Lord Pleased with Those Who Serve Quietly

03 Sep. 2014

Transcript

Lord Pleased with Those Who Serve Quietly

 Beautiful job, as always. We may need to keep the house lights up just a bit, because we’re going to do a little pair-and-share activity here. I was surprised to see a lot of the students raise their hands—you get no credit for being here today, in my class, so… But thank you, thank you all for being here. Appreciate my father being here, and my better half, Pam.

      So, can we turn the house lights up just a bit? Is that possible? What I’d like you to do is just take about 60 seconds here, we’re going to turn to your neighbor, or two, and I want you to share with them a favorite leader of yours from the scriptures. It can be ancient scripture, modern-day scripture, but share a favorite leader of yours, and why they are a favorite of yours. Ready? Go.

      [Students converse.]

      Okay, how are we doing? Alright, that’s pretty good. Okay, let’s see what we have here. We have a couple of roving microphones. Andrew on this side, Jake on that side, but you can just start to share and then the mike will catch up with you. So who would like to go first? There in the back, Brother, stand up, yeah I’m pointing to you. Give us your name and favorite leader.

      “My favorite leader is Teancum, because he was able to put his life basically at risk, he wanted so much for the victory, and prospering of his nation that he ended up giving his life for his men in the pursuit of freedom.”

      Very good, thank you. That’s often one we may not hear from but great leader, warrior. Okay, Sam, go ahead. Stand up, Brother.

      “Oh, great. I really like King Benjamin, because he was the king of his people, but also he served . . . with the people, his people. And he really showed love towards the people he served.”

      He was a servant leader. Very good, King Benjamin. Let’s do one more from up here, and then I’m going to grab one of these guys from the back row who thinks they’re safe, okay? We need a sister, we’ve heard from the brethren. Let’s get a sister here. Ah, dare I? Laura Arnold. This is a risk.

      “No, it’s not, you.”

      I’m not in scripture, thank you.

      “It was Captain Moroni, because he stood for the women and the children, protected them. And he inspired his leaders, the people, to follow him in that.”

      Thank you. I was sharing with President Richards, and that’s who he mentioned as well. So, Brother Tracy Williams from the Institute. Hop up here, Brother.

      “I’m not sure why they’re laughing. Mine’s Jesus Christ. And, I think the reason is obvious. His influence is caring for all the people he served and ministered to.”

      Okay, well thanks for doing that. Now, let’s see if this works. Alright. How many of you, I want you to stand, if you, when you were sharing, you shared Nephi? Excellent. And why wouldn’t you? Thank you. I mean, Nephi epitomizes leadership, courage, faithful, committed, and as shown here, he could shake and quake his older brothers at a moment’s notice.

 

Now here’s another of Arnold Friberg’s muscular paintings (above). It’s Lehi using the Liahona. Now which one in this picture, in this painting, is Nephi? Well, I hope you say it’s the clean-shaven one, with his hand on Lehi’s back. Good. He was, without doubt, a noble and great one, that was chosen before the foundations of the world to be a leader here on earth.

      When you were sharing, stand if your favorite leader was Nephi’s older brother, Sam. Come on. See? Isn’t that par for the course? Sam is one of my favorite leaders from the Book of Mormon. We don’t know much about him, except that he was Lehi’s third son, younger than Lemuel, older than Nephi. In fact, Sam’s name is mentioned only 10 times in the entire Book of Mormon. Compare that to the number of times his brother’s names are mentioned. So it’s no wonder we don’t really think of Sam as a great leader. But yet, I think he was critically important. Which one in this painting here is Sam? Oh, come on, it should be easy. Oops. Okay, yeah, there we are. I think that’s Sam, don’t you? [Pointer indicates the fourth person from the right.] When Arnold Friberg painted this, I think he was looking for, “Where can I put Sam?” And what better place than right behind Nephi, because didn’t Sam always have Nephi’s back?

      And back to this picture, which one is Sam here? Is it the guys standing like this that look mean and angry? Who’s that? That’s Laman, I think. I think that’s Sam. Again, kind of in the shadows, in the background of his younger brother. Now Arnold Friberg the painter actually did, before he passed away, a sketch of Sam. I’m serious. There it is, right there.

      These are some of the characters of the Book of Mormon. There’s Laman on the left, but that’s Sam. Is it what you expected him to look like?

      I was asked to speak today about leadership; thank you, Brother Juchau. There are many examples of great leaders we could be talking about, some of you shared earlier. But the fact of the matter is, most of us in this life will not be required to be the Nephi’s or the Isaiah’s, or the Joan of Arc’s, or the Nephi’s, the Joseph Smith’s, the Abraham Lincoln’s, or the Mother Teresa’s, at least not in this life. We will instead be the Sam’s, in the eyes of the world. It’s not important to really know, I guess, what Sam looked like, but it’s more important to know what he did, and the legacy he left. So let’s talk about that for just a minute.

      Nephi was a believer. We read early in the Book of Mormon about Lehi being warned to take his family into the wilderness. Laman and Lemuel are grumbling the entire way. Nephi wants to know the mysteries of God, and if what his father saw was true, so he prays. The Lord visits him and softens his heart, and he believes.  And then Nephi writes this, “And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words,” (1 Nephi 2:17). Now, don’t you think Nephi had to have a relationship with his older brother, such a nature that he could go and confide in him. And trust him, and that Sam would appreciate his spiritual experience.

      We know that Sam was persecuted for righteousness’ sake. And Laban sent his servants to slay the four brothers, and the brothers fled and hid in a cave in the wilderness. There’s Laman nd Lemuel, or as President Richards refers to them, as ‘Dumb and Dumber’; they are angry about almost being murdered. And Nephi writes this, and Andrew, where are you? Would you read that scripture for us please?

      “Sure. ‘Wherefore, Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod. And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying: Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you,” (1 Nephi 3: 28-29).

      Thank you. It wasn’t just Nephi that was being smitten. Sam was too. We know that Sam was patient and long-suffering. Can you imagine being left in a cave with those two yayhoo brothers, while Nephi went into the city to get the plates? We know that Sam was obedient and faithful, and that he was saved. In First Nephi chapter eight, we read of Lehi’s dream of the tree of life. Specifically, Lehi says that when he beckoned to Sam, Sam came and grabbed hold of the iron rod, and came to the fruit of the tree. We know that Sam was a just and holy man, and very much like his famous brother Nephi. As Lehi was dying, he blessed all of his sons. And, Sam was one of those. And Jake, you’ve got the mike, would you read this please?

      “And after he made an end of speaking unto them, he spake unto Sam, saying: Blessed art thou, and thy seed; for thou shalt inherit the land like unto thy brother Nephi...and thou shalt be even like unto thy brother, and thy seed like unto his seed; and thou shalt be blessed in all thy days” (2 Nephi 4:11).

      Okay. So, we knew that Sam would be even like unto his brother. And yet, we don’t know much about him. And finally we know that Sam was a humble man, and he made wise choices. He wisely chose to take his family and go with Nephi when they split with them from the Lamanites. And he was humble enough to take on his younger brother’s name from that point on. At least we don’t ever hear of Sam campaigning to call the people “Samites” instead of Nephites.

      Brothers and sisters, how do we know that Sam was not a great leader in his own right? How do we know that he was not placed in the position in Lehi’s family to be older than Nephi, to be a source of great influence and example to his younger brother? Sam’s powerful example may indeed have set the stage of righteousness of Nephi during his formative years. So Sam’s role was basically one of support and assisting the more acclaimed younger brother. And he ultimately received all the blessings that were promised to Nephi. What I like about it is he overcame the tendency to follow in the footsteps of older siblings. Instead, Sam followed his family and his religion. And although he was passed over to be a leader of the Nephites in favor of his younger brother, he appears never to have complained or become jealous, unlike Laman and Lemuel.

      So big brother Sam is almost an unknown, but he is obviously a leader in the pages of eternity. He will ever be an example to us that Heavenly Father honors not just the stars of his earthly kingdom but the best supporting actors and actresses as well, who work quietly but in the shadows.

      I call this the “Sam Factor,” the willingness to lead from behind the scenes in support of other more high-profile leaders. I could call it the “Hyrum Factor” after Hyrum Smith, who was there every step of the way with his younger brother, Joseph. I could call it the “Aaron Factor,” after Moses’ older brother, who was actually the mouthpiece for his younger brother Moses. I could even call it the “Sam in the Lord of the Rings Factor,” but we won’t go there, so… I could call it after most people, because most of us are Sam's, aren’t we? Most of us will spend our days working in the low light of the world, rather than the limelight. We are the necessary ones who help constitute the countless faithful followers who quietly yet consistently go about leading our families in the path of righteousness. So I suppose my talk today could be more about "followship" than leadership.

      We sang the hymn this morning, “Come Follow Me.” To truly be leaders in eternity and leaders of our families, we first need to pass the test of “followship,” of following the Master. But I suggest that our Father in Heaven is just as pleased and rejoices just as much in the quiet work we do in our own circle of influence than in the work of those who lead hundreds of thousands.

      Let me ask you this, what would the world or the business environment or the college or the church or the kingdom of God be like without you and the rest of us Sam’s, who represent the Sam Factor? Many or most of us here might be like those students that I see who consistently come to class, but they sit near the back of the room, they never say too much. You may not aspire to be a leader or feel that you have natural leadership abilities. You may be more comfortable being like a Sam—being faithful and diligent but working without public notoriety. You may not like the spotlight or want attention drawn to you. You’re more at peace in a following role than in a leading role. But follow you do, you follow the instructions, you contribute in your group activities. And at the end of the day, I see it every semester, you bring the projects to a successful completion.

      We honor Brigham Young, and those early pioneer greats who helped lead the trek west and build this magnificent city, this great building we’re in right here. The vast majority of those 70,000 pioneer saints who walked the plains were simply Sams. They weren’t in the lead wagons of the train, they were in the middle or back, maybe even the last wagon of the train, where the dust from those out front covered them from head to toe, and caused them to choke and cough. But there they were, supporting, following.

      Think about Christ the Lord. Who did He choose as His initial followers? Learned men, scholars, popular leaders of the community? Did He choose Nephis, Moronis, or Brighams? He chose Sams. He chose fishermen. They didn’t know anything about the gospel, but they knew enough to hear the Spirit and to follow when He called.

      [Brief video: https://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos/follow-me-and-i-will-make-you-fishers-of-men?lang=eng.] 

      “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”

      I love that. If the Lord knew what He could make out of those fishermen, don’t you think He knows what He can make of us, if we but follow Him? He knows our potential, what we are capable of doing, even though the world may not. It will mostly not likely be our role to lead the overall Church. But God will give us the capability to lead in our homes, in the trenches, where the battle with the adversary is fought every day. We will lead in our roles in the Church, whether it be just a Primary teacher, or just a home or visiting teacher. We will serve in whatever capacity, and we will sustain and bear up the prophet to hasten the work in these latter days. Think of the Sam’s in your life, siblings, coaches, Young Women advisers, friends, parents.  I can point to leaders in my life who have influenced and led my thinking through their conviction and example. But they had no grand leadership title, and they wouldn’t even consider themselves leaders.

      I recently read a simple but profound definition of the word “leader.” It read, “A leader is someone who helps others lead.” My father’s here today; he and my mother were both schoolteachers. I watched them for years toil to teach in order that others may lead someday. They aren’t rich and famous; in fact, my dad told me once that if I ever became a teacher, he’d kill me, because of the poor pay and the perceived lowliness of that profession in the eyes of society. But I recall the many letters and phone calls that my parents received and still receive from students years later, who had gone on to become leaders in business and politics and music, or whatever, expressing heartfelt appreciation to my parents’ subtle but often life-changing influence.

      We’re blessed to have President Richards at the helm of this college, and as he said he comes to my class from time to time, and a few weeks ago he came to my principles of management class, and shared a story about a Sam. He told about someone who was just playing a small, perhaps insignificant role, yet understood how he fit into the overall mission of his organization. [Chime sounds.] Okay, now the clicker has decided not to work. So, Cathy, can you…there you go.

      Back in the ’60s there was a tour going through the NASA Space Center in Houston. And at one point, one of the members of the tour looked over and saw an elderly man in overalls mopping the floor. And though it was obvious what he was, the tour member went up to him and said, “What do you do?” thinking that the man would say, “Well, I’m just the janitor.” But the man responded, “I am helping to put a man on the moon.” I love the moral of that story because we cannot all be the astronauts. But we can help in our small way of putting the astronauts on the moon.

      Speaking of janitors, may I share a personal experience from my work next door at the Salt Lake Temple. I’m an ordinance worker, and one Friday evening I was asked to assist temple patrons in the Creation Room. I recall being very nervous and anxious because I wanted the patrons to have a good experience. I knew there’d be maybe 200 people observing me, and one of the other ordinance workers saw me sweating over in the corner. He came up to me, and he put his hands on my shoulders. He looked me in the eye and he said, “Keep your eyes on the Master rather than be concerned about the eyes on you.” Now I had a calming feeling come over me immediately. Now that ordinance worker’s name was Jerry, and I found out later that he is a high school janitor by profession. But in his wisdom, Jerry understood that it’s not about how many people observe us or how many people we lead or if we lead anybody at all. It’s not about us, but it’s about us doing our Sam role every day, no matter how small or ordinary it may seem, and in following and serving others and serving Jesus, our perfect leader.

      How do we know what we Sam’s were like in the pre-existence? Were we some of those noble and great ones that we read about in Abraham (Abraham 3:22)? But instead of playing roles of the Number Ones, like Nephi or Moroni, we were asked to play the Number Twos, or the Number Threes, or the Number Fours, or like Jerry, I think he was number 5,870,360,017, but he’ll be a Number One in my eyes for the influence he had on me.

      It’s in the temple where we get a glimpse of ourselves through the eyes of Heavenly Father and learn of our great potential. Leaders of business, science, politics, armies, and nations all look the same in the temple. It doesn’t matter the earthly leadership title; that’s not important. For that period of time we’re in the temple, we are Sams, who willingly and quietly show our obedience, make covenants, serve others, and exercise true “followship.”  Participating in temple ordinances teaches us to be good followers and hence good leaders. May I encourage each of you who hold a temple recommend to be obedient to the prophet’s voice and attend there often. And if you don’t hold a current recommend, I encourage you to feel of the Savior’s love for you and His desire to have you go back. And if you haven’t yet gone through the temple, may you stay the course, like Sam, even in the face of dumb older brothers who persecute you, and hold fast to the iron rod, because the endowment of power you will feel in the temple will bless your life forever. And heaven knows we need that endowment of power to fight the crafty ways of the evil one.

      So here’s a challenge: don’t allow Satan do discourage you over the Sam Factor. He would have you believe that because you are not a Number One in the eyes of the masses, that you are something less. He would like you to believe that you are not good enough, that you don’t have the confidence, that it’s just not in you. That’s a lie, because it’s perfectly okay for you to be steady, unflashy, and a best supporting actor. Embrace your Sam, in other words. In fact, the eternal perspective, in the eternal perspective, you can, just like Sam, receive all the blessings that are promised to the Number Ones.

      I’m going to close with a favorite parable of mine. Students have heard this in my class, so buck up. But there was once a king who built a highway. When the highway was done he decided to have a contest, and he invited all the people from the land. He wanted to see who would travel the highway best. And all day long the citizens from the country came, and some were in fine clothes, rode fine chariots, some were poor, some were on horseback, some walking, and all day long they travelled the highway. At the end of the highway the king awaited them. He greeted every citizen who finished the journey, and he asked how they enjoyed the new road. And everyone told the king how impressed they were. Except there was one spot, they said, where there was a big pile of rock and debris right in the middle of the road. And they had to swerve and go around it. Near the end of the day, a lone traveler, exhausted and dirty, approached the king. When he was asked how he liked the road, he like the others said you know, it’s a great road, except there was that one spot, I had to detour, you know, because of the big rock pile. The man told the king not to worry, “I stopped for two hours, and I cleared the pile of debris from the road. And under the pile I found this bag. And it’s a bag full of gold coins, and I brought it here to you, king, so you can get it back to its rightful owner.” And the king handed the bag back to him and said, “Good sir, this is yours, because you won my contest. You travelled the road best. He who travels the road best is he who makes it smoother for those who follow.”

      Brothers and sisters, as we travel the road of life, no matter our position, our calling, our title, our natural leadership ability, may we lead out in making the road easier for those who come after us. May we, like Sam, make it easier by being there to support the Nephis, or like the Hyrums, to be a sustaining and defending voice to the Josephs. And above all, may we ourselves be faithful followers of the Master leader, even Jesus the Redeemer, whose infinite atonement makes our journey in this life not only smoother but possible in the first place. By so doing, as we toil in the shadows without fame or fanfare, our everyday obedience will someday lead ourselves and our posterity back in glory to Father’s presence. This I testify of in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Work Like Mad, Have Faith, Decide to Amount to Something

30 Sep. 2014

Transcript

Work like Mad, Have Faith, Decide to Amount to Something

Oh, my goodness, you are really good. I shuddered a little bit and lowered my expectations when they announced that they were going to sing “Consider the Lilies,” because it’s one of my very favorite pieces that the Tabernacle Choir does, and so I thought I’d better get ready to have this slaughtered. They did not slaughter it; in fact, it was absolutely beautiful and touching in every way. And thank you for the words of our first speaker this morning.

      I am delighted to be with you. There’s almost no one I know that would give up an opportunity to spend time with college students. This is an especially exciting time of life, and particularly as you look back on it. When you’re in the middle of it, sometimes it’s less than exciting, and that’s not the word you would use to describe it. . . .  I am quite aware of where you are in the semester. I have a college-age granddaughter who is living with me right now, so that whole “just-before-finals thing” is starting to permeate the atmosphere of my home. And I am aware of what a sacrifice this is for you to come and spend a little time in this situation. And I pray with all my heart that I’ll be able to do and say something that the Holy Ghost can turn into something that will work for you, particularly this week.

      I want to talk about a letter that was dated June 28, 1936. It was written by Sherm Hinckley to his brother, my father, Gordon Hinckley. Gordon at the time was 26; in fact he just would have had his 26th birthday. And his brother Sherm was 15 months younger. They were both single. My father had been home from his mission for about a year, and if you note the date, 1936, the after-effects of the Great Depression were still going on. Sherm was working as a mining engineer in Eureka, a little tiny mining town, and my father was working for the Church. He was a little discouraged because he wanted to go to graduate school, and he didn’t have the money, and he wanted to marry my mother, and he didn’t have the money to get married. And so things were a little bit bleak. And on top of that, his parents were serving as, his father was the mission president in Chicago, and so he had left his two sons in charge of his financial affairs. And these two brothers, this letter is pretty amazing, because they are trying to figure out what to do. Apparently there is a note on the family farm that has come due, and they don’t know how to pay it. And it’s obvious that their father hadn’t been…had probably borrowed money during the Depression, in order to keep the family afloat, borrowed against the property, and now that note had come due and these boys, both of them single, were trying to figure out how to pay that note. Sherm doesn’t have any viable ideas. He’s thinking he’s got $10.00 here, or this, or he could maybe do this, but it’s really a discouraging letter. He’s pretty discouraged. And the part of the letter I want to read to you are the last three lines that he wrote. He said, at the end of this description of “what are we going to do?”: “So, all we can do is work like mad, have a lot of faith, and decide to amount to something. Good night, love, Sherm.”

      It’s those three lines that I want to talk about. All we can do is work like mad, have a lot of faith, and decide to amount to something. Because I think those are pieces of advice that work for all of us. You, like my father and uncle, will be faced—perhaps even now you are—with problems that are so difficult that they almost make you tremble. You will lie awake nights, some time in your life, as your mind goes around and around, and it seems there’s no way out. It seems like that, but there is always a way out. Usually it’s not under or around but straight through the middle of the problem. There aren’t many shortcuts in life, but there is great satisfaction—great satisfaction and happiness in having met challenges with energy and faith. So let’s look at Sherm’s formula for solving problems.

      First of all, he suggested that we work like mad. Work is a physical or mental activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something. President Hinckley said, “I believe in the gospel of work. There isn’t a substitute under the heavens for productive labor. It is the process by which dreams become reality. It is the process by which idle visions become dynamic achievements. We are all inherently lazy.” Does that make you feel a little bit better about yourself? All of us. “We would rather play than work. We would rather loaf than work.  A little play and a little loafing are good…” That is one of the reasons you’re here. “But it is work that spells the difference in the life of a man or woman. It is stretching our minds and utilizing the skills of our hands that lift us from [the stagnation of] mediocrity.” (“I Believe”, First Presidency Message in the August 1992 Ensign, an edited version of a talk given at BYU on March 1, 1992, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1992/08/i-believe?lang=eng)

      President Monson believes in work. In fact he said his formula is called “Formula W.” He said, “Work will win when wishy-washy wishing won’t,” (Seven Steps to Success with Aaronic Priesthood Youth by Elder Thomas S. Monson, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1985/02/seven-steps-to-success-with-aaronic-priesthood-youth?lang=eng). You might want to memorize that. “Work will win when wishy-washy wishing won’t.” Ask yourself, when you’re thinking about work, “What is there that needs doing that is not being done?” There is no work too menial, is there? It’s walking into an apartment and saying, “What is there here that needs to be done that I could do?” It’s opening a book—“What is there here to do that I can do that needs to be done?” We all have different work, depending on our age and our circumstances. A 2-year-old’s work is playing, maybe, with blocks. Those blocks help his small motor coordination and build his skills that he will need for life, and that’s his work. Your work right now is to get an education. You may have other work, you may have a part-time job, you may have, be busy at work in developing your social skills, your church work, your work on a team… but your main work is to get an education. And if you work diligently at that, you will be happy and build a foundation of confidence in yourself and your future.

      I love the story of Nephi and the broken bow. You remember they’re in the wilderness and they go out to get food, and the bows of Laman and Lemuel have lost their zing, whatever you call that with bows—they don’t work anymore. And Nephi breaks his bow, which was made of fine steel. And there is no replacement store. They’re not in Jerusalem where they could get another bow made of fine steel. And so they have no food. And the people get really grumpy; the whole family gets grumpy. Laman and Lemuel get grumpy, even Lehi gets grumpy. When you don’t have food, and you’re tired—he said, “We were much fatigued,” it’s really easy to get discouraged (1 Nephi 16:3). But Nephi, the remarkable self that he was, did something different. He said, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and arrow, with a sling and with stones,” (1 Nephi 16:23). So, he didn’t have the bow and arrow that he’d been used to, but he went to work and he did the best he could—got a stone and a sling, and made one out of wood. So he went to work. A really important lesson we learn from Nephi.

      Work is the growth of self confidence. I was thinking back the other day, I was with a granddaughter who is now 11, and I was thinking back on the time when she was 6. She didn’t have very much confidence, and she didn’t know how to swim. That summer she learned how to swim, and when she learned how to swim, when she could stand on the edge of the pool and jump in and swim to the other side and come out of that water, her confidence was palpable. You could see it on her face, and it didn’t just last in the swimming pool. It permeated over her whole life. Whatever you learn how to do through your work, your skills, it doesn’t matter what kind of a skill it is, whether it’s baking a loaf of bread, changing a tire, I don’t care what it is. Whatever you learn how to do builds your confidence in a very, very important way.

      Working like mad, I think, means working diligently. Diligence is a word that’s sort of gone out of fashion; but not in the scriptures, and not in Preach My Gospel. Don’t you love it that it is one of the Christ-like attributes they talk about? If you’ve got your Doctrine and Covenants, turn to section 10. He says, in verse 4, section 10, “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end.” Diligence is a paced kind of work, isn’t it? It isn’t “kill yourself and then don’t do anything for a long time,” and “kill yourself and don’t do anything for a long time.” In Preach my Gospel, it says it’s “Steady, consistent, earnest and energetic effort,” (Preach My Gospel, 6L “How Do I Develop Christ-like Attributes,” pg.121). It means working all through the semester doing your reading assignments so that the last week you don’t have to do everything. And it may be too late for diligence this semester, but it’s not too late next…there’s always a next semester. And there’s always right now. Begin today, now, to be diligent; to give your work to be efficient and to be effective. When you are diligent, you find joy and satisfaction in your work, and continue until you have done all you can, even when you’re tired. Focus on the most important things, and avoid wasting time. Pray for guidance and strength, and avoid distractions. Think diligence when you think of working like mad; think about diligence, that steady consistent effort.

      OK, the second thing is have a lot of faith. Faith, for me, is most effective to describe to myself if I talk about it in terms of trust. When I was a little girl, we…nobody in our neighborhood had two cars in their family. Most of the families had one car, and the dads left in the morning and they went downtown to their offices, and so there were no cars in the neighborhood during the day. Out of that time there grew up this little industry and there was a truck called “The Jewel T Man,” “The Jewel T Truck.” It was a brown little panel truck, like a milk truck, with no windows, that was kind of like a little grocery store that went around the neighborhood. And they stopped at the neighborhood, and they’d knock on the door, and they’d ask your mom if she needed anything—things like flour, or salt, or baking soda, or pancake mix, or all those kinds of things, canned foods, he would sell.

      One day, I was playing, I was about 5 or 6 years old, and we were playing in the yard, and somebody said, “There’s the Jewel T Man’s truck.” And he said, “The door’s open.” That meant the Jewel T Man was probably in my house selling something to my mother because she was so nice that she didn’t want to turn him away, so she would always buy something. So, he said, “Let’s look.” So we all piled into the truck, and I’m telling you, it was magic in there. It was, like, one little isle going down, and then these shelves…it was just a miniature grocery store, and we were all looking at everything, when suddenly somebody said, “Get out quick—he’s coming!” And so everybody started to run out of the truck.

      I was the littlest kid, and I don’t know if they mowed over me, or what, but I was the last one out. And as I turned to jump out of the truck, I hit a bag of jelly beans that was open next to where he was . . . and the jelly beans spilled all over the floor. And so I just frantically was trying to pick them up, and then somebody looked back and they said, “Ginny, hurry! He’s coming!” And so I just left them and I ran with the kids, and we ran behind the neighbor’s house.

      Well obviously, he could see us, and it only took him about 30 seconds and he came around behind the house. And he looked at all of us, and he said, “Who spilled the jelly beans in my truck?” And it was like a slow-motion movie for me, I can still see it, where everybody took two steps back and pointed at me. Are you kidding me? Seriously? And of course, when they did that, he got right down in my face and said, “That’s against the law to enter somebody’s property, and I am calling the sheriff. He’ll be here this afternoon.” Then he turned around and he left.

      In one 30-second moment, everybody I trusted had fallen through the cracks of the world. I thought these were my friends—they were my siblings. . . . but I knew in a moment that I couldn’t trust one of them. And so I waited for everybody to start playing and go their separate ways, and then without making any noise or any fanfare, I went around the back of my house and I climbed inside a bridal wreath bush, and I sat there, and I sat there, and I sat there—all afternoon, and I trembled. I can never remember being so scared. The sheriff I knew lived in the county, I never saw him, but he was always the threat. And I just assumed I would be going to jail. And so the whole afternoon went by, of course, and it got to be time for dinner, and my mother called us, and I didn’t know what else to do. Because I wasn’t going to tell her, because I couldn’t trust anybody, remember? So, I went in the house and we ate dinner, and course, the sheriff never came.

      I’m telling you that stupid story without a flamboyant ending, because I want you to know how important trust is. That if you’re going through this world without trusting God, without faith in God, you’re doing it really like I was sitting in that bridal wreath bush; scared to death; because there’s nobody that you can trust to rescue you. We don’t have to do that. None of us have to do that.

      Covenants, I believe that one of the most significant blessings of covenant living is that we enter a circle of trust. When we make covenants, we in essence say to the Lord, “I trust you, and you can trust me. I’m keeping my covenants, and I know you’ll keep your end. I trust you so completely that I will try to do the things you ask of me, knowing that you have my best interests at heart.” Making covenants is a concrete way I express my faith, my belief that the Lord will support and prosper me…that sooner or later, sometimes it’s later rather than sooner, everything will work together for my good. He said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise,” (D&C 82:3).

      George Q. Cannon said, “No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, God will never desert us. He never has, He never will. He cannot do it. It is not his character to do so. He is an unchangeable being; the same yesterday, the same today, and He will be the same throughout the eternal ages to come. We have found that God. And we have made Him our friend, by obeying His gospel; and He will stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments,” (Reference taken from an address given at BYU by Jeffrey R. Holland, “Come Unto Me,” Original quote in “Freedom of the Saints”, Collected Discourses, comp. and ed. Brian H. Stuy, 2:185, http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=734).

      I can tell you from the vantage point of 60, 70 years, that that is true. I don’t know exactly what happened, in terms of the note, paying off the note on that property. But I do know that they stood by God, and He stood by them, and they were the better for it; the better and the purer for it. Nephi and his broken bow, again in 1 Nephi 16:28, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball,” Remember, this is where he gets the Liahona, and it starts to work again after he’s made the new bow and arrow and his father has prayed and he finds the food, “that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.” So it’s that faith and diligence piece again that solved the problem.

      Does that mean that if you work like mad and have a lot of faith, you’ll get all A’s? I don’t think so. But whatever you get from your labors will be enough. And I say that with a capital “E.” He has the power to make life turn out OK for each one of us, even though the path may not be the specific one we had charted, and it won’t be easy. It will turn out.

      Number three: Decide to make something of ourselves; they decided to make something of ourselves. I think I’d like to concentrate on the word “decide” here. Because as we, when we look at Sherm’s advice I believe that deciding means we take personal responsibility. It’s an act of agency, an act of individual will. It tells me that what I’m doing, I am doing because I’ve decided to do it. Until you and I decide what we want, we will not really work hard, or exercise faith, at least consistently.

      Our children all taught swimming lessons when they were teenagers. One day they were sitting around talking about it, they taught mostly beginning swimmers, and they were discussing what was the best method of teaching beginning swimmers, whose common problem, by the way, is fear. What is the best way to get them to do, to get them over that fear, that hurdle that lies between them and swimming? Do you know what they all said after a big discussion?  It’s how badly the child wants to learn to swim. It’s that decision—it’s not how much their mother wants them to learn how to swim, it’s how much that child wants to learn how to swim. Hannah was 6 when she learned to swim (the little granddaughter I was telling about). All of her cousins already knew how to swim, all of her family members already knew how to swim. And she made up her mind, that in spite of these huge fears she had, she wanted to learn to swim. She decided. That was enough to get her past all of her fears. And that’s what we need to do.

      President Monson said, “Vision without work is daydreaming, work without vision is drudgery,” (“Finishers Wanted,” First Presidency Message, Ensign, June 1989). So it’s not vision—the way we create that will in ourselves is to think about what we want, isn’t it? What is the goal? And that helps create that. Elder Maxwell called it “Educating our desires,” (“According to the Desire of Our Hearts,” October 1996 General Conference). Do we want; do we really want to live with Him again? Do we really want to be a productive member of society? How much do we want to do that?

      So, all we can do is work like mad, have a lot of faith, and decide to amount to something. I’d like now to show you a video clip that many of you have seen, and it’s an incident in the life of somebody we know and love. Because I think you can see portrayed in this exactly that same set of instructions that Sherm offered to my father. I’m going to sit down because it’s a few minutes long—don’t worry, we’re going to get you out of here on time. Sit down, and relax.

      Elder Holland:  Every one of us has times when we need to know things will get better…. My declaration is that this is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need.

Thirty years ago last month, a little family set out to cross the United States, every earthly possession they owned packed into … the smallest … trailer available —no money, an old car ... They drove exactly 34 miles up the highway, at which point their beleaguered car erupted.

…The young father surveyed the steam, matched it with his own, then left his trusting wife and two innocent children—the youngest just three months old—to wait in the car while he walked the three miles or so to the southern Utah metropolis of Kanarraville, population then, I suppose, 65. Some water was secured at the edge of town, and a very kind citizen offered a drive back to the stranded family. The car was attended to and slowly—very slowly—driven back to St. George for inspection—…trailer and all.

 

After more than two hours of checking and rechecking, no immediate problem could be detected, so once again the journey was begun. In exactly the same amount of elapsed time at exactly the same location on that highway with exactly the same pyrotechnics from under that hood, the car exploded again. …

Now feeling more foolish than angry, the chagrined young father once more left his trusting loved ones and started the long walk for help once again. This time the man providing the water said, “Either you or that fellow who looks just like you ought to get a new radiator for that car.” …. He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the plight of this young family.

“How far have you come?” he said. “Thirty-four miles,” I answered. “How much farther do you have to go?” “Twenty-six hundred miles,” I said. “Well, you might make that trip, and your wife and those two little kiddies might make that trip, but none of you are going to make it in that car.” He proved to be prophetic on all counts.

 

Just two weeks ago…I drove by that exact spot ….for just an instant, I thought perhaps I saw on that side road an old car with a devoted young wife and two little children …. Just ahead of them I imagined that I saw a young fellow walking toward Kanarraville…the weight of a young father’s fear evident in his pace. … In that imaginary instant, I couldn’t help calling out to him: “… Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead…

Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.”

(The story is told in “An High Priest of Good Things to Come,” October 1999 General Conference. The video “Good Things to Come” is found at https://www.lds.org/church/good-things-to-come?lang=eng]

 

      I never fail to be touched by that story. He was going to graduate school, was on his way to graduate school in that story. We, as a young family, moved into the ward when he was doing his last year of that graduate program. I’ve never seen anyone work harder, or have more faith, someone who made a decision to make something of himself and to take care of his family, than Elder Holland. I commend that to you. It may take time, but blessings will come. Some of them maybe not till the next life, but they will come. God is bound to give those to you and to me, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Gospel Changes Hearts, Brings People Together

30 Sep. 2014

Transcript

Gospel Changes Hearts, Brings People Together

Brothers and sisters, it’s a privilege to be with you. I appreciate the music, the information that you’ve been given, and every part of this program so far. So I just appreciate the chance to be here.

      I think I’m on safe ground when I say that we live in turbulent times. I think I’m safe because a prophet actually wrote that we were in a letter to the Saints asking us to pray for this nation and for the world and for peace, and the things that it deserves and things that it requires. We sense that, I think, collectively, but we also sense it individually. We are all captivated by events around us that create tumult and some disruption. One of the things that in my ecclesiastical calling I had the privilege and opportunity of doing recently was calling a new branch presidency for a long-term nursing care that resides within the Salt Lake Central Branch. And I called in the old presidency and their spouses and had them sit around a table, and asked what lessons they had learned in the experience of nearly three years of presiding over this facility.

      Sister Tolman mentioned this, and it has become an aspiration. She said, “I’ve learned that those who embrace the gospel grow old happy.” And I’ve decided that that is entirely my aspiration. I just want to grow old happy, and I think I have a road map that permits that to occur.

      Now each of us in this world has the privilege of defining things in the way that we want to, and organizing the evidence around us in a way that we want to. Evidence doesn’t come constructed in patterns. In my legal background I spent 18 years in the law, I can just tell you that sorting through and figuring out facts as a consequence of evidence is hard work, and the same thing applies to us as we try to determine whether we are doubting or whether we are faithful. And the evidence can be organized in various ways, and today I’d like to spend a few minutes kind of talking through this issue with you in terms of the things in my life that have helped me to find faith and to find for myself the organization of that evidence in a way that would support faith.

      So let me start with this principle or lesson, and that’s this: That the commandments have been given to us, and if followed, they will permit us to live relatively happy, trouble-free lives. They are here, I think, to guide us, to give us a blueprint that will keep us out of trouble. And if you begin to think of the Ten Commandments as those that tell us how and what to worship, and those that admonish us to avoid conduct that will get us in trouble, and then you add to that the Word of Wisdom and you begin to get a principal set of things that will keep us out of trouble and as a stake president of an inner-city stake where we bounce right up into Main Street, and have a lot of low-income, Section 8 subsidized housing, with people whose lives have been made miserable by really remarkably bad decisions that they made between the ages of 13 and 23. It is painful to watch them try to dig their lives out of these decisions as they become addicted to various things and to different kinds of conduct. And so, let’s accept that as a given. But let’s also accept this: that there are certain things that our Father in Heaven is prepared to give to us. He is prepared to grant to us, but they are conditioned upon us asking for them.

      I will just mention to you that everybody in this room has had some moment in their life when their life felt like it was in a downward spiral. They have felt wounded by virtue of the things that went on around them, where you would, and we have all sensed an unfairness. We have felt this compounding of pressure on ourselves because of the feelings that others have brought upon us. Because you mentioned the mayor’s race, President, I’ll just mention that nobody calls me mayor, and that means at the end of the day that I lost that race in 1995 to an incumbent. It was an interesting race, and this is, there’s no reason I should remember this, but I lost by 524 votes, and somehow those numbers just catalyze in your mind and stay there.

      But I would just tell you that after that I felt a bit wounded. I had put my life on the line for this opportunity, and was denied the privilege by a small margin, and by things that I thought were unfair. As I began to wrestle with that, I began to recognize in myself things about three months out that really began to disturb me. I had become cynical. Now in the words of the scriptures, that meant that I’d become hardhearted and stiff-necked. And let me tell you how that manifests itself: It manifests itself in being judgmental, and in being kind of cynical and unrealistic in our expectations of things. And I had begun to go down a road that disturbed me in remarkable ways. And about three or four or five months down the road of this compounding and this feeling that somehow things should be better for me, I recognized that they were not going to be better for me unless I began to change the way I was conducting my life. And I went through a renaissance, a revitalization, a spiritual awakening, personally, that was remarkable and made worth the entirety of losing an election, which was small in the sum of things.

      And let me tell you what I did. I realized that I needed to have a blueprint. There needed to be something in my life that would alter it, and that something was those verses in Moroni 7, between 37 and 48, where there are descriptions of faith, hope and charity, and particularly those verses in verse 48 where it says, “Wherefore, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart that you may be filled with this love,” (Moroni 7:48) which is the pure love of Christ, which is charity. And I read that scripture every morning multiple times. I read it every night multiple times. And I prayed that my heart would be filled with the pure love of Christ, and over the period of time I believe that this concept that had begun to envelop me began to erode. And I began to feel a happiness with what went on. And I began to change my attitude and the cynicism left, and the argumentativeness left, and it left me realizing that this was a blessing I was entitled to but one that I had to ask for.

      And there are others in that same category. The idea of gifts is so important that it appears in the New Testament, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Book of Mormon. And in the Doctrine & Covenants it’s clear that we are asked to seek those gifts which we need (See D&C 46: 13-26). We believe that our weaknesses can be converted to strengths, and the way that that occurs in my opinion is when one begins to pray for those gifts that they need to overcome weaknesses. We are entitled to have this charity, we are entitled to have wisdom, we are entitled to be insulated from sin as the Savior referenced in the Sermon on the Mount. But they are conditioned upon our praying for them. And so I would say that the first lesson I would say in terms of my trip to faith was that.

      Now let me just mention to you that judging is one of the things that I believe I began to learn lessons about. You can become and I can become very judgmental, and I strive to be nonjudgmental but carve out a caveat and an exception for things related to politics. I don’t think that’s right, but nonetheless I have carved that out. So, let me tell you something that happened. First of all, it’s clear that the Savior has said that we should “judge not that we be not judged,” (See Luke 6:37), and that “for what judgment ye judge, will be given back to you,” (3 Nephi 14:2). Now that’s a powerful concept, and it ought to moderate our thinking and our behavior and big ways. Now let me just tell you a couple of things about that, when I learned that lesson.

      My children grew up loving to play soccer. And I became a preeminent soccer coach for 18 or 20 years. I don’t mean preeminent in any ways other than those preeminent in my family. But we, with five children, I coached them all. There’s a marvelous thing, by the way, that happens when you’re driving kids around in a car, and I’ll give you two things you should do: Never let soccer players take their shoes off in your car. The second is that they don’t believe you’re there, and when they talk you can hear things that are going on with your children that are remarkable, and I just would encourage you to be the taxi cab service whenever your children need a ride.

      But this happened to me, and I, it was…we played a game, 12-year-olds, down at Rowland Hall Field, and after the game that we had won 3-1, I noticed something quite disturbing, and that was this entire team running laps. I counted them—10 times around the field. I was so miffed, so perturbed, so upset that I was ready to engage in mortal combat with the coach. So it was fortunate that I walked out of the gate with the coach and was about ready to say something to him when he said, “It’s really hard when you have a parent like that.”

      And I said, “What do you mean?”

      He said, “Well, listen to him.” This parent was berating a child for his inadequate performance on the field, and the coach said, “Every time we lose, that father makes that son run 10 laps, and my team’s such a good team they decided to run with him, and because I just think I ought to, I just run along with them as well.”

      My capacity to judge on inadequate facts was remarkable. I was absolutely wrong. I had judged a hero to be a goat, and this is what happens when we are inadequately prepared to judge. Don’t judge. It is unbecoming, it’s not good for our souls, it’s not good for our beings. Now we can do the same thing with people. And I would just tell you that we can do this frequently. We can observe people on the outside, the way the Lord cautioned us not to, and miss entirely what’s in their hearts.

      One night as a bishop in Washington, D.C., Ronald came in. He looked every bit the part of a vagrant who was asking for a handout. And he sat down in the chair, and he began to say this story: He said, “I’m 43 years old. For 33 years of my life I have been addicted to something. Five years ago I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I spent the best two years of my life. I picked up every part of it—I went with the missionaries, I paid tithing, I was able to get a job, I was able to get an apartment, I was able to save a little money. It was the very best time of my life, and then my friends re-entered my life, because I had put together a little money. And they began to entice me back to a world on the streets where I once again began to engage in activity that was absolutely destructive to my health. I became addicted again, and I am here to ask if you will take me back.”

      And so Ronald came back and began to emerge once again. But I tell you that I had misjudged Ronald. And I just promise you that I bet you’ve done the same with others. He was bright, he was articulate, he was remarkable. And he lived at that time as a homeless person, and so would go to the shelters at night. He was so good that he bought a ticket to go down to North Carolina  to do family research. But he knew that that bus ticket would be stolen if it was in the homeless center, so he had us keep it for him, and called the day that he needed it. He is a remarkable individual. He climbed out of despair, he got an apartment, he got a job, his life was changed, and he had to come and make that happen because I misjudged him right out of the chute.

      Now let me just tell you that I believe that the Lord will follow up on His commitment that we educate ourselves. The scriptures are filled with references to the notion that we should seek knowledge, that we should seek learning, that we should seek wisdom, and this is one of those things that I think therefore that we can seek without reservation. I know that the Lord will provide if we are on the mission of educating ourselves. He will help us do it. And we need to have faith that He will.

      When I was a bishop in Washington, D.C., there was a young man who was 18 years old. He had been on probation, he wasn’t able to join the church for nine months, but he came and joined our congregation and was there every Sunday and every weeknight for activities. After a period of nine months of getting to know him, he was baptized.

      I pulled him into the office one day and I said to him—his name was Lamar, but he went by “Twin.” He had a twin brother, and I actually didn’t know his name for a long time; it was just “Twin,” and he was “Twin 2.” Twin 1 was on the streets. Twin 2 was in the church. So I said to him, “Twin, I’m impressed with you. When we talk in priesthood about things and concepts you seem to get it, you’re able to tie things together.

      He says, “I think I can do that. I get it. I know the difference between Laman and Lemuel, and the bling and all the rest of that, and Nephi. I know the difference between those, and I want to be more like Nephi.”

      And I said, “And I’m really impressed that you’re willing to always be involved in setting up tables and taking them down for our activities.”

      And his response was, he said, “Well, Bishop, somebody’s got to do it.”

      So I asked him this question, I said, “So Twin, why did you flunk, or how is it possible that you flunked ninthh grade three times?”

      There was a long, pregnant pause, and he said, “Bishop, I can’t read.” We had failed him in the school system, and we failed him in the Church. And yet, as I walked out of the bishop’s office that evening, sitting in the chair directly across from me was Elder Mecham. Now Elder Mecham was from Spanish Fork, and he and Sister Mecham had come on a mission. They had been there for three days. And Elder Mecham’s eyes were about as big around as saucers. Because Spanish Fork and Washington, D.C., are, if you didn’t know it, a little different.

      And they were acclimating themselves, but Elder Mecham had been an elementary school principal and a teacher, so as we walked out I said, “Elder Mecham, I want you to meet Twin. And I want you to teach him to read.”

      And he said, “I can do that.” It was about six months later, at the stake talent show for the youth, that a curtain opened up and on those fake steps that you see on stages, seated on those steps was Twin. And he read, as his talent, a poem. And those of us who knew Twin stood in the back, overjoyed, weeping for the transformation that had occurred by virtue of this education the Lord will provide if we choose to learn to become wiser and educate ourselves. I know that to be a fact.

      Now the Lord will also help us carry burdens, but there are times when the Lord will perform miracles. And I came to understand that there are times when the Lord literally may intervene to help people along the way. Sometimes it doesn’t happen quickly. When I was in D.C. I got a call from a bishop in Cedar City who said, “There’s a young man who has just been shipped to Walter Reed Hospital. He was in my ward, he was a convert there. And he is not going to make it, but they’ve shipped him from Germany and they wanted him to come to Walter Reed.”

      And so we visited with him. His name was Travis. Travis had been in a Humvee that had hit a mine that had blown up and killed his colleagues, and badly, badly injured him. And we visited with his wife and his young daughter and him in the hospital at Walter Reed that was in our jurisdiction. The doctor says he’s not going to make it, but there were the prayers of family and others and, of course, blessings given.

      Now, six months later, Travis woke up out of a coma, and it was a miracle that he was there, and the doctor said, “This is a miracle. But he’s never going to walk. He’ll just never be able to walk, he’ll never be able to function.” So about six months after that Travis started coming to church in a motorized wheelchair. And then there was this remarkable moment when everybody in the chapel was seated, and the chapel was one where the aisle was down the middle. When everybody knew something remarkable was happening, and quiet came over the chapel and the prelude, and you know that’s unusual. And people began to look around. And as they did they saw coming down on a walker, Travis, limping and struggling, but on his own power, coming to church to sit in with the rest of the congregation.

      I want you to know that the place was enveloped with a spirit that said, it may not always happen, but sometimes miracles happen. And at least the Lord will help us carry these burdens. And so this remarkable experience fed my faith, and helped me to understand better the notion of faith in this process of healing. I just tell you that the gospel changes people, and we all know that. Your president said that 75 percent of you here have probably served missions, or maybe 85 percent. And you’ve seen it happen.

      Let me just tell you about Clarence. Clarence was an alcoholic. He came from North Carolina. His profession was bartender, not really conducive to sobriety. But nonetheless, Clarence began to age, and as he did his wife passed away, younger than she should have. But in 1992 he was watching television. He watched television, there was an ad that came on. It said that he could have a free [set of] scripture and as he sat there he thought, “I have never in my life,” and he was in his late 50s at that time, “I have never in my life been to a church. I need to change this.” And so two missionaries brought the scriptures to him, and he began to sit down and learn it, and he was the first convert in that congregation in D.C. at the, I can’t remember what they called the branch then before it became the Washington D.C. Third Ward.

      But the thing that was remarkable was that he never missed a meeting. He was there for the next 20 years, and probably 18 years, and he never missed. And the only time he missed was for a family reunion and to go do family history. But he was a quiet man and frankly all of the jokes that he used to tell about the bishop that was going to be Bishop Romney if President Romney were elected really were about me. Because the White House was in our boundaries, and I thought Clarence would be the perfect person to home teach President Romney if he’d been elected.

      But one of the times I asked Clarence, I said, “Clarence, you need to tell your story.”

      He said, “Bishop, I can’t. I’d freeze up on you. There’s no way I can talk in front of an audience.” But one day Clarence went home quietly and lay in bed and fell asleep for good. And I met with his family, a large African-American family that had come up from North Carolina. And this is what they said: None of them were Latter-day Saints.

      My wife and I met with them. And they said, “We want you to do this funeral exactly the way Latter-day Saints do this funeral. You took a miserable man and your church helped him become our favorite uncle. He is a good man now, and he wasn’t before. And this that you’ve done has changed him. Please let us be part of this and let us have this burial be the way your traditions dictate, not the way ours do.”

      Now, let me mention that there is a…that one of the remarkable things that happens in this earth is that sometimes we begin to get insights that we didn’t understand. So the 10th Article of Faith, in part, says we believe that Zion, the New Jerusalem, will be built upon the American continent and that Christ will reign upon the earth. I’ve never really quite understood that. But while I was in Washington I think I got some insights. Now let me just share those with you. Our government is set up not to be quickly responsive. It’s set up to be deliberative, and it has checks and balances. It’s based on the fact that the majority can dictate what the others do. And governments are set up that way if they are republics or democracies and the like. And what I would suggest to you is that I got to see that I got to see that bareknuckle operation really front and center as I worked with the governor and then administrator and then Secretary Leavitt. And we began to wrestle that world, and began to try and recognize its nuances and to wrestle in it. And if your context is that the Savior will come and rule in that world, I think it’s not the right context.

      But something quietly is happening in urban centers all around the world. It’s not unlike this congregation here that represents 60 nationalities. Our ward in Washington had, easily, 25-30 nationalities—many, many from Africa and from African nations there. And I suspect there were 12 African nations represented in our ward. And so, during the day I would be involved in this political struggle, this back and forth, trying to gain majorities and use leverage and whatever was available. And at night, I would go to this congregation and the principles that were articulated in Doctrine and Covenants 121 that dealt with the fact that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by the virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge” began to radiate to me. When the Church started, Zion began to be where the Saints were, and there were migrations. And in the 1890s they began to slow that. They said: Stay where you are and build Zion there. And it took a long time to build Zion around the world. But first they started with meetinghouses and now we know the extension of temples around the world globally.

            But I’d just tell you that in urban centers, diverse populations of Latter-day Saints congregate. Some are unnatural in terms of their political affiliations and the like. But all operate under this principle, and that principle permits them to live together in harmony and collaboration. While democracies have the tendency to polarize, should probably not even say the tendency right now—while democracies are actively polarizing, the gospel is actively collaborating. It brings people together. It says it in Doctrine & Covenants 46:12. It tells us that we should seek the gifts, that all of us have a gift, and that it is important that all of us be at the table, that all might be profited thereby. That is the critical element—that we are only all profited when all gifts are at the table. And so I would encourage us to do that.

      Now brothers and sisters, I would just tell you that we each have an obligation to construct and to build our own bastions of faith. I have done so. I feel committed in my capacity to tell you that I have a testimony of God, the Eternal Father. I don’t know how this miracle works, because there have been billions on this earth. But I would just tell you that somehow He knows each of us personally. And that He is there for us, He has given us guidance and He is prepared to give us more if we will ask. I have a testimony of His Son, Jesus Christ, and of His role as our Savior and Redeemer, and the author of the Atonement. And I am so grateful for that knowledge and for that capacity. And finally I have a testimony of the Holy Ghost, as a prompt, as an influence, as a guide, and as a revealer to us. This is the greatest gift that we can be given.

      Now I joined the church at the age of 24. I joined it because a woman that I proposed to said, “I want to be married in the temple. And I am prepared to marry you but not while you are a Presbyterian. I want to marry you as a Latter-day Saint.” It is the best inducement on the planet. I met regularly with the missionaries. It was not a hard struggle, but it took months, and the answers to lots of questions. The Lord loves questions. If you only ask, He will give you the answers. And it took me a long time to figure that out. But He will answer, and He will provide. Joseph Smith was the master asker of questions. His question as a 15-year-old boy reopened and reconvened our relationship with God, who now reveals to each of us if we will but ask. And I say it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

the parents of five children, and this says, currently nine grandchildren. Is that still correct? Twelve, and 13 on its way, so we congratulate them both.

 


Our Beautiful Mind

30 Sep. 2014

Transcript

Our Beautiful Mind

My desire here is to offer you some comfort and some inspiration, as well as some tools for dealing with your mind and feelings.  Most of us experience painful kinds of thoughts that run like an undercurrent through our life and put stress on us in nearly everything we do – in our academic, social, spiritual lives.  Maybe you recognize thoughts like these:  “I just don’t belong,” or “I’m not as smart,” or “If people knew, they’d reject me,” or “I can never be good enough,” and so on.  In this brief time together I want to explore feeling good, feeling free.  Of course the care of the body is relevant here, too – good food, sufficient rest, often make a big difference in the sense of emotional well-being.  But here I want to talk about how to love and care for your beautiful mind, taking some inspiration from the poet William Wordsworth:  “[We will] instruct them how the mind of man becomes a thousand times more beautiful…” (The Prelude).

Many of our emotional and spiritual problems begin, not so much because of difficult circumstances or traumatic experiences of the past or because there’s something inherently wrong with us but rather because of the way we have learned to use our mind.  

 

Let me share a story with you about an experience that Dr. Daniel Brown, a psychologist and researcher at the Harvard Medical School, had. He and a group of psychologists came to interview the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet.  One of the Americans asked the Dalai Lama, through the translator, how Buddhists deal with the issue of negative self-talk, talk like, “I’m not good enough.”  The translator and His Holiness then began a long discussion in their language.  The American psychologists, sitting there, began to wonder what was going wrong.  Finally they learned that these Easterners did not understand the idea of negative self-talk.  His Holiness turned to the psychologist who’d asked the question and said, “Why would you ever let your mind get like that?”[1]

 

 

We in the West, especially the U.S., take negative self-talk, low self-esteem, etc., as a given. But the Dalai Lama said that there is no such concept in Tibetan culture of self-loathing or self-deprecation, or as he put it, “a lack of compassion for oneself.”[2] Another American therapist in this group said that in his work he saw that many ordinary people carry on an incessant, negative inner monologue.  He said that this becomes a constant habit, and that often people aren’t even aware of what they’re doing or the impact it has on them.[3]

 

So, it appears that we suffer many emotional problems because we have let our “mind get like that.” But what are our options? The short answer is that we can learn to let go of thoughts that are not working for us and then energize a different kind of thinking. 

 

I want to refer you to a valuable new website called All Of Life at alloflife.org, developed by a couple of young LDS men here in Salt Lake, based on the latest mental-health research, as well as on ancient and modern wisdom. On the website you can register for free classes of a course called Mindweather, which is a series of short videos, each only a few minutes long.  The classes compassionately explain how the mind works; how to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings; how to accept them non-judgmentally, no matter how bad we think they are; and how to let go of them; how the brain is plastic, how negative thoughts have made neural pathways in the brain through frequent repetition but how exercising the mind in new thoughts produces new neural pathways, which change our experience in life.  Since these classes build on each other, I encourage you to watch from the beginning, in order, to the end – but not all at once, so you can absorb the insights.

 

My remarks here will serve as a supplement to that website, since I can talk about relevant spiritual things here with you.

 

What are some of the things that have happened to our mind to make it vulnerable to sorrows?  You and I arrived on earth with a beautiful mind -- pure, loving, and fearless. But we were born into a telestial, fallen world, so that as we grew, we began to be programmed by another sort of mind that flourishes in this world, what we might call the world-mind, characterized by fearful, negative thoughts and feelings.  Then, as we grew, we lost conscious awareness of our original beauty, our joy, and our love.  Happily, these qualities of our original self are still there in our being, unharmed, but to some extent covered up by the world-mind. 

 

So, out of our confusion and ignorance and innocence as little children, we began to buy into fearful thinking and negative impressions of ourselves and others. The untrained human mind tends to run in negative channels, gravitating toward feelings of fear, despair, jealousy, hatred, contempt, vengeance, grudges, self-blame, self-doubt – just to name a few.  We all experience all of them some time or other, as they are a necessary part of our earthly experience.

 

But we need to look more deeply into these negative mind-states and see that they are not only false, a deception, but that they have a poisonous effect on our soul.  They create toxins in our being.  They create feelings of isolation, of unworthiness, of anxiety; they weaken our faith and darken our mind, and block our communion with our true self and with the Lord.  They make the soul contract, leaving us vulnerable to all the ills and sorrows of the fallen world, putting emotional and physical stress on us.  Indeed, these thoughts are the lens through which we interpret the world, as through a dark glass. And they tend to be aggressive, seeking to take up residence in us.  And then these thoughts, by the law of attraction, attract more thoughts and experiences like them, increasing negativity in our life.  And, all the while, we don’t know what’s really the matter with us. 

 

These uncomfortable thoughts and feelings result from the fear we pick up in the world-mind, perhaps especially the feeling of not being good enough or not being able to get enough love.  Then, under fear’s influence, we may find ourself doing many self-defeating things to try to quiet the fear, to appear good enough, to get love -- maybe in any form -- and then, we suffer, we experience stress, because we’re living against our true nature – but we don’t know that.

 

My premise here is that we unwittingly contribute to our own distress.   The truth is, we are finally responsible for our own happiness, because, when we are informed, we can choose (see 2 Nephi 10:23).  Even though our negative feelings about ourself and our life can come from difficult circumstances, or memories of past failures and mistakes, or even from traumatic experiences, our current distress arises from the kinds of thoughts, words, and behaviors that we unwittingly indulge in now. 

 

That’s good news because we can do something about it.  Mental and emotional distortions are not part of the original nature of the mind – they are fake add-ons, and therefore, we can be freed of them.  

 

But let me say, my experience is, it takes effort to change our mental habits, and it won’t happen by itself.  But it is so worth the trouble and practice to do it.  We can change our mind, because it is our destiny to have a beautiful mind, a mind we love.

 

What we quickly realize, however, is that we can no longer use our mind in just any old way. Therefore, we have to learn some spiritual physics, namely, how to discern two main energy fields: negative or low-energy thoughts and positive or high-energy thoughts.  

 

We’ve already listed some negative thoughts which we all recognize; the higher-energy thoughts we also recognize. These include thoughts or feelings of kindness, helpfulness, truth, compassion, goodness, humility, and faith.  These have a high-energy level, they actually impart healthy energy, they lift us up, and they feel empowering, while our understanding and our mind expand (see Alma 32:34) – because they are part of our true, emotionally healthy self, and, in reality, come from another realm outside this world.  In fact, high-energy thoughts, if the intention behind them is pure, are continuous with gifts of the Spirit. 

 

The Lord, understanding perfectly the dangers of our negative thought-world, has put instruction throughout the scriptures about the liberating use of the mind – e.g., “Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not;” (D&C 6:36) “Pray always and I will pour out my Spirit upon you” (D&C 19:38); Cry unto the Lord for all thy support;…whithersoever thou goest, let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord…” (Alma 37:36-37). That is the reason the Lord has made himself so accessible to us, because the rescue and the development we need are so beyond our personal powers to produce.  These are not idle or optional instructions if we want to escape the sorrows of the world-mind.  But they take some effort to train.

 

We are here in this life to learn to discern these two energies, and to access the higher.  Earth-life provides the perfect laboratory for us to learn the difference; to learn that we are designed from before the foundations of the earth, as spirits of truth, to see through the haze and dark mists of this world-mind, and to live by more powerful energies. 

 

And so we must come to our true nature. It has occurred to me that there is so much light, life, love, goodness, and joy in our true nature that it would take a powerful deception to convince us otherwise.  This deception is only possible through our having forgotten who we are.  If we had a clear memory of who we really were, and how we thought, and how we felt in the premortal world, how we loved pure truth, this earth deception would never work; we would never fall for its thought-world. 

 

Consider this example of moving from deception back into one’s true self. Nephi, whose brothers are trying to kill him, has reacted with anger and despair; he’s depressed and shut down: he cries out, “O wretched man that I am!”  But you can see that in the course of the chapter, he starts to get an inkling of what’s going on. It’s almost as though he says, Wait a minute -- “Awake my soul!  No longer droop in sin.  Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul” (2 Ne 4:28).   Like the great Nephi, we too are driven with the wind and tossed – until we get it.

 

Now, having spoken earlier of our true nature, we must speak of our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, because we cannot really separate our being from His – we are, in some unutterable way, part of Him, and He is part of us.  He reminds us that we are made of the same stuff that He is: light, truth, intelligence (D&C 93:23, 29) – exactly the same raw material. That is why we are so uncomfortable with lies and darkness – it’s just not who we are. 

 

Our beautiful nature, then, is embedded with the Lord.  We live and move and have our being in Him (Acts 17:27-28); He says, speaking intimately to us, “I am the true light that is in you and … you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound.” (D&C 88:50). He says, “I am the vine, and ye are the branches” (John 15:5) -- “Abide in me” (John 15:4). That is, we live on a life-support system in Christ, He being the conscious fountain of our breath, our light, and our love. We are vessels of these eternal essences in Him.

 

Here we realize that the Atonement, or, better, the At-one-ment, was wrought specifically so that He could dwell in us as a loving, guiding, purifying Presence, in at-one-ment with each of us.  So, it appears that whether one wants that, or feels worthy of that, nevertheless, He’s patiently and continually there -- a free gift.

 

Let me suggest a small series of high-energy experiments for training your mind in high-energy mind-states.

 

1)    You can grow in your direct awareness of Him. When you are in a quiet place, if you will get very still inside, allowing thought to settle, listening to the silence inside, perhaps feeling the energy of life processes moving in your body, aware of the simple feeling of being without thought, you can discern not only the presence of your own true self, but also that loving Divine Presence.  It’s simply there.  At first this awareness is indistinct and fragile, but as we experiment, perhaps during prayer, we will feel that sense of Presence grow, and we will feel it with us, shaping our day.  We will know that our life is in His hands.  All spiritual realities can be experienced directly.  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that this Presence is real.  And many here could testify as well. I say to you, Honor the presence of the Lord in your being. (See D&C 93:35a).

 

2)    Another high-energy experiment: during your quiet times, train your mind and heart to be like His by allowing overflowing, boundless feelings of lovingkindness to arise and fill your soul.  You will have to reach down deep in your soul but know that this is already an innate, divine attribute in your being, and that it wants to emerge and express itself through you in the world – no matter what your past experiences with love have been.  Your spirit knows what pure love is.  Use your imagination, and allow yourself to be saturated with this feeling.  And also notice your resistance to love.  Our sorrows often come because of our resistance to love; old pain can create barriers.  Let us dissolve the obstacles between ourself and love; let us simply love.  The Lord will help us.  Sit for a bit with what it would feel like to live that way, consciously, filled with pure love in Christ (see Moroni 7:48).  You can do it if you persist because your most basic nature is love, and so is His.

 

We can see that He could never forsake or abandon us, but we can lose awareness of Him and His love for us. John says, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him…. Perfect love casteth out fear.” (1 John 4:16, 18). And in another place John records the Lord’s words:“Continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy  might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:9-12).

 

One of the results of practicing this way is that, in time, you begin to notice that things are working together for you in detailed ways (see Romans 8:28-29).  Your fear level begins to go down.  Not to say that you won’t have troubles – of course you will -- so did the Prophet Joseph and the Lord Himself, but you’ll come to know that life’s events are happening not only to you, but for you.  You can have this knowingness inside.  It changes everything.

 

3)    And consider trying this: instead of the usual things we think as we look randomly at other people, rather, silently bless everyone you see, looking at everyone and everything through eyes of compassion and understanding; especially observing that when obnoxious or abusive acts are committed, there is pain and ignorance in the person who commits those – always.  So we think like our Lord --“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  

 

And remember, it doesn’t mean when we forgive a wrong act that we are saying that the wrong act is ok.  No, we’re just seeing more deeply into it, while we side-step the misery of hatred the act might inspire.  But think about it, speaking of misery: which would you rather be -- the one who is abused, or the abuser?

  

4)    And then, try this: become tuned to unspoken cries for help.  Everyone is so vulnerable and so many around you are suffering but not showing it. This is the spiritual gift that Thomas Monson and Gordon Hinckley and Spencer Kimball developed – they listened for the cries.  Carry the ready question, “How can I help?” – even if only to radiate your love and your smile and your encouragement.

 

And the result of this practice? -- Our confidence waxes strong in the presence of God, (D&C 121:45), and we know we abide in Him (see 1 John 4:16).

 

And you’ll also notice that like attracts like; as in negative energy, so also in positive.  That is, pure love attracts more love, so that the person who has let go of a lot of negativity begins to feel surrounded by loving thoughts, loving events, and loving people.  Alma calls it the Law of Restoration and says to his son, “See that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly … and do good continually…. For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again and be restored” (Alma 41:14-15). What we do, speak, and think today, will affect our experience today, tomorrow, and in the days and years to come.  No exceptions.  We can make this law work for us by choosing our words, thoughts, and behavior with pure intention.

 

A final story: Byron Katie awakens. This is a story about a beautiful, rich 43-year-old woman who knew nothing of a spiritual life or spiritual principles or religion. After years of rage and depression she finds herself in a rehab house.  One morning, she awakes, lying on the floor because she felt too unworthy to sleep in a bed.  She says, “I was depressed for ten years. Paranoid, agoraphobic, filled with self-loathing. Every day I wanted to die. For the last two years, I could barely leave my bedroom. Then one morning, as I lay sleeping on the floor in an attic room, a cockroach crawled over my foot. I opened my eyes -- and in place of all that darkness -- was a joy I can’t describe.” “All my rage, all the thoughts that had been troubling me… [were] gone.”  “There was a joy and clarity – a miraculous experience I can’t describe.  It was as though I had never before seen what I was seeing, as though something new was looking out of my eyes – new, so new.”  She says she rose and began to walk -- such peace, such joy and excitement, at everything she saw.  All the old concepts, the painful memories, the self-hate – all these were gone, and everything looked entirely new.  It was as though a space of nothing had been created that allowed a new intelligence to live.  She was left only with gratitude and the question, How can I help? 

 

She found that her nature, our nature, is only love and joy.  “If you were the most beautiful in the world, the most beautiful, wouldn’t you want to see yourself reflected in everything? I’ve come to love everything.”  She says it is our fearful thinking that covers all this up so that we don’t feel or see our innate love.    

 

These days she is a gifted spiritual teacher, who writes important books, and travels the globe helping people recover from their minds.[4]

 

So, one take-away from this story is this: What if you could not even think the recurring thoughts that distress and afflict you?  What if suddenly they were gone? What if you were not capable of even thinking your favorite negative, fearful thoughts? Who would you be? How would you be? Would you not be liberated, fearless, your true, beautiful self in Christ?  We have the power to come to live in the moment without the past.  When all the negative stuff that we cling to so tenaciously is taken out, what is left?  Only love and joy – that’s what’s underneath it all. We can begin fresh now, this very moment.

 

Of course we see similar accounts in the scriptures -- Alma the younger who awakens born again. Or King Benjamin’s people, purified in a moment of years of toxic stuff, who then experience such inexpressible joy, they can’t even speak (see Mosiah 4:2-3).  These stories happen more than you think. 

 

I encourage you to design your own spiritual practice for training your mind, things you want to train yourself to do every day in order to raise your spiritual energy level, in addition, of course, to your prayer and scripture.  Remember, we’re forming new neural pathways.  What you repeatedly practice will become your inclination.  With the practice of compassion, for example, you’ll notice that in time it begins to arise spontaneously and lasts longer and longer when it does – until you have stabilized in this divine attribute. Setting out to create new mental habits is something like a rocket ship trying to escape the force of gravity – at first it takes quite a bit of effort, and then you break free, and it almost runs itself.

 

Take a little paper and write down a couple of intentions.  Here’s the principle: your focused intention is the key to accessing the power of God.  You tell Him what you intend, you show Him that you mean it, and He responds with His power.  For example, you could—

1) Intend to monitor your mind, becoming aware of its negative content, each negative thought, feeling.  Awareness itself is curative. Know that you can surrender these, as you find them, to the Lord. This can be very healing. 

2) Intend to look at others with eyes of blessing and compassion.  This practice changes your perception of reality.  

3) Intend to multiply kindness and to help wherever it is appropriate.

 

Then look at your little paper of intentions a few times a day. Live your practice and love your practice; let it be the focal point of your awareness, even in the midst of your busy, preoccupied life.  It’s your joy and your protection – not only for you, but for everyone in your world. Everyone you know will like you better. Live to love your mind. 

 

And, when you have a minute, take a look at some episodes of BYUtv’s program, “Turning Point.”  That will stir your juices.

I’ll finish with Elder John Groberg’s words: “Just stop and think for a moment of the whole world, the whole universe, literally filled with pleas for help…. We must spend effort to hear the cry of others — those unborn, those untaught, those unhappy,… those unwell. We must even strain to comprehend what is being requested, what is needed, and how we can best fill that need. We must, in fact, move into the unknown, become a full partner with God, and attune our souls to the hearing and answering of those pleas.” (Elder John Groberg, Ensign, April 1986).

Can you begin to imagine the difference you could make in this world as you train your beautiful mind? Or the joy you could have doing it?  The Lord says– “I say unto you, even as you desire of me, so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation” (D&C 6:8).  You know -- this is a reason to live.

 

May it be so, my dear friends.  In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

[1] Conversations on Non-Duality, Cherry Red Books, London, 2011, p. 237; also available as an interview with Dr. Brown and Iain McNay, YouTube. Dr. Brown’s comment was that negative self-talk is a Western disease, the consequence of an undisciplined and untrained mind. 

 

[2] Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health, Daniel Goleman, ed., Shambhala, 2003, 184.

[3] Ibid, 190.

[4] Katie has told her story in a number of places, such as, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, Introduction, and a set of CDs called Your Inner Awakening, CD #1.  More about her, including videos of her at work with people, can be found on her website.


Romantic Love and the Temple

30 Sep. 2014

Transcript

Romantic Love and the Temple

Thank you, brothers and sisters of the choir; that was beautiful. We are glad to be with you today, brothers and sisters. One of the first things I notice about this group of students at LDS Business College is what a high proportion of men we have here. I don’t know if you girls have noticed that or not. That’s kind of unusual. I asked the president; he said many of the sisters are serving missions and this will all get fixed within a few months.  But seeing the high proportion of men reminded me of something that happened a few years ago at a young adult conference in Australia. There was some meeting where the kids had an opportunity to express themselves, and there was this interesting girl, a wonderful Church member, had flaming red hair and wore a colorful outfit, and she came to the podium during a time they were exchanging thoughts, and she said, “I have an announcement to make. I just want everyone to know that when I die, I will only have female pall bearers.”

That was an announcement they hadn’t heard before, so people kind of listened up—what’s this about? She said, “Do you wonder why? Why I’m having female pall bearers? I’ll tell you. You guys don’t take me out while I’m alive; you’re not taking me out when I’m dead.”

So I hope that’s of some help to you today.

Now, that actually fits right in with our talk. When we saw how close we were to Valentine’s for the day of this devotional, Sister Hafen and I decided we want to talk to you about romantic love and the temple. You wondered what those two had to do with each other. We’re going to tell you today. Is the temple romantic? Oh, yeah—one of the most romantic places in the universe.

Only a few months ago, I had the opportunity of performing a sealing—one of the great blessings of our service in the St. George Temple was to be able to do that once in a while, particularly with people we knew in some way. So as we were…as I was in our sacred sealing room, this beautiful bride was kneeling at the altar, looking at her fiancé about to become her husband, and as I was about to begin the sacred ordinance, just looking at the two of them kind of knocked me over. I sort of had to get hold of myself and get my composure, because it was such a moving sight. I found myself looking at her face, just as we were about to begin, and I saw as she began to smile—she knew I was about to perform the ordinance—as I started, I saw this radiant look on her face.

She was beautiful anyway, but there was a light in her countenance, a smile, I saw the tears beginning to fill her eyes, and I had a funny thought. Suddenly there came back to me the counsel I had received from another general authority before I did my first temple sealing, and I asked him, “Well, how do we do this?” And he was explaining how we do this.

One of the things he said was, “Now be sure to tell the couple to look at you and not at each other when they’re being married.” And I thought of that as I saw them looking at each other. And I replied to my dear friend who had given me that counsel, silently in my mind—I didn’t ever see him to tell him this—but my response was, “Are you kidding? Do you think I want them looking at me when they could be looking at each other?”

And I kept looking at them. I don’t want to miss this ever. As I looked at his face and saw them reciprocating those looks, I realized something of what they must be sensing—the price they had paid to be here, how long they had waited, how much they had restrained themselves, how they had sacrificed, how they had prepared. This was the day of days for their whole lives, and I knew it would be that for their families. That was just written all over their faces, and the light was sacred.

Was that a romantic moment in the temple? I can’t think of anything much more romantic than for them to seal that sacred love for the eternities. In order for you to be in that place, if you haven’t been there yet for your own sealing, I hope what we say today can just make some contribution to your preparation, because my experience is that, for all you can learn about the temple, there’s nothing more important than simply understanding some really fundamental things about love, and about what it means to feel love, to prepare for love.

Let me share with you something President Boyd K. Packer spoke in a fireside many years ago. Sister Hafen and I were students at BYU. We heard this together—maybe that’s one reason we always remembered it. And we were glad to have him give us permission to feel what we did. He said, “You are old enough now to fall in love—not the puppy love of elementary years, …the full-blown love of eligible men and women, newly matured, ready for life. I mean romantic love, with all the full intense meaning of the word…. No experience can be more beautiful, no power more compelling, more exquisite. Or if misused, no suffering is more excruciating than that connected with love.” (“Eternal Love,” BYU Fireside, 3 November 1963, quoted in Elder Bruce C. Hafen, “The Gospel and Romantic Love, BYU devotional, September 28, 1982, http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=652.)

But precisely because love is so beautiful, it’s also a high-risk part of life. I recently ran across some words that I had heard before. Elder Holland quoted these in a conference talk a few years ago. Let me share it with you. The historian Will Durrant and his wife wrote this, looking back at history, the lessons of history, about this subject: “No man [or woman], however brilliant or well-informed, can… safely… dismiss… the wisdom of [lessons learned] in the laboratory of history. A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; [but] if he is unchecked by customs, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he understands that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.” (The Lessons of History, (1968), pp. 35-36, quoted in “Personal Purity,” General Conference, Oct. 1998, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1998/10/personal-purity?lang=eng#2-)

Brothers and sisters, that’s a comment about the kind of world we live in now. It’s not so much a comment about you. It could be, but I’m concerned about the world we live in today. It’s really a confused place. Our Primary kids sing a song called, “Follow the Prophet.” One of the verses says:

 

Now we have a world where people are confused.

If you don’t believe [me], go and watch the news.

      (Children’s Songbook, p. 110)

 

Can I give you just a few little samples? During our lifetime, in the years since we’ve been married, we have watched in this American society and we’ve seen it around the world, a revolution of many kinds, that included a sexual revolution that’s really changed the way people think and feel and assume what they do about this subject. In the media, sexual things are so accepted that people who produce the media don’t share the values you and I care about. For them to show people making love on the screen is just like showing people having dinner on the screen. And that affects our perceptions. It’s wrong, but that’s the kind of world we live in. The plague of internet and other forms of pornography—there are some really significant reasons why the Brethren talk so often about this subject, and why we have to take it to heart.

Divorce is so common. Children being born out of wedlock. When we were married the percentage of kids born out of wedlock in this country was five percent; it’s now forty percent. Elder Oaks quoted something in conference recently where many young people in America—I think there were fifty percent of young people that think out-of-wedlock child bearing is a “worthwhile lifestyle.” (See “No Other Gods,” General Conference, Oct. 2013, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/11/sunday-morning-session/no-other-gods?lang=eng.)  They tragically don’t understand the devastation that’s caused to children in those circumstances. I could go on and on about that, about how serious it is. I think you have some idea about it.

And then one other thing—we’re living in the day of the campaign to make homosexuality publicly acceptable. Gay marriage was recognized in the State of Utah in a federal court case that is now on appeal. You probably know about that. The Church’s position about this is very clear. The First Presidency and Twelve issued a statement on January 10th that you can see if you haven’t. Our doctrine is there can’t be exaltation without a man and a woman in marriage. (See “Church Instructs Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage,” Newsroom, 10 January 2014, http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-instructs-leaders-on-same-sex-marriage. )  You can’t fulfill the great plan of happiness. There can’t be forever families. So this is a hard subject for us. At the same time, one reason it’s hard is that the Brethren teach us that the Lord expects us to show love and compassion and understanding for those who struggle with same-sex attraction or who have a commitment to gay marriage. We accept their freedom to believe those things. Living in this kind of world, we wonder what this tolerance means. It is one thing to tolerate it; it’s another to endorse it, promote it.

I won’t take a lot of time on this subject. Let me just say, for those who would like to know more about it, I gave a talk to a group in 2009 to a group called Evergreen International. It was at that time a kind of support group, Church-sponsored, for those struggling with same-sex attraction. I tried to offer in that talk some thoughts about why gay marriage is a problem. That talk is available on the web if you put in my name and Evergreen International. It’s posted on the Church newsroom site. (See article at http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/elder-bruce-c-hafen-speaks-on-same-sex-attraction.)  There’s also a chapter on how same-gender marriage weakens what marriage means in my book Covenant Hearts. I won’t take the time to pursue that further. I would just say that one of the challenges of this dimension of the confusion in our age is, if any of you or your friends are struggling with these kinds of feelings, pay attention to them. And you would especially want to read something like what I have just referred to.

A summary of all this is we live in a decadent culture. President Hinckley said he didn’t think Sodom and Gomorrah were worse than this. He said, “The family is falling apart all over the world,” and then he said, “[I think this is my] greatest concern.” (See Ensign, Nov. 1997, 69)  So what do we do about that?

One positive perspective—we really want to take a positive approach now—given these sobering realities, we want to offer a positive, beautifully fulfilling, rewarding message about this subject, because that’s the kind of subject it is. Let me offer these words as a way to introduce that perspective. Marie and I ran across these some years ago in the writings of an English writer, David Lawrence, describing married love as one of mankind’s most exquisite blessings. He wrote: “[There is a] profound instinct of fidelity in a man, which is… deeper and more powerful than the instinct of faithless… promiscuity…. Where there is real sex there is… [a] passion for fidelity. …The prostitute knows this, because she… can only keep men who [want the counterfeit: and] she despises [these men].

“[Those who don’t understand reality think that] all sex is infidelity and [that] only infidelity is sex. [They think that] marriage is sexless , null…. Sex is a thing you don’t have except to be naughty with…. [But in fact, God] created marriage by making it a sacrament, a sacrament of man and woman united in… communion, …and never to be parted.” This by a man who didn’t really know what it meant to say “never to be parted.” You and I know. That’s what romantic love and the temple have to do with each other.

He continued: “Marriage, making one complete body out of two incomplete ones, … [develops] the man’s soul and the woman’s soul in unison, throughout a lifetime…. This oneness gradually accomplished through a life-time in twoness, is [one of ] the highest achievement[s] of time or eternity.” From it springs the greatest of human creations—children. It is “the will of God [for this] oneness, to take place, fulfilled over a lifetime….

“The oneness of … man and woman in marriage completes the universe, as far as humanity is concerned, [it] completes the streaming of the sun and the flowing of the stars.” (D.H. Lawrence, Essays on Sex, Literature and Censorship (New York: Twayne, 1953), pp. 96-111, quoted in “The Gospel and Romantic Love,” BYU Devotional, Sept. 28, 1982, http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=652.)  

In other words, the problem is not that sex as the world understands it is too satisfying. The problem is that the way they understand it isn’t satisfying enough. The prophet Jacob said, in II Nephi 9, don’t “labor for that which cannot satisfy.” (v. 51) And Alma said to his son, “Bridle… your passions, that ye may be filled with love.” (Alma 38:12)

Well, you know about the Ten Commandments. Today we’re just going to offer nine suggestions that encourage this kind of attitude about this sacred subject. I’ll introduce this and Sister Hafen will continue.

First of all, reverence your body and its life-giving powers. It really is a temple. You must treat it with that kind of sacredness.

Second, be emotionally honest in expressing affection. Save your kisses; you might need them someday. A kiss of love is different from a kiss of self-centered passion. So when you are looking where to draw the line between love and lust, draw it in favor of love and wait. And then you will find love in its fullest, greatest sense. Let me invite Sister Hafen to continue.

 

Sister Hafen:

We are really happy to be with you today.

So number three, after those first two, is be friends first and romantic second. So a healthy friendship-based relationship is sort of shaped like a pyramid, with friendship on the bottom and then other layers—self-restraint, time, common interests—a lot of things that then build in the pyramid until this glittering diamond at the top, which we would call romance. It’s kind of a mystery, but a something real nevertheless. And what would happen if you turned that pyramid upside-down and tried to stand it on that point? It’s not going to be very stable.

Let me tell you just a little bit about our relationship. The president mentioned that we met in a class at BYU. It was a religion class. It was called “Your Religious Problems.” We solved probably the most important religious problem that we had through taking that class, since we met each other in that class, but our relationship was based on a friendship. We would present our own religious problems to each other in the class, directed by our teacher, and then we would leave the class and talk about those problems. And then our friendship developed from there, until I can remember the time—you see, this is ancient history to you—but I can remember that the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot, both of us were looking for each other. And we found each other toward the end of the day, and we realized that there was a connection between us that was unusual for us. And I also remember the night we were dancing at a BYU dance, and looked into each other’s eyes, and yes—there was that little glittering mystery, that point on our pyramid, that was shining very brightly.

So for us, the pyramid based on friendship and based on restraint and respect and understanding and time, really has built something that has lasted over the years. We still don’t have enough time to talk about everything that we would like to talk about.

So fourth, develop the discipline of self-restraint. The woman who took her little son to a wise old man and said, “What’s the most important thing I can teach my little son?”

The wise old man said, “Teach him to deny himself.” Or in other words, teach him to say no to himself. Scriptural stories that we all know well—the difference between Joseph in the Old Testament and David—Joseph, when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, fled. He “got him[self] out,” (Genesis 39:12) while David tragically flirted with evil, and it destroyed him.

It is a false idea to think that anything is okay, as far as sex is concerned, as long as you don’t go all the way. Do you mind if I be really blunt and direct about that? It is a false idea to think that anything short of going all the way is okay. One step overpoweringly leads to another. So when you wonder where to draw the line between love and lust, draw it on the love side. Nobody ever fell off a cliff who never went near one.

Fifth, live to have the Holy Ghost as your constant guide. You have been invited to receive that gift, yours if you actively receive it. And one little tip—we’ve seen some of our kids go through this: don’t get emotionally involved with someone you already know you should not marry. Strong romantic emotion, once you’re into it, kind of jams up your receiver. It’s hard to get those messages from the Spirit if you’re emotionally already jammed up.

So a key to spiritual guidance—because what’s more important in your life than knowing what the Lord wants you to do next in your relationship with someone?—is worthiness.

Let me give you a little comparison, and I hope you’ll listen. I notice how many of you were lifting your books and taking a couple of notes. Maybe make a note about this: compare Doctrine and Covenants section 63, and you’ll find the verses, with Doctrine and Covenants 121, toward the end of that section. We’re a little more familiar with that. That’s the one that says, “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, the Spirit will be your constant companion, your confidence will wax strong in His presence, and the doctrine will distil like dew.” Now, that’s [section] 121. Notice the contrast with section 63. It talks about if you have lustful hearts, you won’t have the Spirit. You will fear, and you will deny the faith. It’s a fascinating minute study there to notice contrasting lustful hearts with virtue garnishing your thoughts unceasingly. You won’t have the Spirit, compared to the Spirit as a constant companion. You will fear, compared with confidence in His presence, and you will deny the faith, compared to having the doctrine of the priesthood distill.

It’s like your chorus sang just a few minutes ago—come now and serve the Lord, and if we believe in Him, He will make us stronger. I just want to bear witness of that, in terms of your spiritual worthiness

Okay, number six of these nine suggestions: create a vision of your future family. Now I know that a number of you have come from families that are not perfect. All of us come from families that are not perfect. Many of you may come from broken families, but that does not mean that you cannot create your own eternal family. So how are you going to do that?

Here’s one very practical way that we have heard and talked about recently. Get to know your own family stories—and that means your own parents’ stories, your grandparents’ stories, other ancestors of yours. For example, do you know the story of your own birth? Your mother knows it; ask her sometime. Do you know the story of how your parents and your grandparents met? Do you know stories of how specific ancestors of yours overcame things that were hard or difficult? Because they have found that the research—if you know your own stories, your own family stories, you are better able to face hard things in your own life. Because if they can do it, you can do it. It gives you a sense of control over your own life.

I can remember Bruce’s mother, when she lived very close to us, next door, she asked our teenage daughter, the baby of the family, “Do you know how to do hard things?” She had seen this daughter kind of slipping out of some of the hard things. And then she’d ask her after that, “Have you done your hard thing today?” And I heard her say that enough, and I have taken that on recently, because we have challenges in our life with our children, with our grandchildren—we can do hard things. I know that a lot of you brethren are returned missionaries. You know that. Keep knowing that. It’s why the Lord gave us the scriptures. They’re a collection of stories of generations.

Seventh, have you noticed that your young adult culture, generally—and I hope you’re not offended—is ever texting and never coming to a knowledge of stable friendship-based relationships? The research shows that there are a lot of young people your age who don’t know how to build a relationship that leads to a good marriage. So it’s common to send a text—it’s 11:30 at night—“Hey, what’s up? Do you want to do something?” So the current young adult culture, especially for you young women, there’s a temptation. Don’t give in to those “what’s up” calls at midnight. A non-LDS researcher—this was really interesting to me—found that women who expect a guy to pick her up for a real date planned in advance, initiated by the guy, is more likely to spend their time with people mature enough, who want to get married, rather than immature enough that they mostly just want intimacy.

That’s not saying that you have to spend money. There are lots of dates, lots of really good things to do without spending a lot of money. You could play games with your friends. I can remember a first date that we had was charades with some of his friends. I got to know him in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise. So it’s ways to get to know each other—serve together, work together, join activities for the College. There are ways without spending a lot of money you can get to know people in a very constructive way.

Eighth, don’t fall for the temptation—and this is one that we have seen over and over again—don’t fall for the temptation to sin or just step over the line just a little, while at the same time planning to repent. Does that make sense? In other words, don’t be sinning while you’re planning to repent. Some people knowingly transgress while thinking, “Well, I can repent before the deadline”—an interview for the temple, and interview for the temple, or applying for a Church school—“I’ll repent.”

A couple of our sons thought this was a good idea—of course, they were seven and nine at the time. The seven-year-old had found a quarter he had stolen, and looked guilty—“guilty, guilty, guilty” was flashing on his forehead. His dad said, “Dave, that’s not like you. What happened?”

He said, “Well, it’s John. He told me it’s okay to steal stuff until you’re eight.” Okay, young theologian.

So Bruce said, “What are you teaching your younger brother?”

He said, “Well, I go to Primary. They teach you you get baptized and all your sins are washed away. So I say, it’s okay until you’re eight. I say, live it up.”

Not exactly good advice—especially when you are 15, 20 years older. Planning to repent and go to the temple later is such a mistake—not one that you can’t turn around from, but it’s a whole lot harder. We’ve also seen that. And don’t forget the entanglements of sin, that there are consequences that sometimes you can’t turn around. And sometimes those are unplanned children, and sometimes those are addictions, sometimes there are lost opportunities, fences to mend. You might discover very late, you can’t wash away every stain on your clothes. It’s like Lady Macbeth; it turns. The consequences are there.

So the easiest thing is, don’t plan to repent when you are in the midst of transgressing. It’s very hard to turn around and go upstream—possible, but very difficult, because repentance is real and the Atonement is real. I just want to bear witness to that, that the real thing is worth planning for, living for, waiting for. I don’t want anything more than to be with my husband, with my children, with our eternal friends when this life is over. I just bear witness to the Savior and what He has done for us so that we can repent—that very positive word—turn our lives toward Him, and become enough like Him that together we can stay with Him forever. I bear witness to that, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Elder Hafen:

Our ninth suggestion is let yourself belong to the natural order of the universe. Do you know that’s what we do in the temple? The temple is built to orient us to what is true and right and natural in the whole universe. It’s the link between heaven and earth. So just as the ancient mariner looked to the stars to get his bearings, we go to the temple, and in the temple, because of that natural order, being in the temple allows God to write His natural order about romance and love and marriage and eternal love in our hearts.

Brothers and sisters, we don’t keep the commandments because our leaders ask us to and our parents want us to and we’re just trying to please them. That helps, and of course we care about that. But we keep the commandments because they are God’s way of teaching us how to find peace and purpose and joy for our lives. Things as they really are—the universe is designed to produce happiness and joy, and that’s why Alma said “wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10) It’s an illusion to think that it is.

I remember a line from Elder Maxwell, who once said, “The laughter of the world is [just] loneliness… trying to reassure itself.” (“Cleanse Us From All Unrighteousness,” Ensign, Feb. 1986, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/02/cleanse-us-from-all-unrighteousness?lang=eng. ) So the wicked have gone contrary to the nature of God, and therefore they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.

Can I offer you just one little final glimpse of nature in this sense? I don’t know why this has stayed with me over all these years. When we were living in Idaho—I guess I had been through a strenuous few days, and it was that time of the year when the leaves were just starting to turn. It was early fall, and I just needed to get out of town. I needed to go fishing. So I took our son, Mark, who was then seven—“You want to go fishing, Mark?”—and he jumped in the car. He was always so good to do that—true with all his brothers and sisters. But at that time, just Mark and I went out to a little place I hadn’t tried before. We found a little stream out in the hills of Idaho, a beautiful, beautiful day. The sun was shining—quiet. I remember seeing just a little bit of early snow on the tops of the mountains nearby.

As we walked through the water, looking for a place to throw in my fly, Mark was hanging onto the back of my shoulders, had his arms wrapped around my neck. He would giggle and laugh when I slipped on the rocks. He kept saying he hoped we would fall in the water. Well, I remember finding a place and I let him off on a sandbar in the stream, and I walked up a little bit where I could cast my fly. As the afternoon wore on, at one moment it was so peaceful. And I glanced over my shoulder and saw this blonde-haired little guy throwing rocks and skipping them on the water. And he was just so agile, so healthy in body and mind and spirit, and I had a kind of rush come over me. I realized, “That’s my child! He’s the fruit of the love I feel for his mom. And because of the kind of mother he has and because of the influence of the gospel in his life, he’s growing up to be so healthy, so good. He’ll contribute to the world. And it’s my privilege to be his father!”

I guess you kind of have to be a father to know what the feeling is. I felt in harmony with nature that day. I felt in harmony with God. I felt in harmony with the natural order of the universe, what the temple tries to teach us over and over. God will write the laws of that natural order in your heart in the temple. It’s in your scriptures. It’s in your prayers. You know it when you feel it. It is the way to find happiness and a joy fulfilled.

Don’t ever feel that the talk about commandments and restraints and all the “don’ts” in the gospel are some kind of fence around love to keep you out. They are, as President Packer once said, they are "the highway to love.” (BYU Fireside, Nov. 3, 1963, quoted in “The Gospel and Romantic Love,” BYU Devotional)

May the Lord bless you to know that. May He bless you with restraint, patience, and friendship, with His companionship, until you are that day, in the temple, yourself,  kneeling at that altar with that look on your face and that light in your countenances, because your love will burn within your soul forever. And it’s only because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that that is possible. Have you thought of that before? So when Sister Hafen and I take our place together and pass through that veil, we will kneel at His feet and thank Him that He made it possible, among all of the other blessings He has given us, that we could be together and that our children could belong to us forever. We will thank Him for that. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Now one note on Sister Hafen: At the J. Reuben Clark event, she read—is it a poem, officially?—“Lamentations” by Arta Romney Baliff. It is staggering. I went home and looked it up on the internet and sent it to all my married mothers and friends who are mothers. If she doesn’t do it today, you should go home and look it up.  “Lamentations” by Arta Romney Baliff.

Brothers and sisters, we are grateful to have this couple speak to us today who have given so much to the Church, so much to the principles of education. We are thankful for their willingness.


Healing Through Christ Raises Us to a Higher Level

30 Sep. 2014

Transcript

Healing Through Christ Raises Us to a Higher Level

            You look great. This is the start of week two, and you’re back. That’s a good sign. We welcome you here, you’re in a good place, you’re doing the right thing. We’re thankful to the choir, thankful to Brother Craig, thankful to Gregory who spoke, thankful to the prayer that was offered by a newly returned missionary. There’s nothing better than that.

 

      At last week’s new student orientation we asked all of those who were returned missionaries to raise their hand, and it was just astounding. I’d like to know in this larger group how many of you are returned missionaries? Raise your hand.  Now put your hands down, and I’ll ask the question I did to the group last week. All of you who have returned from your mission within the past 12 months, raise your hand. Thank you very much.

 

      I hope your mission stuck. That’s why we sing the song about, “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.” Now I mentioned this last week, and I think I’ll mention it again. You know the story of Peter and the apostles. The Savior had been resurrected and He visited and then left. Peter, along with six other brethren decided to go and do what? They went back to fishing. It had been a good mission—three great years. They knocked on a lot of doors and taught a lot of first discussions. And then the plane landed, they got off the plane, and Peter thought, “Nice ride, but I’m going to go back to fishing.”

 

      And you remember what happened. How was fishing? Not very good—until the Savior came and said to them, “Cast your nets on the other side.” They hauled in 153 fish—they counted them. [See John chapter 21.] Then Peter, recognizing the Savior, jumps out of the boat and swims to shore, while the rest of the brethren bring in the boat.

 

      They have breakfast together. Perhaps the Lord knew their temporal needs in the moment had to be satisfied before they were ready to be fed spiritually. So the resurrected Savior cooked a few fish. Now you remember this is the same Peter who wondered how they would get the money when they got to north of the Sea of Galilee, in Capernaum, and were supposed to pay tribute. Do you remember what the Savior told Peter to do to find the tribute money?

 

      He told him to go down and cast a fishing line into the sea, pull a fish out, and in the mouth of the fish will be the tribute coin. Now what do you think went through Peter’s head? “Really? Really?” But that good missionary did it, didn’t he? And what did he find? The coin.

 

      So what do we take from that story in the life of Peter? When you come to this College and we tell you to shave, you might think, “Really?” Or we tell you sisters that leggings aren’t pants, you might think, “Really?” Or we invite you to come to devotional and walk in the cold for two whole blocks and you think, “Really?” Our answer is, “Yes, really.”

 

      Peter learned something from finding that coin in the fish. It wasn’t convenient, he probably didn’t completely understand the “why” of it, and there were other ways to accomplish his goal. Just like there are other ways to learn about geography or volcanoes or accounting or medical assisting. And there are other ways to learn than doing so with our learning pattern. But we want you to do it this way. “Really?” Yes, really.

 

      In the moment that Peter went and got the fish with the coin, in the moment that Peter jumped off the boat and swam in because he recognized who the Savior was and couldn’t wait to get there, Peter learned.  He learned something while in the process of doing what the Lord asked him to do and in his single-minded rush to be near the resurrected Christ.

 

      In the third chapter of the Book of Acts, Peter and John are on their way to the temple. Who do they find outside the temple? A man who has been there every day. Somebody brings him and puts him there. He was a lame man, wasn’t he? And what does this lame man want? A coin. What does the lame man need? Healing. Now, brothers and sisters, you and I come to this College and we sit in a classroom, and we believe we’re there to get a coin.  We call it a certificate or a degree. We may even call it a great grade on a test. But what we need in that classroom is healing.

 

      What kind of healing? Healing to know who you are, because Satan spends his time telling who you are not. Healing to come to know what your capacities are, that you may fulfill the mission you were sent here to do. Healing that you may feel the Spirit to be healed from the wounds and the transgressions that have happened to you in your life, and the trials and the tribulations, and the hurt. You come to the College, and you sit in a class, or you sit in an institute class, or you sit in a devotional, and you are healed.

 

      Now let me separate healing from being cured. There is a difference. You can be cured and never healed. Think about some of the things you’ve experienced in your life that you’ve gotten past, been cured of. Time has helped you, the Spirit’s helped you, friends and neighbors have helped you. But despite the love and support of others you’ve never really been healed.. At other times, you may be healed but never cured. Most addictions are that way, whether it’s to food or to pornography or to substances. We can be healed but never cured. So we are careful about what we watch, we pick carefully which side of the street we walk down. A recovering alcoholic does not walk past the bar. You don’t do that. You don’t watch TV late at night when you’re tired if there is a risk. You can be healed, but you may never be cured.  In both case, however, you can live a positive, successful, and meaningful life.

 

      So here sits the lame man in front of Peter and John, expecting one thing but needing another. And you may sit in front of a faculty member and expect him to peel back your cranium and pour in life knowledge and textbook knowledge so that you can get the degree. But that’s not what you need. What you need is to learn how to learn.

 

      So the man asked Peter for alms, and what does Peter say? He says, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee,” (Acts 3:6). And He takes him by the hand and he lifts him up.

 

      Have you ever thought about the ability of lifting somebody up?  Can you do it if you’re not standing on higher ground? It would be kind of impossible, wouldn’t it? And so we are here, students, faculty, staff, and administration, to stand on higher ground that we may others lift up. D&C 43:16: “Ye are to be taught from on high (the Spirit)…that you may be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken.” We stand on higher ground.

 

      In the Church, do we talk about magnifying our calling? Yes. If you were to take a magnifying glass and put it right down on a sheet of paper, right flat, does it do anything to the image? No. In order to magnify what you see, the magnifying glass has to be lifted off the paper. It has to be separated, it has to be set apart. And when it is lifted off the paper, you can see the detail more clearly. You can see the white space on the page between the letters that could be filled. You see the imperfections in the type and printing. Brothers and sisters, you and I have been called and set apart from the world to magnify our callings that we may see them more clearly and fulfill them more diligently.

 

      In the Church, do we talk about the issue of being called and set apart? Yes?  So you come home from your mission and the next thing you want to do is you want to put on a beanie, and you want to grow a beard. And you say to me in the halls, “Well, I forgot to shave.” You come home and you want to look like you did before you left. Like Peter, you want to go back to fishing. Elder Neal A. Maxwell challenged, “For once and for all,” in our lives, he said, “I call upon you to establish your residence in Zion, and give up your cottage in Babylon,” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “A Wonderful Flood of Light,” BYU Devotional, March 26, 1989). That’s pretty good advice, isn’t it?

 

      So Peter and John, imbued with the Spirit because of the day of Pentecost and their calling, stood on higher ground and lifted the lame man up, and gave him what he needed, not what he wanted. And the man went away, rejoicing. Was he any richer, physically? No. Was he any richer spiritually? Yes.

 

      Now back to Peter on the shore of Galilee with the Savior and the 153 fish. Breakfast is over, and you know what comes next. It’s that great dialogue, isn’t it? The Savior asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these things?” The boat, the tools of his trade, the net, the fishes, which were the bounty of his temporal efforts. “Peter, do you love me more than the bounties of your temporal efforts?” “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” “Then feed the lambs.” And then he asks, “Peter, lovest thou me?”

 

      “Yea, Lord, thou knowest I love thee.”

 

      “Feed my sheep.” And then, a third time.

 

      As Elder Holland said, that third question may have been especially prickly to Peter because it was not very far in the past that he’d been asked another question three times. And his response then was, “No, I don’t know him.” So now the Savior says, the third time , “Lovest thou me?”  

 

      And Peter says, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.”

 

      “Then feed my sheep.” (See John 21:15-17).

 

      What was the Savior telling Peter? And what is He telling you and me when we come home from our missions? He was telling Peter, “I can produce fish, I just produced 153. I don’t need you to produce fish. What I need you to do is to be my disciple, forever. Forever.”  That was the moment of great decision for Peter.

 

      The Savior says the same thing to us. “I don’t need accountants. I don’t need medical assistants. I need disciples, forever.”

 

      That is my sincere invitation to you this semester. Be his disciple at all times and in all seasons that you may be in. How is your discipleship? You can measure it any way you want. Periodically check and see where your discipleship needs to be strengthened and do something about it.

 

      Now the Lord said, in the book of Ether, 12th chapter 27th verse, that if you come unto Him, He’ll show you your weakness. I invite you to be careful with that word weakness. In the heading, it says “weaknesses,” but in the text it says “weakness.” I invite you to follow all the references to understand the difference between “weakness” and “weaknesses.”  The Lord didn’t put you on earth with an inherent character flaw or weakness. That’s not revealed truth. Your weakness is your physical body and all of the things that come with that and the natural outcomes of this mortal experience. The Lord says, “If you come unto me humbly, I’ll show you your weakness, that it may be made strong.”

 

      So you ask, “How’s my discipleship?”  If you’ve got a weakness, He says, “I’ll make it strong.” One of the ways He’s made it strong is to give you a spiritual gift. Where do you find your spiritual gifts? Your patriarchal blessing is a great place to start; every patriarchal blessing has at least one, I promise you that. The Lord gave you spiritual gifts to come here to earth to leverage them to accomplish the mission He’s set you out to accomplish in your life. (D&C 88:80.)

 

      Whatever weakness you have, compensating blessings from the Lord will help you overcome them. We have wonderful people here at the College who have physical weakness, and yet they have incredible strength. I’m looking at one right now, sitting on the aisle.  She comes with her guide dog every day to school. She has been blessed with compensating blessings for her physical weakness. And she blesses my life. We all have weaknesses, too, most not as pronounced.

 

      So we come to the College and we meet together that we may be no more strangers or foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints in the household of God, to lift each other up on a given day when we may be standing on higher ground, or to be lifted up on another day when somebody else is standing a little higher, in a little better shape than we are. We go around with our hands out asking, “Can I lift you up?” “Are you lonely?” “Can I say hello?” “Do you need a smile?” We come, with those physical weaknesses, to a temple of learning, to be lifted. It’s what Peter did, it’s what the apostles do.

 

      Elder Bednar talked about going to England. You can view it on the Internet; it’s a great video. Elder Bednar said, “I’ve come to England to find the one.”  [Youtube, Elder Bednar in England, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8hMhVE36M0.]

 

      In Elder Bednar’s description about apostleship on the Church website, he explains that the purpose of an apostle is to minister to the one (“Elder David A. Bednar Talks about the Ministry of an Apostle,” https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/elder-bednar-ministry-of-an-apostle?lang=eng). We are not apostles, we are not prophets, we are shepherds, with a small “s.”  And we are in a position, as a community to lift others up, like Peter did.

 

      Now what do we have to do to be lifted up? The book of 2nd Nephi chapter 16 quotes Isaiah, sixth chapter, which describes Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, and sees Him in the temple. There’s smoke, the prayers are coming up out of the temple, and he sees the train following behind the Savior—those that are faithful followers. He sees the seraphim that have six wings—two that cover their eyes, two that cover their feet, and two with which to fly, and they’re singing praises, “Holy, Holy to the Lord,” (2 Nephi 16:1-3). He says that the frames of the temple door shake at their speaking. What is Isaiah’s initial reaction in seeing this vision of the Lord in His majesty, sitting on His throne? He says, “I’m undone. I am a man of unclean lips,” (2 Nephi 16:5). The scriptures say it doesn’t matter what goes into the mouth, that defileth a man, but what comes out, (See Matthew 15:11). So Isaiah says, “I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5)

 

      So one of the seraphim goes to the altar and gets a hot coal. Now in the ancient temples, when the lamb was put on the altar and sacrificed, where did the blood go? It went in little rivers carved into the side of the altar down onto the coals. So this seraphim takes a hot coal and takes it to Isaiah, and touches his lips. Do you get it? He takes the blood of the lamb, and touches Isaiah’s lips, and makes him clean. Despite his physical weakness, he makes him clean.

 

      Isaiah goes from a man who says, “Woe is me, I am undone,” to one who hears the voice of the Lord say, “Who will go for us, who shall we send?” And this man, who before the Atonement may have been in fear and may have felt his limitations, says, “Here am I, send me.” (Isaiah 6:6-8)

 

      Whatever you think your weakness is, whatever you think your challenge is, the Lord has blessed you with the capacity to learn. He has blessed you with the capacity to grow. He has blessed you with the capacity to realize all the gifts He has given you. He’s blessed you with the capacity to fulfill the mission he’s already promised and probably laid his hands upon your head or patted you on the back as you left His presence, and said, “Go do this.” He armed you with it.

 

      You can do it—through the blood of the Atonement. It is the enabling power to lay hold upon things that you otherwise could not accomplish in your life. It is the grace of God, and brothers and sisters, it is real, and it applies to your life. Satan would say to you, “You’re past it. It doesn’t work for you. It works for everybody else, but not for you.” That is the lie of the Great Deceiver, and as he is referred to in the 12th chapter of Revelations, the Great Accuser, (Revelations 12:10), who, John the Revelator said, stood before the Father both day and night, and said, “They can’t do it. They can’t do it.”

 

      You have been held back until now to prove him wrong. And so, brethren, rise up, oh ye men of God, and be done with lesser things. And you sisters, your hymn is, “As Sisters in Zion.”  In the second verse it says to you that the “errand of angels is given to women.” Now Sister Richards is a bit aglow today, because on Sunday we had our first grandchildren, a set of twins. The errand of the angels has been given to women, “to cheer and to bless in humanity’s name.”

 

      Brothers and sisters, may the Lord touch your hearts that you might know what you’re capable of, to know where you have the ability to lift, that you may see with eyes to lift others who need that lifting. I bless you with an increased desire for discipleship that you may feed His sheep, that you, in your own way, will run to the open tomb and look in, as Peter did, and know that it is empty, that Christ lives, that He cares about us, and wants to be involved in your life. I leave you that as a testimony and my blessing, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 


Lessons from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz

30 Sep. 2014

Transcript

Lessons from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Thursday this week will be the 114th anniversary of the date when L. Frank Baum published a marvelous and enduring children’s fantasy book entitled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  It is the story of Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto.  She lived in the state of Kansas.  Because of a terrible storm Dorothy and Toto were swept away in a tornado and came to rest in the mystical Land of Oz.

          How many of you are familiar with this story either because you read the book or have seen the famous movie?  There are great lessons for life in this story and I invite you to listen for the Spirit’s whisper to know what principles in this story apply to you.  If you listen carefully and ask Heaven to enlighten your mind, you will gain insight today which will be helpful and important to your success this semester.  I am just the storyteller – today the Spirit must be your teacher.  Are you ready?

          The rest of the story is the tale of Dorothy’s encounters along with three traveling companions as they follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City.  There Dorothy hoped to find the Wizard of Oz who could fulfill her wish to get home to Kansas.  To assist in her journey to the Emerald City, she is given a pair of silver slippers to wear.  In the famous movie version, the slippers are ruby red.

 

Her traveling companions consisted of a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, and a Lion.  Each had a need they believed the Wizard of Oz could fulfill.  All three felt they lacked a vital element that impeded their success. They just did not feel whole and complete.  Their experiences up to this point in life and their own observations about themselves convinced them they were lacking in some material way. Therefore, they viewed themselves as not being fully capable of doing what scarecrows, tin woodmen, and lions were created to do. 

          The Scarecrow thought he was not smart because he had no brain.  Only straw filled his head.  The Tin Woodman could neither see nor feel his heart and therefore thought he did not have one.  The Lion was without courage or so his previous experiences had convinced him.

          In reality, what they thought they lacked they really possessed.  They just didn’t know it.  It took new experiences, some time, and a few challenging trials to bring to the forefront the very thing they thought they did not have. 

          In short, it was in the journey to the Emerald City, sticking to the yellow brick road, and successfully confronting the challenges and obstacles along the way that allowed the development of that which they thought they lacked.  They needed a challenge.  They needed to be pushed beyond their comfort zone.  They needed to be on a path that would provide those, sometimes very scary, developmental experiences. 

 

Their personal development would not have happened without a desire to improve; the faith to get on the path leading to that improvement, and the diligence to stay focused on what they wanted most when faced with opposition.  They also needed a good dose of patience and a dash of long-suffering to see the journey through to the end.[1]

          Let’s look at each character and see how their experiences while traveling to the Emerald City helped them get what they desired most.

          The Scarecrow believed he had no brains yet came up with several unique solutions to challenges faced in their journey.  His knowledge expanded with each new challenging encounter.  And with it came wisdom and the ability to judge rightly.  For example, at one point in their journey Dorothy became hungry and saw some tempting apples on a tree.  She wanted to eat one.  Here is what the Scarecrow said to her:  “Come along, Dorothy. You don't want any of those apples.”  The apple tree responded, “Are you hinting my apples aren't what they ought to be?”  “Oh, no.” said the Scarecrow, “It's just that she doesn't like little green worms!”  The Scarecrow knew more than he thought.  Though his knowledge was not complete, he had spent time in the fields and orchards and those experiences had taught him something.  He knew what was really in those appealing red apples.  His knowledge gave him the wisdom to know those apples should be avoided no matter how appetizing they appeared.

          Part of having a brain, being intelligent, and well educated, is having the wisdom to know where you are personally vulnerable and then avoiding anything that gets you near that vulnerability.  The Scarecrow makes this comment to others regarding his personal vulnerability: “Witch? Hmph, I'm not afraid of a witch. I'm not afraid of anything - except a lighted match.”  I invite you to ask yourself these questions: “On what issues am I most vulnerable?  Do I know how to avoid the ‘lighted matches’ in my life?” “Am I wise enough and strong enough to do so?”

          The Tin Woodman believed he had no heart yet with great compassion responds with tears when difficult things happen to others along the way.

The Lion believed he lacked courage.  At one point he confessed: “You’re right, I am a coward!  I haven’t any courage at all.  I even scare myself.”  From that starting point he grew in confidence and courage as the little group of travelers encountered their uniquely designed and tailored challenges.

          But it is in Dorothy’s personal story that we find the richest application of gospel principles.  Dorothy’sgreatest desire was to get back home to Kansas.  Her whole purpose for following the yellow brick road was to get to the Emerald City and learn how to get back home by doing what was required of her.

          What she did not realize was that the gift she was given when she first arrived in the Land of Oz was the key for getting home.  It was the pair of slippers on her feet.  They were magical because they allowed the wearer to travel anywhere.  Dorothy could go home by simply clicking her heels together three times and saying the words: “There is no place like home.”  She had the slippers all the time but did not know their power or how to use them to achieve her great desire.

          Where we lack magic slippers to carry us back to our heavenly home, we have the gift of covenants and promises from the very God of Heaven.  Where Dorothy and her traveling companions had a winding yellow brick road, we a straight and narrow path.  Where Dorothy had her sites on Kansas, we have sites on celestial glory and eternal family ties.

The story of these four travelers is a story of worthy desires thwarted by self-doubt, unproductive self-talk, and feelings of inadequacy.  These self-limiting ideas had become barriers to the growth and development of Dorothy’s traveling companions.  This is a story about gifts possessed but not discovered and therefore not used to help reach desired goals. It is a story about the value of life’s experiences which help us grow. Yes, the story is a children’s tale.  However the message and themes apply to each of us.

 

The good news is that these self-limiting thoughts and resulting behaviors changed with new experiences.  There is a replicable pattern for us in this tale.  New experiences create new beliefs and attitudes.  New beliefs and attitudes lead to new behaviors and actions.  New behaviors and actions lead to new results.  So if you desire different results in your life, start this semester and create for yourself new experiences.  The formula is just that simple.

Other aspects of this story apply to the College as a community of saints[2] as we travel the road of this semester together.  Consider these comparisons between the characters in the Wizard of Oz and you.

1.    They and you have a desire to improve.

2.    They and you want to obtain something you do not have in order to better yourselves.

3.    They discovered and you will too gifts, talents, and strengths where you might have only seen a weakness or a flaw.

4.    They and you experience common trials in order to develop those gifts and talents into strengths to be used to lift and influence your families, your communities, and the Lord’s Church - for such is the lot of life. It is what we came here for.

5.    As they and you sacrifice for others undiscovered gifts, talents, and strengths will emerge.

6.    Like Dorothy, you have an ultimate goal and have set your feet on a specific path to get there.

7.    Like these four travelers you will achieve your righteous desired goal as long as you follow the path laid out before you, and successfully meet the challenges along the way,minimizing the detours you are tempted to take.

Therefore, to some degree, each of us has a little Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, or the Lion inside of us. I invite you to cast away your self-doubts, and self-limiting thoughts.  Cast away any low expectations you might have for yourself and remember the power inherent in you because of who you are and whose you are, the eternal blessings that are yours because you are of Abraham’s seed, and the enabling power of the Atonement and its accompanying grace to lay hold upon things you would not be able to if left solely to your efforts.[3]  The Savior himself declared, “The power is in [you[, wherein [you] are an agent unto [yourself].  And inasmuch as [you] do good [you] shall in nowise lose [your] reward.”[4]

          You are invited to strengthen your mind by expanding the possibilities you see for yourself.  I invite you to be led by the Spirit who will speak to your heart as well as your mind.[5]  I invite you to be courageous in the pursuit of uplifting things which will prepare you for the mission which God has commissioned you to perform here upon the earth.[6]

          It was on the journey to the Emerald City, the Scarecrow’s mind was enlightened.  The Lion’s hope in what he could do was elevated.  The Tin Woodman’s heart was found and by his deeds his soul ennobled.  As a result they each gained a prize.  The Scarecrow became the ruler of the Emerald City.  The Tin Woodman became the ruler over a people liberated by the demise of the Wicked Witch of the West.  And of course the Lion became the King of the Forest. 

But what about you?  What is your reward for the trials of life successfully encountered on your straight and narrow path?  Listen to the voice of the Lord.  “For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments … and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven. Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.  For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand. Remember this, which I tell you before, that you may lay it to heart, and receive that which is to follow. Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come.”[7]

          So in the end, if you read this tale of Dorothy and her friends closely and ponder deeply, you will find additional personal insights for this unique season in your life.  Just one more example:  Because the little group traveled the road together, they taught each other as they supported each other through common experiences.  Their tribulation begat patience; patience begat experience, and experience begat hope.[8] As a result, they each grew in knowledge, heart, and courage. When knowledge, heart and courage, meet a soul is ennobled and there is meaningful personal growth.

          I invite you to accept President Gordon B. Hinckley’s challenge to step up your game a little bit this semester. My testimony, blessing, and prayer for you is that of President Hinckley’s.  Listen with your heart in the spirit of personal application as I conclude with President Hinckley’s words.

“I challenge every one of you who can hear me to rise to the divinity within you. Do we really realize what it means to be a child of God, to have within us something of the divine nature?

          I believe with all my heart that the Latter-day Saints, generally speaking, are good people. If we live by the principles of the gospel, we must be good people, for we will be generous and kind, thoughtful and tolerant, helpful and outreaching to those in distress. We can either subdue the divine nature and hide it so that it finds no expression in our lives, or we can bring it to the front and let it shine through all that we do.

          There is room for improvement in every life. Regardless of our occupations, regardless of our circumstances, we can improve ourselves and while so doing have an effect on the lives of those about us….

          We can lower our voices a few decibels. We can return good for evil. We can smile when anger might be so much easier. We can exercise self-control and self-discipline and dismiss any affront levied against us.

          Let us be a happy people. The Lord’s plan is a plan of happiness. The way will be lighter, the worries will be fewer, the confrontations will be less difficult if we cultivate a spirit of happiness….

          There is too much of criticism and faultfinding with anger and raised voices.  

          God bless you, my beloved associates. May a spirit of peace and love attend you wherever you may be. May there be harmony in your lives.  …Be smart, be clean, be true, be grateful, be humble, be prayerful. May you kneel in prayer before the Almighty with thanksgiving unto Him for His bounteous blessings. May you then stand on your feet and go forward as sons and daughters of God to bring to pass His eternal purposes, each in your own way, is my humble prayer as I leave my love and blessing with you, in the sacred name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.”[9]

 

 

[1] Alma 32:41,43

[2] Ephesians 2:19

[3] See Bible Dictionary - Grace

[4] D&C 58:28

[5] D&C 8:2

[6] D&C 88:78-80; 1 Chronicles 19:13; Psalms 27:14

[7] D&C 58:3-6

[8] Romans 5:3-4

[9] President Gordon B. Hinckley “Each a Better Person” General Conference Oct. 2002


Want a Happy Life? Put Others First

30 Sep. 2014

Transcript

Want a Happy Life? Put Others First

      So good to be here with you today. I am touched by the Spirit. And if you don’t learn anything else today from what I’ve prepared and what I’m anxious to share with you, I want you to know that the gospel is true, it’s been restored, there is a God in heaven who is our Father, He loves us, He’s provided a Savior who gives us purpose and hope in life. What a blessed message that is, a message that much of the world doesn’t really comprehend, and we continue to share with the world, as we always want to do.

      Not too many months ago, while I was still working at Brigham Young University, I had a chance to participate in a devotional there. And I’m not going to repeat in any way what I shared with the students at Brigham Young University that day, because you don’t need it. I felt an urgency to encourage them to better fellowship one another and friendship one another, to speak to each other, to say hello; and just standing at the doorway here as many of you entered, I can see that that’s a custom, a valued custom, a tradition that needs to be preserved here. I salute you for that. That is a gospel principle. The Book of Mormon records a time when the people were living very happily and in great prosperity, and they did fellowship with one another, and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy [see Helaman 6:3]. I can see that that’s the case, so you don’t need that message. But I’d like to visit with you about the purpose of your studies, because this is a time of preparation for you. It’s a time when you’re working hard to prepare for the future.

      I suspect if I were to give a questionnaire to each of you and ask, “Why is it that you’re pursuing a postsecondary education here at LDS Business College?” I’d get a variety of answers. Perhaps some would say, “I want to have a good job.” That’s an honorable thing, especially if that job will be a support system for other good things you will do with family, with church, with your communities, with the countries from which you come. Others may say, well, this wouldn’t happen. I was thinking maybe of, “I need to pay off my gambling debts,” but that wouldn’t happen here. I suspect for a lot of university students going to college and universities elsewhere, they might have that goal in mind. But let me recommend to you that the real reason you ought to be studying is so that you can better serve other people. Because careers are opportunities to serve other people. Last night we had a power outage in Provo. In fact, when we left our home this morning the power was still out, and I’m grateful for the Provo City employees who were out en masse in all their big trucks, serving the needs of the communities. They have skills and abilities that we lack, and I’m hoping that the power’s on when we get back. I do have a generator running the freezer and refrigerator; we don’t want all the food to spoil. In the neighborhood, there are others doing similar things.

      It was mentioned that I spent time at Snow College, which is a two-year community college, founded as an LDS Academy originally. And I worked closely, while there, with the, we call them “student leaders.” Everyone’s a leader, President Hinckley reminded us, reminded the youth especially, “You can be a leader, you must be a leader,” (“Be a Leader in Honorable Causes,” BYU Devotional, September 1996) were his words. I worked with student leaders there, and later had, for over a decade, the opportunity to do similar work at Southern Utah University. I found out that many students when they first began their service as a servant leader, or as a leader, they forget or maybe lose focus of what it’s all about.

      Let me give you an example: early in the school year a new group of student leaders put together a list of their prioritized activities, things they would like to accomplish. If at the top of the list there were things like, “We need nice uniforms,” or “We need better furniture in the office” or “We need bigger badges so people will know we’re somebody,” you know that there’s a challenge there. If, on the other hand, the students come together and say, “What will we do when the new students arrive? What can we do to lessen their anxiety? Could we maybe greet them and help them move their things into their apartments? What could we do to help others?” So, it’s a matter of living this way for self, looking out for self, or this way, looking out for the needs of others. There are, indeed, two kinds of leaders.

      The Savior taught that lesson effectively one day. He was meeting with the Twelve Apostles when two of the Twelve, James and John, came to Jesus and, I’ll paraphrase grossly here, they said, “We have a favor to ask of you.” Jesus said, “What is it?” As He was prone to serving the needs of other people, that’s what He does. James and John said, “Well, we’d like to sit one on the right and one on the left in your glory. We’d like to be sort of second and third in command. We’d like to be somebody, in other words.” There’s something inside of all of us that says, “I’d like to be somebody.”

      Jesus responded to their request saying, “What you ask I cannot grant. You don’t understand what you’re asking for.” And then [He] proceeded to teach a lesson. And this quote that’s on the screen here is from a more modern translation of the New Testament, because the King James, and I love the King James, but it’s a little bit garbled in what it means; I hope this will make sense to you. Oh, by the way, before Jesus gave this lesson to all the Twelve, the scriptures record in the 10th chapter of Mark that the other 10 were very displeased with James and John. They didn’t want people to be better than others; it’s not a contest to see who’s better. It’s to elevate everyone. Jesus said that, “You know the so-called rulers in the heathen world, or gentile world, lord it over them.” Or, “You will do what I say – lord it over them.” “And their great men have absolute power.” That’s been the case during much of the history of the world. “But it must not be so among you. It must not be so among you. Know whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all. And if he wants to be first among you, he must be the servant of all men. For the Son of Man himself is not come to be served but to serve. And to give His life to set many others free.” You get the point, he was teaching a lesson that leadership is all about serving other people [referring to Mark 10:35-45].

      You don’t have to even read the scriptures to figure that out. Experience will teach you that. There was a man named Robert Greenleaf who grew up in Indiana. And while growing up, his father, a blue-collar worker, a good man, was elected to serve on the City Council in the city in which they lived. When he began service there he recognized that many of the other city leaders were living this way: “What’s in it for me? How can I become more important? How can I better myself?” Rather than, “How can I look after the needs of the citizens of the community?” That really disturbed him, and he often spoke at home when Mr. Greenleaf was a young boy. It disturbed him. Then, he spent a lifetime working for a large corporation, saw the same tendencies in people, and we have the seeds of that in all of us. He took an early retirement and coined the phrase, “student leader,” and wrote about the importance of servants, leaders being servants to the public. Among other things, Mr. Greenleaf wrote, “The servant-leader is a servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Serve, serve, serve,” (The Servant as Leader, by Robert K. Greenleaf).

      I’m going to tell you something, I hadn’t planned to do this, and this will reveal my real self. But, it was mentioned that in high school I had been elected to an office. I actually wasn’t the student body president; I was the senior class president in high school [corrected in the introduction]. I was elected—I didn’t campaign, they just called us together in a group like this and somebody said they nominated me, and I was elected. And I felt pretty important. And then I spent that whole year feeling important but doing nothing, confident that when the yearbook came out my picture would be bigger than the others, and it was. But I didn’t do anything. When it came time for the senior prom, a bunch of good girls in the class put a senior prom together; I don’t remember having anything to do with it. I went, but I was a dismal failure because I was living like this. Other things were more important than serving my classmates, which I had been invited to do by being elected. At the end of that year at graduation, it was held in a tabernacle, a church building. And I had this feeling of failure. And I committed that if I ever had a chance again to serve I would do it differently. I would try and do this; I had seen others do this successfully. It’s not a good feeling when your attention goes this way.

      I went to BYU and I was really happy to find that the student leadership program there, or what some would call “student government,” a term that we didn’t use there, is BYUSSA. It stands for the Brigham Young University Student Service Association; emphasis on service is intentional here, because that’s what leadership is all about. Students serving students; that was the model. And it worked.

 

      Here are a couple of different types of leaders. Can you tell who this king is [in painting]? Can you see the picture well enough to recognize this famous king from the Book of Mormon? Yeah—Noah. Named after a good person, but what kind of a leader was he? Was he looking after himself, or was he looking this way? I can hear the conversation now, once he dispatches Abinidi from his court there, he’s probably saying, “Hey! What’s up with the wine you just gave me? It’s warm, and it’s a hot day outside. I expect my wine to be cool.”

      And the servant who brought the wine in would probably say, “But the refrigerator is out, the wine cooler isn’t working.”

      “Well, get it fixed, buy a new one!”

      “Well, we don’t have any money left.”

      “What happened to all the money?”

      “Well, we bought those new chariots for the priests, and all those nice clothes for your concubines, and we’re out of money, can’t do it.”

      And so he said, “How much do we charge the people?”

      “One-fifth, or 20 percent.”

      “Well, we’ll have to up the rate then.” Because, he was walking after the desires of his own heart, not considering the welfare of others.

      I appreciate what Joshua challenged us to do today, to reach out and serve others that might need our help in one way or another, whether it be living up to the commitment you’ve all made to live the Honor Code, or anything else. We are committed to helping each other.

     

      By contrast, how about this king? Who is this [at left]? Can’t quite hear. Benjamin, yeah, King Benjamin. Built the tower, and he’s up there, he’s nearing the conclusion of a very productive life. In fact, he’s probably saying, “I need to wrap up here, because even though I’m growing old, I need to meet my son Mosiah, we’ve got to go weed our garden.” Because they took care of themselves, they didn’t live off the land. He’s the one who coined the phrase we often recite, “When you’re in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God,” (Mosiah 2:17). That’s what he would instruct us to do, to live this way.

      Missionaries, the returned missionaries in the room can fill in the blanks here. “Therefore, ye that embark in the service,” thank you—a good word. It appears in the scriptures many times, “See that you serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. Therefore if ye have desires,” that’s your motive, you have to have a motive to do this, “if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:2-3). A less-often quoted scripture at the bottom from King Benjamin’s address, can you guess which words are missing there? Yeah. “Teach them to love one other and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:15). Because, our motive is love, genuine concern about others. That’s servant-leadership, that’s divine-centered leadership. That’s leadership of the kingdom.

      Now, some would say that, “Yes, but if you’re kind and nice to people, that’s weak leadership. People won’t respond appropriately. You have to rule with an iron thumb.” Does it really work? There’s an important case study in the Book of Mormon, where we read through 3rd Nephi of the appearance of the Savior. The resurrected Savior came to the Nephites, He taught them, He set a great example for them, He spent considerable time with them. And what was the end product of all of that? What kind of life did they have when they practiced servant leadership? There could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. That’s what kind of society occurs when everyone is looking out for everyone else, and we are truly servant-leaders.
      I recently read some things about George Washington as we prepared for the 4th of July. Impressed that he is a great example of a servant-leader. He spent years away from his beloved Mount Vernon estate, and he lamented that he’d given up much, he’d sacrificed a great deal in order to see a new country born. But he knew that the cause was important and that many people, even many unborn people, us included, would be the beneficiaries of the work that he would do. And so he continued in the cause. One day he was writing a letter to a member of the Continental Congress who was a pretty severe critic of Washington, and said publicly a lot of unkind things about him. Very critical of Washington. But at the conclusion of his letter, which, by the way, was not filled with rancor and bad feeling, this is how he closed the letter: “I’m your humble, obedient servant.” Or, a letter to the entire Continental Congress, and this was customary. This is two of many, many examples. “I promise to exert every power I possess in your service.” Hard though it was…no wonder the Congress gave him absolute power, as though he were a king. He could do most anything; they knew he would not abuse that power, because he was one who lived this way, not this way.

      In the church we find the same thing. We know that the Prophet Joseph was quick to respond to the needs of others. The occasion at Nauvoo when there was much sickness, and he himself was stricken and not feeling well. And he proceeded go throughout much of the city giving blessing after blessing after blessing. On the march at Zion’s Camp when wagons would break down, he’d be the first one, according to those that were there, the first one to render assistance. He wrote a letter to the church detailing, among other things, baptisms for the dead. That letter is now a part of the Doctrine and Covenants, section 128. He concluded that letter, “I am, as ever, your humble servant, and never deviating friend,” (D&C 128:25). I think that word, “deviating,” as in, never deviating, is important. Because it’s not a matter of doing something nice once in a while, it’s making it part of your very being. That was the prophet Joseph. You read and study about his life, and you’ll see ample evidence that he was a humble servant and a never-deviating friend to all. Even those who disliked him.

      How about President Monson? I got thinking, probably every hospital in this valley, the people at the front desk know him by his first name, because he’s always there, visiting people. That’s one way that he has, over the years, chosen to serve people. In General Conference a few years back he referred to himself by saying, “As your humble servant, I desire with all my heart to do God’s will and to serve Him, and to serve you” (“Until We Meet Again,” General Conference October 2011). That’s the prophet—“To serve you, to serve you.”

 

      Now, you’re business students, though. What’s this got to do with the world, business, if anything? Well, it does. Here’s a story I really like. The male that you see up there, J. Willard Marriott [left], was a young man born in a place called Marriott Settlement near Ogden, Utah. At age 19 he served a mission and went to the New England states. And in 1921 when he concluded that mission, he visited Washington, D.C., on his way home. It must have been, I don’t know what time of the year it was, but it was hot like today, except the hot in Washington is different from the hot here, because it’s a humid hot. And he’s out there in the sweltering heat, and sweating profusely, wishing he had something to drink, because this insatiable desire to drink, but there was nothing available. Then he saw a man with a little wagon, and he was selling lemonade. But before he could get there to buy the lemonade, the man had sold out the limited supply that he had.

      He remembered that as he returned to his home in Utah. He did what you’re doing, he went to school, he completed his studies, and in 1927 he acted on an impulse he had had earlier when he saw these thirsty people walking the streets of Washington, D.C. He and a friend acquired a franchise for a new product called “A&W Root Beer.” Not so new now. They set up a little place, had nine stools, and served A&W Root Beer to help serve the people. They served A&W Root Beer to people who needed something to drink. That was the beginning of something big, as you know. Then, they decided that sometimes people were hungry, and they got a recipe for some kind of taco, I think it was, from the Mexican Embassy there, and tacos probably weren’t commonly eaten in those days. They made tacos that developed into a chain of restaurants called, “Hot Shops.” Later, other chains as well. You know this man as the pioneer, the founder of the Marriott Corporation. And when J. Willard Marriott died in 1985, that’s quite a while ago, nearly 30 years ago, his company that year grossed 4.5 billion dollars and had over 150,000 employees. It all started with trying to serve the needs of some thirsty people in a place where it got hot.

      Now one of the big secrets of this corporation is J. Willard Marriott’s attention to the needs of other people; not only did he try to provide for their needs, but he would regularly check up on customers to see what complaints they might have. He read personally the complaint cards for the company for many years. He was known to drop in at unannounced times to visit with the employees, to buoy their spirits up and encourage them. He cared about people. And today, if you join the Marriott Corporation as an employee, you’ll be schooled in their “Bible,” so to speak, or their manual which is called “The Spirit to Serve,” a book about service, created by a returned missionary who saw some thirsty people and thought, “I’d better do something about that.”

 

      Meet this lady, President Colleen Barrett. She may not look like a president, but she was, for several years, the chief operating officer of a large, large corporation, one that you all would know if I told you, which I will in a minute. She had limited education, she had, actually, a two-year degree, but it was well suited to what she did in life. She was a secretary for an attorney. And this attorney decided that he wanted to start a small airline. And in so doing, he brought her with the airline, grew into a very large airline, and she became the president and chief operating officer of Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines, and some people said, “What credibility does a leader like that have, running a major airline?” You see, her interest was in people. She said that her mother really loved people, and she acquired that same genuine interest in people from her mother. On one occasion, she said, “We are in the customer-service business. We just happen to fly airplanes.” Putting customer service above airplanes—“we just happen to fly airplanes”—it was as though that was secondary to their customer service.

 

      Oh, I have a hard time with this one, I’ll tell you quickly, but this is an important story. This man was my high school basketball coach [left]. And on July 4th we went to a tennis tournament held in his honor. He died four years ago. While serving in the military, and having learned of the death of his brother, who’s picture he’s holding in that [displayed on screen], he was severely wounded in Europe; so severely he was hospitalized for 18 months. And while in a trench, bleeding profusely, thinking he was going to die and join his brother, he made a commitment to his Heavenly Father that if he was allowed to live, he would return to his small hometown and serve the youth of that community.

      So, he came back and did what you’re doing; he learned in order to serve. He went to school here in Utah, and then in Michigan, and returned to his hometown as a high school teacher and coach. He coached tennis for the next 52 years, basketball for only 37. And when he retired, there were literally thousands of people whose lives had been impacted for good by this man. Last Sunday night on KSL television there was a feature about him. The tennis tournament that’s held every year in his honor is a tribute to him being a servant-leader. He lived in, I wouldn’t say poverty, but was borderline poverty, because he gave everything he had to the youth of the community. He was my coach, he coached our boys, and he coached, as I said, thousands of others. A great servant-leader.

 

      Or, Jonas Salk. You likely are familiar with the story of this Jewish research scientist who developed a cure for poliomyelitis, which was a ravaging disease that took its toll on many, many people, including two of my classmates, creating serious health problems, sometimes death, usually crippling effects. Dr. Salk spent seven years working 16 hours per day, seven days a week, and then when he felt confident that he’d perfected a vaccine that would eradicate polio, it was administered to nearly 2 million school kids in 1954. I was one of them. It wasn’t that cool, because we didn’t want to get a shot, but looking back at it, nobody else ever got polio after that.

      But the story doesn’t end there. Word went out that the Salk vaccine worked, and it was on April 12, 1955, exactly 10 years to the day that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed away, he had polio, they made an announcement that polio had been eradicated. And they asked Dr. Salk, “So what are you going to do with the patent? You’ll get really rich, won’t you?” He said, “It wouldn’t be right for me to patent this. The patent belongs to the people. Can you patent the sun?” He said. He took no personal reward for what he had done but gave this gift to the world. And polio, you probably haven’t even heard of it, but it was serious disease until this servant-leader came along.

 

      I don’t have time to tell you much about Alvin York. If you want to see a great movie, though, the 1941 (yes, there were movies in 1941, black and white), but the movie called “Sergeant York” is really worth watching. The story of this man, who was an expert marksman who grew up in extreme poverty in the hills of Tennessee, who went kind of kicking and screaming to war in World War I, and took command of a unit of men that were under fire with German machine guns. And heroically, he went behind the machine gun nest and took out, one by one, the machine gun nest with, he didn’t have a machine gun, either, he had a semi-automatic rifle. And in the end, he, along with seven surviving members of his unit, took 132 German soldiers captive. He became a hero of World War I, a very, very famous man.

      But later in life, after he’d helped establish a Bible School in the area in Tennessee where he lived, and a technical school—the man had good sense, a technical school to give opportunity to those who lived in Tennessee—he said this, “I don’t want to be remembered as a warrior but as one who helped others.” He was offered all kinds of lucrative business opportunities. He declined all of those, because he wanted to help others. He wasn’t in it for himself.

      Well, you get the picture. Going back to what President Richards said; by the way, President Richards serves all of you. And that’s a term we use a lot in the Church; think about it. The next time you hear, “I serve as a Sunday School teacher,” you’re serving. That’s what it means. Steven R. Covey: “You’ll find that as you care less about what others think about you, you will care more about what others think about themselves.” You’ll be going this way. “Including their relationship with you.” So it all comes back, better than if you were just living this way; much, much better.

      Now, one last point, and this is really important, really important. There are people in this room who are thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this. The tests are so hard, the books, I’m not understanding.” Perhaps some of you are struggling with the language, and you’re saying to yourself, “I can’t do this.” Elder Boyd K. Packer gave you a promise, and the promise is that your learning of subject matter, your acquiring of subject matter will be much easier if, would you like to know what you need to do? It’s probably what you’re already doing. This is his promise: “If we learn now or in the future in order to serve,” if service is our motive, “to give to others, to feed others, we will find the acquisition of subject matter much easier.” Our motive for study is to better prepare ourselves to serve. We then are trying not to glorify ourselves, but to teach others; we’re living this way. “And then there will come to us the full meaning of the scripture, “He that findeth his life shall lose it,” in the service of others, “and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it,” (Teach Ye Diligently, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1975).

      I testify that that principle is true. I testify that service is what we ought to be about, because our Maker is doing the same thing. It’s a blessing to be of service to others. What could you do today to help someone? What would you do today, or tomorrow, or five years from now, or 20 years from now? Please don’t tire of service. The Lord teaches us in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Be not weary in well doing, for you are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great,” (D&C 64:33). I testify that that is true. I’m thankful for a church that teaches responsibility, that teaches living for other people, not just for self. And I testify, most importantly, that life is good, life is happy, life is fulfilled, when we are able to live this way. So please don’t be the kind of person I was as a senior in high school, ignoring the needs of others, or going about thinking of myself too much. Please, be like the Savior would have us be. This is my charge to you, as I again bear testimony that the gospel is true; I know that. And I know that you know that. And I thank our Heavenly Father for the blessing of sharing this time together today. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 

 

 


Focusing on the Temple Will Bless Our Lives

30 Sep. 2014

Transcript

Focusing on the Temple Will Bless Our Lives

  Thank you, Sue. Would you mind lowering this [referring to the podium] a little bit?  I’m grateful to be with you today. My parents being here and President Richards telling the story of jumping off the roof—I have to tell you that the biggest surprise to me was that I didn’t fly. And I remember when I landed, I thought, “I must not know something.” And I think that’s true today. I actually think I will be able to fly, I just haven’t figured it all out yet. And I think we can figure things out, and eventually we can fly.

      I hope in the few minutes remaining to tie together some things that we heard from Elizabeth, the idea of families, Deandra’s beautiful music—wasn’t that beautiful? “Come unto Jesus.”  That was gorgeous. And Sue’s comments about giving of ourselves to help others.

      A little less than two years ago, we sat in counsel at the institution, because we had come to an important point in the history of devotionals on our campus. At that time we had our devotionals on campus, and they were held in the multipurpose room, with overflow audiences in other rooms throughout the building. And we had come to the point where the overflow audiences were larger than the audience in the multipurpose room, and we knew we needed to do something. And so we put together a compelling proposal to ask the Church to build us a building on the campus down there, in the Triad area, where the parking lot currently is, in the corner, so that we could have a large enough facility to be able to meet together as a student body and have our devotionals in one place and have a “gathering of saints.” At the time, when we asked, they said, “No. But you can use the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.”

      Now at the time I was really not very excited about that idea. It was three blocks away, you had to go through two stoplights, what if it’s snowing, or raining, or the wind’s blowing … you know, I had all these excuses, and the word came back from the Brethren, “No. You can use the Assembly Hall.” And I hate to admit this part, but I remember going home thinking, “Well, we’ll show them. We’ll do our best, but the students won’t go, and it will be a bad experience, and then we’ll go back and say, ‘No, we really need a building on our campus.’ ” But I forgot that I was dealing with inspired brethren. And somewhere along the way, it finally dawned on me that we had a tremendous blessing, in that being in the Assembly Hall would probably be a notch up from where we had been and that having our own building would not be anywhere near the same experience as being in this great facility.

      The first time we met here, we sang, as an opening song, “I Am a Child of God,” we sang as the opening song the very first day here. And midway through that, the Spirit came on all of us, in that meeting, that reduced us, collectively, to tears. I remember it very distinctly. There were lots of sniffles on the stand and in the audience, because of the Spirit that pervaded, the testimony that came that we were in the right place, doing the right thing. Now, why do I tell you that? I had a second epiphany; first being that we should be in this building, and the second one is why. Why would the Lord want us here rather than in a building that could be dedicated on our campus? It doesn’t take very long, thinking about that, for you to realize where we are. We’re on Temple Square. We’re a stone’s throw from the temple.

      I don’t think we talk about the temple enough on our campus, and your opportunity to be connected to this sacred edifice—it is so incredibly close, and we have such easy access. Isaiah saw this very temple, and this is what he wrote: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2). Let me just ask those of you who are from a country other than the United States, would you just stand today for a moment, please? “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established  in the top of the mountains; and all nations shall flow unto it.” Thank you, you may sit. “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).

      Now you have come from many places in the world. And you are here in the tops of these mountains. We ought to say to ourselves more often, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways.” The more you are in the temple, the more you’ll learn what you need to do, and why it is that you are here. The more that you are in the temple, the greater the Sprit that will descend upon you, and you will learn at rates that will amaze the world.

      Now for most of your life, you’ve been taught that there are two parts to learning, the secular part that you did in school, Monday through Friday, and the religious part, Sunday school that you did on Sunday. But I hope that one of the things you’re learning here is that those are not separate, that in the Lord’s economy, all learning is His learning. And you do it in the Spirit. And if you have the Spirit, then everything comes easier. If you have it in the Spirit, then your learning is deeper and faster, and more applicable. You actually can become more of what you should become as you learn in the Lord’s way. And where’s the place that you can do that the best? It’s in the temple.

      I don’t think there’s any coincidence that we talk about our campus as a temple of learning. It’s as if there’s this connection between the house of the Lord and our particular house. When you think about the Church Educational System, there are four colleges, universities owned by the Church. And every one of them is associated with a temple. You have the distinct blessing of an association with the Salt Lake Temple. I think it’s a great thing to be able to see things in visions. Isaiah had a great vision. But as wonderful as his vision was of the Salt Lake Temple, it is infinitely more impactful, more profound, to be able to go in it, and here it is. Right here. You may never be this close to this temple again in your life. You ought to take every opportunity to be in it.

      So may I suggest three ways: 1. For those of you that have a temple recommend and can go to the temple, do so often. Go regularly. It’s a great place to ponder, a great place to renew covenants. You can go often. You’re so very close. 2. For those of you with limited-use recommends, you can do baptisms for the dead. That’s something you can do quite easily, and quite often. 3. There’s a third way that you can participate in the temple, that to me is very exciting, and that’s family history work. You have an opportunity to do something tremendously kind, to give of yourself, of your time, to take your ancestors to the temple. You can do the research, and it’s in the ordinances of the priesthood where you feel the Spirit the best, where it’s the strongest. Think about it, you returned missionaries, you wanted prospective members to go to a baptism, because you knew that at a baptism there was a spirit there that was stronger than normal. The Spirit is present at ordinances, and what you do in family history work is prepare your people to receive ordinances, and there’s a spirit about that. It comes to you, and to your heart. You can bring the temple into your home by doing family history work.

      Now you’re going to tell me that you’re really busy—that you have lots of homework, or other assignments, that you have a job, either full- or part-time, trying to squeeze in some dates, you’re really busy. I get that. But if you take an inventory of your time and consider the games that you might play on your devices or the time you spend watching television or the time you spend maybe sleeping a little longer than you really need to…isn’t there time in there, couldn’t you find time during the week to bring the ordinances of the gospel to your family members? If you do that, you bring the Spirit to yourself. And again, you begin to have that spirit to prompt you in your learning.

      Now, there’s one great last promise, that has to do with Deandra’s song, that I think is profound in our day. We live in a day of great distractions, we live in a day of, I’m afraid, that you’ll see a winnowing in the Church in the days to come, you’ll see it—where those who have been members of the Church maybe separate themselves from the Church, or become separated from the Church. You’ll see that, and it will be hard, because it will be people you know and people you love. How do you prevent yourself from doing that? Well, it’s very easy. You just focus on the Savior, and on the ordinances of His gospel. It’s just like Deandra sang, if you “Come unto Him,” he’ll bless you.

      He said, “Truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound. And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things” (D&C 88:66-67). Now, I don’t know about you, but I think I’d like to comprehend all things. I’d like to figure out how you really can fly. You probably would like to figure out really how you can do math or some other topic. “That spirit which is filled with light, comprehendeth all things.” So if you’re struggling with your studies, fill your soul with light. Now that doesn’t excuse you from study.  You have to study, but if you fill your soul with light, suddenly things that were unclear become clear. And where is the light the strongest? It’s just right over there [indicating the Salt Lake Temple]. If you’ll do things to help yourself be worthy of and then enter into the temple often, you’ll be able to comprehend all things. “Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (D&C 88:68). That is not my promise, that’s His. It’s a promise as we’re faithful.

      Now brothers and sisters, today we’ve heard about families, we’ve heard about kindness, we’ve heard about coming to Christ. Those find their fullest expression in the temple. May we as a people, as a school, as a student body, be focused on the temple. It will help you in your studies, it will help you with your families, it will lift you and edify you and help you to be the kind of people that God wants us to be. My prayer is that we will find appropriate ways for us to be in the temple often. We had a session in the temple a year ago where all the ordinance workers in that session were either students or faculty and staff. By the way, we have many students who are ordinance workers in the Salt Lake Temple. And all the patrons in that session were either students or faculty and staff. And I was overwhelmed with the feeling of being home. And I thought to myself, “If ever there was a manifestation of heaven on earth, this would be one of those times; to be with this family, in the temple.”

      As we live true to the gospel, we’ll be blessed; you’ll be blessed. And you’ll be able to bless others in your family, and around you. I would share that as a testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 

 


Want to Be Happy? Try an Act of Kindness

30 Sep. 2014

Transcript

Want to Be Happy? Try an Act of Kindness 

Okay, here we go. Deep breath.  I can’t really say that talking at devotional was on my bucket list. But since I have the opportunity today, I’m now going to go home today and cross that off, and it will be done, and we’ll move on with life, right? But I’m honored to be here today, to share with you some thoughts and tears, and my testimony to the words that I hopefully have prepared that will touch your heart today.

      Several years ago, I had to face a reality. That reality is, and I’m here to say, I am a “fabriholic.” I love fabric. I love to quilt, and I was prompted to bring a quilt today as show-and-tell, just to prove to you. This is not a brag on Sue, but there’s a quilt. I cannot say no to a fabric sale; in fact, the more the better. I lost my place. I love selecting new fabrics, I love looking at quilt patterns, I love the cutting, I love the sewing, I love going to quilt shows to see what other people have made and that I can “ooo,” and “ahhh” and wish. Not jealous, I just wish. What can I say? I’m addicted. I’m a fabriholic. But one of the best parts of being a fabriholic, and that’s a part of me, is that I love being able to give one away. It’s a part of me that I love to share. I love to see the look and the smile the receiver gives, and it brings contentment to my own heart. It’s a moment that I cherish dearly. But because of this addiction there’s a favorite children’s story book that I’ve grown to love, and I want to share with you today. It’s called, “The Quiltmaker’s Gift,” (by Jeff Brumbeauy and Gail de Marcken), that will help illustrate my topic today.

 

      There once was a quilt maker that lived high up in the mountains. No one could ever recall a time when she wasn’t quilting. Some said that she made the prettiest quilts in all the world. Others said that there was magic in her fingers and that her quilts fell to the earth from the angels above. Many people climbed the mountain high with gold filled in their pockets, hoping to just buy one of these beautiful quilts. But the woman would not sell them.

      “I give my quilts to the poor and to the homeless,” she said. “They are not for the rich.”

      On the darkest and coldest of nights, she would take her quilts and go down to the town below. There she would wander the streets, looking for someone who was poor or homeless sleeping outside in the cold. And she would take her quilt from her bag and wrap it around the shivering shoulders, then tiptoe away. The next morning, she would begin a new quilt.

      Now, at this time there also lived a very greedy king; very powerful king, who loved nothing better than to receive presents. Yet there were never enough presents. So he passed a law that he would celebrate his birthday twice a year, just so he could get more birthday presents. But, yet again, it still wasn’t enough. So he ordered his soldiers to search the kingdom for someone who had not given him a gift.

      Over the years, the king had come to own many beautiful things from around the world. There were so many he kept an inventory. And yet, with all these marvelous treasures he owned, the king never smiled. “There must be one beautiful thing that will make me happy,” he said.

      One day a soldier rushed in with news about this magical quilt maker. “How is it that she’s never given me one of her quilts?” He said. The soldier replied, “She only makes them for the poor.”

      “I want one of those quilts, and I shall have one,” he demanded. “It might be the thing that will finally make me happy.”

      So the king and his soldiers arrived at her home and demanded to buy one of her quilts. The quilt maker just smiled and thought for a moment, and she said, “Make presents of everything you own, and I will give you a quilt.”

      “Give away all my wonderful treasures?” he said. “Not. I don’t give them away, I take them.” And with that, the king ordered them to seize the quilt maker, and he threw her in the den with the sleeping bear; wherein the quilt maker made him a great big pillow to sleep on. Next, the king dragged her from the cave and put her on a tiny island, so she could only stand on her tiptoes. But here, she gave the weary traveling birds a shoulder to rest on.

      The king tried other drastic attempts to get the quilt maker to give him a quilt, but failed. Giving up, he finally asked, “What must I do to get a quilt?”

      “As I said, give away all the things you own,” she replied.

      “But I can’t do that. I love all my beautiful things,” cried the king.

      “But if they don’t make you happy,” the woman replied, “What good are they?”

      The king went to his castle and searched for something he could give away. He finally came up with a single marble. The boy who received it smiled so brightly in return that the king said, “How can this be? How can I feel so happy about giving things away?” So he went back into the castle and brought out more things. “Bring everything out! Bring it all out at once!”

      When at last there was no one left in town who had not received something from the king, he decided to go out into the world and find others. His wagons were loaded and he promised the quilt maker that he would return when all was given away. For years and years the king traveled and emptied his wagons, trading his treasures for smiles around the world. The king’s royal clothes were now tattered, and his shoes poked out of his boots. Yet, his eyes glistened with joy and his laugh was wondrous and thunderous.

      When the quilt maker heard of his return, she put in the final stitch of the quilt and went out to search for him. When she found him she unfolded this beautiful quilt before him.

      “What’s this?”

      “As promised long ago, I told you the day I would make you a quilt only when you were poor.”

      “But I am not poor,” he said. “I may look poor, but in truth my heart is full to bursting, filled with memories of all the happiness I have given and received. I am the richest man I know. I have searched out the poor and the downhearted, and I’m never happier than when I was giving something away.”

 

      In October 2009 General Conference, President Eyring shared this statement with us, “We share a desire to become better than we are. The message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can and must become better, as long as we live. Our way of life, hour by hour, must be filled with the love of God and for others.” (“Our Perfect Example,” October 2009 General Conference)

      In Mark 8:23 it reads, “And he,” meaning Christ, “took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town.” Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley made this comment on that scripture, “How simple it really is to extend a kindness when we see a need.” Christ set the example on so many occasions. Here, he led the blind man out of town; just a small kindness but what a wonderful example. God helps us to recognize the opportunities we have every day to touch lives in small and simple ways.

      The primary song that we probably are all familiar with says “Kindness begins with me,” (“Kindness Begins with Me,” LDS Children’s Songbook, page 145). To fully understand and comprehend that phrase, ponder for a moment while I ask you some questions, and write down some impressions that come to your mind:

1.      How powerful is kindness?

2.      What kind of a difference can I make?

3.      Have I touched someone’s life today?

4.      Is my life being transformed by the acts of kindness and the good deeds that I do?

      Now, take a moment—this is where we’ll extend the talk—I want you to write something down that you’ve done today or that you could do today as an act of kindness. Moroni states it very clearly for us in the Book of Mormon: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren,” and we’ll add sisters, “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons,” and again we’ll add daughters, “of God,” (Moroni 7:48).

      Now I can hear you saying, “Um, Sister Hepworth, quilting’s not my thing. I’m not a quilt maker.” But I’m here to tell you that you can be, because you have your own gift of kindness to share. Maybe it’s not so much in using fabric and a needle, but you have something to share, something that is a part of you, a part of your everyday life. Let me ask you some more questions about random acts of kindness.

      Could I share a smile with someone? Could I give a compliment or say a kind word? Could I extend a helping hand without being asked? When I was at Ricks College many years ago it was a tradition that you said “hello” to everyone you passed by. And I thought, “I don’t know these people.” So, can you say hello to a passing stranger? Can you offer up your seat on a busy truck on a busy bus or Trax station, or open a door for someone? Here’s a good one—how patient are you while driving on the freeway? We won’t go there, right? Have you helped mentor someone who’s having difficulty in class? Have you told someone you’re so glad you know them? Could I show more respect and admiration by using my manners, and saying “please” and “thank you” more? Have you made a comment in class to help out that instructor that’s kind of struggling to get the class moving? Have you made someone laugh today? Have you made someone’s birthday just a little more fun? Have you delivered or sent a surprise to someone? And my favorite of all, did you return your shopping cart to the designated area?

      There are so many things that each of us can do that no one else can. If we will let our Father in Heaven guide us He will walk with us, inspire us, to know what to do. He knows us; He knows what we’re capable of. He knows how we can use our own characteristics for our own good, and for the good of those we come in contact with. Every day, there is an opportunity. If you’re not sure where to start, try this: just smile at everyone you meet today. It’s great because they’re going to think you’re up to something.

      In President Monson’s biography To the Rescue, he states, “Opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless. But they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden; there are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given, there are deeds to be done, there are souls to be saved.”

      President Hinckley says it like this, “Love is the very essence of life. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yet, it is more than the end of the rainbow” (“And the Greatest of These is Love,” March 1984Ensign). Love, like faith, is a gift from God. This principle of love is the basic essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without love of God and love of neighbor, there is little else to commend the gospel as a way of life to us. Each of us can, with effort, successfully root the principle of love deep in our being so that we may be nourished by this great power.

      I challenge you to go and look for opportunities today to do as Christ did, and to love as He loves. The promise is there that He’ll make us His disciples. He trusts us to succeed because He knows of the divine spark within us.

      Elder Dean L. Larson said this clear back in 1981: “The Lord has made it clear that each of us has a responsibility to exert an influence for good in the lives of those who share this mortal experience with us. Our actions, our words, our thoughts and our values will inevitably effect the souls that we brush up against. When we contemplate the power we have for both good and ill in the lives of others, we have good reason to search for careful understanding of this power” (“Let Your Light So Shine,” September 1981 Ensign).

      So ask yourself this question: How can I exert this kind of influence upon others so that their lives and my life is enriched and blessed? What do I need to do right now, today? Our opportunities are limitless. At the end of each day, may we say, as the king learned, “I am not poor. I may look poor, but in truth my heart is full to bursting, filled with memories of all the happiness I’ve given and received. I am the richest man I know. I have searched out the poor and the downhearted, and I’m never happier than when I was giving something away.”

      Now, there’s no prescription for acts of kindness. It comes from your heart. The greatest reason to participate in kindness is that it brings contentment to your life. It rewards you with positive feelings and reminds you of the important things in life. If we all do our part, pretty soon we’ll live in a much nicer world.

      So to close I want to quote Elder Richard J. Maynes in his address to BYU-Idaho graduates this past April when he said, “We have the power to choose to live a big, kindhearted, good-natured, compassionate and unselfish life” (“Living a Benevolent Life,” BYU-Idaho graduation, April 2014).

      Brothers and sisters, it becomes a part of us. I share you my testimony. As President Kimball used to say, “Just do it.” As we leave today, I have a small treat for you. Now, you’re going to be busted big-time if you leave the wrappers on Temple Square grounds. So please put them in the trash can, and enjoy this small treat from me today as a little act of kindness from me to you. I leave you my testimony, my love of the Savior, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 

 


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