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March 22, 2000
Brothers and sisters, it's a privilege and pleasure for Delores and me to be with you here this day. For those who speak Spanish, muy buenos días. It is a pleasure to meet a few that are from Chile and Bolivia and Mexico and other parts.
I hear that there are about 40 different countries represented here. I pray that all of you feel extremely at home with us here in the states. We love you and appreciate you very much. We are glad to be a part with you.
I am indeed grateful to have the opportunity to get to know you a little bit. Delores and I have looked forward to being here today to share testimony and feelings with you. A prayer in our hearts is that as we would leave this day, we would all have renewed testimonies. The testimonies would be strengthened regarding the Savior of the world, the purpose of life, our Heavenly Father and help us on our way–just a little bit.
I almost have to touch myself to realize that I am alive at the turn of the century and of the millennium, especially in a day that I know the ancient prophets have seen. Speaking of prophets such as Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, even in the New Testament–Peter, that had seen our day, these brethren had seen our day in their way. They bore testimony of that–of what they had seen. With great anticipation they thought about those things and left record of that. We are actually kind of at the summit of the history of the world as we live. Once again, I almost have to touch myself to realize that I am truly alive today. I hope you realize the generation in which you live.
If we will take careful observation, we will see that the Church is positioned as it really has never been in the past. It is an exciting moment that we live in. We are on the threshold of great expansion in the Church. What an opportunity it is for us to be alive at this time and to realize that we can participate. As I look at the expansion that will take place and is beginning to take place, I really feel that on the cutting edge of that growth will be the family, also the retention of our new members. The people in this world will see you and your families and be drawn to the Church. May we be blessed in making decisions that would allow those on the outside to see what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might be like.
It won't be long until you will leave this marvelous institution. You will go out into the world. There will be a myriad of opportunities for vocational pursuits and many, many opportunities in terms of recreation, entertainment, learning. You're grasping the gospel. You'll have much to do and many opportunities. I also know that you will have many learned character traits as you go forward. I would pray that as your family, those that are around you, maybe employees or employers, the world at large, as they see the traits that you have and the character traits that you have, they would be drawn to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They would know that you were someone they could follow.
It's interesting–especially those of you who will go out into the world away from an LDS society or predominantly LDS society–you'll find that many people have never been around a member of the Church before or gotten to know us very well. Whatever you are, that will become their perception of what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is. I pray that all of us would make decisions that would conform with what the Savior would have us do.
Have Confidence in the Existence of God
Brothers and sisters, I would like to talk about five suggestions that I feel could be helpful to you in your future as you plan for a successful future. The first one is this: to have total confidence in the existence of God, your Eternal Father, also confidence in the relationship that you have with Him and that He so desperately wants to have with you.
The scripture that is probably more used than any other that I know of in the Church is found in Moses 1:39. As we read that particular scripture, it helps us to learn that the Lord receives happiness as we enjoy the blessings of an immortal resurrected body first of all. Second, we can enjoy the blessings of celestial life. That particular scripture says, "For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."
That is a marvelous scripture. As I read it, I realize that we are talking about the Heavenly Father and Savior who literally have worlds without end. Yet, with all that they have and the implications of their being quite busy and occupied with all of that, I think one thing that gives us great hope is the fact that what is most interesting to them is our welfare. They are interested in children and brothers and sisters and in our eternal welfare. That becomes their greatest concern.
I think that there is one absolute that I would hope you would leave here with or gain in your life. That absolute is this: that your Heavenly Father does exist. I know that, that He loves you and that He wants you back. He wants every single one back in His presence. He knows you from beginning to end and that there are great opportunities. He wants you back so badly that He allowed his Son to suffer–beyond anything that we can comprehend–here in this mortal life. That is how badly He wants you back. Even to the point where in the Garden of Gethsemane, He suffered the sins, the suffering, the temptations, the pains, the anguish, anything that we would ever go through–a billion of souls–to where it literally pressed the blood from every pore in His body. He never would have done that, except that that is truly how badly He wants us to return. He wouldn't have allowed His Son to do that. Jesus wouldn't have done that, even for a minute, except there was no other way.
There is a problem sometimes. Because of our own weaknesses and imperfections, at times we get to wondering if the Lord really does want us to return. It can almost be a little self-defeating as we get a little negative on ourselves. Please don't do that. Please understand that He wants us all back. He loves us. The plan is available to us whereby we can return to His presence. Not only does our Heavenly Father want us to have an immortal, resurrected body that will be beyond anything that we can imagine in its beauty and glory and function, but also that He wants to share the type of lifestyle that He enjoys with us. I absolutely know that to be true. That is made possibly only through His Son, Jesus Christ.
I grew up in a home; I feel like I was born of goodly parents. I am so grateful for the parents that I have. I have tremendous respect for kind, loving, hard-working parents. Through their example–also through their words–they taught us as children to have faith in the Savior. It seemed like they always tried to catch us doing something good. My parents were just that way. They would catch us doing the good things in life–or try to. Then, they would try to accentuate the positive things we were doing. I am so grateful for that.
At the same time, they had no problem making corrections when those needed to be done. I recognize that any correction, guidance or counsel that they would give me or my brothers and sisters was always to help us to become a little more like Heavenly Father. It was never meant to beat us down or to make us feel unappreciated. It was always to help us in our lives and to move us along.
I think a little bit about the fact that there are some out there in the world who have a feeling that if they are corrected because of the commandments, that somehow our Heavenly Father doesn't love them–wants to put them in a box where they can't wiggle–or that it is to restrain them in their lives. I have learned that that isn't true. Heavenly Father has literally given us the commandments to help us, to build us, to expand us, to have us be a little bit more like Him. I really do appreciate that.
Going back to my folks and the fact that they expected us to do some things that were correct–once again I would say I really appreciate the correction that they gave us during our childhood and youth. Even in later years, they had no problem helping us with counsel, when that was needed.
I'd like to tell you a little story about my father, to give you an idea of how patient he seemed to be with us. My father came out of the Pacific Northwest. He owned a company that was involved in the timber industry. Occasionally, he would run some of his own machinery. I was in the woods with him one day when I was about 17 years old. He had had a breakdown with one of his machines and asked if I would go to town to get a part for him, which I did. I got in his crew truck and started going into town. I ended up being on clear, ice-slick roads. I was coming around the corner and the crew truck slid across the road and turned upside down. If you can imagine, this truck was upside down and the wheels were about the same level as the highway I had been driving on. I was standing on the edge of the road, talking to a Washington State patrolman. As you can imagine, he was a little stern, etc. I was standing there and quite nervous as a boy. Along came my father in his pickup. I can still see his face this day, as he rolled down his pickup window and looked over to make sure I was okay. He looked and saw that his truck was upside down and pretty well totaled out. Then, he looked back at me. He said, "Jackson, you've got it upside down. You'd better get it greased."
That's just my father. First of all, he would make sure that we were well and that all was fine. Then in private moments he took time to help me learn to handle the ice better. He helped me–rather than feeling like there was a dead end in my moving ahead as a young man, and learning to do things in this world–he helped me with it. I appreciated that. I hope that I can somehow show the same type of patience and love with my own children. I hope to catch them doing good and accentuate the positive in their lives to help them move forward.
As I went through that process, my young friends, I literally learned not only that my parents loved me, I learned that Heavenly Father also loved me and that He would be patient with me as I was learning to work my way though this life. Those are lessons that I have learned. I also learned that my Heavenly Father not only would allow me to have challenges in my life, but there would be nothing that would come to me in the way of a challenge that wouldn't be a blessing to me. It will be the same with you. There will be nothing that comes into our lives [except to] strengthen us and help us and bless us, if we handle that challenge correctly. I'll get into that in just a few minutes.
Please understand that that loving Heavenly Father of ours want us to return. I know that we don't all have parents who would lead us in the right direction necessarily, but one day you will be one. You can guide your children–you can help them and bless them.
Live the Commandments of God
Number two: have faith in Jesus Christ, receive all the ordinances of the gospel and then keep all associated covenants. Just as I have felt that my righteous parents were leading and guiding me as best they could, I also learned that our Heavenly Father loves us and will lead and guide us in any way that He can. I am grateful, once again, to the Savior of the world and for what He has done.
Brothers and sisters, as a General Authority of the Church the greatest responsibility that I have is to testify of the reality of the Son of God, of Jesus Christ. In this little, intimate setting today, I just want you to know that I know of Him, of his goodness. Through Him we can return to our Heavenly Father.
I'd like to tell you about a story that you know quite well, I think. It has to do with King Benjamin and the Book of Mormon. Do you remember this great prophet-king? We can read about him in the Book of Mosiah. He was a man who had great discipline. He loved the Lord dearly and he loved his people. He wanted to do whatever he could and to teach them properly so that one day they would be able to return to the presence of their Heavenly Father.
We don't know how much he prayed to have answers to his questions. We do know this–that an angel of the Lord appeared to King Benjamin and taught him the precise things that he should teach the people. In the first, second, third chapters of the Book of Mosiah, we get some great teaching there–in the fourth, also. There is one scripture that I would like to read to you. It is in Mosiah 2:41. It helps us understand the fact that we have been given the commandments of God. Once again, I would say this, that the commandments have never been given to restrain us or to put us in a box where we can't wiggle around. The commandments of God have been given to make us happy, both in this life and in the life to come, to expand us, to make us more like our Heavenly Father.
The scripture says this, "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."
My dear friends, I know that this particular scripture is just as relevant today as it was when it was received by the people under King Benjamin in his day. May the Lord bless us to understand that happiness–eternal happiness–comes as we keep the commandments of God.
We are not perfect; I know that. It's wonderful that the gospel of Jesus Christ makes provision for our errors. Through faith, repentance and obedience, the cleansing power of the atonement can work with us–making it possible that we can be clean and one day return to our Heavenly Father. I think we need to know that the repentance process generally is not easy. Nonetheless, the machinery for the cleansing power of the atonement is in place, and we can call on this. It is available for all of us.
I'd like to make a little invitation to you, my friends, today–something that you can do to help you be successful. I hope that you'd remember this–to do two things. One is that from this day forward, as long as you live, that you would partake of the sacrament worthily each Sunday. Second, that you would, in time, acquire a temple recommend. Then, as you live through your life, you would always be worthy of that recommend. One day when you die, as we all will, you will have a valid temple recommend that you were worthy of in your purse or wallet.
I promise you as King Benjamin stated, as we live the commandments of God, as we keep our covenants, that happiness will come into our lives. I'm talking about eternal happiness and the ability to have the style of life that our Heavenly Father has.
Follow the Lord's Will for Your Family
Number three: understand and follow the will of the Lord regarding the eternal family. Delores and I love our family very much. We presently have seven daughters, a son,18 grandchildren and another one coming. Of course, that was this morning. By now maybe there are two or three that we are not aware of. Our family is just at an age where it is growing rapidly. We are grateful for our children and our grandchildren; we love them dearly.
Most of you are still single. I want you to know that your children exist, just as ours do. They are still in their pre-mortal state but are looking forward to the opportunity of coming to this life to prove themselves. They anxiously await that. What a marvelous thing it is that you can prepare to receive them. They will come in their time and as the Lord has ordained things. You and your spouse will have the pleasure and responsibility of raising a family. I will never forget when Delores and I came out of the Oakland Temple 34 years ago hand in hand, then in time to know our children, to see them start to come into our lives. I think Delores and I felt that it was interesting how the Lord seemed to have so much confidence in us as a couple. More than anything else, we filled a great responsibility toward them. That has never gone away.
I want you to know that we are very proud of you. I am sure that each of you has a desire to do what the Lord would have you do in this regard–that you would do all you can to ultimately establish and have your eternal families.
The proclamation on the family will be a great help to you, in knowing what to do regarding the family. Please don't, under any circumstance, allow the persuasions and philosophies of men to interrupt your family's eternal happiness. You know as well as I do that there is much out there that can be tapped into, that wouldn't be the will of the Lord.
As the president of the North America West Area which includes California and Hawaii (there are 175 stakes in those two states), I have been very involved in the California iniative and the Hawaii iniative regarding same-gender marriage. I have been overwhelmed by the goodness of the Latter-day Saints in understanding the will of the Lord regarding this very moral issue that has come up. I thank my Heavenly Father, eternally, that His hand has been in it, helping us–the inspiration that has come from a prophet, the inspiration that we have felt as an Area Presidency. Then, to see the Saints work so hard when the family was so at risk–I am grateful for that. I am grateful for the clear direction that we get from a prophet of God, from the scriptures, from the family proclamation, and the other things that help us know what to do.
I'd like to quickly read three paragraphs of the family proclamation. I believe that you have all read it and understand it. I pray that you will spend time with it. It says:
"We, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children...."
I know that's true brothers and sisters.
"The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife...."
"We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."
Brothers and sisters, I'm so grateful for this proclamation, for the help that it gives us. I pray that you'd understand it, that you would follow it, that you would be very careful in what you do.
I just want you to know that the Lord has never changed down through the centuries in this regard–regarding the family. Our society and the norms of society have changed a lot. You know that. I know this also. I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. I have seen things; I know what goes on in this world. I know that the adversary invites us at every turn to involve ourselves in things that we shouldn't be involved in. I pray that all of us together would move forward.
I think that the message I give you this morning is that we must be absolutely true to ourselves. We must be absolutely true to our spouse or our future spouse. I know that this begins as we keep the covenants that we have taken. In our associations with others, we are proper and correct. This would happen before marriage vows are spoken. We would determine and pre-determine how we were going to act regarding these things.
View Life From the Lord's Perspective
Number four: try to obtain the Lord's perspective in our decision making. I think that the Lord has invited us to see long range and long term while we live in a world that really has short-range vision. I think we need to school ourselves in trying to see things from an eternal perspective.
I think to help us understand this principle, I'd like to share a scripture with you [from] the 117th section of the Doctrine & Covenants. To me this is kind of an obscure scripture. We don't talk about it very much in the Church. This scripture recites the situation of three men who were living in Kirtland, Ohio. They were called to go to Far West, Missouri, with the express purpose of helping to establish Zion. Well, these three men didn't go even though they were good men. They didn't leave Kirtland when they were supposed to, because they had stayed to help sell their personal property–for the greatest gain that they could get. Well, it's interesting.
In the fourth verse, the Lord said, "For what is property unto me? saith the Lord."
Then in the eighth verse, it says, "Is there not room enough on the mountains of Adam-ondi-Ahman,...that you should covet that which is but the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters?"
Brothers and sisters, over the years I've tried to think about those two items–the drop and the more weighty matters. I'll repeat it once again. It says,"Is there not room enough on the mountains of Adam-ondi-Ahman,...that you should covet that which is but the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters?"
The drop would evaporate. We know a drop of water would evaporate almost instantly, and we know that it is temporary.
Let me make an analogy for just a moment. Let's take a home for example. I love our home; we have a nice home. I feel that most of our society would need a home, an apartment or a roof over their head. I feel that a home would need to be nice, comely and clean. We'd have a place where our family could be drawn around us. At the same time, Sister Dickson and I know that when we leave this life, we can't take it with us. It's home, but it's earthbound. We cannot take it with us as we go through the veil. We can say the same thing about our automobiles, computers or pop-up toasters–the infinite number of things that we have. They are all nice–most of them are nice–many of them are very necessary. I recognize as much as I like a new car, there is no way that I can take it through the veil with me when I leave this life.
On the other hand [are the] the more weighty matters. When I think of the more weighty matters, I think of things that are eternal–things that will influence my family and me eternally. I think of the Savior of the world, of the atonement. I think of the priesthood that we hold. I think of the knowledge we gain. I think of those things to which I am eternally sealed–that would be my wife, my children, my grandchildren, the extended families–family going both directions. I think what the Lord is saying is this: Never, ever give up those things that matter most in pursuit of those things that matter least.
The natural man or woman will make the wrong decision almost every time. They will almost always go after the shiny, the whatever, instead of those things that would give them eternal happiness. Brothers and sisters, all that I would like to help you with here is the idea–try to look at things from the Lord's perspective. Make sure that when we are looking at things and making decisions that we have a long range view. I'm talking about an eternal view of what we are going to do. It will make all the difference in raising your family and helping them to know in the decisions they make.
Handle Challenges With Faith and Confidence
Number five: handle challenges with faith and confidence. I indicated earlier that I know that our Heavenly Father would never give us a challenge, first of all, that's greater than we can handle. It will always be for our good–if we will handle it correctly–in the long term.
I'd like to tell you about a little situation. You've noticed that Elder Dickson just has one arm. I'd like to talk about that for a minute. Go back to 1962. At that point I was called to go to Mexico as a full-time missionary. Yet, in the moment that I was ready to go, I found myself in the hospital. I had a very serious sarcoma–bone cancer of the right arm. The doctors indicated that I probably wouldn't live more than a few weeks. It was a very, very critical situation. I received a blessing from my father, a priesthood blessing. In that he indicated that I would live, go on my mission to Mexico, have my family and basically have a normal life. Really all that happened, except for the normal life. Having seven daughters and Sister Dickson–8 women in the house–it wasn't very possible to have a normal life.
We had the most fun. I can't even express what a fun life it has been with all of our girls and John; it's just been wonderful. Why do I talk about this? I talk about it because of the fact that having one arm for 37 years has probably been one of the greatest blessings in my life. I've learned a great deal about patience and other things. It's been a great blessing because I have learned that we have challenges in our lives, we must face those challenges, win and move ahead.
I was extremely right handed–still am. When I first tried to eat soup, I couldn't even get it in my mouth or keep it on the spoon. I couldn't figure out how to move a brush when I'd look in the mirror. I couldn't write. I had to learn to do all of that over again.
I'll never forget the first time when I was in my bedroom. I had just gotten out of the hospital. My body was strong. I had been playing high school football and working in the woods. I just didn't have that right arm to get things done. I was in my bedroom alone with my tie in my hand thinking, now what in the world am I going to do with this crazy tie? You know I thought about mom. I thought maybe she could come and help me. Problem is, she didn't know how to tie a tie, nor could she go to Mexico with me. I realized that I was going to have to do it on my own. About five minutes later–having used my teeth a little bit–I had tied my tie for the first time.
I learned that if I were just a little patient and positive–in many things we have to put the Lord in the formula to help us, and have faith in Him and in ourselves, etc.–that I could move forward. Well, I have tied my tie ten thousand times and done many, many other things. I have learned along the way that those things are things that we need to do. Those challenges are given to us to make us stronger. They are given to us for our good.
Remember the prophet Joseph Smith, while he was in the Liberty jail? I always thought what a name for a jail–named after Liberty, Missouri. He was in the Liberty jail and he asked why all of this. I don't think it had to do with the deplorable condition in which he was living. I believe that it had to do with the fact that the saints were out there in the wilderness, between there and Illinois, that the cause of Zion seemed to be stalemated. His family was out there; he was incarcerated. He asked the Lord why. The Lord said in the 122nd section of the Doctrine & Covenants, the 7th and 8th verses, He wanted him to know that all of these things would be for his good and to give him experience. He said, "Know thou, my son, that all of these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."
Then he said,"The Son of Man [speaking of the Savior] hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?"
The point is that no, the prophet Joseph Smith had to suffer a little, or quite a bit. We have to suffer a little, but nothing like what the Savior has gone through.
I want you to know that no matter what the challenge may be in your life, it will be for your good and give you experience. You must work with it, deal with it and move ahead. It may be physical, especially as you get older. It's more likely to be economic. Maybe trying to find your spouse. Maybe dealing with temptation. Maybe dealing with the fact that you are suffering because of the sins of someone else. Maybe you have been abused as a child, teenager or as an adult. Maybe you have lost a loved one–or lost a loved one with regard to the gospel of Jesus Christ–whatever it may be. There are thousands and thousands of challenges. You don't have to go looking for them; they'll pop up automatically. You already know that. The message I'm giving you is as they come, you handle them well and the Lord will bless you.
Brothers and sisters, our time is up. I wouldn't leave here without telling you how much I love the Savior of the world, how grateful I am for what he has done. I want you to know that I know that there is a God in heaven, that He does want you back. He wants me back. He wants us all back. He loves us so much that He made that possible through His Son. We have great opportunities in this life. I pray that not one individual will skip out on the opportunities that your Heavenly Father has for you. We love you dearly.
With regard to loving prophets, I'm not exactly sure why the Lord has allowed me to know them so well. The President of the Church and his Councilors of the Twelve, almost on a daily basis I'll be with one or several of them. I just want you to know that these are good, holy and honorable men that love the Lord. I truly believe that they would do anything–even give their lives–if it would help any of you to get a little further on in your progression with regard to the plan of salvation, getting to know your Heavenly Father. President Hinckley is about as energetic as a man as I have ever seen. Don't miss anything that comes from him. The Lord seems to have blessed us with an exciting prophet who is in a dimension all by himself.
May the Lord bless us to listen closely. We love you. I thank you for this opportunity to be with you.
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