document to note who the contributors were. 
Next, we consider all contributions.  Just like enjoying a salad, variety makes a more enjoyable product.
Also, there should be no malice toward one who offends.  We uphold principles of responsibility, but we allow for differences.  Christ himself said in Matthew 22:37-40, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shall love thy neighbor as theyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
We should be as Peter challenged, “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren.” (1Peter 3:8)  Valuing others brings unity of purpose and of spirit.
Be willing to acknowledge that it is the Lord who adds value to each of us.  The late President Marion G. Romney said, 11“The major reason for the world’s troubles today is that men are not seeking to know the will of the Lord and then to do it.  Rather do they seek to solve their problems in their own wisdom and in their own way.”
Finally, appreciate the value that each contributes to the whole.   I love the account of Christ visiting the Nephites in Third Nephi.  Verse 15 of chapter 11 states, “And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.”
Later in Third Nephi we read that the multitude was about 2,500 souls in number and did consist of men, women, and children.  Clearly each and every one was valued of Christ.
I would like to add my testimony that you are a child of a loving God who has given you a spiritual identity that is as strong and personal as the color of your hair or eyes.  Do not be deceived; God loves you, and there is no limit to his love and through his love we can conquer all things.
1        Web reference from the 2011 Identity Fraud Survey Report
2        Taken from Thor Myths and legends on the Web; originally seen in Children’s Digest
3       When Thou Art Converted, by M. Russell Ballard, p. 32-34
4        BYU Devotional, March 21, 2006
5        Ensign, November 1986
6        From BYU address, March 30, 1980
7        LDSBC campus dedicatory prayer
8        President’s Vision Document
9       No Doubt About It, by Sheri Dew, p. 53-54
10    Ensign, May 2010
11    Ensign, August 2010, p. 54