Winter 2013

Just for Today

08 Jan. 2013


Just for Today


You just have no idea how good you are, nor do you know how much the Lord loves you. Nor do you know the depth of the meaning of the hymn we just sang. It’s one that can be plumbed and mined deeply, and in a little bit, you’ll know why we chose that hymn today.


Brother Nelson likes to set very high standards, and so he said you look good, but we’ll work on “great.” Tuesday is devotional day and a great day to look your best. It’s a day to show your Father in Heaven, by the way you dress, that you appreciate the blessings He has given you here at the College. That’s why I dress up for Him every day, and for you.


For the next thirty minutes, will you forget that I am the College president? I want to talk to you in a different way. I don’t want to talk to you like a bishop, and I don’t want to talk to you like your dad. I don’t even want to talk to you like I’m your friend, though I am. I want to talk to you today like your big brother, part of your family, but maybe one who has had just a little more experience than you’ve had. And because I want to be your big brother today, will you allow me to look backwards in my life and share with you some things that I’ve learned that I think would be helpful to you? The only reason I want to talk to you as your big brother is because of my love for you, for what you stand for, for who you are, and not necessarily what you do.


I want to talk to you this way because I see great potential in you, and I see the world in front of you. I wish in some ways I could trade places with you. I’d do some things a little differently.


I also see great snares that are in the road ahead designed to block your progression. And though you think you are really quite wise, in some ways you are really still very naïve. Life is going to teach you some lessons. It’s going to do it one of two ways—you can either learn those lessons by heeding what some of us who are just a little bit farther down the path have learned; or you can learn it by the things that you suffer. It’s really your choice. I pray with all my heart that the Lord will not have you suffer beyond that which is necessary for you to be purified, and that you will heed the counsel given by others—in scriptures, in prophetic statements from the prophets, Church manuals and magazines, and what the Spirit says to you every week in these devotionals.


Because I want to talk to you as a family member, you will forgive me if I don’t carefully pick my words or soft-pedal what I have to say. You will forgive me because, as family members, we trust each other, and you know that I would never say a thing that would hurt you or mislead you. You know, as the scriptures say, that my love for you and my “faithfulness [to you] is stronger than the cords of death,” (D&C 121:44) and as the scriptures say, every day that I walk through this door, I receive you in a covenant that is “fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and [your] brother.” (D&C 88:133)


Now as a little preface before we get to what I want to talk about, we lost a family member. Those of you who don’t know, Tatsu Ito passed away on Friday. He was one of us. He taught us much in the relatively short time that he was here at the College. His association along, with his brother Dan, brings out the best in us. Tatsu increased our gratitude and decreased the severity of the minor complaints that we have when we think about the hand we were dealt to play. He taught us about trying and achieving and how to face every day successfully. He created for some of us the opportunity to lift in charitable service to him, and for those of you who did so on a consistent basis, bless you. Greater blessings await you, including the day when you and Tatsu will embrace and you will walk together. You who have helped and continue to help his brother Dan, know, as President Adam Fisher said not too long ago, “I thought they needed my help; I never knew how much I needed them.”


A few of the students were with Tatsu on Friday up at the hospital before he passed away. They sang to him his favorite hymn, “The Spirit of God.” And they said their goodbyes. So we shed a few tears today over the temporary loss of a family member, that we may take what Tatsu helped us learn and move forward, with faith and effort, as better people because of having known him and having been blessed to see his example of faithfulness and courage.


But be assured of this: Tatsu lives as much today as he did Friday morning. The difference is that he has laid down a body temporarily which he will take up again. And he will do it in the morning of the First Resurrection, and it will be perfected. And so today, Tatsu’s spirit is free. He speaks clearly, he walks, he has leapt for joy at the assurance of things he only once hoped for but now have become the evidence of the things he had not seen before. (See Hebrews 11:1)


There is no bodily discomfort, there is no pain. Tatsu has now felt the loving embrace of other family members who preceded him through the veil. And surely of all people, Tatsu has been embraced by another Brother, who paid the price that Tatsu might live again and be reunited with his body, perfected, and achieve with his family glories that are celestial.


There will be a funeral service for Tatsu on Saturday at the Salt Lake Stake Center. It’s the white church northwest of the Conference Center. It will be at 12:00noon. There will be a viewing preceding, at 11:00 on Saturday. On Friday night at Larkin Mortuary, which is 260 South Temple, a viewing will be held from 6:00-8:00 p.m., to which you are invited. And so, Brother and Sister Ito, we extend our love. We extend our appreciation for having known Tatsu, and our continuing appreciation for the privilege of knowing Dan. They bless us. So thank you.


And Dan, we honor you. We honor you, Dan, for your courage and your faith and for your example. You just make us feel doggone happy every time we’re around you. So I thank you for blessing my life as well. Okay, now we can all pull out a Kleenex and we’ll be done here, okay? And we’ll move on from this tender subject.


Now, as your brother, I want to share five strategies for you I think will make for a great year. Some of these strategies I’ve learned from my own experience, and some of these strategies I’ve learned by watching other students who have come through the College and been very successful. Some of the strategies are the result of watching other students come through the College, and they graduated but they never really “got” us. You know what I mean? They never really got us. And some strategies I’ve learned because of a few students we have sent home before they completed their education.

Here  is strategy #1: Just for today, quit thinking, and acting, and looking like something or someone you are not and embrace who you really are.Now, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Pretty simple. Just for today, quit thinking, and acting, and looking like what you are not, and embrace what you think you really are. I’m going to show you a little video about fleas, and I’ll let you determine associated principles.  In case you don’t get it, I’ll help you.


[Video:] “This requires a glass jar with a lid. The fleas are placed inside the jar, and the lid is then sealed. Now they are undisturbed for three days. When the jar is opened, the fleas will not jump out. In fact, the fleas will never jump higher than the level set by the lid. Their behavior is now set for the rest of their lives, and when these fleas reproduce, their offspring will automatically follow their example.”


 If that was a little hard for you, we’ll do another one. Do you know how they get really large elephants not to move? When they’re very young, they tie a very large rope around their leg, and they put a stake in the ground. The elephant tries to move it a few times, but can’t. And so, when the elephant gets older, they don’t have to put a large rope around its leg; they put a little tiny one. But that elephant believes, because of some life experience, that they can’t, and so they don’t try.


Here is the point. We have self-limiting behavior that teaches us we are less than what we are and blocks us from moving forward. It comes out this way: “Oh, that’s just the way I am.” Or it comes out this way: “Well, I can’t. I’ve never been able to.” Or this one: “I’m just not very good at prayer, or at speaking, or having charity.” Brothers and sisters, stop acting like something you’re not. Whatever your past experiences have been or your self-imposed limitations or what you think you are not capable of, reject it.  You are far more capable than you think. And then you couple that with the Spirit in your life and oh, my goodness, get out of your way, because you will accomplish great things.


Whatever junk has happened, whatever lid was on your jar, it’s gone. Whatever you think has tethered you mightily as a baby elephant, you have the strength to overcome it. But let’s not kid ourselves—how do we overcome those things? It will not be by simply praying to Father in Heaven, saying, “Will you please relieve me of the burden?” When Nephi prayed to have his bonds loosened, read carefully what he prayed for. . He prayed for the strength to do it. I don’t think the bonds fell off his arms. I’m sure he got a rash.  There was probably some blood. . So I encourage you to quit thinking and acting and looking like something that you’re not, and embrace who you are. And you know it. You’ve sung it forever in Primary. I pray the day will come when you actually believe you are a child of God and therefore endowed with all the capabilities of Godhood, yes, even in this life.


So what’s the second application of this strategy? You can misinterpret some of life’s tough experiences, the tailored tutorials that Heaven gives you. You can misinterpret them by letting them define you or become you or overpower your confidence. Let it go. Whether it’s shyness, whether it’s an experience that happened to you in the mission field, let it go.

Under this strategy, this is the place to discover what your gifts and talents are. It really is. If you couple that with developed skills, on top of those gifts and those talents, and you learn how to tell your story to other people and prospective employers, you are armed! You are ready to go. I’ll give you an example about that.


We had a student here in accounting. Her name is Jennifer Davidson.  She grew up on a farm in Washington.  At the time, she was a two-year student in accounting, with one year’s worth of experience. She sees in the newspaper an ad for an accountant, a four-year degree required and two years’ experience. Remember now, she had a two-year degree and one year experience, so she applies for the job. Right? And she gets it. She’s done a marvelous job and exceeded well and helped that company. If she had believed she wasn’t capable of stretching and going after that job, she wouldn’t have it. So please do not misinterpret life’s experiences. Relish the fact that this is a place to discover your skills and your talents, then learn how to tell your story. We can help you learn how to do all of that.


Now the last piece under this particular principle, this strategy is that this is a place to learn to look the part. I’ll tell you a little story. Back in the day when I was in the mission field, the Church was still very young. It was a long time ago. You weren’t born yet. You weren’t even a twinkle in your parents’ eyes. On one preparation day, then called “diversion day”—which, in itself, should tell you something – we were driving a little Toyota, on our way to play basketball. So we were in Levis and T-shirts and our sneakers. The car had a little problem. The steering wheel was tight—it was hard to turn. So my companion, Elder Rowley, said, “Let’s pull off the side of the road and say a prayer, because I’m concerned about the car.” We were going down the road at a fairly good clip. 


So we stopped and we prayed.  When we were finished, the driver turned the steering wheel to get us back on the road and it snapped. I mean, you could just spin it. So we called the mission president, because we were in trouble. The mission president called a tow company, and the tow truck and the mission president showed up about the same time. The mission president said, “These young men here, they are missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have a wonderful message they’d like to share with you.”


The driver of the tow truck looks at us and he turns around to the mission president and said, “No, they’re not. I’ve seen Mormon missionaries. They don’t look like Mormon missionaries.”


Brothers and sisters, you go to LDS Business College. Many of you are returned missionaries. I invite you to continue to look the part. You can walk the halls and see ancient pictures of old people in funny dresses at this college. They came here with character; they built what we stand upon. We have no right to diminish it. We have no right to look like what we don’t believe.

George McDonald: “We are bound to say all that we [believe], but we are not bound to even look [like] what we don’t [believe].” I got that quote from Elder Holland. [From Elder Holland’s talk of Sept. 7, 1982, while serving as president of Brigham Young University. President Holland cited p. 142 of Creation in Christ, by Harold Shaw, 1976, as his source.]


Apostle Paul: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) Brethren, man up. If you need a shaver, I have one. The ninth floor has one. Don’t make me ask you, as your older brother, to honor the commitment you already made to a priesthood holder, okay? And sisters, it’s cold, so I’m not worried about you. But when it gets warm, I don’t want to see too much. As we used to say to some of the young ladies when I was a bishop, I know it’s hard to find dresses that are appropriate and the right length at both ends. Do you know what I mean? I would just tell them, “Don’t embarrass the deacons who are passing the sacrament to you.” Okay, enough said.


Now look, I don’t want you to walk around this place in sackcloth and ashes. This is a fun place. I want you to have fun. This is a great time in your life. You only do it once. Just do it right.


Here’s strategy #2: Just for today, qualify to go forth in the strength of the Lord. If there is something in your life that stands in the way of going forth in the strength of the Lord, I invite you to just stop it or get rid of it. If you can’t help it, get help. When you continue to do something you know is not right or good for you, but you continue to do it anyway—brothers and sisters, I will tell you that is a clinical definition of addiction. Do you hear me clearly? When you continue to do something you know you shouldn’t do, but you do it anyway, it can be called an addiction.  So if you’ve got it, get rid of it! You can couple the strength of who you are with your talents and your gifts and the skills that you are going to learn here, and go forth in the strength of the Lord. Then, look out! You can meet the challenges life is going to present to you. You really can. It will be wonderful for you. Life will be good. And will you get some junk that comes your way? Yes, because that’s what you signed up for. But you’ll be empowered to deal with it.


So here’s another piece with that strategy. Do not take counsel with your fears. Every fear you have hides an important vision of an opportunity that is here for you. Whether it’s freedom for the elephant, or getting out of the jar for the fleas, it doesn’t matter. Every fear hides a vision of an important opportunity for you. Someone said once, “Fear stands for this: False Evidence Appearing Real.” Fear—False Evidence Appearing Real. 


You cannot have faith and fear in your mind at the same time. Do you know that? And if you are here to learn by study and by faith, what does that say about fear? Discard it! If there was ever an opportunity in your life to take a risk in a classroom—inside the kingdom of God, inside a building that’s been dedicated, in a classroom that opens and ends with prayer, where we call each other brothers and sisters—if there was ever a time to take a risk with a thought or an idea to explore something, and fail, this is it! Because we’ll grab you, we’ll dust you off, we’ll pat you on the back, and we’ll send you on your way, and say, “Try again, until you get it.” That’s what we’ll do, because we love you and we want you to succeed and we want you to master what Heaven has for you to learn at this part of your life. Are you ready? Do you know that?


Here’s another part of this strategy. The power of the Atonement is far more reaching than you think. You see, we grow up thinking that the Atonement is just for the remission of our sins. Listen to Elder Bednar: “I’m not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is…for saints—for good men and women who are obedient and worthy and conscientious and who are striving to become better and [to] serve more faithfully. I frankly do not think many of us ‘get it’ concerning this enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement, and I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become [saints] all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower…discipline, and…our obviously limited [capabilities].” (Bednar, David A. BYU Devotional Oct. 23, 2001.


Brothers and sisters, the Atonement is there to make bad men good and good men better, and you are good men and women. The enabling power of the Atonement makes you brighter and increases all your capabilities to learn.  So use it.  You are entitled to call upon the powers of heaven to come down, and for angels to support you when you have done all that you can do. You who hold the priesthood especially have that opportunity and responsibility when you home teach, and when you’re in an elevator, and when you see somebody that needs help. If God is going to lift them, who do you think is going to do it? We are!


Strategy number 3Just for today, will you take the Lord at His word?Just for today, will you take the Lord at His word and trust Him? Listen to His voice: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit…in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)


“Behold, I say unto you, go forth as I have commanded you; repent of all your sins; ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you. 


“Behold, I will go before you and be your rearward; and I will be in your midst, and you shall not be confounded.” (D&C 49:26-27)


Oftentimes, we will believe in Jesus Christ. But oftentimes we won’t believe Him. Now when He makes a promise to you like the ones I just read, and you couple that with the Atonement, and you couple that with embracing who you really are, then we’re going to get out of your way. But too many of us do not claim the blessings that Father in Heaven has for us, because we don’t believe they apply to us. Listen to His promises for you:


“I delight to bless [you] with the greatest of all blessings.” (D&C 41:1) I delight to bless you with the greatest of blessings. And He has made it very clear how we do it and how He does it. 

“There is a law irrevocably decreed…before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 121:20-21; also see D&C 132:3, 5; 111:11; 121:33; 88:64)  He delights to bless you; He has told you how to do it.


And then, just to make sure you can trust Him, He says, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10) I invite you, brothers and sisters, to trust Him, to bind the Lord to His promises to you—the promises in the Scriptures, and the promises in your patriarchal blessings—you go bind Him, because He delights to bless you, and He has told you the conditions under which He will do it.


Strategy number 4: Just for today, will you be “All in”?I want to tell you a story about a pig and a chicken. They were walking down the street one day and there was a billboard, and on the billboard, was an advertisement for breakfast from the Dairy Association. On the billboard was a plate of eggs and bacon. The chicken says to the pig, “Don’t we look wonderful? Think of how many people we empower every morning. Think of how many people wake up every morning to us.” 


The pig is conspicuously silent. So the chicken tries again. “This is wonderful. Look at the contribution we’ve made to strengthen the people of the world.”


Finally, the pig says, “Look. For you, my friend chicken, it’s a contribution. For me, it’s a total commitment.”


I’m inviting you, brothers and sisters, to be “all in” this semester.  Be committed. “No [man] can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13)

“And Elijah came unto…the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21)


Elder Holland gives us a modern version of those two scriptures.  “The future of [the] world has long been declared; the final outcome between good and evil is already known. There is absolutely no question…because the victory has already been posted on the scoreboard. The only really strange thing in all of this is that we are still down here on the [playing] field” deciding whose jersey we’re going to put on. (Holland, Jeffrey R.  Email correspondence from Elder Holland to John Bytheway, 1 June 2004)


Are you with me? I invite you, brothers and sisters, to “put on the jersey.” Wear the jersey as a reminder to be “all in.”


Strategy number 5: Just for today, deny yourself of all ungodliness.Moroni’s last statements to us are found in the 32nd verse of Moroni 10.  “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness.” What a wonderful goal. Just do it today. Okay? Just today. I invite you to deny yourself of everything that does not bring you the faith, hope, and charity that Moroni talked about. If something doesn’t lead to faith, hope, and charity in your life, don’t say it, don’t do it, don’t look like it, or don’t look at it. For just one day, deny yourself of all ungodliness.


So there are five strategies. Now why do I say do it just for today? Because improvement really is one day at a time. Part of what we are talking about is what Elder Maxwell described as “educating our desires.” (Maxwell, Neal A., “Free to Choose,” BYU Devotional, March 16, 2004)   Isn’t that a good way of expressing it? Educating our desires—that takes time. So you start today, one day. . Just do those five strategies—today. And then tomorrow, just do it today. And then the next day, just do it today. And pretty soon, you’ll be astounded. No, you won’t, because you won’t see the change. We’ll see it in you. We’ll see it in your face. We’ll see it, brethren, in your face. We’ll see it in your eyes. We will feel it in your spirit when we are in your presence.


That’s why I wanted to talk to you as your big brother, because I want to see it in you. It will come onto you so slowly, like the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants says,  as the dews distilling from heaven. It will be that slow. You can’t see dew, can you? You only come out in the morning, and there it is. If you stayed up all night watching for it you couldn’t see it as it started. It just is there. And that’s what will happen to you. I want to see it. And when we do that, we will have created a Zion people. Zion, Elder Holland said to some of us a couple of weeks ago, is not so much a place, but how we choose to live.


I invite you to employ those five strategies to help build Zion within these four walls—a little place of safety, a little place where the Spirit commands, a little place where you can be the real you without the pressures of the day, without the pressures of society.


Brothers and sisters, I love you. The Lord loves you. He lives. He is involved in the details of your life, if you will allow Him to be. God is our Father. Joseph was His prophet. We are led today by a prophet. I so testify, and leave his love, which he has asked us to do on several occasions—to leave the prophet’s love—with you as a blessing, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Preparing the Needful Things

15 Jan. 2013


Preparing the Needful Things

Brothers and Sisters and students of this fine institution of higher learning and experience, consider that we are now at the beginning of another year and the opportunities that are ours.   Consider what our 2012 was and what we can do to seize upon the opportunities that will be ours this year to grow and progress.  You are here to learn and in that learning prepare for your future lives.  Through your academic studies you are acquiring some general knowledge and specific knowledge that will be foundational and fundamental to your fields of study and perhaps your future professions.   In the process of your education, you are developing needed critical thinking skills that will be for your good and will help you to make wise and correct choices.  
How you will meet your future and its challenges and blessings will be determined in some measure by how well you prepare today.  This educational experience will help you, consistent with the effort you put into it.  As the Apostle Paul spoke to the Galatians, ". . . for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."  This school as fine as it is, cannot prepare you for every and all things you will face in your life's experience.  In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord said:
“Therefore, verily I say unto you, my friends, call your solemn assembly, as I have commanded you.  And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”
“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory and a house of order, a house of God.”   D&C 88:117-119
From the Lord we see a pattern:
Organizing the needful things for ourselves.  These are:  Prayer, Fasting, Faith, Learning, Glory, Order, which is likened to the house of God.
In the preparation of needful things, I want you to consider the sources upon which you will draw.  Look to your closest source at or near your home.
1.To find your first source of needful things, you do not need to go very far. 
In many of our families including your own, there are those who have had more of life's experiences than you have --those who have gone before and lived their lives and have experienced challenges.  Recently, my own mother passed away.  I quickly realized that our own family dynamics had changed as a result.  A source of wisdom and experience had gone.   During our family service, my son Jared, speaking of his grandmother, spoke about what he learned from her.  He spoke about the times when he was leaving the island to return to school.  Grandma was the last stop to say good bye.  She would give him a hug and while doing so he felt her hand put something into his pocket.  SHE WOULD SAY THAT IS JUST A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR YOUR TRIP.  IT WOULD BE A FEW DOLLARS TO HELP ON HIS TRIP BACK TO SCHOOL   
He further recalled, "GRANDMA COULD TELL ME HARD THINGS."  He knew she loved him enough to tell him hard things, and he was humble and submissive enough to respect her years of experience to listen.  My daughter, Krista, recalls: “She would hold my hand and say:  ‘TEACH THEM, TEACH THE CHILDREN.’ “  Krista knew exactly what her grandmother was talking about, knowing her background and history.   Education was something very important to her because she did not have higher education available to her as it is today.  When possible, look for goodness and counsel where you live.  For Jared and Krista, the voice of their grandmother is now stilled, but the counsel remembered and given by one who loved them rings in them in the preparation of their needful things.  
I remember not long after Sister Haleck and I arrived back in American Samoa following our graduations from BYU.  One day my mother was explaining to me how she was paying her tithing.  She would put aside 10 percent of the total daily sales from her snack bars into a little red coffee can.  At the end of each day she would count her money and put aside 10 percent.    I then recommended that she should be paying her tithing on her gross profit and not on her cost and her profit together.  She thought about that for a few minutes and said she would try it that way.  Some weeks went by before she sought me out again and said, “I am going back to my old way of paying tithing.”  I asked why.  Her response was, “Since I started paying on just my profit, as you suggested, my sales have decreased.” She was faithful in her way of paying tithing generously to the Lord.  She taught that lesson well throughout her life.  
From your own families, there will be other counselors or Jethros, like a grandma, a mom, or a dad who will put something into your pockets for your life's trip. Listen carefully and consider their counsel and use it for your own good.
2.Look to the Scriptures for counsel.
From Alma:  “. . . And how do you suppose that I know of their surety?  Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days . . .” Alma 5:45-46
Alma 37:37-41
37  Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
38  And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.
39  And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship.  And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.
40  And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.
41  Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works.  They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;
He also counsels his son to “learn wisdom in thy youth,” that he may learn from Alma that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ.  Alma 38:9
From Nephi the son of Helaman:   “And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.” Helaman 12:1
From Moroni:  “. . . faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”  Ether 12:6
3.Counsel of modern-day prophets and apostles.
We hear and read the counsel of prophets and apostles.  They provide counsel and guidance for our own day on relevant issues and how we can remain faithful.
At the beginning of the 1900s, President Lorenzo Snow was the Lord's prophet.  He counseled the following to a conference of the young people of 1901.
"Do not expect to become perfect at once.  If you do, you will be disappointed.  Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you are today. The temptations that perhaps partially overcome us today, let them not overcome us so far tomorrow.  Thus continue to be a little better day by day; and do not let your life wear away without accomplishing good to others as well as to ourselves."
I refer you to the final testimony of President Hinckley, entitled "These Things I Know."  He bears his powerful witness of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Restoration of the priesthood and its ordinances, and the great significance of temples in our day.
President Monson is our modern-day example of reaching out to help and serve others.  Saving the One has been a powerful clarion call to action for all of us in the Church.  
Finally, live close enough to your Father in Heaven to be worthy and receive the counsel and guidance of the Holy Ghost.  Counsel with Him as you pray for guidance and direction in all matters of importance to you.  He has said, “. . . so even I the Lord will reason with you that you may understand.” D&C 50:12
Remember, the Lord told his disciples that he would not leave them comfortless.  He provided the Holy Ghost to help them.  This same Holy Ghost is available to all of you if you seek out the Lord in counsel.  He is your Heavenly Father and he knows and loves you.  Answers to prayers will not always come when you ask but will sometimes come when you are not expecting them.  Remember, answers will come in His time and not our own.
There are many more examples of others who help us to prepare the needful things in our lives.
From your learning here, I hope that you are not only learning to be wonderful thinkers and gaining knowledge that will give you the skills to do well in your fields of endeavors after you depart from this school.   While you are learning you must continue to pray.  Fast so that you might establish a kind of order in your lives.   Prayer will help you to evaluate and will allow revelation to come to you.  Go forth with faith and trust in the Lord.  With faith, live each day with optimism.  Learn as much as you can from your teachers.  Interact and ask questions of them and each other so you can gain understanding and wisdom.  As previously said, the Lord has revealed that we ought to learn from one another.    Be engaged in your education.  While you may not apply exactly the principles you will learn here in every situation in your future life, you will be have wisdom enough to adapt and apply and suit them to your circumstances.  
I graduated so many years ago from BYU in advertising.   Sister Haleck and I moved to American Samoa the same week we graduated and then spent the better part of 40 years living, working and raising our family there.  We served in various church callings even amidst the challenges and success with which we were blessed.    I never worked in advertising, but the core principles I learned from my wonderful professors helped me to adapt and apply those to the work I did.  I remember one of these fine teachers putting a little perspective to the angst some of us were feeling who would be entering an uncertain job market during the economic environment of our own time.  While this was true, his counsel was:  "The world will always have need for bright and honest young men and women with integrity."  He then told us to be faithful and optimistic.    
Learn as Nephi counseled line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.    
With your own preparation of needful things, serve and bless others.  It was not coincidental that in the Book of Matthew, we read of a lawyer, a person of learning and versed in the laws of the day, tempting and asking the Savior,
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus’ response probably surprised the lawyer when he said,
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto to it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  Upon these two commandments hang the law and the prophets.”   Matthew 22:36-40
With your learning and preparing of needful things, love the Lord.  Love your neighbor by serving and helping those in need who will be placed in your path.
Always make time to serve in the Church when you are asked.  Church service will keep you connected to the Gospel and build your testimony.  You will be blessed because of your willingness to serve.  It matters not what calling you will receive or where you will serve.  What matters is how you will serve.  Establish the house of faith, prayer and fasting.
Now, may the Lord bless you in your preparation for the things to come in your lives.  Live by the teachings of the Gospel, which encourages you to learn and study things all around and below and above you.  Prepare the needful things for your future journey, just like you pack for a trip and take certain things that you will need for your trip.  Pack and take the counsel you will receive from your parents, grandparents, the Scriptures, the Holy Ghost and our modern-day prophets whom the Lord has called and prepared to lead and guide His work today.  Just as Jared's grandmother "put a little something in his pocket for his trip," may you also consider the things others who care for you place in your own pockets or purse for your trip in life.  
I bear you my solemn witness of the Savior, Jesus Christ and the important and vital  role He can play  in our lives if we follow Him; of His atonement that has given us redemption and the opportunity to return to Him from whence we came.  I leave you with my testimony and love and best wishes for a bright future filled with opportunity and growth.   In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

In Your Wilderness, Rely on the Lord

22 Jan. 2013


In Your Wilderness, Rely on the Lord

I’m just so impressed as I look out over this audience at how many women are here today. This is such a great thing. It reminds me of one of my favorite medical stories about the family who was tending to one of their family members who needed a brain transplant. It was a very serious kind of operation, and they were meeting with the doctor, who was explaining the science behind it and the procedure, and took them through all the risks and all the things that would happen, and then said, “Well, we’re now to the point where you get to choose the brain that is transplanted, and you should know that male brains are $50,000 and female brains are $25,000.”

So the men are kind of smiling smugly as we tend to do in these moments. One of the women spoke up and said, “Well, Doctor, why is that?”
He said, “Well, that’s because the female brains have actually been used.” As a card-carrying male, I can get away with saying that.
The other thing I notice is that some of you, boys and girls, are sitting very close to one another. Is that allowed here, President? Oh, it is? Okay. Did you see how he answered that? That was very quick. 
I guess I’m too used to dealing with my own kids, where I’m a little more cautious. I caught my 4-year-old son the other day spending a lot of time with the next-door neighbor, Ruby. And I felt it was time to confront him about this. So the other day, Dan and Ruby were in the driveway playing together, and I went up to them and I said, “Dan, you and Ruby are spending a lot of time with each other. Are you two going to get married?”
He looked up at me with this totally disgusted look on his face, said, “Dad, we don’t even know the way to the temple.” At least there are geographic barriers working, if nothing else right now, for them.
One other quick story about a family member that kind of launches into what I’ve felt prompted to talk to you about today. Dan’s older brother Jake was about 10 years old when we had an opportunity to go lead some students over to London for the summer. I was a professor over at BYU, and we for a long time had wanted this opportunity, been waiting for it, preparing for it, finally got the word from BYU that we were asked to be the directors for this program and that we were going to be in England for the summer. We were so excited. We came home—I still have bruised ribs where my wife just grabbed me and held me and just exploded with happiness and delight that we were going to have this opportunity.
My son Jake also exploded, but not in the same way. He did not think that going to Europe was the best way to spend a summer, as a 10-year-old boy. He kind of flipped out and thought this was just awful, because he wanted to be home to play football and play with frogs and do whatever 10-year-old boys do in the summer. So we took him quite literally kicking and screaming. He kept saying he had his free agency, and we kept screaming back, “Yeah, but it doesn’t kick in until 18.”
So we took him, and the first few weeks there were a little bit rocky, but then I don’t know if it was the first castle or the Yorkie bar or the pastries or just the excitement of it all, but finally it just really clicked and our kids just had this great time. The last day we were there I took them to this bakery that was right around from where we lived, and we got these great pastries and were walking back and the sun is out and the double-decker buses are flying by, and it’s just one of these kind of MasterCard moments, you know, and he looks up at me and says, “Dad, I just had no idea how boring Provo was.”
So that is really to kind of take me into what I wanted to talk to you about today. Often, especially at your stage in life, new experiences, new changes, new opportunities, can seem daunting, or maybe not seem that attractive. Maybe you are kind of comfortable where you are and you think, “I’m living the best life I could live.” When, like Jake discovered, there are other things out there for you. Because we’re a little scared or nervous or comfortable with where we are, we don’t branch out, and I think that happens a lot, kind of at your stage. Some of you are brand new to school, and you’re a little uncertain about how this is going to work. Some of you are sitting very close to a member of the opposite sex, and you’re thinking about a relationship and what would marriage mean. Some of you are thinking about a career and where is that going to take you. And so I have felt to say something to you today about a lesson from the Book of Mormon that meant a lot to me when I was your age—some insights that have given me some hope, because these moments can be very unsettling and sort of disorienting.
So let me just say a word about why it’s such a good thing to learn from the Book of Mormon. I probably don’t need to say it, but it’s a truth that bears regular repeating, so I’ll repeat it for you here today.
Joseph Smith taught us that the Book of Mormon is “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other [book].” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon)
I had a wonderful experience at age 19 with the Book of Mormon, because that is just when President Ezra Taft Benson became the prophet. I had loved President Kimball. He was the prophet of my youth, and I loved his gravelly voice and his sweet demeanor and his spiritual teachings. I was so sad to see him go. And I didn’t know President Benson very well and candidly didn’t know that I would connect with him, sort of spiritually, emotionally, personality-wise, as I did with President Kimball. But I am so grateful for the life and teachings of President Benson, because just as I was going on my mission, he came to the Church and reminded the Church, in the most powerful of ways, that we needed to take the Book of Mormon more seriously.
Here’s what he said at his first press conference after becoming the prophet—actually, excuse me, at his first general conference address: 
“We must make the Book of Mormon a center [of focus and study]…it was written for our day. The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times. It was meant for us. Mormon wrote near the end of the Nephite civilization. Under the inspiration of God, who sees all things from the beginning, he abridged centuries of records, choosing the stories, speeches, and events that would be most helpful to us. 
“Each of the major writers of the Book of Mormon testified that he wrote for future generations…. 
“If they saw our day, and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is that not how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?” (Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” October 1986 conference,
That’s the spirit in which I want to talk to you today, because there is something that, for me, that goes on in the Book of Mormon, that’s a little bit confusing, that has prompted me to ask the question, “Why is that in this book if this book is written for our day?”
So the idea here is that some time ago I was struck by the fact, how often the Book of Mormon addresses the idea of a people journeying in a wilderness. Okay, now why is that strange? Well, it’s strange because we’re talking a physical wilderness. They’re out in the woods or the desert, and they’re wandering around, and it happens all the time. But most of us in the modern Church today don’t live in wildernesses. Now, some of our ancestors, the pioneers, clearly had their wilderness moment, but remember that it’s written for our day. And the great lion’s share of the modern Church has lived in the civilized world, where there aren’t that many places of wilderness left.
But just listen for a minute, and I may share some of this a little more formally in terms of reading some thoughts I’ve observed about this, just how often you see references to wilderness and traveling in the wilderness in the Book of Mormon.
In a chronological sense, the Book of Mormon begins with a record of the Jaredites, who were “commanded … that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been.” (Ether 2:5)  In a narrative sense, the Book of Mormon begins with the story of Lehi, who was commanded that he should “take his family and depart into the wilderness.” (1 Nephi 2:2) And this is no temporary thing. They spend the next eight years wandering—that’s Nephi’s verb, not mine—wandering through this wilderness, at one point referred to by Nephi as the wilderness of their afflictions. 
Then having finally made it through the Judean wilderness and across the ocean, having just arrived in that sweet and long-awaited Promised Land, and set up something resembling normal life again, after having left that Jerusalem behind, and Nephi and his wife and immediate family and those who would follow him, were again commanded to “flee into the wilderness.” (2 Nephi 5:5) Even in the Promised Land, they’re back into the wilderness again.
Jacob, Nephi’s younger brother, who the records indicate was born in the wilderness along with his brother Joseph, reminds us by quoting Isaiah that people are often found in waste places, deserts and wildernesses. He specifically calls attention to the fact that Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac out in the wilderness, and that the children of Israel had a 40-year sojourn in the wilderness. In fact, to his dying day, Jacob felt that he had never quite escaped the wilderness of his birth, saying that even in the Promised Land, their “lives passed away like as it were … a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem … [into] a wilderness.” (Jacob 7:26) 
Years after Nephi and Jacob and others had established the land of Nephi, Mosiah and his righteous followers were forced by Nephite wickedness to depart out of the land of Nephi into the wilderness. Ammon and Alma both recorded that they wandered many days in the wilderness. And Ammon and the other sons of Mosiah similarly record that they, too, were wanderers in a “strange land.” (Alma 26:36; see also Alma 17:6-9)  
Perhaps most heartbreaking of all is Moroni, who goes on to play such a vital and glorious role in the Restoration of the gospel and the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith. He is presumably middle-aged, facing an entire continent of wilderness as a completely solitary man, left to “wander whithersoever [he could], for the safety of [his] own life.” (Moroni 1:3)
Do you get the picture? A lot of very, very righteous people spend a lot of time just wandering around in a wilderness—336 references to wilderness in the Book of Mormon. That’s prompted one gospel scholar, Hugh Nibley, to say that when it comes to the wilderness, the Book of Mormon people never entirely leave it. Wandering in the wilderness is one and the same time both a “type and [a] reality.” (“The Flight into the Wilderness,” Brigham Young University Maxwell Institute,
So why? It’s written for our day. We’re not packing up tents and going off into the wilderness. Why is it there? That’s the challenge of President Benson, when we read the Book of Mormon, to say, “Why is that in there? What can I learn from that for my life today?” And so what I would like to suggest is that it’s not meant that we’re not going to have the same physical reality that they had, most of us. But it might be, as Hugh Nibley said, it might be not a reality but a type, a metaphor, a message for things that we go through that are like a wilderness.
With that in mind, let’s probe this a little bit deeper. So when Lehi and his family leave Jerusalem, what can we gather as they go from that into the wilderness? We know that Lehi left gold and silver and all manner of riches. He was probably a quite prominent figure in the area, a person of stature, of comfort. He was surrounded, bounded by familiar surroundings. He had family, there was a dynamic business life, cultural life, religious affairs—all of that kind of swirling in and around Jerusalem.
If you ever have a chance to go to Jerusalem, or even today, if you get on Google Earth and zero in on Jerusalem, you can see what I’m about to say here. If you stand on Mount Scopus and Mount of Olives, that kind of rings the city of Jerusalem, you can look into Jerusalem, and it is this vibrant, teeming, living entity with green olive groves and business life and civic life. And you can turn 180 degrees—quite literally, you stand on the peak and on the other side of this mountain it is to this day an absolutely barren wilderness. There are hardly any plants, there are no animals. These Bedouin tribes kind of migrate from one little something living out there to the next bit. It’s just rocks and sand and more rocks. That’s what they were facing.
So what did Lehi leave behind? He left behind prosperity, he left behind comfort, he left behind safety, familiarity, community, stability, an entire way of life that was pleasing, sustainable, and it made sense. And what did he go into? What did they find in the wilderness? They found discomfort, they found danger, they found loneliness, they found poverty, they found boredom, confusion, inefficiency, betrayal, disorientation. Maybe those describe some of the things that you’re dealing with right now in your life. Maybe you’ve gotten here to LDS Business College but you’re still not quite sure with what you’re supposed to do with your education.
So maybe yours is an educational wilderness. Maybe yours is a marital wilderness, looking but not able to find that companion. Maybe you have family-life wilderness—wanting to be married and have children or wanting to be reconnected with an alienated parent or sibling. Maybe you are in a Church-calling wilderness, wondering why you’ve been asked to do one thing and not another. Maybe you are in a social wilderness—you’re new here, and you don’t have friends or enough friends or the right kind of friends. Maybe you’ve got a physical-health wilderness that seems strange and disorienting. Or worst of all, though with this group I hope it’s not too much, but maybe some of you are in a spiritual wilderness, really wondering about your testimony or a mistake you’ve made or mistakes you are making right now.
What I want to say to you is that, if you are in that moment and life seems strange and confusing and disorienting because it’s a wilderness you did not expect, and some days you just have to say to yourself, “It can’t really be real; it just seems like a dream that I am going through this,” the first thing I have to say to you is read the Book of Mormon, because there you will encounter family after righteous family and individual after righteous individual that found their way through the wilderness with God’s help. You are not the first, and you won’t be the last to go through the wilderness you find yourselves in right now. It happens to the best of people and not just people in some faraway, distant land like the Book of Mormon. 
Perhaps like you, I loved reading about George Albert Smith this last year in our priesthood and Relief Society trainings. I didn’t know that much about President Smith. I knew that he was called to be an apostle at a very young age. I didn’t know how bad his health was; his own father thought that he wouldn’t last, that he couldn’t keep up with the rigors of being an apostle, that he didn’t have the strength for it. And as it was, he almost didn’t make it. He had to effectively suspend his apostolic duties to go to California for a year or more to try to recuperate, his health was so bad.
Can you imagine this, being an apostle, having those sacred keys, that special mandate, and not being able to do anything about it? That was a wilderness, and it got to him. It got to him in a deep, profound and even somewhat troubling way to the extent he wanted to be released from this life. He said, “I’m taking up a sacred spot. There are better, stronger, healthier men out there that should do this job, not me. So please let me go.” 
That was the cry of his heart, and he even raised it to his wife. She was shocked and said, “No, don’t. How can you even say that?” But he just was relentless to the point that he finally got her to pray with him. Here’s how she records it:
“My husband had been ill for many years, and he longed to know what our Father in Heaven had in mind about him. One night [he] confided in his wife that ‘he was going to ask the Lord to release him from his position as an Apostle of the Lord, take him home, and put someone else more suitable in his place.’ The next morning, Apostle Smith told me that he had talked with the Lord in the night and had asked the Lord to release him from his position whereupon the Lord told him he should come with his wife before him in prayer to petition him. Over tears I said I could never consent to pray with him for such a purpose. However, Apostle Smith had the same advice again a few nights later. We discussed this matter again, and I finally consented to pray with him for his release from this life. No one knows what a strain it was on my feelings and my great love for my husband and children to accept such a resignation. To the astonishment of many, this was the turning point of his betterment in health. Apostle Smith recuperated from his long illness from this time on. He received a testimony that he was to live as he was one of the chosen to lead his people sometime in the future.” (Woodger, Mary Jane, “ ‘Cheat the Asylum of a Victim’: George Albert Smith’s 1909-1912 Breakdown,” Journal of Mormon History, Fall 2008, pp. 142-143, as told by Lucy W. Smith to Bishop K.J. Fetzer,
Well, he does recuperate. He goes on to be the prophet of the Church for six or seven years, during the Church’s centennial. He appears on the cover of Time magazine, something that’s never been duplicated again for a prophet of God, and gave remarkable, remarkable service. But that was a hard wilderness for one of the best men.
Let me draw an example from someone else not of our faith, though I would like to think he is now, given our theology. He was a great man. His name was John Henry Newman. He was a Christian of great energy and intellect in the 19th century, and I think probably a guy doing the best he could without real access to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. He was a young Anglican priest in the Church of England and was right in the center of intellectual religious life at Oxford University. And he had decided to take a trip to Italy, and in Italy he fell desperately ill and he couldn’t return home. He was so sick he couldn’t get home, and when he did start to get better, he had missed a ship and his ability to get transport back to home was precluded, so he was weeks and weeks on end from getting home when he thought he was only going to be away days. And he was a minister. He had a flock to attend to, he had a career to manage, he had people to attend to. And here he was stuck in his Italian wilderness, in this southern city, trapped and unable to do anything.
And so, all he could do was pray as he is stuck in this little moment of wilderness. It’s interesting—two things, we could give a sermon about both, and I will just speak to one. The first one is, he began to see the limitations of the foundations of the Church of England. Now, again, we have to put this in historical context. That didn’t lead him to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, but that’s interesting. He didn’t really have access to it. It took him back to Catholicism. He became convinced that the Church of England just didn’t have the proper priesthood foundations. The Lord was speaking to this man, and he was doing the best he could at the time. And He was clearly speaking to him with what happens next.
In this moment of real difficulty, he took pen to paper, and with a rare literary grace that marked so much of his work, he poured out his frustrations and his faith into a poem that is now the basis for one of my favorite hymns, “Lead, Kindly Light.” Here’s what he says about that moment:
“Before starting from my inn, I sat down upon my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who … acted as my nurse, asked me what ailed me. I could only answer, ‘I have a work to do in England.’ I was aching to get home.” Remember, back to stability, back to things that make sense, back to prosperity. That’s what he was longing for. But “for want of a vessel, [for want of a ship] I was kept at Palermo [Italy] for three weeks. I began to visit the churches [there], and they calmed my impatience, though I did not attend any services. At last, I got off on [a]… boat, bound for Marseilles. We were [there stuck for another] week…it was there that I wrote the lines, Lead, kindly light, which have since become so well known.”  
Listen to several of these lines:
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path; but now,
Lead thou me on!
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone.
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
(Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, No. 97)
John Newman urgently desired to do God’s work, but ironically, his power and his reach were extended dramatically because he was stuck in a wilderness in a way that was agonizing for him. He could have returned home, but what would have happened? He would have given some more sermons, he would have attended a few more folks, and we’d still recognize him because he was a great figure. But the world and the Church would be deprived of one of the great hymns and lyrics in all of the Christian tradition. 
If you think about the reach—I just want to talk about an LDS missionary serving in a remote area at a discouraging point in his mission, who notes that the sky was gray one day. It was raining, and the cold north wind of this area where he was serving was blowing right through his trench coat when it had been raining. His umbrella had been destroyed weeks ago through the wind, and for various reasons his relationship with his companion wasn’t in much better shape. Despite knocking on doors through the torrential rain, not a single soul had let them in to talk about the gospel.
The ultimate wound he was carrying was that, that day, they had scheduled to have someone get baptized and had gone by to meet the investigator only to have a note saying, “I’ve decided not to be baptized. Please don’t come back.”
It was at this moment, when this elder was feeling this flood of emotions and discouragement, that he took an uncustomary path through a graveyard. And on that graveyard, he saw a phrase he had never really seen before, and it was in big, bold relief, and it said, “Lead, Kindly Light.” It was not a phrase he recognized, but it stopped him in his tracks. I know, because I was that Elder. I didn’t know anything about that hymn at that moment, but just seeing that phrase in that context reminded me like a thunderbolt from heaven that there was a power of light and goodness out there that would lead me through my wilderness and get me through this mission and on to whatever else I might face. And it also reminded me that I, too, needed to lead, kindly light with a companion or with others who may not have been always able to see the way that they should go or that they should behave.
How grateful is Matt Holland to this day that John Henry Newman was stuck in Italy in a wilderness for three weeks, and penned the words of that hymn. 
Brothers and sisters, the fact of the matter is that, in our wildernesses, God can communicate with us. And I think that’s why so many of us find ourselves in wildernesses. And that’s why the Nephites found themselves in wildernesses, and the Jaredites. That’s why our modern Saints have found themselves [in wildernesses]. 
As a member of the Martin handcart company described his harrowing experience in the ice-encrusted plains of Wyoming, he recorded in his journal: “It was the price we paid to become acquainted with God.”
Lest the heaviness of this doctrine be too heavy, let me conclude with just two testimonials about what it means to be in a wilderness.
First, before turning his verses into a hymn, Newman’s poem was titled “Pillar of Cloud.” This is a reference, of course, to the miraculous guidance Jehovah gave the children of Israel as they made their 40-year journey through the Sinai wilderness. For Moses and his followers, it was a pillar of cloud to lead them by day, and by night a pillar of fire to give them light. 
The Nephites had a Liahona. You may not have a physical Liahona, and there may not be pillars of clouds appearing to guide you. But I promise you that the doctrine of wilderness is such that you will always have access to light and direction to get you through it. God will not leave you alone in that wilderness if you will trust in him. That is sure. That is rock-solid truth. So if you find yourself in that wilderness, then you grab your Liahona—and it is all around you. You live in the technological age where you have 24-hour access to the teachings of the prophets, and you live in a country where at anytime, without punishment, you can kneel down on your knees and go to God directly and ask for His help to get through this wilderness. And you can come to devotionals and attend Institute and take religion courses, and those tools and power of deliverances are all around you. I call upon you to seize them and grab them and hang onto them, as you go through these moments of wilderness.
And finally, I just wish to say this, that the doctrine of wilderness, the principle of wilderness rather, it’s a heavy doctrine. It’s a heavy principle. But it’s buttressed and protected and surrounded by a higher and holier and happier doctrine. This is captured, I believe, by no one else as well as Isaiah. 
Isaiah 51:3:
“For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; [and] joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” 
Brothers and sisters, our wildernesses are way stations, not destinations. You are not meant for poverty or danger or boredom or confusion or failure, though you may pass through those things. You are meant for prosperity, safety, excitement, order, achievement. You are meant for Eden. Over and beyond every wilderness lies a promised land. It may come next week, next year, in the next decade or, for some, the next life. The timing of the Lord is different for different individuals, but the promises are sure. He will make your wildernesses like Eden, and your deserts like the garden of the Lord, and joy and gladness will be yours. Of this I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

After Sacrifice Comes the Blessings

09 Dec. 2013


After Sacrifice Comes the Blessings

Thank you so much for that beautiful music and for the spirit that has brought to this meeting, and thank you for your preparation and the extra time that you take in order to prepare those kinds of things for the rest of us to enjoy the Spirit. President Richards has been a good friend of mine. We were assigned to the Board of Education at about the same time—I think I was a little bit ahead of him. But we had some wonderful parking-lot conversations, on the way back to our offices—his office was right past my door, so often we would reflect on things we heard in those meetings with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, and some of the decisions that were made. And I really appreciated President Richards’ friendship there.
You have to know that most of the time, always in executive meetings, I was the only girl in the room. And these men were wonderful and intimidating, initially. I remember my first few board meetings I’d go fearing and trembling, and I prayed for a week ahead, “Please, Heavenly Father, bless me not to make a fool of myself.” These men have advanced degrees, they have vast experience in leadership, and when you think of the amazing experience they all had—and, as President Richards said, I’d been a homemaker. I did graduate from a university, but I spent my life and career serving in Church callings and in the local schools and in my own home. And so to sit across from people who had run Harvard Business School and Brigham Young University and LDS Business College—I prayed, “Oh, just please bless me not to make a fool of myself.”
And early on, I did have an experience where I made a fool of myself, and we just got that all out of the way.  President Richards, I don’t think you were on the Board yet; we were down at BYU for a visit, but I happened to try to lower my chair down and something malfunctioned and it went all the way to the bottom so that I was just sort of peering, looking across the table at these great men, like a cartoon character. And I looked up this way and there was President Samuelson, way up there, and I looked up this way, and there was Elder Earl Tingey, both tall men. And then I looked across the table at the university presidents and they were trying not to laugh. They were very polite and gentlemanly and their mouths were twitching just a little. And then the apostle who was conducting the meeting very politely said, “I think this would be a good time to take a break.”
Now, President, have you ever known us to take a break in a Board meeting?  No. So they took care of my chair malfunction and I thought, “All right, I’ve got that out of the way and now I’m just going to enjoy these meetings.” These men became my friends and associates, and I think that work on the Board of Education is one of the things I miss most about my service in the general Church headquarters, because that was a work where I absolutely knew the Lord’s Spirit was attending every discussion. Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ care very much about you and what you are doing and who stands in front of you and your leadership and how they’re conducting the business. It is an inspired work and an inspiring work, and it was always humbling and sweet to me to be part of that work. So thank you for being here. That’s a long introduction to say I’m glad I am here.
Well, now you know that about me, I would like to know a little bit more about you. So just raise your hand when I ask—this is just a straw poll, it doesn’t get me into your hearts and spirits, but I’d like to know. How many of you have served missions? Terrific. And how many are preparing to serve missions? And how many have had their hearts stirred by the announcement of missionary age? Mine has been stirred.
How many of you are from outside the United States? How many from Brazil? There are a lot of Brazilians here. I was baptized in Brazil, so I count myself as a Brazilian member. My certificate of baptism is in Portuguese, and I’m glad I can read it. I was one of the first members baptized in the Piñheros chapel in Sao Paulo, and now that chapel doesn’t exist. We’ve torn it down and put something else up instead—I think we built the temple on the proceeds. But I love Brazil and still yearn to go back. I’m trying to talk my children into going down for a visit. That’s my dream, is to take our children and their spouses to Brazil, to show them some of the places that I visited when I was a girl, and I want them to smell it. It smells so good in Brazil, doesn’t it? To eat the fruit, and the pao de caijo, and the rice and beans. When my grandchildren complain about school lunch, I say, “I had rice and beans every day for school lunch, and I never got tired of it.” I do love Brazil.
How many of you are from Utah? How many from the United States outside of Utah? Okay, wonderful. This is a great group. How many of you have family members in the Church? How many of you are the only member in your family? Terrific. How many of you belong to a Relief Society or priesthood quorum? I hope everybody. I’m just checking to see if you knew that about yourself.
Last night as I was checking into the hotel, I met a wonderful young woman named Melanie Hobby. Is her husband here? I need to shake your hand; you have a beautiful wife. She came out from behind the reception desk and gave me a hug and cried a little bit. And I learned about her life, and that you’d been married recently, and that she’s the only member of the Church in her family. I congratulate you both on your great new beginning. What a wonderful, sweet opportunity, it just was a tender mercy, letting me know that Heavenly Father wanted me here, that I happened to meet someone whose husband was going to school here.

The Sacrifice of My Grandmother Duella

Now, another reason to be here is that my grandmother [Duella Eyre Hamblin] was a student at LDS Business College. I wish I had brought her picture today. I had it in my hand last night. She had it taken here in Salt Lake City with some of her friends. It’s a beautiful picture, one of those formal ones from—we think it was taken about 1915. She grew up on a ranch in the Bridger Valley of Wyoming. It was not a prosperous ranch, and that is a hard, cold, windy place out on the pioneer trail. But she had a gift—a gift for music. She taught herself to play the piano, and as she grew up out in Lyman and Urie, Wyoming, she began to play the piano for all the Church events and accompany people singing. She had a marvelous contralto voice, so she decided she wanted to improve that ability. She saved her money and came to Salt Lake City to study with a great music professor in Salt Lake at that time. I think it was Brother Lund.
She stayed here a couple of years. While she was here, she sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and studied at LDS Business College until her money ran out, and then she went back to Wyoming and worked on her family’s ranch. Then, years later, she and my grandfather, who also grew up in that area, were married in the Salt Lake Temple and they moved to Murray, Utah, which is just south of Salt Lake here in the Valley. And there she began again serving—she was the organist or the accompanist in her ward for 60 years and also sang in choirs and small singing groups and double trios and so on. And then when she got too old to do that, she sponsored other singing groups, and they went around and sang at graduations and funerals and parties, and brought this gift of music, as you do today, into the lives of many, many people.
She had a little motto that she kept in her kitchen that said, “Let my life be music.” Now Grandma made that great sacrifice, and understood enough about music that she wanted it in her family’s lives. But they were poor. Grandma and Grandpa reared their family during the Great Depression. They experienced World War I and World War II. They never had much. They got an indoor bathroom when their children were in high school, so they worked a long time for that in their humble little place. But her life was music.
Then, over time, my mother got the chance to learn to play the trumpet. That’s because my grandfather had a prize pistol, a pistol he just loved. But a man at work was trying to sell a silver trumpet he had. He needed the money. And so my grandfather thought, “Well, I can’t pay him cash, but I can give him my pistol. And then he can sell the pistol.” So he traded the pistol for a trumpet, and it stayed under a bed in their home until my mother found it in second grade and took it to school. She learned to play the trumpet and eventually became the first chair in the All-State Band. I still remember my mother, even as the mission president’s wife in Brazil, she would play To the Colors to get everybody to come and raise the flag on American holidays, she would play the posting song of the Kentucky Derby to get everyone to come to dinner, and things like that.
But my mother, then as a little girl, began to love music, and she gave all of her children the chance to learn to play the piano and to learn to play other instruments, and we did the best we could.
Then came a time when our own children were born, and we had a chance, then, to give them music lessons. We had a little more money and a little more time, a little more prosperity. I inherited my grandmother’s piano, and that’s what our children were playing on—but we had a friend who was a national distributor for Kawai pianos, and he said, “I want you to have a grand piano.” So he helped us to get a grand piano. At the time, my husband was serving on the city council, and they would give him $100 a month, which could then disappear into our grocery bill. I said, “Let’s save that and buy this grand piano,” which we did. And our children began to practice on that piano and became quite experienced and good musicians. And they still all teach piano. That skill they acquired then enabled them to teach piano through high school and college years, and they graduated with no debt because of their ability to teach piano.
And now our grandchildren are still practicing on our piano. They come to our home and practice on it. And I kept for years this picture of my grandmother, on the piano, because I realized that after the sacrifice come the blessings. It tells us that in the Doctrine and Covenants, after the tribulation comes the blessings. (See Doctrine and Covenants 58:3-4)
My grandmother had no idea when she left home and left her little humble ranch up in that windy valley of Wyoming, what she was beginning. She just wanted to learn to play the piano better, and maybe sing with the Tabernacle Choir. But she started something amazing that has now carried on through generations. Many of my siblings have what I would call musical homes. They have children who play musical instruments. They’ve studied music, and music has enriched their lives. So when I think of my grandmother’s motto, “Let my life be music,” she has infused that now down into her great-great-grandchildren. And there’s no way you can put that all back in the bottle, can you? It’s just out there influencing, it’s in part of our DNA and our makeup.
So I’m thinking now about many of you. Some of you are here, maybe the first member of your family to go to college. How many of you think maybe you’re in that situation? And for many of you it is a sacrifice to be here in any case. Maybe somebody sacrificed before you to provide this blessing. But we’re all part of that pattern. And I remember many times as a mother with children practicing, and they used to call it “combat piano” in our house, because they’d wake up at 5:00 or 5:30 and they knew they had three hours or more to practice a day. That’s a job. It’s not just practicing, that’s a job, when you have that much material to cover.
So the piano would start early in our home. And I would often think, “I am sick and tired of this. I just want to sleep.” Or one of them wouldn’t want to practice, and then I’d have to go sit with them and practice. And we had one daughter, I think I sat with her every day for eight years, because I knew she had a gift, but she didn’t enjoy the work. And then after eight years she looked at me one day and said, “You can go do something else, Mom. I get it. I actually like it now.” And she’s probably the best piano teacher we have among our children, because she has so much empathy for her students and how much work it is when you don’t really want to do the work.
So those times when I would think I can’t really do it anymore, or this is too expensive, it requires too much sacrifice, I would think what price did she (my grandmother) pay so that we could have this opportunity, and when I meet her again, what will she say to me if I say, “It was too hard”? How can I make that excuse to her? I can never say it was too hard for me, when I know her sacrifice was greater. So her example kept me going.
Many of you fall into that category, where someone will look at your picture and say, “They made the sacrifice, and I reap the blessings. And now I have a responsibility to build on the sacrifice that they made.”

The Times We Live In

Now, I want to refer a little bit to the times we’re in, which is very much counter to what I’ve just been telling you about. In 2 Nephi 28:20-22, it tells about what’s happening in our day and the devil’s offense for you. The devil has a playbook of what he wants to accomplish with you in your life, and he’s playing it very well, and year by year, he actually gets more skillful at his offense. 
So verse 20 says this: “Behold, at that day, [that means now] shall he [the devil] rage in the hearts of the children of men, [to] stir them up to anger against that which is good.” The adversary is using discontentment and anger and feelings of unhappiness to try and stir you up against things that are good. And he tries to stir me up against things that are good. And he stirs up the media, and people who will portray images and messages in the movies and everywhere you look you see this idea of people stirred up in anger against that which is good.
Everything that the Lord stands for and all the blessings of eternity that we know and understand, he stirs up anger toward. Just think of the concept of family and the anti-Christ teaching and belief that is infiltrating every facet of our lives regarding family, and the anger that is stirred up regarding that one foundational, core doctrine in our lives. So just think of what the devil is doing, stirring that up.
Now the next strategy is in verse 21: “Others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well.’ ” In our day, we call that apathy. Now start thinking about the apathetic teachings and principles that you hear—“It doesn’t really matter,” “Why are you worried about that,” and fill in the blank, about the things that are core doctrines in your life and fundamental to who you are as a child of God, and think about the apathetic infiltration that is coming in. And when we have apathy—apathy kills initiative. It kills the desire for work. It kills development and prosperity. So apathy is very, very dangerous.
All of you here today are showing just by your example of being here that you are counter-apathy. You don’t feel apathetic about some things. But it’s something to guard against, this idea of apathy. When you feel initiative, when you feel drive, when you feel motion, when you dream, when you feel hope, then you cannot feel apathetic. And the devil loves us to feel apathy in our lives and to say, “Oh, it doesn’t really matter.” 
Now his third strategy is in verse 22: “Others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and… saith… I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from [which] there is no deliverance.”
Now flattery in our day, I like to call it entitlement—these feelings and beliefs that somebody deserves something. “I deserve…” and you can fill in the blanks. Sometimes I’ve even said, “I deserve a day off,” or “I deserve something new to wear,” or “I deserve…,” you fill in the blank. But the idea that we think we deserve something or that we’re entitled to something just by being alive is an anti-Christ doctrine and belief. This entitlement attitude kills the Spirit. It denies the Holy Ghost. It denies the divinity that is within us. It makes us nothing more than animals that sleep and drink and eat and want comfort. And so again, it’s anti-Christ. It’s anti what Christ taught when he said in the parable, “Here’s your talent. Develop it. Make it more. Make it grow. Build my kingdom. Do something to show that you carry my light within you and that the world will be different because that light has shown through you.” (See Matthew 25:14-30) 
The person who feels entitled will never desire to show that light. It kills that light of the Savior in our lives. So I just find it fascinating that Nephi in his teaching nailed these three strategies of the devil so clearly, and that they haven’t changed. The devil’s playbook has not changed, because he gets results with this, and leads people carefully down to hell.
But when we know his offense and we know the Savior’s offense, then we can be in the game. We know what to guard against, what to defend against, what to work against. And the Savior’s plan is a plan of faith and hope and charity. How many times have we heard that. We look to the future, we keep trying, and we keep working. I love how this chapter, 2 Nephi 28, ends, where the Lord says in verse 30, “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more.” The Lord will keep giving us more. There is no end to what He will give us line upon line and precept upon precept. 
I’ve been fascinated over time with the teachings about the house of Israel being gathered in. At the end of 1 Nephi 22, it records the following about the Savior’s plans: “And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.” (verse 25)
Aren’t those comforting words? There is nothing about anger, apathy, or entitlement in those words. This idea of “Come, Follow Me,” as you sang so beautifully, is what He says. In Him we will find pasture. And he [Nephi] writes here in 1 Nephi about the Lord preserving those that are righteous and that He [the Lord] will preserve them over time. (See 1 Nephi 22:17) And then he [Nephi] bears this testimony: “Ye need not suppose that I and my father are the only ones that have testified, and also taught them. Wherefore, if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day. And thus it is.”
Don’t you love those words? “Thus it is. Amen.” Nephi knew and understood the strategy of the devil, but he also knew the promise of the Savior, and that if he clung to the Savior with all his might and followed His doctrines and precepts, and endured to the end, he would be saved at that day. And that is the same promise we have today. This is not a day when you or I need to fear. We want the Lord’s blessings; it takes work. And your attendance at this school and all the sacrifices you make to be here and advance every day, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, are evidence that you have faith and hope and charity operating in your spirit.
Isn’t that amazing? And as long as you have that drive to learn, to become more than you are today, to build on the examples of good people in your life, and continue to build and be part of  the Lord’s kingdom, you will have the Lord’s blessings.

Prayer and Scriptures

Now there are a couple of other thoughts I want to share. I have several talks here that I prepared for you. There’s the one I worked on for a while, and there’s the one I woke up with this morning, and there’s the one I thought of when I was sitting here when the songs were being sung, and then there’s the one you’re writing down, which is a completely different interpretation I imagine. I hope that as you’re here, some questions are coming to your mind, that thoughts specific to you are being written on your paper, because this is a time of revelation for you. You need to know that no matter where you are in the world, no matter how alone you feel, you can have the Lord’s help and revelation in your life, as a flowing stream.
I love the words that are in this book. [Referring to Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2011] How many of you have seen this book? Now, men, if you don’t have a copy, what would you say, Ramon? [Brother Beck: “I have a copy. And I’ve read it.”]
He has a copy. He’s read it multiple times. When this came off the printing press and I took my first copy home, Brother Beck absconded with it, and I never got it back. I had to go back to the printer and get my own copy. And when he teaches his high priests group, he takes his scriptures and this book, because he says it carries in it the Spirit of the Lord’s work and many true principles.
Now Sister Eliza R. Snow said this about personal revelation on page 46. She said that the Holy Ghost “satisfies and fills up every longing of the human [spirit], and fills up every vacuum.” Don’t you love that? It satisfies every longing of the human spirit, and fills up every vacuum. She said, “When I am filled with that Spirit … my soul is satisfied, and I can say in good earnest, that the trifling things of the day do not seem to stand in my way at all. But just let me lose my hold of that spirit and power of the Gospel, and partake of the spirit of the world, in the slightest degree, and trouble comes; there is something wrong. I am tried, and what will comfort me? You cannot impart comfort to me that will satisfy the immortal mind, but that which comes from the Fountain above. And is it not our privilege to so live that we can have this constantly flowing into our souls?” (Quoted in Daughters in My Kingdom, original source Eliza R. Snow, “An Address by Miss Eliza R. Snow,” Millennial Star, Jan. 13, 1874, 18)
We can have this Spirit “constantly flowing into our souls.” What an amazing promise. One of the things that I thought of this morning that I know somebody here needs to hear concerns prayer. Not long ago I thought I wanted to look for a new book to read. So I got online and was looking at the New York Times Bestsellers and just the little advertisement behind the books. And one of the books—I’m not going to tell you the name because I don’t want you to read it—and I didn’t read it, but just the introduction of it was telling about a man’s process of dying, and he was telling it the “honest” way, without the “crutch” of God, basically, a “how to” help people die without the help of God. And I thought, if I knew I were dying, my most important partner would have to be God.
Now all of us are going to die, and President Monson gave a tremendous message about that a couple of years ago. He said it is the inevitable thing. (See “He Is Risen,” Ensign, April 2003) And we not only need Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ in our process of life, but in preparing for life with Them. That is what we know life will be. And prayer—when prayer becomes a craving in your life, when you breathe prayer, when you dream prayer, when you sigh prayer and cry prayer and you love praying, then you begin to know some things about Heavenly Father and His Son and what they know about you and how loved and trusted you are, and their confidence in you and their patience as you’re learning.
Prayer is free. It doesn’t cost you anything. You don’t have to go anywhere special to pray. It can be with you and part of you in your life. And if you’ve ever felt that way about prayer and you don’t feel that way now, that’s a goal, that prayer becomes part of you, not an event. And the scriptures—when the scriptures become your friend, when they become your thesaurus and your dictionary, when they become your companion and your teacher, then the Lord can use them and open them for your benefit, you will find verses you didn’t know existed, and you’ll be blessed by words that you’re seeking in your life.
A number of years ago I made probably the wisest decision I’ve made outside of marrying Brother Beck. I decided that every day was a scripture day. At the time I was wrestling with several scripture-reading goals, because I was in a religion class and they had me read this much; and Sunday School wants you to read this, and Relief Society wanted me to read this, and the stake presidency came out with a scripture-reading goal, and our bishop had a scripture-reading goal, and I was overwhelmed with all my scripture assignments and failing in all of them, because I couldn’t get to all of my scripture-reading assignments. All of those assignments were well-intended, but they were helping me to feel a failure with regard to getting my job done.
So I knelt down and I made a promise to Heavenly Father. And I promised him that I would not try and do all those goals, but that I would spend some time in the Scriptures every day for the rest of my life. That was it. And if I would spend some time in the Scriptures every day of my life, would He be willing to bless me with an understanding of the Scriptures in the time I spent? So you’ll notice that’s a very open-ended goal. Some time in the Scriptures every day. So since then, sometimes I read in the mornings. Sometimes it’s in the middle of the day. Sometimes it’s at night, just before I fall asleep or as I’m falling asleep. Sometimes I get an hour to spend in the Scriptures, and sometimes I get a moment to spend in the Scriptures, but it’s some time in the Scriptures every day, until it’s like the air I breathe, that it would be impossible to live without some “oxygen” that I get from the Scriptures.


Now, brothers and sisters, you’ve been promised over and over again that the Lord knows who you are and not to worry. You’ve also been told over and over again that you’re special, that you’re the rising generation, you’re amazing, you’re super, and you’ve been preserved for this day. Am I telling you what you’ve heard? 
I want you to know that when Brother Beck and I and President and Sister Richards were youth of your age, they told us the same thing. And they weren’t lying, but we’re old now. What makes you special and us special is that we have made covenants. That’s what separates us. And those covenants obligate us. We’re not designated out for a free hall pass, because we’re special. It means because we have made covenants, we are designated to do specific work on behalf of the Lord, and because of that, Satan wants to play his offense in your life every day. He’d like to take you off the Lord’s plan for you.
But this I promise you today: you can plan, at this time in your life, to do the things the prophets have promised you you can do. You can plan to go to school and finish, and work, and prosper, if you follow the Lord’s principles of righteous living. There are examples over and over in the Scriptures of the Lord prospering and preserving His people in the midst of adversity, and it makes no difference what the world chooses to do. The Lord will help you and preserve you and strengthen you if you are on the path toward our Heavenly Father’s plan for you.
I promise you, as prophets have promised you, that if you will form eternal families and push ahead with that responsibility in spite of how ominous it looks and difficult, you’ll be blessed, because that is the Lord’s plan for you. I promise you, if you continue to share the gospel and participate in temple and family history work and in taking care of the poor and the needy as the Lord has asked you to do—that’s through your home teaching and your visiting teaching and all the assignments you get in the Church, through the rest of your life, you will get the same blessings promised to all Heavenly Father’s people through all time who participate in that kind of life. And you need not fear or doubt or be angry or apathetic or feel entitled. You just need to be the Lord’s partner in your life and in His work.
I bear testimony to you that this Church is the Church of Jesus Christ for His Latter-day Saints, that He is at the helm and is doing His marvelous work and a wonder that He has promised He would do. Your evidence here and where you are coming from in all parts of the world is testimony and proof of that…one of the proofs. I also testify that His work is carried on today under the direction of a living prophet who has the keys to carry out this work, and that the work is going on quicker and quicker. You can be part of that, and feel that intensity and that joy and the effort that it takes.
I also have my own personal testimony about Heavenly Father’s children, of whom you are some, that He has a plan for each one of us that’s individual and specific, and He has a plan for us as a people, to build His kingdom. I have seen that happen over and over again as I have traveled in the world.
I leave you my love and my confidence and my understanding of who we are as Heavenly Father’s children, and my belief and firm faith that everything the Lord has told us will happen, will happen. And that we’re living in a marvelous, amazing time. What a privilege it is for us. Thank you for the spirit you brought into my life today, and for all you are trying to do, for all your sacrifices, and for all the things you are striving to overcome to be who you need to be. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Earnestly Seek the Reality of Discipleship

05 Feb. 2013


Earnestly Seek the Reality of Discipleship

I want to tell you what a privilege and an honor it is to speak here. I’m going to really have to work hard on my peripheral vision to look at the whole audience, but I appreciate very much President Richards’ introduction. We actually were bishops together in the same building, and so I can say from firsthand experience over the 40 years that President Richards is an endless wellspring of faith and love and cheerfulness. He is about the most cheerful person that I’ve ever met. And you’re very lucky to be in his hands.
I have come to appreciate what a special place this is because, three times a week when I come home, my wife tells me about the wonderful experiences she has and how much she learns from watching you care for each other. So I’m really here as her companion, grateful to come to a place she loves so much.
I was given nearly complete latitude on the topic, which is quite unusual. And it’s in fact easier to be given a topic than to be given that breadth of choice. So I’ve prayed and pondered what I might say, and my hope and prayer is that what I say today will give you ways to think about your own life and to make changes for the better in your life.
We’re told in the Scriptures that in such settings we are to instruct and edify, and I hope that both happen today for you.
I want to share with you an idea that I was blessed to receive, in a way, many years ago, that has had a profound impact on my life. I hope it will suggest to you some of the ways that you can think about your own lives and that it will have a similar impact. One of my very favorite quotes is from Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said, “A mind expanded by an idea can never return to its original dimension.” And for me, when I came to understand this idea, it expanded my life and the way I think about it.
This idea came from a book that was published, now, 50 years ago, and it was discovered by me as a student about ten years later. The book has a respected author and a strange title. The author is a man named Daniel Boorstin. He was a professor of American history and a social commentator at the University of Chicago. In 1975, he was appointed as the 12th Librarian of Congress, in which position he served for 12 years. And he was the author of a number of books—some, The Creators, The Discoverers, and one three-volume set, The Americans that Won the Pulitzer Prize. The title of his book, which is strange, and here it is—it’s The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. I’m going to have to explain to you what that means, but the thesis of his book is that we as Americans have come to prefer illusion to actual experience, to prefer the image of reality to reality itself. And these illusions, or images of reality, we call pseudo-events. By pseudo, he means something apparent rather than real, a pretender—close but not the real thing. And I’ll give some examples that will make it a little clearer, because this is a little foggy. But Boorstin says this phenomenon of preferring illusion to actual experience, the image to reality, is partly the result of our accommodating technology, our raised expectations and the convenience of the image. And then he quotes at the beginning of the book the commentator Max Frisch, who said: “Technology is the knack of so arranging life that we don’t have to experience it.”  
Now, the examples Boorstin gives will, I think, help to make this clear. He contrasts news gathering, which he says is the substance, with news making, which is the image. And you have to think about what the idea of news is. News is things that happen. And he says news gathering means that we go out and cover natural disasters or national elections or wars. News making, by contrast, is the image of news but not the substance, and the examples would be interviews and polls. You think about the last presidential cycle, how many of us were consumed in the image of news but not the substance—polls, talking heads telling us which way the election was turning—and Boorstin would say that’s the image of news but not the substance.
He gives another example. He says, “Tourism is the image of which the substance is traveling.” And in his day, when there was a lot less technology, we had a history of what we called “Travel books,”—The Adventures of Marco Polo and others, where writers would go to strange places and describe in great detail what we couldn’t see or know. And he says [that] traveling then meant to get on a ship or a boat and to travel someplace where you felt the change of climate, you went and ate strange foods, you lived with people with different habits, and you really felt what a different environment was.
He says tourism, which is the image of travel, means you travel in air-conditioned planes, people pick you up on a bus, they take you to a Marriott Hotel, you’re led around by English tour guides, you always have American food so you don’t get sick, and you think you’ve been to someplace different. Now today, in a way, we go to a foreign country to see if the reality lives up to the image we have, actually.
He gives a third example. He says, “Graphics are the image of which art is the substance.” Originally, we had to go to museums to see great pieces of art, and then graphics came along and we have a print of the “Mona Lisa” on our refrigerator. And he tells the story of being in the Louvre and having a woman go through a line and say, “Gee, it’s not as vivid as the print I have at home.”
So another example he uses is artificial flowers and greenery which we keep in our offices. They give us the illusion of being outside, which we’re not; they give us the illusion of being adjacent to agriculture, but there is none of the pruning, none of the watering, none of the getting the dirt under our fingernails—so we have the image of an association with horticulture but not the substance.
Boorstin says then, interestingly, there’s a human pseudo-event. And he says that celebrities are the image of which heroes are the substance. And he says because of this confusion, we may worry or care more about our personality, our image, than we do our character or our substance. And he says the focus on celebrity is rooted in the world’s power to make men or women famous, People Magazine being the chief example, and a celebrity is just someone who is well-known for being well-known. I don’t mean to defame them, but the Kardashians would be an example.
By contrast, heroes are real, substantive human events. And although the word heroes is overused and at risk of becoming cheapened, there are real celebrities in our culture. About a month and a half ago, we went to the funeral of one of our neighbors, a man named Dr. Homer Warner. I don’t know if any of you would know him. But he was the father of medical informatics—using computers to collect data about people to help improve lives. And at a crucial time, he developed one of the first computer programs to do that. Instead of patenting that and making a lot of money, he made it free so that everybody could use it. He eventually became the area medical adviser in Germany to help missionaries, and when he would go to hospitals to make arrangements for missionaries to go there, it was not unusual for the staff to line up and applaud him as he walked in the door. He was a real hero although many of us don’t know him.
I imagine that Dr. Boorstin would find modern reality shows on television classic examples of the image of reality but not its substance. Now it’s important to understand that Boorstin was not anti-technology, nor should we be. Technology is not inherently bad, and it can and does bring many blessings and extends our capacity for good works and personal growth. And any of you who have communicated with your parents by e-mail from the mission field will know one of the advantages of technology, and now I think on the Christmas call, missionaries can Skype. And people with little means can be exposed to tremendous knowledge. We have online learning; there are many good things.
One of my favorite examples, frankly, is something I realized when I was reading the Doctrine and Covenants on the mission. In September of 1832—so when the Church was in its infancy in Kirtland—the Prophet Joseph Smith received this revelation, from the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants: “For I will forgive you of your sins with this commandment”—think about the offer to have our sins forgiven—“that you remain steadfast in your minds in solemnity and the spirit of prayer, in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto you. Therefore, go ye into all the world.” Now think about this little band of recent converts. The Church is in its second year, being told, “Don’t go proselyte to Illinois; go to the whole world.” And then the Lord gives this amazing statement: “And [unto] whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature.” (verses 61-62)
I don’t know what they’ve got back then. Does that mean we crate up copies of the Book of Mormon and send it to the South Sea Islands? I don’t know what they thought. But we know what it means today. “And unto whatsoever place ye cannot go, ye shall send.” Because we now send and conference everywhere in the world. We had in our mission a missionary from Chengdu, China, whose mother was converted by looking up the Church on the Internet. So we can now fulfill a prophecy which I’m not sure the Saints understood when they received it, because of technology.
Rather, Dr. Boorstin is warning us about something else, and that is the potential for technology to estrange us from reality rather than enhance reality. We may become confused about what is real and what is imaginary in our lives, because we are embracing the image of things and not their substance. And when we do that, we can miss the reality in our lives. We can become disillusioned with life or ourselves, or disappointed with things because we misunderstand the image rather than the reality of them.
The prophet Joel in the Old Testament warned us of this in a phrase that is really powerful. He said, “Rend your heart, and not your garments.” (Joel 2:13) What he meant by that is that some people wanted to show their humility by tearing their clothes. And he said, “Don’t tear your clothes, rend your heart.” He is warning about the image of humility or devotion and not its substance.
Almost immediately from reading this book, the implications of it became clear to me. First as a student, because I realized that as a student, thinking about the process of learning and education, it was easy to confuse getting good grades with real learning. We all know this phenomenon, because we’ve all been trained from an early age to be grade grubbers. And yet there is a danger—and this is a bit of a confession—but when I was a student at the University of Utah, I had the privilege of taking four classes from Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was then a professor of political science. And one of those classes, he would give three tests, on a third of the course each, during the semester, and your grades were a combination of the two highest scores. So I took this class, studied hard, loved it, and did well on the first two tests. And I saw him just before the third test, and he said, “We’ll see you tomorrow for the third test.”
I said, “I’m not coming.”
He said, “You’re not coming?”
I said, “No. I did well enough on the first two tests, I don’t need to come take the third one.”
Now I’m very embarrassed thinking back about that, because I remember the disappointment on his face. But as I’ve thought about it, it was a classic example of me caring about grades but not what I was learning. Obtaining a degree is the image of which the substance is specific skills and abilities in a subject matter area. When I was a bishop, I had a young man come to me who had attended a certain technical school or college, and when he had gotten the degree he went out, and no one would hire him because he didn’t have the right skill sets. He thought the degree would get him a job. But that is the image. The substance is the skill set.
Let me give you another example, because there’s an implication to this in our relationships. It’s possible to go through the emotions of a relationship without their substance. One of my favorite examples—we think about charity, serving others—a writer I like, C.S. Lewis, once said, “It is … easier to pray for a bore than to go and see [him].” (Letters of Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer) And we can sometimes think we are charitable if we are praying for others, when in reality the substance of charity is going to see them.
Going through the motions can apply in a lot of settings. We had wonderful missionaries. On very rare occasions, there would be companionship issues. And sometimes, companions would get so angry at each other that it was palpable, and yet they would say to each other, because we trained them to do so, “Elder, I really love you.” They were going through the emotions, but both they and their companions knew there was no substance to it. And if you think about this, sometimes we go through the motions of charity without its substance.
If you think about this, one of the reasons we prize authenticity and genuineness is because it’s substantive. We can tell that we are dealing with the reality of another person and not their image, and so if you think about the application of this in relationships, another word for substance is authenticity.
The most important aspect of applying Boorstin’s idea actually came as I thought about it in my religious life and its application to discipleship. Because I recognized almost immediately that for many people, including myself, there is a real risk that we might come to arrange the gospel in such a way that we don’t have to experience it—to seek a church commitment that is convenient and comfortable, to embrace the image of discipleship rather than its substance. And I have to say that in some respects, there is a greater risk of that in the center of Zion where there is some status associated with church membership and position.
And I think sometimes we can get off track because we embrace the image of discipleship to communicate to others that we are part of the large group, but sometimes in a subconscious way, we confuse ourselves, because we’re holding a church position or we’re doing things that we say to ourselves constitute discipleship, but it’s the image and not the substance. Again, I remind you what Joel said: “Rend your heart and not your garment.”
We may look like we are on the Lord’s errand when we are only going through the motion, and when this happens, in a sense we have “a form of godliness but …[avoid] the power thereof.” (see 2 Timothy 3:5; Joseph Smith—History 1:19)  Now the potential and how it works in the gospel can be seen with a number of examples. So let me walk through them, and see if these ring true with you.
Attending church is the image of which the substance is worshipping the Lord. We may start thinking—think how often we have attended sacrament meeting, but our minds are on whether the Ravens or the 49ers are going to win. In fact, it may sometimes happen that we start to think that sacrament meeting is boring and we have a hint that we may be missing the substance. In other words, it is quite possible to attend a church service without actually worshipping. And again, we can be disappointed with what is happening to us because we have confused the image with the substance.
Secondly, partaking of the sacrament is the image of which the substance is renewing our covenants. Think how often—and it happens not deliberately, but it happens. It has happened to me—we go through the motions of taking the sacrament, but the act of renewing and being renewed or made new doesn’t happen. So that’s another example of how this can happen.
Third, going on a mission is the image of which the substance is preaching the gospel. One of the joys of our experience together was watching missionaries go through this change, when the mission stopped being about them and became about the work. And when that happened, the substance of being a missionary began to transform them. But I know missionaries who served for two years, who wore white shirts and ties and badges but missed the miracle. They had the image of being a missionary but not its substance.
Calling ourselves Christian is the image of which the substance is taking upon ourselves the name of the Lord. Holding a Church job or position is the image of which the substance is magnifying our calling. When I was a stake president at the University of Utah, I would interview, sometimes, some of our stake members as they were leaving, graduating. I interviewed a great young woman who had come to our stake—it was a family student stake—at age 18 with three children. She had escaped from a polygamous relationship, and she spent four years getting a degree. She got a teaching certificate and graduated on her own, no family support. And I said to her, “Tell me, what’s been the best experience you’ve had in our stake?”
And she said, “It’s easy. It’s my home teacher.”
And I said, “Really. Who is your home teacher?”
And she said, “Brian Carroll.”
I paused for a minute, because Brian was a quadriplegic, and this sister lived on the second story of student housing up on Sunnyside Avenue with no elevators. I said, “Well, that’s wonderful, but how was Brian able to home teach you.”
She said, “Oh, we went to his apartment.”
So that’s somebody who understood how to magnify his calling.
Being married in the temple is the image of which the substance is worthily entering into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. And as the stake president of a married/family student stake, I interviewed some couples who had been married in the temple but had only had the image of it and not the substance. And only in the substance can you partake of the joy of that covenant.
Saying our prayers is the image of which the substance is truly communicating with the Lord. You think about Christ warned about this when he condemned those who prayed to be seen of men. I remember getting a glimpse of what it meant to have the substance of prayer when I heard Elder Marion D. Hanks give a talk and said that at his bed he kept a notepad and pen, so that when he had impressions in his prayers he could stop his prayer and go write down what the impression was and then go back to his prayer. And I remember thinking, “Boy, Elder Hanks has got the substance of prayer,” something I have tried to model.
In repentance, saying “I’m sorry” is the image of which the substance is feeling godly sorrow. We have a grandson who is named after me, the name of James, who has just turned five. Last summer, he got in his dad’s car, which was parked in front of the house, and put it in neutral, and the car started rolling down the street. And James panicked, jumped out; the car—the back tire of the car rolled over his leg and [the car] hit a tree and ripped the left-hand door off. They rushed him up to the hospital. He was fine, no broken bones. They brought him home. That night as his mother was putting him to bed, she said he looked up at her and said, “You know, Mom, except for the car, I’ve been really good today.”
We say we’re sorry, but do we really mean it with the Lord? It’s easy to go through the motions of repentance without the substance.
The consequences of leading an image-focused spiritual life are obvious. If that happens to us, we may come to regard the Church or the gospel as empty or irrelevant, when in fact we are confusing our own superficiality for what the Church has to offer. And when that happens, like the people in Jesus’ homeland, we render the gospel incapable of doing any mighty works in our lives.
Christ, near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, gave the most profound warning of this, said, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
“Many will say to me at that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 27:21-23)
So it’s not enough to go through the motions. We must know the Lord and must do the will of our Father. And that’s the substance of the gospel. How can we avoid this? How can we better make sure that we’re not engaged in an imaginary spiritual life, but we are embracing the substance? I’d like to suggest four ways that we do it, very briefly.
First, I believe thinking about the distinction itself helps us to look at things the right way. The idea has expanded our minds, and we begin to see when we are going through the motions instead of embracing the substance. J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, said, “Once you have read about a magical forest, you can never enter forests in the same way again.” And I think that’s, for me at least, having this idea in my head made a big difference.
When we know that there is a risk of this superficiality, we have a way to understand ourselves better, to set truly substantive goals, and to identify our weaknesses. One way to do this, of course, is to ask ourselves regularly, “Am I going through the motions?” Which leads me to my second point, which is, don’t stop going through the motions.
Going through the motions is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is often the way we start toward experiencing the substance. To the old question missionaries say, “I can’t go tracting until I feel the Spirit,” what is the answer? Go tracting, and you will get the Spirit. So it’s really important.
Let me give you one example from my own life that was important. As a young bishop, I guess the second time, I had a young family, and I was busy in my practice, and I remember one night almost dreading driving up to meetings and interviews. I just felt drained and empty. And that condition persisted for about a week. I was reading in the Book of Mormon and read a scripture that really had a tremendous impact on me in the moment.
It was Nephi, near the end of his writings, in the 32nd chapter wrote the following words: “For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teaches him that he must not pray,” something that President Richards referred to earlier this morning.
“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform anything unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” (verses 8-9)
So what does Nephi teach us? He teaches us two things: Whatever you do, don’t stop praying. That won’t work. Even if your prayers feel superficial, if you have the image of prayer, don’t stop praying. Then he gives us another thing. He says if you are going to perform anything unto the Lord, which may be almost anything in our lives, but especially our religious performances, we have to include something in our prayers we sometimes don’t—often don’t. And that is, we must in the first place pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, “that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” And as a bishop, I had been praying for the people I was going to go interview, the people I was going to go counsel with, the work of the ward. I had never prayed that God would consecrate my performance unto me, that it would be for the welfare of my soul, that I would have the substance and not the image of what I was doing. And once I added that to my prayers, my reservoir began to fill and the emptiness that I had felt went away.
So don’t stop doing the motions of religious observance. Just try to improve them. Try to get our heart in it. Do the things that make them substantive. One way of thinking about this is a quote from a writer I like by the name of Charles Williams, who said, “We must build our altars one place so that the fire can come down someplace else.” And what he meant by that was, every time we go to Church, we may not have a spiritual experience. But if we’re not going to church, we’re not likely to have spiritual experiences anywhere else.
The third way to do this is to read the Scriptures daily and deeply, because the Scriptures are about people who had real spiritual experiences. They weren’t engaged—I’ve been reading the New Testament lately, and if you read about Paul, that’s not someone who was caught up in the image of religion. His daily experience was substantive, demanding, trying, difficult. And when you read about him, you can’t be confused about it.
When you read about Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah as missionaries, you read about real people with real experiences that have tremendous application to our missionaries. One of the things we learned and became a powerful use of the Scriptures was that the most challenging time for our missionaries was 9:59 a.m.  Those of you who have served missions know why, because it’s when you leave the comfort of your apartment and the wonderful experience of studying and at 10:00 o’clock go out to meet the world and start tracting. It’s the hardest moment. And we would have, in our mission, our missionaries—we had a card called “My Identity.” And every morning at 9:59, they would stand up and say what, Elder Jones? Stand up and be loud. [A former missionary who served under Brother Jardine arises and recites a scripture.]
For those of you who couldn’t hear, what we would say are the words of Mormon the editor, who in the middle of 3 Nephi stops and gives us an explanation of what he is doing and why. In the middle of that, he tells us his identity. He says, “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.” (3 Nephi 5:13) So that our missionaries would feel the power of that declaration by another missionary prophet.
So I just encourage you to read the Scriptures and learn about real people.
Lastly, seek out Spirit-requiring experiences. There is a reality to going to visit someone who is in distress, who has got something hard going on in their lives or is ill, maybe with a terminal disease. Not easy, but real. And you can’t fake it. You can’t “go through the motions” in that setting. When we were at the University Stake serving, every night we were required to have two elders in the University Hospital and two at Primary Children’s [Medical Center] to give any blessings they were called upon [to give]. It was one of my favorite things to do, because you can’t give a blessing to someone who is that ill, someone you have never met before, and not know that you need the Spirit. You can’t just say the words. It humbles you and brings you into a reality.
Accepting Church callings that stretch us has the same effect. If you are asked to be a teacher and you are shy, you’re on your way to a real experience. That’s just the way it works.
So let me conclude with a testimony and two final observations. One of the—I had someone relay an experience to me once that gave me a glimpse of—not the image of a prophet but the substance. And it was Elaine Cannon, a dear friend of my mother’s, who was the general president of the Young Women’s organization. She said after the Sunday afternoon session of a general conference that was then held in the Tabernacle, she stayed and lingered and talked to people for a long time. She was about the last person out, and she finally went up and around and down underneath where you get in the tunnels to go to parking and other places. She said she was the only one in the tunnel except, ahead of her in the tunnel about halfway down, was a golf cart driven by Arthur Haycock, who was then the secretary to the First Presidency, sitting on the cart with President and Sister Kimball. And about halfway down, the cart stopped, President Kimball got off, got a bag and some other things, put a key in a door, opened a door and went in and left, and then the cart went on.
Elaine said that a few days later, she saw Brother Haycock and said, “You know, Arthur, I was interested. I saw this happen, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Where was President Kimball going, with conference over?”
And he said, “Oh, he was going into the temple to report on conference.”
That’s what prophets do. That’s the reality and substance of religion.
There is one place in the Scriptures where we are told it’s okay to embrace the image, and it is when Alma the Younger is lecturing, teaching the people in Zarahemla where the church had been established. And he poses three questions to the people who were members of the church. And think how you will answer these three questions.
The three questions were: “Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change [of] heart?” (Alma 5:14) When we can answer those three questions affirmatively, when we can have the image of the Savior in our countenances, that is the image our Father in Heaven wants us to have, and it’s no different from the substance.
I leave you my testimony and my love, that having the image of the Savior in our countenances is the way to a substantive, authentic, genuine life that will bless us all our days, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Service and Sacrifice Enrich our Lives

12 Mar. 2013


Service and Sacrifice Enrich our Lives

With the introduction and some of those thoughts, it reminded me of the first prayer I offered as a missionary, up in a little town called Eagle Butte, South Dakota. My missionary companion … they were just opening that mission, and so there were a lot of us young elders coming out and being put with missionaries that had just been there a short time. So my companion had been out for 30 long days, and I became his companion. And he didn’t know very much, but I knew a lot less than him. And here we were together on this Indian reservation, and I stepped out of the little shuttle that took me up to that town after the mission president had given us a little orientation, and he said, “We have an appointment over at the jailhouse.”

I said to myself, “I’ve never seen a jailhouse.” And having been raised in a small LDS farm community, I don’t think I’d ever seen anybody but an Anglo. So I was a little bit scared and a little shocked. But we went over the jailhouse. I didn’t know what to expect, whether there would be a danger. It’s kind of foolish now, looking back on it, but still. My companion said, “Elder Brown, would you give the opening prayer?” and we all knelt down.

And I thought it was kind of scary for me, my first day in the mission field. But I’d prayed all my life, so I just gave the old casual prayer. I said, “Heavenly Father, we’re thankful that all these men could be here today.” Then I thought that wasn’t right, but I stumbled on through the prayer and closed it by saying, “And we pray that they can all return next time.” That’s the prayer that I’d given in my home town all those years. So it brought back memories. Thank you for that heartfelt prayer today.

As I was preparing a few thoughts today, my mind went back to one of the missionaries that served with us in the Utah Provo Mission a few years ago. This was a young man who was raised on a large ranch in the South. So he had a lot of freedom. He was always outside. He loved the out of doors. He didn’t like to be inside, and he didn’t like to be particularly restrained. And it was a little hard for him. He had a little anxiety and quite a bit of social anxiety. He said to me one day, “President, when I stand up in church to speak, I can’t help it, but my chin quivers.” And he said, “I can’t stop my knees from shaking. When I have to make a door approach I find the same thing, I can hardly speak.” He said, “It’s really hard for me.”

Well, to tell you a little bit about his background, when he was home he worked on the farm a lot of time, but he had to make a little money. His job was when alligators came into town—and they showed up quite often at people’s homes or businesses in the town—they would call him, and he’d go capture them and take them back out in the swamps. So he didn’t lack courage. I mean, I’ve never caught an alligator, and I probably will die without having ever caught an alligator. So we all admired him, but he was really kind of afraid. He wanted to go home—many times, I can’t tell you how many times he said to me, “President, I think I ought to go home. Not that I don’t want to serve—I don’t know whether I can do it.”

Even his parents at one point in time called me and said, “Maybe he’s just had enough.” Yet I had this impression, and sometimes maybe that’s the way it ought to be. I don’t argue that. Sometimes maybe it isn’t the place for a young man or woman after they’ve done their very best to serve as well as they could. But for him I just had that impression—he needs to stay, he shouldn’t go home.

Then one day I learned a little secret that I didn’t know before. He was serving down in Springville. Now if you haven’t been to Springville, you can go, and you’ll pass through it in about 90 seconds. But here’s what he said to me one day. He said, “President, my biggest problem is I can’t stand these big cities.” And I thought, well okay, if that’s his problem I can take care of that. We’ve got Moab, Blanding—I can send him somewhere really remote, which I did. And you know, he really had a pretty good last part of his mission.

But here’s the point, brothers and sisters. When all of our missionaries went home, we had a fireside. They all spoke for a few minutes, invited their converts, their old ward mission leaders. And sometimes their parents came to pick them up. And when we held the fireside that night where he spoke, his mother showed up unexpectedly and was sitting in the audience when he bore his testimony. We had about—we counted about 450 missionaries during our service time, but I don’t remember one any more than I remember this good missionary’s testimony. Because he stood up to the pulpit, and the minute he did the tears just gushed out of his eyes. And he said something like this: “I made it. I did it. It was the hardest thing that I have ever done, but I finished this mission.” And his mother was crying about as much as he did.

And I said to myself, this young man sacrificed immensely. For some of us to go on missions, it’s hard, but it’s not that hard. For him it was very, very difficult matter, but he made it. And so, in thinking about that, I’ve come to understand the verse of a song—a song that you have sung many, many times. It’s called “Praise to the Man.” We’ve sung it a lot, haven’t we? The last verse starts with these words: “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.” (Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 27)

I’ve thought about that a lot over the years, and I’ve come to believe this: that sacrifice is the only way that we receive blessings. I don’t think there’s any other way to receive blessings from heaven than from some form of sacrifice. This young man, I think, will be blessed all of his life for a pretty major sacrifice on his part. I like the way James explains it to us, in a sense. He talks about pure religion. Pure religion.

In James 1:27, says this: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep [oneself] unspotted from the world.” Think about that for a minute. I don’t think I can add anything to that. Maybe you can. I’ve never been able to. It’s giving of yourself to other people—giving up your own interests and wishes and time and means to bless and help other people. That’s a form of sacrifice, giving of ourselves.

The second form of sacrifice is to give up the world, to keep oneself unspotted from the world, to be clean, to repel or stand against the things that our natural desires might want and to give to God the sacrifice of cleanliness. I like to describe it as doing good for others and being good yourself. Doing good and being good, I believe, is pure religion. I don’t think you can add or take away from that.

Now let’s maybe spend a minute on each one of those issues of sacrifice. Think about it for a minute. They are both means of sacrifice—giving of your time for someone else, giving up the world. Sacrificing our natural desires for the things of God. They are forms of sacrifice.

Let’s talk about the visiting of fatherless and widows. And of course that’s not simply literal. That’s one thing we ought to do, but it speaks of a larger issue of giving of ourselves and serving others. Missionary service, for example—and I happened to just get an email from one of my missionaries, a sister who lives here in the Salt Lake Valley and who served a few years ago. She sent an email, just catching up on the things in her life. And it reminded me of the blessing that so many of you have experienced on missions, and so many more of you will probably also experience.

She said, “I’ve seen some prolonged blessings”—and there’s that word—“some blessings from serving in the Utah Provo Mission—moments that just make me appreciate my mission even more, and the inspiration behind my call.” Then she talks about teaching a family in St. George when she was serving there, a man who had been less active his entire life. She and her companion were able to reach, touch his heart, help him through the Spirit [to] become active in the Church again, and then his three children and wife were baptized, and they all became active as a family. Now think about that for just a minute, the change in the lives of those children forever.

She said that she went down to St. George to attend a missionary farewell—that’s the wrong word these days—but to attend the sacrament meetings where the oldest son in that family is going on a mission. He’s going to baptize some people and bring them into the kingdom. But the sacrifice she put into it, she says in her email, brings her great satisfaction and joy. And it came through hard work, because her mission wasn’t easy.

Then she said, “You may remember Brother Pino, the Italian man who was in his seventies, from Payson.” And I do remember him well. She said, “My companion and I had the privilege of teaching him and seeing him get baptized at what we call ‘My big fat Italian baptism.’ And she said, “I call it that because we couldn’t fit everybody into the church house when he got baptized, because everybody loved him so much.” Then she said, “We got to go to his sealing in the temple, where he and his wife were sealed together.” Then she said he traveled to Salt Lake and to Canada at the sealing of the two of us when we got married. Then she ends—she says a lot more, but she simply says she has such great gratitude to be part of this. She ends by saying, “My mission continues to bless my life.”

Blessings come from sacrifice and giving of ourselves, and it isn’t always the easy course, is it, brothers and sisters? It’s sometimes the difficult one. So as you serve in the Church in your callings, it doesn’t matter what your calling is. Some of you are Relief Society presidents and some are in Elder’s quorum presidencies, and clerks, and bishoprics. But you know, if you’re a home teacher, it’s a responsibility and an opportunity to serve. And as you serve faithfully and well, those blessings will come to you also.

Sometimes, brothers and sisters, we choose to give of ourselves. And we always make that choice. But sometimes some of the challenges of life are thrust upon us and we have opportunities then to sacrifice and serve others who may have difficulties and challenges themselves.

President Faust told this story about a general authority that you younger folks may not remember his name. Some of us who are older remember him. His name was S. Dilworth Young, who was a member of the First Council of the Seventy. I remember Elder Young attending conferences; I think he came to our stake conference a time or two. A wonderful, wonderful, faithful soul. But I think publicly he came across as a little stern, a little strong in his personality, and you kind of felt that. But I think underneath he was a wonderful gentle soul. And President Faust told this story about him.

He said that at the time he is talking about, Elder Young’s wife, Gladys, “was an invalid, having suffered … a cruel stroke. She remained that way for [many] years [before her death]. Brother Young made the extra effort to dress her, feed her, and care for her. In all my life, says President Faust, I have not seen a greater example of gentleness and solicitude than Brother Young showed to Gladys. . . . [Elder Young told me,] ‘It was the worst thing in the world that could have happened to Gladys, and the best thing for me. It made me decent. I learned what love should really be.’ ” (“Brethren, Love Your Wives,” Ensign, July 1981.  Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven, even though it’s not always easy.

One of the ways we know some of you serve, and hopefully most of you can often, is in the temple. I have to—this is an unpaid advertisement because [as] the temple president we want to always encourage you to attend the temple. Some of you have been on missions, you’ve had your endowments, some of you haven’t yet. But we hope each one of you can find an opportunity to go to the temple. It’s a form of service, it’s a great opportunity to give, sacrifice to bless both the living and dead through your work.

We have in the Draper Temple—and I understand even here [in the Salt Lake Temple] many of you, if you go on Saturdays and other times to serve in the temple—we have youth who have had their mission calls, waiting to go, and those who have returned that come into the temple every week to serve, to provide help in the baptistry and other places in the temple. Again, all of this brings blessings and peace and happiness, joy into our lives.

It’s not always an easy trek to happiness and satisfaction. But you know, we all need to try to figure it out, because all of us have our days. Everybody has those days when you kind of wish the sun didn’t come up. Well, you want it to come up, but you don’t want to get up. And we all have some of those days. But it’s important to figure out in our lives that if we feel unhappy all the time, if we feel depressed and sad and miserable, one of the things we maybe haven’t discovered is giving to other people. I don’t know of a person who even struggles with their own emotions of sadness and unhappiness that doesn’t feel better when they learn to give of themselves and to act for others and care about others.

You all—probably most of you have roommates. You know, I had roommates in college; I had missionary companions. And some of the missionary companions I didn’t enjoy being with, to be honest. But we got along just fine. What made me sad later is I found that most of them didn’t want to be with me. And I think they were all grateful when they got a new companion. But you learn to get along. And sometimes when you have a struggle, then do something for that companion. Do the dishes one night when it’s not your turn. Shine their shoes and make their bed. Look for ways to serve. And we’ll talk about that in just a minute, the other result of that. But it can bring happiness when we have some form of sacrifice.

The second way—we’ll just shift now to that keeping oneself unspotted from the world. Just a thought or two about that. It’s a real challenge today, brothers and sisters. I have said sincerely and genuinely—at my age, you know, I’m facing the prospects of going on to the next world long before any of you are. But let me tell you what, I’m kind of happy that I’m in this stage of life at this time in the world. I don’t know, honestly, just as honest as I can be with you—I don’t know that I would want to live in the world as you do today. I admire you. I love you. And I know it’s not easy sometimes, but thank you for really being the hope for the future in this Church. You have so much good yet to do in your families, in the Church, and in the world. But I know it’s a challenge—moral cleanliness, pornography, the temptation of cheating, the sins of commission and the sins of omission, paying tithing and fast offerings. There are many things in our lives that we have to deal with and have to struggle with. But we have to try to live it the very best we can.

How do you find the strength and the courage to make the right choices? I’ve wondered. I’ve worked with a counseling system—LDS Social Services—for years, and I’ve spent decades trying to understand human behavior from the Scriptures. I’ve wondered why it is that you’re here today and perhaps someone else is in a juvenile home. Why did you make the choices? Because we all have choices. Sometimes we don’t want to believe that. But Joseph Smith said that. He said that Satan cannot persuade us, cannot make us do anything wrong, and God will not make us do anything right. So we stand in the middle. In any given situation, we have a choice to make. What causes people to make choices one way or another?

For me, I can only boil it down to one word, and that word is desire. You have to want to make the right choice. So the next question is what? What causes desire? It’s pretty simple in a way, brothers and sisters. It’s not very complicated. Because the things that cause desire, that foster desire in our hearts to be obedient, are the simple things of the gospel. It is saying your prayers every day, it’s reading the Scriptures, it’s attending your meetings. It’s being obedient. It’s paying your tithing. It’s paying your fast offerings. It’s serving in the Church. These things, when you do them, will create a greater desire to be obedient. It’s not too complicated.

And what we believe has a lot to do with desire. When we believe the right things about ourselves and about God and the world, then we will make better choices. It’s the future that causes us to behave a certain way. It’s not our past. Too many of us want to look back and think, “Well, my parents weren’t the best parents.” Well of course they weren’t. They weren’t perfect, and you’ll spend your time analyzing them at a certain point in your life, and then wait for your children to do the same to you. That’s kind of the way it is. They are not perfect. But it’s just trying to believe in the future that makes a difference.

Why does a young boy, 10 years old, sit out in his driveway on the cement and shoot baskets—a thousand baskets a day? It’s not so much what happened to him in the past; it’s his hope for the future. I want to be, I want to become, maybe I want to make that team. And what you hope for the future, what you believe in, is one of the most significant influences on your behavior today.  So when you believe in God, you believe in salvation, you believe the Church is true, that we’re guided by apostles and prophets, it makes a difference in how you behave today.

Now in saying that, I want to go to the other end of that for just a minute, because one of the same things I have sensed among young people and people in the Church is this feeling of not being perfect. I worry about that. I worry about people who live constantly with guilt and shame. You know, when you sin you’re supposed to feel a little guilt. And that should motivate you to change and be better. But some people carry it around in such an awful fashion and it worries me. They’re not perfect and they don’t feel they’re perfect, and every time they make a mistake it’s somehow that they’re no good anymore. And you know what I’m talking about, I have a feeling.

We have to remember that Christ is a God of mercy. Justice is there, and that will take care of itself. But God’s Atonement, His crucifixion, was an act of mercy so that we can be forgiven and we can be blessed and helped in our weaknesses.

I like the scripture where the Savior says, “Take my yoke upon you.” (Matthew 11:29) You know what a yoke is. You’ve seen oxen in a picture or whatever—it’s a wooden frame with two circles that are attached solidly together. And then there’s an ox in each, put their heads through each side. Where one ox goes, the other one goes with him. He doesn’t have much of a choice. And one ox may pull a little harder than the other, but they both go along. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you—I’ll put one side on my shoulders and over my head; you get in the other one with me. Have a little faith. And guess who’s going to pull the hardest most of the time? Me. And I’m willing to do it. And if you can’t pull very hard, I’ll pull you along a ways. But it’s yoked together, and we’ll pull together.”

And then I think He would probably say something like this: “You know, I know tomorrow or next week or next year you can pull just a little bit more, but in the meantime, it’s okay if you are not perfect. Let’s just do it together, and my Atonement, my love, my mercy will cover for you.” And I think that’s the way it is with our imperfections.

I like what Bruce R. McConkie said. This is a great gospel truth that “everyone in the Church who is on the straight and narrow path, who is striving”—now listen to these words—“striving and struggling and desiring to do… right, though is far from perfect in this life; if he passes out of this life while he’s on the straight and narrow, he’s going on to eternal reward in [the] Father’s kingdom. We don’t need to get a complex or get a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved…. In order to be saved in the kingdom of God what you have to do is get on the straight and narrow path…and then… pass out of this life in full fellowship…. If you’re on that path and pressing forward, and you die, you’ll never get off the path. There is no such thing as falling off the straight and narrow path in the life to come, and the reason is that this life is the time…and day of your salvation, so if you’re working zealously in this life—though you haven’t… overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do [or become]—you’re… going to be saved.”  (    From an address titled “The Probationary Test of Mortality,” given at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, Jan. 10, 1982. Also cited by Elder L. Tom Perry in Oct. 2006 general conference.) Now that is a great message of mercy.

Heber J. Grant adds to it with this statement, which I love and appreciate personally. He said, “I do not believe that any man lives up to his ideals, but if we are striving, if we are working, if we are trying, to the best of our ability, to improve day by day, then we are in the line of our duty. If we are seeking to remedy our own defects, if we are so living that we can ask God for light, [and] for knowledge, and intelligence, and above all for His Spirit, that we may overcome our weaknesses, then, I can tell you, we are in the straight and narrow path that leads to [eternal life]; then we need to have no fear.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, “Walking in the Path That Leads to Life Eternal,” p. 23)

“No man is perfect, but one”—listen to this sentence—“but one who strives earnestly to conquer weaknesses and grow into perfection does not sin. That is to say, he is not a sinner. A sinner is one who indulges in sin habitually because he takes pleasure in it.” (Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, 185.) 

There is hope, brothers and sisters, to be imperfect. Just keep striving. And if your behavior is such that you need a little help from your bishop, go to him. Because let me tell you this: One of the greatest gifts God ever gave to His children was the opportunity to confess your sins. There’s something, I could say, magical about it. That’s the wrong word. But there is something that’s wonderful about it. The minute a person shares a problem with another person, particularly a bishop, he immediately and automatically gives strength over the problem. It’s a great gift of mercy to have the opportunity to talk to your bishop.

Now maybe just one more thought in closing. I want to mention one more outcome and blessing of sacrifice. Sacrifice not only brings blessings, it brings love. I would say again from my own experience and opinion that nothing else does. I think if you want to generate love in your heart for something or someone, it will come through sacrifice and giving of yourself. You missionaries, do you remember? You left on your mission and when you walked out the door to go to the MTC, your younger sister was really happy because she got your room? You left your three girlfriends behind; you left your mother’s cooking behind. Your mom scratched your back, probably, still by the time you were going on your mission. You had companions that were lazy. You got rejected how many hundreds of times at doors, people sometimes calling you names. Not easy. Then you get—two or three girlfriends, you always get two or three Dear Johns.

And then a missionary almost always comes back and stands at the pulpit, and you know what you say: “It was the best two years of my life.” And if you aren’t LDS and understanding it, you would think we were crazy. Because it is work, and it’s wonderful work, but it’s not easy. It’s the challenge, it’s the sacrifice of giving that causes love for the mission and love for God and the love for your companions.

I see mothers—down here on the front row with these beautiful little babies—and I can see something in their eyes. The love. And you know, a little baby when they’re first born—I mean, it’s pretty hard for nine months, anyway, until the delivery, and then when they’re born their greatest characteristic is messing their pants and throwing up, having colic. But you look into a mother’s eyes—and I think men can never quite understand or appreciate the love that a mother has for a child. Do you know why? She gives so much for that child and sacrifice develops love.

In some of the counseling I’ve done in the work with couples who have marriage problems, I’ve heard so many times—and I’ll use the man as the example, [though] it can work both ways: “I just don’t love her anymore.” That tells me more about him than it does about her. Now I know it’s a two-way street. You both have to work at marriage and relationships. But when a person stops loving another one, it’s almost always because of what he or she is not doing, not what the other person is doing.

God never left something as sacred as love to the other person. It’s in our hearts. If we want to love our companion more, if we want to love the Lord more, if we want to love our roommates more, then sacrifice is probably the only way to develop that love. And like I say, it has to be a two-way street. But I can assure you that that’s the way we develop love, is through giving and sacrifice, loving and putting our best efforts into life and into our fellowmen.

Well, brothers and sisters, I just want to share my testimony that I’m really a believer. I have that deep and abiding testimony that God lives and that this is His Church, and in it we will find happiness and joy and that happiness and joy that we feel will come as we are willing and able to make choices that allow us the privilege and opportunity of sacrificing ourselves by serving others and sacrifice by giving up the things of the world for the things of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Listen Carefully to Our Living Prophets

19 Mar. 2013


Listen Carefully to Our Living Prophets

Brothers and sisters, I’m grateful to be here today.  I want to speak today about the opportunities and blessings of listening to and heeding the voice of our living prophet and apostles. We have the blessing—really the matchless blessing, and maybe we take it for granted sometimes—of living our whole lives on the world at a time when there is a living prophet of the living God, who the Prophet Joseph Smith referred to as “a legal administrator” for the kingdom of God on the earth.” (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [1976], p. 274.)  

The Lord said, speaking of His servants: “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.” (D&C 68:4)

We’re getting ready, I hope, to listen to our prophets and apostles again. In just a few weeks we’ll have general conference. And I’d like our remarks and our time and our pondering [and] the notes you make in the notebooks you brought . . . to be helpful in our preparation, in your preparation and my preparations, to listen again to the prophet of God and the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.

One of my earliest recollections of general conference was when I was about six years old. Rather than watch conference on television that day, I wanted to listen to it by myself on the radio. And so I went to my room, and I heard, among other things—but what I remember I heard that day as a young boy was the voice of President David O. McKay as he bore witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and of God, our Eternal Father, and of the truthfulness of the Church.

With the help of the publishing services of the Church and my assistant, Donna McMillan, and the staff that is here today, we can listen to President McKay’s voice as I could listen to it on my radio. As you do, listen carefully. He speaks slowly; that allows his words to sink right down into our hearts. So don’t get impatient for the next word, and don’t get impatient by the recording—this was in 1961, so you’re going to hear conference as it really was. But focus on what the prophet said that day; focus on his testimony, his witness if you will, and maybe you will feel something that I did.

“I give my testimony that God lives, that He is close to us, that His Spirit is real, that His voice is real, that Jesus Christ, His Son, stands at the head of this great work, and no matter how much the atheistic philosophy takes hold of blinded boys and girls and men who hear Satan’s voice, the truth stands as declared by the Father and the Son to that boy prophet. They are real. And you and I and all the members of The Church of Jesus Christ have the responsibility to declare that truth to the world. And it’s full of honest men and women waiting to hear that truth.”

When I heard President McKay’s testimony, even though I was young, I felt the truth of it. Something inside of me said, “Jesus is real. Jesus Christ does stand at the head of this Church. That man that was speaking through that radio is a prophet.” And I knew it in my heart.

Each and every general conference can provide us with spiritual experiences and with witnesses anew of our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ our Savior, and of their work on the earth today.

King Benjamin prefaced his remarks, his famous sermon, with an invitation and injunction to his people. He said he had asked them to gather together “that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that you may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.” (Mosiah 2:9)

We should prepare for general conference, and I will suggest today five lessons for listening to the prophets. Elder Bednar has taught some of these, and others of the Brethren have taught them.  And I hope that they are helpful for you in your preparation for conference this time and always. The five lessons for listening to the prophets are: Listening for revelation, listen for doctrine, listen for invitations to act including warnings, listen for promised blessings, and listen for their witness—especially their witness of the Father and of the Son.

The first lesson for listening to the prophets is to listen for revelation—that which the Lord has revealed to them through the power of the Holy Ghost. For my twelfth birthday, I asked my parents if we could attend conference in the Tabernacle. I hadn’t ever done it before; we hadn’t yet done it before. President Joseph Fielding Smith was president of the Quorum of the Twelve. I remember it so clearly—we sat under the balcony. It was kind of like being over on this side of the row about halfway back but over in the Tabernacle. President Joseph Fielding Smith was president of the Quorum of the Twelve, and that day he spoke as guided by the Spirit. Let’s listen to how he started his talk that morning:

“My dear brethren and sisters, I made a few notes and thought I would present them here on this occasion, but I have changed my mind after what we have heard. And I hope the Lord will help me. The singing of the Choir has called my attention to the fact that there is a divine Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

President Smith proceeded to teach the Fall and the Atonement, but I sat there totally impressed—amazed, perhaps astonished—at the thought of a man setting aside his prepared remarks in front of those TV cameras and all those people, and speaking simply as guided by the Spirit. I’ve thought about it time and time and time again, all through my life, that President Smith was a prophet and an apostle. And the Spirit bore witness to me that day that what he was saying was guided by the Holy Spirit. He had received revelation, and what we were hearing was the result.

As Nephi taught, “By the spirit are all things made known unto the prophets.” (1 Nephi 22:2) So, listen to President Monson. His talks always contain evidence of revelation—that which the Spirit has told him or impressed him to think and say and do.

The second lesson for listening to prophets is to listen for doctrine. I was recently returned from my full-time mission—the year was 1977—when President Boyd K. Packer taught the Atonement and the need for a Mediator, through what he called a parable. He told of a man who had gone into debt, and now could not pay the debt when it came due. The person who had loaned him the money insisted that the man pay the debt or suffer the punishments of the contract. The man who could not pay his debt pleaded for some sort of relief so that he wouldn’t have to suffer all the consequences of the contract. The person who had lent the money wanted justice; the man who couldn’t pay wanted mercy. And it seemed that justice and mercy could not coexist until a third person came, who offered to pay the debt in full, satisfying justice, and offered conditions to the man who couldn’t pay, for him to be able to repent and be forgiven—offering mercy. So justice and mercy could happen—but only through a third person.

Following the parable, President Packer taught pure doctrine. If you listen carefully, you will begin to understand just how important this doctrine is to us every day.

“Each of us lives on a kind of spiritual credit. One day, the account will be closed, a settlement demanded. However casually we may view it now, when that day comes and the foreclosure is imminent, we will look around in restless agony for someone, anyone, to help us.

“And, by eternal law, mercy cannot be extended save there be one who is both willing and able to assume our debt and pay the price and arrange the terms for our redemption.

“Unless there is a mediator, unless we have a friend, the full weight of justice untempered, unsympathetic, must, positively must fall on us. The full recompense for every transgression, however minor or however deep, will be exacted from us to the uttermost farthing.

“But know this: Truth, glorious truth, proclaims there is such a Mediator.

“For, as the prophet said, ‘There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’ (1 Timothy 2:5)

“Through Him mercy can be fully extended to each of us without offending the eternal law of justice.

“This truth is the very root of Christian doctrine. You may know much about the gospel as it branches out from there, but if you only know the branches and those branches do not touch that root, if they have been cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption in them.” (“The Mediator,” April conference, 1977,

Hearing President Packer teach so simply and clearly the doctrine of the Atonement and of a Mediator increased my understanding of the Atonement then and it provided a foundation for additional gospel learning ever since then. Like Nephi of old, President Packer had taught that “save Christ should come all men must perish.” (2 Nephi 11:6)

The second lesson then, for listening to prophets, is to listen for doctrine. Listen to President Monson and to his counselors and to the Twelve. They teach the basic doctrine of Jesus Christ.

The third lesson for listening to prophets is to listen for their invitations, including warnings. Remember the Lord has declared, “Whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man.” (3 Nephi 14:24)  All the prophets invite us to do specific things. Some of you remember President Hinckley’s voice and his invitations to act. Can you think in your mind some of the invitations from President Hinckley—things that he asked us to do—like read the Book of Mormon? And there are many others.

Perhaps you were far too young to remember a specific warning from President Hinckley. In 1998, in conference, he related the Old Testament account of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream in Egypt. The essence of that dream was that there would be seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine and of want. President Hinckley went on to say that he didn’t want the Church to go into a panic and that he wasn’t preaching or predicting a doomsday, but he did want to warn us to live providently and prudently, to live within our means. He said we should get out of debt. He said we should save money for a rainy day. Listen to President Hinckley’s warning:

“I recognize that it may be necessary to borrow to get a home, of course. But let us buy a home that we can afford and thus ease the payments which will constantly hang over our heads without mercy or respite for as long as 30 years.

“No one knows when emergencies will strike. I am somewhat familiar with the case of a man who was highly successful in his profession. He lived in comfort. He built a large home. Then one day he was suddenly involved in a serious accident. Instantly, without warning, he almost lost his life. He was left a cripple. Destroyed was his earning power. He faced huge medical bills. He had other payments to make. He was helpless before his creditors. One moment he was rich, the next he was broke.

“Since the beginnings of the Church, the Lord has spoken on this matter of debt. To Martin Harris through revelation He said: ‘Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer. Release thyself from bondage’ (D&C 19:35).” (“To the Boys and to the Men,” October 1998 general conference,

Brothers and sisters, for the years immediately following President Hinckley’s remarks, things went well. The stock market continued to rise, unemployment was relatively low. For many people in this country and other countries, life was pretty good. But then in 2007 and 2008, the bubble burst. Since that time we have had higher unemployment. We’ve had higher incidence of bankruptcies, of broken hearts and of broken homes. Those who heard and heeded the prophet’s warning were spared much of the anguish that those who didn’t heed that warning had to go through—and some are still going through.

The third lesson for listening to the prophets is to listen for invitations to act, including warnings. The Lord has said to His servants, “I sent you out to testify and warn the people.” (D&C 88:81) Listen to President Monson in some of his most recent talks. He has included warnings against the trials and temptations of our day.

The fourth lesson for listening to the prophets is to listen for promised blessings. When prophets speak in the name of the Lord, they declare the Lord’s promises—the promised blessings that the Lord will extend to all those who follow and obey Him. One of the promised blessings that has influenced my wife and our family for many years came from President Ezra Taft Benson. Listen carefully to the promised blessing from a prophet of God:

“I promise you that, with increased attendance in the temples of our God, you shall receive increased personal revelation to bless your life as you bless those who have died.” (“The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” April 1987 general conference, )

When we heard that we could receive the blessing of increased personal revelation through increased temple attendance, we began to attend the temple more frequently. And we’ve experienced—so gratefully and humbly spoken—but we have experienced and continue, time after time, to experience the blessings of increased revelation, personally and to our family through increased temple attendance.

You see, the Lord has said that His word, and that would include His promises, “shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38) The fourth lesson: listen for the promised blessings. Listen to President Monson and our other leaders, and you will hear promised blessings that they declare.

The fifth lesson for listening to prophets and apostles is to listen for their witness, especially their witness of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Among the many powerful witnesses that I have heard throughout my life, one that is easy to recall is the witness of Elder Bruce R. McConkie. It was his final testimony; he died a few days later. He was an apostle, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. During his lifetime, he wrote volumes—literally volumes—regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. There might not have been anybody on this world, anywhere, that knew more about the Savior than He did, unless maybe it was the prophet then. But in his final days, during the April 1985 general conference, Elder McConkie taught again the Atonement of the Lord, and concluded with this powerful testimony:

“And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.

“I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.

“But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.

“God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse us from all sin.” (“The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” April 1985, )

The calling of apostles and prophets is to be special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world. When we heard Elder McConkie’s witness, we knew it was true. And it caused us to ponder many, many times over the years—how much better will I know then than I know now that Jesus is the Christ? We know, don’t we? And the witness of the prophets and apostles remind us and renew that witness in us each time.

Listen to President Monson, his counselors, and the Twelve. They bear living witness of the living Christ.

Brothers and sisters, there are countless other examples in my life and in my experience. President Harold B. Lee taught us that the most important of the Lord’s work that we will ever do will be that which we do in the walls of our own home. (See Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (2000), 134)President Spencer W. Kimball taught us to lengthen our stride and quicken our pace in spreading the gospel to all the world. (See “Are We Doing All We Can?” Ensign, Feb. 1983, I get chills even when I think about it right now, even when I am talking. President Howard W. Hunter invited all Church members to be worthy of a temple recommend. (See “The Great Symbol of Our Membership,” Ensign, Oct. 1994 ) That was just a few years before President Hinckley, then, had the revelation about having 100 temples built before the turn of the century, and having the temples be closer to the members of the Church. More people had their recommends; more were ready for the temples.

President Ezra Taft Benson promised that in homes where families and individuals—this might have affected our family more than any other one that I’ve mentioned—that in homes where families and individuals read the Book of Mormon daily, “reverence, respect, and consideration will increase and the spirit of contention will depart.” (See “The Book of Mormon, Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, And we tested that in our homes, day after day, year after year. And we have seen the spirit of contention give way because of the power of the Book of Mormon, as promised by a prophet of God.

President Monson has taught that the sweetest experience in all of this life is to feel the Lord’s promptings as He directs us in the furtherance of His work. (See “Peace, Be Still,” Oct. 2002 general conference,

Each of these declarations, these invitations and promises, have affected me in my life deeply, and our family’s. Think of the conference moments that you have had—what testimonies, what invitations, what witnesses, what doctrine have affected you? What has been especially meaningful for you in listening to a prophet’s voice?

Whatever the past experiences have been, I hope and pray that we will prepare for the next time we hear the prophet’s voice. Perhaps these five lessons will help us. Just in quick review: Listen for revelation, listen for doctrine, listen for invitations to act including warnings, listen to promised blessings, and listen to their special, special witness.

As we prepare to listen to President Monson and the other leaders this conference, I’d like to repeat to you a caution. Here’s my own little warning. It’s prophetic, too, because it’s really a warning that the Lord gave to the prophet Ezekiel. He warned Ezekiel that sometimes the people might not see him quite as a prophet like they should.

I’m going to read from Ezekiel chapter 33, starting with verse 30:

“Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord.

“And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.

“And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.

“And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.” (verses 30-33)

This is the deal. President Monson and all of our leaders today are very enjoyable to listen to. President Monson recounts personal experiences and examples one after another after another. If we are not careful, we can enjoy those stories and experiences he relates so much that we fail to hear and feel and internalize the revelations and the doctrine and the invitations and warnings and blessings and witnesses. If we’re not careful, his words can be to us “as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument,” and we can hear them but forget to do them.

So please remember, when President Monson tells an experience—please remember, he always recounts the experiences that he recounts for a purpose. Whenever you hear him relate a story or an experience, ask yourself—don’t ask yourself, “Have we heard this one before?” Don’t ask yourself that. It’s the wrong question. Ask yourself, “Why is he telling us this experience today? What does the Lord and his prophet want me to learn and to do because of this experience that he is recounting?”

For example, in priesthood session of our most recent general conference, President Monson recounted this experience:

“Some years ago, before this beautiful Conference Center was built, a visitor to Temple Square in Salt Lake City attended a general conference session in the Tabernacle.  He listened to the messages of the Brethren. He paid attention to the prayers. He heard the beautiful music by the Tabernacle Choir. He marveled at the grandeur of the magnificent Tabernacle organ. When the meeting had ended, he was heard to say, ‘I would give everything I possess if I knew that what those speakers said today was true.’ In essence he was saying, ‘I wish that I had a testimony of the gospel.’” (“See Others As They May Become,” October 2012 general conference,

So why did he tell that story? Why did he tell that experience of that man coming to that conference?

He tells us. Just listen to the next words. He says, President Monson, “There is absolutely nothing in this world that will provide more comfort and happiness than a testimony of the truth.” By telling the experience of a man who visited general conference, President Monson helped us understand that a testimony of the truth will provide more comfort and happiness than anything else in this world. Now that’s why it’s so important that we share the gospel. That’s at the heart of the change in missionary age. It is the major purpose underlying why we need to be better missionaries, every one of us, now. Because all people in the world, President Monson recounted in his talk—everyone needs to have a testimony, everyone needs to have the opportunity to have the comfort and happiness and joy that come from a testimony of the truth. That’s why he told us that experience.

Now let’s listen again, from our most recent conference. Listen carefully—and this is helpful when we listen to prophets, too—kind of listen on the edge of your seat. Don’t sit back like the people of Ezekiel and say, “Well, let’s see what the prophet will say now. Let’s see if it’s enjoyable to listen to.” Listen on the edge of your seat. Try to hear, because in this that we’re going to hear, you can hear all of the five—you can hear revelations and doctrines and invitations and warnings, and you can hear promised blessings and witnesses. So sit on the edge of your chair and wait to hear the next one, and take as much in as you possibly can.”

“May we ever watch over one another, assisting in times of need. Let us not be critical and judgmental, but let us be tolerant, ever emulating the Savior’s example of loving kindness. In that vein, may we willingly serve one another. May we pray for the inspiration to know of the needs of those around us, and then may we go forward and provide assistance.

“Let us be of good cheer as we go about our lives. Although we live in increasingly perilous times, the Lord loves us and is mindful of us. He is always on our side as we do what is right. He will help us in time of need. Difficulties come into our lives, problems we do not anticipate and which we would never choose. None of us is immune. The purpose of mortality is to learn and to grow to be more like our Father, and it is often during the difficult times that we learn the most, as painful as the lessons may be. Our lives can also be filled with joy as we follow the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“The Lord admonished, ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33) What great happiness this knowledge should bring to us. He lived for us and He died for us. He paid the price for our sins. May we emulate His example. May we show our great gratitude to Him by accepting His sacrifice and living lives that will qualify us to return and one day live with Him.” (President Thomas S. Monson, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again, October 2012 general conference,

Did you hear the invitations? Did you hear the invitation to watch over one another, to be of good cheer, the warning that there will be difficult times and the lessons we learn may be painful? Did you hear the promised blessings of happiness and joy if we’re following the gospel teachings of Jesus Christ? What else did you hear? What did you hear and feel?

Finally, let’s listen to one more. Listen for the specific blessings again and the invitations. Listen especially to a promise about prayer and for President Monson’s witness of the Lord.

“I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.

“I declare that God lives and that He hears and answers our prayers. His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and our Redeemer.” (“Be Of Good Cheer, April 2009 general conference,

I bear my testimony. I know that God is our Father and that Jesus Christ is His holy and Only Begotten Son, our Redeemer and Savior. And I know that this is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, restored by the Savior through a prophet, Joseph Smith, and led now by the Savior through living prophets. How great we should count a blessing to live on the earth when the heavens are open. God speaks through living oracles, living prophets. How wonderful it is to have the Spirit bear witness to us that that is true, and that their words are true.

I pray that we will prepare. I pray that we’ll look forward with anticipation. I pray that we’ll sit on the edge of our seats as we have the blessing and opportunity of listening to the prophets, this time and every time. And I pray it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Worthiness Brings Power in the Priesthood

26 Mar. 2013


Worthiness Brings Power in the Priesthood

Dear brothers and sisters, I’m grateful for this opportunity to be with you today. I acknowledge and express my love and gratitude to two of your wonderful bishops who are seated here on the stand—Bishop Moritsen and Bishop Jensen, who I was blessed to serve with. I know that they love you, and I hope that you are enjoying your opportunity to get acquainted with them.

I express my appreciation to President Richards. As I look around this congregation today, I realize that I have probably known President Richards and his family longer than anyone here—maybe with the exception of Brother Dunford. He goes back a year longer than I do, perhaps. We have known and loved this wonderful family for these many years. It was my privilege to be closely associated with his father when he served as a member of the Utah State Legislature. Years later I would serve with his brother-in-law and sister as we served together in the Monument Park Stake presidency. And his daughter and my daughter are close friends, so we know a lot about the Richardses. And I would simply say to you, how blessed you are, how fortunate you are to be able to attend this marvelous college during the time of his inspired leadership. We love this great Richards family, and hope you’re taking the opportunity of getting closely acquainted with them.

The prophet Nephi had a revelation that foretold of this time that we’re living in. I’d like to begin by reading just a couple of parts from that revelation as I have looked out upon this wonderful gathering today. I’m reading from the 14th chapter of 1st Nephi, starting with verse 12. He said this: “And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few…. nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small….

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” (verse 14)

I just would suggest to you today, brothers and sisters, that as you gather here in a very real way you represent some of what Nephi saw and foretold would happen in the last days. Here in this congregation there are nearly 60 different nations of the earth represented by covenant people of the Lord who possess the power of God. What a blessing it is for me to have this opportunity to be in your midst.

These next few weeks are very important to us as members of the Church. This coming Sunday we will celebrate Easter, which arguably is the most important day in the history of this world. We celebrate this great event with the rest of the Christian world. As members of the restored Church, we also remember that Easter Sunday—remember on Easter Sunday many years ago, the Savior Jesus Christ and Moses and Elias and Elijah appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. That was in 1836, one hundred and seventy-seven years ago.

The following week, on April 6th, we will meet in general conference, on the 183rd anniversary of the organization of the Church in these last days, where we will hear from living prophets, seers, and revelators. A few weeks following this, on May 15th, we commemorate the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood, when John the Baptist appeared to Joseph [Smith] and Oliver Cowdery and conferred upon them the Aaronic priesthood. In June, we will remember the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood by Peter, James, and John.

As President Richards introduced me, I trust you noted that I have served in many Church leadership positions. Some may think that I have served in more than I deserve. I’m a witness of the restoration of the gospel, including the priesthood. I know of the power and authority and blessings—even miracles—that result from its use by those who are worthy to use it.

Today I’m going to share two experiences that have happened in our family recently. I haven’t spoken about either one of them publicly, and they are still very tender to me. So I hope and pray that I can relate them to you without too much emotion. You’ll forgive me if that overtakes me a little bit.

A year ago I was serving as the president of the Pioneer Young Single Adult Stake. Many of you are members of this great stake now, and we acknowledge that two of your bishops are here seated with you. Some of you were even in the stake a year ago, and I’m grateful for all that you did to bless and sustain us in that capacity. On April 15th of last year I was released as stake president. At the time of my release, I came down with a very bad cold. This was the first time that I had really been sick during my five years of service in the stake presidency.

Within a few days of my release I had lost my voice and was unable to speak above a whisper. This lasted for many days and I finally went to see my doctor. He felt that it was likely a complication of my recent cold and told me to gargle regularly, steam frequently, and rest my voice as much as possible. Pam was very grateful for that counsel and advice. Another couple of weeks went by and I’m still unable to speak above a whisper. Finally I went to see a specialist. He quickly diagnosed my problem as a paralyzed vocal chord, then ordered a series of tests to rule out the possibility of throat cancer or other complications.

Fortunately, these tests were negative and the doctor determined that the cause of my paralysis was simply unknown—idiopathic, the medical profession calls it. But possibly it was caused by a virus. Several more weeks passed by with no improvement. Plans were made for me to have the first of several possible surgical procedures, performed in an attempt to try to restore some of my voice. I was scheduled to have this surgery on Tuesday, August 21st. On Sunday, August 19th I asked my sons and sons-in-law to administer to me. Having spent most of my professional career working with the hospitals, and having a father-in-law who was an anesthesiologist, I knew a little bit about the dangers of general anesthesia, and I knew that it’s best to avoid it if at all possible, and I was very nervous about this occasion.

On Monday morning I got up and I found, for the first time in 127 days, that I was able to speak a little bit—not with a completely normal voice, but a significant improvement. I called my doctor and I told him that I felt it best to postpone the surgery. What I concluded was that the Lord simply did not want me to have surgery at that time. Over the next few weeks my voice grew stronger, and today I’m able to speak without difficulty. Truly this was an answer to much fasting and prayer, and the power of the priesthood which was restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I should add, I guess, that even though my voice was better, I still wasn’t extended an invitation to sing with the ward choir in this coming Easter Sunday program. But perhaps that’s a different problem that needs to be addressed.

The second experience I would like to share involves our daughter Kelly. We have four daughters; Kelly is the second oldest of our four daughters. Last June our daughter Kelly was asked to help with the girls’ camp in her stake. She is a busy mother of four; her husband at the time was serving in the bishopric, and she wasn’t even a Young Womens leader. So she wasn’t too anxious to go, but she decided to accept the call because it was the first camp for her oldest daughter.

A couple of weeks prior to the camp, the stake Young Womens president and the camp director had gone to check out the camp site. They wanted to be sure that they had everything that they needed. They happened to run into a park ranger who told them, among other things, that their cell phones would not work in this area and that they would need a satellite phone if they wished to communicate with anyone. He also gave them a special number to call if they needed help that would contact somebody nearby, rather than calling to Salt Lake.

Before the camp, they acquired a satellite phone. The day of the camp arrived—June 26. A brother, who I will call Brother Dan, was recruited in a neighboring ward to help his wife bring all of the equipment from their ward. You brethren know the drill; we’ve been there. I’m going to quote a lot from Dan’s own words as I share Kelly’s experience.

All the participants, including a few men who had been asked to help set up the camp, met up with their wards early that day and left for the camp site. Camp was about an hour and a half drive away. After Dan and his wife arrived with all of their ward’s equipment, they had finished their lunch and he was asked by one of the stake Young Women’s leaders to come and give a young sister a blessing. He was told at that time that he was the only man and priesthood holder in the entire camp. The other men who had been there earlier had already left. He said he was somewhat nervous about giving this priesthood blessing alone, with so little time to adequately prepare for it. He only had a few minutes to walk from his campsite to where this young sister was located.

After he had given the blessing, he returned to their camp area. The stake Young Womens president came by to thank him, and he said, “Perhaps she was inspired at that time to tell me, ‘You can’t leave camp. You’re the only priesthood holder we have in this whole camp.’ ” He hadn’t planned to stay, but he had brought extra equipment and decided that he could certainly stay until other men arrived.

After our daughter arrived, she was helping to put up a large tarp or a plastic cover to provide shade over a common eating area. She had been climbing trees to attach the cover. On the fourth corner, she was about ten feet up into a tree when the dried branches of the tree gave way and she suddenly fell, hit a table with her back, and was thrown headfirst onto the asphalt-paved eating area.

I’m now going to share in Dan’s words what happened next. A few hours had passed since Dan had given the blessing to the young sister. He said, “In our camp we had just started a fire we would use to cook our dinners. Sister Harris, one of the stake leaders, came to edge of the camp and quietly got my attention. She told me that someone had fallen out of a tree and also needed a blessing. Again my heart began to race a little. As we walked she gave me scattered bits of what had apparently happened. It was clear that she was agitated. Her pace quickened. A moment later she sped up even faster. We were now running up the trail past the stake camp and around the bend. There, lying on the asphalt, was one of the Young Women leaders. Other leaders were kneeling and standing at her side. Again, I was not prepared for what I had been summoned to do. Not like earlier, this was different. I was expecting that someone might need a cast for a broken arm, or maybe even a leg. No, that clearly was not the case. The condition of this young mother and the gravity of the situation hit me, and I was afraid. I knelt on the ground above her head, trying to process what I was seeing and all that was being explained by others as to what had happened.

“It was immediately evident that she was in very serious condition. Her arms and shoulders were shaking violently. She was kicking her legs in the bushes to the side of the trail. We tried to isolate her head and movement so she didn’t do herself further damage. The stake Young Womens president was in the background on the satellite phone, talking to the 911 operator. She relayed questions and answers and gave us instruction of what we needed to do as we waited for help [to] arrive. They told us the paramedics were on their way, but it would be more than half an hour before they would arrive.

“The back of her head was a mass of bloody hair. Someone brought a bag of ice. We also put a cold compress on her forehead. Those at her side kept talking to her, each holding a separate hand. We had been instructed to keep this up and not let her lose consciousness. A nurse who was also there kept checking her pupils, which were fixed and dilated. She was not able to speak, even with the constant dialogue aimed at her. She just continued to kick and shake violently. All this time I sat there, trying to summon inspiration and direction as to what I could possibly say in a blessing. Judging from her condition, it appeared to me that someone’s life was in my hands. Thinking to myself, ‘This is surely a job for someone else. There should be someone far better to carry this heavy burden.’

“ ‘Isn’t there another brother who could assist me?’ I asked. The question was met with empty, blank-faced stares.

One of the sisters asked me, ‘Do you not want to give her a blessing?’ That wasn’t it. I explained that I could do it alone, but it would be nice to have someone by my side. I was still not ready to proceed. My mind was racing. In my heart of hearts, I was still at a loss as to what I could say and what I could promise. Was I up to this? There was no one else.

“It took a few more minutes before I realized what I should have known all along. I did have someone by my side. He’s always by my side.

“I now resolutely said, ‘Let’s give her a blessing.’ I was still holding the cold compress on her forehead. I addressed her by name and then paused as the Spirit came into my heart. I know that with the next six seemingly simple words that came out of my mouth, I was stepping over a threshold into another realm. I would then be speaking the mind and will of the Lord. I proceeded, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ.’

“I then declared the priesthood authority by which I spoke in His name. Continuing as the impressions came into my heart and mind, I blessed her with a peace and comfort to come over her, also that the Lord was mindful of her and grateful for her service. I promised her that help was on the way. Almost unknowingly, I then commanded the elements of heaven and earth. The next impression came into my mind and a split second later came out of my mouth. ‘I bless you that you will recover from this accident.’

“Nothing that I had been seeing from this past twenty minutes or so suggested that this was the logical conclusion that I could make. The combination of those two phrases I had just pronounced were so profound and out of character for me that I was struggling a bit with what I had just said. No simple man of his own power can make those commands. There was no denying the strong promptings as the Lord directed me. The blessing closed with a sealing of those blessings on her head, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ.’”

Dan continued: “A collective amen was pronounced by all those who were at Kelly’s side. Sister Witt, who was holding her right hand, immediately said, ‘Kelly, it’s a miracle.’ She was looking at her face and was able to see that her pupils were no longer dilated or rolled back, unresponsive. Sister Witt, as she had been doing for nearly 30 minutes now, carrying on a one-way conversation with her friend, said, ‘Kelly, do you feel it? Do you feel the miracle that happened as soon as he sealed those blessings on your head?’

“Remarkably to all of us, this time there was an answer. Kelly spoke. She answered, ‘Yes.’ This was the first sound she had made since I arrived. She was no longer shaking violently or kicking her legs. The first portion of the blessing had come to pass just as soon as I closed.”

Brother Dan concludes: “It is my most humble testimony that yes, a handful of people in a distant corner of God’s creations were privileged that day to witness and be a part of a miracle.”

Our daughter was taken by ambulance to the Park City Hospital and then transferred to the Trauma Intensive Care Unit at the Intermountain Medical Center here in Salt Lake. She had a large skull fracture and two brain bleeds. Other tender mercies were granted to her as she was treated in the trauma unit and was released after a week in the hospital to go home and recover. Her brain bleeds and the hematoma did not require surgery. Over time she has recovered and, as promised, only a few small issues remain. Today she is a busy, active mother caring for her family and regularly running in all kinds and shapes and lengths of races.

I share these experiences, brothers and sisters, in hopes that you will learn something from them and apply it in your own life, and I’m going to suggest just a couple of things that I have learned from these experiences.

We are so grateful for the power and blessings and authority that were exercised by a worthy stake Young Women leader who, through her preparations, was guided and directed by the Lord in such a way that her leaders and the Young Women she presided over were really blessed. She followed the counsel of a Park Service employee to get a satellite phone because he knew that regular cell phones would not work in this area.

Interesting to note that, even with the satellite phone, she was only able to complete two calls that day—the first to the 911 operator, the second to her stake president—and then the phone lost service. I have no doubt that the faith and prayers of many wonderful Young Women leaders were recognized in a blessing from the Lord, because they had accepted a call from their priesthood leaders to serve. I’m thankful for Brother Dan, who magnifies his priesthood. As Kelly’s husband said to him, “We are so grateful to you for being ready, willing, and worthy to administer to her in her time of need.” He received his own blessings from the experience, as you heard.

I’m thankful for worthy sons who, through their faith and priesthood authority, were able to invoke a blessing upon me at a time of need. I want you to know that I am a witness of many such blessings and miracles that have resulted by righteous men using their priesthood, and righteous women to call down the blessings of heaven. I have been a participant in many of them.

Brethren, I want you to know that this priesthood you are honored to bear is real. You are numbered among those who Nephi saw who are now armed with righteousness and the power of God. You are able to use this power at any time, at any place, to bless the lives of those who are in need of blessings. The Lord has placed great trust in you to live so that you’ll be ready and able to use it whenever you are called upon to use it, just like Brother Dan.

The Lord added this instruction about its use: “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected to the powers of heaven, and… the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” (D&C, 121:36)

Brethren, to you I would simply ask the question, “How are you doing today? Are you ready, willing, and able to respond to an urgent, even a life-saving request for you to use your priesthood to bless someone in time of need?” If for any reason you answer no, then I encourage you to get an appointment to see your bishop. These two brethren are always available. He will help you to resolve any problem you may be having. If needed, he will help you to repent so that you will be able to respond when the Lord needs you to help Him.

Sisters, you are entitled to the blessings of our Father in Heaven as you are called and as you serve them. This was demonstrated in so many ways with this experience. I plead with you to live so that you will always be able to respond to every call that is extended to you. I urge you to live so that you will be a powerful force to encourage these brethren to always honor their priesthood.

Live so that you will be worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. He will watch over you and teach you all that you must know. As members of the Lord’s Church, it is your blessing to never be alone. Live worthy of it. The day will come when you will share in all the blessings of the priesthood as you are sealed to your husband for time and all eternity.

As Elder John A. Widstoe long ago expressed it, “Men have no greater claim than women upon the blessings that issue from the Priesthood and accompany its possession.”  Did you hear that, sisters? “Men have no greater claim than women upon the blessings that issue from the Priesthood and accompany its possession…. The man holds the Priesthood, performs the priestly duties of the Church, but his wife enjoys with him every other privilege derived from the possession of the Priesthood.” (Priesthood and Church Government [1965], 83)

Brothers and sisters, knowing as I do of the power of priesthood blessings, I encourage you to seek priesthood blessings whenever you are in need of an infusion of spiritual power. Call upon your fathers, your home teachers, your priesthood leaders and your bishops, to bless you in times of need.

I add my personal witness and testimony that the power of God, the holy priesthood, has been restored to the earth in our day by the Prophet Joseph Smith. I testify that John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and restored the Aaronic Priesthood. I also testify that Peter, James, and John appeared to them and restored the Melchizedek Priesthood. This was followed by a visit from the prophet Elijah, who restored to the earth the keys of the priesthood to administer the ordinances of the temple and the sealing power and authority.

All of these keys and all of these blessings are held today by the president of this Church, the only true and living church upon the face of the earth, even Thomas Monson. God bless you in your studies and the preparations you are making now to be ready to lead, guide, and direct His Church and kingdom here on earth, as we prepare ourselves for the time when His Beloved Son, even the Lord Jesus Christ, will return and reign here upon this earth. In His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, amen.