Five Beliefs to Guide Your Life
My brothers and sisters, what a privilege it is for me to be with you today. I look in your faces and I see the strength of the Church sitting in front of me. As you were filing in today on this rainy day I turned to President Richards, and I said, “How many hours of credit do you have to give these kids to have them come out on a day like today?” And he said you didn’t get any extra credit for that. If I were you, at the right time, I think I’d try to renegotiate that. I’m not sure it will do any good, but it’s just something you might think about.
I’m grateful to be with you today, particularly at this important time and this important place in your life. I have pondered and I’ve prayed about what kind of a message I might leave with you today, and I suspect that when all is said and done, I will be talking to you about the same things that so many people have talked to you about, and if you think it’s overdone, you might just remember that this is the concern that I and the other brethren of the Church have.
You are an extraordinary group of students. I know something about you – I have been following you for a lot of years, and I know what takes place here. While I know some of you personally as I’ve seen you walk into the room here, I feel that I know and I understand all of you to some extent. You’re a very diverse group of young people. I know that you come from many countries. I am told that you represent 60 countries out of this group and this school. I know that 80 percent of the brethren that I see here are returned missionaries. What an incredible statistic – both of these statistics. Some of you come from very poor environments, I am aware of that. Some of you had to almost crawl out of some of the ghettos, if you will, that you lived in. Others of you come from more affluent backgrounds. I know that you are attending a very distinguished college; one of two that received nationwide honor as a model of efficiency. The reason this college received that model of efficiency is because of the administration, because of the faculty, and I’m sure it is because of you also—the students—and so, congratulations to you. I think there is no other student body that I know of that is quite like you.
Now I know also that some of you are struggling maybe with temptation and maybe with sin in your life. Some of you are maybe struggling with your faith and your testimony. That would not be unusual for young people of your age. Some may be lonely, discouraged, and maybe some of you are even homesick for your native country. But all of you, everyone here, is concerned about the future. And that is why you are here, is because you are taking it seriously. And you know that there is opportunity that lies ahead. And so all of you have hope for the future and are preparing for a wonderful and beautiful and productive life. That is your dream. And all have faith, and desire to please God, and to be successful. That certainly is evidenced, not only by your attendance here, but the missionary service you have given.
But I also know that every one of you will be tested. That’s part of the plan. That’s the plan of salvation, as we call it, and it’s what is referred to in the Book of Mormon so many times as the plan of happiness. And I know there are going to be times in your life when you are going to say, “Where is the happiness part of what I am going through?” But again, that is part of the plan; it was established before the foundation of this world. We all voted on it, we raised our hands. In fact, the scriptures say that we shouted for joy when it was explained to us. But I also know that Satan rebelled in that plan, and that rebellion and that war continues today. And you are the victims of that war. But we’ve been warned, and we’ve been forewarned; we know what to expect, we know how it all comes about.
In the 89th section of the Doctrine in Covenants, we read, “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days”—these would be your days, this would be today, March whatever it is, 4th, I believe, today—“I have warned you, and forewarn you.” Now I know that that scripture was applying to the introduction of the Word of Wisdom. But it is so apropos to what is happening today in almost every aspect of this civilization that we live in today. In 2nd Nephi, the 28th chapter, we are warned again: “For..at that day,” –the year 2014—“…he” ––Satan—“[shall] rage in the hearts of …men…. He [shall] pacify, and lull them… [to] carnal security,” and teach and try to convince us that all is well in Zion. (See verses 20-25)
Paul gave this warning over 2,000 years ago: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Now I want you to think about those scriptures for just a moment. Think about where we are today. Think about what those scriptures were prophesying, some as far as over 2,000 years ago, and where we are today. You are the victims, as I am and my family is, of this great and continuous war that is taking place.
In 1996 at the opening session of the Kansas Senate, a minister by the name of Joe Wright was asked to give the prayer opening that senate. Here is what his prayer said: “Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness, and to seek your direction and guidance. We know what your word says, ‘Woe to those that call evil good.’ But that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your word and called it pluralism. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the airway with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our fathers and called it enlightenment.” And then he closes his prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.
When I was about your age things were different. Civil marriage usually lasted until death do you part. Divorce was rare. Temple divorce was almost unheard of. The most serious warning that they gave to us as teenagers as I grew up, and some of those who are mature like me may remember this, was to keep the Word of Wisdom. Don’t smoke. We weren’t being taught and warned against pornography. We weren’t being taught about immorality that much. We weren’t being taught about abortion, these kinds of things. Keep the Word of Wisdom and don’t smoke. Teenagers giving birth was almost unheard of. Abortion was not heard of. If abortion was performed, it was usually in a back alley someplace. Religion was sacred and was protected by the governments of the world, particularly our government in the United States. A college degree was almost a guarantee for gainful employment.
Here’s the picture that you live in today: pornography is rampant. It has become almost acceptable for most people. It represents our most debased appetites. When I was in my other world working for a corporation, we had a company in Germany, and I often travelled over there, and I met with the controller over there often. And one day, he knowing that I was man of faith and a religious man, he asked if he could speak with me for a few minutes. I went into his office, and then he was almost in distress. He could hardly contain himself because what he wanted to talk to me about was a young adult daughter who was living with another man, unmarried. This is in Germany. Today, living together before marriage, or even living together without marriage is becoming mainstream. Traditional marriage is becoming exceptional in our world today. In Europe today, 80 percent of all firstborn are born out of wedlock in the developed part of Europe. Marriage without commitment takes place today. There are marriages that I know that people really aren’t committed to make it last. They say, “We’ll go for awhile.” Even adultery, think of this – you know the instances – even adultery in high, visible places has become accepted by us. Illegal drug use has become acceptable and mainstream; we see it all the time.
And so now I ask, is this the new norm that we live in? And the answer that I have is yes, this is becoming the new norm. Yes, those prophesies that I read to you are being fulfilled. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20) That is the warning.
Elder Hales gave an example in the April 2013 General Conference referring to conditions today. He referred to a talk he gave in conference in 1982, He put his hand up like this, and he said, “This is where the moral standards of the Church are today,” and then he put his second hand up, and said, “This is where the world is, and their standards.” Then he said, “Today, this is where the Church is, and here is where the world is.” And this of course is where we are.
Now the first hymn, when you open up the church hymnbook, was written in the early 1830s by Parley P Pratt. The first verse of that hymn reads as follows:
The morning breaks, the shadows flee;
Lo, Zion’s standard is unfurled!
The dawning of a brighter day,
Majestic rises on the world.
(“The Morning Breaks,” Hymns, no. 1)
That hymn falls shortly after the restoration of the gospel. Up to that point in time, there had never been much noted progress in the development of mankind. I know you can go back hundreds and maybe even thousands of years, and the great discoveries were fire, the wheel, and maybe the printing press. And we just kept living along with that. After the restoration of the gospel, almost immediately we had the industrial revolution that took place; and how powerful that was through our country and through other countries. And then today we have this other revolution, the technological revolution, that has caught me by surprise that I can’t even keep up with it. But you can.
So in spite of the rage of Satan in today’s world, in spite of the challenges he will put before us, this is the point that I want to make: We live in the greatest time in the history of the world. Make no mistake about it; we live in the greatest time in the history of all the world. We have the gospel of Jesus Christ and we know the plan. We even know why we have adversity in our lives, and what we do with it when we get it. We are armed with the truth and the saving ordinances and covenants that we enter into, both at baptism and later in the temples of our Heavenly Father. We are armed with truth and these saving ordinances to help prepare us to come back into our Heavenly Father’s presence. We, you right here, are the people of hope and optimism. We live in a time when the prophets from the beginning of time looked forward to, prophesied of, and helped prepare for. And today we live in the time when we have living prophets to warn us, to teach us and guide us.
With that background now of where we have been and where we are today, I want to suggest five beliefs to guide your lives; five beliefs at the breaking morning and the fleeing shadows that we live in.
#1: The first one I want you to believe in, and I want you to believe earnestly: Believe in yourself. I tell an experience with the permission of President Packer – I just talked to him a couple of days ago and asked him if I could tell this experience. Some time ago, a few years ago, in a general priesthood meeting, on a Saturday night session, when he approached the podium, he began with these words: “For years I have been trying to learn and discover who I am. I have pondered that thought, I have read the scriptures, I have prayed about it. Today I can tell you who I am.” And then he said, “I am nobody. I am Boyd K. Packer, nobody.” That kind of startled everyone in the audience. And he had some scriptural justification for making that statement, because you’ll remember in the first chapter of Moses when our Heavenly Father was calling Moses to his great work, the first thing he did was showed him all of his creations and everything that was in the world; and Moses’ comment after he’d seen that was, “I cannot even say I am as much as the dust of the earth.” (See Moses 1:10; see also Helaman 12:7, Mosiah 4:2) And we also received from 2nd Nephi when Nephi learned about what happened, he said also, “I’m not even as much as the dust of the earth.” But then President Packer picked up and said, “I am nobody, until I receive the priesthood [or I receive a calling for you sisters]. And then I am somebody. Then, I can do what the Lord wants me to do. I am empowered and I know who I am.” And so I would add to President Packer’s statement of nobody until you receive the priesthood. I would say you are nobody until you learn to be who you are, and what your divine potential is. Once you learn that, it all changes.
If I was to teach you, or attempt to teach you one of the most deep doctrines of the church, I might turn to page 301 of the songbook to teach that doctrine: “I Am a Child of God.” It is so simple that even a child could teach it. It is so deep and so profound that even the most sophisticated and educated might miss it. You see? We see it, we must believe it, we must internalize it, and we must live it. President Packer has said on many occasions to the general authorities and in priesthood sessions I witnessed that we live far below our privileges.
Some years ago, I happened to be in Brazil, and I was meeting with the employees of the presiding bishopric. I was meeting with the managers. And we had a new manager there that I had not met before. So I asked if he would tell me a little bit about his life. And he told me this story. He said: “I was 8 years of age, out on the streets, living in the favellas,” and you that are from Brazil you know what that is, it’s a very low slum area. And he said, “I met the two missionaries. I took a liking to them and I took them home. And they taught my family, my father my mother and my brother and my sister. So I joined the Church. After I joined the Church I decided I wanted to be like the missionaries – I wanted to go on a mission.” He said, “I spent those young years preparing myself to go on a mission. After I’d completed my mission, I met this beautiful young lady who was also a member of the Church. We got married. At the conclusion of our marriage I decided I wanted all of the education I could possibly get. We went to school in Brazil, then we got to BYU, I got an MBA. And then I got hired by a wonderful international company, and I travelled the world with that company and I did well and was successful, and at this very young age, I decided I wanted to do something more. So I left and came to visit with the Church.”
And then I asked him, “Did anyone else in your family join the church?”
And he said, “No, I’m the only one who joined.”
I said, “Well, where is your brother and your sister and your family? What’s happened to them?”
And he said, “They are still in the ghetto, doing what they’ve been doing for centuries.”
And then I said, “How did you get out of there?”
Now I knew the answer to that, and he answered me like it was the most ridiculous question he’d ever heard. He said, “It was the gospel, of course. I learned who I was, I learned my potential. And I began to live it. I learned that I could be far more than I had ever imagined.”
So learn and believe in yourself.
#2: I want you to believe in the future. It is hard to keep up with. I hold in my hand what’s unbelievable, and only you and Brother Burgoyne understand all of this. I can’t even begin to comprehend it—it’s one of the greatest miracles in the world. It’s changed the lives of most for good and bad. I can hardly imagine what’s next. When I was in the corporate world we had a company back in the sixties that had a new IBM computer that took up the size of most of your bedrooms, and it had 14K in it. And we were running the company on it. You see? We were doing accounts receivable, accounts payable; we had what we called disks we put in because we didn’t have enough capacity. This (in my hand) has 30 gigabytes, and dozens of dozens of … I can’t understand it. We’re talking today about putting people on Mars--people are signing up to go on Mars to live. We’re talking about smart cars. This is the dispensation of the fullness of times. You know the brightness of the future, and know why you’re here; you also know why you have adversity. Training and adaptability has got to be your key, and that’s why you’re here at this college. Self reliance is a never-ending endeavor, even in the future that you live in; both spiritual and temporal self-reliance. You must live providently. I have always advocated you live below your means—not within your means – below your means. And save and prepare for the future. Prepare for marriage and family that God ordained before the creation of the world. That’s part of His whole plan. In fact, it’s so fundamental to the plan that if Satan is able to destroy marriage he has destroyed the plan and he has won. That’s not going to happen, but that’s where he’s aiming. Move forward with hope and with optimism.
#3: The third thing I want you to believe in, and this may surprise you, I want you to believe in Satan. Believe he’s real, believe he has a mission, and that mission is to use every means he has to destroy you and bring you under his control. The TV, the smart phones, and all the wonderful things that have happened here for the spreading of the gospel and all the scriptures—everything we do with this, you see, he uses it also. In your life, there will be Korihors who will approach you to attack you. Korihor taught, and you remember this, out of the 30th chapter of Alma, he taught that there is no God. I hear that today. He taught belief in Christ is a foolish and vain hope. I hear that today—those who believe in a remission of sins are under the effect of a frenzied or deranged mind. He taught their derangement is caused by following the traditions of their fathers and the whims of corrupt leaders. I hear that today. Man is a creature, whatsoever man does is no crime. Korihor taught there is no sin, and no need for a Savior. Those who encourage people to keep God’s commandments are stripping away individual rights and privileges. Korihor is the ultimate atheist. He’s the ultimate secularist. He’s the ultimate pessimist, and he is the ultimate servant of Satan. The devil deceived him, and after he was struck dumb you may recall he wrote that the devil deceived him, and he appeared to him in the form of an angel. He is enticing, and he is in attack mode. As the Savior said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (3 Nephi 14:15). And then the Savior also taught, even the very elect shall be deceived. (See Matthew 24:24). Believe Satan is real.
#4: Believe in the Atonement. Alma teaches that it is infinite, it is eternal. Believe it is for sins, believe the Atonement is for suffering, depression, and believe it is for you. Some years ago I had a stake conference on the East coast. Part of my assignment was to interview a young man who was 21 years old to see if he was now prepared to go on a mission. General authorities don’t usually interview young people for missions. They gave me a dossier to read on the airplane as I flew out there, about his past. As I read that, my heart ached for him, and for his father, who was also his bishop. He had committed every sin I could think of. I believe he invented some sins, and I wondered, “Why am I interviewing him?” Because we don’t send young men like this on missions. After the Saturday night session of conference, I retired to the stake president’s office to wait for this interview. As I was waiting there, a handsome young man dressed like a missionary and with a radiant countenance about him approached, and I wondered, “How am I going to excuse myself, because I’ve got this other guy I’ve got to talk to.” And when he entered the room he stuck out his hand and introduced himself, and that is who I was to interview. I asked him only one question. I asked, “Why am I interviewing you tonight?” And then he unloaded. He told me things about transgressions in his life that weren’t even on this list, and he went on. And then he started to teach me about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He taught me what he had been doing for a solid year to prepare for this very interview that was taking place tonight. He taught me about what happened in the Garden, and on the cross. And then when he got through, he said, “I believe the Atonement is powerful enough to rescue even a boy like me.”
When he got through, I put my hand on his shoulder, and I said, “When I get back to Salt Lake, I will be recommending that you serve a mission. I’m only going to ask one thing of you – just one. When you get in the mission field, I want you to be the best missionary in the entire Church. That is all.” I came back; I made my report. I didn’t think anything about it for about two or three months. I was speaking at a devotional in the MTC. After the devotional I was standing in front of the podium shaking hands with some of the missionaries, and I saw a young man coming forward, and I knew I was in trouble because I couldn’t remember where I had met him, and I knew what he was going to say in about 1½ seconds. And sure enough, when he got there he stuck his hand out and he said, “Do you remember me?” After I apologized and said, “I’m sorry, I know I should remember you, but I meet a lot of people and I just don’t remember.”
And then he said, “Let me tell you who I am.” He said, “I am the best missionary in the MTC.” And then we both got emotional, because what I was witnessing right there was the full effect of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And so I say, believe. Believe in the Atonement. The 19th section of the Doctrine and Covenants says, “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that all might not suffer if they would repent.” (verse 16)
#5: The fifth and the last thing that I want to suggest to you, and that is believe in Faith. Choose faith over doubt, choose faith over pessimism, and the unknown. I will almost guarantee you that the Korihors will confront you as wolves in sheep’s clothing. The message may be very enticing. Questions and doubts will arise; it happens to all of us. There is much about the gospel that I do not understand. There is much that I hear people criticize about the gospel that I do not understand. I do not know how Christ could go into the Garden of Gethsemane and take upon Himself the sins of all of us – all of our hurts, our pains, our sufferings. I can’t explain the details of the Creation of this earth. I can’t explain the timeline of it. I know what the scriptures said. I can’t comprehend the magnitude of the blessings of exaltation, and I can’t tell you where the city of Zarahemla was. And I have read the Book of Mormon several times.
But I know the important things. I know the covenants that are required to obtain exaltation. I know the Savior. I’ve had to rely on Him. And what I don’t know, I bridge that gap with my faith. And by that faith is how I show my loyalty, my love, and my devotion to my God. President Uchtdorf in his recent conference talk gave a wonderful statement: “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” (“Come, Join With Us,” Ensign, Nov. 2013, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/11/saturday-morning-session/come-join-with-us?lang=eng.)
Brigham Young said we’re all on the good ship Zion, headed for the celestial kingdom. While we are on that ship, we are going to be tested. We may even be offended. We may even be offended by a bishop, or a stake president, or a general authority. Don’t jump off the ship. Keep your faith. (See Journal of Discourses, 5:329)
So in summary, five things: Believe in yourself—and I want you to remember this: Your adversity will define you more than your successes. I shall repeat, your adversity will define you more than your successes. Believe in the future; it’s the greatest time of all to live. Believe in Satan; he is present. He is in attack mode and you and I are the victims. Believe in the Atonement. It is the Savior that made it all right. It’s the Savior that put the “happiness” into the great plan of happiness. And believe in the power of faith. That’s what is going to save you.
The future is bright, God is good. He has a plan for you. Make wise decisions, wise choices, and go for it.
The morning breaks, the shadows flee;
Lo, Zion’s standard is unfurled!
The dawning of a brighter day,
Majestic rises on the world.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.