Fall 2015

As Actors and Spectators

01 Jul. 2015

Transcript

As Actors and Spectators

Brothers and sisters, what a pleasure it is for Sister Kimber and I to be with you today, to be gathered together in this historic hall, but most importantly, to be with you. I have a great deal of confidence that when Abraham had his vision of the pre-earth life and he saw many of the noble and great ones[i], he saw your faces. I am confident in that because I have seen your actions and taken note of your behavior. I also know that you have been reserved to come forth in the final dispensation of the fullness of times, where you would need to counteract and fight against the evil that surrounds us. And I am most grateful to be with you today. As I look at your smiling faces and know of your good countenances, I feel that I am among friends, and for that I thank you.

As I begin my remarks today, I’d like to start by expressing my sincere desire for you and me to more fully understand our divine roles so that we may act accordingly before God. As I attempt to convey something of worth to you this morning, I am less concerned about the words you will hear me speak and more concerned about the impressions you will feel. And I am most concerned about what you will commit yourself to do as a result of any spiritual promptings you might be privileged to receive. For in doing the will of the Father, we come to know the truthfulness of His doctrine;[ii] we enjoy the divinely appointed blessings associated with our obedience;[iii] and most importantly, we demonstrate our love to Him and His Son.[iv] I pray for the influence of the Holy Ghost to be with us during our brief time together this morning, and I humbly invite you to pray for me and for you, that the Spirit of the Lord may be with us that we may understand one another and be edified.[v]

When I was about nine or ten years old, my parents bought season tickets to Abravanel Hall, which is a concert hall just across the street from where we are today. I think my parents were trying to expose me to a form of entertainment outside of video games and movies. I certainly had my reservations at first, but I actually ended up enjoying most of the performances—most of them. We saw symphonies, musicals, a ballet, and even a magic show. I learned that there is something special about watching live performers on a stage rather than on a screen. I especially enjoy it when there is a good moral to the story—one with a powerful message that prompts me to apply positive changes in my life.

President Boyd K. Packer has observed that theatrical productions serve as a good metaphor for life. In a 1995 fireside for young adults, he said the following:

The plan of redemption, with its three divisions, might be likened to a grand three-act play. Act I is entitled “Premortal Life.” The scriptures describe it as our First Estate. (See Jude 1:6; Abr. 3:26–28) Act II, from birth to the time of resurrection, is the “Second Estate.” And Act III, “Life After Death or Eternal Life.”[vi]

According to President Packer, we are now experiencing Act 2 of this grand three-act play, which is our mortal probation. I’d like to explore this metaphor further as we compare our current state of existence to the second act of a three-act play.

The Prophet Lehi observed that there are “both things to act and things to be acted upon.”[vii] Applied to our metaphor, we could say that there are either actors or spectators in this great play of life—in other words, those who act and those who are acted upon.

Now, I would like to assume that all of us here today rarely if ever play the part of a spectator. However, I think it is beneficial to identify the characteristics of a spectator so that we don’t find ourselves slipping into this role. 

The spectator attends a play with the expectation of being entertained. In some cases, the spectator might also attend a play to be seen by others. Attending an upscale production can be seen as a chance to socialize and to mingle with others who see themselves as extraordinary members of an elite society. When the play ends the spectators blissfully return to their homes, never to apply the lessons taught by what they observed on stage. While spectators like this might seem to be a result of modern society, they have been around for thousands of years.

Over two thousand years ago, a handful of Nephite missionaries led by Alma the Younger set out to cry repentance to the people of Zoram. Now, please keep in mind the characteristics of a spectator as we examine the behavior of the Zoramites. “Now the Zoramites were dissenters from the Nephites; therefore they had had the word of God preached unto them. But they had fallen into great errors, for they would not observe to keep the commandments of God, and his statutes.”[viii] In other words, the Zoramites had retired from acting in order to assume the idle practice of spectating. Alma and his missionary companions observed that “the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord.”[ix] Yet, the Zoramites made feeble attempts to worship God by offering up vain, repetitive prayers on a tower known as the Rameumptom. Like the hypocritical Pharisees of Christ’s time, the Zoramites “[loved] to pray standing in the synagogues . . .  that they [might] be seen of men.”[x] After offering their superficial prayers, the Zoramites would then “[return] to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again.”[xi]

What was it about the Zoramites that changed them from actors to spectators? As it pertains to how they worshiped, they had an expectation of being entertained rather than an inclination to be inspired. They attended their worship services to be seen of men—to assume only the appearance but not the substance of true discipleship. While they may have spoken about godly things on the Sabbath, they neglected to remember their God and keep His commandments. Perhaps the Savior would have defined the Zoramites for us by saying that “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”[xii]

I think it would be beneficial for us to reflect on how we worship our Redeemer on the Sabbath day and throughout the week. Please consider the following questions:

·         Do I ever find myself wishing that the speakers or teachers at Church were more entertaining?Ninety percent of you are wishing this right now. And I think the other ten percent are probably asleep.

·         Do I attend Church meetings hoping that others will take notice of my pious devotion?

·         Do I ever engage in socializing when I should be listening to spiritual guidance and instruction?

·         Do I attend my Sunday meetings only to fall into a state of spiritual idleness during the rest of the week?

If you find yourself answering “yes” to any of these questions, perhaps you also felt a prompting to improve. I declare that through the grace of Christ, you and I can improve. We must improve. Attending our Sunday meetings is important, yet we need to remember that even the idle spectator makes the effort to attend the performance. We cannot afford to play the role of a spectator on this great stage of life. We must be actors—those who take righteous action. But becoming an actor takes desire and effort.

An actor must first know the role that he or she plays. Then, the actor must know the script from beginning to end. Knowing the entire script will help put the individual actor’s role into proper context.  Every play has leading roles and supporting roles. A good actor will develop a relationship of unity and trust with all the other actors. An actor must also be willing to follow the instructions given by the director. The best actors have learned how to truly become the characters that they were cast to be.

Now let’s examine—with a spiritual lens—the individual principles that make for an effective actor. First, an actor must become intimately familiar with the role or roles which he or she will play. The roles that we play will differ from day to day. For example, in any given day, you might be called upon to act as a friend, a son or daughter, a parent, an employee, a spouse, a student, or a leader. Regardless of what roles we play, we need to be familiar with how our roles should be played. The Lord revealed the importance of this principle to the Prophet Joseph Smith as follows: “Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.”[xiii] Men and women alike should learn their roles and responsibilities and then act accordingly.

Sometimes, I think it becomes difficult to magnify a particular role when we view that role as small or insignificant. When I was in high school, I had a supporting role in a musical production. One of my peers mentioned to the director that he was not happy with the “small role” that he had been given. He wanted to have a leading role where he would enjoy more of the spotlight. Our wise director kindly yet firmly responded, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” That simple phrase has stuck with me, and I have tried to apply it to the many different roles and assignments that I am asked to fill. I testify that each and every one of us plays an important role to play in life’s grand play.

The Apostle Paul taught this same principle when he said:

For the body is not one member, but many.

If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.[xiv] 

Some members of the body are more visible—and yes, even perhaps more vital than others—but all are needed. President David O. McKay lived by an old Scottish motto that states: “What e’er thou art, act well thy part.” We would do well to recognize the importance of this principle and then act accordingly.

Next, an actor must know the script in its entirety. The script will help the actor know what to say and what to do on stage. In fact, one definition of the word script is “a plan of action.” All of us here should be studying the same script. I think you know what I am alluding to. The words scripture and script come from the same Latin root word. The scriptures do indeed reveal a plan of action for our existence. This plan, or script, is a plan of happiness, redemption, and salvation. Beginning with the first man, Adam, God has called holy prophets to teach us this great plan. Never before in the history of the world has any generation had more access to the scriptures than we have. Yet, despite this unprecedented access to holy writ, the Savior has warned: “Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them.”[xv] If we are unclear about the plan that God has for us while here in mortality, we will undoubtedly make costly mistakes.

Reading regularly from the scriptures not only gives us doctrinal understanding and enlightenment, but we will also be protected and fortified against the evils around us. When Laman and Lemuel questioned their brother Nephi about the interpretation of their father’s dream, Nephi exhorted them in this manner: “And I said unto them that [the rod of iron] was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.”[xvi] I would like to add my personal witness that reading the scriptures can give us guidance and inspiration. I have received such guidance many times as I have pondered and read the scriptures. These blessings come to all who study the scriptures with a sincere desire to discover the Lord’s will. I echo the words of the prophet Nephi who invited us to “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold,” said he, “the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”[xvii]

In addition to learning the script, an actor must also learn how to interact with the other cast members. Good actors foster a sense of unity and mutual respect. Think about all of the different people that you interact with on any given day. There are some really good people in the world.; you and I have the opportunity to serve alongside “many of the noble and great ones.”[xviii] In the callings and assignments that I have been given over the years, I have served with many faithful and stalwart Latter-day Saints. Working at LDS Business College has been no exception to that. I feel that the people I work with here at the College are some of the most elect individuals on the planet. We are united and blessed as we have sincere desires for you as the students, and as we build the kingdom of God on the earth. There is great power that comes to a group of humble servants when they unanimously act together. This power comes from the influence of Deity. Our Savior has taught, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them—even so am I in the midst of you.”[xix]

This principle became clear to me as a young man. At the end of my junior year in high school, I was asked to serve on the seminary council. Our first assignment as a council that summer was to come up with a scriptural theme for the upcoming school year. We were scheduled to be studying the Old Testament that year, and so that’s the volume of scripture that we had to select a theme from. We took a few weeks to study the Old Testament, pray, and fast about what our theme should be. When we met together to discuss that theme, I expected to hear a myriad of proposed references. As the president of the council, my plan was to make a list of every different reference and then have a vote to see which one would be our theme. Yet, to my great surprise, no vote was necessary. As we went around the table, one by one, each member of our council repeated the same scriptural reference along with their own unique experience of how they were led to this singular verse of scripture. Just think about the odds of that for a moment—twelve very unique teenagers had independently been led to a singular verse of scripture. We had over 31,000 verses of scripture to choose from. This was not a case of mere happenstance. We had no doubt what our scriptural theme would be. Our decision was unanimous, and the Spirit of the Lord ratified that decision. I testify that miracles such as this happen in the councils of the Church and in righteous families all over the world. Elder M. Russell Ballard has witnessed, “I know we can accomplish [God’s] work better through unity and love as we sit in council one with another.”[xx]

Perhaps more important than an actor’s relationship with his or her co-stars is an actor’s relationship with the director. An actor must be submissive enough to take counsel and guidance from the director. Our director happens to be an omniscient and omnipotent being who knows our divine potentials. We call Him Father, and He knows us as His sons and daughters. It is critical to our salvation that we come to know the Father and develop a strong relationship with Him. Jesus Christ taught: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”[xxi] The way in which we come to know God is by following the example of Jesus Christ. We know that the Beloved Son is perfectly obedient to His Father. We must strive to do the same. We are the literal spirit children of our Father in Heaven and must therefore “becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.”[xxii] I love my Father in Heaven. He has blessed me in immeasurable ways. The Apostle John has declared: “We love him, because he first loved us.”[xxiii] I aim to prove my love to Him by being obedient to His commandments.[xxiv] I bear witness that God Almighty is the Father of our spirits.[xxv] I pray that each of us can cultivate a personal relationship with our Father and then act accordingly to deepen that divine relationship. 

The best actors have learned how to truly become the characters that they were cast to be. They relinquish their own natural qualities and image to assume the qualities and image of another. The character that each of us should strive to become like is none other than our Savior, Jesus Christ. Indeed, our Redeemer invites us to be like Him. He said, “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”[xxvi] Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can become new creatures.[xxvii] I love the soul-searching questions posed by the prophet Alma:

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?[xxviii]

As you and I strive to portray the image of Christ through our thoughts, words, and actions, we will be prepared to inherit the role which all of us were destined to play.[xxix]

Now, let’s review the pattern for acting more effectively as disciples of Christ:

·         First, “What e’er thou art, act well thy part.”Remember, in the Lord’s kingdom every member matters. Regardless of how big or small you think your role is, the Lord can use you to bring about His purposes. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that most of the Lord’s work is accomplished through small and simple means.[xxx]

·         Second, study the scriptures and the words of modern-day prophets.Studying from and pondering on the scriptures will help you discover your personal plan of action. “The words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”[xxxi]

·         Third, act in unison with those you labor with.There is great power that comes from a group of individuals acting as one in order to achieve a common purpose. This will require great humility and love.

·         Fourth, develop a meaningful relationship with the Father and learn to trust His counsel.You never have to worry about Him lying to you or giving you bad advice. He will never betray your trust. Following His plan will lead to everlasting joy and peace.

·         Fifth, assume the characteristics of Christ.Forsake your own natural tendencies and adopt the qualities and image of the Savior. Then, when He shall appear you shall be like Him and be pure even as He is pure.[xxxii]

Now my dear friends, it is my hope and prayer that we will put off the way of the spectator and assume our roles as actors. One of the main reasons the Church was organized was to teach us how we should act. Jesus Christ has said,

And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know how to act and direct my church, how to act upon the points of my law and commandments, which I have given.

And thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me.[xxxiii]

I love that phrase, “bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me.”

As Latter-day Saints, I think that we are pretty effective at instructing one another on how we should act. Just think about how all the times that you’ve received instruction on gospel principles over the last month. There’s Sunday School, priesthood and Relief Society meetings, family home evening, Institute classes, sacrament meeting, and weekly devotionals here at the Business College.

You and I are routinely invited to apply principles of truth. Yet, I wonder how effective we are at committing ourselves to act upon the invitations we receive. I fear that too many of us receive instruction as though we were spectators. We may enjoy what is being taught, and we may even write it down. But then what? Do we follow the Lord’s pattern of binding ourselves to act on what we’ve been taught? My invitation for you today is to bind yourselves to act. If you feel inspired to write down a principle of truth, make sure you act on it. When we fail to act on what we know to be true, we are merely spectating. That is not the role that you and I were foreordained to play.

As you go forward with a renewed commitment to act upon the truth you receive, it would greatly enrich my life if you would share your experiences with me. I would love to hear about how you acted on a spiritual prompting or how you acted on an invitation from a Priesthood leader. Reading those experiences, for me, would be such a tremendous blessing.

My brothers and sisters, I hope you know that the Lord needs you to act. You and I must live to act. We must act in the name of Christ, in all that we do.[xxxiv] Our time on this great stage of life is limited. Every performance must end with the lowering of the curtains. “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.”[xxxv] Let us bind ourselves to act in all holiness and forsake idleness. I know that God lives, that He loves us, and that He directs our lives in love and righteousness. I leave you my witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

References

 

[i]See Abraham 3:22

[ii]See John 7:17

[iii]See Doctrine & Covenants 130:20–21

[iv]See John 14:15

[v]See Doctrine & Covenants 50:22

[vi]Boyd K. Packer, “The Play and the Plan,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, May 7,1995

[vii]2 Nephi 2:14

[viii]Alma 31:8–9

[ix]Alma 31:12

[x]Matthew 6:5

[xi]Alma 31:23

[xii]Joseph Smith–History 1:19

[xiii]Doctrine & Covenants 107:99

[xiv]1 Corinthians 12:14,17–18

[xv]Doctrine & Covenants 10:63

[xvi]1 Nephi 15:24

[xvii]2 Nephi 32:3

[xviii]Abraham 3:22

[xix]Doctrine & Covenants 6:32

[xx]M. Russell Ballard, “Strength in Counsel,” Oct. 1993 General Conference

[xxi]John 17:3

[xxii]Mosiah 3:19

[xxiii]1 John 4:19

[xxiv]See John 14:15

[xxv]See Romans 8:16

[xxvi]3 Nephi 27:27

[xxvii]See 2 Corinthians 5:17

[xxviii]Alma 5:14–15

[xxix]See Mosiah 27:26

[xxx]See Alma 37:6

[xxxi]2 Nephi 32:3

[xxxii]See Moroni 7:48

[xxxiii]Doctrine & Covenants 43:8–9

[xxxiv]See Moses 5:8

[xxxv]Alma 34:32


Moving Upward with Grace

07 Jul. 2015

Transcript

Moving Upward with Grace

I am just really grateful that all of those lessons have paid off. All that small chunk of change that we set aside every month—this is a mom’s belated blessing. And I’m really grateful to you girls. I don’t know where they went; oh, there they are. They are my biggest reason to rejoice. And there’s one daughter in the middle that right at this moment is probably taking her exam on To Kill A Mockingbird, so she was not able to be here. But she is a part of the Piano Girls Band, and some day we hope to give her the sweet privilege of playing in this beautiful hall. It is a blessing, and I appreciate more than anything the opportunity to speak and to hear these girls play and see Lizzy kind of finish her piano career on a Steinway in the Assembly Hall. So thank you. Thank you for always saying okay, when I say to practice.

There is great cause to rejoice. I love the words of President Uchtdorf as he states, “The first step on the path of discipleship begins, luckily enough, in the exact place where [you] stand!” (“The Way of the Disciple,” Apr. 2009 General Conference.)

Welcome to the opening summer devotional. I bear testimony that as you attend these devotionals, you will receive inspiration in your life. I can’t tell you to come and receive inspiration, but I can bear testimony of how many pages in my journal are filled with the whisperings of the Spirit when I’m here every single Tuesday. And I hope that when I pass away and they are looking through my journals saying, “What was this Tuesday event?” that all the pieces will come together that it was a monumental part of my life where I received a lot of personal revelation. So as you’re walking over here, maybe you will pose a few questions to heaven, and you might find the answers while you are sitting in the pews. If anything, come here just to hear the music, and to look through the stained glass windows—that is my favorite thing to do when I am feeling like I am empty and I come here wanting to fill up. So the stained glass windows and the music always pack a punch, and the speakers are just the icing on the cake.

While my girls were playing that beautiful arrangement of “Now, Let Us Rejoice” (Hymn, no. 3), I hope that you were able to record some specific things in your life today that are causing you to rejoice. There is great power in recording your story, particularly when you are moved by the Spirit.

At the 2013 opening devotional, our friend President Richards, and I think that it would be sweet to just feel his spirit because this is such a big day for him to be gone, he said, “Write down in your book the things that the Spirit teaches you, the promptings of the still, small voice. What a wonderful opportunity we have every week to come and practice hearing the still, small voice for us, our individual needs, our wants, and our righteous desires.”

He says, “So I invite you today to start. Learn to listen to your heart and record what the Spirit would have you know. And then it won’t matter what the speaker says. You’ll have a great meeting” (“Choose Not to Hold Back,” LDSBC Devotional, May 7, 2013).

For the remainder of this time together, I’m just wondering if you will come and pitch a tent with me. I love being in a tent. My family knows that; it’s my favorite spot to be. And I love when my husband gathers us in his tent and starts throwing the Book of Mormon at all of us, and we put our headlamps on, and we snuggle down in for a sweet time reading the Book of Mormon under the stars.

We are literally in the shadows of the temple, and there was a part in the Book of Mormon where they came, and they pitched, and their doors were facing the temple (see Mosiah 2:6). And so today, I hope that you’ll pitch a tent with me.

On several occasions I’ve stood in front of a large painting from a local artist named Brian Kershisnik. So boys, if you need a really good date, here’s the deal—you’re going to drive down to BYU where this exact painting is housed, and you’re going to go to the arts museum, and then you’re going to go get a J-Dawg after. And that will be a killer Friday night date. So girls, get ready, because this will be a date.

Anyway, this is stretched on a canvas about the size of a U-Haul trailer. It’s big, measuring more than 7 feet high and 17 feet wide, and the painting is called Nativity. I know, it’s May and that’s a December story. Hold on and let me connect the dots. At the bottom of the painting is the Holy Family, a relieved Joseph, hand on forehead, and a very serene Mary cradled under the light of her new son, Jesus Christ. And above this sweet family three are angels everywhere, sweeping the canvas, displaying a range of emotions as they gather and they stream in rapidly in the left side. Their tears are windswept; their hair is a wreck. It’s a mess. And they rush close to be near to the Savior.

You know, in Kershisnik’s painting, the angels do not stay at the Nativity. They are in a constant upward state. They worship, and then they continue upward. They exit to the right of the painting and they make their way with haste to proclaim the good news that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, has been born. The more I study Kershisnik’s extreme Nativity scene, the more I realize this—this painting—this is where my story and your story begin. And each time I visit this painting, I am left with the same question: where was I that night? Was I in that heavenly throng of angels? Where was I?

But I have learned that perhaps the better question is not, where were we, but where are we? The very fact that you are here today tells me that you are still choosing to be a part of this heavenly throng and that you’ve not given up on this pathway to discipleship.

Let me do a little bit of bridging for you. Last semester the devotionals were centered around the Atonement. Studying the Atonement, and applying it, and making a place for it in our lives. How many of you made your way over to a few of the devotionals on the Atonement? [Audience members raise their hands.] Okay. So here comes the bridge. So my sweet friend David was a student of mine. And you couldn’t find anyone more credible to talk the talk and to walk the walk of service because this student, this young man, serves quietly and fiercely. So as he talked to you a little bit about service, the theme for these devotionals and for this summer is “A Summer of Service.”

Now, don’t shut down on me, because sometimes we don’t think we have room to serve. So hang on. So, with all the mountains ahead of you—whether they be feelings of not being enough, or of not having enough time to give, or of schedules maxed out with work, school, and trying to figure out Church-life balance—how do we take what we know about the Atonement and move upward into discipleship? One word: Grace.

I titled my talk today “Moving Upward with Grace” in hopes that you will feel a movement when you leave here and embark on this summer. The next few minutes are not about me talking, but are about each of you as you ponder what it means to you to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and what this means in your life as you ask yourself, “Where am I?”

To frame this pondering, I’d like to use a favorite line of poetry from the long-winded T.S. Eliot, who is not a favorite poet of mine, but this line is a favorite line. It goes:

At the still point of the turning world (“Burnt Norton,” Four Quartets).

Christ’s birth was a still point in a really tumultuous, turning world some 2,000 years ago. And the world is still tumultuous and turning, and His life continues to be a still point in the world today. It is through the gift of grace that we can then become His word and His light in the ever-turning world.

There are five still points to a star. And you all know the star—I’m going back to that December story. The sky held that star with five still points. And with these still points, I’m going to give you five principles of grace, each with a question for you to take home and to ponder. For the next few moments, I would ask the Spirit to be here and to help me because I have learned if I’ve learned one thing by teaching at this College, the Spirit is the best teacher, and by far it is just the best match to any of your instructors.

Still point number one: Grace is a power that flows from the Atonement. It is what the Savior uses to help us and enable us. If you just write the word enable, that is the only word you need. And here is the question for you to ponder: when was the last time you experienced this enabling power of grace as you moved from depletion and emptiness upward into fullness and abundance?

In my own pondering of this question, I was reminded of a student who gave a great talk about the symbolism of the sego lily blossom. Now, for those of you who are new, this is for you. It feels like I’ve sat in here a million times, and I never realized why there’s this big huge blossom, this sego lily, above you. And so that’s one of the reasons that I come in here every week, and I do not leave until I glance upward and I pay attention to that beautiful sego lily.

For those of you who are not local, that is our state flower. And it didn’t get to be our state flower because it’s just a really pretty flower. When those early settlers came into Utah and their crops were ravished by crickets and drought, in the middle of the winter when they thought they could go on no more, they dug up the bulbs of the sego lily and they ate them. And the sego lily reminded them of the enabling power and where they got their strength from. So you’ll see the sego lily in many, many of the artifacts that are reminder of the early settlers and Saints. Remember, remember, remember.

The symbolism is one that reminds me of depletion and drought, but also fullness. Look at that bloom. It’s in full bloom. The semester does not come without days where your soil will be cracked and you will feel dry, and you will just want to be watered down, like the words in Isaiah (see Isaiah 58:11). And this is where the gift of grace can grow inside of you, reminding you of the Savior’s love. This is His gift to each of you.

You might be thinking, “Sister Robbins, who has time for grace? Who has time for service? May is busy, and there are not enough hours in the day.” God gives us time on earth, but yet we can’t seem to find time for God.

Imagine that you have a cup of water and it is half full. If you fill it up with grace and it is overflowing, grace isn’t what is going to make it overflow. Grace, this steady stream of water in your life, the gift from God, and the gift that you can use every single day. Sheri Dew in her latest book says, “The Savior empowers us with His grace, not because we’ve earned it, but because He loves us perfectly” (Sheri L. Dew, Amazed by Grace, Deseret Book, 2015).

Perhaps taking this love that the Savior has for you and serving others can be something as simple as smiling at someone in the hall, or engaging in a classroom, or treating each other with love and respect, civility and kindness. When you collaborate in teams, make sure that you listen to each other, that you remember that that girl sitting across the way from you, she is a daughter of God. And that guy in your group that never shows up to the meetings, he is a son of God. And maybe there is something that you can do to encourage them to move through the mountains they are climbing.

Grace’s still point number two. Here’s the principle: “His grace can change our very nature”—keyword: change—“and over time transform us from who we are into who we can become” (quoted in Marianne Holman Prescott and Sonja Carlson, “BYU Women’s Conference,” LDS Church News, May 2, 2014).  And that’s by Sheri Dew. Two key words: change and transform. Here’s a question to ponder: how has His grace changed or transformed your heart recently, within the last two weeks? Have you noticed?

I know there are missionary stories out there that happened two years ago. What has happened since then? How has His grace changed and transformed you since then? And how have you been illuminated by that light in understanding who you are and what you are truly capable of?

There were many on that night that Jesus Christ was born that were in search of a lot of things—a lot of strength and a lot of light. I love the quote by Dennis Rasmussen when he said, “When Jesus entered the world, all things were transformed, not because they looked different, but because he was in their midst. He knew their real worth. . . . Christ took common things and raised them up to sanctity. He led men to see, as they had never seen before.” How has the gift of grace done that for you? He took “leaven and salt, wind and sea, publicans and sinners—all revealed before his eyes their inner goodness.” (“Knowest Thou the Condescension of God?” Lord’s Question, 61-62, quoted in “Discerning Divinity,” BYU Religious Studies Center.)

One of the highlights to standing sideline to each of you in your education is that we have the privilege of watching you change, transform, and grow in a matter of 14 weeks. When I get to heaven and they ask me what was one of the biggest privileges of my life, that will be on my list.

This past semester on the last day of our leadership class, as we were reflecting one of my students profoundly made the conclusion about seeing things from her limited view. In her words, she said, “In this past semester I have learned a lot about leadership and leading others. But what I realized through the gift of grace is that I needed to learn how to lead myself before I could really lead others. I now see myself as a leader who has the right pieces in place, and I now have the capacity to see myself and others in a whole new light.”

This was the fruition, this was the happy spot of the semester, to see this student see herself with new eyes and attribute it to the Atonement and to that gift of grace.

Sometimes, our view of ourselves and those around us is hindered by our earthly view. But the gift of grace has a way of taking these earth-stained stories and making them illuminated and changed, so we are able to do all that is required of us. The very minute you begin to say, “I don’t have anything to contribute here on campus. I don’t have anything to give,” is the very moment you can initiate grace in your life and ask for a transformation.

Grace still point number three. Here’s the principle, from 1 Peter 1:13: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind.” Isn’t that a great phrase? “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” And here’s the question. It’s one of my favorite questions that I’m trying to ask myself weekly—what is one thing you can do to gird up your mind, to let go of something that is weighing you down, and to allow you to reach upward for more grace and have His Spirit with you more abundantly? In other words, what can you let go of in order for you to have the capacity and energy for you to reach for what you need to reach for?

As you list something that you can let go of, list something that you can reach for. It’s easy to say, “Well, I can let go of my terrible music, and watching Netflix, and I could probably do away with gaming a little bit more.” But give yourself a little leeway to give a reach. “I could get my temple recommend.” “I could spend more time in the mountains pondering and meditating and being more grateful.”

Think of the extra energy and capacity we would have in our life if we girded up our mind and released the worry, the anger, the distractions, the discouragement, and the heaviness of the things that we carry so we can reach for the things that the Lord needs us to reach for.

What if this became our greatest desire, to have His Spirit to be with us more abundantly and to reach for what He would have us reach for? It would be like Christmas all year long. I loved when Marlin K. Jensen, one day in this room, took my day and flipped it on its head. And if you want a really good devotional address, go onto the website and pull up Marlin K. Jensen’s devotional. But I’m going to give you the best part, and I’m going to ask you the same question he asked me when I was sitting right over there. He said, “Think back, if you would, just on your own prayer this morning. I hope you have offered one. If you have, honestly it’s a lot more important than anything I can say today. . . . Did you, in your prayer today mention the Holy Ghost, and tell God how much you desire to have that Spirit with you today?”

He continued, “Where our prayers are, there will our thoughts be also, really. And I just hope that . . . your level of consciousness about the need for, the desire for, the worth of having the Holy Ghost with you would substantially increase” (“Strive to Have Companionship of the Spirit,” LDSBC devotional, Nov. 26, 2013).

And from that day forward, I walked out of here and that has been a staple in most of my morning prayers, and when I miss it, I can tell by about noon.

Grace still point number four: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” This comes from 2 Peter 3:18. Grace upon grace, we grow just as Jesus Christ did. Keyword here: grow. So we’ve got enable, change, transform, and grow. If you leave with those verbs, that’s all you need to know about the gift of grace. They’re going to hold you down and anchor you so that you can continue on in your own personal study. Here’s the question: in a moment of sadness or darkness or discouragement, how did the Lord strengthen you through the gift of grace as He mended you? Given your weaknesses and shortcomings and lack of capacity at times, how were you able to receive the blessings of grace?

A few semesters ago in English 101, we were discussing two articles, which if you haven’t read, you need to read them: “Sweet Above All That Is Sweet,” by Sheri Dew, () and “His Grace Is Sufficient,” by Brad Wilcox (BYU Devotional, Jul. 12,2011). And this was in English, so we were analyzing the writing, the paragraphs, the rhetoric, the imagery, and the central messages. So those of you that are enrolled in English 101, you have a day to look forward to.

As we analyzed the principles of grace from these two readings and applied them, we talked about the gift of grace and what it meant in our individual lives. And then Brenda—a student from South Africa, a single mother of two, a woman who gave up everything to come to America to be educated—described the gift of grace and living without the Atonement like this: she said, “It’s like floating above your life to have no Atonement, and above everything else in a constant and exhausting search for something unknown and still feeling like you’re always missing something.”

When she said that in class, in English 101, College Writing, I will tell you that was one of the most profound moments that I have had on campus in one of these Spirit-centered classrooms—to see this beautiful voice and this beautiful woman teach her peers about what it would feel like to live without the Atonement. What does it feel like for you to have the Atonement in your life? Have you ever written it down? Have you ever told anyone what it personally means to you? And if it’s been two years since your mission you personally said that, go home, call your mom, call your dad, call your brother, and let them know what that means to you today. If you do one thing today, that will be gift enough.

Do not wait until you make a mistake to use the Atonement. Dig in for a lifelong study and let it grow. Let it grow beside you and throughout you—throughout your days, both the dark days and the light days. As many of you know, I have studied the Atonement by book and scripture, like all of you have. But I have felt the Atonement; I have seen it in my own life. And those close by who I love so dearly, I have watched the Atonement seep through the darkest, darkest places and bring out light and goodness, fullness and abundance. I can feel it. I can almost touch it, and so I know it. And if I know it, I have to continue to study it. I can’t just be complacent.

Last still point: When I get to heaven—and tell this to my family a lot because I’m crazy over Pau—I want to meet Paul! So this comes from Paul’s address to the Hebrews. And if you have not studied Paul—if it’s been a while—that would be such a great summer schedule for scripture study, to just dig into Paul’s addresses. He is a master of grace. And just go through and look at all the ways that he explains grace to those that he’s speaking to.

This is in Hebrews 12:28. “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence.” And here’s the question for you: how can we use the gift of grace to strengthen and enable us, as it is required that we serve others, particularly those whose burdens are heavy?

Friends, I invite you to pay attention to the gift of grace. If you leave here with that one thing on your list of things to do, just to start paying attention to it, to have a deeper awareness of it, and to build it into the conversations that you have in your prayers, we will have hit jackpot.

Let’s go to the very spot in the scriptures, in Mosiah 2, and there are people in their tents waiting for us. And you know this address because you have taught this address on your mission. But I want you to think about it in terms of grace and a Summer of Service. I’m in Mosiah 2, and this goes all the way from verse 15 to 23, but I’m going to take my two favorite verses. And we’re going to start in verse 20 and 21. And if it’s been a while since you’ve read that, don’t go to bed tonight without reading that. It is so great.

“I say unto you”—and you know who this is, it’s King Benjamin—“that if you should render”—go look that word up, and those of you who have taken the leadership classes, you know what the word render is, don’t you?—“render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that you should rejoice, and has granted that you should live in peace with one another—”

Here’s the why in verse 21: “I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you”—so you can go to lunch with your friends, and do what you need to do at work today, He is preserving you—“from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will”—and your own schedule—“and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”

Perhaps we hunger and thirst for this: to not know more about God but to know how to use His good news of this gospel in our lives so that we can be healed and transformed by grace.

I’m going to give you two last things to write down: “Give me the grace to . . . ” and “Give me the grace to see . . . ” This week in your journal, try to write a small paragraph. Try just one sentence. “Give me the grace to not pick up what I turned over to the Atonement.” “Give me the grace to see the other side of the situation and find a solution.” “Give me the grace to have an abundance of energy to climb the mountain that stands before me.”

Cathy, can I get that last beautiful image?—this is a local artist; his name is J. Kirk Richards. He’s awesome. If you have an Instagram account, you’ll want to go follow him today. My hope is that, for one small moment today, you felt confirmation that this is where you belong and that you are a part of His story as you are living and becoming His word. As you continue to ponder these five still points, I hope that you abound in grace and that you continue to rejoice this summer as you find small ways to serve Him, the One who is giving you breath every single day. Travel beside Him, and use the gift of grace as a tool. We give you tons of tools to go out into the business world—this is by far the coolest tool you will ever have to help you build your discipleship.

Be prepared, though, to start listening to your life. When you lean on the gift of grace and you pay attention to it, you begin to listen to your life. The key is to record and to trust yourself to write these things down. Thank you for being willing to ponder and capture some of the sacred feelings you have felt today. I love when Sheri Dew says: “Because Jesus Christ atoned, His grace is available to us every minute of every hour of every day” (“Sweet Above All That Is Sweet”) Perhaps it is only in pausing every now and then to gaze behind to where we’ve been, so that we can look at where we’re heading and see where we are.

I know this with all my heart, that on the night that Jesus Christ was born, I chose Him. And I’m still choosing Him today. And the fact that you are here today tells me you too choose Him. Keep choosing this. If you are on the fence, come over and dig in. It’s the best way to get off the fence.

Just like the earnest shepherds of long ago, you have to go with haste as you come unto Christ, as you stand as His disciples some two thousand years later. I testify that God is our Heavenly Father and this is His plan. I testify that Jesus Christ came to earth and laid down His life for us. I testify that He appeared to Joseph Smith, and because of Him, I know Jesus Christ better. And in the words of President Uchtdorf, “With the gift of God’s grace, the path of discipleship does not lead backwards; it leads upwards” (“The Gift of Grace,” Apr. 2015 General Conference).

During this Summer of Service, it is my prayer that you are enabled, that you are changed, that you are transformed, and that you are sustained and empowered and you move upward in His kingdom. I say these things humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Church Public Affairs: We Are All in this Together

08 Jul. 2015

Transcript

Church Public Affairs: We Are All in This Together

It is such a delight to be with all of you today. You are my oasis of peace in a very busy public affairs day that started early this morning.  I think I want to stay for a while, especially after that beautiful music. Yes, I am the publicist for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but I can’t sing, so when I hear such beautiful melodies, I am so appreciative of it and feel so blessed.

I’ve entitled my remarks today, “Church Public Affairs: We Are All in this Together.” That’s why I was so delighted to learn that you are live tweeting and you have that book. I love Elder Scott’s counsel to write down and participate in meetings because that allows us to receive revelation. It’s one of my personal favorites, and I really feel at home knowing you are going to be doing that.

I want to start out by talking about peregrine falcons. Now I don’t know if you know this or not, but over on the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which is the building in which I work, on the 9th floor is a nesting box outside. For over a dozen years, or longer, since I have been there, we have a pair of nesting peregrine falcons that come every single year to nest. What’s really terrific is they have cameras inside of the nesting box, and so we are able to watch the progression of these peregrine falcons right from the eggs to when they actually hatch, are fed, and have flying lessons. We see it start to finish.

It’s a wonderful metaphor for public affairs and how we approach various campaigns, responses, projects, and crisis communications. They all start with an idea being hatched. And once this idea is hatched, we have to sometimes sit on it a while, warm it up, get those proper approvals—and sometimes there are a lot of proper approvals—and finally our idea hatches. And once the idea hatches, there must be careful oversight and sometimes others are thrown in, and at times our ideas fall flat, and then the best ideas—and I might mention that the best ideas are always those that are coupled with revelation and start to grow. Resources and collaboration and careful planning accelerate the idea that has now become a plan. And they grow. And with careful precision, the plan is implemented. And along the way, we have to adjust if things get unwieldy, and they do, or let’s face it, they can get a little bit ugly, and they do. And finally we are ready to launch and fly.

Now this is the time in the Public Affairs department where productivity goes down just a tad because we can watch on our computer monitors when the young falcons are going to fly out of this box. And it’s always the bird—the one you think can’t fly—who’s the bravest. He goes out first. Now can you imagine that moment, standing at the precipice, the edge of that box? You don’t know how to fly, but you’re going to launch out of a nine-story window. So we watch, along with the Utah Fish and Wildlife officials, who are there ready to catch them if they land. They actually have someone assigned to each of those birds and they name them Michelangelo and all those names. They’re very serious about these birds about ready to fly.

So mom and dad, in the days preceding this, stop feeding them. You can see mom and dad squawking at them from the ledges of the Church Administration Building, with pieces of pigeon meat, to try and get them to fly over. And finally, they launch, and you can see them up there. There is always one that is the last one to launch, because he usually watches the others crash land on the way down. So he’s a little bit more cautious and careful.

And they do crash land. In Public Affairs, I want you to know that public affairs is not a precise business in the Church. It can be really difficult at times. It can really be amazing at times. And sometimes we don’t have success. We call those intelligent failures.

But through it all, in my over 17 years at Public Affairs, I have seen great miracles. So today, from my perch in Public Affairs, I want to give you a window of insight into my world. Why am I doing it? Because just for the next few minutes, I want to deputize you all public affairs workers for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With the advent and emergence of social media, everything is public, and you can make a difference in the public affairs efforts in the Church. I’m glad that you’ve been advised to do so today.

I want to give you some insight concerning us, and some principles that we live and die by in Public Affairs. These principles you can adhere to as well, to help bring the Church out of obscurity, and also to attest to its credibility through your online personal communications.

Elder L. Tom Perry, who is 91, is the chairman of the Public Affairs Committee. He is assisted by Elder D. Todd Christofferson in all of our efforts. We receive personal instruction from them in all of our various projects. Someone is called to a calling as a public affairs worker in the Church—and believe it or not, there are public affairs callings just like Primary presidents, just like Relief Society workers—only theirs are a little bit less defined. We actually have a public affairs network behind the Church firewall that they log into to receive instruction. Elder Perry and I put together this video for them so that when they are called to this position and they look like a deer in the headlights and they’re wondering what in the world they have been asked to do, he could give them some insight and, yes, a little comfort. So pretend you are a director of public affairs and L. Tom Perry is talking to you.

Video: Elder L. Tom Perry

“I was in Guam at the time they called me. I’m just not that type—I’m an accountant by profession, green shade, armbands, working over a desk. And they called me to be a chairman of this council. Public affairs is essential to building the kingdom of God on the earth. The Savior, in his final instructions to the Twelve, was “Go ye into all the world, and teach.” Missionaries are called to full-time service to be teachers. In public affairs, we build relationships that open doors and allow the Church to be established around the world.

“One of my earliest experiences with this was during World War II. You’ve never seen such devastation in all your lives. They had been prevented from holding religious service. The chapels had been damaged with the bombings. So we organized and rebuilt the churches. We plastered some of the walls and got them set up, and held the first meetings with them, and that started a community of faith in Nagasaki that of course would only spread. Just as we were leaving, these 200 great Saints, that came over the hill singing “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” came down, showered us with gifts, then lined up along the train, and as we left we just touched their fingers as the train pulled out. It was a feeling that you’ll never forget. Maybe you had done some good.

“You’ve been called to a very important position in our Father in Heaven’s kingdom. It’s not by chance you’re here. You have the personality, the spirit, the vitality to carry on this work. We want you to use the tools that are available to you, to expand your knowledge and understanding of this great calling which is yours, to be enthusiastic in the work and carry the message out to the peoples of the world.”

Isn’t he wonderful and enthusiastic? In fact, when we filmed that particular piece, it was just a Q&A interview. There was no script, and at the very end—I was exhausted. We’d been about an hour there in his office, and I said, “Can you just lean forward, and just give them some inspiration?” That was the last part of that clip, where he is so enthusiastic.

We are all part of a worldwide team. We actually have a growing and very vibrant public affairs network around the world, with area public affairs directors in each Church area. Everyone wears the same hat—that is the “We Are One” hat, because we really do try to focus on unified goals, even though we speak dozens and dozens of different languages. Our area directors receive extensive training once a year in Salt Lake City, and then we actually travel out to the field to train the people on the ground, which is an amazing experience.

As was mentioned, I work with Europe and the Philippines, and then domestically with the Southeastern and Southwestern parts of the United States, and Idaho. Idaho gets its own area, because it is high maintenance all the time, because of the concentration of members there.

One of the things that unifies us as a public affairs network around the world, and which should unify us all as members of the Church in our communications, is the Church brand. A brand is a collective experience, if you will, that people have with the Church and with its entities. This means that anytime you are dealing with something proactive and something that’s very exciting, like a temple open house, you treat people as you would want Christ to treat them. This also means that if you are faced with a hostile question from a reporter, you treat that reporter as Christ would treat them. So what do we want them to experience? It is as simple as this: our beliefs are centered on Jesus Christ and His teachings. Understanding this leads us to try to live more closely to what Jesus Christ taught, and that we follow Jesus Christ no matter what. And this, I can tell you from personal experience, is something that we have to practice every single day, because sometimes we are the only representative from the Church who interfaces with certain groups of people.

The public perception of members of the Church is usually this (and if I had a dime for every time I heard this, I would be a very rich woman), “Despite the strange things Mormons believe, they help a lot of people through their humanitarian efforts. Despite the strange things Mormons believe, they have strong families. Despite the strange things Mormons believe, they are hard-working and successful.”

How many of you have ever heard this, or had yourselves qualified this way? “Here’s my good friend, so-and-so. He’s one of those Mormons, but you know, he’s a great guy.” So when we work with opinion leaders and with the media, we want them to understand one simple thing: because of what we believe is the reason why we are successful and are able to be collaborative and work positively in communities. And this is a paradigm shift for people we work with. 

Because Mormons follow Christ’s example of serving others, they are on the front lines of humanitarian relief. They expect us to be there. The National Guard automatically lets members of the Church in “Helping Hands” t-shirts into areas that are cordoned off because they know they are there to help, and they are trustworthy.

Because Mormons follow Christ’s teachings on the importance of families, they have strong relationships. We are asked all the time about those who serve missions and their dedication and willingness to sacrifice. Why? How? Because we follow Jesus Christ. I have a recently returned missionary at my home from Barcelona, Spain, who, through tears, has told me at times, “Oh, I wish I could return to the mission,” because it was such a seminal time in his life where he could feel the Spirit all the time.

Because Mormons believe in the Christian values of honesty and integrity, they are hard-working and successful. That is why Goldman Sachs often hires at least half of its graduates who are LDS, and half from Harvard and Yale, because they know that we have such values and live them.

So let me give you just a couple of examples. I received a phone call two years ago from Mary Jordan. She’s a Pulitzer Prize winning author from the Washington Post, and she said, “Kim, the Washington Post wants to send me to the place in the world where the Church is growing the fastest, and I have to go right away.”

And I said, “All right.” She thought she was taking a trip to South America. She was quite surprised to find out that she was actually going to Nigeria. Her enthusiasm was not quite as great when she found that out. She spent time with members of the Church, and she in particular focused on a wonderful man whose name is Ndukwe. She talked about how, in all of the chaos in the world around him, he sat on his bed in his one-room apartment with his family singing “I Am a Child of God,” because it was Monday, and that was family night. And then Ndukwe told her this:

“‘I am a changed man,’ Nadukwe said, sitting on a bed that took up most of his apartment. ‘I used to drink. I had girlfriends outside my marriage. I don’t do that anymore, and I feel better. The Mormon church contributed 100% to the change.’” (“The New Face of Global Mormonism,” Lagos, Nigeria, November 19, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/18/AR2007111801392.html )

Why is Ndukwe living the way he is? Because the gospel transformed his life.

One of my favorite stories that I followed for years was written by journalist Ann Cochran for the Washingtonian, about the conversion of her son, Harry. Oh, how distraught she was. Harry started taking the missionary lessons and she became involved, and her friends would say, “What’s happening? You’re going to lose him forever,” and all those things you usually hear that go along with that. Well, Harry ended up getting baptized, and Ann really grew to have a respect for the LDS faith.

She wrote at the end of her article this:

“His faith brings me peace. I watched my son with pride as he finished high school without alcohol fueling his fun, with fabulous friends, and with Christ in his heart and on his bedroom wall. At the same time, he’s still a teen who drives too fast, spends too much, and talks back. But now when he aggravates me, I say: ‘I don’t think nice Mormon boys act that way.’” (“My Son the Mormon,” Washingtonian, published Sept. 1, 2006, http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/people/my-son-the-mormon/ )

I followed his story. Harry goes on to serve a mission in Northern Italy, and I was delighted when I read an article of Ann finally getting permission to visit Harry and running up to him in an embrace in one of the squares in Italy, whispering to him, “Please come home. Please come home.” And him gently hugging her and saying, “No, Mom. I’m here.” (See “Methodist Mom: How My Son’s Mormon Mission Changed My Life,” LDS Living Magazine, July 16, 2013, http://ldsliving.com/story/73032-methodist-mom-how-my-sons-mormon-mission-changed-my-life )

Ann Cochran was baptized when Harry returned home.

We have experiences with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and one of the most memorable of this last year was with Bryn Terfel, who is a renowned singer. He recorded his album Homeward Bound with the Choir. He is a British presence. He is well known and when he started doing a press tour for the album, the British press was questioning him about, “What are you doing with those Mormons?”

So we were surprised by this headline that was in the Independent where he said, “I was going through a divorce, and I was questioning my own spirituality before I went to Salt Lake City. To be embraced by those people in such a manner and to be loved not only as a musician but as a human being is quite an eye-opener.” The headline read: “Stop Mocking the Mormons. Bryn Terfel Has Been Embraced by the Faith.” (See article in The Independent, Thursday, 26 February 2015,http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/features/stop-mocking-the-mormons-says-opera-star-bryn-terfel-who-has-been-embraced-by-the-faith-8802386.html)

Finally, Elder Russell M. Nelson met with the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, just for an editorial visit while he was in town. He met with quite an acerbic writer named Daniel Ruth who was known for his sarcastic articles. Editorial board visits are mostly informational, but a few months later we were surprised when, in the height of the presidential campaign when Mitt Romney was running, Daniel Ruth wrote this beautiful article about Elder Nelson.

He said, “Nelson readily acknowledged the church’s image problems. His solution? Simply live a moral, decent life. Be a responsible member of the community. And by living a virtuous life, you set an example for others to recognize Mormonism is not a threat to anyone—except perhaps Starbucks.” (“Friend of Perry is enemy of almost everyone else,” Tampa Bay Times, Oct. 10, 2011, http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/friend-of-perry-is-enemy-of-almost-everyone-else/1196133 )

So you can see that it’s happening. One of the reasons I show you these examples is that each and every one of these people that came forward to talk about the Church, came forward because of personal interactions they had with members of the Church. It starts right there at the relationship level. It’s what we call the “Relationship Pyramid.” It’s based on experiences—experiences that people have with each and every one of you that lead them to believe different things about the Church, and to take action. And their action often results in the comments that they make, the things that they write.

In fact, we have found that research shows that when people get to know members of the Church, misconceptions are corrected and they have a much more favorable view, and that members of the Church also benefit by getting to know their neighbors and those of other faiths.

Well, how does this translate into public affairs? First of all, relationships are formed between individuals and not institutions. They are built on common interests and on common ground. They are mutually beneficial and fulfilling. They’re sincere. They’re natural. They’re voluntary. They’re professional working relationships, maintained by diligence and nurturing.

Think about the public affairs network I told you about that operates worldwide. They are reaching out deep into their communities, with opinion leaders, with interfaith leaders, government leaders. They are meeting with anyone who can help or hinder the Church, to dispel misunderstandings or join to help benefit the communities around them. That is incredibly powerful.

They help us in several ways: missionary visas, temple and chapel building permits, balanced media coverage, coalition building, greater involvement in our communities, greater respect and understanding, and resolving conflicts. When we reach out with personal relationships of understanding, I tell you, again and again, I have seen some of the biggest misunderstandings just disappear and turn into wonderful, beneficial relationships.

Let me give you just a couple of recent examples of the Church reaching out and finding common ground. How many of you saw this in the press? This was really great. President Henry B. Eyring was invited to the Vatican, and he joined religious leaders and scholars representing 14 faith traditions from 23 countries to discuss marriage and its importance. What was wonderful is President Eyring was seated front and center. He was one of the few that received a private greeting with the Pope. And he actually had an opportunity to address all of the scholars in that audience.

I have to tell you that was really remarkable because this tended to be more of a religious/academic conference. There were a lot of scholarly-type things being said. If you have a chance to read President Eyring’s remarks—they’re on the Mormon Newsroom—I encourage you to do so because he talked personally about his relationship with his wife. And he wept. It was absolutely groundbreaking. He was referred to several times by others at the conference. (Transcript: “President Eyring Addresses the Vatican Summit on Marriage,” 18 November 2014, http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/transcript-president-eyring-addresses-vatican-summit-marriage )

We also heard the Family Proclamation quoted by at least one other scholar. He didn’t give the Church credit, but we’re glad he liked the document.

Just two weeks ago, UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron received his genealogy. Sister Marriott and other leaders of the women’s auxiliaries just returned from a visit to South America, and they met with the First Lady-elect of Uruguay, and also they had a huge meeting with community leaders and members of the Church.

Dr. Ella Smith Simmons, general vice president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, just recently addressed BYU students, and Elder Holland hosted a dinner in London with twelve high-ranking Muslim guests in attendance and eight Church hosts, including MP David Rutley. These outreach visits take place all the time, and we don’t just let them end right there. We follow up with them. We find opportunities to serve with them. That’s relationships, personally and professionally, and you can have that in your own personal circles.

But we also have to deal with the news media. The Church is out of obscurity in the United States. It’s out of obscurity in many countries in the world, and it’s viewed as a curiosity in some. In others, if you bring up The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they will not know what you are talking about. When I go to Europe to conduct training for our national directors of public affairs, I can be sitting at a table with the national director of Spain, Sergio Gudoy, who has over 50,000 members in his country. He’s just so thrilled. Or I can be seated with someone from Macedonia where there are six members of the Church, and five of them are the new ambassador’s family from the United States that just moved in. And yet, the testimonies of those two national directors are exactly the same. It’s absolutely marvelous to see their pioneering efforts.

So I wanted to share with you just a couple of examples in the media I thought you might find kind of fun.  You’ve read about us if there are controversies or open houses or RootsTech or those kinds of things. But I want you to know that anything and everything about the Church usually is of interest to the media, including “To Be Hip, Young, and Mormon,” in the New York Times. It’s your fashion sense, or what you wear. Or the New York Times had a great feature in its dining and wine section on funeral potatoes and all the different ways you can make them. We are a curiosity, and we are included in every single reality show on television. They always like to have a member of the Church in the mix, because of our values—they like to contrast us with others. By the way, if you come to Public Affairs and say, “I’ve been asked to be on a reality show,” we will say, “Don’t do it” because it’s not always in your best interests.

We also have hundreds, if not thousands, of articles written about the Church internationally every year, and we have dozens upon dozens of visits. During the presidential campaigns we had hundreds of visits of foreign journalists to Temple Square.

One of the other things we do besides reach out with relationships and work with media is we find we have to do a lot of education in Public Affairs. So we have our own website; it’s our Mormon Newsroom. How many of you have been to it? Oh, you make my heart so happy to see all of those hands. You might be interested to know that there are actually 71 global newsrooms throughout the world, in each and every country throughout the world. And we’re still rolling them out. They have their own hub, in their own language, publishing their own stories. There is this amazing collaboration with the Pacific Area, saying, “Hey, Heidi in the Philippines, we’re having so-and-so go up here to meet with one of your leaders. Can you cover us there?” You can see these networks in this wonderful collaborative worldwide effort, and then you watch it populate on all of these different newsroom websites.

In fact, if you go to the global newsroom, up in the top right-hand corner, it says “International.” Especially for those of you who speak another language, just click on that and you can go to the country. Or find out what’s happening in the country where you served your mission.

One of the things we have on the global newsroom is called “Getting It Right.” Now, it used to be in “the old days” of Public Affairs, when we first had a newsroom, that if you got it wrong we would post your story. It was our way of publicly bringing to attention your errors. Well, that’s not the way we do things these days, because what is our brand? Following Jesus Christ and treating each other in a Christlike way. So following that brand, we post stories of people who get it right. We highlight them, and we compliment them, and because of all of the people who visit our site link to their article, that drives thousands of people to their site to read the article, increasing their social media, which usually is very good for the reporter who is noticed by his editor.  It helps us secure relationships in the future.

We try to reach out in ways that are sharable. Let me show you this.

Video: Male narrator

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral when it comes to party politics. Simply put, its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not elect candidates. So just what does political neutrality mean? Let’s take a closer look.

Political neutrality means that the Church does not engage in party politics, endorse candidates or try to influence them. Also off-limits: the use of Church buildings for political events and political messages from a pulpit, or using membership lists for fundraising and campaigning. That’s without exception. Whether they are Mormon or not, it makes no difference.

Does that mean that Mormons don’t vote? Hardly. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to get civically involved. Like other citizens, Mormons vote during elections, are active in the political process, and some may even choose to run for office.

Church leader Elder M. Russell Ballard has said this to Church members: Be involved, but don’t look to the Church as to how to get involved.

Elder Ballard: “The civic duty of any Latter-day Saint, regardless of where they live, or including any country they may live in, is to be actively involved in the political process—meaning that they study the issues, they determine what the needs are as they see it, that they then use their freedom and their agency to vote according to their own conscience. It’s very important that good people everywhere are involved in this process.”

What about speaking out on community and moral issues if they’re not about party politics? Of course that’s okay. It’s a long-held right of all religions to have a place in the public square. Like many of those faiths, the Church may choose from time to time to join the discussion on moral issues that it believes could impact society.

So in a nutshell, political neutrality means that the Church does not back candidates. But Mormons as individuals are encouraged to fully participate in the election process, back the causes and candidates of their choice that inspires good government, and on Election Day, vote according to their conscience.

If you’d like to learn more, go to MormonNewsroom.org.

We have several of these whiteboard animations that you can share on various topics. We also do a lot with infographics.  If you are interested, we also have guidelines and helps for how you can participate in the conversation. Above all, I want you to remember to be non-defensive in your responses.

When we first received the phone call from Variety and Billboard Magazine about the “Book of Mormon Musical,” they said, “Are you going to protest?” Instead, we responded with the quote that they had to use as journalists: “Though the musical may entertain people for an evening, the Book of Mormon, as a volume of scripture, will change people’s lives forever by bringing them to Christ.”

That’s all we said. When the producers went out, they read our statement—all the time. Because that was our Christlike response. And then the week after the Tony Awards, when the Book of Mormon Musical won everything, we started a massive “I’m a Mormon” campaign in New York City’s Time Square including the little toppers on the taxicabs. By the way, if you went in the taxicabs, you got a little looped video on “I’m a Mormon.” The national tours included playbill ads: “I’ve read the book.”  “The book is always better.” And “Now read the book.” There’s a QR code on it, and we know it works, because people actually go to our website from it.

When the Book of Mormon Musical went to London—you probably didn’t know this, but we engaged in what we call domineering marketing, where we took the world’s biggest subway stations in Piccadilly Square and Oxford Circus, and we had every single solitary frame. And also the double-decker buses. I knew you’d like this. We didn’t know how the British media would respond, but they said, “That’s quite cheeky of those Mormons.”

So here are your closing guiding principles, because I want you to leave here knowing that these principles apply to you. Live the brand. Follow Jesus Christ. Don’t get involved in online conversations with Internet trolls that just want to bait you. Always be positive. Focus on how the gospel transforms your life. Form good relationships. Educate others about the Church in a non-defensive way. And above all, I want you to remember that we are all in this together.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, was chairman of Public Affairs. He’s the one I interviewed with when I was hired, and I miss him a lot. He is such a wordsmith—he said, “The finished mosaic of the history of the Restoration will be larger and more varied as more pieces of tile emerge, adjusting a sequence here or enlarging there a sector of our understanding.

“…There may even be a few pieces of the tile which, for the moment, do not seem to fit. We can wait, as we must…

[One day,] “the final mosaic of the Restoration will be resplendent, reflecting divine design…

“At the perfect day, we will see that we have been a part of things too wonderful for us. Part of the marvel and the wonder of God’s ‘marvelous work and a wonder’ will be how perfect Divinity mercifully used us—imperfect humanity.

“Meanwhile, amid the human dissonance, those with ears to hear will follow the beckoning sounds of a certain trumpet.” (“Out of Obscurity,” October 1984 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1984/10/out-of-obscurity?lang=eng )

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


Defining the Infinite Atonement

08 Jul. 2015

Transcript

Defining the Infinite Atonement

Many thanks to the choir for inviting the Spirit further into this meeting, and many thanks to David for inviting the Spirit in his prayer, and Jan for that very pointed and thoughtful testimony of the Atonement. I’ve always had a great respect for the LDS Business School because I felt that what we ought to do in life ought to be practical as well as spiritual, and I think you have those two great traits here. That’s why your president, President Richards, is such a great leader for this College. I have known him all of my life, and I’ve always thought he was very practical, very business-oriented, and very spiritual. What a wonderful combination to have all of those together. I’m grateful that his sweet wife and my sweet wife can be here today to join with us. And I know that you come prepared, and I’ve prayed also that together we might feel of the Spirit and gain new insights and thoughts and impressions into the Atonement that will help us in our individual lives.

Well, today I would like to speak about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and specifically I would like to discuss what the Atonement of Jesus Christ is, what are its healing and perfecting powers, and what did it cost to bring it about. Well, this doctrinal subject is far beyond my intellectual and emotional grasp in many ways. I nonetheless hope that today we can develop a sufficient understanding and appreciation for the Atonement that it will become the rock foundation of our lives.

It was Sunday morning some years ago, and the sacrament song had commenced. Our high school-age son and two of his priest-age friends were administering the sacrament. They pulled back the white cloth, and to their dismay, there was no bread. Our son stepped into the preparation room in hopes some could be found, but there was none. Finally, our troubled son went to the bishop and told him of his dilemma. A wise bishop explained to the congregation the situation, and then asked this thought-provoking question: “How would it be if the sacrament table were empty today because there had been no Atonement of Jesus Christ?”

I have thought of that often. What if there were no bread because there was no Crucifixion? No water because there was no shedding of blood? If that were the case, then Dante’s words inscribed on the gates of hell would be tragically applicable to us all: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” But fortunately, there is an Atonement, and it does bring hope and peace and healing into all of our lives.

What then is the Atonement of Jesus Christ? If some of your friends were to ask you that question, “What is the Atonement of Jesus Christ?” how would you respond? No doubt, many of you would give concise and inspired answers to that question. For me, I believe that I would respond as follows: the Atonement of Jesus Christ was the suffering of the Savior and His triumph over four obstacles that prevented us from having happiness in this life and eternal joy in the life to come. Those four obstacles that He overcame are 1) physical death, 2) sin and its consequences, 3) our weaknesses and imperfections, and 4) the common ailments of life, such as depression, rejection, loneliness, and the like.

Christ’s Atonement can ultimately rescue us and save us from each of those conditions, hence His title as the Savior of all mankind. Why, then, is the Atonement necessary?

Some time ago, I met with a group of Muslims. They were good men. It wasn’t long, however, before they asked the inevitable question: “Why is Jesus Christ necessary? Why can’t God, who is all-powerful, just forgive us when we repent or help us overcome our weaknesses without the sacrifice of His Son?”

Well, suppose for a moment a man contemplating an exhilarating free-fall makes a rash decision and spontaneously jumps from a plane. After doing so, he quickly realizes the foolishness of his actions. He wants to land safely, but there is an obstacle: the law of gravity. He moves his arms with astounding speed, hoping to fly, but to no avail. He positions his body to float or to glide so as to slow his descent, but the law of gravity is just unrelenting and unmerciful. He tries to reason with this basic law of nature: “It was a mistake! I will never do it again! I’ve learned my lesson!” But his pleas and petitions fall on deaf ears. The law of gravity, like the law of justice, has no passion. It knows no mercy. It has no forgiveness, and it knows no exceptions.

Fortuitously, though, he suddenly feels something on his back. His friend in the plane, sensing the moment of his foolishness, had placed a parachute there just before the jump. He finds the ripcord and pulls it. Relieved, he floats safely to the ground.

Now, we might ask, was the law of gravity violated or compromised in any way? Or was another law invoked that was compatible yet merciful?

When we sin, we are like the foolish man who jumped from the plane. No matter what we do on our own, only a crash landing awaits us. We have no power to reverse the course. We are subject to the laws of justice, which, like the laws of gravity, are exacting and unforgiving. We can only be saved because the Lord provides us with a parachute of sorts. We call this His grace. If we have faith in Jesus Christ and repent, meaning if we pull the ripcord, then the protective and saving powers of the Atonement are unleashed on our behalf, and we can land unharmed. Without this spiritual parachute, however, there is no hope. But with it, there is every hope of salvation.

I do not know if there is some external law of justice independent of God to which He is subject, or if God determines the laws of justice to which all the beings in the universe, including Himself, must be governed, or a combination of the two. What I do know, and the scriptures confirm, is that a law of justice exists and no fallen man can be saved without the Atonement of Jesus Christ on the one hand and repentance on the other. They are inseparable partners in the saving process.

Now, how does Christ overcome the four obstacles I previously alluded to? First, as you know, He overcomes death for all men through His resurrection. Paul confirmed this truth: “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

The second consequence of Christ’s Atonement is that He overcomes sin and guilt for those who repent. When we sin, we feel embarrassed, discouraged, unclean, and estranged from God’s Spirit. We lose self-confidence and self-esteem, and thus lose hope in ourselves and in the future. Sometimes, we simply give up. Because we are God’s children and because He loves us, Christ paid the price to bring about a condition that can reverse all of those negative feelings and replace them with hope and self-confidence. This condition is known as repentance. It works like this: if we humble ourselves before God, acknowledge our sins, confess them, make restitution where possible, and turn away from those transgressions—in essence, we do have a change of heart—then He will wash away our sins and make us totally clean.

How can He do that? Because Jesus Christ paid the price of our sins. He voluntarily suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for the sins of all mankind.

President Boyd K. Packer gave these comforting words: “There is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. . . . This is the promise of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

Truman Madsen, a learned but also humble religious scholar, spoke similarly in these words, that are so thought-provoking:

If there are . . . some of you who have been tricked into the conviction that you have gone too far, that you have been weighed down on doubts upon which you alone have a monopoly, that you have had the poison of sin that makes it impossible ever again to be what you could have been, then hear me! I bear testimony that you cannot sink farther than the light and sweeping intelligence of Jesus Christ can reach. I bear testimony that as long as there is one spark of the will to repent and reach, He is there! He did not just descend to your condition, He descended below it, that He might be in and through all things the light of truth.

Paul, who had persecuted the members of Christ’s Church before his conversion, declared that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and then said these words: “Of whom I am chief.”

The sons of Mosiah, who became prophets of God, were once “the very vilest of sinners,” as the Book of Mormon tells us. If God in His infinite mercy can save even the chief of sinners and the very vilest of sinners, then can He not likewise save us if we repent?

On occasion, while serving as a Church leader, I met with good members whom I believed had repented but confessed that they still lived with troubled consciences. This struck me forcibly when speaking to a convert to our Church of about fifteen years. He had been faithful and devoted from the day of his baptism, but he wondered, could the Lord possibly forgive him for the checkered life he had lived before accepting the gospel? It just seemed too much to ask.

Some people have innocently but incorrectly placed limits on the Savior’s redemptive powers. They have converted His infinite Atonement to a finite one that somehow falls short of their particular sin. But it is an infinite Atonement because it encompasses and circumscribes every sin, every weakness, every addiction, every wrong, and every finite frailty of man. Once we have repented or emerged from the waters of baptism, there is no black mark on our right ankle that reads “2010 mistake.” There’s no stain behind our left ear that says “2015 transgression.” There is no such thing as a spotted or cream-colored repenter in God’s kingdom. Rather, it is as Isaiah said, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Or as Moroni said of repentance, “Ye become holy, without spot.” That is the miracle and the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Even though we may believe in the Atonement, the question often arises, “How do I know if and when I have been forgiven of my sins?” The Doctrine and Covenants gives one test: “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” But I believe there is also another test. If we feel the Spirit in our life when we pray, or read the scriptures, or render service, or teach or testify, or at any other time, then that spiritual witness is our witness that we have been forgiven—or alternatively, that the cleansing process is taking place, for the Spirit cannot dwell in an unclean vessel.

In most cases, the cleansing process takes time because our change in nature takes time. But in the interim, we can proceed with confidence that God approves of our progress to a sufficient degree that we can enjoy some measure of His Spirit in our life.

Some have asked, “But if I am forgiven, why do I still feel guilt?” Perhaps in God’s mercy, the memory of that guilt is a warning, a spiritual “stop sign” of sorts, that cries out when similar temptations confront us—“Don’t go down that road. You know the pain it can bring.” Perhaps, for those in the process of repenting, it is meant to be a protection, not a punishment.

Will our guilt ever go away? The promise of the Lord is certain in that regard. To the repentant, the Lord promised that the time would come when “their joy shall be full forever”—meaning there will come a time when there will be no past twinges or pangs of guilt. The scriptures further confirm this truth: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more . . . sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” And then these great lines: “For the former things are passed away”—meaning they are gone.

While the Atonement does not wipe away the past, in some miraculous way it has the power to wipe away all the sorrow and pain associated with the past. Perhaps it is like our experience of breaking a bone. When it completely heals, we can still remember the event that triggered the break, but the pain is now gone. Christ is the Great Physician that has that healing power.

I do not know if we will ever forget our sins, but the consequence will be the same as if we did, for the time will come when the repentant will no longer be troubled by their sins. Such was the case with the Book of Mormon prophets Enos and Alma, each of whom sought a remission of past sins.

As to Enos, the scriptures read:

And there came a voice unto me saying: Enos thy sins are forgiven thee . . . .

. . . Wherefore, [I said,] my guilt was swept away. . . .

And I said: Lord, how is it done?

And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ.

Enos had faith that Christ’s Atonement could not only cleanse his sins but also remove his guilt.

Alma, while reflecting upon the Atonement and his sinful past, exclaimed,

While I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold . . .

I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou son of God, have mercy on me. . . .

And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

So complete was this healing process that Alma then adds, “There can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.” Alma didn’t forget his sins; in fact, he was recalling them at that very moment. But somehow the miracle of the Atonement removed all—not just part, but all—of the guilt associated with those wrongful deeds.

The Lamanites, who had committed, as the scriptures say, “many sins and murders,” bore witness that God had “taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son”—meaning Jesus Christ.

The people of King Benjamin listened to his glorious sermon on the Atonement, and then declared that a “mighty change” had been wrought in their hearts. In response, King Benjamin declared, “Therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. And under this head are ye made free”—not only free from sin, but free from all of the associated guilt.

Whatever our status in life, we can be comforted by the truth that God will ultimately judge us by what we have become, not by what we were. That was the realization of Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. He had so transformed his life that he could now rightfully declare, “I am not the man I was!” And that was the truth taught by Paul the apostle: “Therefore if any man be in Christ”—meaning he repents—“he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

For the repentant, the guilt will pass away because with perfect honesty they can say, “I am not the man that committed that sin. I am a new creature in Jesus Christ.” In summary, as our faith in Jesus Christ increases and our hearts change, we become new creatures in Jesus Christ. We are born again, and our guilt is taken from us.

President Joseph Fielding Smith shared the story of a woman who had repented of her immoral conduct but was still struggling with feelings of guilt. She asked him what she should do now. In turn, he asked her to read the account of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Lot and of Lot’s wife, who was turned to a pillar of salt when she turned back even though she was told not to do so. Then he asked the woman what lessons those verses held for her.

She answered, “Well, the Lord destroys those who are wicked.”

“Not so,” replied President Smith. “The lesson for you is ‘Don’t look back!’”

And so is that lesson for us. In this regard, Paul counseled us as follows: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended”—meaning to have become like God yet—“but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind”—my checkered past—“and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God and Christ Jesus.” I strive now to become like Him, a new man. In other words, if we place our faith in Jesus Christ, then we can proceed forward with the glorious assurance that Christ has descended not only beneath our sins but also beneath our guilt, and thereby, one day we will be free of both. Then we will be at perfect peace with God and with ourselves.

The third consequence of the Atonement is that the Savior can help us overcome our weaknesses and imperfections and thus enhance our capability to become like God, even perfect. Some of our weaknesses and imperfections are self-acquired, meaning that we made bad choices. But others have nothing to do with sin; they are simply a manifestation of our mortal condition.

Paul revealed that “there was given to me,” he said, “a thorn in the flesh.” Even though he had prayed repeatedly for its removal, it still remained. But he knew that ultimately he would be the victor, for he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” His knowledge of the Atonement gave him the power to persevere, to not give up.

We all have some weaknesses. There are some who have social inadequacies, or addictions, or abuse issues, or something else. But for every mortal inadequacy, there is also a divine remedy. Moses did not believe he could be the Lord’s spokesman because he was “slow of speech.” To that excuse, the Lord responded, “Who hath made man’s mouth?” The answer was compelling. Could not God, who had created all things, also correct, modify, and perfect when necessary, all His creations? The Atonement is the means of that correction and perfection.

Grace, a term used with great frequency in the scriptures, is the enabling, enhancing, endowing power made possible by the Atonement that can transform a mere mortal, with all his failings, into a Christlike being with all His strengths. The words of the Savior should bring great comfort to all of us who struggle with some weakness:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

But how does the Savior’s Atonement work to overcome these weaknesses and perfect us? Moroni said, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him . . . by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ.” Somehow, the grace of God, which is made possible through His Atonement, gives to us heavenly power that helps us to overcome our weaknesses and converts them into strengths. Perhaps the reasoning goes something like this: through the ordinance of baptism, we are cleansed because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As a result of that cleansing, we are eligible to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. With the gift of the Holy Ghost comes the right to receive all the gifts of the Spirit. Each of the gifts of the Spirit—such as faith, wisdom, patience, and so on—represents an attribute of godliness. And thus, as we acquire the gifts of the Spirit, we acquire the attributes of godliness in our life.

Elder George Q. Cannon, an apostle, spoke of man’s shortcomings and the divine solution to perfection. Recognizing this link between grace, gifts, and godhood, he fervently pled with the members of the Church to overcome each personal weakness through the acquisition of a countermanding gift of strength known as the gift of the Spirit.

He said, “No man ought to say, ‘Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.’ He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them. . . . If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect.”

We can pray for the gifts of the Spirit made possible by the Atonement that will lift us above our mortal weaknesses and further our pursuit of godhood. No wonder the Lord commanded us on multiple occasions to pray for and seek after the gifts of the Spirit.

The fourth consequence of the Atonement is the Savior can help us overcome the common ailments of life. President Ezra Taft Benson, one of our prophets, taught as follows: “Indeed there is no human condition—be it suffering, incapacity, inadequacy, mental deficiency, or sin—which He cannot comprehend or for which His love will not reach out to the individual.”

The scriptures tell us that Christ “descended below all things,” meaning he descended beneath and suffered the consequences, not only of every sin and weakness, but also of every disease, every rejection, every disappointment, and every ailment of every soul who has ever lived. Nothing has escaped His grasp or His suffering.

The prophet Alma was most specific on this subject: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind . . . that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

In other words, no one will ever be able to go to the Savior and say, “You didn’t understand my plight in life. It was unique. It was beyond anything you ever experienced.” Neither the abuser nor the abused, neither the addict nor the victim is outside the ambit of the Savior’s healing powers. He can comfort us in all things because He descended below all things. This descent not only allowed Him to empathize with us but to heal us and strengthen us.

Isaiah taught of the Savior’s healing powers in these beautiful words: “He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted . . . to comfort all that mourn.” And then, to me, some of the most beautiful words in all scripture: “To give unto them beauty for ashes.”

Even though our life should be in ashes, He can reconstruct and make it beautiful again. For every hurt we may have, He has a remedy of superior healing power. With this knowledge, we can forge ahead in life with good cheer, whatever the challenges or obstacles may be. In the most difficult week of the Savior’s life, He could nonetheless give us this hope: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Once the Atonement took place, there is no external event, no outside circumstance—be it death, disease, disaster or the like—that can rob us of our exaltation. But oh, what a cost to make it possible! It cost the life and blood and suffering of the holiest man this world has ever known.

In His own words, He said, “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain.” Some have contended that His suffering was not real, not akin to man’s suffering, because He was half divine and half mortal and His divinity protected Him from being hungry after a fast, or tired after a long day’s journey.

Well, in order to demonstrate the truth of this, my wife and I were teaching a seminary class. We invited one of our students to come forward, and we took a marking pen and drew a line right down the middle of his face. We gave him in his right hand a shield; this half of his body was to represent the divine side of the Savior, and the other half was to represent the mortal side.

Then we invited up one of the young ladies, and we gave her four balls, paper-wrapped and taped. And the first one said “Death.” We said, “Throw it at him as hard as you can.” And she did, and he blocked it. He could have, with his divinity, blocked it. And then we gave her the next one, which said “Sin,” and she threw it at him, and with his shield he blocked it. And the next one that said, “Weaknesses and imperfections,” and she threw it, and he blocked it. And the next one, “The common ailments of life, rejection, and loneliness,” and she threw it, and he blocked it.

Jesus Christ had the divine shield to block those things, but He didn’t.

We then took back the four balls, and we said, “Now, you throw them at him as hard as you can,” but we told the young man, “Do not raise the shield.” So with great delight, she threw the first one as hard as she could, “Death,” and it hit him. And the next one, “Sin,” and it hit him. And the next one, “Weaknesses and imperfections,” and it hit him. And “Common ailments of life,” and it hit him.

The principle that we were teaching was that He had the divine shield, but He never raised it. In fact, to the reverse, he only used His divinity to enlarge the cup of suffering that He would take upon Him. You and all of us as mortals have within us a release valve. And when the pain gets so great, that release valve kicks in and we either become unconscious or we die. But for the Savior, He used his divinity to keep that release valve open until He had suffered the pain of all men of all ages of all worlds. And that is why King Benjamin declared that He should suffer “even more than man can suffer.”

I bear my solemn witness that Jesus Christ is all He claimed to be. He is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He did save and rescue us from death and from sin—if we will repent from our weaknesses and ailments, if we seek His help—and from the common maladies of life, rejection, and so forth. He saves us from each of those conditions, has the power to do so, and thus is the Savior of all mankind. Of that I bear my witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


As a Child of Abraham

22 Jul. 2015

Transcript

As a Child of Abraham

 
Thank you, choir. That was wonderful. I’m not having a good day. All weekend I 
 
worked on the talk, and I had these slides that I was going to prepare. I even came home 
 
from Bear Lake on Sunday to finish some church assignments and did the slides, put 
 
them on a flash drive, and left them in my house, went back up to Bear Lake. I’ve got 
 
some allergies this morning, so I sound like Orson Welles or Barry White, if any of you 
 
remember. 
 
I lost the key to my office this morning; couldn’t get in. I went to pick my wife up, 
 
parked in the Church parking so she wouldn’t have to walk. There are no parking spaces 
 
in the Church plaza this morning that I am authorized to park in. I fully suspect that 
 
when I leave there will be a note on my window that says something close to the Biblical 
 
handwriting that told King Nebuchadnezzar the he had been “… weighed in the balance 
 
and found wanting.” I’m prepared for that, because it’s just one of those days. I woke up 
 
with a headache. I still have it. 
 
And then Brother Morales prays and thanks Father in Heaven for a beautiful day. My 
 
goodness, it’s raining. I’m losing my voice and I don’t have my keys. And Brother 
 
Morales is thankful for a beautiful day. I think there’s a lesson in that, and I’m going to 
 
invite one of you to stand up just right where you are and tell me the lesson that you’ve 
 
just learned in the last three minutes. Stella.
 
Now Stella says, “Be thankful for whatever situation you might be in.” Stella, may I 
 
be personal with this congregation? Turn around so they can see you. How many of you 
 
know Stella? Thanks, Stella, you can sit down, because I’m going to talk about and I 
 
hope you are not embarrassed.  I want to do it because Stella is a very special woman 
 
who I greatly admire.  How many of you know that Stella has a little situation that 
 
causes frequent seizures at the College?  And here’s a woman who just stood up and 
 
said, “Be thankful for whatever condition you have and whatever situation you are in.”
 
Oh, brothers and sisters, hooray for Stella. Hooray for all of you who have come 
 
today or any day to the College, with things weighing on you that are far more important 
 
than whether you have allergies or lost the key to your office.  Bless you who carry those 
 
burdens and are willing to pray and be thankful for who you are, the situation you may 
 
be in, knowing the Lord loves you and will never give you a trial or a challenge that is 
 
beyond your capability, to deal with it, unless of course it is a trial that you’ve brought 
 
on yourself by transgression. 
 
Now, Emanuel stood up and talked about feelings of inadequacy. How many of you, 
 
on any given day of the week, feel inadequate? Manifest by the uplifted hand. So what 
 
are we to make of the fact that every one of you in this room we were born of the 
 
spiritual lineage of Abraham, and therefore entitled to all the blessings and 
 
responsibilities that come with being of the lineage of Abraham. And it includes the 
 
promised blessings the kingdom is yours. Why? Because you’re special? Maybe not, so 
 
much. It just happens that you were born through that line. And with that line comes the 
 
great challenge to proclaim the gospel. That responsibility is on your head. It is on your 
 
head to become what Father in Heaven would have you become as Abraham’s seed, and 
 
upon your shoulders is the responsibility to gather the House of Israel by proclaiming 
 
the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
Now given the last 30 seconds, how many of you feel even more inadequate? Please 
 
signify.  You have come to this earth with blessings upon your head and responsibilities 
 
upon your shoulders. And Father in Heaven, in some way I don’t understand  blessed 
 
you, maybe your Mother in Heaven was there standing near, probably weeping because 
 
of the momentary separation between you and Her and Them. And in my mind’s eye, 
 
hands may have been laid upon your head. It is not doctrine, but in my mind’s eye—and 
 
you were blessed. You were blessed with all of the capabilities, knowing what Father in 
 
Heaven would have you experience in this life, and all of the potential character traits 
 
necessary for you to fulfill the mission you have been commissioned to fulfill, as a child 
 
of Abraham. 
 
So as Elder Bednar says, if you are 65—none of you…well a few in the room are 
 
65—and you are thinking, and you’re retired and you’re thinking about serving a 
 
mission, Elder Bednar says you have already made that decision before you came here, 
 
because that responsibility of proclaiming the gospel was upon your shoulders. He also 
 
went on to say, “Does a young man who” is physically, mentally, and emotionally 
 
capable of serving a mission, does he have to think about whether he should serve or 
 
not? Elder Bednar says he has already made that decision, before he came to this earth. 
 
Because of the blessings of Abraham on his head, and the responsibility of proclaiming 
 
the gospel upon his shoulders. (David A. Bednar, “Teach Them to Understand,” Ricks 
 
College Campus Education Week Devotional, June 4, 1998)
 
Now sisters, are you exempt from that proclaiming? Well, you don’t have the same 
 
responsibility young men do. If not a mission, your proclaiming is in the households you 
 
will fashion, in the Relief Society work that you will do, in the work that you do in the 
 
community, and in the service that you will render.
 
And so, how do we proclaim that gospel? One is by the way we choose to live and 
 
who we choose that we may become. And the other, if necessary, is to open your mouth. 
 
So here we are. And we heard from someone today from Mexico; we’ve heard from 
 
someone today from Zimbabwe. As they were speaking, I looked out over you and a 
 
clear thought came to my mind. I want to share it with you. I’m going to read out of the 
 
book of Isaiah, also in 2 Nephi. When I heard this young priesthood man pray today and 
 
thank Heavenly Father for a wonderful day,  and then listened to Emanuel talk about 
 
feelings of inadequacy that we all may have and how we may be uplifted, from these 
 
students from these two countries, here’s what came to my mind: “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.
 
“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.” (Isaiah 2:2-3; 2 Nephi 12:2-3)
 
And then, over in verse 5: “O house of Jacob, [ye house of Jacob, descendants of 
 
Abraham] come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2:5, 2 Nephi 12:5)
 
Now I think I have said it before—maybe not to this group—have you thought about 
 
it? There are only four places on the face of the earth where there is a temple to the Most 
 
High God, and an institution of higher education in the same spot. There are only four 
 
of them in the entire world. You are in one of them. Now I’d like to invite someone else 
 
to stand up and share the thought you have right now about the fact that there are four 
 
places on the face of the earth in which there are institutions of higher education, a 
 
temple, and that you’re in one of them. That means something to someone here, and we 
 
would all benefit if you were brave enough to stand up and share it. Will you do that?
 
Daniel says he forgets how blessed he is,  and (Student voice) “the opportunity that 
 
we have here is very special and very sacred, and I hope that I can continue to remember 
 
these things, and I hope that if I don’t, someone will remind me.”
 
Thank you. So here you are, and you have come from the four corners of the earth,  
 
up to the mountain of the Lord’s house, and here you have the opportunity to connect 
 
secular learning with spiritual truth, and have the tithe payers of the Church support 
 
you more than you are supporting yourself in that endeavor. 
 
And so as Daniel said, sometimes we forget. Sometimes we get a little calloused to it. 
 
When Sister Richards and I used to live in the upper Sugarhouse area and I was the 
 
bishop, we religiously went to the temple every month. When we moved downtown 
 
where we could see the temple from our home and pass by it every day coming to work, 
 
where the number of steps from our home to the temple is shorter than the number of 
 
steps from here back to the College, how often do you think we are going to the temple? 
 
No, not as often as could. 
 
And so we have to be reminded every once in a while about the blessing of being 
 
where we are, learning what we are learning.
 
Now, I had a talk, and may give portions of it. Part of the talk had to do with these 
 
three points that you see on the screen: to learn by faith, to lift where you can, and 
 
become what you must. So maybe we’ll just summarize a bit in the time we have left.
 
All of you know the admonition in the scriptures to learn by study and by faith. (See 
 
Doctrine and Covenants 109:14) Right? You’ve got that; you know the principle. What 
 
you probably don’t know really well is how to do the second part of that, to learn by 
 
faith. You’ve got the study part down; I hope you do.  But this issue is learning by faith.  
 
I hope you will discover this semester and during your time at LDS Business College 
 
how to do it. Learning by faith is a revelatory experience. Elder Oaks says that when we 
 
learn by study we learn by reason. He also said that when we learn by faith, we learn by 
 
revelation.1 Now, if we are to learn by revelation, here’s the question: what do we need to 
 
do to prepare ourselves to learn temporal things by revelation? Somebody stand up and 
 
give us an idea. Your name and where you’re from? You’re from Brazil? And your name? 
 
Wonderful. Now, so far we’ve got Mexico, Zimbabwe and Brazil. Stella, where are you 
 
from? Kentucky. And Daniel—from California. Can you see the partial fulfillment of 
 
Isaiah’s words?
 
Give us one clue about how to learn something temporal by revelation. Can you give 
 
us an example, or one thing that you’ve learned that would be helpful to the rest of us?
 
Oh, did you get that one? You have to endure the things that would usually make you 
 
give up. Wonderful. Thank you. In the book of Hebrews we learn that faith is 
 
the—what?—“substance,” but Joseph Smith changed it. Faith is the assurance of things 
 
hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. Joseph Smith also wrote that faith is a 
 
principle of action and power. Notice the sequence—action, then power.
 
Elder Bednar also said that there are three faces to faith: there is a forward-looking 
 
faith; there’s a present-looking faith; and a backward-looking faith.2 Here’s how it would 
 
apply. A forward-looking faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the things you desire 
 
to achieve as a result of your efforts and God’s enabling power. You come to the College 
 
with a hope and a desire to accomplish some outcome. You haven’t seen it yet. You hope 
 
that it exists for you, whether it’s a good grade, or finding a spouse, or deepening your 
 
1 See “Alternate Voices,” April 1989 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-
 
conference/1989/04/alternate-voices?lang=eng  
 
2 Bednar, David A., “Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, September 2007.
 
testimony. Whatever it is, you have come with the intention, the hope for achieving 
 
something you do not yet see. Forward looking faith.
 
Present-looking faith is the action you take in order to achieve the hope  you have. So 
 
you work hard and endure things that are not easy with patience. You make choices 
 
about whether to study and how to study, or whether you go do something else. Present 
 
faith is the action that we take to accomplish what we cannot yet see.
 
Backward-looking faith is when the semester is over and you look back and you see 
 
what was accomplished. Three faces of faith. Here is a scriptural application, according 
 
to Elder Bednar: The children of Israel have come into the Promised Land. They need to 
 
cross the River Jordan. It is in flood stage. There are literally only a handful of people on 
 
that point who saw the Red Sea part under Moses’ staff. They have a forward-looking 
 
faith, the hope that by their fasting and prayer the River Jordan will part as it had done 
 
in their record. Forward-looking faith.
 
Present-looking faith—the actions that they took. Before the River Jordan parted, 
 
what had to happen? The priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant had to step into the 
 
water. Then it parted. And when they crossed over, they put an Ebenezer there and 
 
looked backward—their backward-looking faith—to see the evidence of what was 
 
accomplished under the hand of the Lord.
 
Now brothers and sisters, I invite you to study and learn by faith. It is a revelatory 
 
experience.  I would be careful, when you study, what’s playing on the buds that are in 
 
your ear? Do you hear me? No pun intended, but do you hear me? You have to put 
 
yourself in a position to have a revelatory experience to learn anatomy and physiology or 
 
economics or whatever. And when you pray and read your scriptures first, so that you 
 
are comfortable with hearing the voice of the Lord, and then pick up something 
 
temporal to study, I promise you two things: the words on the page will have more 
 
meaning to you, number one. And number two, because it is a revelatory experience, 
 
you will find connections within a subject you are studying and between different 
 
courses you are studying that are meaningful to you, and valuable to you.
 
I promise you that if you do this, it will be like your experience reading the 
 
scriptures, where as you read, having prayed first, and you find cross-references and you 
 
say, “Oh, my goodness, look! This connects with that. And when you ponder those two 
 
things connected, your understanding of that scripture will be deeper and more 
 
meaningful. That, brothers and sisters, is revelatory. It’s a gift. Why? Because of the 
 
blessings on your head and the responsibilities on your shoulders.  I invite you to change 
 
your habits, that you may be entitled to revelatory experiences as you study—to find the 
 
connections important to you, the ones Heavenly Father wants you to know, that you 
 
may fulfill the mission He has commissioned you to fulfill.
 
What’s my point, brothers and sisters?  What you are learning today under the 
 
inspiration of the Spirit? Elder Bednar says, the Holy Ghost fuels curiosity. The Holy 
 
Ghost fuels inquiry, he said. What you are learning today, Father in Heaven will tailor it 
 
for you if you will let Him do it by receiving it and acting on it. Now, we have a  few 
 
minutes left. Let’s talk about lifting where you can. Part of being of Abraham is the 
 
responsibility to lift and to give service. Now the service I am talking about  has nothing 
 
to do with some service project from the Relief Society or the elders quorum. It doesn’t 
 
have anything to do with cookies that are dropped off or a note that you write to 
 
somebody else. The lifting I am talking about today is the lifting you have opportunity to 
 
do at least 20 times a day at the College It is simply to acknowledge people you pass by. 
 
It can be a simple but not trite “Hi, how are you?” And when someone says that to you, 
 
here is my recommendation, no matter what kind of day you’re having—lost keys, rain, 
 
laryngitis and I can’t find spot to park. If you respond to people who say, “Hi, how are 
 
you?” and you say, “I’m happy. How are you?” After about the fifth time, trust me, you 
 
will feel happier. Your simple acknowledgement of other people lifts them. I know it by 
 
personal testimony because you lift me. It is wonderful to be the president of this 
 
College. It is not easy. And when I walk the halls and you say hello to me and you smile, 
 
it lifts me.
 
Brothers and sisters, lift where you can, in simple, spontaneous and impromptu 
 
ways. And because you are of Abraham, you will bless lives and bring joy. It is in your 
 
spiritual DNA to do it. There are people who sit in your classes, who you pass by, that 
 
are having a worse day than I am having. 
 
About two years ago I was sitting in my office busily doing something, and a 
 
prompting came to me “just go walk the halls.” And it was like, I have this document to 
 
prepare. “Just go walk the halls.” I’ll do it later. “Go walk the halls now.”
 
And so I started on the 10th floor, and walked down the stairs, because I’m old and I 
 
don’t start at the bottom and walk upstairs anymore. I went to the 9th floor and said hello 
 
to some folks, and 8th floor and 7th floor, 6th floor. And on the 5th floor I came out of the 
 
east stairwell and the hallway was empty. At the far end of the hall, I watched a young 
 
man come out of the door and lean against the wall. . And he was just leaning there, and 
 
I’m all the way at the other end of the hall. And so I walked up to him, and I said, “Hi. 
 
How are you?” 
 
And he looked up at me with eyes that were in pain, and he said, “President, I just 
 
flunked college algebra for the third time.” And so we talked. I don’t know if I made his 
 
day any better, but we talked, spirit to spirit, brother to brother. And in my own feelings 
 
of inadequacy, I tried to lift. My words were stumbling, my thoughts disconnected, but 
 
in that moment, in a small way, I think I was a son of Abraham.
 
Now here is the last point: if we learn by faith and lift where we can, we must become 
 
what Father in Heaven wants us to become. And we can fight it, brothers and sisters, 
 
and we can try and do our own thing, and we can say I’ll do it some other time in my life, 
 
later. I have these passions of the flesh and things I want to do and  I’ll repent later. You 
 
can repent; there is always a way back. But you can’t often make up for lost 
 
opportunities—opportunities that the Lord would have had you fulfill because you are of 
 
Abraham and because you have learned important things by faith that are needed to lift 
 
up someone else, but you weren’t prepared to do it. So Father in Heaven had to raise up 
 
somebody else, perhaps.
 
You can always repent. The Atonement is real. And the Atonement is all about our 
 
becoming. But I implore you not to waste your time, not to do the silly things of youth 
 
that you don’t need to do. You know better. The Lord will help you.
 
Now, one other connection I want to make. We learn by faith, we lift where we can to 
 
become what you must. Here is the silver thread. The becoming that I am talking about 
 
has nothing to do with your career, your degree, what job you have, what car you drive, 
 
what house you live in. The becoming I am talking about are the character traits that 
 
people will talk about when they describe you at your funeral.
 
Elder Oaks told us charity is not something you do; it is something you become. He 
 
said it is a state of being.  Isn’t that interesting? Now he said we get charity through a 
 
series of acts, but he said it’s a conversion, and therefore charity is a state of being.3 I see 
 
it every time I am with the Brethren. I could keep you here another half hour telling you 
 
about stories just on the trip to Hawaii, watching Elder Nelson and Elder Oaks be 
 
charity.
 
The traits that people will talk about—the traits of the becoming that I’m talking 
 
about, the worthwhile traits—here’s the thread—are only developed through the way we 
 
interact with others. I invite you to read Mosiah 3:19 and connect it immediately with 
 
Doctrine and Covenants 4, and read it as one continuous thought, and see what new 
 
connections the Spirit gives you. All of those traits that are mentioned in those two 
 
scriptures are only accomplished by the way we interact with other people.
 
And so in conclusion, brothers and sisters, this gospel is for real. This is no game. 
 
This is good stuff. It feels good. It tastes good. It pays good dividends. . It makes you feel 
 
in ways that you can’t feel any other way, because it is a gift of the Spirit. I pray that 
 
Father in Heaven will bless you today that you will ponder even more deeply than you 
 
ever have before what it means to be of the lineage of Abraham. And the blessings of 
 
eternal lives that are upon your head if you will proclaim the gospel by the traits you 
 
3 “The Challenge to Become,” General Conference October 2000. https://www.lds.org/general-
 
conference/2000/10/the-challenge-to-become?lang=eng
 
develop, the life that you live, and when all else fails, something you may say in a  
 
declaration of your faith. . You are here for reasons far beyond what you know, whether 
 
you are students, faculty or staff. It is part of the Lord’s plan for you. It is individualized. 
 
It is based upon the spiritual gifts and talents that He has blessed you with, that He 
 
needs you here to develop. Why? That we may be part of carrying off the kingdom 
 
triumphantly.
 
And so we pray as Joseph did in the Doctrine and Covenants, may the kingdom of 
 
God roll forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come. And cherished will be the day for 
 
me, when I stand in the line of Abraham with you. And my faith about you will be filled 
 
when I look back and see, in that day, what you have accomplished in preparing the 
 
kingdom of God that it may receive the Savior.
 
May the Lord bless you to know. May He bless you with the energy, the wisdom, 
 
endurance and the attitude to have a great day when it’s raining, that you may not be 
 
cumbered by feelings of your inadequacies. You have everything it takes to make it is my 
 
prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] See “Alternate Voices,” April 1989 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1989/04/alternate-voices?lang=eng

[2] Benar, David A., “Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, September 2007.

[3] “The Challenge to Become,” General Conference October 2000. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2000/10/the-challenge-to-become?lang=eng


Means and Lights in the Wilderness

29 Jul. 2015

Transcript

Means and Lights in the Wilderness

Thank you for that beautiful music; thank you for that prayer; and thank you for being here today.  I am honored and humbled.  I express my appreciation to the LDS Business College for the invitation to speak to you today in this beautiful setting, in this historic Assembly Hall on the sacred grounds of Temple Square.

 

Thank you also, Brother Newman, for the introduction.  As mentioned, I am an attorney working in the Office of the General Counsel at Brigham Young University, where I advise both BYU and the LDS Business College on legal matters.  One thing all attorneys share in common is the responsibility to keep current with the constant changes in the laws in order to accurately and appropriately advise their clients.  On occasion, as with the recent announcements from the U.S. Supreme Court, there are changes and shifts in the legal landscape of seismic proportions and ramifications.  Lawyers and clients regularly counsel together on how to interpret and navigate such changes in the landscape and on how best to map a safe course going forward.  

 

Apart from my dealings in the legal world and profession, I have had other, perhaps more direct, experiences related to the subject of landscapes and maps.  In my prior life—that is, prior to my work in the Office of the General Counsel—I worked for several years in the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU.  There I worked in the Special Collections with rare and early printed materials, including medieval manuscripts and, on occasion, medieval maps.  

 

One of the first things you will notice about many of these old maps is that unlike most maps we are accustomed to in our times where everything points to the north, many old maps are oriented instead toward the East and the direction of the sun or source of light, specifically toward Jerusalem and often the temple at Jerusalem.  In fact, the word orient means east.  When we use the word “orient,” as in to orient oneself, it literally means to face or look toward the East.  Webster’s Dictionary notes that the word “orient” can also mean, of all things, to build a temple with the longitudinal axis pointing eastward and the chief alter at the eastern end.  More on this in a minute.  

 

Well, you may wonder, what do these old maps have to do with anything?  We have much better and more accurate maps today and live in a modern age of satellite geo-tracking and high resolution spectral imaging.  Most of us have access to very sophisticated GPS technology as close as our cell phones.  

 

I am not here today to talk about mapping legal landscapes, satellite tracking, or even to talk about medieval maps, as fascinating as that may be.  Rather, I would like to focus my remarks on a somewhat related topic; namely, two specific types of guidance systems available in our lives for our individual journeys in what the scriptures symbolically refer to as “the wilderness.”  The first is the gift of the Holy Ghost.  The second is the temple.  

 

The influences of both the Holy Spirit and the temple in our lives serve as sources of divine guidance and orientation.  Each of these gifts has been restored to the earth in our times, each is associated with sacred priesthood ordinances, and each may be described as a “means” or a “light in the wilderness.”  However, unlike old maps, GPS technology, or satellite tracking devices, these guidance systems will never be outdated or become obsolete.  

 

We read in the Doctrine and Covenants that each of us is a traveler in this world, a “stranger and pilgrim on the earth” (D&C 45:13).  The scriptures are replete with such language, referring to man in this earthly state as a “wanderer”, “traveler,” “stranger,” “pilgrim,” and “sojourner.”  Ammon in the Book of Mormon even uses the unsettling phrase “wanderers in a strange land” (Alma 26:36).  To make matters worse, what little we do see and understand in this world is, in the words of the apostle Paul, reflected and distorted “through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12); thus, making our perception of reality and eternal truths all the more difficult, and making our reliance on faith and heavenly guidance all the more important.

 

Three major world religions and over half the earth’s population revere the prophet Abraham as a father of nations and as the heir by covenant to the land of Canaan.  Yet, in one of the great ironies in all of scripture, Abraham never possessed the promised land.  He wandered as a “stranger and sojourner” (Genesis 23:4), a nomad without permanent home to claim as his own.  In fact, when Sarah died, he did not even own so much as a burial plot (see Genesis 23). The apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews:  

 

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.  By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles [or tents] with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  (Hebrews 11: 8-10)  

 

As with Abraham, we are all travelers and pilgrims in this world.  None of us will ever obtain the fullness of God’s promises in this life.  Rather, we see them from afar off and the hope of obtaining becomes an anchor to our faith (Hebrews 11:13-16).  By divine design our individual journeys similarly test our faith and our obedience.  Along the way, we regularly encounter important decisions and questions: for example, Where am I going? What kind of career should I pursue? When should I start a family? and so forth.  Some decisions, obviously, are of greater magnitude and importance at different times in our lives.  Moreover, there are times when, like Abraham, we do not always know exactly where we are headed or what our next move should be.  Thus, we occasionally find ourselves outside our comfort zones in what is referred to in old maps as, terra incognita, or unknown territory, where we may experience stress, uncertainty, and even disorientation at times.  

 

Nearly 12 hundred years ago, an English monk by the name of the Venerable Bede wrote in his chronicles of English history an account of the conversion to Christianity by King Edwin of Northumberland.  To illustrate the transient, confused, and sometimes chaotic nature of life’s journey, the missionaries teaching King Edwin described a sparrow which one day randomly flies into a great banquet hall.  Imagine a bird seeking refuge from a storm which flies into your home.  Usually when this happens there is immediate chaos, confusion, and panic.  At last the bird finds the exit. Maybe some of you have experienced this before in real life.

 

In the Venerable Bede’s account, the missionary Paulinus explained to King Edwin:  

 

Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banquet-hall where you are sitting at dinner on winter’s day with your thegns and counselors.  In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside the storms of winter rain or snow are raging.  This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another.  While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a moment of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came.  Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing …

 

Bede’s account is meant to be an allegory of life’s journey.  The story of the sparrow depicts our journey from the pre-mortal realm to our relatively brief sojourn here on earth.  Eventually, as mysteriously as we come into this world, we exit to the infinite and glorious beyond.  

 

Inspired by the Venerable Bede’s account, the poet William Wordsworth observed nearly a thousand years later in his Ecclesiastical Sonnets (no. XVI):

 

Man’s life is like a sparrow, mighty King!

That—while at banquet with your chiefs you sit

Housed near a blazing fire—is seen to flit

Safe from the wintry tempest.  Fluttery,

Here did it enter; there, on hasty wing,

Flies out, and passes on from cold to cold;

But whence it came we know not, nor behold

Whither it goes.  Even such, that transient Thing,

The human soul; not utterly unknown

While in the body lodged, her warm abode;

But from what world she came, what woe or weal

On her departure waits, no tongue hath shown;

This mystery if the Stranger can reveal,

His be a welcome cordially bestowed!

 

Indeed, the ultimate mystery for most mortals would be to know the answer to the questions contemplated by the Venerable Bede and Wordsworth.  As Wordsworth was keenly aware, we desperately need maps and guides to show us the way, to help us understand whence came we and whither are we headed.  If anyone can help us understand better what our next move should be and how best to navigate the many challenges and decisions along life’s journey, truly, “His be a welcome cordially bestowed!”  

 

How grateful I am to a loving Savior and Heavenly Father, who have designed and prepared a glorious plan of salvation and happiness.  They have not left us alone to “flutter” about aimlessly as Bede’s sparrow.  They have given to us prophets, apostles, guides, and other means to help us know the way and find answers—not just to the big questions posed by Bede and Wordsworth, but also guides to the everyday questions that each of us will face as we wander in the wilderness of life.

 

Let me share a couple of examples of fellow sojourners and travelers, who, like us, wandered in the wilderness.  In each instance, the Lord provided a “means” or a “light” to help them know the way—a means or light that is also available to each of us.

 

Nephi’s Journey in the Wilderness and Trip to Jerusalem  

 

Nephi was a self-described sojourner who “sojourned in the wilderness for many years” (1 Nephi 17:4).  Nephi makes a point, however, to note that the Lord did “provide means for us while we were in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 17:3; see also Mosiah 8:18).  These “means” included among other things the brass plates, the Liahona, and specific direction on where to travel, where to hunt, where to find ore, and even on how to build a boat.  Throughout his account, Nephi uses language reminiscent of Abraham—i.e., language which refers to being faithful and obedient, and of not always knowing what to do or where to go.

 

It is instructive that when Nephi journeyed with his brothers back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, they made various strategies and attempts to obtain the plates, including casting lots, reasoning with Laban, and even offering to purchase with gold and silver.  In the end, however, Nephi learned the importance of trusting the whisperings of the Spirit and not relying on chance or on the arm of flesh.  Ultimately, Nephi was successful when he “was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand what things [he] should do” (1 Nephi 4:6).  It was only when he relied on the promptings and guidance of the Holy Ghost that he was able to accomplish the object of his mission to Jerusalem.  Indeed, the Lord provided a “means” or, as Nephi described a few verses later, a “light in the wilderness … [to] prepare the way” (I Nephi 17:13).  Nephi is clear that this important “means” or light is the Holy Ghost: “the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world ... by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come” (1 Nephi 10:18-19).

 

The Savior’s Trip to Jerusalem at the End of His Mortal Ministry

 

Shortly before He concluded His mortal ministry, the Savior returned to Jerusalem one last time.  There, as the Gospel of John records, He gathered His apostles in an upper room on the eve of His crucifixion.  The Savior instructed the disciples concerning important events about to happen in both their lives and His.  Knowing that He would soon depart from mortality, the Savior tried to prepare them and help them understand that He was about to leave—to go somewhere where they couldn’t come (as least not yet)—to return to the presence of the Father.

 

John’s account of what happened in the upper room in Jerusalem is teeming with rich imagery and references to way stations, leaving behind, and moving forward in a journey toward God and the exalted regions that lie beyond.  Understandably, as the record indicates, the disciples were a bit apprehensive, confused, and even afraid.  The Savior imparted on that occasion sacred truths and priesthood ordinances.  He also promised a sacred gift that would help them once He was gone.  He would send the comforter or Holy Ghost to be a personal guide:

 

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless … the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost … he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.  (John 14: 16-26)

 

There and Back Again: Travelers From “the Cold and Silent Grave”

 

My next example is an example from our day.  Unlike the previous examples, this example does not involve a journey to Jerusalem.  It does, however, involve travel and journey and even elements of there and back again.  No, it is not a hobbit’s tale.  Rather, this example pertains to the heavenly realms beyond, from which, in the words of Lehi, no traveler ever returns (2 Nephi 1:14).  This example comes from the lives of the early prophets of our dispensation.  

 

Several years after his death, the Prophet Joseph returned in a dream to Brigham Young. What was his message?  Of all the glorious things he could convey or report on from the unseen world, what eternal truths and wondrous messages from the bosom of eternity did Joseph bring back?  The message, which was of greatest importance both then and now, was to tell the saints to get the spirit in their lives!  

 

Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the spirit of the lord they will go right.

 

It is worth mentioning that Brigham Young, just a few years after his own death, appeared in like manner to Wilford Woodruff and delivered that very same message!

 

I have come to see you; I have come to watch over you, and to see what the people are doing. Then, said he, I want you to teach the people—and I want you to follow this counsel yourself—that they must labor and so live as to obtain the Holy Spirit, for without this you cannot build up the kingdom; without the Spirit of God you are in danger of walking in the dark, and in danger of failing to accomplish your calling as apostles and as elders in the church and kingdom of God.

 

What do these examples all have in common?  Each teaches us clearly that the Lord has provided the Holy Ghost to be a guide in our lives, to teach us, and to help us know the way.  In the words of Nephi, He has provided us a “means” and a “light in the wilderness” for our journeys.  As both Joseph and Brigham communicated in their post-mortal visits, there is no more important message to the members of the Church than for us to have and retain the influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives.  The Lord has declared in our day in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Behold … the voice … crying in the wilderness … is my Spirit … and if it be in you it shall abound.” (D&C 88:66).  He also stated that those who take “the Holy Spirit for their guidewe will not be deceived (D&C 45:57).  

 

Brothers and sisters, may we do all in our power to remain worthy of this great gift, to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the promptings of the Spirit in our lives.  May we learn to both recognize and to follow the whisperings of that voice while we are in the wilderness.

 

Look to the Temple

 

My final example involves a different type of “means” or “light” provided by the Lord for the saints while in the wilderness.  One of the most important blessings ever bestowed on the Lord’s covenant people was, and is, the temple.  During their journey in the wilderness, the Lord commanded Moses and the early Israelites to build a tabernacle (see D&C 124: 38-41).  Among other things, this was critical for the Lord to reveal His will by shadow at day and by pillar of fire at night.  The tabernacle or traveling temple was a means and a light by which they were guided in their journey and wanderings.  That light was manifest by the visible presence of God (or the Shekinah) as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.  The Children of Israel literally took their signal of when to move and where to move to according to the manifestations of either the cloud or the pillar of fire upon the tabernacle.  We read in the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament:

 

And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even[ing] there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.

 

So it was always[s]: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.

And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.

 

At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.

 

And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not.

 

And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed.

 

And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.   (Numbers 9:15-21; see also Exodus 13:21)

 

For the ancient Children of Israel the tabernacle or temple in the wilderness clearly served both as a figurative and as a literal source for guidance and direction.  So it is in our times.  Let me explain.

 

Elder John A. Widtsoe, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve, gave what is probably the most frequently quoted talk (and what many consider to be the seminal talk) on the subject of temple work in the Church. That address, entitled “Temple Worship” and later published by the Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, was delivered from this very pulpit in the Assembly Hall nearly 95 years ago.  Elder Widtsoe spoke of the “wonderful pedagogy of the temple” when referring to what occurs within the temple and the specific manner in which we are taught through the use of symbolism in the endowment and physical movement and progression within the temple itself.  Like a map to guide us in our journey, “[t]he temple is built so as to represent … a model, a presentation in figurative terms, of the pattern and journey of life on earth.”

 

Perhaps more important than the symbolism and figurative representation of the journey of life, the temple is a place of revelation where the Holy Ghost may speak to us and provide guidance in our lives.  As with the Tabernacle in ancient Israel, the light of Heaven rests upon the temples in our day and distills light and direction to the souls of those who worship therein.  In other words, it is not just a place where we learn about the eternal conditions and ordinances of salvation; it is also, as Elder Widtsoe stated, a place where revelation may be expected:

 

I believe that the busy person on the farm, in the shop, in the office, or in the household, who has his worries and troubles, can solve his problems better and more quickly in the house of the Lord than anywhere else. If he will leave his problems behind and in the temple work for himself and for his dead, he will confer a mighty blessing upon those who have gone before, and quite as large a blessing will come to him, for at the most unexpected moments, in or out of the temple will come to him, as a revelation, the solution of the problems that vex his life. That is the gift that comes to those who enter the temple properly, because it is a place where revelations may be expected. I bear my personal testimony that this is so.

 

The late President Boyd K. Packer has likewise written that when members of the Church are troubled or when crucial decisions weigh heavily upon our minds, it is appropriate to take our cares and troubles to the temple.  

 

Sometimes our minds are so beset with problems, and there are so many things clamoring for attention at once that we just cannot think clearly and see clearly. At the temple the dust of distraction seems to settle out, the fog and the haze seem to lift, and we can “see” things that we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known.

 

In the words of President Ezra Taft Benson, "Prayers are answered, revelation occurs, and instruction by the Spirit takes place in the holy temples of the Lord."

 

Just a few months before the Prophet Joseph was martyred, the completion of the Nauvoo Temple and the preparation of the Saints weighed heavily on his mind.  He met with members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at that time and solemnly declared: “We need the temple more than anything else.”  Let me repeat that:  We need the temple more than anything else!

 

Elder Kent F. Richards recently told the students at Brigham Young University, “you [students] need the temple perhaps more now than at any other time in your mortal life.”  Then, quoting Elder Widtsoe, Elder Richards stated:  

 

Temple work is … of as much benefit to the young and the active, as it is the aged, who have laid behind them many of the burdens of life.  The young man [and young woman] needs his place in the temple even more than his father and his grandfather, who are steadied by a life of experience; and the young girl just entering life, needs the spirit, influence and direction that come from participation in the temple ordinances.

 

It is no accident that each CES school has a temple close by.  Have you ever noticed that LDSBC, BYU, BYU-Hawaii, and BYU-Idaho all have temples immediately adjacent to their campuses. We are admonished in the scriptures to “… seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).   CES students are in environments where they are surrounded by temples of learning and temples of God.  We are promised that spiritual power and inspiration will come to each of us when we regularly come to the temple.  There will be no greater compliment to your college studies, preparation for a career, and preparation for life, than to go regularly to the House of the Lord.    

 

Like many of you, my wife and I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to attend the open house of the Payson Temple.  On that occasion, we learned among other things about the apple blossom and quilting motifs which are incorporated into the beautiful design of that temple.  We also learned a bit about the history of the town of Payson.  It turns out that Payson was originally founded by Brigham Young to serve as a way station for the Saints and others who made their long journey from the Salt Lake valley to southern Utah.  A way station is a place where weary travelers check in from time to time. How appropriate that once again Payson (and every other temple that dots the earth) is a way station, a sacred place for weary travelers and pilgrims on their earthly sojourn, seeking rest, orientation, and heavenly direction in their lives.

 

More than two and a half millennia ago, the Prophet Isaiah saw in vision our day and prophesied of the great events of the Restoration and the gathering again of the House of Israel in the latter days in preparation for the return of the Savior and His millennial reign.  Knowing the importance of the temple to the saints living in this dark and troubled world (a world without bearing or direction), Isaiah extends a direct invitation—an invitation down through the corridors of time—to each of us:  

 

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 … come ye and let us walk in the light.  (Isaiah 2:3, 5)

 

Indeed, Brothers and Sisters, it is my prayer that we will regularly go to the temple and walk in its light!  Like those medieval maps which are oriented to the East and the source of light, to Jerusalem and the temple, let us orient our lives by looking to the source of heavenly light and to the temple. As we regularly worship in the House of the Lord, we orient our lives on matters of eternal importance and partake of the spiritual light and revelation available there.

 

We all need heavenly guidance, and occasional way stations for rest and reorientation. Similar to the sparrow in King Edwin’s story, our journey in life will have moments of stress and confusion, and times where we do not always know where we are headed.  Our Father in Heaven, however, has prepared guides, maps, and other “means” and “lights” to help us while here in this wilderness.

 

I testify that the Holy Ghost is available to each one of us during our journey through mortality.  As we take “the Holy Spirit for [our] guidewe will not be deceived (D&C 45:57).  In addition, we have holy temples which grace the earth as sacred places of worship—holy sanctuaries where revelation and divine guidance may be expected.   

 

I testify that the Lord has prepared means and has provided lights in the wilderness, and that as we keep his commandments we are led in our individual journeys toward the promised land (1 Nephi 17:13).  The Lord does not only lead great prophets like Abraham, Nephi, or Joseph Smith.  I bear my witness that as ordinary members trying our best, He will lead us as well.  As we turn to the Lord, exercise faith, and are obedient, we too will be led in the wilderness.  The Holy Ghost and the temple are sacred gifts which will bless our lives and which are specifically designed to be a means and light to help us navigate the important decisions in each of our lives.  I so testify.  


In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

 

 

 

Introduction: Scott Newman

I’ve known Brother Angerhofer now for a number of years, and can honestly say that he is one of the many attorneys that I enjoy. That is a true statement. He joined the BYU Office of the General Counsel in 2001. He is a graduate—now listen to this—of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, so he says he keeps that quiet down there in Provo. While he was at the University of Utah law school, he was a William H. Leary Scholar. He also holds master’s degree—Sister Robbins, you will like this—in business administration and library information science, and dual bachelor’s degrees in classics with a Latin emphasis and German, from Brigham Young University. So very diverse. In his day job, he advises BYU and LDS Business College on general legal issues. In addition, his legal practice focuses heavily on intellectual property, data privacy, cyber security, export control laws, and the licensing of university-developed technologies.

Prior to doing what he does now, he was a senior librarian at the Harold B. Lee Library on the BYU campus, where he worked with rare books and early printed materials. I tried to get something out of his wife, a bit more personal on what he likes to do, and he does like the outdoors and backpacking. He is heading out next week to the high Uintas with three of his children. He served a mission in Zurich, Switzerland. He also serves as a counselor in his ward bishopric.

He is married to the former Rebecca Bateman. They live in Highland and have eight children. We are excited to have him with us today and I’m sure his message will be of great import to all of us.

 

Faith - Dealing with Uncertainty in a Rational, Positive Way

30 Jul. 2015

Transcript

Faith - Dealing with Uncertainty in a Rational, Positive Way

Early in the year 1831, Lucy Mack Smith--the mother of Joseph Smith, Jr.--led a group of early Latter-day Saints from Waterloo, New York to Kirtland, Ohio. They travelled along the Erie Canal in very cold conditions until they reached Buffalo, where the way forward was blocked by ice. Another group of Saints, the Colesville Branch, was also stuck in Buffalo. The leaders from Colesville told Lucy that they had better keep their religion a secret, or no one would give them shelter, nor passage on a boat. Lucy answered, “I shall tell people precisely who I am, and if you are ashamed of Christ, you must not expect to be prospered; and I shall wonder if we do not get to Kirtland before you!”

 

Lucy did, indeed, find a boat for the Saints from Waterloo, but the way was still blocked by ice. The uncertainty of this pause in their journey was too much for some of these members, and they began to complain. In the tone of Nephi rebuking his brothers, Lucy felt impressed to prophecy, “You profess to put your trust in God, then how can you feel to murmur and complain as you do! You are even more unreasonable than the children of Israel were; for here are my sisters pining for their rocking chairs, and brethren from whom I expected firmness and energy, declare that they positively believe they shall starve to death before they get to the end of their journey. And why is it so? Have any of you lacked? Have not I set food before you every day, and made you… as welcome as my own children? Where is your faith? Where is your confidence in God? … Now brethren and sisters, if you will all of you raise your desires to heaven, that the ice may be broken up, and we be set at liberty, as sure as the Lord lives, it will be done” (as cited in Payne, 1972).

 

The Waterloo Saints exercised their faith wholeheartedly. Within moments, the ice parted just enough for their boat to get through, and then closed up again behind them, leaving the Colesville Branch and other waiting boats behind. The people watching from Buffalo were rather alarmed to see the Mormons’ boat disappearing into the ice, and when the Saints arrived at their next port, they got to read all about their own “deaths” in the newspaper (as cited in Payne, 1972).

 

We may or may not have faith to see these kinds of miracles. Speaking of the gifts of healing, the Lord said, “They who have not faith to do these things, but believe in me, have power to become my sons [and daughters]” (D&C 42:52). In other words, the most important kind of faith to develop is the kind that changes our hearts, not the kind that parts ice and moves mountains. However, all of us need to obtain greater faith than we possess today.

 

To do this, I would like to follow President Monson’s counsel: “When performance is measured, performance improves” (as cited in Preach My Gospel, 2004, p. 150). The purpose of my talk is to explain plainly what faith is, providing tools and examples to show how a disciple of Jesus Christ can measure and improve his or her faith in the Savior.

 

The seminary graduates in the room should be familiar with the following scripture: “Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21). Faith is not certainty or knowledge; faith is a rational, positive way to deal with uncertainty. Alma goes on to explain that when we have felt the Spirit as we pray and live the gospel, our faith becomes knowledge, “for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand” (Alma 32:34). Because of the years I have devoted to studying the gospel, I know that God lives. “[My] knowledge is perfect in that thing, and [my] faith is dormant” (Alma 32:34). I can bear that testimony to you with complete certainty.

 

On the other hand, there are many gospel principles that I still take on faith. “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17). I don’t know everything that God plans for my future. I don’t know why only men can hold Priesthood offices. I don’t know exactly what the Lord wants us to do about global warming or drug addiction or poverty. But I do know that he sees the end from the beginning, and that all things will work together for our good if we love God (Romans 8:28). Because I know these things, I can handle being uncertain about other things. In the Lectures on Faith, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, The idea that he actually exists. Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will” (Lectures on Faith 3:2-5).

 

When we are certain about something, that is knowledge; when we are uncertain but move forward as best we can, that is faith. In the words of Terryl and Fiona Givens, our religion requires “a leap not into the dark but into the still murky dawn,” based on “reasonable but not compelling evidence” (2014, loc. 2483). Our testimony is a piece of knowledge about Christ that anchors us, gives us hope, and confirms our faith, so that we can deal appropriately with the things we do not yet know.

 

In his talk “Seek Learning by Faith,” Elder David A. Bednar taught that faith is a cycle, a process, in which we are constantly learning and moving forward from grace to grace. He explained that this process includes action, evidence, and assurance (2007). We might hear the testimony of a prophet or missionary, believe their words, and act on it. As we act, we gain further evidence that what we are doing is from God. In other words, we believe, we act, and we learn.

 

If any part of this process is missing, we do not have genuine faith. For instance, if we believe and act on our beliefs without ever thinking about the spiritual or physical evidence, we have blind faith. We believe in that which is not seen (Alma 32:21), but we have no way of finding out if it is true. It is very easy to have blind faith in charismatic people who agree with us, such as the leaders of our favorite political party. Blind faith frequently keeps us from questioning the unrighteous traditions of our fathers, giving the father of all lies power over us (D&C 93:39). If we try to nurture our faith by just believing harder, then we are only developing blind faith. In contrast, genuine faith is taking a step into the darkness and expecting the light to expand and light our way--to teach us as we go. Most often, we receive revelation in this way. Elder Bednar said, “Receiving revelation is like a foggy day. There’s enough light that you can tell it’s not darkness anymore: it’s not night, but it’s not brilliantly illuminated. You can see just enough to take a few steps… and then the light continues” (2012). The difference between blind faith and genuine faith is our willingness to learn, and sometimes even to find out we were wrong.

If we collect evidence and then believe in it, but fail to act, then our faith is dead (James 2). Most Latter-day Saints are familiar with the classic Biblical sermon on dead faith in James chapter 2, so I will say no more about it here.

The third way that the faith cycle can be incomplete is by acting, collecting evidence, and then refusing to believe in that evidence. This brand of infidelity involves being unfaithful to what we know to be true, or at least what deserves a reasonable amount of our confidence. We see this when people are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). Sometimes, when people leave the Church, they dismiss all the spiritual witnesses they once received as figments of their imagination. Others claim that it is rational to believe nothing until we are absolutely certain, to be eternal skeptics. However, a perfectly rational approach to truth requires us to acknowledge all the evidence--spiritual, physical, and intellectual--even when that means that we don’t have all the answers yet.

Sometimes, two pieces of evidence seem to contradict each other, leaving us in a state of uncertainty as to what is true. This is precisely when we most need an attitude of faith--we need to continue learning, spurred on by our uncertainty into curiosity and investigation. By using every source of truth available to us, we can become enlightened by the light of Christ.

I would like to share three examples of how to apply our faith: faith in self, faith to be healed, and faith in others.

 

Faith in Self

First, if our faith in ourselves is to be of any lasting value, it must be rooted in Jesus Christ. Humility can be defined as embracing our dependence on Jesus Christ--humility is not thinking less of ourselves. In this way, faith in self is an attitude of humility--a confidence in the gifts and strengths that God has given us. “There are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God” (D&C 46:11). At the very least, all of us have the ability to learn, and to make choices that bring us closer to our Savior (2 Nephi 2:27). Even the addict can choose to ask for help.

 

While preparing this talk, I spent some time praying for the Lord to help me overcome a certain weakness, which I felt helpless to conquer. In response, I felt the distinct impression, “You need to have more faith in yourself.” I thought, “All right, Lord. I will try to believe harder in myself!”

 

Immediately, I saw my mistake--I was trying to boost my self-esteem with blind faith in myself. The Spirit chose to gently, lovingly point it out as well. “Michael, faith in yourself is not just believing harder in yourself. It is a rational, positive approach to uncertainty about yourself.”

 

Let me repeat that: Faith in yourself is a rational, positive approach to uncertainty about yourself. It is not unbridled self-confidence, but a belief that we can learn, repent, grow, and set new goals. It is anchored in our knowledge of our past successes, our strengths, and where to go for help, all of which come from our Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Faith to be Healed

One of the Lord’s gifts to us is the promise of healing according to our faith and his will (D&C 42:48-52). The Lord gives healing freely throughout the New Testament, but always reminds the people that they were healed because of their faith.

 

Sickness creates a great deal of uncertainty in our lives. We try to plan for it by spending thousands of dollars on health insurance, disability insurance, government healthcare programs, and employer-paid sick days. We exercise and eat healthfully to try to avoid getting sick. However, it is even more important to use our sicknesses as an opportunity to exercise our faith in Jesus Christ. The more we trust his will and timing, the more freely he heals us.

 

Faith to be healed can never be blind faith, empty of learning and personal growth, and it will never be dead faith, requiring no action on our part. It is something we build, line upon line, precept upon precept, as we develop a relationship of trust with our Master. My first mission president and his eternal companion wrote to their missionaries, “On occasion I believe the Lord heals us in installments to see if we will be grateful for every small improvement, or instead, if we will become impatient and complain that our recovery is not speedier” (Callister & Callister, 2008).

 

It can be tempting to write off a lack of healing as the Lord’s will, to imagine that he has some unknown and unknowable reason for not taking away your pain. But unless the Lord has actually revealed to you that you are not to be healed, keep exercising your faith. Evaluate your ability to deal with the uncertainty of sickness by relying on him, and set goals to improve. Ask him what you are to learn from this experience. Ask him to heal you, in his own time and in his own way. If he chooses to heal you by degrees, thank him for every small improvement. The healing power of Jesus Christ is a spiritual gift that covers addictions and wounded souls as well as all other kinds of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual ills, and it is available to you today.

 

In the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “We know not what lies ahead of us. We know not what the coming days will bring. We live in a world of uncertainty. For some, there will be great accomplishment. For others, disappointment. For some, much of rejoicing and gladness, good health, and gracious living. For others, perhaps sickness and a measure of sorrow. We do not know. But one thing we do know. Like the polar star in the heavens, regardless of what the future holds, there stands the Redeemer of the world, the Son of God, certain and sure as the anchor of our immortal lives. He is the rock of our salvation, our strength, our comfort, the very focus of our faith. In sunshine and in shadow we look to Him, and He is there to assure and smile upon us” (2002).

 

Faith in Others

My wife Nikki and I have been married for almost six years. In that time, she’s been upset with me once or twice. We came from different cultures, and we have had to learn each other’s expectations for how we should think and act. I’ve learned that even if my wife seems to be overreacting, or even if the disagreement is over something that seems small, like how to clean the house or what time to put our children to bed, there is always a kernel of wisdom in her words. No matter how good an argument I can think up against her, and even if she’s wrong about some things, I have learned that she is always worth listening to carefully. When I listen to my wife, the Lord speaks to me through her. I have developed faith in the portion of God’s Spirit that lives inside her. I sincerely listen, ponder, and pray about the advice my wife gives me, and the Lord answers with knowledge and assurance, which I can then act on with confidence.

 

In one of these disagreements, my wife and I had a fundamental conflict between what we thought was right and wrong, and I wasn’t listening very well. There were some things in my heart that weren’t right, which my wife could see, but that I was blind to. Finally, she wisely suggested that we go to our bishop for advice. The Spirit testified to me that if I went, I would learn something, so to the bishop’s office we went.

 

We talked it over, and our soft-hearted bishop began trying to give us relationship advice. He talked about communication and trying to see each other’s perspective. He talked about how it’s normal to have disagreements, and how he didn’t have an easy answer to our question. I thought, “Heavenly Father, you brought me here to learn something. Please, inspire him to say what I need to hear.”

 

A few minutes later, our bishop was in the middle of a long, rambling tangent, in which he told my wife that “sometimes men are just stupid and you have to be patient with us,” when suddenly he looked at me and said, “You will have to do something that feels unfair to you, in order to make it feel fair to your wife.” The Spirit washed over me. I felt a burning testimony in my heart that this was the mind and will of the Lord. My dear bishop seemed unaware that anything had happened. He had already turned back to my wife and was continuing to explain just how idiotic men can sometimes be. But I knew for myself what I had to do. I followed the prompting, making a sacrifice that felt unfair to me. Today, I am still reaping the blessings of that sacrifice, both in my personal life and in my relationship with my spouse. And, looking back, my bishop was right. I was being stupid. I have grown as a person, and now the Lord has shown me what my wife saw all those years ago.

 

When we mortals argue, I believe it is often out of a desire for certainty. We want to be right, and to prove that we are right. This attitude leads to contention. In contrast, faith is an approach to uncertainty that allows us to make ourselves emotionally vulnerable in healthy, intimate relationships. Terryl and Fiona Givens wrote, “Of course, to believe is to risk error. To trust in a man, or a cause, or a God, is to risk disappointment. To act in faith is to risk failure, betrayal, even humiliation… The question is, do we love what is true, what is good, what is beautiful more than we fear the possible error our embrace of those things risks? No human relationship can carry any guarantees of success, but the vulnerability to which we expose ourselves in love is to a large degree the measure of that love” (2014, loc. 2527).


When Elder Lawrence of the Seventy visited LDS Business College last week, President Richards challenged us to prepare ourselves in such a way that we could pull from Elder Lawrence things that we needed to hear. Likewise, the Lord told Emma Smith that even the Prophet gets revelation “according the [the church’s] faith” (D&C 25:9). Preparation is an act of faith, and there is no act of faith too small to escape the Lord’s notice. Next time you meet with a church leader, sit in a Family Home Evening lesson, or receive a Priesthood blessing, I challenge you to prepare in a way that will call down the powers of heaven through the speaker--whether it be by dressing up, praying, fasting, visiting the Temple, or just eating a good breakfast so you can focus. Many of you already do this before General Conference, or when preparing for your patriarchal blessing. Whatever the occasion, follow Nephi’s counsel to ask the Lord to consecrate your preparation to the welfare of your soul (2 Nephi 9:28-29).

 

Now, I’m going to bear my testimony, and I invite you to exercise your faith by having a prayer in your heart that the Spirit will testify to you that what I am saying is true. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I know for myself that he has a plan that includes healing for all of us--for our weaknesses, our sins, our pains, and death itself. He loves and watches over each of us. He is a person who deserves our faith. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

References

 

Bednar, D. A. (2007, September). Seek learning by faith. Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/2007/09/seek-learning-by-faith?lang=eng

 

Bednar, D. A. (2012, September 4). Patterns of light: Spirit of revelation [Video file]. Mormon Channel. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slTa15a3mp0

 

Callister, T. & Callister, K. (2008, April). A message from President and Sister Callister: "I will plant seeds with a smile." The Harvest of the Canada Toronto East Mission.

 

Givens, T. and Givens, F. (2014, August 25). The crucible of doubt: Reflections on the quest for faith. Kindle edition.

 

Hinckley, G. B. (2002, April). We look to Christ. General Conference. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2002/04/we-look-to-christ?lang=eng

 

Lectures on faith. (1835). Retrieved from http://lecturesonfaith.com/3.php

 

Payne, J. (1972, November). Lucy Mack Smith: Woman of great faith. Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/1972/11/lucy-mack-smith-woman-of-great-faith?lang=eng

 

Preach my gospel. (2004). Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 

 

Introduction: Craig Nelson

Michael Davison is the director of academic and institutional assessment here on campus, and Joshua Burt is the director of learning enhancement programs here on our campus.

Let me introduce Brother Davison and Brother Burt to you. Brother Davison has been at the College just slightly less than a year, after earning his master’s degree from Western Illinois University, and we’re glad to have him here. Michael keeps us on task, and we’re grateful for his presence. We’re grateful that he could be here with his wife. They have two sons.

We’re also grateful for Joshua. Joshua has worked at the College for a little less than two years. He has had a great impact. His goal in life was to get married before he lost his hair, and he said he was successful in that endeavor. His wife Andrea is here. They have two boys and a girl. And Andrea and family are right there. Would you stand up, Andrea and kids, so we can see you.


A Future of Happiness

05 Aug. 2015

Transcript

A Future of Happiness

What an honor and privilege it is to be here with you today. When I walked in the building, I looked around and there is an incredible spirit here just because of the physical structure. But then as you started to come into the building, and the spirit that you have in your eyes, and the smiles that you have on your faces made me even more overwhelmed. And I’m just honored and grateful to be here with you today.

I never was planning to be a professor at BYU. I loved my time as a student there, but coming back to BYU just wasn’t in my five- or ten-year plan. But for a host of reasons, I know that the Lord has guided our family here. And when I got to BYU, I thought that this is one of the few places on earth where I can teach the gospel in my classroom as a business professor. And I want to take full advantage of that opportunity. So when I was designing my syllabus for my very first class, on the very last day I put TBA—to be announced. I didn’t know what I wanted to talk to my students about on my very last day of class. I wanted to get to know them, to understand them, before I planned that last day. Partway through the semester, I had the impression, “Teach them about happiness.”

So today, I want to bring you into the last day of my class, to share with you some of the life lessons I have learned about happiness that I hope you can take with you. So I am going to adopt you as my students today. Imagine that we’ve had a semester of vigorous learning and exciting tests and concepts and all kinds of fun stuff.

When I was a little boy, the movie “Back to the Future” came out. How many of you have seen “Back to the Future”? [Audience members raise their hands.] In the movie there is a photo. For those of you that have seen the movie, you may remember this photo, but for those who haven’t, let me tell you a little bit about the plot of “Back to the Future.” Marty McFly is a teenager, growing up in a town, and he runs into an eccentric inventor named Doc Brown. And Doc Brown has invented a machine called a flux capacitor that has the ability to transport people back into time. So Marty accidentally is transported from the 1980s back to the 1950s, where his future parents are in high school.

And as Marty is going about each day, trying not to mess up his future, he notices a picture in his wallet. It’s a picture of his family, he and his two siblings. Marty is in the middle and his two siblings are on the sides. One of the things that Marty notices as he makes different choices is that this picture begins to fade. All that is left of him are his legs. And over time, Marty and his sister begin to fade—until he is able to orchestrate his parents’ first meeting and their first kiss. They fall in love, the picture is restored, and the future is not altered from its course.

Now “Back to the Future” is obviously not based on a true story, but I think it teaches a really powerful principle: that the choices that we make right now, the choices that you make every day, have an influence on your future. So I want you to imagine for a minute—if you had an image of your future, what do you think it would look like? Who would be in that image? What are you doing in this image? What do you look like?

I can promise you one thing. You have no ability to predict your future. What you think you would be doing, what you think you will look like, who you think you would be with—you have no clue. Just like I didn’t know I was going to be coming back to BYU at the end of my PhD. But perhaps a question you can answer is, are you happy? As you think about that picture of the future, how many of you envision yourselves as happy? How many of you envision yourselves as unhappy? It seems ridiculous to imagine a future where you are unhappy.

The Prophet Joseph said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 255–256). Happiness is our object; it’s our design. It is the purpose of why we are here.

In a book by Clayton Christensen, he made an interesting observation. He goes back to class reunions from his MBA class of 1979 at Harvard Business School, and one of the things that he has noticed over the years is that more and more of his classmates come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children. He says,

I can guarantee you not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them. And yet a shocking number of them implemented that strategy. The reason? They didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents, and energy” (“How Will You Measure Your Life?” Harvard Business Review,Jul. 2010).

I love that quote at the end. “They didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents, and energy.” So today I want to talk to you about five strategies for happiness that will guide your allocation of your time, talents, and energies, and can help to preserve and protect the happy future.

The first strategy for happiness is to live righteously. The scriptures are very clear that happiness is linked to righteousness, and “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). And there are great promises to those who keep the commandments of God. In Mosiah 2 we learn,

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 (verse 41).

I think President Kimball gave some really important advice to help us in this pursuit of living righteously. And one of the principles that he taught when he was president of the Church is that there are some choices that we just need to “decide to decide” (Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 70). We only need to make certain decisions once. We can make a single decision about certain things that we will incorporate in our lives, and then make those decisions ours without having to brood and re-decide a hundred times what it is we will do and what we will not do. My young brothers and sisters, if you have not done so yet, decide to decide. (See “Fortifying Ourselves against Evil Influences,” Teachings: Spencer W. Kimball, 102–113.)

When I was a young man, I decided to serve a mission. I made that choice one time, and I never had to re-make that choice again. I committed not to drink alcohol or do drugs. I only had to make that choice one time. I decided not to ever view pornography and if I was exposed to it, to flee and run the other way. And I only had to make that choice one time.

So, I would encourage each of you to think about what are those choices in your life that you can just decide now to decide. And don’t ever look back. Don’t ever brood or have to re-decide, because one thing we know in the study of organizational behavior is that situations can be really powerful. No matter how strong you think you are, we can all find ourselves in really difficult and challenging situations. It is so much easier to flee and get out of those if we have thought in advance and decided to decide.

Sharron Watkins was the whistle-blower in the Enron scandal that happened in the early 2000s, and she shared this wonderful piece of advice for people going into the working world. She said, “[After] working with Andy Fastow, the imprisoned former CFO of Enron, I’d advise folks to run from toxic bosses as fast as you can. If your value system is being challenged on a routine basis, leave as soon as possible. Switch divisions, switch companies, move now! You can’t change your boss or the company from below or even from two rungs from the top” (quoted in “Executive Advice on Business@Work,” BloombergBusiness).

So as you are preparing now to go into the working world, decide right now that you will be an employee and a leader of integrity, and no matter what the situation, if you find that your values are being compromised, decide right now to flee, to run, to move.

I have a dear friend who found himself in a startup company that had wild possibilities for riches in his future. He could have made a lot of money. But he found that his boss started to engage in behavior that was highly questionable and highly unethical. And he wrestled with this for about a day, and felt prompted by the Spirit to leave, to move, to switch companies. And so he mortgaged—he gave up this possibility for these riches in his future. But the Lord provided him with a very stable landing spot, and he preserved for himself a future of happiness.

So decide right now to be an employee, to be a leader of integrity. And when you find yourself in a compromising situation, decide now to flee, to run, to move.

The second strategy for happiness is to work diligently. I’ve always been struck by the descriptions in the Book of Mormon of the Nephites and the Lamanites. In 1 Nephi 12, we learn that the Lamanites “dwindled in unbelief,” and “became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations” (verses 23). I think there is a relationship between idleness and abomination.

Contrast this with 2 Nephi 5, where we learn about the people of Nephi. Nephi taught his people to build, to work, to be industrious, to labor. And we learn in that chapter that they lived “after the manner of happiness” (verse 27).

Elder Christofferson has taught us that work sustains and enriches life:

It enables us to survive the disappointments and tragedies of the mortal experience. Hard-earned achievement brings a sense of self-worth. Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God. A consecrated life is filled with work, sometimes repetitive, sometimes menial, sometimes unappreciated but always work that improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers, [and] aspires (“Reflections on a Consecrated Life,” General Conference, Oct. 2010 General Conference).

My father had a philosophy that every young man needs to come to appreciate the value of hard work. So after I finished my junior year of high school, my dad called up my bishop, who was a potato farmer—he farmed potatoes and grain in Rexburg—and he said, “Would you let my son Jeff come and work on your farm for the summer?”

Well, one day I showed up to work and unbeknownst to me—well, before I share that, let me just say, my work was so incredible that when the farmer’s teenage daughter got in trouble, her punishment was to come and work with me. So that gives you some idea of what kind of work I was doing there on the farm. But one day, unbeknownst to me, I showed up to work and my bishop said, “Jeff, today you are going to go and clean out the pump that pumps the grain out of the grain elevator.” Now, I had no idea what this meant, but we arrived at the grain elevator and six feet down, only accessible by ladder, is the pump that pumps the grain out of the grain elevator. And it was a room that was maybe six by six, and over the year, as grain had been pumped out of the elevator, grain falls onto the floor. And so there was about this much grain [gestures to indicate amount] that covered the entire floor. And that grain had gotten wet from rain, and then the top layer had gotten baked by the heat over time. And so what it produced was a layer about this thick of just fermented grain [gestures to indicate amount]. And the only way to get this grain out was to lower a bucket down into the hole, scoop into the bucket, and then someone would raise it and dump it out. And I did that all day long.

I got home, and I smelled so bad that my mom said, “You cannot bring your clothes in the house. You have to throw them away.” I have never been smellier in my life. But I came home with a deep sense of satisfaction, knowing that I had accomplished something very hard. What I didn’t know at the time was that my dad had put my bishop up to this. He called the bishop and said, “I just want you to find the nastiest job you can possibly think of and give that job to Jeff.”

Now, had I known that at the time, I probably would have been a little bit upset with my dad, but now I look back and I’m so grateful for a father who taught me the value of diligent work because it has enabled me to accomplish some very hard things in my life.

The third strategy is to give generously. The prophet Jacob in both 2 Nephi 9 and Jacob 2 gives us some advice about how to expend our financial resources. He counsels us, “Do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy” (2 Nephi 9:51). And in Jacob 2, he tells us to “seek [riches] for the intent to do good—to clothe . . . to feed . . . to liberate . . . [to] administer relief” (verse 19).

What’s amazing about this principle is that research shows consistently that spending money on other people brings more happiness that spending money on yourself. Now, there’s a certain level of income at which you have the ability to provide for the necessities of life, and so to some extent, money can buy a little happiness—to the extent that you don’t have to worry about where your food is coming from or where you’re going to sleep at night. But once you have those necessities satisfied, spending money on others brings more happiness than spending money on yourself.

So in one of these experiments, researchers at the University of British Columbia recruited people on a college campus and gave them anywhere from five to twenty dollars. And before they gave them the money, they asked them to fill out a happiness test. And with one group of students, they said, “We want you to go out and we want you to spend this money on yourself.” And on another group, they said, “We want you to spend this money on someone else.” Then at the end of the day, they contacted these students and they gave them this happiness test again. They found that those that had spent the money on other people were significantly more happy than the students who had spent the money on themselves. And they found this effect over and over again with small and large sums of money, in almost every country of the world (except the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they’re not quite sure why that one is a little bit different).

Luckily for us ordinary folks, even more modest forms of generosity can make us happy. We found that asking people to spend money on others, from giving to charity to buying gifts for friends and family, reliably makes them happier than spending that same money on themselves.

The same is true of your time—not just your financial resources, but your time. I love this quote by President Snow about service. He says,

When you find yourself a little gloomy, look around you and find somebody that is in a worse plight than yourself, go to him and find out what the trouble is, then try to remove it with the wisdom which the Lord bestows upon you; and the first thing you know, your gloom is gone, you feel light, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, and everything seems illuminated” (Conference Report, Apr. 1899, 2–3).

So don’t spend your money and your time on that which cannot satisfy. And one of the greatest ways that you can spend your time and your money is in doing good to other people. Some of us think, “Well, I’ll do that when I’ve made my living. I’ll do that when I’m rich. Then I’ll give back.” That’s a terrible idea. Start now. Don’t just be a full tithe payer. Don’t just give a generous offering, but find worthy causes and ways that you can use your time and your resources to do good.

I have a student that I taught who came to me last semester. My wife and I were doing some raising of awareness and funds for a foundation that has to do with a disorder that our youngest son has. I’m going to talk to you in a minute about my youngest son. But this student said, “My wife and I decided when we got married that, in addition to paying our tithes and offerings, we would set aside a certain amount of income every year to give to a worthy cause. And as we’ve heard about your wife and as we’ve heard about your son, we’d like to donate that amount of money to your son’s foundation this year.”

I was just overwhelmed. Here is this poor undergrad student, just like you guys. He is trying to get into med school. And the amount of money that he donated—I won’t tell you how much it was, but it wasn’t an enormous donation. But what an incredible example of someone early in his life, when he and his wife are poor, who is willing to give generously. So, as you think about your situation, think about how you can use your time and your financial resources to do good for other people. And it will be a source of lasting happiness.

The fourth strategy is to thank frequently. We learn in Doctrine and Covenants 98, we are commanded to “rejoice . . . and in everything give thanks” (verse 1). How many of you feel you are living up to that commandment—giving thanks in everything?

I love the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17, where one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. We know a little bit about the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. So it was a Samaritan who came and gave thanks.

“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (verses 17–19).

And just like giving, researchers are finding robust findings suggesting that gratitude is directly correlated with happiness. In one study, done by a group of researchers at a top university, they had an experiment where they had one group journal—well, they had three groups that journaled. And to one group, the researchers said they wanted that group to write things that they were grateful for that had occurred during that week. And a second group wrote about daily irritations. And then the third group wrote about events that affected them, but there was no guidance given about whether they should write about things that were positive or negative.

Ten weeks later, the researchers found that those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic, that they felt better about their lives, and there were physiological effects: they exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation. So, that simple act of journaling things that you are grateful for every day—ten weeks later. That’s incredible to have an intervention that lasts ten weeks later and has both psychological and physiological effects.

Another researcher by the name of Martin Seligman has done an enormous number of studies about positive psychology, and they were testing the impact of different types of psychological interventions. And the test that they had one group do was to write and deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness. In the short run, immediately, there was a large increase in their happiness scores. But the impact was greater than anything else that they tried or experimented with, and the impact lasted a month. So, four weeks later they still found that this practice of thanking someone for something that they’d never been thanked for had a significant effect on their happiness. So thank frequently.

I don’t know what the baseline rate of gratitude is. I can tell you from my students—every semester, out of about 200 students, I’ll have maybe eight or nine that will shoot me an email. Sometimes they will come by my office with a handwritten note, thanking me. Do you know what I do with those notes? I put them on the windowsill in my office so that I look at them every day because they are meaningful to me. I’m so grateful for the people that come back—the one, the two, the eight that come back and give thanks. And not only does it bless my life, but it blesses their lives. They are more happy, too.

The last principle that I want to talk about is enduring patiently. We learn in Alma 31 that we can receive strength in our trials, that our afflictions can be swallowed up in the joy of Christ (see verse 38).  And Paul’s famous declaration: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

As you look at those future pictures—again, you have no clue what they are going to look like, but I can promise you one thing: you are going to experience trials; you’re going to experience challenges; you are going to experience heartache. There’s no doubt about that.

I’ve always been struck by this graph [referring to a slide]. Dan Gilbert, who is a famous psychologist at Harvard Business School and studies happiness, surveyed lottery winners and paraplegics a year after the event. And what do you notice about these bars [referring to a slide]? They are exactly the same. In fact, if you look at it, paraplegics are actually directionally slightly higher. It wouldn’t be a significant difference, but it’s directionally higher. And Dan Gilbert says,

If you go blind or lose a fortune, you’ll find there’s a whole new life on the other side of those events. And you’ll find many things about that new life are quite good. In fact, you’ll undoubtedly find a few things that are even better than what you had before. You’re not lying to yourself; you’re not delusional. You’re discovering things you didn’t know—couldn’t know until you were in that new life. You are looking for things that make your new life better, you are finding them, and they are making you happy. What is most striking to me as a scientist is that most of us don’t realize how good we’re going to be at finding these things. We’d never say, “Oh, of course, if I lost my money or my wife left me, I’d find a way to be just as happy as I am now.” We’d never say it—but it’s true (“The Science behind the Smile,” Harvard Business Review,Jan. 2012).

In my two years at BYU as I have gotten to know my students on a more personal level, one of the things I have marveled is some of the trials and challenges that my students go through. And so in preparation for a test, I felt impressed to reach out to one of those students. His name is Andrew. And Andrew was just finishing up his school year and had a summer job in another part of the country, had been married about a year and a half, and was so excited to learn that he and his wife were expecting a baby girl. When they got to the new state where he was going to be working for the summer, they set up an appointment with the doctor. She was about 33 weeks into her pregnancy, and a pregnancy normally lasts 40 weeks. Well, the morning of the appointment before she went in, she started to experience contractions, and she went into labor. So they rushed her to this doctor, and the doctor performed an ultrasound and came back and with a very concerned look on his face said, “There is something seriously wrong. Your daughter has a rare condition that causes fluid to build up in her internal compartments, and we need to Life Flight you right away to the downtown of the city where there is a more experienced team and a giant medical center.”

So while his wife was Life Flighted, my student was in a car being rushed to the hospital, and he said, “I’ve never been so scared in my life.” They got to the hospital and she commenced labor. She labored for hours, and finally it came time to push. And she pushed for about seven hours before they finally said, “We need to do an emergency C-section.” They did the emergency C-section, and this little girl was born without a heartbeat. They rushed this little girl to the next room to try to revive her, did everything that they could, and suddenly burst into the room and said, “We were able to find a heartbeat.” And so there was this moment of hope where they thought that maybe things were going to be okay. But a short time later, the doctors came back, and they said, “We’ve tried everything, and we can’t sustain her life.” And so, after just a few hours of life, this little girl passed away.

I want to share with you some words from Andrew. He said,

Throughout that time I felt so scared, but never alone. I knew no matter what happened, we would be okay. Throughout our stay in the hospital, we read talks from prophets and apostles, and scriptures that provided us great comfort. Our family and friends gave us great comfort, and it was humbling to see love and support coming our way from so many people across the world. The greatest piece of comfort was the knowledge that our Savior was there by our side to comfort us. We knew that because of His Atonement, when Olivia passed away He was there to welcome her with open arms. I knew that she was saved.

I also felt comforted to know that because of Jesus Christ, Olivia would never again have a battered, bruised, and imperfect body, but she would be glorified and perfected. It was also a very sad time for us and our families, but the more I thought about it, I realized that Olivia was now perfectly happy. Because she was perfectly happy, I wanted to be as happy as possible as well. I felt that if I tried to be like her and be perfectly happy, I could feel closer to her than I would if I were to be constantly sad and depressed. I knew that the Savior had suffered this hardship for me. He had borne my afflictions and grief so that I would not be required to do so alone.

As sad a time as that was, I can’t remember ever feeling closer to my Savior. He truly lifted and supported us. I’ve learned no matter what our challenges may be, whether it be losing a child or getting a failing grade on a test, the Savior has suffered that pain for me. I realized it is better to look forward in faith and hope on what is yet to come than to constantly look back and dwell upon the negative. We can take each hardship in our lives and learn from it and use it to improve our lives moving forward. Each of us really does choose to apply the Atonement in our lives, and when we do, our burdens are lifted and the future becomes much brighter than we ever could have imagined.

Incredible. I’m so grateful for the chance I have to teach students just like you with this kind of faith and these kinds of testimonies in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

This is my son, Sam. Sam is a year and a half old, and Anne and I had our own scary moment when we went to our 18-week ultrasound. We found out that Sam has inverted organs. So Sam’s heart is not on the left side; it’s on the right side. His stomach is not on the left side; it’s on the right side. And guess where his appendix is? It’s not on the right side; it’s on the left side. So we joke that he is created in God’s mirror image. Now, this can be highly consequential, or it can be not consequential at all. Randy Foy used to play for the Utah Jazz, and Randy Foy has this condition, called situs inversus. But situs inversus can also be a sign of an underlying genetic disorder called ciliary dyskinesia. Ciliary dyskinesia affects the cilia that line your respiratory system. In your ears and basically anywhere that your body produces mucus you have cilia that beat in a coordinated fashion and move that mucus along. And so, we knew that there might be a possibility that Sam had CD, but we sure prayed that he didn’t.

Well, after Sam was born, the doctor sent us home with a clean bill of health, and we thought we had won the lottery, that we had this backwards kid. For those of you who speak Spanish, before he was born we called him opuesto, which means opposite. So he is our little opuesto. But a few days after we got home from the hospital, Sam started to suffer respiratory distress. It was clear that he was having a really difficult time breathing. We had to return to the emergency room, where they checked his oxygen levels and found that he needed supplemental oxygen. After subsequent testing, we found that he had this genetic disorder called PCD, primary ciliary dyskinesia. PCD can be really serious. It causes symptoms that are a lot like cystic fibrosis; it can cause your lungs to sustain damage. You’re much more prone to flus and bacterial pneumonia, so it can be a progressive disease—it gets worse and worse over the course of your life.

I’m quite open with my students about Sam and the amazing little kid that he is. And I had a student once that emailed me, and he said, “How do you remain patient as you deal with the challenges that you son is going through?”

This is what I wrote to this student: “You asked how I continue being patient and faithful with illnesses of my kids. I’d simply say this has become much easier as I have started to let go of an end to my adversity as the object of my faith, and I have adopted learning in my adversity as the object of my faith. I don’t pray anymore for Sam to be okay. He may live a long life, or he may not. He may be healthy enough to serve a mission, and he may not. He may marry someday, or he may not. He may have kids someday, or he may not. But I’ve come to a new understanding of what it means for my son to be okay. To be okay does not mean he will have a life free from physical, mental, or emotional challenges, with some happily ever after ending. His body, which I once viewed as limited, will likely be one of the most important vehicles to teach him and me and countless others priceless lessons that will shape our character to become more like the Savior. Now, as I look into his eyes, he is more than okay; he is perfect. His illness is not an adversary; it is a teacher. And my goal is to learn as much from him as possible and make sure that his disorder has its intended impact on him and me, to fit us to live with God again someday.”

I love this quote by Elder Holland: “Salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us, when it was never, ever easy for Him?” (“Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar. 2001.)

Brigham Young also said, “It is recorded that Jesus was made perfect through suffering. . . . Why should we imagine for one moment that we can be prepared to enter into the kingdom of rest with him and the Father, without passing through similar ordeals?” (Arranged by John A. Widtsoe, Discourses of Brigham Young, Desert Book Company: Salt Lake City, Utah, 30:331.)

I love this quote by Elder Eyring. If you haven’t read his talk “Mountains to Climb,” . . . this brings me great comfort. He says,

I cannot promise [you] an end to your adversity in this life. I cannot assure that your trials will seem to you to be only for a moment. One of the characteristics of trials in life is that they seem to make clocks slow down and then appear almost to stop.

There are reasons for that. Knowing the reasons may not give [you] much comfort, but it can give you a feeling of patience. Those reasons come from this one fact: in Their perfect love for you, Heavenly Father and the Savior want you fitted to be with Them to live in families forever. Only those washed perfectly clean through the Atonement of Christ can be there (Apr. 2012 General Conference).

So again, as you think about those pictures, I can promise you they will be filled with challenge. They will be filled with sorrow. They will be filled with heartache. Don’t abandon your faith in those moments, because it is those moments that are intended to build your faith. It’s those moments that are intended to help you better understand Jesus Christ, to help you better understand His Atonement, and to help you better understand the strengthening power that He can provide you as you pass through those moments.

So if you have a hard time finding a spouse, if you have a hard time having kids, if you have kids with illness or kids that are taken from you at an early age, don’t curse God. Don’t think He doesn’t love you, because it’s those moments that He puts you in that may be the very act of love that you need to be fitted for the kingdom of God.

Now, we’ve talked about these five strategies, and I want to issue you a challenge. Maybe one of these had stood out to you. Maybe one of these has resonated with you, or the Spirit has touched your heart and prompted you to take action in one of these areas. I want you to write down my email address, and I challenge you to flood my inbox with stories and examples and experiences that you have this week, next week, this month, this year, applying the things that we have talked about. And I promise you that as you apply these principles in your life that they will lead to greater happiness. They will preserve for you a future of happiness.

I want to leave my testimony. I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that He is our Lord and Savior, that through His atoning sacrifice, we truly can become strengthened beyond our own. I’m so grateful for His Atonement. I’m so grateful for His life. I’m so grateful for His teachings. And I’m grateful for this chance I had to be with you and share these principles. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Introduction: President J. Lawrence Richards

Brother Jeffrey S. Bednar is an assistant professor of organizational leadership and strategy at Brigham Young University. You might guess by his last name and the way he looks, you might know who his parents are. He was raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas before moving to Rexburg, Idaho, where he finished high school while his father served as president of BYU—Idaho. After he finished high school, he attended BYU for a year and served in the England London Mission. Now this gets complicated as well—His mission president was Steven Wheelwright, who is the president of BYU—Hawaii. His missionary companion was Brady Kimber, the HR director of the Business College. You don’t have to go far in the Church to be connected in wonderful ways.

After returning from his mission, Brother Bednar received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in accounting from BYU. He married Ann Burkstead, and they moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he completed a PhD in management and organizations from the University of Michigan. Brother Bednar recently returned to BYU as an assistant professor in organizational leadership and strategy in the BYU Marriott School of Management. His research focuses on how individuals and collectives construct and maintain their identities and how they respond to various identity challenges. He teaches organizational behavior courses and works with organizations that are wrestling with issues related to leadership, identity, and culture. He and his wife are the parents of three children. We are grateful that Brother Bednar would take time from his teaching assignments at BYU to come and be with us.


The House of My Heart

12 Aug. 2015

Transcript

The House of My Heart

Thank you. At the top of the list of College-wide outcomes at LDS Business College is to “confirm personal testimony . . . of Jesus Christ.” My goal today, brothers and sisters, is to do just that. I hope that your testimonies will be strengthened as I attempt to share a pivotal point in my life when my testimony began to blossom.

During my freshman year at BYU, my identical twin brother and I were invited to participate in a pilot project for the Church. It was new, entitled “Our Heavenly Father’s Plan.” Do any of these pictures look familiar or bring back memories? My guess is the vast majority of this audience wasn’t even born when this program was instituted.

In any event, the Church aired a number of television commercials all across the United States that targeted every age, every culture and background. These ads centered on one theme. Can you guess what that theme is? “What is the purpose of life?” Here is an example:

[Film clip]

Voice of young woman: The purpose of life? I really couldn’t tell you. I’m just kind of living it to live, I guess. I’m here.

Young man: Everyone is here for a purpose. What that is, I don’t know.

Woman: I think you can pass it up if you don’t know what the purpose is. You just go through life and never even know.

Young man: For me, the purpose of life is to achieve the things that, the gifts that God has given me.

Young woman: I don’t know what the purpose of life is. What do you think?

Man: I really don’t have any real purpose. Working toward retirement is all.

Various voices: What is the purpose of life?

To achieve knowledge.

That’s a toughie. I think the purpose of life is to live a good life and serve God.

I’m not sure there is a purpose to life. I have no idea. You tell me.

[Singing]: The melody’s familiar

Various voices: What’s the purpose of life?

I have no idea. I’m trying to figure it out.

[Singing]: I’ve heard this song before.

Man: What is the purpose of life? Life in general, in abstract? I can’t help but ask these questions. I’m sorry.

[Singing]: I’ve been around ten thousand years, and maybe even more.

Various voices: What do you think the purpose of life is?

I’ve been trying to figure that out all my life.

[Singing]:

I’ve got to find out who I am.

I’ve got to find out who I am.

Got to know and got to see what’s making me—me.

I’ve got to find out who I am.

I’ve got to find out who I am.

And when I do, I know I’ll be what I can.

When I find out who I am.

I’ll be all I can, when I find out who I am.

 

After viewing these ads, these thought-provoking commercials, viewers would call a toll-free number and receive—they would ask for a free video that would answer this critical, crucial, poignant, universal question: “What is the purpose of life?” Well, guess what my job was? To answer those phone calls and to set up appointments for the full-time missionaries. It was the perfect preparation for my mission because six months later, I was on the receiving end of those very referrals and I was able to see firsthand the miracle of the success of this new Church program.

On one occasion while I was involved in this project, I remember my returned missionary supervisor, Cheryl. She shared a spiritual thought that changed my life. She shared a thought every day just before the shift started for the day. We always had a spiritual thought and prayer before we began to answer the phone calls. Just like Joseph Smith, “never did [such a spiritual thought] come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. [Her words] seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on [them] again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God [or to come to know Christ better], I did” (see Joseph Smith—History 1:12).

I hope you will indulge me, my brothers and sisters, as I attempt to share that powerful thought with you today with the same spirit and conviction that my supervisor did in 1987. It’s called “The House of My Heart” (see Robert Boyd Munger, “My Heart Christ’s Home.”)

One day when I really understood what Jesus Christ had done for me, I invited Him to come into the house of my heart. And as soon as I invited Him, He came without any hesitation. And while He was there, He filled my house with joy, and I wanted to run and tell all my neighbors about my guest and how wonderful it was to have Him there. When everything was settled, I said, “I hope you will stay and feel perfectly at home here.” And He said, “I’m sure I will, and now since we are new friends, why don’t you show me around? I would very much like to see the library in the house of your heart.” And so I did.

Now, in my house, the library is very small and has very thick walls and is filled with everything I have read, books, magazines, news articles; everything I have seen, like TV shows, movies, plays; all the Sunday School and seminary lessons I have listened to, the sermons, the lectures—they’re all there in the library. His eyes gazed over the things that were on the shelf, and I was a little embarrassed that there was so much trivia there. I wished that more scriptures and Church books were mine and on the shelf.

I suggested to Him that maybe I could stand a little bit of renovation in this room, and He agreed that maybe we together could add more worthwhile things to the library. You see, the library is a very important room because it’s the control room for the whole house. It affects the lighting, the electricity, and everything else in the house. Would you agree? Have you seen a convert to the Church? Are they glowing? Is there electricity in their life? What are we reading? What are we watching? What are we listening to? What is in our library? Ponder that.

Next, He said He would like to see the dining room. Now in my house, this is a very large room—kind of the opposite of the library, which is very small, right? This is a very large room because this is the room of appetites and desires, and it was stacked with all kinds of boxes and things. I told Him I was always hungry but that I never seemed to be satisfied. He said, “It’s because you are eating the wrong things.” He said, “If you would diet as I do, you would never feel hunger, for I live on the word of the Lord, the Father.” Then He offered me a taste of it, and it was delicious—and oh, the flavor of it.

What did Lehi see? That precious fruit, most desirable above all. And what did Lehi want to do with that fruit? Share it, right? He wanted everybody else to partake of the fruit. (See 1 Nephi 8.)

I agreed with Him that this alone satisfied me, and I knew that I would spend less time in the dining room now that He was a guest in my house.

Next, He said He would like to see my workshop. Now I had a workshop; it was down in the basement. And we went down and looked at all the talents and skills—we looked at the workbench. But I hadn’t really used those talents and skills to produce much. Oh, there were a few gadgets and trinkets and half-finished projects, but nothing really of great value. So I said, “Well, if I wasn’t quite so busy I could do better. I know all the tools are there, but I’m awkward and clumsy and I don’t know how to use them.”

So He said, “Would you like to be able to use the tools in your workshop?”

And I said, “Oh yes, would you help me?” And He said, “I was wondering if you were ever going to ask me.” So He stood behind me, and He put His great powerful hands over mine and guided them, and He showed me how to use the tools in my workshop. And with His hands directing mine, I marveled at the work of art that came out.

And I said, “Now that you have helped me, I am going to come into this room often. This will be a fun room to come to. Will you always help me?”

And He said, “Yes, if you invite me to, but I never come unless I am invited.”

Brothers and sisters, are we using the tools–those skills, talents, strengths—that the Lord has blessed us with? Are we putting them to use? Are we furthering His purposes?

We left the workshop, and the next room we went into was the drawing room. Now this was a small, quiet, peaceful place in my heart for deep thoughts and meditation, and He seemed pleased with it and comfortable there. So He said, “Let’s meet here together often, at least twice a day, and you can tell me about all your activities, all of your ambitions and goals, all of your problems and challenges. We’ll talk it over together every day.”

I thought that sounded wonderful, so I made an appointment with Him that I would do that. And I did at first, faithfully. But then I got too busy, and sometimes I would forget to come in the morning, and sometimes I would forget to come at night, and sometimes days would go by and we never even had a chat at all. Now, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to Him, it was just that I was so busy and had so much to do.

Then one day as I went to leave, I noticed Him standing in the doorway of the drawing room. And I said, “Have you been waiting there every morning for me?”

“Yes, he replied.”

I said, “You’re a guest in my house, and I have neglected you, and I’m so sorry.” I had called on Him when I was in need to come and help me, but that was the way I used Him. When things were going well, I didn’t really think we needed our chat as much as when things were bad. So I decided that it had been a very one-sided relationship, and I also realized that He missed me. So I said, “Maybe there’s something I could do for you?”

He said, “I was wondering when you were going to ask.” Summer of service, right? What are we focusing on this summer? Service. “I have so many projects and so many things that need to be done. I could use a good friend,” like every one of you. “For one thing, I have no money in the world at all. Can I use some of yours? And there are people I cannot see. I could send you and commission you to go and represent me. Would you do that?”

“I’d love to go!” So I went, and I experienced great joy in this—as all of you returned missionaries can attest to, right? There is great joy in that work. But then I got rebellious, and I said, “You demand too much of me. Can’t I have anything to myself? After all, I have things I want to do, things I want to spend my money on, and you’re always there needing something.” Now that wasn’t a very nice way to treat a guest.

And then He said, “Look at the nature of my projects and who benefits from them.” And then I really was ashamed because everything I did benefited me as well as others, and not Him personally. So I continued His work.

But then one day He said, “There is a peculiar odor in this house, and it’s coming from that locked closet. And although you’ve let me into every room in your house, that one door has always remained locked, and you’ve never let me in.”

Now that made me mad! I had let Him into every room in my house; I ran and did His errands for Him; I even let Him use my money. And now He wanted to look in my secret closet. So I said, “No! I hold the key, and I will not let you in. It’s small, only about 2 feet by 4 feet. The rest of my house is large enough and perfectly presentable, so it shouldn’t make any difference.”

And He said, “I cannot stay in this house if you do not give me the key to the closet.” So He left.

I was sad. Despair, gloom, and depression came over me. Because you see, once having had Christ as a guest in my house, life was unbearable without Him. And so I went and tearfully pleaded with Him. I begged Him, “Come back, and I will give you the key to the closet! I will withhold nothing from you–I cannot stand to live without you!” And so I gave Him the key, and He opened it. And then quickly and efficiently, He cleaned out all those things that were dead and rotten that I wanted to pretend were not there and just wanted to ignore. He cleaned the whole closet out! He fumigated it, painted it, and made it perfectly acceptable. Afterwards, I said, “I’m so ashamed that you know what was in my closet.”

He replied, “Why, I see only a house that is totally acceptable to me.” And then I knew why I loved Him so, and why of all my biggest brothers only this one could love me enough to clean out my closet. And then He said, “You know, it’s a strange thing. I’ve cleaned out so many closets, but it really is a strange thing because I can never remember afterwards what was in them.”

After a few moments, I said, “I get so tired of cleaning up all the time. I go from one room to the other trying to keep up in the drawing room, the dining room, the workshop, the library. I’m always behind. I was wondering, could you be the owner and I be the guest? We would just switch positions. Instead of me calling on you to help me, you could call on me to help you. Is that possible?”

“Why yes, that’s why I came the first time you invited me.” So I ran and got the deed to my house, I signed it over to Him, and I said, “I’m yours! It belongs to you, and I withhold nothing from you. I cannot stand to live without you.”

After I gave Him the deed, He immediately started remodeling the house. He was not content to own a cottage. He was the master, the architect, the planner, the builder. He told me that eventually we would end up with a magnificent castle. It would take a while to build, but we would build it together. So He started the remodeling. He was the master of the house, and I was His servant, and I did whatever He bid. And there were times when clouds of war, hate, and sin came and gathered around the house. And they beat and demanded entry into the house. But because He was the Lord of the house, it had a firm foundation and none of these things were allowed to enter. Inside the house was warmth, peace, and tranquility regardless of what was outside.

He told me that as time went on that He would move my house to another city. He would take care of all the arrangements, and I wouldn’t even have to know the day it took place or when. He said I would be in a city where He had the deed to all the houses and there would be no storms, no darkness, no temptations, and I would like the neighbors better.

It sounded wonderful, and I looked forward to it with eagerness. And, I looked back so long ago when I first invited Christ to come into the house of my heart, and I wondered why I had been so stingy and reluctant to want to turn myself over to Him. Because He showered me with gifts. He took care of all the remodeling, and I was always the debtor.

Brothers and sisters, may we continue to invite Christ into the house of our heart—often, at least weekly. And if we get the courage, let’s give Him the deed to our houses; let’s submit our will to His, and see what happens. Look at what He will do with you and me when we turn ourselves over to Him. I promise that you’ll be impressed with the results. I leave this with you humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Introduction: President J. Lawrence Richards

Let me introduce to you Brother Darren Butterfield. Brother Butterfield was born in Bountiful, Utah, about nine minutes after his identical twin brother, David. Some of us have had a chance to meet his brother David. They are more than identical. It’s a little spooky—I’ll be honest. He grew up in West Jordan, Utah, with four brothers and a sister. And after serving a Spanish-speaking mission in Ventura, California, he attended BYU—Provo where he taught Spanish at the Mission Training Center for three years and then seminary for one year. After finishing his formal education, Brother Butterfield began a career at the Covey Leadership Center, where he coordinated public programs, and leadership development training for Fortune 500 companies. Two colleges invited him to teach business and communication courses, and soon thereafter, Brother Butterfield’s two classes turned into nine, and before long his career changed from human resources to higher education.

Darren has served in various callings in the Church, including in elders quorum presidencies, Young Men’s presidencies, early morning seminary, in a bishopric, and as a gospel doctrine instructor, gospel principles instructor, and is currently serving his third term as ward mission leader. When he speaks, you will understand why a wise bishop would call him to three terms as a ward mission leader.

In July 2012, he was prompted by the Spirit to return to Salt Lake to continue his career in education with LDS Business College. He has been teaching business courses and computer courses and general education courses ever since then. Recently, he accepted a full-time position with the College to be our learning management systems director—for all of you, that’s over BrainHoney and, at some time, its replacement.

Darren is married to the former Jerilyn Johnson. They have five children; we introduced them earlier. He calls them his dream basketball team. Brother Butterfield’s hobbies include basketball, tennis, water-skiing, snow skiing, golf, and he includes as a hobby family vacations. Very wise.

Brothers and sisters, you are in for a treat today. I have never had a conversation with Darren that I haven’t walked away uplifted by his enthusiasm, and his love for life, and his love for the gospel, and his love for the mission of the College. I’m not sure what he has for breakfast, Sister Butterfield, but I would like some because it sets him right for the entire day.


Hope and Faith

03 Sep. 2015

Transcript

Hope and Faith

Brothers and Sisters, it’s really an honor for my wife, Cindy, my daughter, Stephanie and me to be here for this occasion.  Thank you to those who made this invitation possible. Thank you for the beautiful music.  I believe I’ve known President Richards for 10 years now.  I know what you all know about him of his great qualities but especially his quality of being approachable, how easily he is entreated, taking time to connect with people just as he greeted all of you at the door.  No matter how rushed or busy he is, and being a president of a college you know he is always busy, he takes the time to visit and listen.  Thank you, President Richards.

 

Over the last seven years, Cindy and I have had the privilege to know and welcome hundreds of young adults into our home – I’m referring to our wonderful and precious missionaries and our dear ward members from the BYU singles ward where I served as bishop until recently.  I’ve been so impressed with the intelligence, faithfulness, resiliency and the strength of character among the young adults that I’ve had the privilege of knowing and come to love.  In the hundreds of personal interviews with young single adults, I’ve learned about their goals, aspirations, career plans, worries, and anxieties about the future, as well as the regrets, sorrows and feelings of self-doubt.  For some, as I have listened, especially to returned missionaries, I have learned of personal disappointment that they have expressed for somehow falling short, for making mistakes and not accomplishing what they had expected to.

 

So this morning, I wish to talk about hope and faith; the hope and faith needed to press forward, to not lose our way, specifically the hope in the promises of the Atonement and the faith anchored in the Lord Jesus Christ.  I know that for many in this audience, I’m singing to the choir.  The way you have lived your lives and worked hard for the privilege to be a student here at LDS Business College is indicative of the hope and faith that is already within you.

 

The prophet Moroni knew our day (Moroni 8:35-36) and he wrote to an audience, which is us, the readers of the Book of Mormon, with counsel specific to our needs.  He knew that we would be tempted to live in a world after the manner of people that “walk in the pride of [their] hearts;” nevertheless, Moroni focused much of his writing to include words from his father, Mormon, on hope, faith and charity to counter the prevailing negative beliefs that would entangle us to not believe, to not have faith in Christ. He knew we would live at a time when people would be skeptical and find it difficult to believe in miracles, that we would be vulnerable to giving into our doubts (Moroni 7:37-38), straying from the source of true happiness and peace. Recently, Elder Quentin L. Cook, stated,

 

“Lucifer has created a counterfeit or illusion of happiness that is inconsistent with righteousness and will mislead us if we are not vigilant.  Many of our problems today occur because the secular world has been pursuing an incorrect definition of happiness.”  (Ensign, July 2015, “Reaping the Rewards of Righteousness,” 37)  

 

Every so often, there comes into our lives an experience, a defining moment that shapes our character and builds the faith we need. Most of these refining moments come in trials, personal difficulties and setbacks.  There is need for opposition or else we would not grow into becoming a person that can act for himself versus being acted upon, to learn godly qualities and become all that a loving Father in Heaven wants us to become (2 Nephi 2:11, 14-16, 26).  How and why we respond to opposition has much to do with the way we will endure through the next challenge, and the challenge after that and challenges that keep coming throughout our mortality.

 

In my freshman year at a two-year college in California, I enrolled in an English class.  It was a writing class with a focus on analyzing several well-known English and American writers, like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.  In this class, every week the teacher asked us to write an essay on a topic of our own choosing, but with the assignment of imitating the prose of the author we were discussing.  It became evident, after the first four weeks that I was struggling.  Paper after paper that I had submitted came back with a poor grade.  I was about as close to failing as I ever had been.  So I decided to go meet with my teacher in her office.  She welcomed my visit and we immediately reviewed my progress.  My intent was to know what was I not understanding and how could I do better.   As we reviewed my papers, she asked me about my academic aspirations and career plans.  After listening, she told me that there would be a small chance of any for me to meet the requirements to graduate from college.  She was straightforward and unequivocal in her assessment.  I was not likely to graduate because I couldn’t write well; I didn’t know the rules of grammar, and I didn’t know how to structure sentences.  She recommended that I drop out and pursue a path that did not require a college degree.   It was a beautiful fall day when I walked out of her office towards the Church institute building, but inside, I was feeling devastated.  What I heard was that not only was I failing but also that I was a failure. I was stung by the conviction of her words and her absolute confidence that there was no hope for my graduating from college.  

 

Part of the hurt that I was feeling that fall day was that I knew, deep down, that there was some truth to what she had said.  My writing was terrible, and I really wasn’t prepared for the rigors of college writing, at least not yet.

 

This was a pivotal moment for me.  I was barely 18 years old and how I responded would have an impact on me for the rest of my life.   What I learned about getting through that experience would depend upon the hope, faith and character that I needed to cultivate to learn from it.   Thankfully, I had loving parents that were there for me, but I learned as a result of that experience and many since that I needed to turn to the Lord for help.  So while my teacher’s perspective to hear was a bitter pill to swallow, the blessing was that I was pushed to my knees with a heartfelt plea to the Lord to help me not be discouraged and to learn what I needed to learn about myself to succeed in college.  The Prophet Joseph taught that to have faith, one must know that God exists, a correct understanding his attributes, traits and characteristics and lastly, to know that the path of life we are on is in accordance with God’s will (Lectures on Faith, Lecture Third).  This experience and many like it have helped me greatly value the words of the Prophet Joseph, the underpinnings of developing faith through the whirlwinds of trials.  

 

Know the Lord

 

The Apostle John wrote that to know God and his son Jesus Christ is life eternal (John 17:3).  Many of us are returned missionaries and during our mission we invited people to come unto Christ, to know God.  As missionaries we would teach from the scriptures, asking investigators to read and share their feelings as we carefully taught them how to know and feel for themselves “whether the doctrine be of God” (John 7:17).  We also invited them to pray and to know God personally through prayer, reading the words of scriptures and living prophets and apostles, a process that invited the Spirit of the Lord to reach the deepest corners of their heart.  We introduced them to the commandments and invited them to keep them, even when it might have been difficult to do so, especially when the people we taught felt they were already happy in how they lived their lives.  I would add that coming unto Christ holds true for all of us.  We know in personal ways that the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires that we make changes in our lives when we take steps of faith.  To know God is to know that God loved us first (1 John 4: 19), and that He gives us commandments or invitations to experience His love and abundant kindnesses or what Lehi described as a fruit, most sweet and desirable above all other forms of happiness that the world has to offer (1 Nephi 8:10-12).  Elder D. Todd Christofferson, in speaking of the Savior’s love, said:

 

“Truly He loves us, and because He loves us, He neither compels nor abandons us.  Rather He helps and guides us.  Indeed, the real manifestation of God’s love is His commandments.”  (Ensign, November 2014, “Free Forever, to Act for Themselves” Elder D. Todd Christofferson, 17)

 

For many of us, we learned through the eyes of the investigators that God is in the details of our lives, that we really matter.  Blessings in the smallest detail come to those who are willing to ask, receive and be discerning.  Every test we take in school, every concern we have about our jobs, every social date we go on and every worry we have no matter how small is important to the Lord.  And why would these things be important to the Lord?  Because he doesn’t want us to lose hope and deny the faith by being tripped up over a small detail in our life.   We don’t wake up one day and decide in a big way, “Today is the day I’m going to stop reading the scriptures or stop praying or stop attending the temple.”  We get to that point very gradually, most often in very small steps, over time.   So the Lord does lovingly care about the details of our lives.

 

Speaking to the cynics of our day, to those who have chosen to deny the existence of God, of revelations, gifts and miracles, Moroni explains how this gradual drift from truth takes place:  

 

And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;

 Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.

 For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?

 10 And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles. (Mormon 9: 7-10)

 

Moroni lays out the dangers of not having sincere prayer and making a study of the scriptures and of the words of latter-day prophets a part of who we are.  Now we certainly don’t need to be scholars or gospel experts, but we also don’t want our prayers or gospel study to be perfunctory, casual or a “check list” obligation that we have to fulfill.  By not seeking to know God through prayer and scriptures, we grow distant from God. We unlearn what we once held true in our hearts and soon forget the spiritual stirrings that reassured us of God’s love.  Childlike faith and hope becomes cold and stale (Alma 12:9-11; 24:30).  Instead of coming to know the Lord, we imagine up unto ourselves a God who is unfair, indifferent and not loving in order to justify our choices and behavior.  We imagine offences and injustices where there are none.  Worse, with little hope and faith to hold onto, we imagine that there are no miracles and we put conditions on the Lord in whom it’s hard to believe could be all powerful and merciful (1 Nephi 9:6; Alma 26:35).  All of this is because we become casual in our coming unto Christ.  For those to whom there is no longer a desire to pray and return to the scriptures or keep the commandments, the Lord, with lovingkindess, invites us to experiment, just to experiment in a small way “…and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye have no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you….” (Alma 32:27).   

 

When their struggles and trials became difficult, instead of turning to the Lord, Laman and Lemuel imagined up a lot of negative things and did “…murmur because they knew not the dealings of God…”(1 Nephi 2:12).  Even after the miracles they witnessed going through the desert, which would be no easy ordeal for anyone, they imagined that Nephi was a liar, using “cunning arts” that he may lead them into some strange wilderness, thinking that he would make himself a king (1 Nephi 16: 38).  None of which, as we know, was Nephi’s intention.  If ever there was false worry and anxiety, Laman and Lemuel possessed it.   All of this imagining in their minds because they did not look to God and inquire for themselves to ask if Lehi’s vision was really true (1 Nephi 15:3, 8-11).

 

If we do not come to know the “dealings of God,” we run the risk of replacing an eternal perspective for a short, myopic perspective that will never satisfy (2 Nephi 9:50-52).  Like Laman and Lemuel, if we neglect to nurture the seeds of faith we also fail to understand that God’s ways are not our ways (Alma 32: 38-40 and Isaiah 55: 8-9).  

 

Sometimes, however, bad things happen to good people.  We are familiar with Joseph, the son of Jacob. He was betrayed and sold by his brothers into bondage to the Ishmeelites (Genesis 37: 27-28).  If we were Joseph, we might be thinking, why me, what did I do to deserve this?  And even after he became a slave, he was imprisoned for keeping the law of chastity for not giving into the temptations of Potiphar’s wife.   So if we were Joseph, there might be several occasions to murmur, to complain but Joseph knew the Lord was with him (Genesis 39:3-4). Later, the Lord blessed Joseph for a greater purpose.  The Lord placed him in a key position as pharaoh’s right hand man, a position of authority that would bless the household of Jacob and protect them from perishing in the land of Canaan.  Joseph knew the dealings of God.  He trusted him to know the purpose of his suffering, his setbacks and his sorrow, even when he likely could not make sense of it at the time.  But this story illustrates something applicable to all of us. The Lord knows the beginning from the end.  And what certainly was a hopeless situation for Joseph turned out to be a great blessing for him and his family.  To have Joseph become a trusted advisor to the pharaoh after being thrown into a pit and sold into slavery defies all probabilities, but not for the Lord in whom all things are possible (Mark 9:23).  Hence, like Joseph, we need to know God, to know his attributes and his ways and grow in confidence that we are on a course of life in accordance with His will.  

 

If ever there was a way to feel confident about the course of life we are on, to partake of God’s goodness, to feel of his liberating light, it was when he spoke to Isaiah.  To those who fast with full purpose of heart and care for the poor with generous hearts and give service to the afflicted, the wonderful promise is that their light would rise “in obscurity and their “darkness be as the noonday” (Isaiah 58: 6-11).  In other words, our lack of confidence, the doubts we harbor and the things that so easily discourage us can be lifted as we learn to lose ourselves, to fast with sincerity, and open our hearts to serve and bless others as followers of Christ.  

 

Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge.  

 

Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge.  Alma taught, “if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21). Unfortunately, we often lack hope because we demand a perfect outcome usually right now, a perfect knowledge of what lies ahead.  In this frame of mind, we can easily assume the worst; we learn to believe with certainty that something will go wrong.  Indeed, what if we did have a perfect knowledge, of the events that would occur every day and of every hour? We would shrink and recoil at the thought of stepping outside. Leaving the safety of our bedroom would terrify us because of an accident or tragedy that we might be a part of or be a witness to.  Fear, the opposite of faith, implies a fictitious, but perfect knowledge that becomes so paralyzing because we are so sure that something bad will happen or not happen, as we want.  How many of us have made decisions out of fear because we were so convinced we were right about the negative outcome?  I remember, after my mission, when my roommates and I moved into a new singles ward.   In our first Sunday, we attended sacrament meeting and of course, we sat in back in the last row so that we could “check things out.”  When it came time to sing the opening hymn, this stunningly, beautiful young woman stood up to conduct the music.   At that moment, I was smitten.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her.   I turned to my roommate, sitting next to me and said, “I’m going to marry that girl.”  Well, talk is cheap, and because of my fear of rejection, I couldn’t get myself to ask her out on a date.  For a whole month I had convinced myself that she would have no interest in me that she was out of my league. Until one day, I took a gigantic leap of faith, and asked her out on a date.  To my relief, she said yes.  We dated for four months, with some time separated in between, were engaged for 10 weeks and were married in the temple.  Yes, I was in love with Cindy, but it took faith to move forward.   And yes, my wife is still out of my league but she loves me anyway!

 

Faith in Christ is the opposite of assuming the worst will happen.  Christ is the “light and life of the world, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened” (Mosiah 16:9).  In Christ there is no fear, only hope and brightness for good things to come.  To the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord let it be known that He would always be there for us, “Look unto me in every thought.  Doubt not, fear not” (D & C 6:36).  Because of the promises of the Atonement, we may experience difficulties and reasons to feel discouraged and sad, but we need never to feel condemned or lost by them because the Lord never ceases to invite us to trust Him and put our faith in Him and His loving commandments.

 

Let me return to my experience with my freshman English teacher. I stayed in college, and admittedly, with some degree of trepidation about my academic abilities.  But it turns out the Lord knew what I needed.  I was called to serve a mission in Bolivia where I was assigned to learn to speak Spanish and Quechua.   Studying those two languages, I learned about syntax, word usage and grammar.  The Lord had answered my prayers.  So when I returned home, I enrolled in college again and took lots of English classes with a confidence that I didn’t possess before.  I had no idea when I walked out of the teacher’s office before my mission, feeling discouraged, that the Lord would find a way for me to understand the structure of language and grammar.  The Lord knows what we need to experience in order to become who He wants us to become.  Some day, if I ever meet up with that teacher, I want to thank her for helping me look deep within myself, causing me to turn to the Lord.

 

To have faith, means to act upon the hope that we can be part of the solution to whatever challenge we confront or holds us back.    To know God, means that we trust in His promises and His timeline to get through challenges, knowing that He will help us carry any crosses that are ours to bear.  In speaking of his pioneer ancestors who had to over come great challenges when they came into the Church, Elder Marcus B. Nash said,

 

“As surely as the sun rises in the morning, faith produces hope—the expectation of good things to come (see Moroni 7:40-42) – and brings us, the power of the Lord to sustain us.”  (Ensign, July 2015, “Pioneers, An Anchor for Today,” 52)

 

 

Grace – Fills the Gap Between Our Desires and Our Actions

 

Paul taught that we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to align our hopes and desires with our faith to act and make course corrections.  Because when we don’t make the effort, even a small effort, the feelings of frustration and personal disappointment with ourselves soon turns into self-justification.  Hope and faith are thrown out the window and rationalization and even self-pity can fill the void!  So as we strive, to do our best to align our hopes and desires with our faith to act, we can relate to and empathize with the father, who acting on behalf of his sick child, pleads, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:17-24).  It’s not easy to act when we know we should!  Speaking of this effort to act in faith, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said the following in the October General Conference of 2014:

 

“I am under no illusion that this can be achieved by our own efforts alone without His very substantial and constant help.  ‘We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’  And we do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience.  But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency.  My plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with.”  ((Ensign, November 2014, “Free Forever, to Act for Themselves” Elder D. Todd Christofferson, 19)

 

As long as there is striving in our lives, a desire in our hearts with even small acts of pressing forward amidst gloomy days or disappointments, there is grace sufficient to help us overcome (Ether 12:27).  In a different talk, this time to the young single adults four and a half years ago, Elder D. Todd Christofferson quotes President Ezra Taft Benson:

 

“We must be careful, as we seek to become more and more [Christlike], that we do not become discouraged and lose hope.  Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible….For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible.   Day by day, they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life.  They live quiet lives of goodness, service and commitment.   We must not lose hope.  Hope is the anchor to the souls of men.  Satan would have us cast away that anchor.  In this way he can bring discouragement and surrender.  But we must not lose hope.  The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him.” (“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”  Elder D. Todd Christofferson, CES Fireside for Young Adults, January 9, 2011)  

 

There is a parable I have used to share with our missionaries and ward members that illustrates how we can deceive ourselves into hoping for something, when our thoughts, intents and actions are far from the God from whom we are asking blessings (Mosiah 5:13).

 

I refer to a returned missionary that I will call “John.”  He is in school, studying to be an engineer.  He has a part time job and with a calling in his ward as a Sunday School teacher.  Every day, “John” prays that he would find a beautiful young lady with a strong testimony to marry in the temple.  “John” attends his Sunday meetings, but if there was a football game of his favorite team or if he slept in after a late Saturday night activity, he finds a substitute to teach his class.  He also looks at pornography a few minutes every week, just a small amount to feel that he really doesn’t have a problem.  He is careless about his scripture study and often forgets to read because the videogames he plays exhausts his free time.   He hasn’t renewed his temple recommend, but he intends to do so, but he keeps forgetting to set an appointment with the bishop.   But every day, his prayer is the same, to marry a beautiful girl who has a strong testimony in the temple.  So the question, I ask, what are “John’s” desires—what are his aspirations?  At first, one might think it is to find a beautiful girl who has a strong testimony and marry her in the temple, but in reality, his dreams and aspirations are just the opposite.  His actions or works speak louder than his words, but sadly he likely doesn’t recognize the inconsistencies within himself.

 

Just as James promised that if we ask of God, He will answer our prayers liberally. James also wrote that answers come to those who are not double-minded and ask not “amiss”  (James 1:5-8; 4:3).   So it’s not surprising in a few years that “John” becomes frustrated even angry when his life doesn’t unfold like he thought he deserved.  As Alma said, “…for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea…according to their wills, unto salvation or unto destruction”  (Alma 29:4).  Amulek further explains that if our desires and prayers do not align with acts of kindness and sharing of our substance with the poor and the sick and afflicted, then our “prayer is vain” (Alma 34:28).    

 

But because of the grace and mercy wrought through the Atonement of Jesus Christ there is hope for “John” and for all of us who stumble and make mistakes, for his “grace is sufficient” for those who repent or turn and humble themselves before the Lord.  Ultimately, if we can learn to trust in the Lord, there will be no reason to lose hope and faith.   President Deter F. Uchtdorf recently encouraged us all with the following:

 

“The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope….God’s grace is the opening of the windows of heaven, through which God pours out blessings of power and strength, enabling us to achieve things that otherwise would be far beyond our reach.  It is by God’s amazing grace that His children can overcome the undercurrents and quicksands of the deceiver, rise above sin, and ‘be perfect[ed] in Christ.’  Though we all have weaknesses, we can overcome them.  Indeed it is by the grace of God that, if we humble ourselves and have faith, weak things can become strong….Today and forevermore God’s grace is available to all whose hearts are broken and whose spirits are contrite.”  (Ensign, May 2015, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 107-110)

 

Come Unto Christ

 

Remember what you and I are coming to…we are all coming to Christ.  When we partake of the sacrament, honor the Sabbath day, and strive to keep our covenants, we are coming unto Christ.  And we come to Him, in part, in the privacy of our lives, by not treating casually the power of prayer or scripture reading, but by embracing these soul-nourishing habits.  We come unto Christ by living worthily to receive the ordinances of salvation that open up to us greater access to the blessings of the Atonement.   And because we are coming to Christ as His disciples, we learn that we become enabled to bear our crosses, push through any trial and resist the enticements of a world that beg us to compromise on receiving the celestial blessings that a loving Father in Heaven wants to give (D & C 84:38; 3 Nephi 27).

 

To cultivate hope and faith in Christ includes remembering, “how merciful the Lord hath been,” looking retrospectively with a grateful heart for all that the Savior has done for us (Moroni 10:3).  Without acknowledging and remembering the Lord’s mercies it’s hard to believe in Him when trials come.  Countless times, during His mortal ministry the Savior admonished His disciples to “be believing,” “be believing” (Matt 21:22; Mark 5:36; John 6:29), and with outstretched arms today the Lord asks us to believe and trust in Him. The Lord through the Prophet Jeremiah gave us great comfort and reason to have hope and faith:  

 

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

 

So when social influences, personal weaknesses, setbacks, self-doubt and worries “threaten our peace to destroy,” let us choose to build our foundation of hope and faith “upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ,” (Helaman 5:12) who is so merciful, so that no power can dash our hopes, lessen our righteous aspirations and weaken our faith.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.