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.